Monday, March 5, 2012

The Prosperity Preachers: Joyce Meyer, Part 1

Over the next three entries -- barring something worth attention otherwise -- we'll be reprinting the E-Block series from early 2009 on the teachings of Joyce Meyer. Here's Part 1.

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It is inevitable that I will draw, in my own mind, comparisons between our last subject in this series, Joel Osteen, and the subject for the next installment, Joyce Meyer.

Both are popular television preachers - but whereas Osteen is tied to a church, Meyer is a "free agent."

Both have written books - but whereas Osteen has written only two to date, Meyer has written well over fifty!

Both are accused of being "prosperity" teachers that are part of the "word-faith" movement - but we saw that that charge may be overstated with Osteen; and though I have much more to check where Meyer is concerned, what I have read so far seems to be pointing in the same direction. I judged Osteen to be naïve, unaware of the impact or meaning of many of his teachings; so far, Meyer seems to be the same - though I have yet much more to study where she is concerned.

Because Meyer has produced, indeed, many more books than Osteen, I have elected to divide this series on her into three parts. The first, this one, will be devoted to a look at several of Meyer's books in the self-help category. The second article will be on books she has written that are more theological, and the third will be about any additional insights gained from her television program, and an evaluation of criticisms.

Once again, my desire will to be as objective as possible; and since I have never before this study ever read or seen anything by Meyer, I believe that this will be able to be accomplished. (For the record, my beloved Mrs. H wishes to note that she has seen some of Meyer's television programming...and that she doesn't trust her!)

The Reading Roster

For this article, I have read, essentially, 14 of Meyer's self-help books. Their titles, and abbreviations used, are as follows:

  • Seven Things That Steal Your Joy [7T]
  • Help Me! I'm Married [HMM]
  • I Dare You! [IDY]
  • Conflict-Free Living [CFL]
  • Approval Addiction [AA]
  • 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life [100W]
  • Straight Talk [ST] - this is actually seven of her smaller books in one volume.
  • The Secret to True Happiness [STH]

In many cases these volumes were repetitive.

Once Again...Good Advice!

As it happens, Meyer's similarity to Osteen also allows me to use the same categories in describing their work. The first category was good advice - and Meyer has plenty of it in her self-help books. As with Osteen, some 90-95% of Meyer's material is uncontroversial and falls under this category. Here are some samples from 7T:

  • 41 An admonition to avoid legalism and unwarranted guilt, and let it overcome your enjoyment of life.
  • 55 Admit your flaws and imperfections.
  • 60 Pray all through day. (Meyer correctly understands 1 Thess. 5:17 to refer to short prayers all day.)
  • 70 Keep your plans simple.
  • 73 Don't worry so much about what others think.
  • 89 Take breaks for your mind to be still.
  • 112 Get rid of anger.
  • 169 Be content with gifts you have.

Other books were filled with the same sort of advice. HMM in particular - a book of advice on how to be successfully married -- I found to be an excellent, insightful book that Mrs. H and I could have written ourselves. STH 35 contained the best advice of all, advising readers to find their identity in Christ. In this Meyer's advice is the same as that of on Matzat's, which I have recommended elsewhere here.

With that said, even though up to 95% of what Meyer says is non-controversial, what remains of that 5% does give us some cause for pause.

Once Again...Misused Scripture

Meyer does not have the pastor's burden that Joel Osteen has; but as a popular Bible teacher attended to by literally hundreds of thousands of people, she does bear the weight of judgment of those who teach, as James says. I did indeed find in Meyer's self-help books several examples of Scripture being poorly used; but as with Osteen last time, the incidence of such was no more than might be found in any typical sermon today.

Much of the incorrect application of Scripture had to do with Meyer wrongly reading modern, Western values into the text - in the same way Rick Warren does. This is perhaps not surprising inasmuch as Meyer makes no use of credible exegetical sources for her material. In 7T [191] she uses the badly outdated commentaries of Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke as sources, and in all of her books, the questionable works of Watchman Nee are appealed to (though not necessarily for an incorrect point).

We'll discuss some of the instances of "Westernizing" Scripture below; but here a few samples otherwise from the various books of exegetical error:

  • 7T, 78 -- 1 Cor. 1:21 is said to refer to the "foolishness of preaching" as a method; in actuality it refers to the shame of crucifixion.
  • 7T, 80 -- Deut. 6:4, "God is One," is recruited for a message of simplicity versus having to sacrifice to multiple pagan gods. It is rather doubtful that the inconvenience of sacrificing to multiple gods had anything to do with the attraction of Judaism at this time.
  • 7T, 143 - Matt. 7:1 is misapplied to judging others for having good things. That's a good lesson, but Matthew 7:1 is about judging hypocritically.
  • HMM, 97 -- Meyer applies Is. 61:1-4 midrashically to every Christian, where there is no warrant to do so:
    The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

    Isaiah was a prophet, and Jesus was divine, and could apply these verses to themselves easily; for Meyer to apply them universally is extremely presumptuous.

  • HMM 198 - in support of tithing, Meyer says, "the New Testament never does away with anything in the Old Testament." Indeed? What of Temple sacrifices? Further: "God did not do away with the Ten Commandments, but He did give us the grace to keep them through Jesus Christ." Truly? Then is Meyer a Sabbatarian?
  • IDY, 221 - perhaps the worst abuse of Scripture I found by Meyer, as she says:
    You will discover that you can actually 'think yourself happy.' In the Bible Paul said, 'I think myself happy' (Acts 26:2 KJV), and if it worked for him, it can also work for us.

    Note the full context of this passage:

    I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews…

    Meyer has illicitly turned this statement of eschatological hope by Paul into a message on behalf of the power of positive thinking! The irony is that just a few pages later [229], Meyer rightly admonishes readers not to let yourself interpret Scripture via your experiences.

  • ST, 78 -- Luke 10:16 is appealed to:
    He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

    Meyer interprets thusly: "When people reject us, Jesus takes it personally." This applies, she says, even when someone slights us! But this is said by Jesus in the context of Jesus sending out his followers on missionary journeys and has nothing to do with everyday slighting or insults. Meyer's application is unjustly broad.

  • STH, 212 - Meyer somehow reads out of Jesus' instructions to missionaries in Matt. 10:10-14 the lesson that our response to criticism should be to, "Shake it off." This is not the case at all, though it may be good advice: When Jesus said to shake the dust from their feet, it signified condemnation for the community. Meyer also wrongly states that Jesus simply ignored criticism, based on his refusal to answer charges against him in Matt. 27:11-12. Not only does this neglect the point that Jesus powerfully responded to his critics (like the Pharisees) in public settings; it neglects the fact that Jesus' silence was a way of shaming his accusers and indicating that he did not think they were worthy of response. It is not merely "shaking off criticism." (A similar mistake is made at CFL, 24, where Meyer says that Jesus "was accused of wrongdoing regularly, yet never once did He attempt to defend Himself." It is also said that Jesus did not "have a problem with His self-image," which is true, since problems with "self-image" did not come to exist until excess leisure time permitted humans time for introspection.)
  • CFL 30-1 -- Matt. 18:19 is appealed to as a way to get blessings: "God responds to the prayer of agreement when it is prayed by people who agree." As noted here, this verse has to do with church discipline, not prayers of request.

Many of Meyer's misapplications have to do with reading a message of "self-esteem" into the Biblical text (see again above link re Matzat's book). Meyer teaches as part of her program a message of self-esteem for those down on themselves, as for example in AA 80, where she tells readers to hug and affirm themselves: "I accept myself. I love myself. I know I have weaknesses and imperfections, but I will not be stopped by them." Meyer tells readers to do this several times a day, and perhaps, arguably, this has some use for persons who have been abused by others, as indeed Meyer herself was. Nevertheless, one may also wonder if Meyer has not swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.

As noted in the article linked above, true Biblical self-image is realistic, and self-esteem as understood in the modern world was unknown. Meyer is simply wrong to say, (IDY, viii): "Over the centuries millions of people have asked, 'What am I here for? What is my purpose?'" Not at all: This sort of question only emerged in the modern world, when the growth of leisure time permitted the luxury of introspection. Meyer, regrettably, often imposes ideas of self-esteem on Biblical characters, saying for example (AA, 81) that Mephibosheth lived in a small town because of his poor self-image!

Again...Confirmation Bias and Verification Problems

In our examination of Joel Osteen, I referred to a significant problem of Osteen giving advice that was subject to "confirmation bias" and which also was not subject to verification. I find much the same problems recurring in Meyer's work, under two of the same categories:

A system which has an unsatisfactory accounting for failures which makes it non-disprovable. In many cases, we find Meyer advising people to "wait on God" to work out problems such as finding the best marriage partner. [7T, 3] To the extent that this counsel is given in order to keep people from wasting time and mental energy worrying, this is good advice. However, Meyer often takes the lesson too far, to the extent that if followed literally, her advice amounts to passive non-action which leads into epistemic disaster - of the sort that is no more open to verification than the Mormon "burning in the bosom."

In 7T, for example, we are told [45]: "trying to figure everything out is a joy stealer that causes us to listen to our heads instead of our hearts." Is it a joy stealer? Not really; what steals joy is trying to figure things out and failing to do so. My own life as an apologist is such that I find joy every day in "trying to figure everything out." Perhaps Meyer's advice ought to be recast: "Trying to figure anything out that is beyond your abilities is a joy stealer." Without this qualification, Meyer's advice becomes a sort of anti-intellectualism.

In such cases, "listening to your heart" is not a sound recourse. Inevitably, the law of averages is such that a person who takes this course will often hit on a successful solution; and yet, confirmation bias leads to ignoring stories of failure by those who "listened to their heart" and got burned - or else redefining what happened so that it was not a failure after all (per the next point).

CFL 30-1 provides another example. Above we noted that Matt. 18:19 was misinterpreted, but there is more. Meyer says, "God responds to the prayer of agreement when it is prayed by people who agree." Inevitably, this can be used to claim that prayers were unanswered because of some hidden or unknown disagreement in one's household.

CFL 215 offers another example, as Meyer advises readers to live by "discernment." What is discernment? Meyer defines that not in terms of thinking or perception, as indeed it ought to be, but as vague feelings of unease. She adds that you should attend to these feelings even if you have no reason to do so - and by the way, you may or may not discover the reason later on! Epistemically, this advice is simply disastrous.

Meyer would likely deny that her advice leads to passive non-action. Indeed, she says later in 7T [127], "It is true we need to wait on God and not get into works of the flesh. But on the other hand…God cannot drive a parked car." And later [252] she says, "To receive healing from God, we often have to be patient and steadfast. Miracles often occur instantly, but healing is frequently a process that takes time." And [254]: "I don't believe there is a requirement we must meet in order to receive supernatural healing." But, we should take medications if necessary. Indeed. Yet Meyer cannot see that this ends up with her giving advice that is inherently self-contradictory. Yes, logically, there could be some times when one must "wait on God" and other times when God wants us to move. But Biblically, the only way to determine which is the present condition is to have an inspired prophet give us the word - and with access to such rather limited today, Meyer's advice inevitably leads to either passive non-action or to the second option:

A system that too easily redefines problems out of existence. With Osteen, I gave this example, from which I will quote extensively:

Thus in YBL (41-2) he gives the example of searching for a parking spot in a crowded lot. Osteen thanks God for a good space when he finds one, but what if you do not find one? Then, he says, "....you get out and walk, and with every step, you thank God that you are strong and healthy and have the ability to walk." And he explains further of a time when he didn't find a parking space close by (43):

"...God has my best interests at heart...He is working for my good. A delay may spare me from an accident. Or a delay may cause me to bump into somebody that needs to be encouraged, somebody that needs to see a smile."

There is good reason for this methodology to disturb us. Atheist Dan Barker, in his original book Losing Faith in Faith (and now also in Godless, a book reviewed in this very issue), tells much the same story of his quests for parking spaces - even having used the same Scripture that Osteen does, Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord." Before long, the logical strain becomes apparent: What of the person whose delay in finding a space caused them to get into an accident? To be sure, we are counseled to always be thankful to God, and we should be. Nevertheless, if we persist in a vision of God as a micromanager to this extent, then inevitably, we are compelled to rationalization as Barker was, ending up as he did, driving in random directions under the prompting of an inner voice, and ending up in the middle of a vacant lot thinking it was a test of our faith.

I am not saying of course that God cannot by His power arrange for a good parking space! However, I do find it presumptuous to think that He does such things on the microscopic scale that Osteen envisions. To claim this is to leave the system open to rationalization at the crux point of failures. (As for Romans 8:28, it is probably best to read it as referring to God working out things for "those that love him" in a collective sense -- that is, the church, as in the whole of the passage -- rather than for individual concerns.)

In light of the above, I could not help but shake my head to see this in Meyer's STH [66]: "Maybe not getting the parking place we wanted kept somebody from pulling in next to us and denting our car." It seems that parking provides all too ready an example for teachers of this variety! But another example from ST [375] is much the same: Meyer writes of a woman who prayed a prayer of protection while on a boat. When a wave hit, she bumped her head, and asked God why this happened when she had prayed a prayer of protection. To which, God reputedly replied: "You aren't dead, are you?" Meyer concludes that angels did protect the woman, so that she only bumped her head but did not die. One can anticipate a Dan Barker replying with the valid point that if an angel can stop someone dying, they can certainly also stop them bumping their heads. And then what? Someone like Meyer with no sound theology of prayer will be reduced to saying that God wanted the woman to have a bump on her head for a good reason. And what is worse, readers of this issue of the E-Block will see that Eckhart Tolle offers the same sort of reasoning as Meyer does - only, as I say there, he appeals to the power of karmic justice rather than to providence. But in neither case is the system epistemically sound.

We must acknowledge that Meyer's trust in God is admirable; but she has left too many holes in her epistemology for it to be satisfactory. In ST 270, for example, this is her answer to faithful people who pray for years and get nothing, while others pray and get results at once:

I don't have a pat answer to that question, but I do know this: We have to believe above everything else that God knows what He is doing. It is amazing the peace that comes with that belief.

In essence, this is putting off the problem of inconsistency in Meyer's system. "Don't think about it, just trust God." That there might instead be a flaw in Meyer's epistemology of prayer is not even considered.

ST 277 offers a memorable account of how to have ministry like Meyer's: "...if God calls you, He opens the doors. He apprehends you, prepares you, provides the money, gives you favor, and makes it happen." Indeed? Some years ago, the same advice was given me by a Christian magician named Felix Snipes. Snipes engaged in tactics like "pew packing" to build his audience; and yet he would say that if people did not show up for your ministry services, then this indicated that the Holy Spirit was not in what you were doing. Nonplussed, I asked Snipes how one might discern between the Holy Spirit not being in what one was doing, and the audience simply not being receptive to things they needed to hear and see. Snipes had no answer for me on this, but merely fumbled about vaguely saying that that was something you needed to figure out. Indeed so. Meyer and Snipes arrive at their views via a notion of God as a micromanager; why is it not simpler to say that this is a view of God that is wrongly read into Scripture?

But as we will now see, this sort of conclusion is something that Meyer's theology simply will not permit.

A Warmer Burning in the Bosom

Meyer's Christianity is assuredly derived from the Charismatic tradition. Within that tradition, it is not infrequent for believers to claim to hear direct messages from God. One recalls Pat Robertson's professions on the 700 Club to hear from God about everything from a viewer's cancer to the future in politics. Yet few see that the lack of specificity in such predictions acts as a safeguard. If Robertson can say someone is cured of cancer, can he not name them also? (Contrived replies like, "It is not God's will for the person to be named" merely highlight the artificial nature of the system.)

Meyer, too, professes to hear the voice of God in very specific ways; but there are times when, quite frankly, we might find it hard to believe that she is hearing the voice of the same God who manifested Himself upon Mt. Sinai. Among the things God (or God through the Spirit) reputedly has told her:

  • ST 110 - The Spirit speaks to her about being worried about her hairdresser, and tells her to pray that the hairdresser will be "anointed" to do her hair right.
  • ST 149, 152 -- God can use "mild boredom" as a warning sign that we need to change things in our lives, even hairstyles or pantyhose.
  • ST161 -- the Spirit tells her to smile while she is in the shower.
  • STH 221 --God tells her to bring someone coffee.
  • 7T 47, 82 - The Spirit speaks to Meyer in her heart, telling her to stop being particular about what she was dressed in.
  • HMM 88 -- God tells her to make fruit salad for her husband: "The Holy Ghost said, 'Fruit salad.'"
  • HMM 147 - God also tells her to open her eyes during sexual intercourse with her husband: "It's time to open your eyes."
  • HMM 200 - Not only Meyer hears from God, but her friends as well. Meyer prayed to God for 12 dishtowels; later a friend later came by and said, "…I believe God told me to bring you a dozen dishtowels."
  • CFL 196-7 Even God's anointing may be distributed for the most pedantic affairs: "People laugh when I say this, but there is an anointing that comes on me to shop." A person can also be anointed to shop for groceries, "if she will exercise her faith and release the anointing."

It is, quite frankly, difficult to see this as anything but Meyer's imagination at work as she remakes God into her image - not as the holy dispenser of judgment known from the Bible; not as the active agent of grace and practical, agape love that sent Jesus to die for us - but as perhaps all this, and some sort of personal lifestyle counselor. The question: Can Meyer seriously believe that this is indeed God speaking to her of these matters? Is there even a Biblical precedent for such things? We see God speaking to persons like Paul of matters like where to conduct missionary work, but never of such trivialities as what toga to wear!

The question which arises: How does Meyer know that it is the voice of God she hears, and not her own imagination? How can she differentiate this voice from something like a Mormon "burning in the bosom"? Objective criteria are not easy to find, at least not so far, in the self-help genre of Meyer's books. In STH 221, she says, "Every time we disobey God, it becomes more difficult to hear Him the next time He speaks, but every time we obey Him, it gets easier to hear and be led by His Spirit." Disturbingly, this resembles far too closely a model of deepening self-deception, and tells us nothing by way of discernment. At 7T 157, Meyer describes the voice of God: She has heard God's voice audibly, she says, but this is "rare" - mostly she says, God speaks by a "still, small voice". With this, we still are not offered any way to distinguish between revelation and imagination. Only once, at 7T 159-60, does Meyer offer any sort of epistemic guidelines:

You may be unsure that God is really speaking to you, and you won't find out if it is God until you do the thing He is prompting you to do. If it is God telling you to do something, you will feel joy once you obey Him.

And yet, this is as useful as the burning in the bosom is: Is not the joy just as well because you are convinced that you obeyed God - even though you have no idea whether it was actually His voice? Christians who accept such ideas will find themselves ill-prepared to meet serious challenges to their faith.

What we find, indeed, is that Meyer adheres to a rather well-known idea (especially in Charismatic circles) that one may hear God's voice, or "rhema". As she says in 7T 155:

...if you want to hear God's voice (His rhema), you have to study His written Word (logos). Any other way in which God speaks to you will always agree with His written Word...The more knowledge you have of the logos (written) Word, the more God can speak a rhema (personal) word to you when you need it…When a Scripture comes to life for you and is full of sudden meaning, you need to hang on to it, because that is God talking to you.

Objectively and epistemically, this is a disastrous teaching (one I have addressed before here). Every step of the process is subjective and externally unverifiable or unfalsifiable. This is a far cry from the strict test for prophets laid down in Deuteronomy for those who claim to hear God's voice.

It is one thing to say that God is personal. It Is quite another to claim that God is personalized. Ironically, even Meyer realizes this, as she warns in ST 111: "Many people treat God merely as their buddy, one who is too kind and merciful to discipline them, ask them to sacrifice for Him, or require them to adjust their attitudes and behaviors." Such people, she says, need "reverential fear."

One can only conclude that Meyer's understanding of "reverential" is much colored by Western individualism.

Satan Here and There

Not only does Meyer see God as involved in her life on the most minute level; it seems that Satan, too, is quite the micromanager! Throughout her books, Meyer blames Satan for nearly every bad thing that might be conceived to happen, though to be fair, she does so in a way that does not absolve humans of responsibility for evil, as some teachers do, and does (ironically) counsel readers to not blame everything bad on the devil (ST 82). However, what Meyer does attribute to Satan is quite difficult enough to countenance:

  • ST 174 -- Meyer says she was attacked by a "spirit of condemnation" that caused her to feel guilty.
  • 7T 73 -- Satan doesn't want us to have any joy; he would even want to ruin a barbeque you have with your friends.
  • IDY 34, 286 -- Satan suggests that we procrastinate. He "will do everything he possibly can to keep you emotionally distraught."
  • CFL 42 -- Satan knows each person's buttons to push.

As a preterist, it is my view that Satan is currently bound and doing none of these things, or anything else; but even if that were not my view, I would be somewhat startled to hear that Satan (or his minions) has so much leisure time at his disposal that he even takes the time to ruin a barbeque. One suspects rather that Meyer is also remaking Satan in an "image" in the same way God has been remade.

Meyer and the Word of Faith

Though I expect to return to this issue when I consider Meyer's more theological works, it is natural to consider the question, "Is Meyer part of the Word-Faith movement?" I may find otherwise in those theological works, but in the self-help books, at least, Meyer seems to be no more "Word-Faith" than Osteen was. Some of Meyer's statements, taken alone, seem to bespeak a Word-Faith orientation, such as these from 7T:

  • 179 -- "Faith reaches into the spiritual realm and believes what it cannot see and feel, and waits for it to be manifested in the natural realm."
  • 199 -- Regarding the story of Jesus casting people out of the little girl's room before healing her: "I believe it was because He needed to be surrounded by faith, not by doubt, unbelief, fear, and mourners. He wanted an atmosphere that He could work in."
  • 243 -- "We cannot expect life (good things) if we are going to speak death (negative things).
  • 251-4 - Regarding healing: She believes God will do it; her ministry will send people a list of healing Scriptures "we recommend they confess out loud."

Also, from CFL:

  • 17 -- "Words are containers for power. They can carry either creative or destructive power."
  • 84 -- Because the 10 spies sent out by Joshua saw themselves as grasshoppers, "their enemy saw them as grasshoppers, too. We reap what we sow. How can we expect others to accept us if we reject ourselves?"

And, from ST:

  • 128-9 - concerning confessing Scripture: "When we do that, we are establishing things in the spiritual realm by the words we are speaking in the physical realm. And eventually what is established spiritually will be manifested physically."

And, from STH:

  • 192 -- "...[I]f we speak negatively, we will have negative experiences…If we speak positively, we will see good, positive things happen in our lives."

None of these statements, however, lays out a clear cause and effect in terms of how our words affect our circumstances. The examples Meyer offers seem to concentrate on the psychological impact of words rather than attributing to them any sort of inherent power.

The most clear statement I could find among the self-help volumes appears in STH 49, and would seem to deny Word-Faith principles, if anything: "Living by faith is looking at everything in a positive way, not trusting in the power of positive thinking, but trusting in the power of God, who loves us and wants the best for us." However, there still seems to be some room for doubt. It remains for me to see if Meyer will be more specific in terms of that cause and effect in her theological volumes.

Health...and Wealth?

A charge seemingly less difficult to assess against Meyer is that she teaches "prosperity." But is it the prosperity message of the Word-Faith movement, or something more general, such as is taught by Osteen?

So far, the results indicate the latter, but it seems that Meyer has unusual difficulty reconciling her message with both Scripture and the reality that most Christians simply are not materially prosperous. Meyer's prosperity message is hedged about with caveats and confirmation bias, as can be seen:

  • 100W, 5-6 -- "…I believe it is God's will for His people to be prosperous in every area of their lives, including finances and material goods. Psalm 35:27 says that God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His people. I find no scripture saying He is pleased when His people do not have their needs met." The word used in Ps. 35:27, however, is shalom, meaning peace, and has nothing to do with finances or material goods.

    In IDY 225 Meyer seems to have either realized this, or else a need for qualification, as she notes her reply to a TIME interviewer who asked if God wanted people to be rich: "…I could not answer his question with a direct yes or no because I believe we can be rich in many ways" such as having a good job or marriage.

  • IDY 227 also introduces readers to Meyer's "law of gradualism" (not justified at all with Scripture) whereby God will increase people as they are ready. (The obvious question would be, how can this be validated without confirmation biases intact?)
  • IDY 231 - One might wonder how Meyer deals with the simple fact that many Christians today, especially in the Third World, and Jesus and the Apostles themselves, are and were not wealthy. Some prosperity teachers contrive to make Jesus into Bill Gates, but Meyer does not, thankfully, take that tack. She admits that the apostles did not have material goods, but says that "they were the ones who taught people to give so they could reap an abundant harvest." Paul, in Ephesians, says that "…God was able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all they could dare to hope, ask, or think. That certainly doesn't sound as if He wanted His people to barely get by!" And yet, the simple fact is that this is the condition of most Christians in the world today - if not even worse than "barely get by." It is clear that Meyer struggles with this, and one can only hope that she will see that it is her interpretation of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself, that is in error - for it is an unfortunate fact that many claimed apostasies have resulted from this sort of misapprehension of the nature of God's provision.

All of this said, Meyer does advocate responsible use of wealth (which can be considered apart from any charges - with which we are not here concerned - that she does not practice such responsible use in her own life). In 100W 6, she notes that wealth can be a distraction, but it does not have to be, and "we should learn how to handle (abundance) properly." (Here at least, the Spirit goes somewhat beyond trivialities, and orders her to prune her possessions and give things away.) In HMM 195, she counsels readers to enjoy themselves, but not love money, and to buy wisely. IDY 28 tells readers to stay out of debt, and observes that : "...our culture today is almost totally self-absorbed." (! - Regrettably, Meyer does not see how that might apply to her own "personalized" vision of God.) And most significantly, unlike the popular "health and wealth" teachers, Meyer sees prosperity as something earned through obedience (IDY 128) rather than something God owes us.

Part One: Conclusion

As noted, we have much more to consider in our evaluation of Joyce Meyer's teachings, but this much may be said so far: As a popular Bible teacher who is drawn upon by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people, Meyer has an immense responsibility towards the Body of Christ. Based on the above, I do not believe that Meyer is taking this responsibility seriously, any more than Joel Osteen is, but is rather trapped in the same "vision of sugarplums" that causes her to see things as more rosy than they are. This is indeed a peculiarity, since Meyer's heroic recovery from childhood sexual abuse is well known, and her ministry engages so many worthwhile causes in the eradication of poverty.

But perhaps, we will find more clues in Parts 2 and 3 of this series.

3 comments:

  1. I remember reading this article back when it first came out. This was a good reminder. I can't help but cringe whenever I encounter this very same sort of epistemology so wide-spread among some of my friends.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Meyer applies Is. 61:1-4 midrashically to every Christian, where there is no warrant to do so:
    The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; ..., and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
    Isaiah was a prophet, and Jesus was divine, and could apply these verses to themselves easily; for Meyer to apply them universally is extremely presumptuous.

    Extremely presumptuous? Why? I have the mind of Christ and love as He loves. So I do as He does (as I grow in trust in His provision that ego has been crucified and this new creation of me has been resurrected in Him). That sounds pretty presumptuous, too, doesn't it? Yet, from that I can say that I, and especially I in the church, can apply those verses to myself.

    You can say I'm interpreting incorrectly, but since I'm not interpreting like you do I'm not presumptuous. (God, of course, has the final say on this.)

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    1. Yes, Meyer is being presumptuous. Your example is not relevant because having the mind of Christ and loving as he loves is our specified commission. Applying any text willy nilly is not.

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