Bordering on the Prosperity Doctrine

Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History - Francis August Schaeffer

There was a time that I thought that Francis Schaeffer was wonderful in that he brought a new perspective to the Bible that many of the other tired old commentators generally didn't (and these commentators were generally restricted to the Australian Anglican Church). However my position changed when I read a testimony by his son where he attacked his father's theological position in that it was drifting close to the position of the fundamentalist right wing American church. The thing with Schaeffer (and I have mentioned this previously) is that his position was during the lead up to the modern fundamenalist position, however we must remember that he was actually quite welcoming to people and was also very much in favour of environmentalism.


That does not mean that I agree with all of his theology. While we see eye to eye with the theology of environmentalism, we do not see eye to eye with a lot of his other theology, and this book is a case in point. When I first read it I quite liked it, however I did not see the underlying problems within the book at the time. This book is basically a commentary on the book of Joshua and the interesting thing is that there are a lot of comparisons between this book and the book of Acts. However I do not think that we can force New Testament theology onto this book because we are talking about different times and different stages of salvation history.


The major concern that I have with this book is that it seems to lead towards a form of prosperity doctrine: if you keep God's laws then you will prosper, and if you reject God's laws then you will not. In a materialistic sense this simply does not work because there are many good and faithful Christians out there that suffer from the evils of this world. Further, if we take it on a corporate, national level, as is also possible, there are also problems that arise because there are a lot of wicked and despotic governments that are also prospering. Further, I am also hesitant to accept the idea that in the past fifty years we have gone from a God fearing people to a wicked and rebellious people.


The first thing that I will speak of is the idea of God's law. Once again, Schaeffer seems to get caught up with two things here: sexual promiscuity and abortion (which the section of murder is a subtle attack against). However, the essence of God's law seems to have been missed, and to understand the essence of God's law I believe that Micah 6:8 'he has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God'. The context of this passage is that despite all of the sacrifices and the outward appearances of goodness, the heart itself was rotten because the people were self absorbed and wicked. We see a similar thing in Jesus' time where when it came to the law the Pharasees were impeccable, yet Christ still rebuked them harshly for their outward appearances and their wicked and self-centred thoughts. Schaeffer, and many others, speak of this post-Christian world and claim that previously that our society was based upon a biblical foundation, however that biblical foundation was little more that a thin veneer that supported colonialism, oppression, economic inequality, and wholesale genocide of non-European cultures simply because they did not conform to our understanding of a civilised society (not to mention slavery and the over use of the death penalty). If every human life is sacred why then are the authorities given the right to execute people because they have committed a crime? In fact our society is so caught up with the idea of punishing the evil doers that we have actually forgotten the idea of mercy (and in fact have no idea of what mercy actually means).


I see it all the time at work when people are offended at the suggestion that they are at fault and the idea of innocence gets thrown around so often that we actually forget what it means. It appears that there is a class of society that simply does not understand or accept responsibility for their actions, and this is nothing new. When Australia was colonised the Aboriginals were considered to be little more than animals and as such were hunted and killed for sport. One early pastor at a large city church has been claimed to have been this great evangelical because he established a church that has maintained its evangelical stance for over 150 years, yet the current leadership ignore the fact that back in the early days of colonisation there must have been some complicity with the colonists who killed the aboriginals. In fact in one book that I read about aboriginal Christianity, this church actually garnered a mention in which the aboriginal author commented on how he did not feel welcome or comfortable in this church.


I may be sounding like I am being too harsh here but we must remember that we cannot forget where we have come from and Christians cannot hide behind a thin veneer of respectability yet hide themselves away from society and set themselves above the world as a whole. We spend enormous amounts of time attacking atheists and decrying the situation that our society has slipped into however we have completely forgotten from where we originally came.