Prosperity Prophets and Presidential Politics

Some Christians experience perplexity as they watched video recordings of Paula White, the faith adviser of President Trump prophesying over the pulpit. Their perplexity turns into consternation when they come across the following video in the social media. The accompanying message from a Muslim appears to be taunting Christians.

Hello everyone. My name is Ahmad and i have watch the video, my question is ” Is what Senior Pastor Paula White spoke is it from the bible?” If it is, show me where in your scripture? For example, she claimed that everywhere she stands the ground is holy, sounds like what God said to Moses. Is she equal to God? From my little knowledge but I know that when God is present the ground is holy and anyone not sanctified will be struck dead standing on the ground. How come President Trump who stood beside her is not struck dead? She said that if you are not voting for Trump you are going against God. It reminds me of PAS saying to Muslims that “if you do not vote for them, you will go to hell”. Did she received instruction from God to say this? on issue of offering, she said that there is a bank or treasury in heaven and if I give more I will get more in return. Is this true.? I am really interested in this as I have invested in the stock market and I lost quite a large sum. There are many more questions? But let’s deal with these questions first before you share with me about Jesus because she uses the name of Jesus.

The preaching and prophecy of Paula White in the video contains some spiritual truths but also disturbing spiritual distortions. I shall focus on three important issues in this post.

1) Issue of spiritual authority – Many Bible believing Christians affirm that they have spiritual authority based on the name (authority) of Jesus. They testify that Christians through faith and prayer in the name of Jesus can cast out evil spirits and receive healing from God. But the authority does not rest in the name of any prophet, president or pope. It rests in the name of Jesus alone.

How should Christians regard Paula White as she assumes the mantle of a prophet? The great prophet Moses provides several criteria to determine true prophets from false prophets:
First, the words of the prophet must come to pass. This is the simplest test of prophets and prophecy. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Second, the words of the prophet must inspire believers to love God and keep his commandments. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

Moses strongly emphasizes that a true prophet will not seek attention for himself. Instead, the prophet should direct the attention of his hearers to God so that they will follow him with all their hearts. However, whether intentional or not, Paula White effectively becomes the centre of attention in her preaching and prophesying. Indeed, Paula White appears to be arrogating divine authority to herself in this video. This is contrary to the Bible and is spiritually misguided. It borders towards spiritual heresy (bidaah).

Third, the words of the prophet must glorify Jesus Christ. The Bible affirms that Jesus Christ is God’s final and perfect revelation. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Jesus assured his disciples that the Holy Spirit will guide them so that they will understand the full significance of what he has taught them. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). The Bible serves as the final authority in matters of faith as it is a record of what the Holy Spirit has declared to the disciples. As such, all purported prophecies must be tested by the clear teaching of the Bible.

Jesus Christ as God’s final and perfect revelation therefore serves as the starting point and controlling framework for testing any spiritual truth claims. This being the case, Ahmad’s unwillingness to listen to any sharing of Jesus Christ until he is satisfied with explanations of self-proclaimed prophets like Paula White is actually putting the cart before the horse. It is not the words of Paula White that helps us understand Jesus Christ better. On the contrary, it is the God’s perfect revelation in Christ inscribed in the Bible that enables us to discern the authenticity or falsity of any spiritual truth claim. Indeed, since Jesus Christ is God’s final and perfect revelation, no prophet who comes after Jesus Christ can compare with Jesus in status and saving power. Inquirers like Ahmad would do well to read the teachings of Jesus Christ for themselves.

2) Issue of political alliance made between Paula White and President Trump – Paula White is correct in her understanding that the social policies advocated by the Democrat Party are anti-Christian in spirit and will force the church away from the public arena (LGBT/transgenderism features prominently in this agenda). So she is prepared to ally herself with Trump in fighting the anti-Christian agenda of the Democrat Party (in addition to getting limelight for herself?). Trump is happy to recruit Paula White (whether she is a classical evangelical is an open question) and to garner support from evangelicals which include conservatives, fundamentalists, so-called evangelical Zionists and prosperity gospel evangelists since he is opposed by a powerful array of enemies comprising elites from the main stream media (CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NYT, Wash. Post, etc.), Big Tech (Google, Twitter, Facebook etc), Wall Street billionaires, college professors (90 % are Democrats), Big Pharma, the Deep State (this includes the CIA & FBI!) and of course, most of the celebrities in Hollywood.

It is clear that the alliance between Paula White and Trump is based on a mixture of genuine religious concerns and personal agendas. But since I am an outsider who can only judge the events in the USA at distance, I will not give a final judgment regarding the propriety of their alliance. I understand that some church leaders in USA feel compelled to make a strategic alliance with politicians to fight against aggressive/godless atheists who now control most of the vital public institutions in the USA. However, caution is in order as Christians should be mindful that political alliances at best bring partial solutions to deeper spiritual problems; at worst, such alliances bring the divisiveness and corruption of the political world into the church. He who sups with the ‘devil’ must use a long spoon (I am not referring to Trump; I am just making a general observation about the danger of mixing religion with politics). Given the complexity and bitterness of the political contestation in the USA and being an outsider, it is right that I refrain from making any final judgment on the personal motives of these actors – God knows best.

3) Issue of Prosperity Gospel – Preachers like Paula White promise prosperity to their supporters. At best, their promises are based on faulty understanding of the Bible. At worst, they amount to a corruption of the Christian message based on financial inducement. It is good to be reminded of the words of Jesus Christ, “you cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Christ also advise his disciples not to hanker after political power; they should instead seek to serve his fellow men (Matthew 20:25-28).

The sad reality is that human beings often exploit and even corrupt the best and holiest gifts of God. There will always be maverick prophets and preachers whose doctrinal orthodoxy is in doubt. This happens to all religions. Christianity has it fair share of misguided sects. Muhammad is reported to have said that his Ummah will be divided into 73 sects but only one will be saved (granted there are several interpretations of this hadith). For this reason, authoritative teachers and scholars of all religions always remind their followers to test the authenticity of these preachers with their scriptures.

It is right that we refrain from condemning any religion just because of some misguided teachers. Indeed, Christians are mindful that they should all the more redouble their effort to put into practice the core teaching of their religion, that is, to accept the salvation of Christ which empowers them them to love and obey God, promote social justice and personal holiness. “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?” (Micah 6:8).

Related Posts
– The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Part 1/2
The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament Part 2/2
Muslims Following Jesus? But Which Jesus?