Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom concludes his two-part series with guest, pastor and author Anton Bosch. Here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. This is the second part of our series in which we’ve been addressing the prosperity gospel. My guest has been Anton Bosch. He’s the pastor of Sun Valley Community Church just north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. Anton, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Anton: Thanks, Tom. It’s great to be with you and to share with the listeners again on the prosperity message.
Tom: Yeah. Now, for our listeners who have maybe just joined us for the first time, I keep encouraging - you know, you can go to our website and get the previous program, which we did last week, and that’ll get you up to to speed so I don’t have to (or neither one of us has to) kind of repeat some things, although that may be of value, as well, as we go through these issues. But it’s, again, the prosperity gospel. What we’re addressing here is probably one of the movements that has overtaken a large part of the church. And last week, we mentioned Pentecostals and Charismatics, but we qualified that, because it isn’t just those parts of the church - the denominations or what-have-you - now it’s pretty much pervasive throughout the whole church, because, again, the attraction is money. The attraction is prosperity, and in our country, materialism is huge. And there’s nothing wrong with having wealth, except for the fact, as we went over last week, it can be a huge distraction. It can be something that draws us away from God Himself. We quoted Hebrews:11:6, talking about faith, which is a part of this: “Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.” Him. Anything that gets in the way of that is going to take us down a wrong path. Well, as it says in Hebrews, again, “Take heed lest ye drift away,” and certainly that can cause us to drift away from the Word of God and being in submission to God.
So, Anton, as we start this second session, what would you add to that?
Anton: Yeah, the thing that’s obviously most concerning is that it is contrary to the Scripture on so many levels. There is almost not an aspect of the faith message, or the prosperity message, that is biblical; and not only is it not biblical, but it is contrary to Scripture, it’s contrary to God’s purposes in our lives, it’s contrary to God’s dealings in our lives - it is incredibly destructive. At a number of levels, it’s destructive of people’s faith.
And let me share with you a testimony of a lady who came out of this teaching and came to our church in South Africa, and soon after she joined with us - not because she joined with us! - but her family faced bankruptcy, and they lost everything. And obviously, this had been on the way, and her testimony was that had she not come to us and heard the true message, she would not have been able to deal with this terrible cataclysmic event in her life. So it doesn’t prepare people for hardship. It doesn’t prepare people for life, and so people are blindsided when difficulty comes their way. So it is destructive to their faith. It draws people into Christianity - or into Christendom, really - on false pretenses, on the promises of wealth and happiness, and people join (people get “saved,” so-called) not because they need a Savior, but because they need an ATM! And so millions are flocking (especially in Africa) into the churches for the wrong reason - not because they love the Lord, not because they are grateful for what He has done on the cross - that becomes absolutely incidental; it’s what He’s going to do for them on a material level.
And so it’s destructive at so many levels, not just spiritually, but financially. It brings about ruin as people just pour their money at the feet of these money preachers and get poorer and poorer. And here’s the sad thing (and this is where you see the fraud going on): because your financial prosperity is a sign of your spiritual prosperity, you don’t want to be seen to be poor.
And one of my early friends - and I’m going back…yeah, almost 40 years - this guy got into the prosperity message. He was a salesman, and so he worked on commission only. And he began to give big, because that was a sign of his spiritual prosperity; and he didn’t want anyone to think that he was spiritually bankrupt, so he poured huge money into the church, to the point where eventually he was bankrupt, but now he has the double thing - he has to give money to the church in order to appear spiritually blessed, but at the same time he has to keep up a lifestyle which he cannot afford, and this man ended in ruin. He lost everything - not just his financials, his material stuff, but he lost his family, he lost everything as a direct result of this message. So it’s a damaging, toxic doctrine.
Tom: Last week, you talked about Napoleon Hill, an individual who not only influenced Oral Roberts, but he was huge among the “positive mental attitude” people, people who were into Amway, people who were into High Sales, and so on. They had to read his books Think and Grow Rich, or Grow Rich with Peace of Mind, and in those books, it pointed out how he got into, really, divination. He started with his imagination of putting his council together, and he would go to these individuals in his mind to begin with, but then he realized that they had a mind of their own, that this wasn’t his mind, but they were actually giving him information. So you think, “There you go. He has a source in which he’s going to prosper,” and of course he sold millions of books along this line, influenced many people - some presidents…I mean, you go down the list of his influence, it was huge!
Anton: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: But, Anton, he died penniless. He died a broken man. So obviously, there’s a huge problem there, just practically speaking! And then, if you’re not convinced by that - you know, I haven’t read the books, but I’m aware of the books that have tracked those who have won lotteries in the millions of dollars, and you want to talk about lives destroyed and what money has done to these people…it’s not what they think; it’s not what they even hope. It’s a problem; it’s a huge problem, and obviously, the main problem is it keeps us away from, as we quoted Hebrews:11:6, from seeking God, from seeking Him and what He has, which is eternal, not just temporal goodies, as it were.
Anton: Yeah, and just think about this for one moment, Tom: Jesus gave us His life. He died for us, and we turn around and we say, “Thanks for dying for us, but that’s not really what I want. I want a million bucks.” How does that translate to worship, to gratitude, to appreciation that we’ve not been redeemed with corruptible things or silver and gold, but with His own precious blood? And so there’s an innate unthankfulness for what He has done. “I’m not serving Him because of what He did for me at the cross, I’m serving Him because of what I can get out of Him.” I mean, that must be the ultimate insult to a loving God.
Tom: You know, and, Anton, what makes it confusing is they try and cover this with other thoughts and ideas, covering just what you said. For example, when The Secret came out, which was a book on how to utilize these spiritual laws or these laws of the universe to gain wealth, to gain healing, to gain prosperity, and they say clearly also to become God, become a god! Well, the issue here is one of their sayings is, “You need to develop an attitude of gratitude.”
And you say, “Well, wait a minute, that sounds all right. That sounds good.” But the attitude of gratitude just becomes a device for getting what you want…
Tom: …which is counterproductive.
Anton: Yeah, and that’s where they turn these laws upside down or these principles upside down. The very principle of giving to God - of course that’s a biblical principle, whether you believe in tithing or don’t, but the principle of giving is a New Testament principle that, you know, comes from the Old Testament, and why do we give? We give out of love, out of devotion, out of thankfulness, because of who He is.
Anton: Now, the moment that gift becomes a seed, then I’m giving so that I will get back. The whole purpose for giving has been changed, and the gift becomes invalid.
Tom: Anton, let me give you an example. Right after Seduction of Christianity came out, in which we addressed much of this, much of these things - prosperity, the faith, the faith movement, and so on - they had a conference at a church very close to where you are, Church on the Way. And the speakers at this conference were Robert Schuller - not just Robert Schuller, but Oral Roberts, and I had to attend, because many of the…well, especially [Oral] Roberts and Robert Schuller were mentioned in the book, so I wanted to see how… This was a pastors’ conference, but you could still get in not being a pastor there. And so when Oral Roberts got up to speak, he gave his standard message of seed faith.
Now, if you’ve missed this, folks, if you’re not sure what that is, you could go back to our first session that I did with Anton on this, but basically what it means is you give to get, right?
Tom: You give so much, and God’s going to return to you, depending on who’s preaching this, you’re going to get tenfold, a thousandfold, a hundredfold, whatever it might be. And since…I bet there were at least 1500 at this conference, and many of them, if not - well, most of them would have been pastors, and I thought to myself, You know, they’re not going to buy this. They’re not going to go for this! This is so…I mean, these are pastors! Come on! They’re not going to go for this. Anton, the first person up to the pulpit as Oral Roberts is standing there was Jack Hayford, the pastor, with a check. And I’m thinking, You know, this is heartbreaking. This is really… You know, I was just absolutely stunned by this. But that’s the issue, and it isn’t just - I’m not just picking on Jack Hayford and Church on the Way, this is pervasive throughout the church.
Now, what I’d like you to address right now, you were born in South Africa. You mentioned last week that you were a pastor in West Africa and so on. What about that country, that continent, in terms of the effect that the prosperity gospel has had? What about that?
Anton: Well, this is where the prosperity message is growing - not just in Africa, but in any third world country or developing country, because the prosperity message is particularly attractive, obviously, to people who are financially disadvantaged. Poor people - poor people struggle; there’s the promise of riches, and it just is so attractive to them, and so people in Africa generally are open to this kind of thing. And so the American version has been taken…South Africa, of course, is a little bit different in that South Africa is really a lot of first world and some third world, and so the South African version of the prosperity message is very much the same as the American one. But in West Africa, they have indigenized it and synchronized it with their own ancestral worship and their own traditions. And so particularly in Nigeria - and when I saw West Africa, it’s specifically Nigeria, and from Nigeria it’s been spreading throughout. And so that Ghana, which is right next door - there’s a little Benin in between - but Ghana is not a hundred percent prosperity; it is growing, but Nigeria is really almost a hundred percent prosperity message. You can stand on any street corner and you can see literally 10 churches, 12 churches, little storefronts down a little alley, huge cathedrals, and every one of them has massive banners outside promising your breakthrough (and maybe we’ll get back to this word “breakthrough”), but your breakthrough in your finances, in your marriage, in your sex life, in whatever else, and people are just flocking and pouring millions and millions of dollars.
And from West Africa, from Nigeria, it is spreading into the rest of Africa, and so these Nigerian preachers are some of the wealthiest men in the world now. They have tremendous resources available, and they’re just moving into the countries in Africa, buying airtime, buying television stations, setting up churches, and expanding the market, because it’s a business model - that’s all it is. It’s a business model, and the market has been saturated in Nigeria, and they now occupy new markets. And so they’re spreading through Africa, but not just Africa, they’re spreading to America. In Chicago and other parts of Detroit and other parts of America, there are massive West African churches - Nigerian churches - that are propagating this message.
And so the version, the West African version of this, has just tweaked the message just a little bit. Let me take a step back: in traditional African worship or religion, ancestral worship is a major factor, and so in their understanding - and you’ll recognize the similarities with Catholicism, of course - but in their understanding, there are multiple levels or several levels between us and God, and at the first level above us are the ancestors, or the ancestral spirits. Then above that are the angels and demons. There are other complications, but that’s the simple diagram.
Now, in order to get to God, you can’t to God directly, because obviously the gospel of Jesus being the mediator doesn’t apply, and so how you have to get to God is through the ancestors. You have to appease the ancestors. If you appease the ancestors, they will deal with the demons and the angels, and they will then somehow get through to God. This is where the word “breakthrough…” Now, you will see that they use the word “breakthrough” in the American version of prosperity message, but in a different way. But they’ve taken this word and applied it in exactly that same way. And so whereas in ancestral worship (which is demon worship, of course), in order to get from God rain or prosperity or fertility or whatever you need, you have to appease the ancestors, and you appease the ancestors by giving money or a cow or a sacrifice to the witchdoctor. The witch doctor then intercedes on your behalf with the ancestors and then, you know, the thing works all the way up to their version of God. Now, you can see how that that now is translated into the modern version of the prosperity message. So instead of giving money to the witchdoctor, you give money to the preacher, who really is still just a witchdoctor…
Anton: …and he will intercede for you, and he will speak to the ancestors, and he will do the spiritual warfare with the angels and the demons, and then your breakthrough…and the breakthrough is when you get through all of these layers, once you get through the preacher, through the ancestors, through the demons or the angels, eventually get through to God, and then the blessing has to come all the way back down again. And obviously the blessing is blocked all the way down again, and so more money and more sacrifice is needed to get the whole process reversed to get the blessing back from God all the way down, and of course Daniel - the reference to the angel being delayed, and so that’s how they’ve applied it in Africa. So it makes a lot of sense to the African mind. It’s nothing new to them.
Anton: But all it is is the same old witchdoctors and demon worship with a Christian guise on it.
Tom: So on a practical note, it’s actually of the witchdoctor, the shaman, the preacher, they’re the ones who get wealthy, they're the ones who get rich.
You know, as you mentioned, this is received, certainly, because of the poverty in the countries that you mentioned, but also, as you’ve been saying, because this is magic; this is witchcraft, and they’re used to that. I’m thinking about Santeria and the Orisha gods, thinking about Haiti - these are all programs that have incantations, rituals, and so on, to appease the gods or the demons, whoever it might be. So, you know…again, folks, what are we saying here? It all comes together. This stuff from the core of it, it’s demonic. It takes us away from the truth, from the Word of God, from what He has presented and how He has presented it. So the antidote to this - we’ll talk about that as we close the program - but it’s getting back to the Word of God.
But, Anton, one of the things I wanted to ask you - we’ve got about five or six minutes left here - you know, you have… Certainly when The Seduction of Christianity came out and we dealt with these issues, the big names then, and some are still because of their books - Kenneth Hagin, Frederick Price, Casey Treat, certainly Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, and there are some who are not quite as upfront about this, but I’m thinking about probably the one character who promotes this in the most outrageous form would be somebody like John Avanzini, who says, “Well, look, Jesus was wealthy. He wore designer clothes, because it was seamless…” I mean, on and on. This stuff is…you wonder why people buy this. Well, because they want - it’s their heart looking for prosperity that motivates them, wouldn’t you say?
Anton: Yeah, it’s greed. That’s all it is. And you know, the Scripture’s very clear that our attitude should not be one of greed but one of contentment, and so just wanting stuff, wanting more, wanting money…I joke that the lotto is a tax on people who can’t do math. But the prosperity thing is the same thing. It catches people who should know better, but who can’t put two and two together, and say, “He’s getting richer because I’m giving money to him, but I’m not getting richer.” And even if you know nothing about the Scripture, you should be able to look at the situation and say, “Well, if this thing works, why is the preacher not giving me money? Because then he’s going to get more money if he gives me money!” But why does it go the other way?
You know, one of the arguments I use - and I stopped going to West Africa because I just felt that it was a waste of time, literally - but one of the arguments I would use because people would oppose me on this all the time, and I would be speaking to groups of pastors, you know, 50-100 pastors at a time, because they know my stand on this, so they would…there would be one [who] would get up and oppose me, and I would have a standard answer, because we’ll have dealt with the Scriptures, and they’re not hearing the Scriptures. So I say to them, “How did you get here to this meeting today?”
And they say, “Well, what do you mean?”
“How did you get here? Did you come with a car, or did you come with a bus, or with a taxi?”
“No, no, I came on a taxi,” or, “I came on a bus.”
And I say, “Well, where’s your car?”
“What do you mean?”
I say, “Where’s your car?”
He says, “I don’t have a car.”
I say, “Well, how long have you been preaching this message?”
“Oh, I’ve been preaching it 10 years, 20 years.”
“So why don’t you have a car?”
But they don’t get it! And that’s where I believe it’s a spiritual deception that once you give yourself over to this greed, you just cannot see the wood for the trees.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You know, there’s so many dangers involved in this, and it’s not just spiritual, which is - that’s the worst part, but people will sometimes refuse medical help because they’ve been told, “No, it’s a lack of faith on your part.” That’s serious. They’re told, “Well, you don’t pray according to God’s will, because that’s a copout. That’s a lack of faith.” Now, wait a minute, what could be better for us than to have God’s will in our lives? I mean, come on! This stuff is irrational, illogical, and as I said, destructive.
So, Anton, how do we guard against this? How can a believer who maybe has bought into this or somebody who’s toying with it, what do they need to do to protect themselves against this teaching?
Anton: Well, you touched on it earlier, Tom: it’s the Word of God. And the older I get, the more I realize how simple the Word of God is. And what does the Word of God teach? Without being taught by these guys - and of course, here’s…the prosperity thing is very much like every other heresy, and that is it’s not caught, it’s taught, so you can’t catch this by reading the New Testament. The New Testament has to be changed and modified by a teacher, and then regurgitated and taught to you again.
And so the bottom line is what does the New Testament teach? And the answer is for someone who is serious about serving the Lord to do their own study. Just go through the New Testament and see what does the New Testament teach about money, about the love of money, about greed, about contentment, about God’s will and God’s purpose for us, and that should answer all the questions.
Tom: Amen. You know, my guest has been Anton Bosch. We’ve been talking about, if you didn’t pick up on it already, the prosperity gospel and what a plague this has been on Christianity. It continues to grow, it effects especially third world countries where these conmen, basically, have introduced that under the guise of Christianity. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to pray for them, but we need to pray for discernment. So again, Anton, thanks for being on the program. Hopefully it’s really been edifying to our listeners. So thank you, Anton.
Anton: Thank you, Tom. It’s been a privilege to be with you again.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.