Important book but in serious need of an editor
Basically, the doctrines are called "prosperity" and "faith". The faith doctrine is the most insidious because it sounds so harmless. Shouldn't all Christians have faith?
Well, this doctrine is something quite different and odd. Joel Osteen may be the most famous teacher of this doctrine right now. It's easily searchable on the web and this book does a great job of exposing its flaws as well. Suffice it to say that it is not a Christian idea, but much more like the New Age stuff taught in books like The Secret.
Prosperity theology is more famous because any viewer of a TBN program can watch its preachers telling viewer things like this, "When you tithe, God gives to you. When you don't tithe God takes it away from you." (p. 46) The promise is that you will get stuff from God if you tithe. God is like a divine bank account. Preacher Jesse Duplantis noted that God is a comforter "because when you get some stuff it brings you comfort." (p. 198) Wow, as great a perversion of the concept as I've ever heard. Joyce Meyer notes that giving to God is like getting a "receipt" or an IOU from God that you can draw on later on.(p. 222)
So, who cares. Can't these people worship as they please? Well, of course they can. But, when they take the Christian name and use it to teach non-Christian doctrine on a worldwide broadcast it hurts the Christian brand. Plus, most Christians don't even know what these people are really saying, they just assume it's the same stuff they hear in their own churches.
The book is hyper-researched. The bibliography is 16 pages long with teeny-tiny print. There are more than 1,000 endnotes for a 347 page book. Hanegraaf knows his stuff.
The book is repetitive. I read some of the same quotes more than half a dozen times. The point was made - no reason to state it so many times. The repetition hurt the overall argument because it began to feel like there must be a shortage of quotes since some were used so many times. In retrospect, with more than 1,000 endnotes, the repeated quotes were a very small part of the whole. But, still, an editor would have helped the book by helping it to become leaner and meaner. The overall quality of the book was hurt. You could cut 50-100 pages from this book and only help it.
I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century.
Reviewed on April 14, 2009.