Ever heard of H. Vinson Synan? He’s an important Pentecostal historian, according to Wikipedia. He earned his credentials by being the first to conclude based on the facts of history that the Pentecostal movement is rooted in Wesleyan Holiness theology. This conclusion has apparently been affirmed by his peers who have checked his sources and found a there there. This is the view I’ve always heard about Pentecostal origins. I guess Synan is a scholarly force to be reckoned with.
This past week, however, on Kenneth Copeland’s daily television show, the Prosperity preacher extraordinaire has been interviewing Doug Wead, former member of George H. W. Bush’s staff, a presidential and religious historian who has written a few books and earned some experience researching history for himself. Wead is speaking out against Senator Grasseley’s investigation into the financial goings on of six major Prosperity Gospel ministries, which may have some basis, considering this is the nation built in part on the ideal of absolute religious liberty. Of course, it’s not the theology the government’s worried about, but rather the extravagent lifestyles of the heads of these supposedly non-profit organizations.
Well, as Wead was discussing issues related to the above, he blew my mind with a little historical revisionism, apparently hoping to legitimize the prosperity gospel by being able to say this doctrine doesn’t come from Copeland or Hagin or Creflo Dollar (which is the greatest last name for a prosperity preacher, if you ask me!) He said there is historical precedent for the prosperity gospel in the wealth of the medieval Roman Catholic church until St. Francis began teaching something a little less prosperity-minded. This fascinated me, because I recall in Hank Hanegraaff’s book, Counterfeit Revival, how that the Holy Laughter revivalists pointed to ecstatic outbursts of laughter and barking and what not in the revival meetings of the First Great Awakening to legitimize the same phenomena among their number nowadays. Hanegraaff pointed out in his book, though, that there was a little detail overlooked by the Holy Laughter crowd–how that Wesley and Edwards and Whitefield, et al, viewed these phenomena as inappropriate, and made efforts to curtail such disorderly outbursts.
So, the tradition continues in relation to the prosperity gospel! I looked up Doug Wead’s website and contacted him by email to inquire into more detail about such claims. After all, he just touched on it on Copeland’s show. Wead told me he read an article by Synan which mentioned this association. So, naturally, my first trip was to Wikipedia, to find out what information the online community has collected there about this seemingly important historian. You can read all about him here.
So, after reading up on Synan, I went back to one of Wead’s blogs, and did a search for Synan or prosperity theology related blogging, and I hit paydirt. Wead had recently posted on his blog an article by H. Vinson Synon on “What’s so attractive about the Prosperity Gospel?” If you haven’t had your credulity stretched lately, I recommend this read as a good opportunity to catch up for lost incredulity. Suffice it to say, medieval Romanism is just the tip of the iceberg of prosperity preaching in church history, if you ask Synan. Read the article and then join me in telling Doug and his readers what you think and then come back here and share your thoughts with me, too. I only wish I could snap a picture of the look on your face when you see what Prosperity history has in store for you!