In the wake of Donald Trump's election victory, some are suggesting that the prosperity gospel is enjoying a win of its own. But Pentecostal scholars argue that proponents of the controversial teaching will have a hard time supporting that claim.
A Wednesday article in The Washington Post asserted that Trump's election victory yielded "an unlikely triumph for the prosperity gospel, as well as for a handful of prosperity-oriented preachers from the world of African American televangelism."
Wave Nunnally, who holds a Ph.D. in Early Judaism and is a professor of Biblical Studies at Evangel University, an Assemblies of God college in Springfield, Missouri, thinks that prosperity evangelists who want to view Trump's victory as a legitimate endorsement of their theology will have some challenges doing so.
"For those who are proponents of prosperity theology," Nunnally said, "if they want to claim that Trump's victory is a victory for the prosperity gospel, they have this problem, an obstacle to overcome. And that is that Trump is not a believer in the prosperity gospel."
"Which is interesting," he added. "He's very prosperous but he didn't get that way by memorizing scripture, by having the right confession, by being a member of a church that promotes the prosperity gospel, or by giving to churches like that."
"They can claim what they want to claim but they would be undercutting their own position."
CP asked Nunnally, a Pentecostal Christian himself, what he makes of the frequent associations made elsewhere in the media linking Pentecostalism and Charismatic expressions of Christianity to prosperity teaching.
He responded that if you look back at the origins of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, it does not emerge from classical Pentecostalism.
The important distinction, he continued, was "that the primary focus of early Pentecostalism was on Acts 1:8, [that believers] will be empowered for more effective service, of God and of neighbor. It had little to nothing to do with accumulating wealth, or sowing seed faith."
Instead, "it had everything to do with being spiritually empowered in the same way that the early disciples were in the book of Acts so that we are then able to prosecute the ministry of preaching, teaching and serving other people in ways that exalt Jesus and draw people closer to him."
Also absent in early Pentecostalism was the myopic emphasis the prosperity gospel places on faith and prosperity. And in churches that espouse it, he added, "one never hears messages about being empowered to service, of sanctification, and personal holiness."
"Because it's so myopic, it's unbalanced. Yes, there is a component where God wants to bless his people, and that's important for us Pentecostals because we see Him blessing people in the Old and New Testaments and we say He is the same yesterday, today, and forever," Nunnally noted, referencing Hebrews 13:8.
"So we want to pay that forward and say that applies to us as well. However, that doesn't mean that you make that your primary or exclusive focus."