An official with the Presbyterian Church (USA) has cautioned that Presbyterians should "tread lightly when criticizing the prosperity gospel."
Preached in some megachurches and televangelist ministries, the prosperity gospel is the belief that material wealth is gained by those who are especially faithful to Jesus.
The Rev. Charles Wiley III, associate director of theology, formation and evangelism for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, explained in a column published Thursday that the prosperity gospel "is a dangerous heresy because it is so close to the truth."
"There is a tension in Scripture. Those who are faithful will often be blessed, often in outward ways. And those who are faithful will suffer, sometimes in outward ways," wrote Wiley for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
"God is not obligated, is not forced, to give us material blessing simply because we say it out loud. How else can we make sense of Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane where Jesus asks that the cup of suffering be taken from him? It is not."
While critiquing the merits of the prosperity gospel, Wiley added that Presbyterians should be cautious in their analysis of the theology, since "we have our own version of it."
"Reformed Christians were at the forefront of the modern capitalist economy. We Reformed people took up the practice of lending money at interest with vigor and theological justification in the emerging middle class in 16th century Europe," continued Wiley.
"What are the birthplaces of the Reformed movement? Zurich and Geneva. What are Zurich and Geneva known for? Swiss banks."
Many Christian leaders, including both evangelical and Mainline Protestants, have denounced the prosperity gospel as being contrary to sound doctrine and the words of the Bible.
One prominent critic is the Rev. Billy Graham, who in an advice column published last September said "the Bible doesn't promise that everyone who follows Jesus will become wealthy."
"After all, Jesus wasn't rich, nor were His first disciples — not at all. In fact, the only disciple who really cared about money was Judas, whose greed and unbelief caused him to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver," said Graham.
"Repeatedly the Bible warns us against being consumed by money, or placing it first in our lives instead of Christ. Jesus said, 'No one can serve two masters. ... You cannot serve both God and money' (Matthew 6:24)."