Saturday, July 30, 2005

Anointing and the Health and Wealth "Gospel"

Until I actually get around to writing a new post, I will reuse something I wrote previously in a response to a question one of my friend asked me concerning anointing. The question concerned the claim by a follower of a follower of a certain health-and-wealth preacher and his immunity from criticism because he was "anointed." The attempted support of this was found in David's refusal to speak against King Saul because he was the Lord's anointed. I attempted to briefly, but thoroughly, respond to this claim.

Now dealing with the question at hand concerning anointing.
First, examination needs to be offered of the citation of David's action in order to understand how it may apply to us. I agree with you that this citation is out of context, let's look closer at the context. First, Saul has something this preacher does not have, a unmistakable commission by God. Saul's anointing was unmistakable, this man's is not. Second, there is very good reason why David respected King Saul. Exodus 22:25 states, "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people." So, for David to do anything other would have been to violate God's law. But, this man is clearly not a ruler, a political functionary, so the law does not apply. Third, anointing did not free Saul from confrontation with his sin. Samuel was blunt in his rebuke of Saul's act of disobedience to God and deviation from proper worship. In our day, rebuke is just as necessary to be offered to those who pervert the pure worship of God and lead men, women and children in eternal danger. False doctrine, especially when so egregiously in contradiction to God's clear Word is as much a sin that needs to be condemned by the church's and individual's prophetic office. While leaders are to be given honor, respect and extra protection from unfounded attacks (I Timothy 5:19- the necessity of two or three witnesses for an accusation against an elder)- they are not given immunity. There is no special class in the church.

Second, we need to careful on what the Bible teaches about anointing. First, it is not a prominent doctrine in the Bible. We can easy leave out those that speak of the ritual/ceremonial act applied to priests and the civil act applied to kings. It is bad hermeneutics to apply these in a decontextualized manner to NT situations. Second, the term is consistently used substantivally to refer as a title to a specific individual. One prominent example is the reference of Cyrus as God's anointed in Isaiah 45:1. The majority of the remaining of the texts are Messianic, and have no personal relevance for individual believers or church leaders. Thirdly, the term is applied as an act of cleansing or special "make-up" of the rich (cf. Dan 10:3, Amos 6:6. Matt 6:17). Clearly, none of these examples are of any relevance. Fourth, James 5:14 refers to the anointing for the sick. This is a more difficult passage that has created issues with Catholic/Protestant discussions, but it is likewise not relevant to this situation. Finally, one passage remains which has relevance, and it the only one that has relevance to this discussion. It appears on the surface to support this man's contention. I John 2:20 and 27, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth...As for you the anointing you have received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit- just as it has taught you, remain in him." First, the anointing seems clearly to be pointing to the Holy Spirit. Second, note the word "all" in 20. This anointing is not the special privilege of a few, but a blessing granted by God to all his children. Third, the purpose of the anointing is to know the truth, and guard against those who promoted error in the church. The exact functioning of the Spirit in this context is not clear. It is possible that the Spirit functioned more directly, but it is not clear. Further, it is not possible for God to contradict himself, and so no one can claim anointing from the Spirit while maintaining doctrine at variance with other passages inspired by the Spirit. Fourth, the context of John does not suggest this reading. John presents three test in the book to discern one's standing as a child of God, the doctrinal, the moral and the social. While the specific doctrinal concern in John's Epistles appears to be concerning Christ's true humanity (perhaps Docetism or some sort of proto-Gnosticism), it is not improper to understand other areas of vital, central doctrine as being secondarily applicable. The moral lapses of health and wealth leaders are infamous, and while it is not proper to impugn all because of the sins of a few, the trends are telling. The social effect of their understanding of anointing is deleterious to Christian fellowship, and Christian love. They have divided the church by their errors, not only in an ecumenical sense, but also within their fellowship of the have's and have not's.

How can one tell if one is ministering consistent with God's will, how can we tell the true from the false? The test of Deuteronomy 18 are clear. First, are their prophecies true? Second, is their message consistent with the rest of God's revelation. Third, and in this instance most striking to me, are they leading people to greater devotion to the Lord, or leading them astray. Too many teachers, in the health and wealth movement and all across the church today seem to want to build themselves and their ministries up, and not exalt the Lord and strengthen the body of Christ. I wonder how vigorously those who defend these teachers would defend a point of clear teaching in Scripture which is does not aide their idiosyncratic ideas, how boldly they would defend the honor of Christ and the purity of his bride the church?