Examining Joseph Prince’s theology (pt. 2)

This is my third, and possibly the last for the foreseeable future, article concerning the teachings of Joseph Prince (unless I have something I feel I can add to the discussion.) Now, just the mere mention of the name of Joseph Prince often elicits two kinds of responses from two groups of people: ardent supporters who are defensive to the point of equating his teachings to gospel truth, and equally ardent detractors who are quite sure his teachings are heretical.

Quite often, the dialogue produces more heat than light, and in the end, Satan wins. So let me say at the start: painting a caricature (or a straw man argument) is entirely unhelpful in the pursuit of being faithful to Scripture. I have read too many concerned Christians who have not taken sufficient time and effort to read/listen to Joseph Prince’s writings/teachings/sermons to be able to form an adequate opinion of his theology. What they then critique is not actually what he espouses. Not helpful.

The flip-side is also, unfortunately, I believe, true. Joseph Prince’s critique of so-called traditional or legalistic churches is often unhelpful in much the same way: meaning, you hardly find churches that actually teach what he claims they teach. It may be perceived that way, but the truth is, the teachings even in these so-called traditional churches are far more nuanced.

Having said all this, none of us can claim to have perfect theology. Therefore, it befits Christians on all sides of the equation to exercise humility in wanting to explore Scripture together. God meant for theology to be exercised in community and we need to hear from each other and not assume that we cannot learn from even those whom we disagree with.

For this post, I will highlight just a few concerns that I didn’t cover in my previous posts.

1. Cherry-picking verses/passages
Like I mentioned in a previous post, there are some verses and passages you will never hear in New Creation Church because it does not fit with the theological paradigm. And that is dangerous because 2 timothy 3:16, 17 reminds us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

In case it’s not clear, when 2 Timothy was being written, the New Testament as we now know it didn’t even exist yet. The implication is there is great value and use for the Old Testament, not just the New. Just as a humorous aside, it’s almost like the following advertisement.

2. Too much dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament
One of the problems I have with Pastor Prince’s theological system is the truncation he sets up between the Old Testament and the New. And here’s where it gets dicey because there is discontinuity between the Old and New, but there is continuity as well.

An article which I found helpful (and does this topic far more justice that I could possibly) is this one. Where I find Pastor Prince’s take on the New Covenant inadequate is simply this: that it is not only about the forgiveness of sin through the Cross of Jesus Christ, but also the sending of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to enable us to obey God’s laws from the heart!

Ezekiel 36:26-27 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

3. Too much dichotomy between Jesus and Paul
This is similar to the previous point: namely, the idea that what Jesus taught prior to the Cross is law, whereas what Paul taught was gospel. Again, this unnecessarily pits Jesus and Paul (you could do the same with James and Paul and get the same thing!) Two things I’d say in response.

First, the gospel of Matthew quite clearly says, Matthew 4:23  “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” and Matthew 9:35   “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”

Second, we run the very danger Jesus warns us against in Matthew 5:15-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This is not a call to salvation by works. But it is a call to salvation that demonstrates works.

4. Word of Faith heresy
This is probably my greatest concern. While the accusations of preaching the prosperity gospel may or may not be accurate, Joseph Prince himself does declare he is influenced by the Word of Faith movement. And it quite clearly shows in his teachings and doctrine. And because the Word of Faith (at least in Singapore) isn’t very well known, the very real danger is the ideas espoused by the movement are being adopted uncritically by the masses. Here’s a short write-up on Wikipedia.

Post-script: Joseph Prince is undoubtedly a gifted and charismatic speaker and communicator. I have no doubt many people’s lives have been touched by his teachings as he introduces them to the grace of Jesus Christ. Pastor Prince may never read this article (since I’ve been barred from his Facebook page! Haha, story for another day) but as a Christian, it’s my prayer that he listens to the concerns of not only a great many Christians, but even city pastors and theologians, who love him and are praying for him.

 

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