A Shiny New Buick
Oral Roberts exemplified the worldly mindset and the truly low expectations of the prosperity gospel.
In Oral Roberts: An American Life, biographer David Edwin Harrell Jr. describes how Roberts discovered the prosperity gospel and how it became the centerpiece of his message. One day he opened his Bible randomly and spotted 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” He showed it to his wife, Evelyn, and—utterly divorcing that one verse from its proper context—the couple “talked excitedly about the verse’s implications. Did it mean they could have a ‘new car,’ a ‘new house,’ a ‘brand-new ministry?’ In later years, Evelyn looked back on that morning as the point of embarkation: ‘I really believe that that very morning was the beginning of this worldwide ministry that he has had, because it opened up his thinking.’” Roberts testified that a shiny new Buick, acquired by unexpected means shortly after that experience, “became a symbol to me of what a man could do if he would believe God.”
—John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 155–156.
Get this: “A shiny new Buick” is a symbol “of what a man could do if he would believe God.” A shiny new Buick. And here I was thinking God was a Ford aficionado. Be that as it may, new cars are hardly what the Holy Spirit had in mind when he wrote 3 John—is it even possible to have a lower view of God and his intended use of men and ministries? When Jesus promised that his disciples would do greater works than he did (John 14:12), he wasn’t promising new horse-drawn chariots or even old donkeys. But that, sadly, is what prosperity means to charismatics.