Sunday, 8 May 2016

The success of Joseph Prince and his brand of the gospel.


When Xenonamendar Jegahusiee Singh changed his name to Joseph Prince in 1990, his fortune and fate apparently changed too. At that time, he was leading a Church and it was growing rapidly. He was also growing in fame and acclaim.



But what shot him to superstar-dom status was his self-described encounter with God. That was the launch-pad of his ministry. This is what he recalled in an interview: “I distinctly heard the voice of the Lord on the inside.  It wasn’t a witness of the Spirit.  It was a voice, and I heard God say this clearly to me:  ‘Son, you are not preaching grace.’  I said, ‘What do you mean, Lord?…’Every time you preach grace, you preach it with a mixture of law.  You attempt to balance grace with the law like many other preachers, and the moment you balance grace, you neutralize it.  You cannot put new wine into old wineskins.  You cannot put grace and law together.  He went on to say, ‘Son, a lot of preachers are not preaching grace the way Apostle Paul preached grace.”



And there you have it, the immaculate and unadulterated birth of what he calls Radical Grace. Like Moses who came down from Mount Sinai with two stone tablets of the covenant law in his hands, Prince came down the Swiss Alps with the coveted tablets of radical grace in both hands (he was then vacationing when God spoke to him).



So, the unknown Singh who became the rarefied Prince royally rode on this revelation and built his Church, teachings, books, social media, international ministry, and emporium-like “The Star Performing Arts Centre” on that high mountain experience in the late 1990s.



Surely, the success of Joseph Prince cannot be denied. He is blessed beyond his wildest imagination. Even his fiercest critics would have to acknowledge that he has done extremely well for himself. His ministry, books and teachings have touched thousands of lives. People are healed by his radical grace message and encouraged during his recent international book tours in America.



He even recounted this in one of his online sermons: “Some time ago, I visited a friend of a church member who had cancer and wanted healing. He was all ears, lapping and soaking up everything I shared with him. Today, he worships with us in our church and is completely healed of cancer.”



Miracle healings are happening in his ministry and that is to him the hallmark sign of the radical grace believer. In his book Grace Revolution, he offered this healing prescription: “You feel a pain in your body? Speak to the pain and say, “Pain, go in Jesus’ name.” If your hair is falling out, speak to it and say, “Hair, be fruitful and multiply in Jesus’ name.” Start somewhere! If you have a pimple on your nose, start there and say, “Pimple, be removed in Jesus’ name!””



By any standard, worldly or spiritual, he is exceedingly wealthy. In 2014, he was ranked as one of the richest megachurch preachers in the world. His net worth was pegged at around S$6.4 million, which the Church came out to deny saying that it was substantially lower than that.



Living up to the blessings bestowed upon him, he currently rents a big house and drives a branded car. His face is also unmistakable. It has in fact become globalized. Fame indeed looks fabulous on him. In Christendom equivalent, you can say that he is as popular as Microsoft, Mercedes Benz and Heinz beans. That shiny leather jacket, that star-dust glittering hair-do styled to perfection, and that signature swooning smile glossing over the covers of books, magazines and big screens make him synonymous to the fame of any movie celebrity whose names (and palms) are cemented in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.



If anything, Joseph Prince and his growing popularity are the product of our culture. It is a culture of looking good, feeling good and believing right. It is also about the positive confession of being righteous by virtue of our Savior’s sacrifice at a place called Golgotha.



In fact, Joseph Prince’s radical grace has also radicalized the relationship between God and his creation. It is a new and improved definition that aims to inspire, rewire and excite. Forget about the Old Testament God of law, justice and judgment. That is the old covenant of messy sacrifices of animals, innards and blood. That is all about a God who punishes his people with banishment, floods and massacres.



In radical grace lingo, the post-Calvary God don’t do anger, wrath and condemnation. Joseph Prince has turned the relationship inside out. To him, God is now all-loving, all-happy, all-forgiving, and all-blessings. He wrote: “We do see God being angry in the Old Testament, and in the book of Revelation, where his anger is toward those who have rejected Jesus. But for you and me, believers in the new covenant, we are not part of the Old Testament and we will never be punished because we have already received Jesus. As believers, God is no longer angry with us because all His anger for our sins fell upon Jesus at the cross.”



Wow! You can’t find a better messenger of the good news about God’s swing of dispositions from a state of anger to a state of happiness than the one Joseph Prince is currently preaching over the pulpit. But that’s not all. There’s more good news here.



According to Joseph Prince, God no longer desires your repentance after the altar call. They are not necessary. His God only convicts you of the sin of unbelief once and thereafter he convicts you of the righteousness that Jesus has won for you. As such, you come to him without worrying about how angry he will be for the wrong you have done the night before. Joseph Prince has therefore completely transformed our mindset on repentance.



Every time you sin, you simply confess to God. But you don’t do it to ask for forgiveness. No forgiveness required remember? You just confess because you have already been forgiven (not to seek after one – I am beginning to sound like a broken record).



Note here that God’s ultimate sacrifice at Calvary does not mean that you will not sin anymore after the altar call because even Joseph Prince admitted that he still sin – or fall short that is. This side of heaven, we are all fallible. Yes, even the Prince of radical grace.



But what it does is to dispense with the need to ask for forgiveness or to repent for what you did or say. So, you can forget about Godly sorrow or a broken and contrite spirit after the altar call that leads to repentance, growth and maturity. Instead, just think and confess righteousness secured and you are immediately made whole and cleansed both retrospectively and prospectively. Mind you, this is not a license to sin, but a new liberation to obey.



If you need convincing - just that little nudge - here is what he once wrote: My friend, righteousness is a gift because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross for you.  All your sins—past, present and future—have been washed clean by His precious blood.  You are completely forgiven and from the moment you received Jesus into your life, you will never be held liable for your sins ever again.” The benefits just pile up I know.



Another good news about radical grace is the part that Joseph Prince is presently living it up body, soul and spirit. This is the part about prosperity, health and wealth. As far as he is concerned, all believers of the radical grace partake of it. No one is excluded. In fact, he pleads with all his listeners to ask God for big things because he says that God is eager to pour it all down on us. His clarion call for “power ups” on material prosperity is world renown, and to many listeners, simply irresistible. It’s the prosperity icing on the radical grace cake – so to speak.



In fact, the impression given is that anyone who struggles with poverty, sickness and financial troubles has to re-evaluate his or her belief in radical grace. The believer needs to do a post-mortem on his faith to see whether he is believing and confessing right. The broken chain (or weakest link) therefore lies with the believer.



So, reality aside, or notwithstanding, if you declare it, believe it, internalize it, embrace it, possess it, act as if you have it, then you shall have it! Period. Enough said. He can’t make it any simpler for you.



And one last golden carrot on the bejeweled stick of radical grace is this: “A believer has already received the gift of eternal life and will never be subject to eternal condemnation.” By this profession, heaven has your name on it and the book of life has it written down with permanent, un-erasable ink.



So, with post-altar-call repentance made redundant, a loving God eager to bless us beyond what we can imagine, and our heavenly mansion reserved for us for all eternity, Joseph Prince’s radical grace has effectively transformed Jesus into the patron saint of optimism and blessings, God into a huggable divine figure with anger issues all in the past, and the Holy Spirit into our personal image consultant who reminds us that we are always righteous in the Son.



We are therefore the be-all and end-all of redemption. We are indeed his most crowned creation. And as believers, our declared righteousness covers a multitude of sins undergirded by this caveat of course: “It is hard to keep sinning against a loving Savior.”



It is thus no wonder that Joseph Prince has taken the world by storm and is living the exquisite opulence that God has so promised him, and is leading more than thirty-thousand-strong with supreme confidence under one shimmering rooftop.



If I have to end here, I would have to remind those critics of Joseph Prince that his brand of the gospel is bearing the fruits in numbers and popularity. Although quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, it is nevertheless transforming lives regardless of whether the teachings of radical grace offers only one version of the gospel or swings from one extreme - that is legalism - to the other extreme or paints an unrealistic picture of faith by frontloading prosperity, health and wealth while going anemic about the fellowship of suffering, Godly sorrows and the repentance of sins for joyful obedience.



The real issue here, I feel, is not whether his message is controversial or a plain distortion of the truth. The real issue however is that this is what the people who attends his Church wants to hear. And people will inevitably attract people once a critical mass is reached. This is part human psychology, part social psychology, and part controversial theology.



In fact, any criticism of radical grace will only invite greater resistance because the message itself has attained a certain level of sacredness and entitlement which is perceived to deserve protection, perpetuation and preservation. In other words, it has gone too far, sank too deep, and felt too good for any effective opposition to threaten its core foundation. Some ardent members may even argue that this has nothing to do with human or social psychology, but divine intervention and protection of its so-called tenets of truth.



In the end, I just want to say that no one ever forgets the truth. They just get better at telling themselves that any deviation from the truth is acceptable as long as it still feels right. And maybe in Joseph Prince’s case, the controversies he has stirred is considered by his Church as acceptable deviation, and his critics should just let things be. Alas, this will not be the first or the last of the controversies the ecumenical Church has to deal with. And if this is indicative of anything, it tells us that we are a people of the pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other, with the occasional glimpse of the balanced middle ground when it passes us by. Cheerz.

4 comments:

  1. I thought this was expertly articulated with a good dose of comedic flair and substance. Thank you Michael!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Tim. Appreciate. Cheerz.

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  2. Truth is, whether intentionally or not, this article advocates the hyper grace gospel of Joseph Prince - a brand of the gospel that is not entirely biblical. Be warned.

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  3. Who is Joseph Prince? Who is the man who was seated at the stairs of some CLementi flats, reading his bible and having cockroaches as his congregation members? Who is he? Is he real or is he just another guy who promises to sell you great "snake oil"?

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