This is not the sort of book I normally read. It is spiritual fluff from a Singaporean megachurch “grace preacher,” Joseph Prince. But a friend of mine sent me a copy and suggested I read it, since he obtained a lot of spiritual benefit from it. I warned him that I would likely abuse the book and the preacher. I am here to execute on my warning.
In evangelical Protestant parlance, a “grace preacher” usually means a believer in OSAS (“once saved always saved”), often combined with strong elements of the Word of Faith movement, which is in essence what Americans call the “prosperity gospel.” Probably the most prominent current American practitioner of this style of theology and preaching is Joel Osteen, although there are many variants and many preachers. I am not qualified to parse the subtle differences among variants and preachers. I am, however, qualified to state they are all atrocious heretics who lead the faithful astray.
The troubles with this book begin with the cover. If there was a page before the cover, I’m sure they’d begin there. The title is “Destined To Reign,” the subtitle is “The secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living.” A smiling Joseph Prince graces the cover, dressed in a fashionable dark wool pinstripe suit with a clashing denim collar and wearing a frilled, open-necked white shirt. Missing, of course, is any reference to God, although at least we are prominently assured that this book is a “National Bestseller.” Substituting for references to God are references to temporal things—three temporal things, to be precise: “success,” “wholeness,” and “victorious living.” Plus a fourth, when you realize with growing horror that “Destined to Reign” explicitly means not to achieve salvation, as a casual book browser might assume about a Christian book, but to get money and happiness in the here and now, the more the better. It means “to reign in [this] life.” It means, as Prince says in the second sentence of the book, “You are called by the Lord to be a success, to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health and to enjoy a life of victory.”
When I first read Prince’s admission of this, and celebration of it, I could not believe my eyes. Surely, I thought, I must be missing something. Surely, he will pivot to something else. Nope. The entire book, written as a series of repetitive sermons (presumably taken from Prince’s own past preaching), revolves around Romans 5:17, which Prince cites as “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Prince informs us that “to reign [in this verse] is to reign in life as a king, to have kingly rule and to possess kingly dominion.” This is a unique, modern interpretation of this verse (and the accompanying set of verses), or more accurately a bizarre interpretation, but doubtless it is one very attractive to Prince’s wealthy congregation, and to many others who think Jesus is an ATM.
The rest of the book is just variations on this central theme. At least the reader cannot complain that Prince does not believe in truth in advertising, for what you see on the cover is what you get in the book. Over and over Prince assures us that anyone who believes in Christ is saved; nothing the believer does can change that. Technically, Prince is apparently a believer in the penal substitution theory of Christ’s atonement, which is one form of substitutionary atonement. But Prince’s strong point is not high-end theology; the reader gets the distinct impression that he set out to write a book aimed at the lowest common denominator, and managed to hit somewhat lower than that.
So, Prince tells us that every believer should ignore the “law,” that is, the old and no longer hip instructions of God as to how to behave, because it merely “condemns” and “kills,” and we should instead be busy partying with the money dispensed by the Jesus ATM. In fact, we shouldn’t hang our heads before God at all when we sin. Instead, we should “enter boldly into the presence of Almighty God without any guilt,” since “His blood has removed all vestiges of your sins!” After all, “God sees you as righteous as Jesus Himself.” This is near-blasphemous feel-good claptrap indistinguishable from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Destined To Reign is an infinitely target-rich environment. Did you know that “Jesus became poor on the cross, that we might through His poverty might be prosperous?” (And no, Prince doesn’t mean spiritually prosperous.) “Do you seriously think that your heavenly Father will bless you with a meager hand when the streets of heaven are made of pure gold?” Properly analyzed, Prince is all kinds of heretic. He frequently treads close to the heresy of Marcionism, the belief that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament. He doesn’t say that explicitly, but the thrust of everything he says about the “law of Moses,” which to him is basically the root of all evil, because it prevents us from being happy and reigning, tends in that direction. I’m sure if I carefully parsed Prince’s statements and his cut-rate, ends-oriented analysis of numerous Scripture passages, I could tote up a baker’s dozen of named heresies. But that would be overkill.
I will say further, though, that the core of his book is Prince’s affirmative and continuous endorsement of the heresy of Antinomianism, which says that because of grace believers are totally exempt from the law. To his credit, he recognizes this problem—and “solves” it by answering the explicit question “Am I an Antinomian?” with a glib “No.” His “argument” is that “It is precisely because I have the highest regard for the law that I know that no man can keep the law,” and thus he should not try to do so—because, after all, all the law does is “It stirs up sin in us.” Honest, God, I wouldn’t have thought of sinning if it weren’t for your rules! It’s your fault! Prince actually has a whole section in which he repeatedly says that it’s the existence of the law which prompts us to sin, which we would not do otherwise. Which makes Prince an Antinomian, whatever he may say. And a heresiarch. To any believer who is thinking of reading this book, I can only respond with the immortal words of Robot B9 in Lost In Space: “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”