In Counterfeit Gospels, Wax dubs one of these counterfeit gospels the “therapeutic gospel”. In this stance on the gospel, our spiritual symptoms, such as troubled marriages, anxiety, anger issues, and addictions are confused with our spiritual disease of sin. What often happens is that because the view of sin is confused, so is the treatment plan for sin. Often this view is plagued with searching for happiness or material gain. God is worshipped not because He is God, but because He can give us nice things or make us feel better. In a video of a sermon by a famous American pastor, we can see this view of God and the gospel as he shares about blessing.
This clip of a sermon starts off seemingly well, with the pastor speaking about the memorial stones that the Israelites used to use to remember the great things God had done for them. However, this message soon turns entirely from remembering God for His miraculous deeds, to focusing on what He, and then to what we, can do to bless our lives materially. He says that God has “good things in store for you” and that the next year is going to be “a supernatural year”. He says that in the next year we won’t be the same place financially, in our careers, in our health, and in our marriages. He says that all we need to do is to believe that this will happen. He tells us not to let yesterday’s problems get us down, because each day we have a new beginning.
This feel-good version of the gospel has several problems. One is that it gives an unrealistic view of God. God is the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful God who made us by hand, who knows us better than we know ourselves, who has always been, and always will be. Presenting only the side of God that gives out blessings and gifts makes us seek God for what He has to offer, and not because of His glory. In addition, we know that God does not only give us blessings, in fact, sometimes He even asks that we give it all up for Him, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33) There is also another key problem. The pastor emphasizes that the people in the congregation will be blessed in the next year, so much so that it seems to be a certain fact. This gives them an illusion that life will be all pleasure, and that there will be no trials or tribulations. When these trials and tribulations do occur, the people in the congregation may become disillusioned and begin to doubt their faith because they expected everything to go just right. We know that there will be trials and tribulations, this is made certain in James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” This verse does not say “if”, it says “when you fall into various trials..” There will be trials, but we can look to God for strength during them, and as the rest of the verse tells us, consider the trials as joy because they help us to grow.
The therapeutic or feel-good gospel that is portrayed in this video is not a clear or complete picture of the God of the Bible. God does bless us, in fact the Bible says He delights in this; however, we cannot just look at the aspects of God we like. God will allow us to go through situations that are less than a blessing, and He does demand justice. We must find our joy in God alone, and not just what He has to offer.