In the barn

or in the fire

Says Saint Augustine,

“For there are some whose reason for desiring to become Christians is either that they may gain the favor of men from whom they look for temporal advantages, or that they are reluctant to offend those whom they fear. But these are reprobate; and although the church bears them for a time, as the threshing-floor bears the chaff until the period of winnowing, yet if they fail to amend and begin to be Christians in sincerity in view of the everlasting rest which is to come, they will be separated from it in the end. And let not such flatter themselves, because it is possible for them to be in the threshing-floor along with the grain of God. For they will not be together with that in the barn, but are destined for the fire, which is their due. There are also others of better hope indeed, but nevertheless in no inferior danger. I mean those who now fear God, and mock not the Christian name, neither enter the church of God with an assumed heart, but still look for their felicity in this life, expecting to have more felicity in earthly things than those enjoy who refuse to worship God. And the consequence of this false anticipation is, that when they see some wicked and impious men strongly established and excelling in this worldly prosperity, while they themselves either possess it in a smaller degree or miss it altogether, they are troubled with the thought that they are serving God without reason, and so they readily fall away from the faith.” — Saint Augustine, On the Catechising of the Uninstructed, Chapter 17 paragraph 26. I’ve been listening to this while driving, thanks to the public domain reading by Maria Lectrix.

The prosperity “gospel” seems to come in two forms. Or maybe one underlying heresy presents in different ways. Anywhere, there’s the overt give-to-get pyramid scheme, and the more subtle error in bold above. This prosperity gospel lite may be more dangerous, simply because it’s not being promoted by some crook in a shiny suit.