Cheap Grace, Expensive Suits

There are certain TV preachers who shall go unnamed who peddle an updated version of the “prosperity gospel” in which faith leads to riches and happiness—just like that! To be fair, there’s a secular version of this coming from the academic pulpit as well, in the guise of “happiness research.” But in both cases, I wonder why the preachers need such expensive suits to promote what Bonhoeffer rightly called “cheap grace,” or maybe they’re just trying to prove that even an expensive suit can still be empty.

It’s as though the Book of Job went missing from their copy of the Old Testament. The great G.K. Chesterton wrote a short essay about the Book of Job that gets to the heart of the matter better than most of the long commentaries of learned Biblical scholars. Like this:

Here in this Book the question is really asked whether God invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity. If the Jews had answered that question wrongly they might have lost all their after influence in history. They might have sunk even down to the level of modern well educated society. For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue their next calamity will be obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the task of making good men successful. They will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good.

I may just have to start doing regular Chesterton installments here.

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