Chapter 6: "The Biblical Teaching on Giving" is like unto the former. It offers a concise encouragment of generous giving and an appropriate critique of the concept of "tithing." They encourage giving to the church and other Christian organizations and direct readers to organizations that track the financial integrity of different ministries.
The Conclusion offers some helpful questions for self-diagnosis, suggestions for dialoguing with friends who are attracted to the prosperity gospel and concise replies to common defenses of the prosperity gospel. The include a short additional reading list, among which the most important is probably the late Gordon Fee's pamphlet The Disease of Health and Wealth Gospels, because Fee was a Pentecostal New Testament scholar in the Assemblies of God tradition.
This is a very important book for its accessibility and reliability. These authors are not writing polemic. It is straightforward argumentation without loathing or arrogance as far as I can tell. They counter the most dangerous aspect of the prosperity gospel which is to victimize the suffering by blaming their circumstances on a lack of faith. For this alone, I would commend them.
In general I think it is unfair to criticize people for not writing about what I want to read about. However, I do think that a narrow definition of prosperity gospel may mask the degree to which many more American Christians conform to it. Van Rheenan's article "Contextualization and Syncretism" includes the following account:
Two years ago Jim planted an evangelical Bible church. The guiding question forming
his strategy was “How can we meet the needs of the people of this community and make
this church grow?” Jim developed a core team, launched with an attendance of 300 after
six months of planning, and now has an average attendance of 900 people each Sunday.
By all appearances he is very successful. However, Jim is inwardly perturbed. He
acknowledges that his church attracts people because it caters to what people want. The
church is more a vendor of goods and services than a community of the kingdom of God.
If the medium is the message, many of our churches "preach" a gospel that tells us that being a Christian and financial prosperity are joined at the hip, even if they never say that. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington comments on his own contact with prosperity gospel in Moscow and the "American Gospel of Conspicuous Consumption." He recommends Ron Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which is excellent but goes too far for some people. I wonder, as does the narrator of the Lausanne video on my last post, if I find it easy to criticize the prosperity gospel preachers and their adherents because I assume that the worlds goods will always be within my grasp one way or another.
Another point is that while several prosperity preachers have been demonstrably exposed (or outed themselves) as scam artists exploiting people, in many cases it seems to me that prosperity congregations are not just seeking their own, but are deriving some sense of pride, prosperity, and well-being from identifying with their pastors' prosperity (which they shares by investing in organizations that serve the community even as they live in opulence). The adherents personal ambitions are secondary in their own minds as well as their pastors. However, this is a sociological rather than a theological or biblical analysis. I still recommend Jones and Woodbridge's helpful little book, which you can buy from my friends at Hearts and Minds Books.