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Background

My friend is influenced by what I think is a prosperity-gospel leaning church, although I don't see heretical excesses like "positive confession", "name-it claim-it", etc and I cannot really pinpoint what's wrong with the teachings, only that it's not common in mainstream churches. They believe in the usual creeds and nothing they teach seem to contradict them. The church teaches that since Christians have been grafted into the olive tree (Romans 11:16-17) we can expect God to give us the same blessings that He promised to Abraham and his righteous descendants (Gal 3:8-9). These blessings are in addition to the standard ones all mainstream churches teach:

  • The gift of salvation from our sins
  • The fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
  • Joyful fellowship with Jesus and other believers
  • The hope of eternal life by virtue of being adopted children of God through faith in Jesus.

My question

What is the Catholic Church position on asking God explicitly to give us the Abrahamic blessings (or "claiming our right / inheritance") in this current life before we die, beyond the 4 "standard gifts" above?

I phrase the question very carefully to tease out a clear doctrinal statement about covenant transition considering (if I'm right) that the New Covenant is a fulfillment of all previous covenants: Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic. That Jesus's work on the cross is part of the fulfillment is very clear already, but the New Testament doesn't really talk about how the OT blessings are transitioned over to the New covenant. So it is left for the Church to define the nature of this fulfillment. Shouldn't the New Covenant include all the blessings of the old covenant(s) since they are God's promises in the first place? Where is it stated that we cannot expect earthly blessings to come prior to the new heaven and earth, considering we are in the "already, but not yet" era? If we are already enjoying the effects of the forgiveness of sins now, already enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, etc., why is it that the OT earthly blessings are not included in the already phase?

Quotations from St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas are preferred, as well as a Pope's encyclicals / council documents. The more the answer is tailored to respond to the church's claim described below the better.

I want to exclude the following cases, where some Christians are called by God to relinquish earthly blessings voluntarily (for God doesn't override our free will):

  • martyrs (Jesus said those who suffer because of Him will be rewarded in heaven)
  • nuns & monks (they pursue beatific vision on earth, greater than earthly blessings)
  • priests, consecrated men and women
  • persecuted prophets / evangelists like John the Baptist or St. Paul (their "career path" requires relinquishing earthly blessings, and God provided for them)
  • heroes who give up their lives for others like Jesus (their reward is greater in heaven)
  • etc.

But for the rest of us called to lead "normal" lives in the marketplace, raising family with kids, etc. PROVIDED we conduct our lives righteously (like how Moses exhorted the 2nd generation in Deuteronomy), why shouldn't we expect God's material blessings to come "in advance", especially if the OT is replete with those promises? For example, when we read Ps 92, why couldn't we expect God's promise in vv. 10-15 to come within our lifetime?

Typical Reformed position

I myself grew up in a Reformed church, and I rarely heard a sermon encouraging the members to seek Abrahamic blessings on earth, more of anticipating our "promised land" to be the new heaven and earth after we die. This article pretty much sums up what I heard when I grew up:

Deliverance from the penalty and the power of our sins is but the first of the Abrahamic blessings we enjoy if we trust in Jesus. For we too will be inheritors of a good land that includes not only Canaan but a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

Notice how the article above conveniently leaves out the applicability of Abrahamic blessings on earth.

An 1981 sermon by renown Reformed pastor John Piper titled The Covenant of Abraham is more explicit but stops short in giving the green light for us to claim all the blessings mentioned in the OT books.

Those 2 articles show clearly that Gentiles Christians are "legally" entitled to enjoy Abrahamic blessings, and I assume the Catholic church would not be too different. But because they don't encourage the adherents to pursue those blessings, it makes sense that my friend's church characterizes most mainstream church pastors as "hens" (see analogy below).

Details of my friend's church's position

What are the basis to expect the blessings on this earth? Since in the OT the Israelites (and even the Jews today!) expect the blessings to be experienced during someone's lifetime (they point to how God blessed Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Ruth, Hannah, David, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, etc.) as long as we keep our faith like Abraham and keep obeying Jesus's commandments, we too, can expect those blessings to come on this earth, along with the full blessings we can only expect in the new heaven and earth.

What are those blessings? Quoting from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalm related to God's covenant with Abraham and about God's promise of blessings in the promised land, the blessings include: health, long life, wealth, fertility, security, honour, influence, leadership, victory over enemies, God's vengeance/curse on enemies, etc.

How do we obtain the blessings? They teach their members not to be passive, as though saying "If God gives the blessings that's good, but if not, it's OK, since we'll go to heaven eventually", but that we should be AGGRESSIVE and PERSISTENT in asking God for the blessings like Jacob Gen 32:26, Unjust judge parable Luke 18:1-8, Faith of the Gentile Woman Matt 15:21-28, and other persistent persons asking Jesus for healing. Jesus seemed to praise those persons's persistence even if they violated etiquette (lowering paralytic from the roof) or even purity laws (like the bleeding woman healing).

How does this church differentiates itself from other churches? This church uses this analogy to compare them with other churches which neglect teaching their members to claim those Abrahamic blessings aggressively. My paraphrase:

An eagle egg fell off the nest and was found by a hen which then included the egg with her other chicken eggs. A little while later they all hatched and the hen raised them until they were ready to to fly. But when the baby eagle wanted to fly higher than the chicks she told the baby eagle that he had done enough and to follow what his siblings do. One day, the baby eagle saw a mighty eagle flew majestically in the sky, and he asked his "mommy" hen to teach him to fly like that eagle. But she replied: "you're a chicken and chickens cannot fly like that". The baby eagle remained unsatisfied, and one day he tried spreading his wings further and voila! he could fly higher than what his "mommy" told him to expect! From then on, he tried to fly higher and higher until he realized that his true mommy was an eagle. So he left the chickens to join the eagles.

The church said other church's pastors are like the hen, which neglected to teach the members to aspire to be eagles.

  • 2
    I thought we weren't under the Abrahamic covenant anymore? – Matt Gutting May 18 at 18:48
  • @MattGutting How does that change the promise of blessings? Let's say the New covenant fulfills not only the Abrahamic covenant but the Mosaic, Adamic, and Noahic too. The question becomes the nature of that fulfillment. My sense is everything in the New covenant would be "fuller" (cf. new wineskin), so shouldn't the blessings of the fulfilled covenant(s) INCLUDED in the New? I'm seeking teachings or Augustine/Aquinas commentary on the relevant passages on how the OT covenants are fulfilled from "blessings" perspective. Too much have been said about how Jesus's blood cancelled death/curses. – GratefulDisciple May 18 at 20:25
  • It sounds like your friend's church is focused on receiving the blessing and not on sharing it. God's blessing was not solely for the benefit of Abram/Abraham but was, through him, to be a blessing for all the world. "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. ... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Genesis 12:2,3b (NRSV) – BalooRM May 19 at 2:13
  • As echoed in Paul's writing in Galatians, it is clear that Christians are a continuation of the faith of Abraham and that Christians are to be conduits of God's grace to the world as we seek to live into the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself. – BalooRM May 19 at 2:13
  • 2
    Asking where the Catholic Church stands on prosperity theology is a perfectly valid question. I'm actually surprised it hasn't been asked before. – curiousdannii May 19 at 2:44

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