Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part 2

Read Part 1.

Author’s note: This critique has been specifically focused on the appropriateness of Financial Peace University as a financial counseling program in a local church. It does not evaluate Ramsey’s TV show, radio program or books, none of which I have ever seen, heard or read.

For all the benefits of Dave Ramsy’s Financial Peace University (FPU), I found several troubling problems with it. I addressed the good and the ugly in Part 1 of this essay. Now let’s look at the bad.

The Bad

When I mentioned to a friend recently that I was writing a review of FPU, he responded with enthusiasm that Dave Ramsey had changed his life. He explained that through FPU he had gotten out of debt, was saving for retirement and living a much more frugal life. When I indicated that my review was not likely to be favorable, he was surprised and a little defensive. Because he is theologically astute, I asked him about what I perceived to be the major flaw of FPU—the distortion of the gospel. He responded as I think many Christians would if asked that question: what distortion? I think it very likely that many Christians could attend FPU and not notice anything wrong with its message. The reason this is true is because most Christians do not have a firm conviction that the gospel ought to be central in any discussion regarding an issue of the Christian life. The gospel for many is about evangelism, not money, or sex, or parenting, or leisure.

A truly Christian viewpoint, however, sees everything through the lens of the gospel. This flies in the face of so many Christian attitudes toward everyday life, whether it be money, music, the arts, technology, or any host of cultural issues. The typical Christian response is to find some scattered verses and weave together a loose tapestry of references organized by his preconceived notions. To be truly Christian is to approach the issue from the standpoint of the gospel, and here is where I find FPU to be downright lacking.

First, when it comes to explicit references to the gospel, FPU is a disaster. In one video Ramsey tells the sad story of a young father who was diagnosed with cancer. By following Ramsey’s advice, this man had been able to provide for his family, so that when he died, his wife would not have to work, and his young children would be cared for. Ramsey proceeds to tell his audience that the man did eventually die, but it was “OK because he loved Jesus” and therefore we know where he is. This is the only reference to the gospel I could remember in the entire thirteen-week curriculum (although admittedly, I never attended the last session). My point is that this kind of reference to the gospel is weak at best and misleading at worst. If a church uses FPU as an evangelistic tool, it needs to be fully aware that the gospel will not be given in any recognizable fashion in the program.

Remember that FPU is marketed to other segments of society also, such as businesses and the military; and in these versions, all reference to Scripture and God are removed. If the only difference between a version of the course that is acceptable in secular settings and one that is designed for churches is a few Bible verses and off-hand references to God, how explicitly Christian is this view of money, really? But it gets worse.

In another video Ramsey actually directly contradicts the gospel when he mentions the various steps for getting out of debt. One of his necessary steps is to pray. Knowing that his audience is probably a mix of believers and unbelievers, he encourages them to pray nonetheless. He then tells his audience in effect, “Some of you don’t want to talk to God because you think, for whatever reason, that God is angry at you. God is not angry at you!” Now, if this video were specifically designed for an explicitly Christian audience, I would perhaps understand why he makes this statement. But after stating this, Ramsey in no way qualifies his statement. He simply proceeds to inform the audience that God wants to help them out of debt and that He loves them.

Some might object that FPU is a financial program and not a gospel presentation. While I acknowledge this fact, any time a Christian speaks about God or the gospel, his comments should be clear, complete and biblical. Defending FPU based on its purpose as a financial program is akin to defending The Shack’s heresies because it is “just a novel.” I would rather Ramsey left out all reference to God and Scripture than for him to obscure the gospel and place Scripture alongside other ancient wisdom as if the two are equal.

Second, and more significantly, Ramsey’s whole approach to money is counter to the gospel’s approach. For Ramsey, up is up and you save your life by saving your life. In the gospel, the way up is down and you save your life by losing it. Ramsey’s goal is never to have to worry about money again. The gospel way is to be willing to have your needs met day by day. Ramsey’s way is to be self-sufficient, relying only on your financial foresight, savvy and accumulated wealth. The gospel way, regardless of how much money one possesses, is to be utterly dependent upon God for everything. Ramsey’s way is one of increasing wealth which is a way to escape suffering and need. The gospel way is to expect suffering in this life and to be increasingly needy and dependent. Ramsey cannot conceive of failing to tear down one’s barns and building greater. The gospel cannot conceive of even taking a staff on the journey, but to trust that God will provide whatever is needed.

The gospel should change the way we view everything, including money. While many good principles are taught in FPU, churches and their leaders need to be aware of the problems with it as well.

Conclusion

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is probably most helpful for people in debt, people who have a good-paying job, and for people who expect that they will be upwardly mobile throughout their working years. It is probably least helpful for older people whose earning years are mostly behind them, for people who have significant uncontrolled expenses such as large medical bills, and for people who have committed themselves to full-time vocational ministry and don’t expect ever to make more than enough to survive.

Because I fall into these last two categories, I felt depressed at times during the course over my failure to make money more of a consideration in my career and job choices. Sometimes after an FPU class I felt like a fool for taking positions since graduation from seminary based on the question of whether my family could survive financially, because I felt God leading me. I have since fully recovered from this slight depression by returning to a gospel focus, and realizing that even if I have to work my whole life and die a pauper, if I lived for God, it will have been worth it.

Some might question why such an extensive critique needs to be written on something that I found so much value in (you do remember my early positive comments, don’t you?). I believe this kind of critique is necessary, because I believe we all need to be called back to a gospel-centered mindset. Recently a critique that Dave Powlison wrote of Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages (5LL) was reposted on the Internet, and it drew some criticism from commenters who wondered why Powlison had to critique 5LL according to the gospel. Why, they wondered, could he not just acknowledge the positive things in 5LL and forget the criticism? Powlison explains why in the critique: “When the analysis of what is wrong does not lead directly to our need for the person and work of the Messiah, then that analysis is shallow. The solution necessarily becomes some version of ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

While there are many helpful ideas and helps in FPU, I’m afraid that in the end it presents a view of money, God, and the purpose of life that stands in conflict with the gospel. If a church is going to use FPU with its members, I would recommend a complementary study of a biblical theology of stewardship and suffering to buttress the weaknesses of FPU. If a church is going to use FPU as an evangelistic tool, I would recommend carefully screening the videos and excluding the controversial parts mentioned in this review. I would also recommend a supplementary clear presentation of the gospel to correct and offset the weak attempts made in the series. While sound teaching is a critical need in the church today, faithfulness to the gospel ought to be the standard by which we judge the value of that teaching.


Mark Farnham is Assistant Professor of Theology and New Testament at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA). He and his wife, Adrienne, grew up in Connecticut and were married after graduating from Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Watertown, WI). They have two daughters and a son, all teenagers. Mark served as director of youth ministries at Positive Action for Christ (Rocky Mount, NC) right out of seminary and pastored for seven years in New London, Connecticut. He holds an MDiv from Calvary and a ThM in New Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, MA). He has also studied ancient manuscripts at Harvard Divinity School and philosophy at Villanova University. He is presently a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary (Glenside, PA) in the field of Apologetics. These views do not necessarily reflect those of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary or its faculty and administration.

20531 reads

There are 36 Comments

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Mark Farnham wrote:
Author's note: This critique has been specifically focused on the appropriateness of Financial Peace University as a financial counseling program in a local church. It does not evaluate Ramsey's TV show, radio program or books, none of which I have ever seen, heard or read.

No true "fundamentalist" could argue with Mark's comments in this article about the importance of the gospel. However, I think there is lots of room for difference of interpretation and implementation when it comes to Dave Ramsey's material and how it can or should be used to reflect the gospel. Most of this was already hashed out in the thread under Part 1.
Overall, I would say that the "author's note" above should make it difficult for anyone to take these articles as an authoritative, comprehensive evaluation of Dave Ramsey and FPU.
Actually, I was relieved by reading this article compared with Part 1. Not that the gospel is a minor issue -- but that at least this article should not turn people who are unfamiliar with Ramsey away from his Biblical perspective on finances. I wholeheartedly support Ramsey's financial teaching and encourage people everywhere I go to make use of it.
IMO, perhaps the most profound paragraph in Mark's article -- which could well provoke some profound discussion and even disagreement, is the following:

"Because I fall into these last two categories, I felt depressed at times during the course over my failure to make money more of a consideration in my career and job choices. Sometimes after an FPU class I felt like a fool for taking positions since graduation from seminary based on the question of whether my family could survive financially, because I felt God leading me. I have since fully recovered from this slight depression by returning to a gospel focus, and realizing that even if I have to work my whole life and die a pauper, if I lived for God, it will have been worth it."

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I like this critique much better, because there is a legitimate basis for complaint. I would not recommend DR to everyone, just like I don't recommend Piper or MacArthur to everyone.

But I also don't use DR materials for their doctrinal content per se. Just like with any other resource, you must use discretion- absorb what you can use and disregard what is faulty. If I have a complaint, it's that too many Christians have the spiritual discernment of a turnip and have no ability whatsoever to Scripturally weigh the information they come across every day. I imagine that if more Christians could exercise a higher level of discernment, the market of Christian materials would have to change to meet the demand for better doctrinal quality throughout.

BTW, I didn't agree with the DR vs The Shack analogy. I would not compare the usability of DR materials to reading a work of fiction. IMO they are two completely different animals.

BryanBice's picture

Because of financial and philosophical reasons, the idea of using FPU in my church for any purpose has never been on my radar screen. Thanks, Mark, for also providing some theological reasons.

Interestingly, the paragraph re. life in the ministry & its typical compensation packages is somewhat similar to a discussion my wife & I had the other day. Having been in pastoral ministry since even before graduation from seminary (28 years ago), I can relate. I'll never retire "in style" and will probably work well past age 65, and I'm fine with that. It could be different, I suppose. We spent money on family vacations and other memory-building experiences; we paid (and are paying) the lion's share of our 2 children's college tuition--thousands of dollars that could've been socked into a retirement fund to help ensure much more comfortable retirement years...but I'm thankful we made the right choice.

One thing Mark's reviews has done is get me to thinking about what the Bible really has to say about indebtedness. For example, what is its attitude toward those who become indentured servants because of debt? What counsel does it give them? What formula for getting out of that condition? What does Jesus say about money and indebtedness--what attitudes does He communicate, not only explicitly, but indirectly (in the parables, for example)? What apostolic teaching actually addresses indebtedness (other than Rom. 13:8, which contextually seems to have more to do with obligations to one's govt.). What differences exist between Bible-era indebtedness and 20th-21st century American debt? What are the causal differences? If the underlying modern causes are identified, addressed, and overcome, will that provide a more solid foundation for getting and staying out of most indebtedness (while still allowing for legitimate debt) without creating a desire and quest for wealth? Would it also offset the tendency toward spiritual pride--the attitude of superiority that the "debt-free" can express toward those who carry debt?

Enough of that rambling....I appreciate Mark's analysis, particularly the deficiencies related to the Gospel.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Not saying this is the case for Mark, but "Gospel Centered" has become a bit of a buzzword for many. I appreciate Stallard's comments that touch on that a bit here: http://faculty.bbc.edu/mstallard/?p=71 (BBS dean's blog... though I don't think his tentative conclusion for "Jesus-centered" is the best alternative)

I'm partly w/Mark on this part and partly not. I do think that if a Christian financial advisor or Christian lawyer or Christian hairdresser approaches the subject of the relationship between God and man, he/she needs to be really careful to avoid conveying the ol' "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK" message. Whatever we do say should be accurate with respect to the gospel. And if your business gives you a really good opportunity to be thorough and complete in presenting the gospel, you've got to deliver it thoroughly and completely.

On the other hand, we shouldn't embrace a "gospel centeredness" that leads us to overlook the fact that God has graciously provided wisdom in the form of temporal solutions to many temporal problems. I see some of this overlooking here and in Powlison's critique of 5LL as well. Yes, people's greatest need is for the Savior and a right relationship with God for eternity. But the problems they come to us with do often have temporal solutions that--despite the fact that they work for anyone--are still from God and His gift. The "If we don't get 'em saved we're doing them no good at all" thinking seems to emphasize God's soteriological purpose at the expense of the doxological purpose. That is, if we believe it's all about the glory of God isn't that glory served by the use of all of His good gifts? In this case, "financial peace" does not require regeneration. And offering people that sort of peace--though no substitute for the deeper peace Christ gives--is a great business to be in.
I'm not sure I'm being clear, but maybe a good way to say it is let's be careful not to evaluate careers in a binary way: either it declares the gospel and gets people saved/edifies believers in relation to the gospel or it's worthless. Where does that leave all the mechanics, truck drivers, medical professionals, pizza bakers, and farmers... or financial advisors?

blee25's picture

[quote]That is, if we believe it's all about the glory of God isn't that glory served by the use of all of His good gifts? In this case, "financial peace" does not require regeneration. And offering people that sort of peace--though no substitute for the deeper peace Christ gives--is a great business to be in. [quote]

I listen to Ramsey's radio program about 3 times a week, while I work in my office. For the discerning christian his practical principles for getting out of debt and reminders that debt is dumb can be helpful, at least they have been for me. The problem I have with him though is that he encourages the root sin that has gotten people in to financial trouble, he just helps them to be smarter sinners. The vast majority of people in financial trouble are there because of greed and materialism. We need big houses, as nice of cars as our friends, boats, 4-wheelers, RVs, flat screen tv's. We don't actually have the money for that stuff so we buy it on credit. Ramsey not only doesn't deal with the sinful heart that seeks it's fulfilment in all that needless stuff but uses that sinful heart as motivation. That is what "Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow" is saying. Be smart now and you will be rich later. I seems to me if I waste my money on collecting material things instead of eternal things, paying with cash or credit won't matter when I give my account to Christ. As a Pastor I will also give an account of how I taught and lead the people in my church to view money and possession and I fear that for many having "financial peace university" in our church would encourage materialism. I stuggle to reconcile his overall message with biblical teaching in places like Luke 12:16-30.

These are just my random thoughts and I acknowledge I may be wrong.

Blee

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think we need to acknowledge and emphasize that using someone's materials does not automatically mean we need to buy into the whole package. Using FPU or FFF doesn't require me to be immersed in DR's ideology. I've said before I like Dr. Laura Schlessinger's books and I recommend them often, (a whole lot more than I'd recommend something like Created to be His Helpmeet), but I don't adhere to every single thing she says or writes. She isn't even a Christian- which brings me to the fact that we read and use information that we receive from a variety of sources every single day- and we don't toss out useful knowledge because the source is not Christian, not a Fundy, didn't graduate from our favorite college, or isn't a Republican. We do have to bring the information into Biblical perspective, but many times the source doesn't negate the benefit or accuracy of the information itself.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Overall, my life story as an adult has gone basically the opposite direction from the way Mark is taking us in his articles.
My wife and I left Bible college and got married, like all good God-fearing Americans, with a boatload of student loans. At the time, we would have naively told you that we were debt-free. After all, college leaders could not say enough good things about student loans -- and they didn't even start coming due until six months after we left school, so they didn't even need a slot in our budget, right?? Smile
We spent almost the entirety of our first eight years of our marriage serving in pastorates in two little country churches where we learned well how to live as paupers. We learned a lot of hard lessons the really hard way. If you have not tried it, let me assure you -- you can dispel all your romantic notions about it.
I can say without hesitation that if I had it to do over again, I would do alot of things differently. Ten years later, we are still recovering from those eight years in the pastorate. Were it not for the teachings of Dave Ramsey, which I have been saturating my mind with for the last three years, we would still not be heading toward having our financial house in order in a way that pleases God. Serving Him is no excuse for financial disobedience or disarray.
As Larry Burkett loved to point out, Jesus spoke more about money than about heaven or hell combined. Money represents life. It is an indicator of one's spiritual life, but it is also important in its own right in this physical world in which we live. Heart issues are not the only things which are important. Certainly those who deal with heart issues (ministers) should be more knowledgable and better prepared to deal with money than most people -- especially since theology and ministry are not always marketable commodities.
When I was in seminary, I was asked several times to fill out survey cards or questionnaires about my school. Because I had nothing bad to say at all about the teaching I was receiving, I instead used the opportunity to interject a positive idea. I said that I would love to see the seminary offer a module or conference on purely practical issues, focused on finances, with either Burkett or the folks from Worth Tax Service. My idea went unheeded, and my quest for usable information which could make a difference in my financial life went unsatisfied until I stumbled on Dave Ramsey. He scared me at first, but soon his voice became a soothing song to me. Now, he is like an old friend -- like a great teacher or coach whose encouragement is always just an Internet connection away.
In spite of his shortcomings -- and mine -- I praise God for the teachings and example of Dave Ramsey.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

jlumpkin's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think we need to acknowledge and emphasize that using someone's materials does not automatically mean we need to buy into the whole package. Using FPU or FFF doesn't require me to be immersed in DR's ideology. I've said before I like Dr. Laura Schlessinger's books and I recommend them often, (a whole lot more than I'd recommend something like Created to be His Helpmeet), but I don't adhere to every single thing she says or writes.

I would point out that Dr. Laura doesn't claim to be presenting from a Biblical perspective, or from a Biblical ideology. DR does. Of course we use things that aren't expressly Christian, or Fundy, but nowhere did Mark tell us to throw out DR's financial advice. He has good advice, yes, but simply saying that you are not required to accept his ideology doesn't mean that we shouldn't be critiquing his ideology. DR claims to present his advice from a Biblical perspective, so it is a valuable task to critique how well he does it. As a Christian, I might be able to use the same principles as a non-Christian in handling my finances, but my motivation should be different. I don't think Mark's point was that DR should have been throwing out "You must be born again" phrases randomly throughout his presentations, but that the ideology and motivation should be distinctly gospel-centered, doxologically-centered, etc. It should be distinct from secular financial counselors. If I, as a Christian, am seeking financial peace as a end in itself, as a means of living as easy life later, how am I maintaining the gospel or doxological motivations? If anyone would like to defend those material motivations here, feel free. My point is that Mark is not telling us to throw out DR's advice, but simply critiquing his ideology.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
...because of greed and materialism. We need big houses, as nice of cars as our friends, boats, 4-wheelers, RVs, flat screen tv's. We don't actually have the money for that stuff so we buy it on credit. Ramsey not only doesn't deal with the sinful heart that seeks it's fulfilment in all that needless stuff

Is wanting or seeking to obtain nice stuff "greed and materialism" and evidence of a "sinful heart"?
I'm not arguing one way or the other on the point (yet), but what about Abraham? What about Solomon? What about the numerous appeals to the ordinary Israelite in the Mosaic Covenant to obey the stipulations of the covenant in order to be blessed and prosper (which wouldn't involve large screen TVs, but would involve the symbols of wealth and comfort normal for that time... lots of kids and livestock and crops--and good health). Woud the covenant appeal to that motive if there were something inherently "greedy" about it?

Greg Long's picture

Mark,

Thanks for this critique. If DR was the ONLY option available for churches to use, I might consider using it with modifications and clarifications. But it's not the only thing out there, and based on what you've said I can't see using it in a church setting.

Paul,

Thanks for your perspective as well. Obviously it's extremely important to live within one's means and work to get out of debt, and it sounds like DR has been very helpful for you.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DennisB's picture

I just attended a Dave Ramsey Financial Counselor course in Nashville Tennesse. I paid around $3,000 out of my pocket to do so and it was worth every penny.

We were introduced to every major player within the company and really got to know them and ask any questions we had. We were trained extensively from Tuesday to Saturday by the three counselors that are directly employed by Dave Ramsey. I can tell you without reservation that this is the finest organization I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. This company is driven by and unabashedly displays its' Christian roots at every turn. We had about 20 minutes of devotional reading and education each morning. We prayed before each meal, and scripture was intoduced consistently and appropriately. Our week ended with a worship service on the last day. For any of you that have any reservations about what this company represents, you need not worry.

Now, on to some more specific areas.

1. Dave Ramsey clearly states that he is a financial counseler who is openly Christian, not a Christian Financial counselor. His message is based in Christian principle, and backed by scripture, but his message is not directed only at believers.

2. You will find every type of personality in his organization. His primary counselors could not be more different, yet they were all obviously caring and Christian.

3. If you think about exactly what Dave is railing against in our society, you'll realize that his message could not pierce the overwhelming opposition to his message of advertisers, credit card companies, care dealers, HDTV sellers, etc. who are marketing to us every day. A meek approach would never be heard, and he has the type of personality required to get the message out there and have it be relevant.

4. Dave treats the addiction to debt in the same manner AA treats alcoholism. His steps are clear and concise. He is unwavering in his positions. And he is confident in his approach. And, just as an alcoholic is told to stop drinking(not just slow down), Dave preaches abstienence when it comes to debt. For those who are addicted, cracks in the door have to be caulked shut, or the exceptions will become the rule.

5. For those who attempt to parse paying off the house vs. investment returns, i'm wondering how many of you have actually paid off your house? I have. And I can state without equivication, that the best investement decision I have ever made is paying off my house. My family is now in a position of completer freedom of action and giving. The sale of our house with a mortgage to be paid off no longer enters our equation when we discuss where we might live or the type of job we might(or might not) have. The freedom from debt completely opens up the door for is to work where we want, live where we want, and give as we please. That type of freedom cannot be found in an investment vehicle. And, until you experience that freedom, you simply cannot comment on the affect it has on your life. Peace IS the first word that comes to mind, and you can't place a rate of return on that peace.

From what I have read here, the basic disagreement with Dave seems to be centered on his personality, choice of words, or arrogance. Isn't it about time Christians flung open their doors to the imperfect and welcomed them? Dave will readily admit his imperfections and clearly state that he grew up on the "rough" side of town. He might throw about a few harsh words(not curse words BTW), but that's his personality and for many people they need that unequivocal, unwavering "THAT'S STUPID" for it to break through to them that their actions are NOT ACCEPTABLE. After all, when God gave us the Ten Commandments, they weren't couched in explanations and justifications.

And i've read about the fact that Dave makes a fortune doing what he does. Yes. That's a fact. He does very well...and tithes on his earnings as well as other giving. when he say "Live Like No one else, so you ca live like no one else", that includes giving. The best lesson he has on his CD's is the whole reason he believes in being debt free. It is the allowance to meet your obligations to your own household as dictated in the Bible, savng for a rainy day and taking care of your family. But, in the end it is about the ability to give that drives his dedication.

If you can always keep in context that Dave Ramsey isn't a Pastor, isn't professing perfection, and isn't speaking as a representative for all Christians' throughout the world, you can maybe get to the crux of what he IS doing. NO other person in the history of this country has infiltrated pop culture as effectively as he has, with a great message for all, in an openly Christian environment. Instead of looking for the negatives in the messenger, we should embrace the fact that the message is being heard and practiced.

I can and will gladly back a man of integrity, a man of faith, and a man with a huge pulpit with nothing more than a message of hope and peace, regardless of how loud or obnoxious he can be perceived by some. I'm just glad he came along and was able to force his head into the door of consumerism and pop culture.

"The new stautus symbol of wealth is the paid of home, not the BMW". How can anyone disagree with this clarity?

blee25's picture

[quote]Is wanting or seeking to obtain nice stuff "greed and materialism" and evidence of a "sinful heart"?
I'm not arguing one way or the other on the point (yet), but what about Abraham? What about Solomon? What about the numerous appeals to the ordinary Israelite in the Mosaic Covenant to obey the stipulations of the covenant in order to be blessed and prosper (which wouldn't involve large screen TVs, but would involve the symbols of wealth and comfort normal for that time... lots of kids and livestock and crops--and good health). Woud the covenant appeal to that motive if there were something inherently "greedy" about it? [quote]

I certianly don't think being wealthy itself is sinful and I imagine we can both agree there is a thin line between enjoying the blessings God has givin us to enjoy and making those things our god's. I am also not suggesting that anyone who happens to want a nice car or a large flat screen TV is materialistic or greedy, but that is a an ever present danger in our culture which is built on greed. When we are more concerned about gaining those material things than we are about using our money as wisely as possible for eternal things I do believe it is sinful.

I am not sure the Mosaic Covenants "obey and prosper" is the samething. Did the ordinary Israelite believe prosper ment to be rich or simply to have there needs sufficiently cared for? I honestly haven't considered it enough to know. The Mosaic Covenant also had much to say about freely giving it away to all who had need, which had to play a role in what the Israelite viewed as the ultimate point of their prosparity.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Technically, we don't need much of what we have. Who needs a tv, a mobile phone, or a food processor? We have to be careful about saying that we should only provide for what we need, because it is written that we are to be content with food and raiment. Contentment does not mean that one cannot possess other things or even lots of things. It isn't money that's evil, it's the love of it. 1 Tim. 6:10 speaks of avarice, or the insatiable desire for gain.

I think Abraham had more than a couple of cows- and imagine how many people he probably employed. When we create wealth, especially in a free market economy, we can also create opportunity for others.

Perhaps because of Mark's review, someone recommending DR's materials could be on the lookout for any 'weaker brethren' that might be affected adversely by FPU.

Greg Long's picture

DennisB wrote:
4. Dave treats the addiction to debt in the same manner AA treats alcoholism.
That, to me, is a huge problem.

DennisB wrote:
From what I have read here, the basic disagreement with Dave seems to be centered on his personality, choice of words, or arrogance.
Some have focused on these things, but I think the basic disagreement is actually the lack of a focus on the Gospel and heart issues.

DennisB wrote:
"The new stautus symbol of wealth is the paid of home, not the BMW". How can anyone disagree with this clarity?
What do you mean here, Dennis? Is this a quote from Dave Ramsey? Are you presenting this statement in a positive light? I sure hope not! Is the goal of Christians to have a paid-off home so they can show off their "status symbol of wealth"? Perhaps I misunderstand.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

blee25's picture

[quote]Technically, we don't need much of what we have. Who needs a tv, a mobile phone, or a food processor? We have to be careful about saying that we should only provide for what we need, because it is written that we are to be content with food and raiment. Contentment does not mean that one cannot possess other things or even lots of things. It isn't money that's evil, it's the love of it. 1 Tim. 6:10 speaks of avarice, or the insatiable desire for gain.

I think Abraham had more than a couple of cows- and imagine how many people he probably employed. When we create wealth, especially in a free market economy, we can also create opportunity for others.

Perhaps because of Mark's review, someone recommending DR's materials could be on the lookout for any 'weaker brethren' that might be affected adversely by FPU. [quote]

I am not sure if this was in response to me, but I want to clarify that I agree with everything Suzan stated here. I never ment to say that being wealthy was wrong, or that enjoying blessing beyond the neccesities is sinful. What I am saying is that there is a difference between the person becomes wealthy because of wise choices and sees that wealth as stewardship from our Lord to be used wisely for His glory and the person who sets out to get rich for the sake of being able to posses things they think will bring fulfillment. My concern is the much of the church today is like the second person. If we desire material extra's so much we are willing to charge them when we don't have the money for them, we are most likely not going to be able to wisely handle wealth.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
If we desire material extra's so much we are willing to charge them when we don't have the money for them, we are most likely not going to be able to wisely handle wealth.

I agree- but if DR's materials address this habit of charging things we can't afford, then by the time one becomes wealthy, there is a distinct possibility that one will be able to handle it. It isn't as if his program enables big spenders to accumulate and spend more. The first lessons are about saving, giving to God, and frugality, and these behaviors can lead one to the place where they would be considered 'wealthy'. And I think 'wealth' is too relative a term. Income for someone living well in a suburb in Ohio wouldn't buy you 50 sq ft. in NYC.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Greg Long wrote:
"The new stautus symbol of wealth is the paid of home, not the BMW". How can anyone disagree with this clarity?What do you mean here, Dennis? Is this a quote from Dave Ramsey? Are you presenting this statement in a positive light? I sure hope not! Is the goal of Christians to have a paid-off home so they can show off their "status symbol of wealth"? Perhaps I misunderstand.

"Welcome to The Dave Ramsey Show, where debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice. I am Dave Ramsey, giving you the same financial advice as your grandmother would have given you, only we keep our teeth in." Smile

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

DennisB's picture

Greg Long wrote:
DennisB wrote:
4. Dave treats the addiction to debt in the same manner AA treats alcoholism.
That, to me, is a huge problem.

What'sthe difference and why should it be treated differently? If an alcoholic is slave to alcohol, isn't the debtor enslaved to the lender in the same position? Both unable to control their enslavement?

DennisB wrote:
From what I have read here, the basic disagreement with Dave seems to be centered on his personality, choice of words, or arrogance.
Some have focused on these things, but I think the basic disagreement is actually the lack of a focus on the Gospel and heart issues.

Again, Dave Ramsey does not profess to be a Christian Financial Counselor, he's a Financial Counselor who is a Christian. His message is valid to believers and non-believers alike. Although he does not hide his Christianity, he focuses on finances and let's others focus on the Gospel and heart issues. He provides a plan to get out of debt, not a plan for Salvation. Hopefully the fact the he openly displays his faith will lead some down that path, but that path is for God to make, not Dave Ramsey.

DennisB wrote:
"The new stautus symbol of wealth is the paid of home, not the BMW". How can anyone disagree with this clarity?
What do you mean here, Dennis? Is this a quote from Dave Ramsey? Are you presenting this statement in a positive light? I sure hope not! Is the goal of Christians to have a paid-off home so they can show off their "status symbol of wealth"? Perhaps I misunderstand.

Dave Ramsey takes modern day "truisms" and turns them on their head. The term "status symbol" is used to describe an object folks place in front of others to display their "status". Most people have a home, so the home itself would be the status symbol if one were to make a display of wealth. The status symbol of a paid off home would be something that people couldn't "see"...unless a sign were placed in the front yard. The irony of the statement is that for most people their home is a symbol of poverty...not wealth. I think you are taking these statement far too literally for the sake of conversation.

The statement about the paid off home vs. the BMW being the new "status symbol", is nothing more than taking the focus off shiny objects, and placing the focus on paying off debt. In other words, paying off your home takes priority over "things". You'll still have the home, but the debt would be gone. What a biblical and noble pursuit, don't you think?

Barry L.'s picture

...or does Mark Farnham's picture resemble Dave Ramsey a bit.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
I am not sure the Mosaic Covenants "obey and prosper" is the samething. Did the ordinary Israelite believe prosper ment to be rich or simply to have there needs sufficiently cared for? I honestly haven't considered it enough to know. The Mosaic Covenant also had much to say about freely giving it away to all who had need, which had to play a role in what the Israelite viewed as the ultimate point of their prosparity.

Sounds like a really good project to add to my list. I don't have references handy, but there are many promises in the Covenant and in the Prophets that describe great abundance. I don't know that the Israelite's would have thought of as "wealth," per se, but they would have understood it to be a description of great abundance of the things they valued most, and a far easier life than subsistence farming.

As for giving it all away... I'm not sure about that one, but I do know there are several passages that detailed the tithing expected of them (for the purposes of funding the priesthood and helping the needy) so, yes, generosity was a principle.

Now, I'm not talking health & wealth gospel here, because I don't believe God has promised riches to anybody (even in the Mosaic Covenant context, one could argue there was room for individual exceptions... surely Jeremiah was faithful but being in the midst of an unfaithful people, did not enjoy a prosperous life!) because we are not offered that sort of covenant relationship. But it does speak to weather the desire for abundance and the pursuit of it is the same thing as "greed and materialism."
Of course, there is still 2 Tim 6 warning against the desire to be rich leading to all sorts of disaster, and Jesus saying don't worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6 I believe). I think a really good study that brings all of these passages together and "harmonizes" them would be very valuable, given the kind of society we live in and the opportunities--as well as temptations--it holds.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Just wondering about this business of "heart issues."

This certainly is an important concept when it comes to the Christian life and our own relationship with God.

But, wonder if -- I had cancer, and had the choice of two world-renowned cancer doctors, and one of them was a Christian.

Would I rather go to the Christian doctor if he is known to use Biblical wisdom with his patients along with his vast medical knowledge? Or would I rather not even be associated with him if I do not find him "gospel-centered" or dealing with my "heart issues" about the cancer? Should I rather just strictly work with the worldly doctor and be done with it?

Or, might I be best off to find a Christian nurse practicioner who knows a lot less about the cancer but is doing the work with much more "gospel-centeredness" and with a handle on "the heart" of things?

See, I am not sure that "heart issues" are the only issues in a given situation.

In fact, it sounds like St. Paul thought that he was not justified in his actions with regard to eternal reward simply because he did them with a pure heart to the best of his knowledge (1 Cor. 4:4, 5). At the Judgment Seat, Christ will objectively evaluate all of our actions and all of our heart attitudes.

Thus, to transfer into the realm of finances...is it better to be:

A) In debt with an impure heart.

Cool In debt with a pure heart.

C) Debt-free with an impure heart.

D) Debt-free with a pure heart.

Of course, D is best. But is C or B second-best? Temporally, C is better. Eternally, is B better? In light of 1 Cor. 4:4, 5, I would be hard-pressed to say that it is.

If it is, it still does not justify the misuse of resources from a stewardship perspective. That will also be evaluated at the Bema.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Bob Metze's picture

I have read Dave Ramsay and use his envelopes to teach my son some financial structure. I have found much of DR's concepts to be helpful and have shared some with others (ie. debt-snowball). However, I am thankful that as a missionary, I have been forced to think outside of my national and cultural blinders. It seems to me like we are guilty of imposing our cultural standards (which happens to be very materialist, IMO) onto the Scriptures to "find our wisdom" in many areas (investments, retirement, purchasing...). I am thankful that God has allowed me to develop relationships with people who pray "give us this day our daily bread (or tortillas) and who always welcome guests to share what they have, even if it seems so little. There is a cool saying here that translates, "Come by anytime. We'll just add more water to the beans". Our Mexican brothers also care for their family members to an extreme not regularly seen in the US. I tend to think that they understand some of these issues from a Biblical perspective more than most of us! I am constantly challenged to re-evaluate and think with freshness. Thanks for provoking thought, Mark.

Greg Long's picture

DennisB wrote:
4. Dave treats the addiction to debt in the same manner AA treats alcoholism.
Greg Long wrote:
That, to me, is a huge problem.
DennisB wrote:
What'sthe difference and why should it be treated differently? If an alcoholic is slave to alcohol, isn't the debtor enslaved to the lender in the same position? Both unable to control their enslavement?
I wouldn't use the AA program in my church...would you?

DennisB wrote:
The statement about the paid off home vs. the BMW being the new "status symbol", is nothing more than taking the focus off shiny objects, and placing the focus on paying off debt. In other words, paying off your home takes priority over "things". You'll still have the home, but the debt would be gone. What a biblical and noble pursuit, don't you think?
No, it's not a biblical and noble pursuit to view your house as a status symbol.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

mounty's picture

Barry L. wrote:
...or does Mark Farnham's picture resemble Dave Ramsey a bit.

It's actually Dave Ramsey in the pic. Wink

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Greg Long wrote:
No, it's not a biblical and noble pursuit to view your house as a status symbol.

Greg,

I think you are missing the point.
It's kind of a joke -- the anti-status symbol -- not the kind of a car you drive, but living in a house (big or small) that is paid off, which to most people is going to mean you are nuts and dumb enough to miss out on a great tax deduction (wink, wink).
He is not talking about having some kind of a gigantic house as a status symbol -- quite the opposite.
Ramsey is constantly telling people to move down in house or car -- and, oh yeah -- SELL THE STUPID MOTORCYCLE!! Smile

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Greg Long's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
No, it's not a biblical and noble pursuit to view your house as a status symbol.

Greg,

I think you are missing the point.
It's kind of a joke -- the anti-status symbol -- not the kind of a car you drive, but living in a house (big or small) that is paid off, which to most people is going to mean you are nuts and dumb enough to miss out on a great tax deduction (wink, wink).
He is not talking about having some kind of a gigantic house as a status symbol -- quite the opposite.
Ramsey is constantly telling people to move down in house or car -- and, oh yeah -- SELL THE STUPID MOTORCYCLE!! Smile

Thanks for the clarification, Paul.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

krbuza's picture

Mark Farnham wrote:

When I indicated that my review was not likely to be favorable, he was surprised and a little defensive. Because he is theologically astute, I asked him about what I perceived to be the major flaw of FPU--the distortion of the gospel. He responded as I think many Christians would if asked that question: what distortion? I think it very likely that many Christians could attend FPU and not notice anything wrong with its message.

What distortion? What is wrong with its message?

Quote:
A truly Christian viewpoint, however, sees everything through the lens of the gospel. This flies in the face of so many Christian attitudes toward everyday life, whether it be money, music, the arts, technology, or any host of cultural issues. The typical Christian response is to find some scattered verses and weave together a loose tapestry of references organized by his preconceived notions. To be truly Christian is to approach the issue from the standpoint of the gospel, and here is where I find FPU to be downright lacking.

Are you suggesting that EVERY conversation, every presentation of any topic must include the gospel message? That every presentation must have the gospel message as its central theme? Can there be no discussion of the weather without direct and specific reference and explanation of the gospel message? Can there be no professional discourse without the specific interweaving of the gospel into that professional presentation?

Quote:

First, when it comes to explicit references to the gospel, FPU is a disaster. In one video Ramsey tells the sad story of a young father who was diagnosed with cancer. By following Ramsey's advice, this man had been able to provide for his family, so that when he died, his wife would not have to work, and his young children would be cared for. Ramsey proceeds to tell his audience that the man did eventually die, but it was "OK because he loved Jesus" and therefore we know where he is. This is the only reference to the gospel I could remember in the entire thirteen-week curriculum (although admittedly, I never attended the last session).

In my personal opinion the ONLY specific reference to the Gospel per se (as opposed to general references to God, Jesus, the Bible, Scripture, etc) is in lesson 13, which you admittedly never attended. For any Christian lesson 13 is critical to the Biblical understanding of finances. To have made this commentary on the lack of a gospel foundation to FPU and more specifically the distortion of the gospel without having sat through the most critical, the most directly Biblical lesson steals from you any credibility you might have had in your commentary / critique. I reiterate, however, that it is NOT required of a Christian to provide the details of the gospel message with every utterance from his (or her) lips.

Quote:
If a church uses FPU as an evangelistic tool, it needs to be fully aware that the gospel will not be given in any recognizable fashion in the program.

The gospel is NOT central to the FPU discussion on Scriptural financial principles. FPU is weak as an evangelistic tool if the expectation is an altar call after lesson 13. However, there is great value in presenting the practical, financial related Scriptures in the context of a financial class. There may be those attending such a class who do not want to hear anything about God and may cringe every time they hear a reference to Jesus or the Scripture. But, they may also become intrigued over the course of the program by the many references to the practical Scripture references and they may be interested to learn more. That is probably as far as FPU should be expected to take any non-Christian who attends the classes. Except, perhaps, that lesson 13 might result in a conversion for someone who was already seeking. Otherwise, this ** financial** class is NOT an evangelistic tool per se, it is a teaching tool presenting Biblical financial principles.

Quote:

Remember that FPU is marketed to other segments of society also, such as businesses and the military; and in these versions, all reference to Scripture and God are removed.

This statement is UNTRUE. You are WRONG. You have made an assumption and have not taken the time to verify whether or not your assumption is accurate. I assure you that the above quoted sentense is in error. Although it is true "that FPU is marketed to other segments of society ..., such as businesses and the military", it is completely, 100%, absolutely incorrect to state that "all reference to Scripture and God are removed" from the program when it is presented to those "other segments of society". I am currently coordinating a "Community" class. The videos, audios, book, and workbook contain exactly the same material as is presented in the church setting. The ONLY differences between the program as presented to those different "segments of society" are: (1) the Free Preview video differs in the content of the "man on the street" comments, (2) the Coordinator guides do not include the brief Bible study after the video and prior to the discussion time. Otherwise, the content presented to each segment of society is exactly the same (except that the military version includes an extra, bonus lesson directed specifically to military personnel).

Quote:

If the only difference between a version of the course that is acceptable in secular settings and one that is designed for churches is a few Bible verses and off-hand references to God, how explicitly Christian is this view of money, really?

Again, those are not the only differences. Further, the references to God and Scripture are not off-hand. And, again, lesson 13 is specifically centered on "God and money". An entire lesson is devoted to this, and YOU skipped it. I STRONGLY encourage you to, at least listen to the audio for lesson 13.

Quote:

In another video Ramsey actually directly contradicts the gospel when he mentions the various steps for getting out of debt. One of his necessary steps is to pray. Knowing that his audience is probably a mix of believers and unbelievers, he encourages them to pray nonetheless. He then tells his audience in effect, "Some of you don't want to talk to God because you think, for whatever reason, that God is angry at you. God is not angry at you!" Now, if this video were specifically designed for an explicitly Christian audience, I would perhaps understand why he makes this statement. But after stating this, Ramsey in no way qualifies his statement. He simply proceeds to inform the audience that God wants to help them out of debt and that He loves them.

God does love them. He does want them to be out of debt. God wants to converse with man. Every man. There are certain things that stand in the way of this. One of them is pride. One of them, frankly, is fear. We could have a lengthy theological discussion about whether or not God hears the prayers of the unsaved. Some people believe that the only prayer of the unsaved He hears is the salvation prayer. I disagree. I believe He hears every prayer that is directed toward Him (indeed, since He is all-knowing and everywhere present, He hears and knows of every prayer regardless of who or what it is directed toward). He may or may not answer those prayers, but He does hear them and He does care.

Quote:
Some might object that FPU is a financial program and not a gospel presentation. While I acknowledge this fact, any time a Christian speaks about God or the gospel, his comments should be clear, complete and biblical.

Where is your gospel presentation in this critique? You have made reference to God and the gospel without being "clear, complete and biblical." Which returns me to my initial comments: not every utterance from the lips (or fingers in the case of the typist) must include a "clear, complete and biblical" explanation of the nature of God and the gospel.

Quote:

Defending FPU based on its purpose as a financial program is akin to defending The Shack's heresies because it is "just a novel." I would rather Ramsey left out all reference to God and Scripture than for him to obscure the gospel and place Scripture alongside other ancient wisdom as if the two are equal.

I'm sorry, what "other ancient wisdom" are you referring to? You are way over the deep end when you compare an incomplete gospel presentation (when no attempt to specifically present the gospel is even being made) with heresy. Once again you lose credibility.

Quote:

Second, and more significantly, Ramsey's whole approach to money is counter to the gospel's approach. For Ramsey, up is up and you save your life by saving your life. In the gospel, the way up is down and you save your life by losing it. Ramsey's goal is never to have to worry about money again. The gospel way is to be willing to have your needs met day by day. Ramsey's way is to be self-sufficient, relying only on your financial foresight, savvy and accumulated wealth. The gospel way, regardless of how much money one possesses, is to be utterly dependent upon God for everything. Ramsey's way is one of increasing wealth which is a way to escape suffering and need. The gospel way is to expect suffering in this life and to be increasingly needy and dependent. Ramsey cannot conceive of failing to tear down one's barns and building greater. The gospel cannot conceive of even taking a staff on the journey, but to trust that God will provide whatever is needed.

Your view of FPU and scripture is distorted. There are an abundance of Scriptures which make direct reference to finances. Dave's central Scripture (if I may presume to speak for him) is Proverbs 22:7: "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." (NKJV) This is a clear Biblical reference in wisdom literature to avoid borrowing money so as to avoid being the servant of another.

Proverbs 21:20 (another Scripture he references) says "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." (NIV) Once again, wisdom literature advices that we store up resources and not waste what we have been given.

Another reference is made to Proverbs 17:18 and 6:1-5 regarding becoming surety for someone else's loan. Also, Ecclesiastes 11:2, which specifically recommends diversification of your wealth.

The patriarch Abraham was a wealthy man. So was Isaac. So was Jacob. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was their refuge, their strength, their supply. They relied on Him, not on their accumulated wealth. Job also was a very wealthy man. His reliance was on God. We can be assured of this because he still trusted in God when all of his wealth had been stolen or destroyed. You distort the Scriptures when you suggest that it is not possible to trust God and accumulate resources which provide you a cushion against the storms of life and allow you to give to those in need (again, why on earth would you skip lesson 13??).

Quote:
The gospel should change the way we view everything, including money. While many good principles are taught in FPU, churches and their leaders need to be aware of the problems with it as well.

Be aware of the problems with this critique!

Quote:

It is probably least helpful for older people whose earning years are mostly behind them, for people who have significant uncontrolled expenses such as large medical bills, and for people who have committed themselves to full-time vocational ministry and don't expect ever to make more than enough to survive.

It is for everyone. Those older people who are either nearing or in retirement, perhaps living on a fixed income for the first time can greatly benefit from the budgeting lesson. Those who have significant uncontrolled expenses can greatly benefit from the lesson on savings and dumping debt. Those in full-time ministry can also greatly benefit from the lessons on budgeting and saving. Everyone in any financial or life situation can benefit.

Quote:
Because I fall into these last two categories, I felt depressed at times during the course over my failure to make money more of a consideration in my career and job choices. Sometimes after an FPU class I felt like a fool for taking positions since graduation from seminary based on the question of whether my family could survive financially, because I felt God leading me. I have since fully recovered from this slight depression by returning to a gospel focus, and realizing that even if I have to work my whole life and die a pauper, if I lived for God, it will have been worth it.

Some are so gifted. Others may be called to accumulate wealth to provide for people such as yourself who are in full-time ministry. Those who are accumulating that wealth MUST sit through lesson 13!

Quote:

While there are many helpful ideas and helps in FPU, I'm afraid that in the end it presents a view of money, God, and the purpose of life that stands in conflict with the gospel. If a church is going to use FPU with its members, I would recommend a complementary study of a biblical theology of stewardship and suffering to buttress the weaknesses of FPU.

You misunderstand the Scriptures and FPU. Primarily, I suspect, because you skipped lesson 13. A portion of my current FPU class is sitting through "The Truth Project" prior to sitting through FPU ... same day, a few hours earlier. Those of us participating in The Truth Project will be primed to recognize any distortions if they come up during FPU. However, I do not believe there are any distortions. Again, FPU is not a gospel presentation. And, again, you should NOT have skipped lesson 13.

God does not call us to suffer financially. Some choose to take a vow of poverty, it is true. But God does not want us to suffer. God does not want us to squander what we have. If we do, what we have will be taken from us and given to someone who will use God's resources wisely because (as is stated in lesson 13) it is all His!

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.