Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part 1

Few people today interested in personal money management have not heard the name Dave Ramsey. Ramsey has built an empire of financial counseling that includes a nationally-syndicated radio show, a slot on Fox Business channel, and a NY Times bestseller, The Total Money Makeover. His website claims that over 1,000,000 families have taken Financial Peace University (FPU), his financial class designed to help people take charge of their money. On average, the website claims, attendees pay off $5,300 in debt and save $2,700 in just 90 days. FPU is billed as “a 13-week video curriculum—taught by financial expert Dave Ramsey—that incorporates small-group discussions to encourage accountability and discipleship. Financial Peace University is highly entertaining for everyone, with a unique combination of humor, informative financial advice and biblical messages.”

With such stunning results, it’s easy to understand why so many people are turning to Ramsey for financial advice. Since FPU is marketed to churches (along with other institutions such as businesses and the military), it is worth the effort to examine the program and evaluate it biblically. While Ramsey professes to be a Christian and uses Scripture liberally (in his church version of FPU), I discovered profound problems with the program, both in its content, and in its use by churches as an evangelistic tool. What follows is not a thorough critique, but a general attempt to evaluate the program biblically and theologically, while being as charitable as possible.

The Good

FPU is a professionally-presented, entertaining course of financial management. It does not teach advanced skills such as stock market investing or business finance, but focuses on the individual’s escape from debt and saving for the future. My wife and I learned many invaluable lessons, some of which were reminders, others that were new and crucial.

First, FPU teaches the simplicity and power of saving. Using vivid examples and simple charts, Ramsey shows the power of compound interest (although he presents wildly optimistic interest rates as normal). This taught us that anyone could save a little over many years and gain considerable interest through consistent investing. Also, Ramsey emphasizes living on a written budget, something we had not done so explicitly in the past. This has proven to be one of the most difficult disciplines to master. But Ramsey is right, that if you don’t tell your money what to do, you’ll wonder where it went. Budgeting is simply naming every dollar at the beginning of the month, and assigning it a place. I’ve heard this before, but it was good reminder.

Second, FPU teaches people how to get out of debt. The most powerful testimonials in FPU are those stories of people getting out of massive amounts of debt through the principles learned in the class. I personally know of one person who worked her way out of $60,000 of debt in less than three years through FPU. This alone may make the course worth many times its $100 price tag. Ramsey also gives helpful advice regarding creditors, credit scores, collection agencies and telemarketing.

Third, FPU teaches the inside story of marketing, and how to buy things wisely, with cash, and for a bargain price. He teaches the power of negotiating, even for things you thought had a fixed price. He also teaches invaluable lessons regarding identity theft and what kinds of insurances to buy and not to buy. He gives advice about real estate (Ramsey’s area of expertise), job interviews, retirement, and college savings. Some of the advice in these areas is debatable, but generally helpful. It would be wise to get advice from other sources as well in order to get differing perspectives on these vital areas.

While taking the course, my wife and I were given access to a wide variety of helpful tools through the FPU website. Readers should be aware, however, that once the thirteen weeks are over, many of these services require a subscription fee to continue using. In fact, for many of the topics covered in FPU, Ramsey’s company offers services that require payment once the class has ended, including insurances, financial advice, and identity theft protection. One is quickly reminded that this is a business, not a ministry, even though at times, the “feel” of it is church-like.

For all its benefits regarding financial advice, however, I found several troubling problems with FPU. Before I treat what I consider to be the truly bad elements of FPU, I would like to point out its ugliness first.

The Ugly

It doesn’t take more than a few weeks of exposure to the FPU videos before Ramsey’s arrogance and self-glorification becomes obvious. Dave Ramsey is not a humble man, and I would argue strongly that what some perceive to be his self-confidence is actually a bad case of egotism. After a few weeks of the class, I could barely control my gag reflex anymore when at the beginning of EACH video, all of his accolades (see above) were mentioned AGAIN. No doubt, this bald self-promotion is applauded by the world, but in a Christian atmosphere, it was downright sickening. On the way to FPU class one week I said to my wife in disgust, “I can’t stand to see his face again, and hear him brag about his money.” But this is not the truly ugly aspect of FPU.

The ugliest facet of FPU is actually something internal to me. I can’t really blame Dave Ramsey for this, but FPU does bear some responsibility. I found growing in my heart, after the first few weeks, a subtle materialism and greed I had never experienced before. So much of the advice given in FPU is designed to help people earn the kind of wealth that would free them from ever having to worry about money again. This is a rather explicit message throughout FPU and is reinforced by the oft-repeated mantra, “Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.” The first half of this motto is helpful. It encourages frugality, saving and financial planning, but the second half promotes a lavish lifestyle and self-sufficiency. Audiences are wowed by compound-interest tables showing what it takes to retire with two, five and even eleven million dollars. Ramsey tells story after story of his wealth and what he has been able to purchase in cash, the financial freedom his millions have earned him, and how you too can live this way, thank you very much.

Now, I don’t blame Ramsey entirely for the greed I found being nurtured in my heart. He was simply telling the truth about the amazing power of compound interest. I found myself fantasizing about how comfortably we could live if we could just sock away the recommended amount for the recommended number of years. For a couple weeks my head was in the stars, and all thoughts of sacrificial service and daily bread were gone. I eventually came to recognize my greed and confess it as such. I had tried never to live for money in the past, so why were promises of millions suddenly turning my head at age 43?

There is a clear message throughout FPU—if you are not getting richer, you are a loser. In fact, in one of the videos, Ramsey says as much when he quips that if you are making the same amount of money you did twenty years ago, you are a loser. This is the ugly side of FPU. It knows nothing of sacrifice, of losing one’s life, of taking up one’s cross. It is a theology of glory and power and wealth, not of suffering and humiliation. Money seems to attain godlike status at times in FPU, as if it were the solution to everything. At one point Ramsey claims that having more money means less money fights in a marriage. Really? Are we to believe that wealth by itself has this kind of power?

Another ugly facet of FPU is the wildly optimistic picture Ramsey paints in his descriptions of saving and investing. By taking 12% as the average return on investments, he implies that extreme wealth is a normal result of saving just a little. For example, one table shows that a person would accumulate over $20,000,000 if he invested the cost of his lunch instead of going out to eat. This rather unreal scenario, however, is based on never going out to eat for lunch over a 60-year span (between ages 16 and 76) and earning 12% interest for those 60 years. Ramsey fails to take into consideration the cost of making one’s own lunch, which while minimal in comparison to the $8 a day he allots in the illustration, would still cut into his profit considerably. In another example he compares buying a new car with buying a clunker, but doesn’t consider the added expense of repairs a used car would necessitate.

One last charge of ugliness. FPU is nothing more than brilliant marketing, with a dazzling set, cool graphics and carefully designed elements to make the viewer feel good. Almost none of Ramsey’s material is original; it is merely a collection of financial wisdom packaged for a 21st century video-trained audience. I was flipping through an old Reader’s Digest magazine from April 1998 and found an article entitled “How to Plan for Your Financial Future” by Richard Miniter. Everything of value I learned in thirteen weeks of attending FPU I found in this article. As I said, there is not much original in FPU, just the glitz and glamour.


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.

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There are 104 Comments

ChrisC's picture

Susan R wrote:
So a Christian teaching financial planning from a Christian perspective is a bad thing?
i wouldn't say it's a bad thing... maybe just an extra thing. a christian perspective should define the believer's priorities, but the priorities can be defined by someone other than a financial planner. any financial planner should be able to start with an individual's priorities (christian or not) and come to a sensible spending/savings plan.

really, i think there's a little too much of x "from a christian perspective" being better than x. i don't need to take a special class on x "from a christian perspective". i should be able to apply my christian perspective to a normal class on x.

besides, explaining the "christian perspective" part of finances could be done in 5 or 10 minutes. comparing the risks and benefits of various financial vehicles will take a lot longer.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Matthew Olmstead wrote:
You didn't appreciate FPU, we get it. But what were you doing with this post. You acknowledge in the opening paragraph that most people probably know about DR. So, are you telling all of us that we are unwise to heed his advice or subscribe to his methods? Or are you trying to warn those who have never heard of DR that they should proceed with caution? Either way I don't believe you have been fair.

Matthew,

I like Mark a lot, so I do not take pleasure in ripping the article, but I have to say I agree with your statement in that the article seems to lack a coherent purpose, other than being Mark's random thoughts about FPU, and has a strong negative tone. My fear is that someone reading it who does NOT know about Dave Ramsey may be turned off from considering his advice and programs, which would be very sad.

I would have much preferred a thorough, Biblical critique of Ramsey's counsel in light of the Biblical text (including insights from the original languages) -- wherever such a critique would lead.

Otherwise, it is very subjective -- and one's experience in FPU might be influenced by everything from the season of the year in which he took the class to the behavior of the person he sat next to.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

OK- there are people/companies who provide resources on subjects about which they claim expertise. It is up to us as individuals to do some research and weigh these materials against what we know the Word of God teaches and what our own needs/weaknesses are. No one forces any of us to choose one person/method/ideology over another. I tend to use [URL=http://clarkhoward.com/ Clark Howard[/URL ] the most for financial advice, but I still look around at what [URL=http://www.suzeorman.com/ Suze[/URL ], Dave Ramsey, Crown, Larry Burkett, or the [URL=http://www.fool.com/ Motley Fool[/URL ] advise.

However, there is a difference IMO from offering books in the bookstore and having someone speak in the pulpit. There is a big difference, IMO. I am sure that there are pastors who would offer/recommend books for their members but not have the author in the pulpit. Our pastor once recommended [URL=http://www.amazon.com/Proper-Care-Feeding-Husbands/dp/0060520612 ]The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands[/URL ] (among others) to ladies in the church looking for a book about marriage, but we'd not have Dr. Laura come and speak to the ladies. It is IMO an understandable, if difficult to define, distinction.

Jack's picture

When I lived near Atlanta, I regularly listened to Clark Howard on an AM radio station. I think he's now on CNN. After moving away, I picked up a book by John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Mutual Funds. Is there anything to Dave Ramsey that I wouldn't pick up from these guys? I can't imagine there is too much information Ramsey has that isn't available from these (or other) free resources.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Folks get passionate about money in a hurry!

My take: haven't taken the FPU course or anything but a couple of us at church were looking into a personal finance thing of some sort several months ago as an outreach. Someone mentioned Ramsey, whom I'd never heard of before. Checked his website and did not find it attractive. To me, an organization that is about frugality should look frugal. Smile

But, on the other hand, it may well be that the glamor and glitz factor is exactly what's needed to sell financial sobriety to those who need it most. Think about it: who needs sound financial advice the most, those who are dazzled by fancy marketing or those who don't believe anything they see in an ad? I'm thinking the first group. So if you want to really get this way of thinking to that group, maybe you have to use what they find most persuasive: glamor and glitz.

I hear these ads on the radio when I'm driving around (not Ramsey ads)... the "You can get rich if you order our free book on financial secrets!!!!!!" or "You can work from home just a couple of hours a week and make thousands a week and quit your job!!!" And I always wonder, who believes this stuff and dials the 800 number? Apparently plenty do.
I'm inclined to think Ramsey is just the ticket for them.

Edit: BTW, I have the ultimate identity theft protection service. It's so powerful and secret that I'm not allowed to tell you who it is in a public forum. But if you call my 800 number now, I'll let you in my secret ABSOLUTELY FREE! Yes, that's right. Free. My information is so valuable, I'm giving it away to the first 500 callers!

Becky Petersen's picture

Jack wrote:
When I lived near Atlanta, I regularly listened to Clark Howard on an AM radio station. I think he's now on CNN. After moving away, I picked up a book by John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Mutual Funds. Is there anything to Dave Ramsey that I wouldn't pick up from these guys? I can't imagine there is too much information Ramsey has that isn't available from these (or other) free resources.

My mom was a Clark Howard fan for years and years. Now she's starting to listen to DR but she just told me within the last week how he talks as if he made up the "envelope" system. I chuckled because we have a 60 yo lady in our church who uses that method and she's never had schooling past 8th grade and she doesn't speak English. She's tried to explain it to ladies around her who will listen, but most won't. (the ones who need it most).

In 2008 when we last visited the states, we noticed that the Rick Warren "purpose driven" thing seemed to have calmed down. I asked my sister in GA (a pastor's wife) what was the "newest" fad. She said, in Oct., 2008, that it seemed to be the financial seminars at the churches.

I've probably heard him on the radio. I have no bad thing to say about him, but it is irritating when someone comes across as "righteous" because they've hit it big with a wonderful marketing pitch.

I appreciate www.getrichslowly.com as a financial blog of someone who doesn't claim to know it all, but is learning (JD) as he goes. He's not a Christian, though, but a lot of his readers are because you tell by the comments.

Jonathan Charles's picture

I Googled "Financial Peace" and "Baptist Church" and found a baptist church in Sioux Falls that offers Ramsey's course in the spring and Crown Financial's course in the fall. Ramsey's course is $95 while Crown's is $45. Probably alot of the same content on a 13-week format. Where is the extra $50 going? To support a for-profit business. If biblical stewardship is the aim here, why are churches guiding cash-strapped parishioners to pay double for Ramsey's course (because he is the "it" guy). Take that $50 and invest it with interest compounded quarterly over a 40 year period at Ramsey's generous 12% and after 40 years you will have $4,652.55. Give that extra $50 to Ramsey and a significant portion of it will go in his pocket and compound interest for him.

Bob T.'s picture

I think this is a good article on a needed subject that needs more exposure and discussion. It will be interesting to see where this leads.
Thanks to Mark for his thoughts on the subject. Smile

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

If the FPU course will benefit someone, then the extra $50 is well spent. All they have to do to afford it is not eat at McDonald's for a month. Wink

I happily support Christian for-profit businesses all the time, and don't see why Christians are vilified when they have professionally slick presentations or make money providing services and products that people need or want. It seems we are always griping about the lack of quality and professionalism in Christian media- then one comes along who's successful, and angels forfend- he's too successful.

GregH's picture

Susan R wrote:
If the FPU course will benefit someone, then the extra $50 is well spent. All they have to do to afford it is not eat at McDonald's for a month. Wink

I happily support Christian for-profit businesses all the time, and don't see why Christians are vilified when they have professionally slick presentations or make money providing services and products that people need or want. It seems we are always griping about the lack of quality and professionalism in Christian media- then one comes along who's successful, and angels forfend- he's too successful.

Well, first I am not sure about the quality or professionalism of Ramsey. Some of what he teaches is dubious and most of the rest is common sense that you can read 100 places online for free. I will give him credit for his 10 baby steps. Packaging things that way makes it seem easier for people to follow. And I will give him credit for the people that have been helped.

But one's money is insigificant when compared to his/her attitude about money. And that is where I think the problem is. I don't think Ramsey's teaching always helps people think right about money.

Look at his own kids for an example. In the course, he tells how he has a deal with them where he will match them dollar for dollar so they can buy their first car (for cash of course) at the age of 16. The first one spent a modest amount on a car (maybe $15K) but the second was bragging about how expensive a car she was able to afford. I seem to remember it being more than any car I bought before I was 30.

I found myself wondering what lessons they have learned. Even without Dave Ramsey for a dad, I knew I didn't have to have an expensive first car while I was still in school. And my parents certainly would not have incentivized me to overspend on a first car.

Ramsey's prevalent theme is sacrifice now so you can spend later. He brags over and over about his stuff but says it is OK if you have cash. I think he is settling for second best. The happiest person is not one that can walk through a mall and know they can buy anything they want. The happiest person is one who can walk through a mall and not see anything they want in the first place.

Jonathan Charles's picture

Susan R wrote:
If the FPU course will benefit someone, then the extra $50 is well spent. All they have to do to afford it is not eat at McDonald's for a month. Wink

Is Ramsey's course superior to Crown's? Is a student paying for the fact that a Christian celebrity stands behind it? I support Christian businesses, but I don't want them coming into my church to solicit customers. If I were to preach a 13-week series on stewardship and one of my motives in it was my personal profit in receiving more tithes and offerings as a result and the possibility that my pay might increase, what would you think of such a motive? You would rightly condemnt it. How can that not be part of Ramsey's motive? The motto from his "careers" link on his web site is: "If we help enough people, we never have to worry about money." What if I privately said, "If I preach enough on biblical stewardship, I'll never have to worry about money"? I think some of you have gone to sleep, discernment-wise, with this guy. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid!

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think how any teacher affects their 'students' is related to how much the person immerses themselves in the personality of the teacher. Most folks are going to take the information they find helpful and chuck the rest. They aren't going to try to 'become' Dave Ramsey. Ramsey's delivery and methods are an aspect of his personality, IMO, and not a marketing gimmick. I know people just like him... as a matter of fact, I think I'm married to one.

Someone mentioned earlier that confidence to one person looks like arrogance to someone else. Maybe excitement about what he's accomplished translates into bragging- I don't know, because I've only seen the materials and courses that I've purchased, and I haven't seen anything I'd object to yet on the grounds of inciting greed or boasting of wealth.

There are LOTS of free materials out there- but how many people go looking for it? Few people will do that kind of work to save money, especially if they already have issues in that department. An example I can speak of is homeschooling- I've home educated my kids for over 15 years and spent an average of $150 per year (for four kids) because I buy used books, scour the internet for free resources, and use the library. Most of the homeschoolers I know buy packaged curriculum to the tune of $400 to $850 per child- and that's textbooks, not DVD or satellite. It's what they want and what they can afford, and it's no skin off my nose.

Dave Ramsey has a useful product for people who have debt issues, and he emphasizes the Biblical principles I want my kids to embrace. It doesn't mean we have to join the Dave Ramsey Fan Club and have FPU tattooed on our foreheads though.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

There is so much false information and speculation flying around here from people who have obviously not listened to Ramsey enough to know what they are talking about that it is not worth answering the false charges. I would only say that Crown and Ramsey each promote each other, so if you have such a beef with Ramsey, perhaps you should take it up with Crown.
(Incidentally, Clark Howard and Ramsey are also good friends.)
If you do not understand a person and his program, I would suggest that it would be better to abstain from commenting rather than to spout foolishness.
If you do not like Ramsey, that is fine, but some of these comments are just silly. They do not deserve a response.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Jonathan Charles wrote:
Susan R wrote:
If the FPU course will benefit someone, then the extra $50 is well spent. All they have to do to afford it is not eat at McDonald's for a month. Wink

Is Ramsey's course superior to Crown's? Is a student paying for the fact that a Christian celebrity stands behind it? I support Christian businesses, but I don't want them coming into my church to solicit customers. If I were to preach a 13-week series on stewardship and one of my motives in it was my personal profit in receiving more tithes and offerings as a result and the possibility that my pay might increase, what would you think of such a motive? You would rightly condemnt it. How can that not be part of Ramsey's motive? The motto from his "careers" link on his web site is: "If we help enough people, we never have to worry about money." What if I privately said, "If I preach enough on biblical stewardship, I'll never have to worry about money"? I think some of you have gone to sleep, discernment-wise, with this guy. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid!


Ramsey is not a pastor and doesn't pretend to be. I didn't say that pastors should invite Ramsey into their church. I don't think someone's success should condemn them to be dismissed as a 'celebrity'. I don't know what Ramsey's motives are- he hasn't called to tell me, and the phone lines are down at the Psychic Friends Network. I think maybe some of us know how to take what benefits us and leave the rest.

Accusing people who don't agree 100% with you of 'drinking the Kool-Aid' is just, like, SO not cool.

Jim's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
There is so much false information and speculation flying around here from people who have obviously not listened to Ramsey enough to know what they are talking about

Perhaps S/I needs another review of Ramsey from another who has attended his seminary. Like a point - counterpoint view of things!

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

FWIW, there's nothing unChristian about making a profit on a service people find helpful. I don't envy Mr. Ramsey his material success in the least. Good for him.
I suspect that Farnham is right that all the really good info has been available from other sources for years. But, as I mentioned before (though not in so many words) is part of the product. For some, the packaging is a turn off, for others it's probably indispensable. They would not pay attention to anything less dramatic and stimulating.

The fact that some places do both Ramsey and Crown maybe bears that out.

Paul, if you're annoyed now, wait till you read part 2! ...but there is definitely some stuff worth thinking seriously about in it. (Some time next week most likely)

Quote:
Edit: BTW, I have the ultimate identity theft protection service. It's so powerful and secret that I'm not allowed to tell you who it is in a public forum. But if you call my 800 number now, I'll let you in my secret ABSOLUTELY FREE! Yes, that's right. Free. My information is so valuable, I'm giving it away to the first 500 callers!

I can't believe nobody's asked me for the number yet. What's with you guys?

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron,

I am not annoyed -- more puzzled.

If I had to sum up this thread, it sounds to me like some people are so annoyed at Dave Ramsey (because he is wealthy or for various other mostly superficial reasons) that they seek to discredit his message -- even though they do not know what that message is, per se.

If I did not know better, I might think I was reading from MoveOn.org! I must be missing something here.

I could even see the argument that might say that, "Ramsey is good compared to listening to Rush Limbaugh, but we would not have him in our church because he is ecumenical, is not strictly Biblical, uses worldly methods, etc." But some of this stuff is just irrational.

To those who are "Ramsey-critics" even though they have never seen or heard him, I would suggest that they watch an hour of his Fox Business Network show (which is better than his radio program, IMHO) FOR FREE -- because we would not want Dave to be paid for his labors Smile -- at Hulu.com.

And if Crown or Clark Howard works better for you -- fine!

(However, if you cannot in good conscience listen to Dave because he has made a significant amount of money off of his gig and is therefore much like a deceitful televangelist, good for you! You will have so much spare time now as you also give up watching news, sports, movies, TV programs, politics, etc.!! Smile Smile Smile Congratulations -- you have made the world safe for justice, and I expect that righteousness will soon begin to spring out everywhere!!!)

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Jonathan Charles's picture

This church advertises "Financial Peace University." Notice anything funny about the logo? The Bible has 2 "$" signs imposed over it. I'm guessing this is an old logo becasue I can't find it on the daveramsey.com web site. Maybe FPU went through a TBN cheesy phase.

http://www.uccalvary.com/Financial_Peace_University/

GregH's picture

Another annoying thing Ramsey says over and over in his seminar.

"If you follow my advice, you will be rich."

This of course is rubbish. Not everyone is going to be rich regardless of how good they are managing their money. That kind of rhetoric may sell lots of overpriced books but it gives false hope.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

"Pastor, if you spend this amount of money to hold a video financial seminar in your church, you'll help your people, and you'll increase your offerings." That's how the marketers for Ramsey came accross to me when they approached me about having the program here.

I'm all for encouraging God's people to spend wisely, but I am weary of the "increase your church offering gimmicks." God did not call me to increase offerings. Yet, by His grace, we have always received more income than the budget for 16 straight years. I'm also leary of telling people who are broke to come to church and pay such and such a price to revolutionize your finances.

Let's have a "you'll be more blessed if you learn to give (not spend) more than you receive" seminar that will will cost the teacher more than it would cost the attender and see what God might do.

Joe Griffin's picture

I shall begin by stating that although I have not watched the video course, I have read two of Ramsey's books (including FP) and listened to countless hours of his radio show while in the car during my work.

Dave Ramsey delivers when it comes to his primary purposes: getting people out of debt and helping them save money to prepare for their future. For those who have listened to him, it would seem they could hardly disagree. There was a very interesting article in the Atlantic a few months back that argued this point (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/lead-us-not-into-deb...). At heart, Ramsey is pragmatic. He thinks that people should be out of debt, live within their means, and sock the money for a rainy day and retirement (not too much of an over simplification, I hope) and his advice is centered on helping people accomplish this and similar goals. This is where his road leads, and most of us would be much better of if this were the road we were on. I know that he is abrasive at times and rude and crude, and I wish he were not. But, most often, it seems that his map will lead to the destination he promises.

What concerns me is when churches use Ramsey alone to teach financial principles to their congregations. Now, much could be gained by the various congregations about stewardship and financial matters. But Ramsey rarely if ever explicitly deals with heart issues and motivations. He doesn't ask the 'why'. What motivated you to make those purchases that led you to getting into debt? What motivated you to purchase such a large home? Why do you feel the need to spend money on these items? What about your heart is directing you to make these decisions? I'm not saying that Ramsey should necessarily be doing this in his program. This isn't his goal, but it should be the goal of the church. Whether or not the church should provide the practical tools to manage money is something that good people can disagree on, but it seems that all should agree that the church should be intimately concerned with what our use of money shows about the motivations of our heart. Are we loving God and serving others with our money, or is our use of money centered around meeting our perceived needs and greedy desires?

This is one reason why I think that Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity is an excellent counterbalance to Ramsey's pragmatism. Alcorn is much more concerned about the heart and motivations of the individual. I think we can benefit greatly from both, but I hope that people will discern the benefit of beginning with the heart of the matter before simply applying the practical tools of wise money management.

Susan McCurdy's picture

We all have opinions on programs but I felt Mr. Farnham's conclusions about Dave's personality were rather harsh. I wondered if Mr. Farnham has contacted Dave Ramsey personally and spoken with him about the "good, the bad, and the ugly" of FPU? Dave say's he is a believer in Christ and as such could possibly benefit from a concerned Christian brother who ultimately has the glory of God as his goal as well. To truly be an agent of change and not just criticism then those with concerns should contact Mr. Ramsey ....or does being a public figure make you ineligible for the Matthew 18 application?

Becky Petersen's picture

Susan McCurdy wrote:
To truly be an agent of change and not just criticism then those with concerns should contact Mr. Ramsey ....or does being a public figure make you ineligible for the Matthew 18 application?

I think we've been here before. He is a public figure with published works. Matthew 18 is "ideally" in a church situation. How would a person who isn't associated with this person in a church setting go about applying Matthew 18 here?

I think we went through this idea a few years back and it was never ever resolved. There can only be a friendship type of conversation, sharing concerns, etc, but nothing beyond that. If you can think of a way, I'd love for someone to delineate it.

---

I have another question...who or what is "Crown"? Is that associated with Crown College and Sexton?

Also, I remember, before Dave Ramsey a man named Bob Valliencourt (I think) who did financial seminars in churches because I was in one. Seems like I heard him in AK over 20 years ago. I have no idea what he is doing these days...

Dealing with the emotional part of finances and motives/why we buy/spend is a fascinating subject. Proverbs has a lot to say about finances. This morning we read (at breakfast) about not signing on a loan for someone when you don't have the money to pay it back! So, this kind of information has been around a while. Smile

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Becky Petersen wrote:
I have another question...who or what is "Crown"? Is that associated with Crown College and Sexton?

Crown Financial Ministries is the new name (for about 11 years now) of Christian Financial Concepts, which was begun by Larry Burkett. Since he died, the radio program ("Money Matters" -- which is now "MoneyLife") has been hosted by Howard Dayton and Chuck Bentley.

Their Web site is www.crown.org.

Ramsey learned about Biblical finances from Burkett, and Crown and Ramsey promote each other: Ramsey was a guest on "MoneyLife" as recently as a few months ago, and Ramsey openly tells people to use Crown's material on his radio program.

(As I said before, Ramsey and Clark Howard are also good friends and have appeared together.)

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
We all have opinions on programs but I felt Mr. Farnham's conclusions about Dave's personality were rather harsh. I wondered if Mr. Farnham has contacted Dave Ramsey personally and spoken with him about the "good, the bad, and the ugly" of FPU? Dave say's he is a believer in Christ and as such could possibly benefit from a concerned Christian brother who ultimately has the glory of God as his goal as well. To truly be an agent of change and not just criticism then those with concerns should contact Mr. Ramsey ....or does being a public figure make you ineligible for the Matthew 18 application?
Susan, I wonder, did you contact Mr. Farnham personally and speak with him? If not, then I wonder if you are living by your own dictum.

To your point, DR is a public figure with public writing. Matthew 18 deals with sin in the context of personal relationships in the body of Christ. So this is not a Matthew 18 type situation.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Larry,

There is no need to be snarky. I agree that this is not an issue for a Matt. 18 confrontation.

However, it is also true that the original piece lacks a coherent purpose, and is certainly not a fair evaluation of Ramsey, as has been well-rehearsed on this thread.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
There is no need to be snarky. I agree that this is not an issue for a Matt. 18 confrontation.
There is no intent to be snarky at all. I am suggesting that there is an inconsistency here that needs to be thought about, that the words used could equally be used in the other directions as well.

Quote:
However, it is also true that the original piece lacks a coherent purpose
I am not sure of that at all. First, I think the purpose was pretty clear: a general attempt to evaluate the program biblically and theologically, while being as charitable as possible. You may disagree that he achieved that purpose, and that is certainly fine. It is an object of evaluation.

And I think there is a subsequent article coming, so perhaps we should wait until the whole thing is posted.

Quote:
and is certainly not a fair evaluation of Ramsey, as has been well-rehearsed on this thread.
Again, I am not so sure. There has been a lot of objection and back and forth. There have been many who disagreed with the article, you being among the strongest. But I am not sure that means the article wasn't fair. I think it means there are disagreements about Ramsey.

You earlier said that some of these responses were so bad, they didn't even deserve a response. I would suggest that for those of us who don't know Ramsey very well, a response is most definitely needed.

For my dollar, I don't care either way. I listen to him when he is on and enjoy it. Honestly, I would rather listen to Bob Brinker for financial advice, but it's a different type of show. I am fairly confident on my financial approach and the people that I have leaned on for information and knowledge. But I know a lot of people listen to DR, and I found that, in the short amount I have listened to him, my thoughts resemble Mark's in many ways. So I don't know that much about him. I like some of his financial advice. I am not sure about the rest of it.

I think it is worthy of discussion.

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