Paula White, a Pentecostal prosperity preacher and one of President Trump's main "spiritual advisors," is telling her flock to pony up as much as one month's salary to Paula White Ministries in obedience to "God's principle of first fruits." Doing so, she says, will "supernaturally unlock amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life"; failure to heed this call, on the other hand, could result in "consequences."
Paula White is a televangelist, the co-founder (with her now ex-husband, Randy White) of Tampa's Without Walls International Church, head of the eponymous Paula White Ministries, and senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, a megachurch in Apopka, Florida. She is a multi-millionaire whose finances have been investigated by the IRS and the Senate. She has been married three times and was once suspected of having an affair with Benny Hinn, fellow prosperity preacher and alleged faith-healer. She's been accused of heresy and con-artistry.
With so much in common, perhaps it's no wonder that she and Donald Trump have hit it off. Trump is said to have contacted
White 14 years ago to tell her that he liked her TV sermons. Since then, the two have stayed in touch; Trump even appeared on her show in 2008. Today White is the chair of Trump's "evangelical advisory committee" and gave a prayer at his inauguration. She reportedly has a $3.5 million apartment in Trump Tower. And she allegedly led him to Christ within the past year or so, which contradicts his claims of life-long faith.
White may have Trump's ear, but she has little love among orthodox Christians. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's policy arm, has called her a "charlatan" and a "heretic"--and rightly so. This “first fruits” demand is only the
latest among her heretical claims over the years, including denying that Jesus is the only son of God and contending publicly that "Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan"--even though Jesus Himself did just that in Matthew 16:24! In fact, the prosperity gospel itself is heresy; it treats
God like a lottery ticket and preys on the most vulnerable with its promises of supernatural rewards for donations to "ministries" like White's.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is attracted to this perverted version of the Gospel. It allows him to assume his millions are God’s reward for his virtues. (Maybe when we finally get to see those tax returns they’ll reveal a long history of donating to televangelists.) It avoids mention of sin and even of God’s word. Case in point: White’s web page begging for “first fruits” is devoid of scriptural justification for her claims.
I continue to pray for Trump and his salvation. I hope that God is working something marvelous there, even if it’s through snake-oil salesmen like Paula White. The Lord can use even the worst
charlatans to proclaim His message, despite their attempts to obscure it.
We as Christians, though, should do what we can to expose these predators who practice deception in the name of Christ. White and her ilk give Trump “Christian cred” that may fool his supporters into believing he’s a man of God. They spread false teachings that could creep further into our increasingly watered-down American Christianity. We must not only call out those lies, but replace them with truth. Somewhere deep down, our President might hear and heed it.