The Dave Ramsey Imbroglio

One of my twitter friends, @micahjmurray, asked me this morning: “@plstepp I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this thing @sethhaines wrote re: Ramsey/ prosperity gospel:…

I’ve spoken up in defense of Dave Ramsey over the past week, after a sharp exchange that began with a post on his blog set off a feeding frenzy.

I think @sethhaines analysis is good.  As I see it, Ramsey has made three mistakes.

First, his replies to his critics were bombastic.  He is a bombastic guy, as am I.  To quote the great theologian John Mayer, “Call me Captain Backfire.”  I specialize in taking jokes too far, and saying what I think will be funny or memorable without realizing that it’s unkind, or could be perceived as such.  I’ve gotten really good at apologizing for the things that jumped from my brain to my mouth without any censoring in between.  

At several points early in the dispute, Ramsey could have dialed things down.


Second, Ramsey is not a pastor, nor has he he previously (in my experience) tried to be a pastor.  His statement about “character in Christ” crosses that line.

I’ve listened to about 20 hours of Ramsey’s radio show, read his books, and completed Financial Peace University.  Throughout everything of his I’VE consumed, he has NOT attempted to do marriage counseling (except for financial matters), pray the sinners’ prayer with anyone, scolded the cohabiting couples or same-sex couples that call him, etc.  (BTW, did you know that the word is not “cohabitating,” it’s “cohabiting”?  Just learned that.)

He’s not a pastor, he’s a Christian business guy who knows a lot about money, how the American financial system works, etc.  He should stick with that.

I think the “character in Christ” statement is an aberration.  If so, it’s a category mistake to treat Ramsey as a Bible teacher / pastor preaching a prosperity gospel.

Does the fact that he is teaching principles he has drawn from the Bible = him crossing the line into pastor-dom?  I don’t think so, unless he starts doing pastoral things in other contexts.


Third, Ramsey is speaking in generalities and he should acknowledge that when he gets into sensitive territory.

It’s not wrong for Ramsey to speak in generalities: his primary source is Proverbs.  James Crenshaw describes Proverbs as “orthodox generalizations about how to live a good life.”  ANY advice that’s built on that kind of wisdom is going to be generalities, and generalities by definition don’t hold true in every case.  (That’s why God also gave us Job and Ecclesiastes.)

Ramsey seems to recognize this when he qualifies his “pastoral” statement, “in non-third-world settings.”  That’s rather ham-handed, IMHO.

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