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Joel Osteen

Most people know where I stand on this issue, but I was reminded last night as to why I stand where I do. The other night, I watched an hour long segment on the OWN network in which Oprah was interviewing Joel Osteen after attending a service at his "church." The interview only served to reinforce what I already believed about Osteen. Before I go any further, allow me to explain the title of this note. Proverbs 24:26 says that "an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." Since Osteen very rarely gives honest answers, he doesnt do a whole lot of kissing. Proverbs says a lot about the love of an open rebuke, and the wisdom in being totally forthright. This is one of my chief concerns with Osteen. Both Joel and his wife Victoria are purposely vague when it comes to any issue that could cause a dent in their "allinclusive" image. They say over and over that they want to reach everyone, and in doing so, they shy away from hard questions, or at the very least, shy away from giving hard answers to those questions. They've figured out that you can "win more bees with honey," and so honey is all they give. They're both very slick, and when squeezed, always seem to find a way to slip out of the corner.

So what are my main concerns with Joel Osteen? In addition to the aforementioned, here's a short, in-noway-exhaustive list: 1) His view of and use of scripture Joel Osteen is an excellent communicator (he wouldn't be so successful if he wasn't one), in addition to being a great motivational speaker. But that is all that he is. He is not a pastor, or a teacher of the Bible. A pastor takes a biblical passage, whether it be one verse or a group of verses, and explains what those verses mean. He makes an effort (whether successful or not) to teach what the Bible says and how we can apply that Biblical truth to our lives. Osteen has a much different approach. In his interview last night, Osteen described how he came to be the confident and successful pastor that he now is, after being scared and nervous when he took over his father's ministry. He said, "I used to read a bunch of bible verses and try to preach through a passage of scripture, but I really hit my stride when instead of doing that I just started to tell encouraging stories to inspire people." He's said in other places that people aren't looking for theology, so he doesn't give them any; instead, he just tries to encourage them. That's not to say that Osteen never quotes scripture, because every so often he does. But the verses are used to reinforce his cute stories, not the other way around. Theres nothing wrong with using an

encouraging story against the backdrop of scripture, but when the stories are your basis and not Gods word, thats a problem. This does not even mention the countless times that he does use a verse, but butchers its meaning, or the many times he simply takes verses out of context. He is often guilty of proof-texting, and being isogetical instead of exegetical. In short, his handling of the scriptures is not in line with 2 Timothy 2:15 which says that we should be workers who do not need to be ashamed and correctly handle the word of truth. 2) His view of the self This is one of my chief complaints against Osteen. He constantly talks about the good within, and puts such a chief focus on the heart. In the interview with Oprah, she said, "One of the things your critics say is that there's not enough doctrine in your teaching, and really, not enough Christ. What do you say to critics who say there's not enough Christ in your message?" With a slick smile, Joel said, "you know, I just get up every morning and look in my own heart to find God's message. That's what I give the people." So the critics say there's not enough Christ, and your answer is to look to your own heart? The critics say there's not enough doctrine, and you say "I just have everything I need in my heart?" Unbiblical to say the least. Remember where the Bible says that the heart is

deceitful and wicked above all things? (Jeremiah 17:9). In his bestseller "your best life now" Osteen says, You need to follow your own heart and do what you feel is right and good for you. One might look at that quote and say "But he said 'in light of God's word!'" But taken in context, Joel's emphasis is on the heart, not God's word. My problem with Joel's view of the self is that he puts the self at the center instead of Jesus Christ. Instead of looking upward, he talks about looking inward. Instead of finding the answer in God's word, he tries to find the answer in the "heart." This is not only unbiblical, it's also very dangerous. 3) Prosperity This is perhaps the issue that is most widely criticized in Osteen "ministry." He and his wife (who is the copastor of his church, which is another huge doctrinal issue) preach a message of prosperity. No clearer example is needed than the following quote from page five of Your Best Life Now: "God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas and creativity He later talks about how God wants to make all your dreams come true (page 196) and that "God wants to give you your own house" (p 35). In the interview last night, Oprah asked Joel if he has any problem with the luxury that he lives in. He said that he sees no problem with having nice things and enjoying the fruits of your labor, which I agree with.

But then he said that being rich is how God uses you to bless others. He then actually said, "How is God going to use you to bless others if you're poor and broke?" I couldn't believe my ears. But considering the consistent nature of his message, I shouldn't be surprised. Every book he writes and every message he preaches emphasizes how much happiness and prosperity God wants to give you. In many ways, Osteen is not much different from the "Name it and claim it" prosperity teachers of earlier generations, and much can be said about the unbiblical nature of that message. Osteen never talks about true sacrifice. He never talks about storing up treasures in heaven instead of riches that moths will destroy and thieves will steal. And he had the gall to say in his interview last night that poor people just havent broken through yet, and havent been trained enough. Essentially, if youre poor, youre just not godly enough. Show me that in scripture! 4) Squirrely with truth Much has been said about Osteens interview with Larry King in which he skated around the hard truth of the gospel. Another long blog about it doesn't need to be added to the pile, so just to summarize, he answered a question about Jews and Muslims etc

being "wrong" about their theology. LK asked him if those people were indeed wrong, and Osteen said, Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God will judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus." On at least ten occasions in that interview, Osteen repeated "uh, I don't know." Well, you should know. Jesus is the only way. Last night in his interview with Oprah, Osteen took perhaps an even further dive south. Oprah asked him if Jesus was the only way to get to God, and Osteen responded, "Yes, I believe that Jesus is the only way to get to God." I was very surprised he said that. But then he followed up that statement by saying, "But, I also believe that there are many ways to get to Jesus, and God reveals himself differently to different people." Joel Osteen refuses to stand on Romans 1:16, and that is my single greatest issue with him. He refuses to stand up and say, "Yes, Jesus IS the only way, period." If you asked him whether he believes in the gospel, he would say, "absolutely." But would he have the courage to tell you himself? No.

Furthermore, the truth of the gospel is NOT that we should simply BELIEVE in God and leave it at that. Scripture says that even the demons believe, and they shudder (James 2:19). The truth of the gospel is that IF we believe in Jesus AND commit our lives to Him to make Him LORD we will be saved. People often point to the word "believe" in John 3:16 and take the entire verse out of context thinking that belief is all that's required. When you also read the remaining verses of John 3, you will find that Jesus expounds upon His position of "belief" as he travels to Judea. He states in verse 36: He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. This makes clear that not only do we need to BELIEVE, we also need to follow that belief up with OBEDIENCE to the Word of God (John 1:1 - which includes all of scripture as being God's Living Word in Jesus Christ). Jesus is LORD (Phil. 2:10-11). "Lord" means that we are his slaves, who obey him and follow him wherever he leads. "Lord" means that we are no longer master, but he is master. "Lord" means that we leave our sin behind because we are purposely pursuing holiness. This is not the message Joel Osteen preaches. Instead, his "gospel" is that God wants sunshine and roses for you, and if you believe in him hard enough and smile in your heart, he'll give you all your hopes and dreams.

That's not the gospel. That's heresy. Now, I'll admit, he did reluctantly admit one important and hard truth. After three straight questions, Oprah finally cornered Joel and asked him if he believed that homosexuality is a sin. After hemming and hawing, He finally admitted "Yes, looking at the scriptures, I can't in good faith say that homosexuality is anything but a sin." I was proud of him for saying that, I really was. It's the first time I've ever said "atta boy Joel." But the fact that it took so much pressing to get the truth out of him was really sad. And you'd better believe that he won't be teaching that from the pulpit! He said several times that homosexuals, thieves, liars, etc etc are all welcome in his church, and I agree that they should be. But they'll never move away from their sin because they'll never hear it taught that they should! 5) Insincerity The last thing that I'll note here as a criticism against Osteen is that he is terribly insincere, and so is his wife. They are so robotic and calculated, it's hard for me to believe that anyone can actually believe him. In his interview last night, Oprah asked him and his wife if they've ever had any rough patches in their 25 year relationship. They both said, "No, we've never had any rough patches in our relationship." Victoria said, "He's

just so easy to love. I've never had an issue with him." Oprah asked Joel if he ever gets discouraged or if life ever "gets to him" Osteen responded "No, I can't say I ever do. I get up every morning and look within my own heart, and claim the promise that God has his best for me." Really? In 25 years of marriage, you've never had a rough patch? You've never been discouraged? You've never grown weary? You actually want me to believe that every day you do nothing but smile, hardship never touches you because of how much "faith" you have, and everyone is always happy? Gimme a break. This facade is always up with the Osteens. Life is always joyful, the heart is always smiling, and if you're ever anything but beaming, it's because you're not claiming the blessings of God! 6) Goodness without Judgement There are some who would say that Osteen's message is still good, though incomplete. After all, it is God's goodness that leads us to repentance, right? Actually, if you take that verse in context (Romans 2:1-4), it is talking about God's divine judgement! The passage talks about how we should not pass hypocritical judgment, and that God's judgment will be based upon truth. Osteen's message of God only being "good" cannot be termed as being "half of the gospel." I

would argue that the gospel falls under the umbrella of irreducible complexity. If you take away his righteous judgment, he is no longer truly good. If you take away his goodness, he is no longer a righteous judge. His character is complete, and taking any part away creates a situation where you are no longer talking about the God of the Bible at all. A person can never experience the goodness of God until they submit themselves to his Lordship, accepting his free gift of salvation to cover their sins by committing to be his slaves. By preaching a message that God is this big fluffy stuffed animal in the sky, Joel Osteen has invented a god who does not exist. This god apparently is "for you" instead of the biblical message that we are created FOR god. Osteen's messages are not simply "seeker sensitive" sermons that preach the gospel gently and vaguely. They are completely unbiblical motivational speeches that challenge the hearer to seek truth within themselves rather than giving up themselves and their desires to follow and obey a God who is both good and judge. In Romans chapter 10 verses 13-15, the Apostle Paul says this: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to

them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! The reason I bring up this passage is to say ask the question: How will Joel Osteen's followers believe in the Lord, if he's not truly telling them about him? How are people to come to know the God who is both good and judge if their "pastor" has never introduced them to him? The only way is that they hear it from someone else, because they're not hearing it from Joel Osteen. God can absolutely use an imperfect vessel, I believe that to be true. (I am thankful for it, otherwise I'd be disqualified too). But Joel's message is not the gospel at all. The above list is not by any means exhaustive. But they're the main things. I just cannot agree with much of anything he stands for, and I have real trouble using the word "pastor" when referring to him. That word comes from shepherds, and means that a man is taking a flock of sheep and leading them. He is nudging them back in line when they are misdirected. He is taking them to where they need to be, through hills and valleys. Joel Osteen does not do that. He tells people whatever will make them happy, he entertains and inspires, and in doing so, leads them astray. He is the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which says, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will

gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths." Does Joel Osteen have some good things to say? On a rare occasion. Does he do some good things? Probably. But in leading people towards "good" things, he is leading them away from the best thing, and that is a sacrificial faith in Jesus Christ.