November 25, 2020

Internet Monk Radio Podcast #75

podcast_logo.gifUPDATE: Comments are closed. One commenter feels I am a hypocrite for liking Merton and criticizing Osteen. After about five rounds of this, the point has been made and there’s no reason to keep repeating it.

All Osteen. All the time.

Internet Monk Radio is on iTunes Podcasts for free. Search for Monk. I’ll appear right under monkeys.


  1. Michael,

    I listened to your podcast and realized that you seemed to have misinterpreted my comment on your Osteen thread. On the podcast you categorized the comments as being “Oh, stop being so mean, so judgemental – Joel is a nice guy.”

    That was not the essence of my comment at all. Perhaps you weren’t addressing my comment, but I doubt that as it was my comment that led to you shutting down comments.

    My point was neither to defend Joel, nor express melodrama over meanie commentary. 🙂

    My point was that I have problems with the approach. What would be helpful is a post that lists the “essential doctrines” according to you that a christian should preach correctly, and then provide documentation where Mr. Osteen teaches contrary. Then you will have responsibly and humbly shown us that he is a “heretic” whom every evangelical leader should repudiate.

    Instead there is all this ‘orthodox’ glee in roasting him that is not helpful, but sure garners attention to your blog.

    You don’t know Osteen personally, have not visited his church, met his ministers, elders, teachers, spoken with him about these things, yet when you could’ve stuck with the facts that are known at a distance, we get this…

    “73 million dollar cash cow”
    “This is about money”
    “using it to put on a show and promote materialism.”
    “simply crap”
    “worst form of the prosperity Gospel”
    “abandoning the God of the Bible”
    “assisting in the humiliation of the Gospel of Jesus.”
    “get in the pockets of the gullible.”
    “responsible for the spiritual delusion of millions”
    “cannot help but feel dirty.”
    “He thinks Jesus, the Holy Trinity and the Holy Scriptures are all means to the end of having a better paycheck.”
    “brought into the pulpit by his dad’s sudden death”
    “he was clueless. Parroted his dad’s methods”

    Then we have the winking photo.

    My suspicion is that Mr. Osteen is NOT the be-all and end-all of the teaching ministry at his church. If you don’t actually visit his church, you don’t know the teaching ministry that goes on there beyond Mr. Osteen. I suspect his place in the church, among other things, is largely to be the face to the unchurched crowd who can’t handle a full dose of what the long time church member is receiving rather easily.

    The following is his statement of belief. Do the work in a responsible manner. That’s all I was urging.

    WE BELIEVE…the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and the authority on which we base our faith, conduct and doctrine.

    WE BELIEVE…in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.

    WE BELIEVE…Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.

    WE BELIEVE…water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and a testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    WE BELIEVE…in the regular taking of Communion as an act of remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.

    WE BELIEVE…every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God’s Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.

    WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us.

  2. All Osteen. All the time.


    You know, Mr. Comment-Closer, some of us work 12-hour shifts and are away from the internet for large chunks of time. I missed out on responding to some of the inanity spouted therein.

    Then again, perhaps that’s for the best.

  3. Joe: This is my one and only reply to you.

    I’ve devoted two years to reading and listening to Osteen.

    I don’t care what his statement of faith is. Read/Listen to him and tell me if you EVER hear about the following outside of the prayer at the end of the sermon/book:

    The Incarnation
    Sin or Sinners
    The Cross
    The Atonement
    How to Suffer
    Missions and Church Planting
    God-Centered Anything
    The Lord’s Supper
    God’s Judgment
    Salvation by Faith alone through Grace Alone by Christ’s righteousness alone.

    You’ve made your point. If you want to get me into an argument, it’s not going to happen.

  4. Patrick Kyle says


    Back in the early 1980’s I was going to school in Houston, Tx. I ended up visiting Osteen’s church when his dad and mom were running it. Apparently they had started a program( maybe this is too formal a word for it) in which members pledged to give $1000.00 and God would bless them. Joel’s mom brought this young guy up on the stage,and prefaced her remarks with ‘I know you wanted to do this anonymously, but you’ve been so blessed that you need to share what happened with the church.’ This guy had vowed in secret to give the $1000 and had made good on his pledge. In return he received a better job and other financial and temporal blessings. The poor guy was totally shy and embarassed but with some prompting told the story. They used this guy and his personal agreement with God and the church as propaganda to get others to give. This church was in a “less affluent” part of town. I left fully convinced that circus was all about the money.

    As to your Catholic critics and their ‘Authority’ arguments; try holding their feet to the fire in an actual debate, and what they portray to be solid is really nuanced, qualified, re-stated blah blah blah…. Its like trying to nail jello to the wall. I don’t really put any stock in those arguments.

  5. Michael,

    You say “This is my one and only reply to you.”

    Why? You can be a critic, but you can’t deal with criticism?

    Hold on though. (Again, I’m not defending Joel. I’m curious about the attitude.) I’ve read several favorable things from you regarding Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk. Merton said some things, especially in his latter years, that would make Joel Osteen look like a colleague of Mike Horton’s.

    You ask me to comb through Osteen’s sermons and find where he gives due weight to doctrines like the atonement. Well…

    In Merton’s interactions with one Muslim mystic who informed him that Islam “does not subscribe to the doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption” Merton responded with…

    “Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas…in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution… But much more important in the sharing of the experience of divine light,… It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.”

    So, it’s alright for Merton to take a most Messianic reference, ie “divine light” and imply that the Muslim may forget about “dogmatic beliefs” like the atonement yet still have an “experience of divine light.”

    When Merton was cavorting with the Buddhists at the end of his life in Asia, saying things like that he was going to become as good a buddhist as he could, just how dogmatically did he preach the “essential doctrines” and how many altar calls did he give for the monks? No, rather we read of such things in his Asian Journal as…

    “I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass and wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace … that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything –without refutation – without establishing some other argument, For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening.…

    Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious.…The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no mystery. All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear. The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya … everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with … Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage had become clear and had purified itself.”

    The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, page 233.

    You can continue to dismiss the value of my point, but this is the type of thing among the ‘orthodox’ that drives me nuts. A little humility, please.


  6. Joe,

    I’m going to waste a few minutes of this too short life responding to you.

    1) The fact that you are at Internet pointing out that I am the ugly and cruel voice of orthodoxy while using a link from Apprising Ministries- a blog pointed out by name in Christianity Today as an example of consistent attack dogging- is the most bizarrely ironic piece of hypocrisy ever to go into print on this blog. I salute you sir.

    If you don’t know how I am viewed in the blogosphere, stop by here sometime:

    or here

    I’m hardly viewed as the voice of orthodoxy, but it’s your dime.

    2) Merton wasn’t an evangelical. He was a pre-Vatican II Catholic. I don’t recommend any Catholic on the subject of the atonement.

    3) Your Merton quotes are completely out of context. Considering you got them from Apprising is proof of either your utter lack of familiarity with the blogosphere or at least your tolerance of people so narrow they condemn the Veggietales and Chuck Swindoll. Yes. Both.

    4) Merton’s comments on Buddhism and Islam are about Monastic prayer. Not Religious relativism. MONASTIC PRAYER. He thought Buddhists and Sufis and Catholic MONASTICS all had something to teach each other. I don’t agree with him on that one.

    5) You’ve made your point.

    6) My opinions at my blog about whatever I want to write. That’s what you’ve got here. You’ve said I’m wrong and you don’t like what I’ve said. I heard you. So did the readers.

  7. Quote: “I’m hardly viewed as the voice of orthodoxy, but it’s your dime.”

    You mean one can sling the term “heretic” without being “the voice of orthodoxy?” That’s a hard thing for me to figure out.

    So, what you do with Merton is perfectly fine for an astounding number of reasons, none of which could ever possibly apply to what one is to do with Osteen, right?

    You tell me what websites are permissive to quote Merton from and I will show quotes that reveal a person who fails the test just as much if not more than Osteen by your criteria – yet one is to be praised, while the other condemned in the most abusive language.


  8. >So, what you do with Merton…

    And we all know what that is…..which is….what?

    Ahh….of course. There it is.

    In the meantime, everyone go to:

    Don’t miss it readers. Be sure and visit. Enjoy yourself. Start up a comment thread.

  9. So, I’m the first one to comment on the Dusty Baker segment of this program. More important than hearing that Dusty is going to manager the Reds and take them to the world series (WS) was his REASONING for taking the Reds back to the WS – he said he’s got to do it for *himself*, in a REALLY bad way. What ever happen to being the company man and at least *feigning* team over self? As a San Francisco Bay Area native (though a die-hard A’s fan), I saw Dusty take the Giants to the World Series and deal with Barry Bonds at the same time.

    Ok, now I remember where the “me” attitude comes from.

    Well, now let me listen to the rest of this podcast on Joel Olsteen, I hadn’t heard what all the hub-bub was about from earlier this week – but me thinks I’m shortly to find out.

  10. That was totally strange. He sounded like a former prisoner of war talking about having sex.

  11. Joe,

    I’ve read some Merton, and hope to read more when I get a chance. I do think that some of his later stuff was tending in the wrong direction, and would have liked his abbot to have done a better job of stopping it.

    But, no Catholic would go to him for doctrine instruction. Perhaps insight into prayer but not doctrine.

    Also, he doesn’t have the influence that Joel Olsteen has, nor is he thought of as a Christian leader. Mr. Olsteen is, and as a leader should be held to a higher standard of teaching orthodox Christianity. So, if he isn’t then, he should be critized for it. (I suspect that none of us are close enough to him to do it privately at first. )

    We need to warn those who think that Mr. Olsteen is teaching Christianity that he isn’t, lest they meet the true Christ, and find out that He doesn’t know them.

  12. Michael: “In the meantime, everyone go to:

    Don’t miss it readers. Be sure and visit. Enjoy yourself. Start up a comment thread. ”

    What is that supposed to mean? If you are plugging my blog, well thanks. But what relevance has this comment to anything? You are being childish, aren’t you?

  13. I’m trying to get you on to anything else.

    I’ll let “childish” pass, but in general I’m not paying my ISP to give folks space to call me names.

  14. Anna,

    You stated…

    “We need to warn those who think that Mr. Olsteen is teaching Christianity that he isn’t, lest they meet the true Christ, and find out that He doesn’t know them.”

    Let me ask you, then, whether you think the following quotations are “teaching Christianity.”

    “Rice says: “Merton saw other religions and other denominations as travellers on the same road. He was a student for years of Judaism and non-Christian religions. He went deeply into Hinduism and Buddhism. The monastery (Gethsemani) did not appreciate that he wrote so much about non-Christian religions. Christians, then and today, see non-Christians as potential targets for conversion, souls to be captured and turned into good Christians. Merton didn’t see it like that. His writings on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and later, Islam, are significant because of his belief that all of them are searching, as he was, for the ultimate truth.” ”

    “”…the question of Asian monasticism for Christians should not be interpreted in terms of just playing an Asian part or an Asian role. It is not that we want to look like Asians; it is not sufficient simply to present an Asian image…I think we have to go much deeper than this.

    “…And I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they (the Asians) have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have. The combination of the natural techniques and the graces and the other things that have been manifested in Asia, and the Christian liberty of the gospel should bring us all at last to that full and transcendent liberty which is beyond mere cultural difference and mere externals — and mere this and that.”
    I will conclude on that note, Merton said. That note seems to have been a clear proposal for a blending of the religions, and for the mutual advantages such a blending should bring. ”

    “During a conference on contemplative prayer, Thomas Merton was asked the question: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God.” Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there (emphasis mine, A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, p. 80).”

    “Thomas Merton understood the rain. He realized it nurtured rich and poor indiscriminately. Some of his greatest encounters with enlightenment were intertwined with the rain. Rain is universal. Merton knew further that salvation was universal. Salvation was a gift of grace and it fell on all just as the rain.

    He saw the duty and destiny of man to be one of abandoning oneself to enlightenment. Man needed not to possess anything, he needed only to allow nothing to possess him. For Thomas Merton life was a dance in the rain. It was joy. It was an unrestrained search and it was a calm day listening to the soft sound of rain in the pines. No peaceful and sincere spiritual expression was exempt from its place at the dance or in the rain. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam & Sufism, Hinduism…all spiritual paths, fit within the peaceful and loving world sanctified by Thomas Merton’s dance in the rain.”

    “All religions, Merton had said, end up “with the simplest and most baffling thing of all: direct confrontation with Absolute Being, Absolute Love, Absolute Mercy or Absolute Void.”

    “Merton’s discovery of the divinity of created things should not have surprised him. As with Louisville in 1958, so here in 1968, intuition preceded experience. In the conferences he led just before his Asian journey, he had said, “you have to . . . see God in His creation and creation in God … everything manifests God … He is in everything.”62 At Polonnaruwa, he met the divinity, and felt its welcoming touch as, in Louisville, he had felt the hand of Sophia. In Louisville, he had seen glory in all people; now he sensed divinity in ordinary matter. In his final illumination, he sees all matter containing divine energy; the rocks are transfigured.”

    “Merton had used the term dharmakaya only once before in his journal, when he visited the Tibetan spiritual master Chatral Rimpoche. Their conversation spiraled around one topic: “the ultimate emptiness, the unity of sunyata and karuna, going `beyond the dharmakaya’ and `beyond God’ to the ultimate perfect emptiness.” The two hermits confessed that neither had attained “perfect emptiness,” yet they recognized each other as people “who were somehow on the edge of great realization.””

    “; he was a mystic searching for God, but a God that crossed the boundaries of all religions; his was not a purely Christian soul. He developed closer spiritual ties than Church authorities will ever admit to the Eastern religions, Hinduism as well as Buddhism. In fact just before his appalling accidental death in December 1968, he was saying openly that Christianity could be greatly improved by a strong dose of Buddhism and Hinduism into its faith.”

    “A new abbot allowed him the freedom to undertake a tour of Asia at the end of 1968, during which he met the Dalai Lama in India. He also made a visit to Polonnaruwa (in what was then Ceylon), where he had a religious experience while viewing enormous statues of the Buddha. There is speculation that Merton wished to remain in Asia as a hermit.”

  15. I do not allow commenters to post lengthy posts of quoted material. I am allowing you to do so because, frankly, you’re agitated.

    I will not publish another one. Link it off-site.

    Your attempt to characterize Merton as apostate based on his last journals, one overseas trip and last speeches is pathetic. Merton scholars of every level and commitment would tell you the same thing: Merton’s life work is overwhelmingly squarely in the Roman Catholicism of his time. His explorations and speculations concerning monastic prayer and other religions are footnotes that will never be fully integrated into Merton’s life because he himself never was able to reflect on them. Those wanting to portray Merton as apostate and New Age ignore 3 decades of writing and obsess on the raw data of one year. Freshman error.

    If Merton left Roman Catholic orthodoxy when he left the monastery, I’ll be the first to say that is wrong and was serious error. I’ve never advocated him or any catholic as authorities on the Gospel as I understand it.

    What Merton would have done with $73 million in one year is also a mystery.

  16. “Merton scholars of every level and commitment would tell you the same thing: Merton’s life work is overwhelmingly squarely in the Roman Catholicism of his time.”

    Not saying much. 🙂 Vatican II was bringing in the whole idea that perhaps those in other religions could make it to heaven apart from the gospel.

    “Those wanting to portray Merton as apostate and New Age ignore 3 decades of writing and obsess on the raw data of one year.”

    Uh, Michael – As early as the 1950’s, Merton was actively and intensely interacting with Zen Buddhism.

    “What Merton would have done with $73 million in one year is also a mystery.”

    Well, I don’t know. What Joel Osteen would do with the Buddhist nirvana is a mystery as well.

  17. Joe:

    You’re sadly mistaken.

    I’ve logged my time with Merton. The entire journals. The vast majority of the published works. I’m going to say you are mistaken, but I suspect you are purposefully misrepresenting Merton.

    In the 1950s, Merton was as solid a Pre Vatican II Catholic as you could find on planet earth. What does “actively and intensely interacting” mean? Met a Buddhist and liked him?

    You have yet to quote a Merton work, and if the man studied Buddhism, who cares? Does an interest in comparative spirituality make a person a non-Christian? You’re just picking on Merton because I like him. Too bad he has zero to do with a prosperity gospel motivational speaker.

    I was going to just label you a troll, but I think we’re done here. No more. Take it to your blog.