November 30, 2020

Mark Driscoll, Michael Horton Analyze Osteen’s Prosperity Gospel


  1. Hi Michael,
    I know I was hounded last time for trying to defend Joel Osteen, but I just think it true that people who normally wouldn’t go to church can watch Joel on TV every sunday and he incredibly drawing. I just hope that people move from TV sermons into a church from there. I don’t think Osteen focuses on the right things, but you can hear in the beginning of the CBS interview that Osteen doesn’t pretend to be a theologically minded. My advice to Osteen would be to hire more pastors on at his church who ARE theologically minded. I think it’s somewhat idiotic that a guy who is charge of a “Christian” church that large admits that he knows so little about the intellectual and theological elements of the bible.

  2. Jan Dillaha says

    Danny, where do we have any evidence, either from God’s own Word or from experience that Joel Osteen’s messages are an effective tool in developing mature Christians?

    Most of the unsaved people I know consider Osteen a charlatan and a great example of why they disregard Christianity.

    He is a decent motivational speaker, but that is not the same as being a pastor.

  3. Danny-
    Would you feed a starving child marshmallows, just to get them to come to the table? Think of all the people who will die, having choked on nothing but marshmallows.
    Osteen offers nothing but marshmallows.

  4. Wow! Interesting new look to the IMonk site! Pick on Olsteen on the right side ,advertise for Mrs. Olsteen on the left. Well that is America.
    When my wife and I were down in a valley years back we felt a great desire to visit Joel’s church on our next trip to Houston. His words were very uplifting. This is not a defense, I am just saying that there is a market out there and I have felt the draw. Unfortunately, other than the Holy Spirit, there is no champion in me to bring out. I know, I looked.

  5. iMonk and others,
    I’m curious about how you would judge certain Christian teachers who are linked to prosperity theology. That is, are you primarily repulsed by Osteen, or is it much broader than that? Here are some prominent teachers who might be considered to belong to the prosperity camp:
    – David Yonggi Cho
    – T.D. Jakes
    – Joyce Meyer
    – Rod Parsley
    Should they also be considered false teachers?

    I never really cared much for Joyce Meyer, based on what I had heard. Once I happened to catch her on TV, and watched out of curiosity. Among other things, she talked about how she overcame sexual abuse as a child by her faith in Christ, and her realization of the love of God. She discussed some of her interactions with other men and women who were recovering from sexual abuse, and how their turning to the Lord has brought healing and restoration.

    After hearing this, I repented for being so judgmental. My mother was molested by her father constantly when she was growing up. I believe Joyce Meyer’s message would have helped my mother a great deal. My mother did believe in the Lord, but it never went very far, and her experiences as a child ruined her life. In fact, I can safely say that if she had listened to Osteen, she may have known encouragement and hope that she never knew as a Presbyterian (which did not free her from guilt and shame despite lots of talk about the cross).

    I’m a Christian, and I fully realize that we need to focus on the gospel of Christ, and His death and resurrection. But someone who has been sexually abused by her own father may not get much help from a firebreathing pastor railing against sin, and talking incessantly about the cross. The help may come through a Christian teacher (even a woman!) who lets people know that God, the true Father, loves them, that Christ died to set them free, that there are better days ahead, and that any difficulty can be overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The suggestion was made that millions of people are going to hell because of Osteen. How about David Yonggi Cho? He has brought millions to Christ, and yet he is considered a prosperity teacher. Should we condemn him as well, or is he distinguishable from Osteen?

  6. Thanks for posting that. I’m not usually much of a Driscoll fan, but he articulates his point very well here.

  7. Danny,

    Would you approve of the FDA allowing mercury in baby formula as long as there were materials that tend to make the mercury less poisonous?

    We Christians have the responsibility to call attention to someone who is sellling a false gospel, especially since that false gospel can poison someone for the true Gospel. Our Lord had no problem telling the Pharisees where they were wrong.

  8. Treebeard:

    Cho is not on my radar. I’ve never heard or read him, and no one I know has ever mentioned him on here or in my ministry.

    The rest are prosperity charlatans and I’ve called them- and the entire TBN crew- out as such on here for years, going all the way back to 2000. But Osteen is the worst, because he is under the radar and is mistaken for a legit evangelical.

    To those who keep using the word “judgmental:” WOULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME WHICH NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS ON FALSE TEACHERS I AM TO IGNORE AND WHY? Jude, Rev 2-3, Gospels, etc. I didn’t come up with the phrase wolves. The Bible did.

  9. “That’s just my message…there’s some scripture in there that backs it up…”

    That about says it all.

  10. treebeard,

    “I believe Joyce Meyer’s message would have helped my mother a great deal.”

    It may have helped your mother with her painful scars from childhood abuse, but it would have done nothing for her (or anyone else) in knowing the forgiveness of sin that is offered to us from Christ’s cross. That is the distinction that (I think) IMonk is trying to point out. Our emotional state and the eternal state of our soul aren’t dealt with in the same way. Our emotions -hurt, resentment, guilt- are addressed by prosperity teachers. The state of our souls are addressed by the true Gospel, where the cross is preached “incessantly”… because what else is there?

  11. iMonk,
    First, thank you for this blog, and your willingness to allow commenters who disagree with you, and to respond.

    Obviously, the New Testament makes it clear that there are such things as false teachers. My question is, what does it mean to be a false teacher? Someone who denies the divinity of Christ, or who says that the Father became the Son who became the Spirit, or who says we need to be saved through works and not through faith, or who adds several books to the Bible and says they are scripture – these are false teachers. But if a teacher focuses on one particular aspect of the Bible and overemphasizes it (that if you turn to God He will bless you spiritually, psychologically and even materially), is that the same thing as being a false teacher?

    Like it or not, there are lots of verses in the Bible that speak of God’s blessing His people with prosperity. I am not into “prosperity teaching” myself, but I am not going to use a big black marker and cross those verses out of the Bible. Read Psalms. Read Proverbs. Even read the New Testament, and you will see verses that give credence to what prosperity preachers are addressing.

    You have previously posted that our view as Christians should be broader than one particular sect. For example, if one denomination does something better than your own, it would be wonderful if you could send people there rather than worrying about losing one of your own sheep. The Body of Christ is large, and contains various folds and flocks, where people’s needs can be met in various ways.

    So suppose a woman comes to a Southern Baptist church, and she becomes a Christian. But she is overwhelmed by guilt, shame, and condemnation because she was sexually abused as a child. She believes in Jesus, but in her heart and in her life she is not really free. She knows that Christ died for her, but that is not enough to heal the wounds.

    Would you be willing to send her to Joyce Meyer, when other genuine Christians, believers and lovers of Jesus, have testified that Meyer has helped them overcome the darkness of their past?

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Hang on, everybody…

    I still need to stuff my brains back in my head…

    They all dripped out my ears after reading the Osteen title Become a Better Jesus

    Another request, IMonk, for front-line accounts about what Osteen’s gospel is doing to your students and the Third World.

  13. >Would you be willing to send her to Joyce Meyer, when other genuine Christians, believers and lovers of Jesus, have testified that Meyer has helped them overcome the darkness of their past?

    Absolutely not. I’m not going to start a Meyer thread, but she bilked $54 million off needy people, lives like a queen, practices the most perposterous phony acts of compassion and unless she’s changed, denies essentials to the Gospel. Her interview with todd wilkin on issues, etc and the coverage of her by the St. Louis newspaper are both required. She’s a thief and a liar, just like the rest of them. They should be repudiated and condemned by every pastor and minister with any integrity. Tell the truth about these people! They are thieves enriching themselves and using the money that could help millions to live in palaces! What Jesus is that?

    Treebeard, if your criteria for toleration is that someone was helped, then I must accept Mormons and Muslims and even Atheists into the bus, for all have helped thousands.

    I am not evaluating Osteen as a husband or as a person who claims to be a Christian. I am evaluating him as a man who claims to be a Christian pastor. This 99%-1% approach will allow in anyone who believes anything about Jesus.

    And the matter of God blessing us is of course true. The message that the gospel is about God guaranteeing “TOTAL” prosperity, health, etc is a damnable lie. Listen to the clip on the Driscoll video.

    Osteen is not preaching the Gospel or Jesus. He is rejecting both. He has distorted both. Of course he uses Christian language, etc. So do ALL false prophets. That’s exactly what scripture says they do.


  14. iMonk,
    Point taken. You are argue eloquently and passionately. I don’t agree with you a hundred percent, but I definitely see where you’re coming from. Thank you for the discussion.

  15. As a pretty new convert to Catholicism, sometimes I really miss the risen cross of my past(if you know what I mean.) The crucifix, sin and danger of hell are constantly “in your face” in Catholic theology as well as aesthetics.
    But, watching Osteen, it seems the cross rose so high it just flew out of sight.

  16. The Bible has some pretty harsh language for Osteen’s accursed ilk. Something about millstones and the sea. It’s literally not possible to be overly harsh with such evil distortions of Christianity.

  17. Any body who says the Christian walk is a walk in the park is missing the boat, missing the whole body of water. It took a long time but I praise God for my trials and tribulations. How would I have grown to love Him and depend on Him without the furnace He used to get rid of [some of] the dross? Not only is the message wrong, the life style it promotes is wrong. At best you will get life long milk drinkers, at worse you might even convince the saved that they are not blessed, because they have a thorn in the flesh, or are leading a life like Paul.

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Osteen is not preaching the Gospel or Jesus. He is rejecting both. He has distorted both. Of course he uses Christian language, etc. So do ALL false prophets. That’s exactly what scripture says they do. — IMonk

    Don’t remember where I heard this, but I think it applies here:

    A false prophet tells you what you want to hear. A true prophet tells you what you NEED to hear.

  19. aaron arledge says

    The prosperity gospel makes me sick, angry, and sad.

  20. Right on for this post.

    I really like the points Mark Driscoll makes. I actually got his name from a hardcore reformed website. I figured of these guys on this dont BLOG do not like him then he must have something good to say. :).

    I have been listening to him as much as I can since.

    I have a few videos of his on my BLOG:

    I love coming here Mike since our minds cover such similar theological thoughts 🙂

    Keep up the good work!


  21. Interesting discussion. I love this stuff!

    In my humble (and sometimes wrong) opinion, I think that in some sense, we (the evangelical community at large) are responsible for the rise of these “feel good, prosperity gospel” teachers. Even those of us (myself included) who see the theological problems, textual errors, and misinformation about Jesus’ life are still left holding the bag for the notoriety of these individuals.

    TreeBeards question/comment gives us a wonderful look into the reality of what is lacking in our churches – real community. AND if real community was happening in our churches, no one would ever have to enlist the help of a television personality. If true community was happening we would be rubbing shoulders, and doing life with people who could walk through our difficult pasts with us. We would have a real live person in front of us modeling servant leadership, Christian counseling and encouragement.

    You see, we are all guilty of not creating spaces in our churches for hurting people. People who are sick, people who are poor, people who are broken and in need of encouragement. On Sunday mornings we turn away from one another, and face the front to listen to a sermon, forgetting that real community, real life happens to face to face. We place on masks where everything is perfect, and no one comes to church to with these problems visible. We hide them…I mean we are Christians right? Saved by the blood right? We should be happy, and successful and prosperous shouldn’t we?

    Interesting that these teachers/pastors/television stars address these key issues – health, wealth and a feel good, you can do anything attitude. It is addressing something most churches have been missing. I in no way am suggesting that we dip down to that level, and preach a watered down gospel with poor biblical exegesis. But what I am suggesting is that in our fair critique of bad teaching, can we be honest to see where we too are failing? We aren’t creating space for the sick, the poor and the heartbroken, so they are finding that space on their televisions.

  22. I mean Michael :).

  23. I have mixed feelings about it. And because of that I have to be aware of what I say and how. That is what being a Christian is all about — personal responsibility not the responsibility to judge others.

    According to the gospel, when it comes to teaching, there is milk for young or immature Christians and there is meat for mature Christians. I think so many times we judge each other on what we are offering, and for one I am confused on what to offer congregants each week.

    I just had to leave a church because I had to admit that they needed milk and I was forcing meat. It was tough. I miss them. But it was my fault for not being aware of what their needs are.

    As Christians we are called to be aware of the needs of others, not to judge them. Olsteen offers milk. We have to make sure there is a next step, not judge the first step. We can neither add to or take away from the Gospel, but we do both, and we have to all step up and admit it and quit throwing stones at one another.

  24. stan in san diego says

    I think that Paul, Peter and Jude would agree with imonk.

  25. Leigh,

    I guess my problem with Osteen as that he is not offering authentic milk. I understand that you probably shouldn’t start a new Christian on complex theology, but Osteen offers “rub the Jesus lamp and get your earthly materialistic wishes granted” as his milk. Why not offer “Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, lets start at the Chapter 1, verse 1 and work through it” as milk? Because it is not as “sexy” and won’t sell as many books.

  26. A pastor and a psychiatrist are not the same thing.

    Everyone needs a pastor.

    Some people need a psychiatrist.

    Psychiatrists and pastors can work together. Should work together.

    Joel Osteen is neither a psychiatrist nor a pastor.

    If you need a pastor and a psychiatrist, find one of each.

    If you need to be drawn away from the spiritual and emotional work you need to do, follow prosperity theology.

    -a Christian psychiatrist.

  27. Osteen is not offering milk, he is offering morphine, and in lethal doses. Trying to sugar-coat the issue doesn’t make it better: he is a heretic, plain and simple. This isn’t a matter of needing to understand that different people are at different levels of development. Osteen’s teachings come from Hell, and lead back there, and woe to those who tolerate it.

  28. tangential question, why is there a pole wrapped in barbed wire behind mark driscoll?

  29. >>>tangential question, why is there a pole wrapped in barbed wire behind mark driscoll?

    to keep the strippers away??

  30. Went to Mark Driscoll’s website, out of curiosity and a problem with not only the prosperity gospel, but the watering down of much of today’s teaching in the evangelical church.

    I have a big problem with churches who offer ‘alternative’ Halloween parties. Calling it a ‘Harvest Party’ while kids wear costumes, get candy and in general celebrate a pagan holiday. If it walks like a duck . . .

    On Driscoll’s web site was a justification for Christians to participate in Halloween. Taking their kids door to door or to a party. Basically, he said this:
    Halloween is not illegal
    Candy tastes good
    It doesn’t affect your faith

    Maybe, just maybe . . . it’s time for some ‘Old Tyme Religion’. A little fire and brimstone and the consequences of sin. Oops, not politically correct.

  31. To treebeard and other supporters of Osteen – I would ask this. What is it that differentiates Christianity from any other religion, and to what extent does Osteen articulate it?

    When you’ve answered that, answer this: How does the teaching of Osteen and others guard against idolatry? How does it guard against valuing God for what he gives you rather, rather than for himself?

    Listening to Osteen brings to mind Richard Neibuhr:

    “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

    Without the work of Christ on our behalf, Christianity has nothing to offer.

  32. Chris E,
    First, I am not a supporter of Osteen. I am simply unwilling to blame him for millions of people going to hell, or to regard him as a false teacher. I consider him shallow and superficial, but not false.

    As to your question, what differentiates Christianity from any other religion, I would say it is Christ Himself, God manifested in the flesh, the Son of God going through death and resurrection and now reigning in ascension. That is, the truth, versus all human counterfeits.

    Now I have not heard Osteen say anything much about the Person or work of Christ. What I have heard him say is that if you are not a believer in Christ, then you can pray to the Lord, admit that you are a sinner, and ask Him to come into your heart (or something similar). To me, that’s not a small thing. Does it make his ministry something that deserves our stamp of approval? Not really. But does that make the accusation “false teacher” a little bit overwrought? In my opinion, yes.

  33. If I could make another point, here is what Trailblazer said about Halloween:
    “I have a big problem with churches who offer ‘alternative’ Halloween parties. Calling it a ‘Harvest Party’ while kids wear costumes, get candy and in general celebrate a pagan holiday.”

    I used to believe that. I rejected Halloween, and Christmas for the same reason. Pagan holidays. I also had a big problem with birthdays, because the only examples in the Bible were negative (i.e. Herod’s beheading John the Baptist).

    So let’s condemn Osteen. And then let’s condemn Halloween. And then let’s condemn all those backslidden Christians who celebrate Halloween, and all those who celebrate alternatives to Halloween. And all those who allow their kids to get something from the Tooth Fairy. And all those who read the Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. And all those Christian women who actually celebrate Mother’s Day. Let’s stifle Christian freedom every way we can, in the name of purity and the ole time religion. Why, the Christian church will just grow and grow, as we express the virtues of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit!

    It’s no wonder people flock to Osteen. It really doesn’t surprise me at all. At least he isn’t listing every holiday they can no longer enjoy.

  34. Now I have not heard Osteen say anything much about the Person or work of Christ.

    There is your answer.

    What I have heard him say is that if you are not a believer in Christ, then you can pray to the Lord, admit that you are a sinner, and ask Him to come into your heart.

    Yes, and it’s usually tied to the end of a sermon in a way that makes it into the key to gaining God’s favour into your life. So – we are back to manipulating God in order to get what we really want.

  35. I know this is an old story and it’s likely no-one will read my comment, but honestly, how stupid can you get? Osteen’s challenge was simply to not become satisfied with any area of your life that could stand to be improved through the power of God. He never said that if you are a mature christian that you will never suffer pain, or experience anything negative. He simply said not to settle for anything less than God’s best. If you get sick – put faith in God’s Word and reach for health, if you have bad relationships – seek restoration, if you have depression – focus on Christ and cast your cares on Him… To not do what Osteen is suggesting is just completely lazy. Once again, NEVER said that the goal of being a Christian is to never experience pain. He just said not to let it run you over when it comes.