January 16, 2021

Reactions to the “60 Minutes” Joel Osteen Piece

UPDATE: A page of Horton resources related to Osteen.

UPDATE II: So many good Osteen pieces on there. Denny Burke zeroes in on Osteen’s glad admission that he does not preach the Bible’s main message.

UPDATE III
: Slate Magazine on Osteen’s God.

joel_blink.gifThe mentality that thinks in terms of marketing Jesus inevitably moves toward progressive distortion of him; the pursuit of the next emotional round of experience easily degenerates into an intoxicating substitute for the spirituality of the Word. There is non-negotiable, biblical, intellectual content to be proclaimed. By all means insist that this content be heralded with conviction and compassion; by all means seek the unction of the Spirit; by all means try to think through how to cast this content in ways that engage the modern secularist. But when all the footnotes are in place, my point remains the same: the historic gospel is unavoidably cast as intellectual content that must be taught and proclaimed. -D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God

A few thoughts on tonight’s 60 Minutes’ piece on Joel Osteen.

1. Byron Pitts, the reporter doing the piece, was simply superb. To the point. Unmoved by show. Understood the problem. In fact, probably understood far more than Osteen himself does about Christianity.

2. As much as I would like to join those who say that Osteen is a simpleton who doesn’t know what he’s doing, a close examination will show that at every point where there is a choice between being part of the church or departing into heresy, Osteen sticks with the church where there is money to be had and departs from the church where there is a faith to be confessed. He’s could be called a heretic by some, even if he is a believer, and he communicates a purposefully false trivialization of the person and work of Jesus Christ in favor of a man-centered motivational message of self-improvement.

Again, as I’ve said before, every evangelical leader needs to personally and by name repudiate and separate from Osteen, and call upon him and his followers to come back into the faith that is articulated in the Apostle’s Creed.

3. Osteen’s 73 million dollar cash cow is making a lot of people wealthy. This is about money, and Osteen is smart enough to know there is more money to be had by avoiding begging on TV. This doesn’t change a thing, however. He’s taking enough money to fund a huge part of the modern missions movement and using it to put on a show and promote materialism.

4. The line about getting people into “church” who have been out of “church” is simply crap, to be polite. No one in this movement is in church. They’re in the worst form of the prosperity Gospel, they are abandoning the God of the Bible, and they are glorifying a man who is assisting in the humiliation of the Gospel of Jesus. Osteen is a motivational speaker, and he uses only enough Christianity as necessary to get in the pockets of the gullible. Osteen is a Gospel preacher like Col. Sanders is an army officer.

cryingman.jpg5. Osteen’s tears of gratitude over being part of “changed lives” shouldn’t erase the fact that he is responsible for the spiritual delusion of millions, and his dressed up denial of the Biblical Gospel will be judged for the lie that it is on the day of judgement. I’ve got hundreds of letters from people telling me that IM essays “changed” or “helped” them. Send me 73 million bucks and I’ll be grateful, too.

6. The piece got what it needed out of Dr. Horton, but you should read Made In America to get the whole picture of what Horton would say if he had more time.

7. Evangelicals: Want to know why thousands of us are looking toward Rome? How bad can Marian dogmas and purgatory be in comparison to a movement that has tens of millions of people hailing Osteen as the great Christian proclaimer of our age? From Graham to Osteen. God help us. You cannot help but feel dirty.

8. Osteen probably doesn’t have the knowledge to be able to judge his own errors in the light of Biblical truth. Sad, but true. He simply has no idea that he has no idea. He thinks Jesus, the Holy Trinity and the Holy Scriptures are all means to the end of having a better paycheck. According to Osteen tonight, you can get the same truths from any psychologist or motivational speaker.

9. The story no one seems to want to tell: Osteen never used the principles that are in his books in order to succeed. He dropped out of college after one year at ORU. (Too academic?) He was a media guy at his dad’s church. He was brought into the pulpit by his dad’s sudden death, and he was clueless. Parroted his dad’s methods for a couple of years, then found Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking and abandoned the Gospel for “life coaching.” In other words, he stumbled into daddy’s pulpit and found what drew the crowds. A guy with a message of personal improvement like Tony Robbins? Hardly.

Note: My previous essays on Osteen are available if you search “Osteen” on the search engine. For more substance, go over to Westy Seminary and read some of Horton’s Osteen writing, especially the “Glory Story” piece.

Comments

  1. Amen, indeed! But just last week, I got an email about the most influential pastors in the U.S. Of course, “our man” was listed along with one or two other dubious choices in my opinion. It amazes and saddens me that the gift of discernment seems so lacking. The guy comes across humbly compared to many, but, as you note so well, it’s not the gospel by any stretch of the imagination. You have mentioned others with the same or similar “issues,” and some of them have thousands of followers and millions of dollars. In my opinion, “there ain’t joy in heaven” over any of this stuff. With those in the ancient church, we pray, “Lord, have mercy!”

  2. If angels rejoice over sinners who repent, then please note that Osteen believes both terms are overly negative.

  3. You don’t cry with gratitude when I tell you that you work is helpful to me? Why, I’m hurt.

    2 Timothy 4: 3For 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. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

  4. Send me $73 million and I’ll cry you a river.

  5. You keep on looking in the mailbox.

  6. What do you make of Paul’s rant about those who preached the gospel out of the wrong motivation, but that either way the gospel was being preached?

    Does Osteen, or any number of “popular” speakers fit into that category in your opinion?

  7. Joel doesn’t preach the Gospel. At all.

    At the end of his talks on positive thinking and how you have the destiny to have a new house and a new car, he has a sinner’s prayer. Jesus is mentioned, but Osteen’s preaching in a year doesn’t give you enough information about Jesus to know if he means the savior or the outfielder.

    Osteen’s motives are another story. He’s simply Tony Robbins with Praise music. His hero is Norman Vincent Peale. It’s a Christless, sinless, crossless, repentance-less message about everything turning out OK.

    So, no, this isn’t someone like Joyce Meyer, who has passable theology in many places but preaches prosperity gospel. This is motivational life coaching. No Gospel.

    Osteen really, really doesn’t like what he knows about the God of Romans or Exodus or Psalms. He has another God in mind, and imagines that somehow it’s the Biblical God. The Golden Calf had better theology.

  8. why did you have to get me riled up right before bedtime?!? 😉

  9. Could you people be anymore more jealous of Osteen!! Typical of the far right-born agains to twist and shove their meaning from scripture to cast down most of us. Osteen is a real guy, a great christian and a man of god’s army. More of a general!! Don’t you people ever give it a rest??

  10. Why is everyone so quick to point a finger towards Osteen? You see people like this rising up with answers to the world’s problems all over our nation from politics to hollywood, yet because he is a Christian he is getting slammed at every corner. Even if his message does not sit well with you, who of you can say that you have changed 1,000’s of people’s lives? Let’s just be happy for those people out there whose lives are on a better track and have hope for their future. I bet if Osteen was preaching these same principles in the name of Buddah, no one would even care.

  11. Thanks for this article Michael. “The golden calf had better theology”…classic!

    This prosperity gospel of which Osteen seems the pinnacle for now confirms Marx’s famous statement that religion is the opiate of the masses. Such false teaching that lulls millions into passivity is impotent and does little than please the powers that be…the gods of this age.

  12. Regarding “From Graham to Osteen,” I’m confused. Are you referring to Billy Graham, and, if so, are you down on him too? I’m new to your site, so I’m not sure.

  13. well, we also learned that Osteen can bench 300lb. Pat Robertson anyone?

  14. “Osteen is a Gospel preacher like Col. Sanders is an army officer.”

    Hahaha, what a great way with words you have. Strong post, I will likely be passing it along.

  15. Michael,
    I think you are right on with “he stumbled into daddy’s pulpit and found what drew the crowds”. I would also say that he takes the number of admirers and the money pouring in as affirmation from God that he’s on track. You have to wonder how many who have bought into his ear candy have found themselves just as empty down the road because there was no transforming Gospel in it.

    “the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” Matthew 7:13

  16. Doesn’t #2 and #8 contradict each other?

    About the $73 million; unless Marcia is a very wealthy lady, I really hope eternal rewards in heaven are OK for you too…

  17. The blinking on the book is freaky.

  18. i remarked to my husband after the segment last night that i didn’t think osteen was purposely and maliciously trying to manipulate people or the gospel — he just cannot make a distinction in his mind between giving people hope in God and the hope that they will get a raise, a nicer car, a promotion, etc. to osteen, God IS wealth…and that’s the “gospel” that he’s preaching. and people are eating it up. very sad.

    i would’ve liked to hear more of what mike horton had to say…thanks for the links.

  19. Good for you Michael-Osteen says things that would make Pelagius grasp out loud! The man is the worst sort of heretic-the kind described by the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 11: 4-15.

  20. The most shocking part of last night’s feature? He can bench press 300 lbs!!??

  21. [To Glen]
    You might want to read the book “Evangelicalism Divided” by Iain Murray.

  22. Those blinking eyes will keep me laughing all day. Our household nick-name for him is “Blinkey.”

    But seriously, even though I haven’t spent much time listening to him, the little I’ve heard has been disturbing. You’ve written an unusually severe post, but it’s a critical issue.

  23. David Thompson says

    Heather – You said, “I bet if Osteen was preaching these same principles in the name of Buddah, no one would even care.”

    You’re right, I wouldn’t care, unless I was a Bhuddist. Then I would care because Osteen would be completely misrepresenting Bhuddist beliefs.

    The problem is not that what he says isn’t helpful or motivating to some people, it’s that he says what he says in the name of Jesus, as if he is preaching the gospel of Christ.

    As a motivational speaker you have freedom to say whatever helps your clients. As a preacher you are constrained by the biblical gospel.

  24. this is too much fun…ya’ll keep it going! thank you LORD for stretching my faith

  25. In response to those that have asked “why can’t the far right reaching evangelicals leave Osteen alone”..

    I would like to submit that making people feel good, putting them in a positive mental attitude and preaching God’s blessing of prosperity as a result is not only not only not biblical, but seemingly one of the enemy’s favorite tactics.

    Please, this Western version of Christianity is grotesque and offensive to the rest of the world and money donated to spread this version of the gospel is at best along the lines of the statement by Paul speaking about Christ preached.

    Joel and those in the prosperity mindset seem to need God like a Golfer needs a good shot to confirm that God really does like them.

  26. “Even if his message does not sit well with you, who of you can say that you have changed 1,000’s of people’s lives?”

    And this makes Osteen’s prosperity-gospel “preaching” Ok?

    “Let’s just be happy for those people out there whose lives are on a better track and have hope for their future.”

    I think it’s just fine that people have a better life and have hope. However, what’s the hope based on? New houses? New cars? Better clothes? More money in the bank account? Which of these have eternal value? Which of these have anything to do with heavenly riches?

    “I bet if Osteen was preaching these same principles in the name of Buddah, no one would even care.”

    Almost certainly. I’d rather he’d preach in the name of Buddha than take the Gospel of Jesus Christ and turn it into a get-rich-quick scheme.

  27. Why does Steve Taylor’s Cash Cow keep playing in the back of my mind…

    Woe, woe, woe to you who blow off this warning
    Perhaps you’ve already been licked…
    I, too, was hypnotized
    By those big cow eyes
    The last time I uttered
    Those three little words
    “I deserve better!”

  28. >> Jesus is mentioned, but Osteen’s preaching in a year doesn’t give you enough information about Jesus to know if he means the savior or the outfielder.

    Michael,

    Is the “outfielder” reference about Johnny Damon when he played for the Red Sox and had long hair and thick beard?

    The best sign I’ve ever seen at a game was toward Damon when he first returend to Fenway after going to the Yankees. It said, “Looks like Jesus. Acts like Judas. Throws like Mary.”

    Sorry playoff baseball on the brain.

  29. “He’s taking enough money to fund a huge part of the modern missions movement and using it to put on a show and promote materialism.”

    Excellent point.

  30. “Even if his message does not sit well with you, who of you can say that you have changed 1,000’s of people’s lives? Let’s just be happy for those people out there whose lives are on a better track and have hope for their future.”

    What track would that be? The road to hell paved with good intentions.

  31. Madelyn Thompson says

    Wow – you Christians ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I happen to love Joel Osteen and know lots of others who feel as I do.

    Do I sense – feel – smell – jealousy? I can tell you personally that watching him on television and in person has helped me tremendously. I am a lapsed Catholic so I never had the love of the Bible that so many other people of faith have. I believe that through the years, the “true” word got very much watered down – and we all know that it can be interpreted to mean just about anything.

    However, I do believe in God and I have a strong spiritual sense – I think all this wrangling among people of faith is totally nuts. Whatever happened to “love” as Christ taught it. So Joel is successful. . . I believe that is what God wants for all of us. Osteen echoes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and others – but his message is more rooted in biblical passages.

    Joel is a minister of hope and carries a message of love – and he successfully delivers that to millions. What is so wrong with that? We need more people like him in the world. So many times I have been pulled into a better space just by listening to him – and his sermons have given me a lot upon which to reflect.

    I thought that interview on 60 Minutes on October 14, 2007 was one of the worst pieces of drivel that I’ve ever seen on 60 Minutes. That reporter was almost dead in terms of showing any emotion or feeling. He did not ask anything of import and the piece was poorly edited. I was very disappointed – Mike Wallace – where are you when we need you.

  32. To quote Billie Joe Armstrong: “The Jesus of Suburbia is a lie.”

  33. “Why is everyone so quick to point a finger towards Osteen? You see people like this rising up with answers to the world’s problems all over our nation from politics to hollywood, yet because he is a Christian he is getting slammed at every corner. Even if his message does not sit well with you, who of you can say that you have changed 1,000’s of people’s lives? Let’s just be happy for those people out there whose lives are on a better track and have hope for their future. I bet if Osteen was preaching these same principles in the name of Buddah, no one would even care.”

    You’re right in saying that he’s getting slammed because he is a Christian — his message is a distortion of Christianity. We really don’t care if people make up their own worldviews or preach his message from a secular/materialistic framework. What bothers us is the fact that he’s taking a message that has nothing to do with Christianity and pretending that it does.

    If he were teaching the same principles in the name of Buddha, I think the Buddhists would have a problem with him equating materialism with a philosophy of non-attachment. Well, that’s my hunch, anyway…

    When all is said and done, if I haven’t changed any lives, I would still prefer that to poisoning thousands of minds with false doctrine.

  34. Cotton Candy Theology….Tastes Great Less Filling!

    So so sad Mr. Osteen

  35. “Why is everyone so quick to point a finger towards Osteen? You see people like this rising up with answers to the world’s problems all over our nation from politics to hollywood, yet because he is a Christian he is getting slammed at every corner.”

    I can’t help but laugh at this comment. Osteen, that poor martyr, is being “slammed” all the way to the bank. That poor thing, how will he ever be able to show his face in public again with an army of angry bloggers calling him out on his heresy?

    Tom and Heather, I’m anxiously awaiting your YouTube debut: “LEAVE JOEL ALONE!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHmvkRoEowc&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwwtdd%2Ecom%2F

  36. Anyone who wants to know why pastors and teachers are warning against Osteen has one of the following problems.

    A. You have no understanding of Christianity at all. See Apostle’s Creed and the Gospel of John for details.

    B. You’ve embraced New Age syncretism but hung on to Jesus. You’re fine with Joel because you’re fine with anyone who says “God,” “Jesus” and “Love.”

    C. You’re dangerously gullible. If it draws a crowd or makes people happy, it’s great as far as you are concerned.

    D. You’ve never listened to Osteen, but he’s nice and I’m not so there.

    E. You’re a woman who is attracted to Osteen. You think he’d be a great son, son in law or grandson. Who could criticize such a sweet boy.

    F. You don’t believe in Yahweh and the cross doesn’t really matter to you because your sins don’t bother you as much as your lack of stuff and bling.

  37. Michael. I love your blog. I read your blog. I have an iMonk link on my blog. I recommend your blog to friends and family. I feel I have grounds for expressing that your blog is starting to give me the willies. Beth Moore, Ann Coulter and now (again!) Joel Osteen…blinking! Seriously. You’re freaking me out, dude.

  38. “Why is everyone so quick to point a finger towards Osteen? You see people like this rising up with answers to the world’s problems all over our nation from politics to hollywood, yet because he is a Christian he is getting slammed at every corner. Even if his message does not sit well with you, who of you can say that you have changed 1,000’s of people’s lives? Let’s just be happy for those people out there whose lives are on a better track and have hope for their future. I bet if Osteen was preaching these same principles in the name of Buddah, no one would even care. ”

    We are so quick to point because the point is not what how nice your life is on Earth, or how Osteen made you happy while you lived. The point is what happens to you when you die. Did you trust in Christ for salvation from your sins and eternal life or salvation from a lower socioeconomic class?

  39. You’re a woman who is attracted to Osteen. You think he’d be a great son, son in law or grandson. Who could criticize such a sweet boy

    Umm….Sorry, but as a woman, I find that statement offensive. It implies that somehow females are going to be more likely than others be overcome by their “attractions”…..c’mon Imonk…was that really necessary?….btw…I am not a supportert of Osteen, but still think that statement needs to be zapped.

  40. Did anyone else catch the line from the Dubai piece (after Osteen) where the president (?) of Dubai said he wanted his people to have “a better life now”? My friends and I were watching and all busted out laughing!

  41. >It implies that somehow females are going to be more likely than others be overcome by their “attractions”

    Sorry to offend, but I disagree.

    Evangelicalism is overwhelmingly dominated by women and women are the majority of the supporters of the prosperity Gospel movement. That’s not because of a gender flaw. It’s just the facts. I’m not going to lie about the facts. And I’m not going to “blame” women. I will tell any woman who thinks Osteen is acceptable because he’s some kind of evangelical poster boy to consider how he ought to be evaluated.

    I never implied women are “more likely” to be anything. I directly stated that a woman who looks at Osteen MAY say he’s the ideal son, son in law, etc. I’ve heard hundreds of women evaluate pastors and youth directors the same way. It’s a way of thinking among evangelicals, and if men did it, I’d say so.

    I don’t want to be offensive, but Osteen is a mama’s boy. He’s a symptom of an emasculated evangelicalism. Driscoll isn’t the cure, but neither is Osteen.

    MEN abandoning their place in the church is one reason for the ascendancy of Osteen, so blame us. 🙂

  42. Freud criticized the view that religious feeling springs from the “oceanic” feeling, of a feeling of eternity or of oneness with the (beneficent, of course) universe. Insofar as one’s religious feeling does emanate from that source, it seeks “the restoration of limitless narcissism,” i.e., it is infantile.

    Since I can think of no better description of Osteen’s teaching than “limitless narcissim,” then, if Freud is right, we should expect to find that this springs from a vague “spirituality” that has nothing to do with the specific claims of Jesus on one’s life. “Minister of hope”…in what? “A message of love”…to what? Admirers of Osteen: does however you fill in those blanks allow the Jesus actually shown us in the gospels and his message to qualify? How selective do you have to be when you read the gospels? Did Jesus rebuke the rich young ruler out of love or because he was “jealous” of his “success?”

    Is there a more god-awesome force in nature than the human heart? What else could take a message of discipleship, cross-carrying self-denial and claim that what it really means is that God wants you to have your best life NOW?

  43. quote: “Did anyone else catch the line from the Dubai piece (after Osteen) where the president (?) of Dubai said he wanted his people to have “a better life now”? My friends and I were watching and all busted out laughing!”

    Yes! I burst out laughing too. It was really funny. And I have to wonder if 60 minutes edited things on purpose for that line to come in on a piece following the one on Osteen. But it also underscores the point that “having your best life now” through prosperity and the like isn’t particularly christian at all.

    rr

  44. >Evangelicalism is overwhelmingly dominated by women and women are the majority of the supporters of the prosperity Gospel movement. That’s not because of a gender flaw. It’s just the facts.

    WHAT?!

    Last time I checked….Oral Roberts, Oral Roberts Jr., Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Jimmy(?) Duplantis, The guy who runs TBN, Pat Robertson, Kenneth Hagin, John Hagee….and the list could go on for miles…..All men!

  45. the 2000 year old woman says

    Lets tell a story. 2000+ years ago a man by the name of Yudah ben Joseph gathered a few followers and began preaching a radical version of the Hebrew text. He reached out to the disenchanted, ignored, non-mainstream and talked of a new way of thinking and believing. He told of being born of a virgin mother and being the son of God – and boy did that upset people! They railed against his radical beliefs, shunned his teachings as heretic, and ultimately crucified him. He was Jesus Christ.

    Why repeat the past with poor Joel Osteen? His message is uplifting and motivational. Maybe people are tired of hearing about sin and punishment, today’s morals and values are such that I don’t think there is a person who hasn’t sinned and isn’t going to Hell for some infraction of Biblical law.

    Accept him as an alternative view and leave him and his followers alone. The man overcame is own adversity and does serve as an example of what good can come of doing good. Why not share that and give people something the Church and Synagouges do a pretty bad job of – Hope.

  46. First, there is no Oral Roberts, Jr. And it’s Jesse Duplantis.

    Second, I’m sure you are aware that Christianity is largely led by men, but congregations, etc are predominantly women. That’s true in every denomination. More in some than others, but evangelicalism is made up mostly of churches full of women. Same with the tv audiences, parachurch movements.

    T.D. Jakes. A man leading a huge movement predominantly made up of women.

    I am aware of the male leadership of most of Christianity. I wasn’t referring to leaders.

  47. oops about the name…my blood was boiling too much…and despite what his real name may be….Oral Robert’s son is soooo an Oral Roberts Jr.

    Either way, I can’t help but feel that there is some blame being laid at the feet of women, as if it’s our fault that such craziness has flourished.

  48. I don’t want to be offensive here, but if evangelicalism looked like Doug Wilson or Mark Driscoll’s church, Osteen wouldn’t be the #1 preacher in America and raking in 73 million. I’m with Wilson: It’s men’s fault that evangelicalism is feminized in so many ways. That’s not blaming women. That’s would be like blaming youth ministry for the Seeker Sensitive stuff. It’s the failure of leaders to be leaders that leaves us with popularity contests.

  49. well…there’s lots that I could say ….but it would veer off into about 20 different conversations about church, gender, leadership, and much more.

    So, I’ll drop it, but I still don’t like the subtext of the original statement and the conclusions you have stated about the current state of evangelicalism.

    *going off to purchase an Osteen book ’cause he’s just so dang hot!*

  50. I’m sorry that’s how you are choosing to hear my point. I do not believe anyone buys the book because they think he’s hot. You’ve taken me way way out of context.

    I refuse to ignore the fact that the new prosperity gospel’s audience is primarily female. I will not ignore the Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Paula White, etc audience. This is Osteen’s audience, and they are significantly more female than male.

    I am in no way implying sexual attraction.