January 21, 2021

The Osteen Review 90% of Evangelicals Won’t Write

Other Osteen posts here at IM: Osteen Redux, The Mystery of Joel Osteen, Outing Joel Osteen.

Newsweek reviews Victoria Osteen’s new book. Thank God for Newsweek’s willingness to say what 90% of evangelicals won’t say.

With that story, Victoria unconsciously articulates the problem so many outsiders have with Joel and, by extension, with her. Joel Osteen is one of the most popular pastors in the country, but both he and Victoria seem, from the outside at least, to be spiritual midgets. More than 40,000 people come to hear them preach each week in a sanctuary that used to be the home of the Houston Rockets. Millions more watch them on television. Joel’s books are best sellers, and Victoria’s new one, though arriving in stores this week, is already high on Amazon’s spiritual book list. But the theology driving all this success is thin. Over and over, in sermons, books and television interviews, the Osteens repeat their most firmly held beliefs. If you pray to Jesus, you’ll get what you want.

And people actually ask me why I’m a “post-evangelical.” What planet are you on?


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Mr. Osteen’s gospel bears little resemblance to the Gospel lived out by the martyrs and confessors of the early centuries of the Church. Where is the community, sharing among themselves to make sure that all were taken care of, as in Acts 2? Where is the concern for the widows found in Acts 6? Where is the taking care of the poor that so frustrated one of the pagan Roman Emperors? — Fr Ernesto

    Kicked to the gutter and replaced by Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles, Pin the Tail on the Antichrist, Sheeka-Boom-Bah-BAM floor shows, and Osteen name-it-and-claim-it goodie cornucopias.

    But, do not look at just the Osteens of the world. They only reflect a culture in the USA of self-fulfillment and pleasure. The preaching of self-discipline in the USA is all too often limited to just sexuality. It is a negative word in this culture whereas it should be a positive word that catches our commitment to grow in the Christian life. — Fr Ernesto

    The only reason I’m achieving my childhood dream of being a science-fiction writer is because of self-discipline. I have seen so many fanboys who could have done the same but peed it all away with the easy self-fulfillment. They wanted the fame of Having Written without the work of writing.

    IMonk, you said you are post-evangelical. So am I. I am post-evangelical because salvation among evangelicals has become the simple instant gratification of “once saved always saved”… — Fr Ernesto

    And one the reasons I’m a “post-evangelical” Catholic. True, the liturgical churches focus so much on the process (what Fr Ernesto calls “perseverance of the saints” and “serious life commitment to sanctification”) that we can go seriously overboard to the point we’re all devotions and Mary and novenas and tend to lose the “decision for Christ” moment Evangelicals stress so strongly, but at least we have something to do with the rest of our lives after the initial decision. So much of Evangelicalism seems to be walk the aisle and that’s it — except for attending Osteen and Lakeland floor shows or being kept comfortable in a Christianese womb.

  2. Sorry, one more point. A commenter likened Osteen to Zig Ziglar. I know of someone who came to Christ through Ziglar. What’s wrong with that?

    Many people have come to Christ “through” Mormonism or the SDA church. Same as people have come to Christ “through” Osteen’s ministry. The problem is that we are too quick to draw a cause-effect relationship where there might not be one. God can work through anything and anyone so let’s evaluate faithfulness to the Gospel based on actual content rather than on supposed results.

  3. urban otter says

    “It seems to me that there is a danger of deciding that one group (Osteen’s) is out of consideration. How is this different than those who say anyone who is not a Baptist isn’t really saved, or anyone who uses a Bible different than the KJV is using pseudo-Scripture?”

    There is a difference between presuming to judge the state of a person’s soul and judging the truthfulness of their words.

    We do not have the ability to judge the state of Osteen’s soul. However, we have the duty and the obligation to judge whether or not Osteen’s message is true.

    We are not instructed to swallow every notion every preacher tries to feed us. In fact, we’re instructed to exercise discernment. Lucky for us, Osteen’s departure from Christianity is so blatant that even Newsweek manages to catch it.

    Notice that nobody even makes a serious attempt to square Osteen’s message with Christianity. That’s because it can’t be done.

    If any form of historic Christianity is true, Osteen is wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, either, but fatally wrong.

    Christ says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than it is for a rich man to attain heaven. Osteen says that God wants you to live a rich and painless life. Jesus says to take up your burden and follow him, Osteen says that if you’re carrying a burden you must be doing something wrong.

    Do those things sound the same to you? This isn’t advanced theology. This is just the simple ability to tell one thing from another.

  4. treebeard, saying that Hindus believe “poverty is sacred” would be a clever reposte if it weren’t for the massive, soul-crushingly systematic little “irony” called the Caste system.

    Kind of makes a lot of “sacred” Hindu concepts seem a little less friendly.

    Remember guys, cultural relativity is No Fun.

    Also, the idea that some follower of Christ would buy him a spot in a nice tomb is kind of touching, after they watched him die. What a loving goodbye-gesture they thought they were making.

    The idea that Joyce Meyer would take 54 million from poor and desperate people hoping to “pay” for God’s favor and buys herself luxuries is revolting.

    But (and irony is really, really ironic sometimes), all those caste-beaten Hindus might not think so. They call people like her ‘gurus’. And there are THOUSANDS of people who’ve enriched themselves Just Like Her across India and Pakistan. And there always have been. If Joel Osteen ever gets driven off this continent by angry Christians, success beyond his wildest imagination awaits him in Hindu nations.

  5. Wow. A lot of heat on this one. Might as well pull up to the fire and hope not to get burned! Here’s how I see it:

    The prosperity gospel is an oxymoron. It’s not the gospel of our Lord or of Scripture. It’s a perversion of the truth and we have a duty to be discerning and call it for what it is. Those who continue to teach it deserve to be criticized. However, final judgement of the person is up to God, not us.

    I don’t doubt that people have come to real faith through Osteen’s ministry. Sometimes people find Christ (or He finds them) in spite of really bad preaching and theology. This fact doesn’t excuse the errant teaching or theology; it is evidence of God’s mercy and grace.

    The most effective and powerful lies contain some element of truth. That’s what makes them palatable to so many; what it does not do is excuse the lie.

    The prosperity gospel promotes the idol of prosperity in a big way, and the fact that it’s promoted systematically from the pulpit down makes the sin and harm very great. Other Christians and pseudo-Christian groups certainly have idols, too (nationalism, spiritual elitism, materialism, etc.), but rarely is the idolatry promulgated from the pulpit.

  6. First of all: What’s with the freaky blinking eyes on Osteen’s pic? Ha! Perfect picture for Halloween…

    I can’t add much here, other than a big ‘AMEN, iMonk!’ Thanks for another great post. I appreciate those of you who teach the scripture faithfully and are brave enough to call wolves “wolves.”

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Sorry, one more point. A commenter likened Osteen to Zig Ziglar. I know of someone who came to Christ through Ziglar. What’s wrong with that? — Treebeard

    Which means nothing either way. Mike Warnke’s fanboys said the same about him when Cornerstone exposed him as a fraud.

    The most effective and powerful lies contain some element of truth. That’s what makes them palatable to so many; what it does not do is excuse the lie. — John

    In intelligence warfare, do you know the method to feed false information to the enemy? First, feed him various minor accurate information to establish your credibility. Then, when you drop the disinformation bomb, you make it sound both plausible in context and consistent with what came before.

  8. Jan Dillaha says

    treebeard, we are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel. Something that is 99% truth is by definition a lie.

    What good comes from encouraging people to sit in that stadium and believe that the gospel is about their positive attitude, their material success, and what they want in life?

    If you hear message after message that is 99% about you and your life and 1% about your sin and the seriousness of your alienation from God, how do you then convince them that REPENTANCE is an urgent matter that is important above all else in their lives?

  9. “Fr. Ernesto suggested above that we should look to the monastics of the early church. But is that Biblical? Where in the Bible does it say we should withdraw from society and exclude the rest of the world, and live lives of poverty?”

    The first example of monasticism (Eastern style, not Western)is John the Baptist, who lived a life of poverty, simple eating, simple clothing, and probable isolation until the last two or three years of his adult life. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon.'” (Matthew 11:16)

    Harking farther back are those who took the Nazarite vow in the Old Testament, the Nazir (female: Nezirah). We believe that there is a New Testament equivalent, without the ceremonial parts of the vow. Interestingly enough, a modern rabbi explains a Nazir as, “A nazir was a man who would isolate himself from certain material luxuries for purposes of spiritual heightenings. (A female nazir was called a nezirah; pronounced neh-ZEE-rah.)” Does not that definition sound just like a monk? The vow could be for life as with the Judge Samson and the Prophet Samuel.

    Monks (male or female) have a special ministry among us, of calling us, like John the Baptist, back to a life of self-disciplined growing in righteousness. Not everyone is called to a life of poverty. After all, the second part of the quotation from Matthew 16 above is that Jesus came drinking and eating and was called a glutton and a winebibber. But, some are, indeed, called to such a life. Too many arguments by American Evangelicals (such as Osteen) imply that poverty is somehow wrong. Monks stand against such teachings and remind us that our Lord Jesus had no place to lay his head.

    One evangelical commentator says, “The vow of the Nazarite is a pattern for Christians to follow today. Not the growing of the hair, etc., but the spiritual representation of it. God is calling the Church to something that is quite foreign to many of us – a turning from self-indulgence, and a desire to take whatever reproach may come so that we may be holy vessels that God can use to do things beyond our own power.” We believe that this pattern is brought to life among us in a special way by our monks. But, that pattern–not the poverty nor the habit nor the self-isolation, but the turning from self-indulgence–is for all of us, not just for some.

    I would not agree that monks, “withdraw from society and exclude the rest of the world. . .” They do withdraw from society, but Eastern monasticism has a very rich history of monks becoming “elders” and “returning” to teach even Kings how to follow the Lord.

    Note that in Numbers 6:8, the Nazir is called “holy unto the Lord” and yet brings a sin offering at the end of the period of the vow. There is a commentators’ argument about whether the Nazir brings a sin offering for himself or for the people. It is not worth going into other than to mention that we believe that monks do have a special ministry of intercessory prayer.

    I hope this answers some of your questions. IMonk, I have cross-posted this on my blog because I do not know how to put in a comment the links to the quotations above. You are welcome to alter this comment to include the missing links.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    There are people who are drawn to Osteen. Maybe they get 99% crap and 1% Christ. But isn’t that 1% precious? — Treebeard

    After having to wade through the 99% of crap and strain it all out? Why not get that 1% in a little more concentrated form?

    P.S. Even Sturgeon’s Law says only “90% of everything is crap.” If you’re running 99% crap, you’re already behind the curve.

  11. Joel Osteen is a wonderful motivational speaker and a great businessman but when it comes to being a teacher of the truth he is lacking.He is the posterboy for “false teachers”.I truly feel sorry for the masses that attend his church and walk out thinking they are in good standing with God.It is people like him that give Christianity the bad image that it has here and arond the world.Joel was given Lakewood Church by his father and has turned it into a money making machine.I have stopped and watched him speak a couple of times and what strikes me is that he doesn’t even touch his bible while giving his awesome motivational speeches.Why doesn’t that bother anyone in his congregation?We surly need to pray for him and especially his congregation,that they find their way to a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

  12. Michael,
    I’m good on your critique on Osteen. I tried to scan through the many replies to your original post: unlike them, I live in Houston. Lakewood is a major drag on all of us who imperfectly practice any kind of faith in Jesus. Some pastors I know are less restrained than you are in their critique of Osteen; of course, how they get the time to understand him or listen to his messages is not always clear to me. Getting lumped into a version of the Christian faith that includes the Osteens really slows me down; its been awhile since I’ve heard that kind of comment, but having heard it, it feels like gum on your shoe…

    Suffice it to say, I’m not pleased with the kind of distraction Osteen has become, and there does not seem to be any conclusion to his influence in the near future. Students in my ministry, I am delighted to say, do visit, stay for a Sunday or two, and give up: if the Bible is read, it is a pretext or subtext for some other message that has nothing to do with Christ. And the students simply have no patience for that kind of waste of their time.

    So, for all of the commenters that are reluctant for iMonk to “judge” Osteen, you might pause and ask if he’s the one who is off the mark: I’d suggest-strongly- that his appraisal of Osteen is accurate, mild, and for this resident of Houston: an important voice for reorienting anyone- anywhere- toward Christ.

  13. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him ( DENY HIMSELF ) and take up his cross, and follow me.
    And as for Queen Victoria I think Zsa Zsa Gabor on Green Acres had more spiritual depth.At least she was willing to live humbly inspite of her worldly appetites.

  14. As a pastor who has served at small rural churches and in suburban mega churches, I have come to a point in my life where I am trying to find a balance.

    What are we to compromise in order to be effective? Even the sound of that statement makes me question why I am even in ministry. It’s true that by cultural standards, Olsteen is effective. Is it OK that it is a stepping stone into a more holistic and complete spirituality?

    I think this is the biggest point of stress on pastors as we are torn between success and truth. Do they intersect somewhere and if so, how do I get there?

  15. CaptainMarvel says

    IMonk – How can you possible criticize Joel Osteen’s false gospel while at the same time praise the emergents? They are equally false gospels. The latter is probably worse since it mentions Jesus but not the Jesus of the Bible.

  16. The Emergents….is that a band?

    Since you’re wanting to paint with a broad brush that lets you mean whatever you want, why don’t you give me a particular Jesus-denier that I’ve “praised.”

    Then I might respond.

  17. “Joel Osteen is a wonderful motivational speaker and a great businessman but when it comes to being a teacher of the truth he is lacking.”

    Why do some of us feel compelled to compliment the guy for Winning the Game? You admit the guy turned witnessing for Christ into MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING and a GREAT BUSINESS, but you can’t bring yourself to scold him too hard because, hey: he’s really good at what he IS doing. He has a lot of people listening to him not talk about Jesus.

    “He’s a skilled manipulator and really knows how to make money for himself, but…”

    I’m not singling you out Ron, but its sort of a theme on this thread with people “reluctantly” giving Osteen his propers for taking their fellow Christians’ money and keeping them far away from a coherent presentation of the Gospel, as if that’s just how this religious belief “marketplace” works. Caveat emptor, and may God have mercy on ’em, right?

    Friendliness? 1% of the Gospel is sufficient? We recognize Osteen’s use of church as a business model, and shrug our shoulders and tell each other that he has “good intentions”?

    Yuck. I’d rather not.

  18. I agree with Patrick. There’s a lot of half-hearted condemnation of what is, honestly, abhorent evil around here. Olsteen is as much an enemy of Christ as Richard Dawkins, perhaps a more effective block to the Gospel due to his charismatic affirming people in their okay-ness game. I know people, many people, take Christianity less seriously because of Olsteen specifically, and his fellow Anti-Christs in general (note that I am saying he is *an* Anti-Christ, rather than *the* Anti-Christ). There can be no compromise between the Gospel and the works of Satan.

  19. Fr. Ernesto: You made a good connection using the physical poverty of John the Baptist as representative of monasticism and spiritual wealth. Even though John the Baptist was in the spirit and power of Elias and was intended only to be the forerunner of Christ, he was filled with the Holy Ghost before birth ….and he was awesome. And, of course, as Christ’s ministry began….John’s office and life on Earth was complete …or fulfilled. What would our world be like today…if we Christians chose spiritual wealth over material prosperity? Oh WOW!!!

  20. Kyle Barfield:

    I moderate comments because of people like you.

    The fight you are looking for isn’t going to happen on this blog.


  21. Wow,just the range of ideas and differing views these comments represent reflect some of the confusion about what Christianity is today in the U.S.; wouldn’t you say?

    Confusion and a lack of clarity; when a teacher gets a test answer with those qualities, it is normally not a good thing for the test-taker. Maybe that’s why some people have a problem with Mr. Osteen. He confuses the issues of earthly prosperity with a kingdom of love,justice, mercy, and compassion; and he isn’t clear as to which god he is speaking about.

    Jesus, I believe, said his wasn’t an earthly kingdom in response to Pilate. Mr. Osteen’s is entirely an earthly kingdom with all my prosperity tied to this, my non-resurrected body. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a church that Jesus left behind that would be unconquered by hell. I think that’s why people who follow Jesus get upset with Mr. Osteen.

    If you want a positive attitude seminar, if you don’t care about the plight of those in poor regions of this world, if you don’t care about life beyond this world, then I guess he is your guy. However, if you do care about any of these aforementioned things, he may very well be your enemy.

  22. ok, the blinking Olsteen freaks me out.

  23. Memphis Aggie says

    Love the blinking animation – too funny

  24. Memphis Aggie says

    I’m with you Mike, Osteen promotes evil, whether he understands that or not, that is the net effect. This kind of lightweight fantasy Christianity sets the parishioner up for a huge disappointment once the inevitable problem occurs. We all will suffer, like it are not. The Gospel of the cross and repentance prepares us, strengthens us and warns us. So when the cross meant for us is laid on us we know what to do and understand why the burden may not be lifted. Imagine the reaction, the disillusionment and resentment of the Osteen follower when it’s their turn to suffer. I expect they feel betrayed and used.

    Think about it. You love your children so you teach them to look out for the dangers of the world to be preapred. You can’t be their best buddy anf only tell them what they want to hear. You have to be a parent. You have to train them, prepare them for the trails they will face. Spiritually a pastor has a similar role. He must prepare his flock for trials and snares. One of those snares, maybe one of the most dangerous snares in fact, is the lure of wealth and worldly comfort. Very easy trap to fall into, and yet Osteen is leading people right into it.

  25. Memphis Aggie says

    Sorry for the spelling errors!

  26. Jan asked: “If you hear message after message that is 99% about you and your life and 1% about your sin and the seriousness of your alienation from God, how do you then convince them that REPENTANCE is an urgent matter that is important above all else in their lives?”

    I don’t convince them. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin. And I sincerely believe that if people come to Jesus for the wrong reasons, He is still the truth that will set them free. If someone prays to the Lord about anything, He doesn’t disappear because their motive is wrong. He is real, living, everpresent, and eager to express His love and forgiveness to those who come to Him. I don’t think when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor…” or “Whoever comes to Me I will by no means cast out,” that He makes an exception for people who are in poverty, don’t know how their kids are going to eat their next meal, and are encouraged by a preacher to pray about their finances and believe that the Lord will take care of them.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I think repentance is essential. But I’ve known people who prayed to the Lord for various reasons first, and the conviction of sin and repentance came later. I have one close friend in particular who turned her heart to the Lord while driving on the highway. She remembers it vividly. She called on His name and asked Him to be Lord of her life. After that she was baptized, and she would wake up every morning spending time with Him and reading His word. But it wasn’t until two years later that all of a sudden she realized that she was a terrible sinner, and that He had died in her place to receive God’s judgment, and so she thanked the Lord for dying for her on the cross. Was she saved before she actually realized she was a sinner, and specifically offered words of repentance? I would say “yes,” because her heart turned to the Lord, and she experienced Him coming in to live within her. I believe that the Lord honored her heart, and that His death on the cross was applied to her even though she didn’t fully understand it. Then, at the appropriate time, after she knew the Bible sufficiently, the Lord convicted her of sin and she repented. Some would say she was only truly saved at that moment, but I would disagree. “Whenever the heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.”

    I regret that in this comment thread and the other one (with the videos) it appears I’m an apologist for the prosperity gospel and for shallow theology. I’m really not. I would rather people spend all their time reading the Bible, and then the church fathers, the great Protestant teachers, etc. I would rather them listen to preachers who talked about Christ and the church, and who quoted Scripture constantly. I would rather no one sit in a chair in front of Osteen.

    What I’m wrestling with is, what about the people who honestly get help from the guy? What is it that Osteen has that the modern church (“evangelical” or otherwise) is not offering? Is it merely a sugarcoated pseudogospel? Is it just the old Dale Carnegie self-help stuff with a little bit of Christ added in? Or is it that some people need joy, and other Christians can’t help them find it? Some people need hope, and modern Christianity leaves them cold. Again, I’m not a fan of Osteen. But I’m reluctant to conclude that there is something evil about him, as opposed to something lacking. And if people do get saved in the midst of all the prosperity talk, that to me is no small thing. I don’t mean that it makes up for false teaching, I mean that if the Lord uses Osteen, we should be careful about saying, “Lord, You’re wrong, how dare You use such a man. Don’t you know he isn’t teaching the cross and repentance sufficiently?”

    If Osteen says anywhere that we don’t need to repent for sin, or if he were to deny the deity of Christ or the truth of the resurrection, then I would consider him a false teacher. But so far I haven’t heard anything that would lead me to that conclusion. Perhaps it’s because I don’t watch him enough to make an accurate assessment, and I don’t intend to. I 100% appreciate Mike and the commenters who insist that we must stand for the truth, and must fight against heretics and false teachers. But I’m also worried that the Lord might say to me or any one of us in that day, “Why did you call this man a heretic and a false teacher? Let Me show you his fruit.” I’d rather be safe, and let Osteen stand or fall before the God that he claims to serve.

    If any person, Mike or someone else, can give me an exact quote from Osteen that makes it clear he is a false teacher whom we as real Christians must oppose, I’m more than open.

  27. Fr. Ernesto, thank you for your informative post on monasticism. I sincerely appreciate your explanation.

    If I could follow up with you, with an honest question. I was once a member of a Christian group that was very extreme and sectarian in certain respects. (I apologize for mentioning this often in my comments, but it is an important part of my identity.) Those among us who were “consecrated” took the Nazarite vow and similar sections of the Bible very seriously. But in my experience, and in that of many others, it became a legalistic source of condemnation.

    For example, are movies okay? Is it okay to watch PG movies but not R ones? Or is an R movie okay if it has something important to teach? Is it okay to listen to music in the car? Is classical okay but rock is not? How about talk radio? Is it okay to pay attention to politics? Is it okay to own stocks? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Now you can imagine that this turns a person into a mental case. And although not everyone took it this far, there was an intensity among us individually and as a group that invited this kind of morbid introspection, with an overanalysis on whether our deeds were spiritual or not.

    I’m curious if you could comment on this. How does one stay consecrated to the Lord, living as a priest (even a Nazarite), remaining in society, without getting caught up in the legalisms that Paul taught us are of no effect? My own conclusion was that none of my own practice was genuinely spiritual, because it led to self-absorption rather than service to other people. And also, while I always felt guilty (“oops, I listened to a piece of music in the car and loved it too much, and so I touched ‘death'”), I never had the grace to stop the habits which I considered unspiritual.

    Perhaps this is the reason I have a knee-jerk reaction against monastic concepts, which is as strong as the reaction others have against prosperity teaching. And perhaps my negative experience in an exclusive sect leads me to an opposite extreme, which is a non-judgmental attitude towards people like Osteen. I recognize that this is not necessarily a good thing.

    Much grace to you, Fr. Ernesto. And Mike, I apologize if this seems like “thread jacking.” I hope that the previous paragraph makes it clear why I consider this comment relevant (in regards to Osteen).

  28. I’ve remained very open during the discussions concerning Olsteen as a false prophet. I’ve viewed the Larry King segment and I viewed a Billy Graham segment. Both Graham and Olsteen had the same answers concerning judging the hearts of others. Both left judgement to God. Finally I came across Dr. Terry Watkins and his Dial-The-Truth Ministry. Dr. Watkins is vicious in his judgement of Olsteen…and seemingly of many others whose ministries are different to his. I think the Alabama Dr. Watkins has much to account for in setting off this false prophet campaign against Olsteen’s ministry. I believe the same as King David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me to the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139: 24-24). READ ROMANS 8:26-27. If we can’t know even our own heart….how can we judge the heart of another. Being aware of the shallowness of prosperity gospel, or once-saved-always-saved gospel, or Rapture gospel when taken apart from rightly dividing the word…is one thing. But to brand a man as a false prophet and work to destroy his ministry is something else.

  29. “What I’m wrestling with is, what about the people who honestly get help from the guy? What is it that Osteen has that the modern church (”evangelical” or otherwise) is not offering?”

    At bottom, treebeard, I think the church exists to teach men about salvation, not to soothe them psychologically.

    iMonk mentioned that people of other faiths (or no faith) can be of great help to people in some respects. Everybody has some gift or insight that another might find useful. Why though, just because Osteen has himself a pulpit, do we have to imagine that what he is doing and saying is “Christian”? It manifestly isn’t. I think one big reason a guy like Osteen can consistently blindside us is that we’re so used to thinking of heresy in sensational terms – liberal theologians teaching people scandalous Christologies, guys like Todd Bentley who kick grandmas in the face, or whatever Holy Blood, Holy Grail says about Catholicism. We don’t see (and don’t want to see) how easy and pacific the Best false teachers are.

    I don’t think the Bible can’t reliably be telescoped into one particular purpose or ‘Message’ that anybody can understand; but the history of Protestantism is fraught with attempts to do just that. And many attempts to do that, no matter how flawed they are, are going to gain a lot of adherents (pre-mil dispensationalism, anyone?) Obviously, compressing an entire universe of faith-life questions into a curiosity satisficed by an axiom like “God blesses the faithful with wealth and happiness” is going to be popular. It’s psychologically reassuring. The Prosperity theological schemes order the universe, pare all that unintelligible massiveness into a few simple motions and polite truisms. Christ did not do that. Christians, who gather because of Christ, can’t give each other less because Everything came down from the cross. Everything came out of the grave with Jesus.

    The church doesn’t “offer” hope for material satisfaction and advice for living because that’s not what a community of faith in Jesus Christ produces, is, or does.

    The church is for discipleship, where we learn how to serve and how to pray, how to leash ourselves to the teachings of Christ and learn to encounter our sin and accept forgiveness through the work of the Cross. It’s our context for learning about the Bible and what it means to be Christian. Any assembly that doesn’t do that can’t claim to be a church, just an attending audience with a charismatic speaker. Any pastor that isn’t, doesn’t, or can’t do that alongside his church is not really a preacher of the Gospel – he’s just giving talks. The full Gospel is more than just talk.

    The guy doesn’t even tell people about Jesus the way you would, and he’s supposed to be this Real Deal preacher. How lame is that?

    Osteen’s not, in a meaningful sense, a preacher. He’s not a proclaimer of the Gospel. He’s a telethon host. He offers the same exact thing that Oprah offers: nothing, actually.

    If iMonk thinks the guy is slimy, and I can tell he’s way more serious about telling people about Jesus than I am… I’ll take his word for it.

  30. Dear Michael (and readers):
    On a page related to this topic, Michael mentioned that some feel drawn toward Rome because “Marian dogmas” and Purgatory are preferable to many who are offended by the excesses of independent “Christian” religionists. Indeed.
    I am Orthodox, and we do venerate the Mother of God, but do not hold the innovation of “Immaculate Conception” as canonical. We also do not accept a doctrine of Purgatory.
    We recite the Nicene Creed (sans the filioque clause) in Liturgy.
    I wanted to say that the choice is not just between the Western, Roman Church and Protestant communions. Until 1054 AD the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics were, after a fashion, all of the same confession. Sadly, the West continued to innovate and Scholasticism acquired more importance to Churchmen than it deserved.
    While I would not encourage Christians who are not uncomfortable reciting the Nicene Creed (even if it is not a part of their respective liturgies) to investigate Orthodoxy, I believe that many Americans today are being deceived by pseudo-Christian organizations and would do well to consider historic Christianity.
    I don’t say facetiously that Joel Osteen himself should buy the Hendrickson Publishers’ set of the Church Fathers’ writings, edited by the great Philip Schaff, and read them. Certainly, those who are unfamiliar with the Fathers will be astounded by the consistency of the Patristic consensus, across geography, culture, and time. Even hardened heretics are sometimes converted to authentic Christianity, once they understand it.
    The Gospel of Christ our God is not a “gospel” of prosperity, but of poverty. Christians are called to renounce the world, mortify the flesh, and resist the devil, for those are the enemies of our souls.
    The “charismatics” are practicing a heresy that dates, at least, to Tertullian’s time. But the neo-Montanists have abandoned chastity and separation from the world, and so combine the worst features of old and new in one. This confluence of pagan ecstasy and love of Mammon may be all-American, but it is definitely anti-Christian.

  31. Here’s an interesting way to look at things concerning Joel.

    It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
    Philippians 1:15-18 (NIV)

  32. Has this been posted yet? The Larry King interview? It sort of sealed the deal for me…


    or watch snippets here (unbelievable!):

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