i promise not to start posting only links to someone else, but i ran across this blog of the internet monk ("imonk") , michael spencer, courtesy of justin taylor's blog.
spencer writes again of his concern of the harm that joel osteen's "ministry" is causing by presenting "religion" as a self-esteem/self-help method.
i do occasionally watch osteen's program, because i disagree with a lot of what he says, and how he says it. i watch because i want to accurately present his teachings and philosophies when i explain why i disagree. i do not and will not ever recommend joel osteen to anyone, not even for leisure reading or watching/listening.
some may wonder why i would speak out against joel osteen when he has a large church (lakewood church meets in a former n.b.a. arena, seating over 16,000, with, as of june 2005, over 30,000 attendance each weekend)). after all, if so many people are buying his books and attending his church, what harm is that? at least they are hearing/reading about the gospel, right?
maybe we shouldnt be so quick to assume that because someone is a pastor of a "christian" church, that they are preaching the gospel.
consider these excerpts from a 2005 larry king interview: (my comments in bold)
KING: ...we've had ministers on who said,
your record doesn't count. You either believe in
Christ or you don't. If you believe in Christ,
you are, you are going to heaven. And if you
don't no matter what you've done in your life, you ain't.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I don't know. There's probably a balance
between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think
that if you know Christ, if you're a believer in God,
you're going to have some good works. I think it's a
cop-out to say I'm a Christian but I don't ever do anything ...
KING: What if you're Jewish or Muslim,
you don't accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I'm very careful about saying
who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ?
They're wrong, aren't they?
OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong.
I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the
Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think
that only God will judge a person's heart. I spent a lot
of time in India with my father. I don't know all about
their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know.
I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me,
and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth
and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (john 14:6)
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved;
but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (mark 16:16)
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe
has been judged already, because he has not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God. (john 3:16-18)
KING:...people call you cotton candy theology.
Someone said you're very good but there's
no spiritual nourishment. I don't know
what that means ...
OSTEEN: I think, I hear it meaning a lot of different
things. One I think a lot of it is that I'm not condemning
people. And I don't know, but Larry I talk, I mean
every week in our church we're dealing with people
that are fighting cancer, that have their lost loved ones.
That are going through a divorce. I mean, I talk about
those issues, and to me I don't see how it can get any
more, you know, real than that. So I don't know what
the criticism is.
KING: What is the prosperity gospel?
OSTEEN: I think the prosperity gospel in general is
-- well I don't know. I hear it too. I don't know.
I think what sometimes you see is it's just all
about money. That's not what I believe. It's the
attitude of your heart, and so you know, we believe --
but I do believe this, that God wants us to be blessed.
He wants us to be able to send our kids to college, excel
in our careers. But prosperity to me, Larry, is not just
money, it's having health. What good is money
if you don't have health?
KING: Also many in the Christian belief are wary
of too much material, aren't they?
OSTEEN: Yeah, I think some of them are. But to me,
you know, I hope people get blessed if they can handle
it right. Because it takes money to do good. You know
to do things for people. To spread the good news. So I
think it's all a matter of your heart.
it takes money to do good?
and i do believe that god wants what is best for us. him. but it does not follow that god's will for everyone is for their kids to go to college, or for us to make a lot of money at our job. what if he wants us to sell everything we have and move with our kids to a foreign country or inner city and spend our lives in relative poverty sharing the gospel? does that mean god doesnt have a good plan for us?
KING: How about issues that the church
has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
OSTEEN: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don't
go there. I just ...
KING: You have thoughts, though.
OSTEEN: I have thoughts. I just, you know,
I don't think that a same-sex marriage is the
way God intended it to be. I don't think
abortion is the best. I think there are other,
you know, a better way to live your life. But
I'm not going to condemn those people. I tell them
all the time our church is open for everybody.
KING: You don't call them sinners?
OSTEEN: I don't.
KING: Is that a word you don't use?
OSTEEN: I don't use it. I never thought about it.
But I probably don't. But most people already
know what they're doing wrong. When I get them
to church I want to tell them that you can change.
There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go
down the road of condemning.
KING: You believe in the Bible literally?
OSTEEN: I do, I do.
out of the many things that grab my attention in this segment, is the statement "but most people probably already know what they are doing wrong"
granted, people who are doing the "big" sins (stealing, murder, adultery, etc.) probably are aware at some level that they shouldn't be doing those things. but for the most part, our culture is saturated with a mentality of "im a pretty good person". what about lust, lying, gossip, "filthy talk", watching programs or movies with nudity and suggestive material, premarital sex between partners that "really love each other"? the book of james reminds us that whoever fails in one aspect of the law fails in the whole law (2:10).
but more than that, there are millions of people who want us to know that homosexuality is not only "not wrong", but perfectly acceptable and "normal". millions of dollars a year are spent in campaigns built on the right for women to choose to kill a baby inside of them. they say that not only is it "not wrong", but everyone should feel the same way about it.
sin is a major problem, the major problem, in the world. to assume that people already know what they are doing is wrong, is to segment the gospel and discard the part that emphasizes our need FOR the gospel.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. You're the best, and thank you,
Joe -- Joel -- for your positive messages and your book.
I'm wondering, though, why you side-stepped
Larry's earlier question about how we get to heaven?
The bible clearly tells us that Jesus is the way, the
truth and the light and the only way to the father is
through him. That's not really a message of condemnation
but of truth.
OSTEEN: Yes, I would agree with her. I believe that...
KING: So then a Jew is not going to heaven?
OSTEEN: No. Here's my thing, Larry, is I can't
judge somebody's heart. You know? Only god can
look at somebody's heart, and so -- I don't know.
To me, it's not my business to say, you know, this
one is or this one isn't. I just say, here's what the
bible teaches and I'm going to put my faith in Christ.
And I just I think it's wrong when you go around
saying, you're saying you're not going, you're not
going, you're not going, because it's not exactly
my way. I'm just...
KING: But you believe your way.
OSTEEN: I believe my way. I believe my way
with all my heart.
KING: But for someone who doesn't share it is wrong, isn't he?
OSTEEN: Well, yes. Well, I don't know if I look at it like that.
I would present my way, but I'm just going to let god be the
judge of that. I don't know. I don't know.
KING: So you make no judgment on anyone?
OSTEEN: No. But I...
KING: What about atheists?
OSTEEN: You know what, I'm going to let someone --
I'm going to let god be the judge of who goes to heaven
and hell. I just -- again, I present the truth, and I say
it every week. You know, I believe it's a relationship with
Jesus. But you know what? I'm not going to go around telling
everybody else if they don't want to believe that that's going
to be their choice. God's got to look at your own heart.
God's got to look at your heart, and only god knows that.
the correct answer is :"the bible is the word of god, and it clearly states that the only salvation is found in jesus christ. to deny christ as lord is to spend an eternity in hell receiving the just punishment of a sinner. those who place their faith in christ have had their punishment paid for by christ on the cross, therefore their "wage of sin" have been paid out, and the one covered by the righteousness of grace will enter the kingdom of god."
of course no one wants to arbitrarily say " this person is saved, this person is not". but we can confidently say what the bible says. it is not being "judgemental" to answer "who will go to heaven?" with what the bible says.
a university is not being judgemental by not allowing high school dropouts with no g.e.d. into their school. if the requirement is not met, then then there is no admission.
and from an interview with cbs' harry smith:
After reading his book, and watching his sermons,
Smith said that the message seems to be about
God and perhaps a little less about Christ than
one might expect from and evangelical preacher.
"I don't think I do it purposefully because my whole
basis of Christianity is Christ and the message of the cross,
" Osteen said. "When my father died, I thought
, 'I'm going to make a decision: be who I am supposed to be.
' My dad was raised Southern Baptist. I'm not loud.
I'm more laid back. I feel like my gift is talking about
everyday issues, overcoming the past, not being selfish
and having a good attitude. I just try to tie the Bible
principles into that."
we dont use the bible as a reference book to justify our own agenda.
a pastor and preacher should preach the word of god and plead with his hearers to conform to it.
the word of god is not a suggestion book for "how to have a good life", although it does contain the good news. it is a book of god commanding us to live an obedient life. there is a difference.
the gospel is this. we are sinners. everyone of us. and because we are sinners we deserve an eternity enduring the wrath of god. christ came and lived a perfectly righteous life, keeping and fulfilling the law in every aspect. those who place their faith in christ have their just payment of the wrath of god "paid in full" on behalf of christ, and his righteousness is credited to our "account". it is only by faith in christ alone and his saving work on the cross that we are saved.
if people do not know that their sin is deserving of death, then they will not understand their need for a savior. if they never hear about sin, then they will never understand that they deserve death.
lest i be misunderstood, and painted as someone who is just "out to get" joel osteen, let me say this. i have no vendetta against joel osteen as a person. there are people out there who intentionally corrupt the gospel for selfish gain. i do not feel that this is joel's motive or purpose. i believe that he thinks what he is doing is harmless, and probably very helpful.
but that doesnt make him any less dangerous.
ignoring sin and focusing on how to be a better, husband, father, employee, etc. is not the gospel.
speaking on self-esteem is not the gospel.
you can live a successful life, make a lot of money, have a lot of good memories, have healthy successful kids who love you, feel great about yourself, and die and go straight to hell.
do the people who attend joel's church and read his book know that?
i pray that they will.