The 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.
5. 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.