Mamby, pamby stuff

I was flipping through the channels the other night and caught the end of the Joel Osteen interview on 60 Minutes. Nothing that I heard changed my opinion of the man. Actually, my view of him has been confirmed. Joel Osteen teaches a mamby, pamby theology of nothingness.

That might sound harsh but it's the truth. If you can bear it, tune in to one of the broadcasts of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, and tell me what you hear. "This will the best year of your life." "There is hope for you just the way you are." "Never allow yourself to be pulled down again." This may sound nice on the surface, but there is nothing deeper than this in his sermons. He simply just doesn't (or won't) dig into the truth of God's Word.

There's probably a good reason for that. If Joel Osteen did dig into God's Word then he would lose most of his following. If Joel Osteen did preach biblical truth then those listening would hear that we have a sin problem and that we aren't good enough to get to God on our own. They would hear sermons on the penalty of sin and our need for redemption by way of the cross and the condition of the lost in our world. But they won't hear that from the pulpit at Lakewood Church and that's just the way that Joel Osteen wants it.

My mom sent me a link to a blogger from Houston who gives insight into the phenomenon which is Joel Osteen and this guy includes a great segment from J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. When you read this you will see even more clearly what is wrong with the teachings of Joel Osteen and others like him. Here's a taste of what Machen writes:

Although remarkably gifted at the social psychology of television, Joel Osteen is hardly unique. In fact, his explicit drumbeat of prosperity (word-faith) teaching is communicated in the terms and the ambiance that might be difficult to distinguish from most megachurches. Joel Osteen is the next generation of the health-and-wealth gospel. This time, it’s mainstream. [. . .]

This is what we might call the false gospel of “God-Loves-You-Anyway.” . . . God is our buddy. He just wants us to be happy, and the Bible gives us the roadmap.

I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst. In a way, it sounds like atheism: Imagine there is no heaven above us or hell below us, no necessary expectation that Christ “will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead” and establish perfect peace in the world. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find anything in this message that would be offensive to a Unitarian, Buddhist, or cultural Christians who are used to a diet of gospel-as-American-Dream. Disney’s Jiminy Cricket expresses this sentiment: “If you wish upon a star, all your dreams will come true.”

To be clear, I’m not saying that it is atheism, but that it sounds oddly like it in this sense: that it is so bound to a this-worldly focus that we really do not hear anything about God himself—his character and works in creation, redemption, or the resurrection of the body and the age to come. . . . Despite the cut-aways of an enthralled audience with Bibles opened, I have yet to hear a single biblical passage actually preached. Is it possible to have evangelism without the evangel? Christian outreach without a Christian message? [. . .]

. . . “How can I be right with God?” is no longer a question when my happiness rather than God’s holiness is the main issue. My concern is that Joel Osteen is simply the latest in a long line of self-help evangelists who appeal to the native American obsession with pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Salvation is not a matter of divine rescue from the judgment that is coming on the world, but a matter of self-improvement in order to have your best life now.


What's wrong with being happy? What's wrong with having hope? What's wrong with feeling good about yourself? Nothing, as long as you understand it comes from what God has done for us through the cross of Jesus Christ and not from some self-help mantra that we chant under the guise of authentic Christianity. We have a sin problem. This problem keeps us from knowing God. Jesus is the solution to this problem. Belief upon Christ is what connects us to God. Only then are we truly happy or do we have hope. This is truly beyond ourselves to make happen.

Osteen is heard in an interview saying that his new book will make it into more homes than his TV ministry ever could. That scares me! Millions of people will get caught up in the "I'm good enough and God thinks I'm okay" mentality that they might not ever repent of their sins and surrender their lives to Christ. Anyone who leads people to this is indeed a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's time for the truth to rip this sheep's costume off.

2 comments:

Neil said...

I think it is becoming known as Prosperity Gospel?? You would know more than I, but what about T.D. Jakes and his new book? Isn't it the same?

Sterling Griggs said...

Yeah, anything that espouses a "health and wealth" or a "name it and claim it" teaching philosophy is definitely this prosperity gospel movement. What's sad is that there is no teaching on sin and repentance, only on what one can get out of God. Osteen, unfortunately, is rapidly growing in his popularity.

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