Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Joel Osteen Dances With A King

The following transcript is an excerpt from a Larry King interview with bestselling author and mega church pastor, Joel Osteen. This interview was conducted in 2005. Millions of Christians purchase Mr. Osteen's books and devotedly view his weekly television show. I would like for you to read this interview and consider it in the light of Romans 1:16,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 
How do you suppose the Apostle Paul, if he could’ve been given such a forum, such a world stage as “The Larry King Show,” would have handled these questions? Do you think he would have answered Mr. King differently?

KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?
OSTEEN: I don't think it's that hard. To me it's fun. We have joy and happiness. Our family--I don't feel like that at all. I'm not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. I'm just living my life.

KING: But you have rules, don't you?
OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To live a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But that's really the essence of the Christian faith.

KING: That we live in deeds?
OSTEEN: I don't know. What do you mean by that?

KING: Because we've had ministers on who said, your record don'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 with Jesus.

Where to begin? Let’s start with a major mistake in categories. I am thinking of those all-important categories of “Law” and “Gospel.” Mr. Osteen confuses or conflates the two. Biblically, the Law is what God requires of us and the Gospel is what God accomplishes for us in the Person and work of His Son.

Mr. Osteen knows no such distinction. Rather, he says the “essence of the Christian faith” is to “not be selfish” and to “help others.” Loved one, this is not anywhere near to being the essence of the Christian faith. The essence of the Christian faith is the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who He was and is and what He did on our behalf.

“Do not be selfish. Help others.” This is the non-gospel message of Mr. Osteen. This is the non-gospel of  justification by niceness. [“Justification” is a theological word never used by Osteen.] “Be good!” is not the Gospel. For that matter, it’s not even the Law. It’s what Michael Horton dubs: Law-lite.

Mr. Osteen’s non-gospel message epitomizes Richard Niebuhr’s description of the “gospel” according to theological liberalism: “God without wrath brought men without sin, into a world without judgment, through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

No, Mr. Osteen is not a liberal theologian. (In fact, he is a theologian only in the loosest sense of the word.) But his non-gospel message, in the final analysis, brings us to precisely the same point as the liberalism of old--Christless “Christianity.” How sad, how absurd, that a Christ denying talk show host, Larry King, seems to grasp the reality of the situation better than the mega church pastor and religious author, Joel Osteen.

Which brings us to our next and last observation: Point blank, Mr. King queries Mr. Osteen concerning the eternal destiny of those who “don't accept Christ at all.” Rather than lovingly and unflinchingly preach Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, Mr. Osteen feebly responds: “I don’t know.

Mr. King presses further: “They're wrong, aren't they?” Rather than make the most of this second opportunity, Mr. Osteen yet again squeamishly utters: “I don’t know.” In this short transcript I count Mr. Osteen say “I don’t know” seven times. The ignorance or pretended ignorance is astounding. Do you know what’s even more astounding? The fact that millions of believers in Jesus look to such teachers for spiritual guidance. What does this say of the condition of the Church in the West?

Where is the certainty born of the conviction that the Bible is God’s sure, eternal, and everlasting Word? We need servants of Christ who know and know that they know. I’m not talking about the certainty born of ignorance; but the certainty which comes from knowing and understanding God’s word.

We need servants of the Lord who recognize that the source of spiritual authority and truth does not reside in the individual or person but in the scripture. We desperately need men and women cut from the same cloth as the Apostles, Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Spurgeon. May God grant that you and I be that kind of person with that quality of passion and conviction--that type of person rightly labeled long ago: Christian.


  1. You are being gracious to even refer to Osteen as a preacher. He's a self-help motivational speaker who uses the Bible as a prop and mentions Jesus infrequently enough to not offend any of the goats. There is no way anyone would hear the gospel from his lips. He would choke getting the words out.

    And yet - Paul Washer in a quote sometime back said (paraphrasing to the best of my recollection) that rather than leading people astray as we might assume, in fact he and preachers like him are God's judgment on the audience. They're there to hear this pseudo-Christian non-gospel pablum, and they're soaking it up, loving every second. They want to be like Osteen - rich and phony. That's why they're there in the first place.

    I have a dear older ostensibly Christian couple who keep talking about how they like him. Finally one day I just had enough, and unloaded as gently as I could, which probably came across as harsh to their ears. I said he is a false prophet if any at all. They seemed a little taken aback. But if that's what it takes to slap a little discernment into them, fine.

    I'm still learning, but even as a weak, misguided Christian-ish person, I could spot Osteen as a phony.

    I'm just sayin' ...

  2. Indeed! We're all still learning, aren't we? May we always be students in the school of Christ.

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. Osteen's 'gospel' does not easily offend the world. The message he preaches is easy to follow and makes one feel good about oneself just as Alcohol temporially alleviates pain. The message Christ gives us is difficult to follow and we all fail in one sense or another as none are fully sanctified and all sin. Who we are, positionally, in the Christ of the Gospel, compared to who we talk ourselves into being in the Christ of Osteen are two very different people. Christ of the Gospel gives us a renewed, transformed life. The Christ of Osteen gives us positive thoughts to get us through the day and make us "successful" in the eyes of the world. We must preach the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Feel Good About Yourself. I pray that those who follow Osteen will study the Word for themselves, and as Osteen ask his TV viewers to do at the end of his telecast; get into a Bible beliving Church. May we never be ashamed of the Gospel. May we pray that Joel, when presented with these opportunities again, will die to himself,and preach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone!

  4. Amen, Adam!
    Thank you for reading and commenting.
    Soli Deo Gloria!