For those of you who are not Bad Early- 00’s Movie aficionados, the title is a reference to a scene from Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, the audio of which has inexplicably been dubbed over a Rick Perry campaign ad here:
Joel Osteen, as you probably know, is a very popular preacher stationed in Texas. He has his message played on multiple television and radio stations worldwide. He has a charming smile of near-Osmund family proportions (see above).
Here’s the thing: much of what Osteen preaches is not Christian thought. It is, in fact, mostly New Age metaphysics repackaged for mass Christian consumption. You find more detailed information elsewhere, but I’m just going to hit the high points. Because, you know, something to do with the internet and short attention spans.
1. Everything centers on YOU
The Traditional View
God is the eternal uncaused first cause. The focus of the Christian life should be on God. Jesus told us that of the two most important commandments, the most important was to love and serve the Lord our God. The primary focus of the Christian life is on God, and the secondary focus is on others. We are not called to be self-serving, but to put others’ needs above our own for the glory of God. We may own great wealth, but that wealth, like all other aspects of our lives, are to be devoted to furthering the kingdom of God in humility and servitude.
Almost all of Osteen’s books are nothing more than self-help manuals, with topics that are distinctly self-serving: how YOU can have a better life, how YOU can be more fulfilled, how YOU can be more prosperous. Osteen encourages his readers to help others, but seemingly only as a means to increased self-satisfaction. This fits right in with the general American idea of self-promotion, self- actualization, self-aggrandizement, and self- fulfillment. This is not the Gospel; this is the Gospel Americana, tailored perfectly to a waiting audience.
2. Everything is YOUR fault
The Traditional View
The Christian understanding of life and God is that God is in control of everything and, at the same time, we have free will (unless you’re a Calvinist; then you just ignore that second part). As part of God’s ineffable and sovereign design, because of the fall of man in the Garden, sometimes bad things happen. Furthermore, sometimes these bad things happen to people who do not deserve such misfortune. Nowhere in the Bible do we find the prophets, Jesus, or any of the disciples saying anything about Christians/followers of God being exempt from hardship or suffering. In fact, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that to follow Him is to invite suffering (e.g., Mt 5:10). We suffer because of the fallen state of the universe, not necessarily because of our own personal failures.
Osteen’s father fully embraced the heretical Word of Faith teachings of the likes of Kenneth Copeland. Osteen himself has endorsed the errant Word of Faith movement. Check out this quote:
“You’ve got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. There is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and seeing God’s favor manifested in your life. And some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You are living a holy consecrated life, but you’re not really experiencing God’s supernatural favor. And it’s simply because you’re not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.” (Audio clip from Bible Answer-Man Broadcast, April 26, 2004).
This is nothing more than the idea that faith is force, words are the containers of that force, and that by shaping your words you can create your own reality. This is NOT Christian, despite the Christian-sounding language.
3. The Mass Christian Mega-Church
Let me make a quick disclaimer: the mega-church is NOT heresy, the mega-church is NOT Osteen’s invention, and the mega-church is NOT a reason to cause a split within the Christian faith. However, it is, for various and sundry reasons, dangerous and misguided. Others disagree; let them.
The Traditional View
As believers, we are to congregate with one another. We are to come together in fellowship, and celebrate the holy sacraments (baptism, marriage, communion) arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand. We should emulate, as much as possible, the early church as described in the book of Acts and the later epistles. The church should be a place of intimacy, love, fellowship, and community. Church does not exist to present a spectacle or entertainment. Church is for the edification of the body of believers and mutual accountability among brothers and sisters in the faith.
This is the goal.
There is no sense of community in a place this large (if you’ve been in a large church, you’ll already know this), only an enhanced sense of isolation because of the sheer number of people. That thing in the middle, despite the polished, immaculate steps, is not an altar. It’s a stage. It’s a stage in the middle of a stadium, with jumbo-tron screens designed to draw attention to Osteen’s face. I cannot be convinced that this was the good Lord’s intention for His people.
Now, some may accuse Osteen’s critics of causing disunity in the church. Others will say that if he’s not harming anything leave him be. Let me answer both charges. If we’re to hold fast to the Truth, then we as believers must divide from those who are not committed to the truth. We must distance ourselves from this “fast-food Christianity.” As for Osteen’s doing no harm, consider the emotional, spiritual, and physical torture that people who hold to his Word of Faith dogma must go through. Sick? You need to have more faith. Poor? It’s because you’re not loving God enough. Going to the doctor? That’s a sign of weak faith. Lies ALWAYS have consequences, and we cannot turn a blind eye to them.