Monday, October 15, 2007

Joel Osteen Making the Network Rounds

Joel Osteen was on Good Morning America today promoting his new book, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day. His wife, Victoria, is scheduled to make an appearance on tomorrow's broadcast. The strong of stomach can view a video of the segment here. In a brief interview, Robin Roberts asked Osteen's wife how they met. Victoria recounted that fateful day when Joel came into her family's jewelry store to buy a battery for his watch and added "He says I've been taking his money ever since." To make sure that viewers understand that this was an attempt at humor, Victoria explained with seemingly nervous laughter, "That's his joke." I agree, Mrs. Osteen. That was awkward.

Reading the comments at GMA's site I learned that Osteen was the subject of a 60 Minutes segment last night (video and transcript available here). This is more in-depth than the GMA piece. If you can only watch one, watch this one. No softball questions here. Reporter Byron Pitts points out, for example, that none of the seven principles laid out in Osteen's new book, mention God or Jesus Christ. Osteen replies:
"That's just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I'm called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, 'Here’s a book that's going to explain the scriptures to you.' I don’t think that’s my gifting." So, the pastor of America's largest church, who is influencing people around the globe, admits that he is not a gifted Bible teacher?

The 60 Minutes piece also includes an interview with Westminster West's Michael Horton who calls Osteen's message a "cotton candy gospel" that can be summarized as "God is nice, you're nice, be nice."

Coincidentally, this morning someone left a comment on a two-year old Osteen-related post in which he claims to have attended Lakewood Church for almost two months while visiting the US from Africa. Jorge contends that, contrary to critics, Osteen does preach Jesus and salvation while admitting that Osteen plays down "other aspect[s] of Christianity" such as the doctrine of hell. There's no doubt that Osteen preaches a Jesus (as did false teachers in Corinth) and a salvation from such things as poverty, negative thoughts, and low self-esteem. But to the extent that he de-emphasizes human sin, divine holiness, the necessity of repentance and faith, and the mediating work of Christ, he is preaching neither the biblical Jesus nor the biblical message of salvation by grace through faith.

UPDATE: Tim Challies reviews Osteen's new book. I think Tim is right about the reason for Osteen's mass appeal:

I think the secret to Osteen's success is this: he teaches self-help but wraps it in a thin guise of Christian terminology. Thus people believe they are being taught the Bible when the reality is that they are learning mere human wisdom rather than divine wisdom. Osteen cunningly blends the wisdom of this age with language that sounds biblical. He blends the most popular aspects of New Age and self-help teaching with Christianity. And his audience is eagerly drinking this in.
Had I done any blog reading over the weekend I would have learned about the 60 Minutes interview from Justin Taylor who points to a series of essays titled "Joel Osteen and the Glory Story: A Case Study" written by Michael Horton after his interview with the news program.

Michael Spencer hits the proverbial nail on the head in his reactions to the 60 Minutes piece:

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 a heretic, 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.

1 comment:

Big D said...

Great blog. I wonder how many people that are going to his church have church in them..........