Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michael Horton on Osteen's Gospel of "God Loves You Anyway"

In connection with Michael Horton's appearance on 60 Minutes' segment on Joel Osteen, The White Horse Inn is offering a free audio download of a program that addressed faith and the gospel. Dr. Horton's opening commentary on Joel Osteen's message is outstanding. Here's a transcribed excerpt (which I later realized is taken from Horton's essay "Joel Osteen and the Glory Story: A Case Study"):
Instead of accepting God's just verdict on our own righteousness and fleeing to Christ for justification, Osteen counsels readers to just reject guilt and condemnation all together. Quote: 'If you will simply obey His commands, He will change things in your favor. God is keeping a record of every good deed you've ever done. In your time of need, because of your generosity, God will move heaven and earth to make sure you're taken care of.'

Now, it may be Law-Lite but make no mistake about it, behind a smiling boomer evangelicalism that eschews any talk of God's wrath or justice there's a determination to assimilate the gospel to law, an announcement of victory to a call to be victorious, indicatives to imperatives, good news to good advice. The bad news may not be as bad as it used to be, but the good news is just a softer version of the bad news. The sting of the law may be taken out of the message but that only means that the gospel has become a less demanding, more encouraging law whose exhortations are only meant to make us happy, not to measure us against God's holiness.

So while many supporters offer testimonials to his kinder, gentler version of Christianity than the legalistic scolding of their youth, the only real difference is that he smiles when he says it. In its therapeutic milieu, the sins we need to avoid are failing to live up to our potential and failing to believe in ourselves and the wages of such sins is missing out on our best life now.
The audio also includes a conversation with D. A. Carson about the newly formed Gospel Coalition


Anonymous said...

This is a thoughtful piece and am glad to have read it. How can I get my friends to chew on this? :)

KP said...

Assuming they're Osteen fans, tell them it isn't bogged down with a lot of useless doctrine and theology and that reading it will be a blessing ;-)