I’m using the term ‘bashing’ in an Australian colloquial way: “to relentlessly criticise or pursue, eg; bible bashing means to forcefully evangelise.” So please don’t be offended by my controversial title – I hope Joel is doing well.
I don’t really have a lot to say about Joel. I’ve never met the guy, but thanks to 10 years experience in ‘Word Faith’ I do understand where he is coming from and why he says what he says. I now know that this ministry is something worthy of being concerned about. I want to share an article that could be most helpful if you’ve managed to see the 60 Minutes story on JO. Please focus on the practical implications of his popularity and poor gospel message.
The full article is available at the Westminster Seminary:
“Law-Lite”: Salvation From Unhappiness By Doing Your Best
There is no condemnation in Osteen’s message for failing to fulfill God’s righteous law. On the other hand, there is no justification. Instead of either message, there is an upbeat moralism that is somewhere in the middle: Do your best, follow the instructions I give you, and God will make your life successful. “Don’t sit back passively,” he warns, but with a gentle pleading suggests that the only reason we need to follow his advice is because it’s useful for getting what we want. God is a buddy or partner who exists primarily to make sure we are happy. “You do your part, and God will do his part.” (2) “Sure we have our faults,” he says, but “the good news is, God loves us anyway.” (3) Instead of accepting God’s just verdict on our own righteousness and fleeing to Christ for justification, Osteen counsels readers simply to reject guilt and condemnation.(4) Yet it is hard to do that successfully when God’s favor and blessing on my life depend entirely on how well I can put his commands to work. “If you will simply obey his commands, He will change things in your favor.”(5) That’s all: “…simply obey his commands.”
Michael S. Horton (2007) Joel Osteen and the Glory Story: A Case Study
If you think that this is a harsh criticism, here is a quote from a ‘pro-Osteen’ article linked from Osteen’s website which praises his message and what it is achieving:
“Few individuals have been as successful as Joel in spreading God’s word,” stated Young. “Joel understands today’s culture and that messages of damnation and of a vengeful God no longer resonate with an overstressed society that already believes they are living in Hell daily.
“Instead, Joel tells people that if they draw closer to God that their lives will be better. This is a message that our society is eager to embrace. Who doesn’t seek a fuller life on earth?”
Osteen calls himself a motivator who preaches a message of hope and tells people they can live a good life no matter what’s happened.
So unfortunately, many people could embrace Osteenism but never encounter biblical teaching on salvation and how God requires His people to respond in faith in Christ alone and to forsake and turn from sin. The tragedy for Osteenites is that they may think they are of Christ, but they have never embraced Christ as Lord and Saviour.