Joel Osteen: Heretic?

By: Cal in Church

A friend wondered if I had seen the segment on the 60 Minutes TV program last Sunday about Joel Osteen, Sr. Pastor of perhaps the largest church in America and what I thought of it. Yes, we watched that segment. Mr Osteen is very, very good at what he does. He is a smooth, personable and passionate speaker and has reached millions (?) through his TV and radio shows, Conferences and books including more than 40,000 people every weekend at his church in Houston, Texas! Amazing. One person interviewed in the segment for his analysis of Mr Osteen was a noted Reformed Theologian, Michael Horton.

Dr Horton described Mr. Osteen’s message as “cotton candy Gospel”- God is nice and wants to be nice to us. He claimed Mr. Osteen is preaching heresy: God is a resource to help each of us realize our potential, to be all we can be. Mr. Osteen message is all about us, not about God.

Well, the Statement of Faith of Lakewood Church is one that most every evangelical today would be comfortable with. I presume, as the Pastor, Mr Osteen agrees with it and does not contradict it in his preaching or books. That would make him an evangelical to most people. I have never heard Mr Osteen preach nor have I read any of his books so I can not say if he is heretical in his doctrine. I suspect that it is his interpretation of the last of the doctrines in his church’s Statement that is at issue here.

“WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us” (death URL)

As always- definitions! The Statement is true as it stands. I gather Mr. Osteen majors on this more than the other Doctrines in the Statement and the issue of contention is the definition of “experience the abundant life”. For some this could lead to preaching what is called the “Health, Wealth and Prosperity” Gospel. That is a false Gospel.

Sadly, many of today’s evangelicals in churches everywhere would value and enjoy Mr. Osteen’s message and see nothing heretical in it. No, Mr Osteen is apparently not preaching the classic Gospel in his sermons (especially the reality of sin and the need for repentance, forgiveness and regeneration as well as a call to righteous living). Actually, I suspect that many evangelical Pastors are not preaching the classic Gospel either. Mr. Osteen is giving people what they want and he does it bigger and better than most. There are many other men and women Speakers and “Bible Teachers”, who are very popular among evangelicals with the same positive message, using it to give people inspiration, hope and confidence. Many Pastors are attempting to do the same as he does. It is what people perceive they need. All that, not just Mr. Osteen, is very disturbing to me. I just keep doing what I do. Each servant of the Lord will one day answer to the Lord for how he has served Him. Hopefully, the classic Gospel will yet prevail.