Now reader Al Stout emailed me a link to an Adams column titled John 14:6 for Dummies. The burden of the column is (A) the clear exclusivism of the New Testament in general, and of Jesus in particular; (B) what a horrid botch Joel Osteen made of (what should have been) a simple question from Larry King; and (C) the fact that Osteen's bumble could only be explained as concern for loss of book sales, or concern for loss of church members. That is, if Osteen stood foursquare with Jesus and the apostles, he'd lose popularity.
Of course, I agree with Adams about the clarity of the New Testament on this issue.
February of 2005, I was ringing a bell about Osteen (alerted in part, in fact, by the late Michael Spencer). Since then, there have been many more mentions of Osteen at my place and elsewhere. So if Adams is just arriving, he's more than welcome.
I'm not sure that Adams' two guesses are the only ones, though. They're certainly possible. They're also cheap and easy. Everyone always says that money and desire to be popular explain everything. They do explain a lot, and — who knows? — maybe they also explain everything when it comes to Osteen.
But I'd suggest a possible explanation number 3: maybe Osteen was just ignorant of what the Bible teaches.
If so, I hasten to add, it is a fully culpable ignorance. My point is only that, to get where Osteen has gotten, he didn't need much Bible. He isn't where he is because of his proficiency in teaching the Bible, right? Do you have the impression that Osteen's supporters demand much Bible from him? So maybe ol' Joel just really hasn't had to know much about the Bible.
Think about it just a moment longer before you tell me how wrong I am. Suppose you want to be rich and powerful like Joel Osteen. What might be your list of requirements?
- Well-known father with a name you can launch from.
- Decent looks.
- Dazzling smile.
- Winsome manner.
- Giving people what they want. Specifically
- Ability to give happy, uplifting, motivational talks.
Here's where I'm going with this.
First, a man who cannot enunciate the Gospel nor teach the word is in no Biblical sense a faithful pastor. I made that case in 2005, and don't have much to add. But...
Second, while I blame Osteen for his own failures and defects, I blame professed Christians for him being an issue.
Or say, even apart from detailed questions, what if Christians had dropped into his church and then seriously asked, "Is that what the Bible teaches?" — and then hit the Book to find the answer?
What would have happened, in either case? Without repentance, Joel Osteen would never even have achieved blip status. We would not be talking about him today, not among Christians. We would not even know his name.
You all know that I blame individuals who enter the pulpit without having done due diligence in their preparation. Their sins are their sins.
But at the same time, if people did not "call" Osteen sorts, storytellers and motivational speakers to their churches and fill their pews and pay their salaries, there would be fewer of them occupying pulpits that other trained and equipped men could fill. I have in mind men now meeting with a few folks in a rented room at a school or a public building, laboring in obscurity somewhere, but fit for larger works.
Multiply that story by thousands, and you have some idea of why we are where we are.
So if you're reading and you're a man in or headed for pastoral ministry, but you have no intention of achieving Gospel or Biblical proficiency, I call on you to stop, repent, do what you should before you do what you shouldn't.
But if you're looking to support a church with your presence, and Biblical soundness in the leadership isn't at the top of your list of "musts" — same call.
Joel Osteen is the blight he is because of Joel Osteen, and because thousands support him. A change in either factor changes the whole equation.