Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Mike Adams on Joel Osteen on John 14:6

In July of last year, I wrote that "I don't really have a feel for Mike Adams," and that is still true. I only mentioned him one other time, around a month later. In the first, I whacked away at some jerky overgeneralizations he made about "bipolar illness"; in the latter, I linked to a good column.

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.

As to Osteen, if this is Adams' first notice of him, he's late to the party. As early as 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?
  1. Well-known father with a name you can launch from.
  2. Decent looks.
  3. Dazzling smile.
  4. Winsome manner.
  5. Giving people what they want. Specifically
  6. Ability to give happy, uplifting, motivational talks.
Where's the Bible generally, or the Gospel specificaly, in any of that? You just don't need it to get from here to there. When would Osteen have had to study through, or think through the Biblical Gospel, or Biblical Christology, to get to where he is?

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.

I have beat this drum many times and, by lollipops, I'm about to beat it again. What if Joel Osteen had gotten up X years ago to peddle his goods, and Christians en masse had responded with "So, give us a Biblical definition of the Gospel. Tell us how you've paid your dues in acquiring the tools for cutting the Word straight. Spell out a rigorously Biblical doctrine of Christ and of Scripture and of ecclesiology and of preaching and...."?

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.

Many times I've told the story of the young man I knew 30+ years ago who was on his church's pulpit committee. I'd only been a Christian for maybe four years or something, but when I heard his favored candidate was from Princeton, I suggested a few questions. He literally snorted at me. He really liked this guy, because he had some great ideas for great programs. They called him, I met him, he did not believe in the full authority of Scripture. But that wasn't important to that church, who called him instead of anyone who was Biblically sound.

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.


SandMan said...

You have again said what I was thinking... but with eloquence and clarity.

I especially like and agree with the last paragraph:

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.

If I may be so bold as to add a third factor: There are not enough folks like you proclaiming the perils of following a guy like Osteen. We had a little rift in our family a few years back when an extended family member started emailing us Joel's "devotional" thoughts for the day. This person meant well, but assumed wrongly that Joel was okay because of his popularity and use of the word God.

No one had ever taken the time to point out in this family member's church that Osteen is a phony. And, since we are not a member of their (unnamed) denomination, they were distrusting of our analysis of Joel.

Pooka said...

This one hasn't heard many calls for the layman to take responsibility for the preacher in the pulpit.

We are rather unwilling, I guess, to take up arms (Spiritual Armor) and deny the pastor or call him to account once he's in the pulpit.

Of the number of churches I've attended, I can't say I've witnessed one call from the congregation for the pastor to man up or clarify, much less oust him for a persistent failure to stand committed to the Gospel. I've been to 7 in 7 years (moved 4 times) and only two of those churches had a Gospel-driven pastor.

Since I started reading you here and the Pyro-Team, I've learned a lot more about how to think about these things and I'm thankful for it.

DJP said...

Thanks for thinking with me here, Pooka. To make sure I'm clear, the minimum bottom-line I'm singling out is what people support with their... er, feet. You sit under and support an un-Biblical ministry, you support it.

NOTE: un-Biblical, not imperfect. All ministries are imperfect! How could they not be? We're in them!

Pooka said...

Right, sir. Ain't no perfect ones. And we little folk are accountable for that too. There needs to be an interactive hunger for the Word, not just the feeding of yes, yes to the minister. Got to hold him to it with participation.

allen said...

Thanks Dan. Fully agree.
Once I spoke similarly in a sermon (about TBN I think) and afterwards was asked if I pray for them. I said, "I sure do. I pray God would shut them down before they do even more damage, that the goats who flock after them would be saved, and the sickly sheep would finally discern the true from the false."
Not sure if that answer satisfied the questioner.
It's still my answer because of Jude 3 , Titus 1:9-11, 2 Tim.4:2, Romans 16:17,18, 2 John 9-11. etc.

Lynda O said...

Yes, a very good point that isn't said often enough, the responsibility of laypeople to rightly divide the word of God. I see it in a local congregation too -- even when the pastor is clearly unbiblical in some of his ideas, they just shrug it off and say, "well that's not an essential doctrine" and keep listening anyway, a form of laziness too common among churchgoers who never consider that a pastor who is way off in one area *just might* be wrong in several other doctrines as well.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 comes to mind, regarding how it really is in this present age, that too many people will not put up with sound doctrine but gather a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Al said...

Sheep feed pastors. That is what sheep do. They are open to abuse because of that, but they also look for pastors that suck up the slop they put before them. So, they are culpable not just of sitting under false teachers but gathering them in. Heaping them up as it were. Expecting the sheep to rise up en masse is probably asking a bit much. Wisdom comes in onseies and twosies and they end up joining solid churches.

A pastor who laps up flattery like water has no need of counsel or correction. In his mind the sheep are well fed, just look what they produce for him.

al sends

Paula said...

@DJP - I just started using Google Reader & thought I was reading Challies. I got about 1/4 of the way through this post and thought, "Now wait a minute...this sounds an awful lot like...." It's funny... after reading someone for a year or so you can recognize his "voice"
: )

I think with many of these folks it's a slow leak process. People who are otherwise discerning let in a little of this and a little of that and before they realize what's happening, they're Joel Osteen fan boys.

I had an exchange on Facebook with a friend this week who posted a Rob Bell video. I was really quite shocked because I consider her to be quite discerning and very protective of her kids. I directed her to the great review of the Nooma videos from Greg Gilbert at 9-Marks.

She wrote back, "I certainly can't speak for his other series, but this particular lecture was really good! As with everything/everyone, constantly evaluating is necessary...but I also try to remember that God can speak through anyone/anything (donkey!) so I don't try to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but listen with keen ears and a discerning heart to see if there's anything there for me. So thankful for the Holy Spirit to guide and guard me...

Well, OK, I suppose there's something, at some point in time we can learn from Bell, or Osteen, or anyone else who preaches a different gospel. But as you said, the reason these guys have a platform is because people allow them to have it. And they keep spreading their message like a bad virus.

Isn't that kind of like being an accessory to a crime?

Rachael Starke said...

"So, give us a Biblical definition of the Gospel."

But that would presuppose that the people asking that question could also do it, yes?

This weekend we were in Fresno and attended a church which will go unnamed, other than to say that the name had the word "Bible" in it, and heard the most awful mess of a God-ish thoughts-while-strolling "sermon" I've heard in a while. But what was worse was hearing the amens and laughter and seeing the nods all around. My husband gave me husband-ly admonishment not to come unglued in front of our dear hosts, but later said that we had just sat through a prime example of why the church in America is where it is. We don't have shepherds leading sheep; we have sheep leading sheep. And if you've ever seen how that goes (as I have plenty of times in my homeland), you all know how it ends.

Given that our home church seems to be currently tilting slightly but disctinctly away from the Gospel, this motivated me to email one of our pastors and invite him over to beg him to be a shepherd and not a sheep. Thanks for the um, poke in the rear with a crook-thingie. Or something like that. :)

Gary said...

Very well said, I must say.

As my former professor used to say: "The jawbone of an ass hurts as much these days as it did in Samson's.

mike said...

so McDonalds sells burgers, not great, but consistant throughout the world.

along comes Starbucks, and later Panera bread, not to be left out, McD's gets cafe coffee, and is now trying to figure out how to get a bakery feel.

it may well work, they have hard working smart people, so one day soon McDonstaranera's may well be our one stop for all that, and the burgers are an afterthought.

but marketshare is protected.

then one day, many of those sane smart hardworking guys decide that the little local church could use a hand, and walla, lakewillowback is born.

and somehow, in the middle of all this, because we don't really fear God, and certainly don't want to, people stand with no shame and proclaim that they are doing His work.

Bill Honsberger said...

Osteen probably likes the cetera bubblegum chicago songs as well...

couldn't resist!

Well I couldn't...

Bill Honsberger said...

In a more serious moment - Osteen is as good a barometer for the state of the church in America as one can find. He has married wordfaith heresies with Druckerian church growth methods and produced the bastard child that is the biggest organization pretending to be a church in the country.
Lord have mercy on us all!

I am thankful to hear the great things the Lord is doing in Africa and Asia, because my own country's light is grown dim.

lee n. field said...

Timely, perhaps, that those old Michael Horton videos have come to light today. ("Agony of Deceit", on TeeVee preacher/hucksters.).

Starbuck said...

mike said...
so McDonalds sells burgers, not great, but consistant throughout the world.

along comes Starbucks, and later Panera bread, not to be left out, McD's gets cafe coffee, and is now trying to figure out how to get a bakery feel.

it may well work, they have hard working smart people, so one day soon McDonstaranera's may well be our one stop for all that, and the burgers are an afterthought.

but marketshare is protected.

then one day, many of those sane smart hardworking guys decide that the little local church could use a hand, and walla, lakewillowback is born.

and somehow, in the middle of all this, because we don't really fear God, and certainly don't want to, people stand with no shame and proclaim that they are doing His work.

I certianly fear the Lord. The worst thing I could possibly hear him say is "I never knew you..."

Makes me sweat sometimes.

Oh, by the way. I am new here. I like this blog so far.

DJP said...

We're glad you're here so far.


DJP said...

Paula ...thought I was reading Challies

Been called many things in my day.

Never that.

mike said...

i hope someone named panera doesn't show up now...

if so, sorry

mike said...

i just hope she didn't mean long winded

jmb said...

Good post.

Some professed believers tell me that Osteen makes them feel good.

When pressed about the lack of Scripture in his books and "sermons," Osteen sometimes refers to himself as more of a "life coach," or "motivational speaker" than a pastor, which is certainly true, but he won't give up the "pastor" label.

I once saw him on a video actually attempt to exegete Scripture, specifically Eph. 1:4. Since I was going to be critical of him in a message I was to give, I wrote down what he said.

His conclusion: "God created you to be totally free, to have peace in your mind, to walk in divine health, to have good relationships, to have plenty to pay your bills. God created us as victors, not victims." This was his interpretation of "to be holy and blameless in his sight."

He seems to me to be more of a knave than a fool, but who knows? And I highly doubt that anyone in his vast audience, with their Bibles open on their laps, questioned him about his interpretation. "Divine health" sounds much more attractive than being holy and blameless.

mike said...

thing is,
it is one thing to prance amok speading cheer like a clown, and a totally difference to stand before anyone and say or allow to be said "i an a herald of the King, i bring you His news, Good to some, destruction to others, but surely non-negotiable. thus says the Lord God almighty creator and sustainer of all things".
that second guy had better check to see that his words are not altered or changed to fit the hearer UNLESS, this guy doesn't really think that this King is all that the King says that He is.
RC Sproul speaks of no greater arrogance than to put words in the mouth of God, sounds right to me.

mike said...

but back to Dan's point, there would never have been 3 Starbucks on every city block if people hadn't stood in line and pounded their credit cards on the counters.

and sadly when people who got out of bed on the Lord's day, got dressed and went to sit in the Lord's house to hear the Lord's word, accepted Joel's fortune cookie theology, there is blame-o-plenty for all concerned.

and just because i am running low on suck-up points

my guess is that the first 65 times that Dan did write about what was being peddled as gospel from our boy, i bet he took plenty of "friendly" fire from the cheap seats for being judgemental

Stefan said...

I think I first encountered Pastor Osteen back in the autumn of 2004. I was still a non-believer, but had just been through a spiritual crisis, and had come to understand that true Christianity has something to do with suffering and the Cross...though I still didn't see how it all goes together.

Anyhow, a Christian friend of ours lent us Your Best Life Now, with his pearly whites on the cover, and all I got out of it is that you should invest in real estate...or some such thing. And the idea that the Christian life should involve no suffering...and no mention of the Cross! Alarm bells were ringing immediately.

Sir Aaron said...

I'm in Houston and Joel Osteen is a major problem. But for the most part, he speaks in rather vague terms that aren't Un-Scriptural on the surface. Most self professing, church attending Christians don't have a good understanding of theology or hermeneutics and apply "what this means to me" Scripture analysis to all text. This leaves them vulnerable to the type of teaching Osteen sneaks in.

BTW, the guy is filthy rich. Not that being rich is wrong. However, I'm a little put off by a minister who uses his position to acquire great wealth for himself.

James Joyce said...

I once heard someone say beware the "Christian" book that has the author's face on the cover.

DJP said...

I'm confident that there will be no danger of my books falling under that condemnation.

Solameanie said...

This post ought to be framed and posted on every pastor's office wall.