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What Happens When Joel Osteen Makes The Narrow Gate Much Wider?

October 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Radio Program Hour 1, Radio Show

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Guest: Jason Carlson, Pastor and Director, Christian Ministries International

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Joel Osteen, pastor of America’s largest church, made the following statement this week in an interview with the Washington Times:

“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians.  I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with.  But you know what, I know Mormons.  I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.”

When a prominent, professing Christian leader like Osteen emphasizes some semantic commonalities between biblical Christianity and Mormonism but draws no distinction between the substantive differences, especially as it pertains to what the Bible says about how sinful man can be reconciled to a holy God, what does this bode for the future of the church and country?

Jason Carlson, pastor and director of Christian Ministries International, will join us this weekend on the The Christian Worldview to draw clear, eternity-changing distinctions between biblical Christianity and Mormonism and to discuss a potential dilemma for biblical Christians if Mitt Romney, a Mormon, becomes the Republican nominee for President in 2012.

FURTHER READING:

Does Joel Osteen Not Know, or Does He Not Care?

October 28, 2011 by  
Filed under The Latest from Our Blog

Published with permission from Dr. Albert Mohler

Here we go again. Joel Osteen is in the news once again, this time for saying that Mormonism is just another form of Christianity. Osteen, pastor of “America’s largest church,” as the media repeat over and over, was speaking to The Washington Times in an interview that covered a variety of issues. It was the quintessential Joel on display.

Speaking to the newspaper on Monday, Osteen said, “I see faith in America at an all-time high.” His comments came just as a major research project detailed a significant loss of vitality in America’s Christian congregations. That loss of vitality can be traced, among other things, to a loss of theological and biblical conviction. Joel, of course, is proof positive that you can build a crowd without building a church. He is not inclined to deal in much theological conviction.

In the interview, he distilled his message in these words: “Part of our core message is that seasons change, and when you believe, if you don’t get bitter, and you don’t get discouraged, you may not change overnight, but you can get peace.”

He also told the newspaper: “People need to be reminded that every day is a gift from God, and bloom where you’re planted and be happy where you are, and to make that choice to get up every day and be grateful.”

That message includes some truth, of course — but it doesn’t even come close to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hell will be filled with people who bloomed where they were planted.

On Mormonism, Joel said:

“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians . . . . I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.”

“I’m sure there are other issues that we don’t agree on. But you know, I can say that the Baptists and the Methodists and the Catholics don’t all agree on everything. So that would be my take on it.”

Osteen just stated his belief that Mormons are Christians. He then expressed the thought that Mormonism “might not be the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with,” but he affirmed Mormon statements that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is Savior.

Evaluating Osteen’s boyhood understanding of Christianity would be a project unto itself, given the shifting theology of his preacher father, the late John Osteen.

The main point of concern in Joel’s latest comment is the lack of any biblical standard of judgment and the total abdication of theological responsibility. He relegates doctrinal disagreements between Christians and Mormons to the status of theological debates between Protestant denominations and then includes Roman Catholicism. There are plenty of issues there, and the issues are not the same when comparing Baptists to Methodists, on the one hand, and Protestants and Roman Catholics, on the other. Comparing any form of Trinitarian orthodoxy with Mormonism is another class of question altogether.

Joel reminded the paper’s staff that he has never attended seminary. This is true, of course, but there are thousands of preachers who never had the opportunity to attend seminary who have a sufficient grasp of and commitment to biblical truth that would prevent such carelessness.

By now, it is clear that Joel Osteen’s carelessness is deliberate and calculated. This is not the first time that he has encountered the question of Mormonism. Back in 2007, he told Chris Wallace of FOX News that Mormons are indeed Christians:

“Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.”

The little details of it? Mormonism does not differ from historic biblical Christianity in “little details,” and a faithful Mormon would be the first to point this out. Mormonism begins with a plurality of gods, not with the monotheism of the Bible. Jesus Christ is an exalted man — not the incarnate Word. The list of categorical doctrinal differences continues throughout the entire belief system.

The very essence of Mormonism is the claim that historic Christianity is fundamentally in error, and that true Christianity did not exist on earth from the time of the Apostles until Joseph Smith. Mormonism can hardly be charged with hiding their movement’s teachings — the Book of Mormon and the other fundamental texts of the Latter Day Saints are published in plain sight.

In a remarkable exchange with Chris Wallace, Osteen muddied the waters further:

WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?

OSTEEN: I probably don’t get hung up in them because I haven’t really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don’t know.

Here we face a fundamental dilemma. When Joel Osteen hears a summary of Mormon belief that mentions God assuming “the shape of a man,” does he lack the theological discernment to hear how that differs from biblical Christianity, or does it not concern him? In other words, does Joel not know, or does Joel not care?

In the end, we have to conclude that he does not care enough to know, and that is the greater tragedy for a Christian minister. He doesn’t “get hung up” on doctrinal issues, nor has he “really studied them or thought about them.” His own words indict him.

Evangelical Christians are going to face many questions in this season, and the question of Mormonism is not front and center. It will call upon all of us to do what Joel Osteen proudly has not done — to study and thing about these issues. In this political moment, we will have to think carefully and act judiciously without confusing the theological questions. We will need the full wealth of Christian conviction.

We will also need deep doctrinal discernment mixed with urgent spiritual concern. The Latter Day Saints include some of the most wonderful and kind people we will ever meet. They put a great emphasis on character and on the moral values of our common concern. They talk freely and passionately about their own beliefs, including their beliefs concerning Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they put action behind their commitments, sending their young people on mission and fueling a worldwide movement that remains one of the fastest-growing on the planet.

But their beliefs concerning Jesus Christ are not those of historic Christianity, and their understanding of salvation differs radically from the message of the New Testament. It is the responsibility of every Christian, much less every Christian minister, to know this.

Joel Osteen told The Washington Times that he is constantly “looking for new ways to influence the culture.” Our culture admires those with low theological commitment and high emphasis on attitude. In Joel Osteen’s case, it is the secular culture that has influenced the minister, and not the minister that is influencing he culture.


I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler

Cheryl Wetzstein, “Osteen: Americans’ Faith at ‘All Time High,’” The Washington Times, Monday, October 24, 2011. [Add odd irony to this equation — since The Washington Times was founded in 1982 by the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.]

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Mormonism, Democracy, and the Urgent Need for Evangelical Thinking,” Monday, October 10, 2011.

Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the Modern Age? Lessons from Piers Morgan’s Interview with Joel Osteen

October 7, 2011 by  
Filed under The Latest from Our Blog

Published with permission from Dr. Albert Mohler

An interview that begins with a statement like, “Well, Piers, to me, faith is all about learning to be happy where you are,” is probably not going to end well. Piers Morgan’s interview with Joel and Victoria Osteen Tuesday night was very revealing about the Osteens — but little Christian truth was revealed. At the same time, the interview deserves closer attention than you might expect.

After introducing the Osteens, Morgan let Joel talk about his latest book, Every Day A Friday, How To Be Happier 7 Days a Week. Like the book itself, Joel’s presentation could be reduced to his own brand of highly therapeutic prosperity theology. For Joel Osteen, it’s not a theology that is reducible to money alone. Instead, his focus is more on individual happiness and self-fulfillment. In his rendering, God might not want everyone to be rich, but he does want his creatures to experience every day as . . . a Friday?

Then, the conversation shifted to issues in the news, such as abortion and capital punishment. On both topics, Piers Morgan pressed Joel to speak clearly, which he was clearly reluctant to do. On both topics, Osteen steered clear of disaster by saying as little as possible, in what can only be described as a garble.

On capital punishment: “You know, it’s a complicated issue, Piers. I haven’t thought a whole lot about it but, of course, you know, and I’m for second chances and mercy, yet, the flip side is there’s consequences for what we’ve done and, so, I — I don’t know what my total stance is . . . ”

On a moral link between abortion and capital punishment: “Well, I think there could be when you say may or may not. You know, that’s the troublesome thing, if we don’t know for sure and, you know.”

There, that clears it all up nicely. The saddest thing about Joel Osteen’s incoherence on all this is the fact that he seems to be totally unaware that Christians have been engaging these issues seriously for centuries. When even Piers Morgan chided Osteen for his fuzziness and lack of an answer to questions, saying to Osteen, “you need to be more definitive,” Osteen responded: “Yes. Well, if I could I would but I’d have to — let me study it and I’ll come back with a great answer someday for you.” Not exactly a “here I stand” moment, to say the very least.

But, with all that as prelude, the interview really got interesting when Morgan turned the conversation to the issue of same-sex marriage. Morgan replayed a clip from Osteen’s appearance earlier this year, when Osteen gave Morgan this statement on homosexuality: “Yes, I’ve always believed, Piers, the scriptures shows that it’s a sin, but, you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all that.” That statement, as Morgan indicated, made headlines.

When pressed, Osteen affirmed his statement: “You know, Piers, it really never changes because mine was — mine’s based out of the scripture. That’s what I believe that the scripture says that — that homosexuality is a sin. So, it — you know, I believed it before and I still believe it now. Again, I would just reiterate what I said, I’m not after — I’m not mad at anybody. I don’t dislike anybody. But, you know, you know, respecting my faith and believing, you know, in — in what the scripture says, that’s the best way I can interpret it.”

But the host’s real intention was to steer Osteen toward the same-sex marriage issue. Would Osteen perform a same-sex marriage?

His answer: “Well, you know what, I’m going to respect the law and I’m going to respect gay people like I do now, you know, have plenty of people that come to our church and friends, I would call, that are gay so I’m going to respect that. I think where it puts a difficult situation is me being a Christian pastor believing the scripture, you know, it would be against my faith to marry two gay people.” Later, he added: “No, it would be against what I believe the scripture teaches and, so, that’s where I think the rub comes in with people like myself. It’s not that I’m against anybody or, you know, if people want to live together, that’s up to them. But, my faith, when we say marriage, I mean, I think about it, Piers, and all through the Bible there are, you know, hundreds of marriages but none of them are shown as between, you know, the same sex. And, again, I’m not against anything but I just believe that’s what the Bible teaches . . .”

Morgan would not let the topic drop, clearly sensing an opportunity to find a crack in Osteen’s position. The host then asked the Osteens if they would attend a same-sex marriage ceremony. Joel Osteen said that he would, if the individuals were friends.

Morgan pressed further. How does this fit within Osteen’s previous statement: “Well, I haven’t been to many weddings lately to begin with and I’m talking about somebody that was, you know, dear to us. I’m not going to disrespect somebody that’s dear to us and say, you know what, you’re not good enough for us or something like that. That’s the way that I would see it. Now, I’m not going to just run off and go attend, you know, certain marriages just to make a statement because that’s not who I am and that’s not what I stand for and, again, I don’t look down on those people.”

In other words, Joel Osteen sees homosexuality as a sin and same-sex marriage to be contrary to God’s will. He cannot perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or endorse same-sex marriage, because he is bound by Scripture. On the other hand, he can attend a same-sex ceremony, if the participants are friends, and thus endorse by his presence the credibility of the ceremony itself and join in the celebration of what he believes, or says he believes, is sin.

This is beyond mere incoherence. It is moral and theological nonsense. More than that, it is a massive statement of ministerial malpractice. Piers Morgan had the sense to see that much. You cannot celebrate what you say you know to be sin. You cannot honestly say that same-sex marriage defies the law of God, and then join in the celebration of that ceremony.

Joel Osteen should know better, but you can add that to the things that someone like Joel Osteen should know, if indeed he is to present himself as a Christian preacher and leader.

The larger problem is that many evangelical Christians would follow Joel Osteen’s logic without a second thought, or without even what the psychologists would describe as “cognitive dissonance.” They say they believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s will. But they allow personal relationships and social pressure to override their (evidently) lightly-held convictions.

The hypothetical case Piers Morgan invented for his interview with Joel and Victoria Osteen is precisely the reality many American Christians will face — or have already faced — with the legalization of same-sex marriage. Unless convictions are deeply held, they will melt away in the face of cultural pressure.

Oh, one final and very significant statement from the interview demands attention. Piers Morgan looked at Joel Osteen and asked the million-dollar question:

But, I mean, shouldn’t the scripture be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age. I mean, we were talking before the break about the issue about eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, not everything in the scriptures, really, is, in my view, conducive to modern life. I mean, like everything else, doesn’t it have to move with the times and isn’t it down again to people like you to interpret it in a way that evolves when you’re known as a very progressive preacher?

Shouldn’t the Bible be “dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age”? There you have the modernist worldview reduced to a single question. The Bible will simply have to give way to modern moral authorities, and have to be interpreted “in a way that evolves.”

To his credit, Joel Osteen tried to stand his ground. To his discredit, he didn’t stand very well, and he seemed to lack all of the vital faculties for holding theological traction. We can only hope that other pastors — and other Christians — will do better. Sadly, without developing deeper biblical commitments and without drawing from the full wealth of Christian conviction, that is not going to happen.

Sadly, without a deep, humble, and faithful commitment to Christ, the Gospel, the Bible, and the structures of Christian thought, both the church and the Bible will be, to use Piers Morgan’s unforgettable phrase, “dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age” — and we know exactly what that means.


I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler

Transcript, Piers Morgan Tonight, CNN, Tuesday, October 4, 2011.

The Osteen Moment — Your Own Moment Will Come Soon Enough

January 27, 2011 by  
Filed under The Latest from Our Blog

published with permission from Dr. Albert Mohler

Joel Osteen found himself forced to answer a question that every Christian — and certainly every Christian leader — will be forced to answer. When that moment comes, and come it will, those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin will find themselves facing the same shock and censure from the very same quarters.

Joel Osteen didn’t get where he is today by staking out controversial positions on biblical and moral issues. America’s prophet of Your Best Life Now built his reputation and his international following on an updated version of prosperity theology, laced with ample doses of pop psychology. The ever-smiling and effervescent pastor of America’s largest congregation has done his best to avoid association with doctrinal matters. More to the point — he has done his best to avoid talking about sin.

Osteen would rather offer platitudes about attitudes. “God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner,” he asserts. Talking in any detail about sin would be to insert negativity into his relentlessly upbeat message.

But now, Osteen finds himself in the midst of controversy. Last night, Joel and Victoria Osteen appeared together on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight and, boxed in by Morgan, Joel Osteen reluctantly confessed that he believes homosexuality to be a sin.

“Yes, I’ve always believed, Piers, the Scripture shows that homosexuality it’s a sin,” he said. He added: “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible, too. I think sometimes the church — and I don’t mean this critically — but we focus on one issue or two issues, and there’s plenty of other ones. So, I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life. I mean, sin means to miss the mark.”

Pressed even harder by Morgan, Osteen was asked if singer Elton John is a sinner. He responded: “Well, it’s strictly back to what the Scripture says. I mean, I can’t — I can’t grab one part and say God wants you to be blessed and live an abundant life, and not grab the other part that says, you know what? You know, live — live that kind of life. So it comes back to the Scripture. I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.”

Morgan appeared shocked at Osteen’s statements and accused the pastor of being hateful and judgmental. He also asked what Osteen would say directly to Elton John or any other homosexual. Osteen made no reference to the Gospel at all, but he did say that God would give strength in the struggle.

At one dramatic moment, Morgan rebutted Osteen’s claim to be non-judgmental: “I’m not so sure though, you see. I think you are a kind of judge. And I — I think you can’t abrogate that responsibility. I think what — because of your influence — there’s seven million — eight million viewers every Sunday, when you say things like homosexuality is a sin, it’s a big statement to make. You are a judge, and you’re encouraging your congregation to believe that.”

To Morgan, making any moral judgment amounts to judgmentalism. Of course, this leads logically to total moral insanity, since the only way to avoid being identified with judgmentalism is to make no moral judgments whatsoever — which no sane person can do.

Osteen’s statements, verbally cushioned in every way he could imagine, fell far short of the full wealth of biblical conviction. Nevertheless, he experienced what might be called the “Osteen Moment,” when his entire ministry, in the public eye, came down to his answer to Piers Morgan’s forced question. To his credit, Osteen did answer his question, and by staking his position on the Bible’s teaching that homosexual acts are sinful, he took the only road available to anyone with any substantial commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible.

Piers Morgan’s response was entirely predictable — as was the eruption of press coverage hyped by CNN itself. The network claimed that the Osteen interview was Morgan’s “most controversial” since he took over the time slot previously held by Larry King Live.

Compare Osteen’s comments last night to this report from The Boston Globe in 2006:

“I don’t think it’s God’s best,” the handsome Holy Roller said of homosexuality. “I never feel like homosexuality is God’s best.”

When pressed on the issue, Osteen said, “I don’t feel like that’s my thrust . . . you know, some of the issues that divide us, and I’m here to let people know that God is for them and he’s on their side.”

Joel Osteen found himself forced to answer a question that every Christian — and certainly every Christian leader — will be forced to answer. When that moment comes, and come it will, those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin will find themselves facing the same shock and censure from the very same quarters.

What happened last night on Piers Morgan Tonight is a sign of things to come. After this interview, Joel Osteen will never be seen in the same way by the secular media and a good segment of the public. His efforts to avoid talking about sin failed him, and he ran out of options. Thankfully, he did not deny that homosexuality is a sin. We can only have hoped that he would have given a more bold answer, followed by an equal boldness in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In any event, Joel Osteen had his moment last night. Most Christians will not face that question on national television, but on a college campus, in a family discussion, in the workplace, or in the heat of debate. But, whatever the circumstances, that moment will soon come.


I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.

Transcript, Piers Morgan Tonight, CNN, Wednesday, January 26, 2011.