Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Few Things to Remember as We Discuss Dr. Osteen... (revised version)

For the sake of knowing that I'm trying to give an unbiased opinion, I am stating heretofore, that I am not an Osteen advocate. I don't even watch him on T.V. (regularly) I don't send Lakewood money. I don't go to Lakewood when I'm in town. (not that going there would be bad. It's fun! I've been!) Me and the Lord were and are getting on just dandy without his books and sermons. That's because I'm not a light reader. You are talking to a man who reads Aquinas' Summa Theologica on the can for fun. Even Lucado, Lord bless him and wonderful cash-cow gifts, bores me up one tree and down the other these days. But that's just me. Lucado is a great writer. I just don't go in for the light theological reading these days, or anything written in the last fifty years. So why talk about Osteen?

First, I like shaking things up. Most of you know that. It's fun (for me) to wrestle with issues, learn and be sharpened. There are some things I know a lot about, there are some things I don't know much about, but I'm learning. So about Joel... I don't know much about him, but I've heard a bunch of stuff about him, and some of that stuff includes damning the guy to hell for telling people that God wants to bless them. I've got a hunch that there is a bunch of jealous, pastor-envy going on in the undertones of damnation.

Second, I don't believe in taking someone's word about someone else. (Unless they are an unrepentant murderer being chased on the news.) Especially when it has to do with their eternity. I like to dig in and find out for myself. This is what I'm doing with Joel Osteen, and his message. I've heard the opposite arguments presented, and the other day, I picked up his latest book at B&N, and after reading it, I decided that... he ain't so bad. A lot of big-wig Christians disagree with Joel, but then again, a lot of Christians disagree with the Pope. Big surprise. In the below discussion, we are talking about Joel, and his most current book, and the accusations that have been made towards him. You are welcome to join in, even though it might get pretty heavy sometimes. (Meaning: If you don't like theological, eschatological talk, you might fall asleep in parts. But I hope not!)

For me, this kind of stuff is what I live for. I could sit around the fire all night talking about this stuff. But one reason I picked this topic with Joel, is that for me, it goes further, deeper. It has to do with Christ's Kingdom here and now, and what all that means. For me, its been something I've been thinking about since I read St. Augustine's City of God. (A book all Christians should read. Especially the chapter on heaven. Wow.) More on that later. For now, let's talk Osteen. See comments in post below! Me and Cach and C-ham are at it! Wahoo!


majorsteve said...

Seth I'm probably way out of my depth here commenting about a preacher/authour that I've never read. I've seen him preach on TV for a few minutes at a time, I've heard some news stories about him. Let me say first what I think the objection to him is and then I might give my own opinion.

In my humble opinion, a lot of Christians don't really like him for the following reasons:

1) He doesn't say the name Jesus enough. As preachers go he seems pretty light on the utterance of the Savior's name. This may or may not be intentional, but a non-believer could listen to him prattle on about living up to one's potential, and being successful and being happy in life for a long time before they realize they've been listening to a "preacher" give a "sermon".

2) To my knowledge Joel never talks about what will happen if you don't accept Jesus. You know, the downside, the part about the fire and the burning..?

3)Joel makes WAY too much money. Now I personally do not care how much money he makes, but I kinda sorta care how he spends it. I mean, if an individual is going to make multiple millions in the name of Christianity, it's only natural that many people will expect both charity and humility. Also, and here's the biggie, a lot of people are envious of his money, his fame and his charisma.

My own personal opinion of Joel Osteen?

He kinda creeps me out. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart thing.

Anyway, that's all I've got.

Jerod Starkey said...


Miss you guys. We're very proud of you and Amber.

I'm liking this discussion of Osteen. I'm thinking everybody's got some great points. It's making me look & think over it all again.

I am no Osteen expert - and from my limited and narrow vantage point - the issue that frustrates me more than Osteen himself, is the way our culture does things. And the stinkin' media.

The things that concern me about Osteen (in the context of our culture) aren't so much what he says, but the nature of how all of this came about.

Aside from Oprah (who I think has one of the largest 'spiritual' pulpits in our country) Joel has been elevated to one of the greatest spots of influence.

Maybe you, or someone here, could help me understand if Joel preaches the Gospel (the simple source of life-altering truth) that Christ was born of a virgin, lived, and died to pay the debt of humanity so we could be in communion with God, and then rose again holding power over death, and is returning).

My want and desire is to hear that : it is the only thing that gives context to all the other things that he's teaching / saying.

I commend you for 'going there' with this. It's encouraging to see people engaging this topic : I've learned that hard and fast judgements tend to prove wrong : and I'm glad you're allowing for a little tension...I usually find God in the tension.

Seth Ward said...

Majorsteve, Its a problem I have too. However, neither does Billy Graham, who in a recent interview said that he chooses to focus on God's love, not wrath.

I guess I don't have a problem with him making too much money, I just hope he is doing things with it to ease the suffering of others rather than become his God.

"He kinda creeps me out. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart thing."

Honestly, I think that this is more of a reason in most evangelical Christian's minds than they are willing to admit. The burn from the prosperity asswads of the past still stings. Joel reminds them of that, but there are some pointed differences. IMO.

Jerod!!!! We bought a CD and are anxiously awaiting it!

I hear you on the context thing. I'm still undecided on what he says about it. I think his opinion is this: (from what I've heard in interviews) Most people, or most people that have a t.v. know about Jesus and the story of Redemption. Most of his audience are Christians, struggling with defeat. He does give the opportunity for people to ask Christ into their lives at the end of every broadcast and it goes like this:

"Friends we never like to end our broadcast without giving you the opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of your life. "Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins, come into my heart, I make you the Lord and my savior. - Friends, if you prayed that prayer, we believe you got Born Again. Get into a good Bible-based church. Keep God 1st place in your life. He'll take you places that you've never dreamed of."

So I suppose, a main difference with Joel and televangelists of the past is that at the end of each service, Joel leads his viewers in the believer's prayer, rather than ask for cash.

I'm alright with that.

"...and I'm glad you're allowing for a little tension...I usually find God in the tension." Me too, brother. I try to lean on the side of giving a little Grace than delving out quick judgement. I'm glad God doesn't deal as harshly with us as we are with others sometimes. Thanks for the encouragement.

We miss you guys too!!!

Joanna Martens said...

props seth for striking up a stimulating conversation. ones like this are the hardest to wade through, but are beneficial and necessary. :-)

There was this one quote i once saw that would make conservative fundamentalist potluckers of OUR day cringe, but gives me hope and encouragement:

"I believe in you. - Jesus"

Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.