Pastor Osteen and Christian Narcissism: Symptom of a Larger Problem

Posted on August 27, 2014 on Youtube was an upbeat little clip from Pastor Osteen in Houston. But not the pastor you are probably thinking of. No, this is not Joel Osteen but his wife and co-pastor, Victoria.

She said with a big smile on her face and with husband Joel standing next to her in nodding approval:

“When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God. I mean, that’s one way to look at it. We’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning. So I want you to know this morning, just do good—for your own self. Do good ’cause God wants you to be happy.

When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really! You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy—Amen? [calling to the crowd for a positive response]”

Lakewood Church has a congregation of 45,000, making it the largest church in America. It is broadly evangelical in doctrine. Largely preaching a prosperity gospel—a favorite of some charismatic groups—they have grown the church fivefold since Joel took over from his father as pastor. The Osteens have been criticized for a number of things, not the least of which is being soft on sin and twisting the gospel.

Now, some of the most blatant narcissistic blather ever to come from a pulpit can also be laid at their feet. Not only narcissistic, but also blasphemous. One has to wonder how a megachurch in the buckle of the Bible belt can go on and on without the congregants waking up and smelling what’s being shoveled in their direction. If Lakewood Church is any indication of the biblical literacy, genuine devotion to Christ, and fellowship of the saints of the American evangelical church, we are in serious trouble. I know good people—rock-solid believers—in Houston. In fact, I would say that the biblical literacy in Texas is perhaps higher than any other state in the Union. But perhaps I am running in circles that are under the radar. I pray that that is not the case.

At the same time, I would have to say that in my travels throughout North America, speaking in churches everywhere, biblical illiteracy seems to be virtually at an all-time high. And a desire to please God at all costs is a pipe dream—so few Christians even think in such categories! The evangelical church in America needs corporate self-reflection and corporate repentance. How we treat one another, how we honor God, what our understanding of and commitment to the gospel is, and how we measure true success all need a serious overhaul. The root problem seems to be twofold: the marginalization of the word of God and the ‘buddyization’ of Jesus Christ. The scriptures have become irrelevant and the Lord of glory is now immanent but not transcendent in our hearts.

What can we do to fix the problem? A number of things: get into the Word, especially Romans and the Psalms; exalt Jesus Christ in our own hearts and lives and in the midst of others; get outside our comfort zones of common ethnicity, political correctness, and extreme narcissism; get outside our comfort zone of hiding our sins and learn to confess to one another and the Lord; learn about the magnificence of our God; and live to please him.

Some suggested reading:

  1. J. I. Packer, Knowing God
  2. Samuel Storms, The Grandeur of God
  3. D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
  4. J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
  5. Jared C. Wilson, Romans: A 12-Week Study
  6. Bruce Waltke and James M. Houston, The Psalms as Christian Worship

 

 

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78 thoughts on “Pastor Osteen and Christian Narcissism: Symptom of a Larger Problem

  1. Well stated, as is normal for Dr. Wallace. I have both J. I. Packer and D. A. Carson books in my library, excellent additions if not already part of your library. Another addition is, “The Reliability of the New Testament.” I used this last one to teach an adult Sunday School class entitled, “The Trustworthiness and Reliability of the Bible.” One lady related it was the best Sunday School class she had ever heard. The buzz was so much the following week the Associate Pastor sat in on my next class. Thank you Dr. Wallace for being there for all of us.

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    1. robert skynner

      do you know if Daniel Wallace is a Baptist or does he take a baptismal regenerationist position? I am debating a oneness Pentecostal pastor on youtube and he has quoted Dr Wallace on Acts 2:38 to me as if Wallace agrees with him that you need water baptism to be saved?

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  2. Dear Dr. Wallace: Many of my pastor friends circulated the said video in disbelief about what was being said. One person I talked to thought perhaps it as a watered down version of John’s Piper’s Christian Hedonism. Yet upon seeing your post and considering the overall history of Joel Osteen’s ministry and message, I tend to think the hedonism being espoused by the Osteens and that promoted by Piper are on two opposite sides of the universe. I sort of wonder if the Osteens represent the full born fruit of the “new reformation” that was called for by Robert Schuller in the late eighties – emphasizing a “man-centered” rather than “God-centered” approach to theology, church life and the overall Christian vision? If you follow that watershed statement through the Seeker-Sensitive movement and emergent church movements of the following past two decades, the soil of American Christianity is cultivated perfectly for the Osteens. May the Lord help us all in praying for one another to remain faithful, loving our neighbors and loving Jesus.

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    1. I think there’s a huge difference between John Piper’s teaching on Christian hedonism and the Osteen’s teaching on the Prosperity Gospel. What I see in Piper’s teaching is that he views the joy we receive as a result of serving God as simply a logical result but not the motivation nor the pursuit. However in Osteen’s ministry it quite clearly becomes a self-center pursuit for personal pleasure.

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      1. Alan Stanley

        Actually Piper is very clear that joy is the pursuit and goal and not merely the overflow or the result. But you’re right, this teaching here versus Piper’s is indeed very different. Miles different. They joy being espoused here comes as a result of doing good. They joy in Piper’s teaching comes from pursuing God and is indeed the motivation for doing good (e.g., Matt. 13:44). God does not take pleasure in us being happy (Osteen), God takes pleasure in us when we are satisfied in him (Piper). No satisfaction in God means no pleasure from God. Which connects to Dan’s previous post on the goal of being Christian, namely to glorify God. Great post Dr. Wallace, I’d love to get you down to Australia some day sharing this stuff and more. Blessings, Alan

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      2. “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” – John Piper –

        “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied with the things this world offers.”
        – Victoria Osteen –

        There’s a world of difference between the two… (pun intended).

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  3. Brian Poad.

    Being initially raised and nurtured in the charismatic movement, and still ministering to charismatics on a weekly basis. The problem we are facing is the exaltation of our experience and emotion above scripture. Many charismatic Pastors are completely ignorant about Doctrine, and don’t even know what sound doctrine is! Instead they are pressured to give their congregation emotional highs! To become cheerleaders, rather than preachers of Gods word. Many who go to these kind of churches are seeking an emotional high, and if they don’t get it in one place, they will go elsewhere. I think there are those in this movement who are seeing the deception, and are coming out of it. Only by making the scriptures our highest authority, above experience, emotion, and gifts of prophecy, are we able to come out of this!

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  4. Michael Karpf

    Bible illiteracy is all over the place, I see it all the time here (Bangkok). People will fall for this, hook line and sinker. I think it’s a description of the time Paul told Timothy about, when people will no longer endure sound doctrine but want to have their ears tickled and get teachers like Osteen and others. If you went to Lakewood and preached on Romans, you would either empty out the place fast, or they would run you out of there.
    Thank you Dan for posting this, and thank you for teaching me Greek Grammar and Syntax, and Exegesis of Ephesians. I’m still using it and I’m still learning.

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  5. Heith

    I had this eloquent comment and then my battery died and I lost it all. Here is the Cliff Notes version:

    I am not a fan of the Olsteens; I really don’t care what they do or don’t do.
    I agree with all of the major points in this post.

    However, logically, I can show that Mrs. Olsteen isn’t wholly wrong; maybe she’s highlighing one thing without the proper context or balance, but…well, I’m honestly submitting this, not to argue or defend her, but to dialogue about the substance of the statement.

    1. Does God need our obedience? No. God is perfect, immutable; he is not completed by our obedience. He can demand or require it, but he does not need it.

    2. Humans DO need to obey God. He created us and throughout Scripture attaches significant blessing and ultimate life with obeying his Words. He attached a curse to disobedience. Thus, we do need to obey God.

    3. Obedience does make us happy. The underlying rationale for God’s instructions is to provide instruction for his creatures’ well-being. He created us, he knows what is best for us. Happiness, or joy, in this context, is not “I get what I want” or “I never experience pain or loss” or “I always have a high supply of endorphines.” It is a complex confidence that God knows what is best and will lead us through. We can be like Paul and have joy despite our circumstance. True obedience leads to true joy.

    Thus, if God does not need our obedience, but we do, and if obeying God leads to our acheiving the fulfillment of our creaturely purpose (joy), it does follow that this also brings God joy, as opposed to his creatures destroying themselves through disobedience.

    I recognize there is narcicism in her statement. There may also be a too-shallow conception of happiness. Further, we might say that most of the big name preachers are often one-sided–it’s unusual to hear them talk about suffering, sacrifice and lament as routine aspects of daily faith.

    Anyway, thank you for the thoughts Dr. Wallace; I agree with you, but I thought I’d work through the statement myself–I’m curious to hear what you think I might be missing.

    Again, not a defense of Olsteen, but is it truly wrong to speak in this vein?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very good post Heith. Paul made the message clear to the Greek philosophers on Mar’s Hill: God is not needy. There is a huge difference between “trying to find out what pleases the Lord” and thinking that God needs something from His fallen creatures.

      At the giving of the Law, how many times does it state that these commands are for the Israelites own good? When they tried and failed, they were referred to the law of the sacrifice. Ultimately the redeemed Israelites and NT saints “fulfill the law” and are blessed because of it through redemption.

      Its not that Christians don’t suffer and serve but they do so because they have found that God has met all their own needs and love overflows toward others.

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  6. Daniel McCarthy

    I have trouble with this line of criticism with the Osteens. First, they are speaking the cultures language. If you look at Paul, he debated with the Greeks in a language they could understand. He pointed to what they thought was an unknown god to unveil the true Christ. The Osteen’s are speaking the language of the culture we live in (Oprah, Dr. Phil, ect). I think it is really easy to pick out snippets of a sermon and heavily criticize the sermon.

    I am a conservative evangelical in Boston. I can tell you that I have had the opportunity to witness to completely secular people because of Osteen’s message. A number of folks have started moving down an orthodox path. The Spirit can use unlikely messages to soften people’s hearts.

    On another note…I think that the biggest issue exposed in this thread is the massive Biblical illiteracy we face in the Western World. Strangely, I think this is why Osteen’s message is not a horror. If their speaking to the culture with the language of the culture gets them to open the Bible, their purpose may be in breaking through barriers for the glory of God.

    Finally, I am a huge fan of you Dan. I appreciate your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clark Coleman

      There is a huge difference between “using the language of a culture” and “agreeing with the non-Christian philosophical assumptions of a culture.” Every time someone wants to do the latter, they claim they merely are doing the former, and cite Paul as their supposed example.

      There is no way to reconcile Christianity with the attitudes of narcissism. Narcissistic thought is not merely the “language” of our culture, it is a way of thinking that separates us from God. Paul cited Greek poets and so on, to get the people’s attention, but he boldly proclaimed things that the majority of his audience could not accept, such as the resurrection of the body. He was rewarded in Athens by most of the audience shaking their heads and walking away (Acts 17:32-34).

      When the Greeks erected a statue to the Unknown God, they had pagan motives: better appease every god you can think of, and maybe add one more just to be safe! If Paul had spoken a message of appeasing gods just to be safe, maybe that would have had some appeal,. but it would have been speaking their beliefs, not just their language. Paul did not do that. He conceded nothing to their pagan thoughts. Instead, he told them that there was not some minor god somewhere who was a safe addition to their pantheon; rather, the God they did not know was the one true God, the Creator of all, and therefore their entire pantheon was irrelevant. This is nothing like what the Osteens are doing.

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  7. Tim Cole

    Sunday morning I buried nine former thugs–drug dealers, home invaders, car thieves, and gun toters–all ages 15-18 yrs. We said good bye to their old identities and lifestyles. These same guys were also raised the same morning from the dead and said hello to their new identities and new lifestyles–this is what baptism signifies (Rom.6:1ff). These young men of all races had been freed for a few hours from prison (where we disciple weekly) to join us in worship and baptism. They all openly professed Jesus as Savior and Lord.

    What brought about this striking change? The Die-Hard Gospel that Paul proclaimed: Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21). No other message cuts so deep in creating lasting change in the sinful human heart. Paul was so right: the Gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16ff.) unto salvation.

    Thanks, Professor, for displaying John Knox-like courage in calling a spade a spade. May your tribe increase.

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  8. Pingback: JOEL & VICTORIA OSTEEN: Their 'Christian' Narcissism Is A Symptom Of A Massive Problem - Clash Daily

  9. Living in and teaching God’s Word between the two least Biblically literate cities in the country, (Boston, MA and Providence, RI), I feel the pain every day and every time I teach. Can barely get a scarce crowd to listen to the teaching of God’s Word line by line, but the “all about you” church down the street packs em in. It reminds me daily that I am behind enemy lines as a POLITEUMA of heaven, as we all are, and I thank God for that. Thank you Professor Wallace for your diligence to God, His Word and the Bible literate community at large! Your work on the original languages and your teaching is a great blessing to all.

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  10. Susan

    Yes, the Osteen’s teaching is undeniably man-centered. Perhaps even more insidious is the hugely popular Beth Moore and her Bible studies which are welcomed without scrutiny into thousands of Evangelical churches. Her me-centered, man-centered, gospel-less teaching amounts to an extravagant collection of proof-texting, eisegesis, and allegorization of OT historical narratives. In fact, she seems to favor the OT for the reason that she can make any text into a funny little lesson on how to overcome insecurity, or some such personal hang-up. If in doubt, watch some of her many videos on the Life Today TV program where she teaches hundreds of thousands of men and women each week. I’ve watched hours of it and have spent a couple hundred hours going through her Breaking Free “Bible study” and some others.

    Because I’ve looked into Moore’s teaching far and wide I’ve come to see some consistencies. She doesn’t teach about Jesus. She doesn’t teach about the cross. Her Christology is vague. I have searched through her many Life Today TV sermons looking for something about Jesus. I finally found one about the crucifixion. The only thing she highlighted was how hard it must have been for Mary to watch her son die, and she could relate because of how much she misses her girls sometimes. When Jesus is present in a text that she’d supposedly teaching from she seems to be much more interested in the people surrounding him. Her occasional declaration that she loves Jesus so much does’t make up for this, but it is part of the delusion.

    I’ve also listened to some of her conference talks. Gospel-less. For a number of reasons I have come to believe that she is a universalist. She doesn’t talk about hell or judgment (only the slightest mention). She always speaks to her gigantic audiences as if everyone is saved.

    When teaching Romans 3:19-26 (Romans radio series now on sale on her website, surprise!), she skipped verse 20, “For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Her teaching is highly moralistic, so that just doesn’t work for her. Back to universalism, she also skipped the phrase, “for all who believe”, in vs. 22 of Romans 3. She loved the concept of the “mercy seat” which became the main focus of her Romans 3 talk, but she spoke as if all receive that mercy. Moore does not teach about the sanctifying role of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the little that she says about the Spirit in the Breaking Free study is strange. She says that we need to feed the Spirit so he/it can help us. She often makes comments about Jesus and God as if they are puppets to man.

    Elsewhere in the Romans series she made the out-loud saying of “Jesus is Lord” a requirement for salvation (she’s big on the power of words spoken out loud), and it seems that she sees this as the only requirement for salvation. She then likes to mention that “every knee will bow and every young confess that Jesus is Lord”, as if that means that all will universally be saved. Don’t be fooled by her occasional, rare, gospel-in-a-nutshell (4-5 sentences) nods. It’s not a message she actually preaches. The five-line gospel mention that appears in the Breaking Free study was followed by the reason for it, because that’s the “entrance to the freedom trail”. What is the freedom trail? Beth Moore’s “formula” (her words) to becoming free from bondage and captivity. The Breaking Free theme is central to her entire ministry message. She teaches how one can become “free”. While studying this book I could see that she doesn’t use the term the way scripture does. I finally concluded that she is pouring the meaning of , righteousness, into that word, and she is in fact setting forth a formula for self-righteousness, to which Jesus takes a back seat to our own human efforts. Beth Moore serves as a cheer-leader to inspire our efforts to achieve righteousness. She puts a big emphasis on personal obedience and yet has little to say about sin, and nothing about human depravity. Thus, only a rare mention of repentance exists in her work.

    Moore appears to be teaching from scripture but most of what she does with it is twisted from it’s true meaning as evidenced by the context. People think that she is encouraging women to study the Bible, but it’s also interesting that I’ve never heard her encourage women to read and study the Bible on their own. She does however promise women in Breaking Free, that IF they follow her formula and all the instructions, they will bemuse free. So the path is to go through her own scripture-twisting studies. Her hermeneutics are deplorable and I’ve seen the impact of that on a Bible study leader I know who’s been leading women through her studies for years. She has adopted similar habits.

    Important to note also that Moore often refers to her conversations with Jesus and the personal instructions and revelations he gives her. According to Moore he tells her what she should say and teach. She makes mentions of this in several of her Bible study videos and TV appearances. She prophesied about a future outpouring of the Spirit, warning that there will be Christian scoffers, at a recent James and Betty Robison conference. The gist of the prophesy is that this outpouring will involve “unity”. She is big on the concept that Catholics and Methodists and all manner of churches that name the name of Jesus are true Christians. I’ve seen her make this crystal clear in a videoed talk. Moore doe not each anything that a Catholic wouldn’t agree with. I highly doubt that she teaches anything that a Mormon wouldn’t agree with. I searched the web out of curiosity and even found a Mormon who like’s Moore’s studies. Some Catholic churches use her studies.

    At the end of the Breaking Free study Moore instructs that once we are free of our bondages we should expect the enemy (Satan) to give us “plunder”, just as the Israelites were given plunder when they left Egypt. She say that the Breaking Free study is her plunder. That’s interesting to contemplate, since the Breaking Free study is probably her biggest seller (not cheep with video tapes and books) and several other study’s are off-shoots of the same study. She is very wealthy, and most every thing she does makes her more loads of money. Her radio talks are only free to listen to temporarily and are then archived for sale on her website. She packs out convention centers when she speaks and the tickets aren’t cheep. Plunder theology…

    Her talks are full of anecdotal stories about herself and her husband. These stories don’t advance any spiritual truth, they are used for humor. She is very funny and personable, which does a lot to win her audiences. She speaks as if she is your very good friend, and thus builds bonds of loyalty with her audiences.

    At least Joel and Victoria Olsteen’s sermons aren’t brought into Women’s ministry at Evangelical Churches, as far as I know, and their error is often warned of publicly by other pastors and scholars. Beth Moore flies under the radar because pastors, scholars and seminary trained men don’t listen to her Bible study videos and spend 50-100 hours going through her workbooks (where the proof-texting leads deceptively to her own conclusions).

    Do not give Beth Moore a pass because she’s a woman! She is not just ignorant. She is consistent and purposeful in her teaching. I’ve had to come to the conclusion that she is a false teacher of the most “angel of light” form. BTW, like the false teacher, Bill Gothard, Moore has said disparaging things about seminary learning, and is not at all interested in attending. Why should she, she’s a rock star making millions, with a massive, devoted following.

    Thanks for reading. It matters wheat the women in the church are being taught! They are the primary teachers of the children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First, thank you to the author for his insightful article.
      Thank you to Pastor Warren Lamb for sending me this article.
      Susan, thank you so much for your post. I wish more of our male leaders and Pastors would take a closer at Moore, and sound the alarm. Beth Moore is not only a false teacher, she is a dangerous one. Thousands upon thousands of women bring her into the heart of their homes and their churches. The women don’t see it. They have fallen prey to her vain teachings.
      Many of the Pastors have really failed their women congregants by not paying attention to who Beth Moore is and what she teaches. My former Pastors didn’t see anything wrong with her teachings. They kept pointing out all of her education and my lack of the same. The also used the fact that she is part of the S Baptist convention to defend her. FInally, they said that she was teaching “faith” by using a lot of Scriptures never mind the fact that she was using the Scriptures out of context and chopped them up to meet her needs.
      Last year I went to the first night of Beth Moore’s “Believing God” Bible study (circa 2004 12th printing). There were seven errors in the video that lept out at me. My knuckles were white from gripping the chair in order to remain seated.
      Error #1: God told Beth the reason that America wasn’t having revival is because the American church lacks “faith.”
      #2: Though she was teaching on faith Beth refrained from using Romans:17 as her foundation. Instead, her teaching revolved around a pick yourself up and walk in faith sort of message. This is backed up in my next point.
      #3 Beth cut the Scripture apart. “I can do all things through Christ.” Period. Really? There was no contextual reference that Paul had learned that he could endure all things through Christ who strengthens him. Nope. Just the words, “I can do all things through Christ.” This warped Scripture was part of the mantra the ladies had to say at least once if not more during every session.
      The Mantra: God is who he says he is; God (CAN) do the things he says he will do; I am who God says I am; I can do all things through Christ; God’s Word is alive and active in me.
      Does anyone besides me have a problem with this mantra?
      I followed church procedure for my concerns about Beth. The price for my stand against Moore was my church and church family/friends. A small painful price for me but my heart grieves for them, and they remain in my prayers.
      One thing that Susan’s post left out is that Beth Moore practices and teaches “Contemplative Prayer,” ala Richard Foster’s New Age Book, “Celebration of Discipline.” A book the Moore highly recommends.
      If you are a Pastor, teacher, or a person in leadership at your church, please take a serious look a Beth Moore and her teachings. If she is in your church please expel her and have a meeting with the women at your church to go over her false teachings one by one. The women will not see it at first, They will resist – there is something almost cultish about Beth’s power to deceive. Or may be they resisted because I am such a poor message bearer. I am not who I would wend to warn a church if they were in error. Go with prayer, but please do not turn a blind eye to Beth Moore who has recently been guest hosting for Joyce Meyers…
      Do Susan and I need to say anything Moore?

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      1. Susan

        Joy, It’s good to know that there is someone else out there who has tried to alert the leadership of her church about the false teaching of Beth Moore. I never attended the Believing God study but the group I was in continued on to that study after the leader got rid of me. I googled that title one day and found that someone had posted the viewer’s guides that accompany the videos, with all of the blanks filled it. I printed it and went through it with a highlighter. I agree with you about ‘the mantra’. It is gospel-less, and I believe that Moore asks everyone to recite it every day. As I went though the viewer’s guide it became quite evident to me that she is teaching Word of Faith theology in that study. She talks about how our spoken words have power and she says that we can claim any promise of the OT. She explains that we can claim ‘the promised land’, and expect out own promised land here and now (the prosperity aspect of WOF theology). There were SO many problems with her statements in the viewer’s guide alone that I didn’t need to see the rest of the study to know that there are big problems with it.

        And yes, she promotes contemplative prayer and is a fan of Foster and Blackaby, and she quotes Francis Frangipane in her Breaking Free study (look him up!). I had gone through several other studies of hers in the past but confess to not doing the homework (too much BM commentary to read). Now that I’ve woken up–since the premiss of the Breaking Free study, and how she supported it by allegorizing about the kings in Isaiah, just didn’t sit right with me– so I started to do the homework with purpose! I recently picked up my old James workbook by Moore and started looking through it. I thought that it is truly one NT book she can work with since she preaches a moralistic gospel. I read the book of James in the Bible and took note of the versed that I thought would be a problem for her. I then looked in her workbook to see what she had done with those verses. Not surprisingly, she had either slyly skipped them, or made them invisible in some other way. This is typical of false teachers.

        I’m sorry to hear that you were rebuffed and spurned by your church. I assume that you have landed in a healthier church since then (sometimes the unanticipated benefit). I am currently addressing the Beth Moore study problems with my pastor. We met once and had a good conversation, which happened to take place a few days after he’d preached on false teachers. I didn’t have much chance to lay out the abundant amount of evidence I’d come prepared to show him, so he has welcomed my return to do just that. I will also finish writing up a summary of my findings in the Breaking Free study, which he is also awaiting.

        I can relate to your bad experience in that the woman who was leading the Bible study I attended did not like it when I would make comments during discussion time, pointing out the scriptural context of some of Moore’s proof-texted ideas. I was minimal in my comments, not saying anything negative about Moore, but the leader grew increasingly agitated about this. She finally sent me an email telling me she wanted me to stop making those comments because I was causing “strife and dissension” (completely untrue), and I was “compromising the investment of the women” (the $10.00 they paid for the book?). I told her that I thought we were there to learn what God is telling us in his word, and therefore we should do what we could to correctly understand. Ultimately she made it clear that she wanted me to leave the group, and even put me on mock trial before the women –trying to make me look bad before them in a very deceptive way. She had been a good friend of mine for 20 years. So, like you, I lost a friend, and the group of women, some of whom had also become friends of mine. I chalk it up to the sort of true spiritual warfare that comes when we try to take down the domains of demonic teaching.

        I alerted the pastor of the church where we had been meeting (not in our own church building) about the false teaching of Beth Moore. He and his head elder looked into BM’s teaching, concluding that they would not allow Moore’s studies any longer. So now I’m proceeding to make this case in the larger church where I actually attend. I have already gotten some pretty negative vibes from some leaders who know of my intent. Thankfully, the pastor is very open to hearing from me. I think this will be doable because of him–as a genuine lover of the
        Lord and a strong preacher of the Word, but I’m bracing myself for some less-than-thrilled responses from the women. I’ve already gotten an earful from an associate pastor who accused me of being unbiblical.

        As you have noted, Moore has a way of talking to her audience as if she’s a good friend. She is skilled at building audience loyalty. It is quite dangerous because all objectivity goes out the door once someone is a popular, well-loved personality. I have seen men remove their scrutinizing posts about her teaching because of the outpouring of vitriol they received from women. I couldn’t have devised a better “angel of light” if I’d tried!

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  11. I referenced Victoria Osteen’s comments in a sermon I preached Sunday night, a message from 2 Timothy 4:2 simply entitled, “Preach the Word.” Jokingly, I said, “If you ever needed an example for why women should be silent in church…”

    Thank you for this post. I think I will reblog it, too.

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      1. I’m sorry, Sheri, but maybe I should have clarified something. You see, I have been preaching through 1 Corinthians on Sunday evenings, and the subject of women speaking in the church has just come up for discussion. I am sorry if you felt it was rude, and I’m sorry you feel sorry for the women in my congregation, but it was meant in humor, especially considering the context. For that matter, the women in my church are quite vocal when it comes to how they feel about matters. If they had been offended, I would have been the first to know.

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  12. I worry most about Bible literacy from the pulpit. The idea of most people being able to read the Bible is a new thing historically speaking. So many I speak to really only grasp from the Bible what has been fed to them from the pulpit. This is sad in our day and age. But Pastors need to recognize the awesome responsibility of this.

    So when I hear a Pastor bring the Word of God in a twisted way I am deeply saddened or even angry. There are an awful lot of us though who would consider each other to Biblically illiterate because we interpret things differently. So it is a tough thing to judge. I pray we can major in the majors and minor in the minors.

    If I twist my head just right I can see where she is coming from. She does a horrible job of delivering it. God’s doesn’t need us. That is sure. But he sure wants us to Love him. He tells us that He is so jealous of our Love that his name is Jealous. That doesn’t feel like a casual thing. We certainly are worshiping Him for Him, but it is us who is reaping the benefit. It was His Love that brought the cross and bore our pain. He did that for us, not Him. But it was His pleasure and His Passion.

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    1. Todd, I must confess, it is possible that what Mrs. Osteen said was taken the wrong way. I, too, twisted my head till my neck nearly snapped as I tried to make sense of it. However, in light of other teachings within Osteen’s circle of influence, I tend to think she meant it the way it came out. Just my opinion.

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  13. Pingback: Bible Literacy? | Toad'sTool

  14. Rick Olson

    Lakewood Church in Houston is a church of about 45,000 attendees (they don’t have official “voting members”), making it the largest single-location independent charismatic church in America. The church has grown five-fold since Joel Osteen took over as pastor of the church following the death of his father and Lakewood founder, John Osteen. The church is decidedly charismatic and evangelical in nature, and preaches a prosperity gospel. The Osteens have been called out in the past about such things as unsound teaching, blasphemy and heresy, among other things. While I certainly respect the fact that Joel and Victoria are a brother and sister in Christ, I cannot support the unsound doctrine that is being preached from the Lakewood pulpit. When Victoria said what she said the other week during a service and put man before God, and Joel stood at her side nodding in agreement; ladies and gentlemen, in my opinion, that was nothing short of blasphemy. It’s never about us. It’s all about God!

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  15. Heith

    Talking about Biblical illiteracy, I’m surprised so many of us are decrying this without evaluating it more closely.

    I refer to my earlier post: as I said, I’m not trying to defend the Olsteen’s because I don’t have a stake in their issues. However, if the issue is Biblical literacy, how are we not seeing what I argued earlier, which I think are fairly undisputed Christian beliefs that actually lend support to her claims:

    1. God doesn’t ‘need’ our obedience, but we do need to obey him.
    2. Obeying God leads to full life at the fulfillment of our telos as creatures–we may call this joy or happiness. Thus obeying God leads to our happiness.
    3. Since God is good, he wants us to find fullness in obedience and to take joy In his Law, thus when we find joy in obeying God, God is pleased (happy).

    It’s also important to note that, at least from comments I’ve seen, there is no context to this: are we commiting a basic biblicist error and singling out a 1-2 minute clip and making a determination of her whole message?

    Finally, I have a hard time calling this blasphemy, maybe it is. But more likely it’s simply a comment removed from context (at best) or, as Professor Wallace pointed out, a ‘me’-centric Christianity that confuses the ‘American Dream’ for Godly happiness, singles out personal satisfaction as the greatest motivator and ignores a more balanced understanding of the place for sacrifice and loss in the Christian life.

    These are certainly errors, but I do see precedence for her comments, however poorly she articulated the values.

    Now, again, not trying to be argumentative, but I would love to hear from Professor Wallace, or anyone else, with and evaluation of my reasoning above. I’m not suggesting it’s perfect, but it establishes a paradigm where her comments aren’t completely off base.

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    1. Clark Coleman

      One way in which we can take things out of context is to ignore the body of an author’s (or speaker’s) work. Perhaps some of us are not jumping through hoops to give an orthodox spin to Mrs. Osteen’s words because we have a very long familiarity with the Prosperity Gospel and its genealogy.

      In addition, your reasoning does not address all of her words. She says that when we come to church, when we worship God, we are doing it for ourselves, not for God. But even if I try to put your positive spin on this, her words ignore that we have another, unselfish motive when we come together: to teach, admonish, and encourage one another, and to provoke each other to good works, among other things (Ephesians 5:17-21; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:23-25). Therefore, even though who claim that worship is a purely vertical relationship between a Christian and God are incorrect, although at least they seem to be motivated by a desire to see us transcend our self-centeredness and focus on God. We should very much have a motivation to help fellow Christians when we come to church, and Mrs. Osteen instead encourages us to focus on what makes us happy. Again, those of us who have some context on the Osteens and the Prosperity Gospel and the Word of Faith movement and so on have a very good idea of what she means by that.

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      1. Heith

        Clark, thank you for your thoughtful response. The reason I was so intent to discuss this was not because I meant to defend or argue for the Olsteen’s because I like them or believe their teaching. The point is to be thorough and fair and discuss every angle, not just the one I am predisposed to (and if I am honest, I’m biased to align myself with Prof. Wallace).

        To your points:
        1. Prosperity Gospel – Truthfully, I have not listened to Olsteen’s teaching enough to know if he truly espouses a Prosperity Gospel, or whether the random sound bytes that everyone loves to highlight simply paint a shallow picture of his more robust position. Truthfully, I’ve never read any of his books and I don’t intend to.

        But this is part of the reason I don’t want to jump on the critical bandwagon; it’d be too easy to assume I know what he means based on short videos and book titles. I do this too often and I’m learning to be more careful about speaking about what I’m not qualified for.

        Now, maybe you have read Olsteen’s books, maybe you have done an extensive survey of his podcasts or videos or etc.–based on your comments, it seems you have a more extensive knowledge of their teaching–if so, I will admit you know more about him than I do.

        I spoke with a friend recently who told me how they had felt challenged to address her criticism of Olsteen by spending six weeks listening to his messages with an open heart. Her conclusion was that, while there are probably some (or several) points of disagreement, he’s not some evil heretic who’s trying to twist the Gospel.

        My point isn’t that her anecdote proves Olsteen is on the up and up, but that it does demonstrate: a) an even-minded, good-will approach, not a brash or knee-jerk reaction, which is what is so often seen, and b) the fact that many will report Olsteen has been a powerful influence for God’s good in their lives. In this regard, we check the quality of the fruit.

        So again, your perspective sounds more enlightened than mine; if so, I defer to that. However, I always challenge my students to do research for themselves before making a judgment about someone’s ministry.

        2) I agree with your assessment that a very primary reason for Church is the mutual edification of the saints. Interestingly, I wonder how many churches fail at or neglect this but continue the pretense that their services are any more communal and interactive than others. As Prof. Wallace prescribed–we have a ‘me’ centered Christianity in America. So is it worth something that at least the Olsteen’s aren’t trying to hide that fact? Maybe it’s not ideal, but at least it’s an honest engagement with a dominant, though unfortunate, cultural theme. This certainly doesn’t justify anything, it simply levels the playing field; we have to be careful we don’t look down our nose at all the visible pastors/churches and be thankful that our ministries are thusly scrutinized for the world to see.

        But more importantly, there is a horizontal aspect of Church and emphasizing the vertical relationship does not preclude that the Olsteen’s either neglect or don’t believe in that aspect. I don’t remember who said that every single sermon is a small heresy, because it is impossible to preach the whole counsel of God in a single message (Craddock or Robinson?).

        So yes, Mrs. Olsteen was emphasizing what she considers a primary motivation for coming to church. But this doesn’t deemphasize or even negate the possibility of her/their position on edification of the saints.

        I do agree with you that “what makes us happy” is not an adequate foundation of why we should go to church or do anything. However, I don’t see anything heretical about acknowledging that obeying God DOES bring us real spiritual joy in the Lord. In my above reasoning, I do qualify “joy/happiness” because in the clip she doesn’t, and it is vital to the reasoning. Obeying God doesn’t bring just any, subjective, whimsical, self-centered happiness.

        Finally, the last pastor I worked under said he used to be critical of the Olsteen’s until he was able to visit them and speak a little with Joel Olsteen. He was able to ask what Olsteen’s calling was and he explained that Olsteen described his calling as a calling to bring joy to people. That is fairly specific. It’s also not a typical pastoral calling. In the context of his calling, my pastor felt that it explained how he ran the ministry.

        Billy Graham had a narrow calling that was not the typical pastoral calling; some people had trouble with that for a while. But in terms of what he felt called to do, he did an amazing job. I can’t help but wonder if there is a similar dynamic with Joel Olsteen.

        Might it be possible that so many of us are projecting our expectations of what his calling/ministry SHOULD look like as a pastor (leader?) of tens of thousands? I’ve heard some people question that his gathering even be called a church–OK, so it’s an inspirational meeting. Maybe God can use this movement that doesn’t look how we expect or believe or want it to? Just some thoughts I’m challenging myself with.

        I am a critical person by nature, and I’m sure I’ll have opportunities to be more critical of Olsteen in the future. For now, I’m simply trying to understand him and his wife more fairly, and use this as a springboard for discussion, less about who is doing what wrong, and how we can be more faithful as Christ’s Church.

        Thank you for your thoughts!

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      2. Clark Coleman

        Heith: I appreciate the fact that you are trying to be irenic and not divisive. However, your references to people studying the Osteens (not Olsteens) with “an open heart” and someone talking to Joel Osteen and being satisfied with the response that Joel Osteen is “trying to bring joy to people” all point to a problem with discernment. Are these people knowledgeable enough to discern error? Have they studied the detailed critiques of the Osteens? If not, they have not looked at both sides of the matter.

        What is missing here is a real dialogue. In a real dialogue, Osteen says something, someone writes a critique, Osteen responds to the critique, there might be a response to that, etc. At some point, you have read it all and you do not see anything new being said. Then you have to make up your mind. Have the Osteens EVER responded in detail to critiques of their teaching? If not, why not, and how are we supposed to engage in the dialogue that is needed?

        I recommend a thorough reading of Dr. McConnell’s book, “A Different Gospel,” to get insight into the Word of Faith movement. Then when you study the Prosperity Gospel discussions, you will have insight into the similarities and the background. I came to the conclusion that the Prosperity Gospel is a close sibling of the Word of Faith movement, with a lot of shared genealogy and teachers in common.

        Why does this matter? Because the ultimate origin of all of this is Hinduism. When Hindu writings began to be studied in the West in the early 19th century, many attempts to synthesize East and West began. Transcendentalism, New Thought, Christian Science (i.e. from Mary Baker Eddy) all resulted in the 19th century alone. In the 20th century, beginning quite early, we got Word of Faith, Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale et al.), the Prosperity Gospel, and the New Age movement (which is far more East than West and often is unconcerned with Christianity, although some advocates have attempted synthesis here, also).

        Have the people you cited studied this? Do they have any understanding of Hindu concepts such as maya and their influence along the path I outlined starting in the 19th century? Would they know a Hindu concept if they saw it expressed without Hindu labels? Would you? In brotherly love, I can tell you that your time would be better spent in studying these matters than in posting on this blog at the moment. And tell your friends that those who lack background knowledge, but “study the Osteens with an open mind” (along with many other teachers besides the Osteens) are vulnerable to being fooled by non-Christian spirituality re-packaged in sorta-Christian terms. Throw in a few Bible verses and Christian phrases, and the average American Christian today falls for it hook, line and sinker.

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    2. I’ll bite on that bait, Heith… IF you’ll put some in-context Bible references with your arguments to support them.
      The issue is Biblical illiteracy. Therefore, we have to support an argument or idea with scripture. Otherwise, a response comes across just as illiterate and lacking credibility as the original statement.
      God’s word is inspired by holy wisdom far beyond any “logic” of man. It’s very easy to come up with our own “logical” considerations yet be as far from God’s truth as the east is from the west. That seems to be the whole basis of Victoria’s proclamation in the referenced article… I’m sure it made sense to her when she said it; but, it’s not supported by scripture. Therefore, she spoke blasphemy.

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      1. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

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      2. You’ll have to elaborate on that claim, demablogue. Your refute of God’s word doesn’t hold water just because you don’t like what it says. Do you have something credible to add to this?

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      3. Oh yeah… and here’s in-context scripture to support my last reply.

        “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:10-17

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      4. demablogue

        I am not refuting God’s word. I’m pointing out the hilarious disconnect in demanding biblical support for a claim while providing none to support your own assertion that logic isn’t a valid avenue for exploring the bible.

        Then, I pointed out that the Isaiah verse you quoted is not a refutation of logic explicitly, nor is it a contextual refutation of logic.

        You set an impossible standard for your own assertions in your post.

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      5. Heith

        Dan,

        Thank you for your comment. A couple thoughts:

        1) In terms of Scripture citation, may I assume that you agree with Prof. Wallace’s position? If so, you may notice that his blog also fails your criteria of providing scripture references to back up his points. However, you are not wrong to agree with many of his statements because they ARE Scripturally sound.

        How can they be Biblical if he is not overtly citing verses? Easy–he’s speaking thematically of the Bible’s broad strokes, he’s evoking the essential character of Jesus and the Gospel and discussing how that influences how we live. This is not only a valid way of discussing truth, but it is also more effective, in some ways, than tacking on a Bible reference here and there, because it calls ALL of Scripture to testify to the veracity of his claims. There is a danger to simply proof-text citations, ripping them from context to pretend they demonstrate the point we want to make. However, if one speaks in broad strokes, thematically, about Biblical truth, then we have more than just a couple verses to back up a statement, we have a verifiable Biblical theme.

        So, to my argument, each of my points is, I contend, a verifiable, consistent, and traditional truth theme about God, e.g. (because you asked) the immutability of God (i.e. he does not need our obedience, we cannot add value to his perfection): Jn. 5:26; Col. 1:17; Mal. 3:6-7; Jas. 1:17; Heb. 13:8; Is. 40:25-28.

        Further, in terms of Biblical literacy, it’s our job to discern and test truth claims, therefore it should be easy to read my short statements (an epistemological format, sure) and determine, based on one’s own grasp of Scripture, their truthfulness.

        So let’s examine them. 1) I’ve already mentioned God’s immutability, meaning that God doesn’t NEED our obedience.

        2) Let’s test it this way–does our obedience benefit God, add anything to him? Does he need our obedience to be fulfilled, loved, happy? Job 22:2, 38-40 (esp 40:2); Ps. 8:3-4; Acts 17:24-25.

        3) Why do we obey? Is obedience necessary for us? Are we capable of a good life outcome apart from obeying God? Jas. 1:14-15; Lk 6:46; Heb. 4:11; 1 Jn. 3:4; Eph. 5:6.

        4) Does following God’s precepts bring joy? John 15:9-11; Ex. 19:5; Eph. 6:1-3; Lk. 11:28; James 1:25; Ps. 1:1-3, 112:!, 119:14-16, 47-48, 97, 122:; Josh. 1:8.

        So yes, God’s wisdom is above ours. But because we are made in his image, I believe that he purposely gave us intellects to commune with our spirits as we use our rationality to explore theology and our love relationship with our Creator. Just because we can not know it ALL does not mean we should not faithfully try to understand the SOME that God has revealed to us.

        Finally, you fail your own test because you make a claim about evaluating truth claims, fail to back it up and then assume the conclusion necessarily follows. This is not evident.

        I appreciate your thoughts and I hope you’ve seen my qualifications about the Olsteens in my other points. Where I would agree with you is if she did not accept my qualification about what godly happiness is, or if this statement was intended to be a wholistic Gospel foundation of our faithfulness to God. I do think when we obey God we find true joy that comes from being the creatures he made us to be; this is a PART of why we obey. However, if this position is not balanced properly it definitely can become heresy. So I don’t disagree with you, my intention was partially to point out that, from a theological perspective, she’s not entirely wrong, there is sound reasoning to be found but again, it is only part of the picture.

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  16. Pingback: The Osteens and Another Gospel » Bill Muehlenberg’s CultureWatch

  17. Pingback: From Dan Wallace: Pastor Osteen and Christian Narcissism - Ed Underwood

  18. Pingback: The Gospel of “Me” | On Target

  19. Pingback: Pastor Osteen and Christian Narcissism: Symptom of a Larger Problem | rickileebrooks' blog

  20. Heith

    Seriously…Prof. Wallace, anyone? It’s disappointing that what’s more important in the comments of this blog seems to be trashing the Olsteens rather than really critically thinking about what they said.

    I posted reasoning earlier to show how she might be defended in her comments. My hope is that someone would have examined these thoughts; it’s not that I think they are fool proof, it’s that it seems most folks are only looking at this situation derisively…

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      1. demablogue

        @Dan I am not sure you understand “context,” based on how you keep using it.

        where is an actual biblical basis for your “broad strokes” assertion? You may think you have addressed this, if so, you are mistaken.

        You do seem to have shown why Paul claimed he was the greatest sinner; his paraphrasing and lack of pin-cite support combined with deductive reasoning are a truly heretical masterpiece.

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      2. Thank you, demablogue. Your opinion means so much to me.

        Your words, fitly spoken, are like apples of gold in a setting of silver… like a gold ring or an ornament of gold… wisdom to my listening ear. Proverbs 25:11-12

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    1. Heith,

      First of all, thank you for taking time to back your ideas with scripture. (re: your reply above)

      I believe every statement of faith MUST be backed by God’s Word or the statement hasn’t any more credibility than the “broad strokes” of the serpents words, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5) It is extremely easy to twist God’s word to support any doctrine we may conjure up. The devil’s been doing it from the beginning and it remains a very common practice still today in many “churches”.

      Yes, I absolutely agree with the assertions of this article. Victoria Osteen made a statement of faith before a “body of believers” that not only is NOT backed by God’s Word but is fully contrary to scripture (just as the serpent did in Genesis 3).

      You’re right, the original article itself is lacking scriptural references to validate the writers points. I see this as the primary reason why many who read it are finding fault with the accusations made against Mrs. Osteen’s declaration. Again, this is why I challenged you to produce in-context Bible references to support your points. And, here is where I disagree with you… thematic broad-stroke arguments are NOT a valid way of discussing truth. It may be a valid way of discussing logic, or opinions, or tradition, or hypothesis… but not a valid way of discussing truth. Here’s an example: Broad-stroke arguments are the basis for the religion of Evolution: the broader one stretches the time-period for the theory, the easier it is to get people to buy into the idea (and even declare it as “truth”). But God’s own testimony (written on tablets of stone) says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11) God is very detailed and pin-pointed when He reveals truth and when He gives His commandments.

      The Pharisees, in Matthew 22, were attempting to discredit Jesus when they accurately confronted him with these words: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Matthew 22:16). In John 14:6, Jesus further declared himself to be the truth: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” So, if we know Jesus and what he said and taught, then we know the truth.

      Now, I can’t find anywhere in the gospels where Jesus instructed his disciples to sit around and discuss the truth he taught or to develop theological traditions based on the truth he revealed. No, his instructions were, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) He also said, “Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19)

      So, a follower of Christ– a “Christian”– attests by their own witness of wearing the name of Christ that they believe Jesus is the truth and ALL he says, teaches, and represents is truth. Therefore, our opinions about the truth have no bearing on the actual validity of the truth. We either recognize and receive the truth, or we will discuss it, twist it, interpret it, and ultimately reject the truth because we don’t agree with the application to which the truth bears witness.

      Victoria’s assertions of what makes God happy are not supported by God Himself through His Word. That makes her testimony untrue– a lie– in likeness to the twisted words the serpent spoke in Genesis 3.

      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
      Here are the Bible verses that speak of when “God takes pleasure” (Victoria’s assertion):

      1 Chronicles 29:17 “I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.”

      Psalm 147:10-11 “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

      Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.”

      Haggai 1:7-9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.”

      Luke 12:30-34 “For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

      Philippians 2:12-16 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life,”

      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
      Victoria said, “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God. I mean, that’s one way to look at it. We’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning.” – But Bible scripture reveals that God takes pleasure in uprightness (1 Chronicles 29:17), in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11), in the humble (Psalm 149:4), in building God’s house (Haggai 1:7-9), in giving His kingdom to those who seek it (Luke 12:30-34), and in sanctifying those who obey Him (Philippians 2:12-16).

      Nowhere does God’s Word suggest that we have to be HAPPY about obeying, fearing, building, or seeking God in order for God to take pleasure. Rather, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

      To follow Jesus is to deny ourselves, submit to the commandments of God’s Word, and intentionally practice a life of uprightness, fearing God, serving God, seeking God, and allowing God to work His will in sanctifying our hearts and minds. THIS, according to God’s proclamations through His Word is what God takes pleasure in.

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      1. Heith

        Dan,

        I don’t have much time to fully reply, but I will make a few points:

        1) You seem to be making a bigger issue of the scripture citation (or lack thereof) than the content of my actual argument. In fact, near as I can tell, you don’t address a single point; you’re talking around the issues I brought up to harp upon citations/truth claims etc. This is fine, but you are not demonstrating anything; we still must accept your points by assumption. Further, I’ve clearly established the Biblical basis behind my “broad strokes.” It’s odd that you ignore addressing these things…

        2) We cannot help but speak in generalities and broad strokes. In fact, whether you admit it or not, you are doing this very thing in you claims, whether you cite a couple verses or not. This is entirely valid and it’s a fairly essential aspect of communication because we need good generalizations and themes. Further, I didn’t say that broad strokes was the only way of speaking about things, only that it was valid.

        3) Citing Scripture can be used just as much as speaking thematically to twist Scripture. Now, I’m not suggesting you are “twisting” Scripture, but you do proof-text, pull several verses out of context and string them together to enforce your logic. Done this way logic, whether we acknowledge it or not, is the driving factor of what citations are used. My point about speaking thematically is that, when we do this, we MUST submit to the weight of ALL Scripture to make a thematic point, thus the Bible determines the flow of our reasoning, not the other way around.

        Either way, as I said, this point re: citations is superfluous to my points, it’s almost feels like a screen to detract from having to fully engage the points that I made which actually are quite Biblically defensible.

        4) You mention that Jesus didn’t instruct his disciples to discuss his teaching–yes he expected obedience. But discuss his teaching they did. In fact, the most major doctrines of Christianity, Christology, Trinity, Pneumatology, came out of several centuries of discussing Christ’s and OT Scripture’s teaching. So a) it’s odd to argue that just because Christ didn’t explicitly say something, we are precluded from doing it, and b) Christ didn’t speak in terms of Trinitarian language, so by your logic, we have no foundation to speak of God in these terms. This is nonsensical. It’s simply a way of silencing discussion for fear that God Spirit can’t guide a human discussion where the spirit and mind are wedded in search of God’s truth.

        5) You say that Scripture doesn’t say we have to be happy when obeying…I’m not sure what your point is because no one, not me at least, is arguing that happiness MUST follow obedience. My point was that Scripture is very clear that, when our perspectives are faithfully aligned with God’s heart, we DO learn to take joy in obeying God in whatever circumstance (Phil 4). So again, you’re arguing a non-issue here.

        As I’ve said all along, there ARE problems with what Mrs. Olsteen said, but this is not because she isn’t saying anything untrue, it’s because we perceive an imbalance and an unhealthy/Biblical perspective of happiness supplanted for true godly joy.

        Thank you for your discussion. Depending on your following comment, I may or may not find it fruitful to continue this thread…we don’t seem to be making much headway and I don’t want to talk past each other.

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      2. Heith,
        1) The immutability of God is indisputable. God is perfectly pure and wholly complete in eternal perfection… lacking nothing… in need of nothing (including our obedience, as was your focus). In other words, I agree with your exegesis of the Bible verses you used (in context, or not).

        2) “… it’s our job to discern and test truth claims,” … “based on one’s own grasp of Scripture, their truthfulness.” You provide nothing of scriptural basis for this assertion. Where did you come up with this?

        3) Your examination of how our obedience to God brings us joy is sound and I agree with it (in context or not). But, this point only supports half of Victoria Osteen’s proclamation. Yes, obedience to God is intended by God’s design to ultimately bring us joy. But the climax of her assertion was “You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy”. This was her apical statement to which she solicited her listeners to “Amen”. There’s nothing that I can find in your “testing” (or in scripture, as I’ve already detailed) that supports this profession of faith. And, THAT is what this article is addressing.

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  21. I recently found your blog. I actually own one of your grammars, so thanks for that… Thanks also for your article above. It is quite clear and concise. A while back, I wrote an article on my blog about the true purpose of worship. If you have a chance, would you mind taking a look? http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/isnt/
    I would be very interested in hearing any thoughts you might have. Thanks!

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  22. So Joel doesn’t preach the word.. His wife in this case..

    Christians can be the worst,

    Someone with too much time on his hands makes an unfounded and cruel accusation about someone he doesn’t know and counts on the rest of us to pass the babble on. That has made gossip much more lethal than in years past.

    It seems some of my fellow Christians like participating in this shark feeding, even if the victim is a fellow believer. It is something blatantly forbidden by the faith we profess and even has a technical name: bearing false witness. We like to do it anyway. So we do.

    I will not be participating though.

    I think when Jesus said “you will give account on the Day of Judgment for every idle word” and “what is said in secret will be declared from the housetop,” he may well have had Internet gossip in mind. So I try to delete crazy messages that sound too much like the old National Inquirer..

    Anyway, to your point: what about Joel Osteen?

    One the surface, one would not have predicted that Joel Osteen would have become that controversial. He is a nice person. By all accounts this is not merely his public persona, but is his private life he’s the same, (this man is real). He is polite, civil and well spoken. What he says in his sermons is encouraging, enjoyable to hear, and helpful for the journey of life.

    So what’s the fuss about?

    Well, you people who dislike Joel Osteen believe he doesn’t say enough. They claim his messages are not good examples of the sort of Bible teaching one ought to expect from an equipped and seasoned pastor; he doesn’t take definitive stands on the issues of the day; his polished style seems rehearsed, staged and designed for the theater or political platform rather than the pulpit; that sort of thing. Don’t get mad your words not mine..

    When people say things like that about Joel, sometimes, I just don’t respond .. But not today..

    To me, it seems unfair to criticize Joel Osteen for doing what he does. Unless he preaches rank heresy – or promotes unethical, immoral or illegal practices — which he does not – or does something else that clearly places him outside the boundaries of Christian ministry –whining about him seems utterly unfair and unhelpful.

    Does what Joel do on TV count as a sufficient presentation of the gospel? Most of the time; I think so. But is what he says compatible with the gospel? Yes. Much more so in fact than the ranting preachers who wrap up the fish of their political ideologies in Bible versus or the religious ponzi scheme marketers that constantly raise money in order to develop campuses where they can make a living raising money. Joel actually feeds the hungry. He helps poor people develop better lives. He sends a fortune to missionaries world wide, and he takes no salary, he lives off book sales..

    Maybe he should do more but what he does are things Jesus told us to do. And what’s wrong with that?

    Ok. I new his Dad very well and I personally like Joel Olsten. I don’t often listen to his sermons and I don’t read his books. But I like him. I believe he is a Christian trying to carry out Christian ministry.

    I am also willing to learn from him.

    Recently, I learned that a huge percentage of people attending Joel’s church are from broken families and working class backgrounds. Their testimonies to reporters and researchers are pretty consistent: the church has been a refuge and second family for them. It has helped them rise out of their circumstances and into new lives. These people believe they found the Lord in Joel’s church and that the Lord has delivered them from their old mess. That counts for something in my book and is something I want to do too.

    In the end, I think Joel is probably doing what he ought to do. He is giving sound encouraging words to millions of people, believer and unbeliever alike. He is helping lift people out of despair. That is a gift of healing. He is also teaching preachers to smile – that can’t hurt anything! Perhaps if the likes of John McArthur would smile a little more it would make their sound biblical voice a bit more bearable and appealing. If being hateful is what it takes to be prophetic and biblically faithful, then perhaps a smile might break the character of their gospel witness; but who knows, maybe not.

    Perhaps what we ought to do is simply thank Joel for doing what he does, step up to the plate, and provide what you believe is missing from his presentation. It is entirely possible that someone who has been listening to Joel may soon be ready to study the Book of Hebrews. If so, then some teacher better start preparing himself for that moment. And it won’t help to begin that study with complaints against Joel. A simple “thank you’ might be more in order and might make the student think the teacher is a Christian.

    If I could only prove that Joel Osteen was once an ax murderer or the member of the mafia, this blog post might go viral .. If I just had the stomach to go on a rant about his deficiencies, my fellow Christians might promote my words and increase my reading constituency. But then there is that scary warning from Jesus about idle words that gives me pause. Stop what your doing , IT’s WRONG..

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  23. Hi Dan,

    It is because of the “buddyization” of pastors that no-one says a thing when one pastor starts to impoverish his/her preaching with narcissism. It is because of SILENCE that such deviation is left to later lead to tragedy. This has been the case with Mark Driscol too. The man has been nothing short of an insult.

    And now for the real chase: YOUR fellow Evangelicals, Dan by the names of Robert Morey and James White have not been any nobler in their appalling display of self-righteous narcissism. Are you going to keep quiet on that too?

    Let’s see…

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  24. Cristian

    Well, from the few seconds of the video I guess she was more trying to make a “fill in” than a preaching in order to start the next section. I wouldn’t make that a point of belief though I don’t really agree with what she said.

    From what I understood by listening to some of their preaching a few years ago I’d have to say that they are not theologians nor close to being deeply rooted in the Bible.
    They are more self help with a Christian background. It doesn’t mean they are working for Satan nor it implies dishonesty. I think they are nice people who live with simple faith, honourable principles and teach others instead of doing nothing.

    I also understand that her statement is more for people suffering from depression who need to pick themselves up and need to be encouraged to do something to make their own lives better.

    The risk with these statements is that they can be used by “the enemy” to keep people in their self-centered lives without considering that Christ gave us a good combo list: God-neighbour-self.

    I often tell people that God is The Example of what how we should think. If you were to ask Him what would He like to receive from you, He would immediately ask you to do something for one of His children. He finds His pleasure in others.
    That’s why He decided not to be alone and fully self-sufficient but created other creatures. And that’s why Jesus said “if you love me, follow my commandments”, because He showed them clearly what He likes.

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  25. After decades of youth and adult ministry in East Texas (the diamond on the buckle of the Bible belt) I have come to this painful conclusion, ignorance of Jesus is epidemic. If we are suffering from a lack of knowledge concerning the Gospel narrative, how must the rest of our culture fair? Not good! In the 35 and under age group, 95% have never read even ONE of the 4 Gospel stories. We are fervently preaching and witnessing in order to get folks to trust Jesus, assuming they have a clear picture of Him and they don’t. The second-hand information that forms their patchwork mental picture of Jesus is not something most are willing to take the plunge of faith for. Pre-evangelism work is a huge part of effectively sharing the Gospel. Reading the Gospel stories has become a prerequisite. They cannot trust in some character synthesized from hearsay and fantasy. Ours is faith based in the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the original religious tracts! The goal of the Primary Source Project to get everyone to read or listen to the stories of Jesus and engage in an ongoing conversation about Him. Challenge your friends and family to start reading the Gospels and let the Word of God do the heavy lifting. Isaiah 55:11
    Thank You Dr Wallace for pointing out the center of our ills……Not knowing the Word!

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  26. Dan Stone

    Tozer on Christian Leadership –

    Trials and Pain: Happiness is Not the Goal

    “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” —2 Timothy 2:3-4

    That we are born to be happy is scarcely questioned by anyone. No one bothers to prove that fallen men have any moral right to happiness, or that they are in the long run any better off happy. The only question before the house is how to get the most happiness out of life. Almost all popular books and plays assume that personal happiness is the legitimate end of the dramatic human struggle.

    Now I submit that the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as is the scramble after money or fame or success….

    How far wrong all this is will be discovered easily by the simple act of reading the New Testament through once with meditation. There the emphasis is not upon happiness but upon holiness. God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings. Undoubtedly the will of God brings final happiness to those who obey, but the most important matter is not how happy we are but how holy. The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back home to his loved ones. There he may enjoy himself to the full; but while the war is on his most pressing job is to be a good soldier, to acquit himself like a man, regardless of how he feels.

    ~ A.W. Tozer; “Of God and Men”, pp. 48-49 ~

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  27. I think people are too quick to criticize the Osteens. Mrs. Osteen said, “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God. I mean, that’s one way to look at it. We’re doing it for ourselves.” The way I see it, when a drowning person grabs a life preserver, they are doing it for themselves. When an alcoholic hits rock bottom and cries out to God, they are initially turning doing to for themselves. Now, of course I understand the limitations of Joel Osteen’s “preaching” and I much prefer the scripture-rich expository preaching of my own pastor, but the Osteens might be fulfilling a specific role in God’s plan.

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  28. Steve

    I believe that preachers and teachers have a responsibility to preach the whole gospel. Admittedly I have not done an in debts study of the Osteens “theology”. But I can say that the vast majority of what I have heard is aimed at making the listener feel better about themselves. I have heard very little about “all have sinned”, I have heard very little, “except a man be born again”, I have heard Mr. Osteens, when questioned about criticism aimed at him for not preaching much on salvation respond by saying that’s not the primary aim of his ministry. Probably his best selling book is titled, “Your Best Day”. Not what God desires, repentance, confession, turning from sin. And what about the concept of worshiping God because of who He is, with no me involved? I’m sure they are good people. I’m sure they are sincere, but I agree with some posters here that we as a nation have become far too biblically illiterate for our own good.

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