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

 

 

New Early Fragment of Romans

At the Society of Biblical Literature’s annual conference in Chicago last week (17–20 Nov 2012), Grant Edwards and Nick Zola presented papers on a new papyrus fragment from Romans. They have dated it to the (early) third century, which makes this perhaps only the fifth manuscript of Romans prior to the fourth (though a couple of others are usually thought to also be from the third century). This manuscript is part of the Green Collection (inventory #425). It will be published in the first volume of a new series by the Dutch academic publishing house, E. J. Brill. The series, edited by Dirk Obbink and Jerry Pattengale, is called the Green Scholars Initiative: Papyrus Series. Volume one is edited by Jeff Fish of Baylor University.

The text of the fragment is from Rom 9.18–21 and small portions of Rom 10. Edwards presented information about the paleography and provenance of the fragment, while Zola presented his findings on the textual affinities of the papyrus.

The papyrus was written on a codex rather than a roll, as is customary for even the oldest Christian documents. What these two scholars could determine is that the original size of each leaf of this papyrus would have been a little larger than that of P66—18 cm x 16 cm for this fragment compared to 16.2 cm x 14.2 cm for P66.

The dating of the manuscript was done rather prudently by comparing it to fixed-date manuscripts. Paleographically, the fragment was found to be close to POxy 1016 (a mid-third century papyrus), POxy 2703 (late second/early third), and POxy 2341 (208 CE).

Regarding the specific text, among early papyri of the corpus Paulinum, only P46 covers the same passage. But because of the lacunose state of P46, sixteen letters of text that are missing from the Beatty papyrus are found in the Green papyrus. Zola selected four textual problems for our consideration (are these all or does the fragment read for others?). In all four, it agrees with other manuscripts, chiefly Alexandrian. The certain readings all agree with the text of NA28. In the gaps, reconstructions were necessary and there Green 425 agrees with the main Alexandrian witnesses where they are united, with a portion of them when they split.

In 9.19, it has μοι ουν, in agreement with the Alexandrians, instead of ουν μοι found in the Western and Byzantine witnesses. The second ουν of v. 19 is apparently omitted in this fragment, in agreement with א A 1739 Byz, against P46 B D F G. In 9.20 Green 425 apparently omitted μενουνγε, agreeing with P46 D F G. In 10.1 the fragment agrees with the Alexandrian and Western witnesses in reading αυτων instead of the Byzantine reading, του Ισραηλ.

Edwards and Zola are to be thanked for making a fine presentation on the data of this new find. In keeping with other early papyri, its readings are no surprise: largely Alexandrian, with some Western strains also seen.

As an addendum, you can see images of this fragment (upside down!) on CNN in an interview that Steve Green did regarding its discovery which was made earlier this year: http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/01/18/nr-hobby-lobby-religious-artifacts.cnn