There I was, lazily sitting on my parent’s comfy sofa in their Atlanta home a few weeks ago. I was watching old NBA highlights on YouTube when, unexpectedly, my father’s brother walks in through the front door. My cool uncle. After greetings, he led our conversation through such topics as life, dating, and then he somehow switched to Joel Osteen. I was shocked! Apparently, he had read a blog post I wrote over a year ago on Osteen’s teaching and my uncle has had a few reservations since then.

Though my uncle does not fully agree with Joel Osteen’s ministry, he wanted me to understand that his teaching is not wrong because still does large amounts of good and gives purposeful drive in people’s lives. I then brought up many of the points that I wrote in my past blog post, here.

We continued on until he asked a certain question that I was unable to give a solid answer to at the time. That question is what I will now address: He asked me… how do I know that what I am saying IS correct and what Joel Osteen is saying is NOT correct?

Now there are two ways to hear his question. He was not “entirely” asking me to biblically show him proof for which preference gives a governing, correct version of God’s message – though that is possible and has been done numerous times before. His question is for the breakdown of a fundamental rule(s) of how a particular person can come to know that whatever he or she believes – within a particular society, system, doctrine or group – governs over a different belief, within the same context.

Well, to my handsomely cool uncle, the answer involves four aspects: facts, intuition, reasoning, and authority.

When you take what you believe and find that (1) the facts are clear and undisputed, (2) your basic intuition is undoubtedly intuition, (3) your reasoning which connects this intuition with the particular belief is strong, and (4) you are in agreement with humanly or divine authority; then there is a good chance that you are correct and you can trust in your warm blanket of thought. The more that each of these 4 factors is not met, the more you can conclude that your belief is probably wrong.

(There is much to say on this topic, but it will be greatly shortened for a low word-count, ha. Neither is this only limited to Osteen’s teaching)

As to the Facts. It is agreed among everyone that happiness, wealth, and health are beautiful gifts. Lets say that the prosperity gospel is true. If this is so, then overseas missionaries should be getting the best treatment from God. If belief in God were numerical then no one would have earned more points than a martyred missionary. But the fact that they are killed for their faith to begin with goes directly against the promise of prosperity teaching. That argument/teaching collapses. The same goes with most people in the Bible. Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man alive. A few verses later we see John The Baptist being beheaded. It seems that any prosperity preaching is more so a rhetorical account of someone who is already in a prosperous position … likely a pastor. Therefore this teaching isn’t based on fact because it is barely an observable opinion.

As to Intuition.  Intuition would be the ability for our mind to perceive self-evident truth. If A equals B, then anytime you have A then you should have B as well. If being a Christian and fully trusting God to give you prosperity works, then it should always work. Since most Christians, historically and today, die without ever having prosperity then it seems that prosperity and Christianity do not go hand in hand. Such an opinion is highly improbable of being true.

As to Reasoning.  Proving the prosperity gospel is a means to an end. In order to give the teaching a firm and sustaining foundation its reasoning must always work backwards. You must start with the end that you want, and then you work it backwards to fit the Bible in. So you work in a few things Jesus said; but only a few. You’d omit his teachings on salvation, hell, sin, and even omit mentioning his death on the cross. Because you’d want more members and just mentioning a guy being beaten bloody and nailed onto a tree isn’t a crowd pleaser; catch my drift. Then you’d re-word a few of his verses to fit your style (something Joel Osteen has said that he does). No one starts fresh with the Bible and concludes with the Prosperity Gospel, you must start in reverse… because the end must always be the same. That is how you can have people speaking believable heresy; since the lines can be constantly moved to maintain their preferred end. Still, why can’t we keep prosperity teaching AND include the whole meta-narrative of the Bible? You cannot because the latter portion would directly interfere with sustaining the foundation of the end goal of the prosperity portion. Each book of the Bible rubs against prosperity teaching.

With this reasoning piece we must always be careful that we do not have a passion swaying our mind. We are always liable to be corrupted by our passions when we are considering truth and falsehood. When a popular sports athlete gets in trouble, sometimes we’ll side in their favor not because they are innocent but because they are on our favorite team. Do you read for yourself that Jesus wants you to have financial blessing? Or do YOU just want to have financial blessing? I think I remember verses cautioning on that.

This reasoning style is a game that only makes sense in the context of the end goal. A logical fallacy game. Admittedly, I use the same tactics to argue that Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan  😉

As for Authority.  Since his question is not for the Biblical answer, we can leave out divine authority for now and just address human authority. The prosperity gospel has only been around in the past 70 years. Therefore, we’ve found something new under the sun that was not taught by any of the apostles nor by any of the old church writers. We would then have to say that we have found something that the Apostle Paul was not aware of. We would find that Augustine, Blaise Pascal, Charles Finney, John Calvin, Leonard Ravenhill, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, and the writings of many others are against us. We would not be able to find any literature to back us up that is dated before the 1960s. Whatever authority we find 2000 years prior to the 1960s would not mention the prosperity gospel. Surely we could not have been so far incorrect all those years. Somehow we were always intellectually off until this recent generation of fast cars and Facebook. That basic assumption is flawed in itself. With that said, human authority does not seem to line up with the prosperity gospel either.

So, Uncle. That is my answer to your question. I pray this helps. I love you.

Joel Osteen, “Hypothetical” Marijuana, & My Mother’s Soul

You know those moments on TV sitcoms when the parent walks in on their teenage child to see something awkward or even something that their child should not be doing? Or maybe they find out some gut-wrenching news that their son has been selling marijuana or their daughter has went wayward. Those moments always tend to make us cringe while watching. Some of us have even lived through it. Well this weekend I got to experience this, firsthand, from the parental perspective.

It was Sunday morning in the Johnson household and we were all getting ready for church. With my pajamas still on, I walked into my parents’ room. And there I saw. There it freakin’ was. My mother… as she was getting dressed for church…. was watching a Joel Osteen sermon on the television!!! OMGGG!!! I could hear his soothing, charming voice and see his masterful charisma onstage. Time seemed to slow down as my adrenaline began rapidly pumping. Needless to say, I subtly flipped out, turned the channel, and stared at my mother in awe.

Ok, all jokes aside….I really was worried and had all these emotions boiling up inside me. My mother and I had to pause from preparing for church – and instead had a deep 20 minute conversation about Joel Osteen’s type of ministry, the destructive repercussions of it, and why all of that is so monumentally important.

Joel Osteen’s type of ministry is a purposeful combination of a prosperity, self-help, heretical, wishy-washy, and positive-thinking legalistic teaching. He has said on national television that he takes certain scriptures and morphs them for his own style of teaching. Now I would not mind my mother watching him and learning what he teaches….that is, if her eternal soul did not depend on it. His teaching, as Colossians 2:4 puts it, will dilute her faith and deceive her away from knowing the true God of the scriptures. This is why there are numerous real pastors/believers/theologians/bloggers out there that constantly publicly callout Osteen. We are called to watch out for one another. Pastors are called to shepherd the flock and protect the sheep from the wolves; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2. If there was a physical wolf around your loved ones, would you not attempt do something about it?

Now the question becomes, but “why is Joel Osteen’s ministry labeled as flawed?”

That question can be answered in a plethora of ways. I am not a theologian, but I can write a 200 page book that very thoroughly dissects why this is so…but this is only a blog AND I’m in the middle of watching Season 4 of One Tree Hill and I’ve got to get back to it eventually.  For simplistic sake,

  • Joel Osteen never teaches on the Gospel.
  • He never mentions Christ dying for our sins.
  • He never even says the word sin – unlike the Apostle Paul who mentions it all the time (And the Spirit who came for that exact proclaiming purpose; John 16:8).
  • Osteen never preaches on the Cross.
  • There is never a time when the listener is confronted with reproof, correction, or conviction (2 Tim. 3:16) which leads to holiness and everlasting joy in Christ.

The church and it’s orthodox teaching has been booming for 2000 years now, but the Prosperity Gospel has just began over the past 50 years. Aren’t elderly people always saying ‘their ain’t nothin’ new under the sun, unless it’s wrong.’ I heard another quote recently that said,

“The more people read their Bibles, the more that the attendance would decrease in prosperity and lukewarm churches”.

With all this said, my main concern is for the people that listen to the messages. In that moment with my mother, I was only angry with Joel Osteen for less than 5 minutes. On the other hand, I was and have been, ceaselessly worried and fearful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are under his influence. The Bible does not simply describe the church as singular, individual locations: 1 Corinthians 1:2 describes the church as the entire city. Acts 9:31 describes it as the entire region of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. If you read the context, Ephesians 5:25 describes the church as ALL believers, EVERYWHERE, over ALL time. Unity Unity Unity. Therefore, our calling to guard our fellow believers and churchmen spreads much further than a church building. So calling out Joel Osteen’s ministry is not anywhere off-limits, biblically. This is especially true when his messages and books are reached all over the world in overwhelming numbers.

Lastly, some people may justify his preaching by claiming that at least people are somehow hearing “about” God. God works everything, including Osteen’s ministry, for a reason. Why yes, that is true. He is sovereign. But….hmmm…I think that after 9/11 occurred, thousands of people somehow found Christ all around the world. Amongst tragedy, their eyes and hearts were opened in many different ways and circumstances to start following Jesus. There are tragedies everyday that God uses to turn people’s hearts to himself. Newtown, Columbine, deadly natural disasters, etc…. but coincidentally, no one encourages more tragedies to occur. No one is willing to just sweep them under the rug because God is working through them. In the same way that we rebuke tragedies because they are foreign to our core being, we should rebuke false teaching because it is foreign to how God designed us to live and it belittles our Father. May I never risk my mother’s eternal soul by allowing her to be encircled by wolves. One’s soul is not something to play with. I pray that someone in Osteen’s church reads this. If so, I love you so much. Please be careful how you listen. And Joel, I have much love for you too. I pray for you.

P.S.: I attempted to research what the atheist community’s thoughts are on Joel Osteen, but I yielded nothing. Seems like they do not even have time to mock him, since he’s no threat to them. However, I did find an atheist Facebook group that thought he was awesome. It is a sad oddity when atheists do not even take their time out to hate on your ministry.

Is it right to call people or pastors out for falsity?? Yes, the Bible commands of it. Also, the Apostle Paul did it numerous times. These two reasons are both found in:

Acts 20:26-30; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:19,20; 1 Timothy 4:6-16; 1 John 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:14; Titus 2:15; Proverbs 27:5; 3 John 1:9; Matthew 23: 27,28,33