Do Joel Osteen and I Worship the Same God?

What a presumptuous question, right? The presumption is in the fact that I would even pose such a question. The question itself presumes that I might answer in the negative. What is wrong with you Michael? Why take off your irenic t-shirt with the quote from Rodney King on the back? Why do you now shod the polemic boots of battle? What would possess you to ask such a question?

Calm down. It is just a question. But your are right. The presumption behind the question does evidence my uncertainty as to its answer. I was listening to Osteen last night. He was very pleasant and had a lot of nice things to say. For the most part, except for his interjections of the word “God” here and there, his speech was a typical motivational speech. He did not use the Bible, but he attempted to give the impression that he was. He held it in his hand the entire time.

Why he bothered interjecting “God” into his motivational speech, I can only suppose. Maybe because his speaking venue is called a “church”? Isn’t that what you are supposed to do at church? Mention God? Maybe its because they sang hymns and if you sing hymns, God needs to be talked about afterward. Or maybe it’s because he thought attributing his thoughts to God would give his propositions and stories more authority? It would seem that his placements of the word “God” were very strategic. It would come at pivotal points in his message. “God does not want you to be sick. You can have the best life now. God does not want you to be behind on your bills. You can have the best life now. God wants to make your dreams come true! The best life is here and now. God wants you to take a hold of it.”

In the end, I thought to myself This is not a church. This is not preaching. This is not Christianity. And, I wonder . . . is his God my God? If Osteen’s God and my God are the same, God may have a case of bi-polar disorder.

Now, this is not as far-fetched as you might think. People DO worship other gods. They always have. Since the beginning of time, people have found replacements for the true God by filling in the “gaps” that God does not fill to their liking. Whether it be a rain god, fertility god, sun god, or god of war, people have a desire to have their perceived needs met. In the old days, people would create a new god and give it an appropriate name. Marduk, Apollo, Diana, Sol, and Cupid are all names of popular Romans gods who filled in the gaps. The Japanese even have a god for weavers named Am-No-Tanabata-Hime. For weavers!! Each of these gods had a particular function and role. The Japanese god Daikoku is the god of wealth. If you desire money, this is the god to go to. Binzuru-Sonja is the god of health. Are you sick? Do you have cancer? Binzuru-Sonja is your man . . . I mean god.

I am going to do something radical here (warning: satire forth-coming). I propose a new god. Let us combine the last two Japanese gods: Daikoku and Binzuru-Sonja. “Daikoku-Sonja” will be the initial designation of this new god. Now lets do something to make this more palatable to a monotheistic western Christianized world. Let’s call Daikoku-Sonja “Jesus.” Let’s even say that he died on a cross and rose from a grave. Let’s give him all the characteristics that would not detract from his ultimate power and will for us to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. These other characteristics can come from the Bible. He will have a Father, he will be gracious and kind. He will die for our sins and offer forgiveness. Then, he will reveal his ultimate plan—to make us happy. To fill our bellies and pockets with comfort and joy. Yes, that is nice. We will talk about how nice he wants to be to us. How much he wants us to be nice to others. Yes, other gods have done the same, but this one rose from the grave and has therefore proved that he wants us to be rich and healthy. This sounds nice.

Now, we must stay away from the Bible for the most part because it does not present much in favor of our god other than the basic details and historical facts. We can draw from the Old Testament here and there, emphasizing the “heal all your diseases” and “shoes never wearing out” parts. But we cannot put those in context or that would narrow the application. As well, we must leave out all the parts where God’s wrath is spoken of. (The Gnostics did it, so can we!) Troublesome passages such as these cannot be mentioned:

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

James 1:2-3 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Those passages are downers. Daikoku-Sonja . . . umm . . . I mean Jesus is not about bringing people down in such a way. He wants you to have “The Best Life NOW!” The best life does not involve suffering and pain or heart-ache and loss.

We can call this movement “Christianity.” Why not? People are comfortable with the name. And, more importantly, people don’t really know what it means. Essentially they think it is about this nice guy named Jesus, who is God, who wants us to do what is right and be nice to each other. We can capitalize on this. In the end, what we are doing is just rewarding people with positive thinking. No one should dwell on their problems. No one should think Daikoku-Sonja really wills for people to suffer. This just is not nice.

(Okay, satire complete.)

Let me be serious. I don’t know if Osteen’s God is different than mine. What I do know is that there are characteristics and motivations in his God that are completely opposite of mine. My God allows suffering and pain for His own purpose. My God is a potter, who has sovereign right over His creation. My God does what He will, not what I will. My God is loving, but He is also one of great indignation. My God does love everyone, but He also created a terrible place called Hell for his enemies. My God does not have it high on His agenda for me to be rich (or even pay the bills).

I also know that this theology, while motivational for a time, destroys lives. It builds false expectation. It makes people put their trust in characteristics of God that just do not exist. When these characteristics fail (and they will fail —ever heard of “death”? It is hard to escape no matter how positive your thinking is), then, in these people’s minds, God has failed. I have seen too many people walk away from the “Jesus” that they created when he failed to heal them of their cancer or when he could not seem to get them a job. But the question is Did they walk away from Jesus or from Daikoku-Sonja (aka Jesus)?

Here is the question: Where does one draw the line? When has ones description of God become so foreign to the biblical God that it should thought of as a different god with the same name? After all, a name does not mean much if that which the name represents does not mirror its true characteristics.

Where do you draw the line? What do you think? Do Joel Osteen and I worship the same God?

59 Responses to “Do Joel Osteen and I Worship the Same God?”

  1. Oooooh….I can spend some time on this one but I’d be late for work. I will say it is a different gospel, as it is not teaching the sound words. Passages that come to mind concerning this,

    II Timothy 4:3,4 – teachers gathered to tell people what they want to hear, turning their ears from the truth
    I Timothy 6:3-11 – If someone teaches a different doctrine that does not agree with sound words, we are to avoid these men

    And vs. 20,21: O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith

    If Joel Osteen falls in this category, then it does not sound like the same God, because if it is, why would we be instructed to avoid it? I could never presume what’s in a person’s heart or the certainity of their salvation. I honestly do believe having listened to him quite a bit and in interviews, that he honestly believes that what he is teaching is ok, and others are being overly critical.

  2. Excellent question! I’ve often thought the gospel of Olsteen and the
    gospel of Bishop Spong are equally dangerous. Wolves in sheeps
    clothing are getting in all the sheepfolds.

  3. I think I Timothy 6:3-11 is worth posting here

    3If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,

    4he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,

    5and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

    6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

    7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

    8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

    9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

    10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

    11But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

    It begs the question of what are the sound words of Jesus and what is the doctrine conforming to godliness and does Joel Osteen’s message follow those 2 dictates.

  4. I do think that part of our walk with Jesus involves suffering. NOT because God WANTS us to suffer, but because that is the nature of how things work themselves out. We are to “take up our cross daily” as one of the New Testament writers has written.

    I think Jesus suffered even before he was placed on the cross. In spite of the fact that he was God, he cried when Lazarus died and he saw his friends so sad, ” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35, NIV) And he was troubled in his spirit when he went up in to the hills and looked around and realized how his people were still rejecting him. (I can’t remember where that passage is.) I suppose if we didn’t suffer some, we would not even know when we were experiencing some special blessing.

    In regard to people worshipping other gods, the Bible and other sources are filled with accounts of that, but somewhere in the Bible (maybe Acts) it mentions that there are actually no other gods at all, so people really are worshipping non-entities.

    So, I don’t know this guy Joel Olsteen and he may just want people to move from the stuck place they are in where they expect that they have to “play the victim” and move them into action that brings some reward into their lives. But if he is telling them that there is NO suffering in life, then I do believe he is setting them up for disappointment and I do believe he is not teaching reality.

    Joanie D.

  5. But at the end of every message, he does ask people if the want to accept Christ into their hearts, that they can say this simple prayer of asking him into their hearts. Does that count?

    Of course, they don’t know why they would do that or what it means, but it sounds christianly, doesn’t it?

  6. A most excellent post, Michael. This will be required reading for my Sunday School class.

  7. Let me be serious. I don’t know if Olsteen’s God is different than mine. . . .

    A friend of mine says, “If there is nothing that makes you angry, you’ve lost your moral compass.” And sometimes, even if we’re reading our compass correctly, it’s worthless if we don’t follow it. To paraphrase Twain, “A man who doesn’t heed his compass is no better off than a man who doesn’t have a compass.”

    Being irenic is all well and good, but are there no limits to being irenic? Should Tertullian have been more irenic with Marcion? Or Nicea with Arius? Jerome with Pelagius? Paul with Peter?

    The answer to whether or not you or I worship the same God as Joel is found in whether or not we proclaim the same essential truths about our God and Savior. Is your gospel – i.e., good news – the same as his?

    The gospel I believe and proclaim, to the best of my ability, is vitally and profoundly different than his, and thus the God I worship – through my words and my work – is different as well. Joel doesn’t serve the same God I do, regardless of what might be “in his heart” (as though words and deeds can be separated from what is in a man’s heart).

    Surely there must come a time to take a stand against false gospels, false teachings, and false teachers. If we are to keep wolves out of the pen, we’d better call them what they are and not coddle them out of fear of being “harsh.” We must be careful lest our desire to be irenic leads to impotent shepherding and an emasculated defense of the truth.

  8. Michael! GREAT post!

    I think the real question is this: Who would you rather know “has your back” in a bar fight…Joyce Meyers or Joel Osteen?

    I have a feeling that Joyce would take a beer bottle, smash it and scream “LET’S GET IT ON!” while Joel would be curled into a ball under a table, sucking his thumb, crying and telling himself to “think positive thoughts…”


    In all seriousness…I can not call Osteen “brother”…for whatever that is worth…

    I did just briefly mention Joel on my little blog…and I ended it with this quote by Spurgeon…

    “It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it . . . Look you, sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today. We have come to a turning-point in the road. If we turn to the right, mayhap our children and our children’s children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word.” (C. H. S., Sermons, 1888, 83-84; cited in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, 192).

  9. Michael,

    Thanks for asking my favorite question. Where do we draw the line and at what point is someone worshipping another God? This has been the question I’ve been posing to friends in recent months who believe that oneness Pentecostals worship the same God as Trinitarian Pentecostals albeit with a misunderstanding of his nature/perons. My position is that they do not, but the Joel Osteen issue isn’t quite as cut and dry.

    I used to watch Joel Osteen until I saw him on Larry King and after being asked for his position on homosexuality and other religions he basically said: “well, I don’t want to say anyone is going to hell” — this raised some red flags immediately for me. But it wasn’t his God that I questioned — you can read the Bible and come away honestly believing that God wants you to do well, live prosperously, and be healthy. What good father wouldn’t want this for their children? Yes God allows suffering and tells us that we will go through trials and I don’t know that Osteen would deny that — but my issue with Osteen was his de-emphasis on holiness, his softness on sin, his seeming inability to stand on the authority of Scripture and state simply that sinners will stand in judgment one day and be judged accordingly.

    So is Joel Osteen’s God my God? Yes, his God is the Trinitarian God, his Jesus is the God-Man who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. His Jesus suffered for our sins, was crucified, buried, and resurrected three days later. In a related question I’d ask if Osteen’s Gospel is my Gospel? Again I’d have to answer (tentatively) in the affirmative — that is if we see the Gospel as that core message Paul mentioned in 1Cor. 15.

    He may be a motivational speaker but I can see no reason that a motivational speaker calling himself a pastor cannot worship the same God as I do. I think the line has to be firmly drawn in reagrd to the identity of God or to use the language of the Nicene age, the substance/persons of God. Confound the persons and we get a Modalistic god — separate the substance and we get polytheistic gods. But identity extends to the character of God as well — Osteen runs the risk of going the way of Marcion, essentially denying the ‘harsh’ God of the Old Testament in favor of something more palatable. I don’t believe that he’s crossed that line yet and let’s all pray that he doesn’t — but I think the risk is real and I think that we should be informed enough to recognize this if/when it happens.

    Oh, and I don’t want to keep making this a Calvinist/Arminian issue and I know that you don’t believe that Calvinists and Arminians worship different Gods, but what are your thoughts on Roger Olson’s comment: “The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.”?

    Man, this edit feature is awesome!!!

  10. Am I missing something? It’s Osteen, not Olsteen.


  11. Outstanding. Thanks, Michael.


  12. Nick,

    I read Olson, and his God is too small for me and as usually he speaks of the hyper Calvies in his characterization. See Tony’s comments on the last post that Michael put on Calvinism.


    The dividing line between which God do we worship is so complex and well predicted by the RCC. The diversity of the Christianity being preached for centuries has truly set Christian against Christian and then what does that do to our witness to the lost (even as a Calvie!!). Ghandi said it best when asked if he would consider becoming a Christian and his reply, short but profound: “Which one?” is all he said. For us we must stand though and cry from the rooftops and preach “Jesus and Him crucified”. We must point them to the God of the Bible not to what Christendom has done. Each of the last writings of the NT writers spoke of false teachers, false prophets and false doctrine and we must stand against them, the new brand of Pharisees, scribes, elders, Sadducees, Herodians and all of the so called spiritual and religious groups that have formed since the early church.

    Olsteen worships a different God and will face the Matthew passage: “Lord, Lord. I never knew you. ”

    The time for irenics is over when faced with false teachers.

  13. BTW, #5 was a joke for you serious people out there.

    This is the problem, he DOESN’t talk about the character or attributes of God, other than what we can expect for God to do for us. He doesn’t talk about sin and our need for a savior. I don’t believe he has ever talked about the work of the holy spirit. How do we know that he holds to a trinitarin view? I could be wrong but I just haven’t heard it other than the sound bite he calls an invitation at the end of each message.

    So if he is not promoting the same gospel, is he worshipping the same God?

  14. Nick,

    I think Joel Olsteen is taking so much heat because he is being perceived as a spiritual leader, more specifically a Christian spiritual leader who has adopted a “prosperity gospel” rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Michael has noted, he normally (I haven’t listened to him very much) doesn’t teach doctrine or sound biblical teaching; rather he teaches things that will make people feel better about themselves.

    Now this sounds good on the surface, but based on his teaching, I think it would be very very very very difficult for one to get the idea that we need to repent of our sins against a Holy and Righteous God. When asked in an interview why he doesn’t talk about sin Olsteen replied something to the effect of, “people don’t need to hear about that in their lives”. Now when he starts making statements like this, and the similar ones (like the one about hell you listed), are we really talking about the same God? The God of the Bible clearly thought it was necessary to communicate these things to us in His Word, so if Mr. Olsteen refuses to teach those concepts because he doesn’t want to turn people away or hurt their feelings is he not preaching about a different God? If there is no talk off the negative things (sin, hell etc), what need is there for Jesus other than a Santa Claus God who gives me what I want, and if he doesn’t then “he’s outta luck cause I’m gone!?” This clearly is not the Christian God of the Bible.

    Think about if, if I knew you were poisoned and I kept telling you were alright and everything is going to get better just keep thinking positive, but never told you about the poison within you, would I be a very loving person? Of course not, it may tick you off at the time but you’d be grateful in the end because you would realize you need the antidote and be able to receive it so you wouldn’t die from the poison. People believing merely in the concepts of God and Jesus, and the concepts of forgiveness will NOT be saved (which I think is evident in the book of James). Just as believing in the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, does NOT save me. It is my active repentance and faith in Christ’s removing of my offenses against a Holy and Just God to bring me into communion with Him, apart from any of my own works of goodness or merit that saves me.

    I have a feeling this post is gunna be a bash on Olsteen post which I hope it doesn’t turn into, but he is being very cruel in not giving people the full weight of the Gospel because by giving them cotton candy teaching he is not fostering Christ-like discipleship or Biblical spiritual maturity which are essential to the Christian life. Ultimately you need to hear the bad news before you can receive the good news, and Olsteen simply does not deliver bad news to people.

    Your brother in Christ,


  15. Here is a link to a video of Joel with analysis of what he is teaching:

    Here is a great article about Joel:

  16. Michael: I agree with those who say that you and Olsteen are worshiping different gods. But I am forced to wonder…

    Why come out swinging against Olsteen when you sought, earlier this year, to build bridges to the RCC? With the syncretism in the RCC, including the veneration of the saints (especially Mary), do you think that you and the Pope are worshipping the same god?

    Stephen Stallard

  17. Once again, I think we’re asking the wrong question and thus not coming up with the correct answer.

    At the risk of sounding like Campolo and McLaren (may God strike me mute if I ever sound like either of th

  18. Just kidding.

    We’re not on point here: the point is not What God does J.O. worship? but What God does J.O. proclaim? I would need to know J.O.’s heart to know if he worships the God of the Bible or a god of his own making, and, not only can I not know his heart, I am told not to presume that I am qualified to judge his heart.

    But I can and must evaluate his message. The question, to repeat, is What God does J.O. proclaim?. We are to judge and censure on that basis, not on a subjective standard of what might or might not be in his heart.

  19. Tnahas,

    So is your position that the Arminian and the Calvinist do in fact have different Gods? And just to clear things up, are you also claming that the God of the Pharisees, Sadducees,etc. was a different God from the God of Jesus and the apostles? If this is your belief I’d be curious to hear your justification of it.

    Lisa R.,

    I don’t think it’s fair to say Joel Osteen doesn’t talk about the character and attributes of God — I’ve personally heard him speak about the loving nature and character of God many times. This doesn’t excuse his not calling people to repentance but we can at least say that he does focus on one of God’s most prominent attributes, even if it is the warmest and fuzziest of them all. Also, we know Joel Osteen believes in the Trinitarian God because his statement of faith explicitly says so. He uses the language of orthodoxy in saying: “WE BELIEVE. . . in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.”

    His not publicly teaching the doctrine while a travesty is not something we can hold him alone accountable for. The doctrine of the Trinity isn’t taught in the vast majority of evangelical churches in America yet we can be reasonably confident that they are Trinitarian churches. When was the last time you saw any minister on television preach the Trinity?

    And I’m not convinced that his Gospel is different — again, if we define the Gospel as Paul did in 1Corinthians 15 then Osteen’s is the same. He just doesn’t preach it! But does not preaching the Gospel you believe equate to having a different Gospel? I don’t think so. If we want to get more specific and define the Gospel as ‘Calvinism’ then unfortunately there have been very few Christians relatively speaking who have ever believed the ‘Gospel’ — but I don’t think we need to go so far as to use that definition.


    See my last paragraph. I would also note that it doesn’t follow that because one has a ‘different gospel’ that they necessarily have a different God. Many Protestants would charge the Roman Catholic Church with having a ‘different gospel’ but I don’t know many who would claim that they worship a different God.

    And to all,

    I’m certainly not advocating Osteen’s style of preaching. I believe his message is lukewarm at best and does little to truly enrich believers — but that doesn’t equate to his believing a ‘different gospel’ or a ‘different God’.

  20. Dr. Fin,

    I thought the question was: “Do Joel Olsteen and I [C. Michael Patton] worship the same God?”

  21. That is right. The question first is about his God. When does a character description with the same name cross the line and can no longer be said to represent my God.

    #1 Is it who He is? (an ontological point) i.e. God is not trinity. God is not eternal. God is not transcendant. God is not immutable.

    #2 Is it what He has done? (a historical point) i.e. God did not send His Son. God did not create the earth (Gnostics). God did not come to the earth.

    #3 Or can it be how relates? (a personal point) God is not sovereign over my life. God wants my happiness (which is being rich). God is going to keep harm from coming upon me.

    Is it possible that we focus only on #1 and #2, who He is and what God has done, and give #3 a free pass? Can our God have different #3s and still be the same? Where is the line crossed? Is it a combination of 1-3?

  22. Nick,

    When I said the attributes I meant the all the attributes. When you talk about the love of God you also have to talk about the righteousness of God. Even the unsaved talk about the love of God. But it’s the latter part that’s missing. We are sinners and God required a propitiation to appease His wrath, which Christ provided. We must recognize that and put our trust in that. To me, this is the core of the gospel message. If it is not preached, there is no gospel message.

    And no a message devoted specifically to the triunity of God is rarely preached, if at all. But the precepts are and should be interwoven into even the most practical life sermons. And my point was, in his message, it’s not, despite what might be posted on the belief section of his web-site. I used to watch him regularly and I could be wrong. It may sound harsh, but that’s how I see it.

  23. 1 & 2 seem essential while 3 can be placed on the outer rim. If the question for 3 is personal (i.e. how does God relate to me?) then there is room for movement since it is ultimately subjective. But if it is more general (i.e. how does God relate to mankind?) then 1 & 2 become all the more necessary. Who/What God is and How God has acted in history all determine how he relates to mankind as a whole. God is creator/redeemer/judge of mankind. But he deals with individuals differently. There are some who God would not want to prosper financially so that they would learn to depend solely on God. There are others who God would bless with an abundance of wealth so that they can use the money to further the Gospel and glorify God. I think Osteen sees God as wanting the same thing for all people in general and fails to see that God can actually receive glory from the sickness or poverty of a believer.

  24. I don’t know what God he worships personally, but he proclaims a new 21st Century God: “TGVM” The God of the Vending Machine.

    If his gospel of the best life is ideal that must mean that all those Apostles who “took up His cross and followed him” and were poor, beaten, persecuted and killed were bad Christians who did not accept the the good life that God wanted for them. If only they could have listened to Joel, they would have stayed at home in Jerusalem and played “keep up with the Joseph’s”. You know…bigger house, faster horse, more donkeys. :)

    Not to mention all those poor deluded martyrs who suffered and died for the Faith instead of living their Best Life Now!!

    Try going to Asia and tell the persecuted Church there about the Best Consumerism Life Now. If they wanted safety and prosperity they would have avoided Christianity in the first place.

    Ok, now I need to go work of some steam!!

    Wait one more…..Revelation speaks highly of the Martyrs near the the Throne but I don’t remember anything about the dudes with big houses who stored up treasures on Earth with Joel’s Gospel…..

  25. Lisa R.,

    As I said, I’m in agreement that Osteen’s message is watered down. I’m not advocating it — but I can’t in good conscious say that his gospel is ‘another gospel’ (at least not in the sense that Paul used it). Although I am certainly willing to reconsider that belief based upon his statement to Larry King that he doesn’t want to say that anyone is going to hell. The context was in regard to people of other religions, but I believe he didn’t want to appear to be a big meanie on TV — I don’t think it was based on any conviction of universalism or ecumenicism.

    Concerning the Trinity issue, again I’m hard pressed to think of any preacher that I have seen on television even weave the precepts of Trinitarianism into their sermons. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen — just means I don’t see it happening. I’m fanatical about the Trinity (not just the doctrine, but the God that the doctrine purports to represent) and I often lament over the absence of the Trinity in teaching and preaching in evangelical churches. I’m not asking for seminary courses on the doctrine (although that would be great!) but it would be nice to mention that worship, salvation, prayer, the Gospel, etc. are all presented as Trinitarian in the Scriptures [and I realize I’m using the term anachronistically].

    In the end, we have to take the beliefs section of his website to represent where he stands on the issue. I don’t believe he would lie about it no matter how soft I think he is on the important aspects of preaching the Gospel.

  26. This is interesting philosophically. If I say I know Michael Patton and begin to talk about him in a way that Michael and everyone who knows him would say that not only am I wrong in some areas, but that is just NOT Michael Patton (i.e. Michael is an interesting , very witty individual who is obviously a male model)

    :) :) Sorry Michael, I just needed an example!!

    at what point can we say you and I are not talking about the same person?

    On the flip side, since nothing we say can really accurately portray God this argument could devolve into “know one knows God”

    so I don’t know…..

  27. Michael,

    Would you lean towards the John Piper camp, and take this as far as saying that Americans are way too consumption-oriented, and therefore we have it all wrong?

    I do believe capitalism and freedom are biblical (though not essential!), but I think we have taken the fundamentals of those mindsets and twisted them to a sense of entitlement. Enter pastors/messages like Osteen’s, and its a perfect play to our “western” emotions and mindset. I have to wonder if Osteen’s church would thrive so much in places like Buton (sp?) or Sudan. (eh Rhome??) :)

    I just don’t see how people get sucked into this mindset (well, I do, but still…) – it just doesn’t fit life or logic. My wife and I miscarried last year, and my sister and bro-in-law can’t get pregnant. My aunt basically insinuated to both of us that we didn’t have enough faith. We now joke with each other that we must have had more faith than my sister, b/c at least we got pregnant… I know, morbid, but it deflects some of the frustration with this whole mindset.


  28. Nick,

    I think you are making a categorical error, when you are trying to compare Calvinist / Arminist, RCC, and even Eastern Orthodox. As I believe (with some qualifiers of course), that there are many people who are Christians in these different parts of Christendom. Provided that they all personally believe in the four basic things of the Gospel.

    These are loose and obviously could be expanded upon much more but to me the Gospel breaks down to 4 basic categories.

    1. God: There is a Ultimate God who created the universe who exists in Triune form.

    2. Man: God created man in His image to bring glory to His name and to establish a loving relationship with His creation.

    3. Sin: Man chose to separate himself from God and through the rejection of this relationship, the wrath of God is now upon all men because of sin.

    4. Christ: Jesus is the God-man and he became the bridge back to God for man because God still desires to be in relationship with man. Jesus absorbed the wrath of God and offers the forgiveness of sin and reestablishes the relationship between God and man for all those who would repent and believe.

    Now I don’t think any of those 3 camps above would disagree with anything that I have said. Therefore I would consider them Christian.

    Mr. Olsteen on the other hand removes from his teaching #3, and therefore by default has negated the need for #4. By removing #4 Christianity no longer becomes Christianity, and therefore is no longer representative, or worshiping the True God of the Bible found in Christianity.

    It seems to me that there is clear difference between this form of teaching and the differences between the other groups found in Christianity that you mentioned, in that they are all in unity with the Person and Purpose of Jesus Christ, whereas Olsteen does not acknowledge and proclaim the way in which God presented them to us in His Word.

    Hope this helps,

    Your brother in Christ,


  29. Exactly Chad. Using me as an example. You say you know me. Here is your description:

    Michael Patton is 6 foot 1 inch tall male. Weights 220. Is a 36 waist. Has green eyes. (Ontological)

    So far so good.

    Michael also teaching The Theology Program. He is extremely witty :). He is compulsive. He accepted Christ when he was very young. He got married in 1997. He went to seminary in 1998. (Experiential)

    So far so good still (you may have the right Michael)

    Michael is nice. Michael loves cats. Michael’s favorite movie is Terms of Enderment. Michael wants a dirt bike (Kawasaki KX 250). Michael’s greatest desire is to quit The Theology Program and program computers. (Personal)

    The last has some major problems. While it has some things that are correct (niceness and KX 250), the rest are all wrong.

    The question is, can you get the first two right and be wrong on the last and still have the same person? I am hesitant. My first thoughts are How much of the last did you get wrong and how much do you emphasis on the ones you got wrong?

    How much can you get the personal characteristics wrong and still have the same person?

  30. Thanks Michael, like you didn’t give me enough of a headache last night in Ecclesiology and Eschatology!!

    Only you could turn a nice, simple, upbeat Osteen bashing post into a theological quagmire :)

  31. I think you could have the first two right, and be wrong about some of the third. What if I read a book about Michael, and make incorrect deductions about Michael from that book. Or somebody else interprets part of this book for me, but incorrectly, leading to more incorrect deductions about Michael. That does not change the subject matter – i.e. Michael. I’m just wrong about some of my ideas of who Michael is. It’s still Michael that I read about. It’s still Michael that is the subject of #1, #2, and #3.

    #3 seems to be the one that could potentially be subject to the most discrepancy due to interpretation or self-indulgence. And typically, aren’t conclusions that fall into #3 the ones that are based on Scripture in some form or fashion – whether right or wrong?

    For example, I want Michael to love cats. How could he not love cats? He’s Michael, he loves everything! However, in the book about Michael, there’s a story about how a cat attacked Michael at a young age, and Michael now, and forever, hates cats. Yet another part of the book generally states that Michael loves animals. However, what I didn’t know was that the greek word for “animals” doesn’t include cats, in historical context anyway. Yet, I pick that second statement to fit my desire and I state that Michael loves cats. Even though I’m wrong, does that change the fact that its still Michael?

    Is it possible to get too far off the personal characteristics and it still be Michael? Well, the cat analogy obviously isn’t a big deal. Is it feasible to say that the book of Michael gives us enough information about Michael that we at least know who he is, whether we get a few personal characteristics wrong or not? (not to imply that they’re not important characteristics) In other words, if I really read the book about Michael, can I really get that far off of his personal characteristics? (I know, very loaded question there…) If I get so far off to where its not even Michael, then I’m just flat out contradicting what the book says, and making no sense – I’m essentially lying to myself.

  32. Good points Nathan, but what if you entitled your book, “Why Michael Loves Cats”?

    The point is not only how much you can get wrong, but to what degree do you emphasis this error?

    If you wrote a book that emphasised Michael’s love for cats, I would say you have got the wrong Michael!

  33. Sorry Nick, I went to lunch and just found these responses. Back to #19, Sadducees did worship another god, that is quite plain from Scripture in the gospel accounts and see Acts 23.

    The Pharisees also worshiped another God, see Matthew 23 and John 8 where the Lord Himself told the Pharisees that their father was Satan. There are many other examples but suffice to say that we as Christians are to stand up against false teachers who follow another God. As far as the Calvie/Arminian issue, well as long as you are not an Open Theist then we’re good.

    As for the worship of another God well, when a man is hired by a church and gifted by God to preach the Gospel and preaches another gospel Paul says let him accursed. It is the gospel that unites not that we claim to worship God. Many cults call themselves Christians when they have no idea what they are saying and sadly many denominations under Christendom (that is the genus behind the name) call themselves Christians when that couldn’t further away from the truth. Does the expression the blind leading the blind come to mind?

  34. True indeed – I see what you mean. Ok, so analogies aside, Osteen still preaches sola fide in Christ, right? If he does, then he gets a very essential part correct, I would think. So what kind of implications does that have for the believers in this train of thought? They are saved by the one God, but follow another? Or is the sola fide even in the correct God, thereby having salvation implications?

  35. I would love to see Joel Osteen vs. Christopher Hitchens in a debate. I take that back..

  36. Josh,

    A few things…

    (1) I did not make a category error, I was simply pointing out that your conclusion (that X worships another God) does not follow from the premise (X believes a different gospel) — it’s a non sequitur. There are any number of Protestants (especially those of the ‘Reformed’ (I guess that means Calvinist now-a-days) camp) who would vehemently reject your proposition that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers affirm the Biblical Gospel (see James White as a specific example of one such individual). Now whether or not you agree with White is of no consequence — the point is that even a group who rejects justification by faith alone, believes that one must be baptized in water to have grace conferred to them for the removal of sins and the regeneration of the spirit does not necessarily have a different God. This same group affirms that there is one being that is God who has existed eternally as three distinct, co-equal persons. They affirm the dual natures of Christ.

    (2) When you make statement such as “…to me the Gospel breaks down to 4 basic categories.” you appear to be (and I’m sure this wasn’t your intention) speaking subjectively. This is functionally no different than what Osteen is on trial for here. To him God is an all loving Father who wants his children to be healthy, happy, and prosper financially (and there is much truth in this picture of God even if it is not the whole picture). But even your presentation of what the Gospel is, is much more qualified than Paul’s in 1Corinthians 15. For Paul the Gospel was very plainly Jesus’ deity, his death for our sins, his burial, and resurrection. Even taking your qualifications into account Joel Osteen certainly affirms all of the above. Again, a look at his statement of faith will show this as he says: “WE BELIEVE. . . Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.”

    (3) If preaching a watered down message equates to a false gospel and in turn a false God then we have to indict a good majority of professing believers for the same thing. The difference is that Osteen is in the public eye and makes a much bigger and easier target.


    I read Acts 23 in an attempt to find what you were saying and I just couldn’t. What I see is that one sect of Judaism denied the future resurrection as well as angels and spirits while another sect affirmed these things. Paul knowing this mentioned the resurrection because he knew it would cause a dispute between the two parties. Never are we told that either group had a different God. As a matter of fact Paul said: “I am a Pharisee” (εγω φαρισαιος ειμι — present tense, cf. Phil. 3:5). Certainly you wouldn’t argue that Paul had a different God. I would also point out Paul’s reverence for the high priest (Ac. 23:5) who was a Sadducee. Regarding Jesus’ statement that the unbelieving Jews were children of their father the devil (Jo. 8:44) I think it safe to say that the context of the statement was in their denial of Jesus after having witnessed his works. It was not a general statement that all Pharisees worshipped the devil under the guise of God. If that’s the case then again, what do we do with Paul? Or Joseph of Arimathaea?

    And again, I don’t think we can say with any hint of honesty that Osteen preaches another gospel — I think we can fault him for not preaching the Gospel at all! His speeches are motivational in nature, no more, no less. But his beliefs are a different matter. I also don’t think it fair to say that cults have no idea what they’re saying — I believe that they have every idea what they are saying and are very deliberate and intentional in what they say. Sure, they’re wrong but that doesn’t mean they’re uninformed.


    Who is Christopher Hitchens?

  37. Josh, are any of those directed at me? #1? I ask because I don’t remember saying that you have a “categorical error.”

    Anyway, for the purpose of this post, I would just like to say that the health-wealth Gospel is definitly a different Gospel in fullest sense of the Gospel, even if they have Christ dying and rising. The implications that are assumed by the Health-Wealth Gospel are what matter here.

    But my question is about His God. Does he have a different God sense the personality characteristics of his God are so different than mine? Where does one draw the line? Can you tag the name Jesus on to any characteristics simply because you have the right name and your Jesus also died and rose from the grace for our sins?

  38. I would agree with Nick that the essence of the gospel is Jesus Christ and him crucified, buried, and raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. If one teaches that Jesus died so those who claim his name will be rich and live the ‘abundant life now’…does that not leave out an important aspect of the gospel, i.e, “for the forgiveness of sins”?

    Seems to me that if Olsteen is teaching that salvation is only possible through faith alone in Christ, then its possible that those who faithfully follow Olsteen could be saved. However, if their understanding is that “Christ died so I can have the best life now” (and that’s their only concept of the gospel), then their understanding of the gospel is distorted. Can this distorted understanding of the gospel save them?

    No, I don’t think so. Why else would Paul be so forceful in protecting the integrity of the gospel in “Galatians”? He did not tolerate any deviation to the original teaching of the gospel, that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins. If Olsteen isn’t teaching this gospel, and those who follow him do not understand the gospel as preached by Jesus and his apostles, in all humility and fear, I would say that no, if Olsteen is doing these things, that gospel will save no one.

  39. Nick,

    Concerning the Sadducees, they had no belief in the resurrection of the Lord or any resurrection and were materialists. Once again that is quite clear from the record of Scripture and after the gospel is presented to them in the resurrection they try to pull Paul to pieces as did the same Pharisees that you would like to include in the Kingdom. One of the Lord’s missions was to distance Himself from the Pharisees because they claim to worship the one true God and we know that their father was the devil as condemned by the Lord and suffered their fate.

    As far as Olsteen, when you’re in the pulpit, preach Jesus and Him crucified and leave the motivational talks for guys like Tony Robbins. Once again, it is the blind leading the blind.

    Anyway the list can be expanded as to who worships another God since the ecumenical movement is now gone beyond Christianity to include Jews and Muslims to say that we all indeed worship the same God but just differently.

    To that, I say, like Paul, any one who preaches another gospel (not just another God btw) let him be accursed.

  40. BTW, its the gospel that unifies Christians worldwide. Check the Intro to Theology course at TTP and see it all unfold for ya!!

    (No Michael, no commissions are necessary!)

  41. Hmmm, great post and questions.

    It seems to me that the question ‘What God does Osteen worship’ might be better asked as ‘What does Osteen preach about God‘, or even, ‘How does Osteen view God.’ The original question seems to presumes another God when, in fact, there isn’t. Semantics, I realize, but I think it’d be better to say that what he’s preaching is way off God’s character rather than he’s worshiping another God. Obviously, there are no other Gods, so he’d be worshiping some idea he made up, only existing in his own mind.

    Maybe it’s better thought of as a measure of how inaccurate one’s view of God can be before losing the understanding of God’s essence? I mean, obviously none of us truly grasp who God is, though we have the Bible to give us the critical basics. We see through a smudgy window, so to speak.

    Hmm, my cent and a half, anyway! :)


  42. But more to Michael’s point, I’d say that, yes, Osteen preaches ideas that have nothing to do with God and attributes to Jesus teachings that I don’t think He taught. I don’t know what Osteen really believes, but if it matches what I’ve heard him teach, then I’m worried for him. :(

    Reminds me of Michael’s taking the Lord’s name in vain post.


  43. Michael,
    Osteen has bothered me for the longest time. He is a clever one, but no different than the one who sells vials of “Miracle Spring Water” on late night infomercials.
    Thank you for writing this.

  44. You bet Paul.

    To all the others. Sorry if you made a comment or asked a question that I could not get to. The comments come fast and sometimes I am unable to get to them.

    I am glad that you are all participating though.

  45. I have a response to comment #8. I would hardly put Joyce Meyer as the opposite of Joel Osteen. I think those two people may fit into the same camp. For obvious different reasons.

  46. Radman,

    Yes they are 2 sides of one coin but kind of like the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

  47. I believe Osteen has the same God as Patton in the sense that despite varying theologies there can only be one God. What I find that divides the line is how one views the lifestyle of the Christian. Can we just sell all our possessions and live like Christ? Would it bring us closer to Christ if we walked where he walked, and lived as he lived?

    Let’s say someone named “Johnny” and he is a Christian, he holds to the first seven ecumenical councils. Let’s say he believes/interprets that money is the root of all evil. [1 Timothy 6:10] So Johnny believes that no one making more money than him is putting God first. He also questions his Pastor’s purchase of a new AMG V-12 Mercedes Benz. [Do not take this personally if you are a Pastor with a Mercedes-that is between you and God despite John’s bent]. Johnny who had been a cheerful giver in his tithes to this Church decides the following week to find another Church. Several months pass and Johnny cannot find a Church that supports his view, two years later Johnny is still looking…

    Let’s say someone named “Jeff” is a Christian [he also he holds to the first seven ecumenical councils] and he loves reading OT Proverbs because he believes that King Solomon was a Godly man—that incurred wealth because he was in God’s favor [God found favor with Solomon]. [Proverbs 10:4] Jeff reads Prov. 21:17 and is compelled to setup a budget (by attending a Crown Financial course). During this course, Jeff also feels guilty about not having a retirement fund for his children after he reads Prov 13:22, but is also aware of Prov 11:28, 15:27. [Note: Crown Financial states that at least 2500 Bible verses apply to the handling of money in the Bible, but that is their claim (Pun)]

    One day Johnny meets Jeff and they talk about Christianity and family life. Jeff sees that Johnny is struggling financially but Johnny thinks it’s OK and not to worry about a budget or obtaining a savings, in fact Johnny tells Jeff that Proverbs are not applicable to today’s Christian. Two weeks later Johnny loses his job due to a corporate decision to move the operations off-shore. After 3 months of Johnny not finding work, his house goes into foreclosure. Jeff hears about John’s dilemma and offers him money to make his mortgage current. Johnny decides to accept Jeff’s offer the following week.

    I believe that by Jeff’s planning he was able to help those in need. But if Jeff had taken the proverbial statements too far and thought of Johnny as lazy (with his money) he may not have felt the urge or calling to help Johnny. Johnny suddenly realizes that money is not evil, and that money is something that can be used for good. Johnny decides to attend Jeff’s Church. BTW Jeff’s Pastor drives a 1982 Chevy Malibu and lives modestly and the Church has helped many local citizens in need through donations as part of the Pastor’s proper budgeting of tithes. [It should be noted that I am not trying to imply a Pastor with an ’82 Malibu has more favor with God].

    I am surely not a name-it-claim-it feel good follower. I have witnessed many difficult issues (some even life threatening) that challenged my beliefs. I tend to let the skeptic or new Christian know that there is no security blanket during the life of a Christian. I also let the new Christian know that Proverbs are not universal laws/statements that are always 100% accurate [it should also be noted that many wealth teachers pull their teachings from Proverbs]. I believe we do need to encourage others when needed. If someone is trying to obtain wealth just for the “bragging rights” then he or she is not putting God first. But if you have a mindset that is similar to Solomon [referenced because he was one of the wealthiest followers] and attribute this success to God then I do not believe it is wrong. Should a Christian be driving expensive automobiles or live in expensive houses, I believe that is more of a personal matter. If we truly knew the hearts of people, it would be much easier to separate the wheat from the chaff. The only thing we can do is look at the actions of them to know where their fruit lies. If all Christians are poor, then how can we help the needy financially? It takes money to buy food, shelter, clothing, finally yet importantly, TTP materials. I also would not think that God would want us to all be homeless or have no joy. There is a dividing line somewhere that needs to be defined by Scripture, and if there is no definitive scripture(s) then its best not to over-generalize to the extremities.

    So who was correct in the Parable of the Talents?

  48. Mr. Patton, may I gently suggest that you re-examine your position in comment #21. I think that upon reflection you will possibly see some logical and theological flaws in the argument you present. In regards to your follow up in #29, you again may benefit from some extended reflection on the logical issues you are creating. Many of us hold erroneous views of others preferences, but we still “know” them and even promote them. I honestly think you have a little work to do on your argument. And perhaps creating strife is not the best way to correct ill advised preaching. dt

  49. dt, I would, but you are going to have to be much more specific. I don’t see any logical flaws or anything that might point towards a reliance on logical consistancy in these two illustrative arguments. Help me out more my friend.

  50. Great post… although a little late responding. I wrote on this same topic, March 3/2007 here: After 80,000 hits, it must be popular subject.


  1. Parchment and Pen » Do Clark Pinnock and I Worship the Same God - September 20, 2007

    […] of you are not quite as familiar with Clark Pinnock as you are with Joel Osteen. Seeing as how the conversation concerning the possible distinction between Osteen’s God and my God was quite popular and produced some good reflection, I thought that I would take it to the next […]

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