Blog

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. Chill. 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 the other 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? Same name, yes some of the same characteristics, but that could be said of any god. However, 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 just like people marry other people and have other kids. 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. Americans seem to be fond of that book. This god 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, names, 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’s son”, 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.

(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 and be “happy”.

I also know that this health and prosperity 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 doubt or 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?

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

  1. I just started looking at your website yesterday, and read over some blogs, great thoughts I am reading, it seems like the TRUTH from his Word is hit on here very well. Very thought provoking material. God has allowed you to hit a homerun with these thoughts on the PROSPERITY GOSPEL. Thank You.

  2. Spot on. However, I would not have couched this as “my God” versus “your [Osteen’s] God”. The question here is not who’s God but whether or not we all worship the biblical God.

    Just a nit.

    Thanks for listening and THANKS for raising the question!

  3. Robert Eaglestone November 2, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Your post is nicely summarized and illustrated in a song by Chagall Guevara called “The Wrong George”. The entire song’s “lyrics” are a phone call from an elderly lady to a man (George). She claims she used to be a nanny for his children. George gently tells her that she is mistaken. At the end of the song she finally says “I’ve got the wrong George, I guess”.

    http://www.sockheaven.net/discography/chagall/chagall/09.html

  4. Mormons use the same terminology as Christianity, yet they frequently define their terms differently. Their Jesus, by definition, is a different Jesus than is represented in scripture. Osteen gets awfully close to making the same mistake. I wonder too whether we worship the same God.

  5. Nice post!

    I would say different God.

  6. Micheal: Well said. I had tried to read Osteen’s best-seller, “Your Best Life Now” as a business project when it came out several years back. After getting about 2/3 through I had to set the book down. It was so rife with blatant eisegesis and scripture twisting I had to. And, he did it with such impunity! If you’ve not read the transcript of his interview with Larry King back in June 2005 do so. It will sadly but quickly remove any doubts about Osteen’s theology. He comes across more as a clever politician straddling the fence than any type of pastor.

    Osteen is indeed a motivational speaker- and a good one-
    but he is no bible teacher.

  7. My dad loves this Osteen’s teaching, and this scares me. I always thought he was a bit strange, and then I finally realized that he was (knowingly or not) part of the “Prosperity Gospel” Movement. The devil’s favorite theological system. “Come to Jesus and you will experience your best life NOW!” A lot of people who convert to Christianity end up in terrible circumstances. I think it’s pretty obviously true. Anyway, the guy is a fantastic public speaker, but nowhere near theologically/doctrinally sound.

  8. I’ve said this for years and have tried to explain it to family and friends who are bent on taking this guy seriously as a Bible teacher. Your post is clearly written, and shows the flaws in the prosperity gospel. Thanks for sharing. I almost feel you’re preaching to the choir here, but hopefully someone who might have been disallusioned will be led to read this post and reconsider their view of God. That’s my prayer, anyway.

  9. Good post! “Where does one draw the line?” Great question–one that is difficult to answer. It leads to some other questions:

    Can we receive someone as our brother but reject his teachings? What is essential and what is non-essential?

    Since Romans 14 tells us we should receive those whom God has received, how do we tell whom God has received? Is it by a doctrinal test alone? Is it by their witness?

    How wrong can a person be and still be among the brothers?

    How narrowly or how broadly do we draw the circle of fellowship? Do we look for points of agreement or points of disagreement? Do errors vary in significance? What are the standards?

    I certainly think Osteen is wrong about many things, some of them very important. But, at this point, based on what I know I would not venture to guess how to ultimately answer your question. I could not recommend his ministry but it may not be in my purview to go further. What do you (CMP, readers) think?

  10. John Metz raises excellent questions. But just how do we measure “how wrong can a person be”? I think there are only two ways to go here – either accept some sort of detailed catechism of the universal church as a standard or else refuse to confront all the all the theological dissonance and just accept the status quo of hundreds of denominational positions and pretend that somehow they are all equally valid.

  11. In Philippians 3 Paul points out that he has given up worldly things to press on toward the prize and even prays that he would be like Christ even sharing in His suffering and becoming like Him in death.

    Wouldn’t those who follow the false prosperity gospel be guilty of choosing to take another road (one of blessing, not suffering) and therefore be those to whom Paul refers to in:

    Philippians 3:17–21 (ESV) — 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    I understand wanting to be careful so as not to besmirch a true brother, yet we need to be bold enough to condemn those who soundly need to be condemned. Great post Michael.

  12. While I do not endorse Osteen’s teachings I also find your own remarks steeped in traditions born of ignorance and tortured exegesis.

    Those who insist that sickness is somehow an effect of God’s will are forced to engage in the worst sort of logical fallacies when they attempt to tether that absurd and dangerous notion to some theological underpinning.

    The ministry of Jesus displayed in the gospels demands more the than the cognitive dissonance this popular but ungodly doctrine offers the suffering. Convenience, tradition and intellectual sloth allow such a pernicious idea to remain so fixed in the minds of those taught to think in such absurd and hurtful ways.

  13. Good post! Pentecostals like myself have been dealing with this type of “Gospel Message” for years (and it has often caused division). The only difference is that most of those in the Name-it-and-Claim-it/Hyper-Faith crowd are better at manipulating the Scriptures than Osteen. :)
    Just saying…

  14. What logical fallacies do you speak of?

  15. Larry, you responded: “Those who insist that sickness is somehow an effect of God’s will are forced to engage in the worst sort of logical fallacies when they attempt to tether that absurd and dangerous notion to some theological underpinning.”

    When Joseph said to his brothers, “God meant it for good…” (his suffering for so many years), what kind of exegesis would YOU use to come to your notion that God was not the first cause of the suffering? What does “he meant it” mean? His hands were tied, but he watched it and then worked it for good?

  16. Galations 3:1, NKJV: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,[a] before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you[b] as crucified?

    Because the Galations were “bewitched”, did they follow another Jesus Christ than Paul told them about? Although they are described as foolish, Paul still loved the Galations as his Christian siblings.

    It’s like believing that Jesus is always the living word (John 1:1,13/Hebrews 13:8), or that he shalt play Shakespeare when thou wisheth.

  17. It is interesting that his prayer to receive Christ at the end of each broadcast is actually not a bad presentation of the gospel message. The problem is that it’s disconnected from what he talks about. It’s almost like he uses the prayer as some kind of magic formula instead of the foundation from which he should be preaching. Maybe he should start preaching the prayer.

  18. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 2 Timothy 4:1  I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
    Mr Osteen and I will both answer to the same God.

  19. I wonder how Osteen would answer that question.

  20. Isn’t God more bipolar if he heals some and makes other sick or if he blesses some materially and makes others poor?

    Regarding the thing about God intending for Joseph to end up in Egypt. I believe that there could have been a lot of different ways for Joseph to end up in Egypt. No matter what men, angels, demons, or the devil do, God’s ultimate will, plan and purposes, will be done. I believe that God is well within His Sovereign right to use whatever stupid things men, angels, demons, and the devil do, to bend to His Will.

    I ask the question all the time was it God’s will for Adam and Eve to eat the fruit even though He told them NOT TO EAT THE FRUIT? I’ve had some hardcore Calvinists tell me that even though God said one thing, that he willed another… So, I think the question that CMP raises is a good one! Being a “Word of Faith” type person myself, I used to wonder the same as well, because a God that tells me to do one thing, but wants me to do the opposite of what He just told me is a bipolar and very confusing God.

    However, I don’t wonder about that anymore because there is only One God, whom people see from various angles and are confused about what there brother is seeing and experiencing. I had the same thing growing up. My brother and I had different opinions and views about our parents too!

    The same God that said, “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,” —Is 57:17 ESV

    Is the same God that said, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” —Is 57:18–19 ESV Just a few words later.

    But what we do is that we view God out of our own experiences instead of seeing God for who he IS and as it was in the beginning when he gave us life in the first place and told his angels to “let them have dominion”.

    So in classical Christianity, God is both good and merciful AND angry and wrathful. And we as humans seem to not know what his ultimate will, plan and purpose is, which would lead us to wonder why He’s mad sometimes and why He’s so good and merciful other times.

    I just believe that the core of His nature – His prevailing Character is that He is indeed good all the time and that He really IS “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” —James 1:17–18 ESV

    I know some Christians think it’s wrong to be happy and not be poor and struggling somehow. But the struggle should be to get to where He is. Just like it would be a struggle for primitive man live in a 21st century America, it’s a struggle for mortal man to live in a spiritual world where “things” don’t matter.

  21. BTW, CMP (and others) does God really love everybody in your theological view? Because I’ve been told that God hates those “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” —Rom 9:22 ESV

    Because after all, “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”” —Rom 9:13 ESV

    So who’s willing to confess that God loves some and hates his enemies, even though Jesus told us to love our enemies? Is this a case of “Do as I say and not as I do?” when it comes to the Sovereign God of the Universe?

  22. Chris,

    So how do you account for the fact that those identified in Hebrews 10:32-34 and Hebrews 11:35-38 were commended for their faith (vs 40). Maybe its not that God is bipolar but that in the exercise of his sovereignty not all get what they want, even though God gets what He wants according to His plan that we cannot even fathom because His ways are so much higher than ours. And it is about Him, isn’t it?

  23. Michael, I totally agree with your Statement of Faith on this website and therefore agree with OST of what you write here. However I don’t understand how you can say (and I quote from near the bottom of this blog of yours) “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.” It seems to me those two staements are contradictory. How can you say that you don';t know whether Osteen’s God is the same as yours but then immediately assert that his God and yours have opposite characteristics and motivations?

  24. BTW, I say the above in Christian love.

  25. Amen, Lisa. Amen.

  26. Lisa, this is one of the reasons why I like this blog. You are absolutely right and I agree with you wholeheartedly. We don’t always get what WE want, but he always, always, always, gets what HE wants. We’re in agreement there. My comment above was regarding, what exactly does God want? If someone says, God wants you to be healthy and have more than enough, people who are healthy and have more than enough are the first ones to holler, “NO HE DOESN’T!!” as if this is impossible for God to have that kind of will. I mean what kind of father wants his children to NOT succeed and NOT be healthy?

    There is always a difference between what we want and what God’s want. The question needs to be asked though…

    Is there ever a time when God wants us to be happy and full of joy when we don’t want to be happy and full or joy?

    We can always want stuff that is NOT God’s will, wouldn’t you say? If the answer is yes, shouldn’t we surrender to HIS will and say, “Not my will, but your will be done?”

    I use this real life example in my own life. I struggle with Hypertension and I prayed for God to Heal me.

    He said, that he already healed me and that he wants me to be well. In order for me to experience His Word that came out of His mouth, He says that I have to exercise and get my weight down, because he’s not going to bend the thing that came out of His mouth, like “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”” —Gen 8:22 ESV.

    He wants me to be well so I don’t have to spend the money that he’s blessed me with on expensive medicine and treatments, but rather give that money to the poor and widows, like Jesus instructed, but I want to eat fried chicken and sit on the couch and thus spend ~$200/mo going to the doctor and getting medicine. So at some point, I have to bend my will to His Will, no?

    Regarding those in Hebrews that you mentioned, does God’s will, purpose and plan not transcends peoples experiences? I mean, what if I don’t attain God’s Will for me to be free from the bonds of hypertension? Does that devoid what he said, even though we see that God is not the one who needs to nor intends to change when He says, “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.” —Psa 89:34 ESV

  27. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your graceful engagement on this issue. I also commend your courage as a Word-of-Faith believer in stepping into a context where your theological views would not generally be popular.

    I’m going to lay my cards on the table for everybody involved. I was raised in charismatic/Pentecostal settings (with a good dose of SBC thrown in – I’m a bit of a mutt!), and for much of my young adult life I ascribed pretty strongly to Word-of-Faith theology. In my mid-twenties, a series of hardships in my life caused me to re-examine Scripture’s teaching on issues such as healing, prosperity and suffering. I would no longer consider myself Word-of-Faith, but more Reformed, although of a charismatic stripe.

    Having been in both camps, I think both sides have something to say to each other (yes, I even believe WoF brothers and sisters have something to teach us Calvinists!). I think one area that’s too often neglected is the issue of eschatology. Generally, the discussion breaks down along these lines (I realize I’m caricaturing :)

    WoF: “It’s God’s will for you to be completely healthy, happy and prosperous!
    Everybody else: “No, it’s not necessarily God’s will for you to be healthy, happy and prosperous!”

    Both sides are right, and both are wrong. We’ve got to think about this eschatologically. To oversimplify, WoF’ers tend to have an overrealized eschatology, i.e., if God promises something, he promises it NOW. Traditionalists are sometimes in danger of an under-realized eschatology: i.e., if God doesn’t promise something now, he doesn’t promise it AT ALL.

    WoF theology is right to emphasize God’s desire for total health, prosperity, happiness, etc. It’s wrong to emphasize it as some a-temporal promise, more an Timeless Principle than a coming eschatological reality. One of the things that’s drawn me away from my WoF background is texts such as Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15 and the whole book of Hebrews, which emphasize the eschatological, not-yet elements of our redemption. In the present, we groan, as we *await* our redemption. Our outer nature is wasting away. We live in natural bodies, awaiting our spiritual bodies. We look *forward* to entering God’s rest. My best life is not now, but yet to come.

    However, too often traditionalists fail to emphasize that God does desire to bless his children with total health, happiness and prosperity in the Eschaton. Furthermore, God, in his kindness, may allow us to experience a *measure* of these things even now (“the firstfruits of the Spirit” in Rom. 8). I thank God for the WoF brothers and sisters in my life who have held my feet to the fire and reminded me of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God really might want to do something, and do it now!

    In short, Chris, thanks for your contributions, and I hope you’ll stay in the conversation. And I’d like to see both sides give fuller attention to the centrality of eschatology for both positions – I think we both need sharpening!

    Blessings,
    Tim

  28. Truth Unites... and Divides November 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I also know that this health and prosperity 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 doubt or 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.”

    Hard-hitting sentences.

  29. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reminding us about the time and space limitations that we all enjoy.

    Before I came to WoF, (and I honestly don’t label myself that, it’s just an easy way for me to say that I’m not Calvinist,) I went to an African Methodist Episcopal ZION church, and for those of you have not had the privilege of enjoying a predominately “black’ church service, there was nothing “methodist’ about us at the time. It definitely was a pentacostal church masquerading as a methods church. But anyway, the kind of WoF church that I grew up in always taught that while God does indeed want you to have good things, there is a natural law of seed time and harvest which implies progression.

    Jesus taught it this way, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”” —Mark 4:26–29 ESV

    This right here tells me that there’s no fast and quick way for this so-called health and wealth, but rather there is progression in time and space. If I want to grow and increase in faith in an area, I have to start off small and experience small victories along the way to see how this thing works.

    Where I come in on the God’s will is now, in the present tense, is the fact that he already set, planned, ordained this before I was born. He said it in His continual state of now. Since I believe that he resides outside of space and time and has no beginning and no end, in the mind of God it’s a forgone conclusion that I’m already healed whether in this life or the next. We’re the ones playing catch-up…

  30. And by the way… I believe that God is a God of order. You have to have this before you can get that. I even see this principle in Isaiah where it says, “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”” —Is 28:9–10 ESV

    Growth and Progress are essential to faith and this Christian Walk, but I understand that when WoF people start talking like everything is already done, it can sound like an exercise in false reality and hope.

    But hope is not faith and faith is not hope. Faith is just “being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see” —Heb 11:1 NET

    I believe that. If God says he wants me to be well, I have enough faith to take Him at his word, regardless of current day reality.

    “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” —2 Pet 1:3–4 ESV

    This passage in 2 Peter 1 is what we should focus as it continues…

    “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” —2 Pet 1:5–9 ESV

    Anyways… I’ll keep coming around because I absolutely have no fear about what I believe and why I believe it…. But at the same time I want to understand my other brothers viewpoint as well, because whether we like or not, we all need each other.

  31. Hi Chris,

    Like Tim, I too spent many years in the Charismatic, WoF camp. The reason I am no longer aligned with that theology is not so much because of experience but because I realized I was reading my bible in a way that did not adequately account for how all the 66 books fit together, how each book must be read in relation to what the author is trying to communicate and how each portion is related to God’s overall story.

    So in the gospels, we have to consider who Jesus was addressing and what they were expecting, in relation to how God dealt with his people previously and what He came to accomplish in terms of the establishment of the church. He is introducing a concept of the kingdom that involves a multiplication of believers in Him. The seed-time-harvest concept of multiplying wealth is a distortion of what Jesus is communicating here. That is not what he is talking about. He uses an agricultural metaphor because that is what this audience readily related to.

    So when Peter talks about God giving us all things pertaining to life and godliness, it is a reference to Christ himself, which is explained in vv 16-21. Now that is not to say that God will not bless his children with material possessions, but we can’t make the text say something it is not saying to support that.

  32. Thanks Lisa,

    I agree with you for the most part. I brought the parable of the sower simply for a principle that I believe is taught in the parable. Do you not think that this scripture (and the passage in Peter) is beneficial for anything other than the express context of the passage?

  33. Chris, while I do believe there are timeless principles to be glean in narrative that explains what God is doing with his people, I don’t think we can force principles where they don’t exist. This is an area where I think WoF exegesis goes astray. We have to consider what exactly Jesus is addressing with respect to the kingdom, given his audience and their expectations. If you look at the whole pericope of the parable of the sower, he is referencing those who embrace the message of the kingdom. This is specifically in relation to Himself.

    Regarding principles in Peter, I would urge you to consider what he is talking about in relation to everything he is addressing in his epistle. To say that vs. 3 is a principle that God wants us to be wealthy is forcing something into the text that is not there. There is a very Christo-centric focus of the epistle.

  34. Because people have an emotional reaction to the faith message when for, whatever reason, it does not work for them is no reason to assume the faith message itself is false. I am not saying there is nothing wrong with the faith message in the generic use of the term, I think many like Osteen seem to ignore there is a suffering in this life. However, I think the arguments that God does want some of us to be sick and broke for his sovereign purpose are rather weak. I mean no offense, but take for example the passages cited here. All of them in the context seem to refer to persecution, not prolonged illness or poverty.

    Moreover, we see repeatedly throughout the healing accounts in the gospels that Christ said “your faith has saved you”. So one’s convictions of what Christ will do in response to determined belief does have an effect upon God, that is something I think Word of Faith gets right.

  35. Thanks again Lisa,

    I understand what you’re saying, but let’s not be presumptuous about how the Holy Spirit is using scripture to affect the hearts and minds of God’s people. The sovereign God of the Universe can use the same passage of scripture to tell you one thing and impress on another person another thing, and He’s well within His rights to do so.

    “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”” —Mark 4:24–25 ESV

    I study a lot on Mark chapter 4 a lot because Jesus said, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” —Mark 4:13 ESV Which implies to me that this parable can and probably should be used as a pattern to understanding all other parables. Am I reading too much into Jesus’ apparently clear statement here?

    For instance when Jesus says… “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you”, are we to think that he’s saying more salvation will be added to you? Or is he talking about revelation? I don’t think he’s expressly talking about money, although some WoF preachers use this passage to teach this as well.

    I do know that I’ve never seen someone sow tomato seeds and expect corn though, and I do understand that if you sow more seed, you’ll have more harvest.

    Christ and the establishment of the kingdom of God is the center of any proper “prosperity” or “health and wealth” gospel. Are there preachers out there who fleece the flock for financial gain? Absolutely. But there are some who really do seek the kingdom of God first.

    “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [stuff to eat and drink, and clothes to wear] will be added to you.” —Matt 6:31–33 ESV

    In the parable of the sower, Jesus was explaining what the Kingdom of God is like and how it works. In an effort to steer clear of any mention of “filthy lucre” we do a dis-service to the kingdom by limiting the scope of the parable where Jesus did not.

    When you go to other countries (or kingdoms) it’s good to know how their gov’t and economy work. And since we don’t live in an agricultural society, we tend to understand that parable through the parallel of investing. But again, investing not just money, but time, energy and resources for the purposes of growth and progression.

    As a side note, the other thing that WoF type people seem to do is to view salvation in a “whole life” view. Like Tim mentioned how a person like me tends to see God’s promises for TODAY, I also see salvation as more than missing hell in a handbasket. :)

  36. Chris,

    Just so you know, I am not advocating for a poverty gospel nor suggesting that God does not deal with the whole person. I believe that he does want to bless his children with material blessings. But he also uses suffering to accomplish his purposes. It is embedded in the pages of the NT, especially the epistles. Abundant life doesn’t necessarily mean abundant gain of material possession, but His life that spills over to others and that might include suffering. I would love for someone to tell Joni Erickson Tada that her condition has not furthered the kingdom.

    I think we are in agreement that when Jesus used parables to explain the advancement of the kingdom. Where we disagree is what that means in relation to what Jesus is addressing. When I say Himself, that is not just a get-out-of-jail free card like so many have reduced the gospel to, but belief in Him and participating in His kingdom agenda. The advancement is regarding the presence of the church (even though that did not come into Pentecost) being what the church ought to be in relation to projecting Christ to the world. I think its important to consider how Jesus is shifting this paradigm from what the Jewish audience was expecting to what he came to establish. He is preparing his audience for further kingdom activity and enforcing that faith is an essential component. My grievance with the WoF crowd is insisting this MUST mean material gain and it MUST mean sickness-free living.

    Regarding the parables and how Jesus used them, it is still about him communicating what HE wanted to communicate. It is not a license to insert a meaning in reference to something we think he could be talking about. I still contend that we have to keep his audience in mind. He is addressing the kingdom in a way they could understand it. When we insist an expansion of meaning to accommodate our contemporary understanding is where we miss the mark.

    The increase of the kingdom is in relation to those who will participate in it, those who will further what Christ came to establish and produce “fruit” for the kingdom. But I believe we have to see this holistically in relation to the rest of the NT and the establishment of the church because that is what Christ came to establish, his body (see Eph 2:13-22; 3:1-13). Again, he is preparing his audience because they had a very limited understanding of what the kingdom meant, who would be included in it and how it was achieved by faith. He is expanding the meaning for them. It is not a formula for increasing OUR personal harvest in the form of material possessions. But about HIS harvest.

  37. Amen Lisa. I agree with you more than it seems. I just take what you believe and add more to it.

    Jesus and the kingdom should never be used as a “get-out-of-jail free card”. But how we react to pressures, problems, suffering (both for Christ’s sake and our own missteps) shows forth God’s glory. For instance, if I’m depressed, I can either turn to pills, a psychologist or therapist, or I can turn to Jesus and Jesus can and will deliver through faith. But faith (to me at least) is more than mental assent. We have to believe enough to “follow Him”. There were many that believed what he said, but didn’t believe it enough to stick with Him…

    Nor is Jesus to be used for financial and material gain. I’m not filthy rich, but I’m not as broke now as I was before I came to Christ and He taught me how to seek Him first instead of seeking my own way of doing things, and that’s a testimony to Him, not to me, because I’m not that smart! lol! I now want to always be ready to give, whereas before, I could give anything to anybody for any reason.

    So we’re not in as much disagreement on that point is my comments may suggest (at least in my mind)…

    I just simply add what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us today since we’re His audience and just like Jesus was moving Jewish thought from one place to another, the Holy Spirit is actively doing the same thing today in the minds of God’s children.

    Jesus’ body should reflect him in both suffering (persecution) and life (less and less sin and sickness, not lacking any good thing as we progress towards Him). Jesus’ body should look different because of the hope we have in Him.

    I haven’t read anywhere in the bible that Jesus was suffering sickness as many people tend to imply by equating our type of suffering in sickness and disease with the suffering he endured at the hands of men for the what He said and who He claimed to be. Heck, most of our co-workers and neighbors have no idea what we believe because we’re often not actively proclaiming the good works of the Lord in our communities (myself included).

    I wasn’t familiar with Joni, so I looked her up. Her suffering that she is enduring can indeed by used by God, but I don’t believe that He told her to jump into shallow water so that she can be used by Him. But God can use our missteps for His glory at any time, but she’s not suffering for the sake of the kingdom like our brothers and sisters in Muslim countries are today.

    But anyways, I believe that this has been a fruitful conversation. Thank you for engaging this topic with me…

  38. Also, regarding Mark 4:24-25 and using the companion Luke 8:18, please consider this verse in relation to what Jesus is talking about regarding sowing in Luke 8:4-15. He clearly defines the seed as the word of God. It is the message of the kingdom in relation to Christ himself. Please look at vs 16 and his caution to the disciples to embrace the message and not to hide it. He is saying in vs 17, that more will be given to them in relation to understanding what this all means (think Acts 1:4-8). They are not to hide the message. So in vs 18, if they embrace more of what God wants to accomplish, they will have more in relation to that agenda. If they don’t, it will be taken away. Again, he is not referring to material blessings because he’s already established in the meaning of the parable that he is talking about the word of God.

    Another passage that the WoF crowd embraces is Luke 6:38 – give and it shall be given to you. But an examination of that pericope suggests that Jesus is not talking about financial giving. He is using it in relation to how we judge and treat others.

  39. Chris, you are very welcome. Please keep in mind that I embraced WoF teaching for years. In fact, when I became a Christian back in fall 1982 I was a member of Fred Price’s church. Then I added on to that some wild Charismatic teaching and I pretty much read into scripture what I was being taught. It was very common for me to extol principles based on isolated passages. I am very grateful for my friend who challenged my understanding of scripture almost 6 years ago. It’s why I’m so passionate about understanding how the 66 books connect together in terms of God’s self-revelation. I do have a new post coming out in the next day or two regarding how we read narrative and prophetic discourse, so stay tuned.

    Regarding the Holy Spirit’s role, I wholeheartedly endorse reliance upon the Spirit to illuminate our understanding of the text. But that is still in accordance to what the speaker (in this case Jesus) and the author is intending to communicate. I don’t believe in expanded meanings such that although they were referencing one thing, we can then take that to mean other things. I do believe there are multiple applications depending on what God wants to minister to us at that time. We can never exhaust understanding and learning.

  40. Thanks Lisa,

    I’ll be looking forward to commenting on that blog post! Just so that I’m clear in understanding your belief, you believe that “the Word of God” equals “the message of the Kingdom” and how this “message of the Kingdom” relates to Christ? If so, that’s exactly what I believe as well, although I do have varying views about our collection of 66 books, letters, poems, prophecy, and history that we call the bible (just to be upfront).

    I’m sure if you spent anytime around Fred Price’s teachings and then looked around at other so-called WoF ministers that they did not all preach/teach the same thing the same way. Price (both him and his son) seem to me a little arrogant, but that’s just my personal opinion.

  41. Right on, right on, right on. Just what needed to be said. I don’t think that Mr. Osteen is talking about the God of the Bible. Those who aren’t sure need to learn to go to the Bible and use it as a measure. Hope that people pay attention. Feel that so many of these “teachers” are filling a void in people’s lives just enough that some seekers quit seeking because they think they’ve found the right message. When I was first seeking out for God (of the Bible), I was misled by the Rev Ike’s and other false teachers who were just Doctor Feel Goods. Keep proclaiming the Truth.

  42. “My God does love everyone”. Well, Michael, thanks for making it very clear. It is your God who is not the Christian one, the one who doesn’t want anyone to perish, who so loved the whole world that he gave his only Son, so that no one need go to hell but anyone can benefit from his love and his eternal life. No, the God you worship is a moral monster who sends some (most?) people to hell without giving them a chance to repent. So I’m glad if Osteen worships a different God from yours. His just might be the true God.

  43. PS I have been reading Olson, but I see his God as closer to Osteen’s, and to the liberals’, than to yours.

    (Sorry for more than one comment, but the comment editor isn’t working.)

  44. Where’s the ‘dislike button’ when you need it? :)

  45. While I tend to agree with the article, I do have one question. I came from a Word of Faith church several years ago. While I don’t really buy into the prosperity part of the message, I do agree with Faith and positive confession. (Blessings or cursings off of the tongue…, the just shall live by faith, etc). And I think Osteen’s gospel is watered down and just not right.
    Anyway, what I wonder is; didn’t Jesus say “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10?

  46. Neil, when Jesus said that He came to give abundant life, I believe He is talking about a quality of life; not a prosperity gospel. He later tells His disciples, that they will face tribulation in this world, but He has overcome the world.
    The prosperity gospel is based on 3 fallacies, that I heard another pastor preach on. They are that God gave Adam dominion, but when sinned, all that was transferred to Satan. Jesus death was a ransom to Satan, and His death purchased our dominion back. Through the Holy Spirit we now have reclaimed our authority over Satan. That way you can speak positive confession (I speak blessing, I am not sick, I am healed) or declaration (I declare healing, I declare financial blessing).
    I believe this is wrong, because it demotes God and puts us in the place where by our words, we can manipulate Him to do what we want. Like my friend said, and I agree, this is heresy. We are God’s servants, and He is not ours. I believe that there will come a day of blessing, health and prosperity. But that will not come in this world, but in our future life when we reign with Christ..

  47. I stopped watching J. Osteen about a year after he came on TV. I feel the same way, no mention of Jesus, no scripture is used and how if we were all nice the world would be a better place. That is a motivational speech. I see him as the guy who lets everyone walk the fence, neither here nor there. I think he is a nice guy, but he is deceived and taking a lot of people with him. I pray that God will show him The Way!

  48. I usually look up to people who show humility. I see a lot of that in Osteen.

    I’m no bible scholar of course but I’m fine with any preacher who points people to Jesus. If any one is serious about knowing who our Creator is, they can check out what any pastor preaches and read the bible themselves. And when they do accept Jesus as their Savior, I have faith that the Holy Spirit will be the one to correct or enlighten their theology, if ever a preacher was in error.

    Solomon with all his wisdom didn’t finish particularly well. Most of those in the bible who did are those that were humble, or at least were humbled.

    I believe there will be a whole lot more people that will be saved than what most people think.

  49. Anyone who blinks that much raises my suspicions before he even said one word. None the less, to God be all the glory, honor, and praise.

  50. I am glad there are more out there that know and spread the truth. Its so sad to see many people I know and love even in my Church follow after the same form of doctrine. When ever I try to explain about the true doctrine of Christ (which is living to serve him by loving and serving others) they look for all kinds of ways to twist and turn it back around to suit them. This kind of false loveless prosperity doctrine is really blinding people. It saddens me when I am remind of many scripture that speaks about the narrow road to heaven and not everyone who thinks they will enter actually will.

Leave a Reply