This week, over 10 million people from around the world will sit under the ministry of Joel Osteen. Thousands will be in attendance in Houston, Texas during one of their weekend services. Millions will watch through Internet and television broadcasts. Recently, Joel Osteen appeared on the Stephen Colbert show to promote his latest book titled, The Power of I Am where he basically points people to the power of positive thinking rather than the power of God. You can view the short interview below.
In the interview with Colbert, Osteen was asked if he has any desire to form a religious denomination. He denied any desire to form an official denomination, but if the truth were known, more people watch Osteen each weekend than are professing members of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC). In 2014, the membership of the TEC was 1,504,273 communicant members and 1,956,042 baptized members.
In this interview with Colbert, Osteen was handed another opportunity to speak for God and to articulate the gospel, and he fumbled the ball – again. If this were a game, Joel Osteen would need to be planted on the bench long before now. However, this is by no means a game. This is much more serious, and souls are at stake.
In this short clip from The Late Show, Joel Osteen misinterpreted the I AM statement of God from Exodus 3:14. Osteen claimed that the statement means that God is everything, completely missing the point of God’s name. Beyond that, Osteen went on to describe his “Word of Faith” theology on how he believes that there is actual power in the words that we speak. What he means by this is far more than the impact the words may have upon a person (good or bad). He embraces a specific theological position known as the Word of Faith movement whereby spoken words have creative power. Every word is a pronouncement of blessing or curse.
If there was a group known as Osteenians, their belief system would be centered on the power of positive thinking, speaking, and pronouncing. This theological system is filled with many classic errors dating back to Balaam in Numbers 22. There have been different feathers of this type of prosperity teacher surface through time, such as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8) and other false teachers of the New Testament. The Word of Faith theology of Joel Osteen is heretical because it misses the gospel. It under values the good news of salvation. The Word of Faith movement reduces the work of Jesus on the cross down to a prosperity ticket whereby the chief end of man is to glorify self and enjoy our toys for a temporary life.
Really, this is nothing new from Joel Osteen. He isn’t charting new territory in his spiritual journey. He said very similar things in his book titled, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day where he writes the following:
One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. It says in Isaiah that “We will eat the fruit of our words.” That’s amazing when you stop to consider that truth: Our words tend to produce what we’re saying…Every day we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.” When we do that, we are building up our self-image. As those words permeate your heart and mind, and especially your subconscious mind, eventually they will begin to change the way you see yourself. The Scripture says “With our tongue, we can either bless our life or we can curse our life.” Some individuals curse their own future by saying things such as “I don’t have what it takes. I’m so clumsy I can’t get anything right. I’m so undisciplined. I’ll probably never lose this weight.” We must be extremely careful what we allow out of our mouth. Our words set the direction for our lives. 
Joel Osteen would fit much better within the realm of secular self-esteem and self-help psychology, rather than masquerading as a pastor who shepherds souls for the glory of God. I realize that many Osteen fans become angry with statements like that, but time and again Joel Osteen blows it when it comes to theology. How many times will you take your car to a mechanic who consistently makes errors in repairs? As a skill and profession, the mechanic should take seriously his ability to diagnose and repair your automobile. What about heart surgery? How many times will you allow an incompetent heart surgeon to repair heart valves in your aging parent or spouse? Why should we give pastors a free pass when it comes to incompetence in the study of God’s Word? Souls are at stake.
As Joel Osteen states in his interview with Colbert, his message is “a little bit different.” At this point, Joel Osteen speaks the truth. But, in his attempt to state the truth, he understates it. His message is far from the biblical teachings of Christianity. He doesn’t want to focus on the negative. Instead, he wants to tell people that “God is for you.” Should pastors consistently tell every person that God is for them? How will a person be brought to repentance without first hearing that God is their enemy (James 4:4)? Was God for Pharaoh? Was God for the Ninevites? Was God for Goliath? What about Saul of Tarsus? Was God for Saul or in opposition to Saul as he made his way toward Damascus (Acts 9)?
In short, Joel Osteen is a heretic. He is a wolf who comes with a smile, but behind that smile and southern accent lurks a deadly bite of soul damning heresy. Joel Osteen has been afforded many different platforms to preach the truth, but he consistently demonstrates a woefully deficient knowledge of theology, sin, salvation, and God’s purpose in redemption. At the end of each interview I watch with Osteen, I end by asking myself all over again – does Joel Osteen know the gospel? A.W. Pink wrote the following about false teachers:
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. 
If you know people who are consistently sitting under the teaching ministry of Joel Osteen (on campus, online, or through his books), you must sound the warning. Many have debated whether or not Osteen is a wolf or merely a confused megachurch pastor and successful author. I think by now we can accurately say that Joel Osteen is no accident. His success is calculated and his message is heretical.
Beware of Joel Osteen.
Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, (Brentwood, TN: Howard Books, 2009), 109-110.
Arthur Waddington Pink, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 344.
Joel Osteen has recently said, “Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ.” Joe Carter provides a great overview that demonstrates the difference between Mormons and Christians – click here for the full article.
Oprah Winfrey sat down with Joel Osteen in an interview that she has now aired on her OWN network – Oprah’s Next Chapter. After Oprah attended a service at Lakewood and heard Joel preach, they went back to his home where the interview was recorded. The interview was “more of the same” with Joel. With 16,000 people in attendance, you would hope that a man who is supposed to speak for God would stand and proclaim the gospel. Tragically – the only gospel that is being preached at Lakewood is a twisted health, wealth, and prosperity message that uses the name of Jesus. In fact, what Joel Osteen said to Oprah about his view of homosexuality is proof that he is preaching a false gospel.
Osteen Denies The Exclusivity of Christ – Again
At one point in the interview, Oprah asked Osteen about sin. She started by asking, “How would you explain God to an unbeliever?” Osteen responded by saying, “I would explain God as the Creator, a heavenly Father, of someone who wants to be in relationship with you, just as someone who is for you – as a friend.” Oprah then moved to her point by asking, “Ok, here’s the big question. Are there many paths to get to the one God?” Osteen responded, “Well, I believe Oprah that there, I believe that Jesus is the way to the one God, but there are many paths to Jesus. You know, you don’t know how Jesus would reveal himself to somebody.”
Osteen Misunderstands the Power of the Gospel – Again
Oprah then continued to move toward the sin of homosexuality. By now, Osteen is expecting to be asked this hotly debated question. So, as expected, Oprah unveils it by asking, “I can’t imagine that you would have 16,000 people in there and none of them would be gay. So, are gay people also included?” Osteen responds, “Absolutely, anybody is.” Before he could articulate this answer – Oprah cut him off and asked a more pointed question that really draws the line in the sand. She asked, “Will gay people be accepted into heaven – as you see it?” Osteen said, “Well, I believe they will, because I believe you know that we have to have forgiveness for our sins, but sometimes we look at being gay as a bigger sin than being proud, or…not telling the truth. I don’t think God categorizes sins.”
Why Criticize Joel Osteen – Again?
Those who read this blog know that I have openly criticized Joel Osteen for years. This is due to his flawed answers about big things that are clearly revealed in the Scripture. What is the big deal about Osteen’s answers? The big deal centers squarely upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true that a pastor doesn’t need a seminary education to be able to preach the gospel, but it is required of a pastor to know the gospel. Over the years, Joel Osteen has proven time and again that his understanding of the gospel is skewed – at best.
In his interview with Oprah, he missed it on the exclusivity of Christ – again! The Bible is clear about the fact that there is only one way to God and it is through the God-man – Jesus. Jesus made the clearest statement possible on this subject when He said in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When Osteen says, “There are many paths to Jesus” – what does he mean by this statement? When he talks about not knowing how Jesus will reveal Himself to people – we must stop him squarely in his tracks and point to the Scripture. God has chosen to reveal the truth of His Son in the pages of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture is enough and we must continue to proclaim the gospel from the pages of Scripture. If Osteen is meaning that people who worship a false god in India are worshipping the “Jesus” of their culture – he is totally wrong! The gospel transcends culture, race, socioeconomic and geographic boundaries. There is only one Jesus and we must see Him as revealed in the pages of God’s Word.
As expected, Oprah asked Osteen about homosexuality. Osteen’s answer proves he misunderstands the power of the gospel. He said that he believes that gay people will be welcomed into heaven. He compared homosexuality to the sin of pride and telling lies. I do think Osteen is correct about the response of the church to the homosexual community. We are much more likely to reach out to our neighbor who is wrapped up in a web adulterous lies than we are our homosexual neighbor. However, that doesn’t change the perspective of God toward sin. He remains unchanged – immutable. God is never changed by culture, advancement in time, technology, or social acceptance. Therefore, the truth of God’s hatred toward homosexuality is the same today as it was with Sodom in the days of the Old Testament.
Osteen misunderstands the power of the gospel to change people. I have personally witnessed the gospel change liars and proud sinners into humble truth tellers. I have also witnessed the gospel change an open homosexual into a man of God who now has a wife and lives his life for Christ. Osteen paints a faulty picture of God that makes Him this loving grandfather-type who is willing to overlook any fault we may have in life. If that is true – will anybody go to hell? Will anybody suffer under God’s wrath and holy justice? Rather than proclaiming the truth about God’s sovereign ability to resurrect our sinful souls (that have died in the sins of our flesh) to a new life in Christ – he comes very near a universalism approach that misses the power of the gospel. The gospel changed the woman at the well into a new woman (John 4). The gospel changed Saul – a murderer – into a new man on the Damascus road (Acts 9). The gospel has the power to resurrect dead souls to life and produce change (Ephesians 2; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus changes people. That’s the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).
As a pastor, I don’t get a thrill out of calling out other pastors on television or in our local community. However, when a man who is given the charge to speak for God misses the gospel and leads people down a path of false hope that trusts in the power of our flesh rather than the power of God – someone must point it out. It is still my prayer that God will open Osteen’s eyes so that he may see the truth.
I’m thankful that Jesus has changed my life – a self-righteous religious man – into a man who has been forgiven through the blood of King Jesus!
Dr. Albert Mohler addresses the firestorm surrounding Osteen’s remarks on the Piers Morgan Tonight show regarding homosexuality. “What happened last night on Piers Morgan Tonight is a sign of things to come. After this interview, Joel Osteen will never be seen in the same way by the secular media and a good segment of the public.” Click here for the full article.
For those who have followed this blog for any length of time, it is obvious where I stand on the issue of preaching, the gospel, and Joel Osteen. In recent months and years, the list of horrible interviews by Joel Osteen on Larry King Live and The View have been the topic of many Tweets, blog posts, and Facebook status updates. Several of those open critiques have taken place on this blog.
Piers Morgan is the host of a new CNN show titled, Piers Morgan Tonight. After the retirement of legend Larry King, the much hyped Piers Morgan Tonight is CNN’s attempt to fill the chair of Larry King. Much like Larry King Live – the type of show is based on interviews of mainstream personalities. This Wednesday, January 26th, the interview of Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria will be played. In a clip of the interview, it appears that Piers has really challenged Osteen regarding his position on homosexuality in a more confrontational manner than anyone else in recent years. Piers took a sharp approach to Osteen’s admission that homosexuality is a sin by bringing up Elton John and his homosexual partner. Piers placed Osteen on the hot seat and pressed him on the issue of gay rights and the sin of homosexuality. It appears, from the short clip, that Osteen actually did something that is uncharacteristic of himself during such interviews. He actually referred back to Scripture as the source of true judgment on the issue of homosexuality.
I have scheduled our DVR to record this interview. This has to be the best interview Osteen has given (if the preview is a true reflection of the full content). One reason that I intend to watch this interview is because of the constant movement of Osteen back to Scripture as his authority. Although he described himself as one who seeks to make people feel good (a solid self assessment) and he didn’t refer directly to Scripture references (in the short preview clip), he does continue to refer to the “Scripture” as the source of God’s judgment on sin.I must confess, I have spent more time on my blog critiquing Osteen than I have praying for him. That’s a sad fact. I assume my constant critique of Osteen is driven by two passions:1. I love preaching and place a high priority upon rightly dividing the Word of God as a pastor. Osteen, in his weekly approach to Scripture, often mishandles the text and uses it as a “proof text” for his sermon topic rather than preaching the text itself. Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV).2.
I despise anyone who seeks to use the name of Christ to target people’s money. I have long believed that Osteen is a good actor who is a motivational speaker and simply uses Jesus for a good tax break. The Word of God is clear about such false prophets in 2 Peter.However, as I watch this clip – I confess that I have not spent time praying for Osteen with confidence upon the authoritative Scripture to change his heart. During the preview clip – Osteen continues to run back to the Scripture when faced with difficult and pointed questions by Piers. If Osteen would run back to the Scripture and stay in the Scripture each week as he stands before thousands in person and millions through other media outlets – there is hope that God would change him into a real preacher of the truth. How wonderful would it be for Joel Osteen to rightly divide the sacred Scripture, teach sound doctrine, and call sinners to repentance? My point is that the Scriptures are so powerful that God can use them to change the heart of Joel Osteen. After all – His gospel changed my life!
Psalm 19:9-11 – The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (ESV).