(05)Joel Osteen’s Ignorance
(1) Regarding Sacred Ministry
1. On Preaching/Pastoring
King: Why are you a preacher?
Osteen:…He tried to get me to minister, I didn’t have it in me…
But when my father died, I just knew — I don’t know how to
explain it, it sounds kind of odd, but I just knew down in here
I was supposed to step up to the plate and pastor the church.
And it was odd because I had never preached before.
I do not doubt that one can have a second calling in life
and become a pastor after having a career in some other field.
However, most men who are engaged in pastoral ministry will
almost universally tell you that they always “knew” serving
as a pastor was what God had for them. In his Charisma
interview Joel told the readers that he never wanted to
be a pastor/preacher. In fact, when his father told him to
preach his first message on a Sunday evening, Joel refused at first,
then eventually got up and told some stories and found out he
liked it and off he went.
2. Regarding Seminary
King: You didn’t go to seminary?
Osteen: No sir, I didn’t.
King: They can just make you a minister?
Osteen: You can, you can.
King: That’s kind of an easy way in.
Osteen: Yeah, but I think it happens more than you think.
But I didn’t go to seminary. I have a lot of great friends that
did. But I didn’t. But I did study 17 years under my dad.
Sadly, Joel is correct when he says “it happens more than
you think,” regarding people leading congregations without
any formal education or training whatsoever. Almost every
independent charismatic congregation’s pulpit is
filled with a man or woman who has little or no
accredited biblical education.
The extent of Joel’s education consists of what he was able to
glean from his father’s heretical Word-of- Faith cultic
teachings and those of the other Word-of-Faith heretics
John Osteen had as regular guests in the pulpit at Lakewood
Church. Joel has little or no concept of Church History;
Systematic Theology; Hermeneutics; Expository
Preaching; the Greek and Hebrew languages; Pastoral
Counseling, etc…I refer back to his interview in Charisma
when he stated that he does not teach theology because the
people are really not interested in it! He is the epitome of
the blind leading the blind. What little he knows comes
from a polluted stream of charismatic extremism,
theosophy, and positive thinking. What is sad is that the
people who come to hear him do not demand more than
pleasant platitudes. The mob welcomes his feel-good message
since it in no way points out their shortcomings
before a holy God.
(2) Law & Gospel
King: … But when the people call you cotton candy
theology. Someone said you’re very good but there
is no spiritual nourishment. I don’t know what that
Osteen: I think, I hear it meaning a lot of different things.
One I think a lot of it is that I’m not condemning people.
I could have told Larry King what people (like me and others)
mean by that statement. We mean that Joel offers people
no genuine spiritual “meat” but only gives them spiritual
Twinkies. Yes, Joel is engaging; he smiles a lot and is upbeat.
Those are good characteristics to have as a public speaker;
however they have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of
Joel equates the criticism he receives regarding the abysmal
lack of theological content in his message from other ministers
to the fact that he is not “condemning people.” This means
that Joel does not present the law of God to the people
in his messages. The law magnifies God’s perfection,
shows forth His righteous standard, and convicts us all
of our lack of ability in and of ourselves to fulfill His
requirements. This is called the second use of the Law in
Evangelical theology “God’s law exposes the reality of human
sinfulness. In Latin that was ‘usus theologicus,’ the law’s role
in “driving us to Christ.”
In Joel’s mind he is taking the moral high ground by not
“condemning” people. The reality is just the opposite. He is
failing to carry out his sacred trust as a pastor by not showing
them their desperately sinful condition by presenting the
fullness of God’s Word to them. He is doing a grave disservice
to the 30,000 people who listen to him at Lakewood and untold
multitudes that hear him on television or read his best selling
(3) Joel Is A Confused Semi-Pelagian
King: Don’t you ever doubt?
Osteen: No I don’t — I wouldn’t say that I do. I guess I do
and don’t think about it too much.
I’m not trying to be too nit-picky but Joel throughout the
interview is constantly contradicting himself. King asks if he
ever has doubts regarding spiritual matters. Joel immediately
say “no I don’t” then he contradicts himself in his next sentence
by saying that he guesses he does have doubts at times but that
he does not think about it too much.
In the real world it is perfectly normal to have some doubts and
questions regarding God’s plan at times. These doubts and
questions are part of our fallen nature and they should drive us
deeper into God’s Word to seek answers for them. But in the
fantasy world of the Word of Faith cult we (and Joel) were
taught to, in Hagin (A Word-of-Faith Leader)’s words to
“doubt your doubts.” Doubt to the cultist is a sign of a
lack of faith versus a lack of understanding and any
doubt will cut off the blessings of God in their minds.
King: Well, 9/11
Osteen: Well, yeah.
King: Didn’t you say what? Why?
Osteen: You do. You definitely do.
King: And how do you answer?
Osteen: To me it comes back and God’s given us all our own
free will. And it’s a shame but people choose…
King: The people in the building didn’t have free will.
Osteen: But the thing is, people can choose to do evil with
that will. And that’s unfortunate. But you know, of course
you always doubt, I mean, you have to override it.
Since 9/11 Larry King has asked this type of question to
every preacher he has had on his show. King’s real issue is
that of the problem of the existence of evil and why do
people sin. The answer is: Due to Adam and Eve’s sin all
humanity exists in a fallen condition. We are by nature
sinners who love the darkness and hate the light. In the
language of the Reformers, we are totally depraved.
Due to Joel’s lack of a biblical education he does not understand
that mankind does not have “free will” in the way he
conceives of it. Man is not totally free in his choices
(to believe humanity is totally free is to follow the heresy of
Pelagius). After the fall his will is bound to sin (read all of
Romans Chapter 7). A great book to read on this subject is
Dr. Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. Joel fails
to understand that man is indeed free to choose evil,
but he is not equally free to choose to do God’s will
apart from the enabling grace of God given through
Christ Jesus. Note that Joel slips up and admits (again)
that “you always doubt,” but he quickly recovered by saying
“I mean, you have to override it.”
(4) On Moral Issues
King: How about issues that the Church has feelings about?
Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
Osteen: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don’t go there. I just…
King: You have thoughts, though.
Osteen: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don’t think that a
same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don’t think
abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better
way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people.
I tell them all the time our church is open to everybody.
Even though the Bible speaks very plainly about these two issues
and condemns them as sinful Mr. Osteen simply does not go
there when he addresses his congregation and the multitudes on
I agree with Osteen that our role as pastors and Christians is not
to condemn people who are homosexuals or women
who have had abortions. We are however to make them
acutely aware of what God position is on these issues and
the pardon He offers by grace alone in His Son.
King: You don’t call them sinners?
Osteen: I don’t.
King: Is that a word you don’t use?
Osteen: I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably
don’t…So I don’t go down the road of condemning.
Jesus called people sinners and taught a great deal about sin.
He used the word and concept quite a bit (as do all the biblical
writers). Calling someone a “sinner” is not condemning
them necessarily it is a statement of fact. We are all
sinners in need of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. To
neglect to tell the lost of their condition before God is to
send them happily on their way to hell. One caller did
challenge Joel regarding salvation by asking if Joel believed
that Jesus Christ was the only way to the father.
Osteen replied “Yes, I would agree with her.” (I’ve combined
Osteen’s comments regarding salvation).
King: So then a Jew is not going to heaven?
Osteen: No. Here’s my thing, Larry, is I can’t judge somebody’s
heart. You know? Only god can look at somebody’s heart,
and so — I don’t know. To me, it’s not my business to say, you
know, this one is or this one isn’t. I just say, here’s what the bible
teaches and I’m going to put my faith in Christ.
King: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t
accept at all?
Osteen: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would
and wouldn’t go to heaven, I don’t know…
King: If you believe you have to believe in Christ?
They’re wrong, aren’t they?
Osteen: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong…
I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all
about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t
know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me,
and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship
I hope from these statements you can see the dire need for a
sound seminary education. Here Osteen is on a global television
show and he either cannot, because he does not know;
or will not give a clear message regarding salvation in
Christ and in Him alone.
Joel cannot have it both ways. Either Jesus Christ is
the way the truth and the life and no man comes to the
Father but by Him or He isn’t the only way. This is a very
confused young man with no convictions concerning the unique
claims that Christ made concerning Himself. All Joel had to do
was quote for Mr. King the following text and let the chips fall
where they may.
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into
the world to condemn the world; but that the world through
him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not
condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,
because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten
Son of God. John 3:15-18
“But I know they love God.” Oh really, then I guess the Holy
Spirit was wrong when He had Paul cite Isa. 41:6 in his letter to
[As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that
seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are
together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good,
no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their
tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their
lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet
are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their
ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no
fear of God before their eyes](Romans 3:10-18).
Love God, the natural unconverted man is at enmity
with the God of the Bible, which Joel should know and not
be ashamed to state clearly. Joel sounds very much like a man
who is actually ashamed of the Gospel. When he could be
speaking words of life to untold millions of viewers, he balks and
refuses to stand up for the truth for the sake of the
approval of fallen men. What a shame indeed.
King: I love to give.
Osteen: I know.
King: Giving is selfish. You get a great reward.
Osteen: I know, you really do. That’s what life is all about.
We were not made to be ingrown. I believe, maybe I’m off.
King does give to many charitable works and stated in the
interview that according to the Talmud giving is the greatest thing.
King admits that he gives out of a selfish motivation,
in giving he receives a great reward. Osteen agrees that
giving is selfish! The Word-of-Faith cult teaches that
giving is a tool to gain more. The more you give the
more you get.
Yes, Joel you are “off” if your motivation in giving is to get more,
than you give more and get more until you are the richest man
on the planet. Biblical giving is not selfish. There are
blessings in giving true enough. I will go as far as to say
God does indeed reward our giving, but not in the
manner the prosperity pimps teach. Joel did correctly
state a little earlier in the interview that giving is the “whole
spirit of Christianity.” Please keep in mind that
Mr. Osteen is a multi-millionaire and that Lakewood
Church receives millions of dollars a year in offerings.
Osteen would agree that we “live to give” and with
his millions of dollars personally and
congregationally the next comments strike me as
Fontana, California. Hello: Caller: Yes — Joel?
Caller: I have a question for you. We’re a small
congregational church here and we’d like to come and see
you next month, but you charge to get in and we’re a very
poor congregation. Why do you charge to get in to
Osteen: Yes. The only reason we charge – I hated to charge.
The only we charge…
King: Do you charge at the church?
Osteen: No, no, never. Never.
King: When you travel?
Osteen: Yes. The only reason we did it is because when
we went to New York Madison Square Garden they wouldn’t
let us do an event without doing a ticketed event
because of the crowds. We sold it out two nights and we
turned so many people away in Anaheim and Atlanta, it was
just a shame to do that.
When I was viewing the interview I had the exact same
question. Osteen’s response was very feeble and
dishonest. Billy Graham has held crusades at Madison
Square Garden and never charged an admission,
how come they “made” Joel charge one?
All that Osteen had to do was simply pay the rental
fee for the Garden and give away the tickets until
the venue was filled. Even Benny Hinn, as money
grubbing as he is has never charged for a miracle crusade!
What is more after people pay the fee to listen to Joel he has
a multitude of tables set up inside of each venue selling
his books, tapes, and CD’s. So Joel is not only guaranteed
a dollar amount per seat, he makes additional money
from the sales of his materials on top of it.
Joel: Hey, you know, you need to write the church, because
we’ll make a way that anybody can get in to those events.
I don’t like charging.
King: What do you charge?
I am glad to hear that if one writes Lakewood Church Joel has
promised to make a way for anybody to get in. I plan to write
them because he is coming to Detroit and I will not pay a cent
to hear him or anyone preach. My question is if Joel
does not like charging, then why does he do it?
Who is running the ship? It is not a question of money,
he has enough money personally to bankroll the events
and charge nothing at all. I am also curious to know
where the proceeds go. Does the profit go to Osteen
personally? Does it go to Lakewood Church?
The arena at Madison Square Garden seats 19,522 people,
at $10.00 person that equals $195,220 per evening.
Multiply this by two sold-out evenings you have $390,440,
plus add in additional merchandise revenue. So in two
evenings Osteen took in around half a million dollars.
When he comes to the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mi.
we have a seating capacity of 22,076, assuming he sells
out this venue (minus the cost of my ticket) he will make
a little over a quarter of a millions dollars. He has 20 events
scheduled for 2005. At a minimum Osteen will take in
somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million dollars
in appearances alone. When you add this amount to his
undoubtedly large salary as senior pastor at Lakewood, plus
the income from his best selling books along with the
accompanying “journal” you can understand why Joel is always
smiling…smiling all the way to the bank.
I would like to believe Joel is sincere and as down to earth
as he attempts to be on television. Yet I am beginning to have
my doubts about his sincerity as I begin to do the math
and see the marketing. I have always been concerned
over his lack of a sound biblical message, but now I am
beginning to believe he is just another charismatic star,
getting as much money out of sign-seeking people
as fast as he can before the next superstar eclipses him.
(6) Joel Repents???
Shortly after his television interview Osteen’s office was
inundated with letters of concern and no doubt some anger
over his lack of clarity regarding salvation through
Jesus Christ alone. Due to the tremendous amount of
negative responses Joel did put a short statement on his web site
apologizing to his fans regarding what he said. Here are some
excerpts of his “mia culpa”.
[It was never my desire or intention to leave any doubt as to
what I believe and Whom I serve. I believe with all my heart
that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life.
I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very
thing in which I have dedicated my life. Jesus declared in
John 14; I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the
only way to salvation. However, it wasn’t until I had the
opportunity to review the transcript of the interview
that I realize I had not clearly stated that having a
personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to
heaven. It’s about the individual’s choice to follow Him.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
(see Matt. 12:34). Actually Joel was very clear in what he said
on Larry King Live, he stated that Jesus was the way for
him personally, but people in other religions loved God
too which clearly implied that Jesus was not the only
way. Anyone with half sense knew exactly what Joel said which
is why he got so much mail.
God has given me a platform to present the Gospel to a very
diverse audience. In my desire not to alienate the people
that Jesus came to save, I did not clearly communicate
the convictions that I hold so precious.
Joel still does not “get it.” Preaching Christ crucified is a
stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles
(read 1 Cor. 1:23). To those being saved we are an aroma of life
and to others the stench of death (read 2 Cor. 2:15,16) and
if we are faithful to the Gospel message we will suffer
persecution, it is inescapable.
Jesus did not worry about alienating people. After
telling the crowd following Him one day that His flesh was food
and His blood drink and if they ate His flesh and drank His blood
they would have eternal life. The crowd was upset at His words
and Jesus said to them “Doth this offend you?” (John 6:60).
The end result of His teaching was that those following Him
left Him (John 6:66) and Jesus facing the twelve says
“will ye also go away?” “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord,
to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life”
Jesus spoke the truth in love and then He lets the “chips” fall
where they may. Osteen needs to take a lesson from
our Master and quit trying to please everyone because
the result always ends in compromising the truth.
I will try to believe the best concerning his apology and I do
sincerely hope he does use this as a learning experience
as he stated in the close of his letter.