Truth Matters Newsletters – August 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 8 – Osteen’s Ignorance by Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
If there has been one article on our website which has drawn the most criticism is the reprint of “The Leaven of Lakewood.” DMI has received numerous emails from people who believe Joel Osteen is truly one of God’s most anointed servants and a force for good within the Church and world.
Almost all of the complaints and demands for us to take down that article seem to focus on my concern over his lack of theological training. Many people simply cannot see the need to go to seminary in order to be a pastor of a church. The following comments are taken from an interview given on Larry King June 20, 2005. I will let Joel speak for himself and you, the reader, be the Judge whether or not a formal biblical education is of benefit to someone who serves as “pastor” of the largest congregation in America. My comments will be in (Blue) King and Osteen’s will be in (Black type) I have tried to tie the salient points of the interview together, which at best can be described as a stream of consciousness on both King’s and Osteen’s part.
Regarding Sacred Ministry
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 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 “know” 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.
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 then 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 gleam from his father’s heretical Word of Faith cultic teachings and those of the other WOF 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.
Law and 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 means….,
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 God’s Word.
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 really of human sinfulness.
In Latin that was ‘usus theologicus,’ the law’s role in ‘driving us to Christ.” (1) 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 books.
Because Osteen refuses to preach the Law his presentation of the Gospel is anemic at best and not a gospel message at all at its worst. Any sound preaching will present both Law and Gospel in its content.
This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew, of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean-cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines. (2)
The other word of God is not Law or commandment, nor does it require anything of us; but after the first Word, that of the Law, has done this work and distressful misery and poverty have been produced in the heart, God comes and offers his lovely living Word, and promises, pledges, and obligates himself to give grace and help, that we may get out of this misery and that all sins not only be forgiven but also blotted out and that love and delight to fulfill the law may be given besides. See, this divine promise of his grace and of the forgiveness of his is properly called Gospel. And I say again and yet again that you should never understand Gospel to mean anything but the divine promise of his grace and of the forgiveness of sin. For this is why hitherto St. Paul’s epistles were not understood and cannot be understood by our adversaries even now, they do not know what Law and Gospel really are. For they consider Christ a Legislator and the Gospel nothing but the teaching of new laws. This is nothing else but locking up the gospel and obscuring everything. For “Gospel” is Greek and means, “good news,” because in it is proclaimed the saving doctrine of life, of the divine promise, and grace and the forgiveness of sins are offered. Therefore works do not belong to the gospel; for it is not laws but faith alone, because it is nothing whatever but the promise and offer of divine grace. He then, who believes the Gospel and receives grace and the Holy Spirit. Thereby the heart becomes glad and joyful in God and then keeps the Law gladly and freely, without the fear of punishment and without the expectation of reward; for it is sated and satisfied with that grace of God by which the law has been satisfied. (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 says “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 Kenneth Hagin’s words “doubt our 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 blesings 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. Billy Graham gave about the same response as Osteen did. King’s real issue is that of the problem of the existence of evil and why do people sin. This is very obvious when you consider his interviews with Graham, Pat Boone, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Robert Schuller, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, etc. None of these people have given King a solid biblical answer. The question has a “simple” answer with exceedingly deep ramifications. 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. (4)
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.”
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 television. Personally he does not believe that same-sex marriage the plan for God, but he apparently lacks sufficient conviction to share his beliefs, which I hope are based on a biblical world-view with his followers. He lacks the same moral fiber concerning abortion. It is poor leadership not to biblically address the tough moral problems in our society. Frankly, we are in the condition we are in because good men kept silent while the plague of immorality grew in our midst.
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 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 with Jesus.
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 seemingly 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
Osteen: “But I know they love God.”
Oh really, then I guess the Holy Spirit was wrong when He had Paul cite Isaiah. 41: 6 in his letter to the Romans. As it is written, There is none righteous, no ont 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 sepulcher; 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! 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 particularly troubling:
“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 your appearances?
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. Whatever happened to holding an event and asking for a donation from those in attendance? If they wish to purchase his materials on the way out then fine and dandy. (5)
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 a 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 million 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. He is a young man and there is time for him to repent and obtain the pastoral training he so desperately needs. He might even wake up one day and see the poverty and suffering of his brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and begin to divest himself of his millions and actually live to give to those in need. Well at least that is my prayer for Mr. Osteen. I will keep you apprised of what happens regarding my ticket request or any other insights regarding the man with America’s largest congregation. ♦
Copyright © 2005 Robert S. Liichow
1. Obtained from http://www.crossings.org/thursday/Thur121803.htm
2. Luther, Martin, sermon on Galatians in 1532. Underlining added.
3. Luther, Martin, Luther’s Works, Saint Louis edition, 11:81ff. Underlining added.
4. DMI offers a very good CD entitled “Total Depravity” taught by Rev. Liichow and it is available from DMI for $5.00 plus 1.00 for shipping and handling.
5. DMI has no problem with Joel or anyone selling their books or materials at a fair price. There are legitimate costs in production, time and marketing. It is completely another issue to “charge” people to hear one “preach” a message.
As of 08-0105 you could obtain the entire transcript of Osteen’s interview at