Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On Osteen: Part 1

As a result of my thinking through a sermon illustration of Joel Osteen I have started to dive into life at Lakewood. I asked one of my parishioners if I could borrow on of Osteen’s books to read and I have been TiVo-ing some of his late night sermons. To be honest I feel like C.S. Lewis when he was writing the Screwtape Letters. Okay, my little research project is not necessarily like Lewis’ writing but I still feel like I am face to face with some bad mojo.

I have been holding down the vomit though and trudging though. I have been looking for ways my parishioners have been formed and attracted to Osteen. That part is not really hard to see, but I am attempting to look at his sermons, book, and theology from a clean slate. I am through the first of seven parts of Your Best Life Now.

The first parts is entitled Enlarge Your Vision. In this part, Osteen is telling his readers that they need to broaden their hopes, their visions, about life in order to tap into the favor of God. God wants us all to be victors and live out our dreams. God loves us and wants us to be successful and will bestow on the faithful many fruits. In order to tap into that potential and God’s favor we need to raise our level of expectancy and realize God has more in store for us than we know. We should stop limiting God and see God’s favor all around us in our daily lives. We should wake up every morning expecting God to do great things and great things happening in return.

That was a quick summary but it highlights the points he is making in the first part. This book is easy to read and I can tell why so many people like it. The other and more disturbing idea is that we are told to chase our dreams. In all his illustrations and stories he promotes lavish lifestyles and a flood of wealth and prosperity. I can see the prosperity theology oozing out of every page. He states that God “promised to take all the evil that’s come into your life, turn it around, and use it for your good.” God can use any life circumstance and bring good out of it, that’s not my problem. It is the ‘your good’ that is my main concern. In this whole first part it seems that God is out there to promote us, to build up us, to give us our dreams for OUR life.

This seems to be heretical to the true teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ wants his followers to live the best life that he modeled. The ‘ideal’ follower of Christ is the one who loves God and neighbor but is also willing to go to the cross to do so. That type of faith is not self-seeking. God has created me to glorify God no me.

I knew I would disagree with Osteen but I also know that he is attracting so many people because of this American Dream god he has created. We can be wealthy, healthy, and wise if we just have faith…if we just have faith in his image or created god.


Allan R. Bevere said...

Rev. J:

C.S. Lewis says that our problem as human beings is not that we desire, but that we desire the wrong things. The work of the Gospel is to change our desires, not to justify the desires that remain untransformed.

Anonymous said...

I have been holding down the vomit though and trudging though.

No beating around the bush. What do you really think? :)

But seriously, since at least one - and probably many more - of your parishoners finds Osteen appealing, how do you explain your reading?

The senior pastor at my family's church got some heat when he criticized Osteen. some people in the pews thought it was inappropriate to criticize another pastor from the pulpit.


Unknown said...

Allan, you are exactly right. I loved Lewis’ play on that in the Screwtape Letters and Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood that our desires are keys to our souls. It is ‘what’ we desire that can lead us away or closer to God.

John…I’m not quiet sure I understand your questions. What do you mean by “explain your reading?”

My hope in getting deeper into the trenches with Osteen is to understand him better. Although I did not mention it in this post but planned to on the next one, I agree with some of what Osteen says. My hope is that when I do get into conversations with parishioners about him (and I do quiet often since he just was in our neck of the woods) I can talk about how I agree with him and his ministry in some aspects and don’t in others.

If this did not answer your question then please let me know. Thanks to you both for the comments.

Anonymous said...

That answers my very poorly worded question.

I look forward to your other posts.

Jack Hinnen said...

A good friend of mine has avoided the tricky mine field of Osteen appreciation (so far) by saying that Osteen makes a good "supplement" to his other religious resources. In other words my friend seems to relegate him to the level

While we are kinda on the topic of Lewis, he says in Mere Christianity that Truth can be found in degrees (Jesus and his teachings being the greatest truth). Perhaps some truths can be gleaned from the smiling preacher? =D

Jack Hinnen said...


to finish my sentence..

relegate him to the level of "A good bit of straw and a little gold" - kinda like how Martin Luther viewed the book of James. But I bet my friend wouldn't compare him to the Bible.