Monday, 18 June 2012

The dangers of Osteenism

Some people, many thousands in the USA, are quite taken by Joel Osteen's ministry in Texas.  Joel has good presentational skills and writes books that sell.  There are many who say that Joel's books, sermons and talks have helped them. They testify to greater self confidence and a much more positive outlook on life.

I do not doubt that Joel is brilliant as a motivational speaker.  I do, however, take issue with his theology, or what I would call "pop religion". His brand of religion is popular.  Joel is a religious man. But his pop religion is bad theology.

It is dangerous in not preaching the whole counsel of God. It may well lead people into a false sense of eternal security. It can pander to the carnal nature.

This pop religion, Osteenism, is essentially what Bonhoeffer would call "cheap grace".  It is a pop religion without true Christian discipleship.  True repentance, conversion to a life of true discipleship and spiritual, rather than carnal, renewal, taking up the cross daily to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and walking in holiness, well these aspects of the Christian faith are not found in Osteenism.

According to Bonhoeffer:
Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Joel talks about worldly success. He considers that having good relationships with everyone are important. But Joel fails to point out that such worldly success and some good relationships could come at a heavy price.  Compromise, conformity to worldly ways and carnality are possible outcomes.

Jesus and John the Baptist did not achieve good relationships with everyone, particularly the religious establishment of the day.  The movers and shakers of their society did not promote them to powerful positions and successful jobs!

John the Baptist, in fact, came from the upper echelons of first century Jewish society. His father was a high priest.  However, John the Baptist did not embrace the comfortable lifestyle of his parents and their social milieu.  John the Baptist took up a prophetic ministry, living very frugally and away from the trappings of the rich and powerful.  He did not need great wealth, a public relations team, and expensive equipment to be effective in his ministry.

Joel's ministry earns him mega bucks, helps him fill his large auditorium, brings in people from far and wide, and helps him live the American dream.

John's faithful ministry did not get him ahead, but rather it cost him his head!

Joel's brand of religion seems to keep the flesh, the self, the ego, the carnal nature on the throne.  In his book, Your best life now, there is  much about self help and positive performance but little about biblical Christianity.   It seems to assume that all is well with the soul.  The sin question and ultimately the Son question are both avoided.

Joel Osteen teaches that the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside.  This is not biblical Christianity, but positive thinking dressed up as religious advice.

He believes that "love overlooks a person's faults. That's not always easy, but love believes the best in every person."  The case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts does not square with Osteen's outlook.  The apostles did not overlook their faults.  Think also of Simon Magus.

Poison is most effective when it is hidden in tempting food.  Some poison, like rat poison, can smell sweet and chocolate flavoured, but it is deadly.  Clever sayings and helpful advice mixed with half truths and error can be spiritually destructive.  People can be lulled into a sense of false eternal security, especially when they trust in their own righteousness, good works and success.  They can have a form of religion, but it is man made and man centred.  It has no power to save and to bring salvation. It uplifts the works of man, but brings no glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth.  He will convict, convince and convert.  He teaches us about sin, righteousness and judgement.  Pop religion does not like to dwell on sin, righteousness and judgement.  The holiness and wrath of God are unpopular doctrines.

God is love.  He has revealed His love and His grace in wonderful ways.  The Father has shown His loving kindness supremely in Christ Jesus.  The cross is important.  It is crucial that we understand the cost and the care that the Father's love has expressed in Christ Jesus.  Justice and mercy meet at Calvary.

We do no justice to the glorious Gospel if we dilute it with pop religion and trendy "cheap grace" teaching.

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