A few days ago, I overheard a most interesting and troubling conversation. Two ladies were discussing some preacher. At first I had no idea who they meant. The descriptions were glowing. I remember one lady remarking that the man’s sermons were just so chock-full of Scripture and biblical insight. Of course, at this point my curiosity was piqued. The lady went on to relate how she records all his messages and listens to them repeatedly because there is just so much biblical truth in the sermons, which, she added always seemed to speak directly to her current situation. To this the other woman replied, “That’s the way God works. His Word is powerful.”
So imagine my surprise, when I realized that this incessantly Scripture-quoting powerhouse of an exegete to whom they were referring was none other than Joel “Smiles-like-Martin-Short” Osteen!
I must confess, I haven’t listened to very much of his preaching (a rather grandiose term for what he does). But I have heard enough of it to form an adequate idea of the sort of nonsense he hawks from his podium week after week. Nearly everything he says falls into one of these categories: (1). Always smile and be positive because your positivity can make good things happen to you. (2). Never refer to anyone’s behavior, no matter how egregiously corrupt and/or immoral, as “wrong,” because you can’t see that person’s heart. (3). God wants to make your dreams come true, no matter how narcissistic or hedonistic they must seem to the Church Triumphant, not to mention the rest of the world. (4). It is never God’s will for anything unpleasant to happen to you.
Now, granted Joel and I may be reading from different versions of the Bible, but I have yet to encounter a single shred of Scripture that says anything remotely akin to any of that drivel!
Many people, especially his devoted fans, see nothing wrong about his message of “positive thinking.” And indeed, Osteen does exude a certain smiley positivity that seems unfair to critique. But in actuality, his is the deepest, darkest, most despairing and hopelessly negative message imaginable. This is the message of law without grace. It says in essence, “If you want anything good to happen to you, you have to make your own way in the world. You have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. If you’re not happy with your live, make the omnipotent decision to be happy. You are the master of your own destiny.” There is not a more negative message conceivable! A message like this throws its hearers back onto themselves and their own pitiful efforts at appeasing the fertility god. It is a legalism that leaves you with no grace and merely your own efforts to do the impossible. It is Canaanite religion. By all your own effort at smiling, non-judgmental, undeterred positivity you must make the prosperity gods happy so that they will smile on you in the form of a new car and the best parking space to boot. This is the proverbial 'used car salesman' on HGH: selling you unadulterated rubbish as if it were the crown jewels.
For your perusal, below are several verbatim quotes from the great exegete himself for which I defy anyone, to show me where in the Bible these things are taught.
“Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you're going to live your life.”
“God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.”
“If Jesus were here today, he wouldn't be riding around on a donkey. He'd be taking a plane; he'd be using the media.”
“If we say it long enough eventually we're going to reap a harvest. We're going to get exactly what we're saying.”
“Most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change.”
“We were old sinners - but when we came to Christ we are not sinners anymore.”
“You may make some mistakes-but that doesn't make you a sinner. You've got the very nature of God on the inside of you.”
I whittled this exhibit down from nearly four pages! Most of what he says, as another blogger humorously pointed out, sounds curiously like something you'd expect to find in a fortune cookie. But, that aside, can you imagine what kind of mind reads the Bible with any sort of regularity and imagines that this is the doctrine of Scripture? And how ignorant must people be of the actual contents of the Bible to hear this sort of tripe and think that Scripture countenances it!
In truth the prophet proclaimed the judgment of God when he said:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.
(Amos 8:11-12 ESV)