From Trevin Wax Blog: “The Negative Message of Joel Osteen´s Positive Reinforcement”

I thought it was amazing how after just putting up a post on Jesus´ dealings with false teachings and teachers in Matthew 23, that I checked my email and found this post at Antagoniz Blog analyzing Joel Osteen´s “gospel” message.  Very thought provoking especially when we consider the eternal destinies, i.e., hell or heaven, to those who hold to either the old covenant of works (i.e., the law, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it together) or the new covenant of grace (the Savior suffering for the sins of lost humanity, the bloody cross, repentance from sin, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and salvation by grace through faith in His precious name alone).  I´ve also always found it concerning that by this modern-American definition of Christianity, i.e., total victory (in worldly standards) in finance, relationship, health, etc. that every one of the Apostles (especially the Apostle Paul) and even Jesus Himself would have to logically be considered people of little faith  and total failures!  Paul never got married (1 Corinthians 7:8).  He had trouble with Mark on a mission trip and this led to he and Barnabas arguing and parting ways (Acts 15:37-41) and, oh, and at one point he said that all of Asia had abandoned him (2 Timothy 1:15)  (uh oh, relationship troubles!).  Timothy had chronic stomach trouble (1 Timothy 5:23) and there is evidence that Paul had some sort of persistent “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) that some theologians believe might have been a problem with his eyesight.  Regardless of what it was, it was an area he apparently didn´t get “total victory” over.   Also, Paul mentions friends who became sick even to the point of death (Phillipians 2:27).  These men suffered, they were stoned, they were run out of cities, they were repeatedly imprisoned, and they rejected and spurned the accumulation of wealth and looked to the promise of something greater beyond the comforts of  this present life (See the book of Acts, The Gospels and the rest of the New Testament).  Is Joel Osteen preaching the Gospel or is this another gospel not presented in the pages of scripture?  This is no light matter and we need to be Noble Bereans regardless of who the messenger is, 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 21 tells us to test all things so please prayerfully and Biblically consider…Paul S.

Here is a link to the article on it´s original website…

(certain items bolded for emphasis by me…)

Joel Osteen’s Negative Message

By Trevin Wax on Jan 28, 2008 in Christianity


Everywhere you turn nowadays, there’s Joel Osteen!

He’s on the cable news channels, pontificating about the political process, Mormonism and how “God is the judge of the heart.”

He’s on the bookshelves, smiling from the covers of Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You, promising new life and hope to the downtrodden.

He’s on TV, trumpeting his feel-good gospel of positive reinforcement to a watching world.

Osteen has legions of followers, but he has garnered a large group of critics too. Where is God in his message? What about sin? What about grace? What about Jesus?

Osteen answers his critics in the following way: I focus on the positive. Sin and punishment and all that isn’t my message. I want to help people and don’t want to beat them down all the time.

By answering his critics this way, Osteen has painted his critics as a bunch of denigrating, pulpit-pounding, sin-obsessed pastors. He wants to focus on “the positive.”

But does Osteen do this? I’m afraid not. I’ve listened to Joel Osteen’s messages. I believe he sincerely wants to help people who feel beaten down by life and who feel guilty for their failures and mistakes. The “positive” message he proclaims is this: Do better. Try harder. Believe you can succeed. In other words, you can change! Just do it! God will help you, of course, but you have to make it happen.

Though Osteen claims he has positive sermons, I believe he is proclaiming the most negative, unmerciful message possible! Like telling a clinically depressed person to “just snap out of it!,” Osteen is giving people burdened by sin, guilt and despair more reason to despair.

Do we really think that more willpower will solve our problems? What is this message but the Law on steroids? There is no gospel in Osteen’s message, regardless of his rare references to Jesus Christ. Osteen’s idea of “good news” is telling self-centered people to look for salvation in more narcissism! Osteen’s preaching is like giving sugar to a diabetic, telling people that the magic medicine will help them, when in fact, it is speeding up their death.

What galls me most about Joel Osteen is that he claims the evangelical label! What have we come to? Osteen’s acceptance of Mitt Romney as a brother in Christ because “he says he has a personal relationship with Jesus” is the same logic some evangelicals apply to Osteen. Nevermind that he implicitly denies the reason for Jesus’ death, the sin we need salvation from, and the only lasting solution that will bring life transformation. Joel says he has a relationship with Jesus. So that’s good enough for us?

Don’t be fooled by the smiling man on the book cover. Joel Osteen’s message is not positive at all.

written by Trevin Wax © 2008 Kingdom People blog

For further study:
The State of the Pulpit-Joel Osteen (Commentary by Pastor Mark Driscoll)


10 thoughts on “From Trevin Wax Blog: “The Negative Message of Joel Osteen´s Positive Reinforcement”

  1. Good ole Olsteen. It’s too easy, too easy. No comment.

    Enjoyed your catalog of the great men of Bible’s wrestling with humanity and non-positive things.

    • Okie, thanks for your response. I have always found it fascinating and comforting that these great men of the faith were just that, men. I’ve also always found any so-called “Biblical” teaching that would by definition classify the very writers of the Bible themselves as failures to be concerning to say the least! God bless my brother…

  2. THis is exactly why none of Joel OSteen’s critics are able to even make a dent in the growth of his ministry? They just don’t get it. And just when I think I’ve heard it all, there is your blog. A new low!!!!I can understand that you really, really want people to think you’re smart and insightful. A great thinker of our time! And one way to do that is to come up with a counter-thesis to all the other critics who say exactly the opposite — that Joel Osteen is “feel-good.” The only problem is that you are just making this stuff up– you have no research into why people listen to Osteen. You would have us believe that Osteen’s ministry is flourishing around the world because he preaches an unmerciful message? That those in despair become more desparate after hearing his messages? That only narcissitic people listen to Joel Osteen? I’ve already wasted enough time here in the pit of ignorance.

    • Hello Don in Texas, it sounds as if you were quite upset when you responded to the post (hopefully you’re computer screen and keyboard survived the onslaught!) and to be honest, I read your response several times and don’t quite follow your train of thought, but I will try to respond. The blog article that was posted on my site actually contained a portion written by myself as an introduction and then contained a link and re-post of another blog by a brother named Trevin Wax and I believe that that’s the portion that you seem to be addressing. With regard to Mr. Wax’s post, I didn’t get the impression from reading it that he was trying to come across as some sort of pompous intellect with an insightful counter-thesis to Osteen’s teachings, he simply was addressing some genuine, Scriptural concerns. Don in Texas, I grew up in some very extreme Word Faith/Charismatic churches and we were many times told that to question a minister’s teaching was to be in sin and in a sense to “touch the Lord’s anointed.” However, as I’ve read the Scriptures over the years, I’ve found that the Bible does not condemn us for analyzing a person’s ministry or teaching, but rather encourages us to do so (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). No person, not you or me nor anyone else is above the Scriptures and we should always “examine and test ourselves”, myself included (2 Corinthians 13:5). I believe that Mr. Wax was attempting to compare some of Mr. Osteen’s teachings to Scripture and in the process found some areas that warrant genuine concern. One of the most problematic things that I noticed in Mr. Wax’s article was the disturbing lack of discernment on Mr. Osteen’s part when he referred to Mitt Romney as a “brother in Christ” simply because he claims to have a “relationship” with Jesus. Considering Mr. Osteen’s incredible influence Don in Texas, the fact that he validates Mormonism by calling Mr. Romney a “brother in Christ” is incredibly disconcerting. Don in Texas, I don’t know how familiar you are with the teachings of the Mormon church (Mitt Romney is Mormon) but they simply do not believe in the same Jesus as recorded in the Bible. True, Biblical Christianity teaches and confesses the belief that Jesus is both fully God and fully man and that He is a member of the eternally existing Divine Holy Trinity. Mormons believe that Jesus is “a son” of God out of a relationship that “god” had with a “spirit wife” and on top of that that he is the older brother of Satan and all of us as well. According to their teaching, their “jesus” is a mere created being who obtained a status of godhood and it is taught in the Mormon church that the followers of Mormonism should work to “be like him” in the sense that they should strive to obtain this “godhood” status as well. This is in absolute opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture! I could go on and on but I hope that you understand that the “jesus” of Mormonism is not the same as the Jesus of the Bible. This is concerning especially when Jesus Himself warned us that there would be “false Christs” and “false prophets” in the last days that would lead many astray (Matthew 24:24). Now, if you love and believe in the Jesus of the Bible Don in Texas, it should be of genuine concern to you that someone, especially with Mr. Osteen’s influence, would call someone who is a member of a group that teaches a “jesus” who is not the Jesus of the Bible and clearly, Scripturally a “false Christ” a “brother in Christ” thereby validating an entire false religion! I hope that you recognize the consequences of such an action especially by a person with Mr. Osteen’s influence. Mr. Wax was not trying to “double-talk” a new fangled thesis when he said that a message devoid of the Gospel is unmerciful, he was stating a fact! If we don’t present the Gospel message faithfully (even with all it’s unpopular portions like dealing with sinfulness of humanity, the suffering of the Savior, the cross, repentance, the resurrection and the fact that the Bible says that there is salvation in NO other name under heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12) and yet claim to be Christians, what in the world are we really doing? To conceal or mis-represent the Gospel and validate false religions is to put the eternal souls of lost humanity in danger! To validate an occultic group and call them “brothers in Christ”, especially someone with the influence of Joel Osteen, despite the fact that they teach and believe in a “jesus” who is clearly not the Jesus of the Bible could potentially cause multitudes to comfortably accept a “false christ.” Don in Texas, as I’ve read and re-read your post several times, you’re zeal and anger in the defense of the ministry of a man is quite evident, even going so far as calling this site a “pit of ignorance.” However, I noticed that there was not one single mention of Scripture in your comment nor any attempt on your part at a Scriptural defense of the teachings of Mr. Osteen or even concern expressed for the fact that a person with Mr. Osteen’s influence called someone who is a member of a group that clearly teaches and believes in a false Christ a “brother in Christ.” I would ask you Don in Texas, your zeal for Joel Osteen is evident, but where is your zeal for Christ and for His Word? Can you formulate a Scriptural definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you make a Scriptural defense of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of “false christs” and “false prophets” that are rapidly multiplying in these last days? Does it concern you that your Scriptural accuracy concerning these things impacts the eternal destiny of your own soul and those of others whom you share with (1 Timothy 4:16, Galatians 1:6-11)? I have indeed not done any research as to “why” people are listening to Mr. Osteen. But, considering the fact that multitudes are listening to him, I believe it is a valid concern to want to know “what” people are listening to as they hear him considering that the eternal destinies of multitudes are at stake.

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  4. Well, Paul, I think we can both empathize/sypmathize with Don. I feel for him because he was so stirred up by Mr. Wax’s post.

    Don, I hope you revisit and engage in scritural dialogue. As iron sharpens iron we can strengthen each other in a theological debate.

    Good post, Paul.

    • That verse couldn’t be more appropriate, it’s a shame when we don’t attempt to sit down and allow the Word to form and shape us…

  5. (On Driscoll)
    I really, really dislike Driscoll and I feel that his public approach to the gospel is as reflective of his own ego as it is the message he is presenting. I am most certain, that as calm as I am, I could never share a room with him. I feel that what he preaches is uncompromising and dogmatic with no consideration to the fact that he could be wrong. His theology is based on his perception of what is truth or not. He takes a scholastic approach to connecting his views to other men of the past who gave their views. But this is never evidence of truth. Luther may have been wrong, whose to say. No, we chose to connect ourselves to those teachings we most agree with or find resonating to us.

    The attack on Osteen is unnecessary and self-serving (Driscoll competes for viewership and readership.) It is not Osteen’s responsibility to meet the demands of an undefined church. There is no truly defined creed of non-denominational churches, the creed is built around the church body. People assume that the preacher should represent the totality of a creed or professed belief. It is wrong to expect that every preacher should represent the total message of the Chrisitian faith. Yes, a teacher of a faith should at least believe in some basic tenents of that faith but they are under no duty to teach the entire belief system (especially when we have no defined or authoritative church outside of the structured and more organized churches like Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Even the Amish have a clearer view of their beliefs. With most non-denominational systems our beliefs very by congregation and the familiar points of agreement are often assumed.) Osteen is doing his part to make people feel a little bit better about life. He makes people want to go home and care for themselves more. And when they care for themselves, they care for their wife better, their kids, their friends, and even their neighbors. When they have a loving community, they can possibly even learn to be nice to momma’s boys like Driscoll. Osteen is the best voice on television because he is inviting people into a more civilized and loving life. If the gospel isn’t about causing the lion to lay with the lamb, then it is no longer useful to us. A faith that focuses only on events after death is a pathetic one as it devalues life itself. It becomes simple esapism and is negative to the forward progression of the human race. But if it teaches us to be a better people, then there is something more. And if it leads us to a good God, there is something better. If that God is cruel, then thanks for making me but you’ve made a creature that is better than you. We need to be careful that we preach the real character of God, which is love. Love is the nature of the gospel. And this is why I support Osteen and believe Driscoll should cease with his angry preaching.

  6. I forgot to say (On Osteen) after the (on driscoll) paragraph.

    Paul, I don’t understand how anyone can say that we humans are not above the scriptures, when the ink in the book was penned by the hands of men. The pages are made by men. The languages spoken in it are of men. Our brains that interpret the words are of men. If I light my Bible on fire nothing happens. If I re-translate NIV to a newer NIV version, or from English to Spanish, that by the nature of language slightly alters the meaning, nothing oppresses me for it.

    Belief in the Bible isn’t the requirement for salvation. I thought belief in the birth, death, and ressurection of Christ was the Christian requirement.

    But even this is not universal, the Catholic church and the Orthodox are the only one’s who have the apostolic authority to interpret the Bible. Otherwise, we men, alone, are the only one’s who have the authority to interpret the Bible. And if that is the case, then we are not under the scriptures, we are the readers of them and in the end we choose what they mean in our own minds. For even if we are guided by the Spirit, it is our own self that is left to choose what that means. If we consult the Bible to confirm the unction of the Spirit, we are still left with the opportunity to interpret that scripture. It is always easy to form justifications. We bring to learning prior knowledge. We bring to spiritual experience ourselves, whatever that self has become. There is no seperation of ourself from our own experience. Their is no validity in experience except for that which we find true in and through ourselves. In this way faith is firstly defined by the individual as that individual experiences it. And no one can tell us the treasure we find does not belong to us, nor is our truth false.

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