Keith says that the teaching that your words and your thoughts can affect your future isn’t biblical. Well, tell that to Joshua and Caleb. They were the two Israelite spies who said that they were able to take the land of Canaan, which they eventually did. The other ten who said that they weren’t able to take the land died in the wilderness. Then there was David. While the other Israelites stood around shaking in their sandals at the sight of Goliath, David put his trust in God and spoke forth Goliath’s untimely demise. A few minutes later Goliath’s head was David’s trophy. The woman with the issue of blood said that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she would be healed. She did and she was. Speaking what you believe may not be Reformed theology, but it is most definitely supported by scripture. The Apostle Paul said “we believe, therefore we speak” (II Cor. 4:13). James said that you can control a horse’s direction with a bit in its mouth, and a large ship’s direction with a tiny rudder, and he was talking about controlling your tongue when he said that. (Jas. 3:3,4) While some may have put too much emphasis on materialism and wealth, it’s just factually wrong to say that the Bible doesn’t teach that our words and thoughts affect our future.
Keith then claims that WoF theology came from the New Thought metaphysical theology of the 19th century that eventually found its way into the New Age movement that began in the 1960s. Having made that claim, he offers zero evidence to support it. In fact, WoF theology comes from Pentecostalism that began in the early 20th century, and from the Faith Cure and Higher Life movements that were produced by the Holiness movement of the 19th century that came from the revivals of men like John Wesley. The adherents to those movements rejected New Thought’s concept of God as mind, as well as numerous other unbiblical teachings. (You can read more on this in my post about Kenneth Hagin’s theology.)
He then informs the viewers what the law of attraction is, and attempts to establish that what Joel Osteen says is the same thing by offering similar statements from New Age adherents and Osteen. This is a guilt-by-association tactic. Using this same tactic, I could say that Chuck Swindoll (the former president of the Dallas Theological Seminary) believes in the Law of Attraction because he said “we become what we think”. But you only need to do a bit of research to see that Chuck Swindoll doesn’t teach what the New Agers teach, even though he made a similar statement. That’s what responsible apologetics is all about. It’s about getting to the heart of what a person believes and teaches, not about taking isolated statements that you can piece together to brand them a heretic.
Keith then reiterates his false allegation that E. W. Kenyon took his theology from the New Thought movement of the 19th century. As I pointed out in my video response to his video on the Word of Faith origins, Kenyon was opposed to metaphysical theology and theosophy. He was committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if he wasn’t committed to conventional ways of expressing it.
Keith also played a clip of Kenneth Hagin leading a class in saying “All things are possible to him who believeth.” This is a direct quote of Jesus from Mark 9:23. Now what, pray tell, is so horrible about having people say what Jesus said, and how is that unbiblical? You can’t get much more biblical than quoting the Bible.
After this Keith posits a hypothetical situation. Joel tells people to follow their hearts in his book “Your Best Life Now”.
“You have to learn to follow your heart. You can’t let other people pressure you into being something that you’re not. If you want God’s favor in your life, you must be the person He made you to be, not the person your boss wants you to be, not even the person your parents or your husband wants you to be. You can’t let outside expectations keep you from following your own heart.”
“But what if somebody like a pastor is trying to get that person to repent?”, asks Keith. “By following Joel’s advice they’ll continue in their sin by pursuing worldly fulfillment and material gain.”
Had Keith simply provided the full story, the context of Osteen’s words would have been clear to everyone. Here’s what he actually said.
Melanie is a bright young woman who does a marvelous job of balancing her responsibilities as wife and mother with her desires for a career outside the home. But she felt pressured to keep moving up the ladder in her company. When a new position opened, her boss urged her to accept a promotion. Her husband approved, and Melanie knew it was a great opportunity. But something inside caused her to take pause. She didn’t feel good about accepting the new position. She didn’t want to work in that stressful an environment, and besides, she was fulfilled and contented in her current position. She was highly competent at her job, enjoyed her career, and was able to work flexible hours, which allowed her to spend plenty of time with her family.
“I’m honored that my employer wants to promote me,” Melanie said, “but I’m happy with the way things are. I’m afraid, though, that I will let everybody down if I don’t take the new job. I feel that I won’t be living up to their expectations if I turn down the new opportunity. What do you think I should do?”
“Melanie, you can’t live to please everybody’ else,” I told her. “And although those people may mean well and may want the best for you, only you know deep down inside what is right for you. You have to learn to follow your heart. You can’t let other people pressure you into being something that you’re not. If you want God’s favor in your life, you must be the person He made you to be, not the person your boss wants you to be, not the person your friends want you to be, not even the person your parents or your husband wants you to be. You can’t let outside expectations keep you from following your own heart.”
Melanie declined the offer for the new position, and she and her family are thriving.
In fact, “seeking worldly fulfillment and material gain” were the last things on her mind. This woman came to Osteen for advice on this matter, and he told her that she needed to put God’s will ahead of everything else if she wants His favor. She passed up the promotion and the extra money, and remained the wife, mother, and employee that she felt God wanted her to be. Osteen goes on to say “You need to follow your own heart in light of God’s Word and do what you feel is right and good for you“. (Some of his critics claim that he doesn’t teach the Bible, and yet in this book he cites scripture to support what he says well over 100 times.)
So what am I missing here? How does one end up living sinfully and needing to repent if they’re living as God wants them to live, and being the person that God wants them to be, following their own heart in the light of God’s Word? Joel wasn’t telling sinful people that they should keep on sinning and ignore godly counsel. He was telling people that you have to put God’s will for your life ahead of everything else if you want His favor. That’s about as biblical as you can get, Bro!
Now let me flip the hypothetical around. Let’s say that God has put something in your heart to do, but you allow other people and their expectations to hold you back. How much of God’s favor would you expect to come your way then?
Watch this clip from John Osteen talking about obedience to God. Remember, virtually everything you hear from Joel was planted in him by his father.
Think about the Israelites in the Old Covenant. God told them that if they would keep the covenant they would be blessed. Obeying God’s law and following His will for your life leads to His favor. Proverbs 3:1-4 says:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
How is Osteen’s counsel any different? This is sophomoric thinking from somebody who has already formed a conclusion about what Joel Osteen believes and teaches, and who doesn’t take the time to actually examine what he’s saying in an objective manner. Keith tries to justify his logic by quoting Jeremiah 17:9 and saying that the heart is wicked. Here’s where we encounter a theological chasm between those who follow an Old Testament view of salvation and a New Testament view.
In the Old Covenant the people were given the law and told to obey it. They were unable to do so, of course, and as Paul points out the law was given as a taskmaster to lead us to Christ. The law of the New Covenant is to believe in Jesus and love your neighbor. Under the Old Covenant they didn’t have the Holy Spirit living within them. In the New Covenant we do. In the Old Covenant the heart was indeed wicked, but in the New Covenant our hearts (or spirits) have been regenerated and the Holy Spirit lives in them. That’s why Paul said in Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” That’s why I John 3:19-22 says:
“19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
If our (believers’) hearts were wicked they wouldn’t convict us of sin. The heart was wicked in the Old Covenant, but Praise God in the New Covenant we have a new heart with the Spirit of God indwelling it, and we can trust Him to guide us through it.
Keith then lays it on the line and says that people who follow Joel Osteen and those like him will end up in hell for all of eternity, just like the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:15,16. Let’s look at those verses that Keith quoted.
“15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”
Nothing is said in this passage about the Nicolaitans going to hell. Moses received judgment from God in that he wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land. David received judgment for his sin, but that doesn’t mean that he went to hell. This is another example of Keith reading his theology into the situation. Certainly the Nicolaitans needed to repent to avoid judgment, but God’s judgment on believers doesn’t necessarily mean hell.
Next, Keith plays a video of Osteen on Larry King, answering a question about how we get to heaven. He says that he believes that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and he believes that with all his heart. He doesn’t feel that it’s his place to pronounce judgment however, because he doesn’t know what’s in a person’s heart. He just says what he believes, that a relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven, and leaves judgement up to God.
Apparently that’s not good enough for Keith. He wants Joel to be judgmental like all of the Reformed ministers passing judgment on him. But let’s remember something about the gospel. It’s good news. Jesus said that He didn’t come into the world to condemn the world because the world’s already condemned. He came to seek and save that which was lost. When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on Samaria Jesus told them that they didn’t know what spirit they’re of.
Joel Osteen doesn’t have a judgmental spirit. His gift is encouragement and mercy. Others have a different approach and they get good results their way. It reminds me of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas regarding Mark after he had deserted them previously. Barnabas (whose name means “Son of Encouragement”) was willing to include him on the next journey but Paul wasn’t. So they split up, Barnabas taking Mark and Paul taking Silas, and as a result two teams departed instead of one. Maybe that was God’s plan. Who knows?
Keith again reads something into Joel Osteen’s words that he didn’t say. He says that Joel’s refusal to judge an atheist’s heart presupposes that they could be good enough to merit God’s favor and enter heaven without believing in Jesus. In fact Joel was saying that his approach is to just tell people that Jesus is the only way to heaven and let God do the rest because He is the judge and only He knows their heart. They might just say they’re an atheist when they aren’t. They might say they don’t believe in Jesus even as the Holy Spirit is dealing with them. As I stated before, some people plant the seed, and some people water the seed. What’s important isn’t the individuals involved or their approach. The important thing is that the seed is planted and watered and that God brings the growth. Like his father before him Joel Osteen’s ministry is touching tens of thousands of people all over the world. In that we should rejoice.
Having said all of that, Osteen did offer an apology on his website for his sub-par performance on Larry King.
“Many of you have called, written or e-mailed regarding my recent appearance on Larry King Live. I appreciate your comments and value your words of correction and encouragement.
It was never my desire or intention to leave any doubt as to what I believe and Whom I serve. I believe with all my heart that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life. I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very thing in which I have dedicated my life.
Jesus declared in John 14; I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. However, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to review the transcript of the interview that I realize I had not clearly stated that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven. It’s about the individual’s choice to follow Him.
God has given me a platform to present the Gospel to a very diverse audience. In my desire not to alienate the people that Jesus came to save, I did not clearly communicate the convictions that I hold so precious.
I will use this as a learning experience and believe that God will ultimately use it for my good and His glory. I am comforted by the fact that He sees my heart and knows my intentions. I am so thankful that I have friends, like you, who are willing to share their concerns with me.
Thank you again to those who have written. I hope that you accept my deepest apology and see it in your heart to extend to me grace and forgiveness.”
It’s so easy to play Monday morning quarterback and criticize somebody for how they performed on national television. Most of these anonymous YouTubers who like to pass judgment on people like Osteen will never encounter a situation like that and have no idea how they would perform. Regardless of your opinion on how he did, you can’t honestly say that he denied that Jesus is the only way to heaven because he didn’t.
Keith then plays a clip of Dr. Robert Morey presenting a painfully obvious straw man argument – a non-existent theology that says that nothing bad will ever happen to you if you believe in God. I guess this is the kind of rhetoric that these people resort to when they can’t prove their case through an honest representation of the theology they oppose.
He then quotes Osteen saying “You need to take pride in what God has given you“. He takes that and twists it to mean that Osteen is telling people to be materialistic and proud of what possessions they’ve accumulated. In fact, Osteen was just telling people to take care of their stuff, regardless of whether it’s new and valuable or old and not so valuable. Here’s the whole quote.
Start making the more excellent choices in every area of your life, even the mundane. For instance, you may be driving a car that hasn’t been washed in six weeks. Your trunk or backseat may be filled with so much junk – everything from your sports equipment to your office equipment – you can barely close the door! I’m not condemning anybody – Victoria and I have children too – and sometimes our car looks like a storm hit it. But I don’t like driving a car like that. Not only does it represent God poorly, but it makes me feel unkempt, undisciplined, sloppy, and less than my best. Many times before I leave the house, I’ll take a couple of minutes and clean out the car, not because I want to impress my friends, but because I feel better driving a clean car. You need to take pride in what God has given you.
You may say, “Well, Joel, I’m just driving an old clunker. No use in my washing this.”
No, if you will start taking care of what God has given you, He’ll be more likely to give you something better. Similarly, you may not live in a big, new, beautiful home. You may have an older, smaller home, but at least you can keep it looking nice. Make sure it looks like a person of excellence lives there.
So basically Keith is saying that Joel Osteen is a false teacher for telling people to keep their car clean, even if it’s an old clunker. Great apologetics there, Keith! You just saved us all from the heresy of cleancarism. I guess you’ve never read Matthew 25:23 where it says “…Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things …” or Luke 16:10 where it says “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
The rest of the video is pretty much a rehash of his disputes with Osteen’s theology and his accusations about the WoF being based in New Thought, along with other distortions and a closing pitch of a John MacArthur book. It’s unfortunate that these apologists have been allowed to get away with this kind of thing for so long because most WoF people don’t believe in responding to their critics. Well this is one guy who believes in responding and setting the record straight.
I don’t agree with everything that Joel Osteen or anybody else in the WoF says, but if I have differences with them I’ll probably discuss them in private. However, I know enough about his family, the history of their ministry, and the mainstream Pentecostal theology of Joel’s father that established Lakewood Church and gave Joel Osteen the platform that he has today to know that he’s not a heretic. He’s just a guy who grew up as a preacher’s kid, and who ran his dad’s TV ministry until he was suddenly thrust into the leadership of a megachurch when his dad passed. Consequently he’s a bit weak in theology, but what he lacks in that department he makes up for in exhorting, encouraging, and extending mercy to people.