In my last blog post I responded to things that Keith Thompson said in his video “Word of Faith Teachers: Origins and Errors of Their Teaching”. This week I’m addressing his video entitled “Joel Osteen: Origins & Errors of His Teaching”. Now, before I begin my analysis of the video, I’d like to discuss the guy making the video. While I’ve never met Keith personally, I’ve gathered a bit of information from different websites and videos. First of all, he has also gone by the name “Keith Truth” in some of his web publications. As you can see, he’s quite young. Looking at his photos and videos I’d say mid-20s. Not too long ago he was apparently trying his hand at rap.
Now I’m not going to disparage anybody because they’re young. After all, Timothy was young, and the Apostle Paul told him not to let anybody despise his youth, so I’m not going to do that with Keith. Young people can be very knowledgeable about the Bible and theology. I know. I was young once. I remember attending bible school in my mid-20s and delving into subjects like dispensationalism and eschatology, along with all of the charismatic subjects that Rhema Bible Training Center focused on. I didn’t know as much as I know today, but I knew more than the average guy and I knew a lot more than I did when I was a teenager. But there’s one thing that a person in their mid-20s just can’t do. They can’t remember things that happened thirty years ago. They’re simply not old enough. That’s why in the first Keith Thompson video that I critiqued, I pointed out that he was wrong about Jimmy Swaggart being a WoF minister. You see, I remember Swaggart writing the article HyperFaith: New Gnosticism? Back in 1982 right before I began attending Rhema. Everybody was talking about it. Keith wouldn’t remember that of course, because he wasn’t born yet.
I also pointed out that Benny Hinn renounced WoF theology in 1993 during an interview with Charisma Magazine. Keith was probably just a toddler at the time. In 1993 I was living in Orlando, Florida where Benny Hinn’s church and Charisma were located. I had visited OCC (Orlando Christian Center) where Hinn pastored. I had already graduated from Rhema by that time, and was somewhat relieved that Benny Hinn was no longer going to associate with the WoF. I felt that nobody would link us with him after that. Boy was I wrong. Here we are 22 years later and I’m still trying to educate people on this.
And then there was his wrong assumption about Kenneth Hagin’s quote of Kenyon regarding the incarnation, thinking that Brother Hagin was saying that believers are just as much God as Jesus is, which clearly wasn’t the case once you consider what Kenyon actually said. In this mistake Keith was hardly alone, though. I’ve seen men older than me drop the ball on that quote, which is why I took four minutes of that video to actually read what Kenyon said.
And then there was the clip where he quoted Kenneth Hagin saying that Jesus cried “My God, My God” because God was no longer His father, and that He took upon Himself the nature of Satan. I’ve read all of Kenneth Hagin’s books and watched his videos, and sat under his teaching for two years. I didn’t recall having heard him say that, so I did a Google search on the quote and all of the search results attribute it to Kenneth Copeland, not Kenneth Hagin, so I pointed that out in my response.
These are the kinds of things that experience can do for you as an apologist. You have the benefit of knowing about people, places, events … etc. that a younger person doesn’t have, and I believe that lack of experience is what contributes to Keith getting things wrong. Now I realize that we all make mistakes, but when you’re creating videos that oppose and “expose” the ministries of men and women of God, and uploading those videos to YouTube where they can be viewed by potentially hundreds of millions of people, it’s probably a good idea to double check things and get your facts right. In time Keith will become a middle aged man like me, and hopefully he’ll be able to draw off of decades of experience and his work will reflect that.
But more important than the age issue is his theological affiliation. Keith runs a website called Reformed Apologetics Ministries. When you hear the word “Reformed” just think “Calvinist”. Among the bible teachers and theologians that Keith pays homage to are Dr. Michael Horton, John Piper, Paul Washer, Dr. Steven Lawson, and John MacArthur – all Reformed! You’ll hear this Calvinism coming through about an hour into the video when Keith starts discussing predestination. Maybe that will help you locate him theologically. Speaking of John MacArthur, there’s no minister or theologian who is a more outspoken cessationist than he is. Maybe now I can give you a little insight into why Joel Osteen is such a target for people like Keith and John MacArthur. You see, Joel Osteen’s father was John Osteen, a former Baptist minister who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and began praying for the sick and teaching on the gifts of the Spirit back in the late 1950s.
John and Dodie Osteen’s daughter Lisa was born with cerebral palsy, and the doctors told them that she would never be normal. John and Dodie anointed her with oil, prayed the prayer of faith, and thanked God continually for hearing and answering their prayer, and over time Lisa became normal. She went on to graduate from Oral Roberts University and is active in the ministry today. In 1981 Dodie was diagnosed with cancer and was given a few weeks to live. She’s still alive today. I realize that some Word of Faith critics are quick to point out that she received medical treatment, but the fact remains that even with medical treatment the doctors only gave her a short time to live back in 1981, so the results are miraculous nonetheless.
In time the church that they founded, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, grew from less than 100 to nearly 10,000 by the time of John’s death in 1999. Joel soon took over as pastor, and although he has a different style from his father his theology is essentially the same. When Joel begins his sermons by leading the congregation in a confession of faith, he’s just doing what his dad did years ago.
I remember visiting Lakewood Church back in 1981. It was amazing. It was the first truly multicultural church that I had ever seen. They had an orchestra that played along with the worship – practically unheard of back then. They had all of these flags in their sanctuary representing the nations where they had sent people into the mission field to preach the gospel. There was no greater figure among pastors in the Charismatic movement than John Osteen. He was a pioneer, and his son Joel grew up with that legacy of Spirit-filled ministry. Is it any wonder then, that a noted cessationists like John MacArthur (whom Keith seems to admire) with a theological ax to grind would detest the very ground that Joel Osteen treads upon? Another Reformed minister named Mark Driscoll, who founded and pastored Mars Hill Church in Seattle, admitted that his Reformed brethren “like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata”.
Now that I’ve covered Keith’s background, let’s talk about his video. Like most of his videos, Keith does a good job of selecting mood music to set the tone – dark, dreary music when talking about the bad guys and pleasant, uplifting music when talking about the good guys. You know, like the political ads do. While that might affect people who have no critical thinking skills, it really has no relevance as to the accuracy of what he says in the video.
Early in the video (2:17) Keith reads a quote from Dr. Horton referring to Joel Osteen’s book title “Your Best Life Now” as “heresy”, because as Christians we’re supposed to expect our best life in heaven. But Osteen wasn’t saying that your life here on Earth can be better than your life in heaven. The “Now” in the title was referring to putting principles into action now, to build a better life now instead of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself or just waiting around for things to hopefully get better someday. Whether you agree with his message or not, you shouldn’t misrepresent what he was saying. As for the charge of heresy, what is heretical about it? What fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith is violated by telling people that they can put biblical principles into practice in order improve their lives?
One of the problems that I see with so many of these “apologists” is that they’re so quick to throw out the H word. Before long it has no meaning. I mean, if everything’s heresy then nothing is heresy. The word should be reserved for clear violations of essential doctrines that the church has always held to like the deity of Christ, the Trinity, original sin, justification by faith, the second coming of Christ … etc. When it comes to those essential doctrines Joel is mainstream and orthodox, so much so that his critics have to resort to things like book titles to accuse him of heresy.
Osteen’s critics like to bash him because he’s always so cheerful and happy, and talks about success and enjoying life rather than suffering, but the Bible does talk about some people having the gift of encouragement and showing mercy with (gasp!) CHEERFULNESS! (Rom. 12:8; I Cor. 14:3), and says that God comforts the downcast in II Cor. 7:6. In I Corinthians 3:6 Paul said “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth”. Paul was saying that we all have different gifts and roles to play in doing the work of the ministry. The focus of Joel Osteen’s ministry isn’t that of an evangelist, prophet, or even a teacher per se. He’s an exhorter. An encourager. He’s one who shows mercy. He brings people who are beaten up by life back to church and gives them hope, and by doing so they’re entering an environment where they can come to faith in Jesus Christ, study the Bible, and become fruitful for the Kingdom of God.
About ten minutes into the video Keith says that Joel Osteen is a WoF teacher. I won’t argue with that. His father John Osteen was a good friend of the founder of the WoF movement Kenneth Hagin. I saw Brother Hagin speak at Lakewood when I went there in 1981 and then I saw John Osteen speak at Kenneth Hagin’s Campmeeting in Tulsa in 1982. Joel Osteen’s theology is undoubtedly consistent with that of his father John.
But then Keith claims that WoF theology is the same as the New Thought concept called “The Law of Attraction”. He quotes Osteen saying “The power of words – your words affect your future”. He says that this is why Osteen’s teaching is called “Word of Faith”. Actually, it’s called Word of Faith based on Romans 10:8 when the Apostle Paul referred to the gospel that he preached as the “word of faith”. Paul describes the gospel in the following verses, saying that confession is made unto salvation, and that faith and confession work together.
(To Be Continued)