Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

USA Today Weekend: Joel Osteen

In recent years it seems that the main-stream media uses each Easter season to attack essential teachings of the Christian Faith (remember, for example The Lost Tomb of Jesus controversy or claims made about The Lost Gospel of Judas: both of those stories came out at Easter-time).

This year, the big controversy seems to be in regards to Rob Bell: Time Magazine, for example, has done a cover story emphasizing Bell's proposed changes to the traditional understanding of the Christian Faith.

And so I was interested to see that USA Weekend (the insert USA Today places in Sunday newspapers in some locations) did a cover story on Joel Osteen last weekend, at that the tone of the article was largely positive toward Osteen.

Three things about this article [which may be read on-line HERE] were especially interesting from my perspective: 1. The positive tone taken toward Osteen; 2. The way Osteen presented his teachings in the article; 3. The way that Osteen's critics were dismissed in the article.

1. Though the article refers to Osteen as "the Lord's Polyanna," which sounds derogatory, the overall tone taken toward Osteen is positive. The title of the article and the penultimate sentence in the article are both quotes from Osteen. Throughout the article, Osteen is quoted without any further question or critique provided by the journalist writing the article. Such an article, serving basically as an advertisement for a religious leader, is, I think unusual in a secular publication. I'd like to see articles similar in tone done on John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper by the main-stream media, but I doubt I'll see those any time soon.

2. Osteen seems to have heard some of what his critics have been saying for a while, and, at least for the purposes of this article, he has clarified (or perhaps changed?) his message accordingly. "I never said God wants everyone to be rich," Osteen claims in this article: this despite what critics, the main-stream media, and even his own parishioners thought they heard from him in the past (see Time Magazine's 2006 story, "Does God Want You to be Rich?"). Osteen also claims in this article, "I do talk about sin. I just do it in a different way." The fact that Osteen has to keep asserting that he does, indeed, talk about sin, seems unusual itself because preachers who DO regularly talk about sin don't have to say "I do talk about sin" in every interview; no one accuses John MacArthur of failing to talk about sin. (It's like a friend of mine who I've heard on at least two occasions say, "I have a great sense of humor;" the fact that he has to keep asserting that he has a great sense of humor seems indicative of the fact that he doesn't have much of a sense of humor.)

3. After quoting Osteen as saying, "God wants to double your blessings as he did for Job," the article continues:

This all makes his critics livid. The Rev. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president and powerhouse traditionalist, whacks him for “platitudes with attitudes.” The Rev. Mark Driscoll, who packs a Seattle megachurch for doctrine-laden sermons, says Osteen reduces the pursuit of God to “lollipops and skipping while singing hymns.”

Mohler? Driscoll? “I don't know who those people are,” Osteen says, looking genuinely mystified.
With this, the article mentions Osteens critics in such a way as to make them look mean-spirited and ridiculous, while completely avoiding any mention of the theological substance of their criticism.

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