Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Osteen Apologizes for Squishy Remarks

I meant to blog about Joel Osteen's comments on Larry King Live last week when it was still a hot controversy. Honestly, I never heard of Joel Osteen until recently. A few months ago, my mother asked me if I knew anything about "Joel Osteen," to which I replied, "never heard of him." I did a google search and scanned over his Church's website. I confess I didn't find any indicator right off the top that would implicate pastor Joel as anything more than a mega church celebrity pastor of an arena size congregation with a seeker sensitive/ charismatic philosophy. In other words, the typical, big church, squishy, conservative evangelical.

However, a week or so ago, pastor Joel went on Larry King Live for an interview of sorts, and when Larry switched from floating his typical whiffle ball questions to hurling fast pitch, Joel apparently flinched and took a step back from the plate. On at least two occasions, Larry attempted to pin pastor Joel down as to the exclusivity of the gospel message and pastor Joel started flip-flopping answers faster than pancakes at a Methodist Men's fundraiser breakfast. "I can't judge people's hearts" was his basic, concluding response.

The Bible believing Christians I know, and whose sites I often visit (see side links), have reacted to pastor Joel's compromising waffle act with annoyed dismay. Steve Camp provided the best rebuke of pastor Joel out of all the ones I read. I truly appreciate his comments, because he, along with other like-minded bloggers, provide an anchor of truth to prevent Christ's Church from drifting into the world of easy compromise. However, with all due respect to my fellow Bible believing friends who take a hard line on no-compromise: Should we honestly think someone like Joel Osteen, Mr. Mega church pastor-celebrity, is going to be a stalwart of theological virtue and provide a solid, detailed description of the gospel message? There is a better chance of getting John Kerry to give a straightforward and clear opinion on the Iraq war.

I agree with the complaint being raised from my fellow, non-compromising brethren; I, too, am disappointed with pastor Joel's answers to Larry King on what is truly a fundamental issue for Bible believing, gospel loving Christians. But, I must admit that I have reached a point where I just expect this type of jellyfish responses from big time radio and TV evangelical ministers. Other than pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in LA, I don't think I have heard one big time media celebrity minister give a Bible based presentation of the gospel ever on LKL or any other similar program. Perhaps there are some I missed, but I am not aware of any. A benevolent, "God is Love," semi-universalist gospel is the response Christian media types give nowadays when interviewed. Simply put: it is difficult to be a hard-line exclusivist when a media pastor runs the risk of alienating many of his non-Christian, Republican moral majority supporters.

Moreover, rarely is the real issue of the exclusivity of the gospel ever touched in these venues. That being, the holiness of God, the inability of sinners to earn salvation and the need to have sin atoned for and God's wrath placated. I can still remember back a few years ago when the SBC's annual, self-imposed criticism target of the year was a push to evangelize Jews and other non-Christian religious faiths. The MSM screamed the SBC was being anti-Semitic and Jewish political activists demanded an apology from the SBC leadership. Dennis Prager, one of my favorite all-time talk show hosts, interviewed three SBC representatives, two of which were Jerry Falwell and Al Mohler, along with a couple of Jewish leaders, one who was OK with the SBC's views on evangelizing non-Christian faiths, and a second who thought such action was akin to Nazi propaganda. Throughout the entire hour and half discussion, the SBC evangelicals attempted to play down the anti-Semitic slurs and spoke of how they loved Jews and that is the reason why Southern Baptists want to evangelize them. Not once did any of the Christians raise the necessity of atonement, the inability of men and the need for God's wrath to be appeased, at least in any depth. Those are the reasons we must preach exclusivity: those three elements of the gospel message demand it.

To his credit, pastor Joel has issued an apology for his comments on LKL, confessing that the language he used did not reflect his true convictions. He further promises to be alert to presenting a clear gospel message if any future media interviews come about in which he is asked about the exclusivity of Christ alone to save. That sounds all good and well, but I still would like to see it. In the meantime, I will be glad to forgive Pastor Joel for his shortcomings and I for one hope he will learn from his mistake on LKL. The world has too many squishy evangelicals. The Church needs some firm rocks.


Blogger BlackCalvinist said...

Hey Fred - good blog.

Osteen's problems extend further than the major statements regarding the exclusivity of Christ, though. I'm working on a blog entry regarding the other FOUR highly suspect statements he gave non-answers to or bad answers or anti-Biblical answers to (I printed the transcript and reviewed it over dinner yesterday).

Blog coming soon.

10:10 AM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I certainly look forward to reading it, brother.


6:20 AM, July 01, 2005  

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