Every time Joel Osteen opens his mouth, I cringe. Though he pastors the largest church in the United States, his theological ignorance is more incredible than the fact that the church fills what used to be Houston’s Compac Center.
He’s obviously a nice guy. You can’t get away from that reality. Despite his smile and slick hair, I don’t think he’s malicious in any way.
I think he’s just that simple.
And it’s not okay.
Joel Osteen has, by his own admission, been thrust into the pulpit by his late father’s pleading, and ultimately his father’s death. He has no theological training or background. He’s a soundboard operator and camera-man. He’s never attended a day of seminary or pastoral development.
And so week after week, from Lakewood Church and stadiums across the country, he gives his motivational speeches cloaked as legitimate sermons. He scratches itching ears with “helpful sermons” that are, simply, unbiblical.
Let’s be honest, when Oprah endorses your church, you’ve failed to present the Gospel.
And so when the news hit this morning that Joel Osteen, in his simpleton drawl, argues that Mitt Romney – an avowed Temple Mormon – is actually a Christian, I was shocked at the fact that I was shocked.
What I see about Gov. Romney is that he says ‘I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He’s raised from the dead and he’s my savior.’ I see him as being a believer in Christ like me… That’s enough for me… There’s differences in all religion. I realize that Mormonism is different from Christianity, but you know what he’s a man of faith and values. And to me that’s strong.
So, Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in America, sees no difference in a Mormon belief in Jesus and a Christian belief in Jesus.
Houston, we have a problem.
This is where education and training would be helpful. This is where every pastor and Christian who open their mouth need to be aware of the realities before them regarding not only their own religious tradition and Scriptures (Joel Osteen, this is where you would want to study first), but also that of other faiths and religious traditions that they may speak toward.
When a Mormon says something like, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He raised from the dead and he’s my savior,” what they mean is,
I believe that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and children of God. The Holy Spirit had pre-marital sex with a young, virginal Mary, and she gave birth to an earthly Jesus. As he grew, he was a good Mormon who obeyed his parents, held strong moral values, and eventually died on a cross, to open the door of salvation to those who would do good works, go on mission, and believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet. In fact, Jesus’s deity is itself attainable for any good Mormon who lives a good enough life, and – should one qualify – they can eventually be god of their own universe and make their own little spirit babies.
Whatever this is, it is not Christianity
Mormons say Jesus, but they mean an entirely different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. They claim to believe the Bible, but theirs is an awfully rewritten version of the King James Bible, not to mention the addition of their own scriptures (which amazingly tell of Native American Indians speaking in King James English!) Frankly, their god is an entirely different God than the one God, Yahweh, revealed in the Bible.
So, do we give Joel a pass for this obviously ridiculous statement? After all, he didn’t go to seminary?
No! We demand that every pastor who dares open his mouth and proclaim God’s message to God’s people knows what he’s talking about! We demand that every pastor study the Bible, know his Bible, and preach the Bible.
If a preacher isn’t willing to do that, then he frankly has no business in the pastorate to begin with.