Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, Mitt Romney, and the Importance of Pastoral Education

If only he would keep his mouth shut

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.

HT: Todd

30 Comments

    1. Interesting discussion but I’m having a problem figuring out how pastoral education is an issue. If so all of Christs apostles would fall into the same rejected catagory as well as Christ himself.
      I think Osteen may have a point. Romney lives Christianity. As I recall it was Christ himself who said. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matt 7:21 and “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
      Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5
      The Mormons I know also live Christ-like lives more so than those who reject them as not being Christians.
      I also can’t help but note those who have left Mormonism and started organizations such as Mormon Research Ministry left so they could sin not so they could become better Christians and now have to spend their efforts trying to ridicule the good people of the Mormon Church to justify their own sins.
      Just remember, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20) and that is what Osteen is basing his judgment of Romney on. We would all do well to follow Christs teachings and do the same.

      1. Kay,

        The fundamental flaw in your thinking is that anyone other than Jesus Christ can “live Christianity.” Joel Osteen certainly does not, nor Governor Romney. The Bible is very clear that “none is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-18) Saying that someone is a Christian because they hold a particular value system, or live a good, moral life is absurd. Were that the case, the cross of Christ seems superflous.

        However, if (as the Bible teaches) we are all fallen, and by nature opposed to God (even in the good deeds we may do), then we certainly need a Savior. We need the sinless life of one fully-God and fully-man. We need his substitutionary death on the cross to remove the wrath of a righteous God from us.

        And the good news is that Jesus has done it! You cannot measure a man’s Christianity by his living. If he has not submitted his life to Christ – the very Christ revealed in the Old and New Testaments – then he is simply not a Christian. Let us not be foolish enough to attempt to redefine Christianity in an effort to remove the centerpiece of it.

  1. > “The Holy Spirit had pre-marital sex with a young, virginal Mary”

    No, worse: the Holy Spirit prepared Mary’s body so that Heavenly Father could have married sex with his spirit-daughter Mary. So, it’s the Father who copulated with her, and he somehow married her beforehand (apparently Mary had forgotten?). That’s a significant, extant, still-perpetuating Mormon view, but most Mormons have not thought about it, and most Mormons cringe at it. A lot of Mormons these days suggest that we “don’t know” the mechanism of the impregnation, and that it could have been artificial insemination. I wish I were making all of this up, but I’m not.

    There are quibbles with the way Mormons would qualify/emphasize/de-emphasize the other things in the relevant italicized paragraph, but the rest is essentially correct. Believing that Joseph Smith is a true prophet is only thought to be necessary for those living under his dispensation, etc. I don’t think they’d appreciate the caricature that all members of the true church (as they define it) have had to be missionaries throughout all of history. But your point is taken: they believe you have to live valiantly, abiding by “Celestial Law”, doing what the prophet has commanded, and be sufficiently obedient for exaltation. They work in (pun intended) grace into the picture as a necessary part of the larger process, but it essentially comes down to their individual meritorious worthiness. A merit-system isn’t so scandalous to someone who believes they are working toward godhood.

    Warning: Almost every single shared term they use to describe their belief system is riddled with radical redefinition.

    > “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.”

    This is going to sound pedantic, but technically they do indeed have a KJV Bible. The rewritten portions, you could say, are the subheadings (added around 1980, I think), and the footnotes end notes (mostly end notes) which include portions of the Joseph Smith Translation. But the interpretative framework they put over it is essentially modern Mormonism, primarily given shape by the teachings of their modern prophets and apostles.

    You’re going to get Mormons who claim that having their own future planets and spirit children, etc., isn’t emphasized or isn’t “official doctrine”, but that’s mostly a part of a common Mormon strategy of plausible deniability, immunity, and insulation.

    It might be tempting to assume the Book of Mormon is representative of the modern heresies of Mormonism, but with few exceptions it is largely a Protestantish book in theology. Mormonism touts the book but has abandoned much of its original teachings (contrast Moroni 8:18 to Smith’s “King Follett Discourse”).

    That stuff said, I share the sense of alarm. Osteen is showing himself all the more to be a false teacher who doesn’t care about his flock and scope of influence enough to do his homework, or to care about the truth. He has done something far worse than yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. This is no joke, and it’s not a game.

    In my opinion, the biggest difference between the Jesus of Mormonism and the Jesus of the Bible is that the former has a Father who was once perhaps a sinner, while the latter has a Father who absolutely never sinned.

    Thanks for listening.

    Aaron Shafovaloff
    Mormonism Research Ministry

  2. Great article. The following comments by Aaron Shafovaloff are very enlightening.

    We have to make it clear to other people that the God and Jesus of Mormonism is not the one of historical Christianity.

    What Joel is doing, is trying to redefine Christianity according to his ignorance of the Scriptures. No wonder he has the biggest church in the US. People don’t want to hear the truth, they want to hear how they can be better, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new strategy, or Jesus, as long as they can get what they want.

    1. “What Joel is doing, is trying to redefine Christianity according to his ignorance of the Scriptures.”

      I think you’re dead on. And while that should press someone to confront him on this, it should also drive the rest of us to our knees as we humbly seek to teach the Scriptures.

  3. It really saddens me how Joel Olsteen is looked to when Americans are seeking the voice of Christianity in today’s culture. Like you said David, I don’t think that he is malicious. However, I can’t help but get the sense from the empty promises he makes and his overt concern with superficiality that there is greed behind his message of prosperity to others. It would be one thing if people regarded him as a motivational speaker, however, because he’s regarded as a pastor his lack of training is a gigantic problem. His credentials don’t suit the audience he is allegedly speaking for publicly. Don’t get me wrong here though. I’m not a stickler that every pastor must attend seminary, however, they should be able to give an account of some form of training in order to preach and teach Scripture. That might come through an apprenticeship with another pastor, a non-degree training program, or some other unconventional means. The necessary element is that there is some sort of training. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. TRAINING!? Really ?? That’s the focus here??
      So let’s say if a girl is born with a natural gift to play the Piano and she captures and audience every time she plays the piano so beautifully, you mean to tell me that your ears are not reliable enough to HEAR the beautiful music she’s playing…that you would feel better if she’s not called a “gifted child” because of her untrained ability to play the PIano, but rather an untrained pianist??
      MY POINT IS THIS…. IF his message is so incredibly encouraging and filled with hope, what DO YOU CARE if he had training or not, titled Pastor or not, etc. etc…. YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT AND THE MESSAGE….. NoW THAT! is truly sad!
      Furthermore, apparently an entire STADIUM most certainly would disagree, since obviously He still captures people’s hearts and that audience includes the very educated people , like doctors, psychologists, etc..etc.

      FYI ~ There are many trained Pastors that twist scripture and make it inapplicable…but they are very well trained of course and have earned the title of Pastor…of course.

      PS> ” HE who has ears let him hear ..”
      HERE is the truth… even if Joel had all the Pastoral degrees in the world… people that are hardened and have lost faith, will still find a reason, and excuse, a motive etc…. NOT to accept…. period!

      Don’t miss the point!!

      1. The point is that what he is saying is wrong, and that is why training would be beneficial to him.
        False teaching, however encouraging, is detrimental to his hearers.

        1. How many years did Jesus spend in seminary or his disciples? How do you know what is or is not true? How do you know that your seminary has the corner on scriptural truth? Was Martin Luther telling a lie? Was John Calvin telling a lie? Was John Wesley telling a lie?

          If you study history, particularly history that is accepted as academic history, you will find that many of the teaching within mainstream denominations came about long after the death of Christ. Jesus was not the founder of any particular religious denomination or church.

          It seems to me that everyone on this blog has truly missed the point…and that is…not one of us truly knows anything regarding this discussion because there is no empirical evidence to support most of what is taught as truth within the mainstream Christian denominations, the other major world religions, or other spiritually oriented groups.

          Religious leaders, across the board, cannot provide a written guarantee of anything, no matter how educated or uneducated they may be. After someone dies, we have no way of contacting them to ask for comments concerning the hereafter regarding the spiritual teaching of any religious/spiritual group.

          I believe this is the role of faith. No matter who says what…and no matter what their educational background is or is not…ultimately, it is faith that provides the foundation for all religious/spiritual matters. Not one of us knows for sure by way of empirical evidence that what we believe is reality and not one of us will until that day comes when we are no longer physically on this earth.

          Given the fact that modern humans have been on this earth for 45,000 to 50,000 years, I fail to see why we would put so much energy into any particular religious belief system that is at most 6000 years old. It seems to me that, if we truly believe, we must then accept the fact that God is much greater and holds much more knowledge that we do. When we judge the spiritual life of another human being or what their spiritual belief system may be, we are making an assumption that we have answers that only God has which is certainly not the Christian way of life that I was taught as a United Methodist.

          If anyone says that they have the answers and the entire truth of all that pertains to God…I would be most inclined to think that they had a serious mental illness or an ego larger than our universe.

          1. Wouldn’t it be require a greater mental illness or an even larger ego to ignore the truth that God has revealed? I don’t claim to have truth locked down, but I do believe the Lord Jesus Christ who claimed to be the truth.

        2. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone that could play the piano without training. I have seen some that were born with a gift of music that made learning easier and accelerated the process allowing that person’s talent to reach heights others can not, but even self taught musicians have to practice and learn… My point is no one is born an expert in their field. Even Jesus GREW in wisdom according to Luke 2:40. Even if someone is born with spiritual gifts or knowledge, it is still their responsibility to grow and increase… Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

    2. Matthew 7:16 SHARES THAT WE ARE KNOWN BY OUR FRUIT, I can understand your perspective that perhaps all preachers should go to seminary but TRULY seminary in its divine right of passage DOES NOT ANNOINT SOMEONE TO PREACH THE GOSPEL. IT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO ANNOINTS YOU WHEN YOU ARE TRULY WALKING IN THE WILL OF GOD AND UNDER HIS LORDSHIP AND OBEDIENCE. INSTEAD OF SCRUTINIZING ONE OF THE WORLDS LARGEST CHURCH’S PASTORS, WHY DONT YOU CONSIDER BECOMING PART OF THE ULTIMATE VISION EVERY BELIEVER SHOULD BE UNITED INTO BEING PART OF, AND FULFILL THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD IN YOUR OWN LIFE. YES, ITS A HARD EARTHLY MOLD TO FIT INTO IF YOU ALLOW THE ENEMY TO COMPARE YOU TO SOMEONE LIKE JOEL OSTEEN. HE TRULY IS THE WHOLE PACKAGE. HOWEVER, YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS BLOG ARGUEMENT AND DEBATE SHARE A PORTION OF THE VISION FOR GODS GLORY. SHOULD THERE BE PEOPLE WHO CAME TO YOU CONFUSED BECAUSE OF THE MESSAGE OF JOEL OSTEENS SERMON YOU;RE REFERENCING AND IF THEY WERE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH THEN BIBLICALLY IT SHARES THAT ONE SHOULD SEEK SUPPPORT FROM THE CHURCH FOR CLARIFICATION. OR THE BOTH OF YOU SHOULD SEEK CLARIFICATION INSTEAD OF SPREADING MALICIOUS GOSSIP ON A WEBSITE TO TRY AND MAKE YOURSELveS LOOK MORE “HOLY-ER” or politically correct THAN ONE ANOTHER.

      Again the members of your blog must not be very fruitful if you find humour and gain in spending hours on end ridiculing the members of Gods Kingdom. Perhaps you might reinvest that same effort and share the gospel the way you know it to be to someone who truly does not know anything. The Lord sees your intentions and although he is not seeking perfection he does require us to be good stewards of all we posses; even our time and our words. Our words should be wise and precise. They should not be of Gossip or malice or even scrutiny really,,,You are pastoring people in the wrong direction because we all possess leadership qualities and every move we make creates an impact in someones perception.

      Louis- the word MALICIOUS: Having the nature of or resulting from malice; deliberately harmful; spiteful: malicious gossip.; sounds to me like someone else in this conversation but not MR OSTEEN.

      Like I said, if you’re going to say your degrees should get you more credit, why dont you ask God why did he choose the lowest of the lowest to be his disciples. WHy didnt Jesus use the rich and wealthy and educated to work along side of him. Why arent all successful businesses run by the most elite and educated and why are there millionaires who only have high school degrees. Should the government shut them down until they prove on paper what is written on the forefronts of their hearts and minds.

      People who have these arguments are usually frustrated in their own shortcomings or lacks and need comfort in allowing the freedom of God to take over them. I pray you brothers experience the freedom of the holy spirit to be yourselves without condemnation and without the scrutiny you display towards others. Remember those who are merciful receive HIS divine mercy.

      1. Please refrain from making personal attacks on the readers of this blog. Your comment barely made it through moderation, and I will delete it immediately along with future comments if the attacks continue.

        No one on this blog is spreading malicious information. The point of the post was to point out two things:

        • Mormonism and Christianity are distinct religions. Mormons are not Christians and Christians cannot be Mormons.
        • A pastor, Joel Osteen in this case, has a tremendous responsibility to speak the truth of Scripture. His comments regarding Mitt Romney were wrong, and his lack of seminary training is not an excuse to not know better.

        Yes, I do think pastors should attend seminary if at all possible. Yes, there have been pastors and scholars who have not attended seminary who have had tremendous influence and ministries. However, historically they have been those who have been lifelong, passionate learners.

        Charles Haddon Spurgeon comes to mind. He never attended seminary, but began immersing himself in Puritan writings at an early age. Men such as Spurgeon, were stalwarts of the faith, and held tightly to orthodoxy. This is simply not the case with Joel Osteen.

  4. Pastor David,
    Thanks for the “right on” comments about Joel Osteen. It’s so sad that a motivational speaker is mistaken for a Bible preacher. If only more professing Christians would study their Bible and be able to discern right from wrong.
    Continue steadfastly in the Word, God Bless.

  5. When a pastor preaches the Word of God, he should preach it accurately according to what Jesus says in His Word in the Bible, He should not preach to please the person lisetning to him, to the point of distorting God’s Word. What will God think? Will God be grieved by this? The answer isd Yes.

    Yes, people like to listen to words that make them happy, that suit them, that suit their lifestyle. But the matter of fact is, we should not fear man but be God-fearing instead. We should speak God’s truth in love to open the eyes of those who are blinded by the devil. God’s Word will bring about repetence which is a change of mind.

    Mormon and Christianity cannot co-exist. They are totally different. Period. No compromise. Jesus says He is the Way, the truth and the Life. His Word is found in Christian bible, not Mormon bible. I don’t understand why Pastor Joel says that Mormon is considered saved. I don’t agree with Pastor Joel on this aspect because the Christian Bible, which is the Word of God, begs to differ.

    Being a Pastor holds great responsibility. It cannot be taken lightly and flippantly, lest people get stumbled because of wrong preaching. What will God think? WE should please God and not please man.

  6. I am in Total agreement with Eliana on this subject!!! I think Joel Osteen is fabulous and believe he truly relates real life with what he preaches… I have been to several churches who have different interpretations of what THEY believe is right… the next pastor may preach it totally different…As well as people may receive it differently!! I think as long as he is helping people and bringing them to God (which is exactly what I thought people of God were intended to do) then more power to him for being that amazingly positive pastor that he is and God bless him for the MILLIONS of people whom he helps weekly and i will be sure and pray for you all for judging people who don’t have your beliefs!!

    1. April,
      I can certainly understand what you’re saying, and even to some degree appreciate your intent. However, that view presupposes that the text itself has no inherent meaning and can mean whatever someone says it does. This is simply misguided. God’s Word is God’s revelation of Himself. If a pastor (someone set aside by God to communicate God’s truth to God’s people) gets that communication wrong, the people are led astray. This is the problem with Joel Osteen.

      And the comment in question in indisputable. The statement that Mormons are Christians is patently false. There’s no room for misunderstanding or differences of interpretation. There’s a correct understanding of Mormonism. There’s an incorrect understanding of Mormonism. Joel Osteen is outright wrong and his words influence, affect, and damn thousands.

  7. It seems to me that there are many here who put more energy into defending a man rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4 – For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!

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