April 28, 2012

Offending Man or Offending God: Joel Osteen & The Mormons

The following post was based on a series of Facebook correspondences whereby I rebuked Joel Osteen’s unbiblical and heretical statements about Mormons and Christian’s being “brothers in Christ”. 

Anyone that understands theology proper from the Bible and the tenants of Mormonism know this couldn’t be farther from the truth of Scripture. At it's core this post is about the absurdity of Joel Osteen’s comment on Mormonism and Christianity but what it turns out to be is what a proper Scriptural response is to these types of ridiculously unbiblical statements.

In a nutshell Joel Osteen made the following unbiblical statement:

“When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God–that he’s the Christ, raised from the dead, that he’s his Savior–that’s good enough for me. [...] Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ.” ~Joel Osteen

What Joel either fails to understand or fails to state is that Mormons and Joel may see Mormons and Christians as "brothers in Christ"  but Christ Himself doesn't nor does any other Bible literate Christian that understands Christ as their Messiah as part of the Triune Godhead. By making this statement he is clearly showing he does not even understand the basic tenants of the Christian faith (or is deliberately denying them) nor does he understand Mormonism. Never mind that Mormons don't believe in the deity of Christ either. The Christian God is Triune and Jesus is Deity. Mormon's do not believe this. What's worse is that Mormons teach that man can become God, and that God was once a man. So at the very core of Mormon faith is the belief that man can become god(s). This could be the severest form of idolatry, placing one's self in God's place. In our culture of acceptance and inclusion these comments of mine appear to come off for some as unbending and confrontational. So be it, on these core tenants of faith there is no room for "conversation" on how people feel. You either believe the core tenants or you do not. If I actually got into the minutiae and nuances of this religion it would actually become rather embarrassing and I chose not to rake Mormons over the coals. I wish only to expose the lunacy and heretical nature Joel Osteen's statement. Whatever God Mormons believe in, it is not the one described in the Bible. Joel should be ashamed to call himself a pastor.

Having posted this as a post to Facebook with a rebuke (which is biblical), it thereby set off a series of discussions that basically allude to the fact I shouldn't rebuke Joel publicly or should've done so in a more low-key manner so not to bring shame to my testimony or to the Body of Christ by being aggressive and confrontational. I have since deleted the series of posts so not to incriminate the person(s) of which I refer. I must state as a preface that I am in no way attempting to mortify and embarrass this person by bring the correspondence up in this light on my blog. Frankly, the exchange I had exposed an even bigger issue within the evangelical church…even bigger than that of Joel’s dopey, uneducated and unbiblical comment. As such, it needs to be addressed. Please understand I am trying to reiterate as faithfully as possible the crux, intents and principles of the people involved without maligning. I love all my Christian brethren and for this reason I will drag the waters to bring truth to the surface.

In short I was told that by confronting Osteen  publicly and rebuking him, I am compromising my testimony by being “confrontational” with the man and his statement. I was told that I would be better off delivering statements as I did "in love" rather than in a "mean-spirited" nature.

I disagree vehemently and wholeheartedly. Firstly, I am dealing with Joel O and others like him in love when I correct them and these comments were not mean-spirited. To say they were mean-spirited is to make a subjective critique on my motives and this assumes they know my motive and it assumes I was being malicious...which I wasn't. When someone espouses an unbiblical view publicly, it needs to be rebuked the same way. Had Osteen done this faux-pas privately, so too would’ve been my rebuke via Matthew 18. He created this debacle in public. Silently going about trying to correct this type of error is not what the first letter to Timothy says about the rebuke of an elder. Unfortunately, Joel and people like him are viewed as elders or in a position of leadership in a church so they must be dealt with in said manner no matter how much I can prove through Scripture he is not worthy of that honor (1 Timothy 5:17). So what does 1 Timothy tell us to do if an elder is out of line and has been told about his errant statements before?

“But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 1 Timothy 5:20

In the case of an elder which is a repeat offender, we are to “Reprove before everyone” – “ἐνώπιον πάντων ἔλεγχε” or literally “in view of all” either “admonish” or “rebuke, reprove”. We are to publicly admonish or rebuke…there is nothing subtle or non-confrontational about this statement from the Apostle Paul.

To even more soundly trounce Joel's comments by Scripture itself I offer Paul's letter to Titus concerning rebuking error. Here Paul is telling Titus to deal with Cretan false teachers in a sharp and critical manner. They were to  deal incisively with the danger, like a surgeon cutting away cancerous tissue. This is a direct reference to false teachers.

Titus 1:10-14 “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth."

I will tell you right off the bat that I do not subscribe to the “peace at all cost”, seeker-sensitive approach of many evangelical churches. I align myself first, to the teachings of Scripture, and secondarily to that of mostly sound teaching from those of the Reformed theological vein. I am not prone to heavy worldly/cultural application as it detracts from the Scripture that is being taught. As I have heard it said of people like John MacArthur-it is also said of me, “You need to be more lively, you're kind of boring at times because your always talking about the Bible and quoting it. Why don’t you talk about yourself more so people will understand it better?” Whaaaat?

I will submit to sitting under another’s teaching as long as it is sound Biblically and theologically. There are fewer and fewer of those around and the number dwindles by the day. That being said…the overwhelming majority of evangelical churches have become acutely seeker-sensitive often times to the point of watering down the Gospel to non-existence. Mind you...I will sit in a seeker-sensitive church but only if the teaching is sound theologically. The Message of the Bible is the Gospel. Period. It is an offense to Jew and Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Loose this from your church and you will loose my family and I also.

1 Corinthians 1:20-25~ “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I have had these types of conversations in the past with pastors, elders, laity and other Christians as I preach and teach in multiple locations…. There is a point in time to have a conversation with people like Joel Osteen and his ilk and there is not. He has been openly told of his heresy in the past and chooses to continue to pursue the errant path. Sadly, I believe that he truly believes what he is saying. This is the problem with not reading or educating yourself in Scripture. You eventually run rogue of it as Joel has done this week. Sadder still is that he holds sway over many people when he says false things and he does so in a public manner. So too needs to be the rebuke so people are not misled.

Joel has theology of no absolute truth. He is of the “new breed” that wants “inclusiveness” and interfaith-ecumenicalism at all cost, even forsaking the tenants of our faith. No absolute truth breeds a theology of no belief or no accountability. No accountability means no one’s at fault, no fault-no blame, no blame, no sin---therefore no need for redemption, etc. We then enter the area where people will argue with you over the idea of substitutional atonement and so on. Any “Christian” that says Mormon’s are “brothers in Christ” has lost his mind…or is not Christian. Our postmodern culture thrives on the fact that too few are willing to step forward and tell truth of the Bible. Yes, love is in the Bible…but never at the cost of the Gospel. I challenge anyone to refute that point.

Sadly, every time I try to teach with the authority of Scripture by Scripture and through Scripture with any kind of certainty and fortitude it is immediately perceived as being harsh or prideful. Obedience is not zealous legalism. Scripture by its own nature is authoritative (and sometimes harsh to a sinners ears).

God gave and still gives His disciples power and authority through Scripture, we need only take hold of it and use it. What did Luke 9 say? It says: δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν – “power and authority” to cast out demons, to heal and to do what? It says....εὐαγγελιζόμενοι “preaching the the Good News”. What does it say in Luke 10? It says “authority” [ἐξουσίαν] to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy"

If I do not convey this power and authority intrinsic to the Word, I have not done my job as a teacher or preacher.

Although many will construe a desire to preach authoritatively from Scripture as harsh, I am only projecting the idea and intent of the words. What I have been convinced of is people are not getting the full impact of Scripture as they cold (both good: Love, and bad: Wrath) because modern Christians in general are worried way too much about offending man rather than God. What you can also be assured of is that I am becoming extremely weary of defending a biblical position of truth because I speak strictly from a position of authority from Scripture only to me told I am wrong (even though Scripture tells me I am right). By letting Scripture defend itself ....it is routinely viewed as being cold or mean-spirited. I wrestled with this for 2 years and this is the conclusion and the tact I have chosen. Even if it means being alienated and misunderstood.

Therefore Joel's inability to clearly state a position, or have him state and errant one, makes him poison to the Christian faith and creates disciples that are twice as messed up as he is (twice the son of hell). Please note this following rebuke from Jesus. It was public and confrontational.

Matthew 23:1-15 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’  “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

Very public, not subtle and delivered in love by the Son of God.

I have 4100 friends attached to my Facebook account because I purposely use my account to evanglize people, some of which are Mormon and followers of Joel Osteen. Generally, I have taken a hands-off policy when it comes to people like Osteen and Benny Hinn, but this incident is damning for people that end up believing it. They need truth, not watered down theology or conversation that makes them "feel good". People certainly do not need empty "feel good" statements from religious motivational speakers that convey no truth. Only later to realize they are being led down the primrose path to Hell. Too often in our culture, straight-forward facts from the Bible that people do not like to hear has had them accuse people (including me) of being unloving, uncaring, damaging to the image of Christ and so on, all the while letting the true offender run rampant over the body because what he says "sounds right" to them and "is pleasing to hear" which makes them feel good.

My question is this: What is more damaging to the Body of Christ? The fact that Osteen is lying to them or me telling the truth directly from the Scripture?

We are fallen sinners and we need to know the exact remedy of that sin. It is Christ. Otherwise we will have the wrath of God befall us. Ask most people what they are being saved from and many will not even be able to tell you. They will say the Devil and be totally wrong. They will say sin and only be half right. We are being saved from the wrath of an Almighty God. That should scare people but it doesn’t. Why? Because we have become nearly Universalist in our idea of salvation and that is why people like Rob Bell caused so much chaos in the faith last year. He gave up on the doctrine of Hell and said eventually everyone is saved by Jesus’ love (Andy's paraphrase). That is certifiable nonsense and patently false. Condemnation is eternal. Bell is another example of a self-proclaimed “non-theologian” making theological statements…and they are absurdly wrong. The problem is that they are taken serious because they come from people that come off as moderately intelligent and abundantly skilled in rhetoric. They can say things really well and look smart saying them but they are totally in error, devoid of substance and running totally rogue of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1-4). If you love the Lord...you obey his commandments! (John 14:15).

There are specific avenues outlined to attain that Salvation and atonement for sin. A Mormon clearly has the wrong path. To have other Christians allow this statement to fly unfettered and then "stand me down" for rebuking such an unbiblical presupposition is more damaging than the damage they claim my rebuke causes. It shows disparity and disunity between the two conflict and lets the heretic and false teacher walk free…laughing all the way to the bank and leading more and more people astray. People need to actually read and understood how Jesus dealt with heretical teachers of His day in instances such as this. He was indeed confrontational and He used quite a bit of Scripture to validate His points. Please read Matthew 23 above and Luke 6 below…

Luke 6:1-5 “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees went to the disciples and criticized them for not following the "tradition of the elders" (which was essentially a false religion) on the Sabbath. Did the disciples defend themselves here…or did Jesus come in aggressively from outside this conversation and rebuke these errant religious “leaders”?

Matthew 23 and Luke 6 is how Jesus dealt with heresies, religious “leaders” and culture in error. He did so unflappably, confrontationally and in a soundly Scriptural manner. So should we. We are to engage the culture, not conform to it in an effort to save them. Man is to conform to Scripture, not the other way around.

The idea that we are to be avoiding conflict at all cost has been at the expense of charlatans like Osteen gaining ground that educated Christians wouldn’t have allowed him to gain had they known the truth. The idea that good abiding Christians in Christ are to be doormats to bad theology is not biblical. We are to defend our faith against heresy and have a ready defense when questioned (or worse, when attacked). This idea pervades 1 & 2 Peter, 1-3 John and Jude. Books that were written during a phase of increased persecution of the brethren...often times...from directly within.

1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The most gentle and truthful way to rebuke someone is by and through Scripture as all true Christians will acknowledge its authority and that...

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

The very reason the likes of Joel O. has such a huge following is because few actually know the truth, nor do they preach it because they don't understand Scripture. Another reason is because the church at large has acquiesced to the culture to the point of accepting things like homosexuality into leadership even within some conservative circles. This is reprehensible and failure to lead and teach truth because we are afraid to tell the truth. We need to speak truth with conviction and authority, just as Jesus clearly did. I fear we in evangelical Christianity have become spineless teaching truth. Truth is to convict us. To quote Rob Bell loosely and ironicly: Truth Wins. The Truth of the Gospel. Love is the fruit of the Spirit but it is the Truth of the Gospel that saves us. If we're not saved there will little fruit anyway. The Gospel and the truth it reveals to us convicts us to repent because we are shamed of our sin and wish to rid ourselves of it. This needs to come from the authority of Scripture. Scripture shines lights in dark places. Places wicked and sinful people wish not to have light shined because it exposes their sin for what it is…an affront and offense to God.

The bottom-line is this: We have become more afraid of offending people by teaching truth than we are of offending God by not teaching truth and watering down the Gospel.

This just shows me that people do not truly understand God’s wrath that awaits the unsaved sinner. I believe that even true believers that call themselves Christian are under a heavy obligation to explain the wrath of God to people, not just His love. Otherwise we fail in the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are to teach people in the world everything He taught us, not just the parts about Heaven, God’s love and His blessing but also: Hell, eternal punishment and the unsavory stuff too. If not we only tell half the story. Half the story is no story at all. We are to obey all of it, not some.

I subscribed for years to the "don't hurt anyone's feelings" mantra of modern evangelicalism until recently. There is a point where conversation needs to end and condemnation begins. Jesus did not have conversations with unbiblical entrenched Pharisees, Sadducee and Scribes that made clearly unbiblical statements in public, he gave condemnation. Conversely, I do not judge these people like Osteen, I measure them against the standard of Scripture and they fall woefully short.

At some point we stop helping people when we allow them to follow people like Osteen without exposing him for the pied piper he is. We need to tell people the truth and to repent of their ways and if they don’t listen we sweep the dust from our feet and move on. If they teach heresies we rebuke and correct them as I did.

To help someone and expect them to change is proper, to help them and not expect a change is to be an enabler of sin. We are not “loving” people by allowing them to be confused by people that are teaching falsely. In reality, we’re actually hating them. As I said in my Facebook post, “If I hated you I would lie to you but because I love you and want to see you saved, I tell you the truth!"

I will not enable a man (therefore his followers) who is recycling centuries old heresies, I rebuke them just as Jesus Christ and Church Fathers did, just as Scripture tells me to. Some of whom were disemboweled, hung, beheaded, burnt at the stake ….and some of whom…were even crucified.

More here on Al Mohler's Site: Does Joel Osteen Not Know, or Does He Not Care?
A rebuke from John MacArthur in 2010 here: A True Knowledge of the True God
John Piper talking about false teachers: Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Astray 


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