Joel Osteen was back on CNN this week, appearing Thursday morning on “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.” Osteen’s new book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, recently hit the nation’s bookstores.
Osteen’s positive thinking theology was on full display in the interview, as in the book. O’Brien asked if he really believes that speaking declarations out loud can make them come true. Osteen assured her that he does, promising that speaking positive words can bring positive results and warning that speaking negativity will bring negative results. “I don’t think there’s anything magic about it, but those words go out and come right back in and affect your own self-image.”
In the book itself, Osteen asserts, “You’ve got to send your words out in the direction you want your life to go.” The theme of his book is simple: “With our words we can either bless our futures or we can curse our futures.”
The most enthusiastic response to Osteen’s message came from Deepak Chopra, the New Age self-help guru, who was also on the CNN program. He affirmed Osteen’s message and added, “I’ve believed forever that there’s no mental event that doesn’t have a brain representation, that every thought actually generates molecules.”
The two self-help experts then elaborated on their ideas, with Osteen urging “activating faith,” because “faith is what causes God to work.” Later, he even spoke of “speaking to the seeds of greatness that God’s placed in all of us.”
The appearance of Osteen and Chopra together was a priceless demonstration of the fact that the New Thought positive thinking philosophy that drives them both can be grafted onto either Christianity or Eastern religion. In the end, it all sounds the same. Chopra’s New Age spirituality and Osteen’s updated version of the word-faith movement end up as the same message, only with different trappings.
O’Brien then shifted the topic to homosexuality, as would be expected. As she said to Osteen, “Almost every time we have a pastor on, it’s a conversation we have.”
She then said, “When you say homosexuality is a sin and there’s a bunch of people who clearly are gay in your church. You’re calling them sinners. I mean, that’s the opposite of uplifting, I would think.”
She established the perfect platform for Osteen to respond with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he did not. “Well, Soledad, I don’t necessarily focus on that. I only talk about that in interviews,” he said.
So this pastor only talks about sin on television interviews, and then only when forced to do so. He then attempted to broaden the talk of sin to being critical and even “being negative.”
Osteen tried to explain that he tries to avoid such issues intentionally. “I think part of my, if you want to call it success, I’ve stayed in my lane and my lane is listing people’s spirits and there are issues that good, Bible-believing people see on both sides of the fence.”
So, “good, Bible-believing people” are found on both sides of the fence when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, Osteen said. His intention is clearly to straddle that fence.
He affirmed previously that homosexuality is “not God’s best” for humanity. Even then, the words had to be put into his mouth by others, including a major homosexual activist also on the program.
Pressed again by O’Brien, Osteen repeated: “First of all, in my services, I don’t cover all those issues that we talk about here.” Later, he responded to another question by stating: “And I don’t understand all those issues and so, you know, I try to stick to the issues that I do understand. I know this: I am for everybody. I’m not for pushing people down.”
Viewers of CNN saw a display of confusion, evasion, and equivocation coming from one presented as a Christian pastor. What they were really seeing is the total theological bankruptcy of the word of faith movement and the gospel of positive thinking. Osteen cannot, or at least will not, speak even the simplest word of biblical conviction. He states his intention to stay in his “lane” of glib affirmation.
Affirmation is important, and humans crave it. But affirmation as a sinner is the worst possible form of pastoral malpractice. Christianity is based on the truth that sinners need a Savior, not merely a coach or a therapist.
Joel Osteen’s appearance on CNN Thursday revealed little that is new. It was Osteen as always — evasive and confused, but constantly smiling. This is now his calculated and well-practiced approach. He offered no word of the gospel, and no reference to Jesus Christ, but he was introduced as “one of the most recognizable faces of Christianity in America today.”
There, for all to see, was Joel Osteen … staying in his lane.
Transcript, “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” Air date Thursday, September 20, 2012. transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1209/20/sp.01.html
Publication date: September 24, 2012