[@] Defending Joel Osteen

Once you have picked yourself up off the floor from reading the subject of this post, let's not get too worked up, OK? It's not like I'm going to defend Lakewood's purchase of the Compaq Center in Houston -- because I'm about to blog that Lakewood buying that place has a lot in common with Medieval cathedral-building in scope and expense.

What I'm defending Pastor Osteen from is the charge that he's a reprobate or a heretic. I'm not going to blog in defense of megachurchism, or his book, or his TBN sermons, or any of that stuff. What I am going to defend is this:
WE BELIEVE…the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and the authority on which we base our faith, conduct and doctrine.

WE BELIEVE…in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.

WE BELIEVE…Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.

WE BELIEVE…water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and a testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

WE BELIEVE…in the regular taking of Communion as an act of remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.

WE BELIEVE…every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God’s Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.

WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us.
It's the Lakewood statement of faith, from their web site. The first thing to say is that they have a statement of faith at all. I say "good for them", and challenge you and your church to do the same -- which is to have a statement of faith that they make public for the sake of setting boundaries.

You might not like some of the loose words they use -- like what they might mean when they say "abundant life" or "baptism is a symbol" -- but again: at least they come out with a statement of faith which doesn't really separate them from the pack in terms of orthodoxy. Does it leave some questions not answered? Sure it does. But it doesn't say anything that would disqualify them at face value.

Now the mean, scandalous Calvinists out there are grumbling, "cent: TULIP. Where's the TULIP?" Well, it's not actually put that way, is it? The T is sketchy, the U is absent, the L is very sketchy, the I is absent, and the P is sketchy. So they're not 5-pointers -- not in any confessional sense, to be sure. But does that mean they are not a church? Does that mean Osteen is himself an unsaved person? Is he damaging the faith of others?

That's really the question, isn't it? Is he damaging the faith of others by what he teaches? In the worst possible reasonable case, we can only say, "maybe" -- and if it's "maybe", we can't get out the kindling and start stoking the fire at the stake.

But why is that? It is because we are called to treat each other with a little bit of grace. At face value, Osteen is not teaching any kind of Gospel-plus construct -- and no offense to Pastor Osteen, but I don't just see him as that complicated. He's not a crypto-heretic. I think he says and writes what he means, and what he means is to teach what he believes he has read in the Bible. In that, he deserves a little grace for being an imperfect person -- because it is my hope and confidence that I'm going to get some grace in spite of being an imperfect person.

So those who are ranting about what a wretched Christian he is, what a wretched church he has built, stick to what is true and clear and steer clear of what is not true and maybe not so clear. Hey -- he flopped on Larry King if you're asking me, but that doesn't mean he's Pelagius or Arius. I'll bet if you had 15 minutes on Larry King, you'd not make an "A" either.

And let's also remember that I am on the record someplace as saying that Osteen has "android-like eyes" and an "android-like faith". I can't find the link (I'm sure one of you really wiley readers will be on it in a minute), but I said it -- and I meant it. I don't "like" Joel Osteen. That doesn't mean I'm not called to love Joel Osteen in a godly and Christ-like way.