Joel Osteenís book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, has rocketed up to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. (It includes chapters titled ďEnlarge Your Vision,Ē ďDevelop a Healthy Self-Image,Ē and ďDiscover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words.Ē) Heís filling up auditoriums for his road shows. His happy times prosperity gospel church in Houston, Texas, has even bought up a 60,000-seat stadium for Osteen to preach to his 30,000 followers. On June 20, 2005, Osteen sat for an interview with Larry King on CNNís The Larry King Show. King introduced Osteen as ďevangelismís hottest rising star, pastor for the biggest congregation in the United States.Ē And what does he preach? Osteen said he doesnít get into controversial subjects like sin and judgment. False religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism donít concern him. He doesnít really know whoís going to hell and who isnít.
Excerpts below are from the interviewóa full transcript
is available at:
KING: Isóhave you always believed?
OSTEEN: I have always believed. I grew up, you know, my parents were a good Christian people. They showed us love in the home. My parents were the same in the pulpit as they were at home. I think thatís where a lot of preachersí kids get off base sometimes. Because they donít see the same things at both places. But Iíve always believed. I saw it through my parents. And I just grew up believing. [Believing what?]
KING: But youíre not fire and brimstone, right? Youíre not pound the decks and hell and damnation?
OSTEEN: No. Thatís not me. Itís never been me. Iíve always been an encourager at heart. And when I took over from my father, he came from the Southern Baptist background, and back 40-50 years ago, there was a lot more of that. But, you know, I justóI donít believe in that. I donít believeómaybe it was for a time. But I donít have it in my heart to condemn people. Iím there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us.
KING: But donít you think if people donít believe as you believe, theyíre somehow condemned?
OSTEEN: You know, I think that happens in our society. But I try not to do that. I tell people all the time, preached a couple Sundays about it. Iím for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me itís not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel is called the good news. My message is a message of hope, thatís Godís [message] for you. You can live a good life no matter whatís happened to you. And so I donít know. I know there is condemnation, but I donít feel thatís my place.
KING: Youíve been criticized for that, havenít you?
OSTEEN: I have. I have. Because I donít know.
KING: Good news guy, right?
OSTEEN: Yeah. But you know what? Itís just in me . . .
KING: So itís self-fulfilling. Billy Graham was here last Thursday.
OSTEEN: I saw.
KING: Might have been his last interview. Is he a hero to
OSTEEN: He is a hero to us all. His life of integrity. Somebody that can stick with it for that long and just stick with his message. What I love about Dr. Graham is he stayed on course. He didnít get sidetracked. Thatís what happens to so many people today. Itís a good lesson for me, a good example for me to say, you know what, Joel, you may have a lot now, but I want to be here 40 years from now sitting with you.
KING: Do you share Billyís beliefs of life after death in a sense of going somewhere?
OSTEEN: I do, I do. We probably agree on 99 percent. I do. I believe thereís a heaven you know. Afterwards, thereís, you know, a place called hell. And I believe itís when we have a relationship with God and his son Jesus and thatís what the Bible teaches us. I believe it. [So thatís the gospel?]
KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?
OSTEEN: I donít think itís that hard. To me itís fun. We have joy and happiness. Our familyóI donít feel like that at all. Iím not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. Iím just living my life.
KING: But you have rules, donít you?
OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To live a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But thatís really the essence of the Christian faith.
KING: That we live in deeds?
OSTEEN: I donít know. What do you mean by that?
KING: Because weíve had ministers on who said, your record donít count. You either believe in Christ or you donít. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you donít, no matter what youíve done in your life, you ainít.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I donít know. Thereís probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if youíre a believer in God, youíre going to have some good works. I think itís a cop-out to say Iím a Christian but I donít ever do anything . . .
KING: What if youíre Jewish or Muslim, you donít accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, Iím very careful about saying who would and wouldnít go to heaven. I donít know . . .
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? Theyíre wrong, arenít they?
OSTEEN: Well, I donít know if I believe theyíre wrong. I believe hereís what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God will judge a personís heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I donít know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I donít know. Iíve seen their sincerity. So I donít know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus. [Hindus love Jehovah God (Yahweh), and worship Him as Scripture commands? All sincere souls go to heaven? What about Christís claim that ďno man cometh unto the Father, but by meĒ (John 14:6)?]
One thing is clear from Joel Osteenís interview: He revealed more about what he doesnít know than about what he claims to know. Osteen joins a growing company of celebrity ďevangelicalsĒ who have appeared on Larry King Live and have failed ďto give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you . . .Ē (1 Peter 3:15). As evidenced by this transcript, Osteen seems a great deal less certain about the Gospel than the following New Testament saints:
Paul declared, ďI am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded . . .Ē (2 Timothy 1:12); he prayed, ďthat ye may know what is the hope of [Christís] calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saintsĒ (Ephesians 1:18); and wrote, ďNow we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before GodĒ (Romans 3:19); ďThat I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings . . .Ē (Philippians 3:10); ďLet your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every manĒ (Colossians 4:6); John declared, ďThese things have I written unto you . . . that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal lifeĒ (1 John 5:13,19,20).
And of course, the Old Testament also repeatedly states, ďthat ye may know. . . .Ē God certainly has conveyed the impression that He wants us to be certain! Yet for Joel Osteen, over and over again, itís ďI donít know.Ē
The above material was excerpted and/or adapted from two sources: the August, 2005 issue of The Power of Prophecy; and the July, 2005 issue of The Berean Call.