Joel Osteen is the pastor of Houston's Lakewood Church, which may well be the largest congregation in the country. Even beyond his own congregation, he is well known for his positive message of the Gospel — a message that many call the Prosperity Gospel. Chris Lehmann reviews Osteen's latest book, Become a Better You, and is not at all impressed:
Joel, who succeeded to the Lakewood pulpit on his father's death, has pointedly refrained from pronouncing visions, performing wonders of the spirit such as speaking in tongues, or really doing much biblical preaching at all. He has the wardrobe and tirelessly dapper mien of an oil industry lobbyist; it's as a walking advertisement of the success creed, and not as any manner of prophet, that he's made his name. "I'm not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don't touch where people live," he writes dismissively in Become a Better You. "My gift is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire."
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There's, of course, nothing inherently suspect or dishonorable about seeking uplift and consolation in the Bible. But the point of those "deep theological doctrines" that Osteen seems to deride is to leaven that quest with the less agreeable features of life—pain and suffering, the persistence of evil, the fleeting quality of all endeavor, the cosmic insignificance of the human self, let alone that self's subordinate chosen modes of expression in body posture or a near-pathological penchant for smiling. After all, the same Bible that Lakewood's arena full of believers champion as a handbook for what they can do and be also contains these words, in Revelation 3:17: "Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Read it all here.
So what do you think? Is this a fair criticism of Joel Osteen's message?