Osteen’s Big, Big Tent (Guest Post)
If “aw shucks” inclusivistic sincerity were enough to commend a soul to heaven, hell would starve. Unfortunately, Joel Osteen’s “gospel” is enough to populate hell.
Recently, the pastor of the nation’s largest church, Lakewood Church (Houston, TX) was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Blitzer asked Osteen whether or not Romney, a Mormon, was a Christian. Osteen’s answer was not surprising. He said, “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.” Although even Blitzer picked up that Osteen has some hesitation about Mormon theology and pressed the issue. Osteen replied that Mormonism is not “traditional Christianity” but it falls under the tent of Christianity. He said, “Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ.”
The message here is not about Mormonism versus Christianity. Plainly, clearly, undoubtedly they are not the same thing. Mormon theology denies every Christ-centered, God-centered doctrine of the Scriptures. It is an impossibility that one could deny the clear and central teachings of Scripture and still be called a Christian. If I denied every teaching of Mormon doctrine, I doubt very much that any elder in the church would allow me to call myself a Mormon simply on my say-so. (I might say it, but that would only prove me deluded, deceived or dumb!)
The real lesson here is about the nature of the gospel in an age of inclusivism. Inclusivism will always get a hearing – a warm and welcoming hearing. Blitzer’s questions were softball and Osteen’s answers so happily appreciated. (Was this a stick-it-in-you-eye-you-mean-old-Southern-Baptist-types? I doubt it phased Albert Mohler much). Believers in an “unadulterated” gospel will “push people away” (in Osteen’s words) not because they are motivated to, but because that’s what the message of Christ does to resistant hearts. They simply cannot accept that Someone else had to do for them what they could not do for themselves.
The other lesson here is about market-share. Osteen is out for “the widest possible audience” he can get. Not for the sake of the unadulterated gospel but for the sake of selling books and flying in private jets and talking on national television as the expert on Christianity. This man wants no one offended by the gospel so he has changed the gospel to suit even the nicest.
Osteen needs to read church history of the last century, if he has an interest in reading anything at all. The “widest possible audience” for the gospel has been tried and found wanting. The widest possible audience brings with it people with no interest in the unadulterated gospel; just adding numbers to their church rolls.
For a good read on this ploy look at Iain H. Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 (2000). Here’s a sampling that applies: “What is the use of evangelicalism seeming to get larger and larger (a big, big tent) if sufficient numbers of those under the name evangelical (or “Christian”) no longer hold to that which makes evangelicalism evangelical?” (77).
To Osteen Christian means anything he wants it to mean and in the end it means nothing at all.