Joel Osteen and NT Wright

Joel Osteen

Yesterday I watched Joel Osteen talk about how our habits affect what kind of people we become.

Today I listened to NT Wright talk about the Enlightenment and being for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

The difference?

I understood the smilin’ preacher.

I’ve read several negative things about ol’ Joel, and whether they’re merited or not, we’ll find out on That Great Day, but I’m not too quick to jump on the Joel-bashing wagon. I’m not down with the whole prosperity thing he appears to promote, not least in his lifestyle choices, but I’m also aware that paths to the living God are as numerous as the individual persons that He’s created. I will take a lesson from the editor of The Christian Century magazine, who one week jumped aboard the Joel-bashing train, and editorialized it, only to come to a different opinion no less than two weeks later, which he humbly wrote about:

Any theology that promises success as a reward for faithfulness and fervent prayer is misleading at best, and it deserves a forceful critique. At the same time I’ve learned not to dismiss ministries, however different from mine, that can lead people to their vocation or to a new sense of God’s love.

I probably wouldn’t go to Mr. Osteen for an in-depth analysis of 1st century Judaism, or any theological question for that matter; no, for things as deep and important as theological issues I’d consult the kind of leaders that Jesus told the people to listen to – Pharisees, but I do wish to remove my narrow lenses and think deeply and broadly about our complex world and infinite God.



  1. To be fair, I think it would be better to compare one of Wright’s sermons (which are very, very understandable while still being theologically solid and deep) with one of Joel’s sermons and not one of N.T. Wright’s academic lectures.

  2. i agree that we arent called to bash joel. i dont think that critique is bashing. i want critique. critique is good for us. check out hebrews 10:24-25. we are called to spur each other.

    with that said, i think its good to critique him. i think its good to critique r.c. sproul and john wesley, etc. so when people say that they disagree (even strongly) with health and wealth gospel, they arent wrong. especially as they present a logical, biblical based discussion. the problem comes when we say that joel is a bad guy.

    however, for a person who’s mother loves joel, i can honestly say, i think his teaching should definitely more focused on Scripture and it should promote that God will grant wealth to his true believers. this is a big deal and should be addressed as such.

    but we dont need to tell the whole world that joel sucks and we think he’s a heretic. because that isnt true either. we care about him; that’s why we critique him


  3. Aboulet, fair enough. I’d like to get my hands on some of his sermons.

    PB and J, I agree that critique is different than bashing, as I critiqued Osteen in this very post.

  4. About half way down on the NTWrightpage there are 30 of his sermon transcripts. Even though they don’t compare to actually hearing them, they give you a good feel for just how understandble Wright is in his pastoral ministry.

  5. In my reading of a Joel Osteen book, I had real trouble reconciling his idea of what God wants for us with how God seemed to deal with most of the main players in Scripture. The sad thing is that he says exactly what I want to hear. It’s just not what I see in the lives of people like Mary, Joseph, Paul, Job, Peter, John, Moses, Joseph (Jacob’s son), etc. The “norm” for God’s children seems to be more like, as my prof Dr. Hughes used to say , these “suffering servant”s.

  6. If we proclaim to be Christian, then we must always turn to the Scripture through prayerful wisdom and vigilance. Consequently, we need to be very cautious in accepting the “feel good” message from Joel as an acceptable way to God. If a message seems to turn a person to “God”, we must ask ourselves, does it turn that person to the God of the Bible. I would argue that a twist to the medium (Gospel message), is a distortion of who God is. If one can be convinced to believe in a distorted God, then Satan has already won.

    “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”, Galatians 1:6-9.

    1. I agree with you. “If we proclaim to be Christian, then we must always turn to the Scripture through prayerful wisdom and vigilance.”

  7. I agree, Teh. I’m uncomfortable with teaching people that God wants them to have Good News of prosperity that John the Baptist(imprisoned/beheaded) and Jesus (crucified) didn’t have. Obviously, the Good News is more than this.
    I heard that Joyce Meyers teaches that God wants us to have as much as we can handle. That sound great on the surface if we think of God only as a cosmic responsible suburban parent. Unfortunately, that means that John the Baptist,
    Peter (crucified upside down), martyred Christian believers, John (exile), Jesus, and others wouldn’t be able to HANDLE material possessions the way we can?
    This just doesn’t make sense. I appreciate alot of what JM teaches but just don’t see this as lining up with the story of the people of God over time and I believe we need to speak out on this.

  8. Hi,
    I would love to get a copy of Joel Osteen’s sermon that was aired on April 27th 2008 it was about Adversity can you let me know how to get a copy. Thank you.

    Pam Glaser

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