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The Joel Osteen Challenge ::: Prove He’s A Heretic If You Can

I was up late last night with Larry King.  He interviewed Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria.  For the first time in my life, I actually liked some things Joel said, and this interview gave me a new perspective on the Osteens.  

1. A caller asked how much money he makes from the church, and he told the caller that he takes ZERO money from the church, and his only income is from outside sources, mainly from his books. 

2. Larry asked if Joel saw any problem with a minister having lots of money.  Joel said Abraham was a rich man, so was David and Solomon, yet they were men of God.  Thus, he concluded, the key is whether “you have the money or the money has you.”  He also admitted that Jesus wasn’t about money, and that Jesus lived for other people not himself and that we should follow his example.  When someone put him on the spot and asked, “What causes do you give to?”  He said he gives to many causes and quickly named two: Feed the Children, and Mercy Ministries.  He says that’s why he thinks God blesses people—so that they can be a blessing to others.  

3. My favorite part of the interview was this: Larry tells Joel that some people say he preaches a prosperity gospel, and Joel says he doesn’t like the term “prosperity gospel,” because, and I quote, “There’s only one gospel.”  But what did Joel say that gospel was?  That Christ died for us to make a way for salvation.  Sounds very similar to what the average evangelical layperson would say.  

4. When asked what he wants his legacy to be, he says he wants to be remember as someone who brought hope to the world and drew people closer in their walk with God.

I have to admit, I enjoyed hearing Joel talk about his faith.  He’s got a contagious enthusiasm.  I’m not saying he knows how to preach the Bible well, or that his hermeneutics are typically on point.  From the interview, however, it appears that most of the worst things people say about him aren’t true.  

If you think I’m wrong, give me your best shot.  Point me to some direct quotations from Joel that prove he doesn’t believe in the gospel or somehow fundamentally contradicts it.  Show me the worst possible quotations from the man’s lips you can find.      

Larry’s show ended by showing his worship team singing Amazing Grace at a Lakewood worship service … 

my chains are gone I’ve been set free

my god my savior has ransomed me 

and like a flood, his mercy reigns

unending love, amazing grace  

Larry King concludes, “What an inspiring Group.”



  1. john Weaver says:

    Well, for one thing, Olsteen supports Mercy Ministries (see interview), a group tied to the exorcism of mentally ill young women in Australia and possibly in the States. That alone would be enough to make Olsteen questionable. Just google exorcism and Mercy Ministries.

  2. It’s encouraging to hear those words from the lips of Joel Osteen. I’m not sure if he incorporates them in his preaching. That’s another story!

  3. theophilogue says:


    Well … that alone wouldn’t prove that Joel doesn’t believe the gospel.


    Yes. What he personally believes and how he lives it out may be at somewhat of a disconnect. But I’m really trying to answer the question about whether he can be considered an evangelical (i.e. whether he believes in the gospel, whether he is a Christian). Your point, however, is well taken.


  4. Greg says:

    If you check my blog at http://dyingtoliveabundantlife.blogspot.com/ you will see a lot how I am starting to show that Joel Osteen is a false teacher, not so much by what he says, as by what he doesn’t say. Please check it out. I have just started and intend to write a different reason every day until I run out of reasons; shoud take me at least 60 blogs.

  5. theophilogue says:

    Thanks Greg. Good to have that as a resource. The question I’m asking is whether we should think of Joel as a Christian who teaches false things (and true things) or whether he is a non-Christian who teaches false things (and true things).

  6. Angela says:

    I watched the Larry King interviews that Ricky posted and I have to say that I am not a fan of what Mr. Osteen said. If he believes in God and Jesus enough to preach to stadiums full of people. you would hope that he believes EXCLUSIVELY in the Bible. From what he said, it seems he thinks that Christianity is great, but it’s not the only way to heaven. Yes, God judges the heart..but we are none of us, not ONE, good enough to go to heaven. There is the truth, which is actual, and there are lies. If you accept a lie as truth, that doesn’t make it truth. Truth is not a concept, neither is Jesus. Joel Osteen seems like a bit of a relativist..no, he can’t judge someone else, but God’s word is plain, and if he believes that God is truth, how can he not concede that what God says is therefore true?

  7. theophilogue says:


    You are voicing a very common concern many evangelicals have with many other evangelicals who fudge on certain doctrinal issues where the Bible teaches something that’s offensive to our natural sensibilities and offensive to culture. This is a common frustration.

    At this point in my life, I’m done getting angry about how many evangelicals tend to conveniently deny the doctrinal issues just because they aren’t popular to the culture and if you teach them you may not have as many people listening to your message. At this point in my life, I’m asking another question: Do Christians who aren’t faithful to the whole teaching of the Bible deserve to be treated as Christians or as non-Christians? Should we love them in spite of their failures and try to be as gracious and positive about what God uses them for as we can …. or do we rebuke them for teaching false things or for not teaching ALL that Bible says and mainly just show them their failures?

    It’s an important question for me right now because I’ve gotten used to people like Joel. They’re everywhere. Do we treat these people like Christians, love these people and try to appreciate them even though they are far from perfect? Or do we mainly need to correct their false teaching and rebuke and condemn them since they are influencing so many people to believe wrongly about certain things?

    Sorry to ramble so long …


  8. tj says:

    Is this passage germane to this discussion?

    Phil. 1: 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.[c] 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

  9. Angela says:


    I agree that it is a hard call. I think that quality is better than quantity. I think one of Satan’s biggest deceptions is giving people a sense of false security. If people would stop listening to him because they don’t want to stop sinning or they don’t think it’s fair that good people can go to hell without Jesus’ gift of salvation..then maybe they are not repentant or maybe they reject what Jesus said. If they only accept a sugar coated gospel, then they will not experience the Christian life. I do think that good can come out of people preaching with bad motives, as T.J, posted…if the true gospel is being preached. If it is not, then we have false doctrine and people resting on things that are not part of what God has promised us or asks of us. Many people will reject the gospel..but let’s give them the chance to hear the real thing, not string them along by thinking that they don’t have to change anything. What do you think?

  10. Ricky Love says:

    I don’t really care what he is I just really want to beat him up! I know that’s wrong, but I’m from the streets and that’s the way its gotta be people 🙂 Enough said!

  11. Daisy says:

    I think you bring up an excellent point. Do we treat them as Christians and lovingly correct them or do we treat them as unbelievers and let the Holy Spirit work on them? It’s tough.

    My concern is that some denominations/churches have “just let the chips fall” and the problem is that many are being led astray. We have churches packed with people who don’t understand the Gospel message enough to know if they are saved or not and content to assume they are.

    I don’t know. Perhaps ultimately we have to go with what these preachers are claiming. They claim to be Christian so perhaps our duty is to treat tham as such and point out their false teachings and lack of doctrinal knowledge.

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