A Small Public Apology (Kind Of) To Joel Osteen

A slight commendation may be due for Joel Osteen. Seriously.

After being consistently pummeled by conservative evangelicals everywhere, Joel has recently assembled a few basic baby steps towards pastor cred.

Maybe a small, I did not say total, but small apology is due from us. In conservative Christendom, we (and when I say “we” I mean “I”) are quick to jump on anyone without the same exact precise theological and social convictions as us. Some of it is warranted: Joel does frequently proclaim the (un)gospel of self-esteem. He does usually replace sin and repentance with quaint stories and pop psychology. In the past, even on primetime television, he has been ambiguous about essential theological convictions (the Larry King interview comes to mind).

How can you not love that perfectly bleached smile?

But, with no fear of reprimand from heresy hunters, I attest here that Joel Osteen for once got it right…in an interview…on primetime television no less.

Here’s a brief transcript of Joel’s statement on a recent segment of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. When asked bluntly by Morgan about whether homosexuality was a sin this is what America’s pastor said:

“Yes, I’ve always believed, Piers, the Scripture shows that homosexuality it’s a sin,” he said. He added: “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible, too. I think sometimes the church — and I don’t mean this critically — but we focus on one issue or two issues, and there’s plenty of other ones. So, I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life. I mean, sin means to miss the mark.”

The reason for this brief kudos is not necessarily that Joel is talking somewhat frankly about the specific sinfulness of homosexuality, but rather that Osteen has added the word “sin” into his public vocab repertoire at all. Sin is not a word Osteen has been known to use liberally, or ever. 

As Albert Mohler points out in his article “The Osteen Moment”, just four years ago Joel was much more vague and timid in his response to the same exact “homosexual” question. Let’s hope this counts for theological progress in Osteen’s path towards biblical Orthodoxy. 

Now I know his response wasn’t exactly an epic Martin Luther-esque type stance before the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me…”

A passing mention of Romans 3:23 may have done some good here. And he waffled a bit when Morgan asked specifically about Elton John’s homosexuality. I admit, Joel didn’t exactly look comfortable doing it, and there wasn’t a clear presentation of the gospel by him (again, baby steps), but Osteen took a stand where we (I) would have expected him to drop to the fetal position with empty positive platitudes.

Instead of lambasting him, let’s point to the positive (in classic Osteen fashion): Joel Osteen just spoke the unforgivable in Hollywood values and committed blasphemy against the god of political correctness. Given his platform and following, he likely knew his position would accumulate a hailstorm of hatred from “tolerant” liberal ideologues everywhere. Joel Osteen said what the Bible says: Homosexuality is a “sin.” No more atrocious than the litany of heterosexual sins, but nonetheless a sin that Jesus Christ calls us out of (1 Cor 6 :9-11).

Let’s hope continued baby steps lead him in the right direction: towards a bold proclamation of the biblical gospel where Jesus is the only cure for the wrath of a holy God and the sins of wicked man.

We’re (I’m) rooting for you, Joel.

Bryan Daniels

John the Baptist Eats Bear Grylls Babies For Breakfast

I appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer. He has a cutting way of encouraging young men to…man up. Yet Washer is considered by many in cultural Christianity to be a bit rough around the edges, too extreme, and too passionate in his plea for sinners (like me) to repent and cast themselves on the mercy of Christ.

I submit that those charges sound eerily familiar to a biblical character of the New Testament:

John the Baptist.

John the Baptist called seemingly sincere people seeking to be baptized by him a “brood of vipers.” He exclaimed vehemently the uncompromising message of broken repentance before the Messiah to any one with a functioning ear (Luke 3:7). He caused a curious stir among communities in Israel and garnered radical disciples to his ministry. He resided in desert caves, ate locusts and wild honey for breakfast, and dressed himself in camel-hair. I’m pretty sure he’d make Bear Grylls look like a cake eating mamma’s boy. John the Baptist was the original Chuck Norris, the only difference being that he was actually good at acting (according to Jewish historian, Josephus; )).

Now think of the ministers you know.

I am not suggesting preachers should take their dietary and fashion tips from a first century Nazarite Jew, but think about the ones you know or have seen on television. What strikes you most about them? Clean cut, with an inordinate amount of hair gel? Politically correct? Bleached teeth? Funny jokes? Nice suits and polished shoes? Great story tellers? Agreeable disposition? Typically, the sermon consists of three crisp points with a couple of relevant illustrations thrown in for good measure (maybe a lighthearted anecdote or two). None of these characteristics are bad in and of themselves, but unashamedly displaying them from the pulpit doth not a preacher make.

John was a real man.

A man’s man. A wild man. A real wild man’s man. A…you get the picture. His tone was blood earnest. His conviction unwavering. For the sake of the Bridegroom he chose to tear into his audience instead of tickling them (Luke 3:3). His weighty material directly flowed out of his love for Christ. Without displaying the sinful state of his audience they could never see their need for repentance, and without repentance they would never see their need for grace. He spoke the truth in love. But he spoke the truth. John loved his audience enough to tear their world apart in order for the Bridegroom to come and gently pick up the pieces. It was his prophetic calling.

Docile manners are not a virtue Scripture esteems greatly (neither am I saying niceness is a vice in Scripture).

The perfect man, Jesus, loved deeply, but he never was deemed “nice” by his closest followers. He was a table turning blasphemer to the most religious folk of His day.

The prophets of old loved their Jewish brethren, but none of their hearers would suggest “nice” as being one of their primary attributes. Broken hearted, men of sorrow, who spoke of shocking judgment coming to the unrepentant nation. Not nice. Not safe. Not sanitary.

The mighty blazing seraphim do not fly around the throne of God in exalted worship singing “NICE! NICE! NICE! Is the Lord of Hosts!” (read Isaiah 6:3, just read that whole chapter for a mindblow!)

Political correctness is the not an utmost concern of the Bridegroom’s friends. A tranquil American church currently majoring in manners watches as the world is dying under the weight of its own sin. It’s not nice to allow the winds of culture to dictate the force of our gospel message, especially when eternal life is at stake.

Sometimes a good sermon is like a roundhouse kick to the soul…just ask my boy John.

Bryan Daniels

Sister Wives: Neither Nice Nor Biblical

Kody Brown, of the reality TV show “Sister Wives,” is a glutton for punishment. Most men have a hard enough time keeping one woman pleased. But estrogenic attacks, menopausal mercilessness, and wedding dress drama are multiplied by four for Brown.

How did this guy get 4 wives? The hair my friend.

The TLC hit show “Sister Wives”, about a polygamous family living in Utah, has become a cultural phenomenon. Along with four sister wives, the family boasts 16 total children.

The Browns are fundamentalist Mormons. Though the mainstream modern Mormon Church formally rejects the polygamous lifestyle, it is a matter of record that the founding patriarchs and early followers of the LDS church were polygamous. Joseph Smith and his followers exercised what they considered their biblical freedom.

That is what happens when wild personal revelations become the standard for interpreting the bible, and not careful thoughtful exegesis of the text.

Just because the Bible mentions a sin does not mean it permits it. The Bible is a very frank historical record of the total spectrum of human sinfulness. Adultery, homosexuality, greed, pride and a litany of sins are shown in Scripture through many living illustrations.

All of these stark realities are simply descriptive of life as it is, not prescriptive, or commanded, ways of living.

In the bible, polygamy is never shown in a positive light. In the very beginning, we see one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) as the pre-eminent model for mankind (Genesis 2:18).

The first biblical character to be a polygamist, Lamech, was considered to be an evil man (Genesis 4:19-24). Polygamy was the beginning of the end of wise Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 11:4). The disaster of polygamy is illustrated by Lamech and Adah and Zillah in Genesis 4:19–24, Esau and Mahalath and other wives in Genesis 28:6–9, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29:15–30. Even though some godly patriarchs took on polygamous lifestyles, never once was their decision considered good or godly.

In the New Testament, godly leadership must be men who are committed to only one woman in marriage (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).

Women of Scripture who are involved in polygamous marriages are frequently shown to be insecure, jealous, and untrusting in their relationships. This was the tragic case with Abram, Sarai and Hagaar, and also Jacob, Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:15-30).

In the show, this seems to be the case with Meri, who was the first and is the only legally married wife to Kody Brown. Meri is honest about her misgivings and struggles with the “plural” lifestyle. Throughout the first season she is a tumultuous bundle of conflicting emotions. She takes the marriage of Kody to Robyn harder than any of the other wives, even though she was the driving force in setting the two up.

Even after living roughly twenty years within the plural marriage she signed up for, she is still wounded afresh by Kody’s insistence of adding to their family. She rightly feels insufficient, abandoned, and even cheated on. Far from loving her as Christ loved the church, Kody is treating her (probably unintentionally) emotionally as a passing afterthought.

The older wives joke they are glad that Kody finally got himself a younger “trophy wife” in Robyn. The nervous laughter betrays their angst. Robyn is younger, prettier and skinnier than the other wives. Instead of the man being ashamed of his mistress, polygamy brings her home and makes her a part of the family.

“Sister Wives” brings to light some incredibly provocative relational dynamics. And to the family’s credit, they handle most of it with a spirit of cordiality and sensitivity to one another. These are nice people who have chosen to put themselves into an untenable circumstance for the sake of religion.

As nice and as Christian as the family may seem, polygamy is neither nice to women nor is it biblically Christian.

I could make a compelling case for polygamy being cruel to men also. But, then again, some men, like Kody Brown, are just gluttons for punishment.

Bryan Daniels

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