Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hm, that's totally not impressive

Joel Osteen is on television at the coffee shop this morning. Straight self-help stuff with little or no actual Christian content; well, that's no big surprise. But I was sorry to hear him cheerfully abuse Scripture in order to provide a veneer of "God says" over his pep talk, especially since my young friend Daniela is going to Lakewood on the Sundays when her work schedule keep her from being able to attend her own church's Ike-delayed 3:00 p.m. services. (They're having to borrow somebody else's building because Ike had lots of fun with their own.) So you'd like to feel that she was in good hands...but, um, what I am hearing here is not good.

In the last ten minutes he's only quoted two Scriptures, and the first one I don't remember although I thought, "I don't think that's what was intended." But when he was trying to tell people that they needed to have written goals and an explicit set of plans for achieving them (as I say, this is a self-help pep talk he's giving, not a Christian sermon), he was scrambling around for a Scripture to back himself up with, and came up with Proverbs 16:9:

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps."

"Now this tells me," Osteen continued, "that if I don't have a plan, God can't guide my steps."

And I thought, "Ding ding ding ding ding! -- false prophet." Indeed, as I've been typing this it's gotten worse; he's making this Scripture the centerpoint of his sermon, which is all about getting out of debt and getting interest rather than paying it and is all in all great advice but is most certainly NOT a faithful and honest reading of the text.

I don't suppose Osteen is doing too much harm in encouraging Christians to plan and have goals; but in teaching them to do terrible exegesis as though it doesn't matter what God actually means, he's doing very great harm indeed. For of course the proverb is really, if anything, ridiculing the Type A personality who thinks that as long as he has planned well enough, he can feel comfortably in control of his life. I won't go so far as to say that the proverb is saying that planning is bad -- it's really just saying that you can't ever forget that your plans do nothing if God isn't on board with them -- but at the very least the proverb has to be saying that a whole bunch of people who like planning, overrate its value. Which (a) is not something Joel Osteen would really like to hear, and (b) undercuts his point rather than reinforcing it.

And when you're attending a church whose pastor can read the Bible and hear only his own voice, even in the very passages that challenge his own natural inclinations...that's NOT a good choice.

[sigh] Oh, well, it gives me more reason to pray that Miss Daniela's church gets fixed ASAP.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

Joel Osteen

It is ironic there is Evangelical criticism of this guy..... that culture built guys like this..... essentially springing from the theological error of sola scriptura to what I call the idolotry of the salesman rooted in the most abject materialism.

Modern Fundamentalist, Evangelical (and in some cases where overtly polticized "Dominionist") "christianity", is for people who are by culture and/or personal disposition particularly un-Christian.

The fact is that ordinary human beings would be hard pressed to perfectly emulate Christ...... the Christian message underscores basic human failings such as our difficulty loving our enemy, or even our neighbor as ourselves...... true Christianity would lead toward political affiliations that would be rooted in notions of altruism and the common good as well as Liberal concepts of government that understood that the Judgement of God is ontologically different than the judgement of mankind; the former being unattainable in any perfect sense since humans cannot even attain perfect knowledge of God, let alone His "thought processes" regarding justice (anthropomorphizing here, sorry..... had to use a human metaphor).



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