He who places his hope on thee, O Virgin all-glorious, will prosper in all he does.

Inscription on Byzantine coin during reign of Romanus III

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Osteen Question

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and I are disagreeing about Joel Osteen over at Orthodixie. You may care to traipse over there to see what's going on. I don't want to reiterate the arguments here, but I want to emphasize that I'm a fan of Fr. Joseph and his blog. I have disagreements with just about everyone about lots of things, and I don't take these things personally.

What do I like about Osteen?
He's pleasant.
He wants people to succeed in life.
He's positive.
He urges people to rely on God.
He urges the adoption of good habits including politeness, civility, patience, understanding, charity, and so on.

What don't I like about Osteen?
He's not Orthodox.
His sweet sermons begin to grate on me after ten minutes.
I'm uncertain about whether there's any systematic theological content.
I'm uncertain what role the New Testament plays in his ministry, other than mentioning Christ, utilizing an immersion baptismal rite, and so on. One year's Easter message talked about the "can-do" Resurrection, which I'm still puzzling over.

I've watched a few sermons, and I know a few people who like him. You know, one thing I've admired about Protestantism is its high standard of personal holiness. Osteen seems to inspire people to act well and to rely on God.

It reminds me of the old joke about would happen to an unattended umbrella in Methodist and RC churches on a rainy day--the owner would get back his umbrella in the Methodist church. I came across this joke again--at Arturo's blog I think--and I'm grateful for the reminder. At the risk of overstretching an analogy, let me say that Osteen leaves me with the impression that he would exhort his followers not to glom umbrellas. You can say what you want about the pedestrian nature of bourgeois virtues, but I'm all for them.

If my impression is correct, then I'm not interested in seeing Osteen unfairly dumped on.


David said...

Please, my grandmother was a holiness methodist, I know a great many holiness protestants. They have there foundation in Fr. John Wesley whom had become disillusioned at the elitist attitudes and nominal faith of the Anglicans and began a closer look at the Eastern Fathers.

Authentic holiness has more in common with Orthodoxy than the neo-pentecostal Word Faith movement.

Just because it works for some people does not mean it is not poison. It is poison. I was involved in it, behind all the good feelings and glimmer there is a very dark, sad side of people discarded for their lack of faith. If they aren't paying money up the pyramid they aren't worth much to you as a ministry. Holiness, you mean hypocrisy. Their is a big difference between looking good and being made good by the grace of God. I mean heck if we look at just appearance we see that the Mormons are the most Holy and the Orthodox are just ethnic traditionalist. Perception in the instance of Joel Osteen is not reality. Go ask real holiness Pentecostals what they think of Joel Osteens non-gospel.

Visibilium said...

I appreciate your comment, and you're absolutely correct that appearances may gainsay reality.

In fact, I'd welcome examples showing that he's a jerk and his ministry's a rip-off.

David said...

Well for a sincere Orthodox Christian the most glaring rip off would be that of the Euacharist, the Gospel, the cross, etc. Rather than presenting the gospel he has started a forum for positive speaking. There is that promise that we can all be wealthy, well off. The price is in expended faith credits and money.

I am betting he doesn't come off as a jerk at all. That would be bad for business. Again he is recycled heresy. It never shocks me when protestants fall pray to the feel goodnism. Any Orthodox Christians has assurace that the cross will be our prize and our struggle.

Visibilium said...

Yep, you're right. I happen to think that all heterdoxy is a sham, but I don't subscribe to the view that Osteen should be singled out from all heterodox simply because he's positive and integrates worldly success into his preaching.

Tell me why Osteen should be singled out for ridicule.

Andrea Elizabeth said...

Because we wish Orthodoxy were as popular?

Visibilium said...


In addition, it's possible that folks who belong to churches with a tradition of martyrdom would find offensive Osteen's saccharine and effortless message. Protestants of the fire-and-brimstone variety don't appear to excite a similar reaction.