What is the “The Osteenification of American Christianity?” It is a new book by Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute, which warns against the teachings of Joel Osteen and its effects. Hanegraaff writes:
- Behind Osteenian self-affirmations—“I am anointed,” “I am prosperous,” “My God is a ‘supersizing God’”—there lies a darker hue. Behind the smile is a robust emphasis on all that is negative. If you are healthy and wealthy, words created that reality. However, if you find yourself in dire financial straits, contract cancer, or, God forbid, die an early death, your words are the prime suspect. Says Osteen, “We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying. And this can be good or it can be bad.” In evidence, he cites one illustration after the other. One in particular caught my attention: the story of a “kind and friendly” worker at the church. He died at an early age, contends Osteen, “being snared by the words of his mouth.”
Osteen’s theology is the theology of blame! If you don’t get what you want, it’s your fault. However, God’s people often do not get what they want, at least in this world. In Hebrews 11, the Hall of Fame of Faith chapter – the chapter that highlights those of great faith, we read:
- Others [of faith] were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38)
Although the “world was not worthy of these Saints,” they experienced the most horrific circumstances. Was it because they had not uttered the right self-affirmations? Should they have instead confessed that “I am not being persecuted; I am prosperous?” Instead, the Bible never gives us grounds for such self-deception and the deception of others.
Christ had prepared the faithful Church of Smyrna with these words:
- Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
These Saints were not going to suffer martyrdom because they didn’t know how to make those positive affirmations. Instead, they were the faithful ones and their lives were examples for us!
Paul had warned that persecution was inevitable for the faithful:
- In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
Paul never suggested that if they spoke the right words, they could avoid persecution. Instead, he claimed that if Christ suffered, we must also suffer (2 Cor. 4:10-11).
In contrast with Osteen, James argued that our tongues must always serve the truth. Consequently, there was no room for positive self-affirmations:
- Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
We are not at liberty to use our tongues in any way we want. Instead, our tongues must submit to the truth, not create it. To boast that we are going to make a financial “killing” oversteps the truth that we are a mere “mist that … vanishes.” Instead, our tongues must reverently serve the truth, acknowledging that any success is a result of “the Lord’s will.” In fact, according to James, when we make such positive assertions, we boast and do “evil.”
Although Osteen might be a victim of his own self-deceptions, he is still leading the naïve to commit evil. Because of this, I welcome Hanegraaff’s new book of warning.