Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Heretic Game Part 2. Is Joel Osteen a Heretic?

You know him, you love him and check out his hair. Pastor of one of the largest churches in America, it's Pastor Joel Osteen. Author of several books, including the best selling Your Best Life Now, Osteen has quite the following, leading the church that his dad started as a Southern Baptist. Lakewood is a huge church, filled with thousands each weekend. Joel has a popular radio show, travels and preaches all over, can be found on tv and countless videos. I see people posting quotes from Joel Osteen on Facebook often, and he, of course, has a ton of twitter followers. Maybe it's the hair, I don't know. We have heard a lot about Joel, so let's start at the most logical place to look, both his homepage and the Lakewood church home page. I checked out the home page and looked around.  Looking through their belief statements, they are short and don't have a lot of depth, but they are relatively orthodox.

The Bible
We believe the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and the authority on which we base our faith, conduct and doctrine.
The Trinity
We believe in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.
We believe Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe that salvation is found by placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again.
Water Baptism
We believe water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and a testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in the regular taking of Communion as an act of remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.
Growing Relationship
We believe every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God's Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.
Nothing in the doctrine statement from Lakewood stands out, and really isn't' that different from most Baptist churches. It's a pretty run of the mill belief statement, you can find ones similar on lots of evangelical websites. The issues become what Joel says or doesn't say. Joel will say things that sound good but refuses to say the things that are at the heart of the gospel. Here is an example from Larry King's program.
This is why it can be so difficult to get a handle on Osteen. He says that Jesus is the only way,  he says he believes that, but won't call for repentance. He gets slippery and says things that both orthodox people can nod too, as well as those outside of orthodox beliefs. Really tickles the ears. There is a popular clip where he tells Ophra Winfrey that he believes Jesus is the only way to God, but there are many paths to Jesus. I'm not sure what that even means, but it sounds good. It sounds good but means nothing.

There seems to be quite a lot of "wiggle room" left in the theology of Joel Osteen, he does seem to hold to some orthodox beliefs, but he leaves a way out. It is clear that he does not teach the full message of the cross, but he does call people to come to God through Christ, but it gets hazy at that point. How do we get to Christ? That seems pretty open as far as his teachings go, as he told Oprah, there are many ways to Jesus. I'm pretty sure it's just the Holy Spirit, we are drawn to Christ by the Father. That's what Jesus said.

Is Joel a heretic? He teaches Jesus, but without sin, without repentance and confession, there is no salvation. Without "repent and be baptized" that Peter preached in Acts, without "repent or you shall all likewise perish" as Jesus said, there is no way to Jesus. This message exists lightly in some places, and if you look for it, you'll find it. His preaching can leave people feeling like they are saved without being saved because they are not reconciled to God. In his belief statements, I give him in a pass, but in his preaching, he sure pushes the envelope. You can judge for yourself if he is a full on heretic, a false teacher or just someone who likes to make people feel good, get a lot of money and not offend them. However you slice it, he is not faithfully preaching the message of Christ. I would give Joel a big ol F for failure to communicate the gospel.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Heretic Game Round 1: Is Rick Warren A Heretic?

Let's begin with a man you all know, some of you love and some of you loathe. The Pastor of Saddleback Community Church, author of the Purpose Drive material, Pastor Rick Warren. I have read most of Warren's material, used his 101-401 material at churches I've served in, heard him speak, even met and talked with him for a while. I have also read a lot of criticism of him over the years, and all the way around let's say there is stuff I agree with and stuff I don't from all contributing parties.

Most of the criticism I have seen stems from a few basic things. First, there are those who attribute him saying that he stated that "Christians and Muslims worship the same God". I have heard him say multiple times he doesn't believe that and he didn't say it. Never the less, it's a criticism. He has also been criticised for spending time with Robert Schuller, who isn't a very good influence in my opinion. I have never heard him personally confirm or deny this. It's not a good idea.

I personally have a few things I disagree with Pastor Rick about. First, he likes to use a bunch of different translations of scripture, and I feel that he sometimes twists and turns things to make it sound the way he wants it to sound to fit the message. I don't think this is a hermeneutically sound practice, although his book on Bible Study Methods is pretty solid, I think he leaves something to be desired in this category. I find him a little theologically "lite", but I don't think this is a fault, it's just the way his heart is wired, he sees himself more as an Evangelist and in the past, he has surrounded himself with leaders who can take up the slack in this area. He has had some solid teaching pastors at Saddleback.

While in seminary, I was able to meet and become friends with the Director of International Initiatives at Saddleback, actually roomed with him for a weekend class. He was a great guy and was telling us about the work they were doing to eradicate malaria in Rowanda. This was part of the PEACE plan, and Rick Warren has caught some flack about this, but I think that's misplaced. It's a pretty solid plan to try to reach out and share Christ in the process. I know that many disagree with the PEACE plan, and it's not how I would have designed it, but you have to give him credit for actually doing something. If his community were to flood, I think he would be out there doing some work, so I give him credit for being active in the work of the Gospel.

Now, much of what has been said about Rick Warren that I've read I believe to be pretty unfair. Why do I say that? Because if you want to know what someone believes, you should ask him. John Piper did that, he made a 90-minute video available of an interview with Rick Warren to talk about Doctrine. I think Warren answers many of the tough questions. I think when it comes to Reformed theology, he does the "both and" answer, which I agree with but also find too simplistic. I struggled with the dichotomy so much it caused me to continue to wrestle with what I call "Woven Theology" which examines how predestination and election work along with man's ability to choose and how time and eternity play in with a God who exists both inside and outside of time. That's for another day. I digress, Warren tackles big subjects and talks a great deal about the Purpose Driven Life.

First off, know I don't love the Purpose Driven Life. I was at a church that attempted to use it to move members into ministry. I said it was a bad idea to use the program. We used the program. I think we ended up losing people from ministry. I couldn't even get people to volunteer to pray for college students. It wasn't a good thing, and it didn't seem very transformational to me. I know some churches have had great experiences with it. There is nothing wrong with the Purpose Driven material. You should have a purpose, and your purpose should drive you. It's called the Great Commission, and I'm not sure we need to spend time creating mission statements and purpose statements and visions statements. Just read the Great Commission. That being said it's a fine program, but it's a program. It does program things. It won't save your church, fix your people or revolutionize your ministry, but it may help accomplish some things. I like it for launching small groups, and I would use it for a small group launch, minus all the sermon and worship stuff that goes with it. Either way, it's fine, nothing wrong with it. . . . he should stick with one Bible translation though. Just sayin.

So, final analysis, is Rick Warren a heretic or a false teacher? No, he preaches Christ and he is solid on salvation. He, being a Baptist, probably leans more towards the Traditionalist side than the Calvinist side, but he affirms both. He seems pretty average as a Southern Baptist that way. He is smart, he is funny and he is kind. He likes to help people, and he stopped and talked to me and some friends for a while in the airport. I enjoyed meeting him and I think he's a fine, upstanding Pastor. I don't agree with everything he says, I wouldn't do everything the way he does, but he loves Jesus.

If you don't believe me, here is the link to his interview with John Piper. It's a great interview. He will share his beliefs on Salvation. I have personally heard him share his beliefs on Salvation, live in and living color. He believes the gospel, he preaches the gospel and for that, I think other gospel believing Christians should give him some support and respect. Show a brother in Christ some love and stop giving him a black eye every time we don't agree on every point. Remember, in non-essentials, there is liberty. I still love all you who believe in a secret, pre-trib rapture event so we can love Rick Warren for wanting to have a purpose in everything. Listen to the interview and share your thoughts.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Let's Play the "Who Is A Heretic" Game

So I am going to write a series of posts on individuals who may or may not be heretics. Before we get started, we need to define a heretic, cause there are lots of definitions. Let's lay some basics first.  We are going to operate on the following basic principles:
1. In essentials, we will have unity. We will base heresy on the essentials of faith and biblical Salvation as defined by the Bible and secondarily by the BFM and the Orthodox confessions of faith.

2. In non-essentials, we show liberty. I am not going to focus on those things which are not foundational or key to Salvation. We won't debate election, infant vs believer baptism or church polity. We don't declare someone a heretic based on their view of the rapture.

3. In all things, charity. We will show love to those even who we don't agree with. I'm not going to blast anyone, my desire is to be gracious. It's important for us to know which teachers we can trust, what teachers we can trust but disagree with, and what teachers we need to avoid completely.

I am open to your ideas, suggestions, and contributions. If there is a teacher you would like to discuss on this forum, let me know. I am going to do primary research, and base my conclusions primarily on what these individuals say about themselves and their beliefs. We will examine what they say, what they do and what they teach. After that, we can examine what others have said about them. I am less concerned about the gossip about an individual and more of the words that come from their heart and out of their mouths.

I'm going to to make a long list of teachers, but I'll start soon. If you want to look at one, email me at I hope this will be fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Zealous Unsaved

Here is a concern I have in the modern church, we have too many leaders who are unsaved and yet don't know it. They are preaching and teaching salvation by grace, but they are trapped in works based theology and believe they are saved because of what they have said and done. They have never been convicted of sin, they are not trusting Christ for Salvation, they are relying on their own works. The lingo is correct, but the reality is, they are not saved. How do we know this is the case? A few ways. First, Jesus said that there would be those in ministry (preach and cast out demons) but will hear "depart for I never knew you".

The sad truth is that too many leaders in the church are leaders because they are more concerned with leadership than with Jesus. Sure, they talk about Jesus, preach and teach about Jesus, tell others about Jesus, but their ministry is all about them. It's focused on selfish desire, need to be in control and ego. They are more concerned about their title, role, and abilities. Most of the time they live according to the rules, in fact, they are zealous about the rules. They are often proud and very sure of their own holiness. They live in a very legalistic world, not unlike a Muslim, Buddhist or moral atheist who can follow rules and live moral and good lives be never know the saving power of Christ. In the end, there is nothing in their lives or ministries that can't be reproduced by a Muslim or Hindu. These world religions can build a large following and do great things and even change lives. They do not do these things by the power of God, but through human effort.

In the end, there is no fruit of the Spirit, they may be influential, but not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle or self-controlled. They are often temperamental, inpatient, bully leaders who influence with smooth words and powerful speeches. They are more like a good football coach than they are like a disciple of Christ. As we continue to speed toward the end of days, the number of unsaved leaders with smooth words and bad theology will continue to increase. They will grow in popularity and power, but their eternal destination is not with Christ. On the day of the Lord, their selfishness will reap its eternal reward. Pray that our pastors and leaders would know Christ in a way that brings repentance unto Salvation.

Monday, October 2, 2017

You Will All Likewise Perish

"There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."" 
Luke 13:1-5 

We sure like to enjoy the punishment of others, don't we. Admit it, when someone gets pulled over, you love to gawk and look and check it out. We like to see who got arrested, we love Cops and Dateline and criminal shows that show people getting punished for being the "bad guy". Right? We like it when the hero wins and we see the bad guy finally get what he deserves, and we assume it works that way outside Hollywood, all bad guys get punished, right? Let's hope not.

In reality, we are the bad guy. You, me, everyone we know, we are in active rebellion against God, and the only hope we have is that we don't receive the punishment we deserve. God tells us what to do, we don't do it. God tells us what not to do, and we do it.

I began writing this post a few days ago, and last night there was a horrible tragedy, a shooter in Las Vegas committed the largest mass shooting in Modern US history, killing more than 50 people (I have heard as many as 60) and injuring 200 more. The gunman hasn't shared any motive (and he is not dead) and we have no idea why. This is a horrible thing, but it's not a punishment from God. These 50 or 60 people were not worse sinners, they weren't deserving of what happened. The harsh reality is that physical death will find us all. I am reminded of that today, we will all die one day. Apart from Christ, we will die an eternal death and suffer torment. I don't want that to happen to anyone.

Jesus said unless you repent. Turn from your sin, turn away from your self-ruled life by putting all of your life, faith, hope and trust in Jesus. Commit your everything to Him. It won't stop shooters or disasters or cancer or pain, but the end will be life. I pray that those who died in Las Vegas found themselves in the arms of Christ. My prayer is that you also find yourselves in the arms of Christ at the end. Repent, and don't perish eternally.