Saturday, October 13, 2007

All About Joel

Joel Osteen’s new book comes out on Monday the 15th, so I thought I would take a moment to give my thoughts on his first book, Your Best Life Now. Published three years ago yesterday (10/12/2004). Sorry if this is old news to some. Maybe you’re like me, though, and new to discover this Joel phenomenon!

I love to read, but I’m slow. So I’m very picky about what I spend my time reading. Having heard negative reviews for Your Best Life Now (YBLN) from trusted sources, it never got on my “book list”. Then came the enthusiastic recommendations from multiple friends over the course of a year. Finally, I decided I had to give it a read.

Having listened to the entire book on CD (a nice compromise, eh?), I have very little to add to the two exceptionally well-written reviews that I will provide links to below. I will simply list my objections to the book and suggest one way to look at it that you may not have thought of before.

First my objections to YBLN:

  • Scriptural "silly putty". Joel’s irresponsible twisting of the Scripture to fit his “self-help” Christianity (can you say, “oxy-moron”?)
  • Shallow view of life. i.e. God wants you to have a big house not an apartment. He wants you to get the best parking spot and be first in line at the bank and in the checkout line. Please! Joel would no doubt advise me to live in “expectancy” that God will abundantly bless my fantasy football team!
  • The great "Omission". For a book that offers 7 Steps to reach the highest of human attainment, where is the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ?!? My greatest concern is shared in Wingerd’s review (see link below): that Osteen gives millions of people a false assurance of their standing with God, with his minimizing of sin, ommision of Jesus Christ (except as an after-thought) and failure to present the Gospel clearly (at all really!)

If you don’t see what all the fuss is about YBLN, may I suggest this: Read John Piper’s Desiring God (as I've mentioned before you can read it online) and contrast it with Osteen's superficial Christianity. While I was trudging thru YBLN, I was also reading DG, especially the chapters on Missions and Suffering. Piper’s illustrations were of missionaries who were joyfully giving their lives in service to Christ, allowing themselves to become destitute financially, brutally persecuted for their faith, even martyrd for Christ (knowing their reward was in Heaven for suffering for Christ). Osteen, meanwhile gave story after story of people living their “best life now” (including many of himself), getting promotions, making wise business deals, etc., ad nauseum! The contrast was sharp!

Here are a couple of quotes from Daryl Wingerd’s review of YBLN. I will then close with some Scripture to ponder.

“Nevertheless, here is my view in a nutshell: If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you. But if you believe, with the Apostle Paul, that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6 NKJV), if you desire a deeper and more biblical understanding of God and His ways, if you desire to see Jesus Christ exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, if you believe a Christian's greatest hunger should be for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and not for money, health, or easy living, then you would do well to look elsewhere.”

“Oh, I nearly forgot! Joel Osteen does share the "plan of salvation" with the readers of his book. The reason I nearly forgot was because it seems Osteen nearly forgot too. His "gospel presentation" as it might be loosely defined by some, spans one half of one page, and is neatly tucked on the very last page of the book— after the endnotes! It is not even given the courtesy of a page number in the table of contents. Additionally, Osteen's "gospel presentation" contains no Scripture references, no indication of who Jesus Christ is, no mention of His death on the cross or the necessity of His death in the place of guilty sinners, no teaching about the importance of Christ's sinless life, nothing about His resurrection from the dead, no reference to the grace of God, and no plea for the reader to respond by trusting in Christ's work.”

Wingerd gives a balanced and biblical review of Osteen’s book. He does mention some of the good things about the book, (namely the later chapters on giving, etc) while eloquently pointing out the dangers.

A Critical Review of YBLN

Challies speaks more to Osteen’s ministry as a whole and does a great job of expressing what I was thinking when I read the book, but couldn’t quite put my finger on!

Challies review

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)"


JD Summers said...

Glad to hear you got through the book....thanks for the insight and the helpful links.

From the Wilderness... said...

I haven't checked your blog in a couple of weeks. Looks like you got a bunch of good posts going on! Excellent stuff!

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