Is Joel Osteen Dangerous?

Joel Osteen

Most people have heard of “Health and Wealth” Christianity. There are many Christian preachers who share a message of attaining great wealth and prosperity if only we will have faith in Jesus Christ and trust in the Lord. Then all of those good things you want to happen in your life will happen. “Expect great things,” says Joel Osteen.

Of course, such a message is an incomplete Christian message. Perhaps a dangerous one. Unfortunately, I think it sets up many people for a crisis of faith, rather than prosperity. And it is a common evangelization tactic for many Christian groups. Such a message can take advantage of the poor and suffering who are desperate for a way to fix their problems. It preys upon the human desire for wealth and prosperity instead of reordering it according to the Christian faith.

Good health and great wealth is probably more often a crutch than a spring board for us. Jesus never once sold Christianity as a path to physical health and material wealth in this life. Christianity is a path we take despite our health and despite our wealth. A true Christian message doesn’t just teach us how to avoid suffering. It teaches us how to embrace our suffering and to turn it into sanctification. It teaches us how to be joyful no matter how healthy or wealthy we are. That’s what we need. We don’t need to become even more obsessed with building up our treasure here on Earth.

Promising that health and wealth will improve if Jesus is embraced as Lord and Savior is just setting most people up for great disappointment. And more dangerously, it risks alienating them to what they mistakenly believe the Christian life to be.

I’m not sure how hurtful this false “prosperity gospel” is in the long run. For some people such experiences can be a stepping stone to a deep and authentic faith. But for others it subsidizes an inevitably discouraging house set atop the loose sand of a trivialized, misinformed Gospel message. I’m inclined to believe that the latter is not worth the former.

One thing I’ve always found comforting about the Catholic approach is the much more meaningful – and ultimately truthful – treatment of this issue. Messages like that of Joel Osteen are more akin to self-help pep talks than they are to the Christian gospel. And unfortunately, there are a growing number of similar types of preachers, televangelists and ‘mega-churches” sprouting up and thriving all over the world. I’m quite sure Joel Osteen means very well. But I think messages like his can (not always) too easily be misunderstood and end up doing more harm than good.

I love his hope, positivity and faith in Jesus. But too often when I’ve tuned in, I’ve gotten a somewhat incomplete and lacking Gospel message.

Here is some commentary from Fr. Barron on just this issue:

57 comments Add comment

Christopher Wright May 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

Dunno, but I know this: when I was an investment broker, I met a firm, nameless and probably by now defunct.
They began every day’s work with hymns, “prophesying”, and glossolalia.
The products they sold on the back of this were high-commission, and low-growth.
God and Mammon are for me an eternity apart.

Jane May 4, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I tackled the Osteen stuff on my weblog a while ago when I came across a quote from St. Augustine which addressed exactly the sort of poison Osteen is selling:

And I talked about the reasons it’s dangerous here:

For one thing, once you buy into it even a little bit, you’re caught in the trap of thinking that if you even question it, then your faith isn’t big enough for God to bless you with the good things you’ve demanded of him payable in full upon receipt of your faith. Therefore this philosophy requires you never question it. If you see something that crosses it, and you look at it closely, then God is going to not bless you. Ergo, if you fail to receive good things, it’s because you yourself destroyed your best chance at being blessed.

And if this were really true, that we could “claim” whatever we wanted because of our faith, and God had to give it to us, then why aren’t these folks “claiming” clean running water for every community in Africa? Why aren’t they “claiming” a cure for cancer? Why are they wasting their time claiming a Lexus and a big house when instead they could claim an end to war?

This “interpretation” of the Gospel is poison.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

There is more to wealth than a monetary value. Simple as that. If someone brings faith and love into your life how is that bad?

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

If it’s faith in the wrong thing or gives a false hope, then that is bad. That’s all.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I do understand what you are saying but remember at the end of all his sermons he tells people to get into a good bible based church. That is where they will learn more about what he is preaching and hopefully understand more. I know that people tend to hear what they want to believe and sometimes that does get them to follow the wrong path but I am not going to fault someone who is using his skills to bring people closer to God.

Catholic debating pro-life May 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm

That’s the thing. I don’t think he’s bringing people closer to God. I think that (inadvertently, of course) he’ll end up getting people closer to MONEY or he’ll end up driving people away. I’m sure his intentions are good but I believe it was St. Augustine who said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Rich May 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I am not sure why you speak of this and judge this guy when no one on earth should judge. People take different paths all the time and end up at the same place in the end. Are you saying that the Vatican doesn’t make tons of money? How many people have fallen from religion because of the trust they have put in the Catholic religion only to find out they were taken advantage of and their kids abused?

Catholic debating pro-life May 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

What does this have to with anything at all that I wrote? I’m not judging HIM, I’m pointing that the path he’s taking, right now, is the wrong one. Not to mention, I don’t believe you can take “different paths to the same place”. I find that to be a bad analogy. There is only one Truth. Furthermore, it is totally irrelevant and immaterial whether or not the Vatican makes tons of money. They donate more charity than any other organization in the world, or close. The message the Church preaches has NOTHING to do with money. And bringing up the Church’s sexual abuse scandal shows both a misunderstanding of the issue and an incredible strawman arguement. What does that have to do with anything?

bosun January 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I hav spent considerabe amount of time studying great men of God. The fact i discovered is ALL OF THEM ARE BADLY CRITICIZED! may i tell d world somthing important? Even Jesus was criticized for his miracles; so im not suprised about Joel Osteen’s case.
I just wish every1 asks himself ”did Jesus ever criticize?”.
You are not showing a good attribute of christ if you criticize.
Lastly, if you think Joel’s books are poisonous, publish yours that is not!
Love You!

Robert Lim May 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I see nothing wrong with Osteen’s sermons. He’s just showing the way.

What is dangerous, in any case, is misunderstanding or not taking the time to understand, apply or use things correctly. A knife is incredibly useful when one understands how to grasp and use it correctly. But woe to the one who grasps the blades.

According to your faith, be it unto you. If you choose to doubt and believe Osteen’s sermons are dangerous, it is so and you can be right. But if you understand what faith can do and overshadow doubt, then anything is possible. With the former, you have just limited yourself.


Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Robert, faith and false hope won’t overshadow anything when reality sets in. It may motivate people in the moment to do some good things, but ultimately it can be for the wrong reasons. And it can do damage…especially when you don’t “choose to doubt and believe Osteen’s sermons are dangerous.”

Rich May 4, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Also there are alot of different people in the world and my belief is it takes alot of different preachers in the world to reach them. Everyone has thier own tastes and this is no different. I feel the catholic religion has many faults too. There is no one between me and the Lord. When I sin I ask him for forgiveness. I don’t need a go between to do that.

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I’m not sure exactly if you have the correct understanding of Church teaching regarding this. Catholics only ask God for forgiveness for our sins. In some cases, Jesus chose to have that go through his Body (the Church) in practice. We see this right from the very beginning. He gave the apostles the power to forgive sins in Jesus’ name. Are you suggesting you would not let one of them “go between” in the forgiveness of your sins even when it is what Jesus intended?

Rich May 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I may not have the correct understanding in it. I will admit that and I am not saying that Catholic is wrong. There are plenty of good people in the Catholic faith but then again there are bad ones as well. Just as in any religion. There are just things I don’t agree with. I am sure you can understand that.

Catholic debating pro-life May 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I understand that there may be things you don’t agree with, but can you please name specific things? Most of the time people do not hate hte Catholic Church but merely what they believe to be the Catholic Church, which is something quite different. Most likely we’ll have an explanation or an answer.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I am not sure why I can’t reply under your last reply so here it is. What you said is “I think that (inadvertently, of course) he’ll end up getting people closer to MONEY or he’ll end up driving people away.” I rebutted with the Vatican makes even more money than him and they have scandals of huge proportion. Why is that? And what is a misunderstanding of the issue on the sex abuse? It’s been pretty public and it is wrong. It is a huge black eye and it also has people running the wrong way and believing the Catholic religion is wrong. You can admit it or not. What I mean about taking different paths is everyone does not have to go thru the Catholic church to be saved. I know you believe that. But what if you are wrong? Does the bible say to you that you have to be Catholic?

C.P. May 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm

All right, here goes. Thank you for taking the time to respond, by the way, I appreciate it:

1. Yes, the Bible does indeed say you have to be Catholic.

2. The Church is not wrong, so that’s not an issue.

3. What does the Vatican making money have to do with preaching a message that brings people closer to money than God? I never said, “Don’t make money”, I said that that’s not the message Jesus was sending and that is the message Osteen was sending.

4. I encourage you to look at this:

…to understand the sex abuse scandal. But it doesn’t make anything Osteen said right or anything the Church said wrong.

Catholic debating pro-life May 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I’m with you on this one Matthew. Catholicism is a religion of sacrifice. Telling people that Jesus will bring them health and money is wrong. Christianity is about sacrificing what you have to help others and serve God, not be really really nice so that God will send you checks delivered by angels.

You really think Jesus died for our sins to get us money or a mere few years more earthly time? That’s why he went through that torture? That’s why he went to Hell and back for us, literally? So that we’d be a few bucks richer for longer? Jesus’s sacrfice was far more permanent: he wanted us to be eternally happy with him with Heaven, and he promised us HAPPINESS on Earth, not health or money. And how do we get this happiness on Earth? By allowing our suffering to deepen our faith and to love others DESPITE hardship. Osteen’s message strikes me as rather ludicrous, and I think it’s far easier to disprove Osteen’s Christianity than prove it.

Christopher Wright May 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm

To be a Christian in the hope that it will be a gravy train to a financial promised land reminds me of T.S.Eliot’s Thomas a Becket:
“The last temptation was the greatest treason,
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

dbond May 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

As Our Lord says:”What does it profit man if he gains the whole world, but looses His soul?” And Mother Teresa reminded us that many who are financially well off have a far greater poverty than those with little or no monetary means. People of wealth seem to be more isolated and worried about and surrounded by “things”. Whereas people living in impoverished ciercumstances value their family and friends and neighbors, and leave this world surrounded by them. Too often, wealthy people suffer dying alone surrounded by things. Only love can we take with us-things will all turn back to dust someday.

C.P. May 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Matthew, do you mind if I use a picture from the “Do you love life?” post for my facebook page?

Become a fan! Spread the message!

God bless you,


Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 7:42 pm

C.P. – Sure thing! You can use it. I would appreciate it if you could please give credit for it in the text for the picture.

Also – for all future comments on Fallible Blogma, I need you to please put a valid email address (always kept confidential…nobody will see it at all) and to use a consistent name for all of your comments. Some of the comment threads are hard to follow when you use a different name for each comment bc that’s how we know who is talking in the conversation.

Thanks! I really appreciate it! God bless!

Catholic Pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Yeah, I have a reason…it’s a long story. Sorry.

Valid e-mail, no problem.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I guess I should say that I have not found any of the Osteens sermons about have faith and you will get rich. If you have faith you are rich. And in much better ways than having money. I do find his sermons to be uplifting and full of good points. Abiding in the Lord is what needs to be taught. Everyone sins it is a matter of what you do with that sin. Do you hide it? Or do you bring it forward and repent and try to do better.

bethanne May 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm

i actually saw a sermon where osteen said that if you want a car, pray that you’ll get that car… claim it, i guess, and you will get that car. he actually said that. i almost fell over. he’s a pretty powerful speaker but his message is not a Christian message, in my opinion. i feel like he just strings together a line of “self help” and “positive thinking” affirmations.

Catholic pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm

What C.P. said. Wow. Good stuff.

C.P. May 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm

It should be “he said” of course, not “I said”.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Sorry would put this on your other response but I can’t

1) While Peter was central in the early spread of the gospel (part of the meaning behind Matthew 16:18-19), the teaching of Scripture, taken in context, nowhere declares that he was in authority over the other apostles or over the Church (see Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Nor is it ever taught that the Bishop of Rome was to have primacy over the Church. Rather, there is only one reference in Scripture of Peter writing from “Babylon,” a name sometimes applied to Rome, found in 1 Peter 5:13. Primarily upon this, and the historical rise of the influence of the Bishop of Rome (due to the support of Constantine and the Roman emperors who followed him), comes the Roman Catholic Church teaching of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. However, Scripture shows that Peter’s authority was shared by the other apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20), and that the “loosing and binding” authority attributed to him was likewise shared by the local churches, not just their church leaders (see Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Titus 2:15; 3:10-11).

2) Nowhere does Scripture state that in order to keep the church from error, the authority of the apostles was passed on to those they ordained (apostolic succession). Apostolic succession is “read into” those verses that the Roman Catholic Church uses to support this doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:1; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). What Scripture DOES teach is that false teachings would arise even from among church leaders and that Christians were to compare the teachings of these later church leaders with Scripture, which alone is cited in the Bible as infallible. The Bible does not teach that the apostles were infallible, apart from what was written by them and incorporated into Scripture. Paul, in talking to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus, makes note of coming false teachers, and to fight against such error does NOT commend them to “the apostles and those who would carry on their authority,” but rather he commends them to “God and to the word of His grace…” (Acts 20:28-32).

Again, the Bible teaches that it is Scripture that is to be used as measuring stick to determine truth from error. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul states that it is not WHO teaches but WHAT is being taught that is to be used to determine truth from error. While the Roman Catholic Church continues to pronounce a curse to hell “anathema” upon those who would reject the authority of the Pope, Scripture reserves that curse for those who would teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).

3) While the Roman Catholic Church sees apostolic succession as logically necessary in order for God to unerringly guide the Church, Scripture states that God has provided for His church through:

(a) Infallible Scripture, (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Acts 17:10-12; Isaiah 8:20; 40:8; etc.) Note: Peter speaks of Paul’s writings in the same category as other Scripture (2 Peter 3:16),

(b) Christ’s unending high-priesthood in heaven (Hebrews 7:22-28),

(c) The provision of the Holy Spirit who guided the apostles into truth after Christ’s death (John 16:12-14), who gifts believers for the work of the ministry, including teaching (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16), and who uses the written word as His chief tool (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17).

While there have been good (humanly speaking) and moral men who have served as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the Roman Catholic Church teaching about the office of the Pope should be rejected because it is not “in continuity” with the teachings of the original church, that related to us in the New Testament. This comparison of any church’s teaching is essential, lest we miss the New Testament’s teaching concerning the gospel, and not only miss eternal life in heaven ourselves, but unwittingly lead others down the wrong path (Galatians 1:8-9).
I know it is all what you believe but no you do not have to be Catholic to be saved. You have to believe in the word of God

Catholic Pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Also, the Church condemns nobody to Hell. Ever.

Catholic Pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm

This is faulty logic as well. You’re using Scripture to prove that Scripture is infallible. That’s like me saying, “I’m always right because I say I am and that has to be true because I’m always right.” It makes no sense.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Revelation 22:18-19 (King James Version)

18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

This means that the book is complete and there are no Sacred Traditions that are handed down. It also states that someone who adds to the book is wrong.

Also Either you believe the written word or you’ll believe what MEN tell you about the written word. Catholics will tell you, “I believe the Bible is 100% true and I believe that Catholic Tradition is 100% true.” two contradictory documents cannot both be 100% true. It is logically impossible.

With that said maybe you need to rethink who is telling who what and if they are teaching you right and properly

Caroline May 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Once again, the thread has inevitably geared towards an “attack & defense” of Catholic doctrines & traditions. I have come to the conclusion that most people who get into these discussions HAVE already made up heir minds about where they stand on the issues. I have found the Bible to be “contradictory” in itself so when both sides of the arguments start quoting the Bible to support their arguments, it is difficult to say who’s right & who’s wrong; for eg. one book contends that “faith alone” is sufficient & another says “faith without works is dead”; but when I look at how Jesus lived His life & his many parables about works of charity & love, I get my answer.

I don’t think that to believe that the Bible & tradition are each 100% true is contradictory; I do find, however, that to say that Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man contradictory… but, yet, I believe that to be true.

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Rich – thanks for all your thoughts. Obviously, Catholics disagree with your personal, fallible interpretation of the scriptures. When interpreted according to the tradition of the Church and apostolic teaching, they all work in total harmony with no contradictions.

I would love to talk more with you about each of the issues you brought up, but this is not the place to do it (it gets a bit off topic from that of the original post) and there are more fundamental issues that should be dealt with first. Maybe you can check out the following posts (they’re a better starting point for us) and then comment over there on that topic?

Why should we believe in the Bible?
Why do Catholics believe in things not in the bible?

ALL – I welcome any and all comments on this post from everyone providing it is on topic for this post. Thanks a lot! I really appreciate it!

Rich May 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Mathew I have read your other posts and obviously there is enough over there that have stated their mind and what you have posted is nothing I don’t already know quite honestly but thanks for the link. You say to people over there how can they be sure about what they say and I ask the same thing to you. How can you be sure on what you post? You say it is Catholics who decided on what scriptures to put in the bible however I challenge you that maybe that was Gods will and if it was Gods will to say his word is truth than I think that puts to rest the claims that there is more out there that isn’t in the Bible. And you are taking “traditions” from man not from God. God clearly states that the Bible is the truth and for any man to say it is fallible is I am sure walking on eggshells if not worse. The teachings from the bible are not fallible. They can be misunderstood but not fallible

Catholic Pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 8:32 pm

God states the Bible is true…in the Bible. So God says the Bible is true and we know he’s telling the truth because the Bible is true because God says it is.

See how this is a logical fallacy?

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Rich – that doesn’t make any sense. But thanks for your thoughts.

Rich May 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm

The Holy Bible clearly states in Revelations as I have quoted above that anything added or taken away is false. The only word is the word of God thru scripture in the Bible. Catholic Doctrines are not in the Bible nor are their traditions. I was told here earlier that the only way to be saved is to be Catholic. That is also a false statement and it say’s that nowhere in the bible that being Catholic is the only way to salvation. If you find the bible contradictory than you are a far better person than I, I suppose. Because I find truth in it.


While the Roman Catholic Church sees apostolic succession as logically necessary in order for God to unerringly guide the Church, Scripture states that God has provided for His church through:

(a) Infallible Scripture, (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Acts 17:10-12; Isaiah 8:20; 40:8; etc.) Note: Peter speaks of Paul’s writings in the same category as other Scripture (2 Peter 3:16),

(b) Christ’s unending high-priesthood in heaven (Hebrews 7:22-28),

(c) The provision of the Holy Spirit who guided the apostles into truth after Christ’s death (John 16:12-14), who gifts believers for the work of the ministry, including teaching (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16), and who uses the written word as His chief tool (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17).

God has provided for hisCchurch thru Infallible scripture not Contradictory scripture

Catholic Pro-lifer May 4, 2010 at 8:24 pm

We’re not adding or taking away from the Bible. We’re stating things outside of the Bible. There’s a difference.

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Rich – again, I’m not following your argument here, nor your interpretations of scripture. And, again, this is not the place to discuss this as it is not on topic to the post. Additionally, the “Revelation 22:18-19” argument, if it DID mean what your out of context interpretation claims it to mean, it would be far TOO restrictive and would exclude every other book of scripture. When Revelation was written it was a stand-alone letter/book. It was the Catholic Church who later formed the canon of scripture. So if nothing is to be added or taken away from it (the book of Revelation), then you are defeating your own argument anyway. But if you want to continue discussing, take it up on a more appropriate post, please. These kinds of tangents take away from any meaningful discussion about the actual topic of the post…which is an interesting and worthwhile one itself. Thanks and God bless!

dbond May 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm

The saints have so very much to teach us with their lives, St. Francis of Assisi said:”. . .it is in giving that we receive. . .” He didn’t say :”it is in giving that we’ll get more stuff here on earth”. St. Francis was a wealthy young man, but realized that wealth and things did not give him joy. It was following Our Lord in poverty and total obedience that gave him joy, and in caring for all of God’s creation-most especially his fellow man. Just like Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Francis realized that in loving his fellow man, he was loving Jesus. In picking up his cross and following Jesus, St. Francis found riches beyond anything this world could give him. If having faith and giving for the sake of gaining temporal goods is the goal, then that is a shallow faith which is bound to dry up in the face of bad times. Like a seed that falls in arrid land, it will wither and blow away.

Matthew Warner May 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I totally agree, dbond.

Don in Texas May 5, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Matthew: I appreciate that you prefaced your statements regarding Osteen with “I think.” I don’t see one piece of evidence that waht you are saying is true. Have you ever gone to an Osteen event or perhaps one of his booksignings and spoken to the people who attend? Your editorial is not even a “hypothesis” since your guesses lack education. I have attended dozens of Osteen events and I have spoken to the people who attend. And, respectfully, I must tell you that you are so off base as to the effect Osteen’s message has on people as to remind me of when Jesus said, “You have ears but do not hear.” I really urge you to attend an Osteen event if and when one comes to your area. And, when you go, talk to the people who come to the event and ask them to tell you what caused them to begin listening to Joel and then ask them what effect it has had on their lives. Given your editorial and some of your responses here, I can guarantee that you will be surprised. I’ll give you a clue as to what you will never hear from them… you will not hear one single person tell you that they believe God wants them to be rich. They understand what God is saying to them through Joel…. you see… they have ears and they do hear.

Matthew Warner May 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Don – thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I have watched Joel Osteen’s service on TV numerous times. I think it’s wonderful if people get something positive out of it despite his “prosperity gospel.” I hope that it leads them into the truth. Like I indicated in the post, I can only speculate whether it is an overall positive or negative in the long run. But regarding his message…his words speak for themselves. I don’t have to make anything up or guess or hypothesize about it. Most of his message is a very incomplete Christian message – if that.

And this wasn’t a detailed analysis of Joel Osteen, it was more a general insight about this false prosperity gospel and the preachers/churches that use it…and often to take advantage of people in need. Osteen seems like he has good intentions, there are many others who, I believe, don’t. Either way, the message lacks the fullness of truth and from my experience is often a misunderstanding of the Christian faith.

If I get the chance though, I’ll be sure and try to “hear” him in person. Thanks for your thoughts!

Don in Texas May 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Matthew: Thank you for the civilized response. Though, I do not believe, hearing Osteen “in person,” will sound any different to you than when you listen to him on TV. What you must do is what Jesus told you to do… recognize him by his fruit. (Matt. 7:16)The “fruit” is the people who attend his events — the same people who watch him regularly, who buy his books, who download his podcasts, and support his ministry. If you just “lean on your own understanding” without doing what the lord told you to do then you are doing yourself and your readers a great injustice.
I am not a regular reader of your blog, but I am under the impression that you are Catholic. You may be rather surprised to find that a HUGE percentage of those who are attending Osteen’s events are also Catholic. Don’t take my word for it, come to an event and find out for yourself. Just talk to the people.
Matthew, regardless of what you “think” you hear, Osteen’s effect on millions of people is quite different than what you suggest in your editorial. I am not arguing with you, I am merely suggesting that the facts do not support your opinion. I have spent a great deal of time analyzing Osteen’s audience, I suggest you spend a little time doing the same.

Matthew Warner May 7, 2010 at 8:05 am

Don – there are two parts to this conversation. The first is whether or not Joel Osteen preaches a truly Christian Gospel. The second is whether or not what he preaches has an ultimately good result.

With regard to the second, this does indeed have to do with the “fruits” of his ministry. And I have no doubt that a lot of good things are done by his work. But the fruits I am referring to or “hypothesizing” about are not of this world and they are not short term. I am talking about long term spiritual fruits. Does it bring people to the Truth about Jesus Christ and the life He has commanded us to live. That’s a complicated question that is hard to analyze. If you have any documented work on it, I’d really be interested in checking it out. I mean that sincerely.

The reason I came to the conclusion I did is because I tend to think that such long term, persevering faith that is based in the Truth about Jesus Christ…is not generally going to come from somebody who is teaching a distorted gospel about Jesus Christ. Which leads me to my first point, does Osteen preach a truly Christian Gospel?

This question I can indeed answer from watching him on TV and I don’t need any information about his followers. His message simply does not jive with the entirety of scripture, nor with apostolic teaching, nor with the ancient and consistent Christian tradition. And as Christians, we don’t only base what we believe in by the immediate or perceived fruits that it brings (i.e. the results). In order for anything to be moral and good the means (or way) of getting those results must also be moral and based in truth. We can not justify spreading a false Gospel simply because we think it results in some perceived fruits. And, again, I still very much doubt whether the long term, meaningful fruits are really as fruitful as you seem to think.

Jesus teaches to hold to His teachings (scripture and tradition [1 Cor. 11:2]), regardless of the visible fruits we may receive or experience. And that really gets us back to the original problem with Osteen’s message. He undermines that entire, fundamental Christian principle.

And this is not just me “leaning on my own understanding.” I’m leaning on the understanding of the Church and 2000 years of scripture and tradition that consistently teaches this very thing (which happens to conflict with Osteen). From what I can tell, and I could be wrong, but from everything you’ve said, it seems like you are the one here who is “leaning ‘on your own understanding’ without doing what the lord told you to do.” He asks us to hold fast to his teachings – not just to follow our own understanding of perceived fruits.

And yes, I am Catholic. There are over a billion people alive today who are Catholic, but that doesn’t make them immune to falling for a false gospel.

God bless ya.

dbond May 7, 2010 at 12:21 am

What is your understanding and observation of the affect that Mr. Olsteen has on those who attend his talks? How do you know that a “HUGE” number of Catholics attend these seminars of Mr. Olsteen? Do you know enough about the Catholic Church to be able to say how and what Mr. Olsteen teaches differs or agrees with concerning the teachings of the Catholic Church? Are you yourself Catholic? Why do you feel that a person would have to be present physically to hear Mr. Olsteen in order to understand what it his message is? After all, doesn’t he sell his books and recordings in order to spread his message?
It does not seem fair to assert that Matt would need to be present at Mr. Olsteen’s “church” in order for Matt, or even Fr. Barron, to understand him. I wouldn’t think that his programs on tv and his recordings or in his book would take his words out of context or exclude the basic and fundamental teachings of Mr. Olsteen.
Don, can you explain to those of us, who, according to you, do not understand what it is that he teaches, on, say, matters of suffering and sacrifice, on faith, on good works, on the purpose of tithing, of giving without expecting to receive… in other words, could you tell us briefly, what you believe in your opinion are the facts as to what Mr. Olsteen’s message basically is? And, what is your observation specifically of the affect on those who have attended? Also, why you think that a “HUGE” number of those in attendance are Catholic, and what is your proof of that?
Your last comment leaves me wondering about these things, and I felt compelled to ask. Thank you.

Don in Texas May 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

dBond: This is exactly my point… Apparently you read the exchange between Matthew and myself, yet you completely misunderstood what was said. If you carefully re-read the exchange, you will see that I made exactly the same point as you are making with regard to him listening to Osteen “in person.” To repeat, I said, “Though, I do not believe, hearing Osteen “in person,” will sound any different to you than when you listen to him on TV.” I cannot make it any clearer than that. I cannot help but believe that once you became convinced that you did not agree with Joel Osteen, you began to hear what you wanted to hear.
As far as proof goes, I have conducted several surveys of different kinds at various Osteen events, and the facts that I am stating are true. It is you that has no evidence either of the number of Catholics who attend his events or his church or of the effect that his ministry has on people. Yet, that does not stop you from making assertions regarding his minstry. I find it ironic that you sit there and do nothing, all the while asking me for proof. If you really care about thruth, then find out for yourself. That is all I have encouraged you to do throughout my responses. Believe what you want to believe, it won’t matter at all to me, Joel Osteen, or to the millions of people who watch and listen to him.
Over the past 10 years, I have spoken to literally thousands of people who have established or re-established a true and meaningful repationship with Jesus Christ through Osteen’s ministry. Don’t believe me…. find out for yourself.

Kristi May 7, 2010 at 10:04 am

Matthew – I just wanted to say “thank you” and to encourge you to keep doing your wonderful work standing up for the Truth of Jesus Christ! You do an awesome job with Fallible Blogma, teaching and spreading the Catholic Faith, and dispelling errors and misconceptions. As a Catholic, I love reading your articles! Nothing is so exciting as hearing the Truth being preached with eloquence and true conviction! God bless you!

Anna May 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thank you so much for pointing this video out on Joel Osteen . i have seen him on Tv. I agree with you and the Catholic Church’s teaching, not Joel’s

Sue May 12, 2010 at 10:18 am

Just a thought about surveys – they are decidedly biased unless there is some kind of control built in. People may say anything they like about their relationship with God. Ultimately, He is the One who gets to decide that. They will say to me, Lord, Lord, look what we’ve done in Your name. If I understand correctly, the idea that is standing is not about what people think about their relationship to God, but what relationship actually exists, according to God. From my seat, no one knows that but God, and He is pretty clear. I’m not a Joel Osteen hater or lover, but let’s just say I am neutral because the work is God’s and not man’s.

Rosemarie November 8, 2010 at 12:12 am


Kings traditionally are concerned about pomp and circumstance, military might, taxes, palaces, and monuments. King Jesus is altogether different. When King Jesus “comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, He will sit upon His royal throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him” (Mt 25:31-32). He will judge on behalf of refugees, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned (Mt 25:36). He has no Pentagon, no military budget, and no national debt. He commands: “Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another” (Rm 13:8).

The poor are His priority. He commands us to serve the poor. Material poverty in the world indicates our spiritual poverty in the Church. If we bowed before Jesus as King, the poor would have the good news preached to them and be set free (Lk 4:18). If we had faith in King Jesus, we would “love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it” (1 Jn 3:18).

King Jesus not only helped the poor but became poor. “You are well acquainted with the favor shown you by our Lord Jesus Christ: how for your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty” (2 Cor 8:9). He chose to be born in a stable at Bethlehem, live in Nazareth, work at manual labor, and even die like a slave on a cross. King Jesus is a different kind of king. He’s the King of the poor, and the King of kings.

Annette January 16, 2011 at 7:21 am

Joel Osteen is more of an inspirational speaker with some God stuff sprinkled in. He gives analogies a lot. I used to do that in college to fill up space on a long report. For instance — filled with some personal tale. It deviates from having to elaborate in factual detail about the subject. It personalizes the topic. Joel does it all the time referencing his family members, friends and strangers. You will prosper. Such and such suffered, then she prayed. Now she’s the head of blank company or that farmer suffered until his debts were paid off by a miracle. It makes me want to play the lotto, not get closer to God.

dbond January 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I agree Annette. His talks remind me of chain letters and those email chain prayers: “if you do such and such, (say this certain prayer and send it to 10 people in the next ten minutes, etc., etc.) then something wonderful will happen on such and such day for you.” More like superstition than an act of faith. Where is God’s holy will in all of this?

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