Joel’s Not So Bad After All?

Mark Driscoll on Joel Osteen

UPDATED 14:02 5 Feb 2013

So says YRR (Young, Restless, and Reformed) leader Mark Driscoll in an interview (regarding his forthcoming book) published by the TGC:

Q: You observe that “appreciated people” exchange grumbling for praying, competing for celebrating, bitterness for thankfulness, performing for serving, and boasting for encouraging. What’s an “appreciated person”? Isn’t that what Joel Osteen wants me to be?

A: I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants. A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety. Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering.

So, there are two utterly competing accounts of Joel Osteen’s message before us.  Either Osteen’s is a false gospel or he has been misunderstood. James Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy, has produced a scorecard by which to evaluate Osteen’s message. The key phrases under the Osteen column are telling. More pointedly, Mike Horton writes:

Make no mistake about it, behind all of the smiles, there is a thorough-going religion of works-righteousness: “God’s plan for each of our lives is that we continually rise to new levels. But how high we go in life, and how much of God’s favor and blessings we experience, will be directly related to how well we follow His directions.” God “is waiting for your obedience so He can release more of His favor and blessings in your life…My question to you is: How high do you want to rise? Do you want to continue to increase? Do you want to see more of God’s blessings and favor? If so, the higher we go, the more disciplined we must be; the quicker we must obey.” “You don’t get the grace unless you step out. You have to make the first move. God will see that step of faith and He’ll give you supernatural strength to help you overcome any obstacles standing in the way of doing the right thing…Remember: How high you go in life will be directly related to how obedient your are.”

According to Brian Lee, what it missing from Osteen’s message is any account of sin:

It is not primarily the details of Osteen’s biblical sunbeams that are problematic. It’s the overall message. What’s missing is any sense of human sin. Osteen leads his crowd in a mantra at the opening of his performance: “This is my Bible. Tonight I will be taught the word of God. I can do what it says I can do.” Again, bootstraps.

That struck me too. As I read Driscoll’s comments I was thinking “What about Romans 7?”

We aren’t surprised that Joel Osteen corrupts the Christian faith. What is surprising is that a leader of the YRR movement seems to miss that.


Apparently Driscoll’s views on Osteen’s value as a piñata have shifted.

Here are some related posts:

First Pork Then Circumcision?

Mike Horton Discusses Osteen on 60 Minutes

In John’s Latitudinarian Garage

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  1. At first sight, this seems like either theological slippage on Driscoll’s part, or a case of very poor discernment. It’s hard to tell which.

    To put the best spin on it, we all can use a reminder that a preacher of the Gospel should never come across as a “scold” or a “sourpuss.” Duh. If that’s all that Driscoll meant, he could have said it easily. Just a moment’s reflection would bring to mind numerous solid (and Reformed) Christians who were full to overflowing with the joy of Christ. C. H. Spurgeon would be a natural place to start. But to lend credence to one of the most vacuous voices of our day, and to prop up an “evangelical” whose public preaching is almost entirely devoid of the Gospel, is inexcusable form someone who should know better.

    I just can’t understand this. I can already hear the “all-purpose dodge” from Mark Driscoll: “I was taken out of context.”

    There’s an old rule of writing and public speaking: Use the best examples to make your case, not the worst.

  2. This slippage seems to happen more often with those who are young and restless, not those who are actually Reformed. And, Frank, all due respect, C.H. Spurgeon was not Reformed, not in the proper historical and confessional sense of the term, which is the way the term should be used.

  3. I checked the links & the video was taken in 2007, whereas the article was posted last week. I didn’t initially take note of the date the article was posted & had originally read the update as if the video had followed the posting of the article at a later date.

    So it would seem that if Driscoll’s Osteen has changed, then it has moved from a sound position to, at best an unclear position, where he is giving an uncertain sound.

  4. Ash,

    I’m perfectly aware of the view that we should use the term “Reformed” only in reference to one who subscribes to the Reformed confessions (as I do, enthusiastically, without reservations or exceptions). I’ve read Dr. Clark’s book, too, respect that position. I have never been overly scrupulous in this regard, however, and don’t intend to start now. Everyone knows what we mean by calling Spurgeon or MacArthur or Piper “Reformed.” A term may be used in a broad or a narrow sense, each of which may be appropriate given the context. And I’m perfectly comfortable with the designation “Reformed Baptist.” In fact, it yields more useful information than “Calvinistic Baptist.”

    I take a hard line on many things – just ask my fellow elders. This matter of terminology is not one of them.

  5. After the whole Elephant Room debacle, I have found it very hard to take anything Driscoll has to say seriously. It seems he had a lot to gain by the way of mainstream cred by not pressing Jakes, why would he double back and press Osteen? Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a person is to realize their ambitions. So he has a national audience, now what?

  6. >>>>there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants.<<<

    It is depressing to learn that the emperor wears no clothes, to stand around in a drought observing the clouds and wind but no rain. Medieval Rome's message of "try harder" is very depressing.

  7. BTW, of the most commonly prescribed drugs, not one is an antidepressant. Number one is a pain killer. Several others are blood pressure meds. or antacids. Two are antibiotics and one is a thyroid medication. Source: Web MD.

    Listening to Osteen or Driscoll could easily cause someone’s blood pressure to rise and certainly cause heartburn. And if what they heard caused them to bang their head in disbelief, they may need that painkiller and an antibiotic.

  8. Why does Mark Driscoll even get to sit at the adult table? He’s a self-made pastor-celebrity who sees visions of his congregants engaged in adultery. I hope he preaches the gospel but I won’t be anxiously awaiting updates as to whom he approves.

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