Author Topic: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity  (Read 550 times)

D. Engebretson

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A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« on: November 05, 2021, 09:44:14 AM »
For years I have chafed at Joel Osteen, the "smiling prophet," who relentlessly pushes his prosperity Gospel and the message that happiness is the heart of the gospel.  I noticed early on his lack of what I will call a "theology of suffering."  Can't imagine this man as a real pastor with real people. 

Turns out I am far from alone, and now I have another book worth reading by author Kate Bowler.  I just read about her book in an RNS article: No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear), which is a refreshingly honest look at how life really looks.  She is Mennonite by background, a professor at Duke, and an author growing in popularity.  The book is a push-back on Osteen's 2004 bestseller, Your Best Life Now.

Although at first you might think Bowler to be a somewhat dour pessimist, she really does believe in hope. Biblical hope. She's just realistic about suffering in a sinful, broken world, something Osteen and others are not.  I like that.  It speaks to the world where I live and minister.  I've never had any use for the pat answer: Just be happy. 

Again, I haven't read the book, but it sounds interesting and I may just order it soon.  I think she's resonating with people who realize that Osteen and other prosperity gurus are not realistic or even usable. 

https://religionnews.com/2021/11/04/kate-bowler-wants-to-take-down-the-self-help-enterprise/?fbclid=IwAR01vNWuQEylSj9pob50qSUpc16NZCTiqG2iJ0LUVeEd8IJWEBoZamfXDDw
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2021, 09:59:38 AM »
But heh, it works for him. It made him a fortune!   ::)
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it’s not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Dave Likeness

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2021, 10:15:28 AM »
Kate Bowler probably has met 2 theologians in the Duke University
Divinity School.......Will Willimon and Richard Lischer both had been
on the faculty for a long time.  Both of them are strong in homiletics.
Lischer went through Milwaukee, Fort Wayne Sr.College, and St. Louis
Seminary.  He taught homiletics at Duke with the accent on law & gospel.

Dave Benke

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2021, 10:40:22 AM »
Great find, Don!

Here's an interview on a new book by Gavin Ortlund published by Baker called Why God Makes Sense in a World that Doesn't.  The interview, which is lengthy, is a wonderful insight into a Christian apologetics for our times that I can really get behind.  Time for me to buy a book from Baker.  https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/277427/?utm_source=parable

He makes a point that you have made on this forum, Don, about respect for the opinion of others with whom you disagree. 

Dave Benke

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2021, 10:43:56 AM »
Joel Osteen has gotten through life on just a high school diploma.
His education does not include a college diploma or a seminary degree.
He attended Oral Roberts University for one year and then dropped out.
He was ordained by his father in 1983 at the age of 18.

In 1999, he took over the ministry of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
after his father's sudden death that year.  During the previous 17 years
Joel was involved with the TV production of his father's ministry.

Joel does not conduct weddings or funerals.  He does not make hospital calls
or do pastoral counseling.  The church has other pastors on staff for these needs.
Self-help, positive thinking, health and wealth gospel are the focus of his sermons.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2021, 10:47:32 AM by Dave Likeness »

pastorg1@aol.com

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2021, 11:20:16 AM »
The point of the Summa is to be happy because to get to Heaven will be our greatest happiness in being with God.

Aquinas is dour in being a realist when he states: “God does not will evil to happen. He does not will evil not to happen. He permits evil to happen and this is a good.”

Peter (Everything will turn out for the best) Garrison
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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2021, 12:29:39 PM »
I read the article and have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I share the reaction against the positive thinking, prosperity "Gospel." But on the other hand, her project seems like mere reaction, like giving theological permission to wallow in the negative. For example, she references her first book, "Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I've Loved." Now, it is true that as sometimes pastorally applied, the idea that everything happens for a reason might ring hollow in many cases. But is it a lie? Are we instead to say of our suffering that it is meaningless, random and just sucks? It seems to me actual Christianity sanctifies suffering and the way of the cross precisely by imbuing it with meaning. When we cannot see the reason, faith rests on the assurance that God is not random or chaotic, and therefore I don't need to see the reason. I simply need to trust Him. As I see it, that is a much different message than the one Bowler seems to emphasize, at least as far as I can tell from the article.


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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2021, 12:34:40 PM »
Joel Osteen has gotten through life on just a high school diploma.
His education does not include a college diploma or a seminary degree.
He attended Oral Roberts University for one year and then dropped out.
He was ordained by his father in 1983 at the age of 18.

In 1999, he took over the ministry of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
after his father's sudden death that year.  During the previous 17 years
Joel was involved with the TV production of his father's ministry.

Joel does not conduct weddings or funerals.  He does not make hospital calls
or do pastoral counseling.  The church has other pastors on staff for these needs.
Self-help, positive thinking, health and wealth gospel are the focus of his sermons.


I was at an Alban Institute continuing education event and another pastor there had gone to one of their workshop for lead pastors of large congregations. He discovered that he was the only pastor there who conducted funerals. All the others left that to associate/assistant pastors.


Not quite as bad, when a friend was called as an associate to a large congregation after being a solo pastor in a small, rural congregation, he and the long-time lead pastor went to the hospital together. He was given a list of five people to visit and the lead had five names. He then told my friend to visit those folks and we'll meet back here in 10 minutes. He was used to spending at least 10 minutes with each hospitalized member. It was a different style of ministry.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2021, 01:25:21 PM »
I read the article and have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I share the reaction against the positive thinking, prosperity "Gospel." But on the other hand, her project seems like mere reaction, like giving theological permission to wallow in the negative. For example, she references her first book, "Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I've Loved." Now, it is true that as sometimes pastorally applied, the idea that everything happens for a reason might ring hollow in many cases. But is it a lie? Are we instead to say of our suffering that it is meaningless, random and just sucks? It seems to me actual Christianity sanctifies suffering and the way of the cross precisely by imbuing it with meaning. When we cannot see the reason, faith rests on the assurance that God is not random or chaotic, and therefore I don't need to see the reason. I simply need to trust Him. As I see it, that is a much different message than the one Bowler seems to emphasize, at least as far as I can tell from the article.
I have a slightly different perspective on bad things happening. I relate it to the concept of God's active and passive will. This may be heretical, but I do not believe that God is in complete control of the universe, by choice. When God decided to create persons who had free will He chose to allow those persons to choose contrary to what God wanted. They could frustrate God and sabotage what God wanted. The possibility that events would not play out exactly the way that God wanted was implicit in God's choice to allow free will. If people always had to choose what God wanted them to choose, it wouldn't be free will.


Thus I believe that God has allowed people to do and cause events and situations contrary to what God would want. I also believe that God has allowed a certain amount of randomness to enter into the world. Sometimes things just happen. In part I attribute this randomness to the corruption of nature that was one result of the Fall. Nature itself was bound to corruption by our Fall. The entire hydrological cycle whereby water evaporates from the sea (and other bodies of water), enters the atmosphere, and precipitates out as rain, thus watering the land has become not a smooth, gentle process whereby the land is evenly watered to a chaotic process in which some land is left dry and barren and other inundated and flooded, and rain is not always a gentle watering but also stormy and destructive.


Through it all, God at times takes direct control so that some events that He decides upon will happen no matter what people decide (the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, for example). When God decides to take action nothing will stop Him. And God can even take the contrary decisions of people or even random events and weave them into His plans. God may not have wanted bad things to happen, but He can still make good come out of them.


I do not see the Bible telling us that God has promised that bad things are not going to happen, that the world will not at times be random or chaotic. Contrary to prosperity gospel teaching, God does not promise us an easy life. We are sinners living in a sinful world where bad things happen. And bad things are going to happen to people who don't deserve it. What God has assured us is the ultimately, He is in control and will used the bad things of this world ultimately for our good.


Everything happen for a reason? Perhaps, but we are simply not guaranteed that we will always understand that reason. And sin entering into the world messed things up.
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peter_speckhard

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2021, 01:40:40 PM »
I read the article and have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I share the reaction against the positive thinking, prosperity "Gospel." But on the other hand, her project seems like mere reaction, like giving theological permission to wallow in the negative. For example, she references her first book, "Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I've Loved." Now, it is true that as sometimes pastorally applied, the idea that everything happens for a reason might ring hollow in many cases. But is it a lie? Are we instead to say of our suffering that it is meaningless, random and just sucks? It seems to me actual Christianity sanctifies suffering and the way of the cross precisely by imbuing it with meaning. When we cannot see the reason, faith rests on the assurance that God is not random or chaotic, and therefore I don't need to see the reason. I simply need to trust Him. As I see it, that is a much different message than the one Bowler seems to emphasize, at least as far as I can tell from the article.
I have a slightly different perspective on bad things happening. I relate it to the concept of God's active and passive will. This may be heretical, but I do not believe that God is in complete control of the universe, by choice. When God decided to create persons who had free will He chose to allow those persons to choose contrary to what God wanted. They could frustrate God and sabotage what God wanted. The possibility that events would not play out exactly the way that God wanted was implicit in God's choice to allow free will. If people always had to choose what God wanted them to choose, it wouldn't be free will.


Thus I believe that God has allowed people to do and cause events and situations contrary to what God would want. I also believe that God has allowed a certain amount of randomness to enter into the world. Sometimes things just happen. In part I attribute this randomness to the corruption of nature that was one result of the Fall. Nature itself was bound to corruption by our Fall. The entire hydrological cycle whereby water evaporates from the sea (and other bodies of water), enters the atmosphere, and precipitates out as rain, thus watering the land has become not a smooth, gentle process whereby the land is evenly watered to a chaotic process in which some land is left dry and barren and other inundated and flooded, and rain is not always a gentle watering but also stormy and destructive.


Through it all, God at times takes direct control so that some events that He decides upon will happen no matter what people decide (the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, for example). When God decides to take action nothing will stop Him. And God can even take the contrary decisions of people or even random events and weave them into His plans. God may not have wanted bad things to happen, but He can still make good come out of them.


I do not see the Bible telling us that God has promised that bad things are not going to happen, that the world will not at times be random or chaotic. Contrary to prosperity gospel teaching, God does not promise us an easy life. We are sinners living in a sinful world where bad things happen. And bad things are going to happen to people who don't deserve it. What God has assured us is the ultimately, He is in control and will used the bad things of this world ultimately for our good.


Everything happen for a reason? Perhaps, but we are simply not guaranteed that we will always understand that reason. And sin entering into the world messed things up.
If everything works out for the good of those who love God and are called in His plan, then "everything" can't include genuine randomness. As in Job, Satan needs God's permission to kill and destroy, and yes, the distinction between active/passive will is important, but I think the promise precludes the idea that suffering may be meaningless because it was a result of randomness. Nobody can pray to a God who just might say, "Yeah, that was just sort of random. Bummer for you though."

I take comfort in the story of the man born blind not merely because he of all the blind people received his sight but because Jesus gave the real reason he was born blind. It happened for a reason that nobody knew until then, and they should have trusted God to have a reason rather than speculate and assign reasons that made sense to them. We ought not force our reasoning onto the events in our lives, but we also not give up trust that reasons are there.

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2021, 02:19:56 PM »
Re: Trying to control big things…

“ In a wide-ranging talk on racial inequality and new social justice movements in America, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles cautioned against the rise of what he described as new political religions. “With the breakdown of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the rise of secularism, political belief systems based on social justice or personal identity have come to fill the space that Christian belief and practice once occupied,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.”

Peter (About 347 of 350 sermons I’ve heard since retiring) Garrison

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2021, 03:22:43 PM »
Re: Trying to control big things…

“ In a wide-ranging talk on racial inequality and new social justice movements in America, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles cautioned against the rise of what he described as new political religions. “With the breakdown of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the rise of secularism, political belief systems based on social justice or personal identity have come to fill the space that Christian belief and practice once occupied,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.”

Peter (About 347 of 350 sermons I’ve heard since retiring) Garrison
I think that nails it. Post-Christian culture does not even have the strength of pre-Christian culture. Cast the demons out of a pagan culture, great. But if that culture then abandons the One who can cast out demons, the demons return in force, and the last state of that culture is worse than the first.

Dave Benke

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Re: A Push-Back on Osteen's Relentless Positivity
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2021, 05:50:54 PM »
Re: Trying to control big things…

“ In a wide-ranging talk on racial inequality and new social justice movements in America, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles cautioned against the rise of what he described as new political religions. “With the breakdown of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the rise of secularism, political belief systems based on social justice or personal identity have come to fill the space that Christian belief and practice once occupied,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.”

Peter (About 347 of 350 sermons I’ve heard since retiring) Garrison

That's not good - you have to come out of retirement!

Dave Benke