Joel Osteen Tells
it like it is—finally
So there we were
outside a Bally Fitness Club in Fort Lauderdale several
years ago, "questionnaires" in hand, looking
for someone to ask about their faith or lack thereof. A
buff gentleman leaving the gym stopped to answer our pop
quiz, and being a friendly sort, he heard us out as we
presented the Gospel.
that while he was not exactly a follower of Christ, he
really enjoyed the upbeat messages of TV preacher Joel
Osteen. However, he didn't like D. James Kennedy, the late
pastor of nearby Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founder
of Coral Ridge Ministries..
He took issue with Dr. Kennedy over homosexuality, a matter of personal importance
to our parking lot friend and one about which Dr. Kennedy, who died in 2007,
was rather old school. Dr. Kennedy called it sin, did so publicly, and opposed
the homosexual political agenda. He also urged his congregation to pray for
homosexuals and do good to them. His church sponsored an outreach to help people
find freedom from homosexuality through Christ and gave money to help people
Despite that, local homosexual activists picketed his church on numerous occasions,
waving placards with pleasant messages like "Temple of Doom" and "Kennedy
= Hate Crimes."
It's safe to say that has never happened to Joel Osteen. Yet.
Up to now, "sin" has not been a regular part of Osteen's vocabulary.
Watched weekly by some 10 million people, Osteen is a telegenic preacher with
messages that breathe out optimism and are focused on helping viewers find
success and prosperity. His bestselling book, Your Best Life Now, has
sold eight million copies and mentions the word "sin" or "sins" a
total of four times in 310 pages.
The word "sin" didn't come out of his mouth in 2009, when both Larry
King and the ladies on The View asked him about same-sex unions. It's "not
God's best," he said, a comment that disappointed some evangelicals for
its moral ambiguity.
Homosexuals also felt dissed, but they are even more upset now in the wake
of Osteen's recent admission, when pressed by CNN interviewer Piers Morgan,
that homosexuality is sin.
Hi answer was not a bold declaration but, give him credit, one that is faithful
to Scripture: "Yes. I've always believed, Piers, the Scriptures shows
that it's a sin."
Osteen added: "But you know, I'm not one of those that are out there to
bash homosexuals and tell them that they're terrible people and all of that.
I mean, there are other sins in the Bible too."
That modest caveat didn't help. One of the nation's largest homosexual advocacy
groups, the Human Rights Campaign, blasted Osteen for his "hateful remark" and
demanded an immediate apology. HRC president Joe Solmonese charged that Osteen's "tired
and dangerous statement" only "furthers ignorance and discrimination" and "adds
a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or
But is it true? Do the "Scriptures show that homosexuality is sinful," as
The answer has been "yes" for the last 3,500 years, but recent attempts
to reinterpret Scripture have cast doubt on that claim and have been used to
bolster pro-homosexual arguments inside the church. In rebuking Osteen, the
HRC noted, for example, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and
the Episcopal Church accept homosexual conduct and "see God's divine presence
working across the spectrum of human sexuality," whatever that means.
We've heard lately from revisionists that the sin of Sodom was not sodomy,
but inhospitality (for that you get rained on with fire and brimstone?), and
that Paul's condemnation of homosexuality was not universal.
Author James De Young gives readers a comprehensive answer to these and many
other false assertions that seek to undermine the traditional biblical understanding
in his book, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the
Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law. It's a fascinating, if excruciatingly
detailed, refutation of revisionist scholars that looks at not just the relevant
Old and New Testament passages, but references in other ancient extra-biblical
literature, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, as well as other sources, including
The "inescapable conclusion," De Young writes, "is that the
Old Testament teaches that homosexuality is sin and brings God's judgment." And
that conclusion, he shows, is only reinforced in the New Testament.
The sin of Sodom, which God called "very grave," brought a unique
judgment in which Sodom, Gomorrah and surrounding cities were entirely destroyed.
The land smoked and Sodom became a symbol referenced 39 places in Scripture,
De Young writes, of "all sorts of sexual perversion, violence, and pride
that violates heterosexual marriage."
That's what we see in Genesis 19. When Lot's visitors arrived in Sodom, their
presence attracted a crowd from throughout the city: "And they called
to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring
them out to us that we may know them carnally" (Genesis 19:5 NKJV).
It's clear from the text and context that this was not a Welcome Wagon call,
but a mob seeking homosexual contact.
When Moses announced God's law to the Jewish nation, he included this rule: "You
shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination" (Leviticus
18:22 NKJV). Moses relayed this warning from God: "Do not defile yourselves
with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I
am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment
of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants."
Homosexual conduct, which was among the sins practiced by the prior occupants,
the Canaanites, brought God's judgment and their ouster.
In the New Testament, Paul condemns homosexuality as "vile passions" that
are "against nature."
But that's not all Paul has to say. He also offers hope. After telling Christians
in Corinth that "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor
homosexuals, nor sodomites...will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians
6:9), he adds this:
And such were some of you. But you
were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our
God. (I Corinthians 6:11)
As Joel Osteen
might say it, this is God's best.