Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Celebrity Gospel

Mark Creech says what needs to be said. And while it is a bit uncomfortable to see him going after Billy Graham and Joel Olsteen it needs to be said.

For instance, talk-show host Larry King, on CNN's Larry King Live, recently interviewed both men separately and in so many words asked them if they believed people of faith outside of Christ would go to heaven. Graham's answer: "That's in God's hands. I can't be the judge." Osteen responded: "Here's my thing .... I think it's wrong when you go around saying, you're saying you're not going, you're not going, you're not going, because it's not exactly my way." Both acknowledged their own faith in Christ, but wouldn't clearly delineate that there is only one mediator of salvation between God and man -- Jesus Christ (I Timothy. 2:5).

When King asked Graham and Osteen about involvement by preachers in politics, both expressed their own reluctance to do it. Graham said, "I'm trying to stay out of politics. And I've been queried quite a bit lately, why I don't take a stand on certain issues." Later in the same interview, King asked Graham whether he believed people were born homosexuals or not. Graham would only say, "Well, that's a big debate." King then pressed the issue and asked, "But if it's not a choice, it can't be a sin. Right?" To which Graham replied, "Well maybe. God will make that judgment, not me. I'm not deciding who's a sinner and who is not." When Osteen was asked by King about issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, he said he believed same-sex marriage was not what God intended, neither was abortion the best, but he wasn't going to call anyone a sinner. He added he doesn't even use the word "sinner."


At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Matt,

I didn’t get to listen to the entire program yesterday, but I heard the part about Joel Osteen and Billy Graham and heartily agree with you. I recently saw a panel of Christian ministers made up of Max Luccado, T. D. Jakes, a Roman Catholic priest I didn’t know, a minister of the United Church of Christ (liberal), John McArthur and Dr. Bob Jones, III. When Larry King asked them if Jesus was the only way to heaven, they all “back pedaled” except John McArthur and Dr. Bob Jones, III who very kindly an politely yet firmly declared that the Bible holds this out as the only way to heaven. The others waffled and said things like, “Well, for me Jesus is the only way, but only God knows whose are His.” The more liberal ones said that they had chosen Jesus but that they believed other religions led a person to heaven. Rick Warren was interviewed on Larry King later and he waffled too. I think it presents a tremendous problem to mix the “holy with the profane”. It is one thing to stand in church and declare Jesus is the only One by whom mankind can be saved. It is harder to look into the face of one you know is lost and tell him so. At least it is hard for today’s Christian who has books to sell and large churches to keep filled.

Matt, we live in a time when it is in style to be “uncertain and vague” about Godly things. It sounds so generous and benevolent to say, “Well, you know, I’m not really sure, but I believe Jesus is my Savior but I’m just hoping and trusting that it is o.k. Only God knows a man’s heart.”

I think about Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude, Martin Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Wesley, etc., etc., etc., that great cloud of witnesses. What must they think of us today with our soft, effeminate, touchy, feely witness! What must God be thinking of His Church who is supposed to be salt and light but they are out there kissing up to unbelievers just to keep their positions. Oh, well, I won’t go there, but I did appreciate your program and you were right. We all love Billy Graham, but he made enemies many years ago with those who loved him and helped him when he broke with them and began to staff his meetings with liberals and Catholics (you know, back then, it was considered blasphemous to join up with Catholics!). Joel Osteen is a nice young man. His father, John, was a Baptist preacher who came into the Charismatic movement early on. He was a nice man too, preaching the prosperity gospel. But Joel’s sermons are mostly motivational talks, humor and “God loves you and that’s all that counts” kind of gospel. The Church didn’t survive this long and go through all the persecution, mocking, derision she has endured because of an empty, non-substantive monologue rather than the kind of preaching that says, “Thus saith the Lord…”

Dr. R. C. Sproul said that he is asked that all the time, “Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Do you really believe a Jew is going to hell or a Muslim, etc.?” He said the first time he was asked this he was a young man and one of his professors asked him what he thought. He said he took a deep breath, prayed in his heart and said, “I am a Christian and I believe the Bible is God’s Word to Christians. I would be unfaithful to God if I believed anything other than what His Word says.” I thought that was good. Somewhere, sometime, we are going to have to give up being politically correct and quite worrying about and apologizing for what God Himself has said! How arrogant of us to take the world’s side against our Creator who gave us the breath we breathe! I’ll quit now.

Keep up the good work.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Marsha said...

I agree wholeheartly Jo.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous micah said...

good job Jo. BTW, is saying "prosperity gospel" different that calling Osteen a name it and claim preacher? Matt, 2 months ago you were all over the folks for hammering on Rick Warren, but this celebrity gospel is the same thing, giving unbelievers just the feel good part of the gospel, not preaching the cross and sin.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Osteen has the biggest church in America and is leading people to Christ but that doesn't count because you don't like his preaching style? Just because he is a positive person and doesn't jump down people's throats doesn't mean he isn't doing God's work. If he is leading people to be saved, does it matter if he's being optimistic? I don't think so. I've been to his church and it was totally moving. As for Billy Graham, how can you insult him?! It is totally mind-boggling to me! He is an incredible man of God and my best friend accepted Christ by reading a prayer he wrote. So what if he talks to liberals and Catholics? Since when is that a sin? God says don't judge. And if he says that he doesn't know about homosexuals I agree. He's not saying he's for it, he's just saying he's not going to be the judge of everyone. If we judged others, how could we ever lead anyone to Christ? Both of these men are heroes, and they shouldn't be criticized so much for little things they said (they're human) but should be appreciated because of their work towards God's kingdom. I am a born-again Christian and I think both these men are awesome. How would you feel if you worked so hard for God and received so much criticism from fellow believers?

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of "judging" others, it's a matter of being faithful to the word of God (by which we will all be judged).

Paul was no respecter of persons when he wrote the Galatians, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed".

I'm curious what Billy Graham or Joel Osteen would say to Larry King if he were sitting in the first row in one of their evangelistic services. What could they say? - "I'm going to tell you all how you to be saved today - but this doesn't apply to you Mr. King, I gave you your answer when I was on your program"?

The message shouldn't change just because the setting has changed. However, I do recognize that for certain audiences words must be carefully measured - perhaps that is what they were doing, just carelessly so.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous micah said...

AnonymousI, does the fact that Joel Osteen presents only the upbeat feel good part of the gospel not trouble you? He may have thousands of members in his church, but they are not hearing the the whole truth. Open your eyes, question preachers and evangelist. Test them against scripture. Do not be misled because the message sounds good or is drawing thousands of folks. If it is not the truth as presented by the Gospels or if they are not preaching about sin and the need to repent then they are not giving the truth to these folks. They are tickling their ears and condemning them. The truth will not attract everyone. Only those God is calling.

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, watched both programs and was apalled at what each preacher said. I don't understand. Br. Graham never misses a Larry King Live program? Is that program so important? or interesting? I have loved and supported his ministry over a period of years. I am so saddened by that entire program. Sometimes I think that most preachers feel and think this way -- then I think of my own precious pastor and know that not all preachers are alike. Praise God for those who still serve Him unconditionally. We are not to judge the lost, the we are to judge the "fruit" of the saved. Just keep that in mind.


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