Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Word Faith Movement and The Secret

There are a lot of similarities between the Word Faith movement and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. In The Secret you have a law of attraction and that law of attraction is an impersonal force by which you can create your own reality. For example, you can attract thinness to yourself by thinking thin thoughts. Here's how Rhonda Byrne puts it. She says to transform herself from fat to thin she thought thin thoughts and she didn't so much as look at fat people. Here's a direct quote:

"If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it. As a result" she says, "I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want."

And in The Secret itself, if you read the book, she says that the error is to think that food is responsible for weight gain and she points out it's not food, it's thoughts. In fact, here's how she puts it:

"The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now, it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight. Remember, thoughts are the primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts. Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight."

Now if you look at Joel Osteen - and you can find her book sandwiched in between his two mega-bestsellers in most bookstores today - he says essentially the same thing. For Rhonda Byrne the genie is the law of attraction; for Joel Osteen it's the word of faith, and so he's committed to the notion that faith is a force, that words are the containers of the force and through the force of faith you can create your own reality.

If you look at his bestseller Your Best Life Now he says "You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle and it works whether you are saying something good or bad, positive or negative." In other words, if you say negative things, negative things will happen to you. If you speak words of fear, bad things are going to happen to you. Speak words of faith, good things are going to happen to you.

In fact, he goes so far as to say - and he uses this as an illustration - that there's a guy named Joe and had he changed his name to Joseph he could have prevented five deaths in his family. He didn't realize until a long time afterward that Joseph was what he should go by and by using Joe he was calling all kinds of bad things into his life.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now if we could just get the Osteen fans in our church to understand this prosperity gospel is not the real gospel.

Don in Texas said...

The problem is NOT to get Osteen fans in your church to understand that the prosperity gospel is not the real gospel, the problem lies with identifying Osteen with the Prosperity Gospel. This is the logic: Osteen's critics (like Hank) have determined a set of criteria to define the Prosperity Gospel. Then they use those criteria to criticize Osteen. Their problem is that Osteen does not fit the criteria. He never preaches about money, he never asks for money on TV, and he NEVER says God wants us to be rich. While Hank and the other critics don't really watch him regularly, the "fans" in your church do. They know he does not preach about the things he's accused of preaching about so the criticisms don't resonate with them. Which means Osteen's ministry keeps growing by leaps and bounds while Hank and the other critics stand there scratching their heads.

Now, you might be able to get Osteen on the Word of Faith argument as he does talk a lot about that. The main obstacle to overcome is that the "Osteen fans" in your church agree with him. They actually believe that God's words have power, even when THEY use them. After all, the argument goes, God's word is alive and all-powerful and He dwells inside of us. Let's give it a try! After all, what is the worst that can happen if I began to declare God's words over a bad situation (say cancer or a huge debt that I owe)? Perhaps, it won't work. But who is giving me any better answers? ...Hank? ...The other Osteen critics? No. So what if I die from the cancer? Is God going to say, "Hey, you declared 1 Peter 2:24 (...by His stripes you were healed) and it doesn't work that way... So off to Hell with you!" Most people don't think God is going to say that. Face it; most people just don't see it as an abomination to God to use His own words in their life.

Finally, let me say that most people I've spoken to who listen to Osteen say they are experiencing a new closeness with God. "Greater relationship with God" is one of the most common phrases used by his regular viewers and congregants. Osteen actually has them praying in parking lots. His critics have a hey-day with that one, but the reality is that no other preacher on the planet has more people praying in more places or more often than does Osteen.

Anyway, if you want to turn your congregants away from Osteen, you have a big job on your hands. You are going to have to convince them that YOU can offer them a better relationship with God than the one Osteen tells them about.

Of course, there is one other possibility. What if Osteen is being used by God? After all, while his critics say he uses “God,” but not “Jesus” enough, the fact remains that thousands have come to know Christ through his ministry. When Osteen tells his TV audience to get into a good Bible-based church many viewers actually respond. Pastors and ministers all over the country attest to that. While the critics don’t seem to get it, much of the public does. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that most people (Christians and non-Christians alike) identify Osteen and his message as Christian. I doubt that anyone has ever come up to Osteen and said, “Hey, great sermon; I think I’ll give my life to Mohammed.”

Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, you might want to consider that God just might just be using this guy. And, if He is, what can you possibly say to God for turning people away?

Anonymous said...

Well Don, you couldn't be any more wrong. There is no problem identifying Osteen with the prosperity gospel AND the WoF movement. Neither are the gospels of the bible and both are very similar. It's well documented and quite obvious when compared.

Reputable critics like Hank and people that actually have spent countless hours and discipline truly studying the bible and getting degrees and applying it appropriately have rightly lumped Osteen in with the other prosperity preachers. He's had no biblical schooling, not that that is the defining rod for a true Christian teacher, but it certainly lends credibility.

WoF/Prosperity; it's the same garbage.

Your supposed logic that Osteen's "ministry keeps growing by leaps and bounds while Hank.... " is faulty. Benny Hinn's ministry is huge and he's clearly a false teacher (though you probably think he isn't).

One of the many problems with WoFers is that they claim power in God and that physical healing is guaranteed in the atonement, they don't say, "only if it's God's will, will I be healed." The power isn't in the words,Don. The power is in God and His will. So go ahead and name it and claim it and use God as a genie. That's your (decideously unbiblical) choice.

Great, Osteen's got people praying. They're praying for a happy life, no suffering, even though it's a blessing to suffer for Christ, but Osteen won't tell them that. He tells them God wants them to be happy. He doesn't even call himself a preacher, but a motivational speaker. He shouldn't have a church, of any size. His fans are the types that are not interested in anything theological.
Osteen thinks his Jesus is the same as Mitt Romney's Jesus. Do you think they're the same, Don?

Anonymous said...

Wow, who knew there were all these different Jesus' running around. I bet YOUR Jesus is the right one though, because certainly using a deceptive term like "different Jesus" is not at all intended to hide shoddy reasoning in favor of an emotional reaction.

Anonymous said...

Well obviously YOU have no idea who Jesus is or that people have incorrect facts about Him. Yes, my Jesus is the right one because He is the historical Jesus of the bible. Your Jesus is most likely whatever you want him to be.

And you neglected to unpack my "shoddy reasoning".

Don in Texas said...

Anonymous #2: Sticking your head in the sand and saying that there is no problem identifying Osteen with the Prosperity Gospel is the reason that the critics are ineffective against him. The first tenet of the Prosperity Gospel is the belief that God wants you to be rich. I challenge you to find ONE instance where Joel Osteen has ever said that. He's preached 400 sermons on TV and conducted hundreds of interviews -- yet, you will not find it.

BALight said...

Don - you are right. Hank won't be able to give you one example. I've been listening to Joel for years and I've never heard him ask for money let alone say God wants you to be rich. But, according to people like Hank, God wants you to be poor.

Hank spreads hate and discord to his listeners, and Joel preaches about love and hope. I would venture to say God is much more pleased with the fruit of Joel Osteen.

Anonymous said...

To Don and balight:

Whether he's asked for money or not; that's not the point here. He's lumped in with the prosperity gospel because it's the same type of God wants you to be happy, especially materially, and not suffer and blah blah blah. Apparently you agree with this even though this is unbiblical. In fact, you can expect to suffer more when you become a Christian. But I'm sure you get both get quite angry when you suffer for Christ.

Hank's not saying that God wants Christians to be poor. That's ridiculous. He's never said that. Nice try though.

The reason critics are supposedly ineffective is because people like you are not interested in objective teaching. You care only for subjective experiences and getting your best life now. Osteen calls himself a motivational speaker, not a preacher. Do you really believe that is a proper title someone should give himself when he's running a megachurch and influencing millions of people with his self-help messages? Not sermons. He doesn't give sermons. Please try to pay attention.

You both obviously have no problem, nor do you see the error, with Osteen saying that Mitt Romney's God is the same as his God.

Denise said...

Why do those who rail against Hank(Don, balight, the Mormon guy Nick) listen to his show? Surely Don and balight would prefer a radio show by Joyce Meyer, Osteen, Hinn, Creflo Dollar, etc.

And are there no Mormon radio shows for Nick?

C'mon people.

Don in Texas said...

Anonymous: I see that you haven't found where Joel says God wants you to be rich -- I knew you wouldn't. So now you're throwing everything at him but the kitchen sink.

If you actually listened to Joel Osteen, you WOULLD hear him speak about suffering. He says that you are going to suffer in this life, but that you have to "Keep your eyes focused on God, not on your problems." He has said that about a million times.

The point of all this is that the criticisms are not resonating. The first post by the original 'anonymous' complained about the Joel Osteen fans in his church. The fact is that there are millions of them... faithfully attending church each Sunday and then going home and listening to Joel Osteen on TV, buying his books, and telling others about him. They already understand the that Christ is the ONLY way and that they may have to suffer for His sake.

They don't yearn for riches, yachts, private planes, or even bigger houses. What they yearn for is what Joel Osteen tells them about -- a close loving relationship with God and the knowledge that He loves them and cares about their lives. They want to believe that He will always be there for them -- never forsaking them. And, they love Joel Osteen because he tells them that this is true.

Before Joel, they prayed in church and maybe with their children before bedtime. Now, they talk to God all the time. They talk to God about their boss, their children, their marriage, and their credit card debt. They talk to God about the big things and the little things -- because they think He cares about it all. Their lives have been impacted deeply by Joel's ministry because they no longer feel alone with their worries, concerns, and suffering. You see, people don't have to be told about suffering, they know first hand about it.

So you just keep finding things to criticizing Joel about, and let that be your ministry. It will surely be your legacy.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes God wants us to suffer please help me understand why a loving God would want His children to suffer ("the same type of God wants you to be happy, especially materially, and not suffer and blah blah blah.")? I guess He is not as good as any ordinary human who wants to see his children BLESSED? Everyday moms and dads would never subject their children to harmful circumstances "just to teach them something."

BTW, God DOES want you financially blessed. All you have to do is read the BIBLE. :)

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Anonymous said...

Don, you did a great job at avoiding giving an answer to why Joel calls himself a motivational speaker instead of a preacher and the fact that he believes the Jesus of Christianity is the same as the Jesus of Mormonism. I can provide the interview in both text and video that shows him doing such.

Anyway, you need to get busy having your best life now. That's apparently more important to you than having your best life AFTER this earthly life when your with Christ.

As I said, Osteen/prosperity gospel fans are obsessed with subjective emotionalism instead of the objective truth of the word of God.

Don in Texas said...

Anonymous: Apparently, Osteen's reference to himself as a motivational speaker is offensive to you, so let me offer this thought. When Osteen began speaking in 1999 he did so at Lakewood Church where everyone already understood the message of the cross and salvation. In fact, if you watch Osteen's televised sermons today, he is still doing that -- preaching in his church to people who are familiar already with the basic tenets of Christianity. In fact, the majority of his television viewers, as well as those who buy his books, are people who either attend church regularly or people who once went to church but have fallen away. They already understand the meaning of Jesus Christ's birth, death, and resurrection -- even though they may not be living it.

Osteen's mission is not to convince them of the truth, but to motivate them to be bold in their faith -- to know that God is their God and that they are always in His presence.

It is interesting that one of his favorite chapters in the Bible is Joel 3. In verse 9 (his favorite according to one interview I saw)it reads, "Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up."

Whether you see it or not, Joel Osteen is preparing a generation of warriors -- men and women of God who strength comes from the joy of knowing who they are and Whose they are. Their Best life is not riches or money -- he never says it is. Their best life is knowing what it means to serve and belong to Him.

Gladys said...

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is filled with instances of The Secret principles. Read a short essay that draws parallels between
the message of The Secret and the 19th century English novel here

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm no theologian and I'm not sure where to lump J.O. just yet - ultimatley God will deal with him accordingly. However, as a long time christian and as someone who has watched some of his programs and read bits and pieces of his writings, I raise an eyebrow.
First, Christ told us to go out and preach the Gospel - while I have never heard J.O. ask for money, I also have never heard him explain the basics of coming to faith in Christ. Don in Texas, your January 28th posting about J.O.'s audience is a very broad assumption. My guess is that the 'one' non-christian that tunes in will no more know how to come to Christ than when he first started watching (ot reading).
In fact, that brings up another problem I have with J.O. - everything, including the title of his book, is focused on 'you'. The best I can tell from the Gospel accounts is that Christ worried about others first and himself lastly. So much so that '..the son of man has no place to lay his head. (Matt 8:20)' J.O's message seems very self-centered. The Christ I know wouldn't and didn't teach mainly about making sure that you have a great self-image, that you live confortably, etc. etc.
I've never heard J.O. ask for money, but I vividly remember one of the first 'messages' I heard of his - he talked about how he and his wife would drive by and walk past this house that was more than they could ever hope for, how they would pray for receiving that house and imagine living in it. He went on to wave his words like a banner that today it is the very house he now lives in. This has concerned me from the start and concerns me still.

icebreaker said...

Well , well , well Hank Hanegraaff I just lost the e-mail I was writing to you, maybe its just as well. You are speaking against Christ when you speak against Brother Copeland or Joel Osteen or any other Born Again Christian. Perhaps its time for me to expose the exposers? If we walk in the Light there is no occasion of stumbling in us as Christians, if we hate our brother we walk in darkness. Do these words sound familiar? It seems according to Hank Hanegraaff everything is false, everything is heresy( more like hearsay or gossip really) like this blog, lets talk about everybody, especially those prosperity preachers or those Christians who write a great book and it ends up on the New York Times best seller list for a year. I will take you on anytime Mr. Hanegraaff, any place about you attacking believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and wrapping it all up with your knowledge of the Word of God. Of course once you find out I'm a Hollywood writer I may be branded of the devil even though I love the Lord Jesus Christ, but at least I'm spending my time trying to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. These six things does God hate , yea seven are an abomination, he that sows discord among the brethren is one of them. You are not walking in Love to be damaging the unity of the Body of Christ with all your heresy hunting and opinions, and thats what most of what you have to say is, your opinion. So you have heard mine. So get ready for a web site that will promote love and unity. Your expose may be coming sooner than you think. Your gossip must be exposed.

Michael Driscoll
icebreakerfilms@yahoo.com

Crystal L Whitfield said...

I have your book. I'm not finished reading it yet but, I really enjoy your teaching. Thank you for being an instrument of the TRUE JESUS. Thanks for telling the truth about Patricia King.

Glen from Canada said...

Hey, I heard that Joel Osteen never talks about salvation from sin. I really thought that was strange for a preacher of his status. One day I just happened to come across him on TV, and the very first words I heard him say was, "and you can find forgiveness for your sin by coming to Jesus Christ and receiving His salvation"! Tell me, where do Joel's critics get off at?