I never had any interest in Osteen's preaching and teaching. I would hear some folks say he's not evangelical and that what he teaches is heretical. The little that I heard of Osteen didn't impress as being heretical in every respect, but heresy is never usually heretical in EVERY respect. It's heretical in one aspect. If you were to say that God the Son is both fully human and fully man but that God the Son's divine nature could not and did not feel any pain then that would rupture the unity of hypostatic union and you'd be a heretic, basically. To argue that God the Son did not feel pain on the Cross is the sort of thing that makes a mockery of Scripture and also reveals (potentially) a desire to have a variation of Docetism (there's another name for it but I'm not so theologically geeky today as to feel like using the term).
And sometimes heresy is revealed not so much through direct actions or statements as the implications and actions taken in light of that conviction. If you decide that you don't have to tell someone they've sinned against you and that they have to recognize their sin, well, that's hardly heresy, but it's disconcerting because you might have to, you know, obey Jesus' teaching and tell that person they've sinned against you.
But as the Osteen trial may suggest, the not telling people stuff may often consist of what we consider ourselves entitled to that we are not entitled to. As a single man I know that any number of single people feel entitled to be married at some level. Personally I figure any woman who would take me as husband material has a problem and perhaps it's best that I say this in a pseudonymous post so that any woman who might have entertained me as a remotely viable candidate for marriage will be less likely to read this part where I say that, regretfully, she must be ignorant as to my true character or a bit crazy.
As no doubt two-million other people on the blogosphere have blogged, here's the quote from Osteen that will be blogged around the world for possibly a generation.
"You feel that you're entitled to the favor of God ... to do things other people can't do," McKamie said."All of God's children are," Osteen said.
As Peter Gabriel's satirical character put it in the eponymously titled song,
"You're not one of us!"
Okay, for those who don't know how to read Webdings, it means:
"You're not one of us!"
If Osteen and his wife have that kind of attitude that says they don't have to clean up their own mess because the flight attendent is there that's unfortunate. Suing the Osteens for a tithe of their value is reprehensible. The allegation of assault withstanding it's just ridiculous and it speaks badly of our society as a whole that this is a suit that happened and made the news but it's trebly shameful because it involves a minister who some Christians have defended as being a real minister of the Gospel and a public trial gets under way and under oath Osteen says stuff to the effect that Christians are entitled to ignore or break any codes of conduct they want as a sign of God's favor. For me the unsettling thing is that this is not the best way for Osteen to be a witness to Christ. The Gospel doesn't seem like it's likely to get promoted any further by this. This is the part where the Osteens could consider Paul's admonition, "Why not rather be wronged?"
Now is Osteen really a heretic or preaching a false Gospel? I know people say that but what bothers me about this case is that Osteen DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A HERETIC OR A FALSE TEACHER TO DEFAME THE GOSPEL. Most people who defame the Gospel are not obviously heretics but are standing on their soap boxes for what they believe to be God's revealed truth. A person may start off on a path loving God with good influences but end in tragedy, idolatry, and self-regard.
Joash is the most sobering example I can think of. He began well,trained by the high priest of his day. He rebuked the priests as a group for failing to tend to the house of God (they were apparently either not collecting money or merely collecting it for their own ends and some scholars think embezzlement may have been afoot). Joash rebuked the priests and the high priest particularly repented and took action. The idols during this time were not taken down and some of the devoted things were stolen and made into idols. Things made for God for use in the temple were stolen and made idols. That could be a whole allegory, if you will, about what this may mean in every day Christian life where things created by men to serve God's people are appropriated and made idols. Almost any church could, by way of allegory, be this sort of thing stolen from the temple and taken by people to be an idol. Perhaps that's too Augustinian an approach! Never mind!
But after the high priest died the nobles of Judah bowed low to Joash and he listened to them. What did they want. Why, to worship idols of course! They wanted a bit more leniency on things and because the were such amazing boot-lickers in how they made their case Joash listened to them. The son of the high priest who trained Joash in the ways of the Lord objected. He declared to Joash and Judah that God had forsaken them because they had forsaken God. Joash had Zechariah the high priest murdered. Zechariah's murder is the end of the line in celebrity martyrdom from Jesus' lips in the New Testament. So while Joash started off well his end was shameful. He gave away things from the temple to pay tribute to an invading army and personally ordered the murder of the high priest. Finally Joash was assasinated by his own servants!
A note to pastors, it does not matter how well you start off, your ability to give way to idolatry because your underlings tell you what you want to hear can happen at any time, and is likely to happen when you have removed yourself from the influence of those who brought you up in the ways of the Lord. Consider the example of Joash. Who would be the high priest whose absence from your life would be a sign of danger that you are going off course? The key is not to make sure you don't lose that person but to acknowledge now that we serve God with accountability, not the accountability of people who are hundreds or thousands of miles away in spirit or in truth, but people who know us so well that they can rebuke us and we can rebuke them as needed based on shared lives together. The high priest and the king lived in Judah
The sense of entitlement starts out small. We break rules and procedures meant for everyone because we're the exceptions that can be made because whatever we're doing is important enough to breach the norm for. As long as we see the action as justified for whatever reason we think we're in the clear. We may have broken a command of God with regard to our brother or sister in Christ or an unbeliever along the way, but that's okay, because we did it for the right reason. The greatest treason in T. S. Eliot's lexicon may be to do the right thing for the wrong reason but most of us aren't at risk for that. Most of us do the wrong thing for the wrong reason and tell ourselves we did it for the right reason because we have self-justifying hearts.
That's what I find sad about the Osteen case, that that's what seems to be happening all around. As the apostle might have put it, to have these sorts of cases at all is a sign of defeat for you. Yes, it is, even if Osteen really "isn't" a believer or really is preaching heresy, because the name that is being defamed will still end up being Jesus'. That makes me sad. For the world at large we can't shake it off by claiming that he's not one of us, in the eyes of the world it is enough that he claims to be a minister of Jesus.