The Gnosticizing Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is making the rounds promoting his new book. He appeared on “Larry King Live” on Tuesday night. The video is available here, and the transcript is here.

The interview with Larry King only makes me more wary of Osteen. When King asks him if he believes in an afterlife, Osteen says that his mortal body is like a “coat,” and that the “real me” lives on the inside. Osteen makes the same mistake that many people make with respect to the eternal state. He doesn’t realize that we live for eternity in resurrected physical bodies. The whole exchange smacked of the ancient Gnostic heresy which regarded matter as evil and denied the bodily resurrection.

Here are some of the other troubling exchanges:

KING: What’s your notion of hell?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I believe hell is a real place. I think it’s — you know, the scripture talks about it’s separation from God. And I think — I believe if God as light and love and everything good, then hell’s going to be everything bad. I mean we certainly do not want to go there and I don’t think hell was designed for people.

KING: You think there’s life after death?

J. OSTEEN: I do. I believe we’re all going to live on, that we’re a spirit. This body — I like to think of it as just like my coat. There’s something on the inside of me that’s making this thing move. And I’m — the real me is on the inside. So I do believe we’ll live on.


KING: According to the bible, Jesus said, “It’s hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” How do you square that with your lifestyle? Do you think you may not get in because you’re doing too well?

J. OSTEEN: No, I don’t think so. I think you have to take…

KING: I’m only quoting Jesus.

J. OSTEEN: I know. No, no. I think you have to take the whole context. When he’s quoting that, I believe that man’s focus was all about the money. But it depends on where your heart is. I mean the scripture says it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil. We didn’t do this for money. And I don’t think that you can say, if somebody is wealthy, boy, then, you know, they’re not going to heaven or God must not love them.

Abraham — way back where Christianity was started, it said he was the wealthiest man in all the East. And I think David left the equivalent of a billion dollars to his son since — Solomon — to build the temple.


KING: The book is “Become a Better You: Seven Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day”. . . Would Britney Spears be helped by this book? What do you make of that whole — that culture thing?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I think it’s easy to get delusioned maybe is the word just with all of that fame and notoriety at such an early age. And sure, I think Britney Sears can be helped by that — by this book.

I think anybody could because it’s the principles of the bible. And I think that she’s — these are good people at heart. And they just need some good guidance and good people speaking into their lives.

They have got so much pressure and so much, you know, confusion in their lives. But, you know, anybody — anybody can come up higher, and I believe she can come out of this and still live a great life.

KING: Yes. That’s what many think, that this whole group, these youngsters, are basically good.

V. OSTEEN: Oh, yes.

J. OSTEEN: Oh, yes.


KING: Do you have any particular position on — I’m sure there’s gay members of your church.

J. OSTEEN: Oh, I’m sure there are. Our church is open to anybody.

I mean, we are there to help them and give them encouragement and hope. I think the last thing we’re supposed to do is put up walls and say, if you’re not perfect, you can’t come to my church.

KING: Because you know there are members of your church — for example, the late Jerry Falwell was a classic example of someone who really raked at gays and lesbians.

J. OSTEEN: Yes. You know what? There are different callings. I can’t fault anybody. I mean, I didn’t know Jerry Falwell, but I believe I know his sons, and they are great people. But there are different callings for different things. I think sometimes, you know, God gives us different messages. But mine is about, you know, giving people hope and…

88 Responses to The Gnosticizing Joel Osteen

  1. Trish October 18, 2007 at 6:22 am #

    Hmmm, I thought the message was God’s and we are instruments of delivery. I thought there was only one message, the one of the good news that leads to salvation. I thought the message was about Christ, HIS birth, HIS life, HIS death, HIS burial, HIS resurrection. Without faith in Christ, the best life you have now is nothing. With faith in Christ, the best life you have now is still nothing because the best is yet to come! If anyone thinks that what you receive here on earth is the best they can ever get then they need to read the Bible and see what God says about who He is and who we are. God is our Creator, He is Awesome, Almighty, Counselor, Savior, Lord, King, etc. And heaven is about being in His presence 24/7! That’s what we get when we put our faith in Christ, a restored relationship with God, the ability to worship Him for who He is. Like the song says, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise then when we’ve first begun.” That’s heaven, and that’s where our treasure belongs, not in this life. That doesn’t mean God does not bless us in this life, He does, but we should not be seeking His blessing, we should be seeking His service, how do we show Him thanks for what He did for us, show our gratitude for what He gave us.

    Sorry, I think I rambled, it’s early and this has been burning in me to come out since I started reading the comments on the other posts.

    To God Be the Glory!

  2. mlm October 18, 2007 at 6:48 am #

    Denny: What specific problems do you have with the interview you quoted? Have you done more research into Osteen’s teaching other than listening to media book PR interviews?

    Trish: Please don’t get hung up on the “my message” thing. Osteen preaches Christ. He preaches everything you just said. Even Peter and Paul had opposing “messages” and came to blows over them at times (one was called to the Jews and one to the Gentiles). Paul and James appeared to have opposing messages. We have to look deeper. And if you do so with Osteen you will find Jesus, just as you desire.

  3. Luthsem/Rich October 18, 2007 at 7:09 am #

    When will people realize that Joel Osteen is not a real pastor or preacher but a motivational speaker. Think Tony Robbins. He’s been called a Dr. Phil, Oprah. He does not preach the gospel. This is sad because people believe he’s their pastor.

  4. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 8:01 am #

    Osteen’s view of the body and spirit is probably the common view of most Christians and an understandable reading of the resurrection text in 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians unaided by modern scholarship.

    Even Trish’s view of spending eternity in heaven could be disputed many modern scholars (like NT Wright) who insist that we won’t be going to heaven for eternity but that God will restore/recreate this earth for us to live on and that his presence will be here with us as we live forever in our transformed bodies.

    And really what is it that is so gnostic about his teaching? What is your definition of gnostic? Is he preaching about a demiurge of the OT who created this evil incurable world? Is he talking about salvation coming through a secret knowledge (that was handed down from Jesus to an inner group of disciples) that is not known to most Christians? Is he saying Christ was some sort of immaterial spiritual messenger sent to rescue the stray spark from God (who is unknowable) that’s trapped in side of these prisons called bodies? Is he saying that Christ only appeared human but did not become incarnate and used Jesus as a human vehicle? What is so gnostic about what he’s saying?

    Denny you seem to be looking for anything with which you can attack and criticize Osteen with. Is he the new mega-preacher that it is ok to hate and tear down? Why?

    Bryan L

  5. mlm October 18, 2007 at 8:10 am #

    Bryan L:

    Thanks for your comment. It seems to me that Denny has a basic bias against Osteen, for he disagrees with teaching that Christians are to be healthy and prosperous in this life. Given that Denny vehemently disagrees with those basic beliefs, Denny hears and reads everything by Osteen through the lens of that bias and therefore takes issue with all that Osteen says, even when there is no apparent issue to take. Alas.

  6. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 8:11 am #


    Is that going to be your only response…”do more research”? I think if you look deeply enough into Mormon teachings they say something about Jesus and God too.

  7. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 8:20 am #


    In #2. So you are comparing Osteen’s teachings to the inspired writings of the bible now? 😉

  8. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 8:33 am #

    I agree with Denny, in that the notion of the “real you” being something other than the body is indeed gnostic. I agree with Bryan L that this teaching is quite common in evangelical churches and certainly not a distinctive of Osteen.

  9. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 8:53 am #

    My church just had a revival meeting and the preacher said the same thing…”my body is a “coat” for the real me”. I didn’t think much of it at the time…maybe I need to think more about this…like Whinnie the Pooh…think, think, think…

  10. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 8:56 am #

    Paul does compare our body to clothing:

    2 Cor. 5
    1 For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on£ we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened––not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

  11. Todd Pruitt October 18, 2007 at 9:01 am #


    Do you honestly suggest that Paul and James disagree? Are you saying that the Scriptures are contradictory? Also, Paul and Peter’s disagreement was clearly a result of Peter’s error. Your comment seems to suggest that these were just two guys who disagreed. “Who can say which one was right?” This is not the testimony of Scripture.

    Perhaps some more research on your part is in order.


  12. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 9:01 am #

    The imagery that Paul tends to use for the body is mortality putting on immortality. It’s not a matter of this mortal coil being shuffled off and replaced, but rather this mortal coil dying and becoming a seed that is raised to glory.

  13. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 9:10 am #


    I think you are overstepping a bit – the scriptures have tensions all over the place that are not always easy to resolve, and thus Christians at times need to learn to be comfortable with paradox and ambiguity, rather than settle for quick fix hermeneutics.

    But I do agree with Denny about what I’ve heard of Osteen’s message. The Christian vocation is a call to die, to take up the cross, to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Yes, we ultimately find life in Christ – but it is life gained through death. Osteens message seems to lake that cruciform quality of the New Testament. As we are currently the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on Earth, this sort of teaching that reinforces our own hedonistic desires is very dangerous to our souls.

  14. Brian L. October 18, 2007 at 9:14 am #

    The main issue w/Olsteen: it’s all about YOU, not Jesus. He preaches self help, and prosperity on earth. For him, life is about being healthy and wealthy. If you’re not, something is wrong…

  15. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 9:25 am #


    Amen! The very tragic consequence is that this proserity gospel of ours (the USA) is also being exported to other countries. We lose our life for Jesus’ sake to find it for eternity…find it now and we lose it for eternity.

  16. Todd Pruitt October 18, 2007 at 9:29 am #


    I don’t deny that the Scriptures present certain mysteries and tensions. Nor do I promote a “quick fix hermeneutic.” I was responding to two specific issues raised by mlm. The Bible does not present the dispute between Paul and Peter as a disagreement between two men with equally valid positions. Peter was clearly in the wrong and needed to be corrected. Also, the historic orthodox approach to Paul and James is that they do not contradict one another. One of the key principles of hermeneutics is that we interpret Scripture with Scripture. I don’t believe that is a quick fix approach.

    You are spot on with your concern over the prosperity “gospel” being very dangerous to the soul. I watch Osteen almost every week and have read his first book and watched many of his interviews. He absolutely advances the prospertiy false gospel. He is a bit more coy than Creflo Dollar. However, he clearly teaches that if you have enough faith and think positively then you will get that promotion, that healing (don’t say the word “cancer”), that larger house, etc.

  17. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    Osteen’s self-esteem approach does nothing but numb a soul to the reality of sin and eternal punishment from the Almighty God. Then he throws in at the end of his message a little prayer to be saved by.

    Joel Osteen is RIGHT, he IS fulfilling his calling!

    2 Tim. 4

    3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

  18. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    I’m not an advocate of Hell-fire preaching in the context of our modern culture. Scripture says surprisingly little about Hell, and I am vary wary of presenting a message of a God who cares nothing about justice and rather only cares that you joined the right club (which is how this message comes across to most modern Americans).

    What I think Osteen is missing is far more fundamental – that life comes through dying, that he who wants to save his life will lose it, that following Christ means the via delarosa, that redemption is done through suffering, etc. These are not peripheral themes in the scriptures, and to think that the measure of blessing is in victory rather than defeat is to subvert God’s economy. The Lamb of God has conquered because he was the lamb who was slaughtered.

  19. Todd Pruitt October 18, 2007 at 10:07 am #

    Clearly, it was on Jesus’ agenda to warn people about hell and the judgment to come. I don’t think it was any more palatable to those in Jesus’ day as it is to those in our day.

    I don’t think that the clear biblical warnings about hell and the call to take up our cross are in any way contradictory or different messages. I could argue that the message of dying to self is just as offensive to modern ears as is the warnings of God’s wrath. That does not however suggest that the call to die to self should be lessened.

  20. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    I’m not saying that people need to like something to preach it. I’m saying that, in this context, when you preach Hell, what is heard is “God doesn’t care about justice, but in what arbitrary club you happen to join.” This is false, and scandalous that any should think we believe this. And they do.

  21. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    Just curious but if someone decides to give their life to God without the threat of hell, while someone else has to hear the threat of hell before they give their life to God, is there a difference in their salvation? Is one of these reasons for getting saved worse than the other? Is one more saved than the other?

    Bryan L

  22. j razz October 18, 2007 at 11:05 am #

    I think the issue that is being missed is not so much hell or no hell, but Christ and Christ alone. What is the gospel? That is what has lacked defining here in these Osteen threads. Once we understand how the Bible has defined the Good News of Christ, then we can carry on. If we don’t define our terms, then we will just run in circles.

    Let me propose a definition of the Gospel.
    The Gospel is this: The Christ came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and fulfilled what mortal man could not do on his own behalf (hence the neccessity of bulls and goats in the OT) and the Christ died on the Cross to appease the wrath of God on sinful man; to redeem that which was lost and to fulfill obedience in all things unto the Father.

    Now, if you accept that, let’s move on to consider these things: What is the Gospel and what is its context?

    1. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for man. It is the only appointed method under the sun by which man can be saved.

    2. The context of the gospel is most important. If man does not recognize who he is in light of who God is, there is no need for the good news. If man is not aware of his own sinful nature, God’s righteousness and his need for a right relationship with God; the gospel is not the good news it is heralded as in scripture to that person.

    So to gain an appreciation for the sacrifice of the Christ, we must first look at the neccessity of that sacrifice. It starts back in Genesis. Man fell in the Garden and a curse was brought upon all of mankind and the earth and everything in it due to man’s disobedience. From this point foward three enemies were established: Satan, Sin and Death. From here we could go into what all three are and their effects but I think for us here that is understood. Because of our sin that was passed down through Adam, we are incapable of doing good on our own as we are dead in our sins. The law was given to point us towards something better as no one can live according to the law. Israel is our perfect example of attempting to live by the law. Abraham was our perfect example of living by faith as Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. What did he believe? He believed in one to come: a redeemer and a restorer (of a right relationship with God). This sets the tone for Christ (the need for Him, the reason the gospel is the Good News and the consequences of unbelief in the only means under the sun by which God Himself appointed for a right relationship with Him).

    So, if we have the ability to teach and proclaim the good news of our Christ and his defeat of Satan, Sin and Death (our 3 enemies) to literally thousands of people across the world, what would be most beneficial? To preach the gospel in its proper context as defined by the Bible and expound on its richness in Christ or to preach something other than the power of God unto salvation?

    I think that sometimes those in positions of authority “forget” that they will be judged more harshly than those who are not and that they will have to give an account before God of those they oversee. This is not something to take lightly.

    Here is a question I have: How do you oversee a church of 47,000 well? Well enough to be able to stand before God and He say, “well done good and faithful servant”.

    j razz

  23. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 11:09 am #

    Bryan L,

    I don’t believe the threat of hell is the true motivation for getting saved. Who, in their right mind, would choose hell over heaven?

    The true motivation for salvation is the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in the heart of a person so they will see Jesus as their glorious and precious Saviour. The Holy Spirit does not work apart from scripture and Joel Osteen does not use scripture in his “plan of salvation”. Therefore, I believe MANY of his “converts” to Christianity are most likely not truly saved.

    The Holy Spirit does the work of saving by exalting the Lord Jesus Christ thru the preaching of the Word of God which is all about Jesus. Again, FAITH comes by HEARING, and hearing by the WORD OF GOD (Rom. 10:17).

  24. Wesley October 18, 2007 at 11:50 am #


    Yes, St. Paul does refer to the body as a tent, but note that being seperated from it is a bad thing. It groans not to be without a body, but to be in the heavenly one. This is consistent with the physical resurrection of Jesus and that he is the first fruits of our resurrection (1 Cor 15:20), and Paul in Romans 8:

    11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
    Romans 8:11 (NRSV)

    23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
    Romans 8:23 (NRSV)

    Olsteen’s comments are as gnostic as generic evangelicalism, which are still gnostic. Gnostic sotierology hale that salvation was escape from the physical world and physical bodies back to the spiritual plane of the pleroma.

    The conception of eternal life as non-physical smacks of gnosticism, it’s just as bad in most evangelical “gospel” tracts. The Biblical, Traditional belief of the Church has been physical resurrection, it’s not only in Paul, it’s all over the Apostolic Fathers and later Fathers and councils.

  25. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Again I’m curious what makes Osteens view specifically gnostic. When I read about the gnostic Osteen sounds nothing like them. Is it gnostic or something else? Platonism maybe? I don’t know enough bout Platonism or it’s various revisions (middle, neo…) to say. But the gnostics had a particular view about reality and the created order that I don’t see Osteen advocating.

    It just seems the whole association of Osteen with gnosticism is meant to be a scare tactic so that we can easily brand him as a heretic with which we can dispense (much in the same way that conservatives use the charge of liberal to discount someone and distinguish them as outside of and different from themselves).

    Bryan L

  26. Ken October 18, 2007 at 12:05 pm #

    Bryan: Ancient gnosticism had just about as many flavors as Baskin-Robbins, but one of the consistent features was a denial of the essential goodness of material creation. Wesley’s post immediately above your last is a good summary.

    I don’t know whether Mr. Osteen really intends to deny the foundational promise of the bodily resurrection or this just represents another poorly-thought-out statement. It is true that contemporary American evangelicalism, to its shame, tends to ignore the resurrection of believers and tends to portray the afterlife as a disembodied experience (just as did the ancient Greeks). We would do well to get away from that and remind Christians all over of the glorious promise of a physical resurrection and an eternity revelling in living just as does Jesus even now.

  27. mlm October 18, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    I skimmed through these comments and found my name referenced a bit, but I’m not going to reply to each question/comment. You can claim that I have no valid answer and thus remain silent, but to you (plural) I say: Please work on your reading comprehension skills. Many of you have taken my words and twisted them; some of you haven’t grasped my meaning at all. Yikes.

    And what of the Apostle Paul saying “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?” Just because we have a glorifed (physical) body in the afterlife doesn’t mean it’s the same one I’m buried with. What of those who are cremated? Lost at sea and eaten by sharks? Burned at the stake? Are there to be 90 year old bodies ravaged by cancer in heaven? Disabled bodies of the severely handicap? Aborted bodies torn limb from limb? Pardon my human reasoning here, but let’s just go back to Scripture. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord…if Paul’s body is here on earth, who praytell is with the Lord?

  28. mlm October 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm #

    After reading Ken’s comment, I must say another thing: who among us is “evangelical”? Are baptists considered evangelical? I suppose you would consider me to be in the same circles as Osteen, and I can promise you that you are wrong when you say that “we” don’t believe in a physical resurrection. A disemodied experience?PUHHHLEASE!

    Look at the story Jesus told about the dead man begging that someone wet his tongue because he was tormented by thirst…tongue? thirst? these are physical attributes are they not?

    What “we” teach is that our new body will be much like the bodies of Man in the Garden…perfectly created, human as Adam and Eve, and clothed in glory.

  29. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 12:20 pm #

    You said, “but one of the consistent features was a denial of the essential goodness of material creation.”

    Yes but that was all tied up with the demi-urge as creator and all kinds of crazy crap. Their view of the material creation affected everything they believed so that Christ didn’t even become human but just used Jesus as a host.

    Osteen is not saying any of this and he didn’t even say material creation was evil.

    We can’t just pick this little bit from gnosticism (which may not even be particular to gnosticism but may be part of the wider greek culture and philosophy) and then label anyone who sounds a bit similar as gnostics. That’s irresponsible and it lacks integrity.

    Bryan L

  30. j razz October 18, 2007 at 12:21 pm #

    What then of Jesus’ statement to Thomas?

    When Jesus came back after His death and burial, his body was still scarred by the nail wounds and the slit in His side (One would be logical in assuming it bore the scars of his beating as well). Jesus also had another characteristic that accompanied Him on the other side of His death: people had problems recognizing Him until He chose to reveal Himself to them as the Christ. One other thing, He also ate with the disciples (showing He was not just spirit).

    So what of our bodies? If Christ is an example (He is the firstfruit) our ressurected bodies will probably be similar. What of those cremated or aborted or other such things as proposed above? Scripture does not say, but based on God’s track record of keeping promises and speaking only truth, we can know that He will not allow for His word to return void. So, if He promises resurrected bodies, we will have them. If God can create us out of nothing, I am sure He is more than capable of meeting His promise of resurrected bodies.

    j razz

  31. mlm October 18, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    j razz:

    for the 3 days that jesus’ body was in the tomb, where was jesus? did he cease to exist for 3 days? lie dormant? paul talks about spirit, soul, and body…why is this such a big deal? i don’t get it.

  32. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 12:31 pm #


    If you’re up for some reading, I have an essay on why this sort of thing is such a big stinkin’ deal here:

    Mont St. Michel and the Chicago Suburbs

  33. Paul October 18, 2007 at 12:38 pm #


    1) nice article.

    2) you a fellow Chicagoan? Whereabouts?

  34. mlm October 18, 2007 at 12:48 pm #

    Wonders: I meant, I wonder why Osteen saying that the “real me” is within the body is such a big deal…given the rest of what I’ve said regarding Scripture. He’s not saying the body (nor what we do with it) is unimportant. He’s saying that the real him (the one who makes decisions which his body will carry out, the one referred to as the “candle of the lord,” the one referred to as no one can know the mind of man but the SPIRIT of man) lives within a fleshly physical temple that will be destroyed and raised to NEWNESS of life. Where’s the gnosticism? Where’s the heresy?

  35. Ken October 18, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    I had a post, but it apparently disappeared into the cyberether. Nuts.

    In brief:

    One need not accept/teach all aspects of gnosticism and yet can still hold certain facets of that belief system. It’s still wrong.

    The Scriptures teach an essential continuity of the body that is sown in death with that raised to newness of life. Our resurrected bodies will not be like that of Adam in the garden but like the second Adam in the new heaven and the new earth, a much more glorious existence than man originally enjoyed.

  36. j razz October 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    Scripture is not clear on that mlm. Some have concluded that such a thing as soul sleep takes place. Others have concluded that to be absent from the body and present with the Lord is an intermediate place (such as Abraham’s bosom). Some say we go straight to Heaven (or Hell). Even though some say this and some say that, all are speculating as scripture is not clear on this. On the other hand, it is clear on the gospel and what man must do to be saved.

    As for Jesus, some take the Peter passage to mean he went and preached to souls in Hell where some were saved. Others take it to mean hybrids born of man and angel others… well, again, we are speculating as scripture is not clear. Jesus does not tell us where He was nor does scripture make it plain to us.

    I know I did not answer your direct question, but I do not venture answers based on speculation concerning scriptural silence.

    j razz

  37. mlm October 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    Question for Ken: What’s the difference between the body of the first Adam (before the fall) and the body of the second Adam?

  38. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 1:05 pm #


    I used to be – in the Wheaton area. I’m now in the Carolinas.

  39. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    I think it is funny that Joel Osteen seems to answer questions with more info than the question asked for. Such as the question by Larry King that led to his implied gnostic views.

    Joel Osteen admittedly does not try to explain scriptures in his books but he sure likes to try in his interviews and it sure makes him look silly.

  40. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 1:20 pm #

    You said “One need not accept/teach all aspects of gnosticism and yet can still hold certain facets of that belief system. It’s still wrong.”

    But nobody has really shown the Osteen holds any facet of gnosticism. He said he believes when he dies his spirit take off the coat of his body and his spirit will continue living. If you hold to a view of heaven as an intermediate place we go when we die as we await the resurrection then that is basically what you believe: that your spirit will in a sense take of the body like a coat and continue living with God.

    People are taking this common view (and not really incorrect) and assuming that Osteen is saying the material world and creation is bad and he is now somehow a gnostic. Come on let’s get serious here.

    Bryan L

  41. Ken October 18, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    The body of the first Adam was like ours, only ours are fallen, subject to disease, decay, and death. Think of Adam as the perfect physical specimen.

    The resurrected body of Jesus Christ is distinctly different. It is a spiritual body. It has capabilities our bodies (or that of Adam) lack, for it is glorified. Real flesh and bones, but different. Beyond that Scripture says virtually nothing and I am not prepared to speculate. But it is a mistake to think that redeemed man’s destiny is a return to the garden. There is a much greater destiny in store.

  42. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 1:25 pm #

    Bryan L,

    I agree with you! WOW! His gnostic belief is only implied and one can not assume he is truly a gnostic.

  43. jeremy z October 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm #

    I am really curious to hear Denny’s exegetical interpretation of this “physical” body in heaven argument. Denny said it, so I hope he can explain this position.

    Also, the way Denny interprets this physical body argument will show his eschatological perspective, which I probably already know his stance.

    mlm I am really impressed how you are handling yourself in this blog war. It is like David and Goliath.

  44. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    Actually Ken I think Adam’s body had the potential to die before the fall. It didn’t have eternal life built into it. That is why he needed to keep eating fruit from the tree of life. And that is why God barred them from the garden so that they could not continue eating the fruit and live for ever.

    Bryan L

  45. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 1:42 pm #


    That is a BIG assumption.

  46. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 1:46 pm #

    What is a big assumption? Did you read the text? Go to Genesis and read it and tell me how you see it any other way. Tell me what was the use of a tree of life in the first place if Adam and Eve were created with the ability to live forever already within them. Tell me why God needed to keep them from this tree after they sinned. It implies that they could have continued to live forever even after gaining the knowledge of good and evil.

    Let me know after you go read it. Thanks.

    Bryan L

  47. Ken October 18, 2007 at 1:55 pm #

    Bryan: On that subject, it is probably better to think of Adam as having a conditional immortality–contingent upon God’s preservation. But honestly Scripture just doesn’t spell it out for us, because what happened is that Adam disobeyed and death fully entered the world for humans at that point. I hope nothing I said before indicated I believe Adam possessed an inherent immortality. Scripture certainly doesn’t say that.

    I had yet another post lost to electronic Sheol. What’s going on today?

  48. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 2:04 pm #

    Understood Ken. I agree with the terminology of “conditional immortality”.

    If your post is too long it is more likely to get kicked. That’s just what I’ve noticed in the past.

    Bryan L

  49. Ken October 18, 2007 at 2:07 pm #

    I give up. The site’s not allowing me to continue the conversation. Folks can email me if they want.

  50. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 2:23 pm #


    All I meant is that it was an assumption. Not that you are wrong for sure but that we can not know for sure what all the reasons were for God doing what he did.

  51. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 2:32 pm #


    The mistake of Osteen about the “real me” as something separate from the body is one that is rather pervasive in Evangelicalism as a whole. Thus it’s not really fair to single him out on that.

    It’s the subversion of God’s economy that I think more serious.

    Jeremy Z,

    “Heaven” (at least in so far as scripture uses the term) is not our ultimate home – rather it is “New Heavens and New Earth”. Notice in Revelation that the Holy City comes down from Heaven to Earth.

  52. mlm October 18, 2007 at 2:34 pm #

    Did I read correctly? Did Ken just say (#41) that Jesus body is distinctly different because it’s a SPIRITUAL BODY? Now I’m really confused.

  53. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 2:43 pm #

    MLM –

    In the scriptures, “spiritual” does not imply immaterial. It implies incorruptibility (aka, it doesn’t decay or rot).

  54. Ben D October 18, 2007 at 2:45 pm #


    Does the church admit homosexuals into membership or do they attend the worship service? What is the sense you got from the interview or MSS?

  55. jeremy z October 18, 2007 at 2:56 pm #


    I am not sure I buy that argument in the way you framed and defined heaven. I would argue heaven is our ultimate home.
    If Heaven is not our ultimate home, then how do we deal with these texts of:
    Acts 7.49
    2 Cor 5.1
    Phil 3.20–But our citizenship is in heaven.
    1 Peter 1.4
    Rev 4

    You interpretation of Heaven is very pre-millennial.

    I just hesitate when Denny makes these certainty statements that get easily get overlooked, especially in the case of our physical bodies in heaven. The Bible has a lot to say about Heaven, however there is not a concrete answer. However Denny makes it sense very concrete which is not fair for the Biblical text.

    I deeply enjoyed reading the comment describing how our Biblical text does have tension in it. And to be honest, the people sitting in our pews are figuring out the Jesus was are preaching from the pulpit, is not the Jesus they are experiencing in their every day life.

    I argue we be real and raw with our inspired texts handed down not only by the Fathers of our Faith, but by God. The fact we have multiple perspective in the NT does not disprove the Bible, but greatly proves how Jesus moved many many people who were so impacted that they wanted to specifically write about their perspective in following in the way.

    Lastly, our doctrine cannot and will not ever capture the ambiguity and mysterious elements of our Heavenly Father. Even though we may have the “true” gospel figured out, we will never figure out our Heavenly Father.

  56. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm #

    That’s weird I don’t remember saying the above. Denny??

    Bryan L

  57. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 3:20 pm #


    None of those passages are particularly difficult from my perspective. Heaven, in the Bible, is literally the sky, but symbolically it is used to refer to “God’s spacial dimension of reality”. It is the control center, so to speak, of the cosmos. So his will is done in Heaven, and implemented on Earth (our space).

    To say our citizenship is in Heaven, is to say that that is where our loyalties lie. It does not mean we then move there. In Paul’s time, you didn’t gain Roman citizenship so that you could then move to Rome, but rather so that you could be an agent of Roman civilization in your own part of the Empire (with all the rights and privileges thereof).

    Similarly, to say that we have an inheritance kept for us in Heaven, does not mean that we need to go there to get it, anymore than if I said “I have a beer for you in the fridge” that would mean you need to go sit in the fridge to drink it. Rather, the king will appear from Heaven and bring his rule to Earth – the holy city will descend from Heaven to Earth – and we will welcome our Lord and his rule.

    This doesn’t mean our space-time universe doesn’t have some radical and tumultuous stuff to go through before that happens. We are told of “New Heavens and New Earth” – new Creation. We are told that the glory of the Lord will fill the Earth.

    This is also why the ascension of Christ is so important. A human being sitting on the throne in Heaven means that Jesus is now Lord above all powers in the World. It’s his will that matters, and then we can pray “thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

  58. Ken October 18, 2007 at 3:20 pm #

    Hmm. I think Bryan L’s the victim of some identity theft here…

  59. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    Yeah, Bryan – that did seem a little out of character. I don’t know what the guy was trying to prove there, but lying to make your opponent look bad in a theological debate should probably tip the person off that there is a bit of a problem with his approach.

  60. Kevin Jones October 18, 2007 at 3:29 pm #

    I was beginning to wonder if a disciple of Christ is a Christian. 😉

  61. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 3:33 pm #

    By the way, Jeremy, if “pre-Millennial” means any sympathy whatsoever to dispensationalism or the Left Behind series, then them’s fightin’ words!

    I do believe that much of the book of Revelation speaks to the immediate concerns of the early Church. I do believe God’s kingdom is breaking-in through his Church by his Spirit. I also believe that there is a great consummation that we still await which will be an act of fresh grace and power by God himself. So I don’t think I would be described as pre-millennial.

  62. Ken October 18, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    For mlm: Yes, I have written that Christ’s body is a spiritual body, in keeping with the language of 1 Corinthians 15. As Wonders said above, in this context “spiritual” does not mean “non-physical,” because Jesus’s resurrected body clearly retains physicality.

  63. Denny Burk October 18, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    Jeremy Z,

    The Bible teaches that Jesus’ resurrection is the paradigm of our resurrection. For instance, consider these two texts from Paul:

    Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.”
    1 Corinthians 6:14 “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.”

    Over and over in scripture, we are taught that we can learn what our resurrection will be like by looking at Jesus’. Jesus’ resurrection was clearly a bodily resurrection. Not only did people see and hear Jesus after his resurrection, they also watched him eat food (Luke 24:43) and they touched him (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1). The Gospel writers do everything they can to show that his resurrection is a physical one. He is not an incorporeal ghost. His resurrection body is a physical as physical can be.

    That is why Paul is at great pains to say that anyone who denies the physical resurrection of the body in the age to come has by implication denied Jesus’ resurrection.

    1 Corinthians 15:13 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.”

    But Christ has been raised, and he is the “firstfruits” of all those who will be raised from the dead at the last day (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

    Christians do not got to live in “heaven” for eternity. Christians go to heaven to be with Christ until he comes again at the end of the age. At the end of the age, the Bible teaches that God will make a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) and that Christians will be resurrected from the dead in glorified bodies to inhabit this new heavens and new earth (Romans 8:20-23).


  64. Wonders for Oyarsa October 18, 2007 at 3:51 pm #


    Which of course makes it hard to imagine what being with Christ in any disembodied state would be like (himself perfectly embodied). I suppose the closest we can get is the part in Wisdom of Solomon where it says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there will no torment touch them.” To know that there will be some rest and consolation for our souls while we await the resurrection.

  65. jeff miller October 18, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    For anyone trying to arrive at a historically accurate definition of “Gnosticism” you must read “Rethinking Gnosticism, An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category” by Michael Allen Williams.

  66. Bryan L October 18, 2007 at 6:40 pm #

    I remember Larry Hurtado mentioning that book in his Lord Jesus Christ.

    He says ““Nor does it help to invoke other terms such as “Gnostic” and “gnosticizing.” Though frequently used by scholas, these terms cover and even wider diversity of teaching. In fact, Michael Williams has cogently argued that the terms are so imprecise in what they designate that they should probably cease to be used in historical descriptions of early Christianity”.” – pg 418

    In fact I was think of that when this discussion of gnosticism first got started and Osteen was painted as being a gnostic, up but I figured it’s too precious of a word for many to bother trying to get its usage discarded

    Thanks for bringing it up.

    Bryan L

  67. jeremy z October 18, 2007 at 11:45 pm #


    I am arguing that when we die and enter heaven, we will have a soulish body that resembles a physical body. In a sense this soulish body will embody a more improve body than the physical body.
    Our physical body has limitations.

    My problem with your argument comes in three points. And maybe we are arguing the same thing, and it is a matter of semantics.

    1. When Jesus returns after the resurrection He obviously has holes in His hands and feet. A physcial body could not have holes in one’s wrist and feet without blood gushing out of them. And if I recall correctly the NT does not provide a description of blood gushing out of Jesus’ hands, wrists, and feet. (Lk 24.39) Thus, Jesus’ resurrected body is a new body, which I label as a soulish body.

    2. The Transfiguration account illustrates how Elijah and Moses appears before Peter, James, John, and Jesus. The disciples are a bit frighten because these men just appeared. I would suspect that these men’s bodies had distinct physical feature, in addition to many soulish features. Mark reports Elijah and Moses have this glow and dazzling white light beaming off of them. Thus, this text does imply Elijah’s and Moses’ body were a little outside of the normal physical body.

    3. In reference to Romans 8.11, James Dunn in the WBC and I argue that this is not about the physical body, but about mortal and corruptible body (see on 6:6) most vulnerable to sin. (6.12)

    Denny I am sorry but there is not enough warrant in the Bible to demonstrate a physical body. The Bible tells us very little about what it will be like in heaven.
    I am suggesting we will have this new improved soulish body, while I acknowledge the Bible does not directly tell us what it will be like in Heaven. Therefore, I am comfortable to say, I am not 100% sure what our bodies will be like in Heaven. Bible describes what Jesus; body is like, but does not allude to what our bodies will be like. And even Jesus’ body does not have normal physical body features, therefore I am very hesitant to conclude we embody an actual physical body up in heaven.

    In HIS GRIP,

  68. Trish October 19, 2007 at 5:57 am #

    Jeremy Z,

    How do you handle the following verses which mention an imperishable body, a spiritual body, an earthly body (implying there is something else), etc.?
    Romans 8:23
    1 Cor 15:42-44
    Phil 3:21
    Col 3:5


  69. Lucas Knisely October 19, 2007 at 6:24 am #

    1 John 1:9
    Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.

    2 Peter 2:2
    And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

  70. Ken October 19, 2007 at 6:56 am #

    Jeremy: It is entirely possible even for our present bodies to have puncture wounds that are not still bleeding. The blood coagulates; a clot is formed and bleeding ceases. In Jesus’s case, the retention of the marks of his crucifixion have special significance. They are the ongoing testimony of his sacrifice.

    In your thinking, does a “soulish body” have physicality?

    A resurrection, by definition, is a return to life of a body that has died, a rising from the dead. In your view, what meaning does that word have when a) applied to the personal body of Christ, and b) applied to the believer who dies before the return of the Lord?

    The splendor in which Moses and Elijah appeared along with Jesus at his Transfiguration was the reflected glory of the Lord. It was not from them.

  71. Bryan L October 19, 2007 at 8:22 am #

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Denny’s description of the resurrected body. I think N.T. Wright’s book on the resurrection is good for explaining that that. Gordon Fee also deals with the passages in 1 Corinthian having to do with the resurrection and the “spiritual body” in his book “God’s Empowering Presence”.

    Jeremy do you believe that Jesus’ body was able to be touched? Or that if Thomas had wanted to he could have felt the nails in Jesus’ hand and in his side? Do you think he really was able to eat with the disciples? If so then I imagine we are actually arguing for the same thing but just using different language. I think the difference hinges on how we understand Paul’s use of “spiritual” to describe our resurrected bodies and again Fee is good for that. It’s not either physical or spiritual it is both.

    Bryan L

  72. Jon October 20, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    It seems that most of the comments here are spent on the minor outskirts and not the central issues with Osteen. Did we all forget that he’s preaching a gospel of “hope and encouragement”, of self-help and positive thinking, where people don’t get punished for their sins because “hell [wasn’t] designed for people”. Just because he uses the name “Jesus” doesn’t mean he’s teaching anything Christian. He got the foundation wrong, for crying out loud! The title, “motivational speaker” seems closest to correct for him, and he’s motivating me, too. Only he motivates me to put on the full armor of God and fight his heretical teachings.

    How about that Britney Spears comment, for instance (for those who read the full transcript)? He said that deep down she loves God. Not if she doesn’t know the Savior. “Men loved the darkness and hated the Light”, remember?

    All I hear from Joel is about how good our lives can be, and reaching our potential. Reaching potential is nothing without Christ! “For I must DECREASE that He might increase”, says John the Baptist. “O, wretched man that I am”, says the apostle Paul.

    I know, I know. Narrow-minded fundamentalist, right?

    Give me a break,

  73. Kevin Jones October 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm #


    See the Post on Oct 15 (103 comments) for the thread your comment would best fit in. This thread is most concerned about whether Joel Osteen is a gnostic.



  74. Jon October 20, 2007 at 5:07 pm #

    Thanks, Kevin. I see what you’re talking about.

    And yes, Joel’s comments do smell a little like gnosticism, at least on the surface. One would like to see a little more content on the subject from Osteen to form a more concrete case.

    All the same, that junk about people having sparks of goodness in them and not going to hell really cheeses me off.

    Ok, sorry for interrupting the would-be gnostic discussion.


  75. mlm October 22, 2007 at 8:16 am #


    Just to clarify, since you’re so upset (or “cheesed off” as you said)…Osteen doesn’t say people won’t go to hell. He says hell wasn’t made for them. God wants all men to be saved through Christ. Those who reject Christ will indeed go to hell, or live in eternal separation from God. Osteen preaches this. As far as Spears goes…you should watch yourself. Osteen was commenting that she had fallen, gone astray so to speak and that deep down loved God and was good. If you do your research (a seemingly foreign concept to many who comment here), Spears was a southern Baptist for most of her life. She probably was born and raised in a church that most commenters on this blog are familiar with and highly esteem. Don’t you guys believe in once saved, always saved? Maybe not. But the point is, Osteen wasn’t talking about some “divine spark” nonsense. He was talking about a girl who’s lost her way and needs to come back to the Jesus she knew as a child and young adult.

    Lastly, ought we all to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving???? After all, if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. Sobering thought, eh?

  76. Wonders for Oyarsa October 22, 2007 at 9:46 am #

    MLM –

    I agree with what you are saying, I think. Osteen’s message has some serious problems, but that’s no excuse to throw the book at him and impute every possible problem known to man on his shoulders.

  77. mlm October 22, 2007 at 10:20 am #

    Wonders: If we’re honest, whose message doesn’t have serious problems? :o) Of course, none of us think our do, but someday we might think otherwise. We don’t preach error on purpuse, at least those who are true pastors don’t. So I’m with you…where’s the grace and forgiveness Jesus talked about? It seems that the preachers who REALLY made Jesus mad were the Pharisees, the ones who thought only they were perfect in doctrine and knew it all and spent their time posturing and judging others. Alas.

  78. Wonders for Oyarsa October 22, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    But I think that’s a little confused there, MLM. Of course there is grace and forgiveness for any one of us, and you are correct that our forgiveness is offered on the same terms we give others. But it is also a very serious thing to be in Christian leadership – to be a shepherd of souls. Showing “mercy” to the leader in terms of just standing by and not critiquing his message, can be quite cruel to his flock.

  79. mlm October 22, 2007 at 11:54 am #


    I guess my point is this: if we are so concerned about Osteen’s message and about his flock, we should be writing to Osteen, calling his church, asking for a meeting. We shouldn’t be blasting him on a blog he’ll never read. Throughout these comments, it seems the two points you raise are noticeably absent: 1) a deep and genuine concern for his flock, and 2) the ability to dissect a message without attacking the man.

  80. Wonders for Oyarsa October 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm #

    The thing is though, MLM – this man is not just preaching to his congregation. He is a celebrity, a public figure, spreading his ideas through books selling millions of copies. As such, the ideas, if they are bad, have every right to be denounced and denounced loudly. As he’s put his name attached to them in big letters, there’s nothing wrong with saying “Osteen is very very wrong about x”.

  81. mlm October 22, 2007 at 12:24 pm #


    My point is, what good is your denouncing really doing? If all you do is denounce on this blog, you’re really just preaching to the choir.

    If we really care that his message is wrong and hurting others, why don’t we talk to HIM about it? After all, that’s the only way to have any chance of changing the message. He’s not going to read Burk’s blog.

  82. Wonders for Oyarsa October 22, 2007 at 2:29 pm #

    Um, because I don’t know him, MLM. He’s a very busy man, and doubtless will not have time for an extended email discussion with someone he’s never heard of.

    I discuss it on Burk’s blog because, well, I read Burk’s blog and comment when I feel like I have something to say on the matter. Plus I get more hits to my own site that way. 😉

  83. Jon October 24, 2007 at 7:24 am #


    It doesn’t really sound like preaching to the choir when there are individuals here that are supporting the fella. But you make a good point. I think I will try to get in touch with Osteen. After all, it is a Christian’s obligation to help the brother in need. I recommend the same for all who read this.


  84. Jon October 24, 2007 at 7:29 am #


    It doesn’t really sound like preaching to the choir when there are individuals here that are supporting the fella. But you make a good point. I think I will try to get in touch with Osteen. After all, it is a Christian’s obligation to help the brother in need. I recommend the same for all who read this. Let’s flood his e-mail.


  85. Jon October 24, 2007 at 7:30 am #

    Sorry about the duplicate. Computer was acting funny.

  86. Pha November 14, 2007 at 10:45 pm #

    I just happened to come across this website and began reading the varying commentary. I think it is a simple as this, the same thing people are accusing Joel Osteen of they seem to be guilty of themselves. It is all a matter of interpretation, and many of the people seem to be interpreting from their own viesw and opinions and from those they have learned from various literature they have read.

    It is odd to me that we have this new term “prosperity teachings” because a preacher teaches his congregation that they are no longer condemned and can have and do better then the present state they are in, but for those who preach the version where we are all condemned to hell is just a preacher. I think the same way Joel Osteen can over simplify, many here just complicated the word.

    To call someone wrong, is wrong in itself, how about the word is interpreted to Joel Osteen different than it is to each of you. We are all unique in our spirituality and all in different places and that does not make someone wrong. Since people want to judge according to the Bible, will God not take care of him if he is wrong. As a spiritually sound person, should we not allow him to be where he is in his spiritual journey, I guess this very discussion is biblical, did people not denounce Jesus and the Word He was spreading.

  87. Matthew McMains June 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Osteens “gospel” is a counterfeit…plain and simple.

  88. alessandro August 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    I have been to that church and i have been very astonished by his message, completly opposite to the message i had heard all my life. His message is GNOSTIC, not christian.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes