The full interview airs tomorrow night, but the video above has a preview. I may have more to say after the full interview, but here are a some of my initial thoughts.
1. The interviewer was clearly hostile to Osteen’s stated position. He simply cannot fathom the notion that someone would call homosexuality a sin and still claim to love homosexuals. In his worldview, it is impossible to love sinners while hating their sin. He was trying to shoehorn Osteen into a false alternative: you can love homosexuals by affirming their sin, or you can hate homosexuals by condemning their sin. From a biblical point of view, this is a false choice. Christ Jesus loves sinners. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is straightforward in calling sin what it is–sin. Nevertheless, he loves sinners.
I think Christians have a unique message to share on this point, and Christians need to have a response to the false dilemma presented in this interview. It sounds trite, but it is nevertheless a truism. We are commanded to love sinners while hating sin. That is what Jesus did, and that is what his disciples are called to do as well. I think we Christians will get a lot of push back on this point in the coming years. We will not be able to dodge this one, and we need to be ready.
2. The interviewer did, however, land one punch. After Osteen said that homosexuality was a sin, the interviewer said that this was the first time he’d ever heard Osteen talk about sin. Osteen did not even attempt to refute the claim. In his sermons, Osteen in fact rarely address sin, the cross, God’s judgment, hell, and host of other biblical doctrines that people are offended by. That is why it is hard for people to understand why Osteen would take a biblical stand on homosexuality when he rarely if ever takes a biblical stand on the other issues. This inconsistency ruins his credibility to speak to the homosexual question.
3. I am grateful that Osteen at least cited scripture as his authority on this issue. This is a step up from other interviews on other issues in which he hedged on some central biblical doctrines. In this interview, I am glad to see that he did not step back from what he thinks the Bible says about the moral status of homosexuality.
4. Osteen says that homosexuality should not be singled out as the main or worst sin. He cites pride and various kinds of addictions as equally sinful as homosexuality is. The interviewer counters that homosexuality is not a choice and can’t be compared to those other kinds of sins. Osteen’s ability to engage the argument biblically ends here. He just says that it’s a tough issue and that he doesn’t have all the answers. I think it is precisely here that Christians need to be able to speak biblically about the human condition, but Osteen does not seem to have the resources to do that. He needed to be able to say that humans are sinners both by nature and by choice. The failure to account for this truth makes it very difficult for Osteen to speak biblically about those whose orientation does not feel like a choice at all.
Every person has a nature that is sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5). We are all, therefore, predisposed to sin in one way or another. It should not be surprising that some people would feel that they did not choose their homosexual orientation (e.g., Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting). The scripture teaches that we bear a moral accountability even for orientations that we do not choose. It is for this reason that Jesus said that the root of sin is not the deeds that we commit but our heart from which those deeds originate (Mark 7:20-23).
I am glad that Osteen cited the scripture as his authority. I think, however, that much more needs to be said. Let’s see what happens after the interview airs in its entirety tomorrow night.
(HT: Vitamin Z)