Joel Osteen Tells it like it is—finally

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Joel Osteen Tells it like it is—finally

 

So there we were outside a Bally Fitness Club in Fort Lauderdale several years ago, “questionnaires” in hand, looking for someone to ask about their faith or lack thereof. A buff gentleman leaving the gym stopped to answer our pop quiz, and being a friendly sort, he heard us out as we presented the Gospel.

 

He volunteered that while he was not exactly a follower of Christ, he really enjoyed the upbeat messages of TV preacher Joel Osteen. However, he didn’t like D. James Kennedy, the late pastor of nearby Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founder of Coral Ridge Ministries..
 
He took issue with Dr. Kennedy over homosexuality, a matter of personal importance to our parking lot friend and one about which Dr. Kennedy, who died in 2007, was rather old school. Dr. Kennedy called it sin, did so publicly, and opposed the homosexual political agenda. He also urged his congregation to pray for homosexuals and do good to them. His church sponsored an outreach to help people find freedom from homosexuality through Christ and gave money to help people with AIDS.
 
Despite that, local homosexual activists picketed his church on numerous occasions, waving placards with pleasant messages like “Temple of Doom” and “Kennedy = Hate Crimes.”
 
It’s safe to say that has never happened to Joel Osteen. Yet.
 
Up to now, “sin” has not been a regular part of Osteen’s vocabulary. Watched weekly by some 10 million people, Osteen is a telegenic preacher with messages that breathe out optimism and are focused on helping viewers find success and prosperity. His bestselling book, Your Best Life Now, has sold eight million copies and mentions the word “sin” or “sins” a total of four times in 310 pages.
 
The word “sin” didn’t come out of his mouth in 2009, when both Larry King and the ladies on The View asked him about same-sex unions. It’s “not God’s best,” he said, a comment that disappointed some evangelicals for its moral ambiguity.
 
Homosexuals also felt dissed, but they are even more upset now in the wake of Osteen’s recent admission, when pressed by CNN interviewer Piers Morgan, that homosexuality is sin.
 
Hi answer was not a bold declaration but, give him credit, one that is faithful to Scripture: “Yes. I’ve always believed, Piers, the Scriptures shows that it’s a sin.”
 
Osteen added: “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible too.”
 
That modest caveat didn’t help. One of the nation’s largest homosexual advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, blasted Osteen for his “hateful remark” and demanded an immediate apology. HRC president Joe Solmonese charged that Osteen’s “tired and dangerous statement” only “furthers ignorance and discrimination” and “adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
 
But is it true? Do the “Scriptures show that homosexuality is sinful,” as Osteen said?
 
The answer has been “yes” for the last 3,500 years, but recent attempts to reinterpret Scripture have cast doubt on that claim and have been used to bolster pro-homosexual arguments inside the church. In rebuking Osteen, the HRC noted, for example, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church accept homosexual conduct and “see God’s divine presence working across the spectrum of human sexuality,” whatever that means.
 
We’ve heard lately from revisionists that the sin of Sodom was not sodomy, but inhospitality (for that you get rained on with fire and brimstone?), and that Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality was not universal.
 
Author James De Young gives readers a comprehensive answer to these and many other false assertions that seek to undermine the traditional biblical understanding in his book, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law. It’s a fascinating, if excruciatingly detailed, refutation of revisionist scholars that looks at not just the relevant Old and New Testament passages, but references in other ancient extra-biblical literature, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, as well as other sources, including Plato.
 
The “inescapable conclusion,” De Young writes, “is that the Old Testament teaches that homosexuality is sin and brings God’s judgment.” And that conclusion, he shows, is only reinforced in the New Testament.
 
The sin of Sodom, which God called “very grave,” brought a unique judgment in which Sodom, Gomorrah and surrounding cities were entirely destroyed. The land smoked and Sodom became a symbol referenced 39 places in Scripture, De Young writes, of “all sorts of sexual perversion, violence, and pride that violates heterosexual marriage.”
 
That’s what we see in Genesis 19. When Lot’s visitors arrived in Sodom, their presence attracted a crowd from throughout the city: “And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally” (Genesis 19:5 NKJV). It’s clear from the text and context that this was not a Welcome Wagon call, but a mob seeking homosexual contact.
 
When Moses announced God’s law to the Jewish nation, he included this rule: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22 NKJV). Moses relayed this warning from God: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.”
 
Homosexual conduct, which was among the sins practiced by the prior occupants, the Canaanites, brought God’s judgment and their ouster.
 
In the New Testament, Paul condemns homosexuality as “vile passions” that are “against nature.”
 
But that’s not all Paul has to say. He also offers hope. After telling Christians in Corinth that “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9), he adds this:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:11)

As Joel Osteen might say it, this is God’s best.

 

–John Aman

 

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