Osteenification and What It Portends

Osteenification and What It Portends March 19, 2014

I’m very grateful for this post from Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man himself, on a very important topic.


Osteenification and What it Portends

By Hank Hanegraaff

Virtually every morning I try to catch up on news and sports while running on my treadmill. Often the running (mostly walking) is accompanied by the vigorous exercise of my remote. Recently, I flipped into an interview involving Singaporean mega-pastor Joseph Prince. The more I tuned in, the faster my heart rate. Disregard for the meaning and context of Scripture was simply breathtaking. It all led up to taking a shower and beginning work on a book now titled The Osteenification of American Christianity.

Why Osteenification? Because Joel Osteen is the prime provocateur of a seductive brand of American Christianity that reduces God to a means to our ends. A message that beckons multitudes to the table of the Master, not for the love of the Master but for what is on the table. He is the de facto high priest of a new brand of Christianity perfectly suited for a feel-good generation. And while a host of pretenders (including Prince) follow in his train, Osteen is clearly the biggest of the bunch—according to People magazine, “twice as big as the nearest competitor.” And his claim to America’s largest church is just a small part of the story. With one billion impressions per month on Facebook and Twitter, Osteen is the hip new personification of God-talk in America.

But here’s the problem. Behind Osteenian self-affirmations—“I am anointed,” “I am prosperous,” “My God is a ‘supersizing God’”—there lies a darker hue. Behind the smile is a robust emphasis on all that is negative. If you are healthy and wealthy, words created that reality. However, if you find yourself in dire financial straits, contract cancer, or, God forbid, die an early death, your words are the prime suspect. Says Osteen, “We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying. And this can be good or it can be bad” (Discover the Champion in You, May 3, 2004). In evidence, he cites one illustration after the other. One in particular caught my attention: the story of a “kind and friendly” worker at the church. He died at an early age, contends Osteen, “being snared by the words of his mouth” (I Declare [FaithWords, 2012], viii–ix).

This illustration serves to underscore a predictable trend; a trend now pandemic in American Christianity. Osteen and company simply use the Scriptures to communicate whatever they want. Again and again, Scripture is tortured in the process of deluding the faithful. As even the most cursory reading of Proverbs 6 makes plain, being “snared by the words of your mouth” has nothing to do with negatively professing death into one’s own life and everything to do with a divine warning against making rash pledges.

While in The Osteenification of American Christianity I highlight the Osteenian proclivity for Scriptorture, atonement atrocities, and obsession with anecdotes on generational curses and frequent use of urban legends, what Osteen has most popularized in Christian circles is a baptized version of New Thought Metaphysics. In essence, a version of “the law of attraction” popularized by Rhonda Byrne in her runaway bestseller The Secret (Atria Books, 2006). For Byrne, the genie is the “law of attraction,” which, for Osteen, is rejiggered “the Word of Faith.” As such, he is committed to the notion that faith is a force, that words are the containers of the force, and that through the force of faith people create their own realities. As he explains in his mega-bestseller, Your Best Life Now (Warner Faith, 2004), “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 what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative” (p. 129).

Byrne and her contributors are remarkably open to dangerous hues of “the secret’s” dark underbelly. As such, she points out events in history “where masses of lives were lost.” Says Byrne, “If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” She emphatically concludes, “Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts” (The Secret, 28). Likewise, when Osteen describes the horrific genocide of nearly one million Rwandans, the implications are never far from the surface. Wherever tragedy strikes, thoughts and words are at the center of the narrative.

And Osteen does not only use modern-day anecdotes. With great bravado, he impugns biblical characters, including a hapless paralytic in the Gospel of John. In Osteen’s twist of the text, Jesus encounters a man by the pool of Bethesda just “lying around feeling sorry” for himself. In response to Jesus’ “simple, straightforward question,” the paralytic begins “listing all of his excuses. ‘I’m all alone. I don’t have anyone to help me. Other people have let me down. Other people always seem to get ahead of me. I don’t have a chance in life.’ With nary a hint of mercy, Osteen continues: “Is it any wonder that he remained in that condition for thirty-eight years?” In sharp contrast, Osteen says his sister Lisa arose from the ashes of a painful divorce and remarried. Unlike the paralytic, she “wasn’t going to sit around by the pool for thirty-eight years feeling sorry for herself” (Your Best Life Now, 148–149, 151).

For Osteen, words are downright magical. “In the physical realm, you have to see it to believe it, but God says you have to believe it, and then you’ll see it.” Exhorts Osteen, “Think about it. Your words go out of your mouth and they come right back into your own ears. If you hear those comments long enough, they will drop down into your spirit, and those words will produce exactly what you’re saying.” As proof, Osteen invokes the Bible: “The Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were’” (Become a Better You [Free Press, 2007], 111, 112). As he must surely know, Scripture says nothing of the sort. Indeed, the very passage Osteen references (Romans 4:17) clearly communicates that it is “the God who gives life”—not we—who “calls things that are not as though they were.”

Osteenian Scriptorture is not unique. His words and phrases are now mimicked in pulpits throughout the land. As a result, Christianity has been plunged into an ever-deepening crisis. If occult sources such as those referenced in The Secret pose the greatest threat to the body of Christ from without, the deadly doctrines disseminated through the Osteenification of Christianity pose the greatest threat to Christianity from within. To avert the carnage, a paradigm shift of major proportions is desperately needed—a shift from perceiving God as a means to an end, to the recognition that He is the end.

While we may legitimately engage in collegiate debates over such “in-house” matters as the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, not so the dogmas espoused by Osteen, which involve essential matters with real consequences for this world and the next. The reality is this: Osteenification has subverted the very essence of biblical faith in transposing the glory of the cross for the glory of consumerism—a fast-food Christianity long on looks, dreadfully short on substance.


Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man daily broadcast (www.equip.org). Hank has authored more than twenty books, including AfterLife: What You Need to Know about Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Worthy, 2013) and The Osteenification of American Christianity (CRI, 2014).





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33 responses to “Osteenification and What It Portends”

  1. Beautiful Bank Robbers
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    1/8/09 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    Beautiful bank robbers,
    They stole from you and me,
    Beautiful bank robbers,
    With mansions by the sea.

    Beautiful bank robber couples,
    So fabulously in love,
    We admire their plastic features,
    And how their doctors dug.

    Beautiful bank robbers,
    Say, You can be like me,
    And have other people admire,
    Your mansion by the sea.

    Beautiful bank robbers,
    Each must have their jet,
    They have their lovely ways,
    Of getting what they get.

    Nothing is too good,
    For bank robbers by the sea,
    Better than good is perfect,
    To sell greed so lustily.

    Beautiful bank robbers,
    How they will rot in hell,
    For being so beautiful,
    And lying perfect well.

    The Grapes of Immaturity
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    1/10/09 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    Latin saying
    from the novel Lonesome Dove:

    “Uva uvam vivendo varia fit”

    A grape turns color and matures,
    Upon seeing statured others,
    So also proud broadcast preachers,
    After meeting humble betters.

    Until that day of humility,
    Comes indwelt of God,
    The proud, false shepherds,
    Think brokenness odd.

    And will avoid most personal tribulation,
    By personal wealth guarantees,
    Extracted by pandering their own fear,
    Emotion, excitement or greed.

    With emotion it’s prophetic or,
    Intellectual jabberwocky,
    With greed prosperity, with fear,
    Rapture-dispensation malarkey.

    The grapes of immaturity,
    Broadcasting fear, emotion or greed,
    Think manifesting Christ,
    The very last thing on earth we need.

    The grapes of immaturity,
    Won’t honor their betters,
    Their trollop doxies make them,
    Hellfire selfish go-getters.

    The grapes of immaturity,
    Do not fear God’s wrath,
    Ignoring every grow chance,
    Before they are smashed.

    Thus the grapes of immaturity,
    Have not grown for thirty years,
    Ignoring all people their betters,
    To tickle their own deaf ears.

    The grapes of immaturity,
    Broadcasting self best,
    Woe is us, woe is them,
    For spoiling God’s nest.

    God’s nest of inhabitation,
    Is ourselves to indwell,
    Proud broadcasting preachers,
    Can’t do this for God well.

    The grapes of immaturity,
    Believe their perfection a bastion,
    When will they see betters,
    And repent of smug inaction?

    Then, there’s the problem,
    With: Holding thought!
    It’s hard to hold truth,
    When lies were bought!

    If you bought gold when markets were crazy,
    But if your reason was rapture,
    You’ll sell wrong when lies’ loosen,
    Wrong thought does reason capture!

    Yet with fearless truth and God’s mind,
    You can buy low and sell high,
    When you are indwelt: Christ-in-You,
    Mature grapes witness God nigh!

  2. I’ve seen and heard many versions of the name-it-and-claim-it gospel. It was nearly fifty years ago that I read Psycho Cybernetics, which is the same story. The question for me is not ‘why does this continue to attract throngs of best-seller proportions’. The real issue is what is it that is missing in church that it doesn’t interest and heal the broken hearted in the way Jesus did? People then were no less gullible than now. They were no less self interested or ambitious. Yet they thronged Jesus, just as people now amass in megachurches with the prosperity gospel.

    I think that we are missing the Incarnational gospel. Jesus is not a spiritualist who wants people to mortify the flesh in order to inherit a Platonic heavenly kingdom. He is a man who brings God into the world and along with God comes health and salvation, body and soul. When the church gets that right, we’ll see
    crowds in church for the right reasons.

    • I’m wondering… If seeing “crowds in church” – for any reasons – is the right question to ask? It certainly wasn’t when Jesus managed to have only a few handfuls of disciples follow him. Why are so many still so enamored of the “numbers” litmus test anymore? Let Osteen sell his snake oil to the thousands… I think it’s simply time we begin reclaiming the word “Christian” and pointing out that he’s anything but that…

      • Jesus and the apostles attracted so many followers that there soon were millions of Christians in the Roman Empire. Constantine accepted the religion to attempt to hold together the fragmenting empire.

        • Not to sound argumentative but Jesus only attracted somewhere like 82 or 84 followers – if we assume those the Gospels actually call “disciples.” (Perhaps some parsing on the differences in the term “disciple” versus “follower” is in order.) I’d vehemently disagree with the idea that there were “millions” and also use the word “soon” along with it in the pre-Constininian church. There has been much thought that Christianity came close to being eradicated in the first two centuries during various persecutions. The acceptance and growth of the church post Constantine is a much different – and more problematic – issue, IMO. (Perhaps that change might actually be related to the difference in discipleship versus “following.”) Either way, the current obsession with numbers as an equivalent metric for either success or faithfulness is off target and clearly non-Biblical. And any related thought still leaves the obvious conclusion vis a vis Osteen and the “product” he’s selling… It might be a lot of things (and he is most definitely “selling” it), but to call it discipleship is naive and erroneous. I really don’t think Jesus cares very much whether everyone gets that Lexus they covet for their driveway and those expensive red shoes they keep praying for…

          • I don’t like crowds, and the “music” in megachurches drives me up the wall. I attend a small church, about 150 active members, where people know and support each other. But I was indoctrinated early in life that Christianity is about self-denial. It seemed self evident in the severe teachings of Jesus that taking up the cross was a death sentence to my ambitions. After many years of trying to serve God by making myself available to help in others, it began to dawn on me that I had little to give. I had deprecated the things in life that might otherwise make me a person who could do anything of value to God or man. Incarnational theology is taking the value system Jesus demonstrated and applying it to life now. It is restorative and life affirming.

  3. Years ago, when I was deep into the New Age movement, I read many books by an author who “channeled” an entity named Seth, whose constant reminder was that we create our own reality. After returning to Jesus Christ, it is a joy to renew my baptismal promises each Easter in my parish by saying “I renounce Satan, and all his works.”

  4. Osteen is not new. He’s just southern. Bob Schuller’s perty crystal cathedral got cracked. That whirlly thing on Joel’s stage will someday blow a fuse.

    • I’ve heard it reffered to as the “Gospel of Prosperity”. BTW… the Catholic Church bought the crystal cathedral and it will become the Cathedral for the local Diccese there.

  5. Part of the problem I think is people don’t want the true gospel. It is offensive. It tells people there sinners and they need to repent and get right with God. People want what’s easy. Unfortunately as a result, we see an unregenerated dead church.
    Size does not matter. The early church was on fire and met in houses. My church is small and preaches a strong biblical message, but reaches millions through the goodfight.com ministry. Furthermore, Jesus did warn believers that before he returns there will be a great falling away.

  6. “Scripture is tortured in the process of deluding the faithful”

    I would not suggest that they are the faithful. Such want to have their ears tickled. And having come across some, you can do your best to persuade them otherwise. But they want their Great Kazoo!

    This is an informative article on an area I cannot be bothered with usually. However, it seems that down deep behind everything, is existentialist philosophy; the idea that you can create your own reality by merely thinking it or in thit case proclaiming it enough times with belief in your words.

  7. All too common…I know of one pastor (fortunately I’m not in his church) who manages to work the word “anointing” into every sermon…I’ve never once heard him talk about sin, the Cross or salvation.

  8. There is a reason that ancient people portrayed the gods as mercurial and emotional. Because that reflected their experiences in the world. You can pray ten times a day and still lose the game of life….badly. In that sense ancient people seem to have had more sense than people today who believe that prayer is a can’t miss real estate deal.

  9. Sin contaminates ALL human activities including the the Church. The Holy Spirit will deal with it as she will.

  10. All modern quasi religious cults, like that of Joel Osteen, and also the political government-worship cults, aren’t just cults but huge propaganda machines. They label you as whatever-phobic, Osteen-phobic, a hater, etc. etc. and expect you to shut up and react as an immature child fearful of what others will say and think about you. They are guilt trip bullies. That’s how they mold not only their own image but how they mold Christian churches and public opinion to their anti-biblical, new age, popular, demonic ideas of using God as the heavenly butler. Biblical love has just one definition: self sacrifice that centers you in God. Hate has one definition: prideful self centeredness. Through their “affirmations”, which are nothing but witchcraft spells disguised as Christianity, these highly seductive cults are a source of self centered hate and whatever money, etc. they do receive from affirmations comes from demons disguised as angels of light. We are not the haters, they are. That’s why they are merciless about their occultist ideas. Their declarations that Christian groups shouldn’t attack each other, etc. are invalid because they are not Christian at all to begin with. Like Pastor Al Pitman says: we are not homophobic (or Osteen-phobic). We are God-phobic, we fear and respect God. That’s why we don’t fear other people and speak the truth “when the time is favorable and when it’s not” (2 Timothy 4:2).

  11. I believe the reason Joel Osteen and his predecessors (and successors), and the whole “Gospel of Prosperity” bunch, are hugely popular is because they promote selfishness as spirituality. Concentrate on getting what YOU want. Make YOUR thoughts manifest YOUR desires. And all those poor people? All those lame, and halt, and blind? It’s all their fault. Don’t worry about them. They were bad. They thought bad thoughts. Back to YOU!

  12. As long as folks keep pretending the CHURCH was an invention of Jesus, this sort of False teaching will abound.

    Jesus INVENTED the concept of the “Congregation”, NOT the Church !

    “Church” is SIMPLY the Greek word for “TEMPLE”, and Jesus TAUGHT the TEMPLE was UNIMPORTANT !

    Until you EMBRACE the TEACHINGS, rather then the STORY of Jesus, what makes you think you have the POSSIBILITY of Attaining Grace? Because some Priest/Preacher told you that paying your tithe would cover it?

    The CHURCH is NOT Jesus, and if said Church Worships ONLY the Story of Jesus, they are NOT a Church of Jesus, they are a Church of Tithe-Takers !

  13. Have recently watch the documentary the secret of success “law of attraction” by Rhonda Byrne and currently reading Osteen book “Everyday is a Friday” I can connect the dots as Hank Hanegraaff explained. The major issue here to me is worldview. Also if we can believe the words of our mouth and be liberated, how much more we will gain if we have faith in God who is the beginning and the end compare to the words of our mouth and our thoughts.

  14. Thank you. For the longest time I thought no one else was seeing it, but there they are, Bryne and Osteen on the same page. I used to follow Dr. Wayne Dyer and Kenneth Copeland simultaneously. May seem like an odd couple but the sameness intrigued me and it took a long time to figure out. Osteen’s father was a Texas pastor running with the same frat pack as Copeland and Kenneth Hagin. Joel has the torch now while expertly coop ting the liberal theological strand represented by Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Smooth move, now his pop star is shining twice as bright. Anyway, back in the day, Copeland was top dog. His prime mentors were Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts. ( There is also a linked parallel strand that runs through names like Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, with the currently most popular baptized version of success guru ism being John Maxwell.) Back to Kenneth Hagin; he was significantly influenced by E. W. Kenyon. And here it gets interesting. Studying Kenyon seemed familiar to something else, to the kinds of ideas Mary Baker Eddy was getting at in Christian Science. ( You may also easily sense the kinship with ‘Conversations with Seth’ , popular with newagers, and ‘A Course in Miracles’, popular with Catholics.) It turns out that all that had kinship with something much older called Gnosticism which flowered in the second century and whose philosophical and spiritual ideas never really went away. N. T. Wright addresses the growing problem of Neognosticism in his book on the Gospel of Judas. Neognosticism is poised for its own flowering since the discovery and dissemination of the Nag Hamadi texts which are the darlings of scholars like Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman. In the first century, Gnosticism was in a proto or incipient phase, and in that way goes not unaddressed in the NT. It is not merely an intellectual problem, but an actual spiritual problem, which in biblical theological analysis goes back to the garden of Eden. And that’s how deep the rabbit hole goes. Gnosticism has found a wormhole into fundamentalist evangelicalism. There may be others, but I saw this one with my own eyes. Meanwhile, new age popularity has been increasing since the sixties ( flower power, peace, allyouneedislove , the dawning of the age of Aquarius, transcendental meditation. Shirley McClain did her part out on a limb and on the beach shouting ” I am God. ” ( so don’t think it can’t happen). But she was flaky. Dr. ( of psychology ) Wayne Dyer ( following especially Abraham Maslow ) smoothly merged into and combined with full blown new age metaphysics, and made it respectable ; he is still a darling of PBS. The ideological connections with Gnosticism are much more obvious when they come from the East. In the West I think Platonic Dualism helped keep the gnostic wormhole open. So what happens in the future when someone synthesizes what we have here in a charismatic covertly Machiavellian style? In biblical terms, what kind of monster has been created? Indeed, something restrains him now. But don’t think it can’t happen.

  15. Thank you so much for this needed analysis of this New Age/satanic doctrine infecting Christianity. Having heard such preaching in evangelical circles, I grew more and more uncomfortable. It felt formulaic. No-one could reconcile “waiting upon God” with this optimistic magical practice. It did not fit the facts as many were “declaring and claiming” for ages and to no avail. Also and more importantly, it did not square with Christ’s message of self-denial. At the time, I read the book “The Secret” and felt, indeed, that the church was preaching this with Christ attached as an addendum and tool for our wishes, rather than the core. Having come from a Catholic background, I thought a little silent contemplation and inner heart adoration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ was prescribed ! You might fancy doing a search on Osteen and alleged connections with Illuminati. We know that the aim of the new one-world religion is to deny Christ while appearing to affirm Him in that He will be just a good man, great avatar, prophet and so on. They will “preach another Christ”. Let us all pray for discernment in these perilous times. God bless.

  16. Rom 4:16For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, Rom 4:17(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.

  17. I understand your perspective on this matter, but God “spoke” and words ARE powerful containers, and Jesus cursed the fig tree, he didn’t just think it. Quantum Physics proves that matter retains energy – words carry energy and if you wanted to hit this topic hard in your book, I encourage you to research or listen to a little of https://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/6762, or if you are a scientist talk about Quantum Physics and words so you can do GOOD on waking people up. Remember that Satan is the accuser, so although you make good points about Christianity being diluted, you could ensnare yourself when taking jabs. God has a plan and he will use it for HIS glory, so if Joel is doing it wrong God will correct his footsteps just as God corrects all of our footsteps if we are willing to be obedient.

  18. Strange. I just had a look at Amit Gaswami’s website. He is a quantum physicist bending this science to confirm Eastern spiritual paradigms of pantheistic universal consciousness. Appeal to quantum physics will fail to vindicate the Creator thereof. He defines it, it does not define Him. It will glorify Him, but He reveals Himself. He has spoken to us definitively in the Son Jesus ( Hebrews ch 1 ).

  19. Always be a little careful about your judgement/accusement:

    1. Have you imagine the negative effects, damage you can/will cause to the weak/young in faith, by your accusations? e.g. those who have recently received our Lord through Osteen’s work?

    2. Admittedly, Osteen’s preaching may not be completely sound, 100% error free, over-emphasizing on certain aspects, which is not to your likings. However, so is every preaching on each pulpits.

    3. God does NOT appoint only those who have perfect understandings/preaching of his word. And it’s undeniable, Osteen is giving glory to the name of Jesus, and probably many many people accept our Lord through his work.

    3. Only our Lord (often not even yourself) knows your true motivation behind your judgement. So reflect in front our Lord and watch out, my brother 🙂

  20. Always be a little careful about your judgement/accusement:

    1. Have you imagine the negative effects, damage you can/will cause to the weak/young in faith, by your accusations? e.g. those who have recently received our Lord through Osteen’s work?

    2. Admittedly, Osteen’s preaching may not be completely sound, 100% error free, over-emphasizing on certain aspects, which is not to your likings. However, so is every preaching on each pulpits.

    3. God does NOT appoint only those who have perfect understandings/preaching of his word. And it’s undeniable, Osteen is giving glory to the name of Jesus, and probably many many people accept our Lord through his work.

    3. Only our Lord (often not even yourself) knows your true motivation behind your judgement. So reflect in front our Lord and watch out, my brother 🙂