Joel Osteen Apologizes for Larry King Appearance
In an open letter on his Web site, best-selling author and Texas preacher Joel Osteen has apologized for the way he conducted himself in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday, June 20. Osteen writes: . . .
It was never my desire or intention to leave any doubt as to what I believe and Whom I serve. I believe with all my heart that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life. I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very thing in which I have dedicated my life.
Jesus declared in John 14; I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. However, it wasn't until I had the opportunity to review the transcript of the interview that I realize I had not clearly stated that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven. It's about the individual's choice to follow Him.
I did not see the interview, but those who did told me that Osteen, whose book Your Best Life Now keeps flying off the shelf, offered some shaky theology peppered with a lot of "I don't knows" when questioned by King.
According to the transcript, when asked by King whether he was a "fire and brimstone" kind of guy, Osteen, who has no formal seminary training, said, "No. That's not me. It's never been me. I've always been an encourager at heart. . . . I don't have it in my heart to condemn people. I'm there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us. . . . I'm for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it's not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel [is] called the Good News. My message is a message of hope, that God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you. And so I don't know. I know there is condemnation but I don't feel that's my place."
When King asked him whether people of other faiths who don't believe in Christ would go to heaven, Osteen replied, "You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know. . . . Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe." Later when asked about atheists going to heaven, he added, "I'm going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell. I just—again, I present the truth, and I say it every week. You know, I believe it's a relationship with Jesus. But you know what? I'm not going to go around telling everybody else if they don't want to believe that that's going to be their choice. God's got to look at your own heart. God's got to look at your heart, and only God knows that."
King later asked Osteen about abortion and same-sex marriages, to which Osteen replied, "You know what, Larry? I don't go there."
On the use of the word "sinners," he said, "I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning."
Hopefully, if his letter of apology is any indication, Joel Osteen has thought hard about the confusing message he's sending to the thousands of people in his congregation and the many thousands more who watch him on TV and read his books.
Albert Mohler summed the situation up well in a post on his blog a few days ago:
Mr. Osteen's statement is encouraging on several fronts. First, it is encouraging to know that the constituency of Joel Osteen Ministries was so upset about the interview. Second, Mr. Osteen's statement includes a clear and unambiguous affirmation of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Third, the timeliness of the statement underlines the importance of the issues at stake. Fourth, Mr. Osteen's apology is free from the evasions typical of the pseudo-apologies so often issued to the public. He did not say that "statements were made," but instead acknowledged that he had failed to communicate Gospel truth. The humility and honesty of the statement serve to fortify its authenticity.
This is a reminder to all of us who appear in the media. Statements made to an audience of millions are difficult to retract and are often impossible to correct. When Mr. Osteen writes, "I hope that you accept my deepest apology and see it in your heart to extend to me grace and forgiveness," the only proper response is to extend the very forgiveness for which he asks -- and with equal humility. Other concerns can wait for another day.
Hat tip to News! For Christians.