Okay, so maybe putting those two guys in the same heading is a bit much, but bear with me for a minute.
Christian leadership sites have been buzzing this week with the latest from John MacArthur. He is doing something he has grown quite comfortable with of late. Criticizing Christians whom he disagrees with, putting them all together in a box, and declaring them heathen. Okay, so maybe it isn't that bad, but it's close.
This tends to be a bit of a trend with him. I'm not going to go into it too much. Suffice to say that this time it is with the charismatic movement, which certainly has some things I personally disagree with, and has need of depth. You can do some looking around, and check it out for yourself.
My concern is a general one. MacArthur, who is a leading voice in Christianity on many things, often comes out against whatever it is he doesn't like. If you don't agree with him, he tends to be a bit rude, and even has a tendency to to question whether you really take the Bible as it should be taken. Understand I've never seen him in person, and probably never will. But I've read his books, heard him in debates, and listened to his sermons from time to time.
Among other things, you aren't a very good Christian (if you're a Christian at all) if...
- You like modern worship music, and don't sing the old hymns
- You enjoy reading many modern authors (Rick Warren, John Eldredge just to name a couple)
- You don't believe in a literal, six day creation
- You aren't a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial
- You believe in infant baptism
I could go on and on. You can figure most of this out by reading is blog, listening to his sermons, or whatever. It isn't that hard to find out. Just don't waste too much time. There is a lot better content out there.
So what does this have to do with Joel Osteen? Osteen is exactly the opposite of MacArthur in many ways. Where MacArthur is very exclusive (very few are "good" Christians, if Christians at all), Osteen is very inclusive (you're pretty much a Christian no matter what). Where one is overly harsh, the other is overly pleasant.
Sometimes those who are the most unlike each other end up having one thing in common; consequence.
The consequence here is simple. Neither is portraying Jesus well. Through both you get one side of Jesus, but it is skewed badly.
Sure, at times Jesus was very exclusive. He did say, after all, that He is the Way to the Father. There is no other way.
Jesus was also very inclusive at times. He allowed the former prostitute to hang out with He and His disciples, and Jesus Himself spent a lot of time with the down and out, the worst of the world.
Did Jesus condemn a lot of what was said through teachers of his day? Of course, and there is still need of that today. John MacArthur, though, tends to do this with just about anyone who doesn't fit into his particular brand of Christianity, which is much more narrow than even the narrow road of following Jesus.
My concern is that as these two men get a lot of play time, people look at them to represent Christianity, and they are both doing so poorly. Jesus wasn't afraid to call out sin, and to set people on the right path. He also was inclusive enough to have the religious of the day speak very badly of Him.
This all being said, I do believe both these men mean the best for their respective audiences. I also happen to believe that those audiences could find things of much more value to their lives elsewhere.