In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen advised that he believes God accepts homosexuals, and that he doesn’t want to “tell everybody what they’re doing wrong.”
Osteen sat down this week with host Josh Zepps to promote his new book Break Out: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life. The two discussed a variety of issues, from Pope Francis to fighting poverty to whether unbelievers can go to Heaven.
“You say here… ‘It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you; all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you; He approves of you,” Zepps stated, reading from Osteen’s book. “Is that true for gay men or true for homosexuals?”
“Absolutely,” Osteen replied. “I believe that God’s breathed His life into every person. We’re all on a journey. Nobody’s perfect.”
“The Bible says that sin is pride, sin is selfish ambition,” he continued. “We tend to pick on certain things, but I believe every person is made in the image of God, and you’ve got to accept them as they are as they’re on their journey.”
Osteen then explained his belief that Christians should exemplify kindness to the world, rather than “pushing people down.”
“Again, the Scripture teaches the way people are going to know His disciples is for our love for one another, and so, I’m not preaching hate [or] pushing people down,” he stated. “I’m not here to tell everybody what they’re doing wrong.”
Osteen was later asked if he believes unbelievers can go to Heaven. He replied that he believes Scripture states that Christ is the way, but that he is not the judge of who is allowed to enter.
“As a Christian pastor, the only thing in Scripture that I see is that a relationship with Jesus will get you to Heaven,” he replied. “Now, do you have to be a certain denomination or something like that? I don’t know that, but I do know that I’m not the judge of who gets to go Heaven. What I see in the Scripture is that you have to have a relationship with Jesus. That’s why He came.”
“Someone who believes in the monkey god is not going to Heaven then,” Zepps commented, referencing the 1.2 Indians in the world, many of whom practice polytheism.
“I don’t claim to understand who’s all going to Heaven,” Osteen replied. “I just believe and I teach in all my messages that when you have a relationship with Christ–that’s the reason why He came, to have a relationship with him that is the guarantee from Heaven.”
“People don’t all believe like me; they see it bigger,” he added. “I believe God’s mercy is very big. I thank God I’m not the judge of who gets to come. Only He can, but that’s the way I see it.”
While some have applauded Osteen for the way in which he responded to Zepps’ questions, others have expressed deep concern. Dr. Michael Brown, host of the Line of Fire radio broadcast, and author of the forthcoming book Hyper-Grace, told Christian News Network that Osteen “offers affirmation for sinners–of all kinds–rather than a call for transformation.”
“If he meant that God accepts us the way we are and that’s it–no repentance or changed life in Jesus required, then I categorically disagree,” he stated. “Paul says plainly in 2 Timothy 2:19, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’”
Brown said that Osteen missed an opportunity to encourage those who struggle with homosexual temptations that Christ came to free men from the power of sin.
“If Joel Osteen had made himself clear and given a full, biblical message, which, sadly, he often fails to do, this could have given hope to those struggling with homosexuality, as well as brought the fear of the Lord to those who believe homosexual practice and Christianity are compatible,” he stated. “[I]t’s so important that we open the door wide to all those identify as LGBT, telling them Jesus died for them just as He died for the rest of the world and there is new life and new hope in Him.”
Brown said that he is concerned that there are those like Osteen who preach a humanistic Gospel, which “starts with me and tells me what God can do to please me,” instead of a biblical Gospel, which “starts with God and tells me what I can do to please Him.”
“While I appreciate Joel Osteen bringing a personable, smiling face to the TV screen in the name of Jesus, I’m deeply grieved by the man-centered, cross-avoiding message that he preaches, and because of his great influence, he is greatly accountable,” he stated. “We should pray for God to get hold of him in a radical way and raise him up to be a preacher of righteousness.”