Hipster Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz recently clarified his response to talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who had asked Lentz on her “Super Soul Sunday” program if only Christians can be in relationship with God.
“Do you believe that only Christians can be in a relationship with God?” Winfrey asked in a program that aired on Oct. 16.
“No,” Lentz replied. “I believe that when Jesus said that ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’—the way I read that, Jesus said that He is the road marker, He is the map.”
“So, I think that God loves people so much that whether they accept or reject Him, He’s still gracious, and He’s still moving, and He’s still giving you massive red blinking lights, for chances to take a right turn where maybe you’d take a left,” he continued. “But I believe God loves people, and that’s what this whole gospel is based on—it’s love. You take the love out of it, we’ve got a moral book.”
But radio host, commentator and author Dr. Michael Brown reached out to Lentz following the airing of the broadcast as some were concerned that Lentz’ response began with “no.”
“When I asked him why he told Oprah that people can have a relationship with God without being a Christian, he said his intent was to say that everyone can have a relationship with God, but the question was will they, then he pointed to Jesus as the way,” Brown wrote in an article for Charisma News.
“But he was quite humble about these things, saying that he continues to learn and grow and wants to do a better and better job when he is in the public eye,” he said.
Brown outlined that Lentz told him that he believes those without Christ are lost.
“When I asked him the question, ‘Are people lost without Jesus?’ he said, ‘Without a doubt! He’s the only hope of salvation. One hundred percent,'” he explained. “And he added, ‘Without Jesus, you can have everything but have nothing. That’s why I’ve given my life for Jesus and for souls.'”
However, some remain concerned about how Lentz responded to Winfrey despite his personal beliefs.
“Carl Lentz was ambiguous in his claims regarding Jesus. He clearly gave an equivocal and palatable answer to Oprah’s question—one that he knew, and let’s understand this, he knew that Oprah would not take issue with,” wrote Jeff Maples for Pulpit and Pen. “Even if he truly believes that Jesus is the only way, he didn’t say that. Further, what Lentz may or may not believe is irrelevant. It’s what he said that’s the problem.”
“Lentz telling Oprah essentially that she could believe what she wants, and then giving her a carefully worded unoffensive version of what he believes, is exactly the kind of double-minded instability a minister of God’s word is not supposed to have,” he continued.
Maples said that Oprah is fine with Christian beliefs as long as Christians don’t think their way is the only way, and Lentz’ comments could have led her to believe that her thinking was acceptable.
“Oprah is perfectly fine if you believe that Jesus is the sacrifice, the atonement, that He is God, as long as you don’t believe that he is the ONLY sacrifice, the ONLY atonement, and the ONLY God. See, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers–they all believe that their gods are the right way for them too, and as long as you don’t become exclusive, you’re in good company,” he wrote. “Clearly, Lentz was in good company, or at least Oprah thought so. And that is grounds for criticism.”
As previously reported, concerns had first been raised in May after Lentz posted a photograph on social media announcing his upcoming appearance Winfrey’s television broadcast.
“I really enjoyed my time with @oprah filming for her Super Soul Sunday show,” he wrote on May 18. “She is truly a special woman and a culture changer. To come from absolute poverty in Mississippi and reach the point where she became the first African American multi-billionaire takes a passion and drive that is exceptional and tireless.”
While the photo generated thousands of likes on social media, others raised concern over the Hillsong leader’s appearance with the television celebrity, who once said, “There are many ways, many paths to what you call God. … Does God care about your heart or does God care about if you call His Son Jesus?”
“Oprah is a pagan with New Age beliefs. For many years she has stated that there are ‘many paths to God.’ She denies that Jesus said the way is narrow,” one wrote.
Lentz responded to the controversy by stating that he didn’t like followers arguing on his page.