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I Steam, You Steam, We All Steam at Osteen

Greg GilbertWell, maybe we’re not that mad at Joel Osteen, but Greg Gilbert’s new review of Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, reminds us of why we are appalled at his version of “Christianity.” Greg Gilbert describes Osteen’s work this way:

It should be noted clearly and widely that there is nothing Christian about this book. Yes, Osteen talks about God throughout, but it is not the God of the Bible he has in mind. Osteen’s God is little more than the mechanism that gives the power to positive thinking. There is no cross. There is no sin. There is no redemption or salvation or eternity. . .

If Joel Osteen wants to be the Norman Vincent Peale of the twenty-first century, he has every right to give it a shot. But he should stop marketing his message as Christianity, because it is not. You cannot simply make reference to God, quote some Scripture, call what you’re saying “spiritual principles,” and pass it off as Christianity. That’s the kind of thing that will have people “enlarging their vision” and “choosing to be happy” all the way to hell (source).

I haven’t read Osteen’s book and don’t plan to. But I have watched enough of Osteen on television to know that his preaching is as Gospel-free as Gilbert says his book is. Go check out the rest of Gilbert’s review. It’s sad, but it sounds the alarm that many need to hear.

For more on Joel Osteen:
My Previous Posts on Joel Osteen
“Osteen’s answer to ‘gay marriage’ question less than direct” – Baptist Press (Sept 22, 2006)
“Meanwhile, In No Apparent Danger of Arrest” – by R. Albert Mohler

The Appearance of Partisanship

Many evangelicals are truly political partisans. There are many others who are not partisan, but nevertheless have the appearance of a partisanship because of their consistent support for Republican candidates. For those of us who fall in the latter category, the explanation is rather simple. The Democrats and Republicans couldn’t be more polarized when it comes to the most important human rights issue of our time–abortion.

I cannot improve upon Robert George’s analysis of this polarization and the effect that it has on conscientious, pro-life voters. George writes,

However much one might dislike Republican policies in other areas, it’s clear that the death toll under the Democrats would be so large as to make it unreasonable for Catholic citizens, or citizens of any faith who oppose the taking of innocent human life, to use their votes and influence to help bring the Democratic party into power.

I find no cause for joy in this. I wish that it were possible for pro-life citizens legitimately to support Democratic candidates. I wish that the party of my parents and grandparents had not placed itself on the wrong side of the most profound human rights issue of our contemporary domestic politics. I wish that the killing of embryonic and fetal human beings by abortion and in biomedical research were resolutely opposed by both parties so that we could cast our votes based on our assessments of the candidates’ and parties’ competing positions on taxation, immigration, education, welfare, health-care reform, national security, and foreign policy. It is hardly satisfactory that pro-life citizens—representing a variety of views on the range of issues in economic, social, and foreign policy—find themselves bound to the Republicans because the only viable alternative is a party that has abandoned its commitment to the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family by embracing abortion and embryo-destructive research (source).

Right on.

(HT: Justin Talyor)

Congratulations to Dr. Barry Joslin!

Paternoster's Biblical Monographs SeriesCongratulations to my best friend of 22 years, Dr. Barry Joslin of Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. I found out today that Paternoster will be publishing his dissertation in their Biblical Monographs series. Barry’s book will be an important contribution to the study of the theology of the book of Hebrews. It’s titled The Theology of the Mosaic Law in Hebrews 7-10.

Barry’s dissertation will be the third monograph appearing in this series by a graduate of Southern Seminary’s Ph.D. program. The other two that I know of are by Rob Plummer and Shawn Wright.

So, I just wanted to give a hearty “atta boy” to Barry and to Southern Seminary. Keep up the good work!

The Brilliance of Carter Beauford

Carter BeaufordNot many people know this, but once upon a time I used to be a drummer. I’m afraid the only time my drums get played anymore is when the worship band takes the stage at the Criswell College where I teach, and the guy playing my drums is definitely not me. This is for the best, since even when I was at the peak of my drumming powers, I wasn’t all that good.

But when I see Carter Beauford play, it makes me wish I had practiced more. Carter Beauford is one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen. Most people know him as the guy who plays with Dave Matthews, but my favorite pop album of his is the album “Running on Ice” that he recorded with Vertical Horizon.

That being said, when I came across this video today of Beauford playing, I just had to share. I don’t even think you have to be a drummer to see the brilliance of Carter Beauford. Nor do you have to be a drummer to know that virtuosity is a gift from the Maker whose image we all bear.

Touchstone Editors Weigh in on the Gender Conversation

I would like to thank three of the editors at Touchstone magazine who have taken the time to participate in the conversation that we have been having on this blog. Of course the conversation that I am referring to is the one about gender (here, here, and here). The editors are S. M. Hutchens, David Mills, and Anthony Esolen. Two posts have appeared on the Touchstone blog that refer to our debate.

Burk’s Readers On Hutchens” -by David Mills
All Flattened Things are Equal” -by Anthony Esolen

This conversation started on September 7 when I wrote a brief note on S. M. Hutchens’ review of John G. Stackhouse’s book Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. It’s almost twenty days later, and I am still getting comments on that post, including another one just a fews days ago from Hutchens himself.
I think Anthony Esolen’s reflections on this conversation are apt. He writes on the Touchstone blog:

Nor have the “egalitarians” anything really interesting to say about the sexes — because their form of egalitarianism is really indifferentism, leveling distinctions by denying that they exist. . . And once we have done that, it is doubtful that we have remained Christian. The egalitarian — the indifferentist — becomes unitarian, reconceiving the self-revealed God according to the vanity of his own rather dull imagination.

Ben Witherington Puts Just War Tradition on Trial (at least implicitly)

Dr. Ben WitheringtonMaybe he didn’t intend to do this, but New Testament scholar Ben Witherington has put the “Just War” tradition on trial in his most recent blog post.

Commenting on the Family Research Council’s recent summit in Washington, D. C., Witherington complains that many evangelical Christians are inconsistent when they vigorously advocate pro-life policies while supporting the war in Iraq. He writes,

Interestingly, what no one was suggesting at the conservative Christian organizers meeting was that maybe, just maybe it was grossly inconsistent when it comes to being ‘pro-life’ to be campaigning so vigorously against abortion, while supporting the war in Iraq equally vigorously. Indeed, by some polls it appears Evangelical Christians are still some of the most staunch supporters of the war in Iraq. What’s up with that? . . .

What was M.I.A. at this meeting was a recognition that war is just as destructive of life in general and Christian values in particular as abortion or same sex marriage. I suspect that until it dawns on these Christian organizers that they need to be articulating a more consistent and clear life ethic that not only affects personal Christian values but our larger witness to the whole world, that most non-Christians are not going to pay much attention to us.

I don’t know that Witherington is a pacifist, but the logic of his blog-entry is. He has linked the evil of war to the evil of abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage.” To say that Christians must oppose war in the same way that they do abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage” demands that Christians surrender the idea that there is such a thing as a just war—that is, unless one can envisage a Just Abortion-on-Demand theory or a Just Same-Sex Marriage theory.

It is fine for Witherington to argue vigorously that the Iraq War was unjust and therefore anti-Christian. But it is quite another matter to suggest that all wars have the same moral status as abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage.” To me it makes more sense simply to acknowledge that Christians can disagree about whether the war in Iraq is a Just War. Let’s have a debate about that, but let’s not throw out the entire Just War tradition because we think that some on the religious right have misapplied it to the Iraq War.