What a presumptuous question, right? The presumption is in the fact that I would even pose such a question. The question itself presumes that I might answer in the negative. What is wrong with you Michael? Why take off your irenic t-shirt with the quote from Rodney King on the back? Why do you now shod the polemic boots of battle? What would possess you to ask such a question?

Calm down. It is just a question. But your are right. The presumption behind the question does evidence my uncertainty as to its answer. I was listening to Osteen last night. He was very pleasant and had a lot of nice things to say. For the most part, except for his interjections of the word “God” here and there, his speech was a typical motivational speech. He did not use the Bible, but he attempted to give the impression that he was. He held it in his hand the entire time.

Why he bothered interjecting “God” into his motivational speech, I can only suppose. Maybe because his speaking venue is called a “church”? Isn’t that what you are supposed to do at church? Mention God? Maybe its because they sang hymns and if you sing hymns, God needs to be talked about afterward. Or maybe it’s because he thought attributing his thoughts to God would give his propositions and stories more authority? It would seem that his placements of the word “God” were very strategic. It would come at pivotal points in his message. “God does not want you to be sick. You can have the best life now. God does not want you to be behind on your bills. You can have the best life now. God wants to make your dreams come true! The best life is here and now. God wants you to take a hold of it.”

In the end, I thought to myself This is not a church. This is not preaching. This is not Christianity. And, I wonder . . . is his God my God? If Osteen’s God and my God are the same, God may have a case of bi-polar disorder.

Now, this is not as far-fetched as you might think. People DO worship other gods. They always have. Since the beginning of time, people have found replacements for the true God by filling in the “gaps” that God does not fill to their liking. Whether it be a rain god, fertility god, sun god, or god of war, people have a desire to have their perceived needs met. In the old days, people would create a new god and give it an appropriate name. Marduk, Apollo, Diana, Sol, and Cupid are all names of popular Romans gods who filled in the gaps. The Japanese even have a god for weavers named Am-No-Tanabata-Hime. For weavers!! Each of these gods had a particular function and role. The Japanese god Daikoku is the god of wealth. If you desire money, this is the god to go to. Binzuru-Sonja is the god of health. Are you sick? Do you have cancer? Binzuru-Sonja is your man . . . I mean god.

I am going to do something radical here (warning: satire forth-coming). I propose a new god. Let us combine the last two Japanese gods: Daikoku and Binzuru-Sonja. “Daikoku-Sonja” will be the initial designation of this new god. Now lets do something to make this more palatable to a monotheistic western Christianized world. Let’s call Daikoku-Sonja “Jesus.” Let’s even say that he died on a cross and rose from a grave. Let’s give him all the characteristics that would not detract from his ultimate power and will for us to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. These other characteristics can come from the Bible. He will have a Father, he will be gracious and kind. He will die for our sins and offer forgiveness. Then, he will reveal his ultimate plan—to make us happy. To fill our bellies and pockets with comfort and joy. Yes, that is nice. We will talk about how nice he wants to be to us. How much he wants us to be nice to others. Yes, other gods have done the same, but this one rose from the grave and has therefore proved that he wants us to be rich and healthy. This sounds nice.

Now, we must stay away from the Bible for the most part because it does not present much in favor of our god other than the basic details and historical facts. We can draw from the Old Testament here and there, emphasizing the “heal all your diseases” and “shoes never wearing out” parts. But we cannot put those in context or that would narrow the application. As well, we must leave out all the parts where God’s wrath is spoken of. (The Gnostics did it, so can we!) Troublesome passages such as these cannot be mentioned:

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

James 1:2-3 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Those passages are downers. Daikoku-Sonja . . . umm . . . I mean Jesus is not about bringing people down in such a way. He wants you to have “The Best Life NOW!” The best life does not involve suffering and pain or heart-ache and loss.

We can call this movement “Christianity.” Why not? People are comfortable with the name. And, more importantly, people don’t really know what it means. Essentially they think it is about this nice guy named Jesus, who is God, who wants us to do what is right and be nice to each other. We can capitalize on this. In the end, what we are doing is just rewarding people with positive thinking. No one should dwell on their problems. No one should think Daikoku-Sonja really wills for people to suffer. This just is not nice.

(Okay, satire complete.)

Let me be serious. I don’t know if Osteen’s God is different than mine. What I do know is that there are characteristics and motivations in his God that are completely opposite of mine. My God allows suffering and pain for His own purpose. My God is a potter, who has sovereign right over His creation. My God does what He will, not what I will. My God is loving, but He is also one of great indignation. My God does love everyone, but He also created a terrible place called Hell for his enemies. My God does not have it high on His agenda for me to be rich (or even pay the bills).

I also know that this theology, while motivational for a time, destroys lives. It builds false expectation. It makes people put their trust in characteristics of God that just do not exist. When these characteristics fail (and they will fail —ever heard of “death”? It is hard to escape no matter how positive your thinking is), then, in these people’s minds, God has failed. I have seen too many people walk away from the “Jesus” that they created when he failed to heal them of their cancer or when he could not seem to get them a job. But the question is Did they walk away from Jesus or from Daikoku-Sonja (aka Jesus)?

Here is the question: Where does one draw the line? When has ones description of God become so foreign to the biblical God that it should thought of as a different god with the same name? After all, a name does not mean much if that which the name represents does not mirror its true characteristics.

Where do you draw the line? What do you think? Do Joel Osteen and I worship the same God?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    59 replies to "Do Joel Osteen and I Worship the Same God?"

    • S. E. Ray

      Great post… although a little late responding. I wrote on this same topic, March 3/2007 here: http://www.eternalpath.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9 After 80,000 hits, it must be popular subject.

    • jami beans

      Lets pull up to the tv, get in a little yoga position and start chanting. I am great therefore I will be great. My inner potential is to be an astronaut, therefore i will be an astronaut. Fire up the rockets god! and open that window cause I’m coming through. But don’t worry if I stop in heaven. I have been a good person more than I have done bad. Pure hinuism and your right, well, it at least isn’t the Holy, omnipotent God I serve.

    • Carlos Alberto

      Im still confused. Should we or should we not expect anything from God? The scriptures tells us that Jesus said (Mat 7:7-11)

      “7Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. 9Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.”

      So, will I receive or not? I have a wife and two kids. I got lay-off from the firm I was working from. I keep praying for a job, even if it’s not as an architect. I received nothing! Yet I keep praising God. Im starting to believe that I should just be happy with receiving his forgiveness. Even if I do lose my home, my cars, my health; I already lost my job and these are probably next!

    • S. E. Ray

      Great question Carlos. I have attempted to expound upon it within my ministry forum, although brief, somewhat thought provoking.


      Click the hyperlink found at the bottom of the above post if you want your login and password to add more questions or comments.

    • Carlos Alberto

      No, I’m not too proud to deliver a pizza, my good man. I wasn’t always an architect while my degree stands dusty on the mantle. I suppose I can count change at a register or pump gas, this will pay for my gas to go to church and listen to someone tell me why God is so great while I pull 10% of nothing to go into further dept. Yes, this is what God has in store for me. Some scriptures apply, others don’t. Now, this does not mean I don’t love God, I just believe that something was lost in translation and I’m being confused by this. I do read the bible, perhaps too much, and perhaps this is my fault for believing in the invisible.

      So, if I believe and don’t receive, I believe wrong? I ask and not receive because I ask wrongfully? I’m Arminiamist, I believe without receiving anything in return and these are the true principles. Calvinist, I’m destined to live this life, buts that’s ok; I still get to live eternal life in heaven. I also believe that I’m blessed just for having met Jesus (No, not in person but in faith.) and that God is NOT fair!!! He is merciful; had he paid me in all fairness, I would be dead for my sins. So, with all the complexities of life in consideration, and all confusion faith brings us; I feel confident that God does love me.

      So, regardless of how I describe it, someone will entail me to some term and in return I will be categorized as Calvinist or Arminiamist, or perhaps “Olsteenist” (No, I think he is alright, but you are correct, he never quotes the bible and rarely to never mentions God or Jesus. I’m not a fan of Olsteen). How come I can’t just be a Christian with the minimum faith prerequisites? Instead I’m categorized by some term.

      Going back to my employment status, remember, men where recruited to build Salomon’s temple in accordance to their field of trade (2 Chronicles 2: 13-15). I will entrust my Jaguar to deliver pizzas, this is what God has for me. Like Huram, I will sweep the decks and mop the floors while my true calling arrives.

      Anyway, worth reading, very interesting your answer and I do apologize for the bad MLA format. At least I did learn two new terms Calvinist and Arminiamist. And if I lost you in this message, I guess I’m right. Translation does lose meaning; after all, I can only write what I first think in Spanish. Thanks and God bless, my good man! I meant it, Thanks, and God bless.

    • S. E. Ray

      Carlos… I applied your commentary and responded to it under the same forum link: http://www.eternalpath.com/forums/showthread.php?p=234#post234

    • Carlos Alberto

      Thanks again, my friend. That is by far the wises comment I have ever read. It has become clear me that my condition is perhaps a virtue seeing how I may still praise him while I lose grasp of worldly possessions and positions. I been blessed greatly, and while it may be taken from me in this life I know that beyond it there is more to life than I can possibly hold at hand and limited awareness can fathom. I also understand that I may only be on this earth for a very limited time as man withers away and Gods name remains. So, again, I will continue to move forward as a well qualified Christian that has met the requirements through Jesus’ blood and advocacy. Thank you, and God bless. (I do apologize for any misinterpretation in this post, as English is my second language. If in anyway I have offended in my translation, please forgive me. Dios les bendiga.)

    • S. E. Ray

      Carlos, you may want to click the forum link provided and read several responses and comments directly to you. Your login is your first and last name as seen, ‘faithful’ is your password so you can leave comments to your friends.


    • Henry

      Hi Michael

      Interesting article!!

      Don’t you think that the appropriate thing to do is to ask Joel personally whether his God is the same as our God. Yes, he is a motivational speaking pastor and I think that is good especially in these days. Someone must preach an up lifting message and Joel is doing it. With regards to the question pose to him by Larry King, it is not Joel’s duty to judge others. That is God’s job. We all know that Homosexuality is abomination in the eyes of God and God will deal with that issue. We can only direct people to the truth and it is for them to accept it of reject. If people reject it than they will suffer the consequences. There is an old saying, ” if you do the crime, you will do the time”.

      If Joel does not serve the same God, why is it that he invite people to accept Jesus after all messages?

      Good topic, keep it up.

      Henry Williams – South Africa

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