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. Chill. 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 the other 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? Same name, yes some of the same characteristics, but that could be said of any god. However, 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 just like people marry other people and have other kids. 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. Americans seem to be fond of that book. This god 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, names, 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’s son”, 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.

(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 and be “happy”.

I also know that this health and prosperity 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 doubt or 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

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

    • Minimus

      So you’re not a “rapture ready” proponent?

      You’re ready to be tough for the tribulation?


      Creating a false representation of God and encouraging others to worship it is nothing new to mankind. The Word records just such an occasion.

      EXODUS 32:1-6. Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” 5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

    • Sharon

      God said You are gods
      We have the power over life and death:
      Death and life are in the power of the tongue You that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
      What we say, what we think is what we are. Think of a child who is continuously told they are stupid, called dumb, told they are too young to be able to do certain things that they want to, they grow up ‘knowing’ in their mind they are what they have been told.
      Recall the disciples going to Jesus and saying There is a man who is healing but he is not one of us and ask if they should stop him. What did Jesus say?
      We each have gifts/talents, one sows the seed, another waters, God provides the increase. As the Bible was written by many of diverse callings, worldly status, education so are those called to do God’s Work.
      I was just on this a woman had posted in one of the support groups I belong to ‘We are Gods?’ and God did indeed say, Ye are gods and it is also written Death and life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
      I keep up with many who write on God’s Word (I also comment on theirs) and no two are the same. I recall watching this one new minister on tv and his mannerisms were as another well known minister who had taken him under his wing.
      If you’ve not read the transcript of his interview with Larry King back in June 2005 do so.
      I did read and once could certainly tell it was not too well rehearsed.
      Since Romans 14 tells us we should receive those whom God has received, how do we tell whom God has received? Is it by a doctrinal test alone? Is it by their witness?
      So what does God say about a man? A tree shall be known by it’s fruit for an unpleasant tree cannot bring forth pleasant fruit nor does a pleasant tree bring forth vile fruit. Oops 2 posts one won’t do 😉

    • Mike

      Dear Michael,

      Way to create more divisiveness within you’re own religious circle. Focus on yourself and not heavy thesaurus use and low hanging fruit wit to mock someone else’s beliefs .

      You won’t know who’s right until you’re dead, so we’re all just searching for a way to connect to God.
      Taking blows at others cultural and religious beliefs is not only ethnocentric but downright intolerant and (low blow ahead) ignorant.

      Let people search for God the same way you do, in a personal way, without berating them. You’re point of view is and always will be subjective, just like the other 6 billion people in this world.

      I choose to spend my life improving myself and helping others’, seeking God on a personal level. Wasting time “blogging” for like minded people who will ultimately praise and be influenced by your (potentially over thought) opinions helps no one. In fact it creates more division between Christians, who typically do unit under the same core beliefs.

      Sure your post will get response’s like “Spot on!” and “Thought Provoking” . But at the end of the day it isn’t educational, it isn’t promoting unity, it isn’t helping anyone. Isn’t an opinion based post like this just feeding the ego? Isn’t it just self serving? Isn’t there a better way you could have used your time? I’m confident there is, and you sound like a smart enough person to see this too. Just saying, bro. I have to get back to work now 🙂


    • Ricky

      Mike Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? How can we stand in unity if we have different doctrines. “You won’t know who’s right until you’re dead, so we’re all just searching for a way to connect to God.” If we wont know the truth until death then how can we find Christ. The Bible clearly states the truth and that is our guide on how we should live. If you believe that you can continue accepting everyone’s teachings especially those contradictory to the word then you will be deceived. James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Christ taught on living to serve one another and seeking the development of the kingdom which comes with persecution and tribulation for standing for what is right not a feel good everything will be ok, you will always get what you want, I will bless you with your desires and no mention of going out there and ministering to the broken not only by word but by action. I reject all of these doctrines that teach on how good life can be for us because Christ never came to give us a good life but to teach us how to be live him by serving for the kingdom and living to serve others and minister to those in need. John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Life is not about us or getting what we want but living for Christ.

    • all for everyone

      Choose your icon of contemporary Christian orthodoxy.

      Now take a dozen other leaders devotedly submitted to Jesus from a wide diversity of cultural, theological, and ecclesiological backgrounds and put them in a loving relationship with your icon.

      Which do you think will be more likely to manifest the love of Christ? Your icon–or the group?

    • Ed Yang

      I enjoyed how you laid our your reasoning using the Daikoku-Sonja analogy; it drove the point home in a much clearer fashion.

      To those who have a solid foundation in the Word and guidance from the Holy Spirit, it is clear as day that Osteen is a false teacher. Him and his ilk don’t even preach half the gospel. I’d be interested in some sort of research that calculated how many times he mentioned the word “sin” or “hell” in his sermons. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess slim to none.

      Anticipating the typical “don’t judge lest you be judged” warnings thrown in our face from people who don’t even understand the context of that verse, I’ll pre-empt them and tell them that we are warned many times in the New Testament to be on the look out for false teachers.

      Finally, this verse made me laugh out loud because it’s something I think about as well: (and they will fail —ever heard of “death”? It is hard to escape no matter how positive your thinking is!)

      Let us keep preachers like Osteen in our prayers that the Holy Spirit will convict their hearts so that they can turn towards the real, one, true, everlasting God. The God of the Bible, not of happy thinking.

    • Peter Kirk

      Ed, by way of comparison, and since you quote the Sermon on the Mount, I would be interested in some sort of research that calculated how many times Jesus mentioned the word “sin” in that sermon (Greek hamartia word group), or how many times Paul mentioned the word “hell” (hades or geenna) in all his recorded sermons and letters. Rather than going out on a limb, I have done the research and found the answer: none, on both counts. Perhaps Osteen is using a more biblical model for his sermons than his critics are.

    • Ed Yang

      Peter Kirk, the Sermon on the Mount was but a small sample of Jesus’ teachings. But you also neglected key portions of the Sermon such as:

      Matthew 5:22 And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

      Matthew 5:29-30 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

      Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

      Matthew 6:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

      Matthew 6:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    • Ed Yang

      Peter Kirk, Jesus did mention sin many times. So I’m perplexed as to why you only chose the Sermon on the Mount as your entire point of reference. And if there is no need for salvation from our sin, Christ died in vain and the resurrection was unnecessary, yes? Where is that message ever preached by Osteen? I’ve watched many of his “sermons”, and didn’t hear that message, ever.

      John 15:22 “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin”

      John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

      John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

      Luke 5:20 “Thy sins are forgiven”

      Luke 7:47-48 “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said to her, Thy sins are forgiven.

      Luke 5:31 “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”.

      Matthew 26:28 “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

    • Peter Kirk

      Ed, read again what I wrote. I said that Jesus did not mention sin in the Sermon on the Mount (using the commonest Greek word – yes, he did use a different word traditionally translated “trespass” in 6:14,15), although he did elsewhere in his teaching. I also said that Paul said nothing directly about hell. You can check that if you like. That implies that neither of these words is an essential part of every sermon, or in the latter case of every preacher’s ministry. So you are judging Osteen by unbiblical standards.

    • Ed Yang

      Peter Kirk, and again, your example is perplexing. You’re saying because Jesus didn’t mention sin in one sermon, it’s ok that Osteen never mentions sin in all of his sermons? What am I missing here? And if you truly believe that the message Osteen preaches lines up with the message that Jesus preached, we have a strong fundamental disagreement that likely won’t be resolved. Indeed, “Your Best Life Now” is far from the message that Jesus preached.

    • Peter Kirk

      Ed, the Sermon on the Mount is surely not just “one sermon”, but a model for all sermons. I am not defending all of Osteen’s teaching. My point is more that there is a lot more to Christian teaching than proclaiming that sinners go to hell. Indeed some preach that and little else every Sunday but never even touch on the gospel, the GOOD news.

    • Ed Yang

      Peter, you’re erecting a strawman. No one here is saying that preaching about sin and hell all the time is right as well. Read through the article once again and you’ll see that our concerns are well justified. And the GOOD news isn’t that God wants to bless us with health and wealth. The GOOD news is that we were hopelessly lost in our sin before, but because of Christ’s love and mercy and grace, we are saved if we trust in him and repent from our sins and follow him.

      Preachers have a huge responsibility to preach the entire Gospel, not just the touchy-feely parts. And as the article already mentioned, much of the New Testament is about suffering and being persecuted for the faith.

      Indeed, 10 of the 12 apostles died horrifically for Christ, which was the will of God, not to mention the countless early Christians under Rome and Nero. I wonder how many of Osteen’s congregation realize that?

      Paul was ok with being imprisoned and dying for Christ, and he was fine with Christ not removing the thorn in his side. He most certainly wasn’t praying constantly for health and wealth.

      Phil 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

      2 Cor 12:10 “So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

      I wonder if Osteen ever preached 2 Cor 12?

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