My friend Daniel Spratlin has been writing a series on The Heresy of Joel Osteen.I thought it’d also be helpful for readers to read Joel Osteen’s words themselves in context.
Larry King Live interview with "Pastor" Joel Osteen on June 20, 2005:
KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?
OSTEEN: I don’t think it’s that hard. To me it’s fun. We have joy and happiness. Our family — I don’t feel like that at all. I’m not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. I’m just living my life.
KING: But you have rules, don’t you?
OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To life a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But that’s really the essence of the Christian faith.
KING: That we live in deeds?
OSTEEN: I don’t know. What do you mean by that?
KING: Because we’ve had ministers on who said, your record don’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you’re a believer in God, you’re going to have some good works. I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m a Christian but I don’t ever do anything …
KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?
OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.
KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
OSTEEN: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don’t go there. I just …
KING: You have thoughts, though.
OSTEEN: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don’t think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don’t think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.
KING: You don’t call them sinners?
OSTEEN: I don’t.
KING: Is that a word you don’t use?
OSTEEN: I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t. But most people already know what they’re doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don’t go down the road of condemning.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. You’re the best, and thank you, Joe — Joel — for your positive messages and your book. I’m wondering, though, why you side-stepped Larry’s earlier question about how we get to heaven? The bible clearly tells us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light and the only way to the father is through him. That’s not really a message of condemnation but of truth.
OSTEEN: Yes, I would agree with her. I believe that…
KING: So then a Jew is not going to heaven?
OSTEEN: No. Here’s my thing, Larry, is I can’t judge somebody’s heart. You know? Only god can look at somebody’s heart, and so — I don’t know. To me, it’s not my business to say, you know, this one is or this one isn’t. I just say, here’s what the bible teaches and I’m going to put my faith in Christ. And I just I think it’s wrong when you go around saying, you’re saying you’re not going, you’re not going, you’re not going, because it’s not exactly my way. I’m just…
KING: But you believe your way.
OSTEEN: I believe my way. I believe my way with all my heart.
KING: But for someone who doesn’t share it is wrong, isn’t he?
OSTEEN: Well, yes. Well, I don’t know if I look at it like that. I would present my way, but I’m just going to let god be the judge of that. I don’t know. I don’t know.
KING: So you make no judgment on anyone?
OSTEEN: No. But I…
KING: What about atheists?
OSTEEN: You know what, I’m going to let someone — I’m going to let god be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell. I just — again, I present the truth, and I say it every week. You know, I believe it’s a relationship with Jesus. But you know what? I’m not going to go around telling everybody else if they don’t want to believe that that’s going to be their choice. God’s got to look at your own heart. God’s got to look at your heart, and only god knows that.