Issues, Etc. Transcript
Host Todd Wilken

Topic:            Joel Osteen's Book, Your Best Life Now
Guest:             Dr. Larry Rast, assistant professor of historical theology
                      Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Date:              May 1, 2005

Joel Osteen speaking:

"That's why the first step to living at your full potential is to enlarge your vision.  To live your best life now, you must start looking at your life through your eyes of faith.  Seeing yourself rising to new levels.  See your business takin' off.  See your marriage restored.  See your family prospering.  See your dreams coming to pass.  You must conceive it and believe it as possible if you ever hope to experience it."

WILKEN:  That's Joel Osteen, reading from his best selling book, Your Best Life Now—7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.  Now, this is a bestseller, and Joel Osteen is the pastor of the largest and fastest growing megachurch in the United States—Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

Greetings, and welcome to Issues, Etc.  I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for tuning us in.  We're going to be looking at Joel Osteen's book with Dr. Larry Rast here in just a moment on Issues, Etc., finding out what he has to say.

Now, I thought my life was pretty good!  But Joel Osteen tells me that my life can be better.  In fact, I can have my best life now!  Now, what does that best life look like according to Joel Osteen, and how will I achieve that best life now?  What are those seven steps to living at your full potential?  We're going to be answering those questions during the course of this conversation about this book, Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen.

Dr. Larry Rast joins us here in just a moment; but before we introduce Larry, thanks to Pastor James Gier and our friends at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior Springs, Mo., for sponsoring Issues, Etc. on KCCV in Kansas City.  Welcome aboard, and thanks for your support of the worldwide outreach of Issues, Etc.  Our call-in number:  1-800-730-2727.  And our in-studio E-mail address to take your questions and your comments on Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now,

Dr. Larry Rast is a regular guest here on the program.  He's associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  Larry, welcome back to Issues, Etc.

RAST:  Greetings, Todd, great to be with you this lovely evening.

WILKEN:  Is the god portrayed in Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, the God revealed in Holy Scripture?

RAST:  Wow, you went right to the heart of the matter, Todd, I'll tell you that!  This purports to be a Christian book, comes from a Christian pastor, and while not judging the motives or the character of the man who wrote the book, the picture of God that he provides in this particular volume is something less than what we see revealed to us so clearly in the words of the Holy Scripture.  The god of this particular book is a god who wants you to do something, waits for you to do something, but he himself is largely passive.  And the picture that we get of God in the Scriptures is one who is fundamentally active, seeking out lost people, saving them, sanctifying them, maintaining them in their faith, and bringing them finally to a home in heaven.  So there's a bit of askew here, if you will, in terms of the picture of god that it portrays.  Rather than portraying God as the One who seeks and saves us and who sanctifies us and ultimately brings us to Himself, it shows God primarily as one who will reward human beings for actions if they do them faithfully, and that's really very troubling to me.

WILKEN:  Now, we're going to be hearing selected readings here from Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, and having your responses to what Joel has to say in this book; but before we get to the critique, what positives would you highlight from Your Best Life Now?

RAST:  He makes several good points, I think.  For example, he does make the point that one element of our Christian life is to be givers.  And as I recall him putting it, that we live to give, and while that sounds a bit like a purpose-oriented or driven kind of articulation, the fact is that as Christian people we do give.  And the manner in which we chiefly serve God is to serve others, and so that we serve God through our service for others.  On the other hand, when he talks about giving in that respect, he does put some conditions on it, and he also does kind of hold a carrot out in front of people, saying, "If you give enough, then God will respond."  But we can talk a little bit about that later.  Nevertheless, the point about living to give is a legitimate one.

And then, secondly, he does also make the point of how adversity in our lives can strengthen us and can lead us to depend more and more on God, and I do agree with that particular point of his.  Even if, again, the outcome of that for him is for us to live in such a manner so that God will reward us once again.

So on the front end, yeah, we do give as Christian people.  We do serve others.  And adversity does strengthen us in our faith.  But those activities are bound up in themselves and really are the fruit of God's work in our life.  They don't move God to give us something, which is where we constantly end up in this particular volume and, really, which pulls us away from the focus which should be the Gospel and continually moves us into the realm of the Law.

WILKEN:  Larry, one of the things I'm always interested in when I look at any book, and I was with Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, is what does the author say man's basic problem is?  What is the basic barrier that stands between God and man in any book like this?  Here's what Joel Osteen thinks our basic problem is:

We have to conceive it on the inside before we're ever going to receive it on the outside.  If you don't think you can have something good, then you never will.  The barrier is in your mind.  It's not God's lack of resources or your lack of talent that prevents you from prospering.  No, your own wrong thinking can keep you from God's best.

WILKEN:  Larry, your response to his diagnosis of man's problem.

RAST:  The problem here is that we ourselves in our own minds have constructed a barrier between us and God, and because we've done the constructing, it appears then that we are the ones who can do the deconstructing, if you will.  That is to say, we created the problem, so we have to fix the problem.  He doesn't speak as clearly as he needs to in this respect in regard to the absolutely destroyed relationship between human beings and God because of human sin.  In fact, he seems—and that's probably too weak a word on my part—he is regularly reticent about using the word sin, preferring instead to talk about mistakes, you know, misinformed choices, that sort of thing.  And because you have such a weakened and watered-down view of sin, well then, maybe it is possible for human beings to correct those problems when they occur—at least as he has put them up here.  And the biggest problem?  Thinking wrong!  Thinking wrong!  You know, you have the wrong attitude.  You have the wrong perspective—that sort of thing. 

Well, here's dealing here with superficial matters and surface matters rather than getting right down to the heart and soul of the thing, which is we are conceived and born in sin.  We are enemies of God.  We are apart from Him.  And without the miraculous working of His Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, we will not ever come to know God as He desires to be known.  So his jumping-off point in regard to the character and nature of human beings seems to me to be misdirected here as well.

WILKEN:  All right, the other thing I'm always interested in is how the author of any book would define the solution to our problem.  Now, Joel Osteen talks quite a bit in this book about the favor of God.  Let's here how he defines it:

"The fourth aspect—and one of the most important—to developing a fresh vision for your life is discovering how to experience more of the favor of God.  The Bible clearly states "God has crowned us with glory and honor."  The word honor could also be translated as favor, and favor means to assist, to provide with special advantages, and to receive preferential treatment.  In other words, God wants to make your life easier.  He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages.  He wants you to have preferential treatment.  But if we're going to experience more of God's favor, we must live more favor-minded.  To be favor-minded simply means that we expect God's special help, and we are releasing our faith knowing that God wants to assist us."

WILKEN:  Larry, we've got about a minute here before this break, and your response will certainly take more than that.

RAST:  No doubt!  [Laughter]

WILKEN:  Begin a response to his definition of God's favor and how it works.

RAST:  Yeah, the favor of God here is really bound up in God having things that He wants to give—those things being largely throughout this book material goods, promotions at work, better relationships between human beings and the like.  Now, push those aside and say the real point of the favor of God as it's taught biblically is that God views us now who had been sinners as His own dear children, and this happens only through Christ!

For Osteen here, the favor of God is dependant upon how we conceive of it, how we think of it, and how we view God.  It's got everything turned around backwards.

WILKEN:  All right, when we come back I'm going to ask Larry to do a little bit more explanation of that last thing he said about how Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, will speak a long time and at length about the favor of God but essentially turn the entire thing around backwards. 

Dr. Larry Rast is our guest.  He's associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  We're reviewing Joel Osteen's best selling book, Your Best Life Now—7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.

Now, when we come back from this break, we'll hear more from Joel Osteen on how God plants divine seeds in each and every one of us and brings—well, literally, we bring them to fruition.  Our call-in number:  1-800-730-2727.  Our E-mail address:


WILKEN:  Folks, instead of reading Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, pick up our Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for May.  It's called The Fire and the Staff.  It's by a regular guest here on the program, Pastor Klemet Preus.  This is a book that highlights the challenges to Reformation Theology, presented not so much by—well, the typical historical foe, which would be the Roman Church, but in fact Pop-American Protestantism, and how Reformation theology can be kept from slipping in the mire of Pop-American Protestantism.  You can find out more about this great book called The Fire and the Staff at our Web site at  It's right there on the home page.  Or you can order the book of the month for May by calling Concordia Publishing House any weekday during regular business hours.  Their toll-free number is 1-800-325-3040.  Now the book costs $26.99 plus shipping and handling.  It's called The Fire and the Staff.  It is Christ-centered; it is cross-focused.  The Fire and the Staff—the Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for May. 

Now, Larry, before the break, Joel Osteen defined the favor of God as God's desire to show us preferential treatment in our lives.  How does Scripture define the favor of God?

RAST:  The favor of God is what you just mentioned in describing Pastor Preus' book, namely, it is Christ-centered and cross-focused.  God looks at us now through the cross of Christ, through the perfect life that He lived on our behalf, and as a result for those of us who have been called into His church by the working of the Holy Spirit, who have come to faith, He sees us as His own dear children!  And, in fact, so the favor of God is centered in the work of Jesus on our behalf—that completely and totally finished work on our behalf—that procures for us the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  So the favor of God, again, is centered in Christ—His work on our behalf:  His suffering, His death, His resurrection and the proclamation of that message creating faith in our hearts gives us the hope of everlasting life.

It's not about receiving preferential treatment in terms of—well, to use some of the examples of the book:  getting a parking place at the mall, or having it rain when there's been a drought—or not having it rain when it's raining quite a bit.  We pray for all these things, certainly, and we ask for God's will to be done in these things, but getting those things in and of themselves is not to be equated with the favor of God.  God's favor always must be centered in Christ and in Christ alone.

WILKEN:  Now, Joel Osteen comes from Word-Faith roots, that is, the ‘name it and claim it,' prosperity Gospel roots.  His dad, John Osteen, the previous pastor at Lakewood, is well known as a Word-Faith preacher and teacher.  Well, Joel carries over some of these concepts.  One of them is the idea of God's divine seeds that He has planted in our lives.  Here's Joel Osteen:

"Understand God has already equipped you with everything you need to live a prosperous life.  He planted seeds inside you, filled with possibilities, within incredible potential, creative ideas and dreams.  But just because those things are within you doesn't mean they will do you any good.  You have to start tapping into them.  In other words, you've got to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have what it takes."

WILKEN:  What is Joel Osteen saying here, Larry?

RAST:  It certainly sounds like that human beings have within them a certain capability of doing things—doing divinely pleasing things—if—if—they respond, they act in a particular way, in a way that God has commanded them so to act.  So that, in other words, you really have in a way here a confusion again over the nature of human beings.

The Scripture very clearly tells us that we are "saved by grace through faith—and this is not of human works [at all], lest any man should boast," and that a result of God's working in us we do good works.  Here, however, there's a sense in which there's an element of good that remains in man.  If he begins to fan that into flame, God then will respond in a particular way, and a cooperative effort then begins and continues in which that flame becomes larger and larger and larger and larger.  The seed itself—oh, yes, planted by God—but watered, nurtured, and carried forward in a cooperative endeavor that involves both human beings and God.  And this confuses the simple message of the Scripture, the clear message of grace that says it is God alone who saves human beings.  Human beings do not cooperate, participate, work with God in any respect in their own salvation.  And when you begin to talk about sanctification as well, still we human beings cannot achieve these things on our own.  God is the One who is at work in us.  Christ is working within us to do the good that we do.

So, he has again turned things around.  This is man doing something, causing God to respond that then produces pleasing results for both of the participants in the equation.

WILKEN:  Joel Osteen also uses the words prosperous and best life quite a bit, and he has this idea of Christian winners.  Here's what Joel Osteen has to say in his book, Your Best Life Now:

"God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner.  There is no reason for you to be perpetually living under the circumstances, always down, always discouraged.  No matter how many times you get knocked down, keep getting back up again.  God sees your resolve.  He sees your determination.  And when you do everything you can do, that's when God will step in and do what you cannot do."

WILKEN:  Again, going into this break, Larry, a big response in a short amount of time—a minute and a half before this break.

RAST:  [Laughter]  When you do everything you can do, that's when God will step in and do what you can't do.  There really is the whole Word-Faith movement summed up right there.  The larger portion of this rests upon you.  God will not respond until you faithfully act, and you must do these things, or you will find yourself without the help of God.

Now, granted, I don't like whining.  And I say to my kids all the time when they get into the whining mode, "You just stop it, I don't want to hear it."  On the other hand, when we're talking here about winning—you know, think of Paul:  "I have run the race—run it to the end."  But you think of Paul's race!  Many times he doesn't look like a winner.  But he's not a whiner, either!  Not a winner in worldly terms.  He doesn't have a mansion.  He doesn't have a great house.  He doesn't have any of those kinds of things.  What he has is Christ.  And having Christ, that's all that he needs.

WILKEN:  Dr. Larry Rast is our guest.  We're reviewing Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now—7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.  And this review will continue on the other side of this break, along with your phone calls at 1-800-730-2727. 

You know, Joel Osteen is a really good example of what I call a Bible-believing liberal.  And you say, "What do you mean Bible-believing liberal?  That sounds like an oxymoron."  Those who claim to be Bible-believing, but they are doctrinal minimalists.  Everything gets pared down and diluted down to practically nothing.  They really believe that doctrine divides the church, and you hear this a lot in Joel Osteen's book and in his preaching.  The Gospel itself—the Good News of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for sinners on the cross is watered down to what?  God loves you.  God's good.  God likes you and wants you to succeed.  That's not the Gospel.

Now, I've written the cover story for the next Issues, Etc. Journal called "Bible-believing Liberals."  We'll send you this next edition of the Issues, Etc. Journal for free.  Just call during this break:  1-800-737-0172.  Call during this break, and ask for the Issues, Etc. Journal.  The next issue will be mailed later this month. 

When we come back, we'll continue our review of Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now.  Dr. Larry Rast is our guest.  He's associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  Feel free to join this conversation.  We've got a few free phone lines:  1-800-730-2727, or


WILKEN:  Next week on Issues, Etc., we're going to discuss the Office of the Deaconess.  Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne, Ind., will be our guest.  Now, God's Word forbids women to hold the pastoral office, but there are examples in Scripture of women who serve the church in very God-pleasing ways.  We'll talk about those next week on Issues, Etc.  Dr. Arthur Just will be our guest. 

Now, if you'd like to know what we'll be discussing for the rest of May on the program, click "Upcoming Shows," that link on our Web site,  And while you're there at the Web site, make sure you find out more about a Confessional Christian Worldview seminar that's coming up this summer at the beautiful Marvin M. Schwan Retreat and Conference Center in Northern Wisconsin.  I've been there twice for this, once to broadcast and once as a speaker to a Confessional Christian Worldview seminar, and the only thing keeping me from going there this summer is conflict in the schedule.  You can meet, however, if you go this summer—and you can listen to the teachings from Issues, Etc. regular guest, Dr. Gene Edward Veith—he'll be there.  Dr. Alvin Schmidt will also be there, and Dr. Angus Menuge.  It's a Confessional Christian Worldview seminar June 26-July 2 at the Schwan Center in Northern Wisconsin.  It's extremely affordable.  For more information, look for the Schwan Center logo right there at our homepage  Or call the Schwan Center at 1-800-577-4848, and ask about a Confessional Christian Worldview seminar.

We're reviewing Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now—7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.  It's a bestseller on the newsstands, and they're calling it a crossover success because you'll find it selling everywhere.  Dr. Larry Rast, associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., is our guest. 

Larry, one of the concepts that is also found throughout Joel Osteen's book is the concept of faith.  Joel conceives of two kinds of faith:

"In my life I discovered two kinds of faith—a delivering faith and a sustaining faith.  Delivering faith is when God instantly turns your situation around.  When that happens, it's great.  But I believe it takes a greater faith and a deeper walk with God to have that sustaining faith.  That's when circumstances don't change immediately.  But you say, "God, I don't care what comes against me.  I don't care how long it takes.  This thing is not going to defeat me.  It's not going to get me down.  I know you're on my side.  And as long as you are for me, that's all that matters.  Sustaining faith is what gets you through those dark nights of the soul, when you don't know where to go or what to do, and it seems you can't last another day.  But because of your faith in God, you do."

WILKEN:  Is his concept of faith—this dual kind of faith—one that you find in Scripture, Larry?

RAST:  No, no!  Frankly, I think he's making a false distinction here.  The Scripture talks about faith in two ways, but not these two ways.  It talks about the faith—the things we know about Christ, the doctrine that the Bible teaches:  "This is the faith once delivered to all the saints and remain in that."  So you have the faith in terms of the doctrinal substance, if you will, as the Bible teaches it.  And then there is that personal faith, the faith that believes in Christ.  And this faith is the faith that saves, if you will.  This is that knowledge, that assent, that trust that we have in Christ as our Savior from sin, the One who has suffered, died and risen again on our behalf. 

So, yeah, we do distinguish in different uses of the word faith, but not the way he's distinguishing here.  What he does is really in a way downplaying saving faith.  "Oh, there's that faith—you know—that you have, that God turns things around, you know.  God comes into your existence and saves you, and by His mighty working through the proclamation of the Word, you come to believe in Him.  There's that.  But!  But then there's something more, if you will!"  It's almost like the person experiences a second work of grace, or a second working of the Holy Spirit.  And given Osteen's background in the Charismatic movement and the like, and his belief in the second working of the Holy Spirit in the giving of the charismatic gifts, that's not surprising at all.  So you have, if you will, people who would see Jesus as their Savior, but then you have a super group of Christians who see Jesus as their Lord.  And that greater—more greatly endowed group that has the deeper, the sustaining faith as he would put it, are the ones who are trusting in God to get them through the really, really tough times.  Well, again, now look more broadly in the book, and what are the tough times?  Often times it's losing your job.  It's not having a nice enough house.  It's—I was watching him on the TV last week—it was getting a better price on a tie in the mall!  This sort of thing!  Completely earthly mundane matters that really took the focus completely away from the true object of faith, which is our Lord Christ, and put it completely on the things on this earth!  Cars, houses, ties, clothes, those sorts of things.

Now, I would never disparage those good gifts of God—clothes, houses, and so forth.  We do recognize that all those good things come from God.  But that must not detract and that must not in any way displace our focus on the true object of faith, the true focus of faith, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And I'm afraid that this book does that repeatedly—takes our focus off of Christ.

WILKEN:  Well, the next question that Joel Osteen answers in his book is, how does it all work?  I mean, what is God doing, and how is He regarding us so that our faith somehow activates His saving activity and His prosperous activity in our lives?  A regular guest on our program, Pastor Bill Cwirla, coined the phrase ‘Santa Claus theology,' and I think we found it in Joel Osteen's book as well.  Listen:

"God is keeping a record of every good deed you've ever done.  He's keeping a record of every seed you've ever sown.  You may think it went unnoticed, but God saw it.  And in your time of need, He will make sure that somebody is there to help you.  Your generous gifts will come back to you.  God has seen every smile you've ever given to a hurting person.  He's observed every time you went out of your way to lend a helping hand.  God has witnessed when you have given sacrificially, given even money that perhaps you needed desperately for yourself or your family.  God is keeping those records.  Some people will tell you that it doesn't make any difference whether you give or not or that it doesn't do any good.  But don't listen to those lies.  God has promised that your generous gifts will come back to you.  In your time of need, because of your generosity, God will move heaven and earth to make sure that you are taken care of."

WILKEN:  So He's making a list; He's checking it twice; He's going to find out if you're naughty and nice.  It goes back to the first question that we had here in our conversation on Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, Larry.  Is this the God that Scripture reveals?

RAST:  This is a very different picture of the God that Scripture shows us.  This is more like the god of the human mind.  You know, just today in church we heard of Paul going to—in Acts 17—and Paul going to Athens, and they're coming into contact with the Athenians, and you had a bunch of Stoics and Epicureans and folks like that, and what were they doing?  In the end they were so concerned about appeasing the gods, that they erected a temple to an unknown god just in case—just in case.  Why?  Because these gods were looking at them—looking at their actions.  And if some god felt that he had been—or she had been—not served as well as the one of the others, then there might be some kind of retribution.  And this notion of record keeping in this regard is just stunning to me in terms of speaking of this within the Christian context.

The picture the Bible gives us of God is a God who "while we are still sinners" sends His only-begotten Son into the flesh so that "we might have life and have it to the full."  While we are dead in sin—while we can do nothing whatsoever for ourselves—nothing at all to earn the favor of God, gain the favor of God, He sends His Son.  And in sending His Son, then looks upon us as His own dear children, as His own children who are favored and who have been welcomed into His family.  It's a radically different picture than what we get in this book.  And putting it in terms of Santa Claus theology is really quite good.  I, you know, granted that Pastor Osteen is down there in Houston.  I was also thinking of the song, "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You."

WILKEN:  [Laughter]  All right.  Larry, Joel Osteen—although he is the pastor of the largest and fastest growing megachurch in the U.S., has no formal theological training.  In 30 seconds, make the case for the importance of a seminary education.

RAST:  What seminary education does is to train a man for the office of the ministry in the most holistic sense.  The basis for study is the Scripture.  That is the foundation for everything that we do.  But we also learn carefully to distinguish our doctrine, our theological points, and we see how the church has confessed this throughout history both well and not so well.  And above all, then, we also work with our students so that they can learn to take this biblical, systematic, historical theology and apply it pastorally so that people can hear the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. 

WILKEN:  Folks, you can find out more about the pastoral office and training for the pastoral office—this theological education that is so needful in this time—by calling Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.  Their phone number:  1-800-481-2155.  Or just visit our Web site: and look for the logo for Concordia Theological Seminary.  There, I believe, is a logo of Kramer Chapel on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Your phone calls, your e-mail, on Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, after this break.


WILKEN:  1-800-737-0172.  That's the phone number for our resource line.  You can use that number to request a free complimentary copy of our next Issues, Etc. Journal.  It contains that article, "Bible-believing Liberals."  I know many of you will want to be reading that.  Or you can use that number to make a credit card gift and help support the worldwide Gospel outreach of Issues, Etc.  Or write us at Issues, Etc., P.O. Box 9360, St. Louis, MO 63117.

To the phones as we look at Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now.  First up, Brendon in Alexandria, Va.  He listens on WAVA.  Brendon, welcome to Issues, Etc.

BRENDON:  How you doing tonight, guys?  I've been enjoying the program. 

WILKEN:  Thank you.

BRENDON:  He is really a crossover.  I live in an area where there's a lot of Hispanics, and his book is published in Spanish and for sale in Wal-Mart, so it's quite a crossover hit.

Real quick, I'll get to the question.  I know he has a—Mr. Osteen has a charismatic background, and I was wondering if he has any teachings on salvation.  Does he teach that you could lose your salvation as a lot of the early Charismatics did?  And—or does he not even touch on those issues?

WILKEN:  That's a—

BRENDON:  I'll let you guys go ahead.  He told me I had to hurry up.  I hope you keep me on the Issues, Etc. mailing list, guys.

WILKEN:  Happy to do it, Brendon.  Thank you for the call out there in Virginia.

All right, Larry.  This is a good question because it kind of highlights one of the aspects of Joel Osteen's book that many may not notice, and that is, you can't figure out what he believes on a lot of things!

RAST:  [Laughter]  That's true.  Brendon really, really cut to the chase with this thing and asked a pointed and excellent question. 

The—it's hard to say if you read through this text exactly what the work that Christ did was and what it means for a person to be saved!  Now, as to the question whether you can lose your faith or not, well, if you go by what the text says, of course you could.  Because faith is—faith is that which believes in God to be the giver of the good gifts that you receive here on this earth.  So, if you're getting good gifts and being faithful—I reversed the order here:  if you're being faithful and getting good gifts, then you have faith and things are working out right.  If you are not getting the good gifts, then you have to begin to wonder whether you actually do have faith.  And you might need to have kind of a—now granted, well, you might need to get a bit of a super charging or something like that.

Now, he does say at times we go through points of adversity, and we need to continue to believe during those times, because it may be a time of testing, and God may be trying to stretch us a little bit so that we'll not simply take things for granted but work hard to get what it is that He has for us.  Well, okay, fine.  But in all of that, again, he's missing the point of faith.  He repeatedly says in this book—and we noted it just before the break—when you have sufficient faith in God, then God is moved to respond.  The Word-Faith movement of which he is a part is always talking about the necessity of man doing something, and that forces God to respond in a particular way.  So if you have enough faith, if you plant a seed-faith gift of $1,000, the Bible says well, then, God has to double that at least.  So you have to get back $2,000.  That's just the way the arrangement works. 

You know, frankly, there's not a whole lot of faith in that when you get right down to it.  It's an amazing part of this book where Joel Osteen actually criticizes his father.  His father who had taken in a man and shown him hospitality for a week and done this at significant expense to himself and to his family.  And at the end of the week, one of the members of his church said to him, "Pastor Osteen, I know you did this thing, and I want to give you this fairly substantial amount of money just to say thanks for doing this for this person."  And John Osteen, Joel Osteen's father, said, "Well, I'm not going to take the money.  I'm going to put it in the collection plate for the church."  And Joel actually chastises his own father—Fourth Commandment kind of issue, it seems to me—but chastises his own father at that point for not taking the money but instead giving it to the ministry of the church. 

Well, that's really quite stunning if you think about it because that then opens up all sorts of avenues for mischief.  Everything that would be offered to a person, then, would be considered good and should be received and kept for the self.  There's a real tension here in his own position that we are made to give.  Well, it seems to me John Osteen was doing exactly what the Lord called him to do.  He didn't need that money specifically.  He felt moved to give it on.  He had given freely to this person.  He received a gift from another and gave it along as he saw fit to give.  And that seems to me a better response than taking it to yourself and using it to buy yet another tie or an even bigger or fancier house.  Something's askew here, plain and simple.

WILKEN:  Another phone call from a listener and another response from our guest, Dr. Larry Rast.  Frank calls from Indianapolis.  Frank, welcome to Issues, Etc.

FRANK:  Hi, gentlemen.  One thing that I find amazing about these kind of comments coming from Osteen and others, faith if a gift!  And God maintains—Christ maintains our faith!  The thing is, it's kinda like it's up to you, you know, to have enough faith to do this and that.  I don't think they understand the nature of faith being a gift, and I see a similar thing in their style and so forth to Robert Schuller.  I see a very similar—I remember at White Horse Inn, Rod Rosenbladt and Mike Horton questioned him along some of these lines, and it's really very, very popular to have this kind of, you know, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps' type of faith that's kind of up to you.

WILKEN:  Frank, thanks for the call.  Larry, less than a minute to respond.

RAST:  Okay, Frank really has put his finger on it, so I don't need to say too much on it.  He's right.  They have confused the nature of faith.  Faith is a gift—a gift of God to us.  It's created by the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. 

Really, it seems to me what Osteen is pointing towards is faith in faith.  He keeps saying to people, "Have more faith, have more faith.  If you had more faith, you would get more things.  If you had more faith, more and better things would happen to you."  And you end up always talking about your faith, my faith, my faith, my faith.  In the end, the truest expression of faith says, "Christ.  Christ and Christ alone."  The faithful person looks only at the cross of Christ, sees their Lord hanging there, sees Him taken into the tomb, see the tomb opened on Easter, sees Him ascended into heaven, and there trusts in that One, in the Lamb of God for his salvation.

WILKEN:  Folks, we'll continue to respond to your phone calls and your E-mails in the next hour of the program as we continue to review Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, with Dr. Larry Rast.  Our call-in number:  1-800-730-2727.  And our E-mail address:

Now, you won't be able to listen to the next hour on the radio; it's only on the Internet.  Just go to our Web site and listen there:  An all new hour with your phone calls coming up, and listen to it on our Web site.  Click the "Listen Online" link.  We're coming to you live this Sunday night; it's May 1.  Write this number down and call us during this break.  We have a few free phone lines:  1-800-730-2727, or

Well, I know now why it's so appealing!  It's very simple!  Because you can find exactly the same kind of themes not in God's Word—not in Holy Scripture—but in so much of Christian literature today and in the minds and pulpits of so many Christians today.  We have a god who is basically passive.  He's powerful, but his power is limited by our small thinking or our small believing.  And he sits in heaven waiting—in many ways impotent to act—waiting for us to take the initiative.  He is in the position to responding to us.  He waits.  And in the end, if anything's going to happen beyond just the kind of mediocre, mundane, everyday life that you're living now, it's going to be entirely up to you.  God will help—God will help after you act first.  That's not just Joel Osteen.  That's much of what we find in Pop-Christianity today.  So that's why he appeals.  But in the end it's a faith not in the God who gives and gives generously for one and one reason only—that is, the all-sufficient sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ for us sinners at the cross.  But it's a faith in yourself.  And that is the most dangerous thing about this book, Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now.  It doesn't present the best life.  It presents just more of the same old cruddy sinful life with Christ almost entirely out of the picture.

The next hour will be dedicated to your phone calls and your E-mail.  If you get a busy signal, just keep trying.  We'll be freeing up phone calls as soon as the next hour begins. 

I'm Todd Wilken.  This is Issues, Etc. 

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