Doctrine is not even on Osteen’s radar. Osteen told Pitts his calling is not to impress people with “Greek words and with doctrine.” Rather, he views his calling as helping people “have the right thoughts today.” While Osteen may not consider teaching God’s word his gifting, God nonetheless demands that those who lead God’s church have an ability to teach His word (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24). On this point, Osteen has disqualified himself.Osteen measures the success of his ministry not by the spiritual growth of his congregation, but by “hundreds of people tellin’ [him] 'You changed my life.’”
The tragedy is that the message which has supposedly changed so many lives is a placebo. Osteen described the substance of his message as, “Be positive in a negative situation and it will help you stay filled with hope.” Pitts pointed out to Osteen that there are many theologians who find his message dangerous, to which Osteen responded, “I don’t know what can be so dangerous about giving people hope.”
Hope is dangerous when it’s a false hope. Keeping a positive mental attitude while my house burns down around me may give me hope, but the only thing that can save me is to get out of the burning house. Osteen’s “hope” may sustain people temporarily, but it will not yield salvation.
It appears that Osteen points people to their fleshly hopes as their salvation rather than to Jesus Christ as the only one who can deliver us from our sins (“negative situations” in Osteen’s parlance). Genuine assurance in the midst of life’s tragedies and trials comes not from believing in self or practicing a mere “positive mental attitude.” Genuine hope—biblical hope—comes from knowing that I have been raised with Christ through faith in the powerful working of God (Col. 2:8-15). True hope is knowing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:1; 38-39). In all of life’s negative situations I am more than a conqueror—not because I have altered my state of consciousness through repeated positive confessions, but because God always leads me in the triumphal procession in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14).
Everything wrong with Osteen’s teaching and ministry stems from the fact that he views theology as optional. A ministry focusing solely on preparing people for their best life now can do little to prepare them for eternity. We must pray that Osteen comes to realize “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).