The Victoria Osteen Gaffe Demonstrates Why Theology Matters!

The message from Victoria Osteen (VO) is that we worship God for ourselves. Here’s the quote:victoria-victoria-osteen

So, I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize, when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—(I mean that’s one way to look at it)—we’re doing it for ourself because God takes pleasure when we’re happy! That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning. So I want you to know this morning, just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself! Because that’s what makes God happy! Amen?

Watch the video

Why is this statement so obviously wrong and troubling? It is because it  takes our worship of God and the purpose for that worship and centers it in the self. What are some of the ramifications of such a theology? It makes our happiness the test of true worship. It says as long as I am happy, God is happy. VO said , “That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning.”

To be fair, VO did make a follow-up statement a few hours after the video began to go viral:

God is all-powerful and does not require our worship or approval to be Who He is. God was God before we even existed. When we choose to worship Him and live in obedience to Him we do so for our own benefit, so that we may be in right standing with Him and enjoy His favor. Therefore, glorify Him in everything you do and let your life be worship to Him, so that one day He will say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Unfortunately for VO, she did not help herself with this statement. Why? The seed of selfishness remains in her theology: “When we choose to worship Him and live in obedience to Him we do so for our own benefit…” It is the unabashed worship of self that so characterizes all of the Osteen “Your best life now” theology. Are there benefits to worshiping God? Absolutely! Does God want our lives to go well? Yes! But we worship God because He is worthy of worship; because in worshiping God we leave ourselves behind! The problem with the hyper-grace, prosperity theology is that it places self on the throne! 

12 thoughts on “The Victoria Osteen Gaffe Demonstrates Why Theology Matters!

  1. justthink25

    Well said Pastor Scott. What I find particularly troubling about prosperity and self centered theology is the almost certain consequential result of a loss of faith or belief when one encounters life’s stressful and painful events. If God is happy when I’m happy, then conversely, He is sad or mad when I’m not happy. What nonsense is that? How about being joyful that God is with us, no matter what we go though. And we will most definitely go thorough stuff. That’s for certain. But we have the incredible peace that goes along with knowing how this ride ends.

  2. schroera

    Thanks for your article. I agree with what you say, but we have to be careful. There is no “i” in team, but there is an “i” in worship. Worship isn’t about me, but God does bless me, guide me and strengthen me through his Word proclaimed in worship. I do receive benefit from it. But that is not the focus or the heart of worship. It isn’t about me. I actually wrote an article about that a few weeks ago. If you have a chance, check it out: http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/isnt/
    I would love to hear any thoughts you might have. Thanks!

    • cscottfowler

      Thanks Schroera for reading and commenting. I will definitely check out your article. You know, one of the pitfalls we encounter in this kind of interaction over a controversial statement, etc., is that in our effort to be fair, we raise the counter argument. It must be done of course, but the end effect is a softness that allows error to continue. In this case, to the seasoned worshiper, particularly the seasoned Pentecostal worshiper, it is understood that we are always the greatest benefactors when we worship God. But giving credit to VO for touching on that truth in a sloppy way only encourages bad theology, and I think theology matters. In this case, the long track record of the Osteen’s failure to address sin and their focus on a bottom-up, self-centered, “good life,” easy believism continues to manifest itself in what I really think was a careless statement made by someone who has demonstrated a lack of concern for a balanced theological message.

  3. Stephen Zarlengo

    I agree with your observation and statement regarding “turn to the subject” and how that has slowly been embedding itself in our Ecclesial, Doctrinal and even Dogmatic theology. I am interested to see where this cycle is going to lead us in relation to Biblical Authority, Infallibility, Inerrancy, etc.

    • cscottfowler

      Thanks Dr. Zarlengo! Yes, the turn to the subject could be dismissed as Elightenment philosophical mumbo jumbo were we not reaping long term negative spiritual results because of it. Though to be fair, mankind first turned to the subject in the person of Eve!

  4. Alex

    What upsets me most is the falling away of God’s people. Truth will stand and speak volumes in itself. Jesus is truth his ways are truth his example truth. Then why are we constantly stroking the flesh? We give people what we think they want to hear but at what price? For some their very soul, others doubt and unbelief in a fabricated god. Lets give them truth and watch what God will reveal to them in and about their life.

  5. calvincommentary

    I think what most people fail to see here is that it takes quite a mature faith to be able to understand what Victoria Osteen is saying here. Scripture clearly presents us with enough reason to believe that what we want in life is exactly what God wants for us as well. He wants us to be happy, in the way that we want to be happy. He endorses our striving towards happiness and our full potential.

    Many people think that it’s godly and the mark of a christian to “deny yourself” as we read in the gospel of Matthew, but it’s actually resistance toward God if you denied yourself. You need to revise wholesome theology on God’s grace (the doctrines of grace, TULIP), and then see how you will view Christianity differently. If you do a thorough and well rounded study of the Bible, then you will clearly see how God is the Author and sustainer of our faith, not us. If you do a well rounded study of covenant theology (old vs new convenants) then you will begin to see that Christ’s death and resurrection brings a covenant whereby we cannot earn a righteous state before our creator, but righteousness was given freely. If you study salvation, you will see that people who are saved by Grace through faith (and faith is a gift, that no man should boast) – Ephesians 2:8 – then you will begin to see the utter hopelessness in trying to pursue right relationship with God. And if you indeed study the Bible properly, of course, on the other side of the same coin, you should come to the illumination that he has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh, has buried your sin and iniquity with Christ, he has made you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    So, therefore, you cannot fault what Victoria Osteen is saying here. In fact, it’s really a bold and faith filled statement to say that “I believe that God wants for me what I want for me”. She has no veil between her and God, just complete genuineness and transparency.

    Put it this way: the non-believer denies himself because mortifying his flesh is his way of convincing himself that he is truly saved, but the child of God embraces himself, because he knows that Christ has already mortified his flesh. It is done. There is nothing left to do for God.

    • cscottfowler

      So this is a curious response to VO and even a curious perspective coming from a Calvinist! FIRST, the Osteens aren’t Calvinist so you can’t take her words and force them into your theology and then exonerate her. She meant what shemeant. She and her husband are prosperity, positive-thinking, hyper-grace. Defending VO as though she was speaking from a Calvinist persepctive. She apparently grew up Church of Christ. Joel’s father was a baptist but then went to ORU. He was never seen as a reformed minister once he became known. In any case, Joel is not that. In fact “Reformed theologian Michael Horton told CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts that Osteen’s method of teaching is heresy. Horton stated that the problem with Osteen’s message is that it makes religion about us instead of about God (if Wikipedia can be trusted.)

      You wrote: He wants us to be happy, in the way that we want to be happy.

      This statement, left unqualified, is as errant as VO’s. Forexample, “gay Christians” wants to be happy living as homosexuals and enjoying the full blessing of God. God is not endorsing this.

      It is interesting that even though Jesus directly says “deny yourself,” you say just the opposite!

      You wrote: You need to revise wholesome theology on God’s grace (the doctrines of grace, TULIP), and then see how you will view Christianity differently.

      Oh my! There is no doubt that Christianity would be viewed differently if I were to “revise” my theology based on TULIP! That would be tragic! I don’t normally argue with Calvinists, but you won’t find support for Calvinism here!

      You wrote: “Many people think that it’s godly and the mark of a christian to “deny yourself” as we read in the gospel of Matthew, but it’s actually resistance toward God if you denied yourself….Put it this way: the non-believer denies himself because mortifying his flesh is his way of convincing himself that he is truly saved, but the child of God embraces himself, because he knows that Christ has already mortified his flesh. It is done. There is nothing left to do for God.”

      These statements could easily land you in a hyper-grace category.

      Thanks for your comments!

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