Others have referred to it as “Christianity Lite.”
Word-Faith theology includes so many aberrant, heterodox, suborthodox and/or outright heretical teaching and practices that many Christians consider the Word-Faith movement to be aberrational at best, and – theologically – a cult of Christianity at worst.
Mr. Osteen begins each sermon with a joke and follows with anecdotes from his own life, about how through faith he received a house, a parking space, a happy marriage. There is no time to ruminate on theological puzzles, like why God allows people to suffer.
“The answer is I don’t know,” Mr. Osteen said. “We deal every week with someone whose child got killed, or they lost their job. I don’t understand it. All you can do is let God comfort you and move on. Part of faith is not understanding.”
This relentless focus on the positive has led critics to call him lightweight.
“The idea of suffering as a Christian virtue is not part of his worldview,” said Lynn Mitchell, director of religious studies at the University of Houston. “Some call it Christianity Lite – you get all the benefits, but don’t pay attention to the fact that Jesus called for suffering. He doesn’t tackle many of the problems of the world.”
But many among his congregants said he tackled their problems. Mario Cervantes, 38, said that the church had taught him to name the things he wanted, and that he would receive them. “The Bible says, speak those things that aren’t as if they are,” Mr. Cervantes said.
– Source: A Church That Packs Them In, 16,000 at a Time New York Times, July 18, 2005. [Emphasis added]
The teaching referred to by Mr. Cervantes is known as “Positive Confession” – another term for Word-Faith (“Word of Faith”) theology (also referred to as Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, and Prosperity Teaching)
The basic premise of ‘positive confession’ as taught in the Word-Faith movement is:
- God created things by speaking them into existence.
- We are created in God’s image.
- Therefore we, too, can create things (or situations) by speaking them into existence.
Here’s how Joel Osteen puts it:
I believe one of the main ways that we grow in favor is by declaring. It’s not enough to just read it. It’s not enough to just believe it. You’ve got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. There is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and seeing God’s favor manifested in your life. And some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You are living a holy consecrated life, but you’re not really experiencing God’s supernatural favor. And it’s simply because you’re not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.
– Source: Joel Osteen, audio clip as broadcast on the Bible Answer-Man, April 26, 2004
Many of you today know this, you believe it down here in your heart. But the reason that your not experiencing as much as you should is because your not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out. Your words have creative power. When you go around saying, ‘I have favor, people want to be good to me and supernatural doors are opening.’ When you make those declarations of faith–you are charging the atmosphere. And your own words can help to bring it to pass. That is why we should get into the habit of every day consistently speaking God’s favor over our lives. – Source: Joel Osteen, “Experiencing More Of God’s Favor,” Tape # 212, Daystar, July 10, 2004.