Fred Phelps and Joel Osteen have gotten a lot of press recently for the message they preach. Both loudly proclaim the message God has given them. They claim to speak for the same God yet preach very diverse messages.
The Gospel According to Fred Phelps
Phelps is the pastor of the tiny Westboro Baptist Church
(WBC) in Topeka, KS. Most of the seventy or so members of Westboro Baptist Church are related to Phelps. Phelps and his congregation have gained public attention for their antics at the funerals for servicemen. According to Phelps, God is a just and vengeful God. Apparently, all who do not follow him are doomed to Hell. At times WBC runs websites that contain lists of well-known people who have been condemned to hell for various sins. At one time Mother Theresa was on the list. He also accuses Billy Graham of being a false prophet. Note: I have not linked to any of the WBC websites due to the use of profanity and the offensive and volatile nature of the content. Also, WBC websites have a tendency to disappear.
The Gospel According to Joel Osteen
Osteen is the pastor of the Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. According to Outreach Magazine Lakewood is the largest church in America. He is known for his smile and positive message. Osteen is author of the motivational books, Your Best Life Now and Become A Better You. According to Osteen God is a loving God who wants the best for us. When pushed by interviewers Osteen will not speak of hell or God sending people to hell.
The Gospel In Between Phelps and Osteen
According to Phelps God is angry, vengeful and abhors sin and sinners. According to Osteen God loves and wants the best for us. But who is right Phelps or Osteen? God is just and righteous. Phelps is correct that God hates sin. According to Romans 3:23 everyone including Phelps has sinned or is a sinner. No one measures up to God’s standards. Romans 6:23 states that the consequence of is death but that is only half the verse. We also learn from this verse that God offers the gift of eternal life. If God were only angry and unconditionally condemning all sinners to Hell, why would he provide a way out of eternal punishment? John 3:16-17 provides the answer, God loves people. Jesus came to the Earth to provide salvation not judgment. Osteen is correct that God loves us. God offers eternal life or salvation for all but He doesn’t force anyone to accept his gift. He gives us the freedom to choose eternal life or reject it, the choice is ours (See Romans 8:1-4)
Another well known preacher, Billy Graham offers a more balanced view presentation of the Gospel in Steps to Peace With God.