A very old post by Vincent Cheung entitled “Compromise, Then Apologize” (and my pretty old comments on it):
This week, the Internet has been buzzing with Joel Osteen’s compromise of the gospel on Larry King’s show. Now it is buzzing again with Osteen’s apology. In one moment the Christians denounce him as a compromiser, if not a heretic, and in the next the same Christians advertise him as the very picture of humility.
This is a great strategy: compromise to the unbelievers, and then apologize to the believers. This way, you score points on both sides.
When both the unbelievers and the believers are listening, you don’t insist that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, and that all unbelievers will go to hell. Then, when you apologize to the believers, you tell them that you really do believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. This way, you appear tolerant to the unbelievers, and you appear humble to the believers. The brownie points gained from this are astronomical, and the free publicity is not bad, either (Cheung).
In Cheung’s post (“Faithful in Famine”) we saw some perceptive comments regarding the sovereignty of God and how what he calls “inconsistent Calvinism” has an incoherent and deeply blasphemous view of sovereignty in its doctrine of “permission.” But in this post, Cheung manifests abject blindness. Cheung is not saying that he believes Osteen’s apology is humble, but apparently he thinks that true believers can think that Joel Osteen is a picture of humility.
Yes, we should accept his apology at its face value (Luke 17:4), and I do. But the real test is what Osteen will say the NEXT time he has the opportunity to address such a big audience.
Consider this: Peter compromised, then he repented, but his repentance was shown to be genuine when he boldly preached the gospel in Acts 2, and this included charging the Jews with murder (Acts 2:23, 36), and later, he explicitly stated that Jesus was the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12).
Cheung cites Luke 17:4 and applies it to Joel Osteen. As we have seen in previous posts by Vincent Cheung, he is not afraid to use strong language against those who hold to beliefs that are antithetical to the gospel. Of course, we also saw how Cheung applied 2 Timothy 3:5 to cessationists. In the context this phrase is being used to describe unregenerate persons. Cessationists are apparently, according to Cheung, to be in that class to which Jannes and Jambres belong. Cheung is far from careful and deliberate in endeavoring to insult people. Now obviously, if people are insulted by the truth of the gospel, then so be it. But Cheung is using phrases that only describe lost people, but he is applying them to those whom he would still deem true (albeit blasphemously confused or whatever) Christians.
Next time, when Osteen is asked the same questions again, will he give the biblical, uncompromising, and offensive answers? Will he say that Christians will go to heaven, but non-Christians will go to hell, to be tormented forever? We hope so. But even if we forget about this entire Larry King incident (since we accept his apology), his record discourages us from expecting too much GOSPEL from him. As it is, my judgment is that he is not one tenth of the man that his late father was. Like him or not (some people opposed his Charismatic and Word of Faith theology), JOHN Osteen never compromised the doctrine of salvation by Christ alone, and certainly never like this (Cheung).
I am not familiar with John Osteen, but evidently Cheung is. Now I think it is safe to assume that “Word of Faith” theology includes the false doctrine of universal atonement. It is weird that Cheung says that a Charismatic/Word of Faith type person has never compromised the doctrine of salvation by Christ alone — I would think that most professing Calvinists would say that it is compromised. In any event, Cheung judges Joel Osteen as being “not one tenth of the man that his late father was.” But despite Joel being that compromising/apologizing “not one tenth,” it is clear that Cheung thinks that Joel Osteen is still a true Christian.
I am not really interested in writing about Osteen, so he is not in fact the main point of this post. Rather, I am concerned that Christians are too often fooled by apologies. I can become a bigger hero in the eyes of many Christians if I would kill, rape, and pillage, and then apologize, than if I were to live a holy lifestyle all of my life in obedience to Christ. This is wrong.
Now another famous charismatic personality comes to mind. It was exposed that he was having a homosexual relationship with his personal assistant. So he apologized and took only three months off, and then went back to preaching again. Now, those who oppose him oppose him still, but by his apology, he actually obtained greater favor with many people. And no one seems to care about the homosexual relationship, that he only took three months off, or whether he has genuinely changed after this.
Consider another example: Jim Bakker published I Was Wrong, and now droves of Christians (mostly Charismatics?) flock to hear him. In the Christian world, you can become an instant celebrity if you will first become a criminal, and then apologize.
We should accept an apology at its face value (since we cannot judge the heart), and we should rejoice over genuine repentance, but we should not make the person into a hero. Rather, after accepting the apology, we should demand real change in the person’s doctrine and lifestyle, and call for him to make reparations to the cause of Christ (for example, by going back to the unbelievers and preach the real, biblical, and offensive gospel to them).
In some cases, the person should repent, and then just resign from the ministry, either permanently, or until he gains the proper qualifications (in terms of doctrine and character).
We should not be fooled by a “compromise, then apologize” strategy. I am not saying that this is necessarily what Osteen has done, since it might really be the case that he has realized his error and has determined to change — but don’t be totally surprised if he compromises again the next time (Cheung).
Then Marc responded:
This is surprising to me, and maybe it shouldn’t be. I thought Cheung, who uses very strong language and is faulted by others as being too judgmental, had at least an eensy-weensy bit of backbone when it came to the really really blatant heretics. I mean, how easy would it be to say that someone as far out as Osteen is unregenerate? Many conservative evangelicals who are tolerant of many other heretics would even say that Osteen is unregenerate. Yet Cheung can’t even bring himself to say that. I already realized long ago that Cheung is a God-hater, so that doesn’t surprise me. But he is supposed to be one of the more uncompromising ones. Ironically, Cheung talks about Osteen’s compromise and then compromises himself. What a hypocrite (Marc).