Last month, Joel Osteen and his wife was interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN and during the interview, probably for the first time in his pastoral career, he stated his belief that homosexuality is a sin (Here is the interview for those interested). It was intriguing when a friend shared Albert Mohler’s blog on the said interview, but not because of the issue of homosexuality (I feel I have given much thought on the subject and have so far reached a satisfactory working conclusion) but more so because of the evolution of Joel Osteen. Mohler makes a brief comparison in his blog of the Osteen in last month’s interview and the Osteen in an interview from 2006. It was interesting to see, in no condescending manner, the theological growth in Osteen, especially after having written an academic paper critiquing Osteen’s book and previous interviews. Then it got me thinking, I would never have critiqued Osteen if he was an ordinary Christian, not in place of leadership. I would have been more understanding that no Christian knows everything or gains the correct theology upon conversion. All Christians evolve, in a sense, and it seems only fair that any criticism must be tethered to this fact that people learn and grow throughout life.
It seems that because Christians forget this truth of growth and change in a person’s belief and life, that doubt has become such a vice. Jason Boyett shares in his article titled “The doubting Christian” in The Washington Post about how he had to learn that the world was wrong to claim that all Christians must be full of certainty and devoid of doubt. He shares:
I’ve spent three decades learning I was wrong. Doubt is essential to faith. Faith, by definition, requires uncertainty. Answering “I don’t know” to most religious questions isn’t just honest, but humble. These days, if I have faith, it’s in my willingness to follow the teachings of Christ despite my hesitations. Faith, for me, is action.
Deep in this valley of doubt, I still call myself a Christian and try to serve others, love my enemies, and otherwise live like a follower of Jesus…even on the days agnosticism looks inviting. Even on the days I labor to reconcile evolution with the Bible. Even on the days I’m not certain God exists.
I’m a big, fat doubter, and I’m learning to be okay with that.
Of course, there is a categorically different certainty that one gains with faith, certainty that does not base itself on the amount of knowledge and certainty that can coexist with occasional doubt. It is not just ok but even right for Christians to say “I do not know” on issues that are beyond comprehension, and to place a taboo on doubt is to lose the welcoming power of Christianity. There are, like my high school math teacher used to say, “no dumb questions” (though there are sinfully motivated questions, but that, for another time).
Osteen should be held responsible for his lack of knowledge/theology by virtue of his position, but us critical ones have something to learn from him too. To never see another as merely a still picture, that everyone has a past and a future, that our criticisms, hopeful positive criticism, should play out in this larger time frame.