Against the Heavenly Televangelists: A Lutheran Critique of the Televised Preaching of Joel Osteen and John Hagee

—by Richard Wolff

God speaks through the preacher in the pulpit. This I, Martin Luther, have said and believe … for preaching is an awesome responsibility. As I have written, “‘Here God speaks.’ God himself has said it, and I repeat it … whoever cannot boast like that about his sermon should leave preaching alone, for he surely denies and blasphemes God.”[1] Those who are not certain that God speaks through their mouths should be quiet. The Reformation placed great importance on the preached word. As a latter-day scholar of my work has written about how we Reformers thought of this matter, God draws near to us through preaching; indeed, “the word brings God with all God’s gifts.”[2] Those who would follow in my footsteps will abide by preachers of the pure gospel. My followers, who crave for “right understanding and for his holy, pure Word,”[3] will guard against false preachers, whose words and ideas mislead those thirsty for God.

Therefore, I must speak out against twenty-first century preachers who corrupt the gospel, sending messages via an invention called the television—a marvel that is similar to what the printing press was to us in the sixteenth century—reaching souls far and wide. To those who hear such corrupt messages, I send an “earnest, sincere warning and admonition,” as I warned of those misleading the faithful in an earlier age.[4] So I say, concern yourselves with “faith and good conscience before God,” and not “with what glitters and shines before reason and the world”; be on your guard, “for God nonetheless always holds his grace firmly over the world, so that he permits no false prophets to attempt anything except something external, such as works and subtle minute discoveries about external things.”[5] Indeed, these cautions apply to the likes of Mr. Joel Osteen, who uses the pulpit and Bible to spread a message of personal wealth and success in worldly terms, and Dr. John Hagee, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who uses stage and scripture to spread a message of morality and national exceptionalism in apocalyptic, triumphalist terms. Guard yourselves against both Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee! The first exemplifies preachers of the “prosperity gospel,” the gospel of “self-help and self-love,” who trace their lineage to the writings of Norman Vincent Peale. The second exemplifies preachers of triumphant “apocalypticism,” who draw on the “left behind” writings of Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.[6] Both are false preachers and misuse the gospel.

My undertaking, friends in Christ, is to provide “sincere counsel and warning” for you against such televangelists and their messages—misuses of the gospel, which rightly proclaims the power of faith in the crucified and risen Christ.[7] Mine is an important task, for when “errors arise among Christians, … these deprive consciences of such a comforting knowledge, lead to error, and unconsciously turn the spirit from inward grace toward external things and works.”[8] I shall therefore say a word about the importance of preaching in reaching souls with the gospel, discuss Mr. Osteen’s and Dr. Hagee’s preaching and how their messages reflect broad trends in twenty-first century theology, and use my own writings and thought to critique and respond to these false preachers. To achieve this, I shall draw on crucial terms I discuss in my Preface to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, what I called the “purest gospel.” In the end, I seek to expose these televangelists for how their preaching and misuse of the Bible run counter to my own writings on the gospel, and outline what good preaching should proclaim.

Even as I believe that God speaks through preachers, nonetheless—lest preachers “become arrogant and domineering” in their awareness of speaking for God—I have one abiding principle to guide them: “Nothing except Christ is [to be] preached.” One should preach Christ as savior— “his passion and resurrection.”[9] This is the gospel, which I loved. It comes not only through preaching Christ as savior, but also focusing on his words more so than his deeds, for Christ’s words “bring us life.”[10] A preacher must be “a servant of the word.”[11] As I have written:

Whoever, therefore, does not know or preach the gospel is not only no priest or bishop, but he is a kind of pest to the church, who under the false title of priest or bishop, or dressed in sheep’s clothing, actually does violence to the gospel and plays the wolf in the church.[12]

Introducing the Wolves

And now, before undressing them, I shall introduce two of these wolves.

The first is Joel Osteen, a televangelist whose preaching is broadcast from a mega-church in Texas. His recurring message is that blessings await those who believe and do good—that is, worldly blessings, such as increased wealth and property, successful relationships and overcoming depression. His prosperity gospel also connects with a history of triumphalism, whereby God exalts faithful followers on earth, such that a sign of one’s salvation is economic success; hence, one would see “God’s approval in growing personal wealth.”[13] To this end, a recent sermon included Mr. Osteen making the following assertions: “with every act of obedience, God will reward you”; “when you obey, dreams come to pass, health is restored”; “when you obey, a blessing is attached to it”; and “you can’t out give God.” He shared several examples, such as his purchase of a subpar home, on faith that God would provide (which happened when a developer bought the property and Mr. Osteen made a profit) and an acquaintance getting a job for which she was unqualified, because she obeyed God.[14] Another sermon used the example of the release of Hebrew slaves to allegorize that God will also free faithful followers from financial burdens, career problems, addictions, sickness, relationship problems and bad habits, because “you have an advantage as a child of God,” for which God will “lead you to fulfillment” and “take you places you never dreamed of.”[15] Although this sermon never mentions Christ, others do, often as an example of good, ethical behavior – such as by discussing the mercy Christ showed to the criminal on a cross, in a sermon on loving others.[16]

Another sheepskin-wearing wolf in the church is Dr. John Hagee, a televangelist who preaches from another mega-church in Texas. Although his style and message differ from Mr. Osteen’s, Dr. Hagee’s sermons also concern me. His sermons trace their history through another strand of triumphalism—one that sees the need to purify the nation by adherence to an unchanging, uniform code of morality, and seeks political influence in order to impose this vision.[17] Hence, “it attempts in rhetoric and action to pursue a theocratic worldview, marked by an otherworldly spirituality that becomes self-righteous, judgmental, and tyrannical facing opposition.”[18] To motivate listeners, Dr. Hagee’s sermons tap into a history of moralism, which uses a “fear of punishment on earth and idealistic promises of heaven,” to give listeners a (false) “sense of spiritual security” (and, indeed, superiority) that they are assured salvation by following a moral code[19]—and what is more, that salvation is tied to imposing this code via political influence. Seeing a clear, Biblically-based distinction between Christian and secular morality, Dr. Hagee “[applies] this distinction at times to moral and political life, usually out of an almost paranoid fear that American is being threatened by evil forces aimed at the eradication of our original ‘Bible-based civilization.’”[20] He expects his followers to “obey unconditionally” what he tells them to believe and do, demanding “strict adherence to moral and political norms” as he defines them, resulting in a “defense of a ‘civil religion’ which undergirds a capitalist culture by celebrating the virtues of family, country, monogamy, work, frugality, sobriety, and other aspects of a ‘Protestant ethic.’”[21] Finally, Dr. Hagee’s preaching involves an apocalypticism which sees America’s place in the world as part of God’s plan to bring about “the gradual fulfillment of the book of Revelation,” and sees the duty of “true” Christians to restore God’s moral principles in America, so to lead other nations to God and bring them to salvation.[22]

Hence, Dr. Hagee’s preaching features the rhetoric of fear, triumphalism, morality, nationalism, and apocalypticism. One recent sermon concerned the kinds and implications of wealth. Starting with a distinction between the “provisions” that humans and God may provide, Dr. Hagee extolled the virtues of giving, saying we are never more like God than when we give (and “when you give, you prosper”), and encouraged listeners to tithe to the church. Along the way, he related wealth and power to the “culture wars” by name, and encouraged listeners to fight against abortion, the ACLU, welfare, restrictions on domestic oil drilling, the overreaching power of the current government, and to use their power to combat all this evil, because, through faith in Christ, “victory belongs to you!” He admonished listeners to follow a strict moral code, and believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.[23] In another sermon, Dr. Hagee proclaimed that in heaven people will hold ranks based upon their accomplishments on earth, and that all will receive triumphant glory, but some more than others; this would be determined by one’s performance in battle, and “the battle is now!” The church, preached Dr. Hagee, is at war with this world. “America,” he sermonized, “is laughing at the gospel message of morality”; those who are righteous and will find salvation on judgment day are those who confront sins and follow the code of morality.[24]

On the Preaching of Wolves

What then to say of the preaching of Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee? Is it good, sound, Christian preaching? Answer: no. They are false preachers who do not preach the risen Christ, whose death and resurrection mean all the faithful are saved, by Christ’s act, not people’s works. Indeed, their preaching has become so widespread that, as I did with the false prophets in my own day, I am compelled to refute what they say.[25] Both televangelists preach a false gospel, but for different reasons. Where they stand together condemned, however, is on the basis of a central criterion that I used to assess the relative standing of scripture—Was Christum treibet, or “what pushes Christ.”[26] The criterion I used to assess whether a work of scripture was built on straw or met a gold standard may also be used as “a tool for judging contemporary works”[27]—yes, including televised preaching. That standard is whether the work bears some “evangelical character,” preaching the gospel, the good news over everything else—the gospel of God’s love shown in “Christ’s saving crucifixion and his resurrection.”[28] The gospel is that which makes one alive upon hearing it proclaimed. Beyond the law, which condemns and makes us fearful before God, “we must also preach the word of grace and the promise of forgiveness by which faith is taught and aroused.”[29]

By this measure, Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee fall short. The first, with his promises of worldly wealth to the “faithful,” presents God as a “celestial Santa,”[30] one who will bring them riches of the flesh in this world, if they believe and approach life positively. The reward for saying you follow Christ, and have accepted him as your savior, is success. On the other hand, Dr. Hagee presents God as a “nasty lawgiver,”[31] one who bases salvation on accepting a morality Hagee himself defines, proof texting scripture for his own political purposes, saying good works (that is, adhering to Hagee’s interpretation of a national political agenda based on the Bible) make people good, thus reversing what I say is the authentic order of things: that “good people do good works.”[32] In both cases, the televised preachers stand condemned of not preaching an authentic “relation to God.”[33] They do not preach the God as revealed to us in the unexpected, as one who suffered on the cross out of love-born desire to reconcile us humans to God and make us righteous by faith. The God Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee preach is not the one revealed, but the one contrived in their preaching: as one who either died to bring about our worldly success, or one who expects adherence to a particular moral standard to achieve glory in terms first national, then apocalyptic. By so preaching, both deny listeners a true relation with the living God via proclamation of the true gospel.

And where might one find this true gospel? For me, the answer is in St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which I call “the chief part of the New Testament, and … truly the purest gospel.”[34] In my Preface to this work, I discuss Paul’s theology as developed over the course of the letter, but only after discussing the language Paul uses; for, as I say, without that, “no reading of the book has any value.”[35] Since a proper understanding of these key words is essential to understanding Paul’s articulation of “the purest gospel,” I will discuss these terms, comparing what I say Paul means by each to how Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee understand the same terms, as revealed in their preaching. My point shall be to demonstrate the conflict these false teachers evince with what is “purest gospel,” either by their misconstruing these terms, or neglecting some entirely. These terms are “law,” “sin,” “grace,” “faith,” “righteousness,” “flesh,” and “spirit.”

“Law” concerns not “what works are to be done or not done,” for that is how we understand human laws; God, instead, judges “according to what is in the depths of the heart,” in a manner that “cannot be satisfied with works.”[36] No one can keep the entirety of the law by doing (or not doing) deeds, because it is impossible to be righteous by such a standard; hence, due to of its overwhelming demands, people hate the law. This is why, properly understood, “the law is spiritual”—it is not of the body—and only a heart filled with the proper spirit can love and fulfill it.[37] For this reason I distinguish between “doing the work of the law” and “fulfilling the law.”[38] Any works one does trying to keep the law are in vain, for since no one can successfully keep all the law, one will ultimately despise it. Fulfilling the law, doing its works “with pleasure and love,” may only by done through faith—a faith that “alone makes a person righteous and fulfills the law.” And faith is a gift, a “divine work in us,” which changes us and makes us righteous, for the sake of Christ, who by grace died and was raised, to make us righteous before God.[39] Sin, then, is unbelief.[40] This is why preaching is so crucial, for “faith … comes only through God’s Word or gospel, which preaches Christ saying that his is God’s Son and a man, and has died and risen again for our sakes,” as Paul says throughout the epistle.[41]

If this is the standard by which to judge preaching, both Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee are false preachers. Mr. Osteen does not preach of God’s forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ, who was crucified and resurrected; instead, he preaches of worldly prosperity, granted to those who accept Jesus as their savior. But, savior from what? Sin, in Mr. Osteen’s preaching, is absent, or reduced to not having faith enough to reach one’s potential in attaining earthly wealth, career advancement and happiness in human relationships. Indeed, there are no “laws” to speak of in his prosperity gospel; he preaches only of principles to achieve happiness, success and increased wealth. This is not to say he does not speak of works. A proper attitude is the “work” of which Mr. Osteen speaks, in service of attaining prosperity. Faith is not a gift from God that reckons us righteous; inasmuch as one’s success is a reflection of the sufficiency of one’s faith, even faith here is a work, without which one is not able to attain the worldly blessings Mr. Osteen preaches God bestows on those who accept Christ as their “savior” and follow His example.

Further, the “benefits” of which Mr. Osteen speaks are not spiritual. Whereas his preaching concerns how to find betterment of one’s present life, he exemplifies what I call “the flesh,” that is, a person “who lives and works, inwardly and outwardly, in the service of the flesh’s gain, and of this temporal life.”[42] His preaching is unconcerned with “the spirit,” which characterizes one who works “in the service of the Spirit and of the future life.”[43] God’s gracious act of giving his Son to suffer and die on a cross, so people might be reckoned as righteous via faith, is cheapened and degraded to God allowing his Son to suffer and die so “believers” might achieve fleshly glory: to get that big promotion, marry the spouse of their choice, and live in a house whose worth (they believe) reflects their level of faith. Often this is not by a focus on Christ’s words about redemption, or by faith in Christ and what makes him unique as one whose death and resurrection reckon us righteous before God, but by following Christ’s example, Christ here mentioned alongside other Biblical figures. This fails to appreciate what makes Christ unique. Mr. Osteen thereby becomes like other false prophets who direct attention “only to the work of Christ, wherein Christ is held up as an example, which is the least important aspect of Christ, and which makes him comparable to other saints. But turn to Christ as to a gift of God, or, as Paul says, the power of God, and God’s wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and sanctification, given to us.”[44]

Here, we have a false teacher who leads people astray from the true gospel. Focusing on faith as a work, the sufficiency of which bestows fleshly rewards as a measure of faith, subverts the good news. It convinces followers that God gave His Son for our worldly wealth, making people despair of their insufficient faith if they do not attain what they desire. They become condemned by the “law” for not living up to God’s expectations, as evinced by their lack of wealth; or they believe themselves blessed if they do receive worldly riches, unaware that their spiritual salvation must follow a different faith—one in a God found in weakness, a God who suffers, who is vulnerable, whose love for us is so great that God would suffer for our spiritual salvation … and what comfort this love brings! This is the theology of the cross, which does not lead people to find God revealed in their glorious attainment of earthly riches and worldly power, but finds God where God chooses to be revealed, “in the brokenness of the cross, the emptiness of unbelief, the guilt of sin.”[45] What works we do “inwardly and outwardly, in the service of the Spirit and of the future life,”[46] we do in response to the love which fills us, and to which we cannot help but respond, content with expressing our own overflowing love for the One who also loves us.[47] The gospel concerns God’s love and sacrifice, not our worldly wealth and prosperity; its central focus is “the Spirit and future life,” not that of the flesh and its gains; it addresses sin and grace, and how awareness of these leads to joy and comfort, not worldly lack or divine favor leading to earthly riches in keeping with the measure of one’s “faith.” To debase that truth with Mr. Osteen’s God-died-for-your-fleshly-happiness preaching makes him guilty of misleading souls hungry for the pure gospel.

As for Dr. Hagee, his preaching also does not measure up to the standard of “the purest gospel.” In Hagee’s sermons, moralism and triumphalism supplant the role of forgiveness and reconciliation. Righteousness, in his preaching, is established by adhering to his particular moral political agenda; sin is holding any other political, moral views. Only those who uphold this political agenda will be raised in glory for having helped establish America as the triumphant leader of the world. Hence, America serves as a savior to other nations, leading by a particular moral example. Accepting and supporting this morality, and fighting the political fight, is the work that distinguishes some Christians from others, and certainly nonbelievers. Thus, Hagee, like others, distinguishes his “Christian” morality from the “secular,” and applies this distinction “to moral and political life, usually out of an almost paranoid fear that America is being threatened by evil forces aimed at the eradication” of a civilization based on Biblical morality.[48] God condemns those who do not support this political agenda, in a manner that limits God’s grace from all those who have faith in Christ, to those “elect” who follow Hagee’s fleshly agenda and views. Indeed, Dr. Hagee’s preaching leads followers to base their salvation on law and their works of morality, making that which saves not Christ’s gracious, loving act on the cross, but something they do, and making enemies of those whose moral sense differs from theirs. Dr. Hagee’s preaching emphasizes fear, judgment and works, rather than joy, grace, and faith in a salvation freely given; he preaches prideful superiority based on morality, rather than faithful discipleship, that is, service freely rendered to neighbors.[49] 

Hence, in Dr. Hagee’s preaching, we are reckoned as righteous not by Christ’s act, but by our own works—acts of morality and politics, which make us worthy of salvation. This leads to a sense of supremacy, along with condemning and judging others, even though all fall short of the law, which no one can keep where it matters, in the heart.[50] Absent from his fire-and-brimstone sermons is talk of grace, forgiveness offered to all regardless of works, and the good news that we are made righteous not by keeping the law, but by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Indeed, Dr. Hagee looks not to a theology of the cross, which would find God revealed in weakness and suffering, but to a theology of glory, emphasized in his apocalyptic preaching. He ties this to his and his followers’ own quest for glory and power, as “they seek a powerful God to match their own claims to power, and a powerful Scripture as well,” instead of God as revealed, coming to us “humble and lowly.”[51] Their quest for power based upon morality makes of these principles an idol, “idealizing what they do,” “deriving behavior from rigid principles,” instead of love.[52] 

Further, instead of preaching the comfort to those seeking “God’s word of promise and hope,” Dr. Hagee condemns those whose morality is not bound with that which he preaches, based upon his interpretation of scripture.[53] What Dr. Hagee should realize, as one latter-day interpreter of mine has written, is that “we are neither pope nor emperor but fellow believers living with one another. This means that Christians cannot simply assert one interpretation of Scripture over another but must always respect the conscience of others with whom we may disagree.”[54] Consider this in relation to my discussion of moralism, above. In presenting his interpretation of scriptural morality as law, Dr. Hagee errs. So too does he err in preaching law without gospel—the pure gospel, which proclaims good news and comforts the terrified, unable to keep the law. While the law may bring us to repent before God, preaching the good news means comforting troubled consciences, that “through faith in God’s unconditional, gracious promise of forgiveness in Christ,” we are saved, reckoned as righteous for Christ’s sake.[55] Would that Dr. Hagee learn from this and proclaim this pure gospel, instead of the false one that he preaches.

Wherefore could both false preachers look to correct their wayward preaching? Answer: the gospel itself. That is, they could preach scripture. While I myself placed greater emphasis on the other Reformation solas, I nonetheless held a treasured place for scripture for its “Christological principle,” “precisely because this book alone pushed Christ.”[56] Indeed, the word for me was “not simply the Bible but its proclamation.”[57] Preaching the good news is proclaiming how a scriptural text pushes Christ, that is, the saving Christ. Part of the problem for both Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee is that their approach is to preach not on a scriptural text but on a theme of their choosing, based on their own brand of what one scholar has called “toxic Christian traditions,” which are each in their own way idolatrous.[58] To serve their predetermined message of prosperity, fundamentalism, triumphalism and/or moralism, they develop a message and selectively choose passages to support their views. Thus, they wrest a toxic message out of a source that, on its own terms, wants to “push Christ”; they thereby fail to proclaim the good news of forgiveness and salvation. To wit, they make scripture their slave, using it to serve the predetermined needs of their “poisonous” message. 

If they would but go “back to the sources” and let scripture be their guide—lectionary texts, which embody the good news—Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee too might preach “the purest gospel.” For it is by means of hearing the external word—God’s word, preached to us; not false preachers’ messages that mangle scriptural verses to serve their needs—that God reaches us. Instead, Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee “fill the world with their chattering and scribbling—as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles, but the Spirit must come through their own writings and words.”[59] It is God’s word and the preaching of it that transforms us with its message of promise, forgiveness and salvation: the good news, centered on Christ. Indeed, as I show in my prefaces to the books of the Bible, one can find the good news throughout Scripture when one reads it for how each book “pushes Christ.” It is God’s work and word that saves, not anything imposed on it by false preachers. 

As is, both of these twenty-first century televised preachers choose a theme supportive of their preferred message, either the prosperity gospel or a triumphalist-moralist-apocalyptic reproach, and develop a message around these themes with proof-texts as needed. Hence, Mr. Osteen has preached sermons on themes like “Be Positive or Be Quiet,” “Take Control of Your Happiness,” “Healthy Families,” and “Have a Spirit of Excellence,” while Dr. Hagee has preached sermons titled “Can America Survive?” “Battle Cry,” “The War for the Soul,” “The Seven Secrets of Success,” and “Triumphant in the Days of Trouble.” They “impose their own direction” instead of letting the lectionary be their guide, and are led astray from preaching the good news of God’s “gracious word” and “saving power.”[60] Listeners are left remembering not a scriptural text, but the televangelists’ theme designed to enslave scripture in service of its own, imposed message.

We are brought back to the method for discerning what preaching is truest to the gospel. As scripture is “self-authenticating,” judged by its ability to transform us via the sharing of the good news, so we may use the same standard of “what pushes Christ” to assess all Christian writing and preaching.[61] That standard is the same for all writing and preaching, which is the authority of “the crucified and risen Christ.”[62] These televangelists, in not preaching on this authority but on messages of their own devising, may be said rather to preach “what pushes Osteen or Hagee,” or even “what Osteen or Hagee pushes.”[63] Realizing this, we must be careful, to “notice what kind of interpreter [is] speaking and what the fruits of his or her teaching [are],” and “whether the teaching brought the consolation of faith or simply more works.”[64] 

Ultimately Mr. Osteen and Dr. Hagee do not push Christ, do not preach the good news, and do not console terrified consciences with the message of salvation through faith in Christ; rather they preach works, the law, a fleshly reward instead of a spiritual, and a theology of glory instead of the cross. They preach of earthly prosperity, or a triumphalist, apocalyptic salvation conditioned upon a particular morality. Their preaching gives a “false sense of spiritual security,” inevitably resulting in a sense of inadequacy and fear.[65] This is not the good news. By preaching on matters other than the gospel, these false preachers separate us from the love of Christ. This is why they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. To those who wonder why this is of such import, I say because “it is perilous when … errors arise among Christians, for they deprive consciences of such comforting knowledge, … and unconsciously turn the spirit from inward grace toward external things and works.”[66]

This is why I warn of the threat these false televised preachers pose to the pure gospel, and to people’s very souls. For they “avoid, run away from, and are silent on the main points of Christian doctrine. For in no place do they teach how we are to become free from our sins, obtain a good conscience, and win a peaceful and joyful heart before God. This is what really counts.”[67] In preaching such false teachings, they thus are a menace. As I have written:

The greatest evil on earth is a false preacher. He is the worst man on earth. No thief, murderer or scoundrel on earth can be compared to him. They are not as wicked as a preacher who dominates people in God’s name … and leads them into the abyss of hell through [his] false preaching.[68] 

These televangelists are guilty of such preaching. Be assured, their sermons “are childish and foolish nonsense,” and they should instead preach “why Christ came, what he brought and bestowed, what benefit it is to us to accept him.”[69] Would that these televangelists preach the promises of God, proclaimed in the gospel! For “What person’s heart, upon hearing such things, will not rejoice greatly and grow so tender that he will love Christ in a way not possible by the observance of works or law?”[70] Dear Christians, let us thank our gracious God for his mercy and promises, and for the preaching of the purest gospel, in the twenty-first century as in my day. 

Richard Wollf is Professor of Speech, Media Studies and Religious Studies at Dowling College.

[1] Martin Luther, quoted in Fred W. Meuser, Luther the Preacher (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1983), 12.

[2] Ibid., 12–13; quotation 13.

[3] Martin Luther, “Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments,” LW 40:80.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How we Became a Nation of Heretics (New York: Free Press, 2012), 52, 62.

[7] Martin Luther, “Letter to the Christians at Strassburg in Opposition to the Fanatic Spirit,” LW 40:67.

[8] Ibid., 66.

[9] Meuser, Luther the Preacher, 16, 19.

[10] Ibid., 17–18.

[11] Ibid., 16–17.

[12] As quoted by Meuser, 17.

[13] Eric W. Gritsch, Toxic Spirituality: Four Enduring Temptations of Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 104.

[14] Joel Osteen; all episodes reviewed as cablecast on WWOR-NY (Houston, Texas: KTBU): October 20, 2013.

[15] Joel Osteen: November 2, 2013.

[16] Joel Osteen: October 27, 2013.

[17] Gritsch, Toxic Spirituality, 85–131.

[18] Ibid., 130.

[19] Ibid., 149, 154.

[20] Eric Gritsch, Born Againism: Perspectives on a Movement (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1982), 98.

[21] Ibid., 99.

[22] Douthat, Bad Religion, 256, 261, and passim.

[23] John Hagee; all episodes reviewed as cablecast on Daystar (Dallas, Texas: Daystar): October 20, 2013.

[24] John Hagee: October 27, 2013.

[25] Conrad Bergendoff, Introduction to “Against the Heavenly Prophets,” LW 40:76.

[26] Timothy Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 9.

[27] Ibid., 3, 6–7.

[28] Ibid., 3, 6, 8.

[29] Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” LW 31:364.

[30] Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, 41.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 108.

[33] ibid., 41.

[34] Martin Luther, “Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans,” LW 35:365.

[35] Ibid., 366.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid., 366–367.

[38] Ibid., 367.

[39] Ibid., 368, 370.

[40] Ibid., 369.

[41] Ibid., 368.

[42] Ibid., 372.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Luther, “Letter to the Christians at Strassburg,” LW 40:70.

[45] Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, 49.

[46] Luther, “Preface to Romans,” LW 35:372.

[47] Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, 42.

[48] Gritsch, Born Againism, 98.

[49] Ibid., 100.

[50] Luther, “Preface to Romans,” LW 35:366.

[51] Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, 52.

[52] Ibid., 73.

[53] Ibid., 77.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid., 76.

[56] Ibid., 19.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Gritsch, Toxic Spirituality, 161, 4.

[59] Martin Luther, “The Smalcald Articles,” in The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 322.

[60] Meuser, Luther the Preacher, 47.

[61] Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, 8, 11.

[62] Ibid., 11.

[63] Ibid., 10–11 (adapting Wengert’s discussion to Osteen and Hagee).

[64] Ibid., 19.

[65] Gritsch, Toxic Spirituality, 155.

[66] Luther, “Letter to the Christians at Strassburg,” LW 40:66.

[67] Luther, “Against the Heavenly Prophets,” LW 40:222–223.

[68] Luther, as quoted in Mueser, Luther the Preacher, 44.

[69] Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” LW 31:357.

[70] Ibid., 70.

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