Joel Osteen gets schooled by doctor of linguistics

Posted on 13 Jan 2012 at 10:55am
Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Poor Joel Osteen. The pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church can’t seem to keep from tying himself in knots in an attempt to steer a middle road on LGBT issues. When he delivered the convocation at Mayor Annise Parker’s first inauguration he took flak from the religious right. When he went on Piers Morgan and called homosexuality a “sin” he caught heat from the left. Now he’s on Oprah’s Next Chapter trying to strike a middle ground, telling Oprah he believed that gay people can go to Heaven, but that “homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture.”

Now Joel Hoffman, a linguistics expert and columnist on Hebrew grammar for the Jerusalem Post has taken Osteen to task for what he says is an inconsistent interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. From Hoffman’s blog:

Pastor Osteen just confirmed to Oprah Winfreythat he believes that “homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture,” noting that he encourages people to be “willing to change and grow.”

On the other hand, when Piers Morgan asked him in October whether he supports the Biblical position of a life for a life, Pastor Osteen admitted (in this video): “I don’t know,” because the death penalty is a “complicated issue.”

In other words, Pastor Osteen doesn’t feel compelled to support everything in Scripture. He openly ignores Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Dueteronomy 19:21. He reserves the right — as we all do — to pick and choose.

This is why I don’t think there’s any merit or integrity to his argument that he is forced to condemn homosexuality because Scripture calls it a sin.

In a post last year on the topic Hoffman explained his position further:

It’s true that Leviticus 18:22 seems to discourage homosexuality, and though it stops short of specifically calling it a sin (which is why I think Pastor Osteen is wrong — more here), I’m not convinced by those who try to interpret the text as being about anything other than homosexuality.

But the very same section of the Bible also prohibits making clothes by combining different materials (Leviticus 19:19), technically known as sha’atnez.

So unless Pastor Warren, Pastor Osteen, and those of their ilk are willing to take a public and vehement position against wool-and-cotton clothing, I have no patience for their argument that they are locked into their anti-homosexual position by the Bible. They are not. They are choosing the verses they like, and, apparently, they like to hate homosexuality.

Similarly, Leviticus 20:13 condemns homosexuals to death, but the same punishment is mandated for people who curse their parents (Leviticus 20:9). Are those in the “it says so in the Bible” camp willing to pass laws that put children to death for speaking out against their parents?

Osteen famously did not attend seminary, so it’s not terribly surprising that a scholar who dedicated his life to understanding ancient Hebrew might have a better grasp of the subject, but still, poor Joel Osteen. It must be hard to maintain a non-opinion opinion when everyone keeps trying to pin you down to one consistent biblical interpretation.

Watch the clip from Oprah’s Next Chapter after the break:

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