Examples of a spineless gospel presentation
Here are two men, both preachers of God's word, both with church flocks, both well known. One is known for his falsity and prosperity gospel and has a poor reputation among true believers. The other is known for his Reformed stance and is highly thought of by many believers.
Three times the interviewer asked the guest if Jesus is the only way, and three times the guest had the opportunity to state the true answer unequivocally. They didn't. Eerily, both men's responses were similar despite being several years apart and on separate and different forums.
Here are both responses in video plus link to full transcript to interview #1, below.
Joel Osteen on the interview show hosted by Larry King, video from 2005:
This summer I was researching Tim Keller. I heard a lot about him but had not personally delved. Well, I delved. In all the product I consumed to do my research, this interview stood out.
As a side note: When I research and I come across things that are grievous to me, I am spiritually pierced. I literally mourn, and I weep literal tears and I pray. I do not take posts like this lightly. I find no joy in them.
My method is journalistically solid. I don't cherry pick to fulfill a pre-conceived agenda. I don't lift one wayward quote from a body of work that is otherwise solid. I look at the person's overall life's work over time. I look at the entire essay, I watch the entire interview- for context. I wait to discern. I observe if the person will repent or course-correct.
That said, MSNBC journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Tim Keller about Christianity, at Columbia University in February 2008, related to his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. This full Veritas Forum interview is quite lengthy, it's 1 hour 24 minutes. I watched the entire program. Here is another blogger's transcript of the 6-min excerpt from the longer interview. There are other problematic answers later int he program to other topics as well.
Here in this 6-min clip from the above full-length interview, I'd like to direct your attention to the fact that the interviewer asks three times if people who aren't Christians are going to hell or not, just as Larry King had pursued the question with Osteen.
In listening to the above 6-minute clip, I was reminded of similar answers from the 2005 interview Larry King did with Joel Osteen. In looking for transcripts of both interviews, I was struck by the similarity in tone, the vagueness of the responses, and the gutless gospel given. I made a chart so as to compare the responses. I tried to go apples-to-apples, comparing similar questions' topics with their individual responses, as closely as possible. I deliberately left off the names of these two gentlemen. See if you can deduce who said what. Click to enlarge it.
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27For I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:27)
John MacArthur has always been bold. I remember he explained his tactic when asked to go on a secular interview show. He said that he gets the Gospel out as quickly and succinctly as he can. Oftentimes he is interrupted or time doesn't allow, so he cuts to the chase and presents it. He said that his main responsibility in life as a pastor is to explain and defend the Bible, and whenever he has a national opportunity to speak, he feels obligated to pursue souls quickly, with grace and clarity. Here is MacArthur on Larry King Live in 2003, on a panel that consisted of 4 other men of various faiths. I edited out two responses by a Catholic man so as to keep the focus on MacArthur's answers.
KING: John MacArthur, you believe that Muslim people, the Islamic people are wrong. Their beliefs are wrong.
MACARTHUR: That's right. And this is not some personal belief of mine. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life..."
KING: Yes, but if they don't believe that...
MACARTHUR: If they don't believe that, no man comes to the Father but by me.
KING: He died for the Islamic, too?
KING: You believe that, too, right?
MACARTHUR: Well, I believe God loves his creatures, his creations.
MACARTHUR: But in the end he's going to condemn to an eternal hell all those who reject his son Jesus Christ.
KING: All of them?
MACARTHUR: All who reject his son Jesus Christ, the Bible says, are condemned to eternal punishment.
If MacArthur is on a panel with 4 other men, speaking under a shorter time frame, with looming commercial interruptions every few minutes, and still managed here and elsewhere in that same interview to get the truth out, what excuse do men like Osteen and Keller have, who were alone on a show with over an hour of leisurely talk time and one of those without any commercials at all?
Our lesson as laypeople is the same. Despite the current trend away from speaking of sin and wrath and judgment, it is important to state the truth - the whole truth - clearly and unflinchingly. We have the truth, as Christians. It's a privilege and responsibility to state it to people & to the world as it is stated to us in the Bible. No shrinking back, no alterations, no equivocations.
During a Q&A at Grace Community Church, Phil Johnson, Moderator, thanked MacArthur for his clear stand on a previous Larry King Live interview session, in this session called Standing Firm in Unstable Times. The more unstable times get, the more we need good men who are clear with the Gospel.
PHIL: I want to say...Thank you, John, for the clear stand you took for Christ and for the way you made the truth of the gospel clear. You don't see that very often on Larry King.
JOHN: Well, it was a pleasure, believe me. It was a great opportunity and, you know, when you get an opportunity like that to give the simple straight-forward gospel to the wide world, it's just a great privilege.