Is Joel Osteen’s Anthropology Hyper-Pelagian?

The picture to the right is from a parishioner at my church. Apparently she copied the figures on a napkin for some friends while they were having a theological conversation over lunch.  The drawing is of a side by side comparison diagram that I often draw in Bible studies. It demonstrates the differences between: Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Synergism and Monergism. To see a more comprehensive explanation of this diagram comparing these four views of theology, CLICK HERE.


For the most part I have always been able to summarize the theologies within Christendom by this simple diagram. However, after listening to an Issues, Etc. segment with Pastor Brian Wolfmueller commenting on Joel Osteen’s anthropology (i.e. understanding of mankind), I might have to see about creating a 5th category titled Hyper-Pelagianism. The only problem with hyper-pelagianism is that I am totally at a loss how to diagram it.


Enjoy the audio segment from Issues, Etc.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at:


Is Joel Osteen’s Anthropology Hyper-Pelagian? — 14 Comments

  1. “Creating a 5th category titled Hyper-Pelagianism. ”

    Easy put one of your green triangles centered in the stick man at the bottom pointing up.

    Put nothing at the top as the man is his own god.

    Description box reads:

    Man is his own god.



  2. Osteen’s diagram would, naturally, have to be drawn w/ cute, swirly lines, embellished with brilliant colors, and the stick man would need a crap-eating grin…oh yeah, and a Barbie blonde next to him.

    But as to the diagram given, I think under monergism I ‘d put a horizontal line across the vertical just for affect.

  3. I have to say that the Trinity triangle symbol that you use in the link is one of the neatest ones I’ve ever seen! I seems to use the style of MC Escher in creating the illusion of a triangle that is forever turning in on itself. Where did you get it? More importantly, where can I get it so that I can steal it (er, appropriately attribute it and pay whatever copyright fees go along with it) and use it in my graphics?

  4. Perhaps the diagram for “Hyper-Pelagianism” would best have the arrow going up from the man and *passing through* the triangle that represents God and emerging above. This would reflect the “Christian dressing” that Osteen and others still maintain, while still demonstrating that the effect of it is to place man above God — or at least leave the Lord behind in one’s process of self-actualization — even while asking for divine aid and encouragement along the way, when needed.

  5. I’m not sure Olsteen even holds a soteriology of recognizable form. With Joel, who needs saved? Saved from what?

    I would draw the diagram where the trinity-triangle is the spade of a shovel used by the stick-man to dig gold.

    That is Olsteen’s theology – no salvation anywhere in it.

  6. For the hyper-pelagian, give the man big muscles and have him pull God down to his level or put Him in a full Nelson grip or something. 🙂

  7. Joel Osteen preaches “The Health and Wealth Gospel.”
    This false belief teaches that if a person has enough
    faith, God will bless him with good health and great
    wealth. If you are in poor heath, then the problem is
    your weak faith. If you are not financially prosperous,
    then your problem is a weak faith.

    In Osteen’s view the focus is on this life and your ability
    to enjoy the “good life.” Since Osteen had only one
    semester of post-high school education and no seminary
    training, then it is obvious true Christian theology is not
    part of his perspective.

  8. @Jeff Samelson #6 Your comment reminds me of another example of hyper-Pelagianism: Mormonism. We becomes ‘gods’ ruling other planets as the ‘father’ also has a human body. Further, Mormonism does not teach and confess the doctrine of original sin. They essentially teach we can pull ourselves up by our own goodness to reach the full potential of deity by following the practices, rules and regs invented by Joseph Smith.

  9. I would suggest that you draw man on top, God on the bottom and an arrow going up from God to man. As far as hyperpelagians are concerned, they are gods and God is their servant or genie. And don’t forget to add a note, Its all about this life. Your best life now!! 🙂

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