When Christian minister Joel Osteen appeared in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently, he talked about his new book "The Power of I Am" and how it would help people in stopping to think negative thoughts about themselves.
Osteen explained that people often think, "I am slow" or "I am unlucky," when they should be thinking "I am strong" or "I am blessed."
"We don't realise how many times we speak negative things about ourselves," he said.
However, when Jim Denison, founder of the non-sectarian "think tank" Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, read Osteen's book, he discovered some "misuse" of the Bible.
"I... appreciate Joel Osteen's desire to help us see ourselves as loved by God. However, I need to remind you of an important theological maxim: The Bible can never mean what it never meant. To understand Scripture, [you have to] discover its original meaning and apply that meaning to your life today. Only then can you experience the full wisdom and power of God's Word," he writes in an article for Charisma News.
According to him, Osteen used Deuteronomy 15 to illustrate people's freedom from today's challenges. "I believe you are coming into one of your seventh years. The seventh year is when you break free of any limitation that is holding you back," Osteen writes.
Denison says the passage is actually about Hebrew slaves being released every seventh year. "Osteen applies this fact to your challenges today," Denison says. "But the biblical text has nothing to do with such problems today."
Philippians 1:28, on the other hand, has the apostle Paul encouraging his readers to be "not frightened in anything by your opponents."
"Osteen applies the apostle's statement to say, 'Don't be intimidated by that cancer. ... Sickness cannot keep you from your destiny.' But the 'opponents' in Paul's text were people who opposed the gospel, not physical or personal problems," explains Denison.
He acknowledges that Osteen wants people to "experience God's gracious provision." However, he made the mistake of "misusing Scripture," adding that what Osteen did was still a "misuse of Scripture" even though he is trying "to advance a worthy goal."