A Christian Apologetic View on Steven Furtick's Progressive/New Age Views of God and the Bible
Updated: Aug 16, 2020
I hope the totality of my blogs have shown that the state of my heart is never to "call out" or "cancel" certain pastors, teachers, or authors. Whenever I write on the rampant false and incorrect teachings in the Church, it is never as much about one teacher themselves as it is about the destruction that they are proclaiming and writing. I don't write about one certain pastor because of any personal distaste for their characteristics or persona. They could be a joyful, funny, charming person and yet still be guiding many towards both falsehood and paths of incorrect views of the true Holy God. I think it is wholly important to pray for such men and women, for apart from God's grace, we were once carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Therefore, I do not take such blogs as this one lightly. It comes both after much research, listening, and discernment; It comes as I see so many I know flocking first to the feet of a sinful man rather than a perfect God.
I pray this blog increases in each of us a heart to be Biblically literate Christians that earnestly seek to know and live out of Scriptures true intent; for that is both the number one way we know the true character of God and ultimately find deep soul-satisfying joy found in Him alone. I, myself, have been led astray by incorrect teachings of men and women in the past. I can unequivocally say this was as a result of not knowing, understanding, and properly studying the Bible for myself. It can become so easy to lay our Bibles to the side only to be picked up when we want a specific answer, encouragement, or direction in life. The Bible, though, is in fact not about us. It is a book revealing the character and nature of a perfect, holy God and His plan for the redemption of sins through Jesus alone.
So, I write, not to mischievously "call out" Steven Furtick in a state of envy or selfish conceit. To be fair, he unfortunately is not the lone professing 'Christian' that has such habitual and flagrant incorrect teachings. He, though, does have a very large platform with which his teachings infiltrate thousands if not millions of viewers. We are called as Christians to not believe every spirit but instead to test them to see if they are truly from God. We test every spirit by comparing all that they say with the truth of Scripture and looking if the fruit in which they bear is as a result of abiding in Christ alone. Because my heart is deeply set on encouraging other believers in the true inerrant Word of God, I cannot allow for such heretics to perpetuate the minds of those around me any longer without stirring others up to discern and test those in which they categorize as go-to teachers. With a heavy but always encouraged heart, I pray this blog becomes much less about Steven Furtick and much more about stirring each other up in the true Scripture; so that we may continually be transformed by the renewing of our minds and not conformed to the likeness of our fallen world.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 1:1)
Among many well-respected and incredible teachers of the Bible, Steven Furtick is considered at the very least a teacher of a man-centered gospel. Well known for toting the line between a deceptively charismatic and yet works-based worldview, Steven has been widely loved by those that are drawn in by his catchphrases, charm, and his alluring concert-like worship experience. In the views and minds of many others, he continues to lead people more to the well of their broken selves than to the all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfect God.
Instead of unpacking only the recent standalone sermon that sparked this dismal look into both Elevation Church and Steven himself, I find it far more effective to discuss two false and antithetical concepts I have found increasingly rampant in many of his teachings. I would never advise someone to base their opinion on a pastor or teacher (or another human in general) solely on one clip or singular sermon. This type of practice can quickly become more about being right rather than about discerning if what they are saying is Biblical and honoring to the Lord (for His glory and our best). Because of this, I have spent much time listening to and prayerfully considering much of what Steven teaches. I have found a few common threads that point towards a clear influence from both progressive 'Christianity' and new age ideals; both of which are wholly antithetical, destructive, and emphatically false in relation to historic and true Christian teachings. Although alarming, this should not come as a surprise considering who Steven considers mentors and fathers of his faith. Steven, unfortunately, is often heard quoting Richard Rohr, T.D. Jakes, and other both progressive and new age teachers. The Bible is clear both in the Old and New Testament that we easily become both corrupted and influenced by the practices and thoughts of those living in and for the world.
I will provide brief definitions of what he is actually teaching and contrast that with what the Bible actually expresses about such things. The duplicity and double-handed teachings of Steven Furtick go far beyond this shortlist, but the two ideals I consider are both some of the most damaging and are becoming more present in both Steven and Elevation Church. Weaved in the grandeur deception of Elevation Church and Steven Furtick are the ideas of panentheism and modalism; both of which are wholly contrary to true Christianity, are blaspheme, and false in their entirety.
Panentheism comes from the Greek words for ‘all’, ‘in’, and ‘God’ — literally, “all-in-God-ism” (Anderson, 2012). In this view, God is neither fully unique from the universe (as in historic and accepted theism) nor exactly alike to the universe (as in pantheism). Instead, the universe exists ‘in’ or ‘within’ God.
In a recent sermon from Steven, he begins with proclaiming a panentheistic worldview. He sets up the entirety of his sermon with an analogy that places God as being within or in the universe. He started with stating a true characteristic of God being omnipresent (or existing fully everywhere at all times), and then quickly detoured towards the heresy of panentheism. The introductory of God's omnipresent quality was given to suggest that as the church in many cities has moved from a gathering body in a building to be just people online points towards this season being a "training ground to have church anywhere we are." He goes on to say, "God is where you are. You don't go to a place where God is." Yes, God does not exist only where the church building does, but God's existence is also not contingent upon us either. God is and always has been. God exists outside of time and space, and therefore God exists whether we do or not.
As Steven continues forward in his sermon, he begins to utilize the analogy that God is not like your college professor or an old man in a nursing home. By this, he is saying that God is not waiting for any of us to visit Him and is not like an old man saying come see me more. This is because, according to Steven, God is a (and I quote) "energy, spirit, and a molecular structure that fills all in all." He goes onto explain further, "that, that is what it meant in John 1 to say that Christ was from the beginning."
In another sermon, Steven told his congregants that as God said in Genesis "let us make man in our image," that His purpose in doing so was because "God needed someone to show the world what he looked like or else He would have just been a concept or an abstract theory... God needed someone to show His nature through."
If we do not know the true nature of God that we find from the correct view and study of the Bible, these statements might not warrant any concern. If you stand on and for the inerrancy of the Word of God, these quotes I would presume are incredibly alarming and concerning. Maybe you think this sounds antithetical, but you aren't sure why. Let's unpack as to why this is both wholly false and utter blasphemy to a Holy God.
Panentheism is often utilized and associated with new age mysticism, Hindusim, and other Eastern mystic ideals. Unfortunately, we have seen this false ideal become more widely accepted in various professing 'christian' circles through the false teachings of progressive teachers like Richard Rohr and Rob Bell. It should come now as no surprise that Steven's sermons encapsulate these very ideas as he considers Richard Rohr an important father in the faith. The idea that God is both "energy" and a "molecular structure" is to imply that God is part of the universe rather than the Creator of it. This falsity is in complete opposition to what we read in Genesis 1 & 2. In the beginning, God created the heavens, earth, time, space, etc. This would so obviously include both molecular structures, matters, and energy. Since God created all of these, it would be an utter absurdity to say that His existence is contingent upon and a part of them.
Think about it, if you are an engineer and you create a road or algorithm, you would never say that you are then wholly existing as that thing. Rather, your creation would be what you created, and you would be the creator of it. There would be a clear distinction between creator/creation. According to true Scripture, God created all things out of nothing. Therefore, God is ontologically fully distinct and unique from them. In an article by James N. Anderson teaching as to why he is not a panentheist, he says it like this:
"For the panentheist, however, matters must be very different indeed. Since the universe is in God, insofar as there is good in the universe there must be good in God. So far, so good — so to speak. But by the very same token, insofar as there is evil in the universe there must be evil in God. If the universe is a mixture of good and evil (which I take to be an obvious truth) then God must also be a mixture of good and evil, on the supposition that God contains the universe. Whatever pollutes the universe unavoidably pollutes God, on account of the ontological overlap between God and the universe."
In both these two sermons and others of the like, Steven brushes lightly and yet boldly on the idea that God is an abstract idea or theory apart from the creation of mankind. In addition, he proclaims that God is also existing within all the things he created (i.e. men/women, matter, molecular structures, etc.) Steven is attempting to teach on the nature and existence of God, but he is instead teaching his viewers complete blaspheme. The Bible is very clear about the character and nature of God. Biblical theism teaches that God is the Alpha and Omega, existing three-in-one (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit), outside of time and space, omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and does not rely on or find worth or identity in His creation. It is altogether important for us as believers to approach the character of God with humility; for God is infinite and all humans are finite. God is, in many ways, incomprehensible; in the very sense that as we can know Him personally, we cannot ever fully comprehend Him.
Although impossible to know every facet of the Creator of the universe (God), it does not mean that we are to create God in the image in which we desire Him to be. God doesn’t tell us everything we might want to know about Him (we cannot handle it); but He does tell us everything we need to know. He does this by accommodating Himself to our finite limitations. (Tarrants, 2015) Since God tells us everything we need to know, we should then never add inferences we deem as additional characteristics of the very nature of God. For as God tells Job, "‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." (Job 38:1).
Steven Furtick, time and time again, draws much of his views of God from a panentheistic worldview. God does not exist within or in the universe. God was and is the Creator of the universe. The universe does not exist apart from the words of God. We then are to never approach God as if He is simply existing within the molecular structures or 'energies' around us. To view God in this manner is to place Him in a box in which He does not exist; one where He is no longer supreme over all things for all time. God did not need to create humans in order to "show the world what He looked like". This is an absolutely absurd idea that breaks down quite easily. If God created the universe and all that is in it, why then would He feel it necessary to show it 'what He looked like?' Do we look at our parents and then have to look to ourselves to see what they look like? Of course not. God is not an abstract theory apart from the creation of man/woman. God is the Alpha and the Omega; the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). Apart from Him, none of the universe exists. Therefore, God's existence is not and never will be contingent upon any facet of His creation.
Which brings me to Steven Furtick's next emphatically false view of the character and nature of God: modalism.
Modalism - the belief that God exists in three 'modes' (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit), but is only one person. (The Forgotten Trinity, White)
Dr. James White teaches profoundly and clearly on the real doctrine of the Trinity by breaking it into three distinct foundations. In his book, The Forgotten Trinity, he teaches that "There is One Being of God (Foundation One), that is shared fully (Foundation Three), by three divine persons (Foundations Two), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; all of which are co-eternal. The three foundations of the correct teaching on the trinitarian nature of God are 1) monotheism (one God), 2) three persons (note not modes), and 3) they all fully God and fully eternal.
In a recent sermon by Steven, he described the trinitarian nature of God through the modalistic worldview. Again, we see the false teachings of those he considers mentors to be influencing his view on absolute foundations of the Christian faith (T.D. Jakes has been well-known for teaching on modalism). Modalism adheres to the idea that God does not exist in three persons but instead in three separate modes that do not exist at the same time but instead change forms at various times. In this sermon, Steven was attempting to preach from John 16:7. This verse says, "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."
In Furtick's sermon, he says, Jesus “is not leaving you, but changing forms.” He continues forward by saying “up until now I have walked with you, But when I send my spirit, I will be in you... It is good that I am [speaking of Jesus] leaving you in a physical form because I can [speaking of Jesus again]give to you in a spiritual form ” Steven is saying that Jesus transforms into the Holy Spirit rather than the Holy Spirit existing co-equal and co-eternal as one of three distinct divine persons of God. Yet, if Jesus were to change forms into the Holy Spirit as Furtick asserts, this would actually mean that God cannot be all persons of the Trinity at once. If God is not all three distinct persons of the trinity at once, then John 1:1-2 ("In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him, was not any thing made that was made.") is not true. In addition, God's clear plan for conquering sin and death through His Son (Jesus) is seen from the beginning in Genesis 3:15. Moreover, the Bible prophesies with utter clarity Jesus's return "not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:28) How can Jesus return if He fully changes forms into the Holy Spirit as Steven teaches? The answer is He cant. By Steven denying the true nature of the Trinity, he is making God into an image that fits his sermon and not what the Bible actually teaches.
You might be reading all of this and asking why a correct understanding of the Trinity is necessary for a proper Christian worldview, and furthermore why it is worth emphasizing Steven Furtick's incorrect teaching on both this and panentheism. We [Christians] are called to be worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth. God is in no way honored by false views of Himself. In addition, believers are not benefited by worshiping God in a way that He does not and will not exist.
True Christian worship is founded upon actual Christian truth and doctrine. As James White puts it, "If we have defective knowledge, or worse, if we have wrong information and have been deceived our worship is either lessened (due to simple ignorance), or i is completely invalid, as the worship of idols and false gods. That is not to say that we have to have perfect knowledge to worship God - none of us do. But our desire must be to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, and we must always remember that Jesus taught that eternal life was the possession of those who know the one true God. Knowledge does not save (that is the error of Gnosticism); but true worship does not exist without knowledge."
The longing of our hearts [as Christians] should be to honor and glorify God; to make His name known to the ends of the earth. God is not honored by falsehood, and we are not edified in the truth of Scripture when we come under teachings such as these given by Steven. Both his teachings on panentheism and modalism do not in any way bring God glory and honor. Rather, they deceive and lead believers astray. Praise God, though, that we can trust in His sovereignty even over these harmful teachings, knowing that no plan of His can be thwarted by the finite nature of any man. So, I do not write this blog with a heart aiming to cast shame and guilt, but rather to continually encourage you to run towards the Word of God, love Him and the truth of Scripture more than you do anything else, and continually discern that in which you are allowing to proclaim falsity as truth into your heart, soul, and mind. Let us pray both for Steven, ourselves, and all others with hearts desiring for us all to be transformed by the renewing of their mind by the true inerrant Word of God.
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