Recently, there was a reformed website that claimed that Steven Furtick said God was only a concept. 1 The article then drew an erroneous and disturbing implication based on the author’s interpretation of Furtick’s words, “Steven Furtick Says Without Us, God is Not Real, Just a Concept, an Abstract Theory!” This article was written by Jeff Maples, who is an editor (and perhaps the owner) of the Reformed Charlotte website. In this article, we will look at the article section by section.
“CHARLOTTE — Steven Furtick says stupid things all the time. Steven Furtick once assertedthat Jesus broke the law — that is, committed sin — in order to save people. The prosperity gospel-preaching huckster out of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC is best known for reading himself into Scripture and making it all about him. In short, he’s a narcissist.”
While I have not heard a lot of Furtick’s teachings, I have not found anything heretical or overtly stupid in any of his videos. In fact, I find some of his videos to be quite insightful, and this is coming from someone who has been studying theology in school for over five years now. Furtick doesn’t come off as an academic, but he is a compelling speaker who is able to take complicated theological concepts and break them down for lay people. If you ask me, that is a valuable skill to have.
And Furtick is a huckster, really? How well does Maples know Furtick? That is strong language to use for someone whom he does not know. Maybe Maples would say he has seen enough of Furtick to know because of Furtick’s videos, but as we will soon see, Maples has a pattern of misrepresenting Furtick.
Concerning Maples’ assertion that Steven Furtick said that Jesus broke the law (that is, Maples says, committed sin), this is not at all accurate. While Furtick did actually say “Jesus broke the law,” he was not saying that Jesus sinned. In fact, Steven Furtick’s church’s statement of faith reads, “Jesus Christ is completely human but, at the same time, completely God. He is the only plan for bringing people who are far from God back into a right relationship with God. He lived a perfect life, so that He could be a substitution for us in satisfying God’s demands for perfection. He defeated death in His resurrection so that we can have life.” No heresy here, and in particular, Furtick’s church affirms the exact opposite of what Maples tried to frame Furtick as saying.
So then, what did Furtick mean by, “Jesus broke the law?” Furtick was saying that because we were in trouble, and because we could not be saved by the law (because we were not able to keep it), God broke the law for love. How did He break the law for love? God came in the likeness of a man and died as sin offering for our sins. In essence, the penalty of the law no longer applied to us because God paid the penalty in our stead. Thus, we, as children of the promise, are vindicated from our transgressions and the penalty of the law no longer applies to us. There is nothing heretical about that (though I think Furtick’s parent-child example muddies the waters more than clarifies the theological point he made), and certainly, what Furtick taught on this matter is significantly different than what Maples tried to say Furtick taught.
Did Furtick Say that Without Us God is Only a Concept?
Recently, Furtick put out a video making one of the most outrageous claims he’s ever publicly made. He said, “it’s not how God sees me, but how I think God sees me that determines where I end up.”
Of course, this is absurd and biblically asinine — in fact, make that ten.”
Furtick’s claim, “it’s not how God seems me, but how I think God sees me that determines where I end up,” is exactly right. I’ll give an example. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When Jesus died, he paid for the sins of all of humanity. The only condition is that we would have to accept his free gift of salvation. If we do not accept the gift, or if we are deceived into thinking that God will not keep his promise to save us by grace through faith alone, we will not receive the gift of salvation that Jesus already paid for. In order to believe John 3:16, we have to also believe that God keeps his promises, and thus, in this context, that God sees us as someone worth saving as His Word claims. In this instance of salvation, how we think God sees us does matter, for if we thought we were not worthy of redemption and rejected his offer as a result, we would not benefit from salvation.
There are several doctrines that can be very dangerous if we get it wrong. The doctrine of man as it relates to God is one of those doctrines. If we get this doctrine wrong, it has negative implications on our theology and on our walk in faith. If we think, for example, that God views us as filthy worms even after being born of spirit instead of us being seated in heavenly places by virtue of the finished work of Christ (Ephesians 2:6), we are more vulnerable to the lies of the false accuser when he tells us we are worthless. If you think you are worthless, you will act as if you are worthless.
But what did the Apostle Paul say under the influence of the Holy Spirit? He said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5 17-21).”
As those who are born again, we do not identify with sin nor do we identify with our old selves. Rather, we identify with our new spiritual identity which is not of sin, but the righteousness of God. When we believe this and look at ourselves in this way, we walk the way we ought. This is why the Apostle Paul also said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:1-3).” The renewing of our mind to the things of God is our choice to make. Thus, how well we walk out our faith is predicated upon our willingness to submit to God. Part of submitting to God is agreeing with God on how God sees us as new creations, and thus, Steven Furtick is absolutely right when he says, ” it’s not how God seems me, but how I think God sees me that determines where I end up.” Furtick isn’t saying that how God sees us doesn’t matter, he is emphasizing that we are the ones who ultimately decide where we end up. If the Apostle Paul’s writings in Romans 12 is any indication, Furtick and the Apostle Paul are in agreement.
“He goes on to assert that God created us in His image because of some need he had to be known by us. “God needed someone to show the world what he looked like or else he would have just been a concept. God would have been an abstract theory.””
Let that sink in for a moment. What he says essentially makes man the creator of God. Blasphemy!”
When we say that God ‘needed’ someone, we are not denoting a lack on God’s part. Rather, it was God’s will that he would be known a certain way, and because of the way he willed to be known, he created us so that he would be glorified. This is no different than God creating all of creation for His glory. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7),” and “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16).” If God’s will was for Him to be glorified by His creation, He would need a creation, would He not? It is not that God is not great without creation, but rather, creation is a medium that God chose to make His glory known. So too it is with man.
Why was man necessary for God to be known to creation? Man was necessary for two reasons: First, man, being the image of God, comprehends the concept of righteousness which is a central attribute of God. Second, God wanted to give a creature (man) that was made in His image dominion over the earth so that man would be gods to the rest of creation (not ‘gods’ as in deity, but rather, being ‘gods’ in the sense of having authority of creation (Psalm 82:6) as children of God–God had delegated this authority to man).
This brings us to Steven Furtick’s point: God didn’t want to be a distant concept. He wanted to be revealed within His creation concretely so He created man. This is a far cry from the notion that God would only be a concept (as in, not existing which is what Maples implies) without man.
If it were not for Maples’ statement, ” What he says essentially makes man the creator of God.” I would have probably given Maples a benefit of a doubt there because of how far removed his representation is from what Furtick actually said. Furtick was saying God wanted to be revealed concretely to creation rather than conceptually, but what Maples is implying is that Furtick’s statement means that there wouldn’t be God without man. This is a gross misrepresentation of what Furtick was saying.
Furtick does not believe that man created God. Anyone who watches his sermons or has read his church’s statement of faith on man makes this clear, “Man is made in the image of God and is the supreme object of His creation. Man was created to have fellowship with God but became separated in that relationship through sinful disobedience. As a result, man cannot attain a right relationship with God through his own effort. Every human personality is uniquely created, possesses dignity, and is worthy of respect and Christian love. 2” Obviously, Furtick teaches that God made man. In fact, toward the end of the video in question, Furtick talked about how God made man from the dust of the ground.
It would be one thing for Maples to say, “I’m concerned about some of the language that Furtick uses here.” And truly, no one can question that Furtick routinely utilizes metaphorical hyperbole in his sermons, but the theological teachings of Furtick are far from heretical (regardless of whether or not you agree with everything he says). I don’t claim to agree with Furtick on everything he says because I am not familiar with all of his material, but I am very much against misrepresenting and misleading people about Christians who have helped so many people with their teachings.
It is, however, another thing to make some sort of bad tabloid like click bait article with erroneous information and a dash of theology. Unfortunately, I have found that Reformed Charlotte’s website has many articles that misrepresent Furtick and other Christians. It is ironic that Maples calls Furtick a huckster, but it is Maples who routinely spreads misinformation while selling products on his website (which, by and large, the products look to be quite good). Maples is certainly not a huckster, but someone who so badly misrepresents others on a regular basis is not ready for the very tough ministry of discernment.
I have friends who have been personally and positively impacted by Steven Furtick’s ministry, and it is sad that Maples is spreading misinformation that may keep people from hearing a sermon by Furtick that could bless them. I invite Maples and Reformed Charlotte to remove these erroneous writings from the website (I’ve already commented on their article). If the content isn’t removed, then neither Maples nor Reformed Charlotte as a whole is ready for public ministry.
When I reached out to Reformed Charlotte they replied, “I have no idea what school you’ve been “studying theology” in for five years, but your article is worthy of about a single LOL and then a block. Have a nice day!”
Anyone who reads my article and/or listens to my video on this topic will find that what I have to say is quite substantive. Unbeknownst to Jeff Maples, I am a former Calvinist (I was Presbyterian and held to the Westminster Confession of Faith, as a result, I was a cessationist). I also still have a lot of respect from the reformed community despite me departing from reformed theology and cessationism.
It is unfortunate that Reformed Charlotte treats this very serious situation as if it is some sort of juvenile game. This goes to further show that Reformed Charlotte (which I think is headed by Jeff Maples) should not be in the ministry of discernment until some significant spiritual maturing takes place.
- Steven Furtick Says Without Us, God is Not Real, Just a Concept, an Abstract Theory, Jeff Maples, Reformed Charlotte, 7/11/2019, https://reformationcharlotte.org/2019/07/11/steven-furtick-says-without-us-god-is-not-real-just-a-concept-an-abstract-theory/, accessed 9/19/2019
- Elevation Church, https://elevationchurch.org/beliefs/, accessed 9/19/2019