Furtick crashes and totals his Chatterbox on the topic of Biblical inspiration 18

In the introductory chapter of Steven Furtick’s new book, he assures us that God speaks to us outside of Scripture and gives an example of an encouraging “word” that assured Furtick that God had given Charlotte to him.

At least, that’s what he thinks God said, and he qualifies the example with this telling passage:

I’m sure my translation of this conversation isn’t word perfect, because you know how tricky cross-cultural communication with God can be. Plus, I can’t find the notebook where I frantically scribbled every word of those impressions.

The Chatterbox crashes before it even gets going.

The Chatterbox crashes before it gets out of Chapter One.

Oh, dear. For a book about how God speaks to us, Pastor Furtick reveals a seriously flawed understanding of revelation. He asserts that these inaudible promptings of the Spirit are always in perfect harmony with Scripture, but his example fails that test in at least three disqualifying ways, and, in the meantime, undermines a conservative view of Biblical inspiration.

If a message is imperfect, it’s not from God

Pastor Furtick is confident enough that this is God’s voice to put it in the first chapter of his book, and we know it has guided his work in leading the church in the city that God “gave” him. Yet, we don’t know exactly what God said. Instead, we have an imperfect recollection of this fairly significant divine revelation.

If the perfect and all-powerful God is going to speak, why would he allow his speech to be recorded imperfectly? The Bible, which is the very expression of the Holy Spirit, emphatically insists on its perfection (see Psalm 119, for example). We’re even told that God’s revelation is perfect down to the smallest elements of punctuation.

Divine revelation is always significant because it is inherently Trinitarian. The Father gives impetus to the Holy Spirit’s expression of Jesus, the Word. The Holy Spirit never says anything that’s imperfect, because he himself is perfect, as is his message. To suggest that he would say anything imperfectly is not only wrong, it’s blasphemous.

What does it matter? Not many people think Pastor Furtick actually speaks in the same way that the Biblical authors wrote, so it’s acceptable if his own personal revelations are slightly imperfect, you say. Assuming that God’s nature is unchanging, his communicative activity is never going to contradict that nature by finding it acceptable to communicate imperfectly. But, you counter, Furtick isn’t saying that God messed it up; he’s just saying that he got it slightly wrong.

And that’s the problem. By suggesting that the vessels of revelation can mar the message, he casts a cloud of doubt over all of Scripture, which was revealed to other humans no less fallible than Furtick himself. If Steven Furtick can’t quite be sure the he got it just right, how do we know that John or Paul or David or Isaiah got it exactly right, either? If we can’t be sure, we have no basis to refute the claims of the higher critics who point to the same human fallibility in the Biblical authors that Pastor Furtick acknowledges for himself.

The miracle of God’s revelation is that his Spirit supernaturally guided the writers so that they wrote the message in exactly the way the Holy Spirit intended it. In the writing of their books, the Biblical authors were miraculously and temporarily infallible, hence also inerrant. If God is the same, and if his communication methods remain the same, if he communicates imperfectly now, we must allow that he communicated imperfectly in the past as well. We’d have to grant the higher critics’ argument that the Bible is substantially correct but corrupted in a few places by human error.

Conservative Christians have long rejected that claim. Furtick’s Chatterbox echoes it.

If a god must communicate cross culturally, it’s not the Christian God

In what sense does God communicate with us cross culturally, as Furtick says? We’re supposed to know how tricky this is, but I have no idea what he’s talking about, though I suspect he’s forgotten about the Incarnation. God’s perfect expression is in Jesus, the incarnate Word, who joined our culture to speak to us in our own language. The wonder of inspiration is that God used human vessels who expressed God’s thoughts perfectly in cultures situated in particular times and places. God never speaks in a mystical God language that we couldn’t access or comprehend; he always condescends to meet us in our cultures and uses our culturally shaped languages (Greek and Hebrew) to do so.

The irony here is that Pastor Furtick and pastors of his ilk tend to be deliberately culturally ignorant when reading Scripture. To interpret Scripture correctly, we must always remember that God spoke to cultures thousands of years and miles removed from us. Although the Bible was intended for us to read in 2014, it wasn’t written to our culture. We are not free to ignore what the Bible meant to its first readers or listeners, yet stories are constantly allegorized to create the conceit that they’re all about us. The point of the sun standing still was not so that we could pray audacious prayers, for example. To his credit, Matt Chandler publicly chastised Pastor Furtick at his Code Orange conference for a solipsistic, it’s-all-about-me reading of Scripture. Then, as if to prove Chandler’s point, Noble followed him with a special sermon that God had revealed to him that seriously misinterpreted a verse that announces Christ’s messianic identity to describe Steven Furtick.

Steven Furtick and Perry Noble have trouble interpreting the clear historical and culturally situated messages in Scripture, so why should we have any confidence that they’ll do any better with their assertions that they hear and understand “tricky cross-cultural communication” from God now? We shouldn’t (and most PP readers don’t), yet they insist that tens of thousands of people dedicate their lives to the special visions God has given them.

If there’s no record of God’s communication, it should be rejected

We are supposed to take Pastor Steven’s recent claim of a long-ago revelation at his word, even though he has no record of it. What kind of providence is that, that God would let his perfectly formed message get thrown out with the Neiman Marcus catalog?

God preserves his word, and we have confidence in Biblical revelation because it has been carefully preserved and passed down in a physical, written form to us. One of the striking features of the gospels and epistles is the authors’ references to their writing process and to the particulars of their preservation and distribution (see Luke 1, John 21:25 and the end of most of Paul’s letters for examples). We are confident that the Bible that we have today is complete and is not lacking anything that the Holy Spirit intended to be Scripture.

When Steven Furtick retroactively claims lost documents as significant revelations of God’s will and direction — not just for Furtick, but for Elevation and the whole city of Charlotte –, who is he to deny that we should reopen the 66-book canon to admit new revelation? On what basis, if we allow for “lost” revelations to be published later, does Steven Furtick reject documents like the Gospel of Thomas or the Book of Mormon as God’s word? I’m sure that he does reject them, but it can’t be on the basis of a solid doctrine of Biblical inspiration.

So, in a book that promises to tell us what God says about how highly he thinks of us, in just a few introductory sentences the author reveals that he is unable to explain the difference between God’s perfect Word and error. Instead of calming our fears and quieting the so-called chatterbox, Furtick’s heavenly voices are inherently unreliable and deceitful.

Unlike the real Holy Spirit.

(For an earlier discussion of how God speaks to us, you might find something useful in this post.)

18 thoughts on “Furtick crashes and totals his Chatterbox on the topic of Biblical inspiration

  1. Pingback: Greg Laurie promotes Furtick's new book - Stand Up For The Truth

  2. Doc B Feb 12, 2014 11:25 am

    You really ought to take the time to post this in the review section of the book on Amazon.com. Really.

  3. James Duncan Feb 12, 2014 11:48 am

    Good idea, Doc B. Here it is.

  4. Shawn Deal Feb 12, 2014 7:02 pm

    James,

    Great post! I think Paul’s writing to Timothy in his second epistle really covers what is happening now with some of these huge flocks of people going to churches where these myths are being proclaimed as gospel.

    2 Timothy 4:3-4
    3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

  5. Elevation Watch Feb 12, 2014 11:41 pm

    Note the number of reviews on Amazon by Staff members such as Gene Lakey, Ken Hester, Erin L, Ray Parker III, Jay Rabon, and Social Media consultant to Tim Schraeder.

    Do I even need to tell anyone here how many stars they all gave?

    Must be a requirement of all staff to give a biased review.

    Another example of manipulation of facts to insure Steven Furtick gets his due.

  6. John Vaci Feb 13, 2014 3:53 pm

    People without faith are drawn like moths to the flame of any kind of a sign. PT Barnum and any magician know that people want to believe in something.

    The flight can be filled to capacity if someone with no qualifications just puts on an airline pilot’s uniform but it is going to crash…hard.

    It is extremely dangerous to say: “I heard from God and he told me to tell you…” We were warned about them and also told what is to become of them.

  7. alex Feb 15, 2014 4:00 pm

    This is scary; anyone who says that God reveals himself outside of scripture the very word He wrote is not of God. Scripture says God is truth and light and in Him there is no darkness. I hope this guy sees the light and realizes what he is saying isn’t what God says!

  8. Rebecca Walsh Feb 16, 2014 12:56 pm

    I guess I should stop reading God Calling and Jesus Calling because they can’t be God speaking through the authors!

    • James Duncan Feb 16, 2014 1:01 pm

      I assume your comment is sarcasm, Rebecca, but, yes, you should stop reading them. The authors are in error and are no lovers of Scripture.

  9. Clark Feb 16, 2014 2:32 pm

    In the seminal work Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby rightly asserts that throughout Scripture God speaks thru the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other believers). But any “voice” from God must always be in harmony with the Bible.

  10. James Duncan Feb 16, 2014 3:08 pm

    Clark, how do you harmonize whatever you hear from those channels with Proverbs 30:5-6 (Every word of God proves true; …do not add to his words) and 1 Cor 4:6 (Learn by us not to go beyond what is written)?

    Don’t those verses, and others like them, always sing out of tune with your experiences?

  11. James Duncan Feb 16, 2014 3:18 pm

    Rebecca, the authors of God Calling consider it a higher form of revelation than Scripture. Note this description of their revelations:

    We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by HIM personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books and other sources.

    While everyone else had to “be content” with the Bible, they had the good stuff. That’s obvious heresy and it should be shunned by everybody who loves the Holy Spirit.

  12. BravoBereans Feb 16, 2014 8:14 pm

    Completely agree with Duncan on the Jesus Calling series. And it’s hard to admit because there’s a lot of good feelings and reassurance to be gathered from those pages. I know several sincere believers with more notes and highlights in their copies of Young than their Bibles.

  13. Lance Jacobs Feb 16, 2014 11:00 pm

    James,
    So if I understand your point of view, it’s that anyone who is inspired, moved, or feels called to write, preach or publically speak their interpretation of scripture is basically a heretic unless they can unequivocally prove that it was God inspired?

    “If there’s no record of God’s communication, it should be rejected”

    If I spend weeks in prayer on the specific topic and ultimately feel or hear some calling to go in one direction, I should ignore this as I am obviously delusional and this is not God answering my prayers?

    Furthermore, you assert that unless modern day authors/pastors can articulate and substantiate their callings and inspirations akin with the writers of the Bible, then they are obviously heretics and charlatans and we should all just stop attending churches, stay home, and read our Bibles.

    Could it be that Pastors like Furtick do understand scripture but are using stories, hyperbole and metaphors to communicate the complexity of God to an audience that is not seminary trained nor have spent years studying and dissecting it’s meaning?

    James, while I applaud your complexity and depth, I also think you are writing to a deeper level of Christian while forgetting the average lost, hurting sheep in a fallen world.

    How many people have come to know Christ because pastors like Furtick can explain the complexity of the Bible and God to average people, who for the first time, hear an inspirational story or sermon and feel moved to accept Christ in their lives? Are these people wrong? Should we throw them out until they learn to read and interpret the Bible in a logical, scholarly fashion?

    I have personally lead people to Christ using these same expressions of faith. These same people have tried to read the Bible for years but have failed, for whatever reason, to understand it’s meaning. Should’ve I instead condemned them for their ignorance?

    Your own About Me page says “One of the reasons I write here is to learn more from Scripture myself. I’ve discovered that if you want to learn something, teach it.”

    Have you been divinely inspired? Has God spoken to directly you through the Holy Spirit? Has God called you to condemn all those you see fit rather than showing love, grace and mercy?

    Do you have any record of God’s communication to you? If not, by your own standards, all your writings on this blog and your opinions should be rejected.

  14. Elaina Feb 17, 2014 7:34 pm

    Furtick was recently interviewed by Sandi Krakowski about this book. At the 9:37 mark of the interview it gets really interesting. Furtick starts talking about God in the OT saying that His name is I Am. Furtick, always reading himself into the Bible, attaches himself to the I Am proclamation of God saying if he says, “I’m so stupid” that that is taking God’s name in vain. It’s apparent his arrogance knows no end.

    Here is the full interview if you’re interested.
    http://www.arealchange.com/blog/crash-chatterbox-live-interview-steven-furtick

    Also talked about on Fighting For the Faith starting at the 45 minute mark:

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2014/02/furticks-chatterbox-blasphemy.html

  15. Sammy Feb 19, 2014 5:42 pm

    The car that crashed in the picture accompanying this article did so just outside C H Spurgeon’s old church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, UK. Mildly amusing!

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