In a recent message preached to his Elevation Church congregation, North Carolina pastor Steven Furtick suggested that if you don’t have doubts as a Christian, then chances are you are not reading the Bible or living according to its teachings.
The megachurch pastor even cited his own personal doubts he has had regarding his faith, saying that even church leaders struggle with doubt.
His message received mixed reviews and triggered widespread reactions after it was posted online earlier this month.
Owen Strachan, the director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, pushed back against Furtick’s message on doubt, arguing that it was theologically problematic.
“We must take care here. Doubt is not a virtue. Doubt is not part of faith,” Strachan wrote in a piece for Patheos.
“Coming to faith in Christ necessarily means that you do not doubt the gospel of grace,” he continued. “Coming to faith in Christ means that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Jesus presented himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus demands total repentance and total trust in him, and he is right to do so. Jesus rebuked doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29).”
During his message, Furtick detailed his struggle with doubt, pointing out that even as a pastor he still feels “bound” by certain spiritual and intellectual roadblocks.
“I have my doubts,” he said. “I read that whom the Son sets free is free indeed but sometimes I feel bound by stuff. I have my doubts. Is that alright? Do you need to find another church now that you know that the dude with the mic has some doubts?”
He argued that if you are diving into scripture, and trying to live out what it preaches, doubt is an inevitable part of this experience:
“I don’t believe this [Bible] because I don’t doubt it. If you don’t doubt it, you’re not reading it or you’re reading it with no intent to live it. See, my doubt is the evidence of my growth. The closer I get, the more questions I have. I struggle to believe it. That I’m forgiven, that He forgives me not only before I accepted Him but for what I still do. Maybe He can forgive the past stuff but what about the present stuff … I have my doubts. I have my faith but I have my doubts.”
Furtick then reflected back on a conversation he had with an Elevation campus pastor who once told congregants that believing “without a doubt” is what faith is.
“That one parenthetical insert ‘without a doubt,’ I told him never again when you stand in the pulpit at Elevation do I want you to put people into a position to pray something that they can’t honestly pray,” he said. “In fact, don’t put them in a position to pray something that you can’t honestly pray. Because there’s not one of you in the room — even with tabs in your pink Bible — that you can honestly say [the Sinner’s Prayer] without a doubt. And if you can, hang on, you haven’t had teenagers yet.”
In his Patheos piece, Strachan pushes back against Furtick’s assumptions, saying that Christians should be encouraged to pray without a doubt.
“If Jesus wanted to make room for doubt — for disbelief — in the confession of the Christian, he would have said the opposite of this — ‘Do not believe only, but also disbelieve, for that is authentically human.’ But Jesus nowhere says that, and nowhere comes close to saying that,” he argues.
Strachan even goes as far as to refer to doubt as “disobedience.”
“Let me say as this plainly as I know how: there is nothing of doubt in faith. God is not honored by doubt; doubting is not obedience to God. It is disobedience. We all falter in our faith. There is no perfect Christian out there who exercises maximum faith at all times in the promises of God. We all break covenant with the Lord.”
Strachan notes that Furtick “confused the nature of the conversation,” saying that as Christians, we should not intertwine our faith with doubt. He adds that Christians should place their faith in love, and not in doubt.
He goes on to say that Furtick does not under the fundamental principle of saving faith.
“Part of what Furtick seems to have wrong is his understanding of saving faith itself. Saving faith is not something that comes from us. Saving faith according to the Bible is a divine gift. It is the gift of God,” Strachan writes.
“Faith is a miracle; faith descends from the heavens; one moment we do not have faith and have never had faith, and the next we do as the Spirit quickens our heart (John 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). Sadly, there is much preaching out there that has confused this matter, and that is effectively teaching a man-centered, personally-generated understanding of faith,” he adds.
In bold contrast, Pastor Furtick asserts that having doubt “is the evidence of my growth.”
Watch his full sermon here:
(H/T: The Christian Post)