Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Are T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick Heretics?


Through the ministry When We Understand the Text, I've fielded a few questions about Steven Furtick and whether or not he is trustworthy. To give the best answer that I can, I've decided to use Steven's recent appearance at Bishop T.D. Jakes' mega-plex, the Potter's House, where he preached this past Sunday. This is written in love, so that the people of God will be able to test and know that not everyone who claims to be of God speaks the counsel of God (1 John 4:1).

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

I went to the Potter's House website to pull up Sunday's sermon, but first I had to sit through more than five minutes of Potter's House commercials. Then the camera showed this multi-millon-dollar stage with "Endure the Race" lit up on a video screen. Someone off-camera sang-shouted, "I just want to tell you what I think about you!"

Suddenly a bunch of singers and dancers came running out to pop music and a dazzling light show. Multiple video screens went into hyper seizure-inducing screen-saver mode. Everyone rushed the stage and started jumping up and down. Oh, great. I thought I had accidentally clicked on a link to a concert. Nope. This was a Potter's House worship service.

After the music, Jakes came out to do announcements and his money pitch, all to flashing lights and drum and organ fills. There were some more videos of other preachers at recent Potter's House events. Apparently everyone at the Potter's House -- black and white, men and women, young and old -- preaches with a throaty grovel, and you're just not preaching unless you're also removing all phlegm from the presence of God. (At one point, Jakes coughed and eluded to phlegm and dry throats being from the devil. It's probably because you're abusing your throat, Thomas.)

Jakes' wife joined him on stage and they prayed to God rebuking disease, infirmities, and abnormalities, because "we're about to step into our blessing. I declare and decree in the name of Jesus that the blessing of the Lord will break out." Apparently no blessing can come unless you declare with your mouth it will come. That's what Jakes believes and teaches. The Bible says no such thing.

He said, "We give you the praise as if what we are believing you for is already done. We don't have to wait to see it. We don't have to wait 'til it comes in the mail. We don't have to wait 'til the loan is paid. But right now by faith, we praise you as if it were already done, in the name of Jesus." (Of course, he's shouting this as he goes.)

Now that sounds about right. Don't we worship God believing the victory is already won? Doesn't God ordain all things, good or bad (Lamentations 3:37-38)? What would be the problem with believing that it's already done? Because again, Jakes believes it is the power of the human will that manifests the blessing of God. If we just believe that it's already done, and say that it's already done, then it will be done.

But that's not how the will of God works. It's not the Christian equivalent to mind-over-matter or wishing on a star or a motivational speech. God will accomplish his will whether we will believe in it or we will not. Are you in obedience to God's will, or are you trying to accomplish your own will?

The Hidden Will and the Revealed Will

There's a difference between God's hidden will and his revealed will. What has yet to be seen is his hidden will. Our obedience to God now is according to his revealed will. Ephesians 5:17 says, "Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." That doesn't mean that a person try to find the hidden counsel of God. It means knowing how to live according to counsel of God as found in the Bible, his "revealed will."

When Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10), he was teaching us to ask God for the ability to obey the decree of the King, the commands of Christ, his revealed will. This was not a lesson in mind-over-matter: "If you just believe in it hard enough, then God will make his will come true for you." Praying for God's will to be done according to your will-power is praying that your will be done.

Jakes does not pray for God's will to be done. He can't, in any way that is pleasing to the Lord, because he does not know God (Romans 8:7-8). That seems pretty bold and judgmental for me to say that. You're right, it is. But I'm not making that judgment by my own authority. I'm simply stating what the Bible says. T.D. Jakes denies the nature of God. He does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God the Father. The Bible calls such a man an antichrist (1 John 2:22).

Jakes' Rejection of God's Revealed Will

In The Potter's House statement of faith, it says, "There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." But God does not manifest himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. He is Father, Son, and Spirit. He is one God, three persons.

God has clearly revealed himself to us this way in the pages of Scripture. A person comes to the faith in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). As I've said elsewhere, salvation is a Trinitarian work: It is given by the Father, it is acquired through the Son, it is experienced in the Holy Spirit.

All three persons of the Trinity are distinctly displayed at Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus said he was sent by the Father to do his will (John 6:38), and whoever else does the will of the Father is his brother and sister (Matthew 12:50). The will of the Father is to look on the Son so that you might have eternal life (John 6:40). He said the Father would send the Spirit in the name of Jesus, the Son (John 14:26). Jesus prayed to the Father, not to himself (John 17:1-5).

Jesus said that whoever knows him knows the father also (John 14:7). He said that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27). Therefore, we can know this: a person who does not know Jesus as the Son, and God the Father as his Father, knows neither the Father nor Jesus and is not saved, for God has not been revealed to him.

T.D. Jakes Does Not Know God

Hey, at least Jakes believes God is one, right? Well, the Bible says even the demons believe that, and shudder (James 2:19). More than that, the demons know the Son of God (Mark 5:7), so it could be argued the demons know God better than Jakes does! Though Jakes knows God is one, he does not know him as Father, Son, and Spirit -- not three manifestations, but three persons in one.

In his book Judge Not, Todd Friel writes, "In other words, if T.D. Jakes went to a party with God, he could not attend with the Father, Son, and Spirit at the same time. T.D. could attend with only one manifestation of God at a time. That is a heresy called modalism. The Council of Nicea condemned this teaching as heresy in 325 AD."

Friel went on to quote the Athanasian Creed, written in 385. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds did not make up Trinitarian doctrine; they simply summarized and affirmed that which the Bible taught. The Athanasian Creed states as follows:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the universal faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. 
And that faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Faith, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit... 
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord... 
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
The early church taught from the teachings of Christ that if you deny the Trinity, you will go to hell. You are in league with the devil. You are an antichrist. It's that big a deal.

Now, that doesn't mean when you show up to heaven's gates, you're going to have to give a theological textbook definition of Trinity. Your pastor is not going to tell you, "Boy, you better be able to explain Trinity to me right now or you're not actually saved!" (at least, he shouldn't tell you that). You're not fully going to be able to understand this concept of One God in Three Persons because you're not God. But to deny the doctrine of the Trinity is to deny something fundamental about God. It's to deny God himself.

That's Jakes' theology. And as I've written about before, when a doctrine as fundamental as the Triune nature of God is rejected, a lot of wormy doctrines will wriggle up instead. It is common among Oneness Pentecostals, as it is of Jakes, to believe that you have the ability to unlock the power of God with your words. You can hear it in the way Jakes prays. But the reason he believes that is because he does not know God.

And Steven Furtick Probably Doesn't Either

Steven Furtick is a Southern Baptist minister, pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, one of the fastest-growing churches in the country (as I keep hearing over and over and over again). Does Furtick affirm the doctrine of the Trinity? Yes, he does. But though he appears to know God, he still advances heresy, glowingly lifting up those who, with just a little discernment one can tell, are against God.

I should clarify that a person can praise a false teacher and simply be mistaken or misled yet not compromise the authenticity of their faith. Tertullian did this in his defense of Montanus. I believe Francis Chan and Ronnie Floyd also misunderstand how much of a false teacher Mike Bickle really is, but I don't doubt the genuineness of their saving faith.

So why would Furtick's endorsement of Jakes also make him a heretical preacher? Because this is not merely a shared respect for one another. It's not like Furtick just met Jakes and gave some weird "I love you, man" speech like Chan did of Bickle. Furtick hails Jakes as one of the greatest preachers on the planet, and openly admits he watches Jakes to learn how to be like him, even taking material from Jakes' sermons and putting them in his almost every week.

Here's what this comes down to: The Bible describes T.D. Jakes as an antichrist, and the bulk of church history would say he does not yet know the way of salvation, yet Steven Furtick is borrowing the teachings of an antichrist and repeating them, telling everyone else to listen to them, extolling his greatness, attempting to emulate him, and, as you would have seen in Furtick's presentation at the Potter's House on Sunday, pouring a great deal of money into it.

From Elevation to the Potter's House

Jakes welcomed Furtick to the stage and Furtick began his warm-up with cheap cheers from the crowd like some kind of hypeman. That's what he does: "Who's excited to be at the Potter's House? Let's go by section: Who's excited over here? Who's excited over here? How about you guys? Let me hear from the balcony! Everybody down here wave at the balcony!"

His attempt at humility was facepalm-worthy: "You will probably have better preachers than me come through here, but you will never have one that is more honored to stand here than the one you have standing before you today. I promise you that." Crowd applauded. "No, I'm serious, man." He gave a check for $35,000 to Jakes' ministry, which had something to do with Furtick being 35 years old, and he made sure everyone heard about it and saw him do it.

This is shortly after Furtick did this big interview where he said that Jesus wouldn't want him to reveal how much money he makes. But then he showed up to reveal to everyone how much money he gives, which apparently corresponds with his age times 1,000. I don't know what Jesus told Furtick about how much money he makes, but I know he said not to lavish praise and adoration upon yourself for what you give (Matthew 6:1-4).

Furtick also said it would be arrogant for him to reveal what he's given. Um...

Furtick jokingly said to Jakes that the check was a peace offering for all of the times he stole material from Jakes' sermons. He said that if Jakes received royalty checks from everyone who swiped stuff from him, he'd be the richest man on the planet. Between Sunday services at Elevation church, Furtick said he would get on his computer to watch the live stream of Jakes' sermons at the Potter's House. He called Jakes "the greatest preacher on the continent," and his wife the "first lady."

He said, "For all of us preachers, you know no matter how good you preach on any Sunday morning, you are only one click away from the T.D. Jakes app to be reminded that your sermon was just okay. You gotta time it carefully when you watch it on Monday. It'll make you suicidal."

...Suicidal?

"And that's his announcements," Furtick continued to fawn. "His announcements are better than your sermon."

Coming from an antichrist? No. They're not. As Furtick continued to lavish praise, he said Jakes is ambidextrous and "can beat the devil with both hands." In fact, he is doing the work of the devil.

This was nearly 90 minutes into the service, and it took me two days just to get that far, so I didn't listen to Furtick's sermon. But I bet I could tell you what it was about: he grabbed two or three verses from an Old Testament Bible story having something to do with a king or a battle, and took it out of context and applied it to explain why you're not getting what you want.

He used rhyming contrasts, like "It's not a stumbling block, it's a humbling block." His cadence went up and everyone cheered. He said "you" a lot. He talked about how great Steven Furtick was and how God blessed him because of how faithful he was, and how unfaithful others were who didn't have the believing power that Steven Furtick has. It's always the same.

His teaching is lacking in biblical discernment in a lot of ways. I've never felt like his sermons pointed the hearer to God, but rather to himself or themselves. However, he sure dispenses a lot of gusto when it comes to directing others to false teachers. Be careful of those who have an appearance of godliness but deny its power. The Bible says to avoid such people (2 Timothy 2:5).

Why Be So Direct?

Why was it necessary for me to be so forthright in calling out these men by name? For a couple of reasons. First of all, it's because I love God and desire his glory to be proclaimed. It is the church's calling to do that, even a defender of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16, 1 Peter 2:9).

The second reason is because I love you and I love Jakes and Furtick enough to show them their errors and call them to repentance. As a pastor, I have been appointed to hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that I may give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). There are those upsetting entire church families, teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach, and they must be silenced (Titus 1:11).

Paul said that of those who fancy themselves shepherds and teachers, as Jakes and Furtick do, if the persist in sin, they must be rebuked in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in fear (1 Timothy 5:20). Names are named when necessary because names are named in the Bible (1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 4:14, 3 John 1:9-10).

So Christian, I appeal to you as I contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, keep your ears from turning toward the irreverent babble of false teachers. I hope that Jakes and Furtick indeed repent before it's too late, and that those who listen to their teaching will listen no longer, but instead fix themselves on the sound words of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.