An author and associate professor of Christian theology has hit back against Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick's recent message that it's not wrong for Christians to have doubts.
"We must take care here. Doubt is not a virtue. Doubt is not part of faith," Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote last week.
"Coming to faith in Christ necessarily means that you do not doubt the gospel of grace. 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)."
Strachan's comments were in response to Furtick, who in a recent sermon admitted that he has doubts about some things in the Bible.
"I have my doubts. 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?" said Furtick, whose fast-growing church meets in over a dozen locations.
"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."
The North Carolina megachurch pastor shared of one instance where he felt he needed to correct a campus pastor for saying that faith is believing "without a doubt" as he led people in the Sinner's Prayer.
"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. 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," Furtick said.
Strachan defended the unnamed campus pastor, however, stating that he was right to encourage Christians to pray without 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," the author argued.
"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."
He warned that Furtick has "confused the nature of the conversation," insisting that Christians should not be encouraged to mingle their faith with doubt.
He added that faith, not doubt, is what is virtuous, and that people do not place their faith in uncertainty and in despair, but in God's love.
"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 continued.
"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."