Recently I was browsing an online bookstore (the modern day version of visiting your local bookstore), and my eye caught the title of a book by Steven Furtick, Sun Stand Still, which appeared in September 2010. The subtitle, like the title itself, is very significant: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible. Knowing Furtick’s allegiance to the Word of Faith and Prosperity movements, I decided to read the editorial review on this book, which in effect is nothing else than an excerpt from the book itself -in other words the words of Furtick himself in which he explains something about his purpose with the book. Now, if the title caught my attention, this excerpt did so even more, as it makes a couple of very bold statements which puts the character of not only Furtick, but the whole Word of Faith movement – of which he himself is an active proponent – on display.
The title refers to the biblical text of Joshua, and specifically chapter 10:1-15. In this we read how Joshua commanded the sun to stand still (verse 14) – and it did! This bold move from Joshua affords Furtick the opportunity to build what he calls a “theology of audacity,” which in essence means that Christians are to wake from their spiritual slumber and start living bold and brave lives where defeat is not known. Immediately we are presented with an approach to Scripture that moves away from sound exegesis to eisegesis aimed at promoting a specific viewpoint, rather than an in-depth search for the purpose and meaning of the text at hand. Furtick’s interpretation of Scripture is a mixture of psychology and eisegesis. The text that he uses to build his theology on, is historical and descriptive narrative, and forms part of a greater text – and context. This means that the intent is to relay the historical facts and events in such a way that God’s people are able to understand God’s character and dealings in and with history. Furtick changes this purpose into prescriptive or normative. In so doing, the text is now not telling the story as much as it commands the reader to follow the exact lifestyle in order to achieve the same – or even better – results. According to his eisegesis, this section is about Joshua realizing his full potential through an audacious faith, and this should be the focus of the believer as well. Furtick is also of the opinion that the principles underlying this event, is repeatable by employing the kind of faith he proposes. This interpretation is obviously the result of not reading the text as historical and descriptive, but normative for Christian life.
But let’s look at the claims that Furtick makes about this book. The aim of this book is
That God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.
On so many aspects this statement is problematic to me. First of all, notice the focus on the person instead of God. Apparently there might be some dormant divine destiny somewhere “inside” the believer. This is also coined your “God-sized purpose and potential.” What is evident from Furtick’s reasoning here, is that this potential can be unlocked by the audacious faith that he proposes. God’s truth only illuminates it, but audacious faith unlocks it. This affords faith, as well as the lack of it, a very elevated – almost sovereign – position, which fits well with the Word of Faith Movement, where faith is the key to all human – and spiritual – success. When Paul describes how man is saved, faith is the result of the Word of God being proclaimed (Romans 10:14-17), and not the mechanism by which man’s potential is unlocked. Paul is clear about the Word of God not only “illuminating”, but actually changing man’s inward life. It has regenerating power, because of the Life-giving Spirit that breathed it and applies it. Faith always follows. One might argue that Furtick actually refers to a life of faith and not salvation. That may be true, but Scripture calls this life of faith discipleship, obedience and sanctification, which are all the result of the saving faith we received at regeneration. There is no additional faith needed to live by. One does not wake up one morning, pick up a book on some sort of brave and bold, even arrogant, faith, get psyched up by it and decide that this is the faith that is supposed to characterize your Christian walk. That’s man being in control of himself and what he wants. Living by faith starts by God granting faith in Him and the finished salvation work of Christ, and continuing to sustain this very faith that He gave. Hebrews 12 calls Christ the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We grow in this faith, we get stronger in it, as we grow in our knowledge of God and our relationship with Him. Furthermore, as we grow, we also grow in our dependency on God, realising that He is the sovereign God who does as He plans and wills and does not need to jump at our faith commands.
Secondly, and related to the first, there is something available to the believer, which Furtick very bravely names “audacious faith.” This faith makes the believer bold, or to use Furtick’s own phrase,audacious, enough to ask God for the impossible. He prefers to think audacity ‘“makes regular people behave with ‘boldness or daring, especially with confident disregard for personal comfort [or] conventional thought,’” forgetting that it also carries the meaning of “rude or disrespectful behaviour; impudence.” Faith is never arrogant. This does not mean the Christian should not be bold in his / her faith, but the boldness of biblical faith is always tempered by humility, submission to God’s Word and His authority, and obedience to the commands of God. Probably the best example is found in Scripture itself. Abraham had to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22). This he did not do as an attempt to ask God to do the impossible, i.e. using “audacious faith.” Instead, he acted in obedience to God. He did do it believing that the God who commanded this, was also able to raise Isaac from the dead (Romans 3-4). There was nothing audacious about his faith. Rather it was in humble submission that he obeyed his Creator and Lord, who accredited this to him as his righteousness.
Directly related to Furtick’s text, is the mandate and command Joshua got from Yahweh. His mandate was to take the Promised Land as Israel’s inheritance. Linked to this was the command to not deviate from the Law in any way (Joshua 1:1-9). Going to war in Joshua chapter 10, God mandates him to not fear, as the battle will be won by him (verse 8). It is with this as background, and the very interesting phrase in verse 12: “Then spake Joshua to the LORD,” that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still. It is important to remember that Joshua did not repeat this behaviour after this day – ever. This was a once a in a lifetime event. The text itself concludes it in verse 14:
And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.
This puts a non-repeatable sign on this event. Furtick therefore has a problem here, because as his book’s title and subtitle suggest, the behaviour of Joshua is repeatable. Now only, it is interpreted spiritually, and allegorically. His prescriptive approach to this text forces him to jump overs verse 14’s restrictive words, to make it allowable to “ask God for the impossible.”
Thirdly, Furtick apparently has the ability to activate this faith, to inspire the believer’s boldness and to reconnect the believer with this potential and purpose – not with God Himself. This is a very arrogant stance. Regardless of anything worthy to mention, no man has the ability, much less the authority, to make any claims that he is able to achieve this. Not even the apostles attempted this arrogance. This is the work of the triune God alone. Therefore God is the Author of our faith, He gives it as a free gift, and God Himself reconciles man to Himself. In this each of the three in the Trinity has a specific role. Nowhere does God at any time relinquish this work to any man, because man is unable and unworthy of this. Faith is God’s work in man, so that man is not able to boast in it as his own work.
There are a couple of underlying assumptions in that we also need to highlight. Notice the use of the word “reconnect”, which assumes that connection has been lost. Notice also this connection is not with God, but with what is in the believer himself. There is also the assumption that flipping the switch that activates “audacious faith” will actually result in God now performing the impossible because the believer’s audacious faith has now been wired for faith-current to flow. God is therefore put under the authority of man in whom this new and brave kind of faith has been switched on.
As I have already mentioned, he coins this work a “theology of audacity”, an essential requirement for the believer. A very important statement characterises this “theology.” Furtick states bravely:
In fact, if you ever encounter a theology that doesn’t directly connect the greatness of God with your potential to do great things on his behalf, it’s not biblical theology. File it under Heresy.
So a “theology of audacity” is the connection of God’s greatness with man’s potential to do great things for God. This gives a whole new meaning to the salvation work of Christ and its result in the believer. Apparently salvation results in some sort of human potential to do great things for God, but the experience of this potential is hindered by the absence of “audacious faith.” It kind of makes you wonder about the power of the god that Furtick believes in. If some sort of audacious faith is needed to realise the potential of the one saved, this means that Furtick’s god is not able to save completely and effectively and that the saving faith is not enough to live in relationship with this god. But then again, Furtick is not really interested in connecting with God, but rather connecting God’s greatness withman’s potential.
The biblical view of salvation is totally different from this. God’s aim in saving man is to take away the guilt of sin (Romans 3-5) and reconcile man with Himself (Colossians 1:19-23) in order for man to grow in the image and likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29-30). The faith He grants, is powerful enough to convince man of his inability to please God and of God’s ability to save man from his corrupt and sinful inclinations (Ephesians 2:1-10). This faith is also effective enough so that man is justified by God through taking hold of it (Romans 3:21-31). Faith is never sovereign over God, but always a gift from God (Hebrews 12:2). This is the biblical view of faith. And then Furtick has the audacity to call anything that does not adhere to his theology of audacity non-biblical, even heresy. I wonder if he even knows the meaning of the word heresy, which in effect characterises any deviation from the standard as a false teaching, or heresy. The only standard we as Christians can follow is God’s Word, and that which deviates from the teachings of God’s Word, is heresy. Furtick’s theology of audacity is a deviation from this standard. He promotes an elevated kind of faith that is not God-centred, but man-focused, that has authority over God to force Him to do the impossible for the believer, thus realizing his human potential. It is a faith that focuses on works and not a true and living relationship with the Founder and Perfecter of the biblical faith.
Furtick’s arrogance does not stop here. He actually states that “if you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life” and “if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.” Now, I’m sure the people that are referred to in Hebrews chapter 11 would not appreciate this statement! Their faith, in the definition of Furtick, was far from audacious and achieving the impossible, and most definitely far from “the best parts” of their lives. They had to pay the price for believing with their lives – and that was not death due to natural causes. The worst thing about their non-audacious faith is that they were not able to let God do the impossible and save their lives! And then Furtick dares to ask “does the brand of faith you live by produce the kinds of results in your life that you read about in the biblical stories of men and women of faith?” I wonder how deep he thought before asking this arrogant question. Did he think about the Hebrews 11 men and women of faith? I think not, because this would have cautioned him to ask such a superficial question.
From this brief editorial the dangers in Furtick’s book is evident. He promotes a man-centred faith which does not focus on God, nor does it connect man with God. On the contrary, its only purpose is to reconnect God’s greatness with man’s potential to perform great acts for God. With this, he elevates faith above God. This is far from the God of Scriptures, who gave His Son to reconcile man to Himself. Furtick’s god is subordinate to man and his audacious faith. This theology achieves nothing else than to promote an arrogance in man whereby God is dethroned and has to make place for man. This God will not allow. He shares His glory with no-one. Furtick promotes a dangerous, ungodly psychology, which misuses Scriptures for its own, corrupt purposes. The best would be to avoid the teachings of Furtick altogether.
In closing, the words of Jude verses 20-25 seem appropriate:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.