white chicken looking rightIn yet another criticism by the chookwatchers of Steven Furtick, they reproduce the blog post of a certain Ps Gabriel who asks himself whether T D Jakes and Furtick are heretics, and, of course, decides in his own mind that they must be.

So, anyway, I waded through this piece, in which Ps Gabriel determines to himself if these men are heretics – based on a single TV recording of a service.

But get this, Ps Gabriel doesn’t even take the time to watch the segment in the program where Ps Furtick actually preaches. This, believe it or not, is what he admits in his post:

‘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 didn’t listen to Steven Furtick’s sermon. Yet he feels equipped to call Steven a heretic anyway.

Then follows the most ridiculous surmising of what Ps Gabriel concludes Ps Furtick must have said. It is merely hyperbole laced with supposition and innuendo. He made it up.

His analysis of the sermon is completely out of his own imagination and nothing to do with Steven Furtick at all.

Then, seeking anything they can find to support their own bias, the hapless chookwatchers repeat the folly by posting it up on their own site.

And these people claim to be seekers after truth!

Trinity arguments

The whole article is actually based, in between hypercritical analysis of the actual meeting, not on the teaching in the service, i.e., the actual doctrine in the message, but on the side-issue of the recycled claims of Reformed clan discernment sites, like the chookwatchers, that Ps Jakes must not be saved because he is allegedly a modalist- that is, he doesn’t add to his statement of beliefs that there is One God in three Persons.

Rather, Ps Jakes says there is One God in three Manifestations, which Reformed critics take to mean he must not, therefore, believe in the traditional concept of the Trinity. This, they conclude, proves he cannot be saved, so, therefore, they reason, he is an heretic. A few contrivances there, but they are much recycled in Reformed circles.

In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is a human theological attempt at describing a very complex set of beliefs which, let’s face it, no one, not even the brightest minds in the Christian tradition, has successfully managed to explain in common English terms.

If you don’t believe me try arguing it with a Jehovah’s Witness next time they come knocking on your door, and I’ll almost guarantee they’ll run rings around the average Christian (don’t do it if you can’t handle the doctrine well).

Or, if you don’t feel up to this level of banging your head against a brick wall, try telling your unsaved neighbour how it all works and see what their reaction is, just as an exercise in futility.

If this seems a step too far, try explaining it to yourself. Or to God.

I don’t say this to denigrate Christians’ level of understanding of this doctrine, but to point out the difficulty in explaining anything from a Trinitarian perspective.

The reality (and, thankfully, main thing we need to know) is that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by knowing a complex doctrine which took exceptionally dedicated and brainy theologians centuries to devise.

By grace through faith

Scripture, of course, brilliantly and simply points to the Godhead, and indicates that the Godhead consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

When it comes to the issue of salvation, it is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, and it is through faith in Christ that we are saved. Knowing how the doctrine of the Trinity works comes later, but is not essential to the initial salvation of a soul.

We do not ask the person who is a candidate for salvation if they believe the doctrine of the Trinity, or if they believe in the Trinity, or if they understand the concept of the Trinity. The word Trinity doesn’t even come up in scripture. It is a viable explanation of a Biblical truth, but it is not necessary to understand it to be saved.

The gospel message is not based on preaching the Trinity. It is based on the death and resurrection of the Son of God which is for the redemption of our souls from sin.

We receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour when we believe and confess Him as Lord, at which time we are accepted by the Father, and receive the Spirit as our guarantee – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Godhead in action in our lives.

Then we are baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, which, again, is the Godhead in action.

But we are not advised at this time that we must believe in the Trinity. It is a concept even the greatest of theologians struggle to explain to themselves, let alone to a candidate for salvation. Anyone here fully understand the thirty-nine articles?

Reformed theology strikes again

Ps Gabriel, it turns out, is another member of the Reformed crowd. His own statement of beliefs says the following:

  • We believe salvation is through Christ only, whose death on the cross and resurrection from the grave is the only redemption from sin. (Romans 5:9Revelation 7:10)
  • We believe our salvation in Christ is eternally secure and assured. (John 10:28-29Romans 8:38-39)
  • We believe election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 9:112 Peter 1:10-11)

Notice it doesn’t mention or indicate the preaching of the gospel. It says we are saved through Christ, but doesn’t say that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, nor that we are saved by the preached gospel.

Is this because Gabriel believes, along with R C Sproul, that people are regenerated before faith comes, that is, regenerated sans faith, as many in the Reformed camp believe? That would explain the exclusion from his statement of beliefs. Surely knowing how we are saved is at least as important as knowing how the Trinity works.

Notice that Ps Gabriel says that election is ‘the gracious purpose of God’. According to this gracious purpose God regenerates, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies sinners through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the candidate for salvation has nothing to do with his or her salvation. God simply regenerates them sans faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m happy to be corrected on this, but it fits with the generally accepted Reformed doctrine of the elect.

Faith comes by hearing

Yet what does scripture say?

Romans 10:13-15 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How are we saved? By God’s grace to save, through faith in the preached gospel. No one can be saved without the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:17).

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

We are saved through faith in the Word of God. The gospel is preached and people believe. Whoever believes on Him will be saved. This is fundamental to our understanding of the way in which God saves us.

Romans 10:8-11 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

We are saved because we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord. This we learn by faith through the preaching of the gospel. We are regenerated by grace through faith, not sans faith.

‘Doctrinal bias is not a substitute for discernment’

So when Ps Gabriel makes the claim that Ps Jakes and Furtick are heretics he does it from his own theology which is clearly based on Reformed doctrine.

If he wants to argue from this basis he can, of course, but he has to then face the same scrutiny of his own doctrine, and a conclusion we can come to is that his determination of whether a person is a heretic is not necessarily based on scripture but on his own adherence to a form of doctrine that is in dispute with the men he criticises.

This is not unusual of course, but doctrinal bias is not a substitute for discernment.

However, when he claims Steve Furtick is a heretic after admitting he didn’t actually take the time to review Ps Furtick’s message, and then makes up what he thinks Ps Furtick might, in Gabriel’s own fertile imagination, say, then you know that he is in trouble.

He is, in effect, criticising his own imagination, and not Steven Furtick at all.

Which you would have to call self-analysis.