There were quite a number of letters to the editor this week, and they were mostly related to two articles. Once again, my gratitude goes to all those who took the time to write.
Comments on Did God Break the Law for Love?
To add to your excellent refutation of Furtick, whom I confess I had never heard of until I read your article, there’s a bit of apples-and-oranges confusion with his example of the parent breaking speed laws to rush a hurt child to the hospital. Speed laws are “malum prohibitum”, meaning an unlawful act only by virtue of statute. But he wants to use that to prove that God has broken law that is “malem in se”, that is, conduct that is evil in and of itself. “Malem prohibitum” and “malem in se” are two very very different things and only by conflating them does Furtick’s poor analogy work. A more consistent analogy would be to have the parent killing another person who is standing in the way of getting his child to the hospital, or maybe even stealing a car because the parent’s car broke down. I think these would be more honest elucidations of the complexities that can occur when one ethical value comes in contact with another.
—Kevin G, Eugene OR
Tim: Thank you for this clarification. I think a lot of people intuitively understood that the analogy failed, but not why it failed. This helps explain it.
I agreed with all you had to say. The thing I really liked was how you heard beneath what the other pastor said, and you encouraged and explained where he was coming from. So often I see remarks that would say how bad or stupid the other pastor was. Thank you for showing love.
—Peggy G, Bremen OH
Tim: I include this one primarily because of the ones that follow it, some of which say that I labelled Furtick a false teacher (something I did not do) and because they all ask if I approached him directly.
My son attended Elevation Church while in school near Charlotte and grew in his faith under the preaching of Steven Furtick. My husband and I attended once with my son and nothing we heard made us feel he is a false teacher. (Of course, it was only 1 sermon.) I do, however, agree that if this is indeed what he preached, he is wrong. I will try to find the entire sermon and listen as well. My question is… Have you contacted Steven Furtick to discuss this? I would be curious to know the outcome of that conversation.
—Marti S, Gordo AL
Thank you for this recent article. I truly love to listen to Steven Furtick speak. I believe he is passionate about the Lord and what he has done for us. I find at times he is a throw back to the days of great preachers that passionately share the Good News. That being said I do agree with your theological assessment of this statement. I am concerned that he spoke the way he did trying to make a point but instead did not think through the wording carefully. My question to you is did you contact him and ask him for a response? I ask because I often feel that dialogue is a more gracious response to just labeling someone as a false teacher. I respect you and your blog I have learn a great deal by reading it. I just thought I would ask.
—Rod K, Oak Ridge NJ
Tim: For a number of reasons I did not approach Furtick before sharing the article. In the first place, he released it to the public via social media, a medium that presupposes interaction. Second, I have no relationship with him or, as far as I know, anyone who knows him, so I wouldn’t know how to get in touch with him. Third, I don’t think it is necessary from a biblical standpoint since this is not an issue of interpersonal conflict but public statements. Furthermore, I did not charge him with being a heretic or false teacher, but simply interacted with one of his sermons.
Thank you for the time and effort you put into your work. This is not the result of a strong feeling about something you wrote as much as a question about it. Do you think Steven Furtick and you have defined “The law of love” differently in your two expositions around the phrase? I appreciate that you did mention that Furtick’s sermon was “muddy,” however it seems that in this blog you have taken one of what you have admitted are many possible understandings, claimed it as “the” intended message, and then discounted it. It also seems to me that the muddy word in this whole conversation is “law,” or the phrase “law of love.” For instance, if you define the “law of love” as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” then your words are necessary and good. However, if you define “law of love” as “the feeling of care and responsibility of a parent toward a child that, in that parent’s mind, justifies breaking the laws of the road in order to get an injured child to care,” then perhaps the tone of the blog could/should have been different. The fact that neither of us can rightly claim to know that for sure (I agree it is muddy) suggests that perhaps the article would have better served the church if it were either a call for clarity, or an exposition of all possible interpretations of the mud, rather than an attack of another Christian leader. I am tempted to believe that your motive here was the notoriety you may claim from attacking a popular figure, however I will simply ask you if that was the case or not, and accept your answer without malice. How much better would your blog have been if you had simply written Furtick, okay his staff, an email and ask for clarification, regardless of the answer?
—Matt C, Raleigh NC
Tim: Certainly the issue of what Furtick means by “the law” is a little bit up in the air. That said, I think the context, and especially the Bible quote he uses at the end of that two-minute excerpt, show that he was talking about the law as God’s rule for humanity. It would be difficult to read “the law of love” into his sermon and have it make sense.
As I preached through the Sermon on the Mount during 2015, one thing that I tried to drill home with my congregation is something we often miss about the law. Namely, the law God has given isn’t a set of rules or guidelines. The law is the expressed design of creation by God, and it flows from the very nature of who God is. Meaning, the law as given to us doesn’t just tell us how to live, but it also describes and attests to the very nature of who God is. The example I used often was that we are commanded not to lie. We are given that command because lying is not only against the design of creation, but God himself cannot lie either (Num 23, Tit 1). For Furtick to suggest that God broke the law would be for God to violate his very nature, which is impossible if we believe in an immutable, eternal God. Saying God broke His own law is silliness on the level of saying that a blueberry made itself orange. God cannot break the law, because he IS the law and the law is Him. The law and the nature of God are inseparable. I don’t imagine you going back to share that in the article, but I thought it would be worth mentioning, in case there was any more talk of it.
—Jason Y, West Chicago, IL
Comments on Always Reforming: The Holy Challenge of Diversity
I wanted to say thank you for the articles that you posted. It has been encouraging to see a non-ethnic minority voicing the questions that it feels like we have been asking, in all honesty I have been growing increasingly frustrated, and even cynical with the Reformed community in regards to this issue, but your recent articles have been such an encouragement to me, so thank you.
I think a common objection to calls for diversity is that it distracts from the gospel, or that we are pursuing a worldly agenda instead of biblical ones. That our calls for diversity are not calls grounded in, and coming from our scriptural convictions, but instead there are real implications that we have somehow been “tainted” by the world in some sense. These comments and responses are frightening because it means those who respond in these ways do not see race as a biblical mandate, they do not see the issues of diversity as being a biblical, Christian thing, as something that God desires. Which I think flies in the face of Scripture, and even reformed tradition. I think of Calvin leading the incredibly diverse church of Geneva. He did not try to lead a french church, or a Swiss church, but he encouraged the diversity within the church of Geneva. I think of Kuyper who argues for the pluriformity of churches, arguing that it is a reflection of the glory of God’s diversity, that we see in creation. I think of Bavinck, who argues for the pluriformity of churches as being rooted and grounded in the Triune union of God himself.
—Hyung B, Queens NY
I found your article very interesting. Here in Brazil where my husband and I are missionaries we have also seen an incredible (re)surgence of the Reformed faith. However, the ethnic diversity doesn’t mean anything to us. It’s so diverse, especially because we are not so racially split. It’s much more of a resurgence among university grads and those who have t least finished some type of higher education and the middle class who are tired of shallow theology. The best Christian books we have here are pretty much all by Reformers. And the surgence (in our case) is quite large( where we do have conferences of more than 1000, even 2000). Of course half of he speakers are either American, Canadian or Brits.
—Aida H, Niterói, RJ