Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When a Mega-Church Pastor Baptizes Pop Psychology, Does It Have to Be by Immersion?

I live in the area where Pastor Steven Furtick has his ministry, called Elevation Church. In fact, I live just down the road from one of their branch "campuses." Though it is never mentioned in their promotions, Elevation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. As their neighbor, when I joined Blogging for Books, I chose one of his books as the first one that I review for that program. Make note of that disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in return for posting a review here on my blog. A positive review was not required.

Crash the Chatterbox is available from Amazon. It is published by Multnomah, so I would expect that it would also be available from any bookstore.

The book has two separate sections, though I suspect that the division was unintentional. The first two-thirds, up to page 133 out of 210, can only be described as baptized pop psychology. While Furtick does include bible references, they are only to illustrate his point, not as the source of his
applications. But I'll come back to that.

This is no theological tome. Rather, it is filled with juvenile humor, and pop cultural references, such as to "The Voice" on pages 21-22. It seems to be more a matter of how clever the author is, rather than how wonderful the Author is. Furtick defines the chatterbox as "the lies we believe that keep us from accurately and actively hearing God's voice." Which leads to my view of "chatterbox": a minister who subsumes the Word of God to frivolity. If he reads this, I hope that my use of words above junior-high reading level doesn't throw him off.

In contrast to the chatterbox, God wants, according to Furtick, "to communicate with you in tones, pitches, and frequencies that this world is not wired for, to fulfill you with affirmation that your soul has been thirsting for" (p. 11). Really? Even ignoring the mixed metaphors, is that what the Bible says? I read in Isaiah 64:6 that "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." And in Romans 3:12, "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." So, when the chatterbox is telling me that I am worthless, no good, it is telling the truth!

What is Furtick's solution? P. 15, "We become liberated from lies as we actively embrace the ways God wants to re-imagine and re-create our hearts." That is a load of mystical, new-age hogwash! P. 29, "The more adept you become at talking smack back to the chatterbox, the more ingrained the reality of who you are will become." I wish that he had included the reference for that, because I couldn't find "talking smack" in my Bible concordance. Maybe I can find it in some book about "the power of positive thinking," or in the sermons of some preacher of "positive confession." Another reference I would have liked to see was for "our inestimable worth in His [i. e., God's] eyes" (p. 65).

I especially found objectionable the use he makes use of questionable psychological methods. On page 128, he refers to a seminar by a Christian psychologist: "Toward the end of his last session, he started explaining something called 'learned helplessness' and the three p's of negative thinking. I was captivated because so much of what he was sharing coalesced with what I've been learning about the chatterbox." And on page 132, he quotes new-age psychologist Carl Jung. I can't understand how Furtick is not conscious of his inspiration, non- or even anti-Christian psychology, not the Bible.

Furtick almost fixes the problem when he finally reaches the final third of his book. He opens that section, beginning on page 133, by quoting Galatians 2:20, and talking about what Christ has done. On page 139, he quotes Romans 8:3-4, and adds, "What I could never do, God already did! As a believer, I no longer live under the tyranny of condemnation, because God, the righteous Judge, condemned my sin in Christ. All. All of it!" And that is right on the money! I only wish that Furtick had started his book at that point.

However, Furtick doesn't finish there. Instead, he returns to the garbage that he had spouted in the first two-thirds of the book. For example, on p. 196, he writes, "Your words will give weight to the very dread and discontent that the Enemy intends to use to discourage you." That is the same prosperity-gospel and pop-psychology nonsense that fills so much of the book.

Here is my solution to the "chatterbox": when Satan (or one's conscience) keeps throwing up the accusation that one is unworthy of God's love, then agree with him, because it's true. But don't stop there. I am unworthy, but Jesus is worthy! Revelation 5:12 says, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And, by grace through faith alone, I am clothed in His worthiness! Revelation 3:18 encourages us "to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen..." See also Zechariah 3:3-5.

So, to "crash the chatterbox," avoid this book, avoid clever TV preachers, and avoid cheesy psychology. Rather, let the truth of your sinfulness and the glory of redemption in Christ drown out the accuser. For the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)!

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