A Distorted Vision of Faith: A Review of Michael Todd’s Crazy Faith

In August of 2019, a young pastor by the name of Michael Todd preached the first sermon in a series entitled “Crazy Faith.” It was an instant sensation. As of the writing of this post, that first sermon has 2.2 million views on Youtube. The whole Crazy Faith series (20 sermons) has over 11.5 million views. Not numbers to sneeze at. As he did with a previous popular sermon series (“Relationship Goals”), Todd has now turned his latest sensational series into a book, Crazy Faith: It’s Only Crazy Until It Happens, which has become a New York Times Bestseller and is currently listed amongst the bestselling Christian books on Audible.

Todd’s basic message is urging believers to live a life of faith, of one that is totally sold out to trusting God. He seeks to run the gamut of describing different stages of faith, from “Baby Faith” to “Lazy Faith” to “Stating Faith” to “Saving Faith,” with some stops in between, and helping people lay a foundation and move along to the next stage in their faith journey. His approach in each of the chapters is to present a biblical character or passage that embodies the quality he is highlighting, along with some anecdotes from his own life and the lives of others. If people could learn to build their faith, they could see God work in crazy ways; as his common refrain throughout the books goes, “It’s only crazy until it happens.” Todd sees his role as to someone who can help revitalize a or jumpstart a person’s faith:

“You’re reading this book because there is something in you that believes the impossible, that knows greater is inevitable, that trusts destiny is unavoidable, and that is intrigued by the possibility of a miracle. This is my life message because this is the life I’m living: one of Crazy Faith. God has asked me to do some crazy things, and I’ve seen crazy results because of faith. Through this book, I want to be your coach, your guide on this faith journey, by sharing spiritual truth and practical wisdom to help you gain new perspective on God’s plans for you: a future you’ve barely dared to imagine” (pg. 5).[1]

When I first saw Todd’s “Crazy Faith” sermon, I was concerned about the image of faith that he was presenting that was resonating with many people, especially in the younger generation. I was particularly concerned because Todd’s vision of what a life of faith entails is one that is only applicable in a Western culture of upward mobility. In other words, his vision of faith is essentially in line with a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel (see a more focused look in how that plays out here). Since Mike Todd is a young up-and-comer, and since his previous popular sermon series “Relationship Goals” turned into a book, I have been waiting for some time to see how his sermons translated into book form. Unfortunately, my concerns were not alleviated, and perhaps are amplified further in seeing his words on the printed page. 

While not everything Todd has to say is bad throughout the book, for example he emphasizes the need for Christian obedience along with faith[2] and holds Scripture to be of central importance in the Christian life[3], the true things he says ultimately get undercut by his vision of faith and seeing it being about “crazy results.” Because everything else is undercut by his flawed premise, even the good is left hollow. 

Since the book is about “Crazy Faith,” I will break down how he discusses faith in three ways: his definition of faith, the object of faith, and the results of faith. In each of these categories, Todd fundamentally diverges from biblical and historical conceptions of faith and ultimately presents a system more likely to destroy a believer’s faith rather than build it up.

The Definition of Faith

Right from the get go, Todd’s view of faith is shown to be lacking. He starts by saying, “A simple definition of faith is ‘trust in something you cannot explicitly prove’” (pg. 12). He then defines crazy: “Merriam-Webster defines crazy as ‘not mentally sound: marked by thought or action that lacks reason.’ In other  words, if something is crazy, it makes zero sense. There’s no reasonable explanation why it should be happening” (pg. 12). By taking these two definitions and combining them, he arrives at what he considers to be Crazy Faith: “having thoughts and actions that lack reason but trusting fully in what you cannot explicitly prove” (pg. 13). This is the foundational definition that he works with throughout the rest of his book, as the goal of each Christian is to be striving for is reaching this level of Crazy Faith. And yet, this type of definition has more in common with Richard Dawkins, who has said: “Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”[4] It is not a definition that fits well with a biblical conception of faith.

In fairness, Todd does define faith further, and in ways that are somewhat more in line with a biblical view by relying on Hebrews 11:1:

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith is our receipt, our invisible evidence. You can’t see it, but you can believe it. You can believe for things that seem impossible, things that are currently intangible, things that are so big, they seem immeasurable. God simply requires you to have faith for Him to take care of the end result (pg. 54).

Faith is having confidence in who God is. And let me tell you, Father God responds to that confidence (pg. 55).

Another translation of Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV, emphasis added). If we really understood the authority that is given to us as believers, we would begin to pray with a level of faith that brings about assurance (pg. 56).

Intellectual Agreement + Trust = Faith…  Intellectual agreement is knowledge that something is true, acquired through teaching and experience. Trust, however, is actually reliance on what you know is true. Unless you have both, you don’t have faith. Intellectual agreement is a start, but on its own? Not faith (pg. 59-60).

The idea of faith as being confidence is more encouraging, and the last definition he provides is one I would have the least amount of disagreement over, however these are all filtered through the earlier and more foundational lens he lays of Crazy Faith being “thoughts and actions that lack reason but trusting fully in what you cannot explicitly prove.” His final definition actually somewhat contradicts his basic premise of Crazy Faith. There is also the issue, beyond the basic definition, of what faith is even for in each of these examples, which I will get to more below.

Let us now examine biblically the common thread that faith is largely about trust in something that you cannot see. If I could offer my own simple definition, the Greek verb pisteuo/πιστεύω (to believe) and noun pistis/πίστις (faith) both are best represented by the idea of confident trust, along with, at times, the accompanying idea of faithfulness which is seen most strongly in the Hebrew semi-equivalent of emunah/אֱמוּנָה. To use dictionary definitions, BDAG (the standard Greek lexicon) gives the glosses for the verb pisteuo as of “1. to considering someth. to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust, believe,” “2. to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust,” “3. entrust,” “4. be confident about,” and “5. think/consider (possible).” As for pistis, it gives the glosses “1. that which evokes trust and faith,” “2. state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence, faith,” and “3. that which is believed, body of faith/belief/teaching.” The glosses descend in order of most common meanings to least common in how they are to be understood in Greek. I listed the glosses the show that, for the most part, the idea of confidence and trust are present, hence when we think of faith and belief, it is best to think of them along the lines of confident trust.

Since Todd relies on Hebrews 11:1 multiple times, I will specifically address its setting and the chapter as a whole. The context of the famous “Hall of Faith” chapter of Hebrews 11 comes on the heels of the author’s encouragement that “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb 10:39). Faith, as the author defines it in 11:1 (which reads in the ESV as, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”) is not a generic quality, but has a definite object. Faith throughout the entire chapter is best seen as a confident trust in God, displayed in people having hope that God would be true to his word and to his covenant, even though the ultimate reward was far off; their faith rested in the character of God. And yet, that chapter closes with a sobering statement: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39-40). The faith that was commended was a confident holding on to the Lord and of persevering, which is contrasted again shrinking back in disobedience in the previous chapter. The faith that was commended was not them having thoughts and actions that lack reason but trusting fully in what they could not explicitly prove, but was a confident trust in the Lord and his word because he is faithful and and his character was worthy of their faith.

By way of reductio ad absurdum, try applying the definition of trust in something you cannot explicitly prove to these well known passages concerning faith. For good measure, try out Crazy Faith, having thoughts and actions that lack reason but trusting fully in what you cannot explicitly prove:

Rom. 1:16-17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Rom. 3:28: For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Gal. 3:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

James 2:18: But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

It cheapens the concept of faith, doesn’t it? As if faith in the God of the universe is a barely rational trust. The biblical view is one that is eminently rational and not lacking reason based upon the character of the One in whom we trust. 

The Object of Faith

Beyond the simple definition is the object toward which faith is directed. This may be seen in language of “believing for” something, which, while quite common nowadays, is actually not a biblical category. The Bible never once speaks of “believing God for” some desired outcome, yet this language appears again and again in Crazy Faith:

The faith you have to start the business in the middle of an economic crisis, to believe for a healing that doctors deem impossible, to let go and move forward after a devastating  heartbreak—your Crazy Faith is what He wants to use to make a miracle happen. 

Faith is our receipt, our invisible evidence. You can’t see it, but you can believe it. You can believe for things that seem impossible, things that are currently intangible, things that are so big, they seem immeasurable. God simply requires you to have faith for Him to take care of the end result (pg. 54).

Faith works when we believe for something that God desires for us. (pg. 95).

Notice where faith is directed: toward the thing that you believe God wants to do for you. Faith is no longer something directed towards Christ as the object of faith and trust, but is directed for the subjective item of your own desire. Your personal vision is what you must put your weight on:

Too many believers intellectually agree that Jesus is God and that God can do miracles but then don’t put their weight on that knowledge. Here comes the true test of faith. If you don’t trust God’s Word enough to put your weight on it, then you don’t actually have faith in Him. If you claim to believe God gave you a vision but you don’t trust enough to act on that knowledge, you aren’t putting your weight on Him. That’s not faith (pg. 62).

In keeping with his concept of Crazy Faith, the object of one’s faith becomes all the things that you believe God is going to do for you. To demonstrate faith, you must act on that subjective feeling or desire that you have.

There is a very subtle shift that happens in Todd’s argument. He seems to recognize that just believing for something does not appear correct. So he does make the allowance that, “It’s always more about who we have faith in than what we have faith for” (pg. 99). He also acknowledges that growing in Christ entails our desires aligning more with God’s (pg. 118). The shift occurs in the types of things that Crazy Faith produces, namely things like healings, abundance, personal success, and things that we very naturally want. This is best illustrated in the types of anecdotes he recounts in his own life of the types of things he had faith for. The first two concern his childhood desires that he had faith for:

That morning wasn’t the first time I drew up a dream. Back when I was in middle school, I heard the scripture in  Habakkuk 2 that says, “Write the vision and make it plain” (verse 2, NKJV), so I started drawing Air Jordans.  You may think that’s silly, but even then I had the beginnings of Crazy Faith. When one shoe design finally  went from my sketch pad to my feet, I started drawing another—which eventually made it onto my feet too (pg. 65).

The second childhood event is a drum set he said was he believing God for and also drawing sketches of. In time, after saving, his parents gave it to him:

My  parents were broke! It was my faith that attracted the needed finances through them. They were not the source. They were a resource that God used to bring His promise to pass in His child’s life. And the testimony of that miracle boosted their faith as well as mine (pg. 66).

These childhood anecdotes set the stage for what is Todd’s crowning achievement of his Crazy Faith, which he refers to throughout the book, namely his very specific faith for a large worship center for his church and all the circumstances that would come with acquiring and owning it. He connects his childhood experiences to the present by saying he believed “God Himself had inspired those earlier prophetic drawings of shoes, drum kits, and other blessings. And that assurance prompted me to start typing some truly crazy faith-filled declarations”(pg. 67). These types of declarations were things like, “The SpiritBank Event Center will be Transformation Church,” “We will always be in abundance,” and “The church will be filled three times over  every weekend” (pg. 69). Faith is exercised to believe God for the things you believe God wants you to have, and in order to reach these things that God wants for you, you need to build up to Crazy Faith, much in the way Todd presents himself as having done.

Let me reiterate once more that believing God for something is not a biblical category. While the Scripture does speak of such things people being healed because of their faith (Mark 5:34) and the disciples being unable to cast out a demon due to their lack of faith (Matt. 17:14-20), the circumstances in which faith is exercised is not in believing for that specific event. The woman had faith in who Christ was and that she would be healed by his power; the disciples apparently did not have enough faith to cast out the demon. It may seem a nitpick, but in no context are the disciples singling out events or things that they are believing for. The subjective item or event is never the object towards which faith is directed. When faith has an object, it is faith in Christ, faith in God, faith in the words that God has spoken. In other words, things that are not subjective. There is the character of God and the promises of God, such Christ’s return, our glorification, that Christ will be with us always, among others, that are clear and objective that we can place our hope in. In Todd’s conception, your own subjective desires become those objects towards which you believe for. And yet, he hedges his bets, leaving the seed of doubt about what you are believing for:

How do you know you are moving in enough faith? How can you be confident that God is real, that He heard your prayer and is moving on your behalf right now? How can you be content, knowing that your future is safe? How can you be sure the thing you are believing for will actually happen? Are you positive you heard from God?
As a minister I get these sorts of questions all the  time. My honest answer may shock you, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.
You ready? Brace yourself.  You can’t be sure. It’s almost always a maybe.
I’m willing to bet there aren’t a lot of pastors who would tell you  the simple truth in such a blunt way, but I want to keep it 100 percent with you. This walk with Jesus is not  based on facts, because you can never have all the facts; it’s based on faith. Even when you’re not sure about  what’s coming, you can be assured that Jesus doesn’t start anything He doesn’t intend to finish. He is “Jesus, the  author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV) (pg. 46).

That is not a hope that is a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. That is a shot in the dark hoping that you are believing for the right thing and that you have enough faith to actually do so. You never know if it’s the wrong thing you are believing for or if you just don’t have enough faith to receive it.

The Results of Faith

Where Todd’s Crazy Faith leads is the conclusion that such faith will ultimately lead to miraculous results. You may need to be persistent, you may need get your hope back for that miracle (see pg. 186-189), but if you persevere, your faith will produce results:

The right time is coming. I believe it for you. I believe it for your family. I believe it for your business. I believe it for your spiritual, physical, mental, emotional,and financial health.
Don’t give up (pg. 200).

Todd laments that, “The sad truth about Crazy Faith is that most believers don’t live their lives out on  the limb. They live safe, quiet lives and never get to see the full promise of God” (pg. 14). The promise of God (however that is defined) can only be attained by reaching this higher level of faith:

Faith is the foundation of any great move of God, but far too many people are trying to live without it. We can’t receive the miracles, the life transformation, the wholeness, or the revival that God wants His people to experience until we level up in our faith. We’ve got to aim to please God, and the only way to do that is to have faith (pg. 53).

The most practical example of the results of Crazy Faith are the results of his declarations of owning the SpiritBank Event Center. Ultimately, his church, Transformation Church, would own the building as he believed they would. He concluded that “Our Crazy Faith unlocked unbelievable and unforeseen blessings of resources, connections, favor, and so much more… and just like those wise men, we were filled with joy!” (pg. 204). Todd’s encouragement is that these results of Crazy Faith could be yours too if you could learn how to tap into it and live in faith. He says, “Once you begin to experience God’s promise and provision in your family, your career, your neighborhood, your physical health, and so much more and begin to live in abundance and purpose in the wave of Crazy Faith… don’t stop. Keep your foot on the gas” (pg. 205). He closes with the encouragement, “Welcome to your new normal. This is how it’s supposed to be! God isn’t interested in blessing you once; He’s intent on opening His floodgates to pour down continually, confirming again and again for people ready to abandon hope that He is real” (pg. 206). Do you want a life of abundance (and he really does appear to speak of abundance materially)? Then learn to live in Crazy Faith and watch the results roll down.

But what is the biblical view of the results of faith? The plainest and greatest result (which Todd gave only a small amount of attention to (pg. 202-203) is the salvation of our souls (Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Pet. 1:9-10). This is the great message of the gospel, that man is reconciled to God, yet this result of faith often seems to be presented as only the ground level faith for believers, as if there is so much more that can be attained beyond mere reconciliation with our Creator. Todd can suggest that there are all sorts of Christians who are missing out on the whole promise of God, but here’s the deal: the Scriptures tell us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit Through faith” (Gal. 3:13-14) and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2. Cor. 7:20-22). Christians who have faith in Christ have the promise of God; they are not missing out on any promise. Maybe missing out on contentment or security or effectiveness in the Christian life due to little faith or lack of trust, but not the promises. The promises are given to us through Christ, not through some second level of blessing attained by exercising Crazy Faith. To suggest Christians are missing out on God’s promises due to not having enough faith is akin to suggesting that they are missing out on total justification.

To the great result of justification and reconciliation with God, we could also add the benefits that faith brings, such as assurance (2 Tim. 1:12), confidence (Eph. 3:11-12), and the knowledge that our prayers are heard (John 15:16). We could add more, but each of these is rooted in the first great result of faith: our justification and union with Christ. The additional benefits should never be divorced from the greatest result of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and neither should they be confused with the objects of our own personal desires for happiness and ease in this life.

To turn to the category of miracles that Todd referenced multiple times, we also see the results of faith in the works that God empowered the apostles to perform during their proclamation of the gospel (e.g. Acts 5:12; 14:22). What we don’t see in these miracles that the apostles worked, however, is the type of “abundance” that Todd seems to envision when he speaks of the floodgates of blessing being opened (pg. 205). Yes, the miraculous occurred, but not in the sense of material blessings pouring down upon them. While Todd still throws out concessions that blessings are for the purpose of blessing others and spreading the gospel (pg. 204), you can’t help but feel the disparity between the kind of material results Todd promotes and idea of the good life and the kind of lives that the apostles lived. 

Conclusion

A good test of someone’s theology is to ask whether it would apply in all places and to all people. Ask yourself whether in a part of the world that is not affluent, that does not have much upward mobility, or where Christians are oppressed, would this theology apply to them? Do they just need to believe more and build their faith muscles so that they can attain the full promise of God? And what would it imply if their situation never changed? Michael Todd’s teaching of Crazy Faith is one that can only really produce results in our upwardly mobile Western culture.

Why I think Todd’s message has resonated is that he has tapped into an impulse that many feel, especially younger people: they want to do big things for God. They want to exercise their faith and accomplish something that they believe only God could have done. “God wants you to be His modern-day hero,” Todd says. “He wants people to be able to look at the faith you have and model  their own after it. The faith you have to start the business in the middle of an economic crisis, to believe for a healing that doctors deem impossible, to let go and move forward after a devastating  heartbreak—your Crazy Faith is what He wants to use to make a miracle happen” (pg. 16). It’s that impulse to work for the greater good, yet still centers on oneself.

I think it also taps into a baser impulse than that, as well. It taps into the desire to be blessed, to be taken care of, to live the good life, to live my dreams. If I could just exhibit enough faith, then aI could finally have the life I’ve always desired. In the end, this conception of faith becomes very self-focused; I try to build my faith to build my kingdom while giving lip service to God.

The health, wealth, and prosperity tinges aside, my great concern is that Todd is fundamentally leading people to a distorted view of faith. He is leading them to a view that faith must be irrational, that needs to be directed at subjective objects, and that needs to be built up in some certain method to attain those objects. It does not appeal to the “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). It does not tell us, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:19, 22-23). Crazy Faith is measured by the types of miracles that are experienced and by how those things you are believing God for pan out. In the end, it directs faith away from God and away from the true and greater benefits that he gives us through our faith in him and to those lesser desires. That is what is truly crazy about Crazy Faith.


[1] Page numbers based upon the Kindle edition, which roughly lines up with the print edition, though it is not precise around the edges of the pages.

[2] See for example: “The best thing about hope is that it’s free. It doesn’t cost a thing. You can do it right now. Faith, on the other  hand, requires a little more sacrifice. It demands acts of obedience. It may instruct you to leave what’s  comfortable and convenient to pursue something that seems absolutely crazy; just look at the beginning of  Abram’s story in Genesis 12” (pg. 40).

[3] See this statement, for example: “The integrity of the foundation you build your life on determines the type of structure that can be built on it. I am  convinced that the foundation you should build your life on is faith in God and belief in His Word. God’s Word  has remained from generation to generation, has seen empires rise and fall, and produces change but will never  change” (pg. 9).

[4] Stated during a speech at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 15, 1992.

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