I was just talking to a friend of mine, Gerry James, who once was a Mr. California who, as a long drive champion, he's quite a physical specimen. We've been friends for a long time. He told me that he had just returned from a Todd Bentley healing extravaganza in Lakeland.
He said that he had gone to lend moral support to his sister Angela, who had taken what little she had and arranged for a long trip from Michigan to Florida. This was at great financial cost to her. She did it because like thousands of others she was just plain desperate. The Christian grapevine, from Charisma to God TV has certainly provided the hype. "Thousands have experienced miraculous healings. Some are even being raised from the dead." And so with faith and expectation she loaded up her wheelchaired daughter and headed off to Lakeland. For two and a half hours she sang and swayed along with thousands of desperate people. And then came the testimonies.
A visiting speaker, Dr. Malone, elevated expectations with stories of dramatic healings. He said that that hundreds of Hindus who had poured into his meetings in India had been miraculously healed. In fact, he described the palpable sounds of hundreds of tumors exploding. He talked about the exuberant shouts of the lame as they walked away from their crutches and the cries of paraplegics who were leaving their wheelchairs behind. He said that in sharp contrast to the healings of the Hindus, none of the Muslims in the meeting experienced the miraculous. That is, he said, until a Muslim woman stepped forward and surrendered her child to the Christians on stage. While still in a quandary over why God had healed the Hindus and not the Muslims, the Spirit of the Almighty God allegedly spoke to Malone and demanded that the child be thrown to the ground. Incredibly, says Malone, the child was healed in mid-air and subsequently the Muslims in the meeting experienced miraculous healings - every one of them.
Of course these kinds of stories elevated expectations to fever pitch, and so with tears streaming down her face Angela wheeled the most precious of her possessions towards the stage. This was her moment. This was the culmination of all her hopes and dreams. Within moments the paralysis of her daughter would be but a distant memory.
Suddenly, however, an agony beyond the burden that she carried in her heart for all these years cascaded down upon her and in that moment her dreams were dashed. You see, an usher blocked her entrance to the stage, saying that only the healed had entry to the healer. Angela ended up leaving dejected and discouraged.
Ironically, Gerry's son Taylor, who suffers from epilepsy, left feeling that he had experienced the miraculous. Had Taylor been interviewed that very moment he would have testified to complete and total healing. Gerry, however, left in a quandary. He said that the healer was a fraud. He risked damaging the faith of his son. If he threw away his meds his son would experience a grand mal seizure.
I was thinking about that experience when I got a letter from a lady who said:
"I catch your show every now and then on the air. I know you love God and are committed to serving Him, but I've noticed that you come against other Christian teachers on your show. Mr. Hanegraaff, a house divided against itself cannot stand. God sent many different types of preachers into the world who have different styles and different audiences. Not everyone is going to use your approach. You give sound bites of other preachers' sermons, and they may be off a little bit and erroneous. As smart as you are, I find it frustrating that you don't see that you're causing more harm than good. As long as the other preachers pass the "Jesus is Lord" test I wish you would trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest. He doesn't need any help, sir! Don't you get it? When we all get to heaven we'll see who really had the anointing and who really was led by the Spirit to do what. Until then, love covers a multitude of sins."
This is by a lady named Heather. So on the one hand I have Gerry talking about the experience he had at one of the Todd Bentley events, the aftermath of discouragement and dejection, not knowing if God loves you or if you had enough faith. On the other hand, I have a lady named Heather who tells me I should butt out. I'm bringing more harm than good by bringing these things up on the air.
This raises the question: Should Christians judge the teachings of their leaders?
Not only is judging permissible - it is a responsibility. Nobody's teachings are above sound judgment. Especially those who have influence and power. Biblically, authority and accountability go hand in hand. The greater the responsibility, the greater the accountability. The precedent for making right judgments comes from the Bible. In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to practice sound judgment. They were told to thoroughly test the teachings of their leaders. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians to test all things and to hold fast to that which is good. Paul lauds the Bereans for doing just that, for testing his teachings.
While our Lord cautioned followers not to judge self-righteously, He also counseled them to make judgments based on right standards, and in the contest of oft-quoted commands by Jesus such as "Judge not or you too will be judged," Jesus also exhorted us to judge false prophets whose teachings and whose behavior lead people to abject misery. Thus, while we're commanded not to judge hypocritically, we are, nevertheless, called to judge.
Common sense should be sufficient to alert us to the importance of making public as well as private judgments regarding false doctrine. Remember the infamous Tylenol scare in 1982? Public warnings were issued by the media as well as by the medical community regarding the physical danger of ingesting Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide. I think this is an apt illustration because spiritual cyanide is being dispensed within the Christian community, and therefore we are duty-bound to warn the public. We have a biblical precedent for this. Paul publicly rebuked Hymenaeus and Philetus for teaching which was false and was spreading like gangrene. Today we are in much the same condition.
We have the gangrene of Todd Bentley spreading like a plague, and we have Charisma Magazine, God TV and God knows what other media outlets hyping these guys to the extreme. And essentially, just like Heather, they're saying "Look, let's just see if this turns out to be a wonderful move of God and let's not judge!" Well, my friends, if no one sounds the alarm there are going to continue to be thousands and thousands - dare I say millions - of disillusioned people that don't know what to believe or who to trust. People like my friend Gerry. People like his sister Angela. Their kids. Sometime in the future I'm going to tell you the story of William Dembski. He's one of the brightest guys on the planet. He just experienced the same thing. You want to cry when you think about it.
These people end up thinking God doesn't care for them, they don't know what to believe or who to trust. Many of them are shipwrecked in their faith. This is a gangrene, a cancer, a distortion of truth in our midst, and it needs to be called out for what it is because people are losing their ability to discern. A lot of you reading this blog right now are rational and coherent, but after three hours of singing one song over and over again, or a few lyrics, you are in an altered state of consciousness, you're willing to believe virtually anything that enters your mind, no matter how mundane or outlandish.
Well, if nobody else is willing to say it - and I don't care how many Heathers stop supporting this ministry - I'm going to continue saying what I'm saying. Todd Bentley is a spiritual fraud. He's communicating spiritual cyanide by the megadose. His messages are merely stories. They're the figment of his own fertile imagination. When he talks about tens of resurrections from the dead he doesn't give you any details. Why no details? Why wouldn't he give us any kind of indication who these people are? For example, according to Bentley one man, unembalmed, was dead for 48 hours in a coffin. When the family gathered around it in a funeral home the man knocked from inside the coffin and asked to be let out. Conspicuous by their absence, however, are names, death certificates, addresses, phone numbers and eyewitness testimony. Imagine if this is how we testified to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We would be, as Peter put it, communicating cleverly invented stories. But Peter said "No, we didn't. We told you the truth. We looked at Him we saw Him, we touched Him, we handled Him. We know He's the Word of Life." They gave evidence. Bentley does not.