If you haven’t heard about the healing revivals going on down in Lakeland, FL then you have been living in a cave. News of the anointings and healings has spread quickly. People are coming from around the globe to experience what is being called the Florida Outpouring. Some people are calling it a move of the Holy Spirit, the miracle work of God. Other people are more skeptical of the authenticity of the healings.
Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, was quoted as saying that “Hugh Hefner is not nearly as dangerous to the church as someone like this.” As Tchividjian says, “I would pay much more attention to those people who have stood the test of time. I would pay very little attention to anyone who comes and says, ‘God told me something that he’s never told anyone else, and you can’t find it in the Bible.’ It’s a lie, it’s that simple.”
However, some people might argue that such criticism in unwarranted. How can we judge a person’s heart and what happens between him and the Lord? Who are we to say that God did not tell Todd Bentley and his ministry to start kneeing and kicking people as a means to heal them? Who are we to quench the spirit?
Melinda at Stand to Reason challenges the significance of this new movement and the notion that such movements are the norm. As she says,
Let me say it straight out: This is just weird. And for some reason, a lot of Christians have a taste for the weird, as though the weirder something is the more likely that the Holy Spirit is behind it. The Spirit could be behind some weird things, but it’s sure not a sign of the Spirit’s working. And the outlandish claims and actions exciting the audience at these gatherings sure seem to assume that the weirder the more spiritual. Pentecost must have been a pretty weird day (though it doesn’t seem quite as strange as these new claims), but Acts gives us no reason to believe that was the regular, steady diet the Spirit served up for the new Christians.
Bene Diction Blogs On has been covering this story in detail for some time now. Living in Canada, he is quite familiar with Todd Bentley as well as the similarities to another neocharistmatic movement from the mid 90’s known as the Toronto Blessing. Among other things, Bene Diction made note of the connection between the Nightline story on Todd Bentley and his announcement to take some time off. Bene Diction goes on to compare Bentley to Peter Popoff, Jim Bakker, and other suspect ministers and ministries. As he says,
I’ve no doubt Todd Bentley will be back. Think Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Peter Popoff. Benny Hinn, Richard Bonnke. There will be no transparency and honesty coming from the Fresh Fire crowd or God TV about finances, lies, heresy, and we won’t be seeing repentance unless it suits the powers behind Lakeland to get the show back on the road; it’s easier to get him out of the way for awhile until the public shock and outrage dies down. There are 50 more ‘apostles’ ready to take Bentleys place, but they don’t have the crowd manipulation skills Bentley has. Yet.
William Dembski, research professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, experienced Bentley’s revival service and healing claims for himself in Denton, Texas. In a sad series of events, Dembski tells the story of his 7-year-old son’s battle with autism and his families decision to give Bentley a chance to work a miracle. Their experience left them empty with many unanswered questions especially from their children. Dembski wraps up his thoughts on it all in this way.
Neither my wife nor I regret going. It was an education. Our kids are resilient. But the ride home raised a question. We found ourselves avoiding talking about the event until the children fell asleep. Then, as they drifted off in the early morning, we talked in hushed tones about how easily religion can be abused, in this case to exploit our family. What do we tell our children? I’m still working on that one.
How can we evaluate the validity of a movement based on movements of the Spirit? What does that mean exactly? If we were to test it based on a relativistic worldview, we might conclude that if it works for you then great. However, there are so many flaws in this line of thinking. What if shooting a guy in the head feels good to me? What if eliminating a people group because they don’t belong to my tribe feels good to me? We could go on with this argument. If it’s based on feelings, where can we draw the line while remaining consistent in our commitment? We cannot completely discount our feelings but at the same time we cannot completely trust them either.
More to come…