Friday, March 6, 2009

Do You Believe in Miracles?

The title of this post is both a personal question which I profoundly answer in the affirmative and the title of television documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The journalists involved in the production of this show masterfully strip away the lamb's clothing from Canadian native Benny Hinn to reveal the soul of a wolf and the tastes of a fat cat.

My introduction to the documentary, and some portion of my interest in it, can be attributed to the prominent role that Mississippi evangelist Justin Peters plays in it. Peters is a Southern Baptist, a SWBTS graduate, and one of our convention's most valiant warriors against the sinister dealings of fraudulent hucksters like Hinn.

Fraudulent? I'll be that most of my readers were with me on that one all along. But sinister? Yes, it is sinister, and perhaps more so than you realized.

The word of faith movement is sinister because it is a confidence game. The people involved lie in order to take people's money. The documentary takes you through a few days in the lavish life of Benny Hinn, thanks to whistleblower-provided internal records. I doubt that many of my readers have ever experienced a week like that.

The word of faith movement is sinister because it hurts people. Desperate people who place their hope in a fraud eventually become devastated people. The documentary takes you through the story of a young crippled girl named Grace. If you aren't weeping at the end, then you haven't a heart. And if Benny Hinn were sitting beside you at that moment, he would get an earful, at least.

There's a third sinister aspect to the word of faith movement, but you won't find it in the CBC documentary. If you invite Justin Peters to your church to offer his Call for Discernment seminar, you and the remainder of your congregation will learn that the word of faith movement is spreading heresy. Perhaps it is because so much of what they do is so flamboyant that so many of the things that they say and teach escaped my notice for so long. But they haven't escaped Justin's notice, and he presents the multifaceted heresy of these modern-day Marcions in Italian wool not by use of bald accusations, but in the miscreants' own words, often with accompanying video.

This third grievance toward the word of faith people may seem to some a less weighty charge than some of the others. If so, that is only because we so easily succumb to carnality. Stealing people's money is a horrible thing, all the more when it is done to the most vulnerable among us and in the name of Christ. Telling the sick to forego legitimate medical treatment while they innocently give their hearts over to your sham is a perverse crime of its own. But we will all lose both our money and our lives on some day coming. To preach or teach heresy, however, is an eternal crime of the highest order, and never, never, never is a victimless offense.

Stuck on the outskirts of Dallas's bustling suburbs, the community of Farmersville generally keeps people overcommitted and under-rested. It is not an easy thing to get our people back on a Monday or a Tuesday after a full day of Sunday activities. Yet Justin's conference maintained an astounding following for five full sessions (he can do it in as few as three). I highly recommend him to you for use in your church, not for his sake, but for the sake of your members who dabble in a little Hinn or Copeland or Osteen or other TBN trash during the week. Do it for the sake of the Truth whom they need to learn to discern as different from these snake-oil salesmen.

11 comments:

chadwick said...

Thanks for the links, Bart; very educational! I always knew that Benny was an Arminian . . . however, I did not know that he was also an Armenian.

chadwick

debbiekaufman said...

Good post Bart. It's when we realize that we are not in Christianity to benefit ourselves, that these charlatans will cease to exist. The same thing was true in Christ's day. They saw him do miracles and thought they would have it made if they could be with this Man.

Word of Faith people prey on the poor and desperate as you noted(notice the countries Benny Hinn holds his "crusades") and instead of Christ, they get promised health and wealth. Little do they know it's Benny Hinn's own health and own wealth to which they are contributing.

Alan Cross said...

I HATE the prosperity gospel. It is heresy all day long. Whenever I am around other pastors in our community, often of the Pentecostal/Charismatic variety, I ask them point blank why they do not come out against that trash. They privately tell me that they don't believe in it, but when I ask them why they don't denounce it, they say that they don't want to speak against other believers. The whole Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has been eaten alive by the lies of the prosperity gospel and the ones who see it do not have the courage or permission (they are afraid of engendering God's displeasure if they speak out against others, even if they are wrong) to say anything.

It is a shame that Baptists have so alienated themselves from Pentecostals and Charismatics. I honestly feel that many of them would listen to us on this issue because many are uncomfortable with what is being peddled, but they don't know what to say. I would urge all of your readers, Bart, to reach out to other believers in your city on this issue. Even if you have differences over pneumatology, there are many who would listen if we ministered truth to them in love.

It really breaks my heart. And, what is worse is that we are exporting this stuff all over the world to the poorest of the poor and, instead of giving them Jesus, we are giving them promises of wealth. Nothing makes me more angry, honestly.

Unfortunately, Baptists have their own version of this which is the "follow Jesus and you'll have a great life and a great family." That is also a false promise and you see people scatter when they face a little trouble. But, that is another story for another day.

From the Middle East said...

Brother Bart,

Thank you for this post!

I would like to make two comments:

1. Along with Brother Alan, my experience is that most neo-pentecostals and charismatics do NOT affirm this heresy.
2. This nonsense demeans our brothers and sisters who remain faithful in the midst of intense persecution and suffering all over the world. Their faith is much stronger than that of any of the grandstanding prosperity preachers.

My prayer is that God will move in their hearts and convict them to begin preaching the Gospel of Jesus!

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

Bart Barber said...

Chadwick,

;-)

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Debbie.

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

Thank you for noticing that this is not an anti-Pentecostalism post. We both know that I'm capable and willing to write such a thing. I have some AoG friends who are entirely willing to distance themselves from the Paul Crouches of our world. It just depends upon the particular strain of Pentecostalism, I think.

Bart Barber said...

FTME,

I can only imagine how sickening this must look from within, for example, a Chinese underground church.

It also, as Justin can testify (he has Cerebral Palsy), is an obscenity from the perspective of the godly sick.

volfan007 said...

Bart,

It's not only an obsenity to the godly sick, but it also causes confusion, doubts, and discouragement...even depression, to the saved who are sick, or who have a handicap.

These charlatans will have a day coming that will not be good. Then, they will not be waving their coats at people, nor slapping people in the foreheads. They will be answering to an Almighty God.

David

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...

Bart,

I could not agree more! We had Justin Peters at our Church in September 2006. It was one of the best seminars I have ever had the privilege of attending.

When I was at Criswell College, Dr. David Dockery took our class (1 Corinthians) to a Word of Faith preacher (W.V. Grant) in Dallas (who since was convicted of tax evasion). Since being out of prison, he has restarted his ministry in the Dallas area. We went to study the abuse of spiritual gifts. It is quite something to experience in person a Word of Faith/healing service. It is heartbreaking.

Two things that happened that night have stuck with me all these years. First he took up a love offering (he specifically stated it was for himself, as the church did this once a month) asking the people to come down and hand him the offering and tell them how much they loved him. "A thousand dollars worth, five hundred dollars worth..." etc.

His exegesis was just as bad. After an hour and a half, he finally preached. Do you know how we know that we are in the Last Days? He stated: We are in the Last Days because of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy about the moon turning to blood. He then explained that the prophecy was fulfilled when Neal Armstrong, blood flowing through his veins, stepped onto the moon! Unbelievable!

Thank God for Justin Peters and men like him who stand for the truth of God's Word. These charlatans will stand before God, and I believe God's word, when it says it would have been better if they had never been born.

Blessings,

Ron P.

Anonymous said...

Bart:

Thanks for the post. I intend to watch the documentary on line when I have the time.

I have always apprecited the enthusiasm of many of these preachers, but that's about it. To me, they have always lacked a sense of balance, and have never really had a proper approach to things like illness, poverty etc. Now, apparently, can be added the charge of financial misdeeds.

My experience with some people who follow these people is that they end up disallusioned. It is very sad.

We have a great opportunity and responsibility to help these people and their followers with healthy teaching and healthy churches.

I can remember a few years ago when LifeWay was severely for not carrying Benny Hinn.


Louis