Whatever happened to Todd Bentley?

Todd Bentley at LakelandWhatever happened to the enfant terrible of North American revival evangelism, Todd Bentley? He rose to international prominence with the Lakeland outpouring starting in April 2008. By August that year he had resigned from his ministry over an inappropriate relationship. By March 2009 he and his wife had divorced, and within days he had remarried. And then he gradually disappeared from public view.

On this blog I posted no less than 73 times in the category Todd Bentley, before my latest post and this one. Some of these posts quickly received thousands of views and hundreds of comments. But it is nearly two years since the most recent of these, with one exception which mentioned Todd only in passing. Yet there are still, over the last year, hundreds of people searching the Internet for his name and finding posts on this blog. So what has happened to him since he went out of the spotlight, at least for me, two years ago?

Early in 2009 Todd started a process of restoration led by Rick Joyner. I reported on the early stages of this, to the extent that it was made public. But then for a time, probably wisely, the process seems to have been taken out of public view. But more was revealed in 2010: Rick Joyner wrote a Special Bulletin in February about Revival and the Todd Bentley Restoration, with a follow-up in March and another in June. There is detailed material here about how Todd was gradually being restored, including biblical justification for the process. Rick promised many other bulletins on this matter, but these are all I can find on the MorningStar website.

The most recent information from Rick Joyner seems to be in a video from 8th November 2010. In this video Rick explained that Todd had been ministering effectively and powerfully in the local church, and that he considered it to be the right time to release him into a broader ministry. This 15 minute video is well worth watching, especially concerning the lies that have been told about Todd and the spirit behind them.

So it was to be expected that Todd would quickly return to public ministry. Nevertheless I was rather surprised to find that this is already the focus of the Canadian website of Fresh Fire (with the original Canadian domain name), as well as of their apparently identical US website. Fresh Fire is now based in Pineville near Charlotte, North Carolina, which is less than four miles from Rick Joyner’s MorningStar church just across the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

It is good to see that Todd and his team have been involved in relief efforts as well as evangelism in Haiti. Over the next month or so Todd is taking his “Healing & Kingdom Tour” to Texas, Puerto Rico and Michigan. In May he will be in Alberta, Canada. And in July, 21st to 24th, he will be in Dudley, England, as I mentioned in my previous post.

I am pleased that Todd has been restored to a fruitful ministry, after Rick Joyner’s long and painstaking efforts. I hope and pray that this will continue to be successful. I am a little concerned that Todd has rushed so quickly into such a heavy schedule. I hope he now has the wisdom to pace himself and avoid another burnout. If so, we can look forward to the fulfilment of Rick’s prophetic word, on the video, that millions in the USA will come to Jesus through Todd’s ministry – and, we can hope, millions more around the world.

Todd Bentley is coming to Dudley, England in July

Todd Bentley at LakelandI was interested to find, when researching for my post Whatever happened to Todd Bentley?, that not only has Todd resumed an international public ministry under the Fresh Fire name, but he has also announced a visit to Dudley here in England, on 21st to 24th July 2011. Fresh Fire writes:

This is not a conference. It’s a gathering of the Hungry & Thirsty from across the United States to see the OUTPOURING of the Holy Spirit and the Glory of God burning over our entire state. Bring the lost, bring the sick, bring those who are hungry and thirsty. Sound the Alarm, it’s time!

I guess this has been copied from the publicity for Todd’s US tour without being edited to be appropriate for England.

The venue announced is the home of Revival Fires, whose leader Trevor Baker invited Todd to England in 2008, but as yet there is nothing about this at their website. My wife and I recently attended a conference at Revival Fires, led by Lance Wallnau – audio recording of at least a part of this available.

There are of course a number of issues related to Todd Bentley’s return to public ministry, which I look at in my other post.

I'm a Master of Mathematics, they tell me

I was surprised to receive a letter from the University of Cambridge telling me that they are awarding me a Master of Mathematics degree. Or it might be a Master of Advanced Study – the distinction they make is ambiguous. One way or the other, I qualify for the Retrospective Award of Masters Degrees for Part III Mathematics.

To be honest, this feels like a bit of a joke. The studies I did were indeed at a master’s degree level, including a dissertation, but there was no formal award at the end. The applied mathematics I studied was really more theoretical physics, following on from my undergraduate studies in physics. But all this was over 30 years ago. The last time I looked at the dissertation I could hardly understand a word in it, let alone an equation. Even its title means little to me now – something about particles that could in theory exist in imaginary time.

However, this is a reminder to me that it was on this course that, as I wrote here several years ago, I studied under Prof John Polkinghorne. That was just before Polkinghorne left the academic world to train as an Anglican priest – and before he returned to that world as an expert on the relationship of science and faith. Polkinghorne’s example partly inspired me also to leave the academic world and follow God’s calling, which was at first into a job in industry.

I don’t think I will be returning to Cambridge to pick up my new master’s degree in person. I already have an MA in Theology, from London Bible College (now London School of Theology).

Gay mutation effects reversed by drug – in mice!

According to a BBC report, male mice can be bred to have homosexual tendencies by introducing a mutation, a genetic modification, which disables production of a chemical, serotonin, in their brains. And the effect of this mutation can be reversed by injecting that same chemical into their brains.

Now the BBC report is careful to avoid words like “gay” and “mutation”. It also highlights in the sidebar these words of a neuroscientist:

Any potential links between serotonin and human sexual preferences must be considered somewhat tenuous.

No doubt the BBC doesn’t want to create a storm by suggesting that homosexuals might be mutants who can be cured by drug treatment. Nevertheless, there is a real possibility that future research might show that a link between homosexual orientation in humans and specific genetic characteristics – I will now avoid value-laden words like “abnormalities” and “mutations”. This research might well also show a chemical means by which this orientation can be changed – again I avoid “treated” and “cured”.

What would the consequences of this be?

On the one hand, it would justify the gay lobby’s insistence that sexual orientation is a real organic characteristic of some people, and not just a psychological condition or a lifestyle choice. It could in principle be possible to test the expected orientation of children and, more controversially, of adults not openly gay.

On the other hand, this would allow people with homosexual tendencies the option of becoming “straight” by chemical means. Conservative groups such as churches might well encourage gay people to undergo this treatment. I would see that as a good thing if presented properly. The danger would come if people were effectively obliged or manipulated into changing their sexuality.

Of course all of this is speculation. For the moment all that is known is that this applies to mice. Also the mutation that was induced is just one of potentially many factors which could cause homosexual behaviour. More probably, in humans, homosexual orientation is linked to a complex combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. This would mean that there might be some partial “treatments” but no foolproof way of changing one’s orientation. But the controversy about such matters is unlikely to go away.

Heaven, Hell and Bell

Over the last few months the blogosphere has been aflame with discussion of hell, sparked by Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: At the Heart of Life’s Big Questions. Indeed many bloggers cast Bell himself into the flames, even before they had read the book.

I haven’t read the book. I probably won’t. So I will refrain from any detailed comment on it. All I will say is that, as far as I can tell, Bell mainly asks questions, and those who condemn him do so on the basis of how they assume Bell would answer his own questions. That is not a Christian approach. Indeed to condemn anyone, with the kind of language I have seen in some places, is not a Christian approach.

At some point I would like to outline here my own position on heaven and hell. For now I will simply say that I have a lot of sympathy with N.T. Wright’s position, as I outlined it in an old post Heaven is not our home …

I am writing now mainly to draw my readers’ attention to Suzanne’s long series Blogging heaven and hell (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – maybe more to come). Suzanne asked me to join the debate, but my thoughts have been elsewhere. She has many sensible things to say, as well as many useful links.

I don’t agree with Suzanne’s tentative universalist position. But I strongly agree with her that it is wrong to use threats of hell as a way to impose one’s will on others, in the church or in the home.

I would also be very cautious about using threats of hell-fire in evangelism. I’m not saying there is never a place for telling unbelievers that they will go to some kind of hell if they do not repent. But it is not a generally effective strategy today, at least in the western world – and it is not a general feature of the early Christian sermons in the book of Acts, so no one can claim that it is a biblically required part of a gospel presentation. Indeed, as I read somewhere recently, while Jesus spoke a lot about hell he did so mostly not to ordinary “sinners”, but to Pharisees and the like who claimed to be right with God but opposed Jesus’ message. So perhaps if we do preach about hell, it ought to be mainly within the professing church, to those who claim to be going to heaven but are not producing the fruit of good Christian lives.

Ekklesia: more Christians saying Yes! To Fairer Votes

YES to Fairer VotesLast week I wrote Towards a Christian view on the Alternative Vote not least because I had not seen any other argument on this matter from a Christian perspective. But perhaps that is because I hadn’t been looking far enough. I have now discovered that the Christian think-tank Ekklesia is committed to the cause of electoral reform, to the extent that their co-director Jonathan Bartley has been seconded to be one of the main leaders of the Yes! To Fairer Votes campaign.

Bartley’s co-director Simon Barrow has outlined Ekklesia’s position, and Bartley’s role, in an article Supporting the case for Fairer Votes. This article goes into theological issues only where it quotes a more detailed paper by Barrow from 2009, The state of independents: alternative politics. Most of this paper is not directly relevant to the Alternative Vote referendum this May. But it does offer some significant insights, such as:

Ekklesia is a Christian-based think-tank and believes strongly that the challenge for Christians is to find a new way of engaging with people and with power which will change the rules of the game – from self-interest to concern for our neighbours; from organised hatred to enemy-loving; from punitive to restorative action; from trying to ‘be in control’ of others to seeking the invitation of persuasive example, and so on. …A healthy democratic system – one that is open to change, criticism, renewal and a wide base of participation and decision-making – is positive for all of us. Of course, it will not resolve our differences nor will it alone produce the change of hearts, minds and lives which Christians (and others) argue is what real transformation in the public and inter-personal realm requires. Something more is needed for that. But it does give us a framework in which to ‘do business’.

Christian hope and commitment points towards the creation of public places where political competition is displaced by neighbourly affection, based on the voluntary but deeply-rooted commitments of ‘communities of principle’ (ekklesia).

The paper is not specifically referring to the Alternative Vote, but it could have been, when it concludes:

Here is a chance to do things differently, to challenge what St Paul once condemned as ‘party spirit’ and listed as a destructive impulse alongside ‘selfish ambition’. He was thinking of factionalism within the church. But this is a shared human failing. What we need instead is a shared human opportunity to take our politics, our participation and ourselves in a fresh direction.

Indeed! This material from Ekklesia is still not really a theological defence of the Yes! to Fairer Votes campaign. But it does provide a strong basis on which such a defence could be based.

I would expect to find more relevant material in Jonathan Bartley’s books The Subversive Manifesto: Lifting the Lid on God’s Political Agenda (2003) and Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy (2006). But I have not read these books. (At the Ekklesia site the link to the former is uninformative and the link to the latter gives a message “You are not authorized to access this page”, so I have linked instead to their pages at amazon.co.uk.) Sadly Jonathan seems to have been too busy with the Yes! campaign to write anything more recent from an explicitly Christian perspective. But his role within the campaign should ensure that this Christian viewpoint is not ignored or lost.

UPDATE less than an hour after posting: Jonathan Bartley replied quickly to my e-mail linking to this post. He included a reminder that ten Church of England bishops have come out in support of the Alternative Vote, as reported by The Guardian. Among the bishops quoted is the blogger Alan Wilson. While Bartley is quoted as saying that the bishops were backing change on moral and ethical grounds, sadly there is nothing more in the article that goes beyond the standard politicians’ arguments. The next day Bishop Alan blogged on Are voting systems moral?, which he concluded with:

So by all means let’s have a discussion about voting systems. I wonder what general moral principles we will be using as we take our positions. The answer “None, because this is about politics” strikes me as distinctly weedy, nasty people would suggest “sub-Christian.”

Indeed. But it would have been nice to see Bishop Alan starting that discussion by properly explaining his own position.

Rick Joyner: The Day The World Changed

A few days ago I quoted Rick Joyner about a Japan earthquake prophecy, based on a YouTube video which I also linked to.

I have now discovered some rather similar material from Rick Joyner in text form (so much easier to quote!), in a Special Bulletin The Day The World Changed. Here are some extracts:

It was twenty-two years ago that I first heard Bob Jones talk about a major earthquake that would be coming to Japan. He said that it would set off cataclysmic events. Thousands have heard Bob predict quakes and other natural events with astonishing accuracy. One of the most dramatic was the last San Francisco quake. …

When Bob walked into the service last Sunday after the recent 9.0 quake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, I immediately asked him if this was the one. I’ve never seen such concern in Bob’s face as he answered, “You know what this means.”

What Does It Mean?

It marks a demarcation point after which great change will come to the whole world, including an ultimate meltdown of the economy. It will also be followed by a major quake on the West Coast of the United States. …

This may truly be the greatest opportunity we [Christians] have ever had. …

The coming economic meltdown will be the removal of everything that is not built on the kingdom principles that cannot be shaken. …

Now is the time to do whatever it takes to get in the will of the Lord. There will be an increasingly high price to pay for those who are not. There will be increasing peace and joy for those who are.

There is a lot more of this, and especially about how Christians should respond. Actually, just have some people have suggested that it didn’t need a prophet to predict an earthquake in earthquake-prone Japan, it doesn’t a prophet to predict a coming economic meltdown. So, whatever we think of the status of Jones’ and Joyner’s words as actual predictive prophecy, Joyner’s advice for us as Christians is good and timely.

Who is boycotting the UK census?

More than three years ago I expressed some concern here that a US arms manufacturer was about to be selected to run the 2011 UK census. Despite the campaign I reported on, Lockheed Martin was indeed selected for the contract.

I should clarify that the Lockheed Martin contract was never for the whole census, but only for data processing and storage. Assurances have been given that this foreign company will not have access to personal data. The British company Capita has been contracted to recruit and train the 35,000 staff who are collecting the data.

Census day is now nearly upon us (Sunday 27th March, in case anyone has forgotten), and the census forms have been distributed – and there is a convenient option to fill in the census forms online. And I had almost forgotten this controversy until I saw a report at the BBC website that a Coventry “peace worker” has burnt her census form

in protest at a weapons firm helping to run the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS) census. … She faces a fine for failing to return her census form and said she was prepared to go to prison for the sake of her conscience.

So how widespread is this boycott campaign? Wikipedia reports that the Christian thinktank Ekklesia has called for a boycott, but there is nothing at their website to suggest this – only an article reporting that the Green Party has decided against a boycott. Wikipedia also names Stop the War Coalition as calling for a boycott, but the article on their website this month, while urging rather too late that Lockheed Martin’s contract be cancelled, falls short of a call for a boycott. Time to edit the Wikipedia article, I think.

So it seems that there are no organised groups calling for a boycott of the census. It rather looks as if Ms Walker of Coventry will be one of a small band of individuals who refuse to fill in their forms because of the Lockheed Martin connection – probably far fewer than refuse simply to be difficult.

And that is for the best. Although I do not support Lockheed Martin’s arms trade activities, I agree with the Green Party’s position as quoted by Ekklesia, that “the census is extremely important and needs to be accurate”. So, whatever our reservations, let’s all do our duty to our country by filling in our forms, accurately and on time.

Mark Stibbe prophesies earthquakes in Britain

Many people have come here to read my posts about David Wilkerson’s and Bob Jones and Rick Joyner’s prophecies of earthquakes in Japan and the USA. See also my more general post about prophecy. But these words from God may have seemed rather remote, especially to my British readers. For one thing, the earthquakes they prophesied are in known earthquake zones, and so sceptics can quite reasonably say that these prophecies were bound to be fulfilled – especially as no dates were given. For another, the prophets are Americans and from Pentecostal and charismatic churches which some might reject as on the lunatic fringe.

So it might come as a shock to see what Mark Stibbe has been prophesying. Rev Dr Stibbe is a Church of England minister and was until recently Vicar of St Andrew’s, Chorleywood, just outside London on the north west. In 2008 he left to start The Father’s House Trust, “a Christian charity … with a dream to bring an end to the global pandemic of fatherlessness.” Just now I came across a post at The Father’s House Blog from January this year, THE TRUTH WILL OUT! A Prophetic Word for 2011. In this Stibbe has an unexpected and shocking message for this country:

We are living in a very critical time in the UK – a time of great unrest and profound anxiety. This seems likely to increase in 2011 as Britain is gripped by storms, floods, water shortages, strikes, power cuts, unemployment and even unusual natural phenomena such as earthquakes.

Christchurch cathedral after the earthquakeEarthquakes in Britain? Surely not! Surely in our tame and civilised country we are immune from natural disasters, beyond the occasional snow or flood! No, God seems to be telling us. This year we have already seen shocking pictures of that most English of cities outside these islands, Christchurch in New Zealand, devastated by an earthquake. It wasn’t even a very powerful quake, only slightly stronger than the 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake in the North Sea. If a similar earthquake strikes a British city, the destruction could be even worse than in Christchurch. So we British certainly shouldn’t be complacent.

Of course Stibbe’s prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, and so his credentials as a prophet are still being tested. But we mustn’t forget that his words about possible earthquakes are only a small part of his overall message. He continues:

As everything is shaken around us, there will be a real longing for anchors that connect people with a deeper and more solid reality. The deepest and most lasting reality of all is the Father’s love and the Bible is our Father’s book; it is the only book that reveals his relentless love.

When natural things are shaken, people do indeed turn towards the “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28) that we as Christians proclaim. This is a great opportunity for the church, and one which we should not miss.