Golden crowns

This morning I watched the film Finger of God, which was shown at my church as part of a course that I am doing. The film is full of testimonies of healing and many other wonderful things which God is doing around the world.

One of the miracles described in the film, in fact right at the start, is the miraculous filling of teeth. The director includes close-ups from inside the mouths of several Americans, including his own uncle and aunt, who have reportedly received gold teeth from God. They clearly have at the backs of their mouths several gold teeth, or crowns on their teeth. Personally I cannot be sure that they were put there by God and not by human dentists.

One might wonder why God needs to do such miracles in the rich USA. But given the cost of dental work there I can quite understand why poorer Americans need to rely on God rather than dentists to sort out their teeth.

As it so happens this afternoon I had to visit a dentist, for preparatory work for a crown to be fitted to one of my back teeth. This will be quite expensive, but thanks to the NHS affordable. But on the NHS I cannot get a white crown. I was offered a choice of gold or silver, in colour. As I don’t want to mislead people in my church into thinking that God has given me this crown, and as I already have silver fillings in my mouth, I chose silver.

One day I can expect to receive a golden crown (compare 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 4:4), but not on my teeth! Until that day the silver one will suffice.

PS I do not want to discuss in comments here the genuineness or otherwise of the miracles shown in Finger of God.

PPS Unlike some of my blog friends, I haven’t given up blogging for Lent. But my life has been full recently and looks like continuing to be for the next few weeks. So blog traffic is likely to be light.

The blind see and the dead are raised – here in the UK!

Richard Steel reports on a blind man receiving his sight, on the streets of Dudley, England, this morning. This includes a video interview with the man.

Thanks also to my commenter Rhea for the link to a report of many healings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where there seems to be a similar outpouring to the Dudley one. The report includes a young man being raised from the dead. Where does this report come from? The BBC website!

Yes, the outpourings in Dudley and Belfast are both linked to Todd Bentley.

Miracles do happen!

Nick Norelli has been prolific for the last few days, including blogging about accounts of miracles in the early church, 3rd to 5th century AD. In this post he explains the series and links to each post in it. If he had wanted he could have added examples from succeeding centuries right through church history to the present day.

Many of these accounts focus on healing. So those who allege that Todd Bentley is doing something new by focusing on healing have simply not read their church history. Todd’s style may be new, and so is the worldwide publicity for his ministry, but the content of what he is doing is not new. Ever since Origen wrote his reply to the sceptical Celsus in the 3rd century, as quoted in Nick’s first post, indeed ever since Jesus and the apostles (and that is not to mention anything in the Old Testament), Christians have performed miracles, especially healings, and used them to convince unbelievers of the truth of the gospel. This is what Todd is still doing, in a world full of people who, even if they hold to the form of good Christian religion, mostly deny that it has any power (2 Timothy 3:5). But the true Christian faith, the true message of the kingdom of God, is not just a matter of words, it has power (1 Corinthians 4:20) to heal and perform other miracles, and above all to change lives, to bring people from sin and darkness into the God’s holiness and light. The critics may not like it because it is a threat to their powerless religion, but this is the message which Todd is proclaiming.

A theological defence of Todd Bentley's ministry

In my previous post I mentioned a paper Biblical Reasons to Receive God’s Glory and Give it Away in Power Evangelism by Dr Gary S. Greig, PhD., a former Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Regent University School of Divinity, and Senior Editor, Theology and Acquisitions for the Regal Publishing Group (free PDF download but donations requested). I have now skim read this paper. In it Dr Greig offers a defence from a generally careful theological standpoint of Todd Bentley‘s ministry and the outpouring in Lakeland, Florida.

Dr Greig deals with ten objections to Todd’s ministry. I will summarise them here:

Objection 1: “The healings aren’t really real” and “People are only working themselves into altered states of consciousness.”

On this point Dr Greig points objectors to the clear evidence that real healings are taking place. He also demonstrates that biblical evangelism included healing ministry. It is unfortunate that he likens the objectors to holocaust deniers, and emotional argument which does not fit well with the scholarly tone of the rest of the paper.

Some people have particular objections to reports of resurrections. Dr Greig mentions that three news channels reported on “an older woman being resurrected after rigor-mortis had set in”, but it is unfortunate that one of the three links is broken, and the other two are both to this news report which indeed reports a remarkable event but makes no mention of Todd or Lakeland.

This is perhaps the weakest part of the paper because it fails to provide any verifiable evidence that genuine lasting healings are taking place clearly linked to Todd and Lakeland. Perhaps Dr Greig is not the person to look for for such evidence. But it would help to answer this objection if someone close to Todd could provide this kind of evidence.

Objection 2: “Many healings are partial or gradual, and some people lose their healing after they claim to have been healed.” “Healings in the New Testament always happened immediately and could not be ‘lost’.”

Dr Greig answers this one by showing that biblical healings were sometimes gradual and arguing that healing could be lost.

Objection 3: “The manifestations, shaking, vibrating, laughing, talk of electricity, and weird behavior didn’t happen in the Bible and cannot be from God. Todd Bentley has an obsession with the paranormal.”

Dr Greig writes:

While I agree—and I have heard Todd Bentley and other leaders of the Lakeland revival agree—that our focus should not be on the miracles and the manifestations, but on Jesus alone, it is simply not true that Todd Bentley has “an obsession with the paranormal” or that the “weird” manifestations are not from God …

He also shows that many biblical miracles are just as “weird” as anything seen at Lakeland. In fact he finds biblical parallels for all the kinds of things which Todd does. He rightly insists that what matters, as a test of genuineness, is not the form of the manifestation but the fruit of it.

Objection 4: “There is no emphasis on repentance and holiness in the Lakeland meetings, as there always has been in classic revivals and awakenings …”

This charge against Todd Bentley and the leaders of the Lakeland outpouring is not true either. Anyone who is attentive and who has watched or visited the meetings in Lakeland can attest to the fact that purity of heart, holiness, and keeping our focus on Jesus, are themes that Todd Bentley and the other leaders have repeatedly emphasized.

Objection 5: “We should not be teaching people to interact with angels. Satan masquerades as an angel of light and people can be deceived by demonic angels…”

On this point Dr Greig makes a clear distinction between worship of and prayer to angels and interaction with them. The former is clearly forbidden, and Todd agrees. But the latter is normal in the Bible and should not be rejected, although any message received apparently from angels should be carefully tested.

Objection 6: “It’s wrong and misguided for us to describe angels in detail or to mention their names. This will get our focus off of Jesus.”

Dr Greig’s simple answer to this is that the biblical authors described angels and mentioned their names. Again he asks the question “What is the fruit of such descriptions?”, and shows that in Todd’s case it has been “to focus people on the Lord Jesus and His plans and power for His people.”

Objection 7: “There is no such thing as angels manifesting themselves as female angels in Scripture. Jesus taught that angels are genderless. So talk of female angels with female names is New Age deception.”

In response to this Dr Greig gives a long argument (which Todd accepts in his recent article) that although angels are genderless in their essential nature they can and do manifest themselves in both male and female forms, as well as in various inanimate ways.

Objection 8: “No Scripture supports the idea that the Holy Spirit bestows healing mantles through His angels. Only the Holy Spirit heals, not angels.”

Dr Greig starts his response with the following, which he proceeds to justify in detail:

These assertions are simply not true on several counts, when examined in the light of Scripture. There are three points that need to be made below: 1) The Holy Spirit manifesting God’s presence and glory is attended by angels throughout the Bible; 2) Healing mantles do exist, and they are just another name for healing and miraculous gifts of the Spirit; and 3) Angels are indeed associated with healing in Scripture.

Objection 9: “Todd Bentley teaching that believers can go up frequently in the Spirit to God’s throne in heaven, is unbiblical and borders on New Age visualization.”

“Once again,” Dr Greig writes, “nothing could be further from the truth in Scripture!”:

the New Testament couldn’t be clearer about a principle than this one that through Christ and His blood we have access now to God’s throne in heaven … We are already there seated in Christ in the heavenly realms

He also shows how this kind of experience is an established part of Christian spirituality.

Objection 10: “Todd Bentley is a false prophet, because he teaches things I cannot find in Scripture.”

Here Dr Greig looks back to his previous responses:

as has been demonstrated above, the fact that the so-called “Bible experts,” critics, and concerned leaders, cannot find in Scripture what Todd Bentley and the leaders of the Lakeland outpouring have been teaching and modeling, is more a testimony to the fact that the critics (as well as the rest of us) need to revisit the Scriptures and study the relevant passages more carefully, bind the enemy from interfering with our thinking (James 4:7-8; compare Peter’s thoughts being influenced by the enemy in Matt. 16:22-23), and consciously ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth according to Jesus’ promise in John 16:13-15. …

We, the Body of Christ, need to repent of our being functional atheists—acting as if the supernatural realm, that Scripture clearly portrays, is really not functionally real for us.

Dr Greig then brings his readers back to “Jesus’ criterion for discerning false prophets and false teachers”, which is simply “By their fruit you will recognize them”. He discusses this issue in greater depth, without explicitly applying it to Todd Bentley, and concludes as follows:

The end of the matter: Receive all God wants to give you, and give it away

My prayer is that you will not make the same mistakes I made. I wholeheartedly encourage you to support what God is obviously doing through the Lakeland outpouring. My prayer is that you will be used by the Holy Spirit to empower and equip as many leaders in the next generation as possible to receive the glory and Presence of the Lord and take it to the nations. We need to give ourselves to the Lord and His cause of preaching the gospel with power to all remaining unreached nations and people-groups, to hasten the Day of the Lord, when Jesus will return for His Bride, the worldwide Body of Christ!

Amen!

The devil, bad pizza, and Todd Bentley's healings

Brian Fulthorp writes an interesting post on spiritual warfare, a follow-up to an earlier post.

What he says is mostly very sensible and important. But there is one issue that I would like to take up. He writes:

We don’t want to confuse coincidence with causation – sometimes it really was the bad pizza from last night and not always a Spiritual attack.

He goes on to talk about Paul Hiebert’s “flaw of the excluded middle.” But it seems to me that his own thinking is characterised by a version of this flaw. For he seems to believe that a bad stomach, like the one his wife suffered on Sunday night, has one of two causes: either it is a spiritual attack from “the devil and his cohorts”, or it has a physical explanation such as a bad pizza.

But this is a false dualism. The problem seems to be that in Hiebert’s worldview, at least as I see it summarised in this short article which Brian linked to, the two separate tiers of a typical western worldview have been replaced by three separate tiers. And by implication any one action must originate in just one of these tiers. So, to the physical explanations and the transcendent divine explanations accepted by typical western theists, Hiebert seems to add a third separate explanation related to spirit beings in this world.

Now I believe Hiebert, and Brian, are right about the reality of this intermediate spiritual world. But it seems that they separate it from the other worlds, and if so they go wrong here. A better picture would be of this intermediate world as the filling which links together the otherwise separate world into a united whole.

An implication of this for me is that it is wrong to say that any event has a cause just in one of the three domains. So, I would say, Brian’s wife’s bad stomach had a physical cause, perhaps a bad pizza, but it also had a cause in the spiritual world, the devil or one of his minions attacking her. And it also had a cause in the divine realm in that God only allows such things for a good purpose.

So I don’t accept Brian’s apparent dualism. I would say that every bad stomach has a physical cause. I don’t think I believe that the devil can affect stomachs directly apart some physical means. I would also say that every bad stomach has a spiritual cause in that such bad things are always indicative of the activity of personalised evil. Also everything is subject to God’s sovereignty and only happens because he wills it. In other words, every event has causes in all three realms.

I would apply this principle also to good things that happen, like healings. Here we come back to the discussion of what Todd Bentley is doing. I would hold that healings like those reported at Lakeland, Florida are ultimately caused by God. I would suggest that in them there is some kind of agency of good spiritual forces such as angels – and this would partly justify Todd’s interest in angels. And I would also say that there is some kind of physical cause of each healing.

So, I would expect that when someone who has been healed at Lakeland presents themselves to a doctor, the doctor will generally find some medical explanation of the unexpected cure, some unusual coincidence of factors which has allowed a complete recovery. This may be one reason for the scarcity of medical attestations of healing. Even the girl who was raised from the dead on the third day was probably, according to the doctors, wrongly declared dead and in fact just in a deep coma. But does this invalidate these things as miracles? No, because God who is in control of all things is able to bring together the medical factors to bring about the healing at just the time he wants to. If he chooses to do so at just the time that Todd declares someone healed, then he is being faithful to his promise to do anything his faithful people ask (John 16:23-24).

Now I don’t claim that absolutely everything that happens has a physical explanation according to the ordinary laws of physics. The resurrection of Jesus, which was not just the healing of someone who looked dead but was not, is a clear example of an event with no normal physical explanation. And the final resurrection of our bodies will also be such events. I suspect that this happens rather rarely. Maybe it happens in some unusual healings, what Todd Bentley and others call creative miracles such as regrowing of limbs – but see this story about how even this can have a physical explanation. I really don’t know how common such miracles are in the world today. But when they do happen they are a sign of something extraordinary, the new world breaking into the old. There is a lot more to explain there, but I won’t try to tonight.

So let’s avoid unnecessary compartmentalising of events, good or bad. Let’s avoid overblown claims that every healing involves a complete suspension of the laws of physics, rather than what the world might describe as a lucky coincidence. Let’s also avoid the scepticism which denies any healings, which so often comes from a worldview which does not allow for the suspension of the laws of physics. Let’s instead glorify God for the wonderful things which he is doing, even when he is using physical processes to do so.

Todd Bentley's tattoos and baldness – and the dead are raised!

At the risk of being accused of fuelling revival on my blog by blatantly posting on a subject which brings many hits, as Lingamish (now David Ker) was accused of doing, I will mention Todd Bentley’s tattoos here. Today I was watching some recorded extracts from one of his evenings, and he was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “JESUS Loves me & MY TATTOOS!” And his neck and forearms emerging from the T-shirt were indeed covered with tattoos, as I had seen before.

When I first saw this I thought that he must have got all these tattoos during his days as a drug dealer, before he dramatically became a Christian and started on his evangelistic and healing ministry. But apparently not. I have Todd’s 2004 book “Christ’s Healing Touch volume 1” (I don’t know if there is a volume 2), and this is illustrated with a number of pictures of him preaching and healing at various campaigns around the world, most in Third World countries. So don’t say he ignores the Third World! Several of these pictures clearly show his neck and forearms without tattoos. So he must have got all the tattoos within the last few years, when he was already a Christian in a major ministry.

As for what this means, I don’t know. I’m sure some people will see it as proof that he is of the devil. To me at least it shows that God is able to use powerfully a man with tattoos, and that getting tattoos is not an unforgivable sin!

These older pictures also show Todd with a mess of curly blond hair on the top of his head. Mike M wrote in a comment here that Todd was bald, and wondered why God hadn’t healed him of this. But surely baldness is not a sickness, but rather a glorious part of how God made some men “very good”? In a further comment I suggested that Todd was not actually bald but that he had shaved his head. But looking more closely I see that both are true. Some of the TV pictures clearly show very short hair growing at the back and sides of his head, but not on top. So Todd has done what many balding men do: he has shaved his whole head to disguise his advancing baldness. Why not? He certainly has more street cred in his appearance like that than as the boyish blond in the older pictures. Yes, I’m sure that is deliberate, becoming like the people on the street to win the people on the street.

But I must say I wondered if I should even post about trivia like tattoos and baldness as I watched bald, tattooed Todd taking testimonies. That evening, as well as several dramatic healings testified to by nurses who had brought their sick patients for healing, there were no less than four testimonies of people being raised from the dead. These included a stillborn baby, a woman who dropped dead in a gym, and a baby who drowned in a pool; medical or paramedical staff had given up on all of these but after prayer they came back to life. Most dramatic was the story of a three year old girl who was pronounced dead on a Monday night and came back to life on the Wednesday morning, in a hospital on the way to being cut up for organ donation.

Mike M asks why the mainstream media do not report healings and raisings from the dead. Surely the answer is obvious. Their reporters and editors cannot cope with this kind of thing as they, like most people in the western world who have been “educated” into a materialist worldview, don’t believe such things are possible. Indeed, as I wrote nearly two years ago, even most evangelical Christians in the West are Bible deists, by which I mean, among other things, that while professing to be Bible-believing Christians they don’t actually believe that God does anything in the world today. So for these people, as well as for those with a materialistic and atheistic worldview, miraculous healing simply cannot happen, and therefore any reports of it must be fakes. They are simply embarrassed by any proofs of genuineness. The media are dominated by people who think like this and so avoid reporting what they simply assume, despite the best evidence to the contrary, to be fakes.

Nevertheless, whether the media report it or not,

The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Luke 7:22 (TNIV)

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of what the Holy Spirit is doing through Todd Bentley and others involved in this outpouring.