A certain “Doozie”, apparently of Arkansas, USA, who has a private blog (what’s the point of giving me that URL, Doozie?), has commented a few times on this blog in the last day or so. His or her name means “Something extraordinary or bizarre”, and that is a good description also of the content of this comment, which includes the following:
Show me in the NEW Testament where it supports an evangelist/prophet/disciple or anyone else standing in front of large masses conducting themselves as a Leader…….that is focusing only on healing and not repentance. The example of Jesus doesn’t count.
Yes, he or she, apparently a Christian, wrote “The example of Jesus doesn’t count.” I am gobsmacked! Sorry if this doesn’t sound too “Gentle”, but Christian “Wisdom” requires that I correct this amazing error, not because the mysterious Doozie makes it but because this attitude of rejecting Jesus’ example seems to lie behind much of the criticism of Todd Bentley.
In an early post on this blog, nearly two years ago so long before the Lakeland outpouring, I wrote that Jesus is Our Fully Human Example. As I argued in that post, Jesus carried out all of his ministry as a human being filled with the Holy Spirit. That implies that we as Christians should expect to be able to do all the same things that he did – although if we are crucified it won’t have the same significance as Jesus’ crucifixion. We are not perfect and so will not follow Jesus’ example perfectly, but our aim should be perfection according to the model which Jesus taught us (Matthew 5:48).
If we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see a man who started out on his ministry by preaching and teaching (Mark 1:14-15,21-22) and building a team around himself (1:16-20). But he soon found himself healing and casting out demons (1:23-31). Indeed that very first evening of his public ministry he found himself as the focus of a large healing meeting (1:32-34), “standing in front of large masses … as a Leader”. The “Capernaum Outpouring” had begun! But Jesus was concerned to meet a broader need than just in one small town, so he starting a touring ministry of healing – and of asking those who were healed to look for authentication of their healing (1:35-45). Within a few days the crowds had become unmanageably large, but he had also attracted the attention of critics (2:1-12). Soon, despite there being no TV or Internet in those days, his ministry was bringing in international visitors, with people travelling as much as a hundred miles from Idumea, probably on foot, for healing (3:8). At this point he commissioned others in his team, initially 12 and later 70 or 72, to broaden his ministry, and imparted to them the power and authority to heal and cast out demons (3:14-15, Matthew 10:1, Luke 9:1-2,6, 10:1,9) – a ministry they continued after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Mark 16:20, Acts 5:12-16).
Few people alive today are following these aspects of Jesus’ example more precisely than Todd Bentley. He started as an evangelist but soon found himself at the centre of crowds seeking healing. And by the power of God he was able to provide this healing, not perfectly as Jesus was because he is imperfect, but enough to convince crowds to come back for more. For years Todd, like Jesus, has travelled from place to place. He stayed in Lakeland for a time as this allowed his message to get worldwide coverage through TV and the Internet. From this base he has commissioned many others to take his message and his healing power throughout the world. But of course he has attracted his critics. Eventually Jesus’ critics had him crucified. I hope and pray that Todd won’t meet a similar fate! But I also hope and pray that he, like Jesus, will remain steadfast in the face of criticism to complete the ministry which God has for him.
Todd, like Jesus, has encouraged those who are healed to get proper evidence of this. And he has provided this evidence to the press, for example in a binder full of medical records which was given to ABC’s “Nightline” programme. It is sad, but understandable in a litigious age, that doctors are reluctant to confirm healings. But as Christians we should not depend on such confirmation, especially when it implies that we trust the non-Christian media more than the reports of our Christian brothers and sisters. In John 20:26-29, whereas Jesus graciously gave Thomas the verification he required of the resurrection, he implicitly rebuked him and blessed those who believe without demanding proof. Similarly, we should not insist on this kind of verification of God’s works. We should rather trust what we believe God is doing, and allow the Holy Spirit to verify its truth to our hearts.
But God does graciously provide some evidence. TC Robinson has posted a testimony of partial healing from a medical professional. Also I found the following in Todd’s book “Christ’s Healing Touch”, volume 1 (Fresh Fire Ministries 2004, ISBN 0-9736387-0-2), pp. 296-297, concerning Todd’s mission to India in 2004:
Doctor Rod Thompson, a medical doctor from the Pacific North West in the USA, was able to check and document the validity of many healing testimonies. If this procedure does not convince the skeptic, nothing will. Again and again, after examining the people the doctor verified Jesus Christ still heals today. Here is part of his report:
“Todd had called out a word of knowledge for a blind 13 or 14-year-old girl. A 13-year-old girl came for prayer. I examined her eyes with an ophthalmoscope and found a dense cataract in the left eye. She reported that she was totally blind in that eye. After Todd prayed for her, she reported partial sight. I re-examined the eye and to my amazement, the cataract looked like it had broken into several pieces. Medically, this does not make sense, but that is what I observed. I believe God was breaking up the cataract and restoring her sight. …”
In the book there is a picture of Dr Thompson examining an Indian woman. Presumably he could be traced and asked for an independent copy of his report.
Jesus also said:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 your enemies will be the members of your own household.’
37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:34-39 (TNIV)
In his own day, and indeed ever since, this Jesus who preached peace and reconciliation has been a cause of strife and division, within nations and even families. This was necessary in order to separate the true people of God from those who, while claiming to know him, would not accept the messenger he sent. And it seems that Todd is following this aspect of Jesus’ example as well. He has become a cause for division within the church, the family of God.
Now I would not want to suggest that Todd’s ministry has the same significance as a cause for division as Jesus’ ministry. But I might suggest that there is a real analogy between the way that many of the Jewish people in Jesus’ time rejected his ministry and the way in which many Christians today reject new ways in which God is working in the world. This situation has been foretold in the Bible:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, … 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
… 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
2 Timothy 3:1-2,5,8-9 (TNIV)
Today there are both Bible deists and people who claim to be charismatics who presume to pontificate on what God can and cannot do today. Some of them assert principles such as that God cannot do anything which he isn’t recorded as doing in the Bible. Where did that come from? Not from God, who said
See, I am doing a new thing!
Isaiah 43:19 (TNIV)
– ironically the one thing God did in the Bible which these people don’t allow him to do today – nor from Jesus, who said
Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
John 14:12 (TNIV)
Christian ministers today can do different things, greater things than what is recorded in the Bible, because Jesus is risen and ascended to the Father.
Among Jesus’ critics were those who accused him of ministering by the power of demons (Matthew 12:24). This is part of his response to them:
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Matthew 12:32 (TNIV)
I hope and pray that this will not be the fate of those who reject the working of the Holy Spirit in these days. Instead, I long to bring them back to the truth about what God is doing today, following James’ final exhortation:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the way of error will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20 (TNIV)