Guards down, armour on

I just found this quote given by Eclexia, from a book called The Gift of Fear:

The great enemy of perception, and thus of accurate predictions, is judgment. People often learn just enough about something to judge it as belonging in this or that category. They observe bizarre conduct and say, “This guy is just crazy.” Judgments are the automatic pigeonholing of a person or situation simply because some characteristic is familiar to the observer (so whatever that characteristic meant before it must mean again now). Familiarity is comfortable, but such judgments drop the curtain, effectively preventing the observer from seeing the rest of the play.

Eclexia was not thinking of Todd Bentley when she quoted this. I don’t think the original writer was thinking of him either. But this quote nicely summarises the attitude of so many people to him and to the Lakeland, Florida outpouring which he is leading. They claim to discern things about his ministry, but in fact the fail to perceive what it is all about because they make snap judgments about Todd.

Mark Cahill, an American evangelist whose qualifications, according to his “About Mark” web page, are “a business degree from Auburn University, where he was an honorable mention Academic All-American in basketball” (!) has written a June 2008 Newsletter entitled Guards Up. This has been quoted more or less in full by bloggers Andy Kinman and Ricky Earle, also in an apparent case of plagiarism passed off by blogger Brian Cranford as his own work. (Brian’s appears to be a genuine blog linked to a genuine Christian ministry, but there has been no reply to my comment of nearly 24 hours ago asking for clarification of the source of this post.) In his newsletter Mark links to my post about Todd Bentley and an angel called Emma, perhaps because I still have posted what Todd originally wrote about this but has now, I am told, had removed from his website. But this post from nearly a month ago is old news, and should be re-read in the light of what Todd has just recently written on this subject, which I posted on before.

Now “Guards Up!” may be good advice in business or basketball, but is it in the Christian life? First let’s look at some of Mark’s claims about Todd.

First, Mark accuses Todd of being a false prophet on the basis of a video, which is clearly some years old because Todd has quite a lot of hair. But I don’t see any false prophecy in this video. I see “words of knowledge”, which are not the same as prophecy, some of which are not immediately confirmed but that does not imply that they are false. But then I don’t think anyone ministering in “words of knowledge” like this claims 100% accuracy.

As for the video of Todd laughing, the style may be strange but that doesn’t make it evil. Is there really a good reason why God cannot make people laugh, shake or fall down? Of course not, because all of these are in the Bible: laughing in a positive sense in Job 8:21 (OK, this is Bildad speaking so should be taken with care), Psalm 126:2 and Luke 6:21, shaking in Job 4:14 (this time Eliphaz is speaking so again should be taken with care) and Matthew 28:4, falling to the ground also in Matthew 28:4 and in Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 1:17 etc.

There is in fact nothing new in what Mark writes, just a rehash of the same old criticisms I have seen before. The disturbing thing is that Mark claims to know all sorts of things about occult practices but doesn’t know enough about the Bible and Christian practice to realise that there are no new manifestations happening in Lakeland. What is new is the style, the unprecedented power, and the worldwide attention.

Mark also seems to know rather well the Bible verses about false prophets and the need to discern them. But in fact he doesn’t apply these verses properly. The test of a false prophet in Deuteronomy 13 is whether the prophet leads people astray into idolatry. But there is no question that Todd is glorifying Jesus, not any other gods or idols, as he makes very clear in his recent article. So by this standard he is not a false prophet. Nor has he made any specific prophecies which have proved false, the test in Deuteronomy 18. But these Old Testament tests are only part of the picture. Why has Mark made no mention of the New Testament tests of false prophets and false Messiahs? Perhaps this is because in the NT discernment of spirits is a spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 12:10. Mark makes no claim to this gift, but without it he has no right to make pronouncements on such a matter. Also, there is also an objective test in the NT, in 1 John 4:1-3, and by this it is quite clear that Todd is ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit and not the spirit of the antichrist.

Mark’s basic problem is that he relies on his own understanding in this matter. The guards which he tries to put up are deployed in his own strength. And such guards are powerless against an enemy who is more powerful than he is and quite able to deceive him apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit. People who walk into a spiritual battle without spiritual weapons and armour are likely to be defeated. Instead we all need to rely on the armour and weapons of attack which God provides for us, Ephesians 6:10-17. If we do this we can walk in safety into meetings like Todd’s, confident that we will not be deceived, and allow the Holy Spirit to show us what is his work.

Meanwhile Seth Barnes has offered some sensible criticism of the critics. I am not so happy to find myself listed as one of them, but at least this has brought significant traffic to this blog!

Also, Patsy of Rahab’s Place has gone on the offensive against the critics with her post Great Florida Outpouring – Lying Signs and Wonders, in which she refutes from the Bible the critics’ claims that the healing miracles at Lakeland are the work of the devil. She concludes:

There is a great deal of lying wonders going on regarding the Lakeland Outpouring. The lie is that satan has the power to heal and raise the dead. This lie has been fed to the church and the wonder is that she has accepted it in the light of scriptures.

Patsy has other posts about the “Great Florida Outpouring”, including a link to a TV interview with Todd in which he refers to documented healings, an endorsement from Bill Johnson, and a testimony of healing which is taken straight from Dr Gary Greig’s comment here at Gentle Wisdom. This is the same Dr Greig who has given his own biblical proofs, which I summarised, that what Todd is doing is valid.

So, let’s set aside the critics’ misrepresentations of the Bible, take down our human guards, put on the armour of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth about Todd.

14 thoughts on “Guards down, armour on

  1. Peter, you say what is new at Lakeland is the style, power and attention. I would agree only with the 3rd that this has more attention than anything before (at least from Christians), I was wondering whether you could expand on what you think is new about the style and what makes you think it is ‘unprecedented’ in power?

  2. Phil, thanks for asking.

    Todd’s style is new at least to me in his much criticised aggressive methods, and in his tattoos and general demeanour. But yes, he may have been doing this for some time – although the tattoos and biker look are fairly new to judge by the older videos I have seen. I didn’t mean to suggest that the style was unprecedented, only that it was unconventional, and in fact probably the main reason many people have problems with Todd.

    As for “unprecedented power”, perhaps here I am giving too much credit to some of the things which have been said, which may or may not be hype. There certainly seem to have been precedents for the widespread healing miracles in third world countries, and even in remoter parts of North America. But what is really unprecedented is the widespread, even worldwide, attention being given to them.

  3. Peter, thanks for that. Todd is certainly unconventional. I’d agree with you that this has gained more attention than anything – for me it is a heady mix of internet (Toronto was really before the web took off), english language, american fervour and of course the supernatural (I’m not doubting all of that). Certainly resurrections are not something we’ve heard much of in our western world!!

  4. Having looked at videos from Lakeland, and read from the freshfire website I do find some (quite a few?) dubious statements. Lets take the rebuttal from June 8th, published under Mr. Bentley’s name.
    (link in original article)

    “On Visions

    While it’s good and right and biblical to test the spirits to see if they are of God, it’s vital to realize that just because a type of vision or a sign is not listed in Scripture, that it’s unscriptural, to be discounted, or false. For instance: If you dream of Jesus visiting you, and in your dream, Jesus, the Man, was the most handsome man you’d ever seen, would the fact that the Bible described Him as having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him (Is. 53:2b), discount your dream as being scriptural or genuine, relative, and of God?
    Just as no two people are alike, no two experiences are alike. Guaranteed, the Bible doesn’t list the details of each dream, each encounter, or everything that God has, does, and will eventually reveal to His people. It doesn’t record every detail of every dream, or everything someone has seen in the spirit realm, or on earth for that matter. Nor does it record every possible miracle, but it does say that nothing is impossible with God (see Luke 1:37; Matt. 17:20). We have no account of miracles like amputated limbs growing back, but the absence of this is Scripture doesn’t mean that such a miracle unbiblical.
    If a person is of the mind-set that everything spiritual that happens or manifests in our lives has to be found in Scripture to be divine and of God, then that standard or belief would have to be applied to every area of one’s life. God responds to each one of us in different ways so the specific way He speaks to any of His children should not become a doctrine of correctness.”

    Now this is a stellar example of some woolly speaking. If we start with omitting the last paragraph (If…correctness), then you are left with the following message “While it is good to test the spirits, visions a so diverse that you really cannot use scripture to test them.” I.E. the message is “Test spirits BUT don’t test visions.
    So if now we include the last paragraph (If…correctness), does the meaning then change?
    No, in fact, the bold message only gets reinforced by now introducing a “doctrine of correctness”. Keep these words in mind, for an interesting thing is going to happen with these words.
    Of course he is right, if by “ doctrine of correctness “ he means any human construct of proper behaviour. He is right if he means that because in a vision a car is seen, then that mere fact alone is no ground to dismiss the vision.
    If however he means that the message of the vision is not to be measured up to scripture, then he is blatantly wrong. Now as I said before keep in mind those words “doctrine of correctness”.

    Someone once said that limiting revelation is like trying to fit an ocean into a cup. God is continually restoring truth and light to His Church. Therefore, we should place no limit on further revelation. To have a view that everything that happens in someone’s life because of God’s loving response to us as His children should be listed in the Bible or else it’s wrong or evil, is like saying that Jesus, who is the Word represents a list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus is a Person who, through intimacy and relationship, we perceive and understand by the Holy Spirit what is good and what is evil. If Jesus listed for us everything that we needed to know, then knowing Him would have become an option. It’s in knowing Him, who is The Word that we enter into what He has prepared for us.

    The bolded part, is a clear warning sign. Of course one should place a limit on further revelation. No God given revelation is in contradiction with scripture. That is a clear limit on revelation.
    Perhaps mr. Bentley does mean that, but unfortunately he says something completely different.
    “If Jesus listed…..option”. It is not quite clear to me what he means here? Does he mean that what we can know from scripture is insufficient, that knowledge about Jesus is unnecessary as long as we know Him? Given his prior rejection of limitation of revelation this vague and woolly wording is dangerous. It can even mean that knowledge about Jesus from the scripture is unnecessary or useless.

    To apply doctrine to the response of God in our lives is wrong. For someone to assume that something that happens to us isn’t of God because it’s not in his or her doctrine or knowledge of Jesus is, in my opinion, to grieve the precious Holy Spirit. I believe each experience is unique and tailored to the individual’s background, experiences, circumstances, capacity to receive, and personal relationship with Jesus. The experience is usually one that a person can relate to. The Lord meets us where we’re at and often shows us things in a way that gets our attention, in a way that we, as individuals, uniquely understand and relate to.

    Here we find back the word doctrine, and by makeup of the text, there is a interpretational link with the earlier mentioned “doctrine of correctness”, which mere idiom paints a bleak and dreary picture of harh unforgiving and loveless teachings and teachers. But perhaps I am wrong in experiencing such linkage.
    So lets look at this paragraph. It is built up in three parts.
    1 To….wrong
    2 For….Spirit
    3 I believe….relate to

    I agree with the third premise. God does approach each of us in a personal way.
    I still can agree with the second one, for there it is said “because it is not in his or her doctrine” And God trumps human doctrine.
    It is the sweeping statement that is point 1, I take issue with: “To apply doctrine to the response of God in our lives is wrong”

    First we are talking here, not about OUR doctrine, but Gods’ doctrine, and the scripture teaches something different about the application of that doctrine in our live.
    Do a simple search with a concordance on doctrine and see for yourselves (I used the http://www.biblija.net and the KJV)
    Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. (acts 13:12)
    And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? (acts 17:19)
    But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Rom 6:17)
    Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Rom 16:17)
    Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? (I cor 14:6)
    And many more

    The most clear application we find in the Letters to Timothy
    If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings (1 Tim 6:3,4)
    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (II tim 3:16)
    Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (II tim 4:2) (I deliberately do not mention the next verse)
    And finally
    Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2 Jn 1:9)

    So scripture gives a clear position to doctrine as illustrated in scripture, but mr. Bentley wants visions to be exempted from doctrine (and therefore scripture).
    That is clearly not scriptural. And note, I have not really dealt with the way Paul says prophecy should be dealt with.

    “Some are questioning the soundness of my visitation from Jesus while I was in Redding, California. I stated in an interview that it was as though He came into this realm and I saw Him as I would imagine Jesus would be with the disciples on the Earth, as the Son of man, a humble servant as He walked the earth, not in His resurrection glory. The purpose of this experience was for God to impart to me His supernatural peace in my life. God chooses, in His infinite wisdom, to reveal Himself in different ways, and in various aspects so that people can understand, relate, and even receive Him. Why do some think it so bad if God wills to come in His grace and reveal Himself to us in whatever manner He chooses?”

    What mr. Bentley says here, is true. Why should not Jesus chose an “earthly appearance” to manifest himself to mr. Bentley. But that is not my point of contention. My point is that in this paragraphs he plead for an area in ministering/life/church to be free from interference by scripture.
    Unfortunately that is very scriptural, in the sense that a divided heart is not pleasing to the lord. Even worse, he teaches such, and that is definitely not pleasing to the lord.

    Focus on the Revelation

    This can be drastically different from one person to another. What’s important, however, are not the details of, for instance, a vision, but how it points to Jesus, the revelation gleaned, what we learn from the experience, how we apply it to our life, and/or speak it into the life of another, and how it draws us closer to Him, for His name’s sake. Because one person may not be able to relate to a dream, vision, or experience of another, he or she may attribute this to the devil or to the flesh, or hallucinations, for example. I’m sure many have seen strange things happen in our meetings – things that puzzle, things that aren’t normal to them, but understand – God doesn’t seek approval for how He manifests through His people or in signs and wonders.

    Oh, I agree the bolded part is the important part.

    But that brings us upon the next point, Angels. He writes a long post about gender etc, all that however is unimportant given the following vision he relates

    “Lord, why can’t I just move in healing and forget talking about all that other stuff? He said, {1}‘Because Todd, you got to get the people to believe in the angel.’ {2}I said God, why do I want people to believe in the angel, isn’t it about getting the people to believe in Jesus? {3}He said, ‘The people already believe in Jesus, but the church doesn’t believe in the supernatural.’ The church has no problem believing in Jesus, what we don’t believe in is the supernatural. We don’t believe in angels, we don’t believe in the prophetic, we don’t believe in what’s going on, and I’ll tell you what, we need to have an awakening.” (numbering mine)

    Here we find at {1} “God” (parenthesis intentional) saying that people need to believe in “THE angel” which in the precensor time was Emma. Nowhere in scripture are believer told to believe in an angel, except for Jesus Christ, the Angel of The Lord. And suddenly we must do so?
    Mr. Bentley knows this, and therefore correctly retorts with {2} “Isn’t it about getting people to believe in Jesus?
    “God” however answers with {3} wherein he says, believing Jesus isn’t enough. We must also believe in something else on top of that.

    Now any gospel that tells us to believe in Jesus PLUS something else is unscriptural. It is not from the Lord. And this vision from Mr. Bentley contradicts his own defense: but how it points to Jesus. This vision points AWAY from Jesus

    And if as Mr. Bentley claims, this vision is from the same source as his outpouring, then this outpouring isn’t in trouble: Then IT IS trouble.

    Now many will say I am sifting gnats (and swallowing camels of course, how boring sifting gnats would be without a side dish of roasted camel ).
    But when the defense is muddled as it is, and visions points away from Jesus, then discretion is the better part of valour.

  5. No, JP, Todd’s message is not “Test spirits BUT don’t test visions” but “Test visions, but use the correct criteria, not the criterion that a vision has to be exactly like one recorded in Scripture”. This is true in fact of more or less everything most Christians do in church. Very few hold strictly to the position that we must do nothing in our meetings which is not explicitly recorded in Scripture. Most of us allow that we can do different things if they accord with scriptural principles. If we allow ourselves to do those different things, should we not allow God to do them as well?

    You wrote:

    First we are talking here, not about OUR doctrine, but Gods’ doctrine …

    You talk about what you like, but Todd is talking about human doctrine, human theological constructs which may be based on God’s word but are distinct from God’s word. I’m sorry, but your favourite book of systematic theology, with its expositions of various doctrines, is not inspired Scripture but the product of fallible human minds. You quote KJV verses with the word “doctrine”, but Todd is not using the word in its obsolete KJV sense but in the modern sense. So most of what you write about “doctrine” is simply irrelevant.

    Now any gospel that tells us to believe in Jesus PLUS something else is unscriptural.

    But this is not part of Todd’s gospel, it is his teaching to “The people [who] already believe in Jesus”. Or are you saying that it is illegitimate to teach believers anything except about Jesus? So much for most of your doctrines, in the modern sense, if it is unscriptural to teach Christians to believe them.

  6. No, JP, Todd’s message is not “Test spirits BUT don’t test visions” but “Test visions, but use the correct criteria, not the criterion that a vision has to be exactly like one recorded in Scripture”.

    One could hold to that position if one merely reads the first part (While…correctness). His next statement unfortunately puts a lie to that thesis: “Therefore, we should place no limit on further revelation. ”

    Without further qualification from mr. Bentley’s side, he exactly states that some things must not be limited. And that unfortunately exactly includes his vision where “God” speaks counterscriptural.

    You talk about what you like, but Todd is talking about human doctrine, human theological constructs which may be based on God’s word but are distinct from God’s word. I’m sorry, but your favourite book of systematic theology, with its expositions of various doctrines, is not inspired Scripture but the product of fallible human minds. You quote KJV verses with the word “doctrine”, but Todd is not using the word in its obsolete KJV sense but in the modern sense. So most of what you write about “doctrine” is simply irrelevant.

    Perhaps, but considering that communication is about common definitions this would constititute as a weird defense. Redefining definitions is not conducive to clear communications.
    Looking however at some other translations 4 out of 5 use “doctrine” and one other uses “teaching”. (WEB, GNB, ASV, KJV, CEV) Dismissing therefore my argumentation on the basis of KJV usage is a bit short round the bend.

    But this is not part of Todd’s gospel, it is his teaching to “The people [who] already believe in Jesus”. Or are you saying that it is illegitimate to teach believers anything except about Jesus? So much for most of your doctrines, in the modern sense, if it is unscriptural to teach Christians to believe them.

    I must say that this is a dissapointing response, especially given his own vision about “God”. A vision that litterally says that the church must believe in something else next to Christ.
    Instead of addressing the contradiction in mr. Bentleys defense of june 8th and his vision with “god” you decide to put words in my mouth and then prove that those words are incorrect….

    Since he refuses to apply scripture to his vision i must remain of the differing opinion that “this is not part of Todd’s Gospel”
    (which btw is a strange remark already, for it should be the Gospel of christ. Not a gospel of Christ according to Todd, but then this remark may well be another strawman in itself, if so, i apologize)

  7. JP, I really think that in the 21st century we should assume by default that people are using 21st century meanings and definitions of words and not KJV ones. Especially when the speaker is someone like Todd Bentley who quite clearly does not speak in KJV language and indeed probably doesn’t even understand it.

    If you are not “saying that it is illegitimate to teach believers anything except about Jesus”, then what is your objection to Todd teaching believers about the supernatural realm? Is it that you yourself do not believe in the supernatural realm, the existence of angels, demons etc, despite their clear scriptural attestation?

    By “Todd’s gospel” I of course meant the gospel of Christ as taught by Todd Bentley. Compare “my gospel” in Romans 2:16, 16:25, 2 Timothy 2:8 KJV, “our gospel” 2 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:14 KJV.

  8. Thank you, Molly. Well, “related”, you say, but it would be safer to say “similar” if you want to avoid my accusations of slurring people by association. The two places are also hundreds of miles apart.

    Sadly there are temptations for leaders of Christian ministries and some succumb to those temptations. I can’t be sure that any particular leader is entirely free from succumbing to them. But if someone is creaming off some money in any such series of meetings, that does not invalidate the whole series or imply that it is all an attempt to get money.

    I note also that Todd Bentley and his ministry are more carefully regulated under Canadian law.

  9. Todd was interviewed by Geraldo on Fox a few nights ago. You can see it here.

    At the end, the sound went wrong. Geraldo asked Todd to provide documented evidence of healings AND his financial claims.

    I saw Todd the following evening on God TV saying he was sending what Geraldo asked for and he challenged Geraldo to do the investigation and broadcast it whatever the results.

  10. Hello Peter,
    I found this to be an interesting bit of parlayance, with JP’s comments seemingly dismissed by you. I wonder at the language of Todd Bentley; it all sounds so very postmodern in the way it dismisses defining a proper testing of visions. It is one thing to say how not to do something, quite another to provide proper guidance in discerning. And whence come these visions, if not from some spirit? Could it then be erroneous to separate these in discussing discernment?
    Also, In your last paragraph of the post, you mentio ned putting on the armor of God. We Pentacostals have a very sordid history of abusing this term. If one takes the armor at face value, are not the elements of it the basic doctrines of the faith, which serve to protect us by their truths,keeping us from following various winds that are constantly blowing through the Church? Very few, if any, of the Pentacostal greats that I’ve had the privelege to sit under have truly applied the armor in a way that explained how these various elements serve to protect the believer.
    If you would care to elaborate or even to draw from the broad availability of teachings on this subject, it would probably serve your readers well in the formation of their opinions concerning Todd Bentley and those of his ilk.

    Thanks in advance for your response,
    God bless you.

  11. Thanks, Jody.

    I agree that there need to be positive rules for discernment, not just negative ones. But there is also a need to consider who should be discerning. I would exclude from that most of the vocal critics of Todd on the basis that they have no direct experience of his ministry and no kind of authority over him, indeed as far as I know no authority at all. Maybe they should discern whether to accept his ministry personally, or if they are church leaders for their churches. But I would say that in general the only people who should make public pronouncements against Christian ministers, at least of more than a very tentative kind, are:

    1. those with authority over the minister in question;

    2. leaders of groups of churches etc who can reasonably make pronouncements in public places which are directed to their own church members;

    3. those in recognised discernment ministries who are asked to give their position by those in categories 1 and 2.

    Then what is the basis for discernment? I accept that it starts with confirming a generally correct position on the central doctrines of the faith, as in 1 John 4:1-3; but it does not include examination of fine details of peripheral doctrines e.g. about angels. Beyond that I would say that discernment is a spiritual gift, as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, which can be exercised only by those who hear God speaking through his Spirit. Sadly I have read little in all of this debate from people who seem really to be hearing what God is saying about Todd. I know that most of it is not from God because it is negative and condemnatory, not the kind of things which God would say even about a real false teacher, with no mention of a desire for restoration.

    As for the armour of God, I accept that what I wrote about this was not adequate, but I don’t have time to write more now.

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