I have been meditating, at first while commenting here, on these verses:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:13-18 (TNIV)
In some other translations verse 17 mentions gentle wisdom, the title of this blog. Note the contrast between this gentle wisdom from above and the other kind of “wisdom” from another place. Note also how to tell the difference: the latter is characterised by “bitter envy and selfish ambition” whereas the former is “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
So what has this to do with Todd Bentley and the Lakeland outpouring? I have received hundreds of comments on my posts about this; all but a very few purely abusive ones I have allowed to stand. I have also read quite a lot of posts by others on this subject, some linking to my posts, some not. Some commenters have linked to pages of other material about Todd Bentley, only some of which I have read. Almost all of these posts, comments and linked pages have been written by people who profess to be Christians.
And, I am sad to say, a large proportion, probably a majority, of these comments, posts by others and linked material have been clearly negative about Todd Bentley and what is happening in Lakeland. Furthermore, they have typically, although with some honourable exceptions such as Lee’s comment (but much of the material quoted at his website is not an exception), been characterised by unreasonable negativity, judgmentalism and condemnation, often of a very personal kind, directed against Todd Bentley and his associates.
The relatively few good arguments that I have seen to bring Todd’s ministry into question, such as that he allegedly focuses too much on angels (or is it that his critics are focusing on just two or three occasions in a decade-long ministry when Todd has mentioned angels?), have been largely lost in the overlay of judgmentalism, of writing Todd off as a false teacher and an agent of the devil because of a supposed weakness in his theology – and in some case of vicious personal attacks on myself for daring to defend Todd. Agathos of Scotteriology seemed to be putting forward some serious arguments, but his aggressive reaction to my comments, attacking me for making explicit some obvious implications of what he wrote, betrays what kind of attitude is behind his reporting of this matter.
So, I’m sorry to say, the defining characteristic of these negative comments is bitterness and condemnation. In some cases I suppose that this springs from the “envy and selfish ambition” which James mentions. It would not be fair to suggest that it always does, but in very few of these condemnations of Todd’s ministry have I seen anything “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
By contrast, the comments I have seen endorsing Todd’s ministry, and those expressing genuine uncertainty about it, have mostly fitted well into the model of wisdom which is “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
So, I wonder, which kind of “wisdom” about Todd comes from heaven, and which from some other place?
John Hobbins writes, in a different context:
The old polemical premise of Bible thumperdom is that Scripture’s purpose is to prove that the views of an opponent are incompatible with biblical teaching. According to that template, the Bible is a bludgeon to hit someone over the head with.
The very people who complain about Todd’s apparent violence on stage seem to think nothing of using this kind of metaphorical violence in an attempt to knock out their opponents. Is that the wisdom which comes from heaven?
I’m afraid that the more I read intemperate and bitter negativity about Todd, the more favourably I think towards him. After all he clearly has the forces of evil going for him in a big way from the way that they have spurred people on to comments clearly characterised by evil attitudes like condemnation. Todd clearly has Satan worried! So, with enemies like these critics of Todd, who needs friends?
PS: One thing we do need to make clear about Todd is that he is primarily an evangelist. He is not a Bible teacher; that is a different ministry in Ephesians 4:11 and we should not expect him to do both. That is not an excuse for teaching what is wrong, but it is a good reason for Todd not attempting deep Bible teaching and for some of what he does teach being shallow. I take someone’s point that at Lakeland he is primarily preaching to the converted, to those who are at least nominally Christians, so is perhaps not operating as an evangelist. But then doubtless many of these people are nominal or backslidden if ever truly converted and so need the ministry of an evangelist. I am sure that Todd would also say that Lakeland is a special time for him for which he has been called and gifted in different ways. In fact there he is operating more in an apostolic ministry – although I would hesitate to call him an apostle because of the sometimes misleading connotations of authority in that word.
UPDATE: I just found Pastor Steve Hickey’s interesting series on the Florida outpouring. His first and second posts refer to the critics I have mentioned as the “seat of scoffers”, and also give clear positive stories of what he has witnessed at Lakeland. His third post is mostly a link to an hour long sermon on the subject (which I have not listened to), interestingly enough based on Matthew 11 which I have just referred to. His latest post is about the angel Emma, and concludes:
I’m thrilled to hear angels are visiting Todd Bentley. I hope angels visit you too.