NEWS FLASH: Benny Hinn reconciled and to remarry Suzanne

Benny and Suzanne HinnThe controversial evangelist Benny Hinn has been reconciled to his ex-wife Suzanne, and is planning to remarry her in December. At least, this is the report I have heard from a friend of a friend who heard Benny announce this in New York City last night.

This is good news indeed! Two years ago I reported on Benny’s “broken heart” when his wife filed for divorce. Last year I wrote that after his divorce he was still ministering. It is clearly for the best for everyone that the couple are reconciled and remarried.

Let us pray that they will have a long and happy new marriage, and that Benny will continue to have a fruitful ministry while being sure to spend adequate time with Suzanne.

God Heals Today through Prayer – Scientific Paper

I am grateful to Healing on the Streets (HOTS) Bath for linking from their home page to my earlier post God can heal, but not to meet advertising standards, which they describe as “some good Christian wisdom”. That post was a response to the Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling that HOTS Bath must not claim publicly that God heals today, physically and not only spiritually.

I was interested to look at some of the other material currently linked to from the same HOTS Bath home page, in a section also responding to the ASA ruling. In particular, they link to a proper scientific paper providing evidence that God heals today, physically, in response to Christian prayer. The paper is entitled Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique, by “Brown, Candy Gunther PhD; Mory, Stephen C. MD; Williams, Rebecca MB BChir, DTM&H; McClymond, Michael J. PhD”, and is published in Southern Medical Journal: September 2010 – Volume 103 – Issue 9 – pp 864-869.

The research for this paper was done in Mozambique, at mass meetings sponsored by Iris Ministries (founded by Rolland and Heidi Baker) and Global Awakening. The authors tested the hearing or eyesight of people coming forward for healing and tested them again after prayer. They found statistically significant improvements in both hearing and eyesight. There is an extremely small probability that these were merely chance improvements or measurement errors. A suggestion or placebo effect cannot be ruled out, but the improvements are much better than have elsewhere been recorded for suggestion and hypnosis.

Heidi Baker with a baby who "was blind with white eyes just minutes before!"

Heidi Baker with a baby who "was blind with white eyes just minutes before!"

It is interesting that the authors write:

Conducting similar studies under controlled clinical conditions in North America would be desirable, yet neither Iris nor Global Awakening claims comparable results in industrialized countries (arguing that “anointing” and “faith” are lower where medical therapies are available) …

I can’t help wondering what results would be obtained if similar measurements were made in industrialized countries at, for example, Todd Bentley or Benny Hinn meetings. These two have also claimed spectacular results in third world countries but would additionally claim comparable results in the USA, and in Benny Hinn’s case other western countries. But, as far as I know, no similar studies have been attempted at their meetings.

Nevertheless, the scientifically demonstrated result that God heals today in Mozambique shows that he is able to do so also in a tent in Florida or on the streets of Bath. This also suggests the veracity of reports that he has actually done so, even if the frequency of such occurrences is less than in Africa.

HOTS Bath also links to the newly formed Global Medical Research Institute, which

seeks to apply the rigorous methods of evidence-based medicine to the study of Christian spiritual healing practices, including the widespread practice of proximal intercessory prayer (PIP).

There is also a link to a book to be published shortly by Harvard University Press, Testing Prayer (my link is an affiliate one to your local Amazon store) by Candy Gunther Brown who is also the lead author of the Mozambique paper. From the publisher’s material:

In Candy Gunther Brown’s view, science cannot prove prayer’s healing power, but what scientists can and should do is study prayer’s measurable effects on health. If prayer produces benefits, even indirectly (and findings suggest that it does), then more careful attention to prayer practices could impact global health, particularly in places without access to conventional medicine.

The clear implication of all this is that there is real scientific evidence that healing prayer is effective and a respectable scholarly opinion that it is beneficial. I am sure HOTS Bath are pointing this out in their appeal to the Advertising Standards Authority. Hopefully this will lead them to reconsider their apparent blanket ban on claims that God heals physically today.

God can heal, but not to meet advertising standards

As a charismatic Christian, I believe that God can and does heal today. I believe this because I have seen it in others, and experienced it in small ways in my own life. I have also read convincing testimonies, from trustworthy sources, of major miraculous healings. Some of these are accompanied by medical testimony, that the improvement in health cannot be accounted for by any normal medical processes – but of course it is not for doctors to say what did cause the healing. So it is not blind faith but rational conviction for me to state that God heals today.

Healing on the Streets outside Bath AbbeyBut my right even to write this now seems to be under threat. As the BBC and several bloggers, including Adrian Warnock and Gillan Scott, have already reported, the Advertising Standards Authority here in the UK has banned the Bath section of the Christian group Healing on the Streets from advertising that “God can heal today!” This was in response to a complaint made by a certain Hayley. You can read the ASA adjudication and the response from HOTS Bath.

This is by no means the first time this issue has come up. In 2008 I commented on a similar ruling by the ASA about advertising by a church in Shrewsbury. But on this latest occasion there has been far more publicity, including on a Daily Telegraph blog.

Now I accept that it is right that there are controls on people making unverifiable claims for healing remedies or powers, especially for financial gain. Christian groups presumably don’t charge for healing, but may be perceived as in it for gain it they take offerings or encourage those healed to join their church. Perhaps it was unwise for HOTS Bath to name specific illnesses which could be healed. But the ASA doesn’t seem to have been willing to reach any compromise.

On that basis these rulings raise serious issues of freedom of religious expression. There is room for negotiation on the exact wording. But if the ASA is trying to stop any expression of the belief that God can heal today, then it is overreaching itself and infringing internationally agreed basic human rights.

I don’t usually read political blogs, especially those supporting the Conservative Party. But I was alerted to the following by a tweet retweeted by Gillan Scott. It comes from a post at Conservative Home, Andrew Lilico: Should Christians be able to claim that “God heals”?:

God is not a magic stone to be rubbed with healing flowing.  He is a person who does what He wills.  The function of prayer is to align our will with God’s and to offer our supplications to him, not to force His will to ours.  So when God heals miraculously (as, with mainstream Anglicans, I believe he does still today) he does so on His terms and for His purposes.

One implication of this is that God’s healing is intrinsically non-replicable.  The claim is not that performing such-and-such a ritual in such-and-such a way raises the probability of recovering from this ailment by that percentage.  God’s miraculous healing is not induced by any act of ours, and thus is intrinsically not something to be subject to scientific standards of controlled replicability (indeed, the very attempt to test it for replicability is literally and specifically blasphemous).  So it can never qualify as a medical claim under normal advertising rules – and I avow that non-replicability as a theological claim, not an empirical one.

So if my understanding (which, as far as I am aware, is entirely orthodox) is correct, then if Christianity is true, no Christian claim that “God heals” or “God can heal diseases” could ever have an evidential basis to satisfy the ASA.  Note: that’s if Christianity is true!  So the ASA ruling says, in effect, “If Christianity is true, no Christian church can ever be permitted to claim that God heals.”  How could that be other than an attack on Christian liberty?

Indeed. And this brings the matter back to broader issues. In the past, on this blog and elsewhere, I have been involved in wide ranging and sometimes acrimonious debates about the lack of evidence for healings claimed by for example Todd Bentley and Benny Hinn. But, as Andrew Lilico clearly understands, one can never expect evidence of God’s work in the world which meets “scientific standards of controlled replicability”. The ASA, as well as certain bloggers, ought to recognise this and stop trying to apply these standards to religious claims.

Touch not the Lord's anointed

In the comments on my post In memory of David Wilkerson Mark D struck what I considered a rather discordant note, and an inappropriate one concerning someone dead but not yet buried, when he wrote:

Ive always liked David Wilkerson but could his speaking against Benny Hinn have something to do with his violent death? God said touch not my anointed! King David understood this truth and would not touch Saul even though he was trying to kill him!

However, there is an important point here. I don’t know exactly what David Wilkerson said about Benny Hinn. And I don’t think God would have struck him dead for it whatever it was – that isn’t how God works. Anyway, the breach between the two cannot have been too serious, for Hinn released a tribute to Wilkerson quickly after his death.

But it is indeed a wrong and dangerous thing to speak against those whom God has anointed for ministry. At least in some Pentecostal and charismatic Christian circles this wrongness and danger is often expressed in the sentence “Touch not the Lord’s anointed”.

This sentence has its origin as “Touch not mine anointed”, spoken by God, in Psalm 105:15 KJV. It is important to note that here “mine anointed” is plural, hence the NIV 2011 rendering of the verse:

Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.

Psalm 105:15 (NIV 2011)

The poetic parallel suggests that “my anointed ones” here refers to prophets.

The same principle was laid down several times by David when he had the chance to kill King Saul, who was hunting him down:

The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.

1 Samuel 24:6 (NIV 2011);
see also 24:10, 26:9-11,16,23, 2 Samuel 1:14-16

1 Samuel 26:7-11: David spares Saul's lifeHere the anointed one, singular, is the king of Israel, Saul. But by this time he was a disobedient and apostate king whom God has rejected (1 Samuel 15:11,26). The Holy Spirit had left him and he was under the influence of evil spirits (16:14). And David had been anointed king in his place (16:12-13). Nevertheless that same David continued to respect Saul as the Lord’s anointed. He fled from him for his own safety (19:10), but refused to take any action against him.

Contrast what happened to the person who dared to finish off the dying Saul: David showed no hesitation in killing him (2 Samuel 1:14-16).

What applicability does this have to Christians today? Who is, or are, the Lord’s anointed who should not be touched? Commenter here Andrew Price pointed out correctly that the role of the Old Testament kings was fulfilled in Jesus, whose title “Christ” or “Messiah” means “Anointed One”. The same could be said of the role of the Old Testament anointed prophets. However, the New Testament teaches that every Christian believer, everyone in Christ, has an anointing from the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20), is a potential prophet (1 Corinthians 14:31), and is even now reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:4 and Ephesians 2:6, as I explained these verses in a previous post).

So, I would argue, every true Christian is the Lord’s anointed, and so, according to David’s principle, others should not lay their hands on them. This doesn’t just mean not kill them: David would not even say anything negative about Saul. The Bible warns us against slander, gossip (2 Corinthians 12:20) and backbiting (Galatians 5:15), and this is the same principle in practical application.

Now there is a place for Christians to discern false teaching. If they do discern it, they should avoid listening to it. It might sometimes be appropriate to confront the false teacher personally, or to make a report to someone in authority over them. But, according to the principle which David set out, it is wrong to criticise them publicly – even if, like Saul, they have turned completely away from God’s path. If, on the other hand, they are truly ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, to speak against their ministry is to risk the unforgiveable blasphemy against that Holy Spirit.

Thus, I would agree with Mark that it is wrong to make negative public statements about Benny Hinn and his ministry. It is equally wrong to make such statements about David Wilkerson or Todd Bentley, as Mark was quick to do, or about Rob Bell, as Adrian Warnock among others has done, or indeed about anyone who professes to be a Christian teacher. Each of these people is the Lord’s anointed. They would remain so even if they were to turn away from God to the extent that the Holy Spirit departed from them and they were under the control of evil spirits, as happened to Saul. I am not suggesting that this has happened in any of these cases. But if someone believes that this has happened to any teacher or preacher, the right response is that of David: distancing himself from the danger, and silence – and decisive action against those who do touch the Lord’s anointed.

On the other hand, David’s example shows that it is also wrong for Christians to invoke “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” to stop others criticising them. David could have claimed his own rights as the Lord’s anointed, and denounced Saul and others for “touching” him. But he never did so. While believers should not criticise their leaders, it is wrong for leaders to put themselves above criticism.

Benny Hinn: divorced and still ministering

Benny HinnA lot of people come to this blog searching for information about Benny Hinn’s divorce. They probably find my post reporting on Hinn’s “broken heart” at the ending of his marriage. They may also find this post and this one. But all of these are over a year old. What has been happening with him since then?

Well, Benny is still keeping up a busy schedule of ministry, as listed at his official website. It doesn’t seem to include as many international events as it did a few years ago. Indeed his visit to London, announced for 24th and 25th June, looks like his only one of the year outside North America, apart from his Holy Land tour in November. It may simply be that at nearly 60 his age is catching up with him.

Meanwhile the Hinns’ divorce has been finalised, as confirmed by Bene Diction.

Last August the Christian Post reported that Benny Hinn Says Neglecting Family Led to Divorce, quoting Hinn as saying:

I’ve made mistakes because I wasn’t the perfect husband and the perfect dad because I was always gone traveling the world. That’s probably what broke the whole thing up.

This is just as I had surmised in March.

The Christian Post article also mentions allegations in the National Enquirer that Hinn had an affair with fellow evangelist Paula White. Wikipedia also mentions these allegations. Hinn and White denied them. The latest development, reported by the Christianity Today blog, is that

Benny Hinn is being sued by Strang Communications, a publishing company that alleges that Hinn violated a morality clause in their contract when he began an “inappropriate relationship” with Without Walls pastor Paula White.

Hinn has admitted concerning his friendship with White that

while it has remained morally pure at all times, I have enjoyed the company of someone who has also gone through the trauma of a painful and public divorce.

And they were photographed holding hands:Benny Hinn and Paula White

It is typical of the gutter press to assume that two people who hold hands are having a “torrid affair”, and not just showing friendship. As Christians we certainly should not jump to such conclusions, but should accept Hinn’s statement that the friendship “remained morally pure at all times”. We are instructed in the Bible:

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19 (NIV 2011)

Since there is only one witness, that should be the end of the matter, including for the Christian publishers Strang Communications unless of course they have other evidence.

Benny Hinn writes of "broken heart" at divorce

Thanks to Kevin Sam, in a thoughtful post Pastors and ministers are not immune to divorce, for a link to a letter Benny Hinn has written to his supporters about how his wife is trying to divorce him (to see this, you need to scroll well down the page, and you may need Adobe Reader). I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, but at the time there was only a brief initial reaction from Benny’s side. Now he has written an emotional letter about how his wife’s divorce action came as “a total shock”, and about his “broken heart”. Here is part of the text:

I come to you with a broken heart.

You may have heard by now that my wife, Suzanne, whom I love very much and always will, filed for divorce on February 1. Even though Suzanne has been under great stress, the children and I never expected this to happen.

Divorce was the last thing on my mind and theirs.

It was a total shock when her lawyer called me the morning of February 17 to inform me that she had filed 16 days before. Suzanne never gave the family even a hint that this was on her mind. Even to this moment, the children and I don’t know why she did it.

I also want you, my very dear partner, to know that there was absolutely no immorality involved in my life or in Suzanne’s, ever. We both kept our lives clean and were totally committed to each other for 30 years of marriage.

My wife has no biblical grounds for what she has done.

We both have kept our covenant with God and stayed pure before Him, and I am praying with all my heart that our precious Lord Jesus will heal my family and protect His work for His glory.

I have no reason to doubt the truth of this. But Kevin is surely right that Benny’s ministry schedule, even facilitated by his infamous private jet, has left him inadequate time to spend with his wife. Todd Bentley seems to have had the same issue, as indeed do so many Christian ministers of all kinds. We can only hope that high profile divorces like Benny’s and Todd’s will act as a warning to others to make sure their marriages are on a firm footing.

Benny Hinn is being divorced

People are searching my blog for news about televangelist Benny Hinn’s divorce. I wrote about Benny before, here, but with no mention of divorce. But if people are looking here for news, I will give them some, second hand …

The BBC and the British newspapers have not yet found this worthy of reporting, so I am reliant on the US newspapers, via Google News and also through a link I found from a tweet by Rich Tatum (seen through Facebook) to the story as reported by the LA Times blog.

The Washington Post has more details than the LA Times and some response from Benny’s camp, so I will quote part of its report:

The wife of televangelist Benny Hinn has filed for divorce from the high-profile pastor, whose reputation as an advocate of prosperity gospel has attracted millions of followers and criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups over his lavish lifestyle.

Suzanne Hinn filed the papers in Orange County Superior Court on Feb. 1, citing irreconcilable differences, after more than 30 years of marriage. The papers note the two separated on Jan. 26 and that Hinn has been living in Dana Point, a wealthy coastal community in southern Orange County.

“Pastor Benny Hinn and his immediate family were shocked and saddened to learn of this news without any previous notice,” Benny Hinn Ministries said Thursday in a statement. “Although Pastor Hinn has faithfully endeavored to bring healing to their relationship, those efforts failed and were met with the petition for divorce that was filed without notice.”

This is of course very sad, and reminiscent of the high profile divorce of Todd Bentley a couple of years ago. In this case there is no suggestion that any other woman, or man, was involved. Very likely the main underlying issue is that the high pressure work of a modern American evangelist is incompatible with a normal family life.

Benny Hinn, blessedness, and Benedict

Doug Chaplin seems to rejoice that, as reported by Ruth Gledhill, the preacher Benny Hinn was not able to enter Britain yesterday, because of the technicality that he did not have the required letter of invitation. In the process Doug writes that

you can hardly call the selling of asking of donations in return for miracles a religious activity.

Well, in that case I trust that Doug is immediately going to stop asking for donations, by passing round a collection plate or whatever, at any services of the Eucharist. After all, at least according to his “Catholic” doctrine, the central point of the Eucharist is the “miracle” of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Either that or he should stop claiming to be a minister of religion leading a “religious activity”.

Here is the comment I made on Doug’s post:

Does your church pass round a collection bag or in other ways solicit donations at religious gatherings? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye before complaining about others who do just the same.

Maybe this comment is not quite “Gentle Wisdom”, but I hope Doug knows me well enough to take the word “Hypocrite” as friendly banter.

However, my point is a serious one. What is the real difference between Doug, a stipendiary (I assume) priest of the Church of England, living on money from worshippers and Benny Hinn doing the same? Is the difference just the large amount of such money received by Benny (short for Benedictus, “blessed”)? Are the complaints fuelled by a hint of jealousy about his private jet? Or is the real issue that Anglo-Catholics like Doug and Ruth do not believe that the blessed Benny’s message and miracle ministry are genuinely Christian? In that case they should say so straight out and not pretend that this is a matter of asking for money.

Personally I don’t like Benny Hinn’s style. I also have serious issues with how both he and very often the Church of England seem more interested in taking people’s money than anything else. And although I do believe his ministry is genuinely Christian, although like any preacher’s not perfect, I would defend his right to preach it wherever he wants to. But of course that does not make him immune to border formalities.

I would say just the same about another Benedictus clothed in white expected to visit the UK next year. I hope someone remembers to give the Pope the right letter of invitation.

Jim West endorses Todd Bentley

I had intended to take a break from blogging about Todd Bentley. But I can’t resist this quote, which appears to be genuine, from Jim West:

you can learn as much from benny hinn and todd bentley as you can the ‘fathers’ (with the singular exception of Jerome …)

So Todd’s and Benny’s teaching is as valuable as that of the “Fathers” of the church? Why, I thought I was praising Todd rather highly in comparing him with Jesus and Paul, but I was only saying that he was trying to follow their example. I would never have dared to compare Todd’s teaching with that of any of the respected theologians of the church. But Jim West seems to value Todd and Benny above such towering figures as Tertullian, Origen and Chrysostom. High praise indeed!