I want to touch on some negative criticisms in this post and the next one. In my previous post, I linked to some ultra-critical websites – not because I totally agree with them but because I think it’s wrong not to take into account some specific critical comments by them. Take for example this testimony of someone whose friend, a pastor, was proclaimed healed by Todd Bentley, but who died soon after. How do people who are more positive towards the revival react to this?
I’m mentioning this testimony because I believe it’s important to deal with it. A lot of people reject the charismatic movement because there’s been a lot of abuses and excesses. If only charismatics would be more open to criticisms and recognize the correctness of certain criticisms, then there would be less anti-charismatics around and the charismatic movement would be more mature. There’s been dogmatism in both the charismatic and non-charismatic worlds of Christianity – not just in the non-charismatic world. And if we let go of that dogmatism, both sides can learn much from each other.
It’s the same thing with revivals. There’ll be a lot of abuses and excesses. And if the proponents of revivals would recognize this and be open to criticisms and if criticisms were done in a gentle and loving way, the revival would learn from its mistakes and more people would be open to God’s move.
Melinda Fish wrote the below regarding the Toronto Blessing:
Leaders must be confident they are acting out of obedience to the Lord, yet gentle in their approach to their parishioners. This is no time to display arrogance or imply that anyone reluctant to jump into the river is unspiritual or does not love God.
Beloved, can we refrain from using words like false prophet, deception… and demonic in reference to those with whom we disagree? Can we speak gently and humbly to our brothers and sisters, so that we may turn them around rather than provoke them to anger? Can we entertain the possibility that we, too, might be wrong in certain aspects? Can we, as mature Christians, be easily entreated, sympathetic, kind to all and patient when wronged?
I’m going to assume that the above testimony (of the pastor being proclaimed healed but then dying later on) is true in its every detail, which of course may not be correct. It’s very possible that the testimony is not accurate and this doesn’t have to be because the person was seeking to deceive others. There could be miscommunication involved. But I’ll give the author of the testimony the benefit of the doubt and assuming what was said is true, I think that Todd Bentley needs to respond to this unfortunate situation. That’s the right thing to do. It’ll be an uncomfortable thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do. How he ought to respond to it, I don’t know. But I know if he doesn’t respond to it, I don’t fault people for being disillusioned with him and the revival.
For me, even if Todd was at fault in this situation, I will not condemn the revival as fake or demonic because of it. Todd isn’t perfect. God works through imperfect people. I don’t believe that if a person prophecies falsely or proclaims wrongly that someone is healed, that that person is a false prophet and dangerous. Surely, false prophecies ought not to be treated lightly. Years back I was very disturbed that a well-known prophecy regarding the people in my country was proven false and that no one seemed to care about it. I talked with my pastor and friends about it and argued that someone should confront this person who prophesied falsely. I treated this issue seriously. It wasn’t that hard to confront the people (all well-known leaders) who accepted this prophecy and distributed it. It wasn’t difficult to confront the person who prophesied. But I knew that most wouldn’t care. And surely, no one I talked to cared much. I wasn’t too happy with how they treated a false prophecy lightly. But being a charismatic for a long time, I expected people to treat false prophecies lightly and not to care that much. There are definitely a lot of abuses regarding prophecies in the charismatic world.
All I wanted was for the person to own up to his mistake and the leaders who distributed the prophecies to own up to theirs. This is the right thing to do. It’s about honesty and integrity. It’s what God would want of those involved. My charismatic theology accepts that these things happen – i.e. we’re imperfect in our hearing from God and in our prophecies. That’s why I don’t like it when people speak with so much certainty of having heard from God because it may not be so. We should all have a bit more humility in this area. And when we’re wrong in our hearing from God, we need to own up to our mistakes, not sweep them under the carpet.
Of course, I know many non-charismatics have a different view of prophecies and think that if a person prophecies wrongly, that means the person is a false prophet or of the devil. I don’t believe that. That’s why I’m accepting of people who prophecy wrongly. And I won’t say that Todd or the revival is of the devil just because of this unfortunate incident. But I do expect them to deal with the criticism, apologize if needed and reflect upon the situation. Not doing so will just cause more people to be disillusioned and turned off from the revival.
So I don’t treat false prophecies lightly. But I don’t believe that every single false prophecy is a reflection that the person is from the devil. No, I just think it’s a reflection of our human fallibility and that we’re not perfect when hearing from God.
I do think critics of the revival should recognize that the revival can still be of God eventhough there’s so much imperfection and human error. But I also think that those who are in the revival ought to realize this too. If they do, then they won’t be afraid of confronting and dealing with every mistake they make and every imperfection that occurs. They won’t need to be overly defensive of everything. They will realize that it’s OK to be wrong in certain areas and thus not be afraid to confess their wrongs because they will know that God is gracious and moves in spite of our imperfections and mistakes.
So I’m OK with Todd having made such a serious mistake – if indeed he did. Even if he did, I’m still more positive about the revival than not. Pointing out that mistake (and even if there are many mistakes) doesn’t mean that the whole thing is of the devil. I mean, we got to consider the healings too. There have been many healed. What are we going to say about that? I’m quite surprised that critics of the revival so easily point out all the bad things but never comment on all the good that’s been done. We have to be balanced in our evaluation. And critics of the revival or whatever movement are not being honest if they themselves don’t deal with the good that have come out of the revival or the movement.
I’m not suggesting that we play a math game and that if there are more good than bad then overall things must be good. Rather, I believe there are explanations for everything. There has to be explanation for the bad. And there’s an explanation for the good. If we think this whole revival is fake because of some false prophecies or some people not being healed, we’re not being fair and honest because we fail to see the overwhelming good and the many healings that have occurred. The good doesn’t provide an excuse for the bad. As I’ve argued, the bad needs to be confronted and dealt with. If apologies need to be made, then it ought to be made. That’s the bad. To me, that just proves that there’s imperfection in the revival. It doesn’t mean I can go from seeing the bad to generalizing that everything is bad and the revival is fake.
Revival proponents who think that everything is just perfect and that there have been no mistakes or imperfections in this revival are clearly imbalanced in their evaluation. If they see only the good and refuse to acknowledge that there’s been bad, then their opinions aren’t that credible. But in the same way, critics of the revival who only point out the bad and don’t deal with the good aren’t being balanced in their evaluation either. And there’s a lot of both kinds of opinions around.
I’m not afraid to admit there’s been a lot of questionable stuff in the revival and that’s why I’ve provided links to extremely critical articles. But here I want to respond to those who point out the bad, but dismiss the healings completely. Jack Deere mentions in his book, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, of a lady in his non-charismatic congregation who suffered from depression and had a lot of struggles in her life. She spent years in Christian counseling without much improvement. But when Dr. John White, a charismatic, ministered in his church on the topic of healing, she was instantly set free after some time of prayer and deliverance. Whenever I think of this testimony, I wonder to myself how many more people are like this person who struggled emotionally and who needed healing but didn’t get it for so many years because their church or pastor didn’t believe in such charismatic practices?
By all means, point out the false prophecies. Point out the non-healings. But if that makes us criticize everything and demonize everything charismatic or of the revival, then we’re just going the extreme opposite direction. It’s easy to criticize people when something wrong clearly happened. But how about criticizing those when something good should have happened but didn’t because the people were closed to God’s Spirit? Unlike the situation whereby a bad clearly happened and everyone recognized it (e.g. in a false prophecy), an equally bad situation whereby God’s Spirit didn’t move because we were resistant to Him is different. In the latter situation, it’s not so clear that we erred in our lack of openness to God’s Spirit. But we clearly did.
How about all the people in the same state as that lady above? I’m sure God desires to heal many others emotionally and physically, but because of the pride that leads many non-charismatics to be closed to learning from certain good charismatic practices, how many people continue to be in bondage and how many people remain unhealed? And of course, no one criticizes pastors and leaders who are responsible for not bringing their congregation into the fullness of what God wants for them. But in reality, there should be criticism there.
There have been many people healed in the revival. To reject it as demonic just because of some errors is wrong. If Todd Bentley is to be criticized for his false proclamation of that healing (and I think he should be), then those people who throw everything out because of some errors ought to be criticized for the people not going to the revival and not receiving their healing because they are influenced by the extreme negative criticisms. In the same way that Jack Deere ought to be criticized (and he has already confessed his wrongs) for his long time rejection of the Spirit’s power in healing which probably resulted in many people in his former congregation not receiving healing and freedom, non-charismatics and those against the revival ought to be criticized if their words have indirectly caused some Christians not to be more open to God’s power and thus miss their chance to receive their healing.
My point isn’t that everyone who goes to Florida or who is open to the revival or who goes to a charismatic church will automatically be healed. Nor am I suggesting that everyone should go to Florida or accept this revival as good or accept everything in the charismatic movement. Rather, my point is that we should be honest enough and realize that many people have been healed at Florida and in charismatic churches. And could it be possible that these people probably wouldn’t have received their healing if they hadn’t gone to Florida or if they hadn’t gone to a charismatic church which taught on healing and the power of God to heal – just as that lady in Jack Deere’s church probably wouldn’t have received her healing if the leadership in the church had not invited the charismatic Dr. John White to minister there on healing. Therefore, let us not just criticize the bad. We should do that. We should deal with the bad. But we should also realize that if we prevent good from happening to people, that’s a bad too. That ought to be criticized too.
I think I’ll stop here for this post. In the past few weeks, even more blog posts have been written on the revival than when I started this series. And a lot of negative ones too. I want to accept the good and praise God for the wonderful healings as a result of this revival. And eventhough I’m generally more positive towards the revival, I’ve also read a lot of negative stuff that have concerned me a bit. Not to the extent that I’ll reject this revival as demonic. But as I’ve said here, I think there are concerns that need to be brought out into the open, and not ignored. I’ll touch on more of them in my next post in this series.