Sunday, July 6, 2008

And the False Teacher of the Year Award Goes to…

Todd Bentley! Yes folks, it’s awfully hard these days to narrow it down to just one heretic when there are so many to choose from in American churchianity. What, with the plethora of apostates in the Word of Faith, seeker-sensitive, emergent church and easy believism proponents abounding, it is increasingly difficult to decide who “takes the cake” for the coveted ‘Informed Evangelist” false prophet award, but Bentley wins it going away.

Bentley brought his traveling freak show to the University of North Texas’ (Denton) Coliseum on Thursday night for “one night only” (praise God for small mercies). A team from The Lost Cause Ministries went out primarily to share the Gospel with those who are deluded by Bentley’s brand of false teaching. This was no easy task. Even though we were two hours early, the die-hard Word of Faith followers could not stop long enough for even a five minute interview because (they said with panicked expressions), “I need to get inside and get a seat. I might miss something!” Their demeanor was very similar to that of hardcore crack cocaine addicts who “joneses” without their quick fix. Fortunately admission was free and we got inside and passed out several hundred Gospel tracts and did some one-to-ones with a few Bentley fans.

Several of our team had to leave for another pre-scheduled venue, but a few of us stayed. Because of fortuitous circumstances, we ended up seated about four rows from the front, on the ground level. We were able to catch some of the service on video tape and audio recorded the entirety of Bentley’s “sermon”. What follows is a review of his message with some observations of things we personally witnessed at this event.

An Overview

Bentley’s message ran a total of 75 minutes. A friend asked me before he spoke, “What do you think he will preach about?” I said, “I think Todd will preach about Todd.” Apparently I was moving in the prophetic because that is exactly what he did. Imagine, and I had never even been to Lakeland before! Apparently the anointing is even more transferable than Bentley thinks!

After an hour and a half of being pummeled by worship leaders whose style resembled something like a cross between a squirrel on methamphetamines and whirling dervishes (intended, no doubt, to “let the anointing come” or simply to induce mass hysteria or brain washing), the local heretics (aka “gatekeepers”) welcomed Bentley to Denton\DFW. Chief heretic presiding was Chuck Pierce, of the Glory of Zion Outreach Center in Denton. GOZ is a self-styled “apostolic” Word of Faith ministry who is huge on receiving extra-Biblical revelation via dreams, prophecies, words of knowledge, etc. Pierce made an innocuous prophecy regarding the global outpouring that Bentley will usher in (now there’s a surprise).

Keith Miller of Stand Firm World Ministries, who has preached in Lakeland on several occasions and is trying to “bring it back” to Texas, was prophesied over by Bentley, at which point his true character was physically manifested when he and his wife lost their spines and turned into jelly on the stage, presumably from the power of the anointing. Texas, be warned. Miller is coming to a city near you with the Lakeland style hysteria. Just add Word of Faithers and stir. Instant revival.

The house keeping attended to, and Miller’s physical spine restored, Bentley began his diatribe (it cannot be called “preaching” or a “sermon” by any definition of the word). As already stated, Bentley pontificated about himself and the experiences at Lakeland. His speaking cadence varied from calm and quiet to hysterical. The crowd responded in kind, at the typical cues. In Bentley’s case, whenever he frantically shakes his head from side to side, this is a sign of the “anointing”. If he blows puffs of air out of his lips, apparently that means something big is REALLY going to happen. The crowd response? Speak in jibberish, laugh maniacally, sob, or scream in unison. This apparently helps grow the “fire” and “keep it going”, judging by the way the “worship” leader conducted herself.

Bentley reviewed the history of his own ministry going back to 1999, when he claims he was transported to Heaven and saw tens of thousands of “healing angels.” He came to understand that he is going to be the agent for the release of at least one hundred “healing revivals” at the same time, across the globe. This special anointing was to be released just prior to the return of Christ. He had the impression that he “has to score the touchdown” (his vision had to do with a Super Bowl-like scenario in a football stadium) and that it’s basically all up to him. Lo and behold, now is the time for the outpouring as evidenced by what is happening at Lakeland. In short, “It’s all about Todd.”

Bentley states that the unique thing about his healing revival is that it will be sustainable and transferable. In other words, anyone can get it. And those who get it are encouraged and expected to take the “fire” back to their own churches where they can have the same kind of revival (circus?) in their own church. Bentley is democratizing healing ministry. Apparently it will no longer be necessary to go back again and again to the specialist healers like Bentley, Benny Hinn and others. Now, if you can shake your head and yell “fire”, “bam” or “pow”, you “got it.” Imagine the confusion that will exist in so many churches.

At this point, Bentley made a big show of opening his Bible to John 5. He said something to the effect, “I better have you open your Bibles. I wouldn’t want anyone to say that Bentley came to Texas and never had you open your Bibles” (followed by snide laughter by Bentley AND many in the crowd). We’ll come back to Bentley’s hack-job of exegesis a bit later. It was deeply concerning that a professed preacher of the Gospel would actually mock anyone who would expect him to open his Bible.

This attitude is not surprising considering the fact that in a crowd of 10,000 our team saw less than ten Bibles in the arena. There were probably more than that, but it would be generous to say that 10% of the attendees had a Bible with them. One of our team members asked someone in the parking lot why they didn’t have their Bible with them. She said that the last time she came to one of these Word of Faith events that her family had their Bibles stolen. Bentley brags that he does not preach against specific sins, but apparently it wouldn’t hurt his own people if he preached against thievery.

After his deeply flawed exegesis of John 5, Bentley reverted to his chest thumping. He claims to have the names and contact information of 50,000 people healed in Lakeland in 90 days. Of these 50,000, he claims to have received hundreds of verifiable medical reports and is in the process of compiling a book documenting the healings. He further claims that he has a medical doctor on his team and a staff of about 100 who follow-up on the professed miracles one to two weeks later. He claims that this book will be available in “about two weeks” (from July 3rd). He is now on the clock. Watch for his book around July 17th. We will give him the benefit of a doubt and give him until the end of the month, but we are not holding our breath.

Bentley claims that there have been thirty resurrections from the dead since April 3rd because of his revival. He covers his own posterior by saying that if at least five of them are real then God is really doing something. He does the same thing with his “healings”, telling the gullible that sometimes it can take as much as a week or two before they “receive” their healing. He also says that people sometimes “lose their healing”. What? I don’t recall the Lord Jesus giving His followers disclaimers when He healed them. Folks, face it. This stuff is not real. It’s the fruit of lousy theology combined with the power of suggestion to a crowd that is desperate for healing and an experience.

After some more self aggrandizement regarding the coming “media revival” where he will be featured on Nightline and other news shows, he rehearsed the history of the Lakeland revival in particular. He claims that a “healing angel” visited him in his hotel room on April 3rd telling him that the long awaited “healing revival has begun.” He spoke of some “unusual miracles” where scars and burn marks miraculously vanished. A man with a glass eyeball claims to see out of it. A double amputee claims that his legs have begun to grow back to the tune of one inch. Homosexuals have been “healed” of their homosexuality and fifty wheelchair bound people have been healed.

At this point Bentley stated that he does not preach against specific sin. He alluded to Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23 and said, “Sin is sin and only the blood of Jesus can cleanse it.” These few sentences out of 75 minutes of preaching comprise the only content than can be remotely called a presentation of the Gospel. More on this later.

At this point, Bentley conducted a free will offering which was collected for Keith Miller’s ministry. He used it as an invitation to “plant revival seeds” and reap “one hundredfold”. His disclaimer of “you cannot purchase the anointing” seemed disingenuous considering the emphasis made upon personal blessing if one faithfully gave financially to the ministry. Just because Bentley gave that little disclaimer in no way frees him from the responsibility he bears when he led them to believe that their “harvest of miracles” was directly related to their giving. A charlatan is a charlatan even if he’s raising money for another charlatan.

Concerns:

What’s wrong with Bentley and his message should be obvious to anyone with just a modicum of discernment. Since one cannot use the words “discernment” and “Lakeland fan” in the same sentence, I’m going to step out on a limb and explain just a few important points.

1. His ridiculous interpretation of Scripture.

Since Bentley didn’t actually use much Scripture, this is an easy place to start. He went to John 5 and read some of the account regarding the pool of Bethesda. He committed some atrocious eisegesis (he read his interpretation into the text instead of interpreting what the text actually says). He emphasized the fact that the KJV says that an “angel” stirred up the pool and WHOEVER was cured of WHATEVER. He said that the miracles happened there because the angel stirred up the “healing anointing” (pool) and that the anointing was even stronger with Jesus. He said that the word “Bethesda” means “grace of God” and “outpouring”. During a personal conversation he claims he had with the Lord on the plane to DFW, the Lord told him that the swimming pools he saw on the approach to DFW airport were “pools of Bethesda” or “pools of healing” and that this was a promise from God that there would be an outpouring in Denton. Now there’s a surprise since that is what he PLANNED on doing while he was in town.

A couple of issues with what little interpretation he actually did: 1) the story about the “angel” does not appear in many manuscripts of John 5. 2) Even if you allow for the story, most Biblical scholars understand that this story has to do with a tradition that is not endorsed by Scripture, simply reported on. In other words, it would be better to say, “It was said that an angel stirred up the pool.” 3) “Bethesda” is an Aramaic word (not Greek or Hebrew) and any Aramaic place name is very difficult to interpret with exact certainty, even if you specialize in the Aramaic language. 4) The big idea of John 5:1-9 is not the fact that a place of healing was established by an angel, but that the Lord Jesus established His claims to Deity, title to Messiah and the fact that He is Lord of the Sabbath since He performed this miracle on the Sabbath (cf. the context of the rest of chapter 5).

This text is NOT proof that Todd Bentley is an anointed messenger of God. It is proof that Jesus Christ is God. Bentley abuses the text to subtly take the eyes of professing believers off of Christ and onto himself. Bentley is guilty of the “spirit of antichrist” (1 Jn. 4:1-3). He is taking Jesus out of the text and adding himself.

2. His Emphasis on Angelic Visions:

Bentley, in an unprecedented way, credits “healing angels” with the revivals he claims. He claims angelic visits, angelic revelations, etc. Apparently Galatians 1:8 is lost on him. Apparently he is not concerned by others who have been deceived by angelic visions, including the Mormon false prophet, Joseph Smith and the Muslim false prophet, Mohammed. Apparently he does not understand the truth of 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 that messengers of Satan disguise themselves as “angels of light.” The cold, hard fact that his claims do not match Scripture do not concern him since the Word of Faith movement allows for additional revelation besides the Bible.

3. His “Proof” of the Veracity of His Experiences:

Bentley stated flatly that the proof of the reality of his experiences is, “the global outpouring happening at Lakeland”. In other words, the miracles, number of followers, and global spread of this revival is the “proof.” By that line of reasoning, Islam and Mormonism are also blessed of God since they started with angelic messages and are both growing exponentially. Furthermore, miracles have NEVER been considered final proof of the truthfulness of a prophet’s claims. What has been the distinguishing factor has been the Scriptural content of the message and fulfilled prophecies. One single unfulfilled prophecy resulted in the execution of the false prophet in Old Testament days (Deut. 13:1-5).

The real proof of Bentley is completely lacking. He is a false teacher. Considering the fact that there are “lying wonders”, even if Bentley’s healings are real the content of his message reveal him as a fraud (2 Thess. 2:9).

During the “healings” in Denton, there was not one single immediately verifiable healing. All of the healings were for medical issues which could not be observed outwardly with any certainty. Those who came forward said that they “felt better” (in some cases) but it was totally impossible to determine that they had indeed been healed. If they felt a “tingling” or “a burning”, it was equated with the anointing. What would these same folks make of the “burning in the bosom” that the Mormons talk so much about? They would be easily sucked into that cult. Scripture must trump experience every time.

4. His Refusal to Preach the Gospel:

This is an important issue. Some who have used Way of the Master make a big deal about the fact that a partner ministry of Bentley’s called “Citytakers” trains the people who do street evangelism in Lakeland using some (not all) of Ray Comfort’s material. They miss the facts that: 1) Bentley does not “preach against specific sins”, which is contrary to the principle of using the Law in evangelism, 2) their questionnaires and materials do not teach the concept of false conversion, 3) their questionnaires use modern Gospel techniques to “get decisions”, and 4) their material places a heavier than normal emphasis on baptism, similar to Church of Christ false teachings.

Bentley did NOT preach the Gospel in Denton. He only briefly mentioned sin as something he does not preach specifically about. He mentioned Christ’s sacrifice in passing (one sentence) and did not mention repentance or Biblical faith. He did not even mention the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death and did not mention His resurrection in connection with the Gospel. This single issue disqualifies Bentley as a minister of the Gospel. What is the point of assembling 10,000 people to simply talk about your ministry for more than an hour? In spite of all of the lip service to God’s glory, this fact alone reveals that this Lakeland outpouring is strictly about Todd Bentley.

Conclusion:

There is much, much more that can be said about this dangerous heresy arising out of Lakeland. There is much more that we witnessed that was disturbing. What is truly sad is going to an event like this and seeing those in wheel chairs who leave the arena disappointed. They are lied to and told either that their faith is not strong enough or that their healing will come later.

What is even worse, is the fact that these folks are deluded by a man who is spreading a false Gospel. They are experiencing something at these events and think that they now know Christ. They have been inoculated by Satan himself against the true Gospel. They will not hear it because they think they already have it, when all they have is a cheap counterfeit. Eventually, these folks will burn out on the hype and will not be found in any church. Meanwhile, the preachers like Bentley and those who support him will continue to make money off of this lie. They will be faithful to their heresy as long as their bank accounts are full. On the day of judgment they will hear those horrible words from our Lord Himself, “Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity” (Matt. 7:23).

10 comments:

Marcus Pittman said...

This is a great article my friend. Please pray for me as we do the Campground Bible Study after the event.

We leave tuseday.

Marcus

dlytle said...

I'm grateful for your insight and boldness in speaking the truth about this. Can hardly wait to see Todd raise someone from the dead who has been cremated or even one who has been dead so long that he stinketh. What total money making, blasphemous heresy!

Streetpreacher said...

Wonderful article!!!

Paul Henry said...

Outstanding description! It's really helpful to the body of Christ to see such clear detail of what is going on there! Thanks bro! We're expecting soon to try to take a small team over to Lakeland to hand out "Placebo" and "True Repentance" tracts! I plan to post an adventure on AiC when we're getting ready to go, so everyone can be praying. I'm NotThisHome on AiC.

Kurt Michaelson said...

Excellent!!! Thank you for posting a very informative message about the lunacy that occurs with Todd Bentley.

This is yet another excellent post that has been shared with the blogosphere community that is sound biblical doctrine, to support speaking against Todd Bentley and this falsehood of ministry.

Jon@TheWay said...

Good job on this article. Keep on doing the good work of "fulfilling your ministry" in preaching the Gospel!

Jon Sharp
"Living in The Way"

Watchman on the Wall said...

Great post, thanks for loving sheep enough to warn them! Please visit for more info on Todd Bentley: http://viewfromthewall.blogspot.com/

Gene said...

So many heretics; so little time. A dark, oppressive, spine-chilling feeling exudes from these wolves whenever I just get a glimpse of them on the tube. I can't imagine (praise God for the discernment) sharing a stage and a handshake with these workers of darkness. Thank you for the front line info., Jon.

Gene Keeth
Masters Key Ministries

Inndesign said...

Exceptional report! There is also a great deal of background, details, and historical information here: http://www.eternalpath.com/lakeland.html

Jon Speed said...

inndesign,

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing it here.

Jon