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Todd Bentley: Violent Healing?

Now I am worried: the excellent Brian Jones has a disturbing YouTube clip of our friend Todd Bentley giving one example after another about how the Holy Spirit led him to perform violent acts upon people in order that they might be healed. He kicks an old lady in the nose with his biker boot; he chokes a man; he drop-kicks a pastor. Watch it yourself if you don't believe me. And watch audience members laughing as if it's a comedy routine.

For me, this goes beyond the weird and unusual methods in Scripture. It's way beyond Jesus using spittle in healing a blind person. It's even beyond God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, because in some of these instances, Bentley brazenly admits that he engages in the particular violent acts. In Abraham's case, it was a test and God restrained him at the end.

Not only that, I have known the odd pastor who would have taken this as justification for their own aggressive behaviour in church. I think I have alluded before to having been one of a group of charismatic church leaders who put pressure on another pastor to resign over his behaviour. In that man's case, it was the unholy triad of money, sex and power. The power came out in violence. Some of it was towards his wife and was witnessed by members of the church youth group. I wouldn't want that guy hearing Bentley.

As I said in a comment on yesterday's Bentley post, I've been trying to believe the best about people and hence I have tried to post in a measured and cautious manner. But I watched this video with an increasingly churning stomach and such a sense of revulsion. It's only two minutes long, but that was more than enough. Yes, God in his grace and mercy may be blessing and healing people in this 'revival', but I just can't square Bentley's unashamed methods here with the Jesus I read about in the Gospels.

And while I'm at the keyboard, let me raise one other question that's been bugging me. It seems minor, compared with what I've just written about, but some of the issues around the falling under the power of the Spirit still bug me, and I don't have any clear answers. My experience in the past of that phenomenon (both personal and witnessing others and hearing their stories) is that if the sense of the Holy Spirit is so powerful, it's difficult to get back on your feet quickly. However, people are getting back upright before very long in Bentley's meetings. I watched some again last night, and noticed how the stage is littered with bodies, but a few minutes later it isn't. Sometimes you see the people up and walking behind him in the camera shot. Peter Kirk also gave his account of just a brief amount of 'carpet time' at Dudley:

Of course it was bound to take a long time to anoint over a thousand
people. How they handled it was to line people up across the front of
the hall facing the stage, with space behind them. Trevor walked across
the line touching each forehead briefly with the cloth; I reckon he was
taking less than two seconds per person. At the touch most people fell
over, and were caught by “catchers” and lay on the floor- but only
briefly. For, as Trevor had warned would happen, after only about five
seconds each person was encouraged by the catcher to stand up
immediately and move away, so that a new line could be ready as soon as
Trevor finished the old one. It was a bit like serving communion at my
church, but faster.

Eventually, just before midnight, I got my place in a line. Despite
this conveyor belt approach, necessary simply because of the numbers,
this was a profound experience. The cloth touched my forehead with a
slight pressure but nothing like enough to push me over. But as it did
I felt the power of the Holy Spirit come on me and nudge me over. This
is not the first time this has happened to me, and sometimes I have
fallen over, although at other times for various reasons I have chosen
to stay on my feet. Last night I let myself fall over, and was caught
gently and laid on the floor. I felt God’s anointing on me, the
anointing which had arrived from Lakeland only that morning. I could
gladly have lain there and soaked in God’s presence. I wasn’t allowed
to, but getting up and going back to my seat didn’t take away the
anointing.

I'm simply puzzled. If anyone has thoughtful explanations, I'd be interested. Please post a comment.

But right now my biggest questions are about the video clip and the unashamed uses of violence in connection with blessing, and the attribution of it to the Holy Spirit. Your thoughts are most welcome.

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on May 26, 2008, in Religion and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Dave, see what I wrote here. C.S. Lewis obviously had no problem with God using this kind of violence. I mentioned elsewhere that God knocked Saul of Tarsus to the ground, probably off a donkey. I don’t know why you have a problem.

    I also note that the video clip you mention has clearly been carefully edited. Who knows what context has been lost?

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  2. Peter,

    Thank you for your comment. I presume in the blog post you link to above you are referring to your comment 14354 in response to Charismaticsceptic’s comment 14082, plus your subsequent exchanges?

    On that basis, I think there is a huge distinction to be drawn between what God may do in judgment or bringing people to repentance and what God does in blessing the needy and weak.

    Further, I don’t exegete the Bible passages the way you do. Acts 9:4 does not say that God knocked Saul down; it happens in response to the blinding light. Maybe I’m splitting hairs there, but it seems to be Saul’s reaction to the glory and holiness of God’s presence. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 are a story of judgment, not blessing, and in any case Luke is ambiguous about the direct causes of their deaths. As for Elijah and Elisha lying on dead children, I see nothing violent in that. It is more like a ‘kiss of life’ position.

    I’m less competent to talk about the passage from Prince Caspian, but again Aslan(//Christ) is dealing with a sceptic here, not healing someone.

    I don’t doubt that God uses severe methods at times, but in healing? I struggle with that suggestion.

    I furthermore struggle with the fact that Bentley in the video clip is telling these stories in such a tone that his listeners laugh, and even if the video had been maliciously edited, I see no way around that basic fact. Even if the Holy Spirit were leading Bentley like this, I see no reason for laughter: fear, more like.

    I appreciate your comments, but I still think something is deeply awry here. Do come back with further comments.

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  3. Dave,

    I think this article “Don’t you believe in miracles” found at: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/pritchard/1445494/ sums up my feelings on the matter. Interestingly I also found this news snippet at http://www.crosswalk.com/news/524980/ The date somewhat surprised me!

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  4. Mary,

    Thanks – nice to hear from you. Those are two quite contrasting links you’ve mentioned, aren’t they? with regard to the second, Bentley has been on the charismatic radar for a few years now, but never so prominently before. When I’ve read about him previously, it’s been along the lines of astonishment about how young he is. He’s 32 now, I believe, and certainly reports on him started to surface around the time when your second link happened, when he was in his mid-20s.

    More importantly, perhaps, is that your two links hold together the tension of what George Eldon Ladd (John Wimber’s mentor) called the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom of God.

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  5. Well, Dave, was Todd talking about what he did when healing, or what he did when convincing sceptics? The video is too edited to be sure. I guess the pastor he drop-kicked was not a complete sceptic, but he may have been a sceptic about healing etc. I also suspect that he was using a little bit of hyperbole about what he actually did. Or maybe the whole thing, seen in context, was clearly a deliberate and obvious self-parody. We really don’t know, but the guy certainly has a sense of humour, which his detractors often don’t have.

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  6. Peter,

    You make fair points in defence of Bentley. A sense of humour would be a distinct advantage, although I wonder why the audience wants to laugh at tales of violence (unless it is perhaps, as you suggest, self-parody). And hyperbole has plenty of biblical precedent.

    As to whether he’s dealing with sceptics or involved in healing, it may be a question of editing, but against all that I would just set this observation. I caught a few minutes of tonight’s broadcast of last night’s first meeting in the new venue. To one person who came onto the platform to give testimony, Bentley said that the Lord had just told him to kick her in the hip. So I’m still struggling to accept this here.

    Every blessing to you.

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  7. bily from germany

    Yo People just watch the Video carefully it is a Fake!

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  8. bily from germany

    Yo People just watch the Video carefully it is a Fake!

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  9. Thanks, Billy, but (a) could you give me some evidence for your assertion; and (b) what do you make of my report in my previous comment on this post that I actually heard Bentley a couple of nights ago say the Lord had told him to kick someone in the hip?

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  10. I’ve looked at various sites even Fresh Fire domain but cannot find any genuine accounts of the dead being raised. This fact alone permits suspician. My Bible instructs me that when our Lord or the Apostles healed it was 1)conclusive-beyond doubt 2)immediate 3)complete 4)God glorifying 5) Man out of the picture.

    Although I sincerely believe in a God of the miraculous the evidence from NT Scripture is that the Apostles were singularly used in the miraculous NOT the ordinary Spirit filled christians.And even Scripture is silent on the majority of the Apostles.
    Surely cities were turned upside down
    by the presence of Jews having personal encounter with the Living promised Messiah and an abandoning of Judaism . Also godless, pagan hedonsitic people suddenly being transformed by Chirst by His Spirit. For me that is the great emphasis of the NT Scripture lives changed and Christians on fire with a passion for glorifying Christ in their lives etc.
    On a minor note the evidence from church history is even more limited. The likes of Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley,Daniel Rowlands would I’m sure have a lot to say on what is occurring now.
    thanks for the opportunity to share.

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  11. Jonathan,

    Welcome, and thank you for your comment. For the first time in about a week, I caught half an hour or so of the broadcast last night (i.e., which would have been of Thursday’s meeting in Lakeland). I noted that Bentley is still talking about gathering medically verified accounts to submit to the news media. I sincerely hope he can offer strong evidence.

    NB: I am not asking for proof, just for strong evidence. God does not always give proofs (although I wouldn’t rule that out); often, God provides enough evidence on which to base our trust in him. There will always be sceptics, even with strong evidence. So far, I haven’t seen evidence of that nature. However, if I do, I will praise God for his mercy.

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