I saw some more Todd Bentley on God TV last night. (Please don’t yawn if this is boring you, but this is a big issue for me, given impending meetings in Chelmsford. In any case, my wife and children will be back from a half-term holiday tomorrow, and I shall have less chance to watch and blog then.)
Anyway – the point is this. He announced during the meeting (which would have been Wednesday night’s) that he is taking on staff to look into verification of the claims to healing that thousands have made in connection with the ‘Florida Outpouring’. He was clear that he would not claim that every healing was true, and I thought that was a step forward. He said they would pass on medically verified claims to healing to the news networks. It was Bene Diction in a comment on my first post two weeks ago who wrote this:
In April The Province (a BC newspaper) asked for documentation of healings…
“When The Province asked to speak to someone who had been healed
through Bentley in either B.C. or Florida, Fresh Fire was unable to
find someone at short notice, citing difficulties with outdated contact
information locally, and record-keeping problems in Florida.”
So let’s hope this is a move in the right direction, if that doesn’t sound too patronising. It would certainly be better than the past antics of scallywags like Benny Hinn, who was filmed for a British TV documentary on healing evangelists around eight years ago. It took the TV company three months of badgering before his ministry was willing to put them in touch with anyone. They ended up interviewing a family where it turned out that healing had not taken place, and that ‘Pastor Benny’ had told them they needed to give more. I think, if memory serves me right, they gave another $1000 and the healing still didn’t happen.
Bentley did get very excited last night about resurrections from the dead – and frankly, who wouldn’t, if they had happened? (I’m not saying they hadn’t, I’m just retaining my natural caution here.) In one case, someone had been dead eight minutes before coming back to life. I have no problem with such a story, except that I believe such stories also exist outside of claims to miraculous answers to prayer. I’m open to correction, especially from medics, if I’m wrong about that.
Another story came in by phone from Kenya. At first, it was mistakenly claimed to have medical verification from a doctor. It turned out that a doctor had prayed over the phone, and a hundred kilometres away, someone had been raised from the dead. That one awaits verification, I would have thought – much as I hope it is true.
Certainly, Bentley said a lot about resurrection last night. I felt that in his teaching, he let his excitement get the better of him. Emphasising that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that if we have Jesus we therefore have life, he got within a whisker of saying that dying without being raised back to life was an act of unfaith. Am I being unfair? Did I mishear or misunderstand? It was the impression I gained, though. And if I’m right, then the tone of the teaching was that everything was ‘kingdom now’, resurrection now, a little bit like the Corinthian Christians whom Paul had to correct for believing that the resurrection had already taken place.
To that I would reiterate what I learned from the likes of John Wimber in the mid-80s, that the kingdom of God is a mixture of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. I hope and pray that we get as much of it in the ‘now’ as God wills, however much that is. But clearly a large part of it is delayed, not least the resurrection of the body, conquering the last enemy death. (This is in contrast to resurrection-resuscitations, like Lazarus and the son of the widow at Nain, who came back to life, only to die again later.)
In that respect, I found something my college principal said when I was training for the ministry. Talking about John Wesley‘s controversial doctrine of Christian perfection, he said that at heart, Wesley had ‘an optimism of grace’. Bentley has a huge optimism of grace, and it may be that people like him are sent to the church and the world to encourage us to be less pessimistic in our belief in God. Yet however optimistic we are about the grace of God, we still need a theology for when the blessings of God’s kingdom are mysteriously deferred.
Finally, I thought I’d end this with a link to something Ben Myers wrote on the Faith And Theology blog yesterday. Talking movingly about his elderly father’s struggles with ill health, he quoted Karl Barth on the subject of illness and healing. Barth is writing about the medical profession, but as I read his words, I was struck with just how much charismatics and Pentecostals with healing ministries would want to say something very similar. The quotes below are from Church Dogmatics III/4, s55:
“Sickness, like death itself, is unnatural and disorderly. It is an
element in the rebellion of chaos against God’s creation. It is an act
and declaration of the devil and demons. To be sure, it is no less
bound to God and dependent on Him than the creature which He created.
Indeed, it is impotent in a double way. For like sin and death, it is
neither good nor is it willed and created by God at all, but is real,
effective, powerful and menacing only in its nullity, as part of that
which God has negated, as part of His kingdom on the left hand.…
realm of death which afflicts man in the form of sickness … is opposed
to His good will as Creator and has existence and power only under His
mighty No. To capitulate before it, to allow it to take its course, can
never be obedience but only disobedience towards God. In harmony with
the will of God, what humans ought to will in face of this whole realm
on the left hand, and therefore in face of sickness, can only be final
resistance.… Those who take up this struggle obediently are already
healthy in the fact that they do so, and theirs is no empty desire when
they will to maintain or regain their health” (pp. 366-69).
“When one person is ill, the whole of society is really ill in all its
members. In the battle against sickness the final human word cannot be
isolation but only fellowship” (p. 363).
The full post is here.