Over the past few months, tens of thousands of Christians have made a pilgrimage of sorts to Lakeland, Florida, in order to personally take part in a spectacle promoted as a ‘revival.’
What they found was Todd Bentley, a Canadian preacher whose website states he travels throughout the world, “sparking revival fires and equipping the body in power evangelism and healing ministry.”
Had they applied Biblical discernment, they instead would have been very concerned about Bentley’s claims, teachings, practices and associates.
Among other things, Bentley allegedly talks with angels, receives gold- or diamond dust from God, and claims he has raised people from the death. These types of claims are typical among those who have supported previous ‘revivals’ (which turned out not to bring revival at all), such as the so-called Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Outpouring.
Like-thinking ‘Christians’ meanwhile have “commissioned” Bentley as an “Evangelist.”
This occured after some leaders reportedly expressed private concerns — to C. Peter Wagner, who we tend to see as a leading Game Master is what looks to us like a giant role-playing game (complete with people claiming to be ‘apostles,’ ‘prophets,’ ‘Generals in God’s Army,’ and so on).
In an article available online, Todd Bentley — talking about visions and angels — describes a meeting he led that, in his own words, “became pandemonium”. Interesting. Pandæmonium is the Capital of Hell in Paradise Lost, an epic poem by John Milton. The word essentially means, “demons everywhere.”
Must have been a Freudian slip.
Meanwhile, Baptist Press carries an article about a family with an autistic son. At the urging of friends, they attended one of Bentley’s meetings. As a result, the father shares some concerns:
Faith & Healing: Where is the evidence?
Call us stubborn, but my wife and I are unimpressed with doctors who see our son’s condition as hopeless. We believe that God still heals and that His means of healing include conventional medicine, alternative medicine, prayer, fasting, love and, yes, miracles. In any case, we haven’t given up on our son’s recovery (we still remember the day when he was developmentally on track). So if God wanted to use Todd Bentley, we were open to it.
At 7, Keith Miller started things off. After prompting the audience to perform ritualistic acts of worship (stand up, raise your hands, say after me …), he passed the baton to a young woman singer and her backup band. The sound system was terrible — sounds were loud and distorted. The music was repetitive in the extreme. In almost two hours of this “music ministry,” only a handful of songs were sung, and many of them seemed to consist of only one or two phrases.
Finally, around 9 p.m. Bentley began to speak. He devoted much of his message to the visions he has received and the miracles he claims have happened in his ministry. Then, almost as an afterthought, he spent a few minutes preaching from the Bible (John 5). In fact, he admitted that he was having us open the Bible simply so that it couldn’t be said that he didn’t preach from the Bible. So much for reverencing the Scriptures.
Nowhere in Bentley’s message did I see an emphasis on the love and compassion of God — that healing is an expression of God’s goodness and care for humanity. Rather, the emphasis throughout was on power — the power to heal and be healed.
Bentley told stories of remarkable healings. In fact, he claims that in his ministry 30 people have now been raised from the dead. Are these stories credible? A common pattern in his accounts of healing was an absence of specificity. Bentley claims that one man, unembalmed, had been dead for 48 hours and was in a coffin. When the family gathered around at a funeral home, the man knocked from inside the coffin to be let out.
But what are the specifics? Who was this man? What’s his name? Where’s the death certificate? And why not parade the man at Bentley’s meetings? If I am ever raised from the dead through anyone’s ministry, you can be sure I’ll put in a guest appearance. Bentley claims that he is having a team investigate healings performed under his ministry and will soon go public with the evidence. I look forward to seeing it.
After preaching, Bentley took the offering. During the offering he asked “How much anointing do you want to receive?” Thus he linked the blessing we should receive with the amount of money we gave.
After the offering, Bentley said a general prayer for mass healing. People who thought they were healed then came forward. But I saw no obvious or dramatic evidence of healing. After the general prayer for mass healing, Bentley indicated that he would pray for the severest cases.
At this point, a friend who was with us urged that she and my wife take our son with autism down for prayer (I stayed with our other son and daughter). Over an hour later my son with autism was still not able to get to the main floor for prayer. Ushers twice prevented that from happening. They noted that he was not in a wheelchair. Wheelchair cases clearly had priority — presumably they provided better opportunities for the cameras, which filmed everything. They also invoked the fire marshals, who, they claimed, prohibited too many people on the floor of the arena. But earlier in the service, during the worship time, they had packed the floor with people singing and whooping it up.
After midnight we were told that it would be an hour and a half before our son could get prayer. At that point, we got up and left.
William A. Dembski is research professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Next, ABC’s Nightline takes a look at Bentley. But first, here are some outtakes showing one of several controversial aspects of his ‘ministry’ style — violence:
Last week, ABC Nightline included a segment about Todd Bentley.
Thousands Flock to Revival in Search of Miracles
[…] When asked to present evidence of the healings, Bentley promised to give “Nightline” the names and medical records of three followers who would talk openly about his miracles. He never delivered. Instead, his staff gave “Nightline” a binder filled with what he says are inspiring miracles, but with scant hard evidence. It offered incomplete contact information, a few pages of incomplete medical records, and the doctors’ names were crossed out.
When pressed further, Bentley provided the name of a woman in California who had a large tumor in her uterus that shrank after she saw Bentley.
Her husband, however, told “Nightline” that it could be a coincidence because she was still undergoing medical treatment. He said she was too tired to talk to us at the time but added that she was regaining her strength day by day.
The husband did provide some of his wife’s medical records from a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, where she went for cancer treatment after being turned away by American hospitals. They, however, insisted on obscuring the clinic’s name and the names of the doctors.
Not a single claim of Bentley’s healing powers could be independently verified.
Bentley, however, remains positive.
“I believe God is real and he’s showing himself to his people,” he said. “Yes, I believe the prayer of faith will save the sick.”
After the story aired, Fresh Fire Ministries announced that Todd Bentley was taking time off “to refresh and to rest.”