Sunday, June 22, 2008

Faith Healing and the Lakeland 'Revival'

Be Ye Warned Christian Dogma Ahead!

Some things get me fired up. I try not to judge others for their deeds or actions, you almost always find out that they were not the bad guy; you were the bad guy for judging them in the first place. But some things are beyond reproach. What gets me fired up right now is the message reaching so many from the Christian ‘revival’ led by Todd Bentley in Lakeland, Florida.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in faith healing. The denomination that I joined after my conversion to Christianity, The Christian and Missionary Alliance has as one of its main tenants that God can heal people today just as He did in Biblical times. And while rare, it does happen. I’ve seen it. Not the type that seems to be constantly in the center ring of the sideshow that has become the Lakeland revivals though. But when people believe that God can do something and they earnestly pray for it to happen, sometimes it will happen.

Many Theologians are attacking Mr. Bentley for his message of healing, the MSNBC Field Notes article from May 29, 2008 concerning the Lakeland revival and Bentley’s methodology quotes R. Douglas Geivett, a professor at the conservative, evangelical Talbot School of Theology:

"I don’t think it fits neatly into any branch of Christianity," said Geivett. "Mr. Bentley’s worldview appears to be a mixture of New Age notions, an obsession with the paranormal, and an untutored grasp of Christian theology."

However the Bible is pretty decisive when it comes to healing. James 5:14-15 reads Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayers of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” This verse is in the context of church life and faith so there is no question that it refers to healing through faith.

In no way am I a ‘faith healer’ and when in the Christian and Missionary Alliance I felt uneasy when it came to raising this issue since I saw so many in desperation clinging to the hope of miraculous healing only to die confused and wondering what in the world they did to tick off God- since He decided to not heal them.

My mother died like that. Cancer sucks.

No matter how many people came to her bedside to anoint her with oil, no matter how persistent and heartfelt her or our prayers. She still died a death that would give any sober man nightmares.

But on the other hand there was Maddie.

She is 11 years old. My wife works with her mother as a teacher through The United Way. She has had a brain tumor for years, causing seizures in varying degree and even though benign, last year it grew to such a size that it had to be operated on. It was in a critical area and Maddie was very afraid of the procedure. So we gathered her family together in her living room one Saturday afternoon and prayed. I anointed her with oil. There was no ‘Tadaa!’ from heaven. No spectacle to watch, no flashing lights or music. We just hoped and prayed, putting her on as many prayer chains that I knew of. And a few weeks later when the doctors did a follow up X-ray the tumor had disappeared.

Did we do any special “magic”? No. Did we do anything different than what we did for my mother? No. How do I explain it?

Faith.

It is not fair. It seems so arbitrary. But it is how God works. God says yes, no or wait; no matter how pressing or weighty the issue is on our heart. It is ultimately up to Him who abides in the future as He does in the present and past.

My problem with Bentley and the Lakeland message is not about healing per say, it is the side show emphasis on healing and the claims of resurrection.

Once again I must call it as the late great Peter Boyle would say as Frank Barone in “Everyone Loves Raymond”, HOLY CRAP. In other words, Theological bull dung.

Their “show” and supernatural claims that have no basis in researched fact fuels unrealistic hope in people who have so little hope to begin with. Now the fever pitch of emotion from these supernatural claims in itself might be an impetus for faith to work. But it could and usually does shatter lives. As a minister of any faith it is his or her job to give hope to the hopeless. But such showmanship does just the opposite.

Jesus himself healed people in his ministry on Earth. But as He started to miraculously heal people He would tell those who received the healing to tell no one about it (Matthew 8:4; 9:30, Luke 9:56) why? Jesus knew if word spread about the healings, his message of love and peace would soon fall by the wayside because of the torrent of those who seek supernatural healing. And sure enough as people spread the word that Jesus could heal the sick, the masses came flocking.

Believe what you will about Faith Healing. What will be the result of the Lakeland revival? Jesus wanted people to remember His message of the Love of God to all mankind that had the power to transform people through forgiveness. Forgiveness that started with God forgiving us, so we could forgive ourselves and eventually forgive others. Will people remember the spectacle of Lakeland? Sure they will, for good or ill. But will people come away from this ‘revival’ and be more empowered to love the unlovable? To reach out with compassion physically and financially to those in need worldwide even though we face personal and global economic distress? Or will a few people get rich or have promising careers because of the ‘miracles’ at Lakeland?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16)

We shall see.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

7 comments:

Caron said...

That was an excellent article. Thank you so much!

You may be interested in checking out Justin Peter's web site...

Here is something from "Slice of Laodicea."

*Crosstalk Alert* Wednesday
I recently posted a message from Justin Peters (http://www.justinpeters.org) on the Word of Faith movement and its heretical teachings. This is the movement that has produced so many false teachers, including Todd Bentley and his Lakeland "revival". ...
Slice of Laodicea - http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com

Ian Stone said...

May I put another view for consideration? You are correct miracles or Spiritual, Faith or Energy Healings are still going on as in Biblical times.

Jesus said: you can do all that I do and more; or words to that effect.

During his teaching he gave us the specific ways to do many things however, many are so simple, we seem incapable of recognising and understanding the profound and miraculous power of his words and actions.

Some people have discovered these specific methods and are using them on a daily basis to heal other. These methods are the same as those used by Jesus. Some call these miracles. We have all heard of some miraculous cures and some of us have even witnessed such events.

Yet we doubt because we lack true understanding.

The Question often posed is why isn't everyone healed?

Let me address some reasons. Maybe the person invoking the healing has not done it in the correct specific way.

Maybe the person being healed does not want to be healed at a Spiritual level, even though this is not apparent at a conscious or human level.

There may be some other reason that we are have no logical or conscious understanding.

Why are we so surprised? Haven't our most important breakthroughs come from experiences that when they were happening to us we would have stopped these events if we could.

Also consider, has any conventional medical treatment not worked with some people and doctors try something different, and then something different, this also may not work. Do we criticise? Maybe; do we stop all treatment? We are all so uniquely different.

Very few people have any idea of what the original cause or Spiritual reason is for any event that happens to us or another person.

Jesus understood this and never judged anyone, although he did refer to some as misguided.

Until we have understanding of Jesus, we need to follow his message -
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives;
he who seeks find;
and to him who knocks,
the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7,8

This is part of the secret to all life, understanding and true peace.

With Love
Ian Stone – Founder of HEART Energy Healing System,
Human Energy Assessment Release Treatments
Metaphysical Institute
Metaphysical Institute Blog

cryptidsrus said...

Good post, Pastor Swope...

Mr. Stone:

Good response also.

Pastor Swope said...

Thank you for your comment Mr. Stone,

But I am talking about Faith Healing in the Christian context.

In the Christian tradition it is not done by following a rigid ritual,it is a matter of trusting God by faith. You seem to say if someone isn't healed then someone's at fault. I have found that this can cause guilt which can hamper faith.

Classical Christian tradition would follow that if a person is not healed then God does not want that person to be healed.(Some Christian radicals or Christian cults say it might be sin or lack of faith that prevents healing but it does not stand up to a Systematic Theological investigation.)

It seems cruel but God knows our every possible future as well as our past. Edith Keeler had to die despite Jim Kirk's love for her.

In our bountifully blessed Western Civilization of the 21st Century we sometimes are surprised when God does not do what we want or expect. But in other cultures, especially in the 3rd world people of great faith are not always healed.

It takes greater faith to go on believing when God says "no".

I hope you don't think I am trashing you or anything, but your perspective seems more Pantheistic and Coptic than traditionally Christian. I respect your views but I wanted to clarify mine. Hope I don't sound too preachy. :)

Brian Mundy said...

Man, I've been reading your stuff,I am intrigued by High Strangness and all things Fortean,and it's always great to hear from the more rational people. And your posts have been very interesting ,as well. But I must say when I read that Star Trek reference,I thought this guys to good to be true! haha Keep up the good work (all of it) it's great.

Steve said...

God has always used peculiar people. Just look at the prophets in the Pentateuch. The personality just comes with the ministry.

Look into John G. Lake to gain some insight into healing. He started the "original" Healing Rooms in about 1912 in Spokane, Washington. His insight and teaching on the ways of God are beyond reproach, but he gives tremendous insight into this subject. They had over 100,000 documented healings, of all manner of diseases/ailments.
I am a part of a new generation of people belonging to a Healing Room. Just as a person is taught a little at a time, God is teaching us what we can 'assimilate' (TNG,lol)about healing until we are ready to be 'baptized' into full-on healing. He is giving us words of knowledge and encouragement, & yes, some physical healings; but I know Daddy has us in His hands & I can trust His timing.
BTW, another good teacher on this is Bill Johnson from the Bethel Church in Redding, CA.
Blessings.

Sly said...

I love this story Pastor Swope.

I recall a few wolves in sheep's clothing while growing up. I remember this one faith healer that prayed over one woman, who had one leg shorter than the other.

Her leg miraculously grew the same size as the other right in front of the awe-struck crowd of spectators.

Everyone was so amazed. But even as a child I wondered why this faith healer could not make his own leg grow. He also had one leg shorter than the other and limped badly.

I went home and experimented. I was able to duplicate this trick quite easily and tried to show my mother, but she was sold on this liar and dismissed me.

The sad thing is that my mother emptied most of the money from her purse into his collection basket, to further his ministry.

Later, this man was found out and made the news. The woman whose leg grew, went from town to town with this faith healer, growing her leg over and over.

You'd think her leg would be at least a couple of states long by now, ha ha...

This is sad though, because like you said it raises hope and shatters lives.

It does not shatter my belief in miracles however, I still think God works in his own way and time, when it's meant to be.

I am sorry for your loss and thank you for posting this story.