Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is the Todd Bentley Healing & Revival Circus With Real (Bad) Angels and Tattooed Man breaking up?

I haven't done a post on the Todd Bentley supposed "revival" that's been going on in Lakeland, Florida for the last few months, but intended eventually to put up some links to other discussions of the phenomenon. Andrew Strom and Scott Johnson and a few blogs I check in on from time to time have been keeping tabs on this "outpouring" of anything but the Holy Spirit.

Now I get an email from a friend quoting J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, on his apparently rather sudden disillusionment with that "revival," brought about by the breakup of Bentley's marriage. It's a touchingly even painfully honest assessment of the charismatic mentality that sucks believers in the spiritual gifts into outrageously false spectacles like the Todd Bentley show:

. . . this week, a few days after the Canadian preacher announced the end of his visits to Lakeland, he told his staff that his marriage is ending. . . .

Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?

To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible.

From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer.

But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: "This is God. Don’t question.” . . .

Why didn’t anyone in Lakeland denounce the favorable comments Bentley made about William Branham?

This one baffles me. Branham embraced horrible deception near the end of his ministry, before he died in 1965. He claimed that he was the reincarnation of Elijah—and his strange doctrines are still embraced by a cultlike following today. When Bentley announced to the world that the same angel that ushered in the 1950s healing revival had come to Lakeland, the entire audience should have run for the exits. . . .

Why didn’t anyone correct this error from the pulpit? Godly leaders are supposed to protect the sheep from heresy, not spoon feed deception to them. Only God knows how far this poison traveled from Lakeland to take root elsewhere. May God forgive us for allowing His Word to be so flippantly contaminated.

A prominent Pentecostal evangelist called me this week after Bentley’s news hit the fan. He said to me: “I’m now convinced that a large segment of the charismatic church will follow the anti-Christ when he shows up because they have no discernment.” Ouch. Hopefully we’ll learn our lesson this time and apply the necessary caution when an imposter shows up.

This is a great start, certainly for his own spiritual health, and we can hope the same for some of his readers as well, but I'm sure he hasn't yet appreciated the half of it, the tenth of it, when it comes to the problems with the charismatic movement. So much of it is riddled with out-and-out demonic manifestations and corrupted discernment that he hasn't yet seen, all we can do is pray that God will continue to open his eyes, but hope for the movement itself has pretty flimsy supports. Grady still thinks it's just a matter of Bentley being "corrected" by loving Christian leaders (some of whom themselves are rightly under suspicion by the discerning), but all the signs are that Bentley is not even remotely Christian to begin with.

Even while appreciating any honest self-appraisal from this camp, knowing how hard-won it has to be, one might nevertheless want to say "I told you so" or "It's about time" or "Too little too late" as Andrew Strom did in his blog a couple weeks ago:

It may be too late, because a great deal of damage has been done by this false revival already, and the fact that Bentley's own camp may be dispersing will probably not stop its galloping career across the world.

It did cross my mind that perhaps the breakup of the Lakeland dog and pony show could be thanks to Scott Johnson and friend who went there not too long ago and spent much of their time praying against the evil in it.

More to come on this subject I'm sure.

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