Monday, March 07, 2005

Dateline and Benny Hinn Expose

I caught the last 15 minutes of a Dateline expose on Benny Hinn last nite and I have to say that it left me with a rotten feeling. I'm no Benny Hinn fan, but I do believe that he is authentic as are many of the Pentecostal Preachers out there. The thrust of the criticisms seemed to be about his excessive lifestyle: "Lay-over" stops at Rome and London with lavish splurges on dinner, presidential suites, tips, etc. usually made on the way to and from crusades.

There apparently was a story about a boy who was featured on stage at one crusade as healed but they must have followed up and found it not to be the case. Big deal. In a hidden camera interview, they brought this up with Benny Hinn who told them that he only says what his staff tells him. In turn, his staff gets information from the people as they wait in line to get up on stage to testify. There's no way on earth that you can fact check there and then. However, i do know that many, many of these faith healing ministries have verifiable miracles that have lasted for decades. No one focuses on these because there is no sexy evil criminal preacher twist to them. The focus tends to be on those that didn't get healed or claimed to be but weren't.

Anyway, the cause for my consternation was that this descent into surfeit and sinful excess is curse that plagues these preachers. It kills me that after all these years it hasn't sunken into their skulls that you have to be careful with money and power, they corrupt. For instance, why on God's green earth does Benny Hinn have to pay himself between $500,000 and $1 million a year? There is absolutely no reason. Now, for those outside of this movement, it is clear that this crowd is simply misguided, perhaps, frauds. But for someone who came out of this movement, I think I know better than to say that about them. I have seen too much to doubt, so it rips me that they are so careless about their negative potrayal of the Christian gospel.

This "fall" from humilty is not new. It happened to earlier generations of pentecostal type preachers, I think of Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimiee Semple (?) among others. At least, with Oral Roberts, the man built a darn university and tried to find a cure for cancer. Okay, I'm going to take that back because I refuse to acknowledge anything positive about Fallwell and Robertson who have universities.

I left the Pentecostal movement because, among other things, these verses from 1 Timothy 6:6-11

6: But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8: And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9: But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

It is the curse of being human. We need to seek money to be the Christians we would like to be. Yet, it is horridly destructive to seek that which we need, to be what we have to be. I guess it all falls into my over arching Qoholeth view of life, "vanities of vanities, all is vanity." Like Socrates once said, "Whatever you do, you'll regret it."

14: I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
15: That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.


Blogger Kevin said...

I agree. I'm sure that Benny Hinn's ministry isn't simply a method of making a lot of money.

But my biggest beef with some of these healing ministries is the terrible theology. It often blames people for not receiving healing ("You lack faith!", as if Paul lacked the faith required to remove the thorn from his flesh. But God's answer to anyone is a good one: "My grace is sufficient for thee."

Grace to you and peace,


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Blogger Ono said...

The "thorn in flesh" was a big problem back in the day in the prosperity crowd. That, coupled with the fact that in Galatians, Paul said that they would have given an "eye" if he'd asked, suggesting he may have had eye problems if that phrase was not a metaphor.

Either way, it was always tough to read prosperity and the gospel of perpetual healing and health into Paul and we'd always struggle with that.

What I do credit them with is this. Oral Roberts was the "first" one in the 40s, 50s, 60s, to go around the country preaching that "God is a good God." And at the time, that was revolutionary. It shocked people to know that God actually meant well for them and God was not opposed to them doing well. But then, this thing got out of hand.

Up close, the "theology" was much more subtle, because even Kenneth Hagin, father of the prosperity, faith talk movement, had cases in his family were people died of illness, so there was a clear awareness that no one was in a position to make grandiose claims about anyone's faith based on the person's health and prosperity. On the other hand, not everyone got that memo and the fact was that, as with the puritans, health and prosperity were and are still used to as a guage of God's favor on you.

The Pentecostal movement has hit its century mark and like the early Church, it is slowly coming around to the fact that it is not all Spirit and miracles, there is a need for some serious theology.

This generation has to pass and come to grips with the Rapture not happening and other stuff.

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