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Todd Bentley Obedient to the Lord?

Dave Warnock links to this disturbing video of Todd Bentley. He discusses it further in his post Reflecting on cancer healing – Todd Bentley style. Peter Kirk writes on a related topic at Gentle Wisdom.

Before I comment further, let me simply say that both of these are men whom I have to respect. I appreciate their ministries as best as I can follow them on the internet. Nothing here is intended to get personal.

Frankly, the video is gut-wrenching in more ways than one. My 17 year old son died after a five year battle with cancer. At a revival meeting a pastor told him that God had told him (the pastor) that anyone on whom he laid hands and prayed for healing would be healed of cancer. James was 12 years old at the time. He wasn’t healed. That pastor said something false in the name of the Lord.

Now I didn’t decide that everything that happened at those revival meetings was not of God based on that one incident. Yet at the same time, it illustrates a problem of extremely active revival meetings. What exactly guides or limits what one says or does? People who label themselves “Spirit led” often look down on the people who are totally focused on the written Word as dry and powerless. Yet one would hope that there would be some limit, some control on what was said and done.

My question here is just what standard would limit what Todd Bentley could say God had told him to do? My personal standard would be this: “Kicking someone in the stomach is bad. God isn’t telling me to do that.” I apply an ethical standard to my behavior. If I think God is telling me to do something that is wrong, I’m going to let my behavior be guided ethically.

Update (7/4/08): Peter Kirk has objected to the term kicking, and Dave Warnock adjusted the wording. I noticed the knee thing, but didn’t regard it as significant. Perhaps that makes me worse than others who didn’t notice it. I would say precisely the same thing about kneeing him in in the gut as about kicking him. Further, I have viewed this video, in which Todd Bentley talks about kicking people. Unfortunately I don’t have the clip without someone else’s commentary.

Now I admit that I don’t know the full context of this action. I’m not going to proclaim myself an expert based on a YouTube video. Nonetheless I am having a hard time imagining the context that would make me think this was ethically right. If someone could suggest something that went before and after that would make it look good, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

The only thing I can imagine would be a complete healing of the man in question, but even then I’m likely to apply something I say very frequently: God knows how to answer prayers better than we know how to pray them. In other words, even if the man was healed, I would be inclined to believe that God was showing him grace and mercy (perhaps because he was kicked in God’s name?), rather than that he was confirming a kick as the proper action.

At the same time, the question I run into is one that Dave Warnock has to deal with, as do some of my friends over in the Lakeland area of Florida. How do you respond?

Here is where I remain convinced that the wheat and the tares is the better option. If you become a blanket critic of anything, you will be very limited in your ability to respond to those who are involved or considering involvement.

The problem at the center of this is hurting people, people who are looking for something. In fact, I believe what sends many people off the rails is that overwhelming determination that something has got to happen, that somehow there must be a physical demonstration of God’s power. If it isn’t happening in the normal course of events, let’s force it.

Now it’s not bad to try to get life into our Christian lives. At the same time, once you get desperate, the controls are off, and it becomes very hard to discern good from bad. You think, “Maybe a kick in the stomach wouldn’t be so bad if it would just bring healing.” If you’re at that point, beware.

As I’ve said before, while I try not to do blanket approvals or condemnations–I often don’t do a blanket approval of myself; never, in fact!–particular things can be labeled properly. Prosperity teaching-bad. Kicking in the stomach-bad. I’m pretty certain of those two!

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  1. That was a well done parsing of the issue. I hope people on both sides of the issue read what you had to say here.

    I certainly think that the kick is abhorrent. I also think it’s easy to identify it as such because it’s so stark and it’s visual. I would hope however that all who are justifiably outraged at what they see in Todd Bentley not forget that sometimes deeper harm can be done to people without a physical kick and that our churches and the people in it are sometimes guilty of these “assaults” too even if they aren’t so dramatic and visible.

    1. I agree with your point about the “deeper harm that can be done without a physical kick.

      To draw from my own experience again, when my son was in the final month of chemotherapy, had lost his hair, looked gaunt and seriously ill, he went to visit his brother who was a baseball player. His brother took him to a neighborhood Methodist church.

      Now James was very sensitive about his bald head and always wore a baseball cap. I would think that when you looked at a youngster who was clearly not in good health, you might guess why he was wearing the cap. But the pastor of the church came to them in the pew and told James that he should remove his cap because “he’d remove it for the national anthem at a ball game, so he should remove it in church.”

      That qualifies as extremely hurtful, in my view, and doesn’t involve any physical harm. It did not, as it turned out, cause problems for us as did the pastor who told him he was certain to be healed, because James simply regarded the guy as rude.

      Both pastors, incidentally, were United Methodist pastors in good standing–not some offshoot branch of the church of never-never land.

      1. Henry,
        I was just browsing to find a place to comment and upon reading your comment……..my heart is greived at the actions of that Methodist Pastor. It’s law and order without grace and love. Sometimes rules just CAN’T apply. This example reminds me of Jesus healing on the Sabboth, and the time Jesus allowed Himself and the disciples to eat from another land owners crops. It seems as though a law or rule is being broken, but it also seems that the law/rule cannot apply in some situations. There must be an understanding of both law and love on the spectrum, and wisdom to apply what is needed in specific situations to be a witness most accurately representing the heart of God. I saw your boy’s cap as a covering for him in his battle. I’m sure he must have felt naked and exposed, and the cap was a physical covering for him, God of course being the true spiritual covering for him. This is good. Some things must be set appart, santified as Holy. This would be one of them in my knowing of the spirit of God. God bless you and your family in your pain and suffering, may he cover you always under his wing. Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

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