Sunday, June 29, 2008

Todd Bentley - A response (1)

In my 100th post I posed some questions regarding Todd Bentley, and today I will try to begin answering them.

I don't know where this will take me, but it should be interesting.

So to begin, lets look at the issue of substance. Now its all very well performing miracles, healing people and making people fall over in the spirit on stage. But if their core root beliefs are not rooted in the truth of Jesus and the Bible and there is no backbone to what they are doing, and they are merely doing miracles and healings for the sake of doing them, well that to me is a faith without substance, a message without substance, a ministry without substance.

I mean exactly what else happens apart from healing and prayer ministry? Everything else seems to fit around it. Its like that is the centre of what they are doing and everything else isn't as important.

Its very dangerous to submit yourselves to prayer ministry by anyone not knowing what they believe or what they are preaching.

Being a Christian, and being a church, is about being community together and healing is only one dimension to this. Good teaching and getting spiritual direction to help you follow Jesus in the world is more important, to me and I think to God, than how many people get healed of whatever sicknesses or conditions. Surely its more important to know the right way to live and get good direction and teaching on that, so you can put it into practice, than to be healed. God cares about both, but learning to live like Jesus is of more long-term value to us as people.

So when people come along doing things like this we need to ask the question of what they believe, and where their faith comes from.

If someones faith in Jesus is dependent on Him healing people to 'prove' He loves us and His power is real, then in my opinion that's not true faith. Faith is believing in something we cannot see or prove 100%, and if someone is medically healed, that is a very obvious and outward demonstration of God's power.

Jesus attitude to all of this? Even Jesus got tired eventually of how He kept having to perform miracles for people, not because He didn't want to heal people, but because of what it said about the faith and character of the people who asked for a healing.

In John 4 v 48 Jesus says something very telling which is very relevant to this. A man has come to Him to ask Him to heal his child. Jesus does go on to heal him, but His first response speaks volumes. This is Jesus initial response when asked the heal the child. The first thing He says.

"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe.""

Wow. What a response.

Try and imagine His tone of voice here as well. I think its almost an air of resignation. People needing to see miracles to believe and Jesus knows this, and He wishes it were otherwise.

This is precisely the danger here. Do people going to this and the leaders involved need miracles to support and justify their faith in Jesus?

One of the big dangers with this too is that people end up thinking that Jesus is 'only' in this place, that Todd Bentley is the only man who is bringing the power and spirit of Jesus down for healing, that everyone needs to go to these meetings to meet with Jesus.

This of course leads to people beginning to idolise the leaders of these meetings, like Todd Bentley.

The other big danger is that people will start to go to these meetings expecting to get their needs met, almost demanding it. They will start to think that if they aren't healed then God is being unfair, unjust, or doesn't love them as much. They will become consumer Christians, taking what they can get and beginning to demand more of God to prove He is there and that He loves them.

They could slowly and surely start to consume Jesus, demand to get what they want and have their prayers answered, and think God doesn't love them if He doesn't.

When its over, they can become disillusioned and lose their faith because God isn't doing such spectacular miracles and they've come to expect them. They could fall away from the church, which would make the healing totally counter-productive. But that has more to do with the attitude of those going and the character of the leaders than the power of God to heal.

It becomes a show, and the leaders become celebrities and in all the tide of emotion and popularity there is a big temptation for them to start to think its all about them and forget about God - if it is the power of God they are using.

These are all big issues and very real dangers of meetings like this.

In the verse above in John 4 Jesus gives his response. He is saying that the signs and wonders are not the most important thing.

That there is more to faith than miracles, signs and wonders.

There is more than a spectacular show.

He's totally spot on.

Christianity isn't just about miracles of the Spirit. Its about how you live.

I wonder, would he say the something like that to these people if He got up on stage?

Christianity is about living a life like Jesus.

Having the same values as Jesus.

Being Jesus wherever we are and whatever we do or say. Jesus isn't just in these meetings, He's always with us.

He's with us wherever we are. He can heal us wherever we are.

He is all around us.

Faith in Jesus is not about all the signs and wonders, its about staying true to what we believe even when all seems against us. Signs and wonders are encouraging, but they don't develop character and a strong faith which sustains through the good and bad times.

Jesus can choose whether to heal us or not, and its His choice. Either way, He still loves us.

I believe in Jesus whether He's healing me or not, whether I feel good or bad, whether things are happy or painful. In fact the painful times are often the times that I've actually felt I've grown and developed and got closer to God. Not when God's been obviously present and doing powerful stuff in a congregation, but when life is difficult and I have to trust God more because I need Him more and He might feel more distant.

Faith is so much more than deeds. Being a Christian is so much more than God doing miracles.

We need to remember that.

I have still to make my conclusions on Todd Bentley and there are more issues to tackle in a future blog before I do so. But so far, I can only say I am concerned about what is happening - not because it may not be God necessarily, but because there doesn't appear to be much substance behind it, and because it may be leading people to put their faith in something which is only an outward sign, rather than on something far stronger - the real God at the centre of it.

There is more to discuss, and I am looking forward to doing so.