warring over the Spirit
We need deeper discernment around
Did you hear the one about the religious leader banned from entering the United Kingdom last August? No, contrary to what you might expect,
the person is not a Muslim radical but controversial Canadian Pentecostal revivalist Todd Bentley. Bentley became
famous and notorious in 2008 when tens of thousands of
Christians flocked to the Florida Outpouring, a revival he
was leading in Lakeland.
The meetings started in April and by mid-June millions
were watching nightly on God TV. As I wrote at the time,
Bentley was scorned for his wild antics in worship by some
Pentecostal and charismatic leaders but was endorsed by
most. Tragically the Outpouring came to a crashing halt
when it was revealed his marriage was falling apart and he
was in an extramarital relationship. He withdrew from public life, remarried and went through a period of restoration.
As of 2010 Bentley was back in ministry, travelling the
world – but not the United Kingdom. The British home
secretary refused him a visa, claiming the government
stops entry to those “who might seek to undermine our
society.” Bentley blamed the ban on religious discrimination, and his followers expressed outrage. Even though
some of his tactics are disturbing, the idea he could or
would undermine British society is laughable.
The whole saga is indicative of the diametrically opposed reactions to many elements in the Pentecostal and
charismatic worlds. It is yes or no, true or false, divine
or demonic, good or evil. No hesitation or qualification
or ambiguity. The famous Toronto renewal of 1994 is a
blessing or a curse. Benny Hinn is either phenomenal or
a fraud. Tongues are for everyone or no one. Healings
happen all the time or never.
While nuance is sometimes a curse, the Spirit wars
deserve a bit of a cooling off and deeper discernment on
opposing sides. To that end let me offer ten principles for
engaging the controversial issues, leaders and movements
as we move into this new year.
“Test the spirits,” as the Apostle John urges in 1 John
4:1. Critics are right to test in all areas. Pro-charismatics
need to stop being so defensive about the necessary prob-ing of healing claims, wild revelations and strange manifestations that are part of contemporary revivalism.
Have courage. It takes a strong will and bold heart to
stand against falsehoods and lies dominant in our own
theological or denominational camps. Careless proph-
ecies circulate widely among some charismatics, while a
careless reading of motives often make the rounds among