Hunting Benny Hinn

A commenter under this post writes,

Here’s a suggestion, why don’t Fred, Dan, and others refute the best proponents of the opposing position? Like Grudem and Fee (among others), for instance, and stop gunning for the Hinns of the world?

HinnThat’s a common question we cessationist, “MacArthurite” types receive a lot, especially in recent months as the Strange Fire conference approaches in October.

The objection to our view is that John MacArthur and other like-minded cessationists – which I guess would include Dan Phillips and myself – hunt the easy targets. Like shotgun blasting baby ducks in a pond.

Everyone agrees folks like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, and the entire wretched hive of scum and villainy paraded before our eyes on TBN are fakers and charlatans. However, they don’t represent the best of the continuationists. We need to consider the sound arguments made by continuationist/charismatics like DA Carson, John Piper, Craig Keener, and Wayne Grudem.

My commenter seems to think no one from our “camp” has offered any meaningful critique. Though if one were to do a simple search you could find a number of articles.

For example.

Wayne Grudem: HERE, HERE, and HERE

DA Carson: HERE and HERE

Gordon Fee: HERE

Those who identify with Grudem-Carson-Piper-Keener consider themselves to be “open, but cautious.”  I honestly never understood that description. Either spiritual gifts as described in the NT documents function among Christians in today’s church or they don’t. It’s that simple.

The very description, “open” implies you believe spiritual gifts function in today’s church just like in the NT, but the addition of “cautious” means you are not so sure. In fact, if you think about it, the two terms cancel each other out. To say you are “cautious” puts you in the same camp as me, the spirit-quenching MacArthurite cessationist.  The term “cautious” means you’re skeptical about the so-called healing or whatever supernatural manifestation may have taken place, at least until you can evaluate the authenticity of such a claim. Indeed, if you are are skeptical, by Steve Hays’s standards, you’re thinking like Richard Dawkins and other new atheists.

Certainly it doesn’t mean an “open, but cautious” person is “open” to, or even “cautious” about, Benny Hinn whipping alleged deaf people with his suit coat. He’s automatically discounted at the outset of this discussion per my commenter’s comment.

So. Are the “open, but cautious” then saying they are cautious about those claims of healing coming from among the proponents of the “open, but cautious”? If that is the case, then what exactly is the criteria that makes a claim of healing genuine? Or perhaps I should ask, what is lacking in the testimony about the claim of healing that would make an “open, but cautious” proponent cautious of the claim?

If the claim is dubious, and the “open, but cautious” person is skeptically cautious of the claim, then why doesn’t that dubious claim place that person making it along side Benny Hinn? Additionally, what if a like-minded “open, but cautious” friend believes the claim is genuine, but you are still cautious? How would we determine which person is right? One could say Scripture is the final arbiter in those cases, but each person can equally appeal to Scripture.

That subjectivity would be especially true in regards to alleged prophetic announcements. At least according to Grudem’s paradigm, a prophecy can be fallible. If we have “conflicting” prophecies that aren’t unbiblical or odd, do we just sort of wait around to see which one is confirmed and then declare fallibility or infallibility?

For instance, I have a friend who once attended an “open, but cautious” church. A time during the service was provided that allowed for people to “give a word from the Lord.” One person stood up and explained how God wanted to announce thus and so concerning His work in this church.

A little bit later, an entirely different person stood up and announced thus and so concerning God’s work in this church, but that prophet’s announcement contradicted the first “prophet.”  Neither “prophecy” was necessarily unbiblical. So who is right?

Now perhaps one will say that the others in the congregation with the gift of prophecy are to make that determination per 1 Corinthians 14 :31,32, but what if there is a division between them? Are we to conclude the infallibility of a prophecy is determined by majority rule?

Contrary to what many readers may believe about us MacArthurite cessationists, we do not deny the supernatural work of the Spirit.  All that we are insisting is that the exercise of spiritual gifts be according to what we find in the biblical record.

Checking the biblical record, I see no case of tongues being nonsensical gibberish done either in public or private. It was a genuine human language that operated according to the normal rules of linguistic grammar that the person speaking that language had never learned.

The reality is that 100 percent of the “tongues” practiced among Christians in churches or in private, even among the “open, but cautious” is fake. Perhaps I am being over the top to say 100 percent. Maybe 98.92 percent; but I have yet to come across that fraction of a percent.

When people were healed, it was an undeniable, extraordinary work of the Spirit healing an individual (Acts 4:16). Something the “Amazing” Randi could not deny. Think Iraqi war veterans getting their limbs back completely whole or the late Christopher Reeves having his spinal cord injury reversed.

When we MacArthurite cessationists ask for evidence of such occurrences, it is not because we deny God can heal. It is that the track record for such testimonies has been consistently tarnished with the exaggerations of eager enthusiasts or outright fabricated all together by flim-flam artists. The reality is that none of those kind of miracles are happening, because if they were, everyone would certainly know about it, including the most militant critics of Christianity.

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20 thoughts on “Hunting Benny Hinn

  1. “All that we are insisting is that the exercise of spiritual gifts be according to what we find in the biblical record.”

    A reasonable insistence.

    Take for example a “miraculous” healing. In Scripture there were eyewitnesses to healings. Eg., the healing of lepers. We should be able to have eyewitnesses to healings such as this in today’s age, yes?

  2. / * Checking the biblical record, I see no case of tongues being non-nonsensical gibberish done either in public or private. * /

    Actually, there IS a biblical record of tongues being nonsensical done in public or private. In fact, those were precisely what Paul wrote AGAINST to the Corinthians when he described the true gift.

  3. I’ll check out your links, so I’ll reserve judgment on the arguments from Scripture.

    However, thus far, the main objection seems to be “We don’t see spiritual gifts today like we see in the Bible”. You may not have seen any, but we cannot determine the truth via your experience.

    I’m looking forward to reading your side’s response to the “open, but cautious” proponents.

    Thanks

  4. Yes. The main objection is just that: We don’t see spiritual gifts today like we have recorded in Scripture, and I am fairly confident of my objection being true because of that very fact.

    BTW, I take it you are open, but cautious? Considering what I wrote here in this post, how do YOU define the idea of “open, but cautious”?

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  6. The historical record gives us many examples of people in the ancient world who were ignorant of or denied contemporary Biblical miracles (e.g., Sennacherib Prism, Matthew 28:13-15, Acts 8:34-35). Why should we think James Randi would acknowledge modern miracles if he knew of them? Do he and likeminded skeptics acknowledge the historical evidence for Biblical miracles, modern evidence for God’s existence and power in nature, etc.? Why think they’d be much more reasonable about other miracles? Stephen Braude writes:

    “Nevertheless, with his usual bluster, [James] Randi accepted a $10,000 challenge (a considerable sum in those days) to duplicate the Serios phenomena and make good on his claim. Of course, confidence is easy to feign, and Randi does it routinely in his role as magician. He also cleverly takes advantage of the occasional high-profile case he successfully exposes as fraudulent, by publicizing those successes and creating the impression that he’s a generally reliable guide when it comes to the paranormal. So Randi’s dismissal of the Serios case was all it took for those already disposed to believe that Serios was a fake, and it was probably enough even for those sympathetic to parapsychology but unaware of Randi’s dishonesty….What the TV audience never learned was that when the show was over and Randi was pressed to make good on his wager, he simply weaseled out of it. To keep that side of the story under wraps, Randi prohibited publication of his correspondence on the matter. That was undoubtedly a shrewd move, because the letters show clearly how Randi backed down from his empty challenge. However, Randi’s original letters now reside in the library at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and researchers, finally, can easily confirm this for themselves. When Serios’s principal investigator, Jule Eisenbud, died, I was assigned the task of going through his papers. I collected all the material relevant to the Serios case and deposited it in the Special Collections section of the UMBC library. (This includes correspondence, the original photos and film, and signed affidavits from witnesses.)…But there’s no documentary evidence of Randi having even attempted to duplicate the Serios phenomena under anything like the conditions in which Serios succeeded, much less evidence of his having actually pulled it off….In fact, the history of parapsychology chronicles some remarkable examples of dishonest testimony and other reprehensible behavior on the part of skeptics….Skepticism is just as glib and dishonest now as it was in 1882 when the British SPR was founded. In fact, despite sensible and careful dismantling of the traditional skeptical objections, the same tired arguments surface again and again. And those arguments all too easily mislead those who haven’t yet heard the other side of the story or examined the evidence for themselves.” (The Gold Leaf Lady [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2007], pp. 22, 34, 126)

    Also, see the critique of Randi here.

    When somebody like Craig Keener cites before-and-after x-rays, eyewitness testimony, and such for modern miracles, it isn’t much of a response to point out that people like James Randi haven’t acknowledged the miracles.

  7. The historical record gives us many examples of people in the ancient world who were ignorant of or denied contemporary Biblical miracles (e.g., Sennacherib Prism, Matthew 28:13-15, Acts 8:34-35). Why should we think James Randi would acknowledge modern miracles if he knew of them? Do he and likeminded skeptics acknowledge the historical evidence for Biblical miracles, modern evidence for God’s existence and power in nature, etc.? Why think they’d be much more reasonable about other miracles? Stephen Braude writes:

    “Nevertheless, with his usual bluster, [James] Randi accepted a $10,000 challenge (a considerable sum in those days) to duplicate the Serios phenomena and make good on his claim. Of course, confidence is easy to feign, and Randi does it routinely in his role as magician. He also cleverly takes advantage of the occasional high-profile case he successfully exposes as fraudulent, by publicizing those successes and creating the impression that he’s a generally reliable guide when it comes to the paranormal. So Randi’s dismissal of the Serios case was all it took for those already disposed to believe that Serios was a fake, and it was probably enough even for those sympathetic to parapsychology but unaware of Randi’s dishonesty….What the TV audience never learned was that when the show was over and Randi was pressed to make good on his wager, he simply weaseled out of it. To keep that side of the story under wraps, Randi prohibited publication of his correspondence on the matter. That was undoubtedly a shrewd move, because the letters show clearly how Randi backed down from his empty challenge. However, Randi’s original letters now reside in the library at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and researchers, finally, can easily confirm this for themselves. When Serios’s principal investigator, Jule Eisenbud, died, I was assigned the task of going through his papers. I collected all the material relevant to the Serios case and deposited it in the Special Collections section of the UMBC library. (This includes correspondence, the original photos and film, and signed affidavits from witnesses.)…But there’s no documentary evidence of Randi having even attempted to duplicate the Serios phenomena under anything like the conditions in which Serios succeeded, much less evidence of his having actually pulled it off….In fact, the history of parapsychology chronicles some remarkable examples of dishonest testimony and other reprehensible behavior on the part of skeptics….Skepticism is just as glib and dishonest now as it was in 1882 when the British SPR was founded. In fact, despite sensible and careful dismantling of the traditional skeptical objections, the same tired arguments surface again and again. And those arguments all too easily mislead those who haven’t yet heard the other side of the story or examined the evidence for themselves.” (The Gold Leaf Lady [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2007], pp. 22, 34, 126)

    When somebody like Craig Keener cites before-and-after x-rays, eyewitness testimony, and such for modern miracles, it isn’t much of a response to point out that people like James Randi can deny that the miracles occurred.

  8. I would say that since Scripture never declares anywhere that the spiritual gifts have ceased, and in fact Paul himself commands “do not hinder to speak in tongues, etc”, that I cannot assert the opposite because I myself have never experienced it. Whom am I to oppose the apostle Paul?

    I have to submit to Scripture, not my experience per se. And frankly, the arguments for cessationism require Scripture stretching to be tenable, in other words, their weak.

    So, to answer your question, I define “open, but cautious” as realizing I cannot limit what God can do because of a tendentious theological argument against the continuation of spiritual gifts, and that I should also be cautious when asserting such a gift, or the exercise of such a gift, is from God.

  9. I’ve been putting off reading Farnell’s article for a long time…thanks for reminding me again.
    Do you see ranges among those who are “open but cautious?” More like “Almost Closed, very skeptical but don’t see the NT closes the Spiritual Gifts”?

  10. Do you believe in the trinity? Scripture never mentions it.

    You are not submitting to scripture with your comment above. At best, you are simply saying, “I do not understand the scripture concerning spiritual gifts.”

    I wish people would read the post. The cessationist argument is not that “miracles have ceased.”

  11. That’s a silly counter example. The trinity is pervasive in Scripture.

    I’m not saying I don’t understand what the Scriptures teach about spiritual gifts, I’m saying that because I do understand them I don’t make dogmatic claims about their having ceased.

  12. Jack – your reply is silly. Purposes of the gifts is pervasive in scripture.

    I assume you don’t consider that to be a very definitive argument, do you? Neither do I.

    I get what you are saying. But I don’t believe the argument Fred makes is “tendentious.” I think Fred makes an exegetical argument and our experience confirms the interpretation and all other phenomena can be explained through an understanding of how God works, has worked and has promised to work.

    I don’t think there is any scripture stretching going on here. I think there is scripture digging. That is, Fred digs deeper into the meaning that a cursory English reading would offer. I find that commendable.

    And again, to use my silly example, I think the same type of effort is required to come to believe in the Trinity from scripture and I think many false assertions about God can be made by ignoring the depth of scripture, its harmony and the need to understand the writers’ intents.

    So keep digging and reading different blogs and commentaries. Lord bless you.

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  14. Exactly! Cessationism isan inference. Believing that all gifts are still available changes nothing if we interpret them by the examples in Scripture. I once taught a class in which we identified each one in the life of Christ, the Apostles and the early Church. It’s actually quite easy to debunk everything in the Charismatic/Pentecostalis movements butthat doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not the gifts are active today.

  15. Mike,

    I haven’t seen an exegetical argument yet, all I’ve read thus far is “Well, I haven’t experienced it, so…..it must not be true.”

    You are welcome to show me how this “deeper digging” has produced a biblical case against spiritual gifts today. I’ve read quite a lot, but maybe you have the article or commentary that dismantles the opposition?

    Let me know….thanks

  16. John writes,
    I haven’t seen an exegetical argument yet, all I’ve read thus far is “Well, I haven’t experienced it, so…..it must not be true.”

    You seriously need an exegetical argument to determine whether or not there are faith healers restoring the limbs of amputees? So far my experience (and pretty much the experience of everyone around the world) is that no such person exists.

    Continuing,
    You are welcome to show me how this “deeper digging” has produced a biblical case against spiritual gifts today. I’ve read quite a lot, but maybe you have the article or commentary that dismantles the opposition?

    I haven’t been making a case against spiritual gifts. No one here has. What is in question is whether or not sign and wonder miracles of the quality and level of intensity as recorded in Scripture performed by the hands of apostolic men are still functioning today and are a necessary part to the NT Church. I say they fulfilled their role and ended when the apostles ended for good, sound exegetical reasoning. And my experience affirms that conclusion.

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  18. What a joy it is to read your writing Fred Butler! Not only do you express rock soild truth based on our one sure foundation, your colorful personality shines through as well! So enjoyable! Thank you brother. To the pure all things are pure…..but to those who are defiled and sinning,,,not so!

  19. Pingback: Articles on Cessationism, Continuationism, and Spiritual Gifts | hipandthigh

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