Saturday, January 04, 2014

Brush fire

I'm going to comment on the Michael Brown/Benny Hinn imbroglio. I'll start with a personal anecdote. Years ago I was talking to a Messianic Jewess. She said the reason so many Messianic Jews were ordained in the Four Square denomination is that, back then, Messianic Judaism was still so exotic that most Protestant denominations didn't know what to do with a Jewish convert to Christianity. Four Square was one of the few denominations that would ordain them.
I don't know how representative that is, but it may explain how someone of Brown's vintage got into charismatic circles to begin with.  
Thanks, friends, for sharing your thoughts and concerns re: my appearing on the Benny Hinn show. While I’m quite aware that some of you feel he is the ultimate false teacher and charlatan while others believe him to be a wonderful man of God, I have actually not monitored his ministry over the years. When I received the invitation to appear on the show, I felt I was to take it and exalt Jesus the Messiah and expose hyper-grace (and exalt true grace) to millions of viewers. And since Pastor Hinn seems very desirous of further interaction with me, I would encourage those of you who have grave concerns about his ministry to pray that God would use me to be a blessing in his life.”) 
We've traveled in different circles over the years. Simple. And I don't watch Christian TV. 
Several issues here:
i) There's a cart-before-the-horse quality to this rationale. He admits that he was already aware of Hinn's notoriety. If he doesn't have an informed opinion about Hinn, would it not be more prudent for him to investigate Hinn before accepting the invitation? 
ii) He accused the Strange Fire conference of overgeneralizing about the charismatic movement. He countered with an appeal to his extensive personal knowledge of the charismatic movement. If, however, he can't render an informed judgment about Benny Hinn, because they move in different circles, then he's not as qualified to speak for the charismatic movement. He doesn't know how representative Hinn may be. 
iii) It seems odd that he wouldn't have an informed opinion about Hinn. Even if he hasn't taken time to read or listen to Hinn, given that Brown is a well-connected player in the charismatic movement, you'd expect him to have a certain amount of inside information based on back-channel conversations he'd had over the years with so many contacts and informants. Presumably, a man in his position doesn't need to read exposes by critics outside the movement, for he has his own sources. 
iv) Assuming that he belatedly confronted Hinn, is Hinn receptive to constructive criticism? Or is Hinn the kind of guy who will issue throwaway retractions under pressure, then revert to business as usual once the pressure is off? Temporarily recant, then resume his old tricks after the posse leaves town?
Let’s just say that Benny Hinn was as bad as some of you say. Why shouldn’t I reach his audience with gospel truth for five days, even if it means some people will be upset with me?
That's a legitimate consideration. There are tradeoffs.
i) On the upside, this would afford him an opportunity to give Hinn's audience a theological education. Something better than the usual fare they are addicted to. That's a plus.
ii) On the downside, heresy typically consists of half-truths rather than pure falsehoods. Hinn's audience could accept all the good teaching that Brown serves up, but simply add that to Hinn's buffet. If the menu has nutritious food as well as toxic food, it's just as hazardous.
Unless Brown explicitly contrasts his teaching to Hinn's, Hinn's audience will take the bad with the good. They need to be alerted to the poisonous dishes at the buffet. 
Finally, I've read the Pavlovian reaction on the part of critics who were gunning for Brown before this particular controversy erupted. They claim this just goes to show what the Strange Fire conference was saying all along. 
Ironically, that's like opportunistic gun-control fanatics who, every time a sniper shoots somebody, exclaim: "We told you so! That just proves the need ban guns." Of course, those who support the right to bear arms don't think these incidents prove the need to ban guns. That's a reactionary, unstable response rather than a reasoned position. 
Brown's lapse of judgment regarding Benny Hinn no more disproves charismatic theology than Richard Land's lapse of judgment regarding Ergun Caner disproves Baptist theology. Unfortunately, some folks convert from undiscerning charismatics to undiscerning cessationists. They are no wiser after the fact than before the fact. Just a weathercock, blowing in the wind.


  1. I don't get why people are so hot on Brown. Perhaps it's because I'm British so am not really in the milieu, but he's an Arminian with pretty inept responses to Calvinism. He's not necessarily that informed as a spokesman for charismaticism (from the perspective of a non-charismatic, but one who appreciates men like Keener, for example). The only thing he seems useful on is the homosexual issue. But there are others just as qualified or more so on that one. He seems to command a disproportionate audience.

    1. I suspect a lot of this is about power and influence, so it's just as partisan as politics. People are hunting for reasons to confirm [everything they already suspected] about [that guy in the other group] who doesn't agree with [my hero or ideology] on [some issue or set of issues]. On this interpretation, Brown is as effective a partisan as any, and so he commands an appropriately large audience. The people who are followed are not those who take principled positions, even though I wish it were that way. (Just look at how Steve is publicly dismissed, mocked and berated because he isn't a hardline cessationist. It's ironic, too, given how he's one of the few who doesn't play into the much criticized Christian celebrity culture.)

    2. Thomas Keningley,

      People think highly of Michael Brown because of his academic credentials, his work responding to Judaism, the debates he's done, the books he's published, his radio program, his television programs, how well he's represented Christianity in the mainstream media, the work he's done supporting missions, his character, and other reasons aside from his work on homosexuality. I think it's easy to see why many people find him so appealing. He has a lot of significant strengths, even though he's mishandled the situation with Benny Hinn.

    3. Perhaps I'm hasty in my judgement. Perhaps he isn't as inept in other areas as he is in his responses to Calvinism and his responses to the Strange Fire conference. That's just my only experience of him. I'm just tempted to wonder if Jews feel when listening to him speak about Judaism like I feel when he speaks about Calvinism.

    4. TK, I aired similar grievances when I heard Brown was going to debate Waldron. I am not sure why anyone is surprised Brown would rub shoulders with Hinn. I am more surprised people are surprised.

  2. In addition to your point about Hinn's audience taking the good with the bad, it's also problematic to be in fellowship with someone like Hinn. Brown then shares in the wicked works of Hinn and violates the commands to separate from such men. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and 2 John

  3. At this point in the Benny Hinn story, if Brown's intention was that "God would use [him] to be a blessing in [Hinn's] life”, *at most* he should have approached Hinn *privately* and urged him to stop playing games with God -- and the church-- and REPENT OF HIS APOSTASY, full stop.

    Brown's limping "explanation" that he "[hasn't] actually monitored [Hinn's] ministry over the years" and "we've traveled in different circles" and "I don't watch Christian TV" is disingenuous and evasive. There's simply no excuse for Brown being so ill-informed about such a well-known-- and notorious--international figure in the charismatic movement as Benny Hinn and his multiplied heresies. All he had to do to begin to educate himself was spend a half hour perusing reputable Christian discernment sites which turn up reams of alarming material spanning decades regarding Hinn with extensive footnoted references to back it up. If Brown had bestirred himself to perform that simple task, he also would have learned that Hinn's past "recanting" of various errors only to subsequently go right back to doing and saying those same things proves that Hinn is not to be trusted. That should have told Brown all he needed to know to distance himself as far from Benny Hinn's public "ministry" as possible. To appear on the same stage with him should never have even crossed Brown's mind.

    Not only does Brown's cooperation with Hinn give the impression that he condones a lackadaisical attitude toward apostasy, but others under Brown's leadership or influence may themselves be tempted to further compromise or be confused or weakened in *their* testimony because of Brown's actions. Evidently there are some very serious weak areas in either Brown's personality or his theology-- probably both-- that led him to act so foolishly.

  4. Normally guilt-by-association is a fallacy, but in the case, I don't think it is. Hinn is such an obvious deceiver and a nutcase and anyone can see this. That Brown would choose to associate with him reveals Brown to be a charlatan as well. Sorry, I know this sounds harsh, but it is what it is.