Thursday, July 16, 2009

I guess that if you die and go to heaven, that's a healing of sorts....

{Crossposted at The Shotgun, May 9, 2009]

Canadian preacher Todd Bentley will rue the day that he learns that a reporter at the U.S. magazine World has a long memory.

Mr. Bentley, whose claims to take part in spectacular healings were a feature of his revival in Lakeland, Florida last year, will no doubt be dismayed to hear that that two of the people that he claimed at the time to have helped have since died of the grave illnesses that were "healed" at his meetings.

The faith-healing evangelist has had problems with documenting his healings for many years now. When I first wrote on Mr. Bentley for the Report magazine(s) back in 2001, I asked for some proof that he had been able to help heal people through his prayers. All that Fresh Fire Ministries was able to send me were a couple of vague notes. One was from a doctor that noted that his patient "felt better", but nothing indicating that there was anything that would be visible to a third party.

Last year at Lakeland, there were indications that Mr. Bentley was stretching things a bit. Robert Ricciardelli, another charismatic minister, urged Bentley to stop saying that people were being raised from the dead, when they were unable to substantiate any of them. (He repeated his concern on a Seattle christian radio program as the revival was continuing.)

Mr. Bentley's inclination to run with accounts that would help hype the revival once blew up in his face. One enterprising YouTube user, suspecting that Mr. Bentley would say anything from the pulpit to hype his revival without checking out the truth of his statements first, decided to conduct an amusing test that Mr. Bentley fell for, being reeled in like a fish. It’s still on YouTube in two parts. Part one is here. Part two is here. 

Those who watched the ABC News program Nightline on July 9 of last year will recall reporter Jeffrey Kofman trying to pin down Mr. Bentley on the amount of people that he had helped to heal. The exchange starts at 3:33 of the video portion saved here where Mr. Kofman asked for proof that would be conclusive for a third party that the revival had healed someone. Mr. Bentley talked about "thousands" of healings while Mr. Kofman observed "We just want three." ABC News, however, was disappointed, as their staff was unable to substantiate any of the accounts of healing that Mr. Bentley provided.

Which leads me to the latest story in World, which hits newsstands in the U.S. as I write. (Warning to my readers--I'm told that apparently you can only get the full version of the online story the first time that you access it. Blogger P.J. Miller at Sola Dei Gloria, however, has copied most of the relevant details in a blog post here.)

World reporter Warren Cole Smith wrote a critical story on Mr. Bentley last year and recently decided to follow up on a list of 13 people that Mr. Bentley's ministry provided, at the time, of people who had been healed at Lakeland.

Christopher Fogle, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was suffering from cancer when he was at Lakeland. Mr. Smith adds:

Fogle was No. 12 on the list, along with this note: “Healed through the Outpouring and is back to fishing.”

That was on Aug. 8, 2008. There was just one problem. Two weeks earlier, on July 22, Christopher A. Fogle—according to his obituary in the Keokuk (Iowa) Daily Gate City, “left this life . . . after a courageous battle with cancer.”

Mr. Smith carries on with his adept reporting spadework:

When I called Phyllis Mills, of Trinity, N.C., on April 22 [2009], to hear the testimony of her healing, a polite family member said, “Phyllis passed away a few days ago. In fact, we’re on our way to her funeral now.”

Mills, 66 at the time of her death, had lung cancer and was undergoing aggressive treatments when she was, according to the list, “healed at the revival.” Mills “was taking radiation, but was sent home,” according to notes on Bentley’s list, with “no trace of cancer in her body.”

Mr. Smith writes that some of the people on Mr. Bentley's list that he spoke to do feel better. However, they tend to either have no medical proof of the healing, or their recovery may be due to other reasons than their Lakeland visit.

Praying for someone to be healed, I would say, is one of the kindest things that a Christian would do, so I want to encourage it. Even if it only shows caring and offers emotional comfort to the patient, prayer is worth doing. However, we do need to recognize that prayer for the sick should be done with honesty and integrity, recognizing that sometimes people may not be healed. Christians should exhibit Christlike behaviour and character when trying to be kind to the ill.

Playing fast and loose with the facts is not a sign of integrity. Mr. Bentley needs to be honest, even brutally so, if he hopes to truly help the sick through what he does. If he is not honest, the resulting fruit of Mr. Bentley's ministry will definitely be wormy.