[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs on, Dec. 21, 2009]
Evangelist Todd Bentley--when not allegedly getting visions on his tanning bed ("I'm used to the frozen tundras of Canada") or musing on Twitter that he would have liked to have been a samurai warrior were he not an evangelist (I see John Belushi in samurai garb with Don Pardo announcing: "Samurai Evangelist!" :) )--is back on the job.
I'll be writing about the introductory remarks during his "Secret Place" webinar of Dec. 15th, but that evening he was very excited about promoting his meeting from last Friday, Decmber 18 at the Morningstar HQ church in North Carolina. He was preaching for the first time in 18 months. "Can you believe it, a revival service," Bentley said. "If you're hungry, get on a plane...we're gonna have a visitation!"
If you are curious, read on...
He went on to mention on Dec. 15th that he had already celebrated Christmas in Disney World with the children from his first marriage. He plans to mark the actual holiday with "Jessa and our two puppies". (As a dog lover, I recall that he mentioned leaving his "dog" at home in Canada. Does this mean that he not only walked out on his wife and kids he walked out on a Canadian dog too? If my memory is correct...you have to wonder if there is such as thing as a "trophy dog" because he may have one now...)
A few hours before the filming of his latest webinar, Oral Roberts, the famed evangelist, died, which led to some interesting remarks by Mr. Bentley. Todd noted that in the 1940s and 1950s, Roberts was an avid faith-healing evangelist. (This is correct as this emphasis permeates Roberts' first autobiography.)
Roberts was associated in Bentley's mind with the Voice Of Healing movement of faith healers, primarily in the USA. (However, church historian David Edwin Harrell Jr., in his fine book All Things Are Possible--a history of the healing and charsimatic movements in the U.S--notes that although Roberts emphasized healing, he was not eager to link himself up with others in the formal Voice of Healing movement. Harrell suspects this was because Roberts did not want to be dragged down by the reputations of other evangelists.)
(I'll be citing Harrell's book as I go on...)
Todd Bentley continues his remarks, by recounting how the very earliest public notices of Roberts in the 1950s was as a faith healer, with massive tent meetings and preaching on radio and television. "At the same time church, it [his death] brought me to the point where I asked myself the question 'Where are the great Oral Roberts of today? Where are the great Jack Coes? A.A. Allen? Where arer the John G. Lakes? Or the great Aimee Semple McPherson? The Kathryn Kuhlmans?'" Bentley said, "There are some great healing ministries, but are there ministries that had the great influence these men and women had?"
"But there's a new generation that's emerging," Bentley adds, with a sly smile on his face. "But it's time for us to rise up, 'cause you know, when I heard about his passing, I said "God there's a great mantle...There's a vaccuum , right now, I believe, in America. And people are waiting for men and women to demonstrate the power of God, for one to step forward and say, 'God, I'll take up the call.'"
"I think about how controversial it must have been for Alexander Dowie...The controversy that's around every healing ministry. I can't think of a healing ministry that hasn't had controversy around them. I said 'God, why is that?' But who's gonna take up the cause..."
Bentley has a lot of friends who practice healing prayer, "But who's really devoted to the healing revival? How many healing revivalists, healing evangelists do we really have?"
"With the passing of Oral Roberts, it makes me remember all the more, we've got be hungry to go before the throne of God and say 'I will take up the mantle, I will take up the healing anointing, I want to be one of the many--I [Bentley himself] don't want to be just one," he said.
Lakeland, he added, was great, "...but I'm not done. I'm 34 years old, I'm not done. I'm getting healed, I'm getting restored, I'm getting stronger, I'm getting better, I'm relaying a foundation...I'm hungry for the kind of anointing that rested on Oral Roberts in 1947....when I heard about the passing of Oral Roberts, I said that I was going to be more committed in my own life and ministry to be sure that...I'm more focused so that more people are healed, body soul and spirit."
Let's stop for a moment to break this down.
Christians are not great at remembering the full history of their heroes. You remember that Alexander Dowie was supposed to be a great healer, but not that he ended his life thinking that he was the re-incarnation of Elijah. You recall Allen's efforts to heal, but not that he had to stop trying to resurrect the dead when the U.S. Postal Service complained that corpses were piling up in the nearest post office to his headquarters--or that he drank himself to death. But Bentley is painting a word picture here of great healers of the past...and guess who you are supposed to think might be next?
Indeed, there is a "vaccuum" and Bentley hopes to be one "of many" to fill it.
Harrell's book notes that the Voice of Healing movement did some good work, but he also notes the failures and mistakes too. But hindsight and memory are always rosy. And if you can appeal to baby boomers who want another Voice of Healing...Todd Bentley welcomes their support.
He recalls how "controversial" past healers were, and suggests that any healing efforts will always be controversial. If you did not pay close attention to the errors at Lakeland, the idea is planted in your head that Bentley was merely "controversial" like all these heroes of the past, not mistaken, not sinful, not false, not possibly heretical. Merely "controversial".
How unfortunate, Bentley wishes you to think, that there aren't more people who specialize in kneeing cancer victims in the stomach.
A historical note. Which Oral Roberts does Todd Bentley wish to replace?
Harrell's book goes on to note that as the 1950s went on Oral Roberts experienced financial pressures in his ministry. For whatever reason, he began to moderate his views. He still healed, but had other emphases as well. He left the Pentecostal Holiness Church and eventually was closest to being a Methodist, meeting evanglical Christian leaders such as Billy Graham. In a 1967 meeting with evangelical Christians, Roberts would admit that while he had the best of intentions, he made serious mistakes due to excess zeal while pursuing faith healing. (Robert's seeming moderation in some matters, my friend Bene Diction might note, allowed his new thrust towards "seed faith" and the prosperity gospel--two dangerous ideas--to get more acceptance by appearing moderate and reasonable.)
There are two Roberts perhaps--but Bentley is only interested in the avid faith healing one, not the Roberts who, for good or bad, had rethought his earlier thinking.
It's interesting that Bentley--who railed against the friends wanting to "build something" like a permament revival facility in Lakeland, wants to take up the mantle of Roberts who felt called to build a large university.
"I gave my life to this [pursuing the healing anointing] and I really did. And it cost me everything. Of course, I amde some mistakes along the way, but I said 'God it's worth it', the anointing is worth everything..."
Oh really? As early as seven or eight years ago, I heard second-hand reports that Bentley was bragging that he was a millionaire. He told a newspaper in Abbotsford B.C. that he had tried to acquire the local Trade and Exhibition Centre from the city, which is amongst the biggest and most expensive buildings in the city. Lakeland earned over $8 million Canadian, according to Canada's tax authorities. We can safely say that Bentley was never poor, until he walked away from his first wife and his first ministry.
He wants a new wife, he gets one. He demands minsitry on his own terms and Joyner gives it to him. He might even have new and improved "trophy dogs". Giving up everything? I doubt it.
Bentley adds, after reflecting on what he had done with his old ministry, "What's it gonna be like it five years? In ten years? That's up to me..."
With the passing of Oral Roberts, he added, there is an "opportunity to grab ahold of something. When Elijah passed, Elijah was able to pick up the double portion....There's another passing, a passing of the guard."
Todd Bentley has already noted that he wanted to follow in Oral Robert's footsteps, but if he is the only one to do so, can Bentley really be wanting to suggest that he wants a "double prortion" of Roberts' alleged anointing?
If we remember that Roberts taught some aberrant , if not heretical things, Bentley implying that he wouldn't mind a "double portion" of this is a bit scary.
Shortly after Bently's remarks, he began to introduce the topic of "The Secret Place"--intimacy with God. An Internet signal failure on his end then probably lost him most of his audience. The webinar, now up at his website, is based mostly on an old vision/sermon/booklet of his--The Father's House, one of the first he ever put out circa 1999 or 2000. It's kind of hard to critique a vision--you can't really say "you never saw that" if there aren't any overt things therein that are false according to the Bible.
But I can note that in his offhand remarks at the beginning that Bentley rewrites history--his own, Roberts, and the church's to make his points. He might also be flirting with a bit of pride in regards to how he hopes to emulate Roberts too.
If we remember that dishonesty and pride were two of the things that let what happened in Lakeland hurt the church as a whole, this means that even when Bentley speaks off the cuff, as he did, he can still be up to mischief.