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Ministry Discernment

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

> Hello there

I have some friends who like Benny Hinn and his ministries. I hope that you can shed some light on the subject. I have done some research on this character and I believe that what he teaches is in error. The problem is trying to convince this person. He is at least willing to review any info that I might have...the need though is that it must be current.

Here are a few questions and statements maybe you can help me out with (I hope to work out a line of defense so that upon receiving the information they may be seeded...perhaps you can help.)<

I have never really watched Benny Hinn that much. To be honest, I really can't stand to listen to him. Probably the longest I've ever heard him is a minute or two. Maybe it's his tone of voice, his arrogance, his ranting and raving, I'm not sure. I just can't stand to listen to him. His shows just come across as hyper-emotionalist, manipulations. But that is just based on short impressions.

And I haven't read any of his books. But I have read reviews of them. So I cannot comment specifically on Hinn's teachings. But I will try to answer the more general questions you have in regards to ministry discernment.

> 1. The claim: How can Satan cast out Satan?

* He has supposedly performed exorcisms and has cast out demons. Since Satan would not cast himself out it must therefore be God working to cast out demons.<

Two points: The first is your word "supposedly." How do we know demons are actually cast out in meetings like Hinn's? Given the hyper-emotional atmosphere of such meetings, those wiped up emotions can cause people to react in all kinds of ways or see all kinds of things.

Second, consider Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but the ones who do the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; "depart from Me, those working lawlessness!" (LITV).

So someone can cast out demons and not be "known" by Christ. Jesus' statement about Satan not casting out Satan was in response to the Pharisees accusing him of doing His works by demonic powers. It does not apply in other cases. At best, the exorcisms are genuine, they simply prove the preacher is not an agent of Satan. They do not prove he is an especially-anointed teacher of God. For that matter, they do not even prove he is a Christian.

Exorcisms can be genuine but the exorcist not a Christian. It does sound strange but that is what the above quote is saying. God, by His grace, just might work through an ungodly agent. Consider His use of the pagan Cyrus, who God even calls "His anointed" (Isa 45:1).

> 2. The claim: He performs miracles and signs

* Since he has seen performed miracles and actually saw a blind 6 year old (roughly the age) see, this is proof that God is working in this ministry.<

Ditto the above comments about exorcisms. As I relate on my site, I attended a charismatic church for four years. This included attending numerous "healing sessions" including two special "Healing Explosions" at the Civic Arena (where the Pittsburgh Penguins play).

In all that time, I never say anyone healed of anything that could not be explained by placebo effect, whipped-up emotions, and the like. I heard many testimonies of supposed "healings" of serious melodies but never saw any. I was even at a service where such healings were said to occur but I didn't see them.

People have a way of reacting the way they think they're supposed to react or seeing what they want to see. See my two-part article Parallels Between the Charismatic and New Age Movements.

That said, there is also the possibility of fakery, purposeful manipulation, and the like. I guess I am really skeptical in this regard as I know personally several people who are seriously handicapped, of which there would be no doubt they were healed miraculously. They have all been prayed for numerous times in various settings, and they're all still handicapped.

That all said, even if the healings are genuine, again, it proves nothing about the ministry of the preacher. It simply proves God can work regardless of the agent. Remember, Judas healed people, and cast out demons (Mark 6:7-12).

> 3. The claim: Friends wife has been "anointed" and has since changed.

* (I can at testify to this...she has changed).<

Changed lives is one of the most important "fruits" of a ministry. However, a couple of qualifiers can be made.

First, it must be asked if the person was a non-Christian who became a Christian as a result of contact with the ministry. If this is the case, the change would, of course, be due to the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. As for the preacher, all it would show is there is enough of the true Gospel in his message for people to hear the Word and be saved. Accurately presenting the Gospel is important; but it does not verify everything else he teaches.

Similarly, if the person was already a Christian before encountering the ministry, it could just show there was enough truth of what the person needed to hear in the preacher's message to turn the person around around.

But on both points, just because a preacher is "right" in one aspect of his teaching does not prove he is correct in all aspects. A preacher can be, in fact almost always is, correct on some points but wrong on others. The question is, where the percentage lies. A preacher could be correct 10% of the time but wrong 90% of the time. It would just happen (or more correctly through the providence of God) that the person was at his service when the preacher was preaching on this 10%, and that the part the person needed to hear.

The above assumes the "anointing" you're referring to come about through a teaching. If you are referring to a person having been prayed for and having "received" (however that might be defined) then you're talking about an emotional experience that really cannot be evaluated.

Many people have life-changing religious experiences from attending all types of religious services, Christian and non-Christian. Or even experiences outside of religious services that are interpreted as being religious, such as after-death experiences. How to evaluate such experiences and their genuineness is difficult.

But an experience proves nothing. The Bible tells us to text all experiences by the Word of God, not interpret the Word of God based on our experience. Moreover, it will only remain to be seen if a person's changed life remains or if it proves to be short-lived. Intense emotional experiences can often cause changes that don't last.

> 4. My claim: He has taught false teaching and therefore the is not worth listening to.

Rebuttal: everyone makes mistakes, besides his false teachings happened along time ago and he has repented.<

James 3:1: My brothers do not be many teachers, knowing that we will receive greater judgment (LITV).

Teachers of the Word of God are not just "anyone." We are held to higher standards, and rightly so. We must be very careful about what we teach knowing our teachings can influence many people.

Before publicly proclaiming some "word" as being from God a preacher needs to be very sure his teachings are Scriptural. A little, "I'm sorry" after arrogantly declaring God revealed this to me previously just doesn't cut it.

Me? I try not to be arrogant in my teachings. I never claim God is speaking to me. I do not claim any special "anointing." I research out carefully anything and everything before I publicly teach it. And any preacher needs to do the same, especially ones with a large public following in which people cling to his words.

That said, if a preacher has repented of false teachings he has made in the past, great. But what about all the people he mislead previously? Has he made it publicly clear he has disavowed his previous teachings? And how serious were this false teachings he has since retracted?

I'm not perfect. That is true. I have made a few minor mistakes in my writings that readers have pointed out, which I have promptly corrected. But since I began my ministry I have not had to make any major "retractions" of anything I have taught. The reason, again, is I am very careful before going public with a teaching that I am as sure as can be it is accurate. If I am unsure about something I say so. I believe this is the attitude any teacher of the Word of God should have.

> 5. My claim: He made false prophecies, don't listen to him because you cannot trust him.

Rebuttal: he made a mistake, it is in the past, we all make mistakes, we should not judge.<

First off, Matthew 7:1 is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. Hence why I wrote an entire article just one it. See "Judge Not ...."

That said, Christians most definitely ARE to judge the teachings of preachers, and more so if they claim to be "prophets" directly hearing from God:

Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no dawn to them!

Acts 17: 11: And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with all readiness, daily examining the Scriptures if these things are so.

1Thes 5:21: Test all things, hold fast to the good (LITV).

Furthermore, if someone is claiming to be a prophet receiving a word directly from God, prefacing what he says by something like, "Thus says the Lord," then he is to be held to an even a higher standard than a teacher. I don't believe a teacher must be 100% accurate to be considered worthwhile (I doubt any is); but a prophet MUST be.

The standards by which a self-proclaimed prophet are to be judged are first, if he makes any prophecies or says a "sign" will happen then they must occur, 100% of the time (Deut 13:1-3). Secondly, if his teachings, especially those about the nature of God, must be in accordance with Scripture (Deut 18:21,22).

If either his prophecies do not come to past or if his teachings, especially about the nature of God, are wrong then, "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet" (Deut 13:3; LITV).

Can a false prophet "repent" of his prophecies and then be trusted again? The Scriptures give no indication of such. So if a preacher has been making false prophecies then he has shown himself to be a false prophet. It is not just a "mistake" but a glaring indication he is not to be listened to.

> 6. The claim: He preaches Jesus Christ and this is what really matters.<

But is the Jesus Christ being preached the Jesus of the Bible?

In 2Cor 11:3-4, Paul warns:
But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the purity which is due to Christ. For if, indeed, the one coming proclaims another Jesus, whom we have not proclaimed, or if you receive another spirit which you have not received, or another gospel which you never accepted, you might well endure these (LITV).

The only way to know if a preacher is preaching the one true Christ is by what he teaches about the Person and work of Christ. Are his teaching in accordance with Scripture?

> 7. The claim: You must be in tune with the spirit, let it move you.<

Again, which Spirit (or spirit)? See quote above: "if you receive another spirit which you have not received." And what is meant by being "in tune with the Spirit?" Is this referring to an emotional experience. Again, it is by Scripture not emotions that a ministry is to be discerned.

> 8. The claim: Since miracles are in the Bible, Benny Hinn's Miracles must be true because he preaches Jesus.<

See Matt 7:22 quoted above: "and in Your name do many works of power?" The performance of miracles is no guarantee the miracle worker is a Christian, much less his message is true. And again, are these supposed miracles genuine?

> 9. My claim: If Hinn can heal why is he not in a hospital healing people?

Rebuttal: Why doesn't Billy Graham preach in the ghetto, or why does God not hold up a bridge that is falling down.<

The "rebuttal" is irrelevant. Where Graham preaches has nothing to do with evaluating if claims of miracles are true. And the "problem of evil" is another topic entirely.

The fact remains, most miracles by self-proclaimed miracle workers occur in very controlled settings. Ones they determine beforehand as to place, time, atmosphere, etc. Jesus healed whoever he came in contact with, in various places, at various times, whether he was "prepared" to heal someone or not.

Would one of today's self-proclaimed miracle workers heal a blind man on the side of the road crying out to him? Would he heal a man with a withered hand thrust in front of him without warning? Would someone be healed if they managed to push through a crowd and simply touched him? Jesus performed all these kinds of miracles.

> 10. The claim: Word of Faith Movement is not that bad. If someone claims a Cadillac so what?<

Paul teaches in 1Tim 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world, and it is plain that neither can we carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be satisfied with these. But those having purposed to be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts, which plunge men into destruction and loss. For the love of money is a root of all evils, by means of which some having lusted after it were seduced from the faith, and they themselves pierced through by many pains. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness (LITV).

A Christian's focus is not to be on attaining riches but more important things. And a preacher's job is to help focus Christians in this more godly direction. To preach the attainment of riches is to preach exactly contrary to Scriptural dictates.

> 11. The claim: Kenneth Copeland preaches Jesus (gospel).<

Ditto about 2Cor 11:3-4 above about there being "another Jesus and "another gospel." Are Copeland's "Jesus" and "gospel" the real ones? Only a comparison of his teachings with Scripture can tell.

> * I have heard claims that Hinn has been caught lying, etc. with regards to his ministry. Character is certainly important...is this true?<

Yes, character is definitely important, especially in a preacher. If a preacher has been caught publicly lying is that is a serious problem.

Paul lists the qualifications for a minister in 1Tim 3:1-7:
Faithful is the Word: If anyone reaches out to overseership, he desires a good work. Then it behooves the overseer to be blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, well-ordered, hospitable, apt at teaching; not a drinker, not a contentious one, not greedy of ill gain, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not loving money; ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all respect. But if anyone does not know to rule his own house, how will he care for a church of God? He should not be a novice, lest being puffed up he may fall into the Devil's judgment. But he must also have a good witness from those outside, that he not fall into reproach and into a snare of the Devil (LITV).

Note the last sentence about having "a good witness from those outside." A preacher caught publicly lying would ruin his reputation before the world.

> Do you have any relevant or pertinent info that may help?<

I hope the above helps. To summarize, supposed miracles, healings, exorcisms, or emotional experiences do not prove a ministry is genuine. What matters is whether the Word of God is being correctly taught and if lives are being permanently changed.

Moreover, teachers of the Word of God, and more so, self-proclaimed prophets, are held to a higher standard. False teachings and prophecies cannot be shrugged off as being "just mistakes." Discernment using the Word of God is vital with regards to any ministry someone might be involved with.

> Can you help me out here? Is there a way you think I should approach this? The reason this has all come up is that my friends kind of distrust (question some of) my beliefs (to a certain extent). They think I'm on the verge of "paranoia" because I'm "too cautious" about "miracles," "movement" of the spirit. I, on the other hand, think one should test everything, and be cautious because it is easy to get involved in false teachings. I guess you could say that I aspire to a "classical Christian / orthodox" Christian heritage and do not want to try any new movements....I think the "old movement" preaching the gospel is fine for me.


Yes, you should be cautious about new movements, whatever they are. And most definitely yes, you should "test" all things.

And finally, the following article on Compass Distributor's Web site provides some specific details on Hinn and other TV evangelists: Television Ministries Examined.

Note: "LITV" stands for the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. Copyright 1976 - 1998 By Jay P. Green, Sr. Used by permission of the copyright holder.

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