Allegedly, a pastor in Florida has seen God empower his work to such a degree that around 30 people have come back from the dead. This is just the weirdest claim in a “revival” that is filled to the brim with the actions of a curiously Western Holy Spirit. Gold teeth appear in the mouths of some people, others are encouraged to pray to their finance angels to accrue wealth for them and when “the faith of God” enters a room sometimes healings come violently, miracles pop like popcorn.
Reading the views of people around the web and talking to people who have been in Lakeland FL for this “outpouring”, I am highly sceptical of this televangelist. One night in Belfast I ended up fighting with an old friend because they thought it unholy of me to critique a fellow Christian. It seems that discernment is a sin once the television cameras start to roll.
For those of you who are like me, God TV virgins, it seems this guy has a global pull through digital tv. Yet one more reason for me to implement my one legalism if I plant a church: no member can have God TV or EWTN. TV is for fun and children, this kind of madness is not funny.
So to defend myself against inevitable attacks because I dare criticise another Christian I want to cite three things. Firstly, from my reading of the Scriptures, when the Holy Spirit bares her muscles and really starts to let things “pop”, I would expert the preoccupation of those movements to be based around justice issues. If we see the Spirit of God in the Bible, then the Spirit of God would not tell North Americans to go get more wealth for themselves. He would tell them to start giving their wealth away. He would not affirm them in their consumption. He would forewarn them that of the woe that those of us who pile house onto house may face. The Spirit that Bentley pours out simply doesn’t seem to share the concerns of the Spirit as I see it in the words of Isaiah or Hosea or Jesus.
Secondly, in the Creeds we say that we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. That will come at the end of the age when Jesus returns. Why is God resurrecting people before the “man comes around“? It seems to me to be a pretty basic error to think of resurrection as a holy word for resuscitation. Jesus didn’t “come back from the dead”. As NT Wright is fond of saying, resurrection means that Jesus came back from after the afterlife. If these men are being resurrected, as against say, getting a holy kiss (of life), then they have gone on to wherever it is we go and come back again. If this is happening, people, shit is hitting the fan in a way we can’t hope to anticipate and you all better repent and believe. Not just hold off until the tumours show up.
Before you convert though, if this is happening, Bentley and co. better explain biblically why this Resurrection deal is happening now.
Finally and most conclusively, if I am ever raised from the dead you can be damned sure that the guy who does it won’t be able to go anywhere without me by his side to verify his testimony. Plus, my doctors will be with me. And my undertaker. And you guys who were planning to come to my funeral. If I was raised from the dead you can be damned sure I wouldn’t go back to fixing the photocopier and getting Rev. Dr. McCrory his coffee in the morning. I’d be following the miracle man around to testify.
Where are the resurrected witnesses and their medical staff?
This final point is the most important for me. You don’t have to be a Christian to see it and you don’t have to share my theological convictions if you are a Christian to see it. Christians should aspire to be above reproach in everything we do. If you claim to be friends with the Creator of the Universe and hang with his Son your Saviour then you better be ready for scrutiny. Cos that is a bold claim. Transparency in financial dealings, sexual relations or miraculous healings is the least that people can expect from Christians. Total and absolute transparency.
I am sick to my teeth of amazing healing pastors who have “their people” investigating the miracles. After the fact. If MCC ever sees a healing like this you can be damned sure that we will be making every x-ray and every report from every doctor we can find available as soon as we can. We’ll buy freaking camcorders to keep a historical record alive of the healing process. We’ll invite Richard Dawkins himself to come read the files. Why would we expect you to believe that God only works if we shut our eyes?
There are Christians who are superstitious disciples. We all have experience of them. I am very much a substitious disciple. I am too slow to believe. I wouldn’t mind naming my son Thomas. But when it comes to the kind of claims emanating from Florida this is the right course of action. The church needs to hold each other to account. If these things are happening, then allow the full rigour of examination available to inspect the claims. God won’t withdraw the blessing because we use our faculties.
The idea that “someone can get a new spinal cord” but we can’t get proof is a scandal. It is, I am afraid, the action of a charlatan. I of course have not visited Lakeland but friends have. From what I hear, Jesus is rarely mentioned and the Bible is not preached. But aside from that, to which I cannot much speak, the lack of response offered to these three points reminds me again that Christianity can never be allowed descend into a fairground attraction and a leader-based cult. Reason informed faith is what we are called to.
Your Correspondent, Finally revealing how similar he is to QMonkey.