Signs of the Times |

Hunt, Dave

Most readers are probably aware of Diane Sawyer's recent "Primetime Live" exposé of three popular televangelists: W. V. Grant, Larry Lea and Robert Tilton. The latter takes in at least $80 million a year by promising health and wealth to those who give to him. It is a sad day when the secular media accuses leading evangelicals of deliberate deception and seemingly documents the charges, thereby bringing reproach upon the gospel and our Lord.

Why are millions of Christians so gullible as to support almost anyone who offers healing and prosperity, even though the promises are obviously unbiblical, extravagant and almost always fail? Where are the church leaders who should be protecting the flock by specific warnings against false teachers and false "miracle workers"? Where are men such as Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll, James Dobson and others who would be heeded if they spoke out? Why don't highly respected evangelical leaders bring correction to their own ranks? It is desperately needed!

One is reminded of televangelist healer Peter Popoff, who was such an obvious deceiver that it was embarrassing to watch him—yet church leaders allowed him to defraud the flock and bring reproach upon Christ. It was the atheistic humanists who exposed him six years ago: magician James Randi, Paul Kurtz, et al. Popoff claimed "revelations from God" enabled him to call out names, addresses, and ailments of those in his audience. In fact, his wife, Elizabeth, who circulated among the audience before the meetings gathering information, later broadcast the data at 39.17 mhz. from the announcers' booths overlooking the various auditoriums and into a sophisticated electronic device concealed in Popoff's ear.

A deliberate scam? Yes, indeed. Randi and his team recorded the proof. For example, at his February 1986 crusade in San Francisco's Coliseum, when Peter Popoff made his grand entrance on stage amid shouted hallelujahs, Mrs. Popoff tested the equipment with these words: "Hello, Petey. Can you hear me? If you can't, you're in trouble. I'm looking up names, right now."

During the "healings" the flow of data into Popoff's ear went like this: "She should be there on your right side. Right side. In the blue. She lives at 4267 Masterson, and she's praying for her daughter Joy, who's allergic to food." Following these directions, laughter was heard coming from Elizabeth and Pam, the wife of Popoff's assistant Redford Shirrell—as Popoff repeated this information to the victim, pretending it was "revealed" to him by God.

Popoff should have been exposed and denounced by church leaders, but he wasn't! Even after he'd been unmasked by humanists as a deliberate fraud, Charisma carried his full-page ad, and Christians continued to send this "man of God" their support.

W. V. Grant also calls out names, diseases and other details pertaining to specific individuals of whom he denies having prior knowledge, claiming to receive this information from God. Actually, he uses an old trick of gathering and memorizing data beforehand that he later presents as "revelation knowledge." Grant was also exposed six years ago by Randi, Kurtz and their team. Yet Christian leaders continued to honor him. Those joining Grant as speakers at recent conferences at his Dallas church included Mike Murdock, T. L. Osborn, Ben Kinchlow, Jamie Buckingham, B. J. Hargis and Hilton Sutton; while a veritable who's who of the charismatic movement have preached at Robert Tilton's Dallas church.

The irrefutable evidence that W. V. Grant, like Popoff, operates a deliberate scam was first presented in two editions of the humanist magazine Free Inquiry, Spring and Summer, 1986. They followed up people whom Grant claimed to have healed, only to find that no healing had taken place. Actors whom they planted in the audience were "healed" of make-believe ailments. Phony information which they had fed to Grant or his associates before the meeting was called out by Grant as "revelation from God."

Grant even brings wheelchairs with him in which his ushers persuade the elderly who are tired of walking to sit, on the promise of being wheeled down close to the front. It is these people who are dramatically called out of "their wheelchairs" and made to run up and down as proof of their "healing"! Those who actually came in their own wheelchairs leave in the same manner, wondering why they weren't healed when so many others apparently were.

Those on Grant's mailing list receive the most outrageous letters telling how he has prayed for them individually (the computer inserts their names to make it appear like a personal letter) and offering methods of receiving a blessing that involve witchcraft-like rituals and are an insult to one's intelligence. For example, the latest mailing included a large picture of "Jesus" holding out his hands, with the instructions to "Touch my hands—I will touch yours, over by a window, based on Malachi:3:10, where I have promised you, 'I you the windows of heaven....' Lay any unpaid bills and your wallet on these Nail Scarred hands of Jesus." Everything must be returned with the largest offering possible. Grant then takes it "to a certain window that the Lord is showing me, as I lay my hands where you lay yours." Always a condition for receiving the "blessing" is the "seed faith offering." This invention of Oral Roberts is now used by many other "evangelists" to persuade the gullible to give in order to reap 100-fold.

There is a new star rising on the charismatic faith-healing circuit. Benny Hinn has attracted crowds as large as 30,000. At 38, he pastors Orlando Christian Center, one of America's fastest growing churches. Its 2,800-seat auditorium is packed three times each Sunday and the service is aired later on TBN. Though he has preached at Grant's church, Hinn's methods vary from Popoff's or Grant's. He raises about $12 million a year with the usual false promises of healing and prosperity in exchange for "seed faith" gifts—a condition for "miracles." "Give no less than $100," he exhorts an audience, and promises to "lay my hands on all the envelopes and ask God for financial miracles for the givers."

The secret to Hinn's power is his peculiar anointing, which he connects with Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church. He first felt the "full power of the Holy Spirit" on him at a Kuhlman healing service in 1973—and her mantle has presumably fallen upon Hinn. He conducts his meetings almost exactly like hers, though it takes Hinn much longer to get his audience into the expectant mood that seems to generate psychosomatic "miracles." In an April 7, 1991 sermon, Hinn revealed that he periodically visits Kuhlman's grave and that he is one of the few with a key to gain access to it. He also visits Aimee's grave where, he says, "I felt a terrific anointing...I was shaking all over...trembling under the power of God....'Dear God,' I said, 'I feel the anointing....I believe the anointing has lingered over Aimee's body."

The anointing or power plays a major role at Benny Hinn's "miracle services." He uses it to "slay in the spirit" as Kuhlman did 30 years ago. She has been imitated by charismatic evangelist-healers ever since. But Hinn has a new flare. Yes, like Kuhlman, he touches people on the forehead or neck to see them fall over. But he also blows or throws the "anointing" and "slays" from a distance. As Mike Thomas reported in Florida Magazine, 11/24/91, 

Winded catchers try to keep up with the toppling bodies. He rears back and with a pitching motion slays the entire choir with one toss...."That's power," yells Benny. "POWER!" Hinn takes off his custom tailored jacket and rubs it briskly on his body. He is rubbing the Power onto the jacket. Then he starts swinging it wildly, like the biblical David swinging his sling. He decks his followers left and right. Bam! Bam! Bam! The stage vibrates with their landings. Then he throws it [the "anointed" jacket]. Another bam. As a catcher moves to pick up a woman, Hinn slays him...then he slays the catcher who caught the catcher.

When Benny Hinn is moved, nobody is safe from the Power....So many to slay, so little time....[H]e blows loudly into the microphone....Hundreds fall backward...a woman collapses in the aisle and begins to babble. And then, suddenly, Benny is gone. The power vanishes from the room, and the people stare in stunned silence.

This aspect alone of Hinn's meetings is enough to condemn him. He capriciously throws the "Holy Spirit" around in a most irreverent fashion, using the third Person of the Trinity as his servant to attract attention to himself. Hinn acts as though the "anointing" is some metaphysical power at his disposal, to be rubbed off onto physical objects. It looks impressive, works largely by the power of suggestion, but has no purpose except to induce an awe of Hinn. "It's scary," says Bill James, a former church member. "The people are mesmerized. ...When he comes out, he's like God."

Benny's office at his church contains pictures of himself with George Bush and John Paul II. It was Hinn who arranged for Paul and Jan Crouch to meet with the Pope. Here is Mike Thomas's impression of a visit with Hinn:

He looks like a Ralph Lauren advertisement, a true gentleman of leisure. As always, his hair is sprayed solidly in place. "I don't know if you'll ever see a reverend without socks," he says proudly. [He's wearing no socks.] "That's the way I am. I'm more down to earth than most people."

This comes from a man who just turned in his Mercedes for a Jaguar and recently moved from the exclusive Heathrow development to the even more exclusive Alaqua, where he now lives in a $685,000 home. His suits are tailored, his shoes are Italian leather, and his wrists and fingers glitter with gold and diamonds....what he considers a modest lifestyle, as if everyone lives like this.

He wears his diamond Rolex, diamond rings, gold bracelet and custom suits for all to see...."What's the big deal, for goodness sake?" he says. "What am I supposed to do, drive a Honda?...That's not in the Bible....I'm sick and tired about hearing about streets of gold [in heaven]. I don't need gold in heaven. I got to have it now."

Benny declares, "I have received a new mandate from heaven—bring the message of the miraculous, healing power of God back to America! Invade our nation with the miracle-working power of God in the '90s!" He claims that about 1,000 people are healed at each "miracle service." But as Thomas reported, "Despite all the thousands of miracles claimed by Hinn, the church seems hard pressed to come up with any that would convince a serious skeptic....

When pressed for truly convincing miracles, [Hinn spokesperson] Susan Smith cited a woman in Orlando who was cured of blindness caused by diabetes. But she would not give the woman's name. She later admitted that the woman's vision may still be cloudy. 'She still has diabetes, strangely...[and] was just rehospitalized."

"People of God," shouts Benny, "we must never speak such faith-destroying words as these: 'If it be thy will, Lord.'...I am Him [Jesus]! The Word has become flesh in Meee!...You are a little god on earth...!"

His other heresies include the teaching that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each has a body, soul and spirit. "There's nine of them!" he told his congregation "by revelation knowledge," but probably got the idea from Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, where this ancient heresy was revived on page 55.

Hinn taught the same heresy as Hagin and Copeland, that when Jesus died on the cross He sank into hell and took upon Himself the nature of Satan and was tortured by Satan for our redemption. Then early in 1991 Hinn repudiated this teaching along with other peculiar "word faith" doctrines. Yet he had taught it as "revelation knowledge." God's revelations don't change.

As for his critics, Hinn says, "You know, I've looked for one verse in the Bible—I just can't seem to find it—one verse that says, 'If you don't like 'em, kill 'em.' I really wish I could find it!... Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off!" The TBN studio audience loudly applauded those gracious words from the "man of God."

Surely we are seeing fulfilled the primary sign Christ gave of the nearness of His return: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Mat:24:24). Let us seek to know God and His Word and to walk in obedience to Him, contending earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. He's coming soon! TBC