Sunday, February 21, 2010

When is it Helpful?

I'm watching a few blogs report the sad news about Benny Hinn's immanent divorce. As you know I'm not a real fan of Hinn, I think he is quite heterodox actually. But what I'm wondering is when and how it is actually helpful to bring a critique on a Christian ministry? It is a serious question. I find that sometimes I want to jump right in when folks are slamming what I consider to be gross theological errors. But then another part of me wonders how helpful that is. I'm not afraid to give my opinion, but at the same time I need to be self-aware enough that I realize that I'm not always going to be right.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are? When it is helpful? What form is helpful? Is there a line we shouldn't cross? What do we do when we inadvertently or deliberately cross that line?

For the meanwhile my heart goes out to the folks who have put Benny up on a pedestal. I trust that you will meet God in your pain. I trust that God is working through this whole situation and will ultimately have the last word.


knowledge is power said...

Let him lose millions of dollars. He's a wolf in sheepskin clothing.

One of Freedom said...

Which I'm neither contesting nor promoting here. That isn't my question. My question has more to do with the name you are using - knowledge is power. And what we do with power?

My concerns come up from earlier experiences with folks like David Hunt and other heresy hunters. I found after a while they were just spewing venom and not helping the body of Christ. But at the same time there has to be moments where a spade is called a spade (Mike Warnke's lies have really caused a lot of damage to the relationships between gamers and Christians with no other points of reference, for instance).

Where is that point? How should be exercise that power in a way that reflects Christ?

See Jesus did it, but he was selective and from my reading always invitational. I don't see much of the bashing that goes on being invitational. Although I did appreciate Scott Baily's offer to help Todd Bentley with his poor hermeneutics skills. Scott also tends to wobble around this line quite a bit.

Any thoughts on my real question 'knowledge'?

colin benner said...

This is a question I have been struggling with over the weekend. I knew Benny when he first became a Christian and have watched with pain some of his actions.
At the same time, I worry even more about heresy hunters who are breaking into a loud chorus over this. I am thankful that God is the judge and neither them nor I.
For my part, I know that I need to pray for Benny without telling God what to do. And I need to pray for those who put far too much faith in him and whose foundations are therefore under attack at the moment.

One of Freedom said...

That is very good wisdom Colin. In some senses there is not a lot we can do. Maybe what the real impulse should be is to bathe our response in prayer. Didn't you have three steps for confronting in your message last night? I've been reflecting on confrontation a lot recently, mostly because my counselor helped me see that I tend to not confront in a way that becomes a lose/lose situation. But the opposite, I win-you lose is also not a helpful way of confronting.

BTW I have a similar history with Benny. I actually saw the power of God in one of his brother's meetings. And while I think there is something genuine about their ministries - their theological positions drive me around the bend. But, so I'm also convinced that God doesn't always care as much about theology as we do. But, those of us who do care about theology often see the long term effects of faulty teachings. I like what Wimber says in Power Evangelism: "proclamation of a faulty gospel will produce faulty or, at best, weak Christians."

Matt Kelley said...

I suppose it depends on where you are coming from. Are you trying to add an additional voice to the discussion, or are you just trying to bring somebody down?

One of Freedom said...

I think that is a good qualification Matt. But I am willing to wager that some of what is intended to be an additional voice actually only serves to bring down. I mentioned Scott Baily's blog (on my blogroll) and I can't imagine Scott is a mean individual trying to put everybody down. But his satire could definitely be seen that way. And to be honest I've participated in it on his site - which is why I'm reflecting on it here. Scott recently slammed a US pastor for a rap video. Granted the rap video was mildly amusing, did it warrant Scott's response? I started thinking that I can go along with his satirical stuff a little too easily until it hits something that I think is ok. Which tells me my criteria needs a rethink. BTW I could see me doing a cheesy rap video and using it in our church to make a point. To me that just sounds like fun.

Scott Bailey said...

Good questions Frank. I go back and forth on this one.

Here's the problem as I see it. I know for a fact that many persons "outside" the Christian religion don't really discern a difference among the many Christian faiths and practices. Therefore, when they come upon this sort of insider critique you end up not just cutting down the branch that a Hinn or Bentley sits on but the branch you sit on as well. I have wondered if making some of these critiques public is wrong for this reason.

On the other hand, I also see value in saying to Christians and non-Christians in a very loud voice that "THIS IS NOT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRIST-FOLLOWER" when you see someone using their "ministry" to make themselves rich or some such.

There are times when I think I have walked this line quite well, and then there are times I'm sure where I went too far and I "crossed the line" so to speak.

I'm not really sure what the correct answer is... but I think I'm going to keep probing, asking hard questions, and possibly even barbecue the odd sacred cow... even if it makes people uncomfortable!

I just hope that people such as yourself keep interacting with my thoughts, challenge me when I need it, and that I have enough humility and grace to acknowledge when I am wrong or have gone too far.

Paul said...


A good question. I've become more aware of it being a part of the SDA church and being on the end of some unfair characterisations and polemics by Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

Certainly, heresy hunting and pointing our error can become something akin to blood lust for many people. I suggest Jesus' golden rule is a good rule of thumb here, as is the principle, is it true, kind or necessary?

But I think there are people who engage in theological polemics well. And I believe a helpful way of answering your question is looking at their example.

Although you may not agree with him, John Piper's engagement with
N. T. Wright comes to mind. Piper fundamentally disagrees with Wright, but the spirit in which Piper disagrees is exemplary.

You also mention Mike Warnke. The flak the Cornerstone journalists received for exposing him maybe suggests another criteria for answering your question is, 'Will speaking up cost me?'

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting question Frank. I have wrestled with this one over the years myself. Is it helpful when the "heresy hunters" go after those they feel to be in error, or heretics? I don't know...

Is it helpful to label the "heresy hunters" "heresey hunters" in the first place. It is unknind I suppose...Do they see themselves as heresy hunters???

I used to enjoy frequenting the "cults" section of the local Christian bookstore. I loved to read the polemics and then engage the "cultists." In the end though, I think it said more about me and my own fears and self doubt than it did about the people I was engaging and whatever favor I may have thought I was doing them...

Anonymous said...

Hagin, Copeland, Roberts, Hinn, Duplantis...the whole Word of Faith prosperity bunch is out to lunch!

One of Freedom said...

Cameron, this is where it is less than helpful (even if I agree with you). Maybe what is needed is some explanation. What is dangerous or undesirable about the word of faith teachings. What about specifically with those individuals. What do you do with the good that those individuals do do, certainly it can't be all bad. I'm not a big fan of that sort of theology, but it is not helpful to write off the people. And that are word of faith folk that I actually have a good deal of respect for - who challenge some of the wackier ideas but have this hyper-imminent notion of God.

But even if you do give reasons, do you run the risk of just becoming a heresy hunter? My problem with that is that it doesn't have an end. Eventually you won't like anything, except maybe whatever subjective view you have of the "truth".

There has to be a better approach.