In the recent news, “evangelist” Benny Hinn has been in the news because he took ill. It appears that Hinn has some significant heart problems and his rapid pace have caught up with him. Thankfully he seems to have recovered, which unfortunately means he will be returning to his “ministry.” Today, I want to take a short time to discuss the response I have seen from Christians, and to explain why I think it hasn’t been the right one.
Now, to start I want to say clearly. Benny Hinn is a false teacher, he is a wolf, and if he continues on this path of unrepentance I think he will be separated from God forever. This post is not an endorsement of his theology in any way.
However, I want to discuss what I have seen since the news of his illness broke. I saw two main responses from my Reformed brothers and sisters. Neither of which I thought are very good.
Hinn is most widely known as a faith healer. He claims the ability to heal on command, and thousands of misguided individuals flock to his performances in the hopes of being healed. Most never get on stage, and even those who do are usually emotionally manipulated into believing that their maladies have left them.
Because of this, it is tempting and understandable to react with sarcasm when one of these wolves falls ill. It is tempting to comment about how ironic it is that they cannot heal themselves. It is tempting to make memes and YouTube videos pointing out the irony of this.
However, this is a fundamentally flawed approach. Our desire should always be first and foremost for repentance and conversion in both the false teacher and the people they have led astray. Some will disagree with me, but I don’t think that sarcasm in this context has any reasonable effectiveness. It is likely only to galvanize those we hope to win.
The other response I have seen is to respectfully point out the discontinuity in behavior. As far as I know, no one went to Hinn’s bedside and slayed him in the Spirit, claiming healing over him. What it looks like, at least from the public eye, is that Hinn allowed the medical doctors to proceed, and is attributing his recovery primarily to the doctor’s skills. This has been the pattern I see with other faith healers and high-profile members of the faith community.
While it is true that this is an incongruous behavior for them, I don’t believe that spending a lot of energy pointing that out is fruitful. It is unlikely that in the midst of such a difficult time that this kind of rational argumentation is going to be effective. Furthermore, what happens when you are demonstrated to be wrong? What happens when the false teacher makes a recovery that can be described as miraculous? Unfortunately, when you set up an altar and challenge Ba’al to a showdown… if it appears that Ba’al has sent the fire you’re in trouble (even when you know that isn’t what happened). God can, and certainly does, heal in miraculous ways. We ought not presume that God does not desire to do this in Hinn’s case, and we don’t want to get caught with egg on our face if that happens.
How SHOULD we act?
In situations like this I think that the best response is one of humility and prayer. As I pointed out, those in the ultra charismatic world tend to settle down a bit when this kind of thing happens. They start to recognize, even if only subconsciously, that they cannot heal themselves. They start to recognize that they need a Savior. This is ripe soil.
The best way to react is exactly how you would react in a normal situation. Pray for them, send a card. If it is someone you have access to directly, go visit them in the hospital. Spend some time reading Scripture at their bedside. Ask their family if there is anything you can do to help.
The same goes for their followers. These kinds of figures build large and fiercely loyal followers. The loss of someone like Hinn would likely be felt on an emotional level similar to losing a family member. Rather than putting on your boxing gloves and charging forward, tell them that you’re sorry that the person they love is sick. Ask if you can pray for them. Encourage them to turn to the Psalms for comfort. Discuss with them that when you are grieving that the Holy Spirit comforts you in subtle and quiet ways, rather than in outward manifestations.
In short, we should simply be who we claim to be. There is a time for theological sparring. There is a time for sarcasm and wit. In the midst of a personal crisis is probably not the time for either of those things. You have to remember, that although we grieve, we grieve as those with hope. I have been to enough Christian and non-Christian funerals to know how powerful grieving with hope is in sharing the Gospel. Don’t throw that opportunity away to score a theological point or to get a few extra “Likes” on Facebook.