The Faces of Miracles

Benny Hinn: The Face of High-Octane Faith Healers

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Table of Contents

Love him or leave him, you’re likely to have heard of Benny Hinn. Benny’s TV program, This is Your Day, is syndicated in 200 countries around the world according to the ministry’s website, which is more countries than there actually are in the world (the U.S. Department of State counts 195). At the time of this writing, upcoming healing events are scheduled in Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Ukraine, and the United States. Hinn claims to have preached to more than 1.5 billion people around the world. An event in Kenya attracted a crowd of 1.2 million. A service in Mumbai, India, drew more than 2 million. A three-day event in Bangalore hosted a total of 7.4 million.[1]

To his devoted followers, Benny has been ordained by God to heal in God’s name. Benny affirms that God has healed untold thousands through him, curing every disease imaginable — arthritis, depression, blindness, AIDS, cancer, heart conditions, and infections head a long list of maladies. He claims no power of his own, but says he has a special gift that makes him an instrument of God’s miraculous abilities.

Benny Hinn believes that his ministry fulfills Jesus’s promises in the Bible. As he explains, “Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement [Christ’s reconciling death on the cross] and is the privilege of all believers.”[2] He quotes Matthew 8:16-17: “That evening they brought to him [Jesus] many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”

Benny has numerous followers around the world who believe in his ministry and support him generously with their financial giving. (Though as a nonprofit his ministry income is unreported, estimates run as high as $200 million per year.[3]) On the other side are detractors who dismiss Hinn’s ministry as a sham, his healing claims as bogus, and his motivation as nothing more than maintaining the flood of contributions that supports his luxurious lifestyle.

Jesus in My­ Bedroom

Benny was born in Israel to a Greek father and an Armenian mother. Raised in the Greek Orthodox church, he moved with his family to Toronto, where in 1971 as a high school senior he converted to Pentacostalism, a charismatic and emotional style of Christianity. Two years later he heard Kathryn Kuhlman speak in Pittsburgh. After that, he had an experience with the Holy Spirit that, he claims, changed his life: “It seemed that my room had been lifted into the hemisphere of heaven,” he said later, describing the moment. “I saw Jesus walk into my bedroom. He was wearing a robe that was whiter than white and a deep red mantle was draped over his shoulders.”[4]

Convinced that God was telling him to become a preacher, he modeled his approach after Kuhlman, down to dressing in white from head to foot and staging high-energy services with rousing music where members of the audience stream forward to claim their healing miracles. He started holding services in Toronto in 1974, moved to the United States five years later, and in 1983 became pastor of Orlando Christian Center in Florida. By 1999 he had resigned his pastorate to travel full time, conducting his healing services around the world.

Prosperity Like You’ve Never Dreamed Of

A Benny Hinn service is supercharged. The venue is packed, the music is loud, and the atmosphere crackles with anticipation. When the energy reaches a fever pitch Benny strides onstage to the strains of “How Great Thou Art.”  His preaching is vivid and commanding. One viewer described it as “straight out of Elmer Gantry — 1950s hellfire and damnation.”[5] Next he invites anyone who wants to come forward and pray the Sinner’s Prayer. Hundreds respond and crowd down front. They receive a booklet about Christian salvation and a list of local churches that they’re encouraged to visit.

Then he turns to the subject of money. In one reporter’s account he talked about it for twenty minutes: “He cajoled, prophesied, shouted and demanded. This is the engine room of the crusade… ‘This is a prophecy. You are about to see the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. You are going to see prosperity like you have never dreamed of. Money is being transferred from sinners to the righteous. Are you righteous?’”  The crowd roared, “Yes!”

“Are you righteous?” “Yes!!”

“ARE YOU RIGHTEOUS?” YEEEESSSSSS!!!”[6]

As offering buckets and credit card forms circulated around the room, Hinn pressed on with several points about money:[7]

  1. God gives money to those who preach the Gospel. Just as the children of Israel plundered the gold of Egypt, the righteous and faithful will plunder the wealth of sinners.
  2. When the Jewish people brought gifts to God, He taught them to bring only the best. God deserves the best. You give Him the best, and you’ll get the best from Him. “Are you here for God’s blessing? What are you going to do for the Lord tonight?”
  3. God rewards those who sow the seeds of faith, just as a grain of wheat planted in the ground sprouts up 10- or 100-fold. “God will multiply your gift to Him. You give Him a little and he will multiply a little.”
  4. The Lord will ask you to give tonight, not to Benny Hinn but to the Lord. To some He will say $1000, others $2000, others maybe $10,000. Don’t turn your back on the Lord.

(The ministry website reinforces these messages with more than a dozen pleas for financial support including three “Donate Now” buttons, the option to donate by text, by mobile phone, tribute giving, “Become a Partner Today,” a variety of annual giving levels, a $125 Bible, and an $85 prayer shawl/CD combination offer. The website declares, “God has blessed our partners through the years, proving again and again that he rewards giving, and he builds his church through the faithful financial stewardship of his people… Prayerfully consider faithful stewardship today.”)

After the offering buckets make their rounds, the healing portion of the meeting begins. Hinn spends the first fifteen minutes explaining the power of Jesus. In brief, his argument is that Jesus healed people in the Gospels; Jesus is alive today and is the same yesterday, today and forever; therefore Jesus is healing today.

Hinn announces, “I don’t care what your pastor says. I don’t care what your doctor says. I can tell you what the Bible says. Jesus is here tonight and is waiting to heal you! Do you have the faith?!” The faithful roar back, “Yes!”[8]

Next, he starts calling out the healings that all around are supposedly taking place. As one audience member described the scene, “He barks out the diseases like an auctioneer — heart condition to his left, arthritis to his right, cancer in the upper deck. He tells those healed to leave their seats and come toward the stage.”[9]

Ushers patrol the aisles looking for the most demonstrable cases. Participants repeatedly report that audience members are screened on their way to the stage and only the most impressive and dramatic cases move forward. Those with obvious physical conditions are blocked. For the ones who make it to the stage, Benny touches them lightly and they fly backward — apparently overcome by the Holy Spirit — into the arms of attendants waiting to catch them. With a similar effect, he waves his hand at a choir, and the whole section in front of him swoons.

One after another, members of the audience line up to experience Benny’s touch and declare themselves miraculously healed. For them it seems like a moment of triumph.

A Man of God

Many admirers believe Benny Hinn is doing great work in the name of the Lord. Freda Lindsay, co-founder of Christ for the Nations, an evangelization ministry in Dallas, says, “I’ve known him for many years and he’s doing a world of good with hundreds of thousands of people. Benny Hinn is very sincere. I would vouch for him that he’s a man of God. He’s not a phony.”[10]

Another colleague agrees. Glen Pummel, a Pentecostal preacher in Colorado said of a Benny Hinn service scheduled nearby, “I’m going and I’m encouraging our people to go. I’d like our young people to have a point of reference for a miracle. We live in a time in the church where it’s been real easy for us to disregard miracles. I’ve seen needy people to go to him [Hinn]. I saw them respond to a call he made for salvation. I literally saw people come back changed.”[11]

Tim Morgan, senior editor for Christianity Today, admits that Hinn’s style, accountability, and theology have their critics but adds, “At the same time, he’s very much a hero in the charismatic Pentecostal movement. It’s easy to say that he’s a polarizing figure. People react positively or negatively, but they can’t ignore the fact that Benny Hinn is coming to town… You have to give Benny Hinn credit for persistence. He has found a Christian community that just thinks he has the hand of God on him and his ministry. All the criticism just bounces off, almost like Teflon. It has no impact.”[12]

York University (Canada) psychology professor James Alcock points out that attendees to healing services like Hinn’s are primed for a miracle and predisposed to believe they’ve been healed. “Few go there who are not willing to be persuaded,” he says.[13]

Yet for all his followers and the success of his ministry, Benny Hinn also has a lot of critics. Pastor and university professor Matt Curry believes that whatever healing happens at these services is in spite of Benny, not because of him. “I judge him by the measure of the one he claims to be following,” Curry writes. “Jesus never promised people wealth, or instant healing. He didn’t promise his disciples houses on the coast. Pastor Benny has recast Jesus in his own image. He has forgotten that his Lord died, humiliated, tortured, alone and penniless. But how do you sell that?”[14]

The same can be said — and the same criticisms leveled — about a long line of faith healers beginning with Aimee Semple MacPherson in the 1920s and Kathryn Kuhlman, Hinn’s original inspiration a generation later. A look at the careers and claims of a few of these will highlight the similarities both in their messages and in their results.

That Thou Mayest Prosper

Oral Roberts expected to die of tuberculosis as a teenager. Instead his parents took him to a faith healer whom Roberts said healed him not only of TB but also of a stutter. That night, he said, God told him he was to heal like God healed. In time Roberts claimed that through him God would heal the sick and raise the dead.[15]

Quickly gaining a reputation as a faith healer, Roberts was soon preaching to thousands at a time in tent revivals. He was an early master of television, broadcasting filmed worship services beginning in 1954. He was also one of the first to see the value in computerized data management and communication, working with IBM on one of the earliest examples of mass mailings customized for each recipient.[16]

By the 1980s Roberts had founded a medical center and university in his native Oklahoma, taking in more than $100 million in donations every year. Crowds at his services stood in long lines to be touched and healed by Roberts, who said he felt a tingling in his right hand as the sign of God’s healing power.

Roberts, who had been born in a log cabin, preached the concept of seed-faith: the more you gave to God the more you got in return. This message is a cornerstone of many faith healers’ ministries, encouraging people to donate in order to receive bigger blessings from God. This was Roberts’ interpretation of 3 John 2, which in his King James translation reads: “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

Roberts interpreted this to mean that God wanted everyone to be prosperous and that the more money you gave, the more prosperous you could expect to be in return. In 1975 he wrote a book explaining the concept, A Daily Guide to Miracles and Successful Living Through Seed Faith. His star power and television appeal made him a wealthy man. He bought a vacation home in Palm Springs, California, and at one time owned three Mercedes-Benz automobiles.

Millions believed in his healing powers and sent in donations. Yet at the same time, skeptics questioned whether any of his healing claims were true. A group of ministers in Arizona offered $1,000 to anyone who could show medical proof of miraculous healing by Roberts. No one ever applied for the prize. As with other faith healers before and since, his successes often emphasized the cure of conditions that were not so readily verifiable — arthritis, depression, asthma. No broken arms were dramatically healed or cleft palates repaired. Independent documentation of Roberts’s miracles was weak.

A turning point in Oral Roberts’s ministry came in early 1987 when he claimed that God told him that he would “call me home” unless $8 million was donated to his City of Faith medical center by the end of March. The money was raised, but Roberts’s reputation took a sharp downturn. His ultimatum was mocked everywhere from mainstream pulpits to late night television. Donations overall declined and Roberts closed his medical school in 1989, forcing him to sell some of his high-end real estate and expensive cars. Even so, he continued his luxurious lifestyle, wearing Italian suits along with the diamond rings and gold bracelets that were airbrushed out of his publicity photos by staff members.[17]

Roberts retired to California but returned as chancellor of Oral Roberts University from 2007 until his death in 2009.

Back from the Brink on BET

Two other high-flying evangelists brought low by questionable practices have resurfaced on late-night cable TV.

Pastor Robert Tilton hosted the syndicated television show Success-N-Life, which at its peak aired in every TV market in America and brought in a reported $80 million per year. Tilton preached that poverty was a consequence of sin and that the way to offset this poverty was to donate to the work of God, who would then reward the donor with miraculous riches.[18]

Tilton’s ministry collapsed after a 1991 episode of ABC News’s Primetime Live reported that Tilton’s office retrieved donation checks from viewers’ correspondence and then threw away accompanying prayer requests without reading them.[19] Digging through local bank dumpsters disclosed thousands of prayer requests that had been trashed. Though viewership fell 85 percent, Tilton’s ministry still took in $2 million per month. He later resurfaced on the BET network and continues to receive tens of millions of dollars in donations annually.

Peter Popoff began holding healing services in the 1980s in California. He preached that God responded to seed-faith and prayer by bestowing financial wealth on donors in proportion to the amount they contributed. He dramatically commanded people to throw away their prescription drugs or rise up out of their wheelchairs.

His most impressive skill was the ability to recite the address and illness of audience members thanks to miraculous revelations from God. His technique was uncovered in 1986 when professional magician and skeptic James Randi, working with an electronics expert and crime scene investigators, revealed that Popoff was getting his information via wireless radio from his wife, who was backstage reading information that people had given when they came in (see chapter 6).

Less than two years after the deception was exposed on network TV, donations shrank and Peter Popoff declared bankruptcy. Yet in 1998 Popoff resumed his ministry on the BET network offering “free” items that promised physical healing and financial prosperity, possibly including “divine money transfers directly into your account.” Thereafter, his ministry bombarded respondents with solicitations for donations.[20]

In 2005 his ministry took in over $23 million. That year Popoff changed his operation from a for-profit business to a religious organization and has not reported his income since. In 2007 according to public records, Popoff bought a home in California for $4.5 million. Is he truly healing the sick? There are no independently documented cases of healing from any Popoff event. However, the London Daily Mirror reported in 2015 that a woman “wracked with pain” who was miraculously healed at one of Popoff’s London services had been seen earlier in the evening handing out pens and questionnaires to the audience.[21]

Hungry for God’s Power

Todd Bentley doesn’t fit the classic profile of a healing evangelist. He looks more like a biker. He’s obese, sports a long and unkempt beard, and is covered with tattoos. On the podium he’s likely to be dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt, and a baseball cap. And yet testimonials from his book Journey Into the Miraculous describe him as a man who “carries a powerful anointing of healing and miracles that’s touching the globe” and a “vessel of healing for the multitudes.”[22]

As part of the Fresh Fire ministry in Vancouver, Canada, Todd preached to the homeless and other street people. One night a prostitute and drug addict begged for salvation. Bentley recalls, “After I led her to the Lord, she screamed, wept, and shook as a demon left her, and then she fell to the floor and vibrated under the power of the Holy Spirit. Whoa ­— … all I could think of was “I want to do this for the rest of my life … I’m hungry for God’s power!” He added, “The Bible tells us to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and I earnestly desired them!”[23]

Bentley believes that his spiritual gift of healing, when combined with faith and repentance, produces his abilities. For scriptural justification, he looks to the promise in James 5:15: “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

Bentley eventually found he could heal without even touching someone, although touching allowed him to know personal details about people — their parents’ divorce, drug problems, athletic abilities, what stuffed animals they had. Todd prayed for the ability to heal various conditions. After he saw and felt healing for one problem he began to concentrate on the next. Other miraculous events supposedly happened, and his reputation grew. According to Bentley’s memoir, diamond dust appeared on people’s hands in at least one service.[24]

Bentley said that God then took him to a higher level with a “healing anointing.” This allowed him to heal regardless of the person’s belief or faith. Within a few years he was traveling to Mexico, the United States, India, Tanzania, and elsewhere delivering people by the thousands from hearing voices, demons, nightmares, chronic stomach pain, malaria, parasites, and other maladies. At times he has injured people during his healing services. He was refused entry to the United Kingdom in 2012 because of a video showing him kicking someone during a service. Bentley explained that the Holy Spirit had told him to do it.

Bentley claims that anyone can receive the power of healing by reading his book Journey Into the Miraculous. In it he exhorts his readers, “From this day forward, I want you to believe God, to preach the Gospel, and to heal the sick! Go lay hands on them and see them recover.”[25]

Despite such healing claims, no independent proof of Bentley’s powers exists. The investigative news program Nightline reported in 2008 that there had never been independent confirmation of a healing miracle in Todd Bentley’s ministry. Bentley admits that his powers are not 100 percent effective. “Not everybody is instantly healed,” he says. “There’s people that aren’t healed. There’s people that never get healed. I don’t have all the answers how the healing anointing works.”[26]

Bentley’s ministry took a nosedive in 2008, which was caused by personal problems that brought on a divorce and remarriage. Charismatic ministers, led by Rick Joyner, sought his restoration and released him to “limited ministry” in 2010. Since then, Bentley has been back as a full-time faith healer through his ministry Fresh Fire USA.

One of Bentley’s most dramatic claims is that he has raised the dead. For proof he cites a resurrection that he performed in 2015 in Karachi, Pakistan, recorded on video before a crowd of 250,000. The video is posted on Facebook:
 
https://www.facebook.com/toddbentley/videos/10211594986889471
 
It shows a man lying down with his eyes closed. The people standing around him shout and shake him. After a minute or two he opens his eyes and sits up to cheers and cries of joy. (An unbiased observer watching this video would rightly question whether the man lying down at the beginning of this scene is dead.)

Euphoria, Then the Crash

The challenge for faith healers is to demonstrate that, whether under their own power or as instruments of God’s power, they actually heal people who would not have gotten better on their own. Despite the thousands upon thousands of claims they make about having successfully healed others, their assertions never quite seem to hold up under careful investigation. Some, such as the “healings” of Peter Popoff, are clearly fraudulent. Many more take place thanks to the power of suggestion, the psychological desire of the sick to be well, and the fact that many diseases are self-limiting or get better on their own.

Of all the thousands of healings Benny Hinn says he’s performed, there is independent medical evidence for exactly one case. The single example is Raymond Scott of Bakersfield, California, who had advanced colon cancer in 1995. Radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple operations failed to help him.

“In desperation,” reported the Los Angeles Times, “Scott attended a Hinn crusade in Sacramento, where, he says, God cured him. His doctor, Alan D. Cartmellof Bakersfield, wrote in his medical report that Scott ‘experienced a miracle healing’ and can return to all normal activities ‘following this amazing discovery.’ ‘My medical records prove what God has done,’ says Scott, adding that he has remained free of cancer.’ [Hinn] is a facilitator of the Holy Spirit. He never claims that he does the healing. God does.’”[27] Do cancers ever regress on their own unexpectedly and without reason? Yes, rarely, but they do. Yet here a doctor credits Benny Hinn with a miracle of healing.

Heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield believes Hinn cured him of the irregular heartbeat that for a time ended his professional career. In his autobiography, Holyfield describes a warm feeling going through his chest when Hinn touched him and that afterward his heart was healed.[28] Even if the documentation in the Holyfield case is less than airtight, it at least suggests that something miraculous may have been happening here through Hinn’s ministry. It may not be a slam-dunk, but at least it’s promising.

Far more common, unfortunately, is the experience of William Vandenkolk, who as a nine-year-old boy was “healed” of blindness at a Benny Hinn crusade. Two years later he watched a video of the moment through thick glasses. A visitor described the scene: “On the screen Hinn bends down to William, his hands on the child’s face. ‘Look at these tears,’ says Hinn, peering into the child’s eyes. ‘William, baby, can you see me?’ Before more than 15,000 people in a Las Vegas arena, William nods. In a small voice, the boy says, ‘As soon as God healed me, I could see better.’ Hinn, an arm wrapped around William, tells the audience that God has told him to pay the child’s medical expenses and education. People weep. Today William is still legally blind and says his sight never improved, and that his onstage comments were wishful thinking.”

Randy Melthratter, William’s uncle and guardian, “says it took two years, a series of phone calls and a reporter’s inquiry before his family was told where a $10,000 fund had been set up in William’s name. Family members say they still haven’t received any paperwork on how to access the money.”[29]

Brian Darby, who works with the severely handicapped, “has witnessed firsthand the disappointment left in the wake of a Hinn Miracle Crusade.” Many of his clients have attended them, “where they were swept up in a wave of excitement, thinking they were about to walk for the first time or have their limbs straightened. ‘You can’t minimize the impact of not being healed on the person, the family, the extended family. They have a sense of euphoria at the crusade and then crash down.’”[30]

Justin Peters, a minister from Mississippi who has cerebral palsy, wrote his master’s thesis on Benny Hinn. “He is a false prophet in every sense of the word,” Peters concludes. “His theology is wretched, and he’s also a huckster.”[31]

Stephen Winzenburg, a professor at Grand View University (formerly College) in Des Moines, who researches evangelists, says of Hinn, “He uses his showmanship skills to work the crowd. He’s very much like a circus ringmaster when he’s there in the arena. He’s controlling the environment. People may be coming for healing, but it’s very much controlled hysteria.”[32]

Hank Hanegraaff (see chapter 10), host of a long-running radio program as the Bible Answer Man, sees Hinn as “a false prophet.” According to Hanegraaff, “He banks on the fact that people are going to forget what he has previously said.” Hinn predicted that all gays would die by fire in 1995, Fidel Castro would die in the 1990s, and the world would end by 1999. Hinn has also said that Jesus would appear with him onstage.

Hanegraaff believes Hinn has “dragged Christ’s name through the mud” with his outrageous claim that Adam could fly and that he flew into outer space. Hanegraaff quotes Hinn telling viewers of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, “You’re going to have people raised from the dead watching… I see rows of caskets lined up in front of this TV set … and I see actual loved ones picking up the hands of the dead and letting them touch the screen and people are getting raised.”[33]

Voicing a common complaint about Hinn and other high-profile evangelists, Trinity Foundation (no connection with Trinity Broadcasting) president Ole Anthony says, “Hinn’s incredible wealth and lifestyle does more harm to Christianity than all of his healing.”[34]

Antony Thomas, director of the HBO documentary A Question of Miracles, said of the healing evangelists he saw in action, “If I had seen miracles I would have been happy to trumpet it … but in retrospect, I think they do more damage to Christianity than the most committed atheist.”[35]

People Pray for One Reason

Benny Hinn admits he has made incorrect statements at times and that all pastors must be open to the Lord’s correction. However, he thinks it’s wrong once a minister corrects his theology for critics to keep bringing it up. He says he has moderated his approach and cut down on some of the theatrics because they detract from God’s healing work. He doesn’t wave his jacket in the air any more to disperse his healing gift. He doesn’t transfer his healing to handkerchiefs from the crowd by rubbing them on himself and then throwing them back. He no longer applies his healing touch by blowing people down from a distance with his breath.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times,[36] a reporter asked him whether the criticism about his techniques and his extravagant lifestyle bothered him. “Of course it bothers me,” he answered. “I know me, and those close to me know me. But sadly, the outside world thinks I’m some kind of crook. I think it’s time for me to change that.” He says the attacks against him were orchestrated by Satan.

Asked why his TV broadcasts and services focus so much on healing, he answers frankly that healings are what bring in the crowds. Healings prime the pump for financial contributions. Hinn explains, “People say, ‘Look, I’m not going to watch if you don’t have healings.’ Our supporters support us for one reason, people pray for us for one reason — because of the healing ministry.”

He does wonder why some people are healed in his services and others aren’t. He himself has a heart condition that required emergency hospitalization in recent years, and his parents had medical problems including diabetes. Hinn believes that some people in his services are truly healed, some pretend to be healed in the emotion of the moment, and some are “phony.”

“All I know is that I pray for them,” he says. “What happens between them and God is between them and God.”

Those close to Benny say he knows his lifestyle is an issue, but he evidently feels justified in enjoying the financial fruits of his ministry, including a Gulfstream jet and luxury housing. He arrived for his interview with the Timesin an $80,000 Mercedes. His cell phone case sported a Mercedes logo.

Friends insist that Benny’s public persona doesn’t convey his sincerity. A long-time associate says if there was one thing he would tell people about Benny Hinn, it is that he is a very sincere person. This friend wishes it were possible to convey the depth of that sincerity and how much a part of Benny’s character it is.

Hinn believes he’s misunderstood by his critics and continues his ministry despite a steady drumbeat of negative publicity. (In 2017 the IRS and U.S. Postal Service raided his headquarters in Texas, but did not immediately announce what they were looking for.)

“It’s not been a pleasant life,” Benny says. “They think we’re in it for the money. They think that God doesn’t really heal so these guys are just fooling the world. I’d be a fool to be in this for the money. If I did not believe God healed, I’d quit tomorrow and go get a job.”

Other healers practice their ministries with a lower profile but no less assurance of their God-given abilities. One example is our next face of miracles, a mild-mannered Texan who says that, like Jesus, he raised a child from the dead.

Addenda to Chapter 2

Addendum 1:
On July 3, 2008, one co-author (BD) visited with his entire family a Todd Bentley healing service in the Dallas area. We took our severely disabled autistic son, hoping for some improvement (a miracle). In retrospect, it seems crazy that I (BD) would have sanctioned such a thing, but when one deals with painful chronic situations that have proven unyielding to heroic efforts, one tries crazy things.

I was at the time a professor at a Southern Baptist seminary and wrote a piece about the Bentley healing service in Baptist Press, underscoring just how negative an experience it was for my family (click here for the article). Even after all these years, the article is instructive about how destructive such healing ministries can be (I’m not saying they all are, but this one was bad).

Interestingly, my Baptist seminary teaching situation was one that largely rejected the pentecostal/charismatic tradition and merited for me, on account of my Baptist Press article, a lunch on campus with both the president and provost. It was cordial. Even though the Southern Baptist leadership may take a dim view of miraculous gifts of the spirit, the pain of my family’s situation ensured that there were no repercussions for me at that time (that had to await a later date when I questioned whether Noah’s flood was a global event — see my interview here for the details).

Addendum 2:
The present book was essentially finished in 2016, but on account of various business pressures on my (BD’s) end, got delayed and delayed again. Since then, Benny Hinn’s nephew Costi Hinn has come out with arms swinging at the excesses of Benny Hinn’s ministry. For a quick overview of Costi’s criticisms, see his 2017 Christianity Today article. He also has two books critical of his uncle’s ministry and theology, published in 2018 and 2019. And there are YouTube videos of him (click here), all of which are readily accessible by searching the web.

Addendum 3:
Finally, I (BD) should mention that I heard Benny Hinn at a healing meeting of about 2,000 very early in his ministry. It was 1980 and it took place at the old Bismarck Hotel in Chicago (the hotel was renovated and renamed in 1998). I was 19 or 20 at the time and up in the balcony by myself while my parents and two acquaintances visiting from Germany were on the lower level. Two points stick in my memory from that night First, words from Hinn’s mouth announcing that particular healings were taking place at various parts of the hotel auditorium. Second, my parents reporting after the meeting that Hinn ran down the aisle and my dad, who had an aisle seat, when touched by Hinn went flying back in his chair.

It’s the second point that to this day puzzles me. My dad had only recently become a Christian (about a year) and was a pretty hard-nosed scientist (he had a doctorate in biology and taught at the college level). He described falling back in his chair as resulting from some sort of electric shock that sent him flying. Was this the power of the Holy Spirit (hence the need for “catchers” at the Hinn meetings). Did Hinn wear some sort of stun gun devce (that seems unlikely since eventually this should come to light). Also worth noting, though my dad had some physical issues, none of them was healed in this incident.

Chapter Notes

[1]Background information on Benny Hinn taken from ministry website: bennyhinn.org; website has been revised since this information was accessed.

[2] bennyhinn.org – Faith Statement.

[3] The $200 million figure is widely quoted but difficult to document. See “Do You Believe in Miracles?” from The Fifth Estate, produced by Canadian Broadcasting Company, November 2006, formerly at http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/main_miracles.html#bio.

[4] “Evangelist does it his way,” Telegraph-Star (Dubuque, Iowa), May 4, 2002, p. C1.

[5] “God, power and money,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 3, 2008, p. 13.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Believers tout healing powers of evangelist Hinn, critics dispel them” Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, Washington, D.C., July 15, 2003.

[10] “Evangelist does it his way” op. cit.

[11] “Believers tout healing powers of Evangelist Hinn…” op. cit.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Debunkers put no faith in healer’s ‘miracles,’” Toronto Star, September 24, 1992.

[14] “God, power and money,” op. cit.

[15] General background on Oral Roberts taken from his autobiography: Roberts, Oral, Expect a Miracle: My Life and Ministry. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson), 1995.

[16] Details of Roberts’s career controversies taken from “Oral Roberts dies at 91,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2009; and “Oral Roberts, Fiery Preacher, Dies at 91,” The New York Times, December 16, 2009, p. A1.

[17] “Oral Roberts obituary,” The Guardian, December 15, 2009.

[18] Details of Robert Tilton’s career controversies taken from “The Resurrection of Robert Tilton,” Miami News Times, January 1, 1998; and “Disgraced Dallas Televangelist Robert Tilton has new life, third wife in Miami,” Dallas Morning News, May 28, 2009.

[19] “The Apple of God’s Eye,” PrimeTime Live, ABC Television, November 21, 1991.

[20] Carrier, Marc, “Prophets and Losses,” Skeptic vol. 14 no. 4, 2009, pp. 38-43, 80; see also “White Preachers Born Again on Black Network; TV Evangelists Seek to Resurrect Ministries,” The Washington Post, September 3, 1998.

[21] “Two very different charlatans both selling the divine right to get rich quick,” London Daily Mirror, September 23, 2015.

[22] Bentley, Todd, Journey Into the Miraculous: Experiencing the Touch of the Supernatural God. (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.), 2008. back cover.

[23] Ibid., p. 141; also the source for the quotation continuing the thought in the following paragraph.

[24] Ibid., p. 177.

[25] Ibid., p. 365.

[26] See FreshFire website at www.freshfireusa.com.

[27] “The Price of Healing: For Critics of Extravagant Faith Healer Benny Hinn, the Good Book Isn’t Enough…,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2003, p. I 20.

[28] Holyfield, Evander, with Lee Gruenfeld, Becoming Holyfield: A Fighter’s Journey. (New York: Atria Books), 2008, quoted in Jet, July 4, 1994.

[29] “The Price of Healing,” op. cit.; this is the source for the entire account of William Vandenkolk’s experience.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] “Believers tout the healing powers of evangelist Hinn,” op. cit.

[33] “The Price of Healing,” op. cit.; and interview with the co-author (AT) April 21, 2016.

[34] “The Price of Healing,” op. cit.

[35] Quoted in http://godinanutshell.com/nutshell-pages/voices-of-honor/benny-hinn.html?fb_ref=recommendations-box-widget.

[36] “The Price of Healing,” op. cit.; this is the source of information and quotations to the end of the chapter.