This past week, [RNS] along with several other reputable sources, released a story that claims Pentecostal super-star Benny Hinn has renounced the "prosperity gospel." For more than 40 years, Hinn has traveled the world preaching that it is not God's will for a Christian to endure adversity, illness, or poverty. Hinn's recent disclosure has headlined religious programming and dominated sites in social media all week. On Sept. 2, Hinn claimed on his broadcast, "Your Love World" that he is now breaking with friends in Christian ministry who preach a "gospel" that focuses on wealth. "I'm sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy, and I'm correcting my own theology." He admitted that he now believes that, "It's an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the gospel. I'm done with it. I will never again ask you to give a thousand or whatever amounts because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it."
There is no agreement on when or why Hinn's recantation has happened. Some traced it to 2015 when reports revealed that the world-famous "healer and prophet" suffered a severe heart attack and was confined in a large California hospital.
The fact is that the entire year of 2015 was not a good year for the "health and prosperity" [also known as the "name it and claim it"] gospel. In March of that year another Pentecostal "super-star," Rod Parsley was diagnosed and treated with radiation for throat cancer. That year, other prominent Pentecostals had to deal with s of with tax evasion.
In May of 2015, an Associated Press story reported that Kenneth Copeland's mega ministry in Texas was under much scrutiny because of a measles outbreak that began in his church. Things were so bad that the church set up a clinic for its members and hundreds were vaccinated. When a reporter asked why members were not previously immunized, a church official replied, "believers should rely on God, not modern medicine, to keep them well. To get a vaccine would have been viewed by my friends and me and my peers as an act of fear---that you doubted God would keep you safe, you doubted God would keep you healthy. We simply didn't do it."
Gloria Copeland, the evangelist's wife, has often boasted that "she and her husband don't need prescription drugs," adding that "the Lord heals all diseases." I have to wonder why Kenneth and Gloria didn't just heal all of these infected church members? That might have impressed even a confessed skeptic like me.
If Benny Hinn has genuinely changed his thinking about the "prosperity gospel," then I am glad. But I need to clarify something. This article is not about "IF our Lord is able or still does perform healing and other sorts of miracles today." He does. I am one that he surely has. Neither is this an effort to limit God's person, power, or sovereignty. Nor should this be construed as an attack or ridicule of those who believe in faith healing. I certainly believe God still miraculously heals. But I don't believe in faith healers. I am neither a rationalist nor a radical regarding the Bible.
The rationalist opposes God's Word by rejecting the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Conversely, a radical destroys the truth of Scripture by adding to it false claims and false interpretations or misapplying unclear or obscure passages. Both the rationalist and the extreme positions regarding the authority of Scripture are rooted in sinful pride. The rationalist's ego relies on his education, logic, and human reasoning. The Pentecostal's pride is rooted in their prideful assumptions, personal religious experiences, and raw emotions even when these contradict reality or the Scripture itself.
Though there may be variations in their approach, the standard claims of "faith healers" and "prosperity gospel" preachers are quite similar. The gist of the faith healer's teaching is simple: that Christ's suffering on the Cross assures complete physical healing in this life for every believer. Thus, it is NEVER God's will for the Christian to be ill, or maimed or poor.
Though claimed by its adherents to be a message of hope and deliverance, in reality, this teaching has proven to be quite cruel and has led many Christians to despair. Any adversity, illness, poverty, or suffering are never God's will for the Christian. Any misfortune, especially sickness or poverty, is always the fault of Satan, and never God's will. Poverty, broken relationships, illness, and disease invade and overwhelm a believer only because the Christian does not DEMAND deliverance. The conclusion, it is always the Christian's fault if we are ill, disappointed, or poor.
But is this so? The "healing" wrought at Calvary is the healing of the soul and not of our bodies. Salvation is grounded in Christ's shed blood and death which reconcile the sinner to God. But physical healing was always found in Christ's life and preceded his suffering and dying on the Cross. But "IF" bodily healing is a result of Christ's work at Calvary, then, of necessity, we could live forever in our sinful bodies.
These mistaken teachings on "faith healing" are more than just some minor difference of opinion on a non-essential doctrine. There are dangerous consequences to this teaching. It is this sort of twisting of Scripture, spiritual ignorance, pride, and distortion of God's will that causes many to revile and ridicule biblical Christianity eventually. The modern "prosperity teaching" is nothing more than a shameful and demonic imitation of the true gospel. It makes merchandise of the real suffering of many desperate and hurting people. It is a presumption that is often driven by the greed of its leaders and is a dangerous and twisted distortion of God's word.
William "Ed" Nicholson is pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel at Little Summit in Dunbar Twp. He is a native of this area and holds graduate degrees in Bible and Education. He is a life member of the Amputee Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. He can be reached at WillnPA9@Gmail.com or 724-626-1264.