Book Review: Defining Deception by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood

Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement

In their book, Defining Deception, Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood provide a behind-the-scenes look at the mystical-miracle movement. The mystical-miracle movement is a heretical movement that is filled with deviant doctrine, fueled by counterfeit miracles, and funded by false prosperity teaching. There are many men and women in this movement who pose as modern-day prophets, apostles, and miracle-workers.

At the center of all of this deviant activity is Bethel Ministries and their leader, Bill Johnson. In the book Defining Deception, Hinn and Wood do a thorough case study of Bill Johnson’s ministry, writings, sermons, and associations to reveal the danger of his doctrine. The authors accurately pinpoint Johnson as a central figure in the Third Wave or New Apostolic Reformation.

By God’s grace, Hinn and Wood approach this topic with love and pastoral care. Costi Hinn was once heavily involved in the global ministry of false teacher Benny Hinn. He now serves on staff with co-author Anthony Wood who is the pastor of Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California. Together, they have carefully and biblically exposed this particular strain of false teaching without coming across as angry or vindictive.

Defining Deception is not a hit job on Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement. It is also not an argument that all signs have ceased (a theological position known as cessationism). Instead, they are hoping that charismatics and non-charismatics will unite against those who have “turned Jesus into a commodity”.

The first chapter gives a biblical definition of miracles and briefly documents some of the abuses of Bill Johnson and Bethel Ministries. For example:

  • Bethel youth travel to rest on graves of historic leaders “sucking” their spirit.
  • Feathers and gold dust are said to miraculously fall from the ceiling during Bethel worship.
  • Bill Johnson teaches that God wants everyone healthy, and sickness is evidence of sin.

The authors compare these abuses (and others) to the desired miracle manipulation of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 and other historic examples throughout church history.

Next, Hinn and Wood profile some of the leaders in the Third Wave/NAR family tree. This section includes descriptions of the heretical teaching and practices of Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Temple McPherson, and Oral Roberts, to name a few. The authors then turn to the influence of C. Peter Wagner on Bill Johnson’s own thought and teaching. This is followed by a chapter that covers the heretical teachers Bill Johnson has chosen as his associates, including Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, and Todd White.

Finally, in the remaining chapters, Hinn and Wood expose the deceptive logic, false doctrine, and manipulative practices of Johnson and Bethel Ministries. In contrast to such false teaching, the author’s carefully present a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and Scriptures. When placed side-by-side, this contrast between Johnson’s ministry and biblical doctrine is very stark.

When I received the advance copy of Defining Deception, I was given some context for it and told that it can be a bit technical in some places. However, it is very readable and every chapter held my attention and was written clearly and compellingly. The chapters are just over a hundred pages which is then followed by five helpful appendices that take up another fifty pages. The appendices include testimonies from those rescued from deception, a frequently asked questions section, and further information on understanding biblical tongues, the myth of being slain in the Spirit, and the answer to the question, “Can you be healed by a false teacher?”

Defining Deception is a book for today’s church. Throughout the history of the church there has always been manipulation and doctrinal deception. And there will always be a need for pastors, theologians, and thoughtful Christians to discern the Truth. Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood have risen to the challenge. The author’s unique perspective and deep theological reflection has shaped this book into what John MacArthur says, “could be one of the most important books of the decade.”

 

One God, Two Gods, Three Gods, No God

Is it reasonable to believe in God? If there is a God, how do we go about getting to know him / her / them? Has science ruled out the possibility that God exists?

These are a few of the questions that people who are seeking tend to ask. When someone is seriously asking these questions it is helpful to gently and lovingly point out their blind spots so they are able to see all the possibilities.

The Ignorance of Tolerance

Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesterton

Tolerance is a desirable virtue. Someone who is tolerant is someone who is peaceful and respectful of other’s beliefs and values.

However, we can be peaceful and respectful and still point out flaws. In fact, it is a loving thing to point out that it is a bad thing to harm yourself or others in the name of religion, for example.

Most people simply go along with tolerance as an ideal because it is the foundation of our society (when it comes to various religions) because it is the path of least resistance.

The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

You know the story of the blind men and the elephant right?

A king asks six blind men to determine what they are touching by feeling different parts of an elephant’s body. One blind man feels a leg and says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a pipe.

Then the king explains to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.”

What’s wrong with this story?

This story is told to indicate the truth that can be found in all religions. Any religion that makes exclusive truth claims (such as, “Jesus is the only way to God”) should learn from this parable and be more tolerant of other religions.

I can think of at least three problems with this parable (If this comes across as being intolerant of foolishness, so be it.):

The Hardest Place On Earth To Be Like Jesus

I will never smile like this at the dentist

I hate the dentist’s office.

Notice I said I hate the office and not the dentist. My dentist seems very nice. I’m pretty sure she didn’t become a dentist so that she could torture me.

That’s just a guess.

All I know is the dentist’s office is the hardest place on earth for me to be like Jesus. Of course, that’s assuming we could know how he would act since I’m pretty sure he never had to endure a cleaning or a root canal.

For my part, I generally walk into the dentist’s office grumpy and it usually just gets worse from there.

The last time I went to the dentist’s office, the visit was especially frustrating. I got there 15 minutes early and they finally called me in 20 minutes late. I thought I had allotted enough time for some other things I needed to do that morning but the chances of me getting out of the dentist’s office in a timely manner were looking grim right from the start. (There’s always somewhere else I need to be when I’m at the dentist’s office.)

So I’m grumpy. I’m annoyed. And to top it off, when I’m finally brought in, it’s a dental assistant that I haven’t met. It’s always amazing to me how they can ask questions to try and get to know you when it’s impossible to answer:

“Where are you from?”

“Mmmppffh!”

But it never stops them from asking more questions.

And then it happens. The dreaded question that’s going to make me feel guilty for the rest of the week:

Cultural Relevance: How to Engage Culture With Integrity

Me: "I've seen lots of movies. I must be relevant!". Hermione: "Huh?"

Is Christianity still relevant in a postmodern and pluralistic culture?

A lot of Christians pride themselves on how relevant they are. They do their best to understand and empathize with our culture.

Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are misguided in their attempts to become more relevant. They watch lots of movies, wear the right clothes, sip expensive lattes, and immerse themselves in CNN and the New York Times thinking they’ve cracked the cultural code.

I love what Ed Stetzer says about “being missional”. He said, “Seems like everyone wants to be missional but when they say “missional” they really mean “edgy,” “innovative,” or “contemporary.”

We should connect with our culture but how do we do so with Biblical and personal integrity? Let’s look at three ways we think we are connecting (but aren’t) and one way to truly connect.

Three ways you might think you are connecting with culture, but probably aren’t

1. You are watching what they are watching

Watch more movies, that’s the answer! Right? TV and movies are like windows into the minds of our neighbors. They must be gifts from God!

That might’ve been a bit sarcastic but pop culture does have some value. Movies like Religulous show us how Christianity is perceived (or caricatured) and points out some of our own faults. Movies like Napolean Dynamite generate a cult following. TV shows often influence the way our culture thinks about sex and relationships.

The Passionate Intellect by Alister McGrath [Review]

Book Review: The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind by Alister McGrath (InterVarsity Press)

Atheists think that Christians are intellectually dim.

Sometimes they are right.

In Passionate Intellect, Alister McGrath does an amazing job of helping Christians step up their game while simultaneously debunking the myth that Christianity is unreasonable.

I highly recommend this book! McGrath gives you six chapters on the purpose, place and relevance of Christian theology. Then, he turns to actually confronting various issues such as how we should think about science, atheism, and creation and evolution.

The following excerpt is just one of the many ways McGrath shows his superior rhetorical skills. In this section, he exposes and demolishes the arrogance of the new atheists who claim to be more “enlightened” than 90% of the world who believe in God. In fact, for awhile they even tried to get people to refer to them as “Brights”. Here is how McGrath responds: