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.”