Posted in Commentary, culture, Faith, Religion

Celebrating the Bigger Picture in Benny Hinn’s Shift on Prosperity Gospel

When I first came across a YouTube clip circulating on social media that Benny Hinn had renounced the prosperity gospel and that he will no longer “ask people for money”, I was reluctant to celebrate.

First, being the skeptic that I am, I thought the clip was had been edited to fit a certain narrative, so I wanted to watch the entire message before forming an opinion. So I looked for the original message. I found it tucked inside a 3-hour long Facebook Live video on Benny Hinn’s page. I even posted the full, unedited transcript on this blog.

The more I listened to his original words, the more I felt my reservations fade.

More questions than answers

However, many questions quickly followed this initial excitement. Does this mean that Benny Hinn is on the path to affirming and preaching the true gospel? What about Benny Hinn’s views on other teachings of the Bible?

Wait, it sounds like he renounced the prosperity gospel, but did he say what the true gospel is? Was he always preaching the true gospel and then adding the prosperity stuff on top or is he now changing his entire understanding of what the gospel is?

Come to think of it, Benny Hinn doesn’t use the phrase “Prosperity Gospel” anywhere in his message. He uses the word “prosperity” a lot, and rebukes those who try to peddle the gospel as a means to prosperity. Is this the same thing we mean when we speak about the prosperity gospel? Are we putting words in Benny Hinn’s mouth?

As far as I know, prosperity gospel is the teaching that Jesus died to make us healthy, wealthy and happy. But the true gospel is about Jesus dying to save us from our sins and restore our broken fellowship with God. Did Benny Hinn make this distinction? Is he even aware of the nuance? What exactly is the gospel according to Benny Hinn?

These are just a few questions that led me back to my previous reluctance to celebrate what many have lauded as a significant shift in Benny Hinn’s theology.

But I am a communications specialist, and I like to think I understand the power of context and environment in determining the effect someone’s words have on another. It is why echo-chambers continue to thrive on the internet and why confirmation bias tends to rule our convictions.

When you’ve already decided that a person is against you and doesn’t want you to succeed in life, you develop filters for whatever positive thing they say. You never associate with them or give them a willing audience, and when you are forced to listen to them, you always expect them to speak against you and you grow suspicious when they say anything positive about you.

This is why, no matter how good your arguments and how compelling your evidence, you will never convince a Jubilee party die-hard to vote for the opposition party.

Bigger picture

This brings me to the point I refer to as the “bigger picture” in Benny Hinn’s latest words. I am celebrating Benny Hinn’s words, not because it says anything about the overall change in his theology (or even a change in the trajectory of his theology), I am celebrating his words because of the people who got to hear them and, for the first time, consider the truth of those words and possibly believe them.

The “bigger picture” is not the man who claimed to renounce the prosperity gospel, the bigger picture is the masses who heard, listened, and believed him.

There are those who have faithfully followed Benny Hinn Ministries who will struggle with this question. Probably for the first time in their life, they will feel the instinct to disagree with their teacher and like the Bereans, they will go back to their Bibles to confirm the truth of these new and strange claims.

Some of these people will share the clip with their friends in the same prosperity and Word of Faith circles. Hopefully, the anouncement will be subject of discussion in Bible Study groups and Whatsapp groups and after-church conversations in those circles.

“Did you hear what Benny Hinn said? What do you think it means? Do you agree? What do we do with this new shift?”

Listening again, for the first time

And in the process, many will Google their questions and they will encounter other people speaking about the same topic. Probably for the first time in their lives, they will dare to examine the words of those “enemies of the church” who have always spoken ill of their pastor and movements.

They will wonder how what these people knew that their pastor did not; what they said that caused their pastor to change his mind and announce it so publicly and so brazenly. Then they will listen to these enemies again, for the first time.

The more I consider all these possibilities, the more I realize that Benny Hinn’s public renouncing of “prosperity” is not about Benny Hinn. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to go out and sell all he has and give to the poor. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to now change his circle of friends and denomination and join the “true-gospel” movement.

It is not even about whether Benny Hinn should now apologize and make amends for all the people he ostracized for calling him out when he preached the prosperity gospel; or whether he should now begin a ministry of calling out those he once walked alongside.

For all we know, this may be the last time we hear about it. He will probably do an interview or two about it and then quickly fade back into the movement that he has led and been a part of for decades.

For all we know, he was probably using even this supposed recanting as another opportunity to make himself look good and honorable before human beings. Only God knows what is in Benny Hinn’s heart — It is possible to confess that you used to be a people-pleaser and still do it as another act of people-pleasing.

Of course I want and pray that Benny Hinn will fully embrace and preach and live out the true Gospel. As far as I know, what he has said is worth celebrating. But it is simply to early and we know too little to tell whether this is indeed what it happening. We celebrate the teaser, even as we await the rest of the story.

Yet despite this, I see a bigger and a more immediate cause for celebration. In just 5 minutes Benny Hinn has planted a seed of (or at least a curiosity for) the true gospel in millions of hearts that may never have considered listening to someone who wasn’t Benny Hinn.

Whatever we think of Benny Hinn in this season and afterwards, we cannot deny the fact that God has, in this moment, used him as His instrument. And this is definitely worth celebrating.

For the fame of His name.

Posted in Faith, Religion

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Benny Hinn Rejects the Prosperity Gospel

“I am sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy. And I am correcting my own theology, and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw the Bible 20 years ago.

Steve Strang from Charisma, whom we go back years, actually he was in my wedding, people don’t even know that Charisma magazine began with my father-in-law. Charisma magazine started with Roy Harthern, and I married his daughter.

So Steve Strang was in my wedding. We go way back. And he’s already asked me “Are you ready to make it public?” and I said “Well, not totally, because I don’t want to hurt my friends, whom I love, who believe things I don’t believe anymore.”

And I will tell you now something that is gonna shock you.

I think it is an offense to the Lord to say ‘give a thousand dollars’. I think it is an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the gospel. I am done with it. I will never again ask you to give a thousand or whatever amount because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.

Did you hear me? I think that hurts the gospel. So I am making this statement for the first time in my life, and frankly I don’t care what people think about me anymore.

So I had a guy.. well I’ll tell you who, it was Dan Willis and I love Dan with all my heart. I said to him ‘don’t you dare preach that message again.. I don’t wanna hear it, I don’t even want to be a part of it’.

So when they invite me to telethons I think they will not like me anymore. Because when you look at the word of God, I don’t wanna get into it now. Am I shocking you? Good, let’s have a high five on this one.

If I hear one more time ‘break the back of death with a thousand dollars’ I’m gonna rebuke them. I think that’s buying the gospel, that’s buying the blessing. That’s grieving the Holy Spirit. That’s about all I will say.

If you are not giving because you love the Lord Jesus, don’t bother giving. I think giving has become such a gimmick it’s making me to my stomach.

And I’ve been sick for awhile too, I just couldn’t say it. But now the lid is off. I’ve had it. You know why? I don’t wanna get to heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we said it like it is: The gospel is not for sale, and the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale, and prosperity is not for sale.

I still believe in prosperity but let’s look at what the Bible says. I’m not supposed to say it now but it looks like I’m saying it anyways. You have to read… And I just sent a letter to my people with what I really believe, so I’m kinda jumping ahead of myself, because I am really ticked, in a Holy Ghost way.

Anybody ever been upset in a Holy Ghost way? Maybe ticked is the wrong word, I don’t know why I even said it, there’s some guy years ago said ticked and I just stuck with it. But it’s like holy anger, it’s like, ‘ why do they have to do that?’

If it’s not about adoring, loving Jesus, have nothing to do with it. If it is about self and mullah.. You know what mullah is? Money. If it’s about how to get rich, it is not the gospel. It’s about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why do we give? Because we adore Him, we love Him.  Why do we give? Because His gospel changed my life, and I want to see all the lives changed just like how my life was changed. Now, enough about that.

The message of prosperity is in the Bible, we cannot deny that if we give we’ll receive. We cannot deny God will bless us, that’s in the Bible. You can’t erase it, no way.

God wants to bless His people way more than you want to receive His blessing. But when you put a price on it, never. Because it gets corrupted. That’s all there is to it.”

Excerpted from Benny Hinn Ministries Facebook Live Video: Benny Hinn LIVE Monday Night Service – September 2, 2019 (Timestamp 1:21:00)

Posted in The 4th Dimension

What Is So Wrong With Positive Thinking?

Why do so many people (myself included) like to bash prosperity preachers? As a friend recently asked me after I posted a critique on a sermon by Creflo Dollar: “Cornell, what do you have against the man?” Before I respond to that question, three corrections:

  1. We (whoever we are) actually don’t “like” to bash prosperity preachers. (at least some of us don’t find any pleasure in it)
  2. We don’t bash prosperity “preachers”. (some of us prefer focusing on what the preachers “teach”, though many readers tend to be too emotive to distinguish between a teaching and a teacher)
  3. We actually like “prosperity” preaching. (what some of us are against is “false” prosperity preaching)

The reason I name some of these preachers is quite simple, really. It is the same reason we name people who said certain things in the newspaper. It is called attribution. If the President of Kenya said something profound (or profoundly wrong) in public, it is only reasonable that I post whatever was said along with the name of whoever said it. It is just good journalistic practice.

But somehow, when it comes to Christian preachers shouting words in public stadia, we are somehow only supposed to discuss what they said without naming them (or else send them private e-mails). I don’t think I am the only one seeing this inconsistency.

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au
Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Now, I have said all that (above) in order to say this: I find it equally inconsistent to insist on applauding “positive thinking” without examining and questioning those positive thoughts. Most of the “false” prosperity teachings out there are usually forms of positive thinking. They are aimed at helping people feel better about themselves and their Christianity. There is nothing wrong with that. I am all for helping people feel better about themselves and their faith. It is the “how” of attaining this goal that I have qualms about.

This is my point: “Positive thinking” means nothing if you have the wrong standard for determining what is positive and what is negative.

For instance, if self-interest is the ultimate objective, it may be seen as positive to accumulate insane wealth without helping the poor. Do you find any problem with that?

Similarly, if social well-being is the objective, it may be seen as positive to do what helps the masses but deprives the individuals of their rights. Do you have a problem with this approach too? Why?

But if God and His glory is the standard, it is positive to do what glorifies Him, and in doing that, realizing that both the individual and the society will benefit.

Therefore, “positive thinking” means nothing without a proper context. What many of us try to emphasize when we critique false prosperity teachers teachings is how (the context in which) they deliver their message. For instance, a teacher may say that God wants to make you wealthy. That is correct. But then the teacher adds that “God wants to make you wealthy today” and we have a problem.

The problem is not that God CAN’T make you wealthy today. Of course He can. The problem is not even that God WILL NOT make you wealthy today. Who knows? Maybe He will. The problem is that God has not given us any reason in His word to be certainly sure that HE WILL MAKE YOU RICH TODAY OR TOMORROW OR IN THIS LIFE.

It is just not there. And it is false to add a false WHEN to a true CAN.

Another aspect of “positive preaching” that has arisen recently is how Victoria Osteen recently responded to “why we worship God”. By now you know what she said, so I don’t need to repeat it here (or you may Google it if you missed it). But I will only say this to that:

Make God your beginning and your end, and “the rest” will follow. But be careful not to do it SO THAT the rest will follow or BECAUSE you want the rest to follow, do it because you love God and want to do what pleases Him… whether or not “the rest” follows.

It is like loving your spouse, you don’t love them “for yourself”, in fact, if they knew you love them because of what you stand to gain, they will not see that as love. You love your spouse because you genuinely seek their joy whether or not you will be happy yourself. Of course, your own happiness MAY follow as a result, but that is not WHY you love them. You love them for them, even if they DON’T NEED your love.

So why give any less love to God? Why love God any differently?

~~~~

Cornell

 

Posted in The 4th Dimension

The Kenyan Church and Prosperity Gospel

prosperityI deeply appreciate Peter Oduor’s effort towards bringing to light the various problems plaguing the Kenyan church and 21st Century evangelicalism in general. On 13th February, he wrote an article on Daily Nation’s DN2 magazine, addressing the premise: “The Kenyan Church is on a roll, but what’s the inspiration behind its colossal growth over the past decade?” I do find his choice of title rather misleading though: “The Kenyan Church and the Gospel of Prosperity” Such a title gives one the impression that the article is going to zoom in on Prosperity Gospel, which wasn’t quite the case:

A TROUBLING TREND IN LOCAL CHURCHES

Peter Oduor provides a well researched, overall (albeit surface), diagnosis of the changes that have taken place in the Kenyan church in the past decade. Continue reading “The Kenyan Church and Prosperity Gospel”