Ex-Christian.net has a new article on Benny Hinn. Seems that Benny Hinn has been sending takedown notices to YouTube to remove videos critical of him and his “ministry”. One video that was taken down is “Do you believe in Miracles” – an expose done by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which includes Hinn making up stories in his books, Christians contradicting his stories because they were there at the events he describes, and employees of Benny Hinn.
It was interesting to hear them explain how “screeners” decide who gets to go on-stage and “be healed”. They prevent anyone with a visible sickness from appearing on-stage. The reason for this seems obvious – when Benny Hinn tells someone they are healed, and they have cancer, AIDS, or diabetes, no one (not the audience, nor the “healee”) knows whether or not they have been healed. On the other hand, if someone is crippled, in a wheelchair, or has an amputated limb – those people aren’t brought up on stage, and those are the people that would be obviously healed or not healed. You can’t convince the audience of healing when that person still cannot walk.
I was particularly taken aback by the ways he psychologically manipulates people to give money – example: “What’s all this money good for my friend? You’re not going to take it with ya.” (at 24:15 in the video) meanwhile he wears expensive suits, drives Mercedes, and lives in a $10 million-dollar house. Hinn is really no better than Peter Popoff – making up lies and becoming fabulously wealthy by making hallow promises about “God’s healing”. (This video is located on GoogleVideo, rather than YouTube because the YouTube version was removed.)
Now, of course, it is easy for Christians to say, “Sure, televangelists are charlatans, but Christianity is true”. As I’ve said before, I recognize that the duplicity of televangelists does not directly impact the validity of Christianity. However, I want to make several points:
(1) The idea that God can/will heal people is firmly based in New Testament Scripture, so what Hinn is doing is not in any sense un-scriptural. The Bible claims that Jesus did all sorts of miracles and that his followers will do “even greater things”. The problem is that Christianity (along with all other religions) is a false religion, and therefore, ineffectual. Some actual New Testament verses (and there are plenty more like this):
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16)
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
In no way is faith-healing unscriptural – in fact, if the New Testament is true, then these sorts of things should happen. They don’t. Churches have moved into two different attitudes towards healing: (a) God doesn’t perform miracles (a lesson learned through experience and is an honest statement, but it contradicts New Testament scripture, and is a theology that fails to excite people), and (b) faith that miracles can occur, and claims about miracles happening that never actually occur – this draws large crowds eager for healing, brings in money, is scripturally sound, but is ultimately based on false hopes, naivity, and lies. (I grew up in a fundamentalist, faith-healing, speaking-in-tongues church, I’m well aware of the fact that no one gets healed.) If Christians truely believe that God is “the great physician”, they should avoid modern medicine and go to the One who knows more than any human physician. Of course, we all know what the result of that will be: some Christians will end up dying, and the rest will end up running back to modern science for cures. Even Christians should admit that “the Great Physician” is, at the very least, far less reliable than human ones.
(2) When so many Christians are scammed by the duplicity of televangelists, it speaks poorly about people’s ability to differentiate truth from hallow promises. The very premise of Christianity is that people are saved by having faith the the right religion – i.e. Christianity. However, humans must pick the right religion (not Islam, not Hinduism, not Buddhism). If human discernment is so bad that they are duped by lying televangelists, then the people who pick the correct religion (whether that religion is Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, etc) are really just “lucky”. It’s a point I make frequently: unless the true religion is obviously superior to all the others, then the religious choice people make is somewhat arbitrary from the perspective of evidence. But, why wouldn’t a loving God make the true religion obviously true? Let me put it this way: imagine that you are in a room with a dozen doors. One of those doors leads to heaven, and all the other doors lead to hell. According to Christianity, God is loving and has provided one door to heaven. However, unless that door is specially marked (for example, one door says “this leads to heaven” and all other doors say “this door leads to hell”), then the choice of doors is arbitrary for any human making the choice. But, the actual situation is that all doors are marked “this door leads to heaven/nirvana/etc”. Yet, the choice results in eternal bliss or eternal damnation. Thus, it is a terrible situation: the door a person picks is somewhat arbitrary – a situation that can be remedied by “the true God” but isn’t. Taking a step back, we can recognize that the whole system that is horribly twisted, and a system which would not be created by a loving God. Christian theology makes a lot of sense, however, when viewed from a perspective of “what kinds of statements can a false religion make to best draw followers?”