On May 29, 2008, in an article titled “Revivalist Claims Hundreds of Healings,” MSNBC reported on Todd Bentley and the alleged revival happening in Florida. I was interviewed for this article. Almost instantly, reader responses came pouring in about my comments in the article. And most of them expressed some degree of irritation with me. They weren’t happy with my statement that “Mr. Bentley’s worldview appears to be a mixture of New Age notions, an obsession with the paranormal, and an untutored grasp of Christian theology.” In addition to the readers’ comments at the end of the article, I have so far received one letter by regular mail and an abundance of email messages expressing disagreement and concern.
Eventually, I may respond from this blog to some of the more interesting objections that have been made. In this post, I simply want to give brief answers to a few questions some might have about the Todd Bentley phenomenon.
1. Is there biblical support for the events associated with the “Bentley revival”? Many of this movement’s alleged miracles diverge from the pattern of miracles recounted in the New Testament (in the Book of Acts, for example). Several of Mr. Bentley’s “prophetic utterances” frankly resemble occultic practices, quite in contrast with the biblical prophets.
2. How would you describe this branch of Christianity? As I say in the MSNBC article, the Bentley phenomenon doesn’t it fit neatly into any branch of Christianity. Mr. Bentley’s worldview does indeed appear to be “an admixture of New Age notions, an obsession with the paranormal, and an untutored grasp of Christian theology.” His core message is a vague conception of life-transforming power, rather than the clear message of salvation from sin and revival of the soul through faith in Jesus Christ.
3. How “mainstream” are these beliefs among the mainstream evangelical Christian population in America? The Bentley phenomenon is better known for spectacle than for doctrine. Mr. Bentley’s website stresses the continuation of divine revelation in our time, in manifest tension with its own statement that “Scripture is our source of revelation of God . . . the final Court of Appeal on all points of doctrine, life and godliness.”
4. What should non-Christians make of these meetings? If people have no way of confirming his claims or the authenticity of his “powers,” they are better off simply ignoring Todd Bentley. This is true for Christians and non-Christians alike. In my view, there is no evidence that he is a legitimate heir to apostolic authority.
There has been quite of lot of blog action about Todd Bentley and his “revival.” Most of it is either supremely sympathetic or relentlessly critical. And almost all that I’ve seen has been more emotional than thoughtful. But there is one blog entry that I recommend: Dan Phillips, “What I Think of ‘the Florida Revival,’” at the PyroManiacs blog. Check it out—and let me know what you think.
Doug’s other posts on the subject of miracles: