I didn’t know much about Benny Hinn until I moved to Missouri. I went to a small Christian Church/Church of Christ Bible college with a well-known cessationist professor. Any topic of faith healers generally included laughing at the silliness of those who followed them. The Hinn name came up frequently, and that was all I knew about him.
Five years later, that was still all I knew about Benny Hinn. I knew he was prominent. I knew he hadn’t succeeded in overcoming the lack of faith of the American people by televising his crusades, and that was all I needed to know that his work was not of God. I am not- nor have I ever been– a cessationist. However, I am educated in psychology and firmly aware of the distractions caused by placebos and psychological hype. I assumed that Benny Hinn manipulated emotions on purpose, and any miraculous wonders associated with him were purely emotional in nature.
What challenged this impression of Benny Hinn was actually my neighbor, who told me a story about– of all things– a cat healing. She’d had a cat with a major health issue- maybe kidneys. But a cat who was showing clear signs of going through the stages of death. My friend’s love of cats is quite deep, mirroring a Godly compassion towards humans. It reminds me of the words in Proverbs about the kindness of a good man towards animals, and seems to stem from a holy and reverent tenderness. The cat was healed when my sweet friend stretched the cat’s paws to the television screen.
If you laugh, I can’t join you. I realize, as a person with some social skills, especially after spending years at a research university, that there are lots of layers of scientifically and logically unjustified behavior here. However, Jesus loves the faith that children have. Kid faith isn’t built on heavily girded understanding. I remember the wide, open innocence and love that flowed from my friend as she told me the story. It was the purity of this faith that made me believe her the most. I’ve heard other stories from her. Her faith is simple and sweet, and refreshes the parts of my heart that are logic-weary after years of academic study.
I had already been on the mission field and saw a family of five people whose faith was firmly grounded on the grandma’s miraculous recovery from cancer. Their fellowship had been at the church I was ministering in at the time.
This was the first thing that caused me to wrestle with the ways in which God might actually have used Benny Hinn (*yikes*) to build my friend’s faith. I really wrestled with this idea that God wouldn’t “protect” her from having a miracle that might actually allow her to believe that Hinn was a Christian, much less a pastor. But as she talked about the burden on her heart for his marriage failures, it was clear that she was also abundantly gifted with a love of praying for the leadership of the man who made my stomache turn. This gift of intercession is something I’ve seen in my family. I love it, and I could only attribute it, and the healed cat, to the work of God in her regardless of who Benny Hinn was.
Since I am not a cessationist, I continued to grow in relationships with others who shared this wild-eyed hope in a Creator who actively worked miracles to boost Christian resilience against a generation full of temptations. I have since seen stories of mainstream pastors that I respect much more having turned away from their judgements of Benny Hinn. I’ve also observed him interviewing pastors that I DO respect and seen him drinking in the same sudden awareness of the depths of passages that God was deepening my own understanding of. At this point, I actually believe he’s Christian in the process of sanctification, and that God is glorified in him just as much as your mainstream Christian is embarassed by him.
It doesn’t surprise me, though, that when I see stories of his nephew Costi Hinn coming out of the Hinn ministry and marrying a woman who couldn’t pray in tongue, how big a role biblical literacy played in his alienation from uncle Benny. There’s so much of the scriptures absent from the Hinn interpretations. Costi has now swung far right into the territory of predestination, and seems to be aligning himself with cessationism, a theology I find almost as frustrating as that of the Hinns’ ministries. Costi doesn’t consider his pre-literate days Christian, and seems to believe that the growth in his human wisdom is what led him to be a Christian.
Costi doesn’t seem to intend to pin salvation on human wisdom. I think his growing biblical literacy made him aware of how much he had been relying on his own ability to approach God for miracles. I appreciate this growth in self-awareness. But I think Costi flopped from trusting in his uncle, to trusting in mainstream evangelical pastors. It undermines the purifying role the Word had in growing him. In all their attempts to dissolve religification (my made up word) of our faith, they copy each other and pin all their hopes on the ability of each to perform the same kind of miracle his brother does. This cheapens, to me, the role of trusting in Christ as a savior. Especially when my own daughter is disabled. Under that kind of understanding that we have to know the nature of our salvation to be saved, one would have little hope for her salvation. Especially if you’re a cessationist… how would she ever come to that understanding?
All this being said, I wanted to talk about this story because Jeremiah Johnson- a prophetic minister I respect- is preaching with Benny Hinn next weekend. My respect for Benny Hinn has grown little, if at all, over the years, despite my joy that God might actually be using him intentionally. I wonder what kind of training Johnson is growing in, and what his discernment is regarding Hinn. I’m hoping Hinn is blessed by Johnson, who handles the Word faithfully and walks with what seems to be humility before God.
We shall see. We shall see.