Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jonathan Edwards and Benny Hinn

Never thought you’d see those two names paired did you?

In The Religious Affections, Edwards anticipates by 250 years those like Hinn who emphasize display of physical phenomena as evidence of God’s working. Edwards reasons that such displays may or may not indicate a genuine work of God.

On the side of such things possibly indicating the presence of true grace, Edwards notes, “Some are ready to condemn all high affections: if persons appear to have their religious affections raised to an extraordinary pitch, they are prejudiced against them, and determine that they are delusions without further inquiry. But if it be, as has been proved, that true religion lies very much in religious affections, then it follows that, if there be a great deal of true religion, there will be great religious affections; if true religion in the hearts of men be raised to a great height, divine and holy affections will be raised to a great height.”* He then cites numerous passages from scripture that describe what he calls the “high exercises of affection”: “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.” (Psalm 119:136); “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2); and, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself…” (Habbakuk 3:16)


He goes on to write, “Nor, on the other hand, do I know of any rule any have to determine that gracious and holy affections, when raised as high as any natural affections, and having equally strong and vigorous exercises, cannot have a great affect on the body.”** He even goes so far as to say he knows of no reason “why a being affected with a view of God’s glory should not cause the body to faint (!), as well as being affected with a view of Solomon’s glory.” *** (The exclamation point is mine. I’m wondering now, do those who experience being “slain in the spirit” appeal to Edwards for validation? (Bet you didn’t know that Hinn names Edwards and Whitfield as role models.)

On the other hand, Edwards argues that “great effects on the body certainly are no sure evidences that affections are spiritual; for we see that such effects oftentimes arise from great affections about temporal things, and when religion is no way concerned in them.” † He writes, “I cannot think God would commonly make use of things which are very alien from spiritual affections, and are shrewd marks of the hand of Satan, and smell strong of the bottomless pit, as beautiful figures to represent the high degree of holy affections.”†† And I appreciate this observation: “False affections, if they are equally strong, are much more forward to declare themselves than true: because it is the nature of false religion to affect show and observation, as it was with the Pharisees.”†††


So how can we discern when a public display is a work of God or not? I guess I’ll have to read on, because to this point, Edwards hasn’t yet tipped his hand as to what he will describe in part III of the book as “Distinguishing Signs of Truly Gracious and Holy Affections”. In the meantime, I’ll have to draw my own conclusions about some of the things that happen at Benny Hinn events.

Note: To illustrate what I’m talking about, I was going to post the video clip, “Benny Hinn: Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”, but discovered this notice on YouTube: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Pastor Benny Hinn and the World Healing Church d/b/a Benny Hinn Ministries.”

*Pg. 54, The Religious Affections; The Banner of Truth Trust,2004.
**Ibid. Pg. 60
*** Ibid. Pg. 60
† Ibid. Pg. 59
†† Ibid. Pg. 62
††† Ibid. Pg. 64

2 comments:

boyd said...

Michael, I am enjoying this series on Edwards. I have the same questions/struggles that you are raising.

I haven't been to Freedom F'ship (except years ago when Bill was still there as pastor). I am wondering how this discussion relates to your church...

Boyd

Pastor Michael said...

Boyd,

While Freedom Fellowship Church isn't monolithic in it's approach to these matters, I think a sizeable group (myself included) wrestle with a tension between phenomena described in the Bible--signs, wonders, tongues, prophecy--and what we see offered as contemporary examples. In my view there is very little correspondence.

From the Bible record, I am unable to make a case for the cessation of what some term "sign gifts". (I see no such category in scripture--the way I read it, all the charismata are supernatural.) In my experience, however, what is offered up these days as evidence for the continuance of tongues, healings and prophecy much more makes the case for these manifestations having ceased. Hinn, in my view, is the poster child for this paradox.

Thus, Freedom Fellowship is a congregation which, because of what the scriptures describe, entertains (welcomes, even) the demonstration of God's supernatural activity through charismata, but, based on what is offered up in the name of these gifts by contemporary practitioners, is highly circumspect with regard to their expression.