Hoax Healers and Idiotic Ideology

This post is by Jesse Galef, who works for the American Humanist Association

These stories always make me sad.  Via Daniel Florien at Unreasonable Faith I found an article on fake faith-healer Todd Bentley.  WORLD Magazine (Today’s News | Christian Views) asked him for a list of the people he had healed and – after six weeks and a dozen requests – were given a list of 13 names.  The problem?  Two of the people Bentley listed as ‘healed’ had died recently.

Daniel covers why these scam artists are outrageous and upsetting.  I decided to address a different part of the article:

Does it mean anything that less than a year after the conclusion of the Outpouring two people on a list of 13 “healings”—a list provided by the ministry itself—are dead, and most of the rest don’t stand up to questions?

Michael Brown says it does matter. Brown is the author of Israel’s Divine Healer (Zondervan, 1995), considered one of the definitive examinations of how healing takes place in Scripture. He personally believes in supernatural healing, but he also says a healthy skepticism about most healing stories is a sign of wisdom and discernment.

So let me get this straight.  Brown says skepticism is a sign of wisdom.  No faith healer has ever stood up to scrutiny and skepticism.  Brown says he believes in faith healing.  Does anyone else see a disconnect here?

He seems to be saying that it’s good to have skepticism about faith healing, but that we can go ahead and believe in it even if there’s no evidence.  He can’t possibly be saying that, can he?

Actually, yes, he can.  Look at what he says later:  “[God] can and does heal. But our experiences should not shape our theology. Instead, our theology should be the lens through which we evaluate our experiences. And our theology should be based on Scripture.”

Believe whatever you want!  Just pick a scripture (Brown never makes it clear how you pick a scripture among the many) and base your theology on it.  It doesn’t have to be tied to experience or, you know, reality!

No wonder the article quoted this guy.  Look what I found in the magazine’s ‘about us’ section:

We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it.

Um… WORLD Magazine?  You’re doing it wrong.

For that matter, I stand for absolute honesty in comments, as long as everyone is telling me they agree with me.

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I agree with you.

  • David D.G.

    [God] can and does heal. But our experiences should not shape our theology. Instead, our theology should be the lens through which we evaluate our experiences. And our theology should be based on Scripture.

    We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it.

    I am continually gobsmacked by this attitude that reality is somehow subject to, or shaped by, what is written/said/thought about it. Such magic-based thinking is understandable in the minds of small children, but not in the minds of ostensibly competent adults!

    ~David D.G.

  • Polly

    “God can and does heal”

    a)we simply haven’t heard about the real ones

    b)He’s still waiting for that perfect believer with perfect faith

    c)He heals ya before you even know yer sick!

    d)His instances of healing have the same odds as a really awful lottery where you have to pick 17 numbers…out of trillions…in the right order…and they only run the balls once a year. So, theoretically yes, it’s possible, and extrapoliating out a few billion years, one can forsee a time when a healing actually occurs

  • Infinite Monkey

    Actually, yes, he can. Look at what he says later: “[God] can and does heal. But our experiences should not shape our theology. Instead, our theology should be the lens through which we evaluate our experiences. And our theology should be based on Scripture.”

    Am I the only one scratching my head about this?

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…I understand the reason he is saying what he did. He is trying his best to seperate the “real” healings in the bible from the obvious scam-artists of today. He cannot just say faith healing is false…otherwise there is a lot the bible has to account for. And he cannot let the biblical stories stand together with the scam-artists…as that too would be negative for the bible, thus faith.

    This is not really an uncommon view. The bible even sets this up with the quote from Jesus concerned wolves in sheep’s clothing. Which is really saying, “even though I claimed to have done all of this bullshit…do not believe it if anyone else tries to say they did”. Thus, being skeptical about others claiming jesus’ power was instilled from scripture. I know many people whom I would consider the opposite of skeptical, because of their devout religious beliefs…but when it comes to other religions and modern claims, they are as skepitcal as you and I…or moreso…as they “know’ their version of the bullshit is true.

  • Larry Huffman

    Case in point…mormons. Mormons claim modern prophecy, priesthood lineage, healing, revelations, etc (and it is all bs). Not unlike what the bible had (bs as well). Chrisitians will go apoplectic over it all as if there is no way any of it is true…without even realizing they are simply being critical of a newer version of the very same things they believe…with the only difference being the amount of time that has passed since it occurred.

  • Thilina

    Even faith healing should be successful about 30-40% due to the placebo effect, obviously not with serious conditions. But I wonder how many people he attempted to “heal” to get that list of 13.

    I’ll start believing in it if this guy can bring the dead back to life (The only thing guaranteed to not be placebo effect).

  • Sarah Langford

    Isn’t “fake faith healer” a tortology?

  • Richard Wade

    Theology as the “lens through which we evaluate our experiences” is a misnomer. It is a filter through which only scripture-affirming experiences can pass. If what you see with your own eyes contradicts your faith, close your eyes, rock back and forth and hum a hymn until whatever it is goes away. Then you will know the “Truth” again, and you will be happy. Here, have a cookie.

    No, they are not adults, no matter how old they get.

  • Polly

    Isn’t “fake faith healer” a tortology?

    Ah yes, the infamous Cake
    Fallacy.


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