ALL IN THE FAMILY
THE VISIONS AND VANITIES OF SAM HINN

by G. Richard Fisher

 

Televangelist/faith healer Benny Hinn’s claims of supernatural visions and personal encounters with God are widely known. Now come the claims of Benny’s brother Sam.

Sam Hinn, who operates Sam Hinn Ministries, has written a book, Changed in His Presence (Creation House), in which he recounts what he claims are his personal encounters with God.

If one believes all the claims by him and his brother, one might conclude that members of this family enjoy special access to God. However, a closer look at these claims will reveal them to be more likely the product of an overactive imagination than heightened spiritual awareness.

The back dust jacket of Changed in His Presence says:

“Sam Hinn has served as associate pastor of Orlando Christian Center for eleven years with his brother, Benny Hinn. God has placed a great burden in his heart for pastors and the local church. He has ministered across the United States and in many foreign nations.”

Conspicuously absent from the jacket are any of this associate pastor’s ministerial training credentials.

While the book is advertised as a book on worship, much of it focuses on Sam’s personal experiences: visions, hearing voices and the like. On page 32, he says he spends hours in worship. Some of what the book says about worship is right on and some is not, but the good gets lost in a sea of self-congratulatory prose.

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU

Confusion abounds in the modern Church as it becomes more entertainment-centered and man-centered. John MacArthur Jr. says we are “swarming” with “churches that might aptly be named The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now” (The Coming Evangelical Crisis, pg. 175). Perhaps we could call some modern churches “The Church Of Felt Needs.”

The New 20th Century Encyclopedia Of Religious Knowledge says, “The 20th century became a watershed for myriad theologies of worship, mirroring the confusion of theology in general” (pg. 880).

We now have churches that promote wild frenzied laughter, barking, growling and howling and churches that are no more than group therapy sessions. Certainly, the emphasis is more on man than on God and His Word in many of these assemblies. Many ask of worship, “What did I get out of it?” rather than “What did God get out of it?”

It is one thing to say a few right things about worship — as Sam does — but it is another thing to then lead people into practices that are man-centered. Sam and Benny Hinn have shown that they do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. And their followers look to them for that something extra.

WHOM ARE WE WORSHIPING?

The English word “worship” comes from the idea of “worthship.” Sam at least has that fact right (pg. 28) but negates it by dwelling on his self-proclaimed deep spirituality, repeatedly slipping into self-congratulation and self-aggrandizement. God is always to be the object of our worship. He is worthy and of inestimable worth. We are to give Him our praise, love, adoration and thanks. We do this in prayer, in song, in confession of sin, in attention to His preached Word and in our acknowledgment of His greatness.

The Hebrew word sahah (worship) means to prostrate oneself and bow down (Genesis 18:2, Exodus 34:8).

The Greek New Testament uses the word proskeneo for “worship” and means “reverence,” “obeisance” and “homage.” Vine captures the essence of this word (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words, pg. 686).

Worship is a God-centered, God-directed, God-oriented, God-honoring focus on our Creator. It should be so overwhelming that we would only be able to plead for forgiveness as in Isaiah 6.

TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS AND HOLD ME TIGHT

One story in Sam’s book has Jesus coming to him in a glorified body and pleading with Sam to minister to Him:

“I said to Him, ‘Lord, I am so glad You have a glorified body, because I want to give You the best hug You have ever had, and I don’t want to bruise You.’ I stretched my arms to embrace Him and heard Him say, ‘Sam, minister to Me.’ As I hugged Him I could feel tears hit my shoulder. Each tear fell with such force that it seemed to weigh a few pounds. I said to Him, ‘Lord, who has hurt you?’ Again He replied, ‘Sam, just minister to Me’” (pg. 20).

Sam’s description of Jesus hardly sounds like the powerful, triumphant, reigning Christ of Ephesians 1. Ephesians 1:21 says Jesus “is far above principalities, power, might and dominion not only in this age but in the age to come.”

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we have a strong sufficient Mediator, which we need desperately, not the other way around. Certainly Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) but He is not weak like us.

The very name Yahweh, which applies to Jesus, is a name of self-sufficiency. Biblical examples abound of those who, when in the presence of the risen Christ, knelt or fell in awe (John 20:24-29; Revelation 1:17).

Herman Witsius explains:

“Hence such an High-priest became us, as, after having offered up himself, ‘is made higher than the heavens.’ There, in fine, he was to take possession of the Throne of the kingdom, that he might hear the Angels around the throne, shouting with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;’ — that, looking down from on high, he might laugh at the impotent rage of his enemies; — and finally, that from the impregnable fortress he might afford the most effectual succours for the protection of his people, and liberally supply them with the richest gifts” (The Apostles Creed, Vol., 2, pp. 228-229).

Psalm 145:1-3 says, “I will extol you, my God, O King. And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Everyday will I bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.”

Verse 14 says, “The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all those who are bowed down.” He raises us up not the other way around.

In Matthew 28:18 we are reminded that Jesus has supreme power, authority and might. In bold words He affirms; “All power (Greek, exousia, which is power of rule or government) is given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

We know that Christ’s deity has no need or lack. We know also that His humanity is glorified. To radically separate Christ’s humanity and see Jesus needing human sympathy and ministry — as Sam appears to — is at least a move toward Christological heresy.

This is not splitting hairs. When we move away from the accurate biblical portrait of Jesus, human imagination takes over and we can construct a false Christ. Cults inevitably do this.

The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) rightly said:

“We then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood” (The History of Christian Doctrines, Louis Berkhof, pg. 107, emphasis added).

John Walvoord reminds us that after the resurrection and ascension, the state of Jesus “was more than simply a return to preincarnate glory of Deity, but also constituted a glorification of humanity” (Jesus Christ Our Lord, pg. 224).

CONTEXT AND PRETEXT

Sam’s response to those who question why he would or should have these divine visions and visitations is classic Scripture-twisting.

Sam cites John 14:21, “I will love him and manifest Myself to him” — and tries to convince the reader that in this context, the word “manifest” means to “exhibit in person, appear or declare plainly” (Changed, pg. 21).

Since John 14:21 is addressed to all who love and obey Jesus, anyone following Sam’s interpretation must conclude that all who meet the conditions of love and obedience could expect repeated and simultaneous personal audiences with the risen Christ. This violates His words to the disciples recorded in John 16:13, 28, which say He is present with us in His omnipresence and the Holy Spirit. He has not promised to be localized except in heaven as our mediator.

There are three main Greek words translated “manifested” (see Vine, op. cit., pg. 390). These can be used in literal ways or in metaphorical ways depending on the context.

The context of John 14-16 is clear. Jesus’ plan was and is to manifest Himself through the Holy Spirit, (John 14:16-18 and 16:14-15). That manifestation, that is the Spirit’s teaching, comes through the Word of God to every believer (John 14:23-24). The verse quoted by Sam gives no basis for private visions but, in fact, says the opposite. Jesus presently makes Himself “known” in the Word and through the Holy Spirit, as we learn of His grandeur, glory and grace. This is a progressive knowing which all believers are to constantly cultivate.

Vine states it clearly:

“emphanizo ... metaphorically, of ‘the manifestation of Christ’ by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual experience of believers who abide in His love” (ibid., pg. 32).

SPIRITUAL LABOR

Perhaps the book’s most sensational claim comes in a story in which God’s power is said to have knocked Sam to the floor during a meeting. Sam said he felt excruciating pain in his midsection and could hardly breathe (Changed, pp. 157-158). Then God “spoke” and explained the stomach pain: “I have just birthed holiness inside of you. ... Because everything that you have desired for me to do in you is now done.”

This so-called “birthing” did not come from God but more likely from emotionalism gone riot. “Holy” means “set apart.” Inanimate objects were holy and set apart as in the Tabernacle furniture and vessels of the Temple (cf. Exodus 28). The Pentateuch speaks of holy vestments, articles and more.

Christians are set apart in salvation and are holy positionally (Hebrews 10:14). They are holy in Christ and called saints (which has as its root the word “holy”). If holiness is birthed, it is birthed in the new birth. Peter calls us a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5), as God’s children.

There is also a practical and progressive holiness as we serve righteousness (Romans 6), depart from uncleanness (1 Thessalonians 4:7), and follow peace (Hebrews 12:14). Practical holiness is a lifelong pursuit. (Recommended reading on this topic would be Holiness, The False And The True by H.A. Ironside and The Pursuit Of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.)

HIT ME, BEAT ME, HURT ME

Charismatic hero worshipers need to be aware that Sam might be delivering them back into the Dark Ages and the reign of the idea that pain and suffering were visible signs of favor with God. Many tried to speed the process with self-mutilation, scourgings, and brutal self-denials (see Counterfeit Miracles, by B.B. Warfield, pp. 87-89).

Suffering may teach us patience and other lessons but the key to growth is our proper response. Hebrews 12:12 warns that we can respond wrongly to our difficulties and lose the lessons and benefits God intends to impart.

Bible verses on birth refer either to natural birth, the birth of Israel as a nation or the believer’s spiritual rebirth in Christ. Sam’s suggestion is foreign to the Scriptures since true holiness in the life of a believer is an ongoing struggle carried out on the basis of biblical principles.

GETTING ROPED IN WITH FALSE VISIONS

On pages 158-159, Sam recounts as a vision a Jewish and Christian myth in which God shows him the high priest entering the Holy of Holies with a rope around his ankle. Sam tries to buttress his claim by quoting Exodus 28:31-35, which carries no reference to a rope.

Sam says the rope was for the people to pull the high priest’s body out if he died in ministry. Sam says God told him He would use the rope to draw His people into the Holy of Holies for worship.

Both a Rabbi and a Doctor of Jewish studies who were consulted said that the “rope on the ankle” story is probably another Jewish and Christian legend. It is not in the Bible and cannot be found in any extrabiblical Jewish sources. Preachers have repeated it over the years and no doubt Sam picked it up.

Dr. W.E. Nunnally, a professor of Hebrew and early Judaism, said:

“The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there.”

In fact, the text seems to suggest the opposite of what Sam claims. Exodus 28 mentions the priest’s garments and bells that are associated with his not dying in the Holy of Holies. What is the relationship of death and bells in this text?

Commentators admit this is a difficult verse to render accurately and most proceed with caution as far as the bells and their relationship to the life of the high priest.

If a high priest could die in ministry, he would not be a fit type of Jesus. The text may indicate that God providentially would keep that from happening and that the reminder and token of that special preservation was the noise of the bells on the hem of his garment (Exodus 28:35).

It was as if the priest was respectfully “announcing” his approach to God and God was “announcing” His pleasure back to the people for their offering. The indication of the context is that if the priest was faithful and obedient in totally dressing as he was commanded there was never anything to fear. Safety in the Tabernacle was guaranteed to the priest by his obedience to the sacred and prescribed dress code. Beyond that we are just speculating.

In all, Sam’s book is deficient and defective. Extravagant claims, self-promotion, mythology, exaggeration and unproven hype seem to run in the Hinn family. (See The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, available from PFO.)

Whatever Sam’s motivation, we must reject his book as unfounded and unscriptural. The Bible must be the final word. Whatever runs in the Hinn family, it is not biblical accuracy.

 

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