CHRISTIAN FORTUNE-TELLERS
NEVER GET IT RIGHT, EITHER

In an editorial in the last issue of The Quarterly Journal, co-director G. Richard Fisher explored the world of tabloid prognosticators and how an undiscerning world is all too quick to “run after psychics and psychic predictions.”

He also pointed out that an attraction for prophecy and future-telling, a longtime staple within Charismatic camps, has made inroads into Evangelical circles as well. Self-appointed prophets are cropping up everywhere.

There is even a “National School of the Prophets Conference,” where for $175 you can be trained in the art of “propheteering.” C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Ted Haggard and others can train us to be “prophets” (Charisma magazine, Dec. 1998). That magic word gives instant credibility in the mind of some.

Yet most Christians, both Charismatic and non-Charismatic alike, would balk at any implication of even the slightest involvement in the world of psychics and psychic phenomenon. “After all,” they may further argue, “didn’t faith healer Benny Hinn at one time ask for the donations from his faithful so that his daily telecasts could go head-to-head with the psychic hot lines?” His aim, he said, was to air on the same secular cable and television networks that were carrying psychic advertising. Clearly Hinn was against Dionne Warwick and her crowd. His followers forget quickly that Hinn himself has made numerous false predictions.

A recent issue of Charisma magazine (April 1999) featured a full-page report that was nothing more than a “Christianized” version of what one might expect from the secular and godless supermarket tabloids. The Charisma article, entitled “Prophets Warn That United States Faces Threat of War, Islamic Terrorism,” reported on a January “distress call” from “modern-day prophets.” The band of 18 leaders, who met “behind closed doors,” included Wagner, Joyner and Paul Cain. According to the magazine, this oracle of impending judgment was further endorsed by others in the prophetic movement, including Bickle (of Kansas City Fellowship fame), revivalist Tommy Tenney, and Vineyard pastor James Ryle.

The Charisma dispatch is just one more offering from an assembly of already-dubious revelators. Somehow, the Church just doesn’t seem to get its fill of false and bizarre declarations of these self-proclaimed prophets. Tragically, the Church at large no longer seems to care about an erosion of discernment and a susceptibility to embrace entertainment rather than true spirituality.

Take for example Paul Cain. Hinn has elevated Cain to the distinction of super-prophet and told a Trinity Broadcasting Network audience that “[Cain] is the most accurate prophet, I believe, on the Earth today. ... Thank God for such accurate prophets” (Praise The Lord Show, Nov. 20, 1996). Hinn’s declaration prompts the question: “If Cain is the most accurate prophet, are there within the modern-day prophetic movement those who are less accurate than Cain?” Scripturally speaking, less than 100% accuracy abrogates any claim of being a God-sent prophet (Deuteronomy 18:21), but Hinn’s criterion is just one more demonstration of how the Church is continually being moved from biblical standards and biblical moorings.

How did Hinn arrive at his conclusion as to Cain’s status? It apparently came about as a result of Cain’s past visit to Hinn’s central Florida church. “He came to our church one night — scared me so bad, I began to pray,” he told the TBN viewers.

According to Hinn, Cain was able to call out people by name from the congregation and disclose certain of their life circumstances. Additionally, Cain had the ability to reveal to the faith healer his home address, describe his house, and even foretell of a future home.

In all, Hinn’s telling of the event sounds more like Las Vegas entertainment (an act any good stage magician can do) than biblical prophecy. Where, in all of this, do we find a difference from the psychics and their fortune-telling gimmicks? What irony for Hinn to boast of his desire to confront the psychic hot lines on national television.

Then there’s the absurd and frivolous “visions” of Vineyard pastor James Ryle. Ryle asserts a divine word which claims God called, anointed and gifted the Beatles for the purpose of ushering in the Charismatic renewal by way of a musical revival. Unfortunately, according to Ryle’s revelation, the popular British music group of the 1960s chose to ignore God’s call and used their talents to serve themselves and the devil.

Ryle has further claimed to receive revelation knowledge regarding collegiate sports. According to a purported dream Ryle said he had in 1989, coach Bill McCartney and his Colorado university football team would be empowered by God’s Spirit and would have a “golden season.” And they did. However, when it came to their last game, played for the national championship, Ryle received a new and different omen from the Lord by way of the team’s mascot and the Holy Spirit’s prompting him to Isaiah 21:6.

In Ryle’s version of his glimpse into the future, the Colorado mascot, Ralphie the buffalo, had a broken horn, symbolizing the Holy Spirit’s departure from the team. The interpretation was that it would lead to the team’s downfall in the national championship game. And the team did in fact lose to the University of Notre Dame by a score of 21-6. (Remember Isaiah 21:6?) Interestingly, Ryle kept the prophetic outcome of the contest to himself until after the game! I think all of us could do retrospective prophecy like this. (For more information on Ryle, see further Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur and Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff).

What home addresses, descriptions of houses and collegiate sports have to do with biblical sanctification and true biblical prophecy is well beyond this writer. These are the things from which parlor games and magical illusions are made. Tricks, psychic gimmicks and manipulation have no place in the Christian ministry.

But then there are those prophets who go beyond the scriptural record and report details as historical and biblical fact. Take, for example, revivalist Tommy Tenney of Alexandria, La. In the spring of this year, Tenney was part of the “Pensacola Outpouring” at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Florida. According to one report, Tenney’s brief appearance there was described as “Two Days of Glory At The Brownsville Revival.” What was it that Tenney revealed to the faithful of Brownsville? According to his message, titled “God’s Favorite House”:

“There’s a primary thing that you’re going to find that’s different between David’s [tabernacle] and the rest of them. All the rest of those places of worship had an artifact or a structure in there that was called ‘the veil.’ The veil — it was a draping in our modern colloquialism. It was stretched across an inner sanctum that separated one portion of that inner sanctum [that] was called the Holy Place and the other portion behind that veil [which] was called the Holy of Holies. And behind that veil is where the Ark of the Covenant rested. That ark of gold-covered wood with the outstretched wings of the cherubim and the blue shekinah flame hovering between them. It was always hidden behind that veil. But something happened in David’s tabernacle that didn’t happen at any other point or any other time. And that David’s was the only one of any of these structures that had no veil.”

David, after defeating the Philistines, moved the ark of God from Baalah of Judah (i.e., Kiriath Jearim) to Jerusalem and there placed it inside a tent that he had pitched for it (2 Samuel 6:1-17; 2 Chronicles 1:4). It was a temporary tent as God’s promise to David clearly stated that it would be his offspring, not David himself, “who will build a house for My name” (2 Samuel 7:5-16; esp. vv. 12-13).

In all of this, there is no biblical basis to conclude that David assembled his tabernacle apart from the scriptural instructions given to Moses. “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishing exactly like the pattern I will show you,” the Lord commanded Moses (Exodus 25:9). These initial directives included hanging a curtain or veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:33). In 2 Samuel 7:2, David said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within the tent curtains.”

Moreover, in light of the untimely death of Uzziah recorded in 2 Samuel 6:7, it is more sound to conclude that David would be faithful to God’s direction. True to God’s orders, David witnessed firsthand the tragic result of His command that the Levites were forbidden to touch the ark upon the pain of death (Numbers 4:15).

Further, nowhere in David’s makeshift tent, nor in Moses’ tabernacle before or Solomon’s temple following, do we have a biblical description of a “blue shekinah flame” hovering above the ark. Scripture records, however, that Solomon’s temple — not David’s tabernacle — “was filled with a cloud” so much so that “the priests could not perform their service” because “the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

Perhaps Tenney should not be so concerned with making a name for himself with judgment prophecies and forewarnings, but should desire to become more diligent in properly handling the truths already recorded in God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). The unbiblical speculation he dispenses to the Church does not honor the Word of God, but only titillates the naive and gullible with extrabiblical fairy tales and mythology.

Christians must not so easily forget or overlook the spurious oracles of these “superstar” prophets. No amount of word games or semantics should permit these self-assuming prophets to distance themselves from the claimed “revelations” which they’ve used as catapults to superstar status. Playing on the tendency in today’s Church for the “cult of celebrity,” they have in an elitist way set themselves up as gurus and an untouchable caste. The Church should demand accuracy and accountability from these deceivers.

We must not forget Benny Hinn’s proclamation from the “Holy Spirit” that “God would destroy the homosexual community of America” in the mid-nineties — “about ‘94 or 95, no later than that.” Or his divine messages that in the 1990s “the economy of America is going to fall” and that “there will be many raised from the dead in that day” along with “many visitations of angels.” He clearly made it all up. (See further, The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4, or chapter 13 of The Confusing World of Benny Hinn.)

Hinn and those like him who claim the mantle of “prophet” must be held accountable for their false and frivolous utterances. They ought to be exposed and held accountable for leading God’s people away from a respect for the sufficiency of Scripture into Oda mystical land of “Christianized” fortune-telling. And there is a responsibility on the part of believers as well. Christians need to forsake the enticing inventions of these modern-day prophets and superstars. They need to return to the safe and simple foundation of Scripture — nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. As Word-Faith critic Curtis Crenshaw astutely noted:

“If anything is contrary to Scripture, it is wrong. If anything is the same as Scripture, it is not needed. If anything goes beyond Scripture, it has no authority.”

It is time to tell the Christian fortune-tellers, who never get it right, to stop the charade.

—MKG

 

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