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Suing the Wrong Defendant

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Earlier this summer a man from Knoxville, Tennessee, filed a claim with his church’s insurance company, saying he was so consumed by the Holy Spirit during a worship service that he fell and hit his head. The insurance company denied his claim, so now he is suing the church for $2.5 million to cover his medical bills, lost income, and the pain and suffering he has had to endure.

Maybe the church should argue that he’s suing the wrong defendant. This is obviously a charismatic group where manic behavior is interpreted as the Spirit’s presence. How could the church be held responsible for something that God did? And who is this man to judge God for making him fall down and bump his head?

This fundamental problem has always haunted charismatic groups. They specialize in highly subjective experiences interpreted as miracles endowed by the Spirit. These experiences cannot be scientifically documented or authenticated. Their proof is their sincerity: “I know what happened. Are you calling me a liar?” But these so-called miracles often clash with other “holy occurrences” and inspired truth. Somebody’s not being honest.

In Lakeland, Florida, this summer Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire Ministries held a four month long revival meeting. People came from all over the southeast, hoping that Bentley had a connection with God and that he could heal their diseases. He ran from one person to the next, yelling, “Bam! Bam! Bam!” Covered in tattoos and facial piercings he looked more like a circus sideshow act than a preacher. Several charismatic leaders were disconcerted by his rough manner. On one occasion he dropkicked a cancer patient in the stomach, bringing him to his knees.

Bentley is taking some time off now after it was revealed that he had an extramarital affair with a member of his staff. Most of his charismatic counterparts are calling him a charlatan. But if his miracles were not real, who is to say that any of them are?

God put his revealed will in written form 2,000 years ago so that we would not have to rely upon spiritual gifts for direction in life. There are no modern-day miracles. The Bible teaches that these gifts were meant to be temporary from the beginning (cf. 1 Cor. 13:10-13), but believers don’t have to go to the Bible to see that today’s charismatic movement is false. All they have to do is open the newspapers and read about them.