Hanegraaff's Motives Questioned

For anyone like me who had reveled in the presence of God and received the Father’s blessing time and again at the Toronto meetings, it is painful to read Hanegraaff’s new book, Counterfeit Revival in which the “Bible Answer Man” and president of The Christian Research Institute condemns the whole phenomenon as (these are his very words) counterfeit, cultic, deceptive, and a great apostasy. Indeed his five part book is structured around the acronym FLESH (for Fabricators, Lying signs, End-time restoration, Slain in the Spirit, and Hypnotism) and the last section uses APES, to carry the charge that the Toronto Blessing is a big hoax and the product of the power of suggestion. So I have been mesmerized for three years—my head is spinning! How (I ask myself) could something which fosters praise and joy in me and challenges me to spread the love of God to the world—how could this be a “counterfeit” revival?

Why would a normally reliable scholar Like Hank Hanegraaff deliver judgments of such severity? You would think he could find something positive to say. For example he himself longs for “the joy of genuine worship through a passion for prayer, praise, and the proclamation of the Word.” (p.17) Well then—at the very least, whatever its weaknesses (and there are some), the Toronto meetings are surely good at exalting God’s name. And even if he doesn’t grant the obvious, doesn’t Hank know what our Lord said about judging one another: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get (Matthew 7:1-2 NAS).” Can he not issue warnings and make suggestions for change in love without slander?

Anyone can quote unwise statements that Rodney Howard-Browne has made (and regretted) or point to prophecies which have not quite come true or disapprove of incidents of bizarre behaviour in public meetings (thought these are less frequent than you would guess from critics). Hank is not inventing charges with no substance at all. It is just that he does not put such things in the proper context, in the context of 20th century Pentecostalism. This worldwide revival is a freewheeling affair, not given much to Baptist decorum or to keeping records of everything that is said. Of course strange things happen and of course colourful leaders abound in this new Christian world but that does not negate the fact that the work of God in the world has greatly expanded on account of it.

Hank should put the shoe on the other foot and ask himself how God is able to use fundamentalists, considering the harshness and legalisms they are famous for. Indeed this very book is a good example of the fundamentalist habit of black and white thinking of presenting people in the worst possible light, and of imputing to them meanings they never wished to convey. The fact is that God is gracious and uses both fundamentalists and charismatics in spite of our weaknesses.

This book should not have been written, at least in this way. It is really better not to engage in the public discussion of a matter if one cannot avoid slandering (by implication millions of fellow believers. Hank is a good scholar, (I grant that) but he should stick to subjects, which he can write about fairly and calmly. Obviously he has difficulty respecting the integrity of people who celebrate the Pentecostal dimensions of the biblical faith. He is too oriented to reason and doctrinalism to comprehend those who open themselves to the power dimension of God’s kingdom. For the sake of harmony in the body of Christ, it would be good if in the future he left this subject to others.

In that connection, let me suggest (in closing) that people who are interested in the specifics of Hank’s charges against this revival consult James A. Beverley, who is a better fairer scholar than Hank and who sees the Toronto Blessing (despite its shortcomings) as a genuine work of God which it surely is (Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing, Zondervan, 1995).