Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Signs and Wonders Movement -- EXPOSED

This is a book report I did as part of a Spiritual Life assignment at Steinreich Bible School.

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The Signs and Wonders Movement—EXPOSED is authored by Mark Haville, Chris Hand, Philip Foster, and Peter Glover, each of whom discusses a particular aspect of the “signs and wonders” movement/Word-Faith Movement. Haville shares his personal experience as a former Word-Faith minister, Hand about the “Toronto Blessing” and its fruit, Foster about what is really happening when leaders perform many so-called signs and wonders, and Glover about what the Bible says about signs and wonders and their place in the church today. What I would like to discuss further is the character of many “signs and wonders” leaders, what is actually happening at the meetings, how it compares to what the Bible teaches, and some more personal reflections. This is something I was often very suspicious of when I heard about it or saw it on videos, and this book has given me the confidence that what I see is not the working of the Holy Spirit.

First, Haville gives a lot of insight as to who the leaders in the movement really are and what their lives look like. Many of these preachers experience great personal fame and fortune, and a lot of the money raised for them at meetings only serves to increase their personal comforts. Their “seed sowing” teachings aren't benefiting the givers, but serving to line their own pockets. Many claim exaggerated numbers of converts, many of whom are never seen in churches again. Also, Haville noticed that many preachers wanted nothing more to do with ordinary people after their meetings were over. This kind of character and lack of integrity in leaders is enough to raise serious questions among believers. However, many also claim to have received personal revelations directly from God, which are not necessarily supported by scripture. All of this, completely apart from the fact that what they're doing at meetings is merely a performance, falsely taught as the working of the Holy Spirit, is enough to ask if they're really preaching according to God's will, or if they're actually wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

What is happening at many Faith-Word meetings is far from “manifestations” or “anointings” of the Holy Spirit. These so called “manifestations” are often characterized by people falling over, laughing or shaking uncontrollably, becoming rigid like statues, having visions, or experiencing emotional and physical healings. (Also, interesting to note is that 95% of people have a “good trip” in a trance, but 5% have a “bad trip”, whereby they are often damaged for a long time.) What is actually happening though is stage hypnotism, where the leader draws people into alternate states of consciousness. This is a process leaders have been taught by other leaders, and many don't even know that what they're doing is related to occultic practices and opening people up to dark spirit worlds. The preacher has to be in complete control of the proceedings, build expectation, and create an atmosphere that brings people into trances. Music is a big part of how they do this. Attendees are taken through a process where they are encouraged to empty their minds, not to think, not to pray, not to analyze what is happening to them but rather to “just drink.” In the end, what people experience can all be achieved by hypnosis, and the physical healings people claim are temporary, something that can also be achieved the same way. Also, Haville points out that a lot of modern speaking in tongues is nothing but gibberish, something that can be learned as well, whereas genuine speaking in tongues can't be done randomly at a person's own will. These explanations all make it very clear that this isn't God moving; not on His own, and not through occultic practices.

What the book analyzes as well is what does the Bible teach about signs and wonders and how does it compare to what is really happening. A big emphasis, which I think is very important, is how the Holy Spirit is the primary focus in these leaders and at these meetings. However, the Bible clearly states that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus, not of Himself. Also, signs and wonders in Acts were performed primarily by apostles and a few others closely connected to them; it was not common or normal for all believers, nor should we expect it to be today. “We are not called to expect on-going signs and wonders. The sign-gifts were for a very specific purpose and attached to a very specific office—that of the apostle.” (pg. 91) The authors do believe that God still works signs and wonders today, but that they are not the norm and are performed at God's will, not man's. The Bible also never tells people to empty their minds, stop thinking, or stop praying, but rather to pray, be watchful, sober, awake, and to test the spirits. Although there are indications in Acts that it was a significant event when believers received the Holy Spirit, it never tells of people being unable to control themselves, falling down, or laughing hysterically as a result. What I'm not sure of is if I agree with all of Glover's points about how little place there is for signs and wonders or apostolic gifts now. I would not call myself a cessasionist, but I think he brings out good points of what we need to beware of, and I believe that a large amount of the spectacles we see are not actually God at work.

There were some things I personally noted through reading the book that also helped me to see more that the “signs and wonders” movement is not of God. In having to be in complete control of meetings and “anointing” people at their own will, it became clear to me that many of these leaders are seeking to put God under their control, rather than placing themselves under God's control. They want to decide what God does and when. Also, throughout the book, I had to consider what people are seeking at these meetings. Foster explains how people become addicted to the euphoria they experience in their trances and return to meetings, seeking the same experiences again and again. This reminds me a lot of the “high” people often seek in drugs and sex. Could it be that most are just seeking a self-fulfilling “feel-good” experience? And finally, what is noted in the book, and I also see in the Bible is that a lot of people just want a show. They want to see something exciting happen. It's nothing new; people came to Jesus repeatedly seeking signs, but He knew their hearts and knew it wouldn't cause them to believe in Him. I would venture to say that overall, the hearts and intentions of many leaders and attendees of these meetings are just not right.

I would be quick to recommend The Signs and Wonders Movement—EXPOSED. It's something I have long been suspicious about, and now I understand that was for good reason. Many of the leaders don't deal with integrity and they are (knowingly or unknowingly) deceiving thousands of people by telling them they're experiencing the Holy Spirit when really they've been trapped in occultic practices. They encourage practices and produce results not found in scripture, but rather engage in occultic practices that the Bible forbids. The results produced by these “anointings” are not scriptural. Also, leaders seem to be trying to make God their servant, and attendees are seeking self-fulfilling experiences to make them feel good. I'm glad I read this book and now understand what many of these so-called “signs and wonders” are really all about.