A Review Of Gary S Greig’s Pseudo-Scholarly Apologetic For The Unbiblical Antics
Of Todd Bentley And The Lakeland, Florida Sequel To The Failed Revivals Of
Kansas City, Toronto, And Pensacola
by J. Jacob Prasch
Faculty of Hebrew, Judaism and Judeo Christian Hermeneutics
Midland Bible College and Divinity School, University of Wales, UK
Jacob Prasch, is the author of several books and holds a non-cessationist pneumatology. He believes in the ongoing operation of charismatic gifts as defined and practiced biblically, but firmly rejects the alleged “revivals” of Lakeland, Toronto, Brownsville, and Pensacola as carnal and demonically-influenced counterfeits of biblical charismata.
Scholarship and Reality
Although my initial academic background was in science, I entered the world of theology at Cambridge University and London Bible College/London School of Theology. This was after serving a number of years as a lay missionary in Israel prior to ordination. In the theological jungle of undergraduate and postgraduate theological and divinity studies and research I learned much about what is indeed a virtual game and how the game is played.
High academic theology undertaken from a conservative evangelical perspective was oriented toward the refutation of liberal higher critical presuppositions which were in essence preconceived conjecture treated as fact by the liberal dominated academic establishment. These ranged from Wellhausen’s theory of Penteteuchal sources, to a priori Bultmarian dismissal of the supernatural, to imaginative speculations of Deutero and Trito Isaiah. It was, in truth, largely 19th-century German rationalism predicated on a Helegian dialectic worldview (often published in German, which I somewhat coped with through my knowledge of Yiddish and scientific German from university).
As an American-born Israeli I discovered that a good British honors degree in theology had little to do with theology in any doctrinal sense. It was, in fact, a credential in history and literature where Sitz im Leben and Heilsgischichte would be studied in the original Greek and Hebrew languages (in which I would be additionally helped by my ability to speak modern Hebrew). These were viewed through the prism of commentary by German scholars and the later German, British, and American scholars who endlessly debated the merits and flaws of one hypothesis after another.
The tirades were relentless. A hypothesis was treated as a postulate, and a postulate as a factual maxim. Coming into theology from a mission field, the second thing I discovered was a discontinuum between the realities of missiological praxis and the semi-ethereal sphere of an academic theology detached from the actual challenges and needs of the ministry. It was not, “Feed my sheep,” but rather the practice of certain academics writing journal articles addressed to each other that filtered down to the average Christian in the pew as irrelevant. Seminaries and divinity faculties were fantastic at answering questions no one was asking.
It was enlightening to arrive at the conclusion of how many successful theological scholars were in fact merely failed preachers, fulfilling the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Those who cannot deliver the goods in the pulpit seek justification for their failed professional existence in the lecture theatre.
Against this there were those like Francis Schaeffer, Peter Cotterell, C.S. Lewis, Walter Kaiser, John Walvoord, Michael Griffiths, George Beasley Murray, I. Howard Marshal, D.A. Carson, and some others who could bridge the gap between the academic world and the real one. Unfortunately, an absurd alternative emerged with the church growth movement out of Fuller Theological Seminary where the ideas of Donald MacGavin were altered by C. Peter Wagner and the late John Wimber. Here, mission became programmatic with Wagner, and theology became experiential with Wimber. Scripture is reinterpreted not exegetically but eisegetically to fit one’s presuppositions. And market research determines the way in which the Gospel is packaged as a consumer product for a postmodern consumerist society. Many of the techniques pioneered by Wagner were not even logically consistent. He would observe the large church growth in Latin American Pentecostalism and attempt to replicate it in the developed world. In so doing, he ignored the fact that, in Latin America, growth was dominated by a massive exodus from a Roman Catholicism rejected as heretical, while Wagner and Wimber were ultra-ecumenical, accepting Roman Catholicism as biblically Christian.
The result of these approaches has largely been “transfer growth,” rather than genuine growth in terms of salvation and discipleship.
Moreover, Fuller Theological Seminary was at the forefront of transforming Christianity by psychologizing it in a hybrid of contradicting biblical and the non-quantitative pseudo-science of secular psychology-based worldviews. They artificially harmonized the two by relabeling pure psychology with Christian jargon and redefining biblical terminology as pure psychology.
Much of the unscriptural deception in the contemporary churches (from the purpose-driven agenda of Rick Warren, to the Willow Creek marketing of Bill Hybels, to the New Age postmodernism masquerading as Christianity in the Emergent Church of Brian MacLaren and Dan Kimball) have major components of their roots in unbiblical and often illogical models of mission born out of the matrix of Fuller Seminary and C. Peter Wagner. It is not surprising, therefore, that the supposed “scholarly” defender of the Lakeland fiasco, Gary S. Greig (former associate professor at Regents University School of Divinity), is from Fuller and is a promoter of C. Peter Wagner.
Indeed, as the preceding counterfeit revivals of Kansas City (Mike Bickel, Paul Cain, Bob Jones), Toronto (John Arnott, Rodney Howard-Browne, Randy Clark), and Pensacola (John Kilpatrick, Michael Brown) failed to result in any actual revivals in the biblical and historical sense, the Lakeland, Florida, clone is more of the same. In short, it is simply transfer growth where those who have disposed of their Bibles, their discernment, and their brains, flock to the next freak show.
Coming into theology from quantitative science, another thing I discovered in popular academic theology was that, despite its scientific pretences, it was not popularly scientific in its methodology. Its proponents are non-scientists pretending to be scientific, very much like Darwinists – refusing to weigh evidence contrary to their presuppositions or even allowing the admission of such evidence into their forums or symposiums.
Like the discrediting of Hegelian Dialectic Materialism that undergirded the Soviet when the Iron Curtain collapsed under the pressure of its own economic implausibility, the ramifications of Qumran and other archaeological discoveries (such as the Theisson fragment, and the erosion of late-date Gospel authorship arguments by scholarship demonstrating an acute familiarity with Second Temple Period Judaism), have resulted in the old liberal higher-critical presupposition increasingly being recognized as a corpse kept alive by the artificial life support of academic politics.
As Don Cupitt admits, the only choice in the future will be between postmodernism and what he derogatorily denounces as “fundamentalism.” Unfortunately we see ostensible Evangelicals such as the theocratic hooligans of the Emergent Church, and supposed scholars like Gary S. Greig, going the way of postmodernism.
The Way The Game Is Played
Academic theology is in essence a game, and always has been. As with any game, it has rules. Football may seem utterly chaotic when a ball is in play.
Yet as long as the disorganized chaos, tactical mistakes, and pandemonium all transpire within the parameters of the rules, it is still regarded as a valid game.
When one comprehends the Judaic background of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:28-29, one understands that Jesus cut through the nuances and man-made protocols of such rules which functioned within the chalakik framework of Pilpul – a complex style of legalistic rabbinic argumentation that actually exists among ultra-orthodox Jews even today. Jesus achieved this by interpreting the letter of the Torah in light of the spirit of the Torah.
In Umberto Ecco’s epic The Name of the Rose, the Aristotelian rules of theological discourse in the Dark Ages are brilliantly demonstrated by the author. The rules may change, but the game is the same. In essence, however absurd, the format and not the substance is presented as justification of the credibility of the argument. It is not the plausibility of the thesis itself that necessarily determines its academic viability. Rather, it must merely be published in a well-footnoted format with a text focused on the Hebrew and/or grammatical syntax of the biblical textual citations, and an interaction with other scholarly and patristic opinion supportive of the author’s case. The cited opinion may be selective and not comprehensive, as long as it is properly formatted, documented, and footnoted. It then falls to a rival academic opinion to challenge the thesis on the basis of other citations. If one is not trained in academic theology (or even if one is, but realizes how futile and irrelevant 85% of the critiqued article may be), one is overwhelmed by it. It is much the same as a legal contract worded and formatted to be incomprehensible to the signatory in all of its detailed implications. One must have one’s own attorneys scrutinize the documents. If one is not a lawyer, one would by design be overwhelmed and intimidated by the content.
This is the game, and it is the game that Gary S. Greig plays.
Gary Greig endeavors to ascribe credence to something with no credibility. He does so in a scholarly format by packaging his defense in an elongated, semi-academic apologetic supportive of the ludicrous and biblically untenable, even though the non-comprehensive core of his case shows it in substance to be void of substance.
Greig avoids the central issues and engages in a series of polemics in opposition to Lakeland’s critics. His tactic is to employ convoluted distortions of biblical texts and misrepresentations of the source reasons for those critics’ objections.
The silly game Greig plays is a familiar one. It is the same game played with the same rules used by liberal higher critical theologians (including Barbara Thierring and the Jesus Seminar) to portray their fanciful yet bogus speculations as factual. It is in fact the identical game played by apologists for Roman Catholicism who are driven against context, logic, rules of exegesis, and Greek grammar and vocabulary to argue for a regal papacy based on Matthew 16.
Not least of all, Greig’s methodology resembles those of FARMS (Facility for Ancient Manuscript Research), the Mormon apologetic society, in its hideous efforts to make an academic case for the Book of Mormon as equal with the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
In all these instances, and with Gary Greig, credibility is not found in the facts (or lack of them), but in the format. As long as the case is made within the parameters of the rules and properly formatted, the content of argument is allowed to stand until and unless it is countered by another academic article irrespective of how groundless the position may be in itself. Moreover, because of the nature of the game, it is almost impossible to bury a faulty argument; it all becomes a matter of “varying scholarly opinion,” even when the flawed thesis is factually debunked.
The manner in which the leaders at Lakeland are using Gary Greig’s article reveals that they are betting on its being read mainly by non-academics untrained in biblical languages and academic theology – not to say unversed in Scripture itself. It will therefore carry scholarly credibility just because it employs the rules of scholarship. In fact, however, from an academic perspective the article is not well written; the level of scholarly argumentation is quite poor.
Thus Greig’s ploy becomes not only a mere game, but a silly one at that. Having read countless academic articles, monograms, and books (and having written a number of academic papers myself), it is my opinion that it is a game that Greig quite frankly does not play very well (he would be torn to pieces at a formal symposium). But it is nonetheless the game he plays.
The Facts and the Camouflage
The first pillar of Gary Greig’s apologetic reverses what the Scriptures teach about “fruit” as the basis of evaluating whether one is of God or not, with what Scripture identifies as disdeskein (doctrinal teaching) as a basis of evaluation. He deceives others and himself by reversing the two (2 Timothy 3:13).
Biblically, we judge people by their fruit (the fruit of the Holy Spirit) but we judge teaching, revelations, and praxis by contrasting them with scriptural dogma.
Greig attempts to circumvent evaluation of revelation and praxis by making “fruit” the criterion by which the effect is evaluated. This is low-grade, pseudo-academic fraud that would see Greig demolished in the first round of a properly monitored theological debate in the presence of independent scholarly opinion.
Conversely, Greig attempts to circumvent examining the “fruit” of Todd Bentley’s personal life by elongated, semi-academic arguments avoiding the fundamental issue that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is ekreitei, or “self-control” (Galatians 5:23; Titus 1:8), and not the lack of it as observed in the Lakeland clone of Toronto and Pensacola. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is also prautas, or “gentleness” (Galatians 5: 23). Gentleness is not evident in Todd Bentley’s claim that the Lord told him to beat a woman’s legs on the ground like a baseball bat, or his knocking out a small Chinese gentleman’s teeth.
Using a rabbinic style of argumentation, Paul instructs the Galatian brethren to identify what the true karpas, or “fruit” of the Holy Spirit is by first defining what it is not, and then contrasting the two. The heresy (airasei - engendering division on the basis of false doctrine)and drunken-style revelling (methai komoi) imitated at Toronto and Pensacola are deeds of the flesh (erga tas sarkos) revealed in Galatians as mutually exclusive to the genuine fruit of the Spirit. Those practicing such things will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Galatians 5:21).
Instead of judging Bentley by the fruit of the Spirit (or his lack of it), and instead of judging by Scripture the doctrinal teachings, alleged revelations, and praxis, Greig attempts rather to mislead his readers by persuading them to test these things by a diatribe of lame academic arguments packaged in pseudo-scholarly rhetoric aimed, not at the actual issue, but at avoidance of the issue. His boots are on the wrong feet. Bentley does not exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, nor are his doctrines, alleged revelations, and praxis scriptural.
Greig ignores the genesis of Lakeland, the fruit in the lives of Bentley’s claimed mentors, and those mentors’ doctrines.
For example, Todd Bentley is a convicted homosexual pedophile imprisoned for molesting a seven-year-old boy, who now professes to have been “born again.” He claims to have had physical visitations from Jesus personally, as well as from a female angel named “Emma.” After supposedly becoming a Christian he had his body covered with a gross array of tattoos. Apart from his criminal history as a convicted homosexual child molester in the days before he says he was a Christian, the histories of sexual immorality and sexual perversion by his mentors are in no sense “pre-Christian.”
Bob Jones was found to be a sexual predator with vulnerable women whom he would have strip naked in order to sexually fondle them, and then would “prophesy over them.” Paul Cain is an alcoholic and homosexual. This deranged soul, described by his pastor Mike Bickel and the late John Wimber as “the best wine saved for last,” has never been anything other than a drunken, homosexual pervert. Yet these publicly proven sexually immoral perverts are Todd Bentley’s extolled heroes and role models.
Greig also preaches regularly at Jack Hayford’s Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, home congregation of TBN founder Paul Crouch. Crouch was exposed three days running on the front page of the Los Angeles Times for paying $425,000 in hush money in a wrongful dismissal settlement with a secrecy clause containing allegations of Crouch’s homosexuality. The public question remains: Who would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money in a legal settlement involving untrue charges of sexual perversion?
Given his heretical doctrine, unbiblical practices, and the massive collection of tattoos (suggested by many as demonic) with which he covered himself after becoming a Christian, it is not really clear to many believers if Todd Bentley is, or ever was, a regenerate Christian. Particularly since he lacks the fruit of the Spirit, but demonstrates abundant deeds of the flesh. What is legally documented and beyond any dispute, however, is that he is a criminally-convicted homosexual child molester imprisoned for unnatural acts with a small boy. Even if Bentley did indeed become a saved Christian at a later point and his homosexual sex crimes against a seven-year-old happened before he became a Christian, the sexual immorality and perversion of his mentors from Kansas City are certainly not. Rather, they are perversions practiced by supposedly Christian “prophets.”
Academic technique demands not a selective, but a comprehensive defense in a scholarly apologetic. As there is no defense, Gary S. Greig simply avoids the issue. He pretends to have published a scholarly apologetic when, in fact, he has not. His non-comprehensive defense of Todd Benley is a conspicuously failed effort to offer a preposterous brand of circumlocution that no real academic would ever swallow in a scholarly forum, no matter what format he published it in.
An Academic Fraud
An authentic scholarly approach to any issue requires an abandonment of ad homonym literary strategies seeking to circumvent an issue by character assault on the personality. Greig, however, does not play by the accepted rules of academic procedure. We note his unfortunate (dare we say, “idiotic”) misapplication of the term, “heresy hunters” – a term without doubt borrowed from his colleague Jack Hayford, the pastor of TBN’s Jan and Paul Crouch. The Crouches and TBN have given vent to every heretical money preacher prostituting the Word of God, and virtually every pseudo-Christian false prophet imaginable.
In an article defending the Crouches and figures like Oral Roberts (who, in 1987 announced that God told him he would “call him home” unless he raised $8 million by that March), Hayford absurdly slandered as “witch hunters” the critics of such debauchery and religious con artistry. In truth, these money preachers have invaded millions of homes through prime-time TV, discrediting the Gospel and the Body of Christ in the eyes of the fallen secular world. And no such “hunt” ever took place. When money-grubbing apostasy is broadcast internationally on the open air waves, no one needs to hunt for the wolves; they are openly manifested. It is ludicrous to suggest otherwise.
Even when responding to an ostensibly scholarly paper, I prefer to eschew cheap polemics designed to evade issues by targeting personalities. Greig, however, does not. Hence, I will respond on his terms employing his rules.
Whether Hayford is a liar or a moron is a judgment we will leave to God, but Greig is an academic who in theory ought to know better. On this basis alone there will be those who may find him both a moron and a liar. Given his flawed technique, I personally regard him as an academic fraud.
Most ludicrous in Greig’s postulated defense of Todd Bentley is the huge amount of pointless space he devotes to a seemingly scholarly/biblical defense of charismatic and Pentecostal phenomena a la Lakeland. Here he goes on, paragraph-after-paragraph, with patristic citations of Greek texts in an attempt to create the illusion that opposition to Todd Bentley and Lakeland is mere cessationist pneumatology and an anti-charismata or anti-Pentecostal reaction. There is no euphemism for the hideous. This can be only rank dishonesty, pure idiocy, or a hybrid of the two.
Many, if not a majority, of the most outspoken critics of Bentley and Lakeland are themselves recognized Pentecostals and charismatics, including Michael Oppenheimer, Philip Powell (former General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, Australia), Asian Pentecostal evangelist to Hindus, Tom Chacko (who warns of the demonic Hinduistic nature of Toronto, Pensacola, and Lakeland manifestations), and a wide host of others. In fact, at least one Assemblies of God executive has issued a very thinly-veiled caveat concerning Lakeland. Thus, the largest portion of Greig’s paper is too silly to warrant serious comment, given its ridiculously superfluous nature.
Other features in Greig’s paper are the sources found in his footnote/endnote citations. Lacking any biblical or even patristic support for a female angel, Greig makes reference to Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides). Rambam is the Middle-Ages sage who Aristotelianized Judaism, rejected the miraculous nature of Old Testament supernatural events as logically explicable, and reversed the meaning of the Hebrew terms ‘achad’ and ‘yachid’ in order to dissuade Jewry from belief in a divine tri-unity and divine Messiah.
I write as a Hebrew-speaking evangelist to the Jews, coming from a Jewish Israeli family, and possessing an academic knowledge of Judaism certified by Cambridge University. I matriculated at Hebrew University prior to Bible college, seminary, and post-graduate studies in Judaism. As such, I find it odd that Greig would lack a better reference than a rabbi who held to an anti supernaturalist, rationalist religious philosophy. This, in order to lend credence to contemporary events at Lakeland which Greig wishes to validate as supernatural. Rambam did not even believe in divine intervention in human affairs.
One “Christian” scholar to whom Greig makes reference is JDG Dunn, a liberal Evangelical (which his many conservative Evangelical opponents see as a contradiction in terms) popularly recognized among Evangelical scholars as holding heterodox views outside the parameters of biblical orthodoxy.
All this demonstrates that Greig’s position fundamentally lacks support from mainstream Evangelical scholarship.
Lakeland promotes itself as the third-wave sequel to the nearly identical experiences that surfaced in Toronto and Pensacola. Once again, in his incomprehensive attempt to defend Todd Bentley and Lakeland, Greig continues his essential practice: if you can’t defend it, ignore it and launch into a prolonged treatise on tangent, or even irrelevant, issues.
Predictably, Greig takes no note of the fact that the Toronto and Pensacola predecessors of Lakeland categorically failed to deliver the promised revival. Large numbers of souls saved and discipled, a radical return to Scripture, the powers of darkness being thrown back – all of which have characterized past historical revivals – failed to emerge from the fiascos in Toronto and Pensacola. The former fizzled; the latter ended in a split preceded by financial scandal.
Such failed results were not only predictable, but unavoidable, given that biblically and historically every revival has commenced with people weeping; none has ever been the result of people laughing. Lakeland is no different, and will be no different. Biblically, nissim v’niflaot – signs and wonders follow the preaching of repentance; they are never the focus.
Jesus warned us that it is instead a “wicked and an adulterous generation” that seeks a sign. It is just such wickedness and spiritual adultery (James 4:4) condemned by Christ that Greig seeks to defend. Even if the fact that the Arnold Palmer Hospital firmly denied the alleged resurrections at Lakeland, and the preponderance of documented, independent medical evidence against the alleged healings are ignored, the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23 cannot be ignored.
If Lakeland is the sequel to the demonstrably failed counterfeit revivals of Toronto and Pensacola (with the same manner of massive hype and big talk), Kansas City was its prequel.
When Todd Bentley’s Branhamite father figures (the sexually-perverted Kansas City false prophets) came to London in August of 1990, they issued incredible predictions of Latter Rain/Manifest Sons-style revival for October of that year. Their biblical pretext was a solidly Gnostic reinterpretation of Joel’s Army from the Book of Joel. In its exegetical context, the locust army was the Babylonian invasions of Nebuchadnezzar, pre-figurative of the demon cohorts of hell to be unleashed eschatologically in Revelation 9.
The text of Joel states unequivocally that this army is to be destroyed by YHWH (Joel 2:2). Yet led by Mike Bickel and John Wimber, the Kansas City false prophets (to whom Todd Bentley looks as role models) taught their cheering devotees from Holy Trinity Brompton, the Elim movement, and the Restoration movement, that this was the “Triumphant Church.” In truth, it was a warped amalgam of post-millennial Reconstructionist mayhem combined with lunatic fringe charismania.
As in Toronto and Pensacola, the promised revival never came. Since the sexually perverted Kansas City false prophets wreaked their havoc in Britain in 1990, more mosques than churches have been built there. As well, the Mormon cult has become the fastest growing “Christian” sect, and the avalanche of immorality has spiraled out of control. The Church of England alone has consistently lost 1,000 attendees per week and is now performing same-sex marriages by and for its homosexual clergy.
After the freak shows in Kansas City, Toronto, and Pensacola were over, no promised revival ever transpired. For the precise same reasons, we may rest absolutely assured that the same will prove true of Lakeland. It is just not scriptural. Therefore it is demonstrably not of God. Gary Greig’s supposed scholarly defense of what Pentecostal Pastor Bill Randles calls, “the indefensible,” will not, and cannot, alter that reality.
Guy Chevreau, an apologist for the Toronto experience, became so desperate in his effort to write an apologetic defense of that failed revival when he authored Catch the Fire, he visibly lied. Misquoting from Daniel Roland’s book, The Great Revival, Chevreau sought to validate the Toronto drunken-style hysterics by citing similar effects of John Wesley’s Methodist Revivals. A mere reading of the reference on the cited page, however, shows that Wesley condemned and outlawed such displays as demonic. At war against truth, apologists for error are inevitably compelled to lie.
Gary S. Grieg is far from the first academic to attempt a scholarly defense of such lunacy. Jack Deere, a former Dallas Seminary professor, issued what he admitted was a problematic defense of the Gnostic hermeneutics of the Kansas City false prophets’ outlandish distortion of “Joel’s Army.” The sexual perversion of Bob Jones and the homosexuality and alcoholism of
Paul Cain eventually became matters of public record.
In his attempted defense of Promise Keepers, former Dallas Seminary professor Robert Hicks authored his Masculine Journey, portraying Jesus Christ as the quintessential phallic male tempted to have sex with other men. Hicks taught a “right of passage” wherein Christian parents should “shake their children’s hand and congratulate the next generation for being human” when they become drunk, stoned on drugs, or have lost their virginity outside of holy wedlock.
Michael Brown, a Hebrew linguist (who cannot even speak Hebrew, I discovered when I confronted him by telephone), wrote his Let No One Deceive You defense of the failed “revival” at Brownsville Assemblies of God in Pensacola. After the financial scandals were published in newspapers, the church experienced an ugly split with Brown leaving on very hostile terms. Of course, the revival Brown promised never transpired.
Chevreau aside, all of these were academics – supposedly scholarly figures who published what were claimed to be credible defenses of what, in each case, proved to be a failed revival that never came about. None of them was ever vindicated. Rather, each has been indicted by history for their failure in attempting to defend the indefensible.
Gary S. Greig is nothing more than more of the same. He is the next crony for the spirit of error that has resided in the character of his would-be academic predecessors. Their efforts have become nothing more than a sorry saga of serial stupidity in a debunked charade masquerading as charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity.
Lakeland is not biblically charismatic, not biblically Pentecostal, and not biblically Christian. Neither is Gary S. Greig’s “scholarly” defense of what cannot be either biblically or even rationally defended