In November, Dr. Michael Brown, president of the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry, and I were invited to communicate our respective views on revival before a gathering of radio broadcasters in Dallas, Texas. As a result, a renewed dialogue developed between the Christian Research Institute and leaders of the “Brownsville Revival.” In December, I participated in a series of private meetings, which led to my giving art impromptu address to their School of Ministry students. According to a Brownsville press release posted shortly after these meetings, “The visit was historic because Mr. Hanegraaff has been the most visible and prominent critic of the renewal/revival movement in North America.” Said Michael Brown, “I don’t know that people of this public prominence and this pronounced difference have gotten together on this level — I’m sure it must have happened, but I’m not aware of it. I don’t want to exaggerate this, but it seems historic.”
Unfortunately, what I had envisioned as a series of private meetings has become grist for the rumor mill. Within days of my visit, people reported hearing that I had been “slain in the spirit” and had succumbed to sensational manifestations such as spasmodic jerking. Faxes and phone calls flooded the Christian Research Institute International’s offices ranging from pleas “to say it isn’t so” to chastisements for “selling out to the enemy.”
In light of the confusion and controversy surrounding my visit to Pensacola, allow me to set the record straight.
First and foremost let me emphasize that my meetings with John Kilpatrick, Stephen Hill, Michael Brown, et al., should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the “Pensacola Outpouring.” Not only I, but Pensacola leaders have underscored this fact. In the words of Michael Brown, “Hank Hanegraaff is not now saying that he endorses the revival.” Rather than an endorsement, my meetings with Pensacola leaders should be viewed as an encouragement to carry on dialogue with those with whom you disagree, in a manner that reaches rather than repels. Years ago I began meeting with leaders of the Worldwide Church of God as they were transitioning from cultism to Christianity. Not only did those meetings result in meaningful dialogue but they produced lasting friendships as well.
Furthermore, let me underscore the fact that I continue to be gravely concerned about the spiritual and physical consequences of unbiblical manifestations such as spasmodic jerking and being “slain in the spirit.” As I communicated on Larry King Live, I am particularly concerned for people like the Brownsville Assembly of God member who, week after week, sits in the choir loft shaking her head wildly from side to side while intermittently bending at the waist. As has been well documented, such repetitive physical motions can not only dull one’s critical thinking faculties but can do serious physical damage as well. Dr. Oliver Wilder-Smith warns, “[For] someone who is shaking their head violently for a long period of time, the potential for physical damage is massive, because your cervical spine, which is a very de1icate organ, is just not built for that sort of activity. I’m sure she’ll be having degenerative changes of all of the joints in her cervical spine very rapidly. The purely physical consequences for shaking your head for hours on end are very, very damaging from a purely medical point of view” (Bible Answer Man, 15 May 1997).
Finally, I remain concerned that the Brownsville Revival is indicative of a paradigm shift taking place within Christianity — a shift from faith to feelings, from fact to fantasy, and from reason to esoteric revelation. This shift is what I call the Counterfeit Revival. While Brownsville leaders strongly emphasize holiness and repentance in their preaching, they also emphasize that “God will choose to offend our minds in order to reveal what is in our hearts” (John Kilpatrick) or “The Lord is saying, ‘I’m bypassing your mind and going straight to your heart…The heart is what matters to the Lord” (Lindell Cooley). As I point out in my book Counterfeit Revival (Word Publishing, 1997), this notion is in reality a fictional antagonism or a false dichotomy. Not only is the mind of tremendous importance in successful Christian living, but from the perspective of Scripture, the heart is more a matter of understanding than of sentiment. As John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church correctly stated, “It is a fundamental principle that to renounce reason is to renounce religion, that religion and reason go hand in hand; all irrational religion is false religion.” While Wesley recognized heartfelt emotions as a natural response to an encounter with the gospel, he attributed enthusiasms such as falling, jumping, and jerking, to the “simplicity” of people and to the ploys of Satan. In response to such exotic manifestations, he wrote, “Satan serves himself of the simplicity of people in order to bring a discredit on the work of God.”
The tragedy of modern-day Christianity is that people all too often look for experience in all the wrong places. The real experience is not found in self-indulgent manifestations but rather in using one’s time, talent, and treasure for the glory of God and the edification of others. Jonathan Edwards, the leading figure of the first Great Awakening, was utterly convinced that in genuine revival the Spirit of God is at work “to lessen men’s esteem of the pleasures, profits, and honors of the world and to take off their hearts from an eager pursuit after these things; and to engage them in a deep concern about a future state and eternal happiness which the gospel reveals — and puts them upon earnestly seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
While there has so far been no change of position on either side, like leaders of the Brownsville Revival, I am thrilled by the dialogue that is taking place. To quote Michael Brown, “Let us see if we can model our dialogue as an example to the body of Christ to show how leaders can have strong disagreements, and yet dialogue in a way that is gracious and Christlike, and learn from each other in doing so.”
— Hank Hanegraaff
(For an in-depth analysis of the Brownsville Revival, see part 3 of Hank Hanegraaff s series of articles entitled “The Counterfeit Revival” in the November-December 1997 issue of Christian Research Journal.)
Statement Date: December 1997