Defining Deception, Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood

Costi Hinn is the executive pastor and Anthony Wood the teaching pastor at Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California.  These men are uniquely equipped through study and experience (Hinn is a nephew of Benny Hinn and formerly deeply involved in Benny’s ministry) to expose the false teachings of the radical edge of the charismatic movement.   While the authors give helpful background, historical and doctrinal information about the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave Movement, they are primarily focused on the so-called Fourth Wave (see pp. vii, 55) of Pentecostalism: the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Bethel Church in Redding, California.  Since much less is understood by most about this Fourth Wave, Defining Deception is a welcome and helpful effort.

The authors list key leaders of the Fourth Wave (pp. v-vii) such as Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, Todd Bentley, and Todd White, as well as “generals of the faith” who paved the way for present adherents (pp.11-45). The false teachings, claims and practices found within the movement are detailed, including: Dominionism (pp. viii, 90, 100-104), claims of miracles (pp. 7, 9,140-142), Word of Faith heresies (pp. 38-42, 64-67) and unbiblical practices, such as being slain in the Spirit (pp. 153-161).  Hinn and Wood are especially concerned about the teaching and influence of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church.   As such, space is devoted to Johnson’s link with Peter Wagner and NAR (pp. 52-55), his unbiblical methods (pp. 80-88, 133-134), and his faulty and inconsistent theology (pp. 90-110).  The authors warn that Johnson is infiltrating the evangelical world primarily through his Bethel music and his Jesus Culture band (pp. 1, 61-62, 86,129).  Other effective efforts include the Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry (pp. 85-86), and the Passion Translation of Scripture (pp. 54, 58, 84).  Johnson has tapped into a youth culture that gravitates toward mysticism and eschews truth.  Bethel’s mantra, “Don’t keep God in a box” (pp. 104-105), relates well to those who are “sinking into an overall swamp of mysticism, shifting away from a biblio-centric focus” (p. 3).  To such people the Bible is a mere side dish, while self and experience are the main courses (p. 117), and Johnson has learned how to serve what is craved in an appetizing manner.

The authors also provide instruction concerning tongues (pp. 145-151), miracles and healings (pp. 7, 9, 140-142, 163-170), and correct explanations of often misused texts such as 1 Corinthians 14:29 and James 5:13 (pp. 127, 135).

Defining Deception is an excellent overview of the serious infiltration of the extreme wing of Pentecostalism into the evangelical culture.  It warns of the dangers, exposes its false teachers and teachings, and provides solid biblical insight.  This work is highly recommended.

Defining Deception, Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood (2018: El Cajon, CA: Southern California Seminary Press) 177 pp. + XI, paper $16.95

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel


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