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Tim Challies

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F.L.E.S.H.

Have you ever noticed that when someone says, “Don’t look at that!” you immediately look at it? I remember as a kid I used to delight in finding something gross and rotten and disgusting and showing it off to my friends, seeing who would flinch first as we dug around with sticks inside some rotten carcass. Perhaps I was a disturbed child but I don’t think my experiences were unusual. After all, there are any number of web sites that specialize in showing off the disturbing images of war, violence and stupidity. People have a fascination with spectacle. How else do we account for so-called reality television (not to mention the multitudes of Olympic blooper reels making their way across the Net right now)?

My father loves the spectacle that is TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network). He derives some strange pleasure from watching half-crazed preachers ranting, raving and begging for other people’s money. The programming on TBN and other similar channels has come to highlight spectacle. Many who consider themselves Christian are simply no longer satisfied with the simple Gospel, but feel the need to add to it. The preaching of the Word, a simple message delivered in a foolish way by a foolish person, gives way to outrageous claims of miracles, tongues and supernatural experiences. Hank Hanegraaff calls this Counterfeit Revival and those who practice such things Counterfeit Revivialists.

This book claims to go behind the scenes to uncover the contradictions, false experiences, spiritual deception, and seductive allure of esoteric experience masquerading under the banner of truth. Through almost 300 pages, Hanegraaff exposes this movement for what it is - a fraud and one that is becoming increasingly bold and increasingly dangerous. The book is written around five major headings which form the acronym FLESH: Fabrications, Fantasies and Frauds, Lying Signs and Wonders, Endtime Restorationism, Slain in the Spirit and Hypnotism. This is a handy list and one we could well apply to the Lakeland Revival down in Florida that got so many so excited.

Following a detailed examination of each topic, the author concludes that there is no biblical support for most of what masquerades as the Spirit’s work within these circles. Manipulation, rather than the Spirit and the Word of God, is the primary tool of the Counterfeit Revivalist.

While this book is helpful, I couldn’t help at times but to feel like the boy staring at the rotting insides of a stinking corpse. After a while I felt Hanegraaff had proven his point with sufficient examples that he could have probably left out several of the chapters. On the bright side, the reader is treated to some valuable lessons from history and even receives an overview of true revivals from days past. As an added bonus, the author provides detailed teachings from the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Speaking of which, for an outstanding summary of what Edwards taught on revival, check out this series from the Ligonier blog.

Long on symptoms, short on diagnosis and shorter still on cure, I still found this a helpful and interesting book. I trust that it will help many from being led astray into the rottenness that is found at the fringes of the charismatic movement. If only some of those people in Lakeland had read it before wasting so much time and energy chasing the promise of a revival that has proven, I think, to be counterfeit.

 


Counterfeit Revival