Bethel causing greater grief

In 2018, Bethel Church (Redding California), sponsored and organised a revival rally in Melbourne. At the time, Stephen Tan of Regeneration Church, myself, and others expressed concerns about the event because of Bethel’s reputation for teaching and practicing ideas that are at odds with orthodox Christian faith. The backlash to these criticisms was sizeable, and yet since then many of the original concerns have remained and been reaffirmed.

One year later, there is a new and disturbing story coming out of Bethel. The two year old daughter of one of Bethel’s music leaders, Kalley Heiligenthal, died over the weekend.

The grief of losing a child is a grief no parent ever wishes to know. I am truly sorry that this family are experiencing such a trauma. We can pray that Kalley, her husband, and family are surrounded by friends at this dreadful time.

A photo of their daughter is being shared on social media through Bethel, but I will not show it on this post as I believe it is inappropriate. The reason for writing now is because Bethel is making an assertion that is incredibly harmful,  and because of their widespread influence around the world including Australia, it is appropriate to respond.

 

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Grief is hard enough in the best of circumstances. Grief is compounded by bad theology and misplaced hope. Bethel Church have posted a request on their facebook page, including a statement from Heiligenthal, asking for prayer that God would raise their daughter from the dead.

“Our God is the God of miracles, and nothing is impossible for Him! We are asking you, our global church family, to join with us in prayer and in declaring life and resurrection over @kalleyheili and @apheiligenthal’s daughter, Olive Alayne! Kalley, Andrew, and Elise, we stand with you in faith and in agreement for Olive’s life!

Read Kalley’s Post:
We’re asking for prayer. We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.”

If it wasn’t already established back in 2018, the signs are clear that Bethel is producing strange and errant teachings, ones that create false hopes for grieving families.

To quote the Apostles Creed,

“I believe in the resurrection of the dead.”

I believe along with all Christians that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. It was a bodily resurrection, not a spiritual awakening or temporary resuscitation. Indeed, the credibility and efficacy of the Christian Gospel depends upon this resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.

“if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15)

The Bible explains that the resurrection of the dead is tied to the return of Christ and the unveiling of the new creation. In the mean time, the Bible speaks of suffering and patience, death and hope. For example in Romans chapter 8,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Since posting the prayer request two days ago, thousands of people have shared it on social media and thousands have posted prayers in which they ‘claim’ the power of God to bring this little girl back to life. There’s the problem. That’s the reason for saying something today. Errant theology produces false hopes and misleads people into believing and expecting wrong things from God. It also gives unbelievers reason to dismiss Christianity as a load of nonsense. If you are not yet convinced of the ongoing and dangerous influence of the ‘Signs of Wonders’ movement, surely this persuade you? 

The Scriptures themselves warn us about teachers who allege an early resurrection.

“Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2)

Losing a child is horrible beyond imagination. A Church has responsibility to love and comfort people in their grief, not to entertain, encourage, or promote unbiblical and false hopes. It is one thing for parents to wish for an alternate outcome, but for a Church to affirm this request is pastorally irresponsible and biblically aberrant.

 

 

 


Postscript

I believe that the parents have now asked for the prayers to cease.

Again, this is an awful situation that no parents wish ever to experience. I feel for them. May they turn to the God of grace in this time and know the comfort of family around them

(December 22 2019)

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Bethel causing greater grief

  1. Someone better tell Paul. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutychus

    On Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 4:10 PM MurrayCampbell.net wrote:

    > MurrayCampbell posted: “In 2018, Bethel Church (Redding California), > sponsored and organised a revival rally in Melbourne. At the time, Stephen > Tan of Regeneration Church, myself, and others expressed concerns about the > event because of Bethel’s reputation for teaching and pract” >

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    • I truly hope you don’t believe that the Eutychus account serves as some precedent or expectation of raising the dead in the post apostolic era. The books of Acts describes many things but are not proscribed for churches today.

      No where are we encouraged to pray for a dead loved one or promised that they will come back to life except at the resurrection

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  2. Thanks for raising the issue Murray , I am a new comer to your blogs .
    I don’t have an issue with any parent[s] seeking to have their deceased child raised back to life . I would if in their position
    I think it would be an issue better handled privately with the elders of their local church and not made so public in an appeal for more believers to become involved with their ‘Faith’ prayers or confessions . I don’t see so much the need for corporate prayer as the key but some serious personal time [with perhaps fasting] of intimate fellowship with God and his word , waiting for a rhema word to create faith to receive , then it becomes a matter of confessing based on the assurity of faith not hope . If no revelation comes then confession becomes powerless and a presumption .That’s a common tragedy in Pentecost circles yet the invitation seems clear to me in scripture for who so ever can believe ,

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  3. I don’t like it when people say “I am believing for BLANK.” They are praying, expecting something to happen. It is kind of like making a wish. Or even worse, trying to control God’s actions by our willpower.

    Also: “Claiming” something is not very biblical. Some Christians say they are claiming God’s power or blessing and so on. We are not instructed to do this in the Bible, as far as I am aware. We can not twist God’s arm by “claiming” a future event to happen. As if our words and willpower can change the future in some solely spiritual way.

    These are concepts that can mislead Christians and cause them to doubt God, the church and their salvation.

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    • We can’t pray without any expectation. We must pray in line with God’s will, but we also need to pray with faith and expectation.
      “But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord”
      “if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.”
      “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed”
      These passages require that we have a measure of faith and expectation when we come to God. Its certainly important to distinguish between praying in line with God’s will, and wishful thinking. I think that is the difficult part to discern.

      Like

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