A friend asked me a really thought provoking question today. Is Reinhard Bonnke for real? I hadn’t come across them before but there are a few accusations around that some of his reported miracles are fraudulent in nature.
What do I think? I think he’s for real. I guess the reported miracles could be mistaken or even downright fraudulent. Without any personal, first hand information it’s hard to be certain. There are lots of testimonies and counter claims out there. I can read them and try to get some sense of the truth, like a jurors listening to witness in a trial but it’s not easy. Who do I believe? In general I find it hard to believe that someone who evidently loves Jesus and the truth would purposely be involved in lies and deception. Sadly that has happened in the past but I don’t think it’s the norm. Could it all be psychosomatic, or misunderstandings, or gullibility? It’s possibly I suppose but not probable.
I suspect what makes the biggest difference is the basis upon which I approach testimonies of healing. If you don’t think miracles happen today to back up the gospel then it obviously biases you towards not believing and you will need an almost impossible amount of proof. If you do expect miracles when the gospel is preach you are biased towards accepting testimonies and claims of healing and you might be happy with less proof.
I know Bonnke preaches the gospel and so I would expect miracles to follow. I would therefore need more convincing that they were not real than that they were real (if that makes sense!).
There is a complication here though. I am living and working in two different realms. In my actual firsthand experience big miracles (ie people getting raised form the dead, or healed from terminal cancer – although a couple of hours after writing this I got the news that a friend has just had the all clear after a year long battle with cancer. After medical treatment and persistent prayer he no longer has it) don’t happen but as I read the bible and let it inform my expectation I find that they do. Which one will I let dominate my approach to testimonies of miracles from people like Bonnke? I’ve got to go with the biblical expectation or I might as well throw the bible away. Perhaps a less overstated reason is that I found that I didn’t in fact expect people to get healed when I prayed for them because people hadn’t got healed in the past. I decided that my thinking and practice were influenced far too much in an unhelpful way by my experience resulting in my faith being crushed and stunted. Since the word of God produces faith I decided to let my thinking and expectation be effected more by the bible rather than my experience.
That doesn’t mean I am gullible or simple minded, believing any story I hear. It does mean though that I am not ultra sceptical. For example a few of us prayed for a man recently who had bad hearing. After a short time of prayer he said his hearing and tinnitus was 70% better. I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? At the same time another friend of mine got her back prayed for which had been bad for years and felt totally better. I asked her the next day and it was still better. I’ve no reason to think she wasn’t healed by God but I will ask how she is again when I see her and get more info. Could these have been coincidences or psychosomatic? Maybe, but I think in light of God’s word it’s more reasonable to believe that God did it.
When passing on stories of testimonies it’s sometimes helpful to say where you heard it and what degree of proof there was. ie “I heard that so and so got healed” can sometimes be more helpful than “so and so got healed”. In the examples above though I would be happy saying “so and so got healed” and give the context as I have done.
Just one more thing, a few weeks ago I saw someone prophecy over people with such amazing accuracy that it blew me away. I spoke to some of the people afterwards to confirm it and was convinced that I had witnessed the supernatural. This sort of experience along with first hand experiences of “small” healings reduce my natural reticence to accept stories of healing (and increases my faith to see them) as my experience catches up with my biblical expectation.
One final final thing. Faith is linked to action so it’s always helpful to think “what practical effect does this have on my life and what action will it cause me to take or not take?”. If you come to the conclusion that Bonnke is a fraud then it’s best not to have anything to do with him. Don’t read or watch his stuff, ignore testimonies of people who have ‘got healed’ by him, don’t go to his meetings if you are not well etc. If however you think he is or might be for real, and you knew someone who was not well you might invite them along to one of his meetings (if the opportunity came up). Or you might read his stuff in the hope of gaining insight into the things of the Spirit and be encouraged to step out and pray for people more. Without practical application it could all be just time consuming academic speculation. Not wrong in itself I guess as academic thinking does inevitably effects our actions in the future but it’s as well to be aware of how our current thinking will affect our actions in case we don’t like the direction we are going in. Our actions also reveal what we really believe. I might conclude that someone was a fraud but when I got ill turn up to their meetings hoping to get healed. We show our faith by what we do not necessarily by what we say of think and we can be as surprised as anybody to discover that we had more or less faith than we thought.
That’s a long answer. In short I don’t know the definite answer to the question but I have tried to say how I approach it. Hope that helps. Here’s a testimony site that I have been visiting to feed my faith http://www.HealingHerald.org.