Counterfeit Revival,by Hank Hanegraaff (Word, 316 pp.; $19.99, hardcover). Reviewed by James A. Beverley, professor of theology and ethics at Ontario Theological Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and author of HOLY LAUGHTER & THE TORONTO BLESSING (Zondervan) and Revival Wars: A Critique of Counterfeit Revival (Toronto: Evangelical Research Ministries).
Hank Hanegraaff's long-awaited book against what he perceives as a counterfeit revival (rooted in Satan the "master counterfeiter" who "masquerades as an angel of enlightenment") represents a significant moment in Christian publishing. Its significance lies in three things. First, the spectacular selling run of Hanegraaff's work alone makes it a must-read for those who want to track trends in the Christian community.
Second, Counterfeit Revival exposes some real excesses and imbalances in the current charismatic renewal movements. Hanegraaff rightly criticizes the undue emphasis on strange manifestations in the world of modern revivalism. This misplaced focus is especially disturbing given the regular diet of anti-intellectual rhetoric, slim biblical exposition, and revelatory claims on which many who participate in these movements are nurtured. Hanegraaff also documents some very intemperate judgments made against him by South African evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne at a renewal meeting in Anaheim and warns against sectarian judgments and spiritual death threats from prophets and leaders connected with the Toronto renewal, ones that should be publicly and finally repudiated by Toronto Blessing leader John Arnott.
But Hanegraaff's work is also important for a third and tragic reason. In the end, it is a misleading, simplistic, and harmful book, marred by faulty logic, outdated and limited research, and nasty misrepresentation of key charismatic leaders. Unlike many, I do not question Hanegraaff's motives, but his zeal has blinded him from taking the path of principled Christian discourse.
Counterfeit Revival is an indictment composed of hundreds of specific assertions about individuals and groups. These claims cannot be accepted or rejected in toto; each must be weighed on its merits. In the scope of this review, it is possible only to give representative examples of Hanegraaff's failure to take account of evidence that contradicts his sweeping claims.
Consider, for example, Hanegraaff's assertion that Howard-Browne denies the deity of Christ in order to elevate himself: a damning charge indeed, if true. But in a 1995 published interview with me, the South African evangelist explained his one controversial statement on the topic and clearly affirmed orthodox doctrine.
Similarly, Todd Hunter, the national coordinator of the Vineyard, is targeted for a four-sentence statement he made in a 1994 sermon about three controversial Pentecostal healers. This becomes the centerpiece for an entire chapter in which Hanegraaff trashes Hunter by linking him with the worst excesses of these healers. Hunter phoned and wrote Hanegraaff just as the book was going to press to say that he deplored the very sins and falsehoods catalogued in Counterfeit Revival and explicitly denied Hanegraaff's interpretation of his statement. Despite that clarification, Hanegraaff did not modify his attack on Hunter in subsequent printings.
In chapter 14, John Wimber is targeted for prophetic views that he has not held since 1991, ones that he has publicly acknowledged as the biggest mistake of his ministry, while his crucial decision to disaffiliate the Toronto Airport Vineyard from the Association of Vineyard Churches is relegated to an endnote. Hanegraaff has 46 references to Wimber's tapes and writings, but there is only one reference from the last six years! Fully half of all the references concern Hanegraaff's critique of a 1981 tape series expressing views that Wimber no longer holds.
Counterfeit Revival also attacks Wimber for his association with Lonnie Frisbee, a former Jesus People evangelist. Hanegraaff refers to a 1979 service where Wimber "turned his church into a laboratory and his church members into guinea pigs. Tragically, the 'lab technician' who experimented on them that night was a hypnotist struggling with homosexuality. In 1995 he died of AIDS."
The evening service in question was on Mother's Day in 1980, not in 1979. Frisbee died in 1993, not 1995. Frisbee dabbled in hypnotism when he was a hippie but totally repudiated it after his conversion. What Hanegraaff neglects to mention is that Frisbee, in spite of homosexual tendencies, was a formative influence on Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, and other Calvary Chapel pastors besides Wimber. At Frisbee's funeral, held at the Crystal Cathedral, Chuck Smith referred to him as one like Samson. That image is a lot more gracious and redemptive than the one used to malign John Wimber.
Hanegraaff demonizes Wimber and Hunter by using their words to paint them as Quaker-like subjectivists who value the inner light over Scripture, a stance that Jonathan Edwards calls the view of Satan himself. Hanegraaff shows bad faith in reading their comments in the worst light, failing to cite their clear and repeated declarations of biblical authority and inerrancy, and refusing to alter his text in response to Hunter's letter of clarification.
Of course, Hanegraaff's whole argument topples if Counterfeit Revival readers find out that Wimber, Hunter, Arnott, Clark, Howard-Browne, and company all believe, despite their errors and excesses, in the authority of Scripture and in the essentials of the gospel. That Hanegraaff has chosen to ignore every bit of evidence that these men have been used by God to bring sinners to Calvary and weary believers to refreshment is very distressing.
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