Defining Deception by Costi W. Hinn and Anthony G. Wood — A Book Review
Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood have beaten me to the post. This is a book I knew needed to be written. I knew it many years ago. And although I have written much about the gross deception in the Church, it never took book form. When I discovered this work I immediately threw in the proverbial sickle and gave it a thorough read. It was a true grab. Having read the book, let me preface this post by saying: This is compulsory reading for any Christian. In this book review I’m going to introduce you to the work giving it a thorough literary and theological review. But also with the goal of compelling others to read it.
There is no question that the age in which we are currently living is glutted with deception of many kinds. It’s everywhere, both in the Christian and secular arenas. What may surprise some is that a great percentage of it is being birthed and actively circulating within the Church. This is a book written, not by one who is outside the Church looking in, but by one who was intimately involved with the dark inner-workings of one of the greatest mega ministries ever known: Benny Hinn Ministries. Costi W. Hinn is Benny Hinn’s nephew. He boldly and bravely wrote this work with the assistance of co-author Anthony G. Wood. Both are pastors and bible teachers at Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California.
The book begs to be read. Its literary resonance is one of urgency, desperation, holy reverence for God, and a genuine love for believers worldwide.
Having escaped the dark inner workings of Benny Hinn’s ministry, Costi Hinn threw down the gauntlet and took the bull by the horns. Having suffered persecution for taking a stand within his family and even among other Pentecostals and Charismatics, he obeyed God in the efforts to sound the alarm and blow the trumpet for all who would hear. As a fellow Christian who has also been sounding the alarm — I implore you to get this book and read it.
This is an informational non-fiction work. It’s both theological and historical in content. Although Costi Hinn shares some of his personal experiences, it’s not autobiographical of himself or biographical of his uncle, Benny Hinn.
Books such as this, which are written for a very strategic purpose (this one being theological), and to a wide range within the masses, require a style and language most anyone can read. That being said, most of the deception taking place within the Church today is targeting youth. So the copy needs to move quickly and the content needs to read on a level they can understand that compels them to finish. If Hinn and Wood can’t achieve that — the sad truth is they may miss their target. The expectation and end goal for a work such as this, which is compulsory, is that it will be finished even by the novice reader who does not entertain themselves with literature. Most youth are fueled by social media, having an attention span of only a few seconds. That said, this book is written for the moderate reader: that being a tenth-grade level. Does that mean it will reach tenth-graders? Unfortunately, no. Most college students today don’t read beyond that level. I wager this work will effectively reach ages twenty and up. Will it reach the high-school population? Maybe. It’s linguistically mature for its subject matter without being dumbed down. It moves at a moderate pace and uses language for theological issues that laymen can readily understand. I applaud that effort. The chapters are of adequate length, and the book length is appropriate for this subject matter, being a slim 167 pages of text. Yet there are seven chapters and five appendices, all which deserve reading — which brings me to my next point.
The book could have been better formatted. Here’s why: I believe much of the content that is so necessary and deserving is found in the appendices, which are theologically supportive, accounting for approximately one-quarter of the book. Unfortunately, these are at the back of the book when they deserve a proper stage. Understand: the information found here is critical for this work. The sad reality is, most readers (both novice and moderate) will not likely attribute time or attention to this area for the simple reason that appendices are regarded as reference or supplemental material. Most novice readers will start with the first chapter and continue to the last — if they finish the work. Yet the book offers much more. I believe the book could have been better formatted being divided into two parts: Part One existing of the present chapters which outline the issues presented, and Part Two which would theologically support the claims made, which are present in the appendices.
As an experienced reader, I read this book cover to cover in a span of approximately six hours (~ 30 min per chapter). That is considered a quick read by any standard, as it can be done at leisure in one day or evening.
The content is primarily historical and theological in nature, both of which are appropriate as would be expected. I was impressed with the depth of the research, both scriptural and documentary, and how well it was outlined and expounded upon within the text.
The book focuses primarily upon the errors within the Charismatic and Pentecostal circles in exposing specific leaders in ministry who have (1) fleeced God’s sheep monetarily and (2) pulled the wool over their eyes with doctrines of devils. The book, although it outlines leaders from as far back as Azusa Street, focuses primarily upon Bill Johnson of Bethel Redding in California who leads one of the largest and most nefarious cults in America today. Many others could have been mentioned, but were not, namely Mike Bickle’s IHOP of Kansas City and Lou Redding’s The Call — both which have enormous platforms with a global reach.
As one who is filled with the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, who believes strongly in the power of the Holy Spirit, who embraces the full doctrine and manifestation of the Spirit in both fruit and spiritual gifts, and who has been involved in the Charismatic movement, I began having deep and genuine concerns about the doctrines being taught and circulated within the Charismatic movement and Pentecostal church as far back as 1999 when the Toronto Blessing became a spectacle of demonic manifestations under a Holy Ghost label. Even John Wimber who founded the Vineyard Church denounced these, yet many continued to embrace them, falling into deception and bondage. As one who has lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma having witnessed the damage firsthand of so much false teaching and the demonic fruit that follows it, I had separated myself from these doctrines and leaders long ago. When I read the testimonies of Costi Hinn — it did not surprise me, but rather confirmed so much of what I already knew to be true.
With that said, Benny Hinn’s ministry is one I followed as a young believer in Christ, and with whom I am very, very familiar. Through Benny Hinn’s ministry, both via television and several crusades, I received genuine healing and deliverance in my young personal life that continues strong to this day. I need to make it very clear that I attribute that work to the Holy Spirit — not to Benny Hinn. I always have, and always will. Having lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is considered the “Christian mecca” of the Bible Belt by most, I was literally surrounded with and had been intimately introduced to ministries such as Oral Roberts, Rhema Bible, and others who preached the same Charismatic doctrines. Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood expose these outright — and their leaders who purport them so proudly.
The manner in which the doctrines are exposed is biblical, giving scriptural background and support as well as historical accounts of the cultic activity and spiritual abuses that took place and were heinously inflicted upon God’s people. There are no other witnesses in the book who have spoken of their stories, which is the only attribute I wish had been added. However, when considered, it would have made the length of the book far too long for the target audience. Although many could have come forward and spoken on these issues, Hinn and Wood do justice to the topic themselves as firsthand witnesses and participants who are scripturally sound and doctrinally aligned with the Word of God. If one should want accounts from others they can and will happily find them if they search, as the internet is glutted with them. That said, their tone is indeed fearfully reverent of our Lord and His Word, giving credence to the genuine work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers — even those who have been involved in the exposed ministries. They make it clear that the most profound work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is realized in sanctification with the manifestation of subsequent fruit. As for the gifts, they do not remiss or dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit on any scriptural point with the exception of one: they maintain that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a separate and distinct baptism. However, I disagree, both scripturally and in personal experience (for whatever that is worth). Yet I do not find this point to be one that should garner less attention toward this work.
That said, the doctrine in the book follows sound biblical theology. It is more conservative on some doctrinal points, and although it does not claim a Baptist stance, it appears to lean in that direction. The arguments put forth in this work are solid. They are supported with documented research, sound theology, and scriptural text. Their interpretation of the Word of God is one to which I can nod, although again, it is more conservative. That conservative lean is one I attribute to their careful delineation in hearing God’s voice personally and their distinction of baptisms, although they do not discount either experience. With that said, one will need to read the book if they desire to discover that delineation.
I heartily applaud Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood for stepping up and out in obeying God to write such a desperately needed work. Again, this book is compulsory reading in our time. The deception in the Church today is overgrown. It’s pandemic. The doctrines are demonic and grievous. This deception is indeed wide-spread, very dangerous, and deeply entrenched in the Charismatic circles where so many remain biblically illiterate and vulnerable.
This book is worthy of five stars on all literary points. This is a bold work. Wholly unapologetic. It is a work of excellence, both in literary content and purpose, which I believe is well-achieved. The spiritual integrity, scriptural reverence, genuine fear of God, and love for believers with which it is written makes it compulsory reading. And finally, if you do read it, please be sure to read the appendices.
Ignore at your peril. You have been warned.
Cheers & Shalom,
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