The Table Podcast

Escaping the Prosperity Gospel

In this episode Mikel Del Rosario and Costi Hinn discuss the prosperity gospel, focusing on Hinn’s spiritual journey out of the religious movement. This interview was recorded before March 2020.

Timecodes
00:15
Life within the Hinn family
04:14
The scheme and start of the prosperity movement
10:46
Life within the prosperity movement
17:35
Loyalty to the prosperity movement
21:37
The sovereignty of God dismantles prosperity theology
28:58
The vacancy of suffering in prosperity theology
34:44
Breaking out of the prosperity movement
39:01
When the Truth of Scripture overwhelms a gospel of lies
43:30
When prosperity gospel clutches your loved one
50:03
When prosperity gospel creeps into your church
Resources Costi W. Hinn, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies Dr. Charles Swindoll, The Church Awakening Dr. Charles Swindoll, The Grace Awakening
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Manager here at Dallas Theological Seminary. And today our topic is “Escaping the Prosperity Gospel.” And I have a guest coming to us from Skype today who is well acquainted with the prosperity gospel movement. It is Costi Hinn. Costi is coming to us from Gilbert, Arizona, where he is the executive pastor of discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church. Welcome to the show.
Costi Hinn
Hey, good to be here, Mikel. Thanks for having me.
Mikel Del Rosario
You’re welcome. Really looking forward to this interview. I just read your book. It was pretty good, and it was kind of a page turner. So, normally I read a lot of heavy academic books, and this was just really nice to get into somebody’s story. It’s called God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel, and the subtitle is “How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies.” Now, for those people who are listening and watching our show and they hear your last name, Hinn, they’ve probably heard that name somewhere before, somewhere, maybe on TBN. And you do have a family connection to the famous televangelist Benny Hinn.
Costi Hinn
Yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
Tell us a little bit about what that was all like, just to get us oriented to your story. What was it like growing up in that whole context?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, I’ll give you the two pictures, sort of physical and spiritual. So, the physical picture was growing up, I’ve often said it, like a mixture between the royal family and the mafia. So, the lavish lifestyle of the royal family: wealth, servants, mansions, the whole deal, and security; and then the mafia in that we were very loyal, and you never turned your back on family. It didn’t matter what was going on. If things were truthful or if they were lies or what, you just – you never ever turned your back on – on family. And so, that was physically what it was like.

What that looks like, then, is flying on private planes, driving Hummers and Bentleys, Ferraris, staying in the best hotels in the world, eating at the best restaurants in the world. Take your best episode from Travel Channel, the old show “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” sort of blend that all together, and that was life for us in the fast lane.

And then, spiritually speaking, the reason we thought that that was ministry, and the reason that I felt so strongly and that that was God’s blessing, and it was indicative of, you know, being anointed was because we looked at passages like John 10:10 where Jesus says I’ve come that they might have life and life more abundantly as evidence for living the quote “abundant life”—abundance meaning health, wealth, happiness.

Then we would look at, you know, a greeting where John writes, you know, first, second, and third John, those short letters later in your Bible, and he says to one of his recipients, “I wish above all that you may prosper and be in good health, even as they soul prospereth.” You know, that idea, which would have been a standard greeting back then. We can talk about that another time. But, overall, I would look at that and say, yeah, God doesn’t just want me to benefit or prosper spiritually in my salvation, but, goodness, he wants me prospering materially. It’s always his will that we be healthy. It’s always God’s will that we be wealthy, etc.

And so, we traveled the world preaching that. We took the Bible and forced it into our system. We proof-texted, if you will, to ensure that we had a version of the gospel that would sell well, and God was like a magic genie. If I rubbed him right with enough faith or a big enough offering, he would give me whatever I wanted. And so, we preached that message. We lived that message, and lived like rock stars, but all on donations.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm, wow. Now, is that pretty much what the core of the prosperity gospel is, the idea of being healthy and wealthy materially as what God wants for you?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, more or less the prosperity gospel taps the deepest felt need, I think of every human being on the planet, which is to be comfortable, to be safe, to be secure, to have financial stability. Certainly, you know, Peter writes in 2 Peter 3, or 2 rather, verses 1 through 3, when he’s introducing and entire chapter about false teachers, he says, “in their greed, they will exploit you.” And I do think there’s an element of greed that’s there, but certainly the people that buy into this, a lot of them are just after health and wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t want to be healthy? I want to be healed. I don’t want to be sick. Nobody wants their kids sick. So, that is something it promises.

And then, who doesn’t want to be wealthy or financially stable? You have a lot of independence. You don’t have to worry how you’re going to pay the bills. People want that. And then happiness, who wants to be in conflict? Who wants to be fighting all the time with people? Who wants divorce and brokenness? We want to be happy and enjoying our life. Well, the prosperity gospel packages the Word of God and the life of Christ and the atoning work that he accomplished on the cross, heaven to come, earth now, all of that, everything about the Christian life, packages it up as this sort of get rich, get healthy scheme.

And if you do what the anointed leader says, you’re going to get all those things. So, the bait and switch, or, I would go stronger than that, call it a Ponzi scheme, really only benefits the guys at the top, while everybody else continues to pay into the system, so to speak, hoping to get the benefits. And there’s a lot of false hope there.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Well, the things that you mentioned really are kind of universal human longings, and so I can see how there’s a major draw there for a lot of people who are led into this movement. Where do you think this kind of revivalist quote unquote “prosperity gospel” came from?
Costi Hinn
Well, if you go all the way back to a little place called the Garden of Eden, you’ve got Lucifer, the serpent, coming on the scene, and convincing Eve with a lie that undermines God’s Word, saying essentially, you know, “Did God really say? Is that what God said, Eve?” And he begins to deceive and twist what God originally said and commanded and intended. So, obviously, you know, the serpent wasn’t preaching the prosperity gospel so to speak, specifically with that term, but no doubt the enemy has always, from the very beginning, sought to undermine the truth of what God has said.

Now, I think that was a different era, a different time. God had made His will very clear. But, I think today, God has made His will very clear. He’s made His message very clear. He has certainly conveyed that to the church and to the world in very clear ways. And still, today, though, the enemy is seeking to undermine God’s message, to undermine the hope of the Gospel, the fixation we’re to have on eternity, the mission of God we’re to live out now here on Earth. All of this undermines that. Now, historically, to go one more place with that, I think you need to look back into sort of the mid to late-1800s and get to know a guy named Phineas Quimby.

And some of the historical literature that he put out, that is where the idea of name it and claim it sort of gets its roots. I think you could probably go back further and pin more, but really just for a simple history lesson, that’s 20 seconds or less, he was a guy who introduced new age ideas. You can make it with your mouth or make it happen with your mouth. You can speak things to existence. That’s where we get the idea of “name it and claim it.” Some people say sort of tongue-in-cheek “blab it and grab it.” This idea that whatever you think, whatever you speak, you can bring into existence.

Well, more and more preachers got a hold of that, and throughout the 1900s, you have, you know, characters like Smith Wigglesworth or Oral Roberts or Kenneth Hagin, you have the word of faith movement. And, nowadays, you know, a guy like Kenneth Copeland would propagate this idea, and there are branches of the world today and television networks that have a lot of this type of teaching. And it’s real simple. You think it, you speak it, you declare it, and you’re forcing God. You can really control God, and God has to do it because He promised that He would bless you in His Word.

And I’ll give you the lynchpin verse for the prosperity gospel. 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. “He became poor so that we might become rich.” Now, that’s not what that particular text means that we’re all going to be healthy and wealthy because Jesus became poor. But, that would be the lynchpin verse. And so, we just have to speak that, and confess it. Just like we confess our sin, and we’re saved by faith, we can confess health and wealth and God will do it.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. And so, the idea of praying, then, of faith, even tithing, is seen as a means to manipulate God almost. Is that right?
Costi Hinn
Absolutely, and you see a couple of chapters, like 2 Corinthians 8, and chapter 9, where Paul’s whole driving message there is generosity and giving generously to others in the church and certainly to the Lord’s work. Because Jesus was so lavish and generous with his grace, for us, we should give with that heart. We should be generous to others, ready to share. Nowhere in that chapter or any chapters in the New Testament is there this idea that if you give to the anointed leader that God is going to make you rich.

Certainly, there are promises and principles in the New Testament with generosity where if you have open hands, so to speak, where you are – you are receiving from the Lord and giving generously, I do see, and I think we could exegetically see, that God certainly blesses that in a sense. But, it could also be blessings that aren’t material. Peace, joy, treasure in heaven. Imagine getting to participate in the harvest of souls. Those are blessings, and often the prosperity gospel says, you know, “If you give to God this, you’re gonna get a hundredfold blessing, or a hundredfold return.” It’s like giving you the stock market and you’re going to hit it big if you give a big enough offering.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. So, not only did you grow up just as part of the family, you were actually doing – doing work in – in the organization in what you call it, the empire, right? Tell us a little bit what that was like, going on these crusades and – and being a – being a catcher, as you say in your book, which is not about baseball.
Costi Hinn
Nope, nope.
Mikel Del Rosario
What was it like to be a catcher for the Benny Hinn ministry?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, being a catcher meant that I had to wear a suit and go up on the stage. And when my uncle would pray for people and they would be quote, “slain in the Spirit,” I would catch them. And you had to catch them good. You don’t to let them get hurt, and, you know, I’m not being funny here. You don’t want them have to get healed twice, so to speak, if you drop them. But there – there was that idea that you had to make it all look good for the cameras. And so, I was a catcher, and then I was an assistant with my uncle, as well, on the road.

So, I traveled with him, I flew on the Gulf Stream jet with him. I accompanied him many different places, and that was like a lifestyle that few people would ever experience. You picture one of the hotels, the Burj Al Arab if you’ve ever seen the Travel Channel, the hotel in Dubai that’s shaped like a big white sail. That hotel, we stayed in the royal suite, and the bill, just for the royal suite, was 25,000 U.S. dollars a night.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Costi Hinn
And we had other suites as well. But imagine, for a moment, us going to do ministry, let’s say, over in India to minister to poor people in a big stadium or a huge property. And our layovers are the stuff of the royal family. We’re going to London, staying at the Lanesborough. We’re going to Paris and staying at the Ritz Paris. We’re going shopping. We’re going to Greece on the way, or Italy, and stopping over at the Vatican, and then, you know, over to Dubai for a couple of nights to enjoy that. We would just go on these layover trips, and we – we would think that we were resting, and experiencing the blessings and rest of God before, of course, going to pour into all the poor people that were in India.

And we would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on trips, at our leisure. And then, when money ran low or we had spent a lot, we certainly would fundraise a great deal, but there was a steady stream of millions of dollars coming into the ministry every single month. Not every single year; every single month. And so, there was what seems to be an endless amount of assets and capital that you could just spend on your lifestyle under the umbrella of serving the Lord.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm, wow. And you were just a teenager then, weren’t you?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, at that point, I was 19 years old.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Costi Hinn
And that was a wild way to live when you’re 19 and you’ve got access to that kind of freedom and that kind of money.
Mikel Del Rosario
Now, you mentioned earlier a number of names associated with – with this movement. You mentioned Oral Roberts. Tell us about when you met him and – and what – how significant that was for that movement.
Costi Hinn
Oh, yeah. Yeah, so, we believed that Oral Roberts was one of the greatest men of God to ever live, and next to my uncle, which we were taught, and many of my family members believe he is the greatest man of God to ever live or the greatest man of God of our entire era. And so, Oral Roberts, though, was a mentor, and he poured into my uncle a great deal, and we took a lot of his teachings and, of course, used them. And so, the same way that someone might, you know, grab a – a Chuck Swindoll commentary or, you know, lean over into Criswell or Warren Wiersby or MacArthur or whomever. You – you, you know, for us, it was Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin.

And so, that ended up being where our go to was. And so, we taught that, and one day, during a crusade, I was enjoying myself. I used to always go to the green room and eat. And my dad called me over in a panic and said, you know, “Get over here right now.” Oral Roberts was about to leave, and for my dad, that was the greatest moment that I could ever experience, for Oral Roberts to lay his hands on me. And so, he rushed me over and I just remember he – he has large hands. He was – he was a good-sized guy – and put his hands on my head and he prayed some prayer, typical of that time of, you know, prophesying blessing and anointing and all that.

And we often said, you know, double portion type stuff, like, Elisha and Elijah, and, you know, that God’s mantel would fall on me. And I just remember not really caring much about what had happened. I just wanted to go back to the green room and eat, and my dad saying to me at the time, you know, “One day, you don’t maybe realize what just happened, but one day you will.” You know, essentially, in his mind, the greatest man of God who ever lived, or in my circle, our camp, had just, you know, endorsed me. So, you picture, if you’re listening and you’re in the DTS family, you know, Chafer or Ryrie or someone like that giving you – giving you an hour of their time and praying for you, and then launching you into ministry. You know, it’d be that idea. And so, that was a memory that I’ve had for years, and that was the – one of the bigger moments with Oral Roberts that I had.

Mikel Del Rosario
So, in the eyes of many people in this movement, you were being – kind of set up to take – take leadership, some serious leadership of this movement. Is that right?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, in the Middle Eastern family that I grew up in – my father is a Palestinian Arab, born and raised in Jaffa, Israel – you name your first-born son after your father, and so my name Costi is after my – or my full name is Costandi. It’s – I’m named after my grandfather. And I am the oldest in the family. Even though my uncle Benny’s the oldest son in – of all the brothers, my dad had the first Costi. And in a Middle Eastern family, if you’re cultured, you know, you understand this, there – it’s in a lot of different cultures – the firstborn son of the next generation is a sort of a, I don’t know, figurehead or – or supposed to be.

It’s like a birthright, you know? You’re supposed to lead the next generation. And so, I was being groomed to lead the – the family ministry, to be the next up and comer. I was the oldest Costi. I was said to have, you know, my grandfather’s name, and so I’m going to have a great anointing. And so, all of that was the setup. And, my dad was working with my uncle. We were very close, altogether. My dad also pastored a church in Vancouver, British Columbia, so, and mirrored the exact model that my uncle had put together in Orlando, at Orlando Christian Center, the church that he originally started. So, all of that, hopefully, gives you a picture of the – the orbit that was in.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. What would you say keeps people loyal to the movement and to the leaders?
Costi Hinn
Oh, yeah. I mean, that – that’s a complicated question. I’ll try to answer it in simple ways. First of all, you know, you – 2 Timothy 4, versus 1 through 5, of course the famous verse 2, when Paul tells Timothy, you know, “preach the Word.” When you look at the reason for him saying that, he said, “a time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, and wanting to have their ears tickled, they’ll turn aside to myths. They’ll raise up teachers in accordance with their own desires.” Well, it’s real simple. It – people want it. There certainly is that category. There are people who want this type of teaching. They’re loyal to it because they love it. They want what it offers. There’s that.

But also, there are millions of desperate, hurting, broken, sick people around the world who want a solution. They’re trying to, with the best of intentions, get healed. They have a child who’s on life support, who’s terminal. They have no more options. They are broken in poverty. They need a miracle. They’re begging God to move on their behalf. And they’re just trying to find the best road there. They’re in ignorance, certainly. They’re naïve. They’re the mission field. We need to be reaching them. We need to be sharing the Gospel. That’s why I wrote the book. I didn’t write the book to, you know, reach a really smart seminary student who’s got it all figured out, and, you know, is just fine.

Certainly I hope it wakes one of them up, but I wrote the book to equip people so that they can go out and reach people who are caught up in the movement, and so that it – the book would land in the hands of people in the movement, and they would begin to see it, and God would use the power of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, to open their eyes. And that’s really our mission field, Mikel. The people who are chasing this, they’re desperate I believe, certainly, God will use us to reach many of them, but it’s attractive.

And then, you know, on that level, it’s not that crazy, because we all, like we said earlier, need healing. We all need miracles in our life. We all need breakthroughs. They use the word breakthrough all the time in the prosperity gospel. You know, even the most brilliant student may have student loans that he has to pay off or she has to pay off. So, everybody has needs, financially, relationally, physically. And, the prosperity gospel puts that in front of us, much like a carrot, dangling it. And if you’re not rooted and grounded in God’s Word, you’re going to be tossed to and fro by the waves and winds of culture. And that’s why we need sound doctrine, so we can stick our feet in the concrete of God’s Word, if you will, and hold fast during turbulent times.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well, you went through a transition in your life out into a different community when you went to Dallas Baptist University –
Costi Hinn
Yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
– which some people may be pretty surprised that someone coming out of your context went to DBU. But, tell us how God used that time in your life.
Costi Hinn
Yeah, I was there to play baseball. And so, the Lord has a great sense of humor. I certainly was there to play baseball and got a whole bunch of Bible, which was great. So, I remember one particular professor. His name was Mike Millburn. And he was the pastor at that time of, I believe, First Baptist Burleson, Texas. He had a real thick twang. And he said right away, in my New Testament survey class, you know, “Costi Hinn?” And I said, “Oh, I’m here, sir.” And he said, “You kin to Binny?” And he said “Binny,” you know? “You kin to Binny?” I said “Yes, that’s my uncle.” And he said, “Oh, well, I better be careful when we get to the tongues part.” And he was just joking around, having fun with me. And very kind man.
But I began to understand, and I – I got a – I believe an A in that class, because I knew the Bible. I knew the information, but there had never been transformation. My heart was not changed. My mind was not changed. But, I never the facts or the stories of the Bible, because we grew up interacting with the Bible all the time. So, I go through that. Well, I’ve got a baseball coach who also presses in on my life and shares the Gospel, shares the truth. And one day he calls us up after we all get out on the field, right before a scrimmage game, and there’s a scout in the stands. And he says, “Hey guys, y’all need to relax. You know, you’re getting real uptight over a scout being here. Proverbs 21
1 says ‘The heart of the king is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord. He turns it where He wishes.’” And then he said, “God controls kings; he controls scouts. He is sovereign. He’s in control. So, you guys control what you can, which is to go out and play the game. You let God handle the rest. He already knows your future. So, don’t worry about what you can’t control.”

And I remember thinking What in the world is this guy talking about? I, you know, I know how to get God to work for me. What’s the sovereignty stuff? How do I get on the good side of that? How do I get God to do what I want Him to do?

And – and I really remember thinking, arrogantly, my coach drove a white Toyota Camry at the time; I drove a Hummer – and I’m thinking, I know a little bit about getting God to do what I want Him to do. This – this guy, he, some Baptist, I don’t know what he’s talking about. And, you know, turns out that the Lord would use that some years later when I was in ministry, preparing a sermon on healing, no doubt – John 5:1-17, the healing at the pool of Bethesda – to come back, really, to mind. And, it was, like, a crack in the – the dam of my theology. And it – it burst forth, broke open that day in study when I came to John 5.

And I – I realized that Jesus is a sovereign healer. And you can’t manipulate him. You can’t turn his healing ministry into a formula. There were times where he was moved with great compassion, moved by people’s faith. There were other times, like the man at the pool of Bethesda, who had no faith, didn’t even perceive the Greek word says, didn’t even know, didn’t perceive who Jesus was, let alone have enough faith for his healing. And Jesus did as he wills and as he works for his good pleasure. He’s a sovereign healer. And that truth came to bear upon my soul, and it was my coach that was planting major seeds in my life.

At the time, he wasn’t trying to undermine anything or be clever. I still have a great relationship with him today, and was just out in Dallas speaking at DBU not long ago, and, you know, we’re just overwhelmed by the grace of God as we talk about those days, and he was just doing what he always does, staying on mission, sharing the truth, and that impressed upon my heart in a huge way. And, of course, years later, I’d be saved.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm, wow, that’s amazing. So, you mentioned John 5. You were working on a sermon for that later on. But, let’s rewind a little bit back to – to college days. You met this lovely woman who God put in your life, who, through a series of events, also led you to some more Scriptures that kind of put some more cracks in that – in that foundation. Tell us about that.
Costi Hinn
Yes, right after graduating from DBU, I met a beautiful, wonderful gal who’s, of course, now my wife, Christyne, and she’s due with our fourth child in just a few weeks. And at that time, she drove a Yaris. She was working at TGI Friday’s to put herself through college. She was very conservative, blue collar family. And, of course, I’m driving a Hummer, I’ve flown in private planes, our family has two homes. We have Ocean View, Orange County, California, you know, living like rock stars at that point. And here comes this gal, and I keep her a secret for a little while from my family, because I just fall head over heels for her. She’s amazing.

I’m thinking I – this is the kind of gal I think I need to marry—all that. Well, my family gets wind of it, and they say, “Well, we’d love to meet her. Is she Spirit-filled?” And I thought, “Oh no, here we go.” And – and I had a little bit under my belt at this point from my Baptist undergraduate education, and I said, “Now, don’t start with all that. We all get the Holy Spirit at conversion. There’s no, you know, none of this second blessing type stuff and all. We all get the Holy Spirit, now.” You know, I was – I was just repeating what I had heard. And, you know, they said, “Well, does she speak in tongues?” I said, “Well, no, she doesn’t speak in tongues.”

And so, one of my family members said, “Well, then she’s clearly not saved, and does not have the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” And so, there began a process where the Lord, through that particular belief, started to undermine the foundation of what I believed. And so, Christyne would just ask normal questions, and I couldn’t answer them unless I twisted the Bible, or said, “Well, you – you – you know, you – you don’t understand these deeper truths.” She was a newer believer, so sometimes I’d say, “You know, that – that’s a deeper truth.” In other words, I don’t know to answer that.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, right.
Costi Hinn
You know, so, that started to happen. Well, eventually, it got a little more serious, Mikel, and my family started to basically try to get her to speak in tongues, force her to. And they took her to different services. She went to my uncle’s crusades, my dad’s, and, eventually, it got really serious, and we ended up going to the Bible, really just broken, and pleading with God for answers, and trying to figure out what was what. And we came upon – of course, we think we stumbled upon it, but we know the Lord was working providentially in all of it – 1 Corinthians 12:30 where Paul is essentially and rhetorically asking questions that are obviously no.

You know, not all speak in tongues…not all, not all, not all…do they? And he’s going through the list of gifts. In other words, not everyone’s going to do the same thing. Not everyone’s going to be gifted the same way. You can’t put a requirement on people that they have to speak in tongues, or they have to do signs and wonders, or they have to prophesy or they’re not actually saved. You can’t attach what is a spiritual gift, given sovereignly by the Holy Spirit, to, you know, redemption, to being saved. That – that’s repentance, that’s faith, trust in Christ, the grace of God.

And so, that was happening. I remember looking at that text with her and thinking, Oh my goodness, I think you’re off the hook. Like we could get married because it was really serious. And some people may laugh and think, Oh, come on, that’s – you really thought that? Absolutely. We were under the bondage and belief, thinking if she doesn’t do this, I can’t marry her. And there were a lot of prophesies against her that she would ruin the anointing on my life, that she was an agent of the enemy, essentially, to undermine the family, and all of those things.

Someone once prophesied even she would be barren. We’d be under a curse of barrenness because I was going outside the family’s blessing in marrying her. And, of course, by the grace of God, three – three children and, Lord willing, a fourth about to be here. She’s not barren, but at the time, all those fear tactics were used to try to keep us locked in on what was a very dangerous belief system.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. Now what kind of doctrine of suffering is there in the prosperity gospel? How do they make sense of the book of Job? How do you make sense of Paul’s suffering? What’s the idea behind suffering in – in the prosperity movement?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, well, one time my uncle said that Job got it wrong. So, just to give you an idea, that was said publically. He said, you know, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Job said that. Job was wrong.”
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Costi Hinn
And so, that – it can be as bold as that, you know, someone saying that somebody in the Bible is wrong. And I think right there, you’re – you’re just – you’re – you’re stomping on a few things, one of them, inerrancy, but another topic for another time. But overall, you avoid it, and then if there is any acknowledgement of it, you would say that Paul was laying the foundation for us, that, you know, they suffered and – and sacrificed so that we could have these truths. You know, there’s ways to spin that, right, and say, well, Paul, that was – that was early on, and, of course, God was building – remember, Jesus said, “I’m going to build my church and the gates of Hades won’t prevail against it.”
So, you know, he’s building his church. So, we have it better than they used to. Now, you’re probably thinking, What in the world are you talking about, Costi? But, in these circles, that’ll preach. That’ll really preach. And so, you could say, you know, we’re – Ephesians 2:20, you know, the foundation of the apostles, they’re foundational, even in their suffering. And because of them, now, we build atop now today, living lives of blessing and joy and all of it. You have all of that that can be twisted and packaged up to sell it. But the number one way that a prosperity preacher will deal with suffering or have a theology of suffering is to avoid it altogether.

And you see this, and I’m – I’m not trying to be disrespectful. I prefer not to names unless it’s purposeful, so, we’ll just do this one. You’ve heard of Joel Osteen before, and he goes on certain television programs or CNN or what have you. And you’ve heard him say before, maybe, if you haven’t, you can YouTube this. They’ll say, you know, “I just don’t feel like that’s my calling, to talk about sin, to talk about, you know, what people believe and don’t believe. I just want to stay in my lane. My job is just to be an encouragement to people. I just want to stay positive now. I’m just here to tell people the good news about Jesus, and his purposes for them, and all that he wants for them. And then I let all that other stuff just work itself out.”

Well, that’s a great approach, because now, I only have to preach one thing
all the good stuff. So, I give some gospel, I talk about God’s blessing, I talk about giving and sowing and reaping, and I talk about sharing and loving, and all of those, by all means, do that, preach that. Those are all great things. But if I can’t come to, you know, Philippians 28 and 29, if I can’t come to James 1. Or, like, Paul told the church at Philippi, “It has been granted to you the privilege of suffering.” That’s crazy talk in the prosperity gospel. But, for us, it’s the other side of the coin, isn’t it? There is going to be great mountain victories. There also are going to be great valley trials, if you will; moments of blessing, and that’s going to mean material for some people, and that’s going to mean healing for some. But also moments of trouble and pain and suffering, and that may mean loss. I think of a woman like Joni Eareckson Tada. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of her, but, you know, 50 plus years in a wheelchair. If anyone deserves to be healed, it’s her. If anyone would bring a lot of glory to God in being healed, it’s her.
And yet, she’s never been healed, but she goes on with her ministry. There will come a day in eternity when she is set free, when she will be, like Jesus says in, I think, Revelation 21: 4, I believe, “No more sorrow, no more sickness, no more sad, no more tears.” Across the board, there is coming a day where there is guaranteed health, wealth, happiness and prosperity. It’s called heaven. It’s glory with Christ, and if – I’ll go even further – it is that way because of Christ. He’s the ultimate. He’s the treasure. He’s the glory. He’s who we seek. And so, that is, of course, not going to be prevalent in the prosperity gospel. And, if you tell people all the good stuff they’re going to get – people like the fluff sometimes—and we just need to be faithful to preach the entire, the whole counsel of God.
Mikel Del Rosario
That’s true, yeah. When you think about historic Christianity in contrast to some of these new religious movements, you see that Christianity has a really good worldview fit with the way reality actually is.
Costi Hinn
Yes, doesn’t it.
Mikel Del Rosario
Where when you have other religious movements that will preach certain things, and you just wake up every morning and you go How can this be true, because I’m sick today? aAd, you know, no amount of just saying “I’m not really sick today” is going to – is going to change that. And so, it’s interesting how, you know, sometimes people are able to close their minds to things that are just staring them in the face. But it’s – it’s a sign, I think, of – of how desperate people are –
Costi Hinn
Amen.
Mikel Del Rosario
to – to have, actually, what only Christ can give us. Lasting human fulfillment only comes from a relationship with God that’s vibrant, that’s living every day.
Costi Hinn
Amen.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, through your spiritual journey, God led you to a number of people, a number of resources, and one of them, I read in your book, was a little book written by our chancellor here at DTS, Chuck Swindoll. Tell us about what role that played in your – in your journey.
Costi Hinn
Yes, I have – I have the book right here, because we had talked a little bit before this show started, and – and I asked you if I could go grab it real quick off my shelf, Church Awakening. I find this hilarious that we’re talking, because – about this, because, so, at the time, there’s a woman in our church in Canada. I was my dad’s associate pastor. This is just before – this is 2011, I believe, and 2012, I would end up in California. So, 2011, I’m there, and – no, I’m sorry, 2011 into 2012 as well. My wife and I were now engaged. We got engaged of January 7th of 2012.

She comes and slips me – this woman in our church – comes and slips me this book, and, funny enough, I had just preached a sermon on Job, because I thought – I just thought it’d be good to preach on Job. I still don’t know why, and I thought, We need to preach – we should preach on hard times. This might help. She comes and hands me this book and goes, “Hey, keep going. You know, you’re on the right track.” And I’m like “What?” And she hands me this book like it was a – a drug deal, like it was secret, you know? Here, this is, hiding it. And so, I grab the book. I devour it. And, brother, I’ll tell you, there’s a whole paragraphs section in there that, you know, Dr. Swindoll says a few – a few choice words about false teachers. We’ll leave it at that.

And it fit us to a T, to a T. And I remember that being a moment where I thought, you know what? Yikes. And the whole book is this call back to truth, back to the Word, back to the Holy Spirit, back to conviction, back to being faithful, and for the church. And so, in a way, yeah, the Lord – if I made a list, I could just list out a dozen either resources or people that God used to chisel away or put cracks in the dam. And, then eventually, this thing burst open. And so, it – just another great reminder of how God uses people. God is the author of salvation, of course. He’s the one saving. We’re not saving ourselves, absolutely. And he uses people. He uses the church. The church is plan A. There’s no plan B. Plan A evangelism. Otherwise, why would we be on the earth? Why not just take us all to heaven? We’re on the earth to be salt and light, to reach the world, to reach the lost. And then, you know, it’s over. So, as plan A, we should be busy, and I’m thankful that people like Swindoll and many others have been busy about the father’s business so that guys like me can be given a book by a – a secretive, unassuming, El Salvadorian woman in our church, and it would do something incredible in my heart.

Mikel Del Rosario
So, how did you ultimately make that definitive break and escape the prosperity gospel movement?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, I call – I called the moment, well, really, one of my pastor friends, mentor, calls it this, and it’s funny. I’m not trying to be clever. It’s the name of another book called Grace Awakening that Swindoll wrote, too. But my grace awakening moment was coming up on a sermon. I would have preached it on April 30th of 2013. I was prepping for that sermon about seven years ago, and it was the John 5:1-17 sermon. My pastor mentor at the time threw me a commentary and said, “Hey, this is – this is a commentary. It’ll help keep the train on the tracks.” And it was a MacArthur commentary, one of those little burgundy ones that Moody put together.

And so, I – I never thought twice about who he was or anything like that. I just went on with it. And I’m reading the text, and I made observations. And, somebody had handed me this handout at our church who was – was leading, like, a Bible study about the OICA method, early on, and it was observation, interpretation, correlation, application – just real simple stuff to just figure out what’s what. And so, I’m making observations of the text in my study, and I see Jesus heals one out of a multitude. I’m going, That’s – and it was like new eyes– That’s weird. I always thought you’d heal everyone. I just realized you healed one guy. Why’d you do that, Lord?

So, I’m – I’m allowed to finally ask questions of the Bible, which was liberating in and of itself, because in the movement I grew up in, you never asked – you never questioned anything, or you’re touching the Lord’s anointed, so to speak. Well, then, Jesus heals him immediately. John records that. I thought, Right away, no fanfare, no white jacket, no stadium, no music, no offering, none of it. And then, like I said earlier, the man doesn’t even know who Jesus was. All that sends me into a spiral of confusion, but mostly because my old beliefs weren’t proving true. I grabbed the commentary, and it says, you know, here is a prime example of Jesus as a sovereign healer, and the word sovereignty comes to mind again, and my coach used to always bring that up.

And so, I thought Oh, my goodness. You know, Jesus is a sovereign healer. He is sovereign over all. I mean, I’m like What in the world? This is what he meant. That’s so true. And then he goes on, and – and kinda of goes off about false teachers and says “The cruelest lie of faith healers today is the people they fail to heal are guilty of negative confession, unbelief, etc.,” and I’m going Oh, my goodness, that is exactly what I used to believe and teach. It’s what we did.

So, I start crying, and it was a powerful moment that the Lord could only accomplish in the heart of a human being, and I was – it was over. My eyes were opened, everything made sense. I wept. I repented. I realized the life I’d lived, the teaching I’d adhered to, all of that, I said “sorry” to the Lord for twisting the gospel, for believing a false gospel, and I vowed to preach the true Gospel. So, from there, I literally got up. I ran over into my pastor’s office and—I was the associate pastor at the time—I kicked the door in, basically, and I started saying, “It was all a lie! These guys – the false teaching…” and I was just going off, and I – I was telling him that, you know, “I’m going to do something about this. We’ve got to do something about this. This is hurting people,” and all that.

And so, he said, “Costi, sit down.” So, I sat down and he said, “Listen. God’s got a good handle on the Gospel. You just focus on being faithful.” I said “Okay.” He said, “Yeah, the time may come when – when you do something about this, or you write something – all that may happen. But, right now, you” – basically he told me to shut up and do my job. You know, that was the – that was the approach. Be faithful. And so, I lost my title of pastor. I became PIT, pastor in training. I started devouring books. I went to seminary. And my pastor, his father was a – a DTS graduate and had thousands of books. And so, John Walvoord began to line my shelves, and Criswell, and Gromacki and many others on the work of the Holy Spirit, on interpreting the Bible, Zuck and many others on Bible interpretation.

So, I just began to devour books on church history. I have a beautiful old set right over here. It’s Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology, it’s just – I just began to devour. And I was like, Where has all this been? This is free. Like, people just – well, I know you’ve got to pay for books, but it’s right there. You could just read, and then you would learn things. And so, I went through that, and it was about a four year journey of lay training, biblical counseling, and then entering into seminary. And of course, I’ve recently graduated, and I’m going to keep going and I want to eventually do doctoral work, and just be faithful. But overall, that’s how it all happened. And lots of details in between, but that’s why you write books, and – but podcasts are limited in far – as far as time, so. But that’s how it happened, man.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. So, let’s shift gears a little bit here, and what would you say to somebody who comes to you and – and, say, read your book or heard your story, and says to you, “Costi, I’m really concerned about a family member of mine, or a friend of mine, who’s either has these kinds of leanings or is getting led astray by – by this movement, or maybe they’re in a church now that is – is a prosperity church.” What would you say to them that – that could possibly help them to – to reach out to their – their loved one in that – in that context?
Costi Hinn
Yeah. First of all, do not go cage stage on them. What I mean by that is cage stage is a – is a season that I was in, and it basically means it’s, you know, you come into contact with truth, and it’s better that you be caged for a little while lest you say something hurtful or foolish to people. And I went off on my family, Mikel. I told my dad he’s a false teacher. I called my – I mean, everybody – I unloaded, and was like, you know. Well, I should have been caged for a little while, because the same commands apply to us when we come into contact with the truth, or when we’re mature and we know the truth, and – and – and we’re walking godly, which is for us to watch how we talk, to watch how we relate, to love one another, and to be kind and gracious, to be having speech that is seasoned with grace.

So, first of all, be careful how you react. Sometimes, because we love people so much, we tend to love them a little too much, and we unload on them, and we can come off aggressive. So, I’m not – I’m not saying don’t have Gospel zeal. I’m just saying be careful with the approach and your emotions. But, really, I would point people to Jude’s words. In Jude 17 – 23 would be the main section. But where Jude says “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” And he says, “Have mercy on those who doubt.” I think we need to be merciful on people who are doubting. There’s – there’s three categories. Then he says “Save others, snatching them out of the fire.” That’d be another category.

And then to others, “Show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” I think you’ve got the doubters, the deceived, and the dangerous. That’s the way I’ve preached it before. The doubters are people who are wavering. They’re not sure. Man, get coffee with them. Take them to lunch. Build a friendship and a relationship around trying to reach them, and be merciful. I really believe Jude says be merciful because these are some of the hardest people to be merciful towards, because you just want to kind of hit them with your Bible and go, stop wavering. Just wake up already.

You know, they’re the wishy-washy, and it can be almost more frustrating dealing with them than hardliners, because wishy-washy people, you just kind of want to tell them “Get it straight!” And then, we are to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” I think there’s people who are deceived, and you need to go in like the Coast Guard, drop the rope, and you’re trying to save them. You’re getting lunch with them, grabbing a coffee, picking up the phone and saying, “I really think you’re in something dangerous. Because I love you, I want to – to share some things with you. Would you be willing to let me talk to you about this? Would you be willing to share some of your thoughts so I can understand where you’re coming from? I really think you’re involved in something that can harm you. And – and if I’m wrong, I want to know that I’m wrong. But, if I’m right, I really want to help you because I love you.”

There’s an approach there, right in with the Gospel, and you’re trying to, you know, snatch them out of the fire. And then, Jude says “to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” I think these are the dangerous people. This would be, for example, right now, still, my uncle. I have mercy on him with fear. I – I’m not just going to grab a steak dinner with him. I’m not, like, hey, let bygones be bygones, no big deal, tomato, tomato, agree to disagree.

It is very serious. There are dangerous individuals who are false teachers, and they are – they are trying, actively, to deceive. They are exploiting people. They are what Jude explains as the ungodly, and those who “cast up their shame like the foam of the sea.” I mean, these – these are dangerous people. They’re wild waves. And we don’t need to condemn them. The Lord gets the final say. We also need to be careful of them. And so, there’s a category. Maybe you’re related to someone who’s a false teacher or who’s very manipulative, and you’re – you’re not sure how to approach them. Jude’s words are to “show mercy with fear.” I love that he says “show mercy” again, because those are also some of the easiest people to judge and to cut off.

And I’ll be honest with you, there – there are days, at times, especially in the beginning where, you know, I would write off a family member. But, the reality is, I’m not God. My job is to – is to love with truth. And so, we need to be praying, yes, even for false teachers, that the Lord would transform their hearts and their lives. Imagine if people thought Paul was too far gone. You know, I – in – in Act 7 and then in the Acts 8, you remember Stephen, he’s praying for – he – he literally cries out to God, “Don’t hold this against them,” basically. What I find so fascinating about a passage like that is Paul was there, remember, giving hearty approval. They’re laying their coats at his feet.

Now, there’s nowhere in the text that – that says this is the absolute truth – so, I’m not running with it that far. But, I will say this. Stephen cried out to God, “Don’t hold this against them.” The Lord, in His mercy, Paul’s there, and the Lord knows Paul is about – is going to go on to write 13 of the 27 New Testament letters, more if someone, a scholar believes that Hebrews is Pauline literature as well, but another topic for another time. But, overall, beautiful picture of Stephen crying out for the souls, the mercy upon those who were from “the other side.” And Paul happens to be there that day. The Lord would later save him.

What if Paul was the answer to Stephen’s prayer? What if the Lord saves a false teacher because we’re faithful? What if the Lord rescues a family member through us? We’re not God. I – I don’t know who he’s going to save today, but I know that I need to be faithful. So, my encouragement to you is to discern the category of individual you’re dealing with, and then relate with them based on that, and use a lot of wisdom, and try to reach their heart for the Gospel.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. And what about a pastor who might be listening to our broadcast today, watching, beginning to notice some of these kinds of prosperity teachings creeping into their non-denominational church, their Baptist church, whatever their affiliation might be, but they’re beginning to notice some of these things in the church. How would you counsel them to address those things?
Costi Hinn
Yeah, I would – I would go to the book of Acts, and in a – in a descriptive sense, I would say let’s look at what Luke describes about Paul’s words to the elders at Ephesus. And when he’s leaving, he tells them to “be on guard, to shepherd the flock, and to be careful because savage wolves are going to come in among them.” You remember that. And, basically, he calls them to protect the flock of God, period. And then I go over and think through 1 Peter 5:1-4. Peter’s words, you know: “Shepherd the flock of God among you. Exercise oversight, not under – not for sorted gain.” I would tell my brothers who are pastors that we are called to serve and protect and guide the flock of God. We’re not called to please men. We’re called to please God.

We’re not called to – to give in and do whatever feels good or what the culture wants us to do. There will be wolves. There will be those, like in Acts 20 that are within the church that seem to assault us, and we need to be faithful. I would just say that remember that one day you and I are going to appear before the judgement seat of Christ, and all that matters on that day is that he looks at us, no matter what we went through, no matter how big your church, how small it is, etc. All that matters is that the Master looks at you and says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want rewards not because I want a bunch of rewards. I want rewards because they’re indicative of faithfulness. It means the Lord was pleased with my ministry. And so, I would just say find some pastors, some brothers around you with conviction that can encourage you, hold your line, and please Christ above anyone else, and stick to sound doctrine. It’ll preserve you and those who hear you, like Paul told Timothy.

Mikel Del Rosario
Well, thank you so much, Costi, for being on the show today. Our time has gone very, very quickly, and it is now gone. But I’ve really enjoyed the conversation with you, so thanks for being on the show.
Costi Hinn
Thanks for having me, brother. Talk to you again, soon.
Mikel Del Rosario
Once again, the book is God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel. You can check that out to get Costi’s full story. If you have a topic that you would like us to consider for a future episode, we would like to take those things into consideration. So, please email us with your suggestions at thetable@dts.edu. And we hope to see you again next time on The Table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Costi Hinn
Costi Hinn is the Executive Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, AZ. He previously propagated “prosperity theology” and held numerous other false beliefs connected with the Word of Faith movement. He is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the co-author of Defining Deception, and the author of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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