Why I Left The Tongues Movement - By Alfred H. Pohl
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REASON # 14
THE EXCESSES AND DECEPTIVE PRACTICES CONDONED IN DIVINE HEALING CAMPAIGNS
Needless to say, I grew up in a spiritual environment where divine healing was a prominent teaching and practice. Divine healing campaigns were very popular, attracting large crowds from far and near, often at great expense to the sick who needed special care and transportation. But also, for most of the sick they proved disappointing. Their expectations had been raised so high, only to be dashed after all the excitement was over. Some seemed to experience a momentary relief from pain, but all too many would discover no lasting benefit. And by that time the healer would be too far away to be questioned or to explain. The sick person would then simply be forced to accuse himself of lack of faith, or in some cases, throw his faith over- board. This type of procedure regarding the treatment of the sick is a very serious matter and ought to be questioned in the light of Scripture. Much reproach has come upon the cause of Christ by the actions of some unscrupulous people who claim to be prophets, miracle-workers, or to have the gifts of healing. These, Peter warns us, "through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Pet. 2:1-3). How despicable! To masquerade as those who can help, but in reality, because of greed, they are out to exploit those who are least able to give them money.
Right here I want to make it very clear that I do believe in divine healing. I have seen the Lord heal the sick in answer to prayer, not in the spectacular environment of special healing campaigns, but in the simple biblical procedure, of James 5:14-16. Also, I don't want to be misunderstood as being opposed to praying for the sick, far from it, but I do believe that we need to take heed to the clear warnings of Scripture in regard to the false, the deceptive, that comes in the name of Christ but is not of Him—Matt 7:21-23. Before we examine Scripture on this topic, I want to tell you of a healing campaign that I participated in vitally, in which the Lord opened my eyes to the deceptive practices that were employed. I went into that campaign a firm believer in the genuineness of the healer and his gift to heal. I did everything I could to help him. I was one hundred per cent for and behind him and encouraged sick friends to come long distances and be healed.
At that time, I believe it was in 1947, I was on the teaching staff of our denominational Bible school in Saskatoon, Sask. The healing meetings were held in the church auditorium which was adjacent to the Bible School dormitory and offices. It became my responsibility to place the very sick, such as stretcher-cases, in the various dormitory rooms. The "healer" in this particular campaign, was William Branham from the U.S.A., who had been invited by our church leaders to minister in some of our larger city churches. The services were very well attended by people coming long distances, many from other provinces.
When Mr. Branham had concluded his meeting in the church auditorium, I would take his arm and lead him from room to room in the dormitory, so that he could pray for those who were unable to attend the public meetings or stand in the healing-lines. This gave me an excellent opportunity to work in very close contact with him and observe what was happening. Let me repeat here, I was fully behind Mr. Branham at this time, and prayed earnestly with him for the healing of these dear suffering people. At that time, as he gave assurance to one after the other that they were healed, I rejoiced and praised the Lord with them.
A common practice of Mr. Branham was to take the hand of the sick person, and then say something like this, "The vibrations in your hand tell me that you have cancer. But I will pray for you that the Lord will heal you". When he had prayed, he would say something like this, "The vibrations are gone, the cancer is dead. You are healed! But you will be very sick for about three days till your body throws off the dead cancerous tissue. But don't worry, you are healed. Just trust the Lord." With similar words he would give assurances to these suffering ones that they would recover. This, of course, would bring hope and joy to these dear souls, many of whom responded with a large financial gift, sometimes far beyond their means. At times I was given large sums of money to pass on to Mr. Branham, which I always did gladly, for I too believed him.
This will have to be just a very brief picture of what went on day after day throughout the whole campaign, but you can visualize the rejoicing that was created by this man's declarations of healings, and the hope that was given to scores of people who were desperate in their pain and suffering. I wish that I could go on to say that all these, or at least a good number of them, did go on to recover. But I can't. Time went on, the campaign ended, and Mr. Branham and his party were gone. Then we began to see the results being tested by time. It was a difficult time for us, and particularly for me. For one by one these that I had personally seen "healed" and declared so by the "healer," died. Our faith was severely tested. Relatives of the deceased ones would ask, "Why?" What could we tell them?
I had to ask myself several questions: If these people were really healed, why did they die? Did their faith fail? Why then did so many fail in their faith and lose their healing? How did this line up with healings recorded in Scripture? Did people healed by Christ and the apostles lose their healing? Were they subject to relapse too if their faith failed? Or, could it be that these Branham healings were counterfeit and not genuine after all, much as we had believed him to be genuine? And, worst of all, was it possible that we had been victims of deception?
All these questions were answered gradually in the days and weeks that followed the campaign. Time and space does not permit me here to elaborate or go into the various incidents involved, but I will simply refer to a few of the key ones.
In the first weeks following the campaign we received one report after another of people whose healing had not lasted. Either they were back to their original condition or had died. It was disturbing! Some meddlesome newspapermen had investigated. Their reports hurt the reputation of our churches and witness as more and more people who were supposed to be healed were found not to be after all.
One day while I was occupied in the office at the Bible School, I received a visitor. As he came in, I immediately recognized him as the father of four of our Bible School students. His was a highly respected family in our Fellowship. But not many days before this, during the campaign, he had flown his wife, sick with cancer, to Saskatoon. He had phoned me from the airport asking where the ambulance should being his wife to be prayed for.
I made the arrangements and placed her in one of the dormitory rooms. That evening when Mr. Branham had concluded his ministry in the church auditorium, I led him into her room where he prayed for her and pronounced her healed. Needless to say, we all rejoiced together! Joyfully they returned by ambulance and plane to their home near Regina.
Now, several days later, this dear brother sat before me in our office, his heart heavy and his mind in turmoil. He had come nearly 200 miles to speak to me. Before he did, however, I already sensed what had probably happened.
But in spite of this, his question still hit me very hard. "Brother Pohl," he said, "you were there beside my wife's bed the night Mr. Branham prayed for her and pronounced her healed?" "Yes," I replied, " I was right there." He went on, "Can you tell me why it is that my wife who was healed just a few days ago is now in the grave?" My friends, I believe that was one of the hardest questions that I was ever called upon to answer! My heart went out to this dear brother. I felt with him. But how could I answer him?
Should I tell him that his and his family's faith had failed? Yet his was a family that was highly regarded in our denomination for spirituality. Or, on the other hand, should I tell him that perhaps Mr. Branham did not have the gifts of healing after all and that we were all deceived? To admit this would reflect seriously upon the wisdom and integrity of our denominational leaders who had brought Mr. Branham to Canada to minister in our churches.
Actually I can't remember just what I told our dear brother. But I do know that I did some very serious thinking about all this. I began to seriously question this whole area of our teaching and practice relative to this approach to divine healing. I am not so sure, however, that too many others did the same.
But someone might say that his case was an exception? But was it? There were, then, far too many "exceptions"! Let me cite another case:
One afternoon during the healing campaign I answered a telephone call. The call was from a Pentecostal pastor from Ontario. He had just flown in with his wife, sick with cancer, and her nurse. As on other occasions, I admitted them to a dormitory room, and in due course she was prayed for and Mr. Branham pronounced her healed. Again there was much rejoicing. I remember that the pastor handed me a cheque of a sizable sum of money to pass on to Mr. Branham. As he did so, he remarked that he couldn't afford to give that much, but that Mr. Branham deserved it because his wife was now healed, and he had spent thousands of dollars on doctors that didn't help her.
It was several weeks later that I, as the Missionary-Secretary of our denomination, visited and ministered in our churches in Ontario. When in the vicinity of this pastor's home city, I made inquiry as to his wife's state of health, only to be told that she too had passed away. What a blow that must have been to that dear brother? But that was not all. I was told that he had a good radio ministry in his city. When he had returned from the healing meetings in Saskatoon, he announced over his radio broadcast that his wife had been wonderfully healed. However, just a short while after that he had to inform his radio audience that his wife had died. I was told that it dealt a severe blow to his radio ministry.
My friends, what kind of a testimony is this to the world? To them it "does not add up." And there is something wrong! Did this pastor's faith fail?
Let me ask, did this sort of thing happen to those who were healed by the Lord Jesus or by His apostles? Where, then, is it recorded? As Christians we sometimes think that we're "charitable" if we overlook these things, but is this real "charity" or love? Is it loving to permit this type of thing to be carried on in our churches, to the needless suffering, agony, disappointment, and expense of the sick? And more importantly, is it scriptural not to deal with the false, the counterfeit? (see Titus 1:7-14).
Are we church leaders called upon to "protect" the sheep ...or the wolves?
It was this failing in our denomination, and in the Tongues Movement in general, to deal with ministers of high standing or popularity who needed to be corrected or stopped, that became one of the greater reasons for my leaving the Movement. I came to the conclusion that excitement, the spectacular, was not the most important, if the genuine God- glorifying working of the Holy Spirit was not present in healing meetings.
Now, though much more could be said, I must conclude this section with this summary: I believe that the Lord does heal today. His method for us is stated in James 5:14-15, where the sick person is to call for the elders of the church. Today this is reversed, the "healers" call for the sick! Large offerings are usually taken, much of which, if not all, goes to the healer.
Again I am reminded of Peter's warning in 2 Peter 2:3, where we read: "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you ..." And tragically, because of this, the "way of truth is evil spoken of." It brings reproach upon the Gospel of Christ.
Secondly, we should examine the results of modern healing campaigns and compare them with those of Christ and His apostles. What percentage of sick prayed for are really healed? Generally, according to what I have observed, the average is very low. Yes, there are some. There undoubtedly are some psychological healings, and then there are a few whose faith reaches out to Christ Himself. They, I believe, are healed in spite of the healer. But these are few in number. Don't be deceived by the number that you think you saw healed in the campaign. All that can be very deceiving. Caught up in the excitement and spirit of the meeting, you can easily be misled. I was privileged to be on the "inside" of this particular campaign, and had my eyes opened to some of the inner workings. I could, if time permitted, relate several instances where people in the audience thought that they saw a miracle when it was not so at all.
But more importantly, the low percentage of those healed today compares very unfavourably with the biblical record. Of Christ Himself we read in Matt 8:16: "When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick." Of the apostles we read, Acts 5:16: "There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed every one." No need to ask in those days, "Were there any who were healed?" No! For they were all healed! That was the real gift of healing.
It was genuine. Let those who profess to have the gifts of healing today produce this kind of evidence! But, sad to say, they fall very far short.
Besides, some of the modern healers seem to "specialize" in healing certain kinds of sicknesses. They shy away from the more difficult cases such as severely crippled people. But the healings performed by Christ and His apostles were not limited to certain diseases. Of the Lord Jesus we read that He healed "every sickness and every disease among the people" (Matt. 9:35). And as we read in Acts 5:16, the apostles "healed every one," obviously every sickness and disease was dealt with by them.
Finally, we must also remember that the miraculous sign-gifts were given to the apostles, and to those whom they authorized, to be their apostolic credentials as they were called upon to complete the laying of the foundation of the church that Christ had begun (Eph. 2:20). This is what Paul is referring to in 2 Cor. 12:12 as he defends his apostleship before the Corinthian church. We read: "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." My question here is this: If anyone apart from the apostles or those authorized by them could perform these amazing genuine healings and miracles, then where or what were the signs of an apostle? We must conclude, then, that these special gifts of healing and miracles were given to the apostles as their credentials while they finished laying the foundation of the Church, and when their work was done, and they passed off the earthly scene, these sign-gifts would no longer be operative.
The great display of the miraculous that accompanied Christ and the apostles in the church's beginnings ended with the passing of the apostles.
For us to try to duplicate these today can only lead to confusion and the opening of a door that makes room for deception and disappointment. I believe recent history simply proves that point.
Church history also shows us that with the passing of the apostles the great display of miraculous gifts ceased. Even near the end of Paul's ministry apparently he did not use his gifts of healing for he wrote to Timothy, 2 Tim 4:20: "But Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." Now if the modern teaching that God wants all His people to be well and healthy all the time were true, why did not Paul exercise his gifts of healing and heal Trophimus? Surely, he could have used Trophimus's help in the ministry? But it appears that even then already the gift of healing was passing away.
That does not mean that God cannot or does not heal today, even though He has withdrawn the gift. He is still sovereign, and does answer prayer, if we come to Him according to James 5:14-15. Thank God many are healed, not through the gift but by "the prayer of faith." But we should not expect the same spectacular display of healings and miracles that accompanied the ministries of Christ and the apostles, for these belonged to them as their credentials and to the church's beginnings. Now we "walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7).
Reason #15--The tendency to blind, unquestioning devotion to popular leaders