Todd Bentley and Secret Place doctrines : A Pentecostal response to contemplative prayer
It is no secret that I spend over 15 years neck deep in the prophetic movement and was part of IHOPKC from the start. In doing that, I have many friends that are huge fans of Todd Bentley (I must admit I admire his passion for souls). With that comes, my newsfeed full of Todd’s status update about being in the secret place. It is his latest product to sell to the ultra-charismatic people.
Todd Bentley represents the best and the worst of the Charismatic niche of evangelicalism. He gets a lot of things right and I have publically said that. However, when he gets something wrong (more like the latest thing he gets wrong), it is normally very wrong and pushing into the area of heresy.
Todd is no theologian and he is not a scholar by any means. You won’t see him giving an exgenesis or submitting commentaries of Wesleyan doctrine in the near (or distant) future. There is even some questionable concepts in his official theological statement (but that is not this article!)
Before I start into why I consider this secret place teaching to be alarming, it is important to know I have traveled with Todd on a mission trip before and that I was in Lakeland for most of the revival that broke out a few years ago. I am not someone on the outside looking in as a heresy hunter. I am speaking from someone that is swimming in the revival waters of Pentecostalism.
Secret Place is Contemplative prayer 2.0
If you want a historical point of view, what Todd is teaching is an update view of contemplative prayer that comes out of the ancient teaching of Catholicism and some have debated the influence of Buddhism on the concept.
I have been to some meetings where they did it in the early days of IHOPKC. It was put on some waves crashing and just listen to the spirit. That was if you was lucky. Some people wanted it completely quiet. There was no prayer happening. Just sitting there in complete quietness to listen to the Lord.
I immediately felt quite uneasy about it to be honest. I even voiced that concern to Mike Bickle about people doing it calling it “weird.” I never went back but I knew something was off about it. In the end, Mike told me, “Just because it is not Pentecostal does not mean it is not effective or scriptural.”
I did not understand that its root was in Neoplatonism back then. Plotinus has a direct influence on Gregory of Nyssa and with that came teachings that were more philosophical than theological. One of them was contemplative prayer that Bentley is calling secret place!
It became a popular practice from the 400s on among Catholic monks and is still practiced today in some places. However, it is not as widely used as it was once was. However, it is hard to deny that the concept is a very catholic doctrine!
Secret Place vs Korean Style
At the core of this is the question of tarrying for the Spirit or what we call praying Korean style today in contrast with teachings about being in the secret place, soaking or what we historically called contemplative prayer. The truth is not all forms of prayer are created equal and some of them are more biblical than others. However, even the most scriptural models of prayer are still just models. Methods are not sacred, only the message of hope is.
The main difference between these two concept is one calling a person to be actively involved in intercession and to pray in tongues while the other tell us to “empty ourselves.” Jesus told that we are to engage our minds as a form of worship and it must be renewed, not made into a hinderance. As we are partners with the Spirit in intercession, the host of angelic being move on our behalf. Prayer takes action and it takes involvement.
What concerns me about teaching like what Todd Bentley is teaching lately is that it disengages us from being actively engaged in the process of intercession. Laying there on the floor trying to “empty yourself” listening to Misty Edwards will do nothing but give you a backache. We do not fill ourselves with the Spirit by repeating the errors that destroyed the Moravian movement in the 1700’s.
While Korean style is one of many ways to pray in our churches, it is a much more biblical model that moves angels and devils than what is being promoted of late in the prophetic movement. This is one of several reasons that I have distanced myself from much of the goofiness that I see happening lately.
Glory in the center of Secret Place
Another popular teaching of late is about the glory of God and it is getting downright weird. I am not even sure where people getting some of the ideas that I hear flying around. I am not talking about random Facebook friends, either. Respected leaders of ministries putting out stuff that is no where in the New Testament.
Glory can be translated a few different ways but the most simple understanding is the manifest presence. It is about what we use to call the “thick presence” back in the Brownsville Revival. It is not some goofy message with questionable hermeneutics. The glory that came in those revival meetings can not be imparted nor can they franchise like churches are a fast food restaurant.
One of the issues with this lately craze of glory emphasis is passages like 2 Corinthians 12:9. Notice the context surrounding the glory.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
How could Paul glory in his weakness? Was Paul suggesting that he have the thickness of heaven in his earthly failures? Of Course not. He was saying that I will be present in his own struggles. He used to be refer an active presence, not some spiritual experience at the altar during the campmeeting.
I have been concerned about this “glory” stuff for a decade. It was out of control then and it is worse today. I was actually a speaker at a conference where no one there even presented the gospel. The altar call at the meetings were for supernatural weight loss, not for people to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus as their Messiah. Needlessly to say, the final session where I was the speaker was a call to repentance, not about prophetic ministry. This glory stuff is downright goofy!