Book Review: Defining Deception

Defining DeceptionWhen It Hits Close To Home

It has been 12 years since I came, by God’s sovereign and electing grace, to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. For 11 of these past 12 years I was a member and served in different leadership roles at a local charismatic church. I thank God for His providence in every season of my life, for even when I now reflect on the many ways that I was not helped by my time there; I can also find evidences of God’s grace in granting me true growth and for allowing me to gain true brothers and sisters in the midst of a less than ideal spiritual atmosphere. For anyone who is caught in deception as I once was, there is a real blinding affect that one is overcome with, whereby they are unable to see that they are in fact deceived. This happens very subtly and happens far more easily than most realize. How so, you ask? Deception is illusive in its nature, because it resembles and masquerades in elements of truth just enough to come across as an authentic embodiment of truth, but is actually nothing more than a straw man. What contributes to this widespread deception in churches is an overwhelmingly prevalent biblical illiteracy. Congregants in these churches where deception is rampant are usually unskilled in handling God’s word. This is owing in large part to not being properly taught how to read and study the Scriptures, and in part because there is a strong lack of desire and priority amongst the members to know and understand the Scriptures with accuracy for themselves. I was amongst that crowd for years and reveled in my Biblical illiteracy and mystical experiences, in fact I made many excuses for them. It was only by God’s grace through much wrestling with Scripture and humbling myself, that I came to realize that my faith though wide, in terms of what I was willing to believe and embrace as being of The Lord, was profoundly shallow and had very little if any rooting in Biblical Orthodoxy. I bless the LORD that God brought faithful men into my life about 4 years into my walk with Christ to challenge my faith and teach me the Scriptures, subsequently introducing me to Reformed Theology. My heart and prayers go out on behalf of my friends and family, brothers and sisters, and all those who are caught in deception within the mystical-miracle charismatic world. I hold no feelings of offense toward any of them, and the only regrets I own are the missed opportunities to speak out more boldly and consistently against the deception I witnessed. I pray by God’s grace that their hearts would be softened and humbled to see their deception and ultimately find grace to repent and seek to be healed by God’s Word. This is my heart as I write this book review. I understand that no matter how lovingly and genuinely one may say or write something, there will always be those who see it as a condescending assault and elitist attitude. I would aim to disarm my critics from those thoughts by saying, I grieve for and love deeply my brothers and sisters and pray for their true satisfaction in Christ which is rooted in Objective Biblical Truth. I echo the sentiments of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:1-3.

It has been over a year now since my wife and I decided after much prayer and conversation to leave our previous church and join a local Reformed church where the Scriptures are being exposited faithfully each week. Though few decisions have been harder emotionally, fewer still have been more monumental and impactful to our Faith and walk with Christ. It was in the midst of this life transition into our new Church family, that I came across several interviews online with Costi Hinn and Justin Peters. I had never heard of Costi Hinn, but quickly discovered that he and I shared very similar church life experiences and were in very similar seasons of life simultaneously. If his name sounds familiar to you that is because it is. Costi W. Hinn is the nephew of famed Prosperity preacher and False teacher Benny Hinn. Costi was sovereignly saved out of the Word of Faith and prosperity movement and is now serving alongside Anthony Wood as a Reformed Pastor in Southern California. Watching Hinn’s testimony online and seeing the work Christ had done and was doing in his life, filled me with a true sense of confidence and encouragement knowing that what God was leading my wife and I through was not in isolation, but He was doing the same with other brothers and sisters. I determined quickly that I needed to meet this brother. Conveniently enough we had a vacation planned to Los Angeles in October of 2017. So we set it in our calendar that we would worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Mission Bible Church while we were in California. Though I had no clue whether Costi would be there, I had hope that I’d get to catch Costi and hear more from him and hopefully share my own story with him to offer mutual encouragement as it were.

Well, October came around and we did just that. We showed up early and brought with us a dear brother who is living in California in hopes that he may feel compelled to call that church family his own. Upon arrival a young lady kindly greeted us, so I explained to her that we were traveling from Pennsylvania and wanted to come worship with them since we heard of the grace God showed to Costi by saving him. She seemed astonished that I even knew of Costi, and asked immediately if I wanted to meet him, to which I quickly responded, that would be great! Sure enough she had us wait while she located him, and he came to us with a huge smile and genuine gratitude that we had joined them for worship. It felt like a family reunion after not seeing your loved ones for many years, and we instantly knew that this was indeed our brother in Christ! Pastor Anthony Wood skillfully exposited the scriptures that morning and we were greatly encouraged and edified. After the service we met with Costi again and we spoke of God’s grace in opening our eyes to the Truth of His Word and of their (Hinn’s and Wood’s) upcoming book Defining Deception. Costi introduced us to his wife Christyne and their children, where we were pleased to know that both our wives were pregnant and were only a week apart in their due dates. We also discovered that his wife has family in PA, in fact they knew and had been to Green Dragon which is a popular flea market about 30 min from my house. IT WAS MEANT TO BE! Surprisingly enough, Anthony has roots that trace back to Lancaster PA as well. I really felt at home, and realized how small our world truly is. I know this is not yet a review of the book, but I felt compelled to share this so that you know that I am not speaking of some foreign unbeknownst to God characters who wrote a book. These are dear brothers tending God’s flock and loving Christ’s people! In fact, I have had the privilege of keeping in touch with Costi through email, and he is a genuine brother who is responsive and Gospel centered. He is not into himself, in fact upon finding out that my wife and I discovered that our unborn daughter was diagnosed with a serious heart abnormality, he immediately added us to their prayer wall and has kept in touch and gave me his phone number to keep him updated. That is the heart of a child of God and of a pastor and I’m blessed to call Costi and Anthony my brothers in the LORD! It is with this in heart and mind that I commend this book to you!

Costi and I at MBC
Our Family and Costi and Cristyne at MBC

A Few Thoughts On The Book

Defining Deception is a skillfully written narrative on the history, key figures, and fundamental doctrines of the mystical-miracle and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. The book is a quick read for most readers being comprised of only seven key chapters along with some helpful appendices in the back of the book. Costi and Anthony do a masterful job of being accurate, concise, and loving both to their audience and opponents. This is not a book aimed at making well meaning uninformed brothers and sisters look bad. Rather it is a book aimed at protecting the flock by exposing wolves and charlatans who use the church as a means for gaining wealth and exploiting the weak. The book is very intriguing and hard to put down since it is filled with not only skillful refutation, but also personal testimony through-out. Whether you are someone on the fringe of the Charismatic movement seeking answers. Or you know loved ones who are drenched in this movement and need fair warning. Or whether you’re a pastor aiming to understand this movement which is growing exponentially in the church amongst younger and older people who are professing christians. This book is sure to be an invaluable resource in helping people think through the claims made by leaders and proponents of this movement. Defining Deception is very well put together, Costi and Anthony really do a great job providing notable sources to validate their research and really avoid superficiality by addressing relevant issues and exposing the faulty theology that drives the erroneous doctrine in the NAR movement. This book is simple and intriguing enough to win the trust of the layperson, but simultaneously contains academic level facts and research to compel the scholar and deep thinker. The skeptic may well see this as a ploy by Costi in building his name and gaining his own wealth, yet as one who comes from that world I know that to be false. In fact he himself asserts in the book, that if it were about the fame and money, he would have done far better for himself in the prosperity gospel world, and that is a fact! I shared my experience with Costi and Anthony above for the purpose of setting at ease the skepticism of some by ensuring that I can testify personally that these men are lovers of Christ and care deeply for the Church, which is Christ’s Bride! Anyone who reads this book with a desire to learn and truly weigh the evidence presented against the Truth of Scripture, will quickly see that these are genuine men who love God and through the words in this book are caring for their souls. Without going into great detail for the sake of not presenting spoilers, I end this review by saying: GO BUY THE BOOK! More than that, do as I did, and buy several copies and pray about who the LORD would have you give a copy to, you’ll be glad you did. May the grace and peace of our LORD Jesus Christ be multiplied to you dear brothers and sisters!

Song For Reflection

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