Defining Deception is an Amazon $1 Best Seller and a timely book that I am proud to be a part of, but that does not mean it was an easy book to support. Every Christian is called to root out deception from the church, but the conflict that inevitably comes between believers is a burden. The hope of Defining Deception is to ensure biblical integrity and preserve the unity we have in the Holy Spirit; however, when power is challenged and wealth endangered, people will not easily accept the humility and sacrifice that comes with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is my forward to the book, Defining Deception, and I pray it helps those trapped in deception find freedom in the Bible.
I was born with a nystagmus, a neurological condition which manifests itself in uncontrolled movements of my eyes and results in a lack of depth perception and blurry vision. Growing up with a visual impairment made me the object of a lot of ridicule and sometimes cruel pranks. Not knowing how much it bothered me, even my friends would sometimes tease me. I often felt hurt and isolated. One day I was home alone from school and the 700 Club came on the TV with Pat Robertson offering healing to his listeners. I remember thinking, “This is what I need. If only this preacher will call out my name and my illness, then I know God will heal me.” Robertson never called my name, so I dialed the 800 number to ask for healing. I could not make a donation to the ministry, but maybe they would pray for me anyway. Here I was, maybe 10 or 11 years old, hoping that I would be blessed enough to get one of those promised healings. In tears, I hung up the phone. My eyes were not healed. I blamed myself, “God, I promise I won’t sin anymore if you just heal my eyes!” I was devastated and was left with the nagging questions. “God, why don’t you love me enough to heal me? Why is my faith not good enough?”
Fast forward more than a decade to my seminary years at Oral Roberts University (ORU). My very first week on campus a woman approached me in the parking lot and asked, “Why do you wear glasses? Don’t you have enough faith to be healed?” While a few less-than kind retorts came to mind, I had grown strong enough in my faith to resist speaking in anger. Her words did not wound me, but I did see—for the first time—how many others were being hurt. Just like that little boy left asking, “God, why is my faith not good enough?” I saw that there were thousands of people left alone with no balm for their tears of self-disdain.
As my seminary education advanced, I saw first-hand the devastation left in the wake of the mystical-miracle prosperity-gospel leaders like Benny Hinn, Oral and Richard Roberts, Joyce Meyer, Carlton Pearson, Paula White, Rodney Howard-Browne, and Marilyn Hickey. These, and many more, came to ORU promising a miracle to anyone who had enough faith or the ability to sow a financial seed into their ministry. I saw all the hurting people behind the curtain who were not helped and subsequently dismissed as people of small faith. My education at the hands of some of the leading Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars in the world helped me discover the hollow word-of-faith theology behind the devastation. Given my own background and education, I am enthusiastic to serve as the editor for this work by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood because together they offer enriching insight and hope for those invested in this bankrupt theology.
As a kid along for the ride in his childhood years, then as an adult employee, Costi has traveled the world with his Uncle Benny Hinn and seen first-hand the exploitation of thousands with the false gospel of healing and prosperity. Later, Costi was transformed by the power of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and saw the theological errors he’d been adhering to. After his conversion, Costi was encouraged to pursue a Master of Divinity degree that enabled him to grow in his faith. At that time of spiritual maturation, Costi found a deep love for Christian history along with the orthodox teachings that have kept the church on course for two-thousand years. Recognizing his own sordid past in promoting the mystery-miracle movement, Costi reached out to family members and begged them to stop preaching the prosperity gospel and guaranteeing health and wealth in this life. He pleaded with many to turn to the Scriptures on all matters. He also reached out to close family members who partnered with movements like Bethel, Jesus Culture, and the New Apostolic Reformation preachers like Bill Johnson and Todd White. Costi cared about the truth and the spiritual well-being of his family and wanted to see them freed from those oppressive bonds.
Anthony has dedicated many years to his theological training and is pursuing his doctorate at Gateway Seminary. To match his education, Anthony has ministered with young adults in America and Asia since 2002. He founded a weekly ministry that reached more than 2,000 college students in 2007, he continues to speak at national conferences, and joined with Costi in the early years of a church plant in 2012. They’ve served together at Mission Bible Church of Tustin, CA ever since.
Anthony’s awareness of the modern mystical-miracle movement began during his time serving college students who regularly approached him with a message they “heard from the Lord.” In early 2012 a youth musician attempted to counsel Anthony on Bill Johnson’s doctrine of apostolic succession, suggesting that their church “needed an apostle.” But it wasn’t until 2014 that Anthony began writing extensively against Bethel’s errors, and this only after a valued church member described immense confusion due to Bethel’s media podcasts and music. At this point it became clear to Anthony that false teachers were, in fact, using global media to target the core of local churches. After working with thousands of young adults bridging two continents, Anthony knows firsthand the destruction that results from those who rely upon subjective experience as the barometer of truth. In accordance with Titus 1:11, he believes that these false teachers must be held to account.
The heart of both Costi and Anthony is to help those caught in deception discover that they are not alone. There is a real power in salvation and a real hope in Jesus Christ that far outweighs the temporal prosperity they have been promised. It is my own prayer that everyone who reads this book will come away with a new-found hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that does not impute shame, but instead frees us from the shackles of these mystical-miracle movements.