Ed: The following is reprinted with permission from The Wartburg Watch. Note that while I have deep concerns about the church’s conduct, I say that with utter respect for the child’s parents.
Check out the references to the church’s Dead Raising Team, too. Seriously creepy.
(As of this posting, the autopsy reports have not been made available to the public.)
In a rather bizarre story which attracted the attention of national media during the lead up to the Christmas holidays, Bethel Church of Redding, California, attempted to raise a two year old girl who suddenly and unexpectedly died. According to Newsweek in MEGACHURCH TRYING TO RAISE BABY FROM THE DEAD THROUGH PRAYER AND SONG WHILE RAISING FUNDS FOR HER FAMILY. Bethel is a
member of the charismatic Assemblies of God. Bethel used to be a member of the Assemblies of God. They are now independent. 12/29/19 update.
The mom is a singer in this church.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Kalley wrote, “We’re asking for prayer. We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life.”
The Washington Post reported the story in After a toddler’s death, a church has tried for days to resurrect her — with prayer
Bill Johnson, a senior leader of the church, said in a video that there was a biblical precedent for believing in resurrection. In addition to Jesus raising the dead, Johnson said that Jesus commanded his disciples to do the same.
“The reason Jesus raised the dead is because not everyone dies in God’s timing, and Jesus could tell,” Johnson said. “And he would interrupt that funeral, he would interrupt that process that some would just call the sovereignty of God.”
The Washington Post consulted Richard Flory who is “senior director of research and evaluation at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.” He wrote a book about the Assemblies of God titled The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape (Global Pentecost Charismatic Christianity)
Flory said Johnson’s assertion that “not everyone dies in God’s timing” seemed presumptuous and inconsistent with many Pentecostal Christians’ belief that God is always in control.
However, I share Flory’s concern in this statement and provide an example of this later in the post.
Flory said he is more concerned, however, about the potential psychological and emotional effects on the Heiligenthals and other church members when Olive is not resurrected.
Sadly, as expected, little Olive was not raised fro the dead in spite of the round the clock prayer meetings and appeals on social media with #WakeUpOlive, the church decided it was time to plan a memorial service along with the predictable “but she’s alive in heaven* caveat.
A Northern California church that had gathered to pray for the resurrection of one of its parishioners announced Friday (Dec. 20) that it would be moving on with memorial services for the two-year-old child, who died a week ago.
“Here is where we are: Olive hasn’t been raised. The breakthrough we have sought hasn’t come,” Bethel Church said in the statement. “And so, we are moving towards a memorial service and celebration of her life.”
“The joy of our faith is that, though we haven’t seen the miracle of Olive being raised, she is alive in the presence of God,” the statement read.
I think the best write up of this story is found at the website called The Messed Up Church. I had not heard of them until they posted When False Hope Crashes Into Reality-The Tragedy of Bethel, Redding.
Utilizing their knowledge of Bethel, they had this to say about the attempt to raise Olive from the dead.
Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton and all of the gigantic Bethel staff could not help her, in spite of being a church that proudly claims to experience miracles every single day.
Heidi Baker was the special guest speaker at Bethel the day after the girl died, and she did nothing.
Todd White could not help her, in spite of claiming to do miracles every single day.
Benny Hinn didn’t show up to wave his jacket and raise her from the dead.
David Hogan, the man who claims to have raised over 500 people from the dead, remains silent about his failure to help his close friends at Bethel, Redding.
Their mention of the Dead Raising Team was particularly interesting. Here is a link to the website of Bethel inspired Dead Raising Team. You, too, can be a member of this group.
They claim to have raised 15 people from the dead but have not provided any proof.
The DRT offers a service of support to any family that is grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to giving the bereaved spiritual and emotional support, our team of trained ministers will offer prayers of resurrection on behalf of the deceased. Handling each situation with the utmost sensitivity, our team travels to the funeral home, morgue, or family’s home where the deceased is being kept. Upon arrival, we spend time in prayer with the family, as well as the deceased. We will stay as long as we are needed.
Since it was started in late 2006, the DRT has comforted families in the midst of grief, as well as having 15 resurrections to date as a result of their prayers.
They will train you to raise people from the dead. Pretty darn cool, right? But, take a look at the map on this page. See where the most DRTs are located. Once again, crappy theology is exported to Africa.
We are always expanding our network of Dead Raising Teams across the world. If you would like to start a Dead Raising Team or are in need of resurrection prayer please visit the contact page or email TheDeadRaisingTeam@gmail.com.
You can even follow their blog.
So, what’s the deal with this group?
- No proof for any of their claims. They claim to have resurrected people but offer no proof. Remember, Jesus told the healed lepers to go to the Temple in order for the priests to determine if they were healed. This was one of the functions of the priests during that time. Years ago, Benny Hinn was challenged to prove one of his healings. He gave the group investigating before and after Xrays of a serious abdominal tumor. He failed to mention the surgery to remove the tumor between those two X-rays.
- “Bethel teaches that Christians must take back dominion of this earth from the Devil.”
- “Bethel teaches that God is sovereign only in small moments of time, but otherwise, we are to reign as kings on the earth.”
- “Bethel teaches that the leaders who teach this theology are specially appointed Apostles who get downloads of new revelation directly from God.”
- “Bethel teaches that a two-year-old girl can (and should) be brought back from the dead by declaring it with fervor and intensity because words carry the power of God and defeat the Devil. To do otherwise shows a lack of faith.”
When is it OK to let someone die at Bethel?
I often wonder if people truly understand that all of us are going to die unless Jesus returns. Should we pray to resurrect a 90 year old man whose body is giving out? Should the Dead Raising Team have hurried to the Twin Towers and prayed for the resurrection of the thousands who were dead. Could you imagine the impact that would make?
Can we raise the dead like Jesus?
I found a particularly good post at The Gospel Coalition: Can We Raise the Dead Like Jesus Did? It was written by Stephen Tan who used to be a member of a Bethel inspired church.
Here are some of his thoughts on the matter.
Why do I go so far as to claim this theology is destructive?
Picture a funeral service for a loved one. Friends and family are gathered to grieve the loss of a loved one. Instead of providing words of comfort, though, the minister turns the funeral into a “resurrection service,” commanding the deceased to wake up and walk out of the casket. I know of Bethel-inspired ministers doing this from America all the way to Malaysia. (These are instances in which I either know the minister personally or have received the information from friends and contacts.)
Bethel followers sometimes declare that the healing has already happened, which is both presumptuous and deceptive. And when the dead person isn’t raised as promised, Bethel lacks a biblical theology of suffering to help the grieving family understand why the miracle didn’t occur. At best they’ll say they don’t know; at worst that it’s due to lack of faith, unconfessed sin, or generational sin. (I was part of a Bethel-inspired church for years, so I say this from experience.)
How many people become disillusioned with God when they don’t get their promised miracle?
My own experience with my daughter’s brain tumor
As an an example of a miracle, some might point to my daughter who survived a serious and rare brain tumor when she was 3 years old. We were given a less than 10% chance of her survival. After her second neurosurgery, we refused to let her be radiated. As medical folks, we knew that such radiation would cause her to become seriously intellectually disabled.
My husband and I decided to wait except…we started getting all sorts of calls from the radiation/oncology group and even from our own physicians. I was asked point blank if we were doing this because we were Christians and believed that she would be healed.
No, far from it. We believed it was highly likely she would not survive. Since the tumor was not well known, we wanted the surgeons and neurologists to go slow. In fact, our surgeon and neurologist agreed with our decision. We also feared that the radiation would make her very sick and confused in her last days on earth. We also told them that we would accept radiation if, and when a third surgery was performed and the scans still showed tumor.
We prayed for her healing but prepared ourselves for what we believed was the inevitable. Except…the residual tumor that continued to be seen on the many MRIs just sat there and did nothing. It continues to do nothing since my daughter gets scanned every year.
If we had gone ahead with the recommended radiation, she would have survived and everyone would have assumed it was due to the radiation. Instead, she is now a pediatric critical care nurse with no intellectual disabilities. I received an apology from one doctor a few years later, saying that we were right in our decision.
I learned something from our experience. These groups who claim that one must totally believe with their whole heart that healing will occur or it will surely fail are full of baloney. I did not know what would happen to her. I prayed for her healing and I also prayed that God would walk us through the harder road. God doesn’t need for us to 100% believe. He needs us to know He is with us no matter what.
I actually had a Bethel type person tell me that there must have been someone else who believe 100% for her healing since my own prayers were not enough for God to allow her to live!!
Years later, we were friends with another family whose teen daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It was a bad form of the disease and, as time went on, it was evident that she would not survive in spite of the best care possible. Her parents hung up signs around her room, declaring her healing and asking people not to visit unless they could join them in agreement.
I decided to speak with the father and explain my own experience. I wanted to tell him that he didn’t have to try so hard. I told him that God already knew what would happen. He would not listen to me and claimed that her healing would cause the entire staff to come of Jesus. He believed this so strongly that he refused to allow a psychiatrist to visit with his daughter. The staff was terribly worried about her suffering since she needed rto keep a stiff upper lip for the sake of her parents.
She wasn’t healed. She passed away after a long, hard, fight. The family did not want to speak to anyone about their own struggles and they continue to struggle to this day. Their *faith* and *beleif* was not enough.I wonder if they blame themselves for her death…
What do I believe?
The miracles performed by Jesus were not primarily acts of compassion although they were compassionate. He had another purpose. Jesus could have chosen to fully heal everyone in that time and place. Heck, He could have healed the entire population throughout time if He so chose. He didn’t and that should give us all pause. he didn’t act to prevent suffering. He didn’t act to raise Stephen from death. Most of the Apostles died the death of martyrs. Did Jesus need a *Dead Raising Team?*
The reason for many of his miracles were to prove He was who He said He was. See what happened here in Luke 5:17-39 NIV. See the section that I highlighted.
Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Jesus was here to go to the Cross. He didn’t spend time at healing services. He pick chose those He healed quite carefully. The main thing is that our sins were forgiven, once and for all. The miracle of one man’s cure from cancer was not the point.
For me, the thing that convinced me of God’s power and majesty is the universe. Do you wonder why I post the pictures from NASA? They means something to me. I see a God of infinite power who created things of infinite beauty. For all of us, God’s miracles are right in front of us yet we want so much more.And, if we got it, would that really make our faith so much stronger? Wouldn’t it last until the next need for a miracle?
In the end, would the raising of Olive from the dead have been a true miracle? Not really. Olive would have died one day, even though she was raised from the dead. Her healing from the death would have been temporary until Jesus returns.
Can Jesus heal? Yes. Does He always heal? No. We are commanded to pray for the sick. Does that mean He will heal them? No. Prayers are needed for strength and peace as we walk though this life, heading to our inevitable deaths.
Death is not the end for the believer. It is merely the beginning.
Here are some quotes from The Last Battle in the Chronicle of Narnia. In the book, the children found out that they died in a train crash and that they are now in Aslan’s world forever.
- (Aslan speaking to the children): “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
- “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
- I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!
Finally, here are some quotes by Lewis from his book Miracles.
- Death and resurrection are what the story is about and had we but eyes to see it, this has been hinted on every page, met us, in some disguise, at every turn, and even been muttered in conversations between such minor characters (if they are minor characters) as the vegetables.”
- “It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realize for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience. . . . Christianity does not involve the belief that all things were made for man.
- There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘man’s search for God’!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?”
- All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning…Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true
- If the universe is teeming with life other than ours, then this, we are told, makes it quite ridiculous to believe that God should be so concerned with the human race as to ‘come down from Heaven’ and be made man for its redemption. If, on the other hand, our planet is really unique in harbouring organic life, then this is thought to prove that life is only an accidental by-product in the universe and so again to disprove our religion.
- (For Christians) If God annihilates or deflects or creates a unit of matter, He has created a new situation at that point. Immediately nature domiciles this new situation, makes it at home in her realm, adapts all other events to it. It finds itself conforming to all the laws. If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born.
I look forward to the debate on this issue. Please understand that I am not charismatic in practice but respect those who are charismatic and have thought through their theology.
If any of you are aware of a well documented case of a person being brought back to life which means that all medical tests, etc. are available, I look forward to being presented with the evidence. However, hearing from someone that it occurred with no evidence will not convince me. I would even be convinced if someone can show me evidence of a regrowth of an amputated limb. Again, evidence is necessary to convince me.
Finally, join me in praying for Olive’s parents. They really believed she would be raised from the dead. She wasn’t. I pray they do not question the strength of their faith. God loves them and love Olive. She now sees Him face to face, In that I have confidence