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A young B.C. faith healer has gained both international renown and the scrutiny of sceptics

As a teen, Todd Bentley knew one thing very well: how to get into trouble. Growing up in Abbotsford, his life was filled with drug dealing, fighting and robbery. The nadir came when he was sentenced to 18 months in detention for assault and breaking-and-entry. Mr. Bentley, now 25, was able to put that all behind him seven years ago when he became a Christian. But his transformation was not all at once. Over the past three years, he has gone from working the green chain in a sawmill to speaking in major Protestant churches throughout the westem U.S., Canada and Africa.

Actually, his appearances feature more than just talk. Following what he declares are promptings from God, Mr. Bentley calls up sick audience members and prays for their healing. But as his renown as a faith healer grows, Christians and non-Christians alike are warning that, in the world of faith healing, what you think you see is often not what you get.

Mr. Bentley's fame is especially great among charismatic Christians, those believing the Holy Spirit works today as He did in the apostolic church. The B.C. man was featured in four programs of It's a New Day, the Winnipeg-based Christian talk show, in January. As well, Charisma, the main U.S. charismatic magazine, is planning to publish an article on the revival he led recently in Albany, Oregon.

Interestingly, Mr. Bentley avoids actually pronouncing people healed, and urges those with whom he has come into contact to work with their doctors. He does not keep a tally of his healings, but says about 20% involve something visible and 80% something internal, including "inner healings" of emotions, guilt and fear. As for proof, his ministry has only a halfdozen or so noncommittal notes from doctors about the disappearance of their patients' symptoms.

This lack of verification worries skeptics such as Simon Fraser University psychology professor Barry Beyerstein. Aside from the numerous documented frauds among faith healers javascript popup window, the professor says not enough studies have been conducted by reputable scientists to back up the claims of faith healers. British psychiatrist Louis Rose spent 20 years trying to find a verifiable miracle healing and failed. During the early 1970s, William Nolen, a Roman Catholic surgeon, interviewed and examined 25 people reportedly healed by faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman. None had actually become better.

Ted Brooks, a Victory Church pastor in Westlock, Alta., is so leery of "signs and wonders," such as faith healing, that he suspects many of them are actually demonic counterfeits. "Christians long for a demonstration of the power of God," Mr. Brooks says. "There's nothing wrong with that, but we're accepting practices that Christ never did, which leads to a wrong image of God. [...more...]