WHITE CANE RELIGION

A review of the book
WHITE CANE RELIGION
and Other Messages from the Brownsville Revival

by Stephen Hill

(Ezek 32:8) All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.

Jesus said to His disciples, Ye are the light of the world. Therefore the bright lights of heaven could be likened unto the preachers and authors in the history of our Faith that have illuminated the landscape of this world in the light of the Word of God. Once upon a time these lights were indeed bright, so bright in fact that their legacy remains to this day, even despite their errors. The reason why authors like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Augustus Strong, Calvin and Wesley have been regarded as such bright lights is because they believed in the fact and reality of the Word of God. This has all changed in our century and especially during the past 20 years. There have been more “Christian” books published in this century than in all the previous centuries combined – but the light has been replaced with lightness. There is no longer much evidence of a fearful regard for what the Bible says: Now what the Bible says, is interpreted to mean whatever our authors want to say it means. Even definitions for the words in the Bible, definitions that have stood for centuries, are being disputed. The historical scholarship of our Faith is being ignored with arrogance: Those authors who were once revered as bright lights of heaven are being systematically accused, discredited and dismissed. It is God’s judgement against the Apostasy of Christendom that He has allowed this to happen, yea, He has decreed it. Contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints has been replaced with contending for whatever agenda our contemporary authors are being paid to represent and the book, WHITE CANE RELIGION, is a perfect example of this.

The author, Stephen Hill, is the chief evangelist at the Brownsville Assemblies of God in Pensacola, Florida, where there has been an ongoing Toronto-style “revival”. Since I have read many reports about this “revival”, both pro and con, I have been aware of the controversies surrounding this affair. I was pretty sure that this book was going to amount to little more than an attack against those who are offended at the disorderly excesses that are often reported as occurring there. As it turns out, I was right.

This book purports itself to be just a collection of evangelical sermons by Stephen Hill. Technically that is true, but the underlying agenda of this book is to accuse and denounce those who do not believe that the “revival” in Brownsville is genuine. From the very first sermon (chapter one), Hill establishes his charges against the detractors of the Brownsville “revival” by casting them as “blind guides”. The text for this sermon entitled, WHITE CANE RELIGION, is Luke 6:39b: Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch? From there he proceeds to lambaste his “critics”. If this sermon, along with the rest, are typical of the preaching at Brownsville, I can see why he and they have been subjected to much opposition. Hill does all of this threatening under the guise of generic evangelistic preaching. I have never heard him preach and apparently he is a very charismatic and passionate preacher. His sermons are quite rousing, that is, if you can get past the fact that he spends a lot of time castigating the critics of this “revival, and if you can overlook the most glaring of his doctrinal errors.

I can’t see that he did himself or his cause any good by publishing this book. Those in his own gang will continue to clap their hands off, and those who are already prejudiced against this “revival” will only find confirmation for their suspicions.

There are many false doctrines promulgated in this book which must be denounced and rejected. How conspicuous his errors are, however, depends upon your frame of reference. If, for you, orthodoxy is determined by what is common and popular, you will probably not agree with my analysis because you will not find much in this book that you haven’t heard preached all of your life. I will only enumerate and comment on the most conspicuous errors in this book: but even these can only be seen by careful contrast to what the Bible says.

1. CHRIST IS OVER HERE!

It is quite apparent and annoying that the unannounced but primary purpose of this book is the defense and exoneration of the Brownsville “revival,” and this is Stephen Hill’s constant refrain. In chapter one, He writes:

There are people who literally wanted to get saved at the Brownsville Revival, but before they got out to their front door, some blind guide caught their ear and whispered, ‘You don’t need to go over there. God can touch you right here.’ (God can touch people anywhere He chooses, but what if He chooses to touch them at the Brownsville Revival – just as He has touched hundreds of thousands already?)

Throughout the rest of the book, Hill characterizes those who have their doubts about the “goings on” in Brownsville as people with a critical spirit and even as enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Brownsville, on the other hand, he practically describes as the place to get to at any cost if you want to be in the place where Christ is. Hidden like leaven in every one of his sermons, there is this unrelenting theme: “You need to GO to where Christ is, and He is here at Brownsville”. I utterly reject this lie on the basis of this warning from our Lord Jesus Christ:

 (Mat 24:23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

If God chooses to touch people at Brownsville, it is because that is where they live now. It is utterly a contradiction of Christ’s Words to suggest that people ought to drive or fly thousands of miles to Brownsville in order to “get blessed”. I furthermore assert that those who do journey from around the world to find God at Brownsville are looking for a god that they have not yet known. They are looking for another jesus, one that is different from the Jesus that the whole world already knows about and Who is immediately available to everyone everywhere.

2. GOD IS CALLING YOU NOW!

Then there is the matter of Stephen Hill’s spiritual presumption that just because you are in his audience or reading his book, that the HOLY SPIRIT is definitely speaking to you RIGHT NOW, PERSONALLY. In many places in this book, Hill makes assertions to this effect:

My friend, you are in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. You are reading these words because God has called you. He is speaking to your heart.

He insists that just because you are reading his book that God is calling unto you, right now! This is a claim, even above and beyond what Christ Jesus claimed for His own Words.

(John 6:44) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

NO, not even our Lord Jesus Christ presumed that His Father was drawing all that He spoke to, but Stephen Hill does, and it is because of this kind of false doctrine that the Brownsville “revival” is questionable, and should be viewed with suspicion.

With even greater presumption, Hill resorts to intimidation tactics. Hill warns his audience:

God sees everything and He will tell the Prophet [Hill & his associates?]. He will tell the preacher what is going on in your life.”

God may very well “tell the preacher what is going on in your life,” but this is the kind of cultic strategy that we have all become very aware of in recent years. The fear of man bringeth a snare, and this kind of talk, unless uttered prophetically, always amounts to an attempt to dominate by fear. If this kind of psychological manipulation is the common fare in Brownsville, there is good reason to wonder about everything else that goes on there.

3. INVITATIONAL SALVATION

Hill is also a strong proponent of “invitational” Christianity. First, he suggests that he is the mouth of God to you, and then, (in every chapter) he dictates the prayer that you should repeat in order to get right with God. Here is one such prayer dictated by Hill:

Dear Jesus, thank You for loving me. I am sick and tired of my critical ways and half-hearted attempts to be like You. I am ready for a radical conversion into a new creation. Jesus, I have sinned against You, and I’ve hurt others. Forgive me. I repent of my sins. Make me new and empower me to live a victorious life in You. From this moment on, I am Yours, and You are mine. I give You my life. Come live Your life through me. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

I challenge you, dear Reader, to find even ONE instance of this in the New Testament. You will not find a “sinner’s prayer” dictated in your Bible.

There is only one instance of instruction in what and how to pray given by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples, and that was in response to their request. NEVER, does He or any of His apostles tell someone to “pray this prayer,” in order to get saved, or as an act of repentance. Take note of the following examples of Jesus’ ministry to men:

 (Mat 8:19-22) And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

{20} And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

{21} And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

{22} But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Jesus Christ did NOT tell these men what to pray: He told them the truth and left them to consider their state before God, OR, He told them what they MUST DO.

Invitational religion, wherein men are called and prodded like cattle to “come down to the altar” and “repeat this prayer,” with the promise of some great result, provides the disingenuous with the proof that “it’s all in the mind” if nothing happens of any substance and permanence. Responding to an invitation to “come down to the altar” and/or “repeat this prayer” has become a de facto sacrament: as if some righteousness or transformation is necessarily effected upon the person that engages in this ritual. Far more reprobates than saints are produced by these kinds of shallow formulations. Hill’s presumption that most who fall at his feet in the heat of frenzied provocation are being truly converted is self-serving hype and fantasy.

“The proof is in the pudding” they say, and whether or not a man has been truly converted will only be seen over the course of time. To make the claim that they received so many “concessions” would be honest: but to transform all of these into “conversions” is presumptuous. Therefore, I contradict Hill’s tirade against those who have their doubts about the results of the Brownsville “revival”. Many of Hill’s critics may indeed be nothing more than skeptics and enemies of the Gospel, but many are rightly skeptical about the fruit of a movement that embraces so many false doctrines and makes a frenzied uproar into the proof of God’s approval.

Here we have a commonly accepted and familiar practice in Christendom for which there is no warrant in the Bible. The most significant feature of the apostasy of Christendom is that “they” don’t care very much about what the Bible says, anymore.

4. “EMPTY BAG” RELIGION

Although there are in this book, strong and impassioned pleas to get right with God, there is little, specifically, about what this means. You are left to “fill in the blanks”. Obedience to the Gospel of Christ is reduced by Hill to little more than moral reform and increased church participation. Only once in the book did I see Hill bring up one of the actual teachings of Jesus Christ as a fundamental of our Faith, but then it seemed almost accidental that he did so. He wrote:

I don’t believe we ‘earn a living’ as Christians; we ‘receive’ a living. The things we need are ‘added’ to us when we seek first the Kingdom.

Jesus also commanded us to, “work not for the bread that perishes,” so of course Hill is right on this point. And how much more useful and powerful his book could have been if the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ had been central rather than incidental. The faith once delivered unto the saints is described primarily in the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Hill’s book you are primarily confronted by threatening rants about the consequences of not doing enough, giving enough, praying enough, or attending church often ENOUGH…..and it will NEVER be “enough”. Hill also constantly implies that God is going to get you if you criticize the Brownsville “revival.”

3. IT’S YOUR FAULT THAT SO MANY ARE LOST!

The author writes: “Millions of Americans remember the old hymns, but they will go to hell if someone doesn’t step into the gap.

This kind of preaching is all too common and not many care that statements like this are a direct contradiction to the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Jesus said:
(John 6:37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

The absurd notion that someone’s salvation is dependant upon anyone other than Jesus Christ ALONE is an abominable lie. Jesus Christ Himself stepped into the gap for every man that will be saved. You will certainly answer to God for your own disobedience or lack of service in His kingdom, but the idea that someone else’s eternal salvation is in YOUR hands is to demean the importance of every other soul but your own, and to deny the sufficiency of Christ for every man. The fact is that if “millions” of lost Americans remember the old hymns, they have been preached to already, and unless they repent, they will be condemned for refusing to believe what they have known.

Hill would have us to believe that if we were really doing our job, that these “millions” would be saved! What does that say about Christ’s preaching? Was there something flawed in His preaching, that He was rejected by the majority? Jesus Christ said that we (His true and busy disciples) would be hated by most men for His name’s sake, just as He was.

Furthermore, Hill’s plea for someone to “step into the gap,” suggests that we are not praying enough for this lost and dying world. This all sounds so convicting, doesn’t it? How many of YOU can say that you pray “enough”, or that you have “enough” burden for the lost? Permit me to contradict this nonsense about the obligation that Mr. Hill wants to lay on our shoulders.

Jesus said:
(John 17:9) I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not our Lord Jesus Christ was a good example for us, or not.

IN CONCLUSION

I tried to recommend this book because I was impressed by the passion and assertive style of Hill’s preaching: the kind of preaching that I used to hear and appreciate in years long past. But finally, I could not recommend a book just for fervor. I had to ask myself: Who would I hand this book to, and advise them to read it? Would I hand it to an unbeliever? No, because I wouldn’t want to convert someone to Hill’s brand of heresy. Would I hand it to a backslider? No, because although this book is most certainly directed towards those whom the author would consider backsliders, I vehemently disagree that the solution to their backsliding is to do more, or to journey to Brownsville in order to get blessed. Would I hand this book to a brother in Christ? No, because the spiritual substance which would make it worth the time to read it, is not there. Neither can I recommend this book on doctrinal grounds, since what doctrine there is in this book is seriously flawed. In fact, there is much more emotional appeal and threat than there is doctrinal content. I also cannot recommend a “christian” book that purports to be one thing, a collection of sermons, while in fact it is something else: a tirade by innuendo against those who can’t buy in on the Brownsville “revival”.

OK, I can recommend this book to anyone who has a need to know just what kind of preaching goes on in the Brownsville “revival.” Read it! Judge for yourself! This is far better than judging the Brownsville “revival” by third-party reports and rumors.

The really big problem, though, is not the Brownsville “revival”, or the Toronto “blessing”. As you read my comments on the substance of Hill’s book, I am sure that you recognized how common, ordinary and unremarkable his errors are in these days. This is not surprising, because the main problem is that the great and final apostasy of prophecy is already well underway, and it’s likely found some room even in your own church.

Think about it.

Review by Richard Engstrom with Dean Flanders

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