02 September 2005

End-of-vacation report

Frank Turk

Frank TurkDarlene and I had a fun meeting and interesting lunch yesterday with Frank Turk (the Centuri0n) and his lovely wife. Frank is as intelligent and interesting in person as he is on line, and like me, he married up. For those who really wonder: yes, he does have rays of reflected glory that emanate from his head.

Frank TurkSince he has blogged about our meeting (complete with less-than-flattering photos), I'll just post three pictures of him, and then perhaps I'll reveal more about our top-secret Calvinist Cabal when I get an opportunity next week. Here's the flip side of the picture Frank posted:

And here's the painting of "The Magnificent Seven" on the wall behind him—a fitting backdrop for the heroic persona that is Frank Turk.

Frank Turk


So, anyway, I'm back in the Tulsa area (where I grew up and went to high school). Historically, Tulsa has been best known for two major industries: petroleum and faith healing.

Tulsa's official city slogan is "The Oil Capitol of the World." Unofficially, it's also "the Oral capitol of the world"—home of Oral Roberts University, and launching pad for not only Oral and Richard Roberts, but also T. L. Osborn and Kenneth Hagin. (Hagin operates a college next door in Broken Arrow that is probably the world's most prolific training-ground for hard-core name-it-and-claim it charismatics.) Larry Lea had a home here when an ABC news program exposed him as a fraud. Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen both went to college here, and Kathryn Kuhlman went to meet her Maker from here.

Since about 1969, Tulsa's faith healers have maintained a bizarre and somewhat cynical relationship with the medical profession. The reason Kathryn Kuhlman was here when she died in 1976 is that she had come to seek medical treatment—not faith healing—for an enlarged heart. (If memory serves me correctly, there was actually a week in the early 1970s when both Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral Roberts were patients together in the same cardiac care unit in a local hospital here. I have often wondered if they even tried to heal one another.)

City of FaithAnd then there's "The City of Faith"—an embarrassing monument to Oral Roberts' brief dalliance with legitimate medicine. It's a 60-story skyscraper in South Tulsa that was supposed to be the laboratory where faith healing and conventional medicine would be blended together, and a healing force would be unleashed on the earth that would bring multitudes to Tulsa, where all kinds of hitherto incurable afflictions would be cured. Oral Roberts said God had even promised a cure for cancer. Roberts sold the concept to his donors by solemnly declaring that he had been instructed to build the building by a 900-foot-tall Jesus, who had appeared to him in a vision.

A few years later, with donor funds falling short, Roberts warned his constituents that God was going to kill him if donors did not come through with the rest of the cash. A wealthy dog-track owner in Florida wrote a check for millions in the last hour, and Roberts' life was spared.

But the medical center was a massive failure from day one, and for many years, the skyscraper sat almost totally empty, in mute testimony to charismatic audacity. I think Roberts finally sold the building to someone, but I'm told most of the floors in it are still largely unoccupied.

I saw it Monday when we flew in—a ridiculous-looking lone skyscraper, many miles from Tulsa's real skyline.

Bible CuresAnyway, when I've been away for a while, I sometimes forget how deeply ingrained all that stuff is in Tulsa's religious culture. Tuesday, Darlene and I stopped into a Tulsa-area grocery store to pick up some things, and my attention was arrested by a spinning rack of charismatic books, most of them promising healing through "Bible Cures."

Here, for approximately $5.95 per volume, you can learn "biblical" remedies for cancer, high cholesterol, PMS, ADD, and a host of other evils.

Inside each book, you'll find the following disclaimer:

This book is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice and treatment from your personal physician. Readers are advised to consult their own doctors or other qualified health professionals regarding the treatment of their medical problems. Neither the publisher not the author takes any responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medicine, supplement, herb or preparation to my person reading or following the information in this book. If readers are taking prescription medications, they should consult with their physicians and not take themselves off of medicines to start supplementation without the proper supervision of a physician.

How can a book whose title promises a "Cure for Cancer" not be construed as medical advice?

The cancer book opens with "A Bible Cure Prayer for You," which includes this "positive confession": "In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, according to the Word of God, I declare that in Christ I have victory over cancer. The power of this disease is broken."

The books themselves are filled with a mixture of alternative-medicine quackery, homespun remedies, common sense, bad theology, rank charlatainism, and almost no legitimate truth from Scripture. Most of the Scripture verses cited are proof texts that have nothing to do with the supposed "remedy" under discussion. For example, in the Cancer book, there's a section that says, "To stay healthy, you'll have to cut back on the steak and ice cream." Obviously, that's probably good advice whether you have cancer or not. Is it really a "Bible cure" for cancer?

But it turns out the book doesn't offer a cure at all:

You can definitely reduce the risk of cancer by sticking to a diet that includes high proportions of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans while limiting the amounts of red meats, dairy products and other high-fat foods. The Bible clearly recommends this way of eating:

Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.
—Genesis 1:29

When we eat the kind of diet the Creator of our bodies intended, we naturally build a strong immune system that defends against cancer.

Does Genesis 1:29 really have anything to do with post-diluvian veganism or cancer-thwarting diets? If so, where do Genesis 9:3 and Acts 10:12-15 fit in?

The chapter continues a few pages later: "Believe it or not, olives can help you fight cancer." And the proof-text that follows a full paragraph on the virtues of olive oil is Deuteronomy 8:7-8, which simply mentions olives as one of the things that grew in the Promised Land.

Bible CuresThere's more nonsense in the book than I have time or energy to cull. It's probably sufficient just to show you a few more of the various titles:

Bible Cures

Sadly, there's no cure for short-term memory loss or chronic sarcasm, the two afflictions that trouble me most.

Darlene and I are slated to fly home tomorrow morning, and I'll be teaching in GraceLife on Sunday. If time permits, I'll do a blogspotting post sometime during the weekend.

Phil's signature


Chris Freeland said...

Do I notice that your pictures are from a display in a Braum's?

For all the things wrong with Tulsa, Braum's is something that's very, very right.

Phil Johnson said...

No, that's Reasor's. But if you can get up here before Braum's closes, we're there.

KS said...

I see Blue Bell ice cream on those shelves. Yum Yum, especially since I am 45 minutes away from their processing plant in Brenham, TX.

Phil, are you going to save anything about faith healing from Tulsa for Monday Menagerie? Maybe you can do another comic book cover with Oral Robert's hand statue or that goofy looking round point pillar thing.


S. C. Mooney said...

What disturbs me most about "healing" and the current Evangelical flirtation with "Alternative Medicine" is that these comprise yet another avenue on which "hurting" people flee their responsibility for sin. It is true that not every particular instance of illness or infirmity correlates directly with particular instances of sin (John 9:3) However, there would be no illness or infirmity in general but for sin (Rom. 6:23). The New-Agers seek to tap into a "Universal Life Force," while the "Christian healers" seek to tap into a mechanistic idea of what it take to flip God's switch to "release" is powers. Medical science is a subset of science generally speaking, and is possible only because Man and the World are exactly what Christianity says they are. The biblical cure for anything is repentance of sin and devotion to the truth of God, Who creates, redeems, and heals.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I was wondering if Frank’s forehead curl would be there in real life. Lo and behold – it is!

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...


About two years ago in the city where I live (Newcastle, Australia), the wife of a Charismatic couple died of cervical cancer.

In the 2-3 years prior to her death, the couple steadfastly adhered to "The Hallelujah Diet", and, in a step of faith, refused to undergo chemotherapy.

Every time this couple went to the Doctor, he would implore them to begin treatment, saying that Cervical cancer has a low mortality rate if treated with Chemotherapy. The couple refused, saying that God had promised them a miracle and they believed this promise.

Just so I can show you how close I am to the situation:

1) I used to teach at a Christian school where the husband was a fellow teacher.

2) The family live about 200 metres down the road from where I live.

3) I got a lot of information about this situation from a mutual friend - someone who knows both me and the couple involved.

4) A friend at church is a Nurse at the hospital where the doctor saw them. She recalls how distressed the doctor was that the couple refused medical treatment.

Proverbs 30.5-6 "Every Word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar" (ESV)

Phil Johnson said...

OSO: That's profoundly sad, but that story could probably be repeated hundreds of thousands of times, if the full truth were known.

Look up the bio of Hobart Freeman if you want a similar example.

False doctrine is deadly in more ways than one. The word-faith heresy is as bad as any cult, in my assessment.

MacArthurFan said...

Yes, I agree, Phil. These "Faith-Healers" might as well be serving poisonous kool-aid.
A friend of mine always refutes what they do by saying, "If these "healers" are real, why don't they go in hospitals and heal people?" Why don't they?
Since faith-healers may not have "enough faith" to heal themselves, one would think that two faith-healers in the same hospital could heal each other.

Down with false prophets! You too, Benny. He (Hinn) made prophecies that the homosexual community would be destroyed and that Castro would be assassinated. Guess what? They didn't come true. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 tells us that when anyone speaks forth and it doesn't come true, then he is a false prophet. Benny Hinn apparently prophesied when he was "drunk on the Spirit." A better phrase would be "drunk on demons."

chs said...

No offense to S. C...

...But am I the only one that thinks he looks like singer/songwriter Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers?

Away From The Brink said...


I am sure "Jesus is Just Alright" with S.C.

Savage Baptist said...

Sir, I'm saddened by the way Tulsa comes across in your posts, and feel I must throw a hissy fit.

For those who haven't been there, as cities go, Tulsa is actually pretty good. Easy to navigate, with (if you know where to go)an abundance of the world's best barbecue (Try Latimer's), some very fine churches that are not at all like the Word Faith churches, and a host of people that will bend over backwards to help you. Despite the deranged city government and the presence of the Word Faith crowd, I wouldn't trade it for anything except small-town Oklahoma, which is even better.

Bret Capranica said...

Our local "Christian" bookstore carries all of The Bible Cure series. The Irritable Bowell Syndrome is the best. I purchased it and use it in a hermeneutics class for creative ways one can twist the Scriptures, spritually maim people and make a nice profit. None in the class who tried its healing formula told me it worked.

jigawatt said...

Phil, concerning hypercharismatic public eyesores, I think Baton Rouge's tops them all. It's a huge ugly grey dormitory built by Jimmy Swaggart. The only problem is, the dorm wasn't finished when the first scandal broke, so the funds to build it stopped coming. And so it has stood, half finished, nigh on to 20 years, and the good people of Baton Rouge have been reminded of the failure of proper church discipline every time they drive anywhere near Bluebonnet Boulevard. You can see Swaggart's whole church/complex in this map. (Yes, he is STILL trying to do ministry, despite being caught with prostitutes no fewer than THREE TIMES!) The said eyesore is at the top center, which is about two miles from my house. I will try to remember to take a picture when I get my new digital camera in a few days. If you "drag" the map down a little, you can see how close it is to the Mall of Louisiana. The only good news about this dorm is that it has recently been sold. Let's hope Mr. Wampold does something better with it than Swaggart has. Like, maybe tearing it down.

In answer to the question that you might have, my family has remained safe through the hurricane that has ravaged New Orleans. We are having some trouble here in Baton Rouge because of the increased population. Our city has probably doubled in size in the past week, and our police force has remained the same. There are some reports of robberies and violence in Baton Rouge, but I have not seen any myself. During the hurricane the winds reached 50 mph or so, and we got a couple of inches of rain here. My cousin and his wife lived near the lake in New Orleans, and they're pretty sure that they lost everything. Please keep Stephen and Elizabeth in your prayers.


jigawatt said...

Clarification: when I said "failure of proper church discipline," what I meant was "failure of not properly administrating chruch discipline."

Phil Johnson said...

Dan Paden:

Yeah, you're right. Re-reading the post, it looks like I was in a grouchy mood when I wrote it. It was too rushed.

Tulsa remains one of my very favorite places, and I still refer to it as my "home town," even though I have lived in California three times longer than I ever lived in Oklahoma.

Tulsa is clean, friendly, and (as you say) very easy to navigate.

When I lived there in the late '60s and early '70s, biblically-oriented churches were really hard to find. But now I know of several I would recommend. As a matter of fact, I have four good friends who pastor in and around Tulsa.

Tulsa really is a great place to live. My overall rating would be four and-a-half stars out of five.

William Dicks said...

Hi Phil,

Seeing that you were in Tulsa last week, I thought I'd just drop you a line about a series I am busy with at my blog on the whole WOF movement. I started with this seven-post series in August 31. See it at http://williamdicks.blogspot.com/2005/08/heresies-in-church-part-1.html

See ya!

William Dicks
South Africa.

Denise said...

Yup I thought so too...S.C. looks a lot like Michael McDonald. =)
Hey S.C. do you play the piano by chance? =)

Bible Codes, Bible Cures,Bible Candy... What's next?

By the way, doesn't it really display a lack of faith that there are so many warnings regarding the faith healing stuff? You know, "well, go to your doctor" or "we're not completely saying don't get medical help" or some such qualification. Did this happen in Jesus' or Paul's or Peter's ministry?

S. C. Mooney said...

I have heard many times that I resemble (in appearance) this Michael McDonald fellow. The first time I heard it my reply was, "Who is Michael McDonald?" That is how clueless I am when it comes to popular culture. I am a bit musical, but strictly amateur. No piano - but a bit of hammered dulcimer.

Away From The Brink said...

I link, you decide...

Michael McDonald

Pecadillo said...


Even though you can't play piano, any chance of getting you to sing Yah mo be there? Have you ever tried to cash in on your look-a-like skills; maybe get a free meal or possibly take a picture of yourself with a Mad Magazine for a free subscription? Just a thought.

Lucky you; looking like a famous singer. The only person I look like is the guy from the Red Baron frozen pizza boxes... if he ate more frozen pizzas.
Can't do too much with that.


Marcellg said...
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