After recording his interview with Brandon Kimber, Shane Rosenthal had an additional opportunity to talk with the writer and director of the American Gospel documentary series. In this brief exchange, Shane and Brandon discuss issues related to the coronavirus, false prophets, and the importance of distinguishing law and gospel.
SR: So Brandon, on this week’s White Horse Inn episode, you said that, thankfully, you’re still able to work from home. So how are you able to make that work with four young kids running around the house?
BK: Well, I actually have an office in a shed outside of my house, so I’m able to sort of separate myself from all the family activity when I have a lot of work to do.
SR: Oh good. So do you guys have any friends or members of your extended family who have been affected by the coronavirus?
BK: No we don’t, but my parents are really vulnerable. Just a few weeks before this whole lockdown happened, my mother was in the hospital for a short time, and my father has Alzheimer’s disease, so he doesn’t have any short-term memory. So right now we’re trying to figure out what to do if my mom winds up in the hospital again, because whenever she’s not at home, my dad doesn’t remember where she went. And if we’re not allowed to go visit him in light of the lockdown and the various social distancing requirements, we’re just not sure what we’re going to be able do about that. So we’re really praying that they don’t get sick.
SR: You mentioned in the interview that you were raised in a church that was in some way connected to the Toronto Blessing. So I’m wondering what you think about the recent controversy surround Rodney Howard-Browne. As you may know, he was recently arrested for putting members of his congregation in danger for showing “reckless regard for human life” by continuing to hold services at his church in violation of his state’s mandate. In fact, according to one report that I read, he claimed to have installed technology that effectively “shoots down and kills every kind of virus.” What are your thoughts about that?
BK: Well, I really think that the coronavirus is exposing a lot of the false teachers and false prophets in the “word of faith” movement. On one hand, you’re seeing some of them declaring the end of the virus, saying things like, “It’s over,” or “The tide is shifting,” and that just isn’t happening. In fact, by all measures, things are actually getting worse. On the other hand, none of them saw this coming. At the beginning of each year, a lot of these so-called prophets give predictions for the coming year. They typically predict that good things are going to happen, that revival is coming, and that stadiums will be filled, etc. Yet what we see happening right now around the world is the opposite. Everyone is staying indoors and no-one is even allowed to go to a stadium.
SR: Right. A few years ago I visited a megachurch in my area that’s affiliated with the prosperity gospel, and people were actually being encouraged in that service to increase their giving to the church so that they might “reap a bountiful harvest in 2020.” And I specifically recall the pastor claiming that 2020 was going to be “a special year of bounty and blessing.” Well, thus far, that prediction doesn’t appear to be on target. Most people in 2020, it seems, aren’t exactly having their “best life now.”
BK: Yeah, it’s crazy what they can get away with. There’s a prophet by the name of Shawn Bolz who in early March said, “The Lord showed me the end of the coronavirus…the tide is turning now!” And I just recently saw a video from him only a week or so ago in which he said, “The Lord showed me that it’s going to get worse.” Basically he ended up saying the exact opposite. So, I just don’t know how people like this aren’t held accountable for their obvious lies.
SR: I think this is precisely the sort of thing that Paul warns us about in Romans 16:18 when he said that “by smooth talk and flattery,” many false teachers will attempt to “deceive the hearts of the naive.”
BK: Yeah, it’s really sad.
SR: So during the interview, you also mentioned that the White Horse Inn was one of the programs that helped you to get a better understanding of Reformation theology. So do you mind if I ask how you first found out about the show?
BK: I believe it was recommended to me back in 2015 by a pastor I interviewed in Chicago named Phill Howell. And around that same time, I started reading Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity, which sort of gave me another reason to check out White Horse Inn. More than anything, your program’s emphasis on distinguishing between the law and the gospel was really helpful to me. I think that almost every error in the church, whether you’re dealing with moralistic preaching or progressive Christianity, it always seems to come back to confusion over this important issue. People just don’t know how to distinguish law and gospel. You know, from age 15 on, I attended a Nazarene church for many years, and what I heard from the pulpit week after week was moralism. And it wasn’t until I first started working on the American Gospel film project, that I began to have conversations with my pastor about the fact that I was hearing all law and no gospel. The gospel was just everywhere being assumed, and yet never explained. And so ultimately my wife and I made the difficult decision to leave that church, once we had a better grasp of the importance of Christ-centered and gospel oriented preaching.
SR: Thanks again Brandon for taking time to answer some of these questions, and for creating these really important documentaries.
BK: It was my pleasure.
POSTSCRIPT: On Thursday, April 2, 2020, prosperity evangelist Kenneth Copeland took a deep breath and blew in the direction of the TV camera saying, “Covid-19, I blow the wind of God on you! You are destroyed forever, and you’ll never be back!” [Click here to watch].
On April 13th the New York Post ran a story about a Virginia pastor who recently died of the coronavirus after defying orders to cancel church services. He was quoted in the article as saying, “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus,” and that “people are healed” in his church [Click here to read the full story].
To watch a free one hour version of the first documentary in the American Gospel series, click here. To watch one of the chapters from Brandon’s most recent documentary, American Gospel: Christ Crucified, click here.