I recently learned about Torben Søndergaard.
He’s an evangelist and faith healer from Denmark who is quite the public prophet, faith healer, and “global evangelist”. He runs an organization called The Last Reformation, and he’s not exactly subtle: he claims to be part of the next Protestant Reformation (otherwise known as the New Apostolic Reformation). His about page tells the story of how he came to be a Christian, didn’t see “fruit” in his Christian life (“fruit” meaning “miraculous healings”), and then became a full-blown faith healer and prophet who writes books by divine revelation (which would be delivering written revelation, otherwise known as “writing scripture”).
You may not have heard of him yet, but he’s definitely getting around and building steam. He’s popping up in Singapore, Poland, England, Australia, Holland, Turkey, South Africa, Los Angeles, etc. All those listed countries were places where he has been in the past year alone. Just a few weeks ago he was leading a faith healing seminary right in my own backyard.
Some people may want to dismiss him as being “the fringe”, but he’s becoming a B-list charismatic celebrity, at least according to some. He’s clearly busy and doing this full time. He’s writing books and traveling the world. Even though his videos are videos of healing “on the street”, he travels because he’s invited to teach on faith healing and assorted charismatic theology in churches on every continent. In other words, Torben Søndergaard is not that fringe. Torben is also a fantastic example of a dangerously wide-spread type of false teacher: the guys who offer “gospel plus”.
What is “gospel plus?”
You’ve likely heard about false gospels that subtract from the gospel. For example, there are false gospels where a person doesn’t have to believe in core doctrines like the trinity (which usually manifests in disbelief that Jesus was the Yahweh, the God of the Jews, incarnate). Those are easier false gospels to spot since they leave obvious things out, but false teachers who proclaim a”gospel plus” message are a little more difficult. A “gospel plus” message is any gospel message that adds to the gospel. In other words, if you hear a gospel message that doesn’t leave anything out but then includes unnecessary theology or requirements, you’re hearing a “gospel plus” message.
To put it even more simply, if someone is “giving the gospel” and the message they preach includes marks of “true saving faith” involving conduct, diet or dress code, you’re hearing a “gospel plus” message.
Now, I’m guessing you think you’re pretty savvy and wouldn’t get hoodwinked by something like a “gospel plus” message…right? The fact that Torben Søndergaard has a successful ministry in Denmark suggests otherwise. Let’s look at an example and you see if you can spot it.
This is a 30-minute episode of their web show. IF you have time, watch it and see if you can find where it goes from “gospel” to “gospel plus”:
If you need help, I’ll break it down for you:
The show starts off introducing us to a woman named Liz. Liz is from Scotland, an-ex Reiki Healer (if you don’t know what Reiki is, look here), and has been baptized by the Holy Spirit and has repented from her sins.
At around 1:15 she states that she’s been a Christian for around two weeks. She says that she saw Torben Søndergaard (and his Last Reformation associates) healing people on the street. The video then shows some clips.
At around 2:40 she says that she watched the previously displayed videos and couldn’t understand why Torben Søndergaard and his associates had more success than she did with her Reiki.
After that, she had some mix ups with her Reiki business and then God “told her” to go to Denmark and see Torben Søndergaard.
Then, around 5:50 Torben Søndergaard starts going on with a fairly long gospel presentation. He starts off with some sort of strange form of Arminianism where God is unable to save certain people because of “the rules” (but doesn’t explain who the power is behind God, making rules for him to follow and binding his hands). Ignoring the first 2 minutes absurd of theological confusion that seems to be a strange Arminian/Molinist goulash, we go on.
At around 8:20, Torben Søndergaard gives what is a fairly decent beginning to a gospel presentation. His talk about sin with the whole of the cups turned upside down, people comparing themselves to each other, and Jesus being the cup turned upright (at 15:40), is a good presentation idea that I may steal. It’s simple and visually punchy.
Then, at 16:10, things start getting interesting. Jesus apparently received the indwelling Holy Spirit at his baptism (in contradiction to what God overtly revealed about Christ’s baptism, and the descent of the Spirit, to and through John the Baptist in John 1:29-34). We’ll chalk this up to him simply not having any serious theological training and move on.
In 16:55, Torben finishes up the “gospel” component of his talk. He gets the repentance and law/gospel distinctions right, which is good. At 17:29, he even mentions the removal of the heart of stone and the insertion of the heart of flesh (which is great). Then he gets into the “gospel plus” component and things move from interesting to bizarre.
But, at 17:35 he says that the “heart of flesh” is a conscience. He continues saying a bunch of confusing stuff about the conscience. He recognizes the fact that unbelievers have a conscience (ala Rom. 2:15), but at 19:17 he says that believers get a new conscience at conversion (?!?). He proves his point with a story about how he couldn’t watch some horrible movie after he was saved. In case you think I’m needlessly picky, that’s not nearly the worst of it.
Then, at 20:10 he says “the light is inside, but the body is dead”, meaning that after a person repents of their sins and believes the gospel, they’re still spiritually dead. The cup is still turned over (carrying on the metaphor he’s been using for 12+ minutes) and he says that we have to bury the dead body. At 21:00 he explains that baptism is two things: (1) the burial of the dead body with Christ and (2) getting the Holy Spirit. Not only do people apparently get the Holy Spirit at water baptism, but also at 21:45 he says that the proof of the filling is when the Holy Spirit overflows through the mouth of believers through speaking in tongues. In other words, speaking in tongues is the proof of a successful water baptism and proof of salvation (assuming that the baptism of the Spirit is what brings the dead sinner to life, continuing what is a confusing metaphor with the cups: the cup is turned over only after the baptism).
At 23:35, we then see Liz’s baptism. Torben says, at 24:15, that they’re planning on baptizing Liz and delivering her from demons. Then, at 25:00 they start commanding the “Spirit of Reiki Healing” to come out. Over the next two minutes, Torben keeps shouting “freedom” and “come out” and blabbering in ecstatic speech. Liz groans and writhes and at 26:20 Torben starts commanding Liz to speak in tongues, which she does after a little prompting.
From around 27:00-27:30 she talks about what it felt like to get baptized with the Holy Spirit, and then at around 27:40, she immediately goes out with the Last Reformation crew and starts healing people. At around 29:00 we see Liz perform her first healing (of a sore ankle by a kid who’s visibly unsure what’s going on).
At 29:50 we see her interpreting her experience: the “sore ankle” healing is what brings her the assurance her salvation.
At 30:08 she tells the viewers what she wants them to know:
“For you out there, I just want to say to you that God is real, that he wants to be in your life, he doesn’t want you to suffer, he just wants you to be happy, and not have any stress in your life. He wants you to, um, trust him and believe in him that he’s going to take care of you, that he always has done. He’s already taken away your sin; paid the price of your sin. And now, we have to make a step towards Jesus, like he’s made that step towards us, but, he’s taken away our sin. We take one step towards Jesus, he’s going to come, and if we ask for forgiveness for sins, and, um, like all the Reiki Healers and everybody that’s into ‘New Age’, um, crystal healing, um, anything to do with spirituality; they’re being deceived. It’s not real. It’s other entities: you don’t know who’s coming through you, you don’t know who’s guiding you, you’re asking for beings to come in, but, do you know who they are? I do know. The proof is, once you’ve had the Holy Spirit, you, you feel renewed and reborn, and, just know that God is going to be there for you and guide you.
So looking at the confusion that Torben lays out for poor old Liz, looking at what he actually does with her, and looking at what she says about it all, it’s pretty clear that the gospel isn’t a propositional message about sin, righteousness and the judgment to come (i.e. Acts 24:25). Reading her summation of the gospel, it becomes pretty clear that she doesn’t understand the whole component about her sin, the death of Christ, or how either one relates to God (in other words, the main propositional components of the gospel message). She summarizes the gospel along the lines of being something like “God wants you to be happy and stress-free, know that he’s taking care of you same as always, has removed your sin and now you need forgiveness for the sin…that he’s already removed…so that he can guide you…which he wasn’t doing if you were into ‘New Age’ stuff…”
I’m sad for how this woman has gone from one deception to another.
The defenders of Torben will say that he did give her the gospel; the full gospel. This is part of the reason why “gospel plus” is harder to spot. If a person preaches rightly about sin, righteousness, the judgment to come, the person and work of Christ, etc. and then adds “speaking in tongues” to that (or anything else), they’re not preaching the gospel because they’re not preaching the same message as the Scripture. As you can see from the video, the “plus” part of the “gospel plus” message is always where the false teachers focus and the “gospel” part is there, mostly to deflect criticism.
That’s a perfect example of the false gospel of “gospel plus” and why it’s so dangerous.
Also, that’s a good reason why people should have nothing to do with Torben Søndergaard. Consider yourself warned about a spiritual fraud: listening to him may well endanger your soul for eternity.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “evaluating public information about a public individual” Unger
P.S. There was recently a post on his Facebook Wall about his recent trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The post announced one of his many amazing healings. It read:
One who was healed was a lady who had walked with crutches for three months after having broken her leg. Now she could walk and bend her leg for the first time in 3 months.
Yup. Woman walked on crutches for 3 months after breaking her leg. Then, at the end of three months, she went to a faith healer and was miraculously healed.
How do I express my thoughts?
P.S. – After several months of leaving this comment thread open, I’m closing it down. There is no real discussion happening here anymore, just emotional venting and nonsense. If you feel like finding some other page and bringing up Torben Søndergaard there, I’ll just edit your comment to make it interesting.
I’ve moved on, now you can too.