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Bad theology: Vassula Ryden and Benny Hinn

19 March 2011

What do you do about bad theology?

This week has seen two responses: the excommunication of Vassula Ryden by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a group of South African Protestant theologians being moved by the prospect of a visit by Benny Hinn to start a web site to examine Prosperity Theology.

Vassula Ryden has been travelling round teaching on “True Life in God”, and has visited South Africa before. She has spoken mainly at Roman Catholic venues, but her meetings have been publicised in Orthodox Churches, and indeed by Orthodox clergy. Here is the programme of a recent visit:


  • Johannesburg: Sunday 10th May after 6pm youth Mass – Maronite Catholic Church, Cnr Western Service Rd and Mount Lebanon, Woodmead, Contact: 011-4354530 084 7547034
  • Durban: Saturday 16th May 2pm Durban City Hall, West Street new name Dr Pixley Ka Seme St. Contact: 031-5638832 0828435221
  • Cape Town: 17th May 2009 4.30pm at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, St. Dominic’s Street, Matroosfontein, Elsies River. Contact. Merle Taljaard 021-9753958

The publicity leaflets announcing these gatherings said:

Who is Vassula Rydén?
Vassula Rydén is Greek, born in Egypt and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. Mother of two sons and wife of a Swedish foreign aid worker, she lived most of her life in Third World countries. She did not practice her faith, but was busy with the chores of life, worked as a painter and played tennis on the level of national competitions.

In 1985, she was called by God to serve Him, by transmitting His divine words to all people. Vassula receives these inspirations through the form of locutions and through interior visions. God asked her to call these divine inspirations, “True Life in God”.

These leaflets were distributed in Orthodox Churches, and clearly give the impression that Vassula Ryden is an Orthodox Christian. But any educated Orthodox Christian reading this should immediately be put on their guard by terms like “locutions” and “interior visions”, because such things are prima facie evidence of what is called in Russian prelest and in Greek plani, that is, spiritual delusion. Such things should immediately be checked with an experienced spiritual elder (starets, geron, gerondissa) before proclaiming them to the world.

And even the briefest glance at Vassula Ryden’s teachings will show that they are far closer to the New Age movement than to Orthodox Christianity.

Now there are lots of people who follow, to a greater or lesser extent, the teachings of the New Age movement, but most of them do not pretend that what they teach is Orthodox Christianity, or the teaching of the Orthodox Church. When one puts forward such teachings as part of, or compatible with the Orthodox Christian faith, then it is heresy, and this is why, after examining these teachings, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has excommunicated Vassula Ryden and any members of the Orthodox Church who propagate those teachings.

MYSTAGOGY: Announcement On Vassula Ryden By The Ecumenical Patriarchate:

In this spirit, and for the beneficial protection of our pious Orthodox plenitude from dangerous spiritual confusion, who do not know well matters underlying the risk of delusion, rejects from the Mother Church Vasiliki Paraskevis Pentaki – Ryden, widely known as ‘Vassula’, and her organization founded under the title ‘True Life In God’ which rashly and frivolously proposes teachings based on the supposed ‘direct dialogue between her and the Founder of the Church Jesus Christ our Lord’, and those conquered by her and the supporters of ‘True Life In God’, which deviate arbitrarily from the God-given teaching of the Church, but also scandalize the Orthodox phronema of pious believers.

Hence, we call upon the proponents of these unacceptable innovations and the supporters who maintain them, who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion, not only to not be involved in the pastoral work of the local Holy Metropolis, but also to not preach their novel teachings, to prevent the appropriate sanctions under the Holy Canons.

The question that arises here is “What took them so long?”

While one doesn’t necessarily expect Sunday-school pupils to be accomplished heresy-spotters, surely the clergy, at least, should see the heresy sticking out a mile, and instead of publicising such meetings should explain to people that what is being taught at them is not Orthodox? Why did it have to take someone at the Ecumenical Patirarchate to examine Vassula Ryden’s theology and find that it wasn’t Orthodox?

The other instance is Benny Hinn.

Like Vassula Ryden, Benny Hinn is of Greek descent. He was born in Israel, and his father was Greek Orthodox under the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, while his mother was Armenian and he was raised in the Orthodox tradition (see here). After the Six-Day War in 1967  the family emigrated to Canada, where Benny (Toufik Benedictus) converted to Protestantism and became a travelling evangelist with a healing ministry, and part of the Pentecostal movement. He is known for preaching Prosperity Theology, which is was developed by Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin in the USA. Prosperity theology, however, is unacceptable to many Protestant theologians, including many Pentecostal ones. It is said by some to have its roots in New Thought, where the roots of Vassula Ryden’s teachings can also be traced.

One significant difference between Vassula Ryden and Benny Hinn is that Benny Hinn was not excommunicated by the Ecumenical Patriarch. That doesn’t mean that his teaching is any more acceptable to the Orthodox Church than that of Vassula Ryden; rather it is that in leaving the Orthodox Church to join a Protestant body he effectively excommunicated himself, and he doesn’t try to create the impression that his teaching is endorsed by the Orthodox Church, as Vassula Ryden and her supporters have tried to do for her teaching.

But that does not mean that Orthodox Christians are in no danger from the teachings of Benny Hinn. You might never think of attending one of his meetings, but the underlying philosophy and the values on which Prosperity Theology is based have found widespread acceptance in our society, and they do not always appear in explicitly religious guise. One of the best-selling books in South Africa in recent years has been The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which is a compilation of extracts from “self-help” books. Most of these self-help books are not necessarily “religious” (though some of them do claim to be “spiritual”). The fact that these books sell so well shows how popular and influential this thinking is.

Benny Hinn is not the first preacher of the Prosperity Gospel to visit South Africa, and he will not be the last. Nor is he even the most influential. Those who went for a Night of Bliss with Pastor Chris a couple of weeks ago probably outnumbered those who will hear Benny Hinn.

But the answer to bad theology is not to be found in denouncing the Vassula Rydens and Benny Hinns of this world, and say how wicked they are for teaching heresies. As we pray the Prayer of St Ephrem in Lent, “O Lord grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother,” we can see that we are not called to engage in the relatively undemanding activity of confessing other people’s sins. Rather we are called to guard the doors of our own minds and hearts with watchfulness and prayer. Nepsis (watchfulness) is one of the things we should especially try to cultivate in Lent. That is one of the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, of which we are reminded on the Second Sunday in Lent.

Tone 8    Troparion      (St Gregory Palamas)

O light of Orthodoxy, teacher of the Church, its confirmation,
O ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians,
O wonderworking Gregory, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of
always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved!

20 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 March 2011 1:37 pm

    Since you mention the New Aginess of Vassula Ryden, you might find it interesting to know that I fist came across her devotees at a Mind Body Spirit Festival in Sydney.

    • 22 March 2011 2:51 pm

      While I see no problem with Christian presence and witness at such events, I somehow doubt that that is what Vassula Ryden’s disciples were doing.

  2. Nick permalink
    2 April 2011 5:03 pm

    Mrs. Rydén is not officially excommunicated, this word has not been used, and most important she is not anathema. She has not been heard by the Patriarchy which is the proper way before taking further action upon someone. Btw, last Eastern she was invited to SA to celebrate together with Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and all of Africa [Rydéns own patriarchy]. We should not judge. We leave this into the hands of our Lord!

    • 3 April 2011 1:38 pm

      The statement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “we call upon the proponents of these unacceptable innovations and the supporters who maintain them, who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion” is pretty unambigious.

      The word “exommunicated” means “not admitted to ecclesiastical communion”.

      • Nick permalink
        27 June 2012 5:58 pm

        Mrs Rydén has not officially been excommunicated and here is the BIG difference.

        • 27 June 2012 7:35 pm

          A big difference between what? Being officially and “unofficially” communicated — by the Ecumenical Patriach? Does the Ecumenical Patriarch know the difference?

  3. MAGGIE permalink
    30 November 2011 7:53 am

    And John answered him, saying,” Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.”
    Mark: 9:38

    But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
    Mark: 9:39

    • 28 May 2013 7:57 am

      good job , Maggie,, keep up your spiritual walk..sister

  4. 3 January 2012 11:17 pm

    I just found this, so it’s old news. But I kept checking and checking the dates, wiping my glasses, and checking again— for I was *greatly* surprised to read that the EP had excommunicated Ms Ryden that far back. I can’t imagine, then, why she and her entire non-Orthodox entourage (including Catholic priests!) were then given communion in the presence of the Archbishop of Johannesburg and the Patriarch of Alexandria on Holy Thursday!

    • 4 January 2012 9:46 am

      When and where was that?

      Last Holy Thursday (21 April 2011) the Archbishop of Johannesburg was at St Nicholas in Brixton, and I did not see either Vassula Ryden or the Patriarch there.

  5. 5 February 2012 7:17 am

    I have heard Vassula talk on three occasions in Australia and have found nothing negative against our RC thelogy. I found her to be speaking truth, with love for both Orthodox and Roman Catholic christians how can we complain about this, let us all come together in the ‘Spritit of Christ’ and wouldn’t it be wonderful to see us all praying together in one anothers churches and finally finding unity. Bring it on Vassula. Regards Eileen.

  6. 23 June 2012 11:19 am

    after reading vasulas books jesus took me up and crowned me ,,god was very clear to tell me what he did for me was very rare… i could tell ya that after that god ask me to not conform to this world as it is stated in the bible .. be in the world but not of the world.. he also told me alot about vassla,, and i can tell you for sure that she is jesuses daughter.and i am another son of god,, as that is also writen in the bible i dont know why god crowed me .i know what it says in the bible about doing greater things and works if it wasent for her doing what god -jesus -holyspirit told her to do i would not have been crowned love peace and justis il tell you its been a real ride i will say im now a roman catholic and everything now makes sence.. and yes im equle to the angels after god crowned me .. like god said what man knows the mind of god ,if so bring him to me.. i can tell you this i know why god doesent make himself know to some. if you know what i mean… god told vassula she would make alot of misstakes ,she wrote that in her book.let me help anyone that wants the heads up on god,, get in the race run your own race,, and know that god knows the thoughts of mankind.. and if you are not for god you are agaist him .ya might want to try to get pass his sons or daughters first you think .. love yall and good luck.. ..

  7. 9 March 2013 1:33 pm

    Vassula contradicts Catholic theology and trinity doctrine

    To know more about about Vassula, please read

    It has more than 50 articles on Vassula. Recently some Bishops in India banned her meeting after our report. Same happened with France Bishop conference and other places

  8. Maria permalink
    20 May 2013 5:35 pm

    Messages from God through vassula is truly authentic.Vassula is the secretary of Christ he uses her hand to write the messages is known to the ends of the earth this is a good comparison of the bible and the messages it is the continuation of understanding of God human terms through Vassula for us to understand if we do not understand. Than that is when we pray to understand.

    • edmund .beall forester the 2nd permalink
      24 May 2013 5:18 pm

      vasslula ryden is my sister and another Daughter and a child of god,,i know this as a matter of fact .. i also know that god has his saints,,here,, ps i love all of you . know this god love all of us yall love god is what god will ask all of us one day .. i hope yall have a good answer for him ,, god bless.. and dont forget about my mother Mary . that’s holy virgin mother mary to all of you ,, love , peace ,,justices .get busy loveing jesus christ our lord..king of kings ,lord of lords ..

    • 27 May 2013 1:54 pm

      Well, if that’s what her followers are taught, there can’t be much doubt about her heresy, can there?

      • 27 May 2013 3:33 pm

        Indeed – prelest through and through!

        • 28 May 2013 8:07 am

          good luck with your relationship with jesus,, let us all know hows thats working out for ya , ok


  1. STEVE HAYES – Bad theology: Vassula Ryden and Benny Hinn « – A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

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