TV evangelists forced to recant claims of God's divine dentistry

"An honest mistake"

The Canadian Press/May 12, 1999

Winnepeg -- God works in mysterious ways, but two high-profile evangelical Christians in Western Canada have been forced to back down from claims that He gave them gold teeth.

A chastened Willard Thiessen, host of a daily religion program on Winnipeg television, admitted yesterday he was wrong in telling his tele-flock that God had inexplicably planted a gold tooth in his mouth.

It turned out the gold tooth had been implanted by his brother Elmer, a dentist in British Columbia.

"I'm embarrassed to tears about this," said Mr. Thiessen, president of Trinity Television. "I thought I had a miracle."

There has, in fact, been a rash of gold-teeth claims by evangelical Christians of late, said Mr. Thiessen.

"I told people to please check their dental records before they declare a miracle. Please check with your dentist," he said.

Mr. Thiessen is not alone in his embarrassment.

Dick Dewert, a religious broadcaster in Lethbridge, Alta., told a CJIL-TV audience during an on-air fundraising marathon in March that God had implanted a gold tooth in his mouth after a bout of intensive prayer.

But Dr. Jack Sherman, Mr. Dewert's longtime dentist, said he had put it in about 10 years earlier.

"It was an honest mistake," Mr. Dewert said at the time.

"I was sincere in what I said. When miracles appear to be happening, it's easy to get excited and, in my case, jump to conclusions."

Praying to God to repair teeth is just another way of asking God to reveal himself through healing, said John Arnott, senior pastor for the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, a charismatic evangelical Christian group.

Mr. Arnott said about 20 of his flock of 2,000 believe God polished their fillings or replaced them with gold after praying for such healing in March.

"You're skeptical at first. It takes us a while to learn that, really, God can do everything," he said.

Verifying the claims has proven inconclusive, but that doesn't matter, he added.

"It's just the Father saying 'I love you, I know all about you.' That's precious to the person."

Mr. Thiessen also maintains that God does work through dentistry.

"In the 1970s, my wife, Betty, had two large cavities in her back molars," he said. "We were poor as church mice and couldn't afford to see a dentist. We were travelling and at a meeting, and, when it was done, they were filled."

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