Thursday, May 17, 2012

Glory Cloud - Glory Glare ?

It was bound to happen. With reports of the so-called "glory cloud," a cloud that is seen by night at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, the pressure is on. Other "river" churches throughout the world must now have glory-cloud-esque manifestations in order to demonstrate that the Lord is also moving in their church.

Setting aside the questions: 1) "is the Bethel 'glory cloud' a Godly, devilish, or fleshly manifestation?" and 2) "is the Lord moving in the specific church we will consider in this article?", we must note that when people want something really, really bad, they will see just about anything that they want to see.

This is not to be confused with faith. No, God desires "truth in the inward parts" and it is not His will for us to fabricate things just to make him look good. He doesn't need or want that kind of help.

Let me state that this article is meant to be instructive, and I hope it is a positive contribution to the discussion and to the body. For this reason, we will not be naming the church in question. I suspect this sort of hyperbole is taking place in many places. It is human nature.

One of the features of the sparkly, glittery "glory cloud" at Bethel is that it is a manifestation of the ibethel generation, captured on their iPhones. Keep in mind that the typical phone camera (lens AND electronics) probably adds about $5 to the cost of a mobile phone. I have reviewed many "glory cloud" videos and the many of the outstreched hands often have phones in them.

So let's take a look at the most recent "glory glare" outbreak. After a really lively meeting, this message was posted on a church's Facebook wall by the church itself. This was a "share" and the author of the original post states: "watch the light grow. I can testify that the Holy Spirit was there!" Unless I'm reading this wrong, the church is claiming that the overexposed wall behind the drummer is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

 "watch the light grow. I can testify that the Holy Spirit was there!"

To be fair, I should state that it appears that the author of the original post is making that claim. The church only posted that claim on their facebook page, which suggests that the church approves that claim. But here is a companion post, on a related Facebook page. The link is to the same video. Note on this page that the pastor of the church under discussion makes a response to the post: "AWESOMENESS."  Here the claim is that "their (sic) is a light behind the drummer." Although the pastor now claims that he was responding to the intense worship in the video, his response (without elaboration) only encourages others to think that he too endorses the "Glory Glare."

"Look their is a light behind the drummer -- AWESOMENESS"

Our hope is that this myth will be deconstructed in this congregation. Again, my thesis is that it is not God's will for us to imagine things just to make him look good. Jeremiah 23:17 warns us of those who put forth the "delusions of thier own minds." This is serious business.

The wall behind the drummer happens to be a marbleized faux-finish. It seems to reflect the light quite well. But there is much more to this story. As I mentioned, inexpensive cameras such as found in mobile phones are often brandished in church services such as these. Let's look at a still shot taken from the original Facebook video.

Do you see the glory? Or just an overexposed image from spotlights on a marbleized finish? The situation suggests a contemporary instance of "exchanging the immortal glory of God for an image" spoken of in Romans 1:23. Literally.

Here's the explanation from a broadcast engineer:

These cheap cameras have an automatic exposure control (AEC) that is not very sophisticated. They work better for still shots than movies, and work worse in dim settings with bright stage lights (i.e. the typical "river church" setting). So here's what happens: As you pan across a scene that is dark into a scene that is bright, there is a lag while the AEC makes the adjustment. In the dark area, the sensitivity is cranked WAY up. When you pan to the bright area, the sensitivity is still high for a moment, and then is reduced. This causes the bright area to "wash out" for a moment, and then become normal. The over-exposure almost looks like pulsating movement to the uninformed.

Even with a good video camera, this can still be a problem. This is why television studios use so much intense even light. It takes a lot of lumens, and a consistent lighting scheme to avoid artifacts such as these. That kind of stage lighting would be a distraction in a church service and would not enhance the worshipful mood.

An additional problem comes into play- the concept of dynamic range. This is the ability of the camera to present an accurate picture where there is much contrast between the brightest object in the picture and the darkest object. $5 will get you just so much dynamic range. $500 will do a lot better. To get near-studio quality the cameras with the best dynamic range will cost THOUSANDS of dollars.

A camera with a limited dynamic range will not handle handle the transition from bright to dim very well. Compounding this problem is the issue of lens flare- caused by cheap materials and coatings on cheaply made lenses. A good camera lens will cost several times the price of a typical smart phone (with a $5 camera built in). Internal refractions in a lens will sometimes also cause artifacts that others have claimed are "angel orbs."

In summary, there is no question that the photographic evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence at this meeting is completely bogus. I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit wasn't there in some manner. Just not on the video, and probably not visible. Let's stop making things up; it does nothing to advance the kingdom.


  1. Wow, I saw exactly nothing special in that video! Looks like the "Angel Orbs" deal all over again, to me. That was just lens dust/spots and anyone with the most basic photography knowledge could tell you that. I was rebuked for pointing that out on several occasions. I'm sad that churches think they need to try to manufacture the Shekinah Glory :( Perhaps the reason God only did this one time in Scripture is because people would begin to idolize the thing that they could see.

  2. In previous years it was angel feathers. Years before it was gems, and it was happening in lots of different churches. Problem is these claims were also proved to be false. The angel feathers were those of birds and the gems turned out to be costume jewelry.

    These fads are an embarassment to the majority of those of us in Pentecostal churches who do not seek after or need such questionable signs and wonders to validate or promote the gospel.

    Not to mention scripture identifies Christ Himself as the radiance of the glory of God, (Hebrews 1:3) not some very doubtful impression of a 'glory cloud'. If we want to glorify God let's get our eyes off looking for validation of the Holy Spirit in such questionable manifestations and get them back on what is really important.

    How about actually promoting the Gospel itself for a change?

  3. It lends itself to a vampire-ish Holy Spirit, only in reverse. It is ONLY seen through the cheap camera-phone lense, not in real life.

    Im Christ,
    Arthur Haglund

  4. All obvious...why do charismatics need such long explanations of the obvious? And what kind of pride do you have to have to think you are "building a kingdom"?

  5. As a pastor where this video was taken, please let me deconstruct the myth that we experienced a "glory cloud" on the night of the pre-call rally. The author of the video and original post is claiming such. However, this person does not attend our church and the video being shared on our church FB page does not indicate that we are seekers of signs and wonders. Jesus said that it was a perverse generation that seeks a sign. We teach our congregation to be cautious about such things.

    With this in mind, we are requesting that you do the honorable thing and remove this video from your blog.

    Finally, the "awesomeness" of the video is NOT a supposed "glory cloud" but of the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that is happening in the room. It's a shame that is not even addressed positively in your blog.

  6. Thank you for making it clear to our audience and your congregation that you are not buying into this nonsense.

    For the benefit of our readers, you explained to me, a month ago, that you "installed the lights in that opening & for the most part turn them on every service" and that you "of All people know what the glow was & why it was there."

    The purpose of the article was to demonstrate how some people want to see stuff so badly they will just make things up. Together, I think the point has been made, and I hope the lesson is instructive. This is happening in more places than you could imagine.

    Since you have removed the videos from your facebook accounts, I, in turn have removed my hosted copy of the video, replacing it with a still shot for context (the article make little sense without it). You will need to contact the author of the video if you would like the video removed from the World Wide Web altogether; I have no control over that. I suggest that you do so.

    Thanks for finally getting back to me on this. You have confirmed that the FB posts about the "glory glare" was nothing but wishful thinking, and I am encouraged that you too are taking a stand for the truth.

  7. California Woman11/25/13, 1:10 PM

    I've been in many of the Bethel meetings where Glory Clouds showed up. They were not clouds per se, and I tried to capture them on camera myself and they don't translate well. We lived in Redding during this phenomena and attended Bethel church at the time it started and stopped. My husband was not into this at the time all and would sit in the back and ignore it, and then I basically dragged him up to the front one day. He has spent 20 years in the air purification industry and is an expert in "particulates," the little floating things in residential and commercial air. His statement to me was "I've never seen anything like this before." He was extremely surprised by what he saw. And he would know, since that is his field. And oh yes, he has an M.Div from a Baptist Seminary, which he values. So, as for it being an overexposed photo, it is not anything like that at all. And yes, people do see things that they want to see. I've experienced that. I also know that I've sat where you do, rejecting this entire movement, and missing the heart of it. I can also say that no one at Bethel is "worked up into a frenzy" of worship or anything like that. If you truly 100% believe that it's all demon inspired, made up, fake, imagined or whatever else, I guess you have your mind made up and are seeing what YOU want to see. My experience at Bethel was that the worship services are exceptionally good, but pretty normal, wonderful worship. They are not even overtly charismatic or pentecostal in expression. You could see the same at Calvary Chapel any Sunday. So when the glory clouds would appear, they would start out of the blue - they were almost like tiny lightbulbs going off, starting with one or two, up high, then a cloud of them forms, looking like thousands of minute paparazzi flashes. And you cannot really capture it on film effectively. Sometimes they were huge and all over the room, but many times they remained in one area or another. The leadership did not know how to handle it at first and admitted that. Eventually they decided not to make it the main focus since it became so common, and wanted to make sure the attention remained on Jesus, and they did have a church to pastor and messages to deliver, though this was truly a marvel. And they didn't want truckloads of people coming for this manifestation. They didn't want to be the "Glory Cloud Church." There is more to God than glory clouds. And practically, multitudes already come from all over the world to experience the joy of knowing Jesus more personally at Bethel and through their ministry. It is not dependent on manifestations. It's already too crowded. they can't put people in the hallway. I have to admit I loved being a part of that experience. I do believe it is something the Holy Spirit created. But you don't have to believe that. It was for the people there, and it came and it went and when it was gone, nobody cried and said, "Oh, remember the good old days when the Glory Cloud showed up?". God was the same, He was still doing amazing things, whether the Glory Cloud came or didn't. But at one point if I had been sitting where you are sitting, I would have agreed with you, so I get it. You want to be true to Scripture, which is commendable, but at the same time, it's good to have a little more room in your head for the unexplainable. God isn't always explainable.


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