Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some honest concerns about the teachings of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church at Redding, CA.



Bill Johnson (b. 1951) is a fifth generation pastor who along with his wife Beni and pastors Danny Silk and Kris Valloton lead Bethel Church, based in Redding, California.












 


  I was first introduced to Bill Johnson in mid-2009 via some leaders within my church who were familiar with his ministry. Since then, I, along with others within my own immediate fellowship have attended conferences held in Brisbane that have hosted Bill Johnson, Danny Silk and the Jesus Culture worship band led by Kim Walker.
   In the past year and a half, the introduction has indeed borne many benefits including but not limited to a greater depth and passion in prayer, worship and evangelism. On a personal level, the lyrics of Kim Walker’s songs come as a great relief in having a high view of the glory of God  rather than an overemphasis on the actions and attributes of the believer as is so pervasive in Contemporary Christian Music.







 As a member of a movement of churches that seeks to plant churches and make disciples in such a way that it allows non-Christians to meet Jesus, Christians to come to know Jesus more deeply and become more like him, and for more churches to get planted so that communities of Christians can gather together to continue the forward progress of the mission of Jesus until he returns, it is good to see what others are doing in the world today.

   Nonetheless, having viewed the teachings of Bill Johnson and others from Bethel church, I feel that there is a need to express honest concerns about key teachings and views that are presented, which if not clarified and dealt with, could open the door to serious problems and errors within a local church body.



View of God’s nature and Sovereignty

Scripture is very explicit with regards to the range and extent of God’s sovereignty:

11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power 

and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, 

for everything in heaven and earth is yours. 

Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; 

you are exalted as head over all. 

12 Wealth and honor come from you; 

you are the ruler of all things. 

In your hands are strength and power 

to exalt and give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12

 39 “See now that I myself am he! 

There is no god besides me. 
I
 put to death and I bring to life, 

I have wounded and I will heal, 

and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39

6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; 

he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; 

he humbles and he exalts. 

8 He raises the poor from the dust 

and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 

he seats them with princes 

and has them inherit a throne of honor.
   “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; 

on them he has set the world.
1 Samuel 2:6-8

 7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, 

or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, 

or let the fish in the sea inform you. 

9 Which of all these does not know 

that the hand of the LORD has done this? 

10 In his hand is the life of every creature 

and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-10

6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, 

in the heavens and on the earth, 

in the seas and all their depths.
Psalm 135:6

7 I form the light and create darkness, 

I bring prosperity and create disaster; 

I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7


This also includes matters of “chance”, “luck” and “probability”:

33 The lot is cast into the lap, 

but its every decision is from the LORD.
Proverbs 16:33

Furthermore, God is sovereign over the actions of Angels AND demons/evil spirits:

 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, 

you mighty ones who do his bidding, 

who obey his word.
Psalm 103:20

19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
   “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
 22 “‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
   “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
   “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
1 Kings 22:19-22

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32


Psalm 104 beautifully describes that God is the prime sustainer and operator over all creation:

1 Praise the LORD, my soul.
   LORD my God, you are very great; 

you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
 2 The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; 

he stretches out the heavens like a tent 

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. 

He makes the clouds his chariot 

and rides on the wings of the wind. 

4 He makes winds his messengers,[a] 

flames of fire his servants.
 5 He set the earth on its foundations; 

it can never be moved. 

6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains. 

7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, 

at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 

8 they flowed over the mountains, 

they went down into the valleys, 

to the place you assigned for them. 

9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; 

never again will they cover the earth.
 10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; 

it flows between the mountains. 

11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; 

the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 

12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters; 

they sing among the branches. 

13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; 

the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. 

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, 

and plants for people to cultivate— 

bringing forth food from the earth: 

15 wine that gladdens human hearts, 

oil to make their faces shine, 

and bread that sustains their hearts. 

16 The trees of the LORD are well watered, 

the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 

17 There the birds make their nests; 

the stork has its home in the junipers. 

18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats; 

the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
 19 He made the moon to mark the seasons, 

and the sun knows when to go down. 

20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, 

and all the beasts of the forest prowl. 

21 The lions roar for their prey 

and seek their food from God. 

22 The sun rises, and they steal away; 

they return and lie down in their dens. 

23 Then people go out to their work, 

to their labor until evening.
 24 How many are your works, LORD! 

In wisdom you made them all; 

the earth is full of your creatures. 

25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, 

teeming with creatures beyond number— 

living things both large and small. 

26 There the ships go to and fro, 

and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
 27 All creatures look to you 

to give them their food at the proper time. 

28 When you give it to them, 

they gather it up; 
when you open your hand, 

they are satisfied with good things. 

29 When you hide your face, 

they are terrified; 
when you take away their breath, 

they die and return to the dust. 

30 When you send your Spirit, 

they are created, 

and you renew the face of the ground.
 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; 

may the LORD rejoice in his works— 

32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, 

who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; 

I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, 

as I rejoice in the LORD. 

35 But may sinners vanish from the earth 

and the wicked be no more.
   Praise the LORD, my soul.
   Praise the LORD.

In light of all this, man has no right to challenge God’s will:

 
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
   “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, 

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[b] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[c] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:14-24

   There is nothing that happens outside of God’s permissive will – that also includes sin, suffering and evil. Even Satan, though he purposefully seeks to supplant God and draw worship unto himself, is still under full submission to God’s lordship and authority. 





  
   Divine providence is simply that God has established his creation as being wholly distinct from himself, but even so, he guides and directs it by his authority according to his Will.
   Some may strongly object to the idea of God yielding so much control over creation: “Are you actually saying God allows things like rape and murder? Or earthquakes and tsunamis? That doesn’t seem like a very loving God if you ask me.”
   But does the alternative – a God who professes to merely be “in charge” yet is not actually “in control” – really seem that better? Unless God does have perfect Providence, what then, is the point of putting faith into our prayers or trust into his promises? Acknowledging the providence of God should settle within our hearts a trust towards Him that no matter what is going on, “God works all things to the good of those who love Him.”

   Once we understand that God is the all-powerful creator, it seems reasonable to conclude that he also preserves and governs everything in the universe as well. Though the term providence is not found in Scripture, it has been traditionally used to summarize God’s ongoing relationship to his creation. When we accept the biblical doctrine of providence, we avoid four common errors in thinking about God’s relationship with creation:

Deism – God created the World and then essentially abandoned it
Pantheism – Creation is essentially a part of God’s own being
Chance – There is no external force operating upon the world, it is all random
 

   Furthermore, within God’s providence, love and mercy are expressed in that while the universe is so well fine-tuned that nothing is outside of God’s grasp or control, such is done in a manner that demonstrates his love and mercy towards all: 

25  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Matthew 6:25-32


Hence, we can trust that within the overarching scheme of God’s sovereignty, there exists the grace to allow for provision in the midst of need, healing in response to sickness, comfort during hardship. All of these things are in God’s hands.

   On the other hand, when we review Bill Johnson’s teachings on the sovereignty of God, what we see is a rather limited view of it:







   “Not everything that comes at us is God’s will. One of the biggest areas of confusion we have within the church is concerning the sovereignty of God. We know that God is all-powerful. We know that he is in charge of everything. But with that, we make a mistake of thinking that he is in control of everything.
   There’s a difference between being in charge and being in control. If you believe that he is control of everything, than you have to believe that Hitler was within his will, that he was going to work it for his purposes. Why would God raise something up to be his will that he would empower you to pray against? You’ve got a split personality: the Father working against the Son and the Son working against the Father.
   You have to understand that God has created a system where humanity gets to live through partnership we get to demonstrate and manifest his dominion throughout the Earth. He comes at our invitation because he has released the dominion to us. That’s why prayer is so essential.
   Many of the great saints throughout history believed that God’s hands are handcuffed, but released through prayer; it is released into the situation through the delegation of partnered authority on planet Earth giving him permission to come. Now, he may be God of everything, he may be ruler of everything, but when he steps onto the stage, the show’s over. Whenever the author steps onto the stage, the show is over. So if you want him to step on the stage, the moment he does, you must realise it is over and everybody’s choice ends where it is.
   So if you believe that God is in control of everything, then you have to look at crisis and tradgedy and whether he allowed it for a purpose. No, he didn’t allow it for a purpose, he put us in a realm where our authority and our Will has an effect on the world around us. It doesn’t mean that we walk in guilt and shame for tradgedy, but we take responsibility for our ownership over the earth. The question I ask people very often is ‘How many storms did Jesus bless?’ How many life-threatening storms did he redirect and say ‘Go and destroy that city, it will humble them and teach them to  pray so they become more like me.’? That’s the church’s response to crisis.
   It may be our ‘ace in the hole’, our trump card, that he can use anything for good, but it doesn’t change our purpose. So, if the Lord approves everything, then it’s hard to believe for Him to change it. There’s an idea that God creates a problem so that he can fix it and show how strong he is. But that’s wrong. God is not an egomaniac.”[i]

   Let’s take a careful look at this.
   First of all based on the aforementioned passages that detail the range and extent of God’s sovereignty, and what God is specifically sovereign over, it is completely false to suggest that God is “in charge” but not “in control”. Such a notion suggests that God is not the all-sovereign Lord, but is nothing more than a disposed ruler without any real authority. But as we see from passages like Psalm 104, the very nature of creation is not just designed by God, it is also sustained by him. If God were “in charge” but not “in control”, the universe as we know it would fall apart into  pandemonium.





   What about the charge that “If you believe that he is control of everything, than you have to believe that Hitler was within his will, that he was going to work it for his purposes”?
Scripture is clear that God ordains, allows and uses the sinful actions of the wicked for the “greater good”:

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-8

21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Exodus 4:21

 4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end— 

even the wicked for a day of disaster.
Proverbs 16:4

 24 “This is what the LORD says—
   your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
   I am the LORD, 

the Maker of all things, 

who stretches out the heavens, 

who spreads out the earth by myself, 

25 who foils the signs of false prophets 

and makes fools of diviners, 

who overthrows the learning of the wise 

and turns it into nonsense, 

26 who carries out the words of his servants 

and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
   who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ 

of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ 

and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ 

27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, 

 and I will dry up your streams,’ 

28 who says of Cyrus [King of PERSIA] , ‘He is my shepherd 

and will accomplish all that I please; 

he will say of Jerusalem,
“Let it be rebuilt,” 

and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’
Isaiah 44:24-28

6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, 

do not the people tremble? 
When disaster comes to a city, 

has not the LORD caused it?
Amos 3:6

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Acts 2:22-23

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
   “‘Why do the nations rage 

and the peoples plot in vain? 
26 The kings of the earth rise up 

and the rulers band together 
against the Lord 

and against his anointed one.
 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Acts 4:23-30

5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
   in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
   I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
   and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
   this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
   to put an end to many nations.
8 ‘Are not my commanders all kings?’ he says.
 9 ‘Has not Kalno fared like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad,
   and Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols,
   kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria—
11 shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images
   as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’”
 12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
   “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, 

and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. 

I removed the boundaries of nations, 

I plundered their treasures; 

like a mighty one I subdued[a] their kings. 

14 As one reaches into a nest, 

so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations; 
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries; 
not one flapped a wing, 

or opened its mouth to chirp.’”
 15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, 

or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, 

 or a club brandish the one who is not wood! 

16 Therefore, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, 

will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; 

under his pomp a fire will be kindled 

like a blazing flame. 

17 The Light of Israel will become a fire, 

their Holy One a flame; 

in a single day it will burn and consume 

his thorns and his briers. 

18 The splendor of his forests and fertile fields 

it will completely destroy, 

as when a sick person wastes away. 

19 And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few 

that a child could write them down.
Isaiah 10:5-19

At this point, some may ask “If indeed God uses the King of Assyria as his weapon of judgment (v15) against Israel in spite of such not being what he intends in his mind to do personally, why does he pronounce woe upon him (v5)?”
   While the destruction of Israel may not be upon the King of Assyria’s agenda IN HIS MIND, his HEART IS STILL INCLINED towards tyranny and destruction (v8-11) – which is still displeasing to God.  
   Additionally, when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was very explicit when it comes to describing where Pilate’s authority came from:

4  Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6  When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7  The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8  When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9  He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10  So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11  Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
John 19:4-11
          
Pontius Pilate was by no means a wilful servant of God. He wasn’t even a “seeker”. He led the Roman occupation to oppress and enslave the people of Israel. While at the end of the day he was accountable to Caesar, who does Jesus say is the one who ultimately gives him the authority to do anything or have ultimate jurisdiction regarding legal matters within the Palestine region?
   God.
   Furthermore, scripture tells us that believers are commanded to honour those that are in authority regardless of who they are or whether or not they themselves submit to God’s commands:

13  Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 1:13-17

We are also commanded to pray not against ungodly authority, but rather that we be at peace with them for the sake of advancing the gospel:

1  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Regardless of whether they be an Assyrian king or a humble gentile like Cornelius, Christians are not called to directly rebel against those whom God places in authority according to His sovereign decree – this also includes dictators and despots. What I’d like to ask Bill Johnson is whether a Christian like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who lived in Nazi Germany under the Third Reich would be obligated to follow the instructions of 1 Peter 1:13-17 and 1 Timothy 2:1-4 in the same manner that the New Testament Christians would have been asked to honor the authority of the Emperor Nero, if he believes that not all authority is under God’s control.

   What about the notion of “humanity gets to live through partnership” or the illustration of God being handcuffed until our prayers set him free? When the Apostle Paul stood in the Areopagus in Athens and addressed the Greek philosophers, he explained upfront that

24  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27  that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.
Acts 17:24-27

What sets the God of Israel apart from the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon is that he exists independent of his creation and that mankind in no way at all either’s aids or hinders his will. To the contrary, it is God who sustains the human will to live and act, not vice versa. To suggest otherwise would be to decree a return to paganism wherein Jehovah would be no more a “god” then Zeus or Hera. Contrary to what Bill Johnson is saying, God doesn’t need partners or delegates.

   What about the notion of if “God is in control of everything, then you have to look at crisis and tragedy and whether he allowed it for a purpose”? Does this mean than, that even despicable actions like the rape and murder of innocent children in third world countries, are God-ordained even though such actions are clearly against God’s Law? Is God responsible if it was he that decreed it? 

   In a recent Facebook status, Bill Johnson said:

It's a perversion to think that God creates evil so Jesus can show His power. There's enough evil in the world without God working both sides. While God is able to use the devil as a pawn on a chess board, He is not in partnership with him.[i]


 James White answers:

 “If he didn’t, than that is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose. What I’m saying is – Yes, because if not, it’s meaningless and purposeless, and though God knew it was going to happen, he created it without a purpose. That means God brought the evil into existence knowing it was going to exist but for no purpose, for no redemption, for nothing positive, nothing good.
   If God did decree it, it must have meaning, it must have purpose. All suffering has a purpose as does everything it this world, so there is no basis for despair.
   But if we believe that God created knowing that all of this was going to happen, without any decree; he just created and all this evil is out there and there is no purpose, then every rape, every situation like that is a purposeless evil and indeed would be responsible for the creation of any despair that results from it. That is not what I believe.”[ii] 


William Lane Craig adds that the allowance of evil’s existence on God’s part is by no means a contradiction to the existence and character of God Himself as being all-powerful, all-loving and all-Holy. God, being God, has sufficient reason for ordaining evil even if we in our finite minds cannot comprehend it immediately:





    Last but not least, is God really an “egomaniac” if he really is indeed in charge and in control of everything and allows tragedy, evil and suffering for no other reason than to conquer in the name of showing his power? Says John Piper:

   “This is not megalomania because, unlike our self-exaltation, God’s self-exaltation draws attention to what gives greatest and longest joy, namely, himself. When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God. When God exalts himself, he manifests the one thing that can satisfy our souls, namely, God.
   Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act, since love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying, namely, God. Therefore, when God exalts God and commands us to join him, he is pursuing our highest, deepest, longest happiness. This is love, not megalomania.
   God’s pursuit of his glory and our pursuit of our joy turn out to be the same pursuit. This is what Christ died to achieve. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”. When we are brought to God as our highest treasure, he gets the glory and we get the pleasure.
   To see this and believe this and experience this is radically transforming to worship—whether personal or corporate, marketplace or liturgical.”[iii]

In answer to Bill Johnson’s accusation of the all-sovereign God being driven to be an “egomaniac”, according to John Piper, God alone is the sole being with the right to even do so.

 

View of Jesus

The Apostle Paul warned the church that with the spread of Christianity, there will be conflicting views as to the nature of who Jesus is and how we define the gospel:

4  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
2 Corinthians 11:4


If you were to walk through the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane and conducted an unbiased survey of what non-Christians from any and all races, cultures and religions that about Jesus, you would be sure to get some different yet interesting answers, but no doubt you would see that there is no question as to the popularity of Jesus in multicultural society.

   If you were to go to a Jehovah’s Witness, they would say that “Jesus is a created being. He’s actually the archangel Michael.”
   If you went to a Mormon and said, “Who is Jesus?”, they would say, “He’s not eternal God, but he’s a polygamist man who was the half brother of Lucifer that became one of many gods.
   If you ask a New Ager, “What do you think about Jesus?”, you’ll get a lot of opinions, but many of them will be congruent with the teachings of Deepak Chopra who said, “I see Christ as a state of consciousness that we can all aspire to.”
   If you go to a Bahá'í, they will say that “Jesus is a manifestation of God, or perhaps a prophet of God, but inferior to Mohamed and Bahá'u'lláh.”
   If you go to someone who is Hindu in heritage, you will find that they have a lot of differing views within Hinduism, but the general answer will either be, “Jesus Christ is not God, but he is an enlightened man like Krishna,” or, “If he is God, he is one of more than a million God’s, so he’s not the only God. He’s not exclusive and special.”
   And if you go to those who are Muslim, they will say that “Jesus is not God – that he is merely a man and that he’s a prophet, but he’s a prophet who is lesser than the prophet Mohamed.”
   If you ask a Scientologist such as Tom Cruise, “Who is Jesus?”, they will say that “he is an implant forced upon a Thetan about a million years ago.”

   There are two basic ways to err on the identity of Jesus. One is to say, “He’s God, but he’s not really a man.” The other is to say, “He’s a good man, but he’s not really God.” So what is Jesus? Is he a man who became a God? Is he a God who became a man? Or is he some sort of hybrid like the heroes of ancient mythology such as Hercules who possessed both mortal and divine lineage which resulted in them having great powers and abilities?

   First of all, Scripture teaches us that yes, Jesus was a human being.

Though conceived in the womb of a virgin, Jesus was borne from a natural birth

30  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1:30-33



Jesus had a soul

38  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
Matthew 26:38



Jesus had a flesh and blood body

14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

14  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil
Hebrews 2:14



Jesus matured from infancy to adulthood, growing physically and mentally

40  And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Luke 2:40



Jesus had limitations in physical health and stamina, hence requiring rest and nutrition

6  Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
John 4:6

2  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:2

24  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
Matthew 8:24



Jesus also had human emotions

37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38  See, your house is left to you desolate.
Matthew 23:37-38

35  Jesus wept.
John 11:35



   There was nothing about Jesus that made him more or less human than you or I. He lived with us, he ate with us, he sang with us, he wept with us; He came to earth as one of us completely.[iv]

14  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:14-15






As beautifully sung in the “Ode to Joy”:

God our Father,
Christ, our Brother
All who live in love are Thine
Teach us how to love each other
Lift us to the joy divine


   Nonetheless, Jesus is unlike us in that while on Earth, he also demonstrated personal attributes that are clearly of divine origin and nature which were thought to belong to God alone.

Omnipotence in Works

11  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
John 14:11

25  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26  but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30  I and the Father are one.”
31  The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33  The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36  do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37  If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
John 10:25-38

20  And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22  When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25  And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26  And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
Luke 5:20-26


Omniscience as to divine knowledge

24  But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
John 2:24-25

29  His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30  Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”
John 16:29-30



Pre-existence

53  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
John 8:53-58



Authority over demons

35  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36  And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37  And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
Luke 4:35-37



Infallibility

44  And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
John 12:44-50



Jesus was clearly and definitely divine.[v] So what exactly was he? Human or God?
   Simple answer: both.
   Throughout church history, theologians have used the term Hypostatic Union to describe Jesus’ nature as being fully God AND fully Man. Not 50/50, not 2/3 Man + 1/3 God or vice versa, but that Jesus was fully 100% both man and God within the one person here on Earth.
   In his first epistle, the Apostle John makes it clear that having the correct view of Jesus is they key to discerning as to whether any spirit is from God or whether it represents a counterfeit:

1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4  Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5  They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6  We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:1-6




That being said, what does Bill Johnson and Bethel Church have to say about the nature of Jesus Christ?

From Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth:

   “Jesus could not heal the sick. Neither could He deliver the tormented from demons or raise the dead. To believe otherwise is to ignore what He said about Himself, and more importantly, to miss the purpose of His self-imposed restriction to live as a man.
   Jesus Christ said of Himself, “The Son can do nothing.” In the greek language the word nothing has a unique meaning – it means NOTHING, just like it does in English! He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever! While he is 100 per cent God, He chose to live with the same limitations that man would face once He was redeemed. He made that point over and over again. Jesus became the model for all who would embrace the invitation to invade the impossible in His name.  He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God… not as God. If He performed miracles because he was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle.”[xii]



On his Twitter page Bill Johnson repeated this statement by saying:

“Jesus did not come to show us what God could do. He came to show us what one man could do who was rightly related to God.”[xiii]

   What Bill Johnson is espousing is a teaching called Kenosis Theory – this view (which only became popular among theologians during the 1860s onwards) holds that Christ gave up some of His divine attributes while he was on Earth as a man such as omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. This was viewed as a voluntary self-limitation on Christ’s part, which he carried out in order to fulfil his work of redemption.[xiv]  Adherents of such theology will point to Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

But does Philippians 2 teach that Christ, in the process of incarnation, emptied himself of some divine attributes? 
According to Wayne Grudem:

   “The evidence of Scripture points to a negative. We must first realize that no recognized teacher in the first 1800 years of church history, including those who were native speakers of Greek, thought that “emptied himself”(v7) meant that the son of God gave up any of His divine attributes. Second, we must recognize that the text does not say that Christ “emptied himself of some powers” or “emptied himself of divine attributes” or anything like that. Third, the text does describe what Jesus did in this “emptying”: he did not do it by giving up any of his attributes but rather by “taking the form of a servant”, that is, by coming to live as a man, and “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v8). The emptying includes change of role and status, not essential attributes and nature.”[xv]  

   And yet, Bill Johnson insists that Jesus emptied himself of not just some divine attributes, but all of them! While he affirms Jesus’ eternal deity, he clearly does not affirm Jesus’ incarnational deity, and instead merely puts Him on a par with anyone who is “in right relationship to God.”

   Even stranger still is the following statement made during a sermon entitled “Jesus is Our Model”:





“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.
 In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”  He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’”[xvi]

 
Did Jesus become sin? If so, when? Was it at His incarnation? Was it on the cross?  Was it some time in between?
   As we examine Scripture we find, of course, that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life. However, Scripture does say He ‘became sin’ as substitution for ours:

21God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  
2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus Christ did not ‘become sin’ in that He did not become a sinful being with corruptible flesh but, rather, our sins were imputed to Him by the Father to atone for the sins of all who believe on Him. If on the other hand, Jesus did become sinful and had to be regenerated or “born again” as John 3 describes, who then, atones for the atoner?
   That can’t be logically correct.
   If such were the case, then Jesus offered himself as an unclean sacrifice on the cross, and in turn the crucifixion was an act done in vain.
Johnson says:

And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”

Acts 13 explains what, exactly? How does the birth of Jesus impact the resurruction? What does either have to do with being “born again”?
Johnson continues:

He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.

If we take his words at face value, here he seems to be inferring that Jesus only became God’s Son at the resurrection.  By making this statement, Johnson not only denies the incarnational deity of Christ, he denies the eternal sonship of Jesus as well.
   (Listen carefully to the audio of the sermon and you will clearly hear some in the congregation laughing in response to Johnson’s theology. It is no surprise why…)[xvii]


   Speaking of the full deity of Christ as confirmed by Scripture and by Church History, Pentecostal theologian Kevin J. Conner says with due frankness:

“It is impossible to deny or reject the truth of the deity of the Son of God in the light of these scriptures. For Jesus to accept such claims, worship, titles and works as ascribed or attributed to Him, if he were not God, would be utter blasphemy. No saint ever made such claims or accepted homage, which would have been presumptuous sin and worthy of death. But Jesus accepted and demonstrated the claims of deity. Jesus, the Son of God is indeed deity; God manifest in the Flesh. The true believer can only exclaim with Thomas “My LORD and my GOD” (John 20:28).”[xviii]

   If this is what Bill Johnson and Bethel Church believe about the person of Jesus Christ, surely Bill Johnson’s anthropology (view of man) would also reveal itself to have similar discrepancies with scriptural precedent.
   Are believers to model Jesus’ example of obedience unto God the father? Yes! The Apostle Paul instructed the churches to:

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1


But what exactly does that involve? Are we to merely obey Jesus? Or are we to imitate him in all that he said and did – including the supernatural?
   Bill Johnson’s answer lies in the aforementioned quote from When Heaven Invades Earth:

Jesus became the model for all who would embrace the invitation to invade the impossible in His name.  He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God… not as God. If He performed miracles because he was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle.

Johnson attributes the miracles of Jesus not to His divinity as God incarnate, but to right relationship with God as a man without any divine attributes at all. If Christians  possess such a relationship as well, it is only fitting then, that we can do everything and anything that Jesus did: heal the sick, raise the dead, perform signs and wonders – not just in the format of spiritual gifts and charismata as described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and the book of Acts, but EXACTLY as Jesus demonstrated in the gospel accounts.
   If someone is sick and needs healing, don’t pray for the healing as we are instructed to do with faith as described in James 5:13-16, just command the healing to happen. That’s what Jesus did.
   If you’re planning an outdoor event and you see dark clouds on the horizon and the weather forecast is predicting a storm, don’t pray for a change in weather, command the coming storm to dissipate. Jesus did it – never mind that Jesus is actually God – you should do it to.
   If this is what Bethel honestly believes and practices, the question has to be asked, where was the ministry team from Bethel when south-east Queensland was flooded or when cyclone Yasi hit Cairns just recently? If believers can declare the authority to command such things not to happen, why did it even have to occur?

   In his book Dreaming with God, Johnson says:

‘“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Prov. 18:21 NASB). With our speech we design and alter our environment. Realities are created that didn’t exist a moment earlier through simple proclamations. With this tool we can build up or tear down, edify or discourage, give life or destroy it. The declared word has the capacity to resource earth with Heaven’s resources. As reformers we must first pay attention to what we say, realizing that we are actually building the world we have to live in.”[xix]



   Do we really have the power to shape realities through our own words? Bill Johnson cites Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” to suggest that we mortal humans have the power to creatively shape the world around us. But let’s look at the verse in context:

21  Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Bill Johnson didn’t even quote the whole verse!
The application of the verse is very simple: those who can’t keep their mouths shut will one day have to face the consequences of what they say – especially when it comes to what they have to say to and of others. Yet what Johnson and so many others do is take the verse, half-quote it, ignore the author’s original context and over-spiritualize it to support a theology that has no basis is scripture. The ability to form and shape realities by the power of thoughts and words belongs to God alone. He is the sole creator, we are but his creation.
   Furthermore, compare Johnson’s above statement with the popular new-age phenomenon The Secret:






When I was at University studying World Religions as part of my Arts degree, I did an elective on Greco-Roman mythology. In a tutorial session, our lecturer put forward an interesting question: “Based on what we know about the world religions and the myths of antiquity, what are the fundamental differences between prayer and magic?”
   After some friendly discussion and debate, the class settled upon a consistant definition based on our shared knowledge:

Prayer is an act of petition where we submit ourselves to higher powers – Gods, angels, spirits, saints - in the hope that they will move in our favor.

Magic is an act of assertion where we impose our own will over our environment – both natural and supernatural.


By stripping Jesus of his divinity and placing it instead into the hands of believers, Bill Johnson blurs the practical distinction between prayer and magic, essentially allowing the latter to bleed into the former in spite of the fact that magic, witchcraft and sorcery are explicitly condemned practices throughout the Old and New Testaments.
   Some may still object by quoting John 14:12-14:

12  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Surely this means that believers can out-do Jesus in his own power and miraculous actions, right? Actually, no. The greek word for “greater works” is megas μέγας, which Strong’s defines as “big (literally or figuratively, in a very wide application)”. Thayer’s gives a more specific definition:

1) great
   1a) of the external form or sensible appearance of things (or of persons)
      1a1) in particular, of space and its dimensions, as respects
         1a1a) mass and weight: great
         1a1b) compass and extent: large, spacious
         1a1c) measure and height: long
 
The phrase “greater works” refers to greatness is a quantitative sense, not qualitative. While on Earth, Jesus did indeed demonstrate miracles that testified of his divinity, but nonetheless he did these things as but one person within the confines of time and space. The church on the other hand consists of millions of people over a course of two thousand years. While Christians will never truly be on a par with Jesus in power and divinity, we can nonetheless do more as we number in the millions over a two thousand year period worldwide while Jesus was just one person who ministered in a three year time frame.

   Also consider the following clip from Kris Valloton:





First of all, Kris Valloton quotes Daniel 7:27:

27  And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

Valloton goes on to say

“Did you get that? You were born to rule and reign with Him. And when He sees Jesus, he sees you.”

Let’s take a look at this section of Daniel’s prophetic vision in context:

19  “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20  and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21  As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22  until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
23  “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24  As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25  He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26  But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27  And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’
28  “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”
Daniel 7:19-28

This prophecy depicts the war between the “beasts” – the kings and tyrants who will dominate the wold culminating in the advent of the antichrist – who will wage relentless war against believers. Eventually these regimes will be overcome, these kings brought before the Great White Throne of Judgment where Jesus Christ will preside as judge, after which the church shall reign with Christ in the kingdom of Heaven during the Millennial age. In short, this is a future event to unfold in redemptive history.
   Valloton on the other hand, jumps the proverbial gun by saying that believers are born to have their rule and dominion not in the future in heaven with Christ, but in this present age on Earth for such is what we were born and entitled to. He completely disregards the futurist context of Daniel’s prophecy and that the believers’ heavenly reign will only start after the nations are brought before the Great White Throne Judgment. Instead, it’s right here, right now. Furthermore, he goes as far as to take that which refers to Jesus’ lordship over the nations and reads himself into the text.

   If one were to summarize the underlying spirit behind what it is being taught at Bethel regarding the denial of the divinity of Christ in relation to the identity of the believer, one can simply say of Jesus “Anything you can do, I can do better.”



View of Sickness and Healing

   Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of Bethel Church is it’s emphasis on miraculous healing. If you listen to any of Bill Johnson’s sermon’s, you will hear at least one testimony per week of someone being miraculously healed. On Saturday mornings, one can visit Bethel’s Healing Rooms where the staff will pray for those that have various ailments and sicknesses.[xx]

   Let me say first of all that I personally do believe that God can and will heal the sick in response to prayer. I have seen firsthand people healed of conditions doctors would write off as “incurable”. Furthermore, if someone at my church approached me requesting prayer for healing, I wouldn’t hesitate in laying hands upon that person and praying with them for God to extend his grace upon their health. Nonetheless, the issue of sickness and healing in relation to Christian living overall is a deeply personal manner.
   Consider the life of Joni Earickson Tada, who at the age of seventeen became a quadriplegic after a diving accident in shallow water left her with permanent spinal damage:

   But hope is hard to come by. I should know. I remember the time when I was once busy dying. It wasn’t long after I had broken my neck in a diving accident that I spent one particularly hopeless week in the hospital. I had endured long surgeries to shave down the bony prominences on my back, and it was a long recovery. I had lost a great deal of weight. And for almost three weeks I was forced to lie facedown on what’s called a Stryker frame—a long, flat canvas sandwich where they put you faceup for three hours and then strap another piece of canvas on you and flip you facedown to lie there for another three hours.
Trapped facedown, staring at the floor hour after hour, my thoughts grew dark and hopeless. All I could think was, “Great, God. Way to go. I’m a brand-new Christian. This is the way you treat your new Christians? I’m young in the faith. I prayed for a closer walk with you. If this is your idea of an answer to prayer, I am never going to trust you with another prayer again. I can’t believe that I have to lie facedown and do nothing but count the tiles on the floor on this stupid torture rack. I hate my existence.” I asked the hospital staff to turn out the lights, close the blinds, close the door, and if anybody came in—visitor, parent,
   My thoughts got darker because no longer was my bitterness a tiny trickle. It had become a raging torrent, and in the middle of the night I would imagine God holding my sin up before my face and saying lovingly but firmly, “Joni, what are you going to do about this? What are you going to do about this attitude? It is wrong. This sin is wrong. Get rid of it.” But I, hurting and stubborn, preferred my sins. I preferred my peevish, snide, small-minded, mean-spirited comments, grunting at people when they walked in or out, and letting food drool out of my mouth. Those were sins that I had made my own.
   You know what it’s like when you make sin your own. You house- break it. You domesticate it. You shield it from the Spirit’s scrutiny. I did not want to let go of the sick, strange comfort of my own misery.
   So God gave me some help. About one week into that three-week stint of lying facedown, staring at the floor, waiting for my back to heal, I got hit with a bad case of the flu. And suddenly, not being able to move was peanuts compared to not being able to breathe. I was claustrophobic. I was suffering. I was gasping for breath. I could not move. All was hopeless. All was gone. I was falling backward, head over heels, down for the count, decimated.
   And I broke. I thought, “I can’t do this. I can’t live this way. I would rather die than face this.” Little did I realize that I was echoing the sentiments of the apostle Paul, who in 2 Corinthians 1:8 talks of being “so utterly burdened beyond [his] strength that [he] despaired of life itself.” Indeed, he even had in his heart the sentence of death. “O God, I don’t have the strength to face this. I would rather die. Help me.” That was my prayer. That was my anguish.[xxi]



Most of us would know at least one person suffering from a severe ailment that would prompt us to cry out in prayer on behalf of that individual. So what does Bethel church teach about healing and sickness?
   Consider the following taken from Bill Johnson’s sermon “Practical Steps to Change the World”:

"If you come to me today; If you come to our ministry team and God heals your body, Guess what, it was God. If he doesn't, it was us. See, people are either healed - they're always healed because of God. And they're not healed because of me, because of you, or because there's an atmosphere we don't know how to dismantle. The point is, the lack is never on God's end of the equation"[xxii]

Is he actually suggesting that the difference as to whether God answers prayer for healing lies purely in human hands? There are three implications I see emerging from such a mentality:
   Firstly, suppose that God is not the author of evil and/or suffering and that tragedy, death and illness are never within His will but healing and restoration are: If it is God's will to heal someone, and a person is not healed, then the omnipotent God has just been frustrated. In which case, he ceases to be God, by definition.
   Secondly, it suggests that God's power is essentially limited by human influence. Yet didn't the apostle Paul say that [God] "is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:25). 
   Thirdly, if one hold to the view that "If you come to our ministry team and God heals your body, Guess what, it was God. If he doesn't, it was us" and a person prays for healing from ailment for either themselves or another and that prayer is not answered, who's to blame for it? According to Johnson, it’s Joni Earickson Tada’s fault that she’s still confined to a wheelchair in spite of her steadfast faith in the midst of suffering; she has no one to blame but herself and those who pray for her as the “lack is never on God’s end of the equation”.
   Rather than submitting to the truth that God is sovereign and can hence choose whether he wants to heal or not according to his own pleasure, people will either blame themselves or each other due to lack of faith. Unfortunately, the former is simply not compatible with the doctrine Bill Johnson asserts:






Says Johnson in his book Face to Face with God:

   When we allow sickness, torment and poverty to be thought of as the God-ordanied tools He uses to make us more like Jesus, we have participated in a very shameful act. There is no doubt He can use them, as He is also known to be able to use the devil himself for His purposes. (He can win with a pair of twos.) But to think that these things are released into our lives through His design, or that He approved such things, is to undermine the work at Calvary. To do so one must completely disregard the life of Christ and the purpose of the Cross. None of us would say that he died for my sins but still intends that I should be bound by sin habits. Neither did he pay for my healing and deliverance so I could continue in torment and disease. His provision for such things is not figurative: it is actual.[xxiii]

First of all, scripture is clear that yes, God does allow and cause sickness simply because he is the one who quickens, sustains and ends all life within his providence:

11  Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Exodus 4:11

39  “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39

6  The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7  The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8  He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's,
and on them he has set the world.
9  “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10  The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the power of his anointed.”
1 Samuel 2:6-10

13  Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

Also consider the narrative of the child conceived by David’s seduction of Bathsheba:

7
  Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8  And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9  Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11  Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
13  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the L
ORD.”
And Nathan said to David, “The L
ORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15  Then Nathan went to his house.
And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16  David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17  And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
18  On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”
 19  But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”
They said, “He is dead.”
20  Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
21  Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22  He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23  But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:7-23

Who or what brought sickness and death upon David and Bathsheba’s child? Was it David’s sin alone, or did God actually have a hand in it?
   One only has to read the book of Job to see that when it comes to the relationships man has with himself, the world, the devil, his fellow men and last but not least, God himself in relation to sickness and healing, God is still in control – even when we’re pushed to the brink of openly denouncing such.
   The gospel of John recounts an incident where Jesus and the disciples encounter a man who had been born blind. The disciples attempt to pry by attributing this man’s blindness to sin on his part or that of his parentage under the false notion that health is from God, sickness is from sin. Yet look at how Jesus deals with the situation:

1  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6  Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7  and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
John 9:1-7

How is it exactly “that the works of God might be displayed in him”? Was it through the healing, or was it through the blind mans history of infirmity – that the man’s blindness and the subsequent healing were not at odds with each other in God’s sovereign will, but were both part of God’s overall plan for the life of this individual that God will receive glory through both sickness AND healing?


   What about the notion that Christ died for our sicknesses so that we may be healed? Is healing part of the atonement? The answer may come as a surprise: yes and no.
   Often what is used as a proof-text is the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:4; that the coming Christ will take upon himself our own infirmities through his own sufferings:

4  Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. (emphasis added)

All too often, “our griefs” and “our sorrows” is interpreted to mean “our sicknesses” and “our pain” respectively. While there may indeed be some truth in this interpretation, it should be noted that within the Hebrew language, single words can carry multiple meanings.
Let’s look at the accompanying verse to see if it sheds any further insight:

4  Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5  But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (emphasis added)

Very clearly, the context of Isaiah 53:4-5 is not that the sufferings of the coming messiah will necessarily result in physical healing, but rather spiritual; more specifically, healing the effects of our sins in our relationship with God. Yet how many times have we seen this passage used as a proof text by those who claim to move in healings, signs and wonders?
   That being said, it begs the question: is Isaiah 53 referenced in the New Testament to describe our atonement, and does it say anything about healing? Indeed there are:

24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:24


Again, the context seems to be spiritual healing in relation to sin. There is one more occurrence:

14  And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15  He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16  That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Matthew 8:14-17
  
Matthew does indeed interpret Isaiah 53:4 to mean physical healing.
   So what are we to say? It should be remembered first and foremost that everything that Jesus said and did was framed around the reason why Jesus came to earth: to make atonement for our sins by dying on the cross.

1  And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2  And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3  And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7  And he rose and went home. 8  When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Matthew 9:1-8 (emphasis added)

Jesus always healed and performed miracles with the purpose of making a bold declaration of whom he was and why he came to Earth.
   So is healing part of the atonement? In the broader scheme of salvation, yes. The reason why sickness and death exist is because we live in a fallen world wherein our physical bodies have become corrupted by Adam and Eve’s transgression. When Jesus died on the cross to make atonement for sin, he not only paid for our individual transgressions, he died to make expiation from the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin as well – including sickness and death.
   So indeed it is true that Jesus paid the price for our healing. Where many err however, is with regards to what aspects of the atonement are readily applicable here and now on Earth in this present age, and what will be evident when we go to heaven to live with Jesus.

51  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53


Speaking of his struggles with Cerebral Palsy, evangelist Justin Peters says of this topic:

“No offense to anyone, but I don’t see anyone here today walking around with a glorified body. I’ve known a few people vain enough who would like to think they do… but I can promise you they don’t. It’s provided for in the atonement, but it’s not promised for you here.
   When I die and I go to heaven, I’m not taking my crutches with me. I’m not going to need them, because my healing has been provided for in the atonement. But to be real honest with you, when I die, and I go to heaven, and I step into the presence of God, I don’t think it’s even going to cross my mind that I can walk. I don’t think it’s ever going to dawn on me that I won’t need my crutches, because I’m going to have better things to think about. I will be in worship of, in fellowship with, in service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; I don’t think it’s even going to cross my mind that suddenly I can walk as I’ll have better things to think about.
   Praised Be His Name.”[xxiv]


Contrary to Bill Johnson’s theology and teachings, even in  New Testament times, those who did partake of the New Covenant and became faithful followers of Christ still experienced physical sickness:

25  I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26  for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27  Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28  I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
Philippians 2:25-28

22  Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23  (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
1 Timothy 5:22-23

19  Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20  Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21  Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.
2 Timothy 4:19-21

12
  Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13  You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14  and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Galatians 4:12-14

Even the Apostle Paul, for whom healings and miracles was a regular part of his own ministry, still had to call upon Luke to serve as his personal physician when traveling:

12  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13  For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14  Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
Colossians 4:12-14

10  For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11  Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
2 Timothy 4:10-11

There is a seemingly cruel irony in that while Paul himself had the gift of healing and it greatly aided his preaching of the gospel, he still had a doctor present to lend support when worse came to worse.


In a recent facebook status, Bill Johnson admitted:

I teach to equip people to live like Jesus. I'm in process. I wear glasses. I had surgery for a hernia last year. My oldest son wears hearing aides. We have seen thousands of miracles, but we are far from arriving. We are not healers or we'd heal ourselves. We have also had thousands not healed. Our passion is to re-present Jesus to the world. I will not stop beating this drum to see who else will pay the price.[xxv]

At least he’s being honest.
Even so, without wanting to pry into the personal lives of either Bill Johnson or his immediate family, if he honestly believes that “the lack is never on God’s part”, who then is to blame for his son’s deafness?

5  For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?
1 Timothy 3:5

This may sound like a “low blow”, but taking into account his views of healing and sickness coupled with his Christology, by failing to remove sickness and healing in his own family, has not Bill Johnson admitted to forfeiting the qualifications of the pastoral office by default?




“Jesus is Our model” – View of Scripture

With so much of what Bill Johnson and Bethel Church teach being against what is clearly taught in scripture, we now come to the obvious and perhaps most important question: what do they have to say about the Bible?
   Consider the following clip from Kris Valloton:






At first it may seem admirable to say that “God is bigger than the Bible”. After all, we see it constantly misused, misinterpreted, misapplied. But is there any truth behind the idea that “God is bigger than the bible” or that the scriptures only contain some of God’s revelation?

1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
John 1:1-9

The greek word for “Word” that John uses in John 1 is of course logos, however John’s use as well as the actual meaning of the word is more than just mere verbatim. Within the context of greek thinking, logos is the “first cause”, it is the originating point from which all existence – logic, reality, knowledge, existence. All manner of creation comes from the logos.

   John’s use of logos has three purposes:
1. He explains the creation account in a manner that the gentile reader versed in the greek worldview will understand
2. He presents the God of the Christians as being vastly superior to the God of the greeks and Romans in the sense that while the latter were merely supernatural beings vastly superior to humans, the Christian God is the actual creator of the cosmos.
3. Creates a clear basis for the gospel being logical in nature and presupposition i.e., “In the beginning was logic, and logic was with God, for God is logic. And logic became flesh.”

   With this is mind, one must acknowledge logos/Logic/Revelation to be an essential attribute of God. logos/Logic/Revelation could not have come before God, as that would mean God would be subject to a Law higher than himself. At the same, logos/Logic/Revelation could not have existed after God as a created entity, because if such were the case, it would be impossible for God and man to communicate in such a way that anything that God spoke would only be confined to the analogous (e.g., if the logos-less God were to say to anyone “I love You”, he would have to create the revelation rather than having it spring forth from his own mouth). Any concept of God that is not qualified by an absolute, objective revelation can only be expected to conclude in agnosticism – an essential belief in the possibility of a God, yet an open lack of belief in specific personal attributes and character.

   It is also wrong to suggest that certain “truths” are stronger than others (e.g., the seeming contrast between God’s justice vs God’s mercy). logos/Logic/Revelation, being an attribute of God, must therefore be singular, not plural, therefore there can only be one “truth.” If logos/Logic/Revelation was either progressive or transitional, this would mean that the nature and character of God is subject to change. If such is the case, “God” ceases to be God as God must be immutable in nature and form.

   Using the logos/Logic/Revelation of God as the foundation for the worldview he is to present in his account of the gospel, John throws down the gauntlet at any other means by which man may wish to seek and comprehend knowledge.[xxvi]

   There are no doubt those who will try to say “You can study the Bible all you want, but until you experience God personally, you will never really know him.” To the contrary however, it is by the Bible that God is defined.[xxvii]

   If one makes the statement that “God is bigger than the Bible”, it must also be asked if God is perhaps bigger than some of his other attributes such as holiness, grace and mercy if revelation is as much a part of His character.

   What about the content of scripture? Consider the following clip from Bill Johnson:




Johnson said:

 
 “The Lord wants to give revelation at a measure that I don’t think has ever happened in history. The spirit of revelation is being released upon the church, but let me tell you about one of the things that make room for the Spirit of Revelation to come is that we are willing to embrace mystery. What you don’t understand is as important as what you do.”

Is the embracing of mystery truly the key to seeing more of the Holy Spirit moving within the church today? Consider the words of Jesus when he promised the disciples the Holy Spirit:

25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:25-27

Jesus promised that one of the essential duties of the Holy Spirit is to bring understanding and remembrance of the things of God. In  the book of Acts, when we see the gospel proclaimed when men such as Peter on the day of Pentecost or Stephen before the Sanhedran are led and inspired by the Holy Spirit, one of the essential attributes of their speaking is both depth and clarity even though by social standards, these men were just commoners are far as education to the degree that the scribes and lawyers were amazed by what they heard. The Apostles didn’t speak riddles – especially not when they called their listeners to respond in repentance and faith.

   Furthermore, when we examine the view of Scripture held by Jesus and the disciples, what we see is that their regard for God’s revelation is anything but mysterious – to the contrary, the revelation of God is so clear that men are held responsible for their response to such:

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:18-21

The revelation of God is evident in creation; one can simply look at nature in it’s order and precision and conclude “There’s God! He’s real!”. It is also evident in the fact that God has given us a conscience to discern his Law even if they may or may not have been taught upfront:

14  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16  on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:14-16

Furthermore, when it comes to what we now know as the Old Testament, Jesus himself approaches it as being so clear that he openly expects anyone and everyone – both the uneducated laity of Israel as well as the scholars and scribes equally – to be able to understand it.
Says John Macarthur:

   “The Old Testament Scripture which may seem to some people a bit unclear is in fact so clear that God holds people and has always held them responsible for what was revealed in the Old Testament.  Jesus Himself, for example, in His teaching, in His conversations, in His dialogues and disputes and debates never ever one time said to the Jews, “I understand your confusion.  The Old Testament is really hard, very difficult and often unclear.”  He never says that... never.  He is speaking to first century people.  They are a thousand years from David.  They are 1500 years from Moses.  And they are two thousand years after Abraham.  And Jesus still assumes that they are able to read and rightly interpret the Old Testament Scripture.  If it were impossible to understand the scriptures for some people who were removed a thousand years away, or two thousand years away as they’re telling us it is for those of us now removed two thousand years from the writing of the New Testament, then we would expect that Jesus would say something like, “I see how your problem arose.” 
   But He never said that. 
   And whether He is speaking to scholars, Pharisees and scribes, or to common people, He always assumes that they are to blame for their misunderstanding of any teaching in the Scripture.  Again and again He says, “Have you not read?  Have you never read?  Have you never read the scriptures?”  He says to them, “You’re wrong because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  Your problem is, you don’t search the scriptures.  They are they which speak of Me.”
   It is even to be understood by uninitiated Gentiles.  Paul writing to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10, says, “The Old Testament scriptures were given for our instruction even as Gentiles.”  And when the Lord was on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, He opened the Old Testament, the law of the prophets and the holy writings, and He explained to them the things concerning Himself which they ought to have already understood.
   I think about the New Testament epistles.  You say, “Well, the New Testament’s really hard.”  Is that right?  New Testament epistles were not written to theologians, they were not written to church leaders, they were not written to scholars, they were written to congregations, to the church of God at Corinth, to the churches of Galatia, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, and so forth.  Always to the churches, to the lowest common denominator, the person who was a new believer in Jesus Christ.  And Paul assumes in every letter and so does Peter, and so does James, and so does John, so does Jude, that his hearers will understand exactly what he writes.”[xxviii]

Contrary to what Johnson says, “one of the things that make room for the Spirit of Revelation to come is that we are willing to embrace mystery”, God’s actual revelation as revealed in scripture is anything but mysterious. If God does give revelation, it will be clear, it will be understandable. Any sense of “mystery” lies purely on the end of the recipient, not the revealer.
   If anything, the idea that mystery is the key to unlocking realms of higher knowledge smells more like Gnostic heresy rather than orthodox Christian teaching regarding how God speaks.


   Many have used the book of Job to demonstrate the fallacies within Bill Johnson and other like-minded preachers’ view of sickness and healing. In response, Johnson posted the following on his Twiiter page:

If we allow the life of Job to trump the life of Jesus what will we do with the blood of bulls and goats? Jesus Christ is perfect theology![xxix]

It would seem that within Bill Johnson’s unique view, to look at Job with the intention of examining how it fits within what the Bible has to say about sickness and healing, you may as well go back to the Old Testament sacrificial system altogether under the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant. When we look at the account of the Exodus, there does indeed seem to be precedent for the idea that obedience to the Law will bring either healing or affliction:

If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”
Exodus 15:26

But does the Bible really cast the Old Covenant as a dispensation of sickness with the New Covenant as a dispensation of healing now that we have Jesus?
   As we saw earlier, even in the New Testament church, sickness still happened to the New Covenant saints, just as it continues to happen among believers today.
   Furthermore, the Old Testament does indeed point to occurrences of physical healing:

17  Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
Genesis 20:17

1  Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” 2  The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3  And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4  But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5  “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6  Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7  Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.
Exodus 4:1-7

10  When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11  And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12  Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother's womb.” 13  And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14  But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15  So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.
Numbers 12:10-15

4  And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5  The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6  And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king's hand was restored to him and became as it was before.
1 Kings 13:4-6

1  In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” 2  Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3  “Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4  And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5  “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, 6  and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake.”
2 Kings 20:1-6

Also consider the example of Naaman, the Syrian:

1  Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2  Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3  She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4  So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5  And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
   So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes. 6  And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7  And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
   8  But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9  So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10  And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”  
   11  But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the L
ORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13  But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14  So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
2 Kings 5:1-14

   Jesus himself uses the example of Naaman in his preaching at Capernaum:

23  And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24  And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25  But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26  and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
Luke 4:23-27

Understand who Naaman was: he was the commander of the Syrian army; a nation at war with Israel. He is a gentile; a stranger to the Laws and Covenants God has made. By no means does he have either the right or priveledge of partaking of the promises that God has reserved for Israel. The best he could do if beg God for mercy by means of petitioning the King of Israel and the Prophet Elisha.
   How does Naaman fit into Bill Johnson’s paradigm? He suggests that if you’re going to use Old Testament examples of sickness and healing like Job, you may as well go back to the Old Covenant altogether. But what do you do then, when you see the instance of a gentile getting healed within the frame of such a dispensation?
   The problem with appealing to covenantal distinctions to argue whether God can or cannot do something is that you end up “putting God in a box”.
   The Old Testament was not just the age of law as Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8).
   It was not just the age of works; Abraham believed in God by faith "and it was counted to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
   Neither is the New Testament just an age of grace; Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 15:10)
   And the new covenant, Jeremiah said, will put the "law in their minds and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33).
   And the New Testament is not just faith. James says, your "faith without works is dead."
   So when you're making dispensational distinctions, you have to be very cautious that you do not take one half of God's attributes and place it in one chronological category and the same with the other half and assign it to another. “For I the LORD do not change" (Malachi 3:6)
   Bill Johnson is essentially arguing from a very poorly erected strawman.[xxx]


   If one listens carefully to Bill Johnson’s teachings, a frequent answer he gives to arguments from various portions of Scripture is “Jesus is our model” or “Jesus is perfect theology”. On a recent Facebook status update, Bill Johnson made his view of Scripture all too clear:

Neither the life of Job, nor the plagues in Egypt, or even God hardening the heart of pharaoh has the authority to redefine the perfect revelation of God found in Jesus Christ. The epistles also lack that authority. Jesus defines the scriptures. It really is all about Jesus.[xxxi]
 
Let me say right off the bat that the obvious problem of a “Jesus-Only” hermeneutic is that if you fail to read Christ in context of the entirety of the Bible, you will end up pitting Jesus against the rest of Scripture as well as landing in the confusing setting of reading the rest of God’s word apart from the gospel accounts and asking “Why is God not acting in an Christ-like manner?”
   It would seem that Bill Johnson is all too aware that when his views are brought to bear against the authority of Scripture and not just the example of Jesus alone, it doesn’t measure up. If anything what Johnson is doing quite openly is he is taking Jesus and pitting him against any other precedent in Scripture he feels doesn’t line up - especially if and when God Himself is the central focus behind what is happening. It’s essentially semi-Marcionism.
   Consider how Wayne Grudem defines Systematic Theology as the study of any given doctrine in light of the entirety of Scripture:




Such a practice is simply not on Bill Johnson’s radar screen as by his own admission, he does not believe that all of scripture is authoritative and relevant. He is literally a “red-letter Christian”.

   But what was Jesus’ own view of Scripture?
How he interpret the Bible? Was he a liberal? A neo-orthodox? Or a fundamentalist?
   When Jesus quoted scripture, he seems to presuppose:
1) That the residents of the palestine area were familiar with and not ignorant of the Hebrew Scriptures
and 
2) That said scriptures were able to be understood clearly without confusion i.e., count the number of times in the gospel wherein Jesus says "As it is written...", "Does it not say...", "You have heard it said" etc.






That being said, Jesus wholeheartedly affirmed and believed in:
The Genesis account of creation

4  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5  and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? 6  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 
Matthew 19:4-6


The historicity of Cain and Abel

49  Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 
Luke 11:49-51


The historicity of Noah and the Flood

37  As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
Matthew 24:37-39


The historicity of Abraham


51  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 
John 8:51-56

The historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah

23  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” 
Matthew 11:23-24



The historicity of the account in which Israel was given manna from heaven

49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52  The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 
John 6:49-58



The Davidic authorship of [some of] the Psalms

41  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42  saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44  “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?
45  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. 
Matthew 22:41-46



The historicity of the account of Jonah having been swallowed by a whale

39  But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 
Matthew 12:39-41

The unity and single authorship of the book of Isaiah

38  so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39  Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40  “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41  Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 
John 12:38-41



The authorship of the book of Daniel

15  “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18  and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 
Matthew 24:15-19



The inspiration and authority of the entire Old Testament

49  Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 
Luke 11:49-51


His own place in the Old Testament

25  And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:25-27



The verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture and it’s preservation throughout the ages


17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 
Matthew 5:17-18


Ergo, it would be incorrect to suggest using Jesus as a model for interpreting the Bible in a manner that pits Jesus against the rest of Scripture as Bill Johnson does. Furthermore, the Apostles themselves were actually conscious of the fact that the epistles they were writing were really inspired scriptures:

15  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16  as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
2 Peter 3:15-16

If Jesus were to return today with the New Testament authors and confront Bill Johnson, chances are they would probably not have some very nice things to say about his view of scripture.
   If anything, Jesus openly challenges the religious leaders of Israel who while putting on a façade of having great knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures, in actual fact did not really have a very high view of it:

52  Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering. 
Luke 11:52

23  The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24  saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ 25  Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. 26  So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27  After them all, the woman died. 28  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29  But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31  And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32  ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 
Matthew 22:23-32

   Given Jesus' own view and interpretation of Scripture, why then is it that so many who claim to be his followers do not have the same view as He did? Can one truly be a true disciple if they do not believe the entirety of scripture?[xxxii]
   To put it simply, it is just not Christ-like at all to reject the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture. If Bill Johnson really wants to follow the maxim “Jesus is Our Model”, why then, does he disagree so strongly with Jesus’ view of scripture?


Within the Movement my own church belongs to, one of our essential tenets from which we build our identity is a commitment to being Bible-based:

We believe our faith and practice as Christians is founded and built upon biblical principles.
We emphasise expository preaching and balanced comprehensive teaching so that our members may understand, live out and mature in the Christian life as God intended. Anointed expository preaching allows God’s Word to be expounded in a balanced and complete manner within its proper context to bring about life transformation. [2 Timothy 3:16-17, Nehemiah 8:8, 2 Timothy 2:15, James 1:22][xxxiii]


One of the main reasons why my church has emphasized expository preaching is precisely to avoid the trap of developing biases in teaching; that is, by examining the passages in their actual context(s) and bringing it forward today, the preacher is forced to address all of the issues that scripture will throw at them. The likelihood of any portion of scripture being glossed over is thus kept to a safe minimum.[xxxiv]






   By comparison, when you listen to the sermons of Bill Johnson, Kris Valloton, Danny Silk and other ministers who Bethel Church is associated with, you may hear exciting testimonies, relevant life application, the encouragement to seek God more in personal prayer and worship; but you would be hard-pressed to hear any deep expository preaching that features either systematic theology or in-sermon exegesis that allows the listener to see what the Bible ACTUALLY says in context as opposed to just whatever the preacher would like to say on any given occasion. 
   Says the great revivalist Jonathan Edwards:

   Some that follow impulses and impressions indulge a notion, that they do no other than follow the guidance of God's word, because the impression is made with a text of Scripture that comes to their mind. But they take that text as it is impressed on their minds, and improve it as a new revelation to all intents and purposes; while the text, as it is in the Bible, implies no such thing, and they themselves do not suppose that any such revelation was contained in it before.
   Suppose, for instance, that text should come into a person's mind with strong impression, Acts ix. 6. "Arise, and go into the city; and it shall be told thee what thou must do;" and he should interpret it as an immediate signification of the will of God, that he should now forthwith go to such a neighbouring town, and there he should meet with a further discovery of his duty. If such things as these are revealed by the impression of these words, it is to all intents a new revelation, not the less because certain words of Scripture are made use of in the case. Here are propositions or truths entirely new, that those words do not contain.
   These propositions, that it is God's mind and will that such a person by name should arise at such a time, and go to such a place, and that there he should meet with discoveries, are entirely new propositions, wholly different from those contained in that text of Scripture. They are no more implied in the words themselves, without a new revelation, than it is implied that he should arise and go to any other place, or that any other person should arise and go to that place.
   The propositions, supposed to be now revealed, are as really different from those contained in that scripture, as they are from the propositions contained in that text, Gen. v. 6. "And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos."
   This is quite a different thing from the Spirit's enlightening the mind to understand the words of God, and know what is contained and revealed in them, and what consequences may justly be drawn from them, and to see how they are applicable to our case and circumstances; which is done without any new revelation, only by enabling the mind to understand and apply a revelation already made.
[xxxv]



   Even on the issue of the gospel itself, there is silence. In the words of a former Bethel member:

At Bethel there is no preaching on the Justice and Righteousness of God, and how God can’t let the guilty go unpunished. There is no preaching of the sinfulness of man, and how everyone has violated God’s standard. There is no preaching on the eternal conscious torments of Hell. There is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified. There is no preaching of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross paying the full penalty of the sins of those He died to forgive, that is penal substitution. There is no preaching of repentance and faith in Jesus’ name as the only basis for which one is justified and declared righteous in the sight of God. Bethel preaches a gospel that is deficient, useless, and powerless to save.[xxxvi]


   Stranger still, in spite of all this, Bethel church is by no means anti-Bible. The  Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) – of which Kris Valloton is the founder and principle – features as part of it’s curriculum (which can be taken as an accredited course of study at Bethel or on DVD for small-groups) a module that instructs students how to read and interpret the Bible:

The study of Scripture is obviously a key to developing revivalists. In addition to the Bible Survey class taught by Bernie Ooley, BSSM has an additional 34 hours of Bible study/exegesis and Interpretation taught by Dann Farrelly. These classes are not in a lecture format and thus, were not videotaped; they focus on students gaining personal “hands on” experience through in-class work, quizzes, discussion and covering homework assignments in class. However, the topics covered are very important and it is recommended that someone on your staff teach a class on how to study the Bible. As a guideline, a syllabus and a resource list for this class will be included with the DVD curriculum.[xxxvii]

Let me say with honesty and enthusiasm that the fact that a church is willing to make such opportunities to learn available is commendable. At the same time, completing 34 hours of exegesis classes featuring “’hands on’ experience through in-class work, quizzes, discussion and covering homework assignments in class” on top of a Bible Survey module is by no means a simple feat, as surely my friends in seminary will attest to.
   Nonetheless, the inclusion of such training in a church’s school of ministry raises some serious questions:

1) How much of BSSM’s curriculum and the high standard of biblical literacy expected of students necessarily reflects the vision and culture of Bethel Church overall?

2) Why doesn’t the preaching diet of Bethel Church demonstrate, model and exemplify the standards of Bible Study and exegesis which the BSSM curriculum has? If the pastors of Bethel can teach others how to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) in the lecture theater, why don’t they do it themselves from the church pulpit?

3) If BSSM students are being run through such a heavy gauntlet of exegetical training, why then, hasn’t anyone spoken out or confronted the leadership of Bethel Church with regards to the erroneous doctrine outlined in this article?
 

   Doesn’t this make Bill Johnson and the leaders of Bethel a bunch of modern-day Sadducees?




   It is truly a dangerous thing when you hear men who carry the Word of God in their hands, yet the lens that they’ve allowed to be placed over their eyes becomes so thick that they can no longer see clearly what it is actually saying. Not only does it ostracize those within the church who are willing to test everything in light of Scripture, but it also encourages a culture within fellowships where people are told to stay away from the Bible and not believe what it says – even and especially when said church may profess to hold the Bible as it’s highest authority.
   When that happens, what you get isn’t discipleship. What you end up with is censorship.



Why do people fall for this stuff?

   Just what precisely is it that causes believers and even entire churches to fall for this kind of stuff? How exactly do leaders of bible-believing congregations go from passionately contending for orthodox Christian doctrine to yelling “Amen!” to anything, no matter how obscure and unusual?
   Most of us know of at least one Christian friend who started off as a trustworthy peer, committed to solid discipleship to the point of teaching others, teachable, hungry to learn as well as to defend their convictions from attack at any angle. Yet over time, changes of mind take place. At first it may seem like a minor tangent, until you listen to who they’re listening and what they’re following. You notice they start to say and do things that they previously would have fought hard against. You hear them quote ministers who only seasons ago would have been put on the discernment blacklist. In only a short time, what started as a minor tangent becomes a large-scale deviation to the point that their Christian walk has undergone a massive revision that makes you honestly question whether you can still break bread with them in Christian fellowship. You voice concerns – only to hear them respond with full assurance that they are correct in their new direction even though you know it doesn’t stack up with scriptures. Worse still is when they go on the offensive against you or anyone else for not being as willing to follow suite.
   According to Albert Mohler:

   “One of the things we have to notice when we try to understand the cause of theological disaster – please listen carefully and consider this – it is almost always done at the hands of those who would claim to want to save Christianity rather than to bury it. There’s a basic apologetic impulse behind modern liberal theology; that impulse is: ‘We need to save something. If you people keep parading on about all this supernaturalism and all these claims of divine revelations and miracles, and virgin births, you are going to bury Christianity in some kind of debris of an ancient past that no one’s going to take seriously nor think credible any longer. The world has changed. We’re going to have to rescue Christianity’ but what they really mean is recuing Christianity… from itself.[xxxviii] 


For those of us who are familiar with scripture, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see such deviations happen:

3  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4

But how and why does this happen? How does such an inability to tolerate sound teaching and instead open onself to deception creep in and what is it that gives a church like Bethel such an appeal in spite of what it’s leaders preach?
Consider the life and ministry of a prominent “revivalist” and Bethel ministry partner Randy Clark:

Randy Clark had traveled to Rhema [Bible training Institute] discouraged, disillusioned and close to a complete breakdown. He was a burned-out pastor who, during his twenty-four years of ministry, had gradually lost the ferverency of his faith. The bible no longer spoke to him, he no longer wanted to pray, and he did not like going to church. He was at Rhema for Rodney Howard-Browne’s appearances only because of the persistant urging of a friend “who moved in power and in the gift of discernment.”
   Clark’s friend Jeff had discovered during a phone call with Jeff how spiritually drained Clark was. Jeff knew just the solution. Jeff knew firsthand how powerfully the Holy Spirit moved when Rodney Howard-Browne preached. Jeff, at his own crisis point, had challenged God, “If I can’t experience you, …I don’t want to live.”
   Reluctantly, Randy Clark gave in and agreed to attend Howard-Browne’s meeting. He was dismayed to find out that it was to be at Rhema. Clark was passionately opposed to the Word of Faith movement, his agreement to go to Rhema was like Daniel asking to be thrown in the lion’s den. He was so against everything that Rhema and Kenneth Hagin stood for that, as he later said while teaching his church, “out of my mouth this demon would come forth and say ‘if you’ve come here for name it and claim it, blab it and grab it, confess it and process it, you’re in the wrong church.’”
   Clark now says that in the midst of his spiritual disillusionment , God rebuked him saying, “You have a denominational spirit if you think you can only drink the well of your own group.” God then asked Clark a very pertinent question: “How badly do you want me?”[xxxix]
  






   There are some rather disturbing aspects behind this testimony.
   First of all, without needing to go into particulars, it is by no mean’s uncommon for any person involved in long-term ministry to experience burn-out, disappointment and discouragement. Like any vocation, one must take heed of one’s personal health (emotional, physical and in this case spiritual) and how that will impact your work. Failure to do so coupled with high expectations can easily become a recipe for personal disaster, especially when there is great pressure to get results, or to follow that language of modern churchianity, “fruit.”
   Secondly, even though Clark was on the edge of hitting rock bottom, he still held to clear convictions to the degree that he was willing to draw the line with what he regarded to be genuine spirituality. He knew the dangers of Word of Faith theology as espoused by the likes of Rodney Howard-Browne, Kenneth Hagin and Rhema college – though in hindsight he now attributes such distinctions as being of demonic origin rather than clear spiritual discernment.

   I’m not saying that disillusionment, discouragement and burnout are necessarily the only things that cause people to become susceptible to false teaching and abhorrent doctrine; however it can easily become the first step down a long and fateful downward spiral that can not only cause oneself to fall into apostasy, but can stumble others as well.







   Other times such a lack of discernment can come from innocent naiveté resulting from a lack of proper discipleship in sound doctrine. Or, as seems to be the case at Bethel, while there is passion for worship as evidenced in the Jesus Culture ministry, it’s just not a primary focus at Bethel to be theologically sound. In Bill Johnson’s own words:

“In the past the church has often sought for a safety in doctrine at the expense of the profound safety that is only found in godly relationships. In order to gain a heart that longs to know God, we must sacrifice our need to be right, to understand or explain things. We have to trust Him enough to let Him shatter our boxes of understanding and lead us into deeper realms of His truth… He didn’t bring us out of Egypt to camp out in the wilderness, but to take us into the promised land of expanding life in the knowledge of Him.”[xl]
 
The above statement is an oxymoron. How exactly can anyone experience “expanding life in the knowledge of Him” when you’re simultaneously going out of your way to “sacrifice our need to be right, to understand or explain things”? What kind of worship is this exactly if it is intentionally unfocused on knowing God for who he is, hungering to understand and explain his character, his holiness, his glory?








   To those who say things like "doctrine just divides", "deeds NOT creeds!" or "Theology doesn't matter, just LOVE God and LOVE others!" - let me ask you something: when you desire to enter God's presence to praise Him with everything you have, what's your motivation if worshipping "in spirit AND IN TRUTH" requires knowing who God actually is? Doesn't your "worship" become a self-serving idolatry?

   Let’s also look at Bethel’s view of Apostolic Teaching. As part of the New Apostolic Reformation movement that also includes ministers such as Che Ahn, C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and IHOP’s Mike Bickle, Bethel affirms the present day gift and office of apostleship.[xli] What is noticeable however, is Bethel’s downplaying of the Apostle’s role as teacher/theologian, especially when it comes to laying the essential foundations necessary for a church to grow and live. In Bill Johnson’s own words:

One of the things that helped to keep the early church strong and healthy was their continual devotion to the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). However, you’ll notice that there is no mention of a list of beliefs that the Bible declares to be the official record of important doctrines. It is safe to say the “apostles doctrine” is referring to something other than a specific list. Peter understood this when he exhorted the church concerning ‘present truth’ (2 Peter 1:12). That phrase is to direct our attention to that which the Lord is emphasizing for this season. That is the apostle’s doctrine. The word coming from apostles is to bring clarification of the Father’s focus for the church, and in turn strengthen our resolve to His purposes. Fresh revelation carries fresh fire, which helps us to maintain the much needed fire in our souls.[xlii]

First of all, Bill Johnson’s notion that “you’ll notice that there is no mention of a list of beliefs that the Bible declares to be the official record of important doctrines. It is safe to say the ‘apostles doctrine’ is referring to something other than a specific list” is basically an argument from silence. The New Testament may not necessarily give a complete list of what the Apostles taught in point-by-point form, but when one reads the New Testament, one can surely find consistent themes in what is taught.
   According to Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

   “The Christian is a man who has had as experience as a result of believing a particular truth, or teaching. Now that, by the way is the only one by which you can test: you can get two people, they may both say ‘I’m very happy’, they may both say ‘I used to do that, I no longer; I’m delivered from it’; now it doesn’t follow that because of that the two men are both Christians. There are other agencies I dare say, which can do that.
   How do I know which one is Christian?
   There is but one test I lay down before you, and that is what has led to the experience, what is the source? They [the Acts 2 church] have had the same experience because they have had the same teaching, the same message. ‘
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls’.
   You see, it was teaching that made the early church. There would have never had been an early church if it had not been for a particular teaching, so we are bound to emphasize this: that the teaching must come first, because it was the teaching that led to the conversions, that led to the change, that led to the establishment of the Christian Church.”[xliii]


   Kris Vallotton in his book Heavy Rain: How you can Transform the World Around You, goes as far as to revise the apostolic ministry as to put priority of relationships over the need to contend for doctrinal purity:

   In apostleships, the priority of relationships is kept above doctrinal agreement, promoting highly relational core connections. Apostles create covenantal, family relationships, because believers are attached to and through fathers and family, not doctrine. This promotes freedom for people to think creatively, to dream, to envision with God and to experience new depths of the Holy Spirit. This relational security creates an environment that attracts revelation. The very nature of revelation is that people get fresh perspectives and deeper insights with the supernatural kingdom of God.[xliv]

I personally would like to challenge Kris Vallotton to actually read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, John or Jude‘s letters, and ask in full honesty, what seems to be the intentions of these authors in writing: doctrinal purity within the Church, or creating “covenantal, family relationships, because believers are attached to and through fathers and family, not doctrine”?

6  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10  For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-10

8  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11  for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
2 John 1:8-11

17  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18  They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20  But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22  And have mercy on those who doubt; 23  save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Jude 1:17-23


More troubling still is who Kris Vallotton believes has truly modeled proper unity within the Church throughout her two thousand year history versus who has been the instigator of unnecessary division (or “denominationalism”):

   It’s easy to see that denominations have grown up through division, being rooted in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. We were named Protestants because we were born in a doctrinal protest (the word originally meant “pro-testament” but soon took on the meaning protester), which continues to this day.
   Both the Protestant Reformation and the movements that have sprung up from it all emphasize doctrinal agreement above relationship. This priority has created a culture that constantly threatens to divide people at the very core of their bonding point. While many believers admit that damaged relationships and church splits are costly, the denominational mindset leads them to conclude that the way to avoid this is simply to find ways to enforce doctrinal conformity so disagreements can’t arise. Thus, denominationalism also creates a culture that is critical of anyone who thinks outside the box of tradition, and it desperately fears inspiration.
   Leaders under this spirit have more faith in the devil’s power to deceive believers than the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead them in all truth. Shepherds in denominationalism resist revelatory thinking because they understand that new ideas spawn disagreements and disagreement attacks the central nervous system of their churches.
   I often refer to denominationalism as “divided nations”, in reference to the way this spirit has infected and limited our ability to disciple the nations. We are called to disciple nations, not to divide people.
   We can gain some great insight by contrasting the Protestant movement with the Catholic Church, who is the mother of the church. In fact, let’s do a little trivia: How many times has the Catholic Church split over the last 2000 years?  The right answer is three times! How many times has the Protestant Church split since the reformation? Okay, I will make the question easier: How many times has the Protestant Church split this month? Okay, one more question: What does the Catholic Church call the leaders of their local churches? The right answer is father! Are you gaining any insight yet? The apostle Paul put it this way: “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have any fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15).
   In the 1960s, the Catholic priests preached their messages in Latin! I think it’s pretty easy to see that Catholics didn’t come to church to hear a great message,  because many of them probably didn’t even understand the language. As Protestants, we understand the disadvantages of not preaching the Word, and I appreciate that. But why do Catholics go to church? I would like to propose to you that they don’t gather because they agree but because they are loyal to a family.
   Is it possible that when Protestants protested bad doctrine at the price of relationship, we came under another curse just as destructive? (Something to think about.)[xlv] 

Something to think about indeed.
   Either Kris Vallotton is very naïve as to the particulars of the history and theology that divides Catholics and Protestants, or he’s letting on to more than what he himself may like to share openly. 







    Though he professes to be a “protestant”, how does he define that? What does he and the other leaders at Bethel have to say about the authority of scripture versus tradition, justification by faith, original sin, who can partake of the sacraments (baptism and communion), the veneration of saints, et al? Does he believe that the Reformation led by Luther, Calvin and Knox was just a once-off event in church history, or, given Bethel’s emphasis on raising up a generation of “revivalists”, do the issues that the Reformers contended for need to be understood and fought for within each generation lest the church backslide into the Dark Ages? If anything, the above quote from Kris Vallotton reads more like a declaration remonstrance rather than an affirmation of reform.
   Furthermore, if we take what Kris Vallotton says about the spirit of “denominationalism” and the charge that unnecessary division over doctrine only hinders the church, than based on the above examples we must conclude that the New Testament authors must have been the most “denominational” Christians whoever lived. 

   Speaking on the role of polemics (formal debate and argument) within the church, Michael Horton says:

   The church was born in doctrinal debate.
   It fought its way to dominance through centuries of arguments over doctrinal detail. The Reformation was a controversy between two different gospels. The Great Awakening was in part the result of the controversial and polemical defense of the grace of God and human inability. John Newton not only gave us "Amazing Grace," but polemical attacks on legalism in his day. Luther and Calvin not only wrote heated polemics against the Church of Rome, but against the "enthusiasts" whom we would know today as Pentecostals.
   But let us go back further. Where would we be without the polemics of Athanasius? And yet he was accused by Arians--that is, those who denied Christ's divinity (and this was in some regions the majority view)--as a divisive person. Thank God that Irenaeus preferred truth to tolerance when he drove Gnosticism out of the church.
   And what of the Scriptures themselves? God gave us St. Paul, who told legalists to castrate themselves, just as Jesus had told the religious leaders of his day that they were a den of robbers, a nest of snakes, white-washed tombs that appeared spotless on the surface but were full of hypocrisy and dead men's bones. He told them that they travel over land and sea to evangelize one single convert only to make that person more a child of hell than he was before.
   And the prophets?
   They were so polemical that they were often executed by the very people against whose judgment the prophets were trying to warn. It seems that the whole progress of biblical revelation and church history through the ages has been forged out of the fire of controversy and the often angry struggles over truth. It is these great debates that have preserved the church from error and when the church grows lazy and fat, unwilling to be corrected, the world loses its only hope of salvation. It is never easy to correct, nor is it pleasant, but we are to "preach the truth in love."
   However, neither are we to pretend that our laziness, ignorance and apathy in defending the truth are really attempts to preserve the bond of unity. With Luther, we must say, "Unity wherever possible, but truth at all costs."[xlvi] (Emphasis added)
 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones adds that disapproval of polemics is nothing short of an attack on the authority of Scripture itself:

Disapproval of polemics in the Christian Church is a very serious matter. But that is the attitude of the age in which we live. The prevailing idea today in many circles is not to bother about these things. As long as we are all Christians, anyhow, somehow, all is well. Do not let us argue about doctrine, let us all be Christians together and talk about the love of God. That is really the whole basis of ecumenicity. Unfortunately, that same attitude is creeping into evangelical circles also and many say that we must not be too precise about these things. If you hold that view you are criticizing the Apostle Paul, you are saying that he was wrong, and at the same time you are criticizing the Scriptures. The Scriptures argue and debate and dispute; they are full of polemics.[xlvii]



Guarding the flock

   What should the proper response be from pastoral leaders when it comes to such gross error at the hands of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church? What is the duty of the pastor/teacher in the face of any error coming into their church for that matter?
  
We’re told that:

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 3:1-13

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:8-15

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 3:16-4:5

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:5-9

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1-5


Pastor/Teachers are called to:
- Set a moral example to the church
- Demonstrate humility and servitude
- Lead people in gospel-centredness
- Teach from God’s word
- Uphold and instruct sound doctrine
- Refute and correct those whose teaching contradict inspired scripture.

In addition to the moral and lifestyle qualifications, how much knowledge did a person need to have in order to fulfill the pastoral office? Enough to sufficiently engage and refute those those have fallen into error. In Romans 16:17, Pastor/Teachers are instructed to

“watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

The word for “watch”, skopeō σκοπέω means to oberve, to mark, to fix attention upon i.e., like a sniper we are to target – from afar if need be - our focus upon those whose teaching and doctrine doesn’t line up.
   So yes, pointing out the errors of those that have gone astray and are leading the flock in like manner is a valid aspect of the teaching ministry. How are we to protect the sheep from wolves if we do not do so?





   Not only is the delivery of sound teaching an essential aspect of the Pastor/Teachers’ ministry, but also screening that which the sheep will likely be exposed to in their personal growth as a Christian.
   One only has to set foot into the local Christian bookstore and you will immediately be immersed into a theological smorgasbord of various books, videos, CDs from differing ministries that seek to impart their respective views. The question I’d like to ask any church elder is: if you were to take a random survey of those under your care and examine the receipts collected from their trips to the local Christian bookstore over a period of one year, would their spending habits point to a “balanced diet”, or have they been feeding on content that you know is of a highly questionable nature?
   If it were indeed the case that a believer has bought into aberrant doctrine, then the obvious response would be to meet with that person, go through the scriptures, and point to the right direction where necessary. This may seem common when it comes to discipling a young believer, but if you have someone who has reached a sufficient degree of knowledge to the point that they can interpret scripture themselves, they can defend and explain doctrines consistently and can engage in debate when confronted, then there is greater need for accountability and honesty lest any misunderstandings cause others to stumble.
   On the other hand, if a person adheres to unbiblical doctrine and refuses to recant in spite of repeated admonitions from pastoral leaders, there is warrant for proper church discipline – the final step of which is excommunication, or complete removal from fellowship on the charge that the church no longer recognizes the guilty party as one of their own. We see this in Paul’s first letter to Timothy wherein Paul encourages Timothy to remain strong in spite of the church’s controversy with the judaizers, adding that he had to remove to two members on the edge of ruining their faith in God:   

18  This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19  holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20  among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 1:18-20


   We must also ask the potentially dangerous question: What if the threat of false teaching is coming not from the congregants, but the pastorate itself? Is there anything the discerning berean sitting in the pew can do in the event that what’s coming from the pulpit on any given Sunday doesn’t line up with the Word of God? The precedent for such action can be found in:

17  Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18  For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19  Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20  As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.
1 Timothy 5:17-21

15  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17

Whenever there is accusation against a person in authority, it should be handled delicately with discretion and care. Much damage can be done against pastors, elders and deacons whose ministry and callings are genuine and fruitful, yet due to rumors and gossip are forced to stand down and resign, as they can no longer be taken seriously amidst such scrutiny.

   But what do you do when you yourself know for certain that your pastors may indeed have gone off the rails either by way of personal sin, or through false teaching?

1) Honor those in authority:

17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17

Like it or not, your leaders within the church have ultimately been put into their positions not just by human institution, but by God in His providence. As such, you are to honor the office of the Pastor by being respectful, not rude or haughty. One day they themselves will have to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment Seat of God and give account as to how they lived as a Christian. The last thing they need is you on this side of eternity playing God unnecessarily.


2) Speak One-to-One: Try to establish contact so that you can speak in private and hopefully bring clarification to the issues. When you do this, don’t come with any hidden agenda items, make it very clear why you are meeting, and what the terms are going to be, along with what will be discussed; nothing more, nothing less. If in the midst of conversation the elder is evasive, or tries to change the topic of discussion so that what he has said and done is not the subject of the conversation, point it out and get back on track.
   God-willing, the elder will be humble, and willing to open up. The worse case scenario is that the elder will try to turn the tables and attack you for even initiating such a meeting because you bring god’s word to bear upon the issues and they obviously have the losing hand. Says Mark Driscoll:

“These are the religious people that are like, “You need to knock it off and you need to knock and you need to stop it and you guys are all wrong and this is deplorable.” And they don’t themselves repent. They never say, “I’m wrong. I’m sorry. My fault. I’m an idiot.” What they say is, “Well, you have things to work on. And I’m gonna point them out to you because I’m the holy one and you’re the unholy one.” And you’ll see it even in the story in a moment, Jesus proves ‘em wrong and here’s what it says. They remained silent. You know what they should’ve done? Apologized. But religious people can’t do that. They’re unwilling to do that, to say, “I’m wrong.”
   Here’s what happens if you catch a religious person, if they say something that’s not true or they’re wrong and you correct them, then they attack your character personally. They try to shift the subject from their sin to your character. They’re gonna try that with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t have any sin. They’re still gonna try it. You and I need to practice saying, “I’m sorry. I’m wrong. That was sin. No excuse. Not your fault. Something wrong with me.” If you’re a religious person, you’re always like this, you should just punch yourself in the face, right? You punch everybody else, may as well just be fair about it. Religious people preach repentance, they don’t practice it.[xlviii]

If an elder tries to use this opportunity to interrogate you and back you into a corner while they themselves are not even willing to undergo such cross-examination as was agreed to before the meeting started, simply say that the conversation is over, and walk away.





3) Bring forth witnesses: By “witnesses”, that’s not your personal posse who follows you around and backs you up so you can gang up on those you don’t like. This isn't World of Warcraft where you try to gather random players you don’t even know to join you in launching  raids against the Lich King just so you can get enough points to reach the next level.
   The purpose of this is to demonstrate that this isn’t a personal vendetta of yours where you’re trying to assert an agenda, but rather it is a shared concern where numerous parties are being wrongly affected. The more diverse the witnesses, the better, as you’re showing that if enough people have the same concern about something, then surely something is wrong.


4) Appeal to higher authorities: If the previous three steps have no effect, then the next step is to take the issue up with a higher authority. If you’re dealing with a small-group leader, speak to an elder. If you’re dealing with an elder, speak to an pastor, etc.

   If it happens to be the Senior Pastor who has been bringing in these teachings while giving no notice to those under his authority, then a judgment call needs to be made. Do you tender your resignation and look for another church – knowing that your sudden departure may bring additional attention to the issues and may only serve to escalate it; OR do you call for the Senior Pastor to step down, or at least be willing to let go of his authority and distribute it more evenly among the leaders of the church to guarantee a better system of checks and balances so that everyone can be kept accountable for their ministries, their doctrine, and their vision for where they believe God is taking them and their church?



A call to press on

   One of the key points of emphasis that Bethel Church emphasizes is Revival, both within and outside the church. When one considers the vast landscape of Christendom in the face of a postmodern culture with increasing moral compromise and failure, we can agree that yes, there is definitely a great need for a powerful moving of the Holy spirit within this generation.
   But how can we tell if and when true revival happens? Consider the message “
Directions for Judging of Persons' Experiences”, Jonathan Edwards outlines what should be expected when people have genuine encounters with the manifest presence of God:

See to it... That the operation be such upon the will or heart, not on the Imagination, nor on the speculative understanding or motions of the mind, though they draw great affections after them as the consequence.

See to it... That the trouble of mind be reasonable, that the mind be troubled about those things that it has reason to be troubled about; and that the trouble seems mainly to operate in such a manner, with such a kind of trouble and exercise as is reasonable: founded on reasonable, solid consideration; a solid sense and conviction of truth, as of things as they are indeed.

See to it... That it be because their state appears terrible on the account of those things, wherein its dreadfulness indeed consists; and that their concern be solid, not operating very much by pangs and sudden passions, freaks and frights, and a capriciousness of mind.

See to it... That under their seeming convictions it be sin indeed; that they are convinced of their guilt, in offending and affronting so great a God: One that so hates sin, and is so set against it, to punish it, &c.

See to it... That they be convinced both of sins of heart and life: that their pretenses of sense of sin of heart ben't without reflection on their wicked practice; and also that they are not only convinced of sin of practice, but sin of heart. And in both, that what troubles them be those things wherein their wretchedness has really chiefly consisted.

See to it... That they are convinced of their spiritual sins, consisting in their sinful defects, living without love to God, without accepting Christ, gratitude to Him, &c.

See to it... That the convictions they have of the insufficiency and vanity of their own doings, ben't only from some sense of wanderings of mind, and other sinful behaviour mixed; but from a conviction of the sinful defects of their duties, their not being done from a right principle; and so as having no goodness at all mixed with the bad, but altogether corrupt.

See to it... That it is truly conviction of sin that convinces them of the Justice of God in their damnation, in rejecting their prayers, disregarding their sorrowful case, and all desires and endeavours after deliverance, &c., and not merely any imagination or pang, and melting of affection through some real or supposed instance of Divine Goodness.

See to it... That they be so convinced of sin as not in the inward thought and habit of their minds to excuse themselves, and impliedly quarrel with God, because of their impotency: for instance, that they don't excuse their slight of Christ, and want of love to Him, because they can't esteem and love Him.

See to it... That they don't evidently themselves look on their convictions [as] great, and ben't taken with their own humiliation.

See to it... That which should be chiefly looked at should be evangelical. If this be sound, we have no warrant to insist upon it, that there be manifest a remarkable work, purely legal, wherein was nothing of grace. So with regard to Convictions and Humiliation; only seeing to it that the mind is indeed convinced of these things, and sees 'em [sees] that [which] many Divines insisted should be seen, under a purely legal work. And also seeing to it that the convictions there are, seem to be deep and fixed, and to have a powerful governing influence on the temper of the mind, and a very direct respect to practice.

See to it... That they have not only pretended convictions of sin; but a proper mourning for sin. And also, that sin is burdensome to them, and that their hearts are tender and sensible with respect to it...the object of their care and dread.

See to it... That God and Divine things are admirable on account of the beauty of their moral perfection.

See to it... That there is to be discerned in their sense of the sufficiency of Christ, a sense of that Divine, supreme, and spiritual excellency of Christ, wherein this sufficiency fundamentally consists; and that the sight of this excellency is really the foundation of their satisfaction as to His sufficiency.

See to it... That their conviction of the truth of Divine things be discerned to be truly some way or other primarily built on a sense of their Divine excellency.

See to it... That their discoveries and illuminations and experiences in general, are not superficial pangs, flashes, imagination, freaks, but solid, substantial, deep, inwrought into the frame and temper of their minds, and discovered to have respect to practice.

See to it... That they long after HOLINESS, and that all their experiences increase their longing. Let 'em be inquired of concerning their disposition and willingness to bear the Cross, sell all for Christ, choosing their portion in heaven, &c. Whether their experience have a respect to PRACTICE in these ways.

See to it... That their behaviour at present seems to be agreeable to such experiences. Whether it inclines 'em much to think of Practice, and more and more for past ill practice. Makes a disposition to ill practices dreadful. Makes 'em long after perfect freedom from sin, and after those things wherein Holiness consists; and by fixed and strong resolutions, attended with fear and jealousy of their own hearts. Whether, when they tell of their experiences, it is not with such an air that you as it were feel that they expect to be admired and applauded, and [whether they] won't be disappointed if they fail of discerning in you something of that nature; and shocked and displeased if they discover the contrary.

Inquire whether… their joy be truly and properly joy in God and in Christ; joy in Divine Good; or whether it ben't wholly joy in themselves, joy in their own excellencies or privileges, in their experiences; what God has done for them, or what He has promised He will do for them; and whether they ben't affected with their own discoveries and affections.'[xlix]

Is this what is happening in Redding, California? When we look at the ministries, teaching and fruits of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church, is true Revival the fruit of what is said and done or is it the cure to the actual prognosis which points to why we need revival in the first place – a low view of Christ as God, the questioning of the Bible’s authority, unbelief as to the sovereignty and providence of God?




  Based on what I have outlined in this article, I would be very hesitant to recommend the teaching resources from Bethel Church. While Bethel is filled with many who are passionate in their prayer and worship, I fear that sadly such passion is really a form of zeal without knowledge. One can only pray that with advent of a new semester of BSSM, students undertaking the exegesis workshops will be able to discern the discrepancies and not be afraid to speak out.

   I’d like to conclude by informing you, my dear reader, that the failings of one church that professes to be in a season revival yet yields questionable fruit and doctrine should never be used as an excuse to lose faith that one day, somewhere, somehow, God will answer our prayers for heaven’s floodgates to open and the Holy Spirit.





Jesus himself said:

5  And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7  and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?
8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9  And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
11  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:5-13

For those of us who worship Jesus as our God, who delight in His sovereignty in times of both lack and prosperity, who delight in His Law as the lamp that guides our path, how can we not expect God to send revival? Or are we too content with receiving serpents and scorpions?


Thank You for reading, 

May God bless you and Keep You.




Bibliography:



[iv] Kevin J. Conner. The Foundations of Christian Doctrine. KJC Publications, 1980. Pg 172

[v] Ibid, pg 169.

[xii] Bill Johnson. When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. Treasure House, 2003. Pg 29.

[xiv] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Intervarsity Press, 1994. Pg 550.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvii] Please read the comments on the following post on Bill Johnson’s Facebook page where someone asks about Johnson’s sermon preparation. The question of “Born-Again Jesus” comes up, and at first Johnson does engage in dialogue, but the moment the issue of Jesus’ sinlessness in relation to the atonement is raised and people start weighing things against scripture, Johnson ceases to contribute anything more and starts deleting posts challenging his position. http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150090357773387&id=54557413386

[xviii] Kevin J. Conner. Ibid, pg 171.

[xix] Bill Johnson. Dreaming with God. Destiny Image, 2006. Pg 157.

[xxiii] Bill Johnson. Face to Face with God. Charisma House, 2008. Pg 173.

[xxiv] Justin Peters. “The Hurt of Healing.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIE-rtV9Qu4

[xxvi] Gordon H. Clark. “How does Man know God?”

[xxx] Ironically, Bill Johnsons view that “the lack is never on God’s part” in of itself presupposes a degree of works-based righteousness on the grounds that it assumes the reliance of the believer rather than the sovereignty and grace of God. In that regard, his dismissal of Job based on a covenantal distinction is self-defeating!
 
[xxxii] Please refer to my previous post on “The Jesus Hermeneutic”:
[xxxiv] Wilson Lim. “We are Bible-based.” H.I.M. Global Conference 2009. The Core: Rediscovering Our Core Valures. http://www.byhim.org/components/com_podcast/media/GC01-We%20Are%20Bible-Based.mp3

[xxxix] Hank Hannegraaf. Counterfeit Revival. Thomas Nelson, 2001

[xl] Bill Johnson. Face to Face with God. Charisma House, 2008. Pg 72.

[xli] Even among continuationist theologians, the gift of apostleship is subject to much controversy. Do I believe it can exist today? Short answer: yes. I am in agreement  with Samuel Storms as to what an Apostle today is and is not. http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/are-apostles-for-today/

[xliv] Kris Vallotton. Heavy Rain: How You can Transform the World Around You. Regal Books, 2010. Pg 29.

[xlv] Ibid, pg 24.

[xlvi] Michael Horton. "How to Be Polemical (Without Being A Downright Nasty Person)," Modern Reformation, Sept./Oct. 1996

[xlvii] Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3.20-4.25: Atonement and Justification. Zondervan Publishing House, 1970. Pg 113