You know it’s going to be a good book when….
…the back cover says, “If you are not walking in the miraculous, you’re living far below your birthright!”
…one of the endorsements is provided by none other than Todd Bentley.
…the pastor of a church that experiences falling gold dust, angel feathers, and glory clouds writes a book about ‘walking in the miraculous’ and criticizes the apostle Paul for “restricting or rejecting the use of the gifts of the Spirit. ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ [1 Cor. 14.40]“ (p. 156).
Bill Johnson (a self-proclaimed apostle) is the pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Bethel is a church whose mission “is to create a vibrant family of hope-filled believers who deeply experience the love and presence of God and partner with Jesus to express the joy and power of His kingdom in every area of life.”
If you’ve heard of the Bethel band, Jesus Culture, or Kim Walker (to throw a few names out there), all come out of Bethel Church (Jesus Culture was the worship band for the youth group).
I borrowed this book from a friend about three years ago, but never ended up reading it. After coming home this summer I saw it and recognized Bill Johnson as the author. I’ve heard strange things about Bethel, but I’d never looked into it much myself (aside from a few videos by Kris Vallotton). Since they’re pretty well-known in the US and in Norway (both places which are of great importance to me), I thought I’d read the book, see what Johnson was really all about, and possibly post a review.
I started off WHIE by giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt. Despite what I had previously heard, I came to the book with preconceived notions as I could and tried to look at Bethel with a fresh perspective. Perhaps the views others had on Bethel’s theology were wrong? Or maybe Bethel really wasn’t that bad.
I started reading WHIE looking for whatever came up, whether positive or negative. I soon trashed that idea because of the underlying presuppositions Johnson holds in his book.
Instead of the usual way I write my reviews, I’m going to start in reverse and lead in with the Recommendation section. Next will be The Spoiled Milk (negative) section.
This review will likely be separated into multiple posts rather than risk making it too long for anyone to read in one go. I will post as much of Johnson’s words and context as I can in an honest way while still trying to be clear and succinct. His words will be colored in blue. By doing this you can look and decide for yourself if my points are valid (especially if you own the book).
No way. Not only is Johnson’s fundamental reading of the Scriptures skewed towards having exciting spiritual experiences, but his own analyses of reason, logic, and knowledge is wrong. His hermeneutics, his conception of Paul as opposed to the Holy Spirit’s work, and his kenosis heresy (and I don’t use that word lightly) of Jesus laying aside His own divinity is enough to warrant a sufficient denial of this book’s worth.
This review will not be overly harsh for “Johnson says there is no sickness or poverty in heaven, which is true. However, there is also no falsehood or error in heaven.“ (DeWaay). There is plenty here that is false.
The Spoiled Milk
Deliver Us From Evil
“A study on the word evil confirms the intended reach of His redemption. That word is found in Matthew 6:13 (KJV), ‘Deliver us from evil.’ The word evil represents the entire curse of sin upon man. Poneros, the Greek word for evil, came from the word ponos, meaning pain. And that word came from the root word penes, meaning poor. Look at it: evil-sin, pain-sickness, and poor-poverty. Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness, and poverty through His redemptive work on he cross. In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin. Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less?” (p. 33).
First off, this ‘word study’ is just terrible. Poneros…to ponos….to penes? And they’re all related? As one commenter (Lindsay) said below, we don’t see the word ‘butterfly’ and assume it’s a fly made of butter. Simply because Jesus said “Deliver us from evil” doesn’t mean that ‘evil‘ will encompass both the immediate and all of the peripheral meanings.
And leaving that discussion to one of “expecting anything less?“, yes, we should expect ‘less.’ I’ll explain more in a second, but if we are Christians and we still experience pain (which we do), what are we to do then? Are we not holding tight enough to our beliefs?
What is poverty? I have more money than 85% percent of the world. I can read. I can write. I have a computer. But what about Christians living in third-world countries? Do they not have enough faith to bring themselves out of their situation?
In his second letter, Peter says we are looking forward to the consummation of new creation [2 Pet 3.10-13], and in Revelation 21-22 the former things have passed away and all things are made new. It is where the garden of eden ‘temple’ (where God’s presence was) and the mandate for Adam and Eve to ‘be fruitful,’ ‘fill the earth,’ and ‘subdue it’ [Gen 1.28] so that the ‘earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” [Hab 2.14] are fulfilled.
Pain Doesn’t Prepare
Johnson doesn’t see God using pain to build character. “Faith lives within the revealed will of God. When I have misconceptions of who He is and what He is like, my faith is restricted by those misconceptions. For example, if I believe that God allows sickness in order to build character, I’ll not have confidence praying in most situations where healing is needed…. A woman who needed a miracle once told me that she felt God had allowed her sickness for a purpose. I told her if I treated my children that way I’d be arrested for child abuse” (p. 45). Johnson then states she agreed with him, allowed him to pray for her, and she was healed within minutes.
He goes on to say, “Unbelief is anchored in what is visible or reasonable apart from God. It honors the natural realm as superior to the invisible. The apostle Paul states that what you can see is temporal, and what you can’t see is eternal*. Unbelief is faith in the inferior [* 2 Cor. 4.18]” (p. 45).
Contrary to Johnson’s point, this is not at all Paul’s point in 2 Cor. 4.18. Johnson fails to keep 4.18 in it’s proper context. In 4.7 Paul says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Though he is afflicted (4.8), struck down (4.8), and carries in the body the death of Jesus (4.10), he manifests Christ’s life through his flesh and does not lose heart (4.16).
Paul isn’t saying “don’t believe what you see, God is able to work wondrous miracles before your eyes to keep you healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He’s saying, “We don’t lose heart. Even though our outer self is wasting away (from affliction [4.9-11]), our inner self is being renewed day by day [cf. 3.18]. This affliction that is light and momentary is preparing for us a glory that is weighty and eternal, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen” (4.16-18, paraphrase). So what is unseen? The “building” we have “from God,” “eternal in the heavens.” But we know we will be further clothed in Christ in our resurrection bodies (5.2, 4) because God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (5.5).
My faith is put into the fact that God works through our (and my own) suffering, preparing an eternal glory; our resurrected bodies. It’s not child abuse. God gives suffering so that the glory to come is put into its proper perspective (eternal, weighty, glorious). God prepares us by giving us a foretaste of glory to come, in order that the suffering may be put into proper perspective (momentary, light, affliction) (Rom 5.1-5; 8.16-24).
That God is faithful and can heal me at every turn, but even if I did die from this illness/pain/affliction, I will triumph over death through and because of Christ (1 Cor. 15.21-26).
This first review covered who Bill Johnson is, how I will review this book, if it is recommended, while going over three quotes from Johnson. Throughout his book Johnson has in view a Dominion theology, where, in Christ, we are now taking the place of Adam and Eve to fill and subdue the earth. I have no problem with that, yet he also tacks on that we should be as Adam and Eve were, perfect and pain free. We should be able to, by faith, call down God’s Spirit, bind the enemy, and bring miracles to hard hearts and hurting people. Yet this is not what the Bible teaches. We are to be weak and lowly. We are to a be picture of Christ. As the world begins and continues to afflict us in their hatred of Christ, we persevere in Christ’s resurrection power that is at work in us now (2 Cor. 4.12).
In my next review I’ll go over Johnson’s belief in Fideism (or believing that faith is true knowledge), how he cuts up verses to take them out of context (with Hebrews 11.3 as a case study), and the leap of faith he takes by saying faith is superior to knowledge.
After that we’ll look at “rejecting everything we don’t understand” and pitting Paul against Pentecost.