Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt V

When Heaven Invades Earth

It’s been a few weeks, but I’m finally going to wrap up this review session on Bill Johnson’s famous book. If I haven’t convinced anyone yet of his misbeliefs, hopefully this will do. (If you’d like to be kept up to speed, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).

The Spoiled Milk

Kenosis Heresy

Be Careful What You Propagate

While He is 100 percent 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 (p. 29).

But where does the Bible say Jesus wasn’t God? Things that God does or promises to do in the Old Testament are seen in Jesus’ actions: He heals the blind and deaf (Isa 42.18; Mk 10.52), He has authority over water (Gen 1.10; Job 38.34; Mk 4.39), He speaks eternal words (Isa 40.8; Mk 13.31), He forgives sins (Isa 44.22; Mk 2.5), He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Ex 16.29; 20.10-11; Mk 2.28), and He rides on the clouds (Ps 104.3; Isa 19.1; Dan 7.13; Acts 1.9).

Johnson says Jesus “is 100 percent God,” but then goes on to say “He performed miracles…not as God.” Which is it? Was Jesus God, or not God? We’re going to see more of this double-arguing in another section.

Phil 2.7 says, “but [Christ] made himself nothing, [by] taking the form of a servant…” Jesus was God, and He was a servant. He didn’t set aside His divinity.

This mind that we are supposed to have (Phil 2.5) is making ourselves nothing, but not as if we are gods who become human. We are citizens of heaven (1.27) with our manner of life being how we live out our heavenly citizenship here on earth. Like Christ we are to give up our rights. Christ humbled Himself, served others, died, and was raised and exalted, given the name above all names. We are to do the same thing, and not be walking around expected to do miracles all of the time.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12.27-31, Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Paul himself, apostle by the will of God, says that not everybody works miracles. Not everybody has the gift of healing.

I am responsible to pursue Christ’s lifestyle: one of humility and love to God and my neighbor.

Laying Aside His Divinity

On page 79, Johnson tells us about the anointing of the Spirit, and how ‘Christ’ means ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah.’ “He [Jesus] had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.” A few paragraphs down he writes, “Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid His divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin.”

When it comes to divinity there is only A or Not-A. One can only either be divine or not divine. If Christ is divine, if that makes up His being, then He can not lay aside His divinity or else He would become something else that what He is.

Critical Issues Commentary says this,

“R C Sproul explains:

‘If God laid aside one of his attributes, the immutable undergoes a mutation, the infinite suddenly stops being infinite; it would be the end of the universe. God cannot stop being God and still be God. So we can’t talk properly of God laying aside his deity to take humanity upon himself.

If Jesus laid aside divinity, that would be proof that He never had true divinity. Thus Johnson’s doctrine is a de facto denial of the deity of Christ. Christological heresy is heresy. Period.

So what does Philippians 2:7 imply that Jesus did empty Himself of? The answer is not divinity, which is eternal and cannot be compromised, but divine prerogatives. Paul’s point was about Christ’s humility that we should emulate, not His ontological status as God.

Sproul explains:

‘I think the context of Philippians 2 makes it very clear that what he emptied himself of was not his deity, not his divine attributes, but his prerogatives — his glory and his privileges. He willingly cloaked his glory under the veil of this human nature that he took upon himself. It’s not that the divine nature stops being divine in order to become human. In the Transfiguration, for example (Matthew 17:1-13), we see the invisible divine nature break through and become visible, and Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of his disciples.'”

To go along with Sproul this is why Paul tells us in Phil. 2.3-5 to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Then Paul gives us the perfect example of humility, Jesus, who came in the form of a servant and humbly died on the cross by experiencing a shameful death. If the Divine can humble Himself, then so should we. See Jesus in this light, as the Son of God who humbled Himself to die for our sins, then we are to ” work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2.12b-13).

If Jesus laid aside His divinity, what can I lay aside? My humanity? No, Jesus was fully man and fully God (John 5.18; 8.58; 10.30; 20.28-29; Col. 2.9). If the son of God can lower Himself in humble and loving obedience to the Father, so should I be able to do the same.

Or Maybe He Was Divine?

For hundreds of years the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming. They gave over 300 specific details describing Him. Jesus fulfilled them all! The angels also gave witness to His divinity when they came with a message for the shepherds: “For there is born to you this day . . . a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Nature itself testified to the arrival of the Messiah with the star that led the wise men. Yet with this one statement, “Unless I do the works of the Father, do not believe Me,” Jesus put the credibility of all these messengers on the line. Their ministries would have been in vain without one more ingredient to confirm who He really was. That ingredient was miracles (p 93, PDF, emphasis mine).

If Jesus laid aside His divinity, what can I lay aside? On both pages 29 and 79 Johnson Jesus was not God. He laid aside His divinity. But now the angles testify that Jesus is divine? Were the angles wrong? Were they lying?

No, instead I think it’s more likely that Johnson either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or simply suits the text to say what he wishes it to say. If he says Jesus wasn’t divine while in a human body, then the angels can’t give witness to His divinity. If Jesus was divine on earth, then he can’t say Jesus was “not God” or was “just a man.”

Miracle Workings

Of course Johnson’s whole discussion of Jesus laying aside His divinity is to support his claim that we are to go around performing miracles and bringing in the Kingdom of God. I agree by saying we should and can help grow the Kingdom of God (Gen 1.28-30; Mk 4.32; Col 1.6) by proclaiming the gospel to all the nations. But I disagree that we grow the Kingdom by performing miracles in the name of God, or, more likely, by calling down God’s power under our own prerogatives.

They want visions. Paul had visions. He told nobody about one of those visions for fourteen years (2 Cor 12.2) until he was compelled (12.11) to do so. Even when he did give the vision, it was at best ambiguously vague and set in the third person. The only specific details we have in that section are the words of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (12.9).

Disclaimer

Some who read this will disagree, some may be offended, while others may think I’m a self-righteous nit-picker. Neither God nor I hate this man, but I do think Johnson is making an egregious error. As a teacher and pastor he is to have a greater knowledge of the Word. And if he knows he’s in the wrong, he is bypassing ignorance and is deliberately leading his church astray.

Much like Paul’s opponents in 2 Corinthians who preach another Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel (2 Cor 11.4), both Paul’s opponents and Johnson teach a theology of anti-suffering. Triumphalism. Since Christ suffered, we shouldn’t have to.

That is not at all Paul’s stance. Paul suffered, and it showed he endured for God, Christ, and for his church (2 Cor 1.8-11; 2.14-16; 4.8-9; 6.4-10; 11.23b-33; 12.7-9). It is in Paul’s weakness that Christ’s resurrection power rests on him. 

I write this review because I want people to see the errors of Johnson and all of Bethel’s teaching. I don’t claim to have a perfect theology, but we are commanded to stay awake and to walk circumspectly, not as unwise but as wise (Eph. 5.15). We are to keep watch for wolves and false prophets who teach twisted things and who seek to draw away, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24.24; Mk. 13.22).

Acts 20:28-31a

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert…

Jeremiah 5:30-31

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

Jeremiah 6:10

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

Jeremiah 23:31-32

Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

2 Timothy 4:3-5

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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Additional Resources and Reviews

Bethel Harmful
Bill Johnson and John Crowder’s Leaven
Critical Issues Commentary
CrossWise
Grave Sucking/Mantle Grabbing
John Crowder New Age: The secret of success? Is that what we’re supposed to be about?
Kenosis
New Age – Lighthouse Trails Research
New Age (it’s in Swedish, but Google Chrome should ask to translate the page)
Reachout Trust
Bill Johnson and IHOP Heresy Review
What did Jesus Empty Himself of?

Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt IV

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation of my review series on Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.
Here you can read my firstsecond, and third posts.

The Spoiled Milk

Pitting Paul Against Pentecost

Johnson describes the scene on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The room was filled with 120 people who spoke and expressed praise in unknown tongues.

“No matter how people interpret Paul’s instruction on the use of spiritual gifts, one thing must be agreed upon: this meeting was entirely directed by the Holy Spirit. The infant Church hadn’t learned enough to try and control God. They hadn’t developed biases over acceptable and unacceptable practices. They had no biblical or experiential grid for what was happening” (162).

What Johnson seems to miss is that there are instances of the Holy Spirit indwelling a leader in the Old Testament (Ex 28.3; Judg 6.34; 11.29; 14.6; 1 Sam 11.6) which did give them a biblical…grid for what was happening. It seems like Johnson may be pitting Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians on the correct use (and not mis-use) of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the church against what was happening here on the day of Pentecost, a day with no developed biases.’

This may be too ambiguous to say for certain, but it follows with the next quote from Johnson.

“The Church has an unhealthy addiction to perfection: the kind that makes no allowances for messes. This standard [perfection] can only be met by restricting or rejecting the use of the gifts of the Spirit. ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ [1 Cor. 14.40]. The ‘all things’ of this verse refer to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all things must be done before we have the right to discuss order” (163, Johnson’s emphasis).

So is Johnson pitting Paul’s wanting a decent use of the Spirit over what the Spirit really wants to do? Is he really saying that the Spirit wants to do more, but Paul was uncomfortable with how much the Holy Spirit really wants to do? Is Paul a closet-Baptist and the Spirit a chandelier-swingin’ Pentecostal? Poor Paul! What else is this miserable apostle supposed to do but restrict the church’s use of the Spirit?

Yet this is not the correct way to look at Paul’s command.

What Did Paul Really Say?

Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1 Cor 1.1; 2 Cor 1.1; Eph 1.1; Col 1.1; 2 Tim 1.1; cf. Rom 1.1; Gal 1.1; Phil 1.1; 1 and 2 Thess 1.1; 1 Tim 1.1; Titus 1.1; Philemon 1.1). He does all in the sight of God (2 Cor 12.19; cf. 2.17; 4.2; 8.21) according to His commands. Paul can be trusted and does all for his church and for the glory of God.

Paul isn’t saying all things must be done before we have the right to discuss order,” but more so, “Let all things that are done be done decently and in order.” It doesn’t mean we should let the Holy Spirit move as He wishes and then decide what we feel most comfortable with. The Corinthians were abusing their spiritual gifts and using them to promote themselves. That’s why the famous ‘love’ chapter (1 Corinthians 13) comes in between chapter 12 (the use of spiritual gifts and being one unified body) and chapter 14 (the correct use of tongues, prophecy, and order).

It’s as if Johnson is saying, “Let’s do whatever we want and then we’ll impose order if there’s something we don’t like.” But if that was the case, it would be like a subcontractor who builds a house before using geometry, tools, and the blueprints to bring perfect order (perhaps like building a house on the sand? [Matt. 7.26]). It would be like writing a book before knowing the rules of grammar (have you read people’s text messages lately?).

Was Paul Confused?

If Paul didn’t like what the Spirit was doing, it would be wrong for him to say (1 Cor 14.33), “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” and then a few verses later (14.40) command Corinth to “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Is Paul confused? Is God peaceful but only confusing to him? Can Paul simply not understand what God is doing through His Spirit?

If such is the case, why would these chapters be in our Bible? “Oh, that’s the chapter where Paul doesn’t understand the use of the Spirit, and in that chapter Paul is scared of disorder.” Or maybe, just maybe, Corinth started making up what the Spirit did. In 14.5 Paul says he’d rather the church prophesy than speak in tongues because then the church would be edified. Paul would rather speak five words that his church could understand and be encouraged by than speak ten thousand words in a tongue that no one understands. Many in Corinth were impressed by such grand displays of the Spirit.

Yet what do some people do today? Lie on the floor as dead? Bark? Laugh? Is this some kind of contest? Who does this really edify? We are not animals. The Bible portrays God’s enemies as beasts and wild animals (Dan 4.32-33; 7.3-8,11-12; Rev 12.3; 13.1-2, 11-13). Does the Spirit really want to work in our lives by giving us a god, hearty laugh? No, I do not think so.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” The Holy Spirit isn’t going to work in a way which promotes disorder, where everyone prophesies at once to promote themselves, and where nobody can hear what is being said. Nobody gains anything from that kind of environment. If you have something to say, you do as you learned all the way back in kindergarten: you wait your turn and let each person speak one at a time.

When God Colors Outside The Lines

“Keeping things tidy has become our great commission” (p. 163). This may be true for many churches, but that’s besides the point. In context, Johnson thinks there should be greater manifestations of the Spirit? And what kinds of manifestations does he have in mind?

In a section in the book titled “When God Colors Outside The Lines” Johnson says,

On many occasions laughter has filled a room, bringing healing to broken hearts. Gold dust sometimes covers people’s faces, hands, or clothing during worship or ministry time. Oil sometimes appears on the hands of His people; and it especially happens among children. A wind has come into a room with no open windows, doors, vents, etc. At some locations, believers have seen an actual cloud of His presence appearing over the heads of worshiping people. We’ve also had the fragrance of heaven fill a room. In my own experience the fragrance of heaven filled our car while Beni and I were worshiping on a short trip. It lasted for about 30 minutes, and was a smell that I could actually taste, similar to granules of sugar sprinkled on my tongue. I have seen the small gems that suddenly appeared in peoples hands as they worshiped God. Since early in 1998 we have had feathers fall in our meetings. At first I thought birds were getting into our air conditioning ducts. But then they started falling in other rooms of the church not connected with the same ductwork. They now fall most anywhere we go—airports, homes, restaurants, offices, and the like (141).

Is this how we are to be conformed into the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ? The Spirit helps us in our weakness by putting oil on our hands? A wind blows through the room? Gold dust, small gems, and angel feathers? This sounds more like a comedy club than anything biblical. It’s on sections like these where I feel I don’t have to say much of anything to disprove it. It should speak for itself. Honestly, I feel Johnson’s whole book should speak for itself.


Doesn’t Examine Motives

Worse yet and strangely enough, Johnson doesn’t examine his motives.

“It may sound strange, but I don’t examine my motives anymore. That’s not my job. I work hard to obey God in everything that I am and do. If I am out to lunch on a matter, it is His job to point that out to me” (140, PDF).

Is it His job? We go about living our daily lives, and it’s His job to point out our wrong doings? He will by grace, but it’s not His job. Yes, God is the one with the spotlight, and it’s by His light that we see light, but should Johnson walk blindly thinking everything is fine and dandy? One can have good actions, but what are the motivations behind those actions?

Why shouldn’t Johnson examine his motives? Does he want to cast a blind eye to his own heart? Doesn’t Romans 1.23-24 say that “God gave up” those who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”? Can Johnson really say it’s God’s job to point out his own sins? If Johnson ignores that correction, then what? He’s not going to point out his own motivation errors.

Yes, God is the one who knows our truest motives (Ps. 17.3; Heb. 4.12) and we can’t always be 100% sure of our motives (Jer. 17.9), but that’s without the light of God’s word and Christ, according to Eph 5.13-14. It’s after these verses in Ephesians where Paul then goes on to say that we are to walk wisely, not in foolishness, because the days are evil. How do we walk wisely? We examine our motives and make sure we are loving God and loving our neighbor.

If Johnson doesn’t examine his motives, how does he know he loves God unselfishly? You’ll recognize your motives by reading God’s Word, not some new age perception of a supposed grand, ethereal experience of ‘His presence.’ You read His word using reason and knowledge and, by seeing God’s character, you admit that your motives were not correct. The Word of God is the foundation for how we live in this world, and to be able to decipher what is true and what is false.

Ps. 36.1-2 says, “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.”


Conclusion

Paul is not against the Spirit, but he knows that God’s Spirit builds up the body and points us to Christ, not to ourselves. We are not to use our gifts to promote ourselves, but to glorify God. Johnson is guilty of twisting Paul’s words to fit his own desire of how he believes the Spirit should work. The infant Church’ at Pentecost ‘hadn’t learned enough to try and control God.’ And Paul took no issue with the 120 in the upper room. It was the Corinthian church that was trying to control God, and Paul had to put a stop to it. It’s Johnson who’s trying to control God. But, by not examining his motives, he’ll never admit to this wrong. He wants to give jobs to God and the Spirit, jobs they are not required to fulfill. Instead of putting in the work, Johnson expects God to point out his sins and the Spirit to fulfill his wildest dreams and show him exactly what his Bible says (which, of course, is a theology that doesn’t jive with pain).

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”  – 1 Cor 3.16-17.


“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, 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. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”2 Peter 3.15-17

Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt III

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation of my review series on Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.
You can read my first and second posts here.

The Spoiled Milk

Off the Map

The more pronounced His presence, the more unique the manifestations of our God encounters become. Although the manifestations we experience while encountering Him are important, it’s God Himself we long for.

It’s difficult for most to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit because we are so limited in our experience with Him….The bottom line is we are not accustomed to recognizing the Holy Spirit’s actual presence. We are acquainted with a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up, such as tears, or perhaps a sense of peace when our favorite song is sung. But few recognize just Him alone. To make matters worse, many unknowingly reject Him because He either shows up in a way that they are unaccustomed to, or He failed to come as He has in the past. (Consider the arrogance of automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand, or have never recognized the Scriptures to say. It implies that if God hasn’t done it or shown it to us first, He wouldn’t possibly do it to someone else) (p. 83).

Somewhere out there is a small list of acceptable manifestations that sometimes happen when He shows up (e.g., tears, a sense of peace’). Let’s set aside the fact that I can get a sense of peace’ ‘when [my] favorite song is sung’ by R.E.M. or how I shed tears’ while watching Homeward Bound, and we’ll say that Johnson is right that those are on our small list of acceptable’ manifestations. Sometimes, then, He shows up in unfamiliar ways or ‘fails’ to come as He has done before. Does that mean we show arrogance’ by automatically rejecting everything that we don’t understand,’ especially if it’s something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’?

Yet in this next paragraph Johnson states that “His voice” will always line up with Scripture.

Jesus did not say, “My sheep will know my book.” It is His voice that we are to know. Why the distinction? Because anyone can know the Bible as a book—the devil himself knows and quotes the Scriptures. But only those whose lives are dependent on the person of the Holy Spirit will consistently recognize His voice. This is not to say that the Bible has little or no importance. Quite the opposite is true. The Bible is the Word of God, and His voice will always be confirmed by scripture. That voice gives impact to what is in print. We must diligently study the Scriptures, remembering that it is in knowing Him that the greatest truths of Scripture will be understood (p. 84).

Is it be Scripture that we know His voice’ or is it by His voice’  that we know Scripture? And what is His voice’? Is it a small, subjective, emotional feeling I have deep down in my heart? I believe what Freisen says about John 10.3-4, 16, and 27 is telling,

Using the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep, Jesus spoke repeatedly of the sheep “hearing” and “knowing” the shepherd’s voice. According to proponents of the traditional view [i.e., feeling some inner confirmation from God on His direct will], this parable teaches that Jesus conveys His individual will to those “sheep” who “hear His voice.” The closer I walk to the Shepherd, the clearer I will be able to hear the Shepherd’s specific directions revealing His individual will.

The parable is not difficult to follow. It is a response to the conflict between Jesus and certain Pharisees over the healing of a blind man (John 9). The parable is addressed to Jesus’ opponents (9:40-10:1). He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (10:11); He is also the “door” to salvation (10:9). They are thieves, robbers (10:1,8), strangers (10:5), and hired hands (10:12-13). The sheep are those who believe Him.

So what does Jesus mean when He says, “My sheep hear My voice”? Is He speaking solely of auditory recognition? No. In the context, Jesus is explaining a grim reality. There are others who would permit or do harm to the sheep. These others call out to the sheep, and the sheep hear them, in a literal sense. But the sheep do not “hear” the imposters (10:8) the way they hear the shepherd in confident trust. The subject of the parable is not guidance, but salvation. and the point is that only Jesus is the true shepherd and all who are true sheep believe Him, follow Him, and receive eternal life (10:26-28).

Those who do not recognize God’s leading, it is said, are too far away from the Shepherd. In contrast, John 10 teaches that all God’s sheep, all believers, hear clearly and accept the words of His voice (10:4-5, 16). Because the sheep hear and believe, they are given eternal life (10:26-28)….Jesus is referring to His actual spoken words [not heart impressions] and His message of salvation

(Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, p. 63-65)

So Johnson says this ‘voice’ ‘will always be confirmed by scripture.’ But says we are arrogant when we automatically [reject] everything that we…have never recognized the Scriptures to say.’ So, while John 10 says all of the Good Shepherd’s sheep hear His voice, follow after Him, and are led to the salvation of eternal life, Johnson says this voice is an inner impression. Yet even if there is an inner voice, it will always be confirmed by scripture.’  Yet why do we exude with arrogance when we reject something we have never recognized the Scriptures to say’? What’s the use in studying the Scriptures if the Holy Spirit will lead us off the map?

Following the leading of the Holy Spirit can present us with the same dilemma. While he never contradicts His Word, He is very comfortable contradicting our understanding of it. Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. To do so successfully we must recognize His presence above all (p. 76).

Bill Johnson, you’ve fallen off of the map. The Holy Spirit will not ‘lead’ us to do something the Bible does not say. He will always lead us into truth’, but we know this truth because of the Bible, not some subjective voice.

Holy Jumping Verses, Batman

….you’ve been reading the Bible, and a verse jumps out at you.…initially you couldn’t teach or explain that verse if your life depended on it. What happened is this: Your spirit received the life-giving power of the word from the Holy Spirit. When we learn to receive from our spirit, our mind becomes the student and is therefore subject to the Holy Spirit (p. 47).

Johnson tells us to learn to receive from our spirit,’ but he never tells us how. Yes, a verse may jump out at someone, and that one may have some idea of what it might mean, but how does he know? The Spirit told him? What if he later found out that the interpretation doesn’t fit with the author’s context? If the Spirit leads us to all truth [Jesus], and yet his interpretation was wrong, then perhaps he didn’t hear from the Spirit. Perhaps his brain made a ‘connection’, and rather than study to show himself approved, rather than put in the extra work to make sure the connection was legitimate, he became too excited to figure out if the connection was legitimate.

Perhaps we can become too excited to see if the connection is legitimate.

Perhaps Johnson has become too excited. Too excited to sit down and cognitively understand what the Bible is really saying, not by some mystical understanding, but by the means and methods that God has provided us to learn His word: work. We read, we think, we pray, we mull it over, we throw out any old conceptions and notions that don’t not line up with the Bible. Rinse and repeat.


Conclusion

His Spirit is working in us, and it’s for our obedience to His commands. Walking in the Spirit isn’t to be led by a subjective feeling, but to walk in line with God’s moral character: to be loving, gentle, patient, kind, long-suffering, joyous, peaceful, faithful, and self-controlling.

Beware of those who implicitly (and explicitly) undermine the Bible. Or those who claim that the Holy spirit manifests Himself as a cloud in our midst. Or those who claim He manifests Himself in new ways through fire tunnels, barking like dogs, holy rolling laughter fits, or sucking up the Holy Spirit’s power from dead revivalists.

It’s wrong. God will not be mocked.

Next Time

Since this section ended up being longer than I expected, in my next post I’ll talk about how Johnson pits Paul against the Holy Spirit’s work (at Pentecost and in Corinth). I may talk about Johnson’s misuse of the word ‘power’ and/or how he purposely doesn’t examine his motives.

Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt II

When Heaven Invades Earth

This is a continuation in my series of reviewing Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth. You can read Part I here.

The Spoiled Milk

Fideism (or Faith as True Knowledge)

Fideism is “the doctrine that knowledge depends on faith or revelation,‘ ‘faith is independent of reason,’ or ‘reason and faith are hostile to each other with faith being superior.’

Johnson says, “Faith is neither intellectual or anti-intellectual. It is superior to the intellect…. When we submit the things of God to the mind of man, unbelief and religion are the results. When we submit the mind of man to the things of God, we end up with faith and a renewed mind.” It’s a nice turn around, but Johnson doesn’t explain how that concept really works. He goes on to say, “Much of the opposition to revival comes from soul-driven Christians. The apostle Paul calls them carnal. They have not learned how to be led by the Spirit. Anything that doesn’t make sense to their rational mind is automatically in conflict with Scripture” (ps. 46-47).

“A religious spirit is a demonic presence that works to get us to substitute being led by our intellect instead of the Spirit of God” (p. 81).

“But how can we follow Him if we don’t recognize His presence? The more pronounced His presence, the more unique the manifestations of our God encounters become. Although the manifestations we experience while encountering Him are important, it’s God Himself we long for” (p. 82).

So all of this talk about God’s presence, what is God’s presence? How do we know when His Holy Spirit moves? It seems to be in the greater ‘manifestations’ we would experience.

The irony in Johnson’s title (When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles) is that Johnson doesn’t really tells how to live a life of miracles. He doesn’t tell us what ‘being led by the Spirit’ means, or how the Spirit moves, or what we really need to do to let the Spirit work.

Maybe He speaks in a still small voice? Does God always have to move in great manifestations? In 1 Kings 19.11-12 the Lord passes by Elijah and a great wind tore the mountain and broke rocks into pieces, then after an earthquake, then a fire, but the Lord was in none of these. Then a voice (19.13) asked Elijah what he was doing there. In 1 Kings 18 the Lord had just shown Himself in the fire that fell on the altar, yet King Ahab and Queen Jezebel refused to turn to Yahweh. Now, there will be no more signs. Instead, judgement. God would ‘speak’ so quietly that only those who know Him would hear His ‘voice.’

Yet, if such is the case, why are we to be looking for great manifestations of the Spirit? Even false prophets can perform signs (Deut. 13.2).

A Faith Summary

On pages 48-49 Johnson gives “A Faith Summary” from Hebrews 11.2-34 on the affects of faith found in that passage. The affects range from how “By faith” “Abraham received promises,”dwelled in a land of promise,” “By faith” “the walls of Jericho fell” to they who “By faith” “subdued kingdoms,” “shut the mouths of lions,” and “were made valiant in battle.”

What’s the problem?

Johnson stops at Hebrews 11.34, the very verse before we start to read about some who (“By faith”) were tortured, refused accepting release so that they might obtain a better resurrection. They suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stonings, beatings, being sawn in two, afflicted, mistreated, etc (Heb 11.35b-38).

Paul in Romans 8.16-18 says something similar, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Faith Cuts Verses?

The Holy Spirit lives in my spirit. That is the place of communion with God. As we learn to receive from our spirits we learn how to be Spirit led. ‘By faith, we understand’ [*Heb 11.3]. Faith is the foundation for all true intellectualism. When we learn to learn that way, we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).

Yet this is not what Hebrews 11.3 is saying at all. “By faith we understand…” What do we understand? “…that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” 

The author of Hebrews isn’t trying to teach his readers how to be Spirit led, but what our faith is placed in. God created the world by His word. God gave His people promises. He gave promises to:

  • Adam (Gen 3.15),
  • Abel [through Adam] (Gen 4.4),
  • Enoch (Gen 5.24; Jude 14-15),
  • Noah (Gen 6.13-14; 8.21-9.1,7),
  • Abraham (Gen 12.1-3; 15.4-7, 13-16, 18; 17.1-9),
  • Sarah (Gen 18.10-11; 21.1).

Yet, they died not having received the full and fulfilled promises of inheriting the land (Joshua 1-24). But Heb 11.40 says, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” If they didn’t not see all (but did see some) of the promises fulfilled, yet had faith, should we not have more reason to believe God?

God’s Promises to Us

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1.20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” And from 2 Cor 1.20-7.1 Paul lays out these promises that have come and are being fulfilled in Christ:

  • Forgiving the offender (Mt. 18.15-20) [we are in Christ who is the true temple (Jn 2.19-21)],
  • New Covenant (2 Cor 3; cf. Jer 31.31-34), the light of Christ’s Gospel (2 Cor 4.6; cf. Gen 1.2-3; Isa 9.2),
  • Assurance of resurrection and the day of judgment (2 Cor 5.1-5, 10; cf. Dan 12.2),
  • Beginning of new creation and reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5.17-21; cf. Isa 43.18-19; 65.17),
  • And, in having the Spirit of God in us, being the temple of God (2 Cor 6.16-18; cf. Lev 26.12; Isa 52.11; Jer 32.38; Ezek 20.34.41; 2 Sam 7.14).

All that to say, God gave promises, He has kept them, and they are starting now. We have the Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee (2 Cor 5.5) that believers, unlike unbelievers, recognize that our fearful Judge came to us first to be our Savior. Unbelievers don’t fear Judgment Day. We are looking forward to the consummated New Creation (Rev 21-22) so that we can be out of the suffering and affliction the world lays on us now.

So we have ‘better’ promises in Jesus, ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb 12.2). He endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now sitting at the right hand of God. We are to ‘lay aside every weight’ and ‘run the race with endurance’ with Christ as our Perfect Model.

Leap of Faith

Taking from Johnson quote above, “…we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).

We are not making a ‘leap of faith’ like those in the Enlightenment. During the Enlightenment, Reason came to power and ‘faith’ could no longer be proved. Reason ‘proved’ the Bible wrong, and to believe in the Bible one had to make a jump ‘into faith.’ They just had to believe that there was something to believe.

But this is not our position. We have historical proof of God fulfilling His promises in His Son Jesus Christ. We have His Spirit which, as we go through trials and affliction, causes us to look forward to the promise of the physical new created world which God’s presence will pervade.

And though we believe by faith, it is not something ‘superior’ to intellect for we use our intellect to show how this makes sense. We use our intellect to know that the Bible is true. We use our intellect to look back at history and see that God has fulfilled His promises, and we believe by faith that God will continue to keep His word, even in the midst of our afflictions.


Conclusion

Johnson claims that we are to look for manifestations of the Spirit. The greater His presence the more unique the manifestations. He assumes that by faith we know that we know that we know. We believe the Bible not by God acting throughout history, but because we experience Holy Spirit manifestations of grandeur now. At least, we should, so the argument goes. If manifestations are our proof, when happens when we don’t get them? Believe harder? Are we doing something wrong? Johnson doesn’t tell us. We just simply have to believe “because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).

Next Time

In the next review we’ll look at “rejecting everything we don’t understand” and pitting Paul against Pentecost.

Review: When Heaven Invades Earth; Pt I

When Heaven Invades Earth

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

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.

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 blueBy doing this you can look and decide for yourself if my points are valid (especially if you own the book).

Recommended?

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).


Conclusion

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).

Next Time

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.