It is with great sadness that I write this analysis of Bill Johnson’s book, When Heaven Invades Earth. I do pray for him and other pastors who teach these things. I also pray for those in their churches. There are people I love dearly sitting in their pews. Throughout the book and the teachings I’ve heard, there are many things I disagree with (doctrines such as healing in the atonement, the anointing, impartation, dominion theology). Instead of trying to refute every point, I’ve tried to identify some of the more significant errors.
View of Jesus
Bill Johnson plucks John 5:19 out of its context saying of Jesus, “the Son can do nothing.” He basically claims that Jesus laid aside all of His godly attributes and had only human attributes and abilities. In the history of the church, this teaching has been identified as a heresy called kenoticism. Johnson teaches that Jesus was completely powerless needed to be anointed by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (p79). I found this confusing believing that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. Johnson also said that “the Holy Spirit revealed the Father to Jesus” (p80). I don’t see this anywhere in Scripture. On the contrary, Jesus asserts, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and also, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10). Why would Jesus need the Father to be revealed to Him if they are one?
Johnson’s purpose behind this view of Christ is to show that a believer can do everything Jesus did. His reasoning is as follows: Jesus had no sin to separate Him from the Father and He was completely dependent on the Holy Spirit’s power. Since Christ’s sacrifice has removed the barrier of our sin, now nothing separates us, we only have to depend on the Holy Spirit. While it is true that Christ’s sacrifice has sufficiently dealt with our sin, I don’t think He went to the cross so that we could operate in the miraculous but rather because of God’s great justice and mercy. The penalty needed to be paid for our sin. We could never pay it. He paid it for us to reconcile us to Himself. And although I am holy and blameless in His sight, covered in the righteousness of Christ, while I am still in this earthly tent, I am still a sinner. I await the day when I will be in my glorified state but until then I cannot be compared to the sinless Jesus.
View of Suffering
Johnson teaches that a loving Father would not allow His children to suffer. According to him, a good God would not allow sickness for a greater purpose. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
On page 48 of his book, Bill Johnson uses Hebrews 11 as a summary of faith. He fails to include those who by faith “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--” (Hebrews 11: 35-37). Throughout history God’s people have always endured hardship and persecution. A good God is one who upholds and strengthens His own in the midst of suffering so that He is glorified by doing so.
There are basic rules of interpreting the Bible that I think are very important. For example, verses must be interpreted in their context. We also must understand what message was being conveyed at the specific time and to a specific people. A text can never mean what it never meant…in its original context. (See page 65 and Joshua 1:3). I also have concerns with Bill Johnson’s hermeneutics on a different level. I affirm that we do need the Holy Spirit to reveal the truths of the Bible to us and we do need to lay aside our presuppositions and let God speak to us through His word. But Johnson goes beyond that and places a subjective prophetic word over the straightforward meaning of Bible passages. Of course he would say that the Bible has the ultimate authority but I haven’t seen that principle practiced. The result: (1) relativism - to me this verse means…and (2) a new form of popery - the great Reformation principle of sola scriptura is cast aside and the prophet/teacher’s interpretation is the new standard.
One great danger spread throughout this book is the equating of discernment with fear. Bill Johnson is quick to defend himself against those who question his teachings. The apostle Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. Those who are concerned about being deceived and hesitant to sign on are condemned as full of fear (which is viewed as the worst possible thing). In order not to fall victim to fear, all are encouraged jump in unreservedly.
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Mat 24:24)
My greatest concern with the teaching of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church in Redding is that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not central to their message. It appears that the cross and the empty tomb are just a means to an end - namely, operating in the miraculous. I fear they may be preaching a different gospel.
“Salvation was not the ultimate goal of Christ’s coming… [The ultimate goal] was to fill each born again person with the Holy Spirit.” (Johnson, p71)
“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
“The gospel is the story of the Father wooing the hearts of mankind through His love.” (Johnson, p101)
“The present day understanding of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom means to preach a message that will bring as many people to conversion as possible. But what did preaching the kingdom mean to Jesus? Every instance in which He either did it or commanded it, miracles followed.” (Johnson, p185)
Jesus summed up His message with these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)
“Through the shedding of His blood, it would be possible for everyone who believed on His name to do as He did and become as He was. This meant then that every true believer would have access to the realm of life that Jesus lived in.” (Johnson, p138)
“…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
“Without [signs and wonders/miracles], the world suffers, God is grieved, and we are the most to be pitied” (Johnson, p119)
“We are most to be pitied if we think we’ve reached the fullness of what god intended for His Church here on earth.” (Johnson p186)
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-20)
“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-- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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. 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.” (Galatians 1:6-9)