Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do Christians Have an Obligation to Support Benjamin Netanyahu? Or, How Bad Eschatology Leads to Bad Practice.

One doesn't generally appreciate being called a "Nazi", or an "anti-Christ", or an "apostate", or "deceived", yet I had the pleasure of having all of these labels hurled at me like rotten fruit and dead cats through the computer screen by a Dispensationalist yesterday. The Internet is a wonder, it is a world where men do not meet with a handshake and a "What do you do for a living?" but rather, with scabbards drawn and a "Who the hell do you think you are?!"

I had such an encounter yesterday with a gentlemen, ah but that's too courteous for the web, an individual? Still too drowsy? A crooked fanged pimpled faced know nothing? That's the ticket! That's how we talk on the Internet! As I was saying I had an encounter yesterday, entirely uninitiated by myself, to which the center of our row fixed upon the status of present day Israel. I maintain that the Biblical position is that there is one people of God, the Church, or those united to Christ by faith, and this body consists of both Jew and Gentile.

For holding to such a position I was out of the gates labeled an "anti-Christ" because, I denied that the present day nation of Israel is the people of God. I suppose in the Zionist dispensational scheme my position is blasphemous, as they assert quite forcefully, that there are two peoples of God: the Church and Israel and they are separate, according to their hermeneutic. Their entire eschatological system centers upon a strip of land abutting the Mediterranean Sea.

I was reminded by our friend that the battle between Gog and Magog was soon to take place, the 7 year tribulation period is coming, the secret rapture of the Church, and Christ's ultimate return on the mount of Olives. Most of which I simply can not find in the Bible. Where does the Bible talk about a 7 year tribulation period? Seriously? Shouldn't that be clear if it is so dogmatically held to by these guys? Shouldn't there be a passage that says something akin to, "before the Christ returns there will be 7 years of tribulation..." yet I find that there is nothing even close to that.

But, what I find to be most pernicious about this system is the insistence that the Church and Israel are separate peoples of God, two bodies as it were. My position is that the Church is Israel, that is what the Bible teaches as we shall see shortly. Upon my saying this the wails come reigning down, "B,b,but, that's replacement theology! Are you saying the Church replaced Israel?" No, I am not. If you actually think about the dispensational scheme it is actually they who hold to a "replacement", right now we are in the "Church age" but it will end and God's attention will return to Israel, according to them.

For a typical exposition of the "Two people of God" doctrine from one of it's adhearants you can read here.

What I assert is that the Israel of God always was and always will be the elect of God, and that is made up of Jew and Gentile alike. This reaches it's fullest realization in the Church, as people are drawn out from every tribe tongue and nation to Christ. Christ is the very embodiment of the covenantal promise to Abraham, that in Him all nations shall be blessed. Let's look at that:

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal 3:16)

See what Paul does here? He makes it clear that the promise given to Abraham doesn't refer to physical descendants in general, but to One descendant in particular, Christ. Thus, consequently the promises belong to those united to Christ, which is the Church. But, let's continue in Galatians:

"For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." (Gal 4:22-31)

Here, we again see Paul explicitly stating that it is not physical descendancy from Abraham that makes one a member of the Israel of God, nor is it physical proximity to Jerusalem itself that makes one an Israelite. Rather, one needs to be a citizen of the "Jerusalem that is above", a son of "the free woman". Or, as one sees in the greater context, one needs to be in Christ. To be in Christ is to be in the Israel of God.

Interestingly, if we ponder Paul's language here about the bondwoman being cast out it seems rather prophetic for the coming judgement in 70 AD, where there was a doing away with the temple sacrifices and national Israel.

But more directly to the point that there is but one people of God we turn to Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph 2:13-22)

This passage speaks directly to the matter on which we are seeking clarity. Paul, writing to Gentiles, makes clear to them that they are no second class citizens, the wall of separation is "broken down" (this is temple imagery) and all have equal access into the blessing of God. There is "one body" that is "reconciled to God", and "one household", because all enjoy the same foundation and Cornerstone. The Church further is described as a temple, I would argue that this harkens back to the Ezekiel temple the Dispensationalists are always bantering about, it's already happened. That's why the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the real temple is now here, Christ and His Church.

Hey dispies, put that hermeneutic in your shofar and smoke it.

I am uncertain as to what could be more clear and decisive in settling this matter, there is one people of God, those in Christ, the Church. But, to continue to throw trusty spears into the Jabba the Hut-like hermeneutic the Dispensationalists have erected, I turn to Paul's letter to the Romans:

"Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
(Rom 9:4-8)

I think that spear landed into the brutes' heart. How much more vivid can the picture be before the "two people of God" position is dropped and left for dead, having been slain by the sword of the Spirit? It explicitly says the children of the flesh are not the children of God but the children of promise. One can couple this with Christ's own rebuke of the would be "Children of Abraham" in John 8 and it should be apparent that having Abraham's blood in your veins does not make one a son of Abraham.

How many times does the New Testament need to say this before we get this one? Obviously, this is not new error or else it wouldn't have been stabbed, shot, hung and burned so many times in the New Testament. The passages I cited are but a narrow selection from what else could have been chosen to address this matter. Simply put, this is a dead horse Hoss.

In fact, if someone has read this and still holds to the "two people of God" doctrine I would simply ask them to show me where that is taught in the Bible. Where does the Bible teach that God has two separate peoples? You might want to highlight and underline that question because you're not going to get an answer from John Haggee (pictured on left) on that one, you are just supposed to assume it, kind of like the guys Paul was rebuking in Galatians ch. 2. Furthermore, if you still hold to the two people doctrine, I ask, how in the world do you exegete the passages I cited above without doing violence to the text?

So What are the Implications of This?
The implications of getting this right should be clear, right now dispensationalists have a sort of boyish crush on the nation of Israel. This can be seen with many evangelical churches adorning their sanctuaries with Israeli flags, stars of David, menorahs, and gigantic maps of Israel. Worshippers may strut around bugling away on shofars, while donning an authentic prayers shawl (made in Israel of course). Although they speak English they may even adopt calling Jesus "Yeshua" because everything is better in Hebrew, as well as calling Him "Mashiach" instead of Christ. This is the whole gimmick of the "Discovering the Jewish Jesus" tv show.

But the implications of the two people of God doctrine doesn't just stop with eccentric shticks and borderline idolatrous practices in the Church, it also extends into the realm of politics as well.

Dispies generally have an Israel can do no wrong foreign policy. Every time Israel rolls tanks into Gaza it is obviously warranted. Every time Benjamin Netanyahu calls for attacking Iran the Christian Zionists are right there with him joinging the chorus calling for mass death. Apparently, because Mahmoud Ahmdinaunpronouncable made a comment about wanting to wipe Israel off the map, that is now quoted incessantly, that now justifies Israel and its lackeys here in the US constantly threatening to wipe Iran off the map.

Dispies of course turn a blind eye to all of the human rights violations on behalf of Israel, or even the US against Muslims that continue to go on, I think just because they hate Muslims. Yet, every time a Palestinian acts with reprehensible aggression the Christian Zionists begin screaming for justice, and playing the Israel is the misunderstood victim game. Although, to them it's not a game, they really perceive reality in that light. Our presuppositions will always color how we see things.

In short, this needs to stop. Our theology and the sub-branch of eschatology will effect how we live. Dispensationalism and its wild last days charts as a whole would make for a pretty neat comic book series for young teens if only grown men wouldn't take it seriously. But, particularly annoying is the Israel is the center of the world idea, and it's backbone: the two people of God doctrine.

So, coming back to our friend who would call what I just espoused "anti-Christ". What pray tell can be more anti-Christ than to say that there is a people of God outside of Christ?

And, not only that, but then the Dispensationalists demand that all those in Christ (The Church) must see to it that America gives unwavering support to that Christ rejecting people, militarily, and monetarily or America will be cursed. How absurd. Christian Zionism will eventually occupy the theological dustbin of history along with the Shakers, the Quakers, and the radical Anabaptist community of "love and equality" in Munster. Dispensationalism, and its bastard child of Christian Zionism, will be an oddity that future generations shall read about only to be rewarded with a hearty belly laugh for their labors.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Relativistic Sentimentalism on Overdrive: Or Popular Thoughts on Gay Marriage

"Who are you to say?" Seems to be the highest expression of Orthodoxy in our day, yet in that one simple challenge to moral authority the destruction of our entire society is contained. No, I don't see homosexuality itself as the thing that will destroy our society, it is just another symptom of the lemming like march of the West off the cliff of relativism.

Recently, in the town I reside in Rhode Island the debate over same sex marriage has been sparked as the new Governor Lincoln Chaffee (the first name should tell the reader all we need to know) has vowed to legalize same sex marriage. This was answered in our town by a gentleman speaking against this matter in a public forum at a Catholic church. Given the reaction by individuals writing to the editor one might have thought that a young George Wallace descended upon the town crying, "Segregation now! And, segregation forever!"

The statements made by local common folk is what I believe spells the death march of our society, apart from God's Spirit being poured out in a massive revival. The editorial letters were entirely devoid of any moral pronouncement that could be considered objective. In essence the entire problem the people had with the forum against same sex marriage was, "I don't like it, I have a gay friend/brother/or I myself am gay." Vapid slogans continue to dominate our intellectual landscape, one of which that is invoked ad nauseum is as follows:

"Why can't two people who love each other get married?"

To which, if we act like adults and pause to think, we will find that there may in fact be any number of reasons why it may not be possible for "two people who 'love' each other" to get married, such as: They may be brother and sister, father and daughter, mother and son, they are cousins, one of them may already be married, both of them may already be married, one of the parties may be under age, both of the parties may be under age, and lastly, they may be of the same gender. Our autonomous society wants to place an asterisk next to that last one, but if it does that, why not place an asterisk next to them all?

We hear people scoff when the sensible question is brought up that if homosexual marriage is permitted then why not polygamy, bestial marriage, or man boy marriage? People get angry and roll their eyes at these suggestions, I think because they were never taught logic. If sexual ethics are up in the air to be determined, not by God in His word, but rather the lobby groups in Washington or Providence in the case of RI, then why stop at same sex marriage?

After all, what do you mean you don't think a man can have 7 wives? What are you some sort of polygaphobe? What do you mean a man can't marry his Pit Bull? That is a bigoted narrow minded thing to say, after all, who are you to say? Honestly, why not? Stay out of a man's bedroom! The supporters of same sex marriage can never really answer why these latter perversions would remain impermissible once their perversion becomes acceptable. What are the boundaries, what is the standard that forbids such arrangements as man beast, or man and boy?

In fact, the lobby groups for these perversions already exist.

The issue isn't a what goes where mechanics confusion in sexual practice, rather it strikes at the very root of what ethics are based upon. Is God our lawgiver? If so we have objective truth in the area of ethics. Or, is man autonomous? If so all moral statements are subjective and are really on the same level as which of the 31 Baskin Robbins flavors is your favorite.

Such is the muddled state of thinking in our day, as Dostoevsky famously stated, "Without God all things are permitted."

That really needs to sink in to people. If we are just making up the boundaries of morality and decency as we go, and there is no fixed standard or word from God, then we have no basis to really object to anything. The implications of that are obviously much larger than off color bedroom practices. In short, the supporters of same sex marriage are getting more than they bargain for.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Were The American Colonies Sinning When They Seceeded From Britain in 1776?

I have said it before and I will say it again, the Church is in desperate need of a robust political philosophy today. We are in turbulent times, I don't think it will sink in to most individuals just how precarious these times are until we see an unveiling of a full blown police state. Those who have eyes to see have observed it under construction in gems like the Patriot Act and the acceptance of the practice of torture. But more dangerous than these portends is the reflexive docility toward the downward march into tyranny on the part of Christians. Basically many Christians are acting as the towel boy for the intoxicated monstrosity that is the Federal Government, this canine like lackey behaviour is allegedly extracted and justified from Romans chapter 13.

I recently had and individual on Facebook, with whom I am not acquainted, send me a private message giving me the old Romans 13 finger wagging. This was done because apparently voicing having a problem with the regime that rules us killing Pakistani civilians is actually wrong for Christians to do in light of Romans 13. I suppose the next time I happen to read about 54 Pakistani "insurgents" being killed in a predator drone strike, it is my duty in the words of Bill O'reilly to, "Sit Down and Shut Up!" To add to this, the individual further declared that the American war for Independence was in fact sinful in light of Romans 13, and it is that assertion which I shall focus on in this post.

So, what should be our response to this? Was it in fact sinful to withdraw from union with King George? My answer is simply this, not at all. In fact the colonial leaders actually would actually be disobeying Romans 13 by not standing up to King George, but more on that in a bit. We first need to get the principle of the lesser magistrate in our minds before that last sentence will make sense.

The Principle of the Lesser Magistrate

The Lesser Magistrate doctrine simply stated holds that it is not only the right but the duty of lower governing authorities (think mayor) to disobey and even oppose higher authorities (think governor or president) when those higher authorities give commands or decrees that are themselves unlawful. Theologically speaking, this all rests upon the principle that all authority is delegated authority from God, which is what we actually read in Romans 13:1. Therefore, given that the authority possessed by governments is a delegated authority or a stewardship, it has boundaries, it is not autonomous.

If we get this we can begin to understand that the American secession from King George was not in the least bit sinful, as it was in actuality the principle of the lesser magistrate in action. Since governments are not autonomous they are bound by God's laws that all men are called to obey regardless of their status. These can be simple things like, stop stealing (Eph 4:28), and stop lying (Eph 4:25). The colonial congress and government interposed on behalf of their people to protect them from the lawlessness of King George. For a recounting of what King George did that warranted a severing of their union to him the Declaration of Independence lists the grievances of the Colonies against King George and I commend its reading. The founding fathers were intimately acquainted with the principle of the lesser magistrate and based their entire secession upon it.

The logic of their separation from England went something like this:

P1. Government exists to protect persons and property.

P2. There are numerous governing authorities, (in 1776, local colonial representatives and the overseas Parliament and King.)

P3. Governing authorities can become injurious to persons and property (See King George quartering troops in homes).

/:.C. Therefore, governing authorities not only can but ought to interpose on behalf of the people to protect from other governing authorities acting tyrannically. John Knox

The principle of the lesser Magistrate was taught by John Calvin and received direct application from John Knox in his letter "Appelation" to the lesser magistrates of Scotland as he sought protection from bloodthirsty papists. The principle, being the backbone of the American Colonial secession from King George, led to the war being nicknamed the "Presbyterian War" by King George himself. Presbyterians should be proud that the American war for Independence was so called.

So with all of that said, were these men all wrong in light of the modern applications of Rom 13? Not at all, lesser magistrates would actually be violating the God given commands for government in Romans 13 if they didn't stand up to tyrants and disobey sinful orders. "For he is the minister of God to thee for good." (Rom 13:4)

Perhaps seeing the principle on a smaller scale will allow the reader to grasp its application upon a larger. A soldier is bound by oath to obey his superior officers, however, if the superior officer has ordered something that is unlawful (ex. firing upon civilians) the soldier not only can disobey but he must disobey, as he answers not to the superior officer ultimately, but the superior's Superior, God. To continue this thought, if a superior officer in the battle field loses his mind and begins dishing out all sorts of wild orders, many of them dangerous to the soldiers below him, it is no mutiny to relieve him of his charge and for a lesser officer to assume command in his place against his will. It is rather most proper and judicious for the lesser officer to depose a mad superior.

With that said, here's a real life situation, it is 1776, you are a Virginian and the Virginia congress has signed the Declaration of Independence and chosen to secede from union with England. Who do you obey, congress or the king? Who does Romans 13 tell you to obey? It simply doesn't answer this.

This is where we need to put on the big boy pants and think like adults, look over those grievances in the Declaration and decide who has our loyalty. The same can be said of the war for Southern Independence and the Lincoln's forced assimilation of the South back into a Borg like Union with Washington. It is within this seed bed of thought that men like Thomas Jefferson could say, "Disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God."

Yet, today's average Christians, not to mention your average bureaucrat recoils in horror at such sentiment as the above expressed by our 3rd president.

Simply put, we need to recapture this teaching in the church, this isn't enlightenment based rubbish. By and large I just hear the boot-licking rendition of Rom 13 ad nauseum from my brothers in Christ. The only place that kind of thinking is going to lead to is the Church being complicit as the State encroaches more and more upon the liberty of the people of this country. A robust political philosophy needs to be recovered, one that allows Christians to call evil evil and to be John the Baptists towards the Herods of our day, and there is no shortage of them. Understanding the doctrine of the lesser magistrate is a great step in that direction, and the government that rules us would rather that it was forgotten.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Are We Waiting For Christ To Occupy His Throne?

I am presently reading through Keith Mathison's "Postmillenialism: An Eschatology of Hope" and have been impressed thus far with both the thoroughness and depth of his scriptural argument as well as the fairness to the other eschatological camps. I of course come to the book already accepting a postmillenial position and just want to go further up and further in as C.S. Lewis put it. On the issue of whether Christ is reigning now or later, Postmillenialism shows itself to be the most Biblical here in regard to the throne matter.

"The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." (Psalm 110:1)

This is actually the most quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament. So, obviously the Spirit thought it to be important to our understanding of the New Covenant. In one of the New Testament references, Peter's sermon in Acts, we see the application of this passage:

"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:32-36)

We see here clearly the answer to the question in this post's title, when Christ ascended into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God and there shall remain, until His enemies are put under His feet. Understanding this in a Postmillenial context has helped me to understand other scriptures. For example:

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

I never understood this passage when I had a Premillenial view of Christ's return, it seemed to me that it would be better if they rolled out the throne in Jerusalem and Christ began to reign in an earthly kingdom. If that indeed is the endgame as the Premils would say how in the world can it be better that Christ not set up an earthly throne now?

Ah, but that's the rub, He is on the throne, right now. At least that's what the Spirit said, and from there He rules the nations (Psalm 2) and shall see all things put under His feet.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Teaching of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church Examined Part II: Bodily Healing In the Atonement Error

In the first post in this series we looked at the Christological errors being espoused by Bill Johnson. The reader also saw what I believe to be the driving presuppositions behind the denial of Christ's Divine attributes during His earthly ministry, namely an idolatrous esteem for miracles. That same presupposition is explicitly the guiding principle in this next area of examination, the so-called "Healing in the atonement" teaching.

Let me again preface my article by stating where I sympathize with Mr. Johnson. I whole heartily agree with Mr. Johnson that sickness and death are NOT normal. We were not originally made to die, leave our bodies and be unclothed spirits (2 Cor 5:1-4). So, let me be very clear, sickness and death are tragic. As a Christian, I long for the day when that last enemy, death, is put under king Jesus' feet (1 Cor 15:26 cf Psalm 110:1). With that said, I appreciate the passion Bill Johnson has to see these things taken away, he is sincere in wanting to see sickness and death eliminated and health restored, and with that I am in cheerful agreement.

It's the theology that Bill Johnson has built around healing that is the problem, not the aim. He has a good goal but has drifted off the path and into bypass meadow, much in the same mindset of Bunyan's Christian thinking he was achieving something good, yet in reality, falling into error.

Defining The Healing in the Atonement DoctrineLet us firstly define what this healing in the atonement doctrine actually is teaching. The marrow of the healing in the atonement teaching is that just as Christ died for our sins He also died for our bodily healing. Thus, healing is guaranteed to people just as surely as salvation from our sins (and the wrath they deserve) is guaranteed by Christ's death. So, bodily healing is readily available on demand, Christ bought it. The doctrine is said to have its Biblical base in Isaiah 53:4-5 which reads:

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

Now a possible translation of "griefs" in Hebrew "khol-ee'" From H2470; malady, anxiety, calamity: - disease, grief, (is) sick (-ness), is sicknesses. Also, a possible translation for "sorrows" in Hebrew "mak-o-baw'" From H3510; anguish or (figuratively) affliction: - grief, pain, sorrow. So in the text there is a possible meaning of the words that indeed is closely related to sickness, and to this the healing in the atonement teachers have latched on. (Strong's Concordance)

Further Scriptural citation for this doctrine often include the close relationship between individuals being forgiven their sins and being bodily healed. I have personally heard the doctrine being extracted from the healing of the paralytic in Matthew 9 where Christ says:

"For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
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."
(Matt 9:6)

The logic goes something like this, Jesus in the above account was saying that the evidence that the paralytic was forgiven of his sins was shown in his consequent healing. Or, to put it another way, he was healed because he was forgiven. Therefore, it stands to reason that all those whom Christ has forgiven have full access to this bodily healing, just as he died for their sins that they may be forgiven, He equally died that their bodies might no longer taste sickness. This coupled with the sickness oriented rendering of Isaiah 53, and it seems a pretty airtight argument, especially if you are not thoroughly familiar with all of scripture.

By way of my making a response to this teaching it must be pressed upon the understanding of those who hold to and teach this doctrine that it has broad implications which threaten other Biblical doctrines and our own practice. These Biblical teachings under assault include the sovereignty of God, God's goodness in His sovereignty, the Biblical teaching on sickness and in a more empirical vein the ubiquity of sickness in our world and lives.

Before I go into a rebuttal of the position, I will let these things be stated by Bill Johnson himself. In Video #1 here, Mr. Johnson asserts that sickness is never the will of God and in fact to think that God is sovereign over sickness is actually to make Him out to be a child abuser. I find that almost every time some teacher says things like, "If God is like X then He's a rapist" that the Bible teaches that God in fact is like X. There are also many other statements made in the video I would consider outlandish, particularly the Smith Wigglesworth quote that seems to make God into an impersonal force we tap into.

Video #2 here is Mr. Johnson replying to 3 questions, 1.) Does God ever cause sickness? 2.) Does God ever choose not to heal? 3.) What was Paul's thorn in the flesh? Johnson of course answers no to the first two questions, but in doing so really has to make the devil bigger than he really is and make God smaller than He is, and again God seems more like a force that we tap into the more I listen to Mr. Johnson. In response to the third question Mr. Johnson says he just doesn't know what Paul's thorn in the flesh was, but he knows it wasn't sickness.

In this #3 and last video Mr. Johnson makes a statement that I think is very revealing and really supports my thought as to why there are all of these odd doctrines in Mr. Johnson's theology. Mr. Johnson states at the 1:00 mark, "I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness." Furthermore, Johnson actually says that if you don't believe in all of this healing on demand business or think Paul's thorn is some sort of bodily ailment you are preaching a different gospel. Please note, this video has written comments by someone obviously not sympathetic to Johnson's position, I rather don't like that, as Johnson's own words are enough.

Having let Mr. Johnson speak for himself I begin my rebuttal with the doctrine of God's sovereignty followed by a Biblical exegesis of the popular healing in the atonement passages, the Biblical accounts of sickness as well as our common experience with sickness.

I. The God Who is Good and Sovereign Over All Things, Including Sickness
One of the "stupid doctrines" to quote Bill Johnson, that he seems nauseated by in the first video, as it implies God is in control of sickness, is the doctrine of God's sovereignty. This teaching is directly under assault by the "sickness is never of God" slogans. Is God in control of all things or is He being controlled by something(s)? It is impossible to hold to the healing on demand position and affirm God's sovereignty, because it would mean that every sickness is from the devil, and God would rather that there were no sickness but for some reason He can't stop that pesky devil from running a muck and spreading the Flu virus. Christians often mouth quaint phrases like, "God is in control" but if we really flush that out we find He is in control of things we'd rather Him not be...but He after all isn't a tame Lion...He isn't safe...but He is good.

A. God's Sovereignty Over Evil

The most moving narrative in Scripture in regards to the sovereignty of God is found in the story of Joseph. In the life of Joseph we see a man who has received a promise from God and yet his entire life is one tragedy and suffering on top of another. From his brothers intending to murder him but instead doing the next best thing and selling him as a slave to Ishmaelites, to his slavery and false accusation of rape from the loose wife of his master. From Jacob Blesses the sons of Josephthere, as a prisoner in a dungeon, to thinking he might get a release by helping the cup bearer of Pharaoh only to be forgotten by the cup bearer for years.

Finally, Joseph is exalted to the place of 2nd over all of the land of Egypt through his interpreting of Pharoah's dreams. In this position he is able to save the lives of many including his own treacherous brothers through his wise preparations for the famine he knew was coming. It is after going through the valley of shadow full of tragedy and suffering that on the other end Joseph can look back recognizing that God did was its author. This reaches a climax as he is able to gaze upon his wicked brothers and see the hand of God guiding even them as he says:

"So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt." (Gen 45:8)

And again,

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen 50:20)

Here we see Joseph clearly confessing God's sovereignty over all the events of his life, particularly the evil ones, with a good end intended by God in it all. So, in regard to God's goodness I agree with Mr. Johnson, God is good all the time, we just need to understand God's goodness in the same manner as Joseph, and the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28. The "all things" includes a lot of trials are struggles.

B. God's Sovereignty Over Sickness in ParticularContrary to Bill Johnson's Q & A answers to the question "Does God ever cause or allow sickness?" the God of the Bible declares that yes indeed He does cause sickness, and the reality of this is something He confesses boldly as it distinguishes His sovereignty and power. We often overlook passages that deal with the LORD specifically striking someone with illness, one instance is the judgement of God upon David's child born out of his adultery with Bathsheba:

"And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick." (2 Sam 12:15)

Why did the child get sick? The LORD struck him. The average sentimentalist may not like this but there it is. Let God be God. Other examples worth noting are as follows:

"And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt." (Ex 9:8-9)

"They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people." For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven." (1 Samuel 5:11-12)

In a more clear cut pronouncement on His sovereignty over sickness we turn to the book of Exodus. We find this proclamation in the context of Moses stating that he is slow of speech and doesn't think he is the best candidate to go before Pharaoh and give him the "Let my people go" speech, to which God replies:

"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)

Here we see God confessing that it is He who decides whose eyes will work, whose mouths shall speak, and whose ears shall hear. He decides that, not some fallen angel, running around doing whatever he wants while God bites His nails trembling at the devil's works and fretting that the church hasn't activated the power of healing like Smith Wigglesworth. No, God rules over disabilities and therefore over abilities. When someone is good at sports or music or is very intelligent people will say that person, "Has a gift", whether or not they realize they are recognizing a Gift Giver by saying so.

Yet, on the flip side when people are seen with physical problems, we want to protect God and say He didn't do that. People often become indignant and begin to demand "Why?!" from God to which scripture anticipating such a reaction to God's sovereignty replies:

"But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" (Romans 9:20-21)

Now I understand that people at first don't like this, they want a God that is manageable rather than One who the Supreme Manager of all things, and that is why Arminianism reigns in regard to soteriology. But, that issue aside, once we submit to this teaching of scripture, we find that the doctrine that seemed so dark and void of comfort is actually teeming with sweetness, comfort and light. After all, when you hear from the doctor, "It's terminal." what is more comforting, the notion that this is just an accident that God wishes wouldn't be but for some reason He can't stop it, or are we comforted to know with scripture that not a hair can fall from our heads without it being the will of our Father in heaven (Matt 10:29-30)?

I'll take the latter over the Johnsonite position.

II. The Bible on Healing in the Atonement. Or an Attempt to Exegete the Texts Most Used by Advocates of the Doctrine.A. Isaiah 53

There is no controversy as to the actual language in Isaiah 53:3-4, it certainly can mean sickness and pains, hence the footnotes in your Bible's margin telling you this. So, if we let scripture interpret scripture we must ask, how is the Isaiah passage viewed in the New Testament? Lets see:

"And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them. When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." (Matt 8:14-17)

Apostle Paul by RembrandtIn Matthew's gospel we indeed do see the Isaiah 53:4 text used directly in regard to healing. The healings Christ performed are said to be the fulfillment of the Isaiah text. Yet, I hasten to add that that is it. Bodily healing isn't in the atonement or death of Christ, but rather was in His earthly ministry. It was during His earthly ministry that this part of the Isaiah text was said to be fulfilled in relation to sickness, not on the cross, or so says the Spirit in Matthew's gospel.

Next, in the context of suffering and persecution the Spirit in Peter's first epistle says:

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."
(1 Peter 2:21-25)

Now here Peter, unlike in Matthew's citation of Isaiah 53, is clearly talking about the atonement/death of Christ on the cross. It is also apparent that he understands the "healing" of Christ's atonement to be akin to a lost sheep returning to its shepherd. The healing Peter sees here is relational between man and God centering upon forgiveness. He points to it in an exemplary manner in order to call believers to imitate Christ in His suffering wrongfully at the hands of persecutors. Having been forgiven much they too can forgive.

The healing in the atonement that the Spirit tells us about is that of men who were once at enmity with God (Rom 8:7) being restored to God, what greater form of healing can there be?

With all of that said, we see why the language of "sickness" and "pain" is treated more figuratively in regard to the atonement itself by the Apostle Peter. Sin is described in Isaiah itself as a disgusting sickness (Isaiah 1:1-7). The Spirit uses the word "sins" (1 Pet 2:24) and there do we see the true healing in the atonement. The bodily healing aspect of the prophecy was fulfilled in the healing ministry of Jesus, and the greater reality of the sin bearing savior and sinful man's restoration to God is fulfilled in the substitutionary death of Christ. After all what is sicker than a guilty sinner? Who is in more pain than one who suffers under the wrath and curse of God?

B. Is This Taught in the New Testament?If this healing in the atonement doctrine is such an important part of what Christ did that Bill Johnson actually has the temerity to accuse the deniers of it of "Preaching another gospel" where is it taught in the New Testament? Where does the new testament teach that believers are never to be sick, and that in fact getting a cold is evidence of a demonic assault needing to be resisted? Well, the answer to both of these questions should be obvious, it's nowhere in the New Testament.

But, I return now to the assertion made at the beginning in defining this teaching that Christ in healing individuals made a direct connection with their having been forgiven. They were healed as evidence of forgiveness. Lets look at that passage again:

"For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
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."
(Matt 9:6)

Let me be somewhat silly and say that the text means what it says. Anyone can come up to someone and say "Your sins are forgiven." and that statement be a non-reality, we after all can't see sins leaving someone nor the persons' standing before God. So, to show that Jesus' declaration is not in the same category of a "Your sins are forgiven" declaration from some charlatan, Jesus provides a visual display that He and His proclamation are different from that of some irreverent blasphemer, Jesus gives them a physical display of His authority.

Is there a 1 to 1 correlation here between bodily healing and being forgiven? Absolutely not. The reason for the healing in this instance is given right in the text, and it wasn't that everyone who has been forgiven has access to bodily healing, but rather "But that you may know". Know what? Know who Jesus is. There were skeptics at this display questioning Christ's absolving a man of his sins and Jesus gave the skeptics a visual aid that they might know a bit about the Son of Man and His power.

Another aspect worthy of note is the repeated Johnsonite assertion that Jesus always healed the sick, as sickness was intolerable to Him. Again, as dealt with in the first post, Christ is allegedly our entirely "imitatable" example in this regard according to Mr. Johnson. This "Christ always healed" assertion simply is begging the question. For example, Jesus we know would have passed by a certain beggar who was lame and daily was brought to the gate outside the temple. We know this as this lame man was later healed in Acts 3:2 by Peter.

III. Accounts of Sickness in the New Testament
If the healing in the atonement doctrine is indeed the case, there certainly are a large number of New Testament scriptural accounts attesting to ill believers that contradict this teaching.

"Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber."(Acts 9:36-37)

Epaphraditus:"Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.

For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful
." (Phil 2:25-28)

"Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." (2 Tim 4:20)

Paul:"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
" (2 Cor 12:7-10)

The following passage in Galatians is why most Bible scholars assume Paul's thorn in the flesh had to do with sight:

"You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 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. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me." (Gal 4:13-15)


Didn't all of these believers know that healing was theirs on demand? Didn't they know that sickness was not part of the kingdom reality that was now their possession? What is Paul doing leaving Trophimus sick?

Obviously, the New Testament account contradicts the healing in the atonement/healing on demand doctrine. We have believers like Tabitha falling sick and dying, faithful disciples like Epaphroditus nearly dying , and we see co-laborers with Paul like Trophimus having to be left behind because of sickness rendering them unable to travel. Also, we have the apostle Paul Himself speaking of a "thorn in the flesh". Where is the thorn again? In his flesh. So, whatever that may be (blindness, or nagging injury from a persecution) it is clearly physical, and it's not going away, God Himself has said so.

Unlike Bill Johnson's assertion that he, "Refuses to form a theology that allows for sickness" the honest student of the Bible isn't allowed the luxury of deciding what the Bible says about sickness a-priori. If we just let the Bible say what it says we see that Paul's suffering was not only physical but that he actually saw a God given purpose in his sufferings.

IV. Sickness and Our General Human ExperienceSince Adam, sickness and death has been a part of the human experience. It is not normal, that is why we weep over departed saints. Those who die tend to die of something, and water is wet. With that said, men like Oral Roberts who claimed to have never been sick in decades still die of something regardless of their delusions. As I said in the first post, I have many dear friends who have been heavily influenced by Bill Johnson and the Bethel Redding Church. A number of them I know have gone to doctors for surgeries and medical treatments. Again, if all of this healing in the atonement/on demand business is true, that simply shouldn't be the case.

In fact, Bill Johnson himself was recently hospitalized for anemia. Of course it was called a demonic attack, but that must mean the devil can thwart God and does so...well...A LOT...because I see sick believers all the time. But lets stay on Mr. Johnson himself since he is the one making these extravagant claims and then not living the reality. Leaving aside acute illness, we can casually observe that, Mr. Johnson's hair is gray, he is getting rather wrinkled in the skin, and he has to wear glasses in order to see properly...healing is in the atonement?

Why all of this unreality? I would humbly say the unreality exists because the healing the atonement doctrine simply isn't Biblical.

V. Conclusion
Let's just keep it simple, if healing is in the atonement why does Mr. Johnson wear glasses? Seriously, that really should settle the whole debate, no fancy exegesis required. Rather than paying the $200 every few years for a new pair of spectacles why not pay $25 and purchase his own teaching series, "Healing: Our Birthright" at the Bethel store and grab his healing? If God never causes sickness, then what are we to make of David's child, the tumors in Egypt and on the Ark harboring Philistines all being struck with sickness, which the Bible explicitly state is from God? Not to mention the covenantal threats of disease upon the Israelites in Deuteronomy if they break the covenant.

None of that makes sense if we are to live by a theology based upon quaint slogans. All slogan theology leaves us with is a God somewhat like a doting mother with a head full of curlers who showers us with kisses and cookies everytime we skin our knees playing kick the can in the alley when she told us to clean our room.

Fortunately, man does not live by quaint sayings but the word of God.

Lastly, the Johnsonite view of God's sovereignty is surely muddled, I haven't heard Mr. Johnson explain this doctrine but he is certain to have a good deal of problems in doing so. But, the doctrine of God's sovereignty is just another bloody victim that has been slain alongside Christ's Divine attributes at the idolatrous altar dedicated to miracles that Mr. Johnson has erected. If we approach theology like Mr. Johnson, and from the outset have predetermined that certain conclusions are off limits, as he said, "I refuse to create a theology where God allows sickness", then we shouldn't at all be surprised to find that we have to engage in all sorts of scriptural acrobatics, and outright cut and pasting.

But, as I said previously, I have no personal axe to grind here, and I trust I have been charitable in my critique without compromising the truth. I just haven't really seen a rebuttal of this theology done in a responsible way and am responding to the need.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Teaching of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church Examined: Part I, Christological Errors

In light of a recent comment in the "complaints" section of an old blog post reviewing charismatic big dog Bill Johnson's book, "When Heaven Invades Earth", I found that with regards to this issue, the horse indeed was not dead and clearly not sufficiently beaten for the retort, "Aw Gee, Don't beat a dead horse!" to apply. This is certainly so as I received this following reply in regards to my having a problem with Bill Johnson denying Christ's Divinity during His earthly ministry:

"I love the book! If Jesus didn't operate fully as a man(Eph 2:7,8)under the power of the Holy Spirit, then there is no atonement. That is the whole point. He lived a perfect life for us, in our place. Then died on the cross for us, in our place. How would it be a "substitutionary" atonement if Jesus didn't do it strictly as a man? (Heb 4:15)" - Anonymous

Preliminary Remarks

I firstly must begin by stating that I have nothing against Bill Johnson personally, I have never met the man, and I assume he is a nice guy to have a beer with. I want to make that clear upfront I have no personal axe to grind here. So, for clarity, I am not criticizing the man, I am however going to criticize his teaching. Also, anything that I may state strongly please know that I do so not out of an "I'm gonna zing em good!" kind of gamesmanship, I hate that stuff. This isn't a game, doctrinal error is serious and that warrants strong language (Matt 5:30, Gal 5:12), but let us also not add to the sins of heretics and those teaching error the sin of uncharitable behaviour.

We know certain foods may harm a man's body even to the point of death, but doctrinal error harms the soul and in some cases to the point of death. In the case of a conspiracy to poison the meal of a King the culprits are sought out and put to public trial that others who might consider such a conspiracy may fear. Likewise, in the area of teaching in Christ's Church the disseminators of error need to be arrested through Biblical rebuke equally public and fear creating (1 Tim 5:20). With that said I proceed.

The Book "When Heaven Invades Earth" and Its Christology Described

Let me start by saying what I liked about Johnson's book, yeah that's right I can be a nice guy sometimes. I appreciated particularly Johnsons' watered down postmillenial optimism, sure it wasn't full blown postmil but I'll take it given the American church is by and large looking to get raptured out of here like refugees waiting for a helicopter airlift out of a war torn country. So, I liked that. Johnson also has a heart to see the kingdom of God advanced on earth, and on that at least we agree. When it comes to describing what the Kingdom looks like and how it is to be advanced is where we would undoubtedly go our separate ways.

So what's my beef? To be blunt, I find Johnson's book "When Heaven Invades Earth" to be very dangerous, because the book is filled to the brim, nay, to overflowing with dangerous error, twisting of scriptures, and most dangerous of all the book is very winsome. Did I mention I think it is dangerous? Also, on a more personal note, this book, and Johnson's teaching, has influenced many brothers and sisters who are dear to me I fear for the worse. Now, with that said, what exactly is Johnson getting at in his book? Well essentially it is this: that the life of signs and wonders is to be normal for the Christian. The book is supposed to serve as a sort of field guide for "living in the supernatural". In short, the supernatural isn't supposed to be so super any more, signs and wonders ought to be a part of everyday Christianity.

One major method for getting this argument across is Johnson's teaching regarding the nature of Christ during His earthly ministry. Essentially, according to the Johnsonite Christology, Christ although He was God, during His earthly ministry was limited to acting exclusively as a human and just like all of us he (lower case h I suppose) was fully dependent upon God the Holy Spirit for everything. This reaches the height to which Johnson essentially denies that Christ had any Divine attributes during His earthly ministry, when He put on flesh He took off the Divine. To quote Johnson on this:

"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 Jesus said about Himself, and more importantly, to miss the purpose of His self-imposed restriction to live as a man. [sic]

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 percent God, He chose to live with the same limitations that man would face once he was redeemed. [sic]" (WHE p.29)

I of course have a problem with the Johnsonite teaching here, and our friend "Anonymous" I suppose has a problem with me having a problem, fair enough. I have 3 areas that I see needing to be addressed in regard to the assertion made by "Anonymous" that without a Johnsonite Christological rehashing of old heresies, the substitutionary atonement doesn't make any sense. But more on that in a bit, firstly lets deal with the whole root of these questions, namely Johnson's Christological error.

I. The Johnsonite Christological Error' Proof Text Examined:
Lets interact a bit with Johnson's citation of John 5:19 in the above quotation. Firstly, I note how little of the text is actually cited by Johnson. It is in truth akin to an Atheist quoting part of Psalm 53:1 to show that the Bible, surprise, surprise, actually teaches Atheism! What Johnson does above is a text book example of what it means to take scripture out of context. In fact it is so bad I don't think it would be a believable textbook example. Lets look at John 5:19 as it should be, as that will best shed light onto what Christ meant when He said, "The Son can do nothing":

"But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will." (John 5:17-21)

So here we see 1.) The Jews wanting to kill Jesus for claiming to be always working, which is a claim to possess Divine attributes. 2.) Jesus says that He does whatever He sees the Father doing, which is another claim to have Divine attributes. Lastly, 3.) Christ claims that He can raise the dead and give life, and you guessed it that is yet another claim to have divine ability. The "do nothing" in the context refers to Christ doing the specific works God the Father has given Him to do and no other types of works. So, rather than referencing Christ's ability, it is referring to the type of works being done by Jesus, namely those given to Christ by the Father to do, which we also see earlier in John 4:34.

After all, when Christ says He does everything He sees the Father doing, can a mere man make such a claim? If Christ is trying to declare that His ability is limited, as Johnson would have us think, He sure does a poor job here as the exact opposite is clearly the case, hence the desire on the part of the Jews to stone Him. This also seems like the practical outworking or feet to Christ's later claim to Phillip, that in seeing Him, Phillip has seen the Father. (John 14:8-9)

Call me naive, but when we look at John 5 in context I just don't see where Johnson gets the idea of a "self-imposed limitation", nor do I see that anywhere else in scripture. Johnson does not provide the reader with any other texts to support this doctrine, just the part of verse 19 in John 5  violently handled by Mr. Johnson which I hope is now clear to the reader.

In short, what we have in the Johnsonite Christology is an idolatrous view of miracles on the part of Johnson, that has reached such a height that it now is eating away like an acid at the Divine nature of Christ during His earthly ministry. Johnson is so desirous that Christ's miraculous ministry be our example to imitate that he is willing to scrap His Divine attributes during His earthly ministry to do so.

This is idolatry plain and simple, no less so than what the open theists do to the knowledge of God in order to preserve their doctrine of free will.

Moving now from the root to the fruit of the Johnsonite Christology, I will now address the issues raised by "Anonymous" in respect to the atonement and Christ's Divine nature.

II. Substitutionary Atonement Only Works if Christ is Both Fully Man and God
If Christ had cast off His Divine nature and was functioning merely as a man how could He have atoned for all of my sins? Granted we might think of a case where lets say a thief is sentenced to death and the thief's' best friend dies in the thief's' place out of love thus redeeming the thief from the executioner. But lets say that thief then goes and steals more, will the judge then look back on the dead friend of the thief and say, "Your thievery is atoned for."? Of course not. This is exactly our case.

We need an infinite atonement because our sins are infinitely offensive to God, and they are innumerable. We don't just sin 2-3 times a day, sin isn't just a bad habit, or something we do once in a while, it is so ingrained in our very nature that we need to be regenerated. Also, we must not forget that in the case of the substitutionary death of a mere man he can only be the substitute for one man for one capital crime, Christ is said to have died for many (Heb 9:28). This is problematic if all we have is a human, Christ needs to be Divine.


"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor 5:21)
The 2 Corinthian text is probably the most clear passage we have in regards to the double imputation aspect of Christ's atonement, our sin upon Christ, His righteousness is given to us. It is quite true as Anonymous stated that Christ lived the perfect life in our stead. But what is the nature of that righteous life? The text tells us it is the "righteousness of God", those who are in Christ have His Divine righteousness which alone is acceptable to our thrice holy God.

So, quite the contrary, the efficacious nature of Christ's atonement is not threatened by Christ's divinity, it is established by it. God poured out His immeasurable wrath against the sins of His elect on the Person of Jesus, a Divine wrath can only be assuaged by a Divine sacrifice. The efficacious nature of the atonement of Christ is rather threatened if we take the Johnsonite position that Christ emptied Himself of His divine attributes in the incarnation.

III. The Need for a Human Nature in Our Saviour, Both And, Not Either Or.
Jesus is the God man, He was made altogether like us in human flesh, He felt pain, He got tired, He grew up from infancy etc this is all true. However, to leave it there as the Johnsonite position seems to is not the WHOLE truth. And, as my dad taught me as a young lad through a few trips to the proverbial woodshed, a half truth is really a lie. Orthodox Christianity through all ages has affirmed that while the above is true in regard to Christ's human nature (Christ is fully man), it is equally true that Christ is also fully Divine in nature. All of the creeds have affirmed this doctrine and it is summed up in the phrase, Christ is both fully man and fully God, one person with two separate and distinct natures.

With that said, what Anonymous said about the atonement is indeed true, it just isn't the whole truth. Jesus needed to take on human flesh so He could die (God can't die remember). Yet, and this is the error, Bill Johnson wants to assert that in taking on flesh Jesus also took off Divinity. Johnson does this because he wants us to see Jesus as our model for supernatural life rather than the most exceptional Person ever. So, while it is true that Christ is our example, we must bear in mind that is not the whole truth. This is because He also had Divine attributes and a calling (Messiah) that none of us share in.
Thus, in Johnson's zeal for making supernatural signs and wonders an everyday Christian thing he tosses the Divine nature of Christ making Him our entirely imitatable example. As previously stated, this actually reveals the idolatrous centrality of signs and wonders in much of the Charismatic movement. My personal observation of this reality was what caused me to break with the movement years ago. My own parting with the movement came as I realized that the Charismatic church I attended literally never preached the simple gospel, the gospel was always a peripheral thing, I recall it even being described as a stepping stone to greater things. Again, don't take my word for it, Johnson himself says in his book:

"Salvation was not the ultimate goal of Christ’s coming… [The ultimate goal] was to fill each born again person with the Holy Spirit.” (WHE p.71)

“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.” (WHE p.185)

You see, for these guys wild raucous meetings where people are wigging out, getting BAM BAM BAM new hips, claiming visions of prophetic elephants, all of these oddities are central and thus it has become an idol. And, like all idolatry it is freakish and disturbing to those who are onlookers, kind of like the guy with the Frisbee sized lip disc. That's what Jessa Bentley's behaviour with the exorcist style head shaking accompanied by gibber about a pink elephant vision is like, it really is a "what is wrong with you?" kind of display.

Yet, to those who are at home in the Charismatic movement that sort of display is quite normal, as I am sure the lip mutilation is normal to those engaged in whatever idol is being worshiped there.

IV. The Nature of the Miracles of Christ and The Apostles
I must add a bit on the nature of the miracles Christ performed during His earthly ministry. The signs Christ which performed in His earthly ministry were confirmatory in nature in regard to His messiah-ship and message (gospel). That is why He could tell John the Baptist when asked by John "are you the one?" Jesus replied:

"Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." (Luke 7:22)
In short Jesus said "You see the signs don't you?" This again mitigates our ability to imitate Christ as the signs performed by the Messiah and His apostles were intended to be unique tangible confirmations of their ministry, the new covenant gospel message, and most importantly who Jesus in fact was, namely the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Thus, signs and wonders would hardly be unique and confirmatory if the Johnsonite philosophy is correct and these things are to be going on all the time.

I am not saying that these things can not and do not happen today, but I am saying that the particular manifestation of signs and wonders under the ministry of Christ and the apostles was unique, and that was precisely the point, they accompanied the New Covenant Gospel in its infancy confirming it to be of God.

V. Conclusion
Much more needs to be said on these matters and will, the difficult thing is that there is a great deal of difference between Charismatics and guys like myself. We don't use the same language, we don't read the same books, our worship obviously is very different, and our theologies are very different. Charismatics, historically speaking, are in the stream of mystics which has always been a part of the Church for better and worse and doctrinal clarity was never a strength of the mystics.

In coming posts I will interact more directly with other doctrinal errors of Bill Johnson, they all again stem from an idolatrous esteem for miracles over and above all other aspects of Scripture. Some of these uniquely Johnsonite doctrines that will be addressed include: 1.) Healing in the atonement, 2.) prophetic words on demand, 3.) Rehashed pop self esteem, and 4.) The outright rejection of Biblical Church discipline. In all of these examples we see what should be the clear teaching of scripture being forced to bow before this idol of Charismatic miracles.