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.


Kevin Moore said...

Hi Bob,

Many thanks for this article, it's very helpful.

You're not alone in your thinking:


And there are others who are trying to rebuke Bill. I've personally challenged him (via his Facebook) page about his teaching that Jesus had to be born again. Despite Biblical evidence to the contrary he refuses to believe that the 3 persons of the Trinity were involved in the resurrection and Jesus did not need to be born again.
In Him
Kevin Moore

Anonymous said...

Wow, great job. Articles like this really help people both in and out of this movement. Please keep them coming. I will be posting these on our facebook (Bethel Church and Christianity)wall and my site www.heraldingtruth.com as well. Bill Johnson is a nice, seemingly kind man, but his theology kills. I'm sure he's sincere in what he preaches, but he's sincerely wrong. Thanks again for doing the job that the elders should be doing (but aren't). Looking forward to the next articles on Bill Johnson.
-Bart Mc

Anonymous said...

RE 2 Cor. 5:21, the man who wrote this statement also writes "It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13 Paul does not believe in substitutionary atonement and does not teach this doctrine. "He became sin for us" does not mean in place of. Actually means "He became an accountable sin".
Theodore A. Jones

R.S. Ladwig said...

Theodore, the point Paul is making in Rom 2:13 is that the Jew by having the law and hearing it yet is unfaithful is not any better than someone who doesn't have the law and is keeping it. This is one part of Paul's argument in Romans really showing that all Jew and Gentile alike deserve the wrath of God.

Taken in isolation yes, Rom 2:13 seems to teach works salvation sure. But how then can Paul say further in his argument "There is none righteuous no ont one?" (Rom 3:10) I thought he just said in Rom 2:13 that those Gentiles running around keeping the law will be declared righteous? Ah, well, there is this thing called hyperbole, and the point Paul is making in Rom 2 is that the Jews are not any better than the Gentiles just because they have the law, what matters is keeping the law, and NO ONE HAS DOES OR CAN...with the conspicuous exception of One Man, in the place of sinners.

No man if justified by His works or Christ died in vain sir, Galtians 2.

But do explain your scheme of salvation, as of right now it seems to me that you are in some way trying to smuggle in works, what do you mean "on account of sin"? Jesus died because sinners killed Him? Nay, sir it says He was made sin FOR US THAT WE MIGHT Become the righteousness of God IN HIM.

It's the clearest passage in the Bible on the subject, no subterfuge will do here.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much for your articles.. Two months ago, I left a "church" and many ministries I poured into there for 2 years. Looking back, there were SO MANY things inherently wrong with the teaching, leadership, worship, prayer meetings, etc., I can't believe I was a part of it; my head still spins..

I was raised in a solid, Bible teaching church and was interested in one of these "Spirit-filled" churches because of its downtown location and that they, consequently, had all kinds of people attend that wouldn't normally be comfortable in a church. In my small town this anointing thing is creeping into churches because of ignorance or a desire to wake up the church. I was drawn in by the friendly faces, openness, and continual doses of "I-get-what-I-want" sermons and flattery which puffed up my pride quite nicely. I wasn't aware that we don't really have to endure affliction like the Bible says, that all I had to do was quote some Scripture at God and demand He do my will. Should have turned around right then!

Two years later I left completely dry, sure that the way we did things certainly sounded wonderful but really didn't work. I was burnt out on church work and void of any good Spiritual fruit. I was involved with six different ministries (Six! This was on top of full-time schooling and three jobs), and still that wasn't enough, if I was devoted to Christ, I would be devoted to the church, they said. It's true there's very little preaching on the simple Gospel, and more on revival, wealth, and how to beat up the devil so we can have revival and wealth. Or the pastor brings in some guy who tells a few entertaining stories, knocks a few people over and then leaves. I've lost so much of myself, so much of what God put in me to do and I could hardly bear to read my Bible for a long time because of all the twisted, out of context interpretations still spinning in my head. All the sacrifices I made for this church - where could I start? I was told my family went to a church which was "evil, and full of unsaved people" and slowly, I began to distance myself from them. After all, they were the ones leading me to be dead and religious.

I felt sick to my stomach for months before I left, wasn't sleeping, having awful dreams about this church and people I was close to there - all the while God was warning me and the church was telling me I felt bad because satan was trying to get me to leave a move of God. At the time I left, they wanted us to lay hands on pictures of Kuhlman, Smith, Wigglesworth, etc., and ask them for their anointing... I feel like part of myself died in that church, so ashamed that I listened to and trusted so-called leaders before I listened to God.. Allowing myself to be misled and even misleading others.. Grieving over all the people I can only imagine are duped into this and will either continue on in their deception or leave the faith altogether. What a mess.

The worst part for me is knowing what I became: Miserable, puffed up, impatient, and full of myself when I used to have a genuine care and compassion for people because I just did, and wasn't worried for my salvation, without expecting a blessing or some other thing. Will I ever bear real fruit again? It was just part of who I was, I didn't have to think to be a certain way. The whole time I believed I had the "true" version of Christianity, when the reality is that I had the TRUTH in me & in a book, right infront of me, unfortunately being ignored for something I thought was bigger and better.

Lisa said...

Thank you for sharing your story Joy, it sounds like many I have heard. What helped me most when I was coming out of that kind of excessive charismatic movement was the phrase "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing" and the main thing is Christ and His gospel.

I would encourage you to find a church that faithfully preaches the gospel every Sunday. I would recommend a Presbyterian (PCA or OPC) or even a Reformed Baptist church as far as denominations go. You never know what to expect with the non-denominational churches. I'm sure you could find a good bible centered church near you by doing a google search given what I suggested above.

God bless you Joy, I'll be praying for you.

Unknown said...

If your goal was to create even further division in the American church, your'e doing great! Continue writing! Meanwhile millions are being aborted, trafficked, murdered, starved, raped, abandoned... need I go on? The sooner the church directs its energy toward the world around it and not at its brothers and sisters, the sooner the kingdom will actually be advanced on earth not just talked about. If you mean what you said in your 3rd paragraph, prove it. Refute something worth refuting. If Bill came and parched a gospel contrary to Jesus being the only way to salvation and love and forgiveness of sins I'd understand. But drawing the battle lines in the name of "rebuke" between an over-emphasis on the works of the Spirit or not is hardly a hill worth dying on. (Romans 14) By doing this we play directly into satins hand of causing discord in the unity of the body of christ. I would know. I used to do it!

"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."

You lost your credibility here. You just generalized one church with the entire charismatic movement, demonic or not, false and true. Essentially you are saying "where you see headings in a church is where satan dominates". A very black and white outlook way to look at the world.
You just compared a born again group of believers with pagans in Africa or mutilate themselves and sacrifice babies to the gods of nature. This is a bridge too far I am afraid. What are people supposed to think after reading such a thing?

Check your heart. Where is the motivation of this? Ask yourself that. If you find it is selfish or wrong in any way, then being one so skilled in the area, you have no choice but to accept also my "rebuke" and pray for the grace of God to change.

R.S. Ladwig said...

Ben, unity does not trump veritas, that's the core mistake in your vapid rant. The Bible calls us to hold to both, I am convinced that these men are teaching error and behaving in an un-Christian manner (The re-installation of an unrepentant adulterer into public ministry for example). Instead of addressing these things you find fault with me for, well, finding fault with them...this odd double standard it would seem never stops critics from criticizing critics for being critics.

After all, aren't you being "divisive" by having a problem with my having a problem with Bill Johnson's teaching and Todd Bentley's lifestyle? Why all the divisiveness man? Check your heart, I used to be like you, but apparently I have matured. Receive my rebuke and pray brother.

These sorts of posts frankly just make me tired.

R.S. Ladwig said...

I will reply a bit more to you're first paragraph, don't you think the divine nature of Christ is worth defending? That's what the post is about, Bill Johnson's Christology.Any comments on that? Furthermore, the reason why there are abortions etc (Red herring) is because the Church itself is a mess. We don't start with the world in mind, we have to get out own house in order before we can order the world.

Unknown said...

I don't see that they are the same. I never called you a pagan, idol worshipping maniac for one which is essentially what you did by putting Bill Johnson and his ministry into the general category of "charismatic". I could just as easily say you were a legalistic fundamentalist who borderlines Phariseeism. I'm not saying that but do you see how we cannot put people into boxes based on little very little knowledge and experience of that person? I don't know whether or not your truly a born again christian. I believe you probably are but who am I to make that judgment? But you assume that position very confidently in this blog. I guess I just don't see your rebuke as biblical and therefore falling into the category of being "divisive". In this way I do see my rebuke of what you are doing as in fact a "rebuke" and being completely without fault of being a hypocrite as I do so.

I totally think there is a time and a place for discussion of different interpretations of scripture. But I think this went above and beyond even the opportunity for good discussion. It is an attack therefore forcing Bill to defend himself rather than a healthy exchange of ideas.

As far as the divinity of Christ, here is what I believe since you ask. Yes. Jesus is absolutely divine. He wasn't afraid to say so. John 10:30-33. He is ALSO man, therefore giving up his divine attributes, yet still being one with God. Philippians 2:5-8. This is a contradiction you say. No. Unless scripture is. Well, if it is then so is the trinity. So is God's unconditional love for us despite our justly deserving judgment for sin. These things are a mystery! Paul says says so. I don't think it's meant to be completely understood here on this earth. Why because we know through the Holy Spirit we have been saved by grace, and that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. I do agree that you should strive for sound doctrine! But not at the expense of unity, in the light of those things which should be the foundation for any true believer. Does this make sense? Even if you don't agree which is fine.

Just so you know Bob I really will pray about this. I really do seek daily the truth. I am not interested in simply proving you wrong. To make you look foolish and I hope that anyone else reading does not get that impression. I guess I see this as a challenge to you and anyone more than anything. If I am wrong about what I said then I pray that the Holy Spirit who is in me would convict me of it.

In conclusion because I don't want to turn this into a prolonged debate so I will not reply henceforth. I do however want to hear what your reply is! I don't want "the last word" but I don't want to run circles around this issue, i'm sure you understand. Thank you for giving me some attention in your blog and replying to me. I hope and pray we'd both take something away from this!

R.S. Ladwig said...

Ben Thanks for commenting again, I'll interact a bit more with what you are saying. Firstly let me say I run into people saying similar things as you and it always befuddles me a bit, when a man stands up and says "So and so is teaching error! Here is what he said..." There always seem to be a bunch of people who start firing arrows at him saying "Stop being divisive! You Pharisee! Who are you to judge!"

I tend to think it is just the times we live in and just a part of the relativism that dominates our culture seeping into the church. How few there are who really care about truth these days, I mean really care. Right now people could care less how orthodox someone is as long as he is a nice guy with a teeth whitened smile. Anyway enough preliminaries you stated:

"I never called you a pagan, idol worshipping maniac for one which is essentially what you did by putting Bill Johnson and his ministry into the general category of "charismatic". I could just as easily say you were a legalistic fundamentalist who borderlines Phariseeism."

Well you seem to have entirely missed my point regarding my analogy with the aboriginal lip disc, that's not my fault. Nowhere in this post do I attack Bill Johnson as a person, nowhere. I do no call him a pagan (that's your confused understanding of my analogy), but he is a Charismatic. I suppose you have a problem with categorizing things, that's his blend of theology, Charismatic. It is shorthand for someone who thinks the gifts poured out at Pentecost continue to this day. It's not a dirty word, it's a category, just like Lutheran or Presbyterian.

But then you drop the old "P-Bomb" pharseeism [sic] and threaten me with it. This comes out so often from the lets not be divisive loud mouths, it never ceases to amaze me. The problem is that the Pharisees didn't care about doctrine too much, that's just a sloppy understanding of their error. Their problem was that they elevated their traditions above the word of God and trusted in their own righteousness.

That being the case in my part 2 you can see a video where Bill says, "I refuse to create a theology where God is the author of sickness." Well it seems to me that is simply elevating a tradition over scripture in light of what Scripture says about sickness and God's sovereignty. So if the P bomb is gonna get dropped...

"I guess I just don't see your rebuke as biblical and therefore falling into the category of being "divisive". In this way I do see my rebuke of what you are doing as in fact a "rebuke" and being completely without fault of being a hypocrite as I do so.

Not Biblical eh? I mean I exegete several texts in the blog post but it's not Biblical? Furthermore given your understanding of what constitutes divisive language, you didn't quote any scripture in your comment earlier...so again my point stands, why all the divisiveness man? Judge not bro! Why can't we all just get along? Unity, that's what we need, not all this phariseeism [sic].

R.S. Ladwig said...

"As far as the divinity of Christ, here is what I believe since you ask. Yes. Jesus is absolutely divine. He wasn't afraid to say so. John 10:30-33. He is ALSO man, therefore giving up his divine attributes, yet still being one with God.

This right here is the error. Christ did not shed His divine attributes in the incarnation, rather He clothed them in mortality. Jesus was the God Man, He is fully God and fully Man, there is no shedding of attributes involved here. The emptied Himself, is not referring to His divine attributes but given the point of the text it has to do with His role, and or glory. He came as a servant, the King of the Universe washed feet, He who is Life itself , died, He who is the embodiment of justice went through a bogus trial.

That's what the text is dealing with, there is nothing there about divine attributes being lopped off. You make the same error as Bill here, this is an old error. But I do agree there is great mystery here, every truth of God we can only go so far and then we reach the point of mystery.

Here's the deal Ben, we are to be captive to the word of God, if the Bible talks about something it is worth fighting about. I have no personal beef with Bill Johnson, I bet he's a nice guy to have a beer with, but my problem is that his teachings which are heavily charismatic, end in stripping Christ of His divine attributes. Like I said in the post (which you read carefully) BJ does this because he wants Christ to be our example that we can fully imitate. Thus He makes Jesus into a man (lowercase m) who is fully dependent of the Holy Spirit for his ministry, just like the charismatics.

Like I said, this is idolatry, Bill has elevated his charismatic theology above the Person of Christ and thus Christ's divinity is a victim and loses. Do you understand that? I'm not saying Bill kneels before statues, I am saying he has elevated something above Jesus, and that something is therefore an idol.

John said...

Just so you know Bob, you aren't changing anyone's mind. People who look for opinions against Bill will agree with you and people who honor Bill will be opposed to your argument.

Philippians 1
12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[g] without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Rejoice in Bill. If he is right or wrong. REJOICE! If you hold so TRUE to the word for what it is... then REJOICE. Always rejoice, always be in prayer. Move forward Bob! Bill is in love with Jesus as much as you are.

If Paul didn't even get offended, then who are you to?

R.S. Ladwig said...

Hey John thanks for your thoughts, you stated:

"Just so you know Bob, you aren't changing anyone's mind. People who look for opinions against Bill will agree with you and people who honor Bill will be opposed to your argument."

Changing minds is my penultimate goal, glorifying God and defending His truth is my ultimate goal. So even if no one is persuaded to think otherwise my efforts are not vain. I tend to agree with your sentiment though, however I have conversed with a number of people who were somewhat on the fence and they found these articles helpful.

I find your application of Phillipians to be rather odd, as false teaching was not what was being addressed here. I just fear that if consistently applied it tends towards a "Who gives a rip about orthodoxy" kind of sentiment. This was far from Paul's attitude who calls Timothy to "guard the good deposit" and cling to "sound doctrine" and rebuke false teachers. 2 Timothy 3:16 sums this up well.

I don't know Bill personally and like I have said he's probably a great guy, I bet Pelagius and Arius were nice guys too and they loved Jesus too. But that doesn't change the fact that they are teaching error. Bill teaches that Christ took off His divine attributes in His incarnation. This is error.

Andrew C. Ayers said...


Thank you so much. I not only appreciate your blog, but you have also taught me a great deal more by how you have talked with Ben and John. I am a college student at WVU and I must tell you that there are certain things that I have been drawn about the thing you have spoken. You said:

"Unity does not trump veritas."

Indeed, and furthermore there can be no unity without truth and that is why one gets into these cyclical disagreements because we must hold to both.

I, much like Joy and Lisa, have noticed the adverse effects of the teachings of Bethel infiltrating my reformed Baptist church in Morgantown, WV. Some of my close friends who are young and exuberant for Christ have been "blown by every wind of doctrine" and are now in a dangerous place because they have ventured off the path and have started playing with this spiritual gift - centered theology.

I am just wondering if you would have any advice for me here on the ground. I am going through this in real time and I want to make the most of my conversations and dealings with my friends.

Obviously it is a complex situation, these teachings have entered our community at a time when there has been much growth both in depth and in numbers and I know that the teachings of Bethel are not teachings that God is showing us to "reform" what we believe.

The elders of my church are aware of the controversies and are trying to address the adverse effects on our community.

Any advice on the role I can play? Any scripture to supplement this?

Your brother,

Andrew C. Ayers said...


Thank you so much for this article.

You said: "Unity doesn't trump veritas."

Indeed, moreover there can be no unity without truth and that is why you get into these cyclical arguments. The two aren't separate. Righteousness can have no fellowship with unrighteousness.

I am a young, married, college student at West Virginia University. I will be headed to seminay this fall. Recently the teachings of Bethel have infiltrated my local church in Morgantown, WV through some of my fellow college friends who are young and exuberant for Christ. I am very close with these young men (they are my best friends) However, I am afraid that this zeal has lead them to be "blown by every wind of doctrine". I know that these teachings are not things God is showing us because they are causing division at a time when our church is both young and growing in depth and numbers.

I am on the ground right now and I'm watching the early stages of what these teachings are doing to a healthy growing church. The elders of my church are aware of the issues and they are trying their best to address the issues.
We are a diverse reformed baptist church with a local congregation comprised of local people and students of the university.
My friends are using these teachings to sway the campus ministry students and set them against the beliefs of the local church. Whether they do it knowingly or not.

Can you give me any advice on my dealings with my friends and some scripture to supplement these things?

Your brother,

Andrew C. Ayers said...

Oh sorry I didn't know the comments were moderated I tried to post twice lol.

In Christ,

R.S. Ladwig said...

The main thing to remember in dealing with brothers who are dabbling in error is that there is a right way to be right. Dropping the "Heresy" bomb doesn't usually help, just sincere friendship and patient and gentle reminding them of the truths of Scripture.

I only do the comment moderation because people were coming on here and linking to filth. Otherwise I publish everything, as you can see I don't censor those who disagree.

God bless

JOhn said...

I think you are probably wrong. Christ casting "off" his divine nature seems to appear just in your interpretation of J, not in his quotes. The "self-imposed restriction to live as a man" is a perfectly orthodox way in line with Phi 2 of describing that God lived as a man in a way that was truly human. Think about is, Jesus is here considered in his human nature, which is like to our’s in all things, except sin. His existence as a human was truly in a true human way: like us. If any different (besides his lack of sin), God did not become true man. For the second person of the Trinity to exist in such a manner (without ceasing to be God, of course) in addition to his divine existence, would certainly be something that could be described as a restriction. Think about it: the Son takes on a new mode of existence: is that mode limited n comparison to the divine nature? Certainly. In that lies the restriction.