REFUTING 12 FALSE TEACHINGS OF BETHEL BY REVEALING TRUTH, SEAN CHRISTIE
Before refuting what needs to be refuted and agreeing with some criticism of Sean Christie’s allegations against Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding, I should point out that I have been friends with Bill Johnson for many years. I first met Bill in 1978 when he was serving as the youth Pastor under his father Earl Johnson at Bethel Assemblies of God, Redding California. I have spoken at Bethel Redding numerous times. Most of my speaking engagements were with Bill’s predecessor, Ray Larson, although I have spoken at Bethel under Bill in the early 2000’s.
Once, when I was in a near fatal auto accident, Bill and a few other friends made an impromptu hospital visit the next morning, driving from Redding to San Jose to pray for me. In his second tenure at Bethel as Senior Pastor, I was able to advise Bill and his leadership on structuring a school for profitability, as we had a private school at our church with over 500 children, and it was profitable.
In my estimation, one of the greatest problems Bill has had as a pastor is his lack of a more formal education. This holds true for his main associate, Kris Valotten. Bill has a three-year Bible Institute Degree from a defunct school that had been based in Santa Rosa California. Kris was an auto mechanic. As the product of the Assemblies of God in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Bill exhibits the reluctance to acknowledge the need for formal training in theology. This oversight also includes his claim to be a fifth-generation preacher, which is true. The modern value for education was not as widespread in earlier Pentecostalism.
Bill, like many Pentecostal preachers of his day, including his father and many preachers in the A/G of the 70’s and 80’s, were influenced heavily by the newly emerging Word of Faith movement. This influence is evident in many of Bill’s teachings. Without doing a thorough analysis of Word of Faith theology, there are elements of this theological stream that are notably good, with other subsets being erroneous. The lack of formal theological training has led Bill to embrace aspects of theology that may be correct minus the ability to properly explain what he is attempting to convey. That is my assessment.
It is also important to examine the credibility of the sources used when building a assertion of error, in this case, Bethel. This caution is as old as the church itself. Case in point, Origen of Alexandria. Origen is an early Church Father who is most scholars typically refrain from using with any depth or precision, as he was advocated doctrines that would have branded him as a heretic in most time periods of church history. Christianity Today presented an article on Origen that stipulated Origin was more of a Gnostic than a Christian. They say that “the root of these controversies is Origen’s use of the Bible. Neo-Platonism taught that physical objects acted as symbols of spiritual reality, and so contained a double meaning.”
Likewise, Origen and many other Christians (like Augustine) believed the Scriptures had a double meaning; the spiritual significance, while escaping the notice of most people, could be contemplated by the perfected Christian. But Origen’s interpretations pushed the boundaries of orthodoxy. Origen believed in the preexistence of souls and eventually everyone, including the Devil, would be saved. Origen also described the Trinity as a hierarchy, not as equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. My point is, we have had controversy over various pastors and teachers in the church for many years. And yet, the church survives.
12 TEACHINGS VIDEO
#1 JESUS WAS BORN AGAIN – Christie uses a clip from Bill Johnson where Bill says Jesus was born again. Christie then says Jesus didn’t need to be born again, He was sinless. Yes, Jesus was sinless, and yes, Jesus was not born again in the traditional understanding of the phrase. But as I listened to the video clip, that is not what Bill is saying. In my opinion, the allegation can only be made by taking what Bill said out of context and then adding distortion.
Bill is unwisely trying to be clever in describing the twice born statement by applying Jesus first birth through Mary, and then tying resurrection to a rebirth. Resurrection is not a rebirth, although sophisticated theologies make the same assertion. It is resurrection. This is an example of bad theologizing through clever statements. I do not believe Bill was being heretical. He was trying to make a point.
#2 KENOSIS – The difficulty with Kenotic theology is that the basic premise is based on a singular usage of the Greek word kenosis in the New Testament, concerning Christology, specifically in the Philippian Epistle, chapter 2:7. Kenosis (ekenosen/kenoo) means “laying aside,” or “the act of emptying.” The word appears five times in the NT but is only specifically added to the incarnation in Philippians. The problem with singular application is a hermeneutics issue.
Proper hermeneutics has a threshold of three uses as a minimum for the establishment of doctrine. As this is a singular use, it falls short of the establishment clause. However, this does not invalidate the application if it is a true concept. The restriction applies only to validation as an independent point of theology. Therefore, kenosis can add value to an already existing doctrine when taken in context.
Christie’s statement, “If Jesus wasn’t divine on the cross, His sacrifice was insufficient,” can be taken as correct as long as it is not made the way it is spoken by Bill Johnson’s critic. Christie makes a serious theological error by excluding the human factor of the incarnation, which would say, “if Jesus wasn’t human on the cross the sacrifice would be insufficient.”
Both statements are incorrect when viewed singularly, as one is Sabellian, the other Docetic. Jesus was not a manifestation of God in disguise as man. Jesus was 100% man. But Jesus was not just a man, the Pelagianism error. Jesus was 100% God. Jesus is 100% God, 100% man.
The application of the concept of laying aside (kenosis) is correct if the context warrants and the assertion of what was laid aside is not mistaken. Jesus never laid aside being God. That would reduce the intrinsic nature of God. Nor did Jesus merely add to God by the acceptance of flesh, the error of Calvin. Calvin described the kenosis as the adding to God through laying aside. God cannot suffer detraction or addition.
Jesus simply laid aside divine prerogatives to become man and yet remain God. Jesus’ ability to act as God while a man was completely contingent on the maintenance of His relationship with the other members of the godhead. Thus, Jesus could say He only did what He saw His Father doing. He could express supernaturalism under partnership with Holy Spirit.
Even though Jesus never acted independently, Jesus never ceased to be God. Jesus just lived with temporary restrictions on aspects of divinity that we commonly equate to the being of God like, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.
Jesus was God, and asserted omnipresence, but only through the presence of Holy Spirit in His life, with Holy Spirit (and the Father) being omnipresent. Jesus was temporarily restricted to corporeal existence as a 100% human. Jesus was also restricted in understanding. This is why Scripture says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. As a 100% human, Jesus had to learn like other humans.
Jesus did not know everything as a temporal creature. This must be true unless you are willing to accept Jesus as a liar, which I would highly recommend against. Concerning the end of this present evil age, Jesus said that He did not know when the end would be consummated. Jesus said that only our heavenly Father knows the hour and day. If Jesus had access to the omniscient aspect of being God, Jesus lied to his disciples. Interestingly, when the disciples asked the same question at the ascension, Jesus did not claim ignorance, He said it wasn’t for them to know. Following resurrection, omniscience returned.
We must also understand that the humanity of Jesus was critical to the mission of redemption. If Jesus was God disguised as man, Jesus was just another anthropomorphic manifestation of God, no different than numerous appearances in the OT. To be the proper propitiation for our sin, Jesus had to take on our sin as a human, even while not being guilty of sinning. This becoming sin for us allowed Jesus to suffer the consequence of our punishment as a substitute, making the substitutionary atonement a reality.
But don’t get your undies in too tight of a bunch, as most believers suffer from an inadequate understanding of the nature of Jesus as God and man. Christological understanding Is complex. This includes Sean Christie if you single out his statement as his only meaning of the incarnation. However, you could say that I am taking him out of context. And I would probably say Christie is doing the same to Bill Johnson.
#3 DOMINIONISM – Christie asserts that Bill Johnson is wrong on his acceptance of The Seven Mountain Mandate, currently being popularized by Lance Wallneau, originated by Bill Bright and Loren Cunningham of Every Home for Christ and Youth With a Mission (YWAM) respectively. This teaching asserts that it is the responsibility of the church to regain mastery and control of the pinnacles of cultural influence.
Each one of these advocates for the Christian responsibility of social transformation have unwittingly reintroduced an errant teaching of the church that dominated theological circles in the West for millennia. We call this false doctrine Amillenarianism. The most noted ancient theologian to advance an amillinarian doctrine was Augustine, although the kernel was in place long before he began to theologize. Amillinarian teachers advocate for the church advancement through conquering nations as a tribute to Jesus, thereby conquering the world for Christ. The teachings popularity was based on the disillusionment that was created by the delay in the return of Christ. The teaching was a compromise. Ironically, the modern reapplication is based on a different disillusionment concerning the end of this present evil age, and Jesus’ failure to return according to the understanding of man’s calculations of prophetic passages in the Scriptures.
I am talking about the evangelical disappointment with the lack of return of Christ following the reestablishment of Israel as a nation. Many pretribulationists taught that Jesus’ return would be right around 1988 or 1989 based on their calculations. As that day has long ago past, those who staunchly committed to this end times teaching were left sorely wanting. This included Bill Johnson, as his Assemblies of God background and dogmatic education included pretribulation as a basic tenet of faith. The rationale of many of the new preterists and 7 mountaineers includes a replacement theology accounting for a glorious eschatology of conquerors. I would say that it is in error also, and I am including writings of mine that address the subject and are posted on www.billbolin.net.
MANDATES AND MOUNTAINS TO BE CONQUERED FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
BASIC COMPONENTS NECESSARY FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
Social transformation is an amoral, apolitical, and areligious force that can be used for good causes and evil causes. Transformation is therefore blind to the influence of the transformative power that people wield through religion, family, and politics. The three primary influential spheres also impact media, arts and entertainment, education and business as subsets that derive their existence from the three primary areas of society. In my opinion, the essential elements that need to exist for social transformation to be initiated are:
- A perceived need in society or a felt need must be recognized for social transformation to be implemented.
The adage “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to this first principle of social transformation. People need to see an area of the social structure as broken and in need of repair. It is from the actions of the cauldron of the committed that transformation happens.
- A people group that is in dire need of help from society must be identified for the social reformers to place their focus.
Good people respond to the seen needs of the underclasses, the disadvantaged and the minority expressions that make up society. Without the identification of essential needs, reformers do not possess the prerequisite to formulating solutions for the need’s abatement.
- A strong leadership base must rise into a place of influence that is willing to sacrifice and work toward the transformation of the identified societal needs. T
he leaders of transformation are critical, as they serve as the inspirational force that others will rally around. The power of leadership is seen in every social revolution, either peaceful like Ghandi or violent like Lenin and Marx. Leaders who accept the challenge of transformation become historical icons. Moses, David, the Prophets, Jesus, Paul, revivalists, the Castro brothers and Che Guevara, Idi Amin and Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, all have left an indelible impression on cultures and societies. From an impact standpoint, the only differential seems to be which influencer influences the influential. Is it Jesus or is it the god of this age?
- The needed transformation must be just and worthwhile to sacrifice for its achievement, or the drive to transform will lose its appeal.
This is where the rubber hits the road, as transformation will never happen without this pillar being in place. On the opposite side of the pro-life advocacy, which I have been a part of from Roe V. Wade’s inception, the battle has never been won because the felt need of the existing mother and family need has not been overcome by the needs of the viability of the unborn. We see the mothers and families that struggle to exist. We do not see the unborn. Until the argument changes, this required transformation will continue to go unheeded. Without the ability to be seen as being on the side of what is right, the ability to transform social issues will remain elusive.
Conversely, when the need has existed to educate a population, the church has stood in the gap and created Sunday Schools and Church Schools in the 1800’s to address the needs of British and American children. The same has held true for the abolishment of slavery by legislation that recognizes the equality of the varied races of humanity. The same principle applies to the eradication of disease through medical research. Measles, mumps, and polio have felt the blunt force of a determined subsection of people who were dedicated to the betterment of humanity. We see the same zeal and fervor in the modern battle against the AIDS epidemic.
- The general population of the society must be convinced that society will improve after the transformation has happened.
If the society awareness need has not been satisfied, the necessary legislation that is required to adopt peaceful change will go unattended. This was seen in the long struggle to rid Western Europe and America from the horrors of slavery, and it is still seen in the lack of abolition of the abortion industry and the annihilation of the millions of children who have never been born. The modern slaughter of the innocent began in the Soviet Republic in 1929 and had spread throughout the civilized world, with virtually every major nation allowing the practice of abortion to be performed on the most vulnerable citizens a country should be protecting.
- The society must embrace the challenge of transformation and implement the principles that were won following the battle to transform.
This is the legislative process. The legislative dynamic is the most vulnerable to regressive actions. Therefore, the participants in social transformation must allow the transformational figures to rise to positions of power and statutory authority. Without oversight and protection, the initial recipients of social transformation run the risk of massive loss of the hard-fought points of change. This is readily seen in the actions of President Donald Trump and his administration as they actively work to undermine and eliminate the advancements that the Democratic Party initiated under President Barak Obama. Elections have consequences.
Our future and our faith cannot be based on a notion or hope that the followers of Jesus should have no desire to influence the cultures in which they find themselves. This ideology that disallows effective interaction within the basic units of influence flies in the face of scriptural revelation and the Book of Esther in particular. This is what makes the Mandate of the Seven Mountains so compelling, as the antithesis of this Christian assertion of influence can readily be seen in the radical activist Saul Alinski’s Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. Alinski’s goal was to create a philosophical guide for the less fortunate, or “Have-Nots”, for them to gain economic, legal, political, and social power.
Jesus directly challenged His followers to be as gentle as doves, but wise as serpents when dealing with the affairs of this world (Matthew 10:16). This means that we must perform an intricate balance, much like a high wire act, when interacting among the cultures of this world. On one hand, we as the church are to be dependent upon the LORD for our sustenance. On the other hand, we have been sent as sheep among wolves in this world. It is important to note that the systems of this world need to be interrupted and that the church needs to serve as the referent for this interruption.
When attempting to define the Seven Mountain Mandate that has been proffered as a mode of action for believers as a prophetic inspiration, it is important to understand the context of the mandate. As Believers in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, it is assumed that the Commissioned mandate to disciple the ethnos of the world would include influencing the metrons of power that exist in the Nations that house the ethnos (people), and that the mandate attaches itself too in a real-world association. Jesus parabolic admonition that the ‘strong man’ must be bound prior to plundering his household (oikos gr.) or economic/governmental influence is telling, Jesus said, if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house (Mark 3:24-27).
Under the American Nation’s current configuration, and the Nations of the world in general, they are under the rule of the Prince of the Air according to Paul the Apostle in Ephesians 2:2, whose sphere of influence must be displaced or disrupted to create a proper environment for the advancement of the Gospel into the arenas of mankind’s dominion. This means that the spheres of influence that men exert themselves into or mountains of influence as the current argument chooses to identify as the pivotal points of conflict, must be subjugated to see Christian ideology and practices serving as places of influence in these metrons. Metron is simply the Greek word that identifies a person’s sphere of influence by vocation, thus Paul’s metron was seen in his apostolic calling.
The New Apostolic Reformation and varying other proponents of the seven-mountain mandate is not an abandonment of biblical teaching concerning the end times as many of their opponents wrongly assert. Rather the teaching of the Seven Mountains as strategic points of influence, identifies the way and means of exerting dominion at its extreme incarnation, and influence in a minimalist variation within the world’s systems. The seven mountains include: Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts/Entertainment, and Media. It would probably be wise to add that other metrons such as sports, or properly separating Government and Military, and Arts and Entertainment is not without merit when discussing the possibilities of bearing influence in the cultures of this world.
It is certainly not unreasonable to suggest that Apostles and Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor/Teachers should not present a case for the believer’s place among the metrons that exist during their lifetime and in their spheres of influence. History has demonstrated that when the church or ecclesia asserts itself as a gathering place for governance and militaristic advancement, nations change for the betterment of their people. When the church remains stationary or indifferent toward the cultural assumptions that are being advanced, the people that are found within the governmental structures of the nations that house the church suffer. In the modern era, there are not any better examples of this truth than the American experience and that which enveloped Nazi Germany.
Churchmen should rightly assert influence in the building of wealth and innovation within the sphere of business to better the plight of mankind through proper distribution of materialistic acquisitions, and for the financing of the churches many mandates that exist within itself as a corporate entity. It is fitting for the community of believers to assert their worldview in the arena of education, thereby toppling the heathen and atheistic influences that have ensconced themselves within the modern world of educational ideology.
If conservative methodologies are not embraced within the realm of religion, an insipid form of faith that is void of a proper relationship with God will be the inevitable result. This must not happen. The pillar of the family needs to find a proper mooring within the restrictions of Holy Writ. This includes the everyday definition of how families are to act, and what constitutes a family within the norms of society. The proper exercise of Judeo/Christian ideas and constraints upon the civil aspects of government lead to the proper use and restraint of the military components that should exist for the defense of the nation that the military serves. This thought process also applies to the realm of the arts, entertainment, and the media. When the voices of the believing ecclesia are muted, these realms will be used for the advancement of evil. When the church is unleashed, those who hold to Jesus as Savior can exercise their creativity properly.
Men who advocate the Seven Mountain Mandate like the late C Peter Wagner are to be applauded for their candor and boldness in seeing the darkness that is attempting to curtail the Western way of living, and not vilified, regardless of a doctrinal acceptance or rejection of the offices of Prophets and Apostles within the current church’s configuration. The argument for exerting influence needs to be embraced by the church in general, and within the conservative branch of the church.
PARTIAL PRETERISM/VICTORIOUS ESCHATOLOGY A PAGE TAKEN OUT OF MORMON ESCHATOLOGY
Novel or new theology is never created in a vacuum. New ideas are typically formulated through dialogue between people who hold similar views. This has been a historically provable assertion for as long as people have been theologizing. One of the main forms that theology is constructed within is what we call times of revival, or at least the period that immediately follows a movement of God among men. People typically try to formulate the primary ideas that were formulated and advanced by the primary figures of the movement. This applies to the standard-bearers of the era and the fringe players. Prophetic movements are particularly susceptible to the fringe elements of thought, as proponents generally look for unique teachings that can have a greater impact on the corpus.
PREVIOUS PROPHETIC MOVEMENTS
The era of the mid-1800s is no exception to the rule. American Christianity was exiting the Second Great Awakening on American soil, and prophetic voices were postulating new ideas about God’s prophetic timeline. Fringe players included Joseph Smith and the burgeoning Mormon movement, the Seventh Day Adventist movement, the Watchtower Bible Society, the Apostolic movement out of England where the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine originated, and the repackaged amillinarian view that was being advanced as Preterist eschatology, which would later divide into subgroups like Glorious Eschatology, Partial Preterists, and victorious Eschatology.
Each one of the new variants of eschatology had unique ideas, while each had similar ideologies. The blended ideas are profound, as they grew out of the unique views of the founders of the divergent groups, like Charles Russell Taze’s rejection of Hell as a place of punishment based on DL Moody’s thinly veiled rejection of said doctrine. Ellen G. White and other Seventh Day Adventists had advocated a date for the return of Christ that had been revealed prophetically.
When the date passed and the visible return of Christ was nowhere to be seen, an explanation was proffered that included a secret second coming, where Jesus returned without being seen. Upon His departure, the Adventists advocated that Jesus went back to Heaven where He is currently calculating everyone’s sins and acts of righteousness. When the scales are weighed based on your works, the weightier scale determines your eternal destiny. The Mormons held a view that blended or borrowed ideas from multiple sources.
Each variation was an escapist theology, with one variation holding the seedling idea of Preterism. One of the most dangerous ideas that emerge from the partial Preterist and Preterist argument is the blending of standard Mormon theology with Christian theology. The notion that there was a great Christian exodus out of Jerusalem isn’t a new position. It is a major segment of Mormon theology. You can see this at the Latter-Day Saints website under an article entitled The Amazing Christian Escape from The AD 70 Destruction of Jerusalem. This chapter sounds a lot like the LDS article I have referred to on the LDS website.
The LDS conclusion is the same as Eberle and Trench’s, “after those Christians in Jerusalem were allowed to escape, the Roman soldiers sealed off the city (p. 37),” and “yet, while the Jews suffered starvation, slaughter, and capture, their fellow Christians in Jerusalem escaped (LDS).” The LDS continues, “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan called Pella.”
The incorporation of Mormon partial-Preterism is documented on the Mormon website, Let God Be True: in a post entitled: The Witness of 70 AD. The parallels to Mormon thought, and ideology is profound, as the Mormons make the same appeal that Eberle and Trench do in making sure that they stand separate from a futurist interpretation of virtually the same passages of Scripture. Mormon Roots of The Great Escape of 70 AD J Julius Scott makes the same assertion in an article at preteristarchive.com.
Scott claims that the Christians at Jerusalem in 66AD survived the Jerusalem seize by Rome, making the same argument as Eberle, Trench, and the LDS. I find this problematic, as the LDS doctrine has been a part of their eschatology from the early days of their origin, as LDS current theologians consider them to be the righteous remnant who created the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls have become a major point for Mormon apologists, as it was an LDS contention that the Scrolls would produce a copy of Joseph Smith’s Plates. The modern Preterist view dates from the same period. Eberle’s claim that the Partial Preterist view has been around from the early church age is disingenuous.
The Early church was post-Tribulational, not Preterist. Around 350-400AD the eschatological view of the early church began to shift toward an Amillinarian position, that was successfully championed by Augustine. The Augustinian view became the dominant position of most of the western church. It is the view of Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, most Lutherans, the Anglicans and Episcopalians, and others. Eberle’s assertion that the disciple’s reluctance to accept Jesus’ contention that He would die would have meant that their questioning could not have been about the second coming is also a stretch (p. 49).
A lot of ground was covered between Jesus’ revelation that He would die and Peter’s bold assertion that it would not happen. These were men who were receiving a three-year education in Kingdom Theology. Of course, they could have had the second coming in mind, particularly with the given subject matter Jesus was addressing. Tactius Numbers of Deportees Please keep Trench and Eberle’s claims that the Jerusalem destruction of 70AD was not as horrific as what the Jewish people encountered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants would find this conclusion offensive and an affront to their people (p. 41).
It is true that a disproportionate number of the Jewish population died in the Jerusalem siege, but it was a relatively small percentage. Only one in ten Jews lived in Israel at the time of the Temple’s destruction. Tacitus disputed Josephus numbers, claiming that a total of 600,000 Jews lived in Jerusalem at the time of the fall of the city. He claimed that most of those people were captured and became slaves of the Empire.
#4 PROSPERITY GOSPEL – Sean Christie’s accusation of Bill Johnson teaching prosperity doctrine through his Bill Johnson quote is blatantly wrong and disingenuous. I am befuddled with the use of this quote, as there is ample material to make the connection between Bill and Word of Faith, as that is the camp Bill emerged from following in his father’s footsteps. But the quote used in a phenomenal stretch. Christie asserts Bill’s statement from, Courage to Leave a Legacy, which says, “Our connection with God is obviously the source of all blessing, prosperity, and goodness in our lives. We make our WAY prosperous through obedience because when we do what he asks us to do, we strengthen our connection with the source of life. The more completely our lives agree with God, the more His nature and Kingdom manifests in us.”
Bill is not saying obedience produces guaranteed material procurement. He is correctly saying obedience makes our way, meaning our life more prosperous. We are bettered through obedience. Obedience doesn’t equate to financial gain alone. Prospering isn’t just a money thing. Prospering is a life thing. Prosperity can include being martyred for obedience and the fruit of being a faithful witness (humarterio). I agree with what Bill is saying. To equate this with prosperity gospel preaching is a flat out lie.
The statement Bill makes is theologically correct. Christie pulls a classic bait-and-switch on his viewing audience. Bill isn’t addressing material wealth. He is addressing obedience and the rewards that obedience produces, which can be intangible.
#5 GOD ALWAYS HEALS – Yes, Bill Johnson advocates a healing model that is prototypical to modern Pentecostalism. How could we expect anything different without the existence of a profound shifting of belief? Bill is a Pentecostal by nature and background. I am not going to go into a thorough dialogue critiquing what I may see as errors or deficiencies in the traditional Pentecostal approach, it is a perspective that has brought an understanding that healing was not relegated to the first century exclusively, and that there are principles and practices that make allowance for healing to be facilitated in the here and now.
As with most biblical truths that are neglected or discarded, when people rediscover what is possible, there is always a period of give and take. Practical learning curves almost always includes mistakes and, at times inappropriate behavior. Both wittingly and unwittingly. What is important is to not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
My personal perspective includes a belief that God does heal all the time, just not necessarily the way we desire to see healing happen. The biblical data supports this take on healing. If we make a doctrine out of a singular reference, we can get in trouble, particularly if the passage has contradictory or seemingly contradictory information that could provide clarity. A case in point would be the passages that indicate that Jesus healed everyone where He was ministering. The statement is true.
But if there are other instances that did not produce the same result, such as Jesus only healing only a few sick people and marveling at the lack of faith of the constituents, it raises questions. Like, you cannot say definitively that Jesus healed everyone everywhere where Jesus ministered. Jesus’ statement also lends credibility to the necessitation for exploring the dimensions of faith, as Jesus connects people’s faith to the healing process, thereby removing healing from the exclusive purview of the sovereignty of God. Or you could say that sovereignly, God has allowed human faith expressions to work in alliance with His will to effect healings on earth. Both Bill and his detractors would be wise to heed this advice in my humble opinion, but who am I?
When sickness, disease and death enter our lives, or those of us who are left with the sadness and grief of loss, while trying to be joyous over the entry into Heaven, we are left with questions. Why God? Why death, sickness, illness, or disease, especially when it happens to someone young or to our loved ones? Why weren’t our prayers and proclamations of life answered? Did we do something wrong? Was our faith inadequate? These are the questions that we normally confront and that haunt us in our thoughts.
This is not a Bill Johnson, Word of Faith, many Pentecostal, Charismatic, Catholic, or Evangelical perspectives in our approach to healing, but it is my approach. Hopefully this will help you with your questions and sorrow when confronted with the unthinkable elements that living in a fallen world produces. It is my belief that God heals us in several ways. Here is a brief synopsis of the five ways God heals today.
FIVE WAYS GOD HEALS
Healing is more than just the supernatural grace that Holy Spirit imparts. There are at least 5 manifestations of healing that are biblical, beginning with our natural immune system and ability to sell heal, as in broken bones, cuts, and biological infection. God created our ability for healing; thus, it is supernatural in origin, yet secondary in application.
The same holds true for the second aspect of healing which includes medicine, natural herbs, etc. as part of our dominion in the earth. Dominion is a mastery of knowledge, which is refectory of our supernatural origins, and is a secondary imparting from God. We have intellect, which allows us to express being created in God’s image through the creation of chemical compounds, machinery, mastery of surgical skills, and other means of manipulating the creation.
The third is the type of healing most of us view as the only way God heals, and it the Kingdom invasion form. Supernatural in nature, and the application of laws and dynamics we do not fully comprehend. This form of healing is beyond human capacity or ability to make happen apart from the exercising of faith in the first order and completely dependent on Holy Spirit.
The fourth is a type of healing we shun, as it found in the form of healing through death, which liberates us from the consequences of sin and the influences of a fallen creation. This is all about God extending mercy to His beloved children and its origin is also with God, who numbers (restricts) our years. Death is, however, a divine form of healing, as the temporary discomfort of sin, sickness and death will no longer prevail. And of course, it is secondary in nature with an overlay of the supernatural.
The fifth form of healing is found in the Resurrection of the Dead, both redeemed and otherwise, as the temporary separation of the soul from the body ends and judgment over relationship with Christ begins. And then the eternal reward of Union with God or exclusion happens. This is the ultimate expression of physical healing as it will be permanent. All other forms of healing are temporary at best. And yes, this is a God thing.
#6 THE TEACHING OF GIFTS – Christie claims to be Charismatic. His assertion that a gift is a gift is correct on face value. Where Christie falls into error is his relegation of gifts to the sovereignty of God alone for their implementation and understanding. This is poppycock. Scripture does not serve as an instruction manual for how things like healing, prophecy, words of knowledge, faith, or other gifting elements work. Scripture just tells us to do the stuff, as John Wimber was quick to say.
The art and process of discipleship is instruction. To instruct, we must understand. To understand, we must study, observe, and convey what we have learned. The Bible tells us that during Elijah’s time, there were schools of prophets. These schools’ existence was used by God to tell Elijah that he was not alone, and that God had others who were capable of ministering on His behalf. We instruct people in The Faith. We instruct people in the elements of The Faith this is natural, logical, and biblical. To relegate a desire of a ministry that genuinely wants to explore the boundaries of God’s Kingdom and the principles that govern our participation in the Kingdom to charlatans and money grubbers is ludicrous.
Christie’s challenge to the BSSM claim of uniqueness based on the level of recognition that the instructors have as five-fold adherents is problematic and correct at the same time. All schools that are adherents to an Evangelical/Charismatic perspective, and those of a non-charismatic nature will be staffed and led by people who walk in the gifts that the Spirit grants for leadership, whether they acknowledge the offices or not. No one is unique in this arena. Although, some may be more adept than others.
Here is an explanation of the intricacies and interactions between the gifts and the gift giver from an analytical perspective as taught at FloodGate.
Holy Spirit and Charismatic Expressions and Beliefs
We joyously affirm that God is a supernatural God and that He often works in ways people might find unusual, now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Acts 19:11, Acts 8:13, Ephesians 3:20).
However, the defining of these unusual workings of God can be difficult to assess and appraise as to their value and authenticity. It is important to note that the deepest and most meaningful gifts we have are such things as adoption, salvation, Holy Spirit, and God as Father, to name a few. It is also important to point out the need to make a distinction between the Dora gifts which are possessive (fatherhood, salvation, Holy Spirit, Apostolic, Prophet, Teachers/Pastors, Evangelists, etc.), and the Chrism gifts, which are grace manifestations (tongues, healing, words of knowledge, wisdom, faith, etc.).
We believe that the gifts are for today in both the possessive gifts (dora’s) and the ministry expressions (chrism’s). Acts 2:36-38 “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Both are essential in helping us to fulfill the Great Commission and to bring us into maturity. It is interesting to note that the elder gifts that are listed in Ephesians 4 are possessive gifts and are non-transitory. They comprise what has been referred to as the five (5) fold ministry expressions, although it would be better to understand them contextually and linguistically as a four (4) fold expression. As ministry expressions, they belong to the category of elders, presbyters or ecclesiastical leadership that is vocational in nature. The chrisms have carried over manifestations, but are meant to be understood as transitory, and not exclusive to vocational leadership.
What is the significance of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
We affirm that every believer has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). And we also affirm that there should be an experience, after conversion, of being ‘filled’ in an ongoing basis with the Holy Spirit,and do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) which God intends to empower and inspire a believer for life and ministry, but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8), and that every believer can live submitted to and empowered by the Spirit. Being filled with Holy Spirit in the greater capacity can be defined as being yielded to the Spirit’s presence and working in our lives in a greater way. The yielded life is the Spirit-led and Spirit-filled life.
The Gifts of the Spirit
We affirm that all the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in scripture are present in the church today and that the Holy Spirit determines who is enabled with what. Spiritual Gifts are God’s enablement for service and ministry, but one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). Spiritual Gifts are not to be seen or used as ‘criteria’ or ‘indicators’ of one’s spirituality. They must also be used in appropriate contexts and within New Testament guidelines (1 Corinthians 12-14).
Spiritual gifts are the legacy of Holy Spirit’s activities among men. Everyone who is born again receives Holy Spirit as the indwelling agent of redemption. He in turn grants us various abilities that help us in our personal walks and in the administration of Kingdom ministry as we yield to His presence and the desire for Him to empower us. Spirit gifts are grace expressions designed to bring glory to the Father as they visibly demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God during creation.
These grace expressions are designed to enhance the ministry of the message we all carry, helping for the Gospels proclamation and are available to all believers. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With these grace gifts comes the endowment of power for life and service. The bestowment of these gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry are for the entire Body of Christ (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). These experiential phenomena are experiences such as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37-39; Acts 4:8), a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28), an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work (Acts 2:42) and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost (Mark 16:20).
Are ‘Tongues’ the evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
While we affirm the value of speaking in tongues for those who have received this gift of the Spirit, we deny that it is a necessary ‘indicator’ that one has received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:18-22).
What about unusual manifestations such as being slain in the Spirit
We affirm that when the power of God touches humanity, unusual manifestations of the Holy Spirit may occur. There is a direct correlation to phenomena and occurrences, as humans can react in unusual ways when God and man intersect. Manifestations such as falling, crying, laughing, speaking ecstatically are not induced by, or controlled by Holy Spirit.
It is a grave and serious theological mistake to indicate that Holy Spirit ‘takes over’ the individual and causes them to ‘manifest’ independent of their cooperation and volition. When manifestations occur, they are human reactions to divine presence, not the reverse. Scripture is resplendent with people acting or reacting in what would be considered odd or unusual ways when God shows up on the scene. We see things like Moses glowing with the presence of God, men prophesying, corporate falling down during worship, individuals falling during mountain top transfigurations, speaking ecstatically in corporate and private settings, etc. We deny however that these secondary manifestations should be sought after for the experience alone, nor that they are a determinant or indicator of one’s closeness to God. We further affirm that public worship is to be orderly and respectful of nonbelievers and new believers (1 Corinthians 14, especially verse 23).
Wholeness, Healing and Spiritual Liberty
We affirm that God desires to bless our entire beings with wholeness and that He longs to give healing (spiritual, emotional, and physical) to broken, needy people (3 John 12, James 5:16). God provides healing through either natural or supernatural means and some of our healing may wait until we step into heaven. God tells us ask Him with boldness to meet our needs and to believe that He will answer (Matthew 10:1). We do not believe that sickness or struggle are necessarily evidence of weak faith or sin in a person’s life.
We affirm that a believer’s spirit belongs to the Lord and cannot be “possessed” by evil, but we also believe that a Christian’s life can be significantly influenced or dominated by demonic powers and may thus need deliverance.
This how we teach people about the gifts of the Spirit.
#7 OUR WORDS HAVE SUPERNATURAL POWER – The belief that our words are creative and can influence the natural is a long-held juxtaposition within the charismatic realm, and far from being exclusive to Bethel’s influence and belief system. Is it a correct assumption? It depends on who you ask, and in what context the practice is placed. To be clear, only God is creator, ultimately. Yes, the creation has limited capacity in creative ability, like the production of offspring, inventiveness, and constructs. But the ability to create is a ‘God thing.’ The limited ability of the creation to be creative always lives within the shadow of the creator.
When it comes to words spoken, can a spoken word create ex nihilo, something out of nothing? No. Nothing within creation has this ability, not, human not demon, nothing. Only God commands this power and ability.
So, is there a basis of words having supernatural power? Yes, on two fronts. The first is when the words spoken are in accordance with what God is revealing and desiring to do through His chosen vessels. A good reference book is Yonngi Cho’s The Fifth Dimension. The second way words spoken have power is through the influential nature that words possess. What we speak reflects what is in our heart. Negative words typically come from a negative person. What is spoken can influence outcome. The same principle holds true for positive words and positive speech.
This question does have an element of application toward prayer, however. The prayer life of God’s people, particularly as demonstrated by Jesus and healing. Jesus never prayed, God if it is Your will, heal. Jesus always proclaimed healing as a settled issue, not a future possibility. If Jesus didn’t frame His prayers as a request, rather as proclamation, we would be wise to heed the model of the master. And don’t get me started on the mocking nature of Christie’s snide remark, “speak to the joint? Will it speak back?” The man is rude in his assessments.
#8 REPENT MEANS GOING BACK TO GOD’S PERSPECTIVE ON REALITY Christie’s assessment of metanoia IS correct. Metanoia (repent) means a changing of one’s mind as a primary definition. It also includes changing direction and a focused change of desired outcome. But Christie’s negative assessment of Bill Johnson’s use of a simile may be unwarranted. The Greek preposition “re” means “again” or “back,” and is often used in words that indicate a repetition of an action, which usually indicates repetition or reversal of an action or state. Bill’s usage of “re” is correct.
Bill’s use of a simile is appropriate concerning the penthouse. It could possibly be questionable or correct, depending on your personal take on its appropriateness. As a comparison, a fuller explanation might help. Such as when we return to God, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, so when we are found in Him, our thoughts become like penthouse living. We are elevated far above the temporal surroundings and limitations of the fallen world. Theologically, that might work. As a preaching point, it may be too verbose, and in need of simplification for expediency’s sake. This could include, top floor thinking, penthouse existence. I say take or leave Bill’s simile. However, to discount the need for similes in the conveyance of biblical thought and expressions is absurd.
#9 HOLY SPIRIT IS LIKE A BLUE GENIE – Without belaboring the issue of a similitude which is, the state of being similar OR almost the same, or a feature that is similar (Cambridge), Jenn Johnson usage of the Genie from Aladdin may not be the wisest comparison to use, particularly when it elicits a visceral reaction. HOWEVER, the comparison can work for some people.
The biggest problem with using descriptions that pertain to God from a naturalistic perspective is that the equivalency almost always falls short and creates conflict. This can be seen in other instances where we have used water to create a dynamic equivalent to the trinity. Water exists as mist, ice, and liquid, just as God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The comparison works as a simplistic explanation, but it runs the risk of creating a belief system that embraces modalism when thinking about God.
The difficulty of explaining complex issues is exacerbated when the comparison was created by a child of around the age of ten years old, as was the case with Jenn Johnson. For her it worked. As it worked, it became seared into her conscious, serving as a reasonable explanation for her developing understanding of Holy Spirit.
Jenn Johnson’s assimilation of a cultural icon taken from a cartoon is not unreasonable, as we often look to our culture to appropriate meaningful points of referral. Jenn was using cultural appropriation. Holy Spirit is described as helper, supportive, powerful, and for some even though it isn’t a true biblical description, fun.
Christie’s assertion that: “OK, maybe not a ‘official’ teaching of Bethel, but what an absolute total disregard of the holiness of God and His Holy Spirit,” is equally dangerous, if not more dangerous. Christie’s assertion is a tacit expression of Oneness theology and Sabellian. I assume Christie is not an adherent of the oneness camp. I also know that Jenn Johnson is not someone who disregards the holiness of God. When we are willing to attack the faith expressions of others, we need to make sure our motives and ability to clearly articulate our position is correct, or we can inadvertently be lumped into the same cesspool of heresy that we have thrown others into with our criticism.
#10 ALL MUST PROPHESY – I think this is an admirable goal and dream. However, it is not practical. This is an unrealistic expectation, as there are many in the body of Christ who do not see prophecy as appropriate or biblical in our era. But for someone to say this while equally stating that he embraces the gifts for today, Christie does not understand the subject he claims mastery.
#11 DEAD RAISING TEAM – I must agree with Christie’s assessment. I believe that the dead can still be raised. And if we make claim that we have a team that has raised twelve people (and counting) from the dead, proof of the miraculous return to life should be presented. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the empty tomb and his animated body wrapped in grave cloths grated compelling evidence.
#12 GRAVE SUCKING OR MANTLE GRABBING – Although a noble practice when it is confined to visiting the grave of formerly effective ministers who have ceased to remain among the living, visiting grave sites cannot produce a transference of a mantle. However, the memory of former giants of the faith can inspire us to seek be like them in impact and effectiveness of ministry. I suppose the only way to definitively prove that there was a transference of anointing would be to die, have a former greats’ grave opened and have our dead body laid on top of the mortal remains. If we are raised form the dead, then there may be compelling evidence of something supernatural happening. But to say that a mantle passed would be a stretch without assessing the duration of the life of the claimant and observing the demonstrable conclusions based on provable actions.