Assessing Bill Johnson’s “Eternally God” Declarations Amidst His Other Christological Statements

[UPDATE: In a new post it is shown that Johnson actually affirmed some of the speculations in this particular article in a sermon at Bethel on the very same day this article was posted, using some of the very same Scriptures cited as possible proof-texts for such an approach!]

A hallmark of any true Christian is charity (this is not to say non-Christians cannot be charitable, of course).  Christians will give their money and time with no expectation of return.  Rightly, this generosity should extend to giving another the benefit of the doubt if a given statement or statements are not exactly clear.  Everyone makes a ‘slip of the tongue’ or a ‘slip of the pen’, right? 

But, on the other hand, when a teacher consistently makes statements that run counter to Christian orthodoxy, there is a need to address this issue forthrightly.  When these statements are in the public realm via books, online sermons, video/audio, et cetera, these should be addressed publicly. 

There are those who – while understanding that Bill Johnson’s Christological teachings are problematic, if not at least seemingly self-contradictory at times – do not fully agree with the views put forth on CrossWise regarding Johnson’s Christology.  Specifically, there are those who are of the opinion that Bill Johnson teaches that the Word retained all His divine attributes when He became flesh, yet chose not to exercise those attributes for the entirety of His earthly ministry, instead relying on the Holy Spirit for all miracle workings.  Whether they do this out of charity or out of a firm belief that this is Johnson’s teaching given the evidence of Johnson’s own words (as they read them), or both, I cannot be certain.  The following tweet from April 7, 2013 by Bill Johnson in answer to a direct question, seems to have strengthened this view:

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

Does this statement render false the CrossWise articles asserting Johnson teaches that Jesus Christ did not possess any divine attributes during the Incarnation?  Some may think so.  But, on the other hand, what are we to make of the above tweet in conjunction with the following selection from the recent book co-written by Randy Clark and Bill Johnson titled The Essential Guide to Healing? 

…Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man (see Philippians 2:7).  While He is eternally God, He chose to live within the restrictions of a man who had no sin and was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  In doing this, He provided a compelling model to follow.1

 By the clear words in the first sentence, Johnson is claiming that the Word (Jesus) divested Himself of divinity in becoming incarnate.  But, then again, in the second sentence we have the “eternally God” declaration like the tweet above.  Is this a contradiction?  Or should we be charitable and assume Johnson meant to state that Jesus ‘emptied Himself’ of all divine prerogatives, i.e., that Jesus voluntarily did not use the divine attributes He yet retained?  (Though this view is not Biblical.)  But please note, to assume the latter requires reading into this statement beyond what is clearly written in the first sentence. 

To be certain we are not misunderstanding Bill Johnson, here is another passage from this same book:

…While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man (see Philippians 2:7).  It is vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God.  If He did them as God, I would still be impressed.  But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us.  Jesus is the only model for us to follow.2

Once again, we have the same “eternally God” statement in conjunction with a claim of divested deity while incarnate.  Yet, we also have the assertion that Jesus did all His miracles “as a man yielded to God”.  Does this indicate we should, as noted above, assume Johnson really means that Jesus retained His divine attributes yet purposefully chose not to exercise them, instead relying upon the Holy Spirit for all miracle workings, despite the claim that “He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”?

I submit that there’s a different solution to this seeming conundrum, this apparent contradiction, without the need to read into any of the above.  But, it will require a bit of explanation first.

The Christ Anointing

One cannot effectively analyze Bill Johnson’s Christological statements apart from his teaching on “the anointing”, which is central to his theology.   In Johnson’s Christology, like some other teachers in hyper-charismaticism, both Christ, and then logically, antichrist are redefined.

Christ = the anointing
antichrist = against the anointing 

It is of utmost importance to keep this in mind.  “The anointing” is also called the “Christ anointing”,3 “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”,4 “Holy Spirit’s presence/rest upon” an individual,5 “the presence of God”,6 and “the outpouring of the Spirit”7 in Bill Johnson’s theology.  This is not speaking of the Holy Spirit indwelling; this is in addition to the indwelling:

…Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’s life.  This was the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose8

Bill Johnson’s duplicity is plainly evident in the way he first correctly defines Christ, and then redefines the term in the same paragraph in his book When Heaven Invades Earth:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah…”9

So far, so good.  This is absolutely correct.  Yet, observe how he redefines “Christ” to “the anointing”:

…It [Christ] is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title.  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.10

 Contrary to Johnson, Scripture states that it was sufficient for Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah at His birth (Luke 2:11).  And, importantly, the term “Christ” is understood in Christian orthodoxy as indicating deity/divinity.11  Continuing on to the very next paragraph in Johnson’s book: 

The word anointing means “to smear.”  The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.12

 This completes Johnson’s redefinition.  If Jesus is “the One smeared with the Holy Spirit” at His baptism, and this ‘smearing’ is the anointing, and this is the “experience” that brings forth the title of “Christ”, then it logically follows that Jesus was NOT the Christ prior to baptism.

To be sure the above is correct – that Jesus did not attain the “title” of Christ until He received the anointing in the river Jordan following John’s baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon Him as a dove (aka Baptism in the Holy Spirit, etc.) – the following quote from another work makes it clear: 

The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified.  This was His quest.  Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience [the anointing] there could be no title.13

 Had Jesus not received the anointing, He could not have received the “title” of Christ, for this was the “experience” that “qualified Him to be called the Christ”.  But note how Johnson claims this “anointing” means “anointed one”.  Is Jesus then the unique “Anointed One”, although He did not receive the title of Christ until the anointing?  Does Johnson ‘merely’ have the timing wrong on when Jesus becomes the Christ?  Note that in the first quote in this section he neglects to use the definite article (the) in front of “Anointed One”, and he does the same in the immediately preceding quote for “anointed one” (lower case).  This is because, in another example of duplicity, ALL can receive this same “Christ anointing”:

…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him14

Be aware that this is consistent with Gnostic and New Age teaching as exemplified by Levi Dowling’s book The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ED: actually Christos] and means anointed.  It is identical with the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed15

 In Johnson’s theology, when ‘believers’ receive this “Christ anointing” do they become divine?  Not exactly.  Note below that it’s the anointing itself that’s divine, not Jesus.  The anointing links the man Jesus to the divine, thus providing the supernatural power that the non-divine Jesus lacked:

The anointing Jesus received was the equipment necessary, given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitations…That would include doing supernatural things.  The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine, enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil…16

It follows logically then that those who receive the Christ anointing will be linked to the divine in the same way.  To reiterate, just like mankind is non-divine and subsequently linked to the divine via the anointing, Jesus was merely a non-divine man who was linked to the divine via the anointing.  Also, given that Jesus receives the “title” of Christ only by virtue of the Christ anointing, then  it follows that anyone else who receives this same Christ anointing should receive this same “title” of Christ.  This puts us back to the teaching of Levi Dowling above: “every anointed person is christed”.

Having adequately determined how Bill Johnson defines Christ, we’ll briefly illustrate how he defines antichrist.  As he does with the term Christ, Johnson initially correctly defines antichrist (mostly, since anti can also mean “instead of”) as “anti, ‘against’; Christ, ‘Anointed One’.”17  Observe that he dispenses with the definite article (the) in front of “Anointed One” yet again.  And once again, he subtly redefines the term: “The spirits of hell are at war against the anointing, for without the anointing mankind is no threat to their dominion.18

In the following, he makes a clear distinction between believers – who would, by Christian orthodoxy, necessarily have the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion – and “the anointing”, though here he calls it “the Holy Spirit’s anointing” instead of the “Christ anointing”, or “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, et cetera:

The spirit of antichrist is at work today, attempting to influence believers to reject everything that has to do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing….19

 There you have it.  By Johnson’s redefinition of antichrist, I myself have the “spirit of antichrist” since I am “attempting to influence ‘believers’ to reject” the anointing.

This teaching on the anointing corresponds with Johnson’s statements such as “He [Jesus] had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!”20 and “Jesus had no ability to heal the sick.  He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead.”21  Given His total lack of inherent supernatural capabilities, this clearly indicates a temporally non-divine Jesus.

Eternally God Yet Temporally Man?

In Bill Johnson’s Christology, like all men, Jesus lacks divinity while in the temporal realm – except by virtue of the anointing.  But how does that theology mesh with Jesus as “eternally God”?  To answer this, first we’ll look at eternity in Scripture.

According to Ephesians 2:6 all Christians are currently seated in the heavenly realms; that is, though we are currently in our earthly bodies, we are in heaven (cf. Col 3:1-3).  Believers have a sort of “dual citizenship”.  Eternal life is a future that we already possess.  This means, in a sense, we are already in the eternal realm, while we are yet still on this earth in the temporal realm.   However, the tension between these two realities must be kept in check, as we are not bi-located; we are not simultaneously living in heaven as we walk on earth.

This is usually referred to as the already but not yet.   True believers have eternal security already, but we are not yet seated in the heavenlies.  The last days have already begun at Jesus’ first coming, but the final consummation is not yet.  This understanding that we have been in the last days since Christ’s earthly ministry is also known as inaugurated eschatology (sometimes realized eschatology, but not in the absolute sense by some liberal theologians that there is no future eschatology), with the understanding that Jesus Christ’s Second Coming brings in the eschaton (end of all things).

To explain further, Revelation 13:8 indicates one of two things (the syntax of the Greek allows one of two interpretations): 1) Jesus was slain from the creation of the world, or 2) the writing of the names into the Book of Life occurred from the foundations of the world.  To accept number 2 would seem to necessitate number 1, as it appears difficult to have a Book of Life unless there first had been a Life Giver.  In any case, the point is that some events from our temporal perspective are depicted in Scripture as already past and/or already present in the eternal realm.  Therefore, we cannot conceive of the temporal realm, with its chronological developments, as if it were a subset of the eternal.  In other words, time as we know it does not run parallel with eternity, as though eternity has a past, present, and future.  Lewis Sperry Chafer aptly describes the relationship between the temporal and the eternal:

…Whatever time may be and whatever its relation to eternity, it must be maintained that no cessation of eternity has occurred or will.  God’s mode of existence remains unchanged.  Time might be thought of as something superimposed upon eternity were it not that there is ground for question whether eternity consists of a succession of events, as is true of time.  The consciousness of God is best conceived as being an all-inclusive comprehension at once, covering all that has been or will be.  The attempt to bring time with its successions into a parallel with eternity is to misconceive the most essential characteristic of eternal things.22

With the foregoing in mind, we can return to Bill Johnson.

It appears possible Johnson may be condensing the concept of already but not yet, with some of the not yet into the already.  This would not be surprising as some hyper-charismatics are known as having an over-realized eschatology; i.e., some of the things reserved for the eschaton (the end of all things; when Christ returns) are claimed to be for now.  The Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) doctrine is one example of over-realized eschatology.

It is conceivable then that, in the Johnson Christology, Jesus is “eternally God” because Jesus is God only in eternity, but not divine in the temporal, earthly realm.  Stated another way, we can read Johnson’s tweet in conjunction with the question posed such that Jesus Christ is “eternally God”, i.e., Jesus is God in the eternal realm – and, of course eternity never ceases, as it has no beginning and no end – while He was simultaneously non-divine temporally in His earthly mission, as He had “emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”.

Note that this adequately answers the question posed in the above tweet: Johnson affirms Jesus’ full deity while on earth, but only in virtue of the assertion that “Jesus Christ is eternally God” (again, eternity never ceases).  This is somewhat similar to the believer claiming to already have eternal life.  In other words, in its context, Johnson is not necessarily affirming temporal divinity in the earthly Jesus in and of itself in the above tweet; but, in asserting eternal deity it can be comprehended as somewhat analogous to the believer’s dual status in Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 3:1-3.  Understood this way, Johnson’s tweet and the two quotations from the book referenced at the very beginning are adequately synthesized.

To be clear, what I’m proposing above with regard to Johnson’s teaching is not orthodox; it’s merely an attempt at explaining the seeming contradictions in Johnson’s theology.  This same idea can be applied to the following Facebook quote:

Jesus is God, eternally God, and never stopped being God. But He was also man, completely man. In His earthly life He lived from His humanity to illustrate dependence on the Father in a way that could be emulated. Jesus said, “the Son of man can do nothing of Himself . . .” illustrating His dependence. His limitations were in His humanity, not His divinity. Understanding the difference can help us to successfully live the life He gave for us to live. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, August 11, 2012]

Setting aside the fact that Johnson totally distorts the meaning of John 5:19 (“the Son of man can do nothing of Himself…”) by taking only a portion of this verse, wresting it from its proper context, we can understand this such that Jesus is an earthly non-divine man concurrent with an eternally divine Jesus.  Some of the bolded portion will be discussed further below.

In another context altogether, there is evidence of Bill Johnson’s conflation of the not yet with the already:

When I first heard this phrase, the Kingdom now but not yet, over 20 years ago, it was used as a statement of promise.  It was helpful for me to realize that we have access to things right now that I had always thought inaccessibleThe phrase helped to bring into focus the reality that some things will be enjoyed in time, and some things only in eternity.  But that same phrase has also been used to define limitations and restrictions, and not instill hope.  It is used to ease people’s dissatisfaction with unrealized promises now…

It is true that a full manifestation of the Kingdom of God is more than our physical bodies can endure.  But it is also true that when we are in Heaven we will still be able to say, now, but not yet, about the Kingdom, because there is no end to the increase of His governmentThroughout eternity the Kingdom will be expanding, and we will always be advancing.  I teach our people that if now, but not yet is used to define promise and potential, accept it.  If it is spoken to build awareness of our limitations and restrictions, reject it.  We don’t need more people without authentic Kingdom experiences telling us what we can and cannot have in our lifetime.  Those who walk out their faith with an experiential paradigm understand that we will always live in the tension of what we have seen and what we have yet to see, and that we are always moving on to more in God.  This is an understanding by experience issue.23

I’m not exactly sure how to understand Johnson’s statement, “Throughout eternity the Kingdom will be expanding…”, but the phrases “we have access to things right now that I had always thought inaccessible” and “we are always moving on to more in God” indicate, in context, that some of the not yet is for now.

But, I concede, this does not unequivocally prove that Johnson intends to teach an eternally divine Jesus with a temporally non-divine Jesus simultaneously.  However, such a teaching is not without precedent within hyper-charismaticism.  

The Two Realms of the Manifested Son of God

The late Bill Britton, a Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) teacher, has implicitly taught this in his booklet Tent to Temple (and other works) in a subsection titled “A Man Living In Two Worlds”.  In the following, please note that Britton is referencing the KJV/NKJV of John 3:13 that includes a clause at the end not found in most modern Bible versions – No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven (NKJV):24

Jesus told Nicodemus a very strange thing in John 3:13.  He said that He was living in heaven at the same time he was living on earth.  It was too much for Nicodemus to comprehend, as well as for many of God’s people today.  But it was true.  Hebrews 10:20 tells us that the Veil that separated heaven and earth was His flesh.

One side of the Veil faced the sanctuary with its candlestick and the priests who ministered daily.  This was his earthly existence, living under a skin covering.  But the other side of the same veil faced the Holy of Holies and the Skekinah Presence of His Father.  So he could say “I do only those things I see my Father do – I say only those things that please Him”.  He lived on the earth where men could see him, in an earth body.  But in that body He also walked continually in a heavenly place on the other side of the veil.  And I see a people who live in “tent” bodies which have been redeemed from the sense realm, a people who walk victoriously because they walk in the spirit.  Jesus showed us the way.25

Ignoring the fact that Britton has taken Hebrews 10:20 way out of context and John 3:13 beyond proper exegesis, the above quote indicates the very thing I’m illustrating that Johnson may intend.  That is, Johnson’s quotes above are not incongruent with manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  I’m not stating definitively that Bill Johnson actually teaches or believes Britton’s exact statement; I’m just providing it as a possible explanation.

Yet, the Facebook quote above from August 11, 2012 fits the basic thrust of Britton’s statement quite nicely – as exemplified by the title of this subsection as “A Man Living In Two Words”.  Specifically, the Johnson statement “His limitations were in His humanity” [He was non-divine temporally on ‘this side of the veil’], “not His divinity” [He had full divinity in the eternal realm, on ‘the other side of the veil’] can align with Britton, especially when we add Johnson’s claims that Jesus is “eternally God” and “[b]ut He was also man”.

Johnson also alludes to something akin to Britton’s teaching above in his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind in a chapter titled “Becoming the Dwelling Place of God”:

…We are again becoming the dwelling place of God that was promised in the Bible.  [ED: Holy Spirit indwelt Christians throughout the years weren’t?]  We have hungered for more, prayed for more, and now we are receiving unprecedented insight into our privileges and responsibilities in the Kingdom of God.  These insights aren’t just being pondered; people are acting on them, and more and more, God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.26

This chapter is describing the Christian in “tent” bodies (not that this idea by itself is unscriptural), with an allusion to the not yet in the already.  Johnson claims that Genesis 28:10-19, Jacob’s dream, with the ladder of angels ascending and descending, is the OT precursor to the above (Johnson takes this out of context to ‘prove’ his point, not surprisingly).  He continues in this vein for a while, then discusses Jesus, after first quoting John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth:27

Dwelt in this verse means “to tabernacle.”  Jesus tabernacled among us – He was the House of God made flesh – the place where God lived.  He was the initial fulfillment of the prophetic picture in Genesis 28…28

There is a New Testament reference to Genesis 28:12 as Jesus being the one whom angels had ascended and descended upon in John 1:51, thus identifying Jesus as the one, unique Redeemer.

The fulfillment of the House of God began with Jesus.  He was the House of God on earth.  But this concept did not stop with Him – far from it…your conversion was not God’s ultimate intent for you.  It was His initial intent that set you up for the ultimate fulfillment, which is that you be filled with His fullness, living the normal Christian lifestyle as defined by what takes place in heaven29

For Johnson, “living the normal Christian life” means doing supernatural works in virtue of the anointing.  And, of course, this is what he means by Jesus being the “House of God made flesh”.30  Overlooking the fact that, from an orthodox Christian perspective, we cannot equate Christians as a “House of God” (via the indwelt Holy Spirit) to Jesus as the “House of God” (as He is the unique Word made flesh, with His divine nature in hypostatic union with His human), is this a veiled version of manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine?  I think so.

To assist in fully comprehending the unorthodox doctrine of MSoG, here’s occultist and New Ager Alice A. Bailey, as MSoG has a direct parallel with occult doctrine (the occult uses this very name).  The second quote provides the key to understanding Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” statements in conjunction with his temporally non-divine Jesus.  “Master” in the third selection is another name for a fully manifested son of God:

He [Christ] thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world, living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.31 

…We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at once – the life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God [ED: kingdom of God = eternal realm]…32 

If he chooses to take a physical vehicle [ED: body]… the Master will ‘function from the above to the below’ and not (as is the case today with all disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) on ‘the below towards the above’…33

The first Bailey quote is similar to the Britton passage (“redeemed from the sense realm”), while portions of this first quote align with the “eternally God” yet temporally non-divine Jesus in some of the above Johnson quotes (Bailey’s “being in the world and yet not of the world…while walking on earth”).  However, it’s the second one that quite adequately explains Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” with a non-divine earthly Jesus, while also being congruent with the Britton quote.  And here’s a Facebook comment of Bill Johnson from May 12, 2012, which sounds similar to the third Bailey quote, and two more quotes from other Johnson works, which read like a bit of all three:

The most consistent way to display the kingdom of God is through the renewed mind. It is much more than thinking right thoughts. It is how we think – from what perspective. Done correctly, we “reason” from heaven toward earth. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, May 12, 2012; emphasis added]               

…He wants you to see reality from God’s perspective, to learn to live from His world toward the visible world34 

…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance [ED: contemplative prayer, aka “experiencing His presence”].  It was as though He said, ‘If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking what you see in the natural is the superior reality35

However, for more explicit MSoG teaching we have the following, in which Johnson claims that the glorified Jesus Christ of Revelation 1:14-15 is the model for which the believer is to aim while here on earth.36  Note how he takes 1 John 4:17 out of context (as He is, so are we in the world) – just as Alice Bailey does in her works to promote MSoG:37

…[W]hy didn’t the Father send Him [Holy Spirit] until Jesus was glorified?  Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! As a sculptor looks at a model and fashions the clay into its likeness, so the Holy Spirit looks to the glorified Son and shapes us into His image. As He is, so are we in the world.38

To summarize this section: Keeping in mind Johnson’s teaching on the anointing, which indicates a temporally, earthly non-divine Jesus, who is only ‘linked’ to the divine via the anointing, we can systematize this doctrine with Johnson’s other statements that Jesus Christ is “eternally God” by understanding Jesus living in two different realms, the temporal and the eternal, simultaneously.  That is, there is a temporally non-divine Jesus concurrent with an eternally divine Jesus.  This is not unlike Manifest Sons of God doctrine, and Johnson looks to be explicating a somewhat veiled MSoG at some times, while teaching it more explicitly at others.

Overcoming Some Objections

Before concluding, there other statements of Bill Johnson that are less strongly asserting divested divinity (notwithstanding Johnson’s prevalent teaching on the anointing), while seemingly more strongly implying that the Word retained His divine attributes, yet chose not to exercise them.  Following are two.  We will focus on the bolded portions:

Jesus was (and is) God.  Eternally God.  That never changed.  But he chose to live with self imposed [sic] restriction while living on earth in the flesh – as a man.  In doing so He defeated sin, temptation, the powers of darkness as a man.  We inherit His victory – it was for us.  He never sinned!” [Facebook 3/21/2011] 

…Everything He did in His life and ministry He did as man who, though He was fully God, had set aside the privileges of His divinity in order to show us a model of the kind of life He would make available to each of us through His death, resurrection, and ascension…39

The first of these is not too dissimilar from the quotes in the very first part of this article; however, the “self imposed [sic] restriction” [should be “self-imposed”] part can be read such that Jesus had continually restricted Himself from utilizing the divine attributes He retained, throughout His earthly ministry.   But, on the other hand, this can also be read that the Word’s limitation came just before the Incarnation in the form of a divestment, or partial divestment, of His divine attributes – or at least those divine attributes providing supernatural power – resulting in this “restriction”.

One unanswered question (at least explicitly unanswered) is just what the term divinity means.  From the above, it’s clear that possessing divinity entails an ability to perform the supernatural, since when it is “emptied” or “laid aside” the result is a complete inability to act supernaturally.  This implies no longer possessing the means by which to perform supernatural acts, rather than a continual, conscious self-limitation.  For, if Johnson means that the Word continued to possess supernatural powers, yet consciously chose not to use these powers, instead relying on the Holy Spirit, then words such as “no ability,” “couldn’t,” and “NO supernatural capabilities” would not be used.  Moreover, when “Jesus, the man” is ‘linked’ “to the divine40, i.e. the anointing, Jesus has supernatural capabilities via this linking “to the divine”.  Therefore, divine, is another form of divinity, both entailing the ability to perform the supernatural.

Also, we can construe that divinity and deity are interchangeable, as the term deity was part of the question posed to Johnson in the above tweet, and the term divinity is used in Johnson’s other quotes in a similar manner.  So, in Johnson’s dictionary, to empty of divinity does not result in ceasing to exist.  So, to recap, to empty or lay aside divinity/deity entails a continued existence but at the expense of any and all supernatural capabilities, in Johnson’s theology.

In the second quote above, if we take the bolded section just as it is (and the quote in isolation from all other Johnson material), we could understand this to be stating that the Word retained all divine attributes when He became flesh, yet refrained from using His divine “privileges”, i.e., supernatural powers.  But, on the other hand, this can be understood such that He was formerly God, that is, prior to becoming man, He was fully God; however, upon becoming a man He was no longer God having – to use one of the earlier quotes – “emptied Himself of divinity” when He entered the temporal realm.  Alternatively, we can interpret this statement such that “He was fully God” means He was “eternally God” (fully God) concurrent with the time He was temporally non-divine “as a man”.  The latter understanding is congruent with our analysis of the rest of Bill Johnson’s statements.

In each of the above quotes, it must be conceded that to apply the understanding that the Word retained possession of His divine attributes during the Incarnation is directly opposed to Johnson’s teaching on the anointing, which clearly reveals a non-divine earthly Jesus.  Therefore, to accept the interpretation that Johnson is stating that the Word retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to exercise them during His earthly ministry (while ignoring the “emptied Himself of divinity” statements) renders Johnson’s Christology totally incoherent, self-contradictory.

One other objection noted is based on a passage in When Heaven Invades Earth, which appears to affirm that Jesus was indeed Christ/Messiah at the virgin birth:

For hundreds of years the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming.  They gave over 300 specific details describing Him.  Jesus fulfilled them all!  The angels also gave witness to His divinity when they came with a message for the shepherds: ‘For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Nature itself testified to the arrival of the Messiah with the star that led the wise men…’41

Besides the fact that Johnson above, in His Christ = the anointing teaching, illustrates that anyone who receives the anointing is an “Anointed One” or “Messiah”, the above passage does not necessarily affirm that Jesus is the Messiah/Christ at the virgin birth.  The interpretive key is the remainder of the paragraph:

…Yet with this one statement, ‘Unless I do the works of the Father, do not believe me,’* Jesus put the credibility of all these messengers on the line.  Their ministries would have been in vain without one more ingredient to confirm who He really was.  That ingredient was miracles.42

Do we imagine that the archangel Gabriel was pacing the heavens hoping that Jesus would perform miracles to prove He really was the Messiah, the Christ, and thus prove Gabriel to be true?  Certainly not.  The asterisk (*) above refers to John 10:37 in a footnote in the original quoted passage.  In this Scripture Jesus Christ was not making some sort of all-inclusive statement putting “the credibility of all these messengers on the line;” He was addressing the unbelieving Jews.  Johnson is mixing Biblical contexts here.  However, note that in John 10:37 Jesus is pointing out that they should believe He is the Son of God by virtue of the works/miracles He performs.  Jesus’ point is that, though they do not believe He is Who He claims to be, they should believe by the miracles.  Johnson proof-texts this to remain consistent with the rest of his teachings that Jesus was not really the Christ/Messiah until His Baptism after which, of course, He performed the miraculous works having been ‘enabled’ by the anointing mentioned earlier in this same book.

So, it would seem the above paragraph can be perfectly harmonized with the rest of Johnson’s teachings.  To state another way: With Johnson’s assertion that “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit”,43  in its original context (see above), he makes it apparent that baptism is the point at which Jesus receives the title/name of Christ (Messiah).  Consequently, according to this teaching, it follows that since Jesus did not have the name of Christ, and, hence was not yet Christ before baptism, the angels’ and the other messengers’ words were contingent upon Jesus ‘proving Himself’ by performing the miraculous, thereby showing Him to be an “Anointed One” – for anyone receiving the Christ anointing is an anointed one.  Moreover, Johnson’s quote is not necessarily proclaiming Jesus’ divinity (“the angels gave witness to His divinity”) since he asserted that it was the anointing that linked “Jesus, the man, to the divine.”44  Jesus’ divinity was only by virtue of the yet future anointing.

But what about the specific language in the first part of the paragraph above, especially the use of Luke 2:11, that states, in effect, that the Messiah had come at that time, at the virgin birth?  To answer this, I’ll quote New Ager/occultist Levi Dowling:

…When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ45

If one has this in mind, one could use Luke 2:11 – “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” [NIV 1984] – to mean that Jesus is the future Christ and NOT that Jesus was born as the Christ.  This would be similar to stating, “President Lincoln was born On February 12, 1809.” Certainly, Lincoln wasn’t born President, for he was elected to the office of the President later.

Once again, if one does not accept the above explanation, then one is left with self-contradictory teaching.  However, I submit that Johnson’s penchant for redefining terms and concepts, as well as his overt duplicity in doing so at times (whether he borrowed any of this from someone else or not matters little), indicates he could be deceptive in other areas (as he has been in the account of the Roberts Liardon library acquisition); that is, Johnson could throw in the odd orthodox statement now and again in order to purposefully confuse those who see his main teachings as unorthodox.

Concluding Remarks

As this article illustrates, by using Bill Johnson’s own words, he does in fact deny the full deity/divinity of Jesus Christ while He was on earth in his teaching on the anointing.  This is not a “hurtful rumor”, as he states in his tweet; it’s an established fact as evidenced by Bill Johnson’s own clear (and sometimes unclear) teachings.  Is this being uncharitable towards Bill Johnson?  Scripture does not indicate we should be charitable toward false teachers:

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18, NKJV)

It is Bill Johnson who is causing division with his teachings that run contrary to orthodox Christianity.  Having identified this, we are to avoid him.  The Apostle Paul states quite clearly, “such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Anyone who consistently denies the divinity of Jesus Christ in any form or fashion, as Johnson clearly does in his Christology, is an enemy of the Cross of Christ and an enemy of the Christian faith.

1 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Kingdom” in Bill Johnson, Randy Clark. The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick, © 2011 by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Bloomington, MN, p 125.  Emphasis added.  Each chapter is authored by either Bill Johnson or Randy Clark.
2 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Authority of the Believer” in Johnson, Clark Essential Guide to Healing, pp 132-133.  Emphasis added.
3 Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL, p 77.  Underscore added.
4 Johnson Face to Face, pp 21-22, 58, 77-82, 100-102
5 Bill Johnson When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, p 80; Johnson Face to Face, p 22
6 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 21-22
7 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 79, 109
8 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 21-22. Bold added.
9 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79
10 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
11 Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology, 1994, Inter-Varsity, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33; Louis Berkhof Systematic Theology, 1941, 4th revised and enlarged ed, 1991, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66
12 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
13 Johnson, Face to Face, p 109. Italics in original; bold added.
14 Johnson, Face to Face, p 77.  Bold added.
15 Levi Dowling The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ: The Philosophic and Practical Basis of the Religion of the Aquarian Age of the World, © 1907 Eva S. Dowling and Leo W. Dowling, © 1935 and © 1964 Leo W. Dowling, (11th printing, 1987), DeVorss, Marina del Rey, CA, p 6. Italics in original; bold added.
16 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
17 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Italics in original.
18 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 80.  Bold added.
19 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 81
20 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 29
21 Bill Johnson The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles, 2005, Destiny Image: “Speaking to the Purposes of God for This Generation and for the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA, p 50. Bold added.
22 Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology, 1948, 1976 Dallas Theological Seminary (1993), Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI, Vol. VII, pp 141-42.  Emphasis added.
23 Bill Johnson Dreaming with God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World through God’s Creative Flow, 2006, Destiny Image: “Speaking to the Purposes of God for This Generation and for the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA, pp 64-65.  Italics in original; bold added for emphasis.
24 This clause will be the subject of a future article here on CrossWise.
25 Bill Britton From Tent to Temple, nd, Bill Britton (no publisher listed), Springfield, MO, pp 15-16.  All as per original except bold, which is added for emphasis.
26 Johnson Supernatural Power, pp 53-54.  Bold added.
27 Johnson Supernatural Power, pp 54-57
28 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 57. Italics in original.
29 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 57.  Bold added.
30 I’ve argued elsewhere that Bill Johnson is teaching that Jesus is really the Word of Faith (WoF) “rhema” word ‘made flesh’, aka the “present truth” word made flesh, in the following: < http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/open-challenge-to-fans-and-critics-of-bill-johnsonbethel-church/ >.  This is also is consistent with the Gnostic/New Age doctrine of divine spark or divine seed within each person waiting to be awakened.
31 Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey, Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 187.  Emphasis added.
32 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 51.   Emphasis added.
33 Alice A. Bailey The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 699. Emphasis added.
34 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 45.  Italics in original; bold added.
35 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 38.  Italics in original; bold added.
36 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145
37  Alice A. Bailey The Reappearance of the Christ, 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY, p 145; Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 110.
38 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145.  Italics in original; bold added.
39 Johnson, Face to Face, p 23
40 Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 79
41 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 97
42 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 97.  Italics in original.
43 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 79
44 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 79
45 Dowling, Aquarian Gospel, p 8.  Emphasis added.

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IIIa

[See also: Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part II, Part IIIb and Part IV (Conclusion).]

Cosmic humanism forms the basis of the New Age Movement and related religious expressions, particularly Eastern mysticism.  It says that man is evolving toward a state of higher consciousness that will result in the attainment of godhood…

…Many have…adopted a form of cosmic humanism, believing that they are capable of achieving the same anointing of Christhood that Jesus had.  Their beliefs are predicated upon a new Gnosticism which appears so very Christian as to deceive even the elect if possible.  Through close examination, however, they are found in an error so serious that it threatens the stability of the churches in which these people fellowship and, in some cases hold positions of leadership. 

- Albert James Dager, Vengeance Is Ours85

Occultists / esotericists cannot deny that there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth (and maintain any real credibility) as the evidence for His earthy life is insurmountable.  Instead, He is humanized at the expense of His deity and proclaimed a righteous teacher, a model to emulate.

As noted in part II, a belief in reincarnation is integral to New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  In New Age Christology, Jesus of Nazareth was merely human and His life as the son of a carpenter was one of a number of incarnations.   For example, one of his previous incarnations was as Joshua son of Nun.  In fact, He was incarnated once more following His crucifixion and resurrection.86

In the New Age / New Spirituality and some other occult teachings, there is a false Trinity made up of The Father, the Holy Spirit (Holy Breath, sometimes Wisdom Sophia), and The Son (the Christ, the Logos, the Word):

The Christ is son, the only son begotten by Almighty God, the God of Force and God omniscient, the God of thought; and Christ is God, the God of Love.87

In His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, the man Jesus overcame many tests and trials through much effort during the first 30 years of His life.  Because of this, He proved worthy to manifest ‘the Christ’.  Therefore, He was chosen to be the new world teacher (the Christ) of the Age of Pisces to succeed Gautama Buddha, the Christ of the Age of Aries, once Jesus would perfect Himself at Ascension.  Thus, Jesus was “christed” in a ceremony occurring just after His water baptism in the Jordan by John when the Holy Spirit (Holy Breath) descended upon Him as a dove.  It was at this point Jesus was deemed “the Christ”.88

This ‘christing’ resulted in Jesus becoming the temple of the Holy Breath (Holy Spirit) thus providing the power for His miracles, while “the Christ” completely overshadowed Him, taking full possession.89  This “Christ Spirit” stayed with Him until some time before the Crucifixion so that it was only the man Jesus who died.90  It was the “Christ Spirit” which raised Jesus’ dead body at the Resurrection while Jesus of Nazareth went on to be reincarnated as Apollonius of Tyana who subsequently ascended thereby becoming Master Jesus and world teacher as “the Christ” for the Piscean Age.91

Jesus’ life became a symbolic pattern for all to follow toward their own salvation – just as the man Jesus procured His own.

Before going further in explaining New Age Christology and comparing this to Bill Johnson’s, it’s important to keep in mind the intention as explained earlier by Alice Bailey.  As stated in part I, in order for Christianity to be “transcended” the goal is in preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  In other words, the doctrines must seem to be orthodox while actually teaching unorthodoxy.  By implication, a certain amount of duplicity and inherently contradictory statements would be part of the plan.

For example, in the kenosis theories claiming Jesus emptied Himself of some or all divine attributes to become a man, there is the implication of Jesus’ pre-existence as God rather than the New Age view that Jesus was previously incarnated as a man.  Certainly, no one can deny Jesus Christ’s pre-existence as God and remain in a Christian pulpit (at least not generally).  However, as noted in part II, claiming Jesus was/is eternally God yet He “emptied Himself of divinity” during the Incarnation is an inherent contradiction.  The point is, ‘Christianized’ New Age will not completely parallel New Age / occult theology.

Comparing Specific Christological Statements

Many prominent authors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear assuming that because the new age movement promotes it, its origins must be from the devil92

Given Bill Johnson’s words above, obviously, he sees no trouble with at least some New Age concepts or practices.  And, of course, this illustrates that Johnson acknowledges there is a New Age movement.

As explained earlier, in New Age Christology, Jesus pre-existed as a human who had been reincarnated.  Once “christed”, He was en route to becoming “the new World Teacher”.93  Conversely, “Christ” is God’s son who pre-existed as “God”.  Here in the following is “Christ” as defined by a well-known New Age book by Levi Dowling first printed in 1907 (and presumably still in print) titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

We recognise the facts that Jesus was man and that Christ was God; so that in very truth Jesus the Christ was the God-man of the ages.94

Central to most all (if not all) occult doctrine is the belief that all humans have two natures – one human nature and one latent divine nature.  This divine nature is known as the “divine spark”, “seed”95 and/or the “Christ within” which must be awakened to begin “the Path” to self-salvation.96  The point at which one realizes and begins to actualize this inherent divinity is known as the ‘virgin birth’.97

This inherent dual nature in all humans makes us potentially the same as Jesus.  Since the term “Christ” is used in many different ways in New Age / New Spirituality teaching, it is confusing and sometimes difficult to interpret meaning which is ultimately determined by context.  In the following, in a book by Alice Bailey most likely originally written in the mid to late 1940’s, she is referring specifically to the person of the Incarnate historic Jesus at first; she then uses the term more generally in the second.  That is, in the second case Bailey is indicating that anyone can expand their “Christ consciousness” by following Jesus’ example.  By “the keynote of the Gospel story” Bailey means the so-called ‘good news’ that everyone can save him/herself and relate to the Father by our inherent divinity (awakened by the “Christ anointing” or, being “Christed”) and to humanity by our human nature:

…the keynote of the Gospel story [is] the human-divine nature of the [person of Jesus] Christ, relating Him to the Father through His essential divinity and also to man through His essential humanity.  The Christian Church gave a wrong slant to the teaching by making Christ appear as unique, though the higher criticism (deemed so shocking fifty years ago) has done much to correct this false impression.98

It seems quite possible that this “higher criticism” to which Bailey refers includes the kenosis theories at the turn of the twentieth century.

Also from Dowling’s book, who is usually affectionately referred to as simply “Levi”, is the New Age / New Spirituality teaching on two different aspects of “Christ”: the first is general, meaning “anointed” (or “christed”), while the second refers to a member of the false “Trinity” as indicated earlier:

The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ED: actually Christos] and means anointed.  It is identical with the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed.  When the definitive article ‘the’ is placed before the word Christ, a definite personality is indicated, and this personality is none other than a member of the Trinity, the Son…99

Notice in the first three sentences the similarities between them and Bill Johnson’s teaching in the following:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It [Christ] is a title that points to an experienceIt was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.100

…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him…101

Per Levi, “every anointed person is ‘christed’” or receives “the anointing” or, “Christ anointing”, as Johnson calls it.  As previously pointed out in the CrossWise article The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Bill Johnson redefines Christ to “the anointing” and he subsequently redefines antichrist (spirit) to ‘anti-anointing’ in the same chapter of this particular book.

Confusingly, there is yet another aspect to the term ‘Christ’ in New Age Christology.  It is also an ‘office’ or ‘title’ for the “Christ” of the current age.  As noted above, there have been many “Christs” (or “World Teachers”) down the ages and, as previously stated, Jesus of Nazareth - more accurately, the now ascended “Master Jesus” - is the one for the Piscean Age, our current era/aeon102 having earned this ‘title’ and receiving His coronation at His “baptism in the Holy Breath (Holy Spirit)”.  This is explained in the Introduction to the book by Levi:

The word Christ means “the anointed one,” and then it is an official title.  It means, The Master of Love.  When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always ChristJesus won his Christship by a strenuous life…we have a record of the events of his christing, or receiving the degree Christ.  Here is where he was coronated…103

With the exception of the introduction, Levi’s book is written in chapter/verse format as if it were a Bible.  Here is how the (fictional) account is presented:

…and now you stand ready to take the last degree. 6  Upon your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth you are THE CHRIST. 7  This is your great Passover rite.  You are a neophyte no more; but now a master mind. 8  Now, man can do no more; but God himself will speak, and will confirm your title and degree. 9  Go on your way, for you must preach the gospel of good will to men and peace on earth; must open up the prison doors and set the captives free. 10  And while the hierophant yet spoke the temple bells rang out; a pure white dove descended from above and sat on Jesus’ head. 11  And then a voice that shook the very temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST104

Now let’s look at one more Bill Johnson quote we’ve used previously in part I to compare with the immediately preceding:

The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified.  This was His questReceiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience there could be no title.105

To reiterate, following is the latter part of the previous Johnson quote with additional context provided:

…It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.

The word anointing means “to smear.”  The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.106

As pointed out in part I, as per Johnson, logically Jesus was not Christ prior to this experience as this title was given only at the point when the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove [Luke 3:16; John 1:32].  Hence, He was merely Jesus of Nazareth until this anointing.  This sure resembles the teaching of Levi above, does it not?

One other important thing to consider which is best illustrated by picking out a bit of one of Levi’s quotes above:

…When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ107

If one has this in mind, one could use Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” [NIV 1984], to mean that Jesus is the future Christ and NOT that Jesus was born as the Christ.  This would be similar to stating, “On February 12, 1809 President Lincoln was born.” – certainly, Lincoln wasn’t born President for he was elected to the office of the President later.  In the same way, occult / New Age / New Spirituality teachings assert Jesus wasn’t born the Christ for he wasn’t coronated until He was around thirty years of age.  Of course, Christian orthodoxy affirms that Jesus was the Christ, our Lord and Savior at birth.

In the Apocryphal/Gnostic The Gospel of Philip from the 2nd century is a similar idea.  In the following, there is a specific distinguishing between water baptism and ‘anointing’ [chrisma is the Greek transliterated word meaning anointing].  The “anointing” here is identified as the mark of a Christian rather than true Christian conversion upon which one receives the Holy Spirit indwelling:

The chrism is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from baptism.  Christ also was (so) called because of the anointing.  For the Father anointed the Son.  But the Son anointed the apostles.  And the apostles anointed us.  He who is anointed possesses all things.  He has the resurrection, the light, the cross.108

This reads like an “ongoing incarnation”.  Alice Bailey, in her 1937 Theosophical / New Age book From Bethlehem to Calvary: the Initiations of Jesus, quotes Luke 3:16, then describes the two steps in baptism, the first by John the Baptist in water and the second by Jesus Christ “which is that of the Holy Ghost and of fire.”109  She further describes this second baptism:

…The baptism which Christ gives His followers concerns the purification of the mind by fire.  Fire, under the universal symbolism of religion, is ever symbolic of the mind nature. This baptism by fire is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.110

Those who are or were involved with the so called ‘Third Wave’ have undoubtedly heard the word “fire” used to describe those “under the anointing” (especially from Todd Bentley at Lakeland).  Bailey’s use here is referring to the transformation of the mind (continued transformation by Transcendental Meditation / contemplative prayer / centering prayer / soaking, etc.) to expand one’s “Christ consciousness”.111  [See "Christ consciousness" section of 'Christ' in the New Age article.]  This is a process that continues until one, hopefully, ascends to Master, becoming a god oneself.

In the following is Johnson as he explains the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”112 distinguishing between the Holy Spirit “that was already in Jesus’s life” and what transpired just after His baptism by John.  After quoting John 1:32, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” [NKJV], a parallel passage to Luke 3:16 (as Bailey uses above), Johnson explains this baptism:

…Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’s life.  This was the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him [baptism in the Holy Spirit / “Christ anointing”] as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose.  But the fact that the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him is evidence of Jesus’s faithfulness to be perfectly trustworthy with the presence of GodThe same principle is true for us.

The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, but He rests upon very few…113

Here’s one more quote from Face to Face with God, the same Johnson book cited above:

…The baptism in the Spirit, a profound encounter with the face of God, adds the power of heaven to bring transformation to planet Earth…114

Does this not resemble the same basic teaching as the New Age / New Spirituality with respect to the ‘baptism of/in the Holy Spirit’ / “the anointing” / the “Christ anointing”?  “Transformation to planet Earth” sure has a New Age-y ring to it.

As noted in part I, Johnson claims that Jesus did not raise Himself from the dead contrary to John 2:19/10:17-18.

…Jesus GAVE Himself to be crucified.  He DID NOT raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…115

Of course, it was the entire Trinity who raised Jesus’ body from the dead as other Scripture attests [Holy Spirit – Romans 1:4/8:11; Father – Acts 5:29-31/Galatians 1:1/Ephesians 1:17-20; God - Acts 2:24/Romans 4:24].  However, Johnson’s phraseology is not that far from the words of well-known New Ager Benjamin Crème:

Jesus was raised from the dead by his teacher the Christ who entered his body 3 days after his death. Jesus was no longer in that body and it was the Christ whose personal name Lord Maitreya lived in that body for the 41 days after the resurrection.116

In essence, Crème is stating that it was the “Christ Spirit” which raised Jesus’ body and remained in Him at the instruction of the Father of the false Trinity. The difference in the Crème version is that Jesus’ immortal Spirit came back into the body of Apollonius of Tyana; and, upon his death, Jesus’ Spirit ascended and He became ‘Master Jesus’ and the “World Teacher” of the Age of Pisces.

One has to wonder why Johnson would emphatically violate Scripture in stating that Jesus DID NOT raise Himself from the dead especially when this is not much different than the occult / New Age / New Spirituality account.

Part IIIb will discuss “the Word made flesh” and “spiritual DNA” and part IV will specifically compare the Theosophical Jesus as pattern for mankind to quotes of Bill Johnson and concludes this series. [See also: part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, and part II.]

85Dager, Albert James Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion. © 1990 Albert James Dager, Sword Publishers, Redmond, WA; pp 12-13.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
86Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. © 1951 Lucis, NY, (4th paperback ed, 1980), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; pp 56-57
87Dowling; p 6.  Emphasis added.
88Dowling; pp 6-8, 82-83, 94
89Dowling; p 8
90einterface website. “The Master Jesus” taken from Benjamin Crème’s works Maitreya Mission, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. <http://www.einterface.net/gamini/indexju.html> par 1-5; as accessed 04/17/12
91Bailey, Initiation, p 56-57
92Johnson, Dreaming with God; p 86.  Emphasis added.
93Dowling; p 8
94Dowling; p 8
95Dowling; p 6
96Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary, pp 24, 26; Bailey, Externalisation, p 592
97Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary, pp 9, 21-22, 24, 26
98Bailey, Alice A. Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle. © 1950 Lucis, NY, (2nd printing, 1957), George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; pp 127-128.  Underscore added.
99Dowling; p 6.  Emphasis in original
100Johnson; Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
101Johnson, Face to Face, p 77. Underscore added.
102Dowling; pp 3, 8
103Dowling; p 8.  Underscore added.
104Dowling; pp 82-83.  Underscore added; caps in original.
105Johnson; Face to Face, p 109.  Underscore added; other emphasis in original.
106Johnson; Heaven Invades; p 79.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
107Dowling; p 8.  Emphasis added.
108Schneemelcher, Wilhelm; transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. © J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tubingen, 1990; English Translation © James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1991 (Rev. ed.), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY; p 200.  All emphasis added; parenthesis in original.
109Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 98
110Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 99.  Emphasis added.
111Here are a few statements taken from Alice A. Bailey’s A Treatise on Cosmic Fire [© 1951 Lucis Trust (1925, 4th ed 1951), Lucis Publishing Company, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; p xvii] which are themselves from H.P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine [n.d., “Third Revised Edition”; identified as “S.D.”] (all emphasis added): “Fire is the most perfect and unadulterated reflection, in Heaven as on earth, of the One Flame.  It is life and death, the origin and the end of every material thing.  It is divine substance” (S.D. I. 146).  “Fire and flame destroy the body of an Arhat [ED: 4th level initiate]; their essence makes him immortal” (I. 35).  “The fire of knowledge burns up all action on the plane of illusion, therefore those who have acquired it and are emancipated are called ‘Fires’” (I. 114).  Of what are Bentley and others referring when they use the term “fire” and “fire of God”?  I was once given a cd of Robert Stearns / Jason Upton / JoAnn McFatter / Julie Meyer titled Freedom’s Fire [see here: http://store.liveinhispresence.com/Freedom_s_Fire_Prophetic_Worship_Robert_Stearns_p/cd-ffpw.htm ] with tunes such as “Burn Away”, “Swirling in the Fire”, “Freedom’s Fire”, “Burning Desire”.  From the same individual I was also given a copy of JoAnn McFatter / Steve Mitchell / Steve Swanson Messengers of Fire [see here: http://www.joannmcfatter.com/messengers.html ] with selections titled “Contact”, “Seven Spirits Burning”, “Messengers of Fire”, and “Winds of Fire”.  One must wonder what is meant by ‘fire’ in hyper-charismatic circles in general.
112Johnson, Face to Face; p 79
113Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22
114Johnson, Face to Face; p 102
115“ewenhoffman” Maintaining the crosswalk- sermon of the week Feb 27th 2011. 16:45 – 17:00.  Emphasis in original; underscore added.   As accessed 03/11/12.
116einterface website.  “The Master Jesus”; par 3

Anthology of Bill Johnson Articles (So Far)

In Joseph Garlington’s foreword to Bill Johnson’s Face to Face with God: The Quest to Experience His Presence [2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL], he quotes from Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz who asserts jazz music ‘never resolves’.  Miller goes on to claim that God “doesn’t resolve.”  Garlington then compares this to Johnson:

Bill’s ministry embraces paradox as though it is the most normal thing in the world…Often in his teaching ministry Bill will make a statement without ‘resolving’ it…His teaching entices you to pursue a way of thinking that is often foreign to traditional teachers, and it whets your appetite for something you always knew was there…

I recall in another book Johnson making a reference to jazz.  So, does Bill Johnson like jazz music that doesn’t resolve, i.e. the more avant garde (unorthodox, experimental, “cutting edge”) flavor of jazz?

…Years ago I bought a jazz album on a whim.  I eagerly looked forward to something fresh and new as I placed it on the turntable… [Dreaming with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2006, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 47]

Hey, NOW we’re talkin’!  So, Johnson likes jazz and he has a turntable?!   My interest is piqued as I have an extensive collection of jazz records (vinyl) which I still play on a turntable.  “We just might be able to have a mutually edifying conversation about jazz,” I ponder.  Not too sure about theology though.

I wonder – which artists in jazz does Johnson like?  Perhaps it’s the spiritual/free jazz of the ’60s such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, late-period John Coltrane and the like?  Or, maybe he prefers the heyday of Blue Note with such artists as Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, etc.?  Or, perhaps he likes stuff such as Dave BrubeckThelonious Monk or perhaps Duke Ellington?  Vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan?  Maybe he’s a Miles Davis fan – but, then which era?  Perhaps Miles’ electric era of the late ’60s into the ’70s?  Or, how about Sun Ra (born Herman “Sonny” Blount)?  Now Ra had some very esoteric theology to go with his diverse musical excursions.   Perhaps he likes more contemporary stuff on the German ECM label some of which is European although the label includes the music of American Keith Jarrett among others.  Or, maybe this relatively new band Tongues of Fire?  Hopefully, he’s not calling stuff like Kenny G ‘jazz’.

…But I was horribly disappointed.  It sounded like a child randomly pounding on a piano, with no melody or harmonies, no consistent rhythm, nothing to give it purpose or direction… [Dreaming; p 47]

Hmmm.  Well, no, it doesn’t appear he likes avant garde jazz.  He just prefers his theology that way.

In any case, this thought process led me to anthologize the Bill Johnson posts here on the site.  How did I come to that?  Well, record companies tend to anthologize the works of artists in order to acquire a larger audience and hence boost sales.  Of course, I’m not looking to make any money, but I do want this information disseminated to the largest audience possible.

Initially I considered titling the post facetiously “The Best of Bill Johnson” but I didn’t want to potentially confuse or mislead lest anyone think I’ve now begun to promote Johnson’s material as if I was like-minded.  Alternatively, I pondered borrowing a ploy by RCA Victor used on a Jefferson Airplane compilation titled “The Worst of…”, but I thought some readers would find it too negative or offensive.  So, it was decided to use the more neutral “anthology” with the parenthetical “So Far” a nod to the title of a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young compilation of the same name.

Without further ado, here are the articles (so far):

–  Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, part I which also discusses portions of his book When Heaven Invades Earth in which Johnson discloses his kenotic Jesus and his assertion that anyone against the “anointing” (as he defines it) is anti-christ.

–  part II shows how close he comes to the Kenyon/Hagin ‘Jesus died spiritually’ heresy in his proof-texts for the ‘born again Jesus’ in addition to his view that Jesus received the “Baptism of/in the Holy Spirit” in the Jordan, plus his (and other) Latter Rain and Manifest Sons of God leanings seemingly not too far from New Age ideology.

–  Johnson and other quotes on Dominionism in The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II which questions just which kingdom is being promoted.

Speaking of paradox: can someone resolve the apparent contradiction inherent in Jim Goll’s foretelling prophecy of Johnson’s acquisition of a library related to someone with the name ‘Roberts’ given that Johnson had already purchased Roberts Liardon’s library the year before?:

–  Bill Johnson’s Library Mandate - a “direct from headquarters” mandate.

–  Update: Bill Johnson’s Library Mandate

–  Johnson endorsing Bob Jones: Bethel hosting a “prophetic conference” featuring Bob Jones.

–  Bill Johnson and the Sign of Jonah“If signs and wonders don’t follow you, follow them until they follow you.”

–  Signs That Make You Wonder: “…it’s just increasing all kinds of manifestations. It’s the angelic realm; it’s just the supernatural breaking into this one: the gold and the oil and the wind. We’ve been having gusts of wind that just come out of nowhere. And, uh, ya know, it’s all good. It’s all signs that make you wonder…”

–  Open Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters regarding a specific quote in When Heaven Invades Earth:  “Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his [sic] divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin. This would be essential in His plan to redeem mankind. The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin)” [When Heaven Invades Earth, 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 79].

–  Another Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supportersregarding a Johnson tweet (which also occurs in other material). Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to her head.”

–  More in depth look at Johnson’s Kenosis: “…Jesus gave Himself to be crucified.  He did not raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…”

–  Kris Vallotton and the Mantle of Jesus Christ/Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing:“…Not just the mantle of William Branham, how about the mantle of Jesus Christ?  That’s even a bigger one there…”

–  By Whose Power Does Bill Johnson Heal?: “What have I done? This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!”

–  Greater works than Jesus?: …Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief…

–  A personal testimony about Bethel’s influence

In keeping with the tradition in the recording industry which induces fans to acquire anthologies even if they have all the artist’s previous work, I’ll close with a rather ‘electrifying’ quote of Bill Johnson not used in any previous CrossWise article taken from Face to Face with God:

I went from being in a dead sleep to being wide-awake in a moment.  Unexplainable power began to pulsate through my body.  It was as if I had been plugged into a wall socket with a thousand volts of electricity flowing through my body.  An extremely powerful being seemed to have entered the room, and I could not function in His presence.  My arms and legs shot out in silent explosions as this power was released through my hands and feet.  The more I tried to stop it, the worse it got.  I soon discovered that this was not a wrestling match I was going to win.  I heard no voice, nor did I have any visions.  This was the most overwhelming experience of my life.  It was raw power.  It was God.  He had come in response to the prayer I had been praying. [p 8]

I’m thinkin’ Johnson may prefer electric jazz…

Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part II

Part I of this article discusses the various Kenosis theories and provides good background information, if rather technical, for part II which will focus on other Christological errors potentially influencing kenosis or derived from kenosis doctrines, the importance of adhering to the tenets of ecumenical creeds in upholding orthodox Christology, and how all these things relate to the doctrine of Bill Johnson.

Other Christological Errors Potentially Related to Kenosis

Gregg R. Allison, in his Historical Theology, cites both Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albert Schweitzer (Schweitzer was apparently one of Schleiermacher’s followers,71 along with Thomasius72) as revisionists with respect to the historical Jesus Christ of the Incarnation,73 humanizing Him at the expense of His deity.74  It seems possible that Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel and other progressive liberals from the 18th and 19th centuries75 may have paved the way for the proponents of the various kenosis theories and their adherents starting around the mid 19th century and continuing to today.76

New Ager/occultist Alice A. Bailey, who furthered the work begun by the 19th century Theosophy of Helena P. Blavatsky, cites Dr. Schweitzer approvingly in her 1937 treatise of esoteric Christology titled From Bethlehem to Calvary.77  Bailey’s explanation of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by Satan provides an example of her heretical Christology which, while not kenotic – the belief is that Jesus was a man (with latent divinity like all men) who had the Christ spirit descend upon Him at Baptism and subsequently leave Him prior to the Crucifixion,78 similar to the belief of first century proto-Gnostic Cerinthus79,80 – suffers, among other serious issues, from some of the same inherent problems as some forms of kenosis:

“…Was it possible that Christ in reality could be tempted, and if so, could He have fallen into sin? Did He meet these temptations as the omnipotent Son of God, or did He meet them as a man and therefore subject to temptation? …What really took place in the wilderness?  For what purpose are we permitted to share with Him in this experience?” 81

Bailey continues, disparaging the Athanasian Creed82 in the process.  In the original text, she refers to it in a footnote signified in the following with an asterisk (*):

“Many such questions arise in the mind of the intelligent man, and many have been the commentaries written to prove the particular point of each writer.  It is not the purpose of this book…to define the times when Christ was functioning as a man, and when He was functioning as the Son of God.  Some believe He was simultaneously both, and was ‘very God of very God,’* and yet essentially and utterly human at the same time.  People make these statements, but they are apt to forget the implications.  They affirm with decision their point of view, and omit to carry their attitude to a logical conclusion.  The inference is that we are allowed to know about the temptation in order to teach us, as human beings, a needed lesson; let us therefore study the story from the angle of Christ’s humanity, never forgetting that He had learned obedience to the divine spirit, the soul in man, and was in control of His body of manifestation.” 83

Bailey is cited here to illustrate both the importance of understanding proper Christology and as a potential example of historical error leading up to current Christological error.  Adherence to the ecumenical creeds which had established proper Christology in the early Church will help to minimize or alleviate these sorts of errors about the person of Christ in the Christian Church of today.

     71 Berkhof, p 316.  Berkhof hints that Schweitzer has followed in Schleiermacher’s footsteps, at least to a degree.
72 Hodge, Vol II, p 453.  Hodge specifically cites Thomasius as a “general disciple” of Schleiermacher.
73 Allison, pp 382-83.  By mentioning Schleiermacher and Schweitzer together in the same sentence, it may be assumed the author intends a strong connection.
74 Berkhof, p 316
75 Lutzer, Erwin W. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians. 1998, Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI; p 35.  Lutzer specifically mentions Kant who “believed in a human Christ” and Schweitzer who “believed in a Christ who was essentially insane.”  He also mentions Rudolf Bultmann who denied the pre-existence of Christ [Craig A. Evans, The Historical Jesus: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Volume I. 2004, Rutledge, London, UK; p 328].
76 Hodge, Vol II, pp 453, 440-54.  Hodge cites others influenced by Schleiermacher while identifying Schleiermacher’s pantheistic doctrine and associated aberrant Christology and anthropology.  My working hypothesis is that 18th and 19th century liberalism in general including Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel and his dialectic process, Darwinism, et cetera, continued to barrage the Church and has resulted in the state of the church today.  Taken together, these liberals may have influenced society to the extent they helped enable various underground esoteric doctrines to flourish in the late 19th and into the 20th century (such as Rosicrucianism) and directly or indirectly lead to Theosophy (a confluence of esoteric doctrines throughout the centuries which may have influenced Latter Rain) and New Thought (which definitely influenced Word of Faith via Kenyon [cf. McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel. 1988, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA] ), which may have, in turn, led to various errors of today.
77 Bailey, Alice A.  From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis, NY, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 102-03, 111, 160-61, 168, 213, 228, 279
78 Bailey, pp 187-189, 194
79 Bercot, David W. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. 1998 (3rd printing Nov 2000), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 91
80 Hodge, Vol II, p 400
81 Bailey, pp 107-08.  Emphasis added.
82 Theopedia. Athanasian Creed. <http://www.theopedia.com/Athanasian_Creed> as accessed 06/15/11
83 Bailey, p 108.  Underlining from emphasis in original; bolding added.

Credence for Ecumenical Creeds as Basis for Christology

Historically, councils were called to establish creeds (statements of beliefs) in order to codify specific truths as borne out in Scripture while simultaneously refuting specific errors.  The ecumenical creeds – those accepted by the Church catholic, as in universal, and not merely the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) but to also include Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches – have largely been uncontested over the centuries as to their veracity, or accuracy, compared to Scripture until the 19th century84 with the various kenosis doctrines.  Oliver Crisp, in his book God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology, puts the historical Christian creeds in perspective:

“…Creeds are not merely a means to making dogmatic sense of, say, the Incarnation.  They are – just as fundamentally – a means of confessing faith in the Christ to whom the creeds bear witness, as they are attempts to make sense of the gospel accounts of who Christ is.  This underlines the fact that the creeds of the Church, and the ecumenical creeds in particular, have several functions that run together: they bear witness to the gospel in Scripture, they tease out aspects of the doctrine of the gospel, and because they do this, they serve as doxological and liturgical purpose in the life of the Church as a means by which Christians may affirm what it is they believe, and what it is that holds the church together.’ 85

A proper view of Christ is essential to the Christian faith.  For a given teacher to put forth a doctrine which is at odds with the ecumenical councils is to put said teacher at odds with historical orthodox Christianity and, as a potential consequence, in the realm or vicinity of heresy.

Crisp continues stating that the ecumenical creeds which asserted proper Christology are “theologically binding” because they are “dogmatic reflection upon Scripture by the undivided Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”86   While noting that the creeds are “not infallible guides,”87 Crisp strongly believes the ecumenical councils have “not…in fact canonized substantive errors”88 due to Holy Spirit influence.

In an interview discussing the book God Incarnate, Crisp reiterated the authority of Scripture over ‘tradition’ while defining what that tradition is:

“…I think Scripture is the norming norm, the bedrock of all Christian theology.  The ‘tradition’ consists in a cluster of different, subordinate norms, such as the catholic [universal] creeds, confessional creeds, confessional statements (e.g. Westminster Confession) and the works of particular theologians.  But these are all subordinate to the Word of God.” 89

Of the four ecumenical councils embraced by the Church catholic (universal) which include Christological discussions (Nicea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451), the Council of Chalcedon is the most recent and most definitive.  Here’s a modern English translation of the Chalcedonian Creed:

“Following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in divinity and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a rational soul and body; of one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer [theotokos]; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” 90

In his Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology, Thomas Oden affirms the importance of ecumenical Christology in general91 and notes how adherence to the ecumenical creeds will aid in avoiding Christological error.92

“…The major tendencies to heretical distortion in the two-natures are these: it runs the risk of inordinately divinizing the human, humanizing the divine, or dualizing the one person.  Keeping these factors in due balance is the challenge of classic Christian teaching or Christology.” 93

Cognizant of the inherent mystery of the Incarnation and the fact that it’s not “fully comprehensible to objective analysis,” but rather it’s “a divine gift for joyful contemplation,”94 he states:

“…Modesty of expression remains a radical intellectual requirement in the presence of this incomparable Person…” 95

In other words, Oden’s point was that we should not try to go beyond Scripture in attempting to define the mystery of the Incarnation.  Even the Apostle Paul did not fully fathom the person of Jesus Christ:

16 Beyond all comprehension, the mystery of godliness is great:
                        He appeared in a body,
                            was vindicated by the Spirit,
                        was seen by angels,
                            was preached from the nations,
                        was believed on in the world,
                            was taken up in glory. [I Timothy 3:16, NIV 1984]

Recognizing the continuing assault on Christology, Martin Luther once commented, “I know nothing about the Lord Christ that the devil has failed to attack.”96

     84 Allison, pp 377, 381
85 Crisp, Oliver D. God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology. 2009, T&T Clark, London, UK; p 13
86 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 13
87 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 14
88 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 14.  See explanation in Crisp’s footnote 10
89 Davies, Guy. Exiled Preacher Blog. “An Interview with Oliver Crisp” March 24, 2010 <http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2010/05/interview-with-oliver-crisp.html>; Answer to Davies’ 5th question.  As accessed 06/15/11
90 Allison, pp 376-77.  Footnote reads, “Creed of Chalcedon, in Schaff 2.62-63; Bettenson, 56.”  I assume Bettenson translated to modern English from Phillip Schaff’s 3-volume The Creeds of Christendom.
91 Oden, Thomas C. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. 1992 (2009), HarperCollins, New York, NY; p 306.  This printing is a single-volume condensed version of three separate volumes.
92 Oden, p 307
93 Oden, p 306
94 Oden, p 307
95 Oden, p 307
96 Oden, p 307.  Quotes from Martin Luther’s Table Talk. 1.269

Bill Johnson’s Kenotic Concept

All the preceding background brings us to the Christological doctrine of Bill Johnson which illustrates the peril of not using ecumenical creeds as a basis for proper Christology, as he clearly teaches kenosis.  However, the questions are: 1) which type; and, 2) can his teachings be harmonized into one consistent doctrine with respect to kenosis?  Here are two quotes from his book When Heaven Invades Earth:

“…He laid his [sic] divinity aside* as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin…The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin).” 97

“Jesus Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son can do nothing.’…He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever! …He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God.” 98

The asterisk (*) in the first quote denotes the place in which Johnson originally had a footnote in referring to Philippians 2:5-7 – the very Scripture kenotics use in justifying the theory.  Since God Himself is, by definition, supernatural, then by the wording in the quotes, Johnson appears to be teaching ontological kenosis as Jesus was “powerless” with “NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever.”  This is as opposed to functionalist kenosis which maintains that Jesus had all His divine attributes, but rather chose not to exercise some of them.  Had Johnson stated something like, “He chose not to exercise any of His supernatural capabilities,” then he could be construed of intending functionalist kenosis instead. However, as pointed out in part I, claiming it was the Holy Spirit who performed Christ’s miracles rather than Jesus Himself is both “ not conventional”99 and not Biblical even though this claim is growing in charismatic circles.100

Here’s another quote, this time from his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind:

“…Jesus had no ability to heal the sick.  He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead.  He said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’  He had set aside His divinity.  He did miracles as man in right relationship with God because He was setting forth a model for us…Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…” 101

Once again, this suggests ontological kenosis as Jesus was both “incapable” of performing and “had no ability” to perform miracles.  If, according to Johnson, Jesus Christ had merely chosen not to exercise His divine attributes as in functionalist kenosis, then He would still have the ability to perform miracles if He so desired.

Johnson references a portion of John 5:19 in the quote above and the one immediately preceding this one [by footnote 98].  Putting this verse in its proper context, however, shows that Jesus Himself had both the authority and the power (omnipotence) to raise the dead and give life apart from the Father (v 21) contrary to Johnson’s proof-texting above.  Andreas Kostenberger states, “He claimed not merely to be God’s instrument in raising other people, but to give life himself to whom he is pleased to give it.”102 [See Luke 23:43; John 6:70; 10:28-29; 11:1-44; 13:18; 15:16, 19.]  Once again, this argues against a functionalist kenotic interpretation.  Furthermore, this provides one more example illustrating that functionalist kenosis, in general, as not a viable, Biblical doctrine as Jesus Christ certainly displayed His omnipotence.

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” [John 5:19-27, NKJV]

In verse 18, the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy since the claim that God was “His” Father was understood by the Jews that Jesus was equating Himself with the Father and hence claiming He was God also.103  In the rest of this passage of Scripture Jesus goes on to explain that He is, in fact, deity.104

Do we assume Jesus was only able to ‘give life’ post-Ascension?  The text clearly shows otherwise as Craig Keener explains in his well-regarded commentary on the Gospel of John.105  Going further to verse 25 and through to 27 is the indication that Jesus could grant life in the then present106 and that Jesus had life “in Himself” granted by the Father along with the authority to make judgment (vv 22-23 also).  Taking all this into account indicates, once again, that Jesus Christ not only could, but very likely did, perform other miracle workings apart from the Father or the Holy Spirit,107 contrary to Johnson.

     97 Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 79.  Asterisk replaces original footnote which is referenced on page 85 of Johnson’s book.  Emphasis added.
     98 Johnson, Bill, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles. 2005; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 29.  Underline for emphasis in original; last ellipsis as per original.  Bolding added for emphasis.  Johnson makes a specific footnote reference to John 5:19 in his book on p 35.
99 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 25 [Tyndale; p 134]
100 Musick, Dan, Kenosis: Christ “emptied Himself”. “Christ’s Miracles Performed Only by the Holy Spirit?” <http://kenosis.info/index.shtml#Miracles> copyright 1997-2005; as accessed 06/15/11
101 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50.  Emphasis added.
102 Kostenberger, Andreas J. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John. 2004 (4th printing July 2009), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 187.  He is quoting from NIV 1984.
103 Kostenberger, pp 185-86
104 Kostenberger, pp 186-89
105 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One. 2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 650-52.  Keener, agreeing with Kostenberger, states, “Like the Father, Jesus could give life (5:21; cf. 17:2); this made him act in a divine manner.”  Moreover, in a section titled “Jesus as Life-Giver in the Present and the Future (5:24-30)” Keener shows agreement.  He continues, “Jesus returns to the claim that the Father has authorized him to give life (5:21) with the image of realized eschatology implied by ‘passed from death to life’ (5:24); one already abides in death until believing in the one who sent Jesus, hence in Jesus’ delegated mission…”
106 Keener, pp 650-52.
107 Kostenberger, pp 187-89.  Kostenberger also points out that Jesus Christ provided eternal life during his earthly ministry referring to John 5:24 as “…one of the strongest affirmations of realized (inaugurated) eschatology in John’s Gospel.” [p 188] And, also, “Jesus claims that God granted him life in himself, a divine attribute” [p 189] illustrating clearly that Jesus both possessed and utilized divine attributes, contrary to Johnson’s claims.

Johnson’s View of How Jesus Received His Title/Name of Christ

In Johnson’s zeal to humanize Jesus Christ at the expense of His divinity, he goes even further with his kenosis doctrine.  He makes Jesus into a man indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the Incarnation who subsequently receives the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’108 by the “Christ anointing”109 at His Baptism by John which provides Jesus the title/name of Christ.  In the following, brackets are inserted within the text for explanation:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah.’  It [Christ] is a title that points to an experience [Baptism].  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  He had to receive the anointing [“Christ anointing” resulting in Christ title/name] in an experience [Baptism] to accomplish what the Father desired.

“The word anointing means to ‘smear.’  The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared [anointed] all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared [anointed] with the Holy Spirit [at Baptism].” 110

After reading this in the full context Johnson provides [and setting aside his horrendous portrayal of Jesus being “smeared all over with the Holy Spirit”], without adding or subtracting anything, the reader will understand that he is teaching that the “title” of Christ was received in “an experience” – referring to Baptism.  Furthermore, according to Johnson, the ‘name’ of Christ did not actually belong to Jesus’ until He was anointed, “smeared all over,” by the Holy Spirit at Baptism.  Logically, this means Jesus did not have the Christ ‘name’ or ‘title’ until this point, and, hence, could not rightfully be called “Jesus Christ” until then.  This implies Jesus was simply ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and not “Jesus Christ” prior to Baptism which contradicts Luke 1:35/ 2:11 and other Scripture.   Yes, according to orthodoxy, Jesus Christ was anointed at Baptism which began His earthly ministry, but He already had the title of Christ prior to Baptism as He was proclaimed the Son of God before His birth [Luke 1:35] and referred to as “Christ the Lord” upon His birth [Luke 2:11].

The term Christ is used universally within orthodox Christianity indicating divinity111,112 [see Hebrews 13:8, 1:12/Psalm 102:27] as the Messiah must, by necessity, be deity in order to atone for our sins.  Jesus Christ, the Eternal Logos [John 1:1-18], was “from the beginning” [I John 1:1] and is the “Alpha and the Omega” [Rev 1:8, 1:17, 21:6, 22:13] and no one can rightly be called Christ except Jesus.  Berkhof states:

“There are especially five names [Jesus, Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, Lord] that…are partly descriptive of His natures, partly of His official position, and partly of the work for which He came into the world.”

“…Christ is the official…name of the Messiah…Christ was set up or appointed to His offices from eternity, but historically His anointing took place when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35, and when He received the Holy Spirit, especially at the time of His baptism…It served to qualify Him for His great task…” 113 

Note that Berkhof explains that Christ was “eternally appointed” yet did not receive the anointing for His office until conception by the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:35; Matt 1:18-20].  This means that Jesus was the Christ at conception.  The angel Gabriel referred to Him as “Son of God” in Luke 1:35 and the angel in Luke 2:11 referred to Him as “Savior,” “Christ,” and “Lord.”  He was also understood to be the Messiah/Christ by Herod [Matt 2:3-4] and He was Immanuel, “God with us,” [Matt 1:22-23/Isaiah 7:14] from the moment of the virgin birth.  Moreover: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Heb 13:8 NIV 1984]  To claim, as Johnson does, that Jesus did not receive the name or title of Christ until Baptism is serious error.  Jesus Christ is the Eternal Logos made flesh [John 1:1-14].

Bill Johnson makes it clear that the “anointing” linked Jesus to the divine (hence, implying Jesus the person was not divine) and that this ‘linking’ provided the power necessary to perform the miraculous which corresponds with his two paragraphs above regarding when/how Jesus received His Christ title/name:

“…The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil.” 114

“To fulfill His mission, Jesus needed the Holy Spirit [anointing]….

“This anointing is what enabled Jesus to do only what He saw the Father do, and to say only what He heard the Father say.” 115

To state Jesus was ‘enabled’ by the Holy Spirit (at Baptism) implies, once again, that Jesus did not have omnipotent power of His own and is thus less than divine.  In Face to Face with God, Johnson goes into more detail emphasizing this “experience” as the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit,’ while specifically referring to Jesus being ‘indwelled’ by the Holy Spirit prior to Baptism and that Jesus is our model in this regard.116  This next quote is following a reference in Johnson’s book to John 1:32 in which the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus at His Baptism:

 “…Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’s life.  This [Baptism] was the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose.  But the fact that the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him is evidence of Jesus’s faithfulness to be perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God.  The same principle is true for us.

“The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, but He rests upon very few…” 117

The Holy Spirit ‘resting upon’ Jesus and others is Johnson’s vernacular for his version of the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ which is necessary to provide power for the miraculous.118  Stating that Jesus was “perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God” implies that Jesus was not God Himself but instead merely a “trustworthy” man faithful enough to ‘earn’ God’s continued “presence”.  Once again, this is indicative of ontological kenosis.  Also, Johnson is pointing out that we can receive the same “Christ anointing”,119 or “baptism in the Holy Spirit”120 as Jesus.121  He is more explicit below:

“…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him…” 122

To reiterate: Jesus Christ is the Eternal Logos, the Word, the second person of the Trinity, made flesh [John 1:1-14]. Scripture does not indicate that the Word plus the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, were made flesh – the Incarnation was simply the Word made flesh.  As a contrast: Holy Spirit indwelled believers would not say “the Holy Spirit became flesh” in the new believer as that would be absurd.  Rather, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the already existing flesh of the newly saved individual.  On the other hand, the Logos acquired a human nature (not a human being) and dwelt among us [John 1:14].  At the Incarnation He did not subtract from His divine nature; He added to it.  As Berkhof affirms, “The pre-existent Son of God assumes human nature and takes to Himself human flesh and blood, a miracle that passes our limited understanding.”123

     108 Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; pp 21-2
     109 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77
110 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79.  Underline from emphasis in original; bolding added for emphasis; bracketed comments added for explanation.
111 Grudem, pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33
112 Berkhof, pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66
113 Berkhof, pp 312-13, 312-15.
114 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79.  Emphasis added.
115 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 80.  Underline from emphasis in original.
116 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 77-80
117 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 21-22.  Emphasis added.
118 Johnson, Face to Face. p 79
119 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77
120 Johnson, Face to Face. p 79
121 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 78-79
122 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77.  Emphasis added.
123 Berkhof, p 333

Johnson Contradicts His Kenosis by Affirming Jesus Christ’s Deity?

With the following, a paragraph at the start of chapter 9 in Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth, he appears to affirm Jesus Christ’s full deity:

“For hundreds of years the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming.  They gave over 300 specific details describing Him.  Jesus fulfilled them all!  The angels also gave witness to His divinity when they came with a message for the shepherds: ‘For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Nature itself testified to the arrival of the Messiah with the star that led the wise men…’ 124

Does the above quote show that Johnson affirms Jesus Christ’s full deity and thereby contradict his kenosis teachings above?  Or, alternatively, does this show that Bill Johnson is actually teaching a very poorly articulated functionalist kenosis rather than an ontological kenosis?  The key is the rest of this paragraph:

“…Yet with this one statement, ‘Unless I do the works of the Father, do not believe me,’* Jesus put the credibility of all these messengers on the line.  Their ministries would have been in vain without one more ingredient to confirm who He really was.  That ingredient was miracles.” 125

Was the archangel Gabriel pacing the heavens hoping that Jesus would perform miracles to prove He really was the Messiah, the Christ, and thus prove Gabriel to be true?  Certainly not.  The asterisk (*) above refers to John 10:37 in a footnote in the original quoted passage.  In this Scripture Jesus Christ was not making some sort of all-inclusive statement “putting the credibility of all these messengers on the line;” He was addressing the unbelieving Jews.  Johnson is mixing Biblical contexts here.  However, note that John 10:37 is pointing out that they should believe He is the Son of God by virtue of the works/miracles.  Jesus’ point is that, though they do not believe who He claims He is, they should believe by the miracles.  Johnson proof-texts this in his attempts to ‘show’ that Jesus was not the Christ/Messiah until His Baptism after which, of course, He performed the miraculous works having been “enabled” by the “anointing.”

So, it would seem the above paragraph can be perfectly harmonized with the rest of Johnson’s ontologically kenotic teachings.  He is unambiguously clear in his basic doctrine that Jesus was merely “a man in right relationship to God” who “had no ability to heal the sick,” “couldn’t cast out devils,” and “had no ability to raise the dead”126 except by virtue of the ‘enabling’ by the “Christ anointing,”127 occurring at Baptism.  With Johnson’s assertion that, “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit128  within its original context (see above), he makes it apparent that Baptism is the point in which Jesus receives the name of Christ/Messiah.  Consequently, according to this teaching, it follows that since Jesus did not have the name of Christ, and, hence was not yet Christ before Baptism, the angels’ and the other messengers’ words were contingent upon Jesus ‘proving Himself’ by performing the miraculous thereby showing Him to be the “Anointed One.”  Therefore, the first part of the quote from chapter 9 is merely affirming Jesus’ future “title” or name of Christ/Messiah at Baptism instead of a definitive statement that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah, at the virgin birth.  Furthermore, Johnson’s quote is not necessarily proclaiming Christ’s deity since he asserted that it was “the anointing” which “linked Jesus, the man, to the divine.”129

To further explain by way of example I’ll make a statement: “Dr. F. F. Bruce was born on 12 October, 1910.”  This is 100% correct; however, Bruce did not have his doctorate bestowed upon him until later, of course, as he was obviously not born with his degree.130  Similarly, one could interpret (incorrectly, of course) that Luke 2:11, the verse referenced in the first part of the above quote, is merely affirming Jesus as the Christ at some point in the future rather than at the virgin birth.

     124 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 97
125 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 97. Emphasis in original.
126 Johnson, Supernatural Power. pp 29, 50
127 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 21-22, 77-79
128 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79
129 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79. Emphasis added.
130 Wikipedia. F.F. Bruce.  F.F. Bruce biography <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._F._Bruce>; par 1; as accessed 06/15/11

Eternal Implications of Johnson’s Kenosis

Bill Johnson claims Jesus did not raise Himself at the Resurrection, contrary to John 2:19/10:17-18 and other Scriptures.  From his sermon at Bethel on February 27, 2011:

“…Jesus gave Himself to be crucified.  He did not raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…” 131

He stated the same basic thing in answering a question on his Facebook page in February of this year just prior to the date of the sermon above.  This illustrates that Johnson carried ontological kenosis all the way to the Resurrection which would necessarily include the Cross.  It would appear Jesus could not raise Himself from the dead since He was a “powerless” lamb on the Cross [see above for full context]:

“…The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless)…” 132

Being “powerless” means Jesus lacked the divine power in Himself necessary to provide proper Atonement which is explicit heresy.  Insufficient Atonement means no salvation for the sinner.  No salvation means no eternal life!  As Erwin Lutzer asserts: “…The real question is whether Christ is capable of being the Savior of mankind;”133 and, “If Christ is not God, then God has not saved us…”134

“…Only an incarnate Christ who is fully God qualifies to be Savior.” 135

According to Scripture, Jesus Christ raised Himself [John 2:19], He was raised by the Father [Gal 1:1; Acts 5:29-31], He was raised by the Holy Spirit [Rom 8:11], and, He was raised by God [Acts 2:24; Rom 4:24; Col 2:12], beautifully illustrating the interrelationship of the Trinity.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) contrasts mankind’s eternity, which will commence at a definite point some time in the future, with that of God’s which is infinite with no beginning point.  Of course, according to orthodox Christianity, both man, upon resurrection in his new glorified body [I Corinthians 15:50-54], and God have no termination point in the eternal realm.

“Man eschatologically and God ontologically experience an endless duration of time; both experience a non-terminating sequence of events; both participate in eternity.

“…[A] person’s eternity is bounded on one side by its beginning at a point in time…” 136

With this in mind, here’s Bill Johnson in a statement on his Facebook page on 3/21/2011:

“Jesus was (and is) God.  Eternally God.  That never changed.  But he chose to live with self imposed restriction while living on earth in the flesh – as a man.  In doing so He defeated sin, temptation, the powers of darkness as a man.  We inherit His victory – it was for us.  He never sinned!”

So, with this statement, does Johnson once and for all prove that he believes Jesus was fully divine during the Incarnation, i.e., is his kenosis functionalist rather than ontological?   Taken as a discrete statement apart from the rest of Johnson’s doctrine, this could potentially be labeled as functionalist kenosis [although the "as a man" part is problematic].  However, when this statement is added to the entire corpus of Johnson’s written works, sermons, etc., it merely affirms Jesus Christ’s eternality as God; but, it does not prove the belief in Jesus’ earthly existence as God.  As shown above, Johnson explicitly disavows Jesus Christ’s full incarnational deity on many occasions.  It should be pointed out that to affirm Jesus Christ as eternally God yet claim He “set aside His divinity”137 during the Incarnation is self-contradictory.

However, can the above quote be harmonized as a complete, non-contradictory statement in and of itself and in relation to the rest of Johnson’s teachings on the subject of kenosis?  It really depends on how Johnson defines and interprets the word “eternally” and how he views eternity in relation to the temporal, created realm.  Do they intersect in any way or are they wholly separate from one another?

If Johnson understands eternity as that in which there is no past, present, or future as opposed to the temporal realm which, of course, does have a past, present and future, then he can make the statement above and not be contradicting his particular doctrine of kenosis.  In fact, it would be necessary to keep his ontological kenosis teaching from falling into self-contradiction.  To explain: By simple logic, Jesus must have been God pre-Incarnation in order to have possessed the divinity He had “set aside.”  Similarly, Jesus was God post-Incarnation as there’s no evidence Johnson has ever stated the contrary and has inferred, if not outright stated, Christ’s deity post-Ascension (or, perhaps post-Resurrection) in his teachings.138

To rephrase: By definition, ontological kenosis in general, with all divine attributes – or at least all the ‘omni’ traits – laid aside when the Logos became flesh, implies, or at least potentially implies, a break in the eternality of the Son of God.  That is, a logical conclusion of this doctrine is that Jesus Christ would leave the eternal realm at the Incarnation and return again upon Ascension (or, perhaps, at the Resurrection) since unbounded eternality is a divine attribute.  So, if Johnson believes the eternal realm is wholly separate and distinct from the temporal, then he could maintain that Jesus is and was eternally God but not temporally divine – and, hence, not God during the Incarnation – and, thus, keep his version of ontological kenosis consistent and non-contradictory.139

Going back a bit to the first set of quotes of Bill Johnson used above, and, adding more of the context, we can see more of this concept in evidence regarding the eternal realm as wholly separate from the temporal with no intersection:

“…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 [sic] was redeemed.  He made that point over and over again…He performed miracles, wonders and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God” 140

Yes, according to Johnson, Jesus is/was God eternally – just not during the Incarnation as He performed miracles as a man, not as God since He was not actually God during the Incarnation.

From an orthodox Christian perspective, God exists unrelated to time or anything material and is therefore not constrained by these.  God created both.  Did eternity pause or cease during the Incarnation?  Of course not.  Chafer states:

“…Whatever time may be and whatever its relation to eternity, it must be maintained that no cessation of eternity has occurred or will.  God’s mode of existence remains unchanged.  Time might be thought of as something superimposed upon eternity were it not that there is ground for question whether eternity consists of a succession of events, as is true of time.  The consciousness of God is best conceived as being an all-inclusive comprehension at once, covering all that has been or will be.  The attempt to bring time with its successions into a parallel with eternity is to misconceive the most essential characteristic of eternal things.” 141

There are apparently varying understandings of eternity and how the temporal realm relates to the eternal among theologians.  It is beyond the scope of this article to get into a full discussion on the subject of eternity; however, Matthew Henry’s words help put the subject in perspective:

“…Should we ask why God made the world no sooner, we should but darken counsel by words without knowledge; for how could there be sooner or later in eternity?” 142

     131 “ewenhoffman” Maintaining the crosswalk- sermon of the week Feb 27th 2011. <htt6://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2011/03/01/maintaining-the-crosswalk-sermon-of-the-week-feb-27th-2011/> 16:45-17:00.  Bolding added.  As accessed 6/15/11
    132 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79. See full context at quote referenced by footnote 97.
133 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 33
134 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 34
135 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 36
136 Bromiley, G. W., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume Two. 1982 (1988 reprint), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 162.  First published 1915.
137 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
138 I’ve not seen any quotes to the contrary; and, his Facebook quote affirms current deity.  Further, the quote referenced below in footnote 140 confirms present tense deity.
139 This view is not without precedent as A. B. Bruce refers to a variation in The Humiliation of Christ in quoting Ebrard (as in Chafer as quoted in part I at footnote 22), “The Logos, in assuming flesh, exchanged the form of God, that is, the eternal manner of being, for the form of man, that is, the temporal manner of being.”
140 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 29.  Underline from emphasis in original; bolding added for my own emphasis.  The “He” identified by “sic” is rather curious – probably a typographical error, however, as written it seems as though it was Christ who was redeemed.
141 Chafer, Vol. VII, pp 141-42
142 Henry, M. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1. 1991 (8th printing 2006), Hendrickson, USA; p 2

Concluding Remarks

Like some others before him, Bill Johnson refuses to adhere to orthodox Christian teaching concerning the person of Jesus Christ as exemplified in the Chalcedonian Creed.  He denies that Christ possessed His divine attributes during the Incarnation because “Jesus did everything as a man, laying aside His divinity in order to become a model for us.”143  While Johnson affirms that Jesus Christ is eternally God, this does not negate his teachings that Jesus had “so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…”144 during the entirety of the Incarnation to the point of not being able to raise Himself at the Resurrection.  It is certainly self-contradictory to assert that Jesus is eternally God and yet had no divine attributes during the Incarnation.   But this is a part of Johnson’s overall doctrine.

On the other hand, when filtering Bill Johnson’s seemingly orthodox statements affirming Jesus Christ’s deity through the ontologically kenotic lens of the rest of his teachings, these statements can be harmonized into one mostly, if not totally, non-contradictory doctrine with respect to kenosis.  This is not to say that some of Bill Johnson’s teachings do not contradict Scripture as, of course, they clearly do.

In considering the entire corpus of Bill Johnson’s teachings we seem to have the Logos, the Word, divested of His ‘omni’ attributes, His impeccability (inability to sin – note the last sentence of his Facebook comment above), His immutability (changeless perfection), and perhaps other divine attributes, having ‘laid these aside’ in order to live His earthly existence as a man who was subsequently successful in living a sinless life and thereby providing an example to mankind.  This necessitated the second person of the Trinity leaving the eternal realm at the Incarnation; however, He re-attained His full deity upon Ascension (or, perhaps the Resurrection) as He reentered eternity.

In any case, whether one believes the entirety of Johnson’s teachings is hopelessly self-contradictory or whether one accepts that it can be harmonized as ontological kenosis throughout, the fact remains that certain aspects of his teachings are unambiguously ontologically kenotic.  This is explicit heresy.

If Johnson ‘merely’ intends functionalist kenosis instead (with its teaching that the Word made flesh retained all divine attributes but the Holy Spirit performed all Christ’s miracles and all ‘omni’ functions and possibly other divine functions), he has many very poorly worded passages in his books, sermons, etc. which need correction or clarification.  However, even a functionalist kenosis account such as this suffers from a debilitating problem (in addition to the fact that it denies immutability): it violates Scripture [John 5:24; John 2:19, 10:17-18, etc.] and it necessarily precludes the Word made flesh from upholding the cosmos [cf. Colossians 1:16-17; Heb 1:3] via the so-called extra calvinisticum [aka extra catholicum].

To amend these works to bring his Christology up to Christian orthodoxy would be a monumental task for sure; but, it all depends on how much he really loves the truth.  Everyone makes mistakes; however, the extent to which individuals are willing to correct those mistakes is the mark of a true teacher who reveres both God and Scripture and who cares about his flock.  A case in point regarding the correct way to respond to mistakes is illustrated in the following taken from a 2002 DVD by R. C. Sproul:

“…Just this week I got the second letter from somebody that read my book Renewing Your Mind which is now out in its third title, third edition.  The last edition of which was reworked, brought up to date by an editor at the publishing house.  And, after they did it they sent it to me – after they made their changes – and asked me to give the final corrections and proofs, which I did.  Hastily.  And I missed something that somebody who read it wrote to me and said, ‘Did you? – I can’t believe it.  You teach the Kenotic heresy.’ Because on one of the pages in that book it has me saying that in the Incarnation, Jesus laid aside His divine nature.  I saw that; I almost fainted.  I called the president of the publishing house, ‘This must be my fault.  I didn’t catch that.’ ‘But,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t say that on the worst day of my life.’  And, I said, ‘What can we do?’  And, you know what he did?  He pulled every single copy that they had in inventory off the shelves and reprinted it to correct that error.” 145

To continually refer to Jesus Christ as merely “a man in right relationship with God,”146 as Johnson insists throughout his works, at the expense of deity, does our Lord and Savior much disservice.  Even the decidedly non-Christian first century Jewish historian Josephus paid Him more reverence:

“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” 147

Amen!

     143 Johnson, Bill, Strengthen Yourself in the Lord. 2007, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 26
144 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
145 Sproul, R.C. The Mystery of the Trinity. DVD 2002, Ligonier Ministries, Sanford, FL
146 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
147 Josephus, Flavius, W. Whitson, The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged: New Updated Edition. 1987 (22nd printing June 2009), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 480.  Emphasis added.

Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II

[It will probably be best to read or review part I before reading this article.  In addition, it is important to view The Kingdom of God is at Hand, Part II as this provides more insight into Bill Johnson’s theology and its possible New Age implications. Once again, I’m indebted to all those who’ve assisted.  Thank you!]

In part I, we discussed the Christology of Bill Johnson based on his words from a portion of his sermon series titled Jesus Is Our Model as well as quotes from other sources. In part II, we will look further into Johnson’s doctrine and compare it to some other aberrant theology. Here’s the same part of his sermon which was referenced in the first part:

“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.

In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.” He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’” [1]

Word of Faith Connections and Disconnections

Kenneth E. Hagin, who borrows heavily from E. W. Kenyon, used the same verses as Johnson in speaking about a ‘born again’ Jesus. Hagin starts out in Hebrews 1:4-5 explaining how Jesus inherited His “more excellent Name”[2]. Then, just as Johnson does (or, perhaps the converse is more correct as it appears Johnson is copying Hagin), Hagin proceeds to Acts 13:33 to ‘explain’ how and when Jesus was born again:

“When was it that Jesus was begotten? When He was raised up! On that Resurrection morn!” [3]

So far this is practically identical to Johnson in terms of the method used although Hagin writes in his idiosyncratic Southern style in explaining his view. While Johnson does not provide his reasons as to why Jesus was ‘born again,’ Hagin does:

“Why did He need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were, separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death for every man. His spirit, His inner man, went to hell in our place.”

“…Physical death would not remove our sins….”

Jesus is the first person ever to be born again.” [4] [emphasis added]

“Spiritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan’s nature.” [5][emphasis in original]

Can we conclude that Johnson may believe that Jesus died spiritually as does Hagin? It’s certainly possible; however, absent an explanation from Johnson himself we are still left wondering. There is one important difference between Hagin’s and Johnsons’ renditions, though. Hagin claims Jesus was “not born as He took on flesh” because He “preexisted with the Father” stating that Jesus “just took upon Himself a body.”[6] Then, he makes the definitive claim that Jesus died spiritually on the Cross requiring that He be born again. However, Johnson states that Jesus was “born through Mary the first time” and had to be ‘born again’ because He ‘became sin’ with no further explanation.

Kenneth E. “Papa” Hagin is known as the “Daddy” of the Word of Faith movement. If that’s the case, then E. W. Kenyon is the grandfather since Hagin largely emulates his teachings. Kenyon’s doctrine has much in common with New Thought [7] and that’s because he was a follower of founder Phineas P. Quimby’s teachings. For an excellent expose on Word of Faith read Atonement Where?[8] by Moreno Dal Bello.

Some New Age doctrine seems to come from New Thought ideology:

“The New Thought movement, which originated in the late 19th and early 20th century, has at its core a belief that a higher power pervades all existence, and that individuals can create their own reality via affirmations, meditation and prayer. Early New Thought groups emerged from a Christian Science background, and many New Thought writers refer back to the Bible as their foundation text. New Thought resembles in some respects New Age philosophy, although some… …groups dismiss a connection….” [9]

While Johnson may diverge a bit from Word of Faith teachings, it seems he has much more in common than not with this false doctrine as much of the rest of this article will confirm.

Baptism in Confusion

There was an unanswered point in part I of this article:

… The view of Jesus being God’s Son at or through the Resurrection is only unorthodox if the belief is that Jesus was not the Son of God before this event….

Bill Johnson quoted Matthew 3:17 from the NKJV, “‘This is My much loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”[10]; so, it would seem that he believes Jesus was the Father’s Son at baptism, if not before. However, the question that remains is if Johnson believes Jesus was divine at any point before baptism. It also seems possible though that Johnson believes Jesus was divine at the Virgin Birth (His Incarnation) even though his claim is that Jesus did not become The Christ until baptism at which point He received this ‘title’ of Christ. As pointed out in part I, this, of course, creates a contradiction within Johnson’s theology as Christ is the transliterated Greek word Christos which is taken from the Hebrew word meaning Messiah of which there can be only one; however, Johnson states we all can receive the same “anointing” as Jesus did. This would mean, in effect, we, too would attain the ‘title’ of Christ – which is tantamount to calling us individual Messiahs!

Passages such as the following from his 2007 book Face To Face With God aid in perpetuating this contradiction:

“…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him.” [11]

Johnson makes it clear that Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist was what is known as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and it’s this baptism which provided the ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit which Jesus needed to perform the works of His earthly ministry. And, again, it’s this baptism all believers must receive in order to live a life of miracles, signs and wonders according to Johnson. [12]

Johnson explains this by differentiating between the Holy Spirit indwelling which “comes about at our conversion” and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is “upon” the believer.[13] Johnson declares emphatically “He’s in me for my sake, but He’s upon me for yours! ” in affirming the supposed tangible nature of this “anointing.”[14] He uses the Apostles – the real first century ones – as an example claiming Jesus Christ “breathed” the Holy Spirit indwelling into them in John 20:22:

“…In the lives of Christ’s disciples, we see this take place in John 20:22, when Jesus met with them, ‘breathed on them’ and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ But at His ascension [sic], Jesus told these same people that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them. The Holy Spirit was already in them, but He was going to come upon them with power… ” [15] [emphasis added]

This raises some questions such as: Why didn’t Jesus “breathe” the Holy Spirit in/on them sooner? Given that the 72 were sent out (Luke 10) well before the events recorded in John 20:22 which took place while Jesus was on the earth in his post-resurrection body, why didn’t Jesus have the Holy Spirit indwell them at that time or before? Or did Jesus do this for the 72 and not the eleven (the twelve minus Judas Iscariot)? And, if the 72 weren’t – to use Johnson’s theology – both indwelled with the Holy Spirit and Baptized in the Holy Spirit, how could they have healed the sick and driven out demons?

Johnson states that the Holy Spirit “was already in Jesus’ life” [16] when Jesus received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” at His Baptism by John. How can this be reconciled with Johnson’s belief that this ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ could only come after Jesus’ Ascension?[17] Since John’s baptism was one of repentance, how could he provide Jesus a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was an identifying sign that Jesus was the Son of God. This was not an “impartation.” The Apostle John makes this distinction clear:

32 Then John [the Baptist] gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” [John 1:32-34 NIV]

Orthodox Christianity attests that prior to the events of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit indwelling was “selective and temporary.”[18] The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not available until after Jesus Christ’s Ascension. While most, if not all, Pentecostal and charismatic denominations believe in a second baptism or “blessing” – known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – (also the view is that sometimes these two can occur simultaneously rather than being separate events) many other Christians do not.

Sinless at the Other Side of the Cross

“Jesus Christ was entirely God. He was not a created being, yet He became a man and lived entirely within man’s limitations. His ability to demonstrate power, walk on water, and carry out countless other divine manifestations was completely due to the fact that He was without sin and was totally yielded to the Holy Spirit. He became the model for everyone who would experience the cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus.

The forgiveness that God gives puts every believer in a place without sin. The only question that remains is how empowered by the Holy Spirit we are willing to be.” [19]

This is worded very poorly and seems to suggest heterodoxy. Johnson can be quite explicit in some passages as he writes; so, it’s curious why he wasn’t more careful with this one. He had already stated that Jesus “laid His divinity aside”[20] and when this statement is added to just the bolded portion in the first paragraph we seem to have a “Jesus” that “became man” (at birth/Incarnation?) and performed supernatural acts “entirely” by yielding to the Holy Spirit’s power. Taking the entire first paragraph as a whole this could lead to the conclusion that during His earthly existence Jesus was not God in human flesh but, rather a man who lived a life powered by the Holy Spirit after Baptism even though He preexisted as God.

The second paragraph of the Johnson quote above creates two problems, especially when viewed in its full context in the whole of both paragraphs. The first is that it can be construed that Jesus could have sinned but did not solely because of submission to the Holy Spirit. Further support for this view comes from this quote from part I: “…He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin…”[21]

Secondly, it can be understood – in fact it seems to state outright – that believers can live a sinless life if they “are willing” to be fully empowered by the Holy Spirit. If this second view is not entirely driven home above, Johnson makes it clear in his words below by claiming believers are now dead to sin and its nature:

“Many believe His power exists only to help us overcome sin. This understanding stops very short of the Father’s intent for us to become witnesses of another world. Doesn’t it seem strange that our whole Christian life should be focused on overcoming something that has already been defeated? Sin and its nature have been yanked out by its roots…”

“…Many in the church are camped on the wrong side of the Cross… …I don’t need power to overcome something [sin] if I’m dead to it” [22] [emphasis added]

The human sin nature does not ever leave us this side of glory since it’s a part of the human condition as a result of the The Fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s a struggle of all humanity – unsaved or saved. The Holy Spirit indwelled believer can choose to be led of the Spirit or to succumb to the sinful nature [cf. Galatians 5:16-26]; but, the believer never lives in a sinless state until the other side of Glory. The Apostle John states it quite succinctly:

“8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” [I John 1:8 NIV]

This is another example of the already but not yet [23] as discussed in both The Kingdom of God is at Hand articles on this blog. The Apostle Paul speaks of the struggle with sin and outlines the process of sanctification in Romans chapters 6, 7, 8 and 12 by a life lived by and through the Spirit. For a good discussion on sanctification see Sanctification – Set Apart.[24]

Kenneth E. Hagin’s view is similar to Johnson’s:

You see, as long as I believe that I receive forgiveness of my sins, and that’s all (not remission, but just forgiveness), then I remain in the position where Satan will dominate me all my life….” [25]

By making the distinction between “forgiveness” and “remission” Hagin seems to be saying that sin will, just like a sickness in remission, be absent from the believer for an indefinite period of time. He also speaks negatively about the Cross while promoting the Resurrection side:

“The Cross is actually a place of defeat, whereas the Resurrection is a place of triumph. When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.” [26]

This negative view of the Cross bears a resemblance to the Theosophic/New Age/occult/esoteric teachings of Alice A. Bailey from a book from 1937:

“The outstanding need of Christianity today is to emphasize the living, risen Christ. We have argued too long over the death of Christ, seeking to impose a narrow sectarian Christ upon the world. We have fed the fires of separation by our Christian divisions, churches, sects and ‘isms.’ ‘Their name is legion,’ and most of them are founded upon some sectarian presentation of the dead Christ, and of the earlier aspects of His story. Let us now unite on the basis of the risen Christ…” [27] [emphasis added]

Notice how Bailey refers to the denominational orthodox Christian view and their focus on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” [I Corinthians 2:2] as “legion” just like the self-ascribed name of the demons who inhabited the man from the region of the Gerasenes in the account of Mark 5:1-17. While Johnson does not go any where near as far as Bailey does here, he does speak negatively about denominations and “religion” throughout his books; and, at one point he even called our present age the “post-denominational era.” [28]

The question is: why would a New Ager speak positively about any aspect of the Cross? Wouldn’t the New Ager look upon Christianity in general with utter disdain? This question will be answered as we progress through this article and part III. And, why would Johnson and Hagin – purported ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – speak negatively on any aspect of the Cross? Shouldn’t this be the central focus of Christianity as the Apostle Paul stated numerous times?

The Resurrection of the Latter Rain

If there was any doubt, Johnson makes it clear that he adheres to Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) doctrine – an aberrant branch of Pentecostalism/charismaticism:

“On the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that the promise of Joel 2 was fulfilled. …Yet, that day was only the initial fulfillment of the promise – the Spirit was poured out on that day, but there is a day coming in which He will truly be poured out on all flesh….” [29] [bolding from emphasis in original]

The way this is worded it sounds as though Johnson is adhering to universalism – a New Age concept that all will be (or can be) saved.  In a video advertisement for a recent  “Open Heavens” conference (October 13-15, 2010) once again Johnson stresses the word “all”:

 “What does it mean to you when it says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on A-L-L flesh?’ Everywhere I go IS an open heaven. Miracles follow those who believe. Whenever He restores something, he restores it to a place greater than before. I’ve lived without miracles, and I’ve lived with miracles. With miracles is better.” [30]

Continuing with Johnson from the quote above regarding Joel 2:

“…This is a fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured as the early and latter rain. The early rain was the first century, and the latter is now.” [31]

As justification for his position, Johnson uses the water turned to wine at the wedding in Cana and Job’s returned possessions as ‘proof’ that God “saves the best for last” and to disagree with him is “at best pure ignorance or at worst unbelief.”[32] Yet the Assemblies of God – the denomination of which Bill Johnson was formerly a part – denounced Latter Rain as heresy back in 1949.[33]

The Latter Rain movement went underground in the 1950s but emerged again in the 1970s and has gained momentum since then.

Here’s Johnson claiming we can seek to emulate Jesus in His glorified state as described by John in Revelation 1:13-16 by the power of the ‘other side of the Cross:’

“The ‘as He is, so are we’ [1st John 4:17] declaration is far beyond what any of us could have imagined; especially in light of the glorified description of Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1. Yet, the Holy Spirit was sent specifically for this purpose that we might attain… ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

“The Holy Spirit came with the ultimate assignment at the perfect time. During Jesus’ ministry, it was said, ‘The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ …why didn’t the Father send Him until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [34] [bolding from italicized original; underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson speaks more on this “resurrection power” for the believer:

At some point the reality of the resurrection [sic] must come into play in our lives – we must discover the power of the resurrection [sic] for all who believe.

“…we must follow Him all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!” [35] [bolding from italicized original, underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson’s words above are similar to some of Kenyon’s as taught by Hagin. After stating that as representatives of Christ “[w]e are Christ” “not only collectively, but individually” Hagin quotes 1st John 4:17 just as Johnson does above: “As He is, so are we in this world.” Then he poses the question: “when we get to heaven?” [36] to which he answers:

“No! In this world! Glory!” [37]

And, here Hagin quotes Kenyon directly:

“Oh, that our eyes were open; that our souls would dare rise into the realm of Omnipotence… …that we would act up to our high privileges in Christ Jesus.” [38]

“…so far, none of us have been able to take a permanent place in our privileges and abide where we may enjoy the fullness of this mighty power….

“But we have a conviction that before the Lord Jesus returns, there will be a mighty army of believers who will learn the secret of living in the Name, of reigning in life, living the victorious, transcendent, resurrection life of the Son of God among men….” [39]

“If our minds could only grasp… …that Satan is paralyzed… …it would be easy to live in this Resurrection Realm.” [40] [emphasis added]

Manifest Sons of God: The New Breed

This sounds very close to, if not is by definition, Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) doctrine. Known by other names such as Sonship[not to be confused with the orthodox doctrine of the same name], Overcomers, Joel’s Army and New Breed among others, MSoG is part of Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) which teaches that certain individuals can obtain their resurrected, glorified bodies, as in 1st Corinthians 15:35-55, in the here and now before the Rapture and/or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, as verses 51 and 52 of 1st Corinthians make clear, all true believers in Jesus Christ will receive resurrection bodies at the same time. This false teaching is largely based on a faulty interpretation of Romans 8:19-23:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [NIV; emphasis added]

Verses 24 and 25 which follow the above make it clear that this is a future promise; and, as 1st Corinthians 15:50-52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17 attest, the dead in Christ are raised first a nanosecond before the living and all this occurs “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” [NIV] at the same time. No living person precedes another living person and no living person will receive their resurrection body before the dead in Christ receive theirs.

For more on “resurrection power” and “Resurrection Life,” here’s Todd Bentley from August 08, 2008 at Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries speaking of the fourth stage/floor/level he saw in a vision:

“I got up to the fourth floor, the door opened, it was Romans 8, the manifestation of the sons of God, power, dominion, and it was called ‘Resurrection Life.’” [41] [emphasis mine]

Bentley claims that at this point he enquired of God about the difference between raising the dead and “resurrection life.” In his account, God answered explaining that “resurrection life” will result in a coming “corporate anointing” in which people will be raised from the dead just because of “the anointing in the atmosphere.”[42]

“And that’s when I said, ‘God, I’m not focused on raising the dead anymore, I want resurrection life.’

“Do you know raising the dead isn’t something that happens? Raising the dead is a person. Resurrection isn’t something that happens – resurrection is a person. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection, I am the life.’ Raising the dead is Jesus. When the dead are raised, it’s Jesus. …Resurrection is Jesus, not something that happens.” [43]

Following along with this train of thought leads to the ‘we are Christ, we are Jesus’ similar to Johnson’s ‘Christ anointing.’ Bentley continues:

“God’s going to move the church into such a realm… But, we’re moving into a realm of Romans 8: resurrection life; power; dominion over every sin, sickness, disease, death. …Because everything is the person of Jesus. [ed: panentheism?] And, we are pressing in for that ‘Romans 1:4 anointing.’” [44] [emphasis added]

Bob Jones relates just what this “Romans 1:4 anointing” is:

“What He’s doing now is bringing you to a level of maturity where you grow up. And, if you grow up you’ll never regress, you’ll continue progress year by year. So, what he’s talking about is the New Breed, is this: it’s Romans 1:4 – the spirit of holiness. So, for years I tried to get understanding of what the spirit of holiness is for it’s different than the Holy Spirit…” [45] [emphasis added]

Different than the Holy Spirit?! What ‘spirit’ would THAT be?! Continuing with Bentley:

“Do you know how Jesus was raised from the dead? By the spirit of holiness and declared by the resurrection of the dead…” [46]

Clearly, it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ’s lifeless human body. However, it’s less clear which kind of spirit Jones and Bentley are speaking about (or, maybe it’s not). Continuing from the above:

“…And, I just believe there’s an impartation to call forth ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.’” [47]

True Christians already have the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead – the Holy Spirit indwelling – and the “hope of glory” at initial conversion. Why the need for a further ‘impartation?’ These ‘impartations’ seem to have more in common with the occult than Christianity especially as Bentley describes them as “levels” or “stages/floors” which sound eerily like “initiations.”

“And, I want to take one moment church, and I want to press in, I want you to press in with me, to go from one floor, to two floors, to three levels, to four. And, let’s progress and let’s say, ‘God, beyond raising the dead, beyond notable miracles, beyond healing, let there be a release in the Church of the realm of glory and power and dominion and authority that affects everything that’s death and decay around us.’ And, it’s true victory, it’s true resurrection life, true resurrection power, and true resurrection glory

People will be made alive – born again.” [48] [emphasis added]

So, according to Bentley, this “resurrection life” makes one or leads one to be ‘born again?’ Going back to Johnson: The original sermon series from which Bill Johnson makes the ‘born again Jesus’ comments is titled Jesus is Our Model – a theme echoed in his books. So, is he saying essentially the same thing as Bentley; i.e., is Johnson saying that we are to become ‘born again’ and achieve “resurrection life” using Jesus as our model given that – according to Johnson in the transcript – Jesus was “born again through the Resurrection?

While it is possible that Johnson means something a bit different than Bentley, the wording and implications look the same. However, one must take into account the fact that Bill Johnson feels so strongly about Todd Bentley that he defended him during Lakeland[49]. [Here's the corresponding video with him reading an email beginning around the 21:00 mark.] In response to this question: “What do you think of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival” Johnson answers:

“Have you spent time with Todd? Do you know him? …Have you laid hands on him and prayed? Has he laid hands on you and prayed? Have you grieved over tragedy together? Have you celebrated victory together? Has he sought your counsel?…Have you ever received his counsel?

“I didn’t think so. I have. And I’ll continue to support those who I have walked with in life and ministry. He’s my friend…” [50]

Obviously, they had a close relationship not just in their association within ministry but in their personal lives as well. While this still doesn’t definitively prove a connection regarding their respective doctrines, it shows each was likely aware of the other’s. Also, Johnson lists both Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire USA Ministries as well as Bob Jones as “Friends”[51] on one of his sites. In his book Face to Face With God, Johnson writes on the New Breed himself:

“We are in the throes of change; a reformation will impact society on all fronts. This is happening largely because today there is a new breed of believer.” [52] [emphasis added]

If that’s not convincing enough when added to all the above that Johnson is teaching MSoG, consider this. Todd Bentley was one of the endorsers on at least two of Bill Johnson’s books: When Heaven Invades Earth and The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind.[53] Similarly, Bill Johnson endorsed four[54] of Bentley’s books including Journey into the Miraculous from 2008 in which he writes in his endorsement:

I love this book. …this book is more than a story about his life. It’s a prophetic declaration of God’s intent for an entire generation….” [55][emphasis added]

The Militant Joel’s Army of the Manifested Sons of God

Right in the first chapter titled “The End-Time Healing Revival” of Bentley’s Journey into the Miraculous are some “prophetic words” of Bob Jones, Paul Cain and even Benny Hinn(!); and, on the very first page:

For 20 years, the prophets have foretold about a youthful generation that will rise up… In 1973, the Lord showed Prophet Bob Jones this coming anointing that would fall on God’s people. Bob told me that I was part of the ‘first fruits’ wave of a billion people whom God would light on fire.” [56] [emphasis added]

Then, referring to a quote of Paul Cain in a section titled “JOEL’S ARMY,” Bentley relates:

“…They’d learn patient endurance, how to demonstrate the power of God, and, having learned all, stand against the enemy. As Christian soldiers, they’d have the mind of Christ, and ‘partake of the heavenly calling, and be a new breed, God’s dread champions.’” [57]

This is “Joel’s mighty army” Bentley is speaking of “as described in Joel chapter 2” who are “the army of God – not a wicked army (as some have thought).”[58] However, it should be noted that Biblical scholars generally agree that the army of Joel 2:1-11 refers to both a locust plague and the Assyrian army who chastened the Nation Israel in the 7th and 8th century BC.[59]  And, there is likely a future fulfillment in the ‘Day of the Lord’ identified in Zechariah 14:2 as an evil army (also see Revelation 9:2-9) arrayed against Jerusalem which will be defeated by the Lord Himself (Zech 14:3-4; Rev 19:15).

In the following, Bentley quotes Paul Cain from the Grace City Report Special Prophetic Edition, from Fall 1989:

“‘They are the ones with feet of iron not mixed of clay, with the wisdom of God alone, not imitators of other men of God. Some of the superstars of the church will fall. The Lord will have an army of holy anointed vessels to usher in His Kingdom so that no one man can take credit for it. It will be to the glory of God alone.’” [60]

For those unaware, according to the Latter Rain view, Joel’s Army/Manifested Sons of God will be exacting judgment and penalty unto death if necessary upon those in the Church who do not go along with this “end-times move of the Spirit” as per Rick Joyner’s “vision” in The Final Quest [61] and earlier MorningStar Journals from Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries. This dispensing of “God’s judgment” or “cleansing of evil” was spoken of in Constance Cumbey’s 1985 book A Planned Deception as one of the stated goals of both New Agers and Manifested Sons of God[62]. This “old-order brethren” is referenced in Bentley’s book as spoken of here in the following quote from Paul Cain’s You Can Become the Word! at a 1989 Vineyard Prophetic Conference:

“…God has invited us to have a role in establishing a new order of ChristianityGod is offering to this generation something He has never offered to any other generation…beware lest old-order brethren rob you and steal this hope from you.” [63] [emphasis added]

Oddly, Bentley even quotes Jewel Grewe of Discernment Ministries(!) from one of her Discernment Newsletters in quoting Paul Cain:

“As Paul Cain says, these days will be marked by miracles; ‘All the sick are gonna be healed, the dead are gonna be raised and nations are gonna turn to God in a day.’ (Bob Jones and Paul Cain, Selections from the Kansas City Prophets, audiotape from discernment newsletter).” [64] [all as per original except bolding/underlining for emphasis]

Since Bill Johnson endorsed Bentley’s Journey into the Supernatural and claims that he “loves this book,” it’s fair to say he agrees with Bentley’s views regarding Joel’s Army as stated in the quotes above. Then, by extension, perhaps Johnson agrees with Todd Bentley’s and Bob Jones’ words from the 08/08/08 DVD as referenced above as well especially since Johnson has already identified with the New Breed which is another name for Joel’s Army or Manifest Sons of God.

A New Age Christ?

Here’s Johnson teaching more MSoG in a You Tube video:

“…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible, which he’s holding] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.” [65] [emphasis mine]

The bolded portion above is reminiscent of what is known as “birthing the man-child”[66] – yet another euphemism for the purported Manifested Sons of God. Also, it needs to be noted that this bolded portion sounds like it relates to the title of the piece from the Vineyard Prophetic Conference of Paul Cain mentioned above: You Can Become the Word! In addition, the above quote sounds quite a bit like some words by the late Earl Paulk from his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until…:

The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Word became flesh in the God man, Jesus Christ… Likewise, the Word of God must be made flesh in the Church in order for us to bear witness to the Kingdom which God has called us to demonstrate” [67] [emphasis added]

“…Natural conception and birth graphically symbolize God’s offspring in His Church. The Church is the womb of God’s Kingdom. God wants to quicken His Word, to bring it alive in us, causing us to live by His Word, not by sight or natural understanding.” [68] [emphasis added]

All things have been given to us, even to the point of allowing us to share the divine nature of Jesus. Sharing His nature is a definition of the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth. ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’ His inheritance is already ours.” [69][emphasis added]

Taken together, these quotes seem quite similar to the New Age view of bringing in the “Kingdom of God” as mentioned in the “New Age Kingdom” section of The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II article on this blog.

By quoting “Christ in us, the hope of glory” as Paulk and Bentley both do, the implication in their respective contexts above seems to infer our own divinity. This sounds eerily similar to the New Age/Theosophic/esoteric/occult teachings of Alice A. Bailey working as a medium for one of the “Masters of Wisdom” identified as “Master DK” or “Djwhal Khul” from her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ:

“…Inherent in the human consciousness… …is a sense of divinity. …‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement. …‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.” [70]

Of course, both Johnson and Hagin quote 1st John 4:17 above in the “Resurrection of the Latter Rain” section. Restating part of Johnson’s quote:

“The ‘as He is, so are we’ [1st John 4:17] declaration is far beyond what any of us could have imagined; especially in light of the glorified description of Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1. Yet, the Holy Spirit was sent specifically for this purpose that we might attain… ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

“…why didn’t the Father send Him [the Holy Spirit] until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [71] [bolding from italicized original; bold/underlining added for emphasis]

This focus on the “Resurrection side of the Cross” at the expense of the Cross itself as Johnson, Hagin, Bentley and others do above, as evidenced by quotes in this article, is yet another aspect of the New Age religion as referenced in the “Sinless at the Other Side of Cross” section above. Quoting Bailey again in The Destiny of the Nations from 1949:

“In the Aquarian Age, the Risen Christ… …will not this time demonstrate the perfected life of the Son of God, which was his main mission before; He will appear as the supreme Head of the Spiritual Hierarchy, meeting the need of the thirsty nations of the world – thirsty for truth, for right human relations and for loving understanding. He will be recognized this time by all and in His Own Person will testify to the fact of the resurrection and hence demonstrate the paralleling fact of immortality of the soul, of the spiritual man. The emphasis during the past two thousand years has been on death; it has coloured all the teaching of the orthodox; only one day in the year has been dedicated to the thought of the resurrection. The emphasis in the Aquarian Age will be on life and freedom from the tomb of matter, and this is the note which will distinguish the new world religion from all that have preceded it.” [72]

This “death” emphasized over “the past two thousand years” is the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The “paralleling fact of immortality of the soul” is the ‘fact’ of “inherent divinity.” This “Spiritual Hierarchy” is also known as the “Masters of Wisdom” who are, in reality, demons. Their “Risen Christ” is actually referring to the coming antichrist.

Are Bill Johnson and company teaching and preaching a New Age Christ whether unwittingly or wittingly?

Endnotes:

[1] “ewenhuffman” Jesus is our Model- Sermon of the week 20 Dec 09. <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2009/12/23/jesus-is-our-model-sermon-of-the-week-20-dec-09/> 33:48 to 34:57; as accessed 11/08/10
[2] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Name of Jesus. 1979, 3rd printing 1981; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library, Tulsa, OK; p 28
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid. p 29
[5] ibid. p 31
[6] ibid. p28
[7] Affiliated New Thought Network The Philosophy of New Thought. <http://www.newthought.org/new_thought.html>; as accessed 11/08/10
[8] THE WORD on the The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog) Atonement Where? By Moreno Dal Bello <http://thewordonthewordoffaithinfoblog.com/2010/10/15/atonement-where-1-mdbello/>; as accessed 11/08/10
[9] Hare, John Bruno / Internet Sacred Text Archive New Thought. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/index.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[10] Johnson, Bill When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 99
[11] Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 77
[12] ibid. p 99-102
[13] ibid. p 78
[14] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 134
[15] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 78
[16] ibid. p 21-22
[17] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[18] Got Questions? What Was the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? <http://www.gotquestions.org/Spirit-Old-Testament.html>; par 4; as accessed 11/08/10
[19] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 199
[20] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79
[21] ibid.
[22] ibid. p 110
[23] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 133-134
[24] AllaboutGOD.com / All About Following Jesus Sanctification – Set Apart. <http://www.allaboutfollowingjesus.org/sanctification.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[25] Hagin, Op.cit. p 55
[26] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Believer’s Authority. 1986, 2nd ed.; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library; Tulsa, OK; p 16
[27] Bailey, Alice A. From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 238-239
[28] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 90
[29] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 76
[30] ibethelTV Open Heavens 2010. < http://vimeo.com/15808994 > as accessed 03/26/11
[31] ibid. pp 76-77
[32] ibid. p 77
[33] Wikipedia The General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States of America. “Relations with other denominations and renewal movements” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Council_of_the_Assemblies_of_God_in_the_United_States_of_America>; as accessed 11/08/10
[34] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[35] ibid. p 146
[36] Hagin, Op.cit. The Name of Jesus. pp 106-107
[37] ibid. p 107
[38] ibid. p 49
[39] ibid. p 52
[40] ibid. p 53
[41] Bentley, Todd Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service 08-08-08. DVD; available at MorningStar Ministries Store <http://www.morningstarministries.org/Store/Products/1000013034/MorningStar_Store/Media_Store/Teaching_Sets/All_Teaching_Sets/DVD_Teaching_Sets/Todd_Bentley_Healing.aspx>; 1953:26 – 1953:37
[42] ibid. 1953:37 – 1954:44
[43] ibid. 1955:18 – 1956:00
[44] ibid. 1956:00 – 1956:38
[45] ibid. 1934:39 – 1935:10 (Bob Jones speaking)
[46] ibid. 1956:38 – 1956:46
[47] ibid. 1956:46 – 1957:00
[48] ibid. 1956:58 – 1957:53
[49] Bill Johnson Ministries, Questions and Answers. “UPDATE: What do you think about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival? June ‘08” <http://www.bjm.org/questions/11/update-what-do-you-think-about-todd-bentley-and-the-lakeland-revival.html?file=regarding-todd-bentley>; as accessed 11/08/10
[50] ibid.
[51] Bill Johnson Ministries, Friends. <http://www.bjm.org/friends.html>
[52] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 139
[53] Both books from Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., copyright 2003 and 2005 respectively
[54] Journey into the Miraculous, Sound of Fire Productions, Ltd.; 2003 / Journey into the Miraculous, Destiny Image; January 1, 2008 / “Endorsements” ; The Reality of the Supernatural World, Destiny Image; June 1, 2008; “Endorsements” / Kingdom Rising, Destiny Image; October 1, 2008: pp 15-17
[55] Bentley, Todd Journey into the Miraculous. 2008; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; “Endorsements”
[56] ibid. pp 21-22
[57] ibid. pp 22-23
[58] ibid. p 23
[59] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Joel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1985; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 245-250. with contribution by Richard D. Patterson
[60] Bentley, Op.cit. p 23
[61] Joyner, Rick The Final Quest. 1996, 2nd ed.; MorningStar Publications, Charlotte, NC; pp 36-38
[62] Cumbey, Constance A Planned Deception. 1985; Pointe Publishers, East Detroit, MI; p 172
[63] Bentley, Op.cit. pp 24-25
[64] ibid. p 25
[65] “whizzpopping” You Tube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4RZ_ctiwlE&gt>; 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 11/08/10
[66] Booth, Tricia (formerly Tillin), The Birthpangs of a New Age. “The Birth of the Manchild” <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/latterrain/manchild.html>; as accessed 11/08/10
[67] Paulk, Earl, Held in the Heavens Until…. 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA; p 156
[68] ibid.
[69] ibid. p 197
[70] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 145
[71] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[72] Bailey, Alice A. The Destiny of the Nations. 1949, Lucis Trust, 5th printing 1974 (2nd Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; pp 150-151
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