Who Led the Exodus? – A Text Critical Study in Jude 5

18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert 21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. [Exodus 13:18-22, NIV]

In reading the Scripture above, it is clear that it was God / the LORD (YHWH) who led the nation Israel out of Egypt “in a pillar of a cloud” by day and “in a pillar of fire” by night. The New Testament book of Jude makes reference to this same event, with the author using it to make his own theological point in his short epistle:

5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. [NIV]

5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. [NKJV]

5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. [NASB]

These translations all vary a bit but are consistent in their use of “the Lord.” Here “the Lord” is (seemingly) used just like it is in Exodus 13:21 above as another designation for God / YHWH. But let’s look at this same verse in Jude in the English Standard Version (ESV):

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

How can it be that Jesus led the Exodus? He wasn’t even to be incarnated/born until many years later! The ESV (as well as NLT and NET) must be wrong, right? Not necessarily. This is where the discipline of NT textual criticism (TC) comes into play.

Noted in a few other articles on this site is the fact that there are upwards of 6000 extant NT manuscripts (hereafter mss for plural; ms for singular), from scraps to complete New Testaments. Yet there are some variations due to scribal error or well-meaning “corrections.” We must keep in mind that up until the advent of the printing press in the mid-15th century the only way to copy any document was by hand, and this is where variations have occurred (not that even modern day printing processes are immune from errors, of course).

Following is a brief investigation of this variant in Jude 5. First we’ll assess the external evidence, the task of comparing extant mss with each other, with a focus on date, character and text-type. Then we’ll proceed to the internal evidence – (1) looking at transcriptional probabilities related to scribes, endeavoring to determine the reading most likely original, and (2) assessing the feasibility of the chosen variant’s originality in view of its suitability with the author of Jude’s style, the context, etc.

External Evidence

While there are other textual variations within this same verse (as one can see from the four different translations cited above which vary at points), of more importance theologically is the focus of this current article, namely the main subject of this verse. Following is a brief rundown of the known variants:1

ὁ κύριος (ho kyrios), the Lord (two mss delete the article ὁ)

Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), Jesus (two mss include ὁ)

ὁ θεός (ho Theos), {the} God

θεὸς Χριστός (Theos Christos), God Christ/Messiah, or Christ/Messiah God (which may have been intended as θεοῦ χριστός (Theou Christos), God’s anointed one)

How does the text critic choose? We’ll perform an abbreviated investigation by looking at some of the more important mss. In general, earlier mss are to be preferred over later ones within a given text-type, though their are many other factors too numerous to enumerate for our limited purposes here.

The mss reflecting ὁ κύριος (the Lord) are the most numerous. The large majority of mss evidencing this reading is from what is known as the Byzantine (Byz) text-type, dated 5th century and later, though here none are earlier than the 9th century.2 The relative consistency in this particular text-type, especially later mss, however, may well be attributed to copyists being more careful in their transcriptional habits during the Byzantine era, replicating more faithfully both presumably correct readings and earlier errors. Another characteristic of the Byz is a smoother text grammatically (presumed purposefully amended by scribes, according to some text critics). There are two mss omitting the article (the) in front of κύριος, both of which are of the Alexandrian text-type, the one typically asserted to be superior to the other texts by NT textual critics (rightly or wrongly). One of these is the ms designated (Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), aka Sinaiticus (01), dated to the 4th century (perhaps approx. 325 – 375). The other is Ψ (044) from the 9th c. A reading including ℵ (01) is generally considered to be reliable by many text critics. In addition, there is one extant Syriac version (translation from the Greek) with this reading (7th c.). Overall, this is good, or very good evidence.

The mss with the reading of Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) include A (02), aka Alexandrinus (5th c.), B (03), aka Vaticanus (4th c., perhaps 325 – 375), 33 (9th c.), 1739 (10th c.), 1881 (14th c.). These five are Alexandrian, with B considered by many to be superior to all or most other extant mss.3 Two readings in the Western text-type are extant, though both include the article (88, 12th c.; 915, undated). Importantly, Ἰησοῦς is also included in Coptic versions dated to the 4th – 5th and 9th centuries, and this reading is included in the Latin Vulgate as well. There are also a few early church figures whose works include this reading: Origen, Cyril, Jerome, and Bede.4 This is very good evidence, and arguably stronger than the evidence for κύριος by most standards of TC, in view of its multiple Alexandrian mss support, particularly B (02) and A (01), early versional evidence, and its more diverse geographical distribution.

The other two readings are not well attested and will not be specifically delineated. The θεὸς Χριστός (God Christ) variant is an anomaly, an obvious blunder, extant solely in one ms, while ὁ θεός (God) is found only in a relative few mss, most of which are late.

As stated, on the whole, the mss evidence slightly favors Ἰησοῦς as original. However, it needs to be mentioned that many would find an agreement of the Alexandrian B (03) with (01) by itself fully persuasive (rightly or wrongly), and obviously the two have contradictory readings here. Moreover, there’s a very small minority of NT text critics who place a greater value on the Byz mss than the generally more highly lauded Alexandrine, and with the split readings of Ἰησοῦς and κύριος within the Alexandrian mss, one with this view may well favor ὁ κύριος instead.5

This concludes our brief survey of the external evidence, now we’ll turn to the internal evidence, first investigating how nomina sacra, Latin for sacred names (singular nomen sacrum), may have influenced copyists in our chosen passage.

Internal Evidence: Habits of Scribes

Nomina sacra were used for certain names or epithets such as God, Jesus, Christ, Lord, etc. A typical practice was to take the first letter of the word reflecting the sacred name, pair it with the last letter or the second letter of the word (and sometimes more than two characters were used), and add a straight line over the resulting contractions. This practice began in the early church, adopted when the Greek text was written in majuscule – essentially all capital letters. The text itself was handwritten in block letters with no breaks between words, sentences, or even paragraphs. This would provide a real challenge for the copyist (and the reader)!

However, though NT mss are in evidence with nomina sacra, we’ve no basis to assert with any certitude that the original NT text actually contained these designations. It could be that these iconic contractions were in fact original to the NT text, or it could be that the nomina sacra were introduced by later copyists, perhaps as a way of displaying reverence.

Following are the relevant nomina sacra for our chosen text in Jude 5:

Jesus: Ίησου̃ϛ, ΊΗCΟΥC = Ι͞C

Lord: κύριοϛ, ΚΥΡΙΟC = K͞C

God: θεός, ΘΕΟC = Θ͞C

As Metzger notes, F. J. A. Hort (of Westcott and Hort fame) hypothesized that “the original text had only ὁ (the article, the), and that OTIO was read as OTIΙ͞C and perhaps as OTIK͞C…”6 To explain, ὅτι (OTI) is the Greek word translated that (or because), which precedes the article ὁ (O) in this context, and Hort conjectured that the article was alone in the original text either as a substantive (with the verb σώσας, sosas, from sozo, as in “He who redeems”7), or with the subject assumed given the context (with the referent going back to Jude 4’s κύριοϛ / Ίησου̃ϛ Χριστός8).9 Let’s try to work out Hort’s hypothesis:

• OTIO {OTI | O } (that the) was misread as OTII̅C̅ {OTI | Ι͞C}, with the combination “IO” (the “I” being the last letter of “OTI” in combination with the following “O,” the article) read as “IIC” as a result of dittography – the error of reading an extra character through duplication – in which an extra “I” was placed between “I” and “O” and with the final “O” mistaken for a “C,” resulting in OTI + I + C = OTIIC, transcribed as OTIΙ͞C, thereby erroneously dropping the original O (article) by replacing it with Ι͞C.

• OTIO {OTI | O} was misread as OTIK͞C {OTI | K͞C}, perhaps with the following or similar scenario: the combination “IO” was read with an extra “I” in the middle through dittography (OTIIO) (or a previous copyist had already inadvertently added the “I”) while assuming, in addition, that this second “I” was the vertical portion of a split “K” and the following “O” read as the remainder of this split “K”10 plus a “C” was also added in a second mistake of dittography (OTI + K + C). In other words, OTI + O was read with an extra “I” in the middle resulting in OTI + I + O plus an extra C was added at the end resulting OTI + I + O + C, which was read as OTI + (I+C) + C = OTI + K + C, resulting in OTIKC, and then transcribed as OTIK͞C, thereby erroneously dropping the O (article) by replacing it with K͞C. [WHEW!]

Of the two, the first of these seems more plausible, for it requires a lesser amount of mistakes (the addition of one “I” through dittography while mistaking the article “O” for a “C”). The second appears to require quite a ‘comedy of errors’ in order achieve the result; however, this second scenario could more easily arise from the error of the first, with a subsequent copyist mistaking OTIΙ͞C for OTIK͞C (seeing “IC” as a “K”, then the “C” duplicated through dittography), resulting in a compounding of mistakes.

Of course, the much less complex, and more likely argument could be made that a copyist simply erroneously or purposely substituted the Ι͞C in his exemplar (the ms from which he was copying) for K͞C, or the reverse of K͞C for Ι͞C, whether or not the article (O) was preceding the nomen sacrum. (The O could have been inadvertently added or deleted, or purposely added in any of the variants above – scribes were less likely to purposely delete the article.) This then would more easily account for the variant readings of Ίησου̃ϛ and κύριοϛ. A similar error can account for the reading of θεὸς (Θ͞C), with Θ͞C substituted for either Ι͞C or K͞C (and Θ͞C could feasibly be factored into Hort’s conjecturing above).

As for determining which individual reading is likely original, there are a few tenets in TC such that the text critic should prefer:

(a) the more ‘difficult’ reading
(b) shorter readings over longer ones, except in the case of presumed or obvious intentional or unintentional omission (and, possibly, unless the longer is more difficult)
(c) a verbally dissident reading (one not harmonizing well with other associated text) as compared to a verbally consonant one
(d) the reading which most likely accounts for the arising of the others.

Clearly Ίησου̃ϛ (Ι͞C) is the more difficult reading, i.e., the harder reading from the scribe’s perspective, as the more natural reading would be either κύριοϛ (K͞C) or θεός (Θ͞C). With Ίησου̃ϛ in the text, we have Jesus leading the Exodus – a ‘difficult’ reading, most certainly.

One variant is not demonstrably longer or shorter than another (save the longer θεὸς Χριστός, which is an obvious anomaly), so this tenet does not come into play. We’ve covered some potential omissions and/or additions, but nothing seems to present itself as more obvious than another, including the presence or absence of the article, which is not an uncommon variant in general. Item (c) is much like (a) here, as Jude 5 is, as mentioned just above, an obvious paraphrasing of the Exodus, and Ίησου̃ϛ (Ι͞C) is clearly a verbally dissident reading.

If the difficult reading of Ίησου̃ϛ (Ι͞C) is original, it is easy to conceive of subsequent copyists amending the text to something more ‘probable,’ assuming their exemplar was in error, thereby accounting for κύριοϛ and θεός cropping into the text (and even θεὸς Χριστός). It is much less probable for a scribe to change either κύριοϛ (K͞C) or θεός (Θ͞C) to Ίησου̃ϛ (Ι͞C), because Ίησου̃ϛ (Ι͞C) would be perceived as too difficult, unless it was changed due to a very thoughtless transcriptional error. Therefore, Ίησου̃ϛ is most likely the reading from which the others arose (d).

However, the UBS (United Bible Society) committee – the committee which determines the text of the UBS, the Greek text underlying most modern Bible translations (though translation committees can and do override some selections) – largely felt that Ίησου̃ϛ, though well attested externally, was “difficult to the point of impossibility,” explaining that K͞C must have been misread as Ι͞C.11 But this begs the question: Wouldn’t a scribe most likely have been taken aback by the difficult reading of Ι͞C, and, hence, double-checked his exemplar before placing it into his copy? In fact, two (Bruce Metzger and Alan Wikgren) of the five members dissented from the majority opinion regarding this variant, stating in a bracketed note in the associated commentary:

Critical principles seem to require the adoption of Ίησου̃ϛ, which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional witnesses…Struck by the strange and unparalleled mention of Jesus in a statement about the redemption out of Egypt (yet compare Paul’s use of Χριστός in 1 Cor 10.4), copyists would have substituted (ὁ) κύριος or ὁ θεός12

This lack of agreement among the committee members resulted in a “D” rating given for the variant, meaning “that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision” over which reading should be placed into the text.13

On the other hand, one may argue that it is possible that a scribe had amended a reading to reflect his own theological view. For example, upon seeing K͞C in the text, the scribe could have changed it to Ι͞C in order to promote a higher Christology, perhaps, e.g., due to a then-current heresy denying Jesus Christ’s preexistence. However, it would seem that if a scribe were inclined to take this sort of liberty he may well place the complete Ι͞CΧ͞C (Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Jesus Christ) in the text instead, in order to increase the likelihood that his change would continue on, rather than leaving open the possibility of a future scribal error of confusing Ι͞C for K͞C, thus reverting back to the reading initially found in his exemplar.14 In any case, though this scenario is possible it is not likely, as most text critics have found that deliberate emendations were well-meaning “corrections,” not purposeful distortions to further individual agendas.15 Generally, as noted above, most agree that scribes were not likely to place more difficult readings into the text.

Considering all the mss evidence, particularly scribal transcriptional probabilities, Ἰησοῦς (Ι͞C) is most likely the original reading for Jude 5.

Internal Evidence: Style of Jude and Fittingness to the Context

Now, having concluded that Ίησου̃ϛ is the most probable original reading by analyzing both the external evidence and the internal evidence of the mss, we turn to whether the writer of Jude would have used this admittedly difficult text. We’ll look at the overall context and Jude’s style to make our determination, first looking at the immediate context, going back to verse 4 and its relation to verse 5. However, there’s an important variant in Jude 4 commanding our brief attention, though it is beyond the scope of this article to conduct a full investigation.

Immediate Context

A typical reading in the Byz text in translation in verse 4 is “who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV), with “God” just after the first “Lord.” This first “Lord” is δεσπότηϛ (despotēs) in the Greek, and usually refers to God in the NT, though, importantly, 2 Peter 2:1 applies this to Jesus Christ as Redeemer, and Luke (13:25) puts the very similar οἰκοδεσπότης16 on Jesus’ lips in a parable obviously referring to Himself in a similar fashion. The second “Lord” (kύριοϛ) is the one most usually associated with Jesus in the NT, though it is also used for “God.” There are many extant Alexandrian mss containing this passage, with none evidencing the second “God” (θεός) in the text; in fact, by current TC practices the reading is overwhelmingly decisive (mss include: P78 {3rd to 4th c.} A B C Ψ 33 81 1739 + cop {Coptic}) against the Byz (with the earliest ms from the 9th c.). Most textual critics are of the opinion that the Byz text added “God” to alleviate referring to Jesus by this particular term.

A representative Alexandrian reading is reflected in the ESV: “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Note that in place of two separate Members of the Trinity (or the Trinity and Jesus) in the latter part of this verse as in the NKJV, the ESV associates the two epithets “Master” (δεσπότηϛ) and “Lord” (κύριοϛ) with Jesus Christ instead. The difference, then, is of significance. For our purposes here we’ll adopt the NA28/UBS4 text, as reflected in the ESV and most modern translations.

To add credence to our position that Jude ascribed δεσπότηϛ to Jesus, the term is defined in the BDAG as one who has legal control and authority over persons, such as subjects or slaves.17 Of course, the NT is abounding with references to Christians as slaves, and Jude refers to himself as a slave/servant (δοῦλος, doulos) of Jesus Christ in his introduction, as was common. Bauckham notes that the term “is appropriate to the image of Jesus as the Master of his household of slaves,” citing the 2 Peter and Luke verses above, though also noting that κύριοϛ was more numerously applied to Jesus Christ, having “acquired much broader and more exalted connotations” including possessing the authority for divine judgment.18 Applying both terms to Jesus Christ would provide a powerful means of conveying His divine power and authority as Lord/Master, Redeemer, Keeper, and Judge – all functions the author of Jude applies to Jesus, as we shall see.

With this established as our base text for verse 4, it is plausible, if not probable, that the writer of Jude was carrying over the subject – Jesus Christ – from verse 4 into verse 5. However, in verse 5 the context demands an interpretation such that the subject was present during the Exodus, meaning that placing Ίησου̃ϛ into the text would explicitly assert that the pre-incarnate Jesus was the instrument of the nation Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt. This, of course, would necessarily include the claim of Jesus’ preexistence. Is this really probable in the immediate context and the whole of Jude’s epistle? Let’s investigate further.

Verse 5’s initial subordinate clause “though you already know all this” (NIV) may refer, not just to the Exodus passage, but to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 corresponding to the Exodus passage – or at least the theology behind that passage.19 More specifically, the writer of Jude may have verse 10:4 in mind, “…for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (NIV).

Taking this more broadly, 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 speaks of spiritual food (manna) and spiritual drink (the water from the rock), with this sustenance provided by Christ (cf. John 6 for Jesus Himself as the manna). As Blomberg expounds, “From a Christian perspective, Paul recognizes Christ as the pre-existent Son of God, active with God the Father in creation and redemption, and hence the agent of both physical and spiritual nourishment for his people in the desert (v. 4b).”20 If this is Jude’s referent, then this correlates quite nicely with his greeting to those who “are kept by Jesus Christ”21 (v 1), as well as his closing doxology (vv 24-25) “to him who is able to keep you…through Jesus Christ our Lord” – thus bookending his epistle with an emphasis on Jesus Christ’s power, as agent, to redeem and sustain His people.

Certainly we can see a correlation between Paul’s use of Christ as Sustainer and Jude’s use of Christ as Keeper; but, does Jude expressly proclaim Jesus’ preexistence elsewhere in his epistle? Yes he does. In the doxology, we find Jude explicitly calling God “our Savior” (σωτήρ, sotēr) (v 25) with Jesus Christ the mediator of that salvation (vv 24-25) before all time. Murray J. Harris translates verse 25 as: to the only God, our Savior, is glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, and now, and for ever and ever.22 Harris then adds:

“Glory, majesty, power, and authority” belonged to God through Jesus Christ “before time began”…that is, in eternity past, and these attributes belong to God at present (νῦν) and will do so “to all eternity”…/”for evermore.” This unique eternal mediatorial work of Christ in ascribing all glory, majesty, power, and authority to God implies both his preexistence and his deity.23

We’ve now established how Jude proclaims Jesus’ preexistence elsewhere in his epistle, thereby removing this particular barrier for placing Ίησου̃ϛ into Jude 5; but, if Jesus was ‘merely’ the agent of the Father in the nation Israel’s redemption (as Blomberg asserts above) as well as our own, is Ίησου̃ϛ still too strong for the context of verse 5? In other words, given that Jesus is acting as agent of the Father, is it improper to state that it was Jesus who led the Exodus? No it is not. As an analogy, under US contract law an employee given the authority to sign contracts for the business owner is acting “as agent” for the owner. Any agreement entered into by this employee is legally binding on the owner and third parties to the contract, as long as the employee is acting within the scope of authority given by the owner. The owner’s power and authority has been conferred onto the employee in such instances. Under the eyes of the law, this signor is seen as having the same authority and power as the owner, which is then binding on all parties to the contract. In the same way, Jesus Christ, as agent of the Father, has the same authority and power as the Father and is, in effect, acting as the Father.

Having illustrated that the immediate context does not preclude the use Ίησου̃ϛ in verse 5, and, in fact, can be supported by Jude’s proclamation of Jesus’ preexistence in the doxology, along with a proper understanding of Jesus’ acting “as agent” of the Father, we turn to the larger context and overall style of this epistle.

Overall Context and Style of Jude

A particularly important theme of the book of Jude is judgment, both its positive aspect of redemption, and its negative aspect of destruction. That Jesus would be portrayed as both the Redeemer and the Judge dispensing eternal judgment is consistent with NT theology (cf. Mat 24:30-31; John 5:21-22, 24-25, 27-30; etc.). As noted above, in Jude Jesus Christ is both the Redeemer and the one who keeps the redeemed (vv 1, 24-25), though some are want to rebel against His authority (v 8), mixing in with those He is ‘keeping’ (v 4). Yet Jesus Christ allows, by His mercy, through the vessels of the redeemed (v 22-23), those of these who repent to become part of the fold. This brings us to a very important point in our analysis, which is found in verse 14, for it’s those who yet continue to rebel who will reap eschatological judgment by the eternal Judge.

Jude references the well-known (at that time) pseudepigraphical work known as 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15.24 In verse 14 the text is changed from θεὸς in its source (1 Enoch 1:9) to kύριοϛ, “…the Lord is coming…”25 This is significant, as Jude uses kύριοϛ exclusively for Jesus Christ in his epistle, as opposed to God, meaning that Jude has most likely changed 1 Enoch’s eschatological Judge from a Jewish monotheistic conception of God to Jesus Christ here.26 To see how Jude reserves kύριοϛ for Jesus Christ, observe how he uses this term in conjunction with the full designation of Jesus Christ in verses 4 (along with δεσπότηϛ), 17, 21, and 25, yet in these very same verses Jude references God, but not as kύριοϛ.27 Thus, while in verse 14 kύριοϛ stands alone, almost assuredly Jesus is the intended referent.28 Given the other evidence presented above, such as Jesus being portrayed as eternal Keeper, Redeemer, etc. we’ll adopt the position that Jude’s intention was, in fact, to make this distinction, as this appears the most probable understanding, given the full context of his epistle.

Looking at verses 5 through 19 as a whole, we will see how Jude has masterfully taken OT and extra-biblical references and (re)interpreted them Christologically, i.e., Jude has changed the referent in the original works from God to Jesus Christ.29 First, it’s important to understand that, by the full context of verses 5 through 19, the main subject is Jesus Christ (carried over from verse 4). That is, the subject of verse 5 runs through the intervening context, and that subject is Jesus Christ (see v 17), as confirmed through Jude’s alteration of θεὸς in 1 Enoch to kύριοϛ in Jude 14. And, of course, we’re arguing in the current article that Jude has changed the reference in Exodus from God / the Lord / YHWH to Ίησου̃ϛ in verse 5.30 In verse 9 there is a presumed reference to an apocryphal (non-canonical) book known as The Assumption of Moses, in the words regarding the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil over the body of Moses;31 and it stands to reason that Jude refers to Jesus in verse 9 as well with “The Lord rebuke you!”32 That is, Jude here likely means for us to understand “the Lord” as referencing Jesus, since the overall context of this section strongly implies such an interpretation.33

Having found both the immediate context of Jude 5, and the larger context of Jude’s epistle as a whole, as well as the style of the writer (his altering of “God” in OT and an extra-Biblical text to kύριοϛ, coupled with his exclusive usage of kύριοϛ for Jesus Christ, for example) consistent with a reading of Ίησου̃ϛ for verse 5, there is good reason to accept Ίησου̃ϛ as the original text.

Conclusion

The mss evidence indicates that either Ίησου̃ϛ or kύριοϛ is original to the text of Jude 5, with Ίησου̃ϛ slightly favored. However, by our analysis, employing common principles of TC, the internal evidence of the mss points rather decisively to Ίησου̃ϛ as the original reading. Taking the immediate and larger context of Jude’s epistle, it’s clear that Jesus is the subject of verse 5; hence, we could conclude that Ίησου̃ϛ is most likely the original reading.

On the other hand, Jude also uses kύριοϛ exclusively for Jesus; in fact, as noted above, in four separate contexts the terms kύριοϛ and Ἰησοῦς Χριστός are used together (vv 4, 17, 21, 25), underscoring this. This means that either Ίησου̃ϛ or kύριοϛ would be appropriate in the context. Moreover, kύριοϛ is employed in two other instances as a stand-alone term for Jesus (v 14 assuredly and v 9 presumably). If we accept our conclusion above that Ίησου̃ϛ is original, this would leave only one instance of Jude’s usage of Ίησου̃ϛ as a stand-alone. While this is certainly possible, as one cannot dogmatically assert that Jude could not have done so, the aforementioned can cast a bit of doubt over just which term Jude placed in the text originally.34 Thus, while we’ve argued here for the originality of Ίησου̃ϛ for Jude 5, it seems that others could argue for kύριοϛ, based on different TC practices,35 and on the presumed difficulty of placing Ίησου̃ϛ in the text,36 as evidenced by the split in the UBS committee above.

However, F. F. Bruce puts everything in proper perspective, so we’ll quote him at some length:

…[S]ome authorities read “the Lord”, others “God” and yet others, giving us no name at all, read “he who saved….”…But the principle that the more difficult reading is to be preferred points to “Jesus” as the original, and indeed the variety of other readings can best be explained as substitutions for “Jesus”…It was Moses who led his people out of Egypt, but Moses did so under superior leadership. It was the Lord who “brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their host”, it was the Lord who “went before them”, and it was by the decree of the Lord that the “evil generation” that came out of Egypt died in the wilderness. While Yahweh stands in the Hebrew text, the Greek version used by Jude, as by other New Testament writers, had Kyrios in its place, and for Greek-speaking Christians to whom Jesus was the kyrios or Lord par excellence it was an easy matter to understand Kyrios in the Greek Old Testament to refer to Him…37

Ίησου̃ϛ IS the Kύριοϛ and the Kύριοϛ IS Ίησου̃ϛ! Also, in the relevant Exodus passages, the original Hebrew alternated between Elohim and YHWH, with the LXX (Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT) alternating between Kύριοϛ and θεὸς θεὸς and Kύριοϛ; therefore, it could well be that Jude used Ίησου̃ϛ in order to alleviate any ambiguity that kύριοϛ may have caused, especially among his Jewish readers and congregants.

In conclusion, had the UBS committee been consistent in employing its own tenets of TC, their “great difficulty in arriving at a decision” would have been alleviated, and Ίησου̃ϛ would have been firmly placed into the text.38

- “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 / Mark 12:29)

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1 The information here is, as is most of the technical information contained in this article, culled from Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008); Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994); B. Aland, K. Aland, J. Karavidopoulos, et. al. eds. The Greek New Testament, 4th rev. ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), 2004), hereafter UBS4; and Eberhard and Erwin Nestle Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th rev. ed., B. Aland, K. Aland, J. Karavidopoulos, et. al. eds. (Münster: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), 2012), hereafter NA28.
Information of a more general nature relies in part on J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995) and idem. The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008).
2 This includes the uncials (majuscules) K (018) and L (020), both dated 9th c., mss identified specifically in the UBS4 but not listed in the NA28. Majuscules were eventually superseded by miniscules – scripted, lower-case writing. Majuscules (uncials) are weighted more heavily than miniscules in TC due to their earlier provenance. It’s important to note that about 80% of the Byz text mss are miniscules dated later than the 11th century, of course, well after – over 1000 years after – the initial transmission of the NT documents. This 80% figure is found in Maurice A. Robinson, “Rule 9, Isolated Variants, and the ‘Test Tube’ Nature of NA27/UBS4 Text: A Byzantine-Priority Perspective,” in Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology, Stanley E. Porter and Mark J. Boda, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), p 57 n 102.
3 An example of this preference may be found in what seems to be a general rather than specific statement, at least with respect to the Gospels, by Barbara Aland (“The Text of Luke 16” in Translating the New Testament): “…the Byzantine text is…a good old text, but it has a number of bad readings and we have to eliminate them and then the text is a good old text. That means that if the Byzantine text agrees with P75 and Vaticanus, then it’s a trustworthy witness. That’s my position” (p 93). Of course, P75 does not include our selection in Jude, or anything in this epistle, as it contains solely portions of the Gospels.
4 Though one must be careful not to put too much weight on patristic sources, since all extant mss are themselves copies of copies. In addition, we do not know if the patristic writer had an actual NT Greek mss in front of him, or if he was quoting from memory (correctly or not), loosely translating, paraphrasing, etc. Moreover, it’s more probable (as compared to NT scribes) that copyists of patristic exemplars made changes to the documents in Scriptural passages, conforming them to the individual copyist’s perspective of what the NT text should be. In short, until the patristic sources themselves have been submitted to the tenets of TC, they should only be used for NT TC with an appropriate amount of caution. See Greenlee Introduction, pp 46-47; cf. idem. Text of the New Testament, pp 34-35. However, the UBS4 claims to have been careful in this area, including only those fulfilling qualifying criteria: “…The citation must be capable of verification…” and it “must relate clearly to a specific passage in the New Testament…” (p 30*). Cf. pp 30* – 38*.
5 The most notable text critic adhering to this position is Maurice A. Robinson, who would certainly assert that the evidence for ὁ κύριοϛ is stronger. Robinson goes so far as to argue for Byzantine priority, i.e., that the Byz is superior to the Alexandrine, with the Byz more likely closer to the original text. See Robinson, “The Case for Byzantine Priority” in Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, David Alan Black, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), pp 125-139; idem. “Rule 9, Isolated Variants, and the ‘Test Tube’ Nature of NA27/UBS4 Text,” pp 27-61.
6 Metzger, TCGNT, p 657. Parenthetical remark added for clarity. For one example of a position against such conjecturing, specifically addressing Matthew but which can be applied more broadly, see David Alan Black, “Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew,” Novum Testamentum XXXI (1989), pp 1-15.
7 Here the article takes on a pronoun function. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pp 231, 233-234. Cf. David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek To Me (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), pp 76-79, esp. 79, item 8; Wallace, GGBTB, pp 211-213.
8 One such example of NT usage of an article with the subject assumed anaphorically (from a previous reference) is in Matthew 24, verses 17 and 18, in which the referent is verse 16’s οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ (those who are in Judea, more literally, the ones in (the) Judea). In addition, all three (vv 16, 17, & 18) are examples of nominalizing prepositional phrases; see Wallace, GGBTB, p 236. Many thanks are due to Jacob Cerone, Dr. David Alan Black’s assistant, for finding this.
9 Ironically, Hort’s conjecture here militates against his own assertion (with Westcott) that the Alexandrian text is the “Neutral text” (a position that is claimed to have been abandoned by modern text critics), given that the article is missing in all the Alexandrian witnesses above.
10 See the following for an example of a ‘split K’ (ms X, aka 033, 10th c.) – this will take a long time (10± minutes) to download, as the file is very large: http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_033/GA_033.pdf
Scroll to page 7, to find the English cursive handwriting “Joh. Cp. 1″. To the left of that English is John 1:1 written in majuscule (uncial) – though most of the accompanying text is in miniscule. In this first line (and also the second) of John 1 is “KAI” (and, in this context) with a disconnected “K” (there is a dot just before this split “K”), appearing like “IC” instead. The line reads:
ΕΝΑΡΧΗΗΝΟΛΟΓΟCΚΑΙΟΛΟΓΟCHN
which, separated into words is:
ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ΗΝ Ο ΛΟΓΟC ΚΑΙ Ο ΛΟΓΟC HN
Transliterated:
en archē ēn ho logos kai ho logos ēn
Translated:
In (the) beginning was the Word and the Word was
In addition, the second line illustrates examples of nomina sacra for θεὸς: Θ͞N (θεόν, the accusative / direct object case) and Θ͞C (the nominative / subject case).
11 Metzger, TCGNT, p 657
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid, p 14*. It should be noted that in the first edition of TCGNT (London/New York: United Bible Societies, 1971 (corrected ed. 1975)) the D rating is the stronger: “that there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text” (p xxviii). While this rating system had changed from the first to the second edition, the commentary itself regarding Jude 5 (and others) is identical.
14 Note the θεὸς Χριστός variant above, plus there is one ms which reads κύριος Ἰησοῦς, though this is likely an amalgamation of the two prominent readings.
15 Bauckham (Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter: Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1983), p 43) opines that a 2nd century scribe could have changed κύριοϛ to Ίησου̃ϛ because of a then-present prevalent Jesus/Joshua typology, with the scribe presumably assuming his exemplar contained a mistake.
16 The term δεσπότηϛ is prefixed by οἰκοϛ (“house”/”dwelling”) here. Early 3rd c. ms p75 reads δεσπότηϛ instead in the Luke passage. See Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, p 39. This variant is not annotated in the UBS4 or the Comfort, but only in the NA28. Matthew 10:25 uses οἰκοδεσπότης similarly, with Jesus applying the term somewhat obliquely to Himself.
17 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (rev. and ed. F. W. Danker; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2000), (3rd ed.), based on W. Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch (6th ed.) and on previous English editions by W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker, p 220. Commonly known as “BDAG.”
18 Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, p 39.
19 Though Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church was specific to the church at Corinth, it seems possible that the letter was circulated; but, even if not, it’s entirely plausible that Paul’s teaching on this matter was known to Jude and his audience. Part of this may hinge on how one views the relationship of Jude to 2 Peter, as Peter makes specific mention of Paul’s letters in 2 Peter 3:15-16, though it’s unclear to which letters (all?) Peter refers. However, accepting that all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16 – though the specific context here may strictly be OT, certainly this can be applied more broadly to the NT), we cannot discount the Holy Spirit’s role in Jude’s epistle.
F. F. Bruce (The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004, © 1968 Paternoster; formerly This Is That), pp 34-36) recognizes Ίησου̃ϛ as being original to Jude 5; yet, while understanding the importance of these verses in 1 Corinthians 10 as applying to Jesus Christ’s preexistence, he does not explicitly relate Jude 5 to the Corinthian passage directly, though this can be inferred from the context.  However, in another work of Bruce (1 and 2 Corinthians: The New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990, © 1971 Marshall, Morgan & Scott), p 91), he comes closer yet, explaining that the Hebrew (not LXX) has YHWH as ‘The Rock,’ with Christ identified as such in 1 Cor 10:4, and “if not indeed with ‘the Lord’ (LXX kyrios) who went before his people, rescued them from their enemies and healed them in the wilderness…” (p 91).
20 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary, Terry Muck, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), pp 191-92. Cf. Gordon D. Fee (The First Epistle to the Corinthians: NICNT, Ned. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, & idem., gen. eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), pp 443-451.
21 The perfect participle τετηρημένοις (kept) indicates a continuous keeping, being kept. The NIV 1984 interprets this as a dative of agency (by Jesus Christ); however, the NIV 2011 changes it to a dative of advantage (for Jesus Christ, i.e., for the advantage of “those who have been called”), with the dative of agency interpretation relegated to a footnote (along with the possible interpretation as a dative of instrumentality (in)), thereby corresponding to the general consensus among translators/translations; cf. Daniel B. Wallace, GGBTB, pp 144, 165; Peter H. Davids, II Peter and Jude: A Handbook on the Greek Text, (Waco, TX: Baylor Univ. Pr., 2011), pp 1, 2. However, the interpretation as a dative of agency (which is closely related to instrumentality) in v 1 (Wallace recognizes this possibility) seems to correspond better with διὰ (through) in v 25: “to him who is able to keep you…through Jesus Christ our Lord…”
22 Murray J. Harris, Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), p 96. Emphasis added.
23 Ibid, p 97. Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter, pp 123-124) is more tentative, viewing the context, as with doxologies in general, as possibly, if not likely, “deliberately ambiguous” in this regard.
24 The Pseudepigrapha is a collection of individual works circa 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD, with each falsely attributed to various important Biblical figures. The work 1 Enoch is also known as “the Book of Enoch,” but there are two other pseudepigraphical works attributed to Enoch, hence, they are differentiated thusly: 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, and 3 Enoch. 1 Enoch is the one with which most are familiar, and the one Jude is referencing here.
25 See Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter), p 94. Verification of the Greek text (θεὸς as opposed to κύριος) for 1 Enoch sourced from Accordance software (Version 5.2), Pseudepigrapha Tagged: The Greek Pseudepigrapha (PSEUD-T), © 2013 by OakTree Software, Inc. (Electronic text entered by Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia CANADA; Morphologically tagged by Rex A. Koivisto, Multnomah University, Portland, Oregon USA with the assistance of Marco V. Fabbri, Pontificia Università della S. Croce, Rome, Italy (Sibyllines tagged by Marco V. Fabbri; 3 and 4 Maccabees entered and tagged by Rex A. Koivisto).
26 Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter) notes that this is “probably…a Christological interpretation” (p 94).
27 Credit for this insight must be given to Risto Saarinen, The Pastoral Epistles with Philemon & Jude (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos/Baker, 2008), p 218. Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter) is more tentative here noting that the evidence “may not be sufficient” (p 49).
28 See Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter), pp 94, 96-97.
29 Cf. ibid, pp 3-8.
30 Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter) agrees that the reference is to Jesus Christ, but only in a typological sense, as in the Lord Jesus will be the future Judge of the apostates (p 49). Therefore, his opinion is that the text should be κύριος instead because “it is not likely that Jude would have used Ίησου̃ϛ of the preexistent Christ” because “…other NT examples…have the Incarnation directly in view” (p 43); yet Bauckham cites only strictly incarnational Scriptures which specify Ίησου̃ϛ (2 Cor 8:9; Philippians 2:5-6) as opposed to Χριστός, thereby omitting 1 Cor 10:4. Reading between the lines, it seems Bauckham may be less reluctant if the choices were between Χριστός and kύριοϛ instead. However, see F. F. Bruce, New Testament Development, pp 35-36. Also see Murray J. Harris’ exegesis and exposition of the doxology above for an understanding of Jesus Christ as preexistent, as well as our mediator during the entire temporal realm. Though see also note 23 above.
31 Michael Green (2 Peter & Jude (Tyndale New Testament Commentary, gen. ed. Leon Morris: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 1987), pp 57, 183-184) is sure of the reference, noting it is “openly asserted by Origen, Clement and Didymus” (p 57). However, there are no extant mss of the text, though parts may exist as fragments. Some think this text was conflated or made into a recension with the pseudepigraphical Testament of Moses (see Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, pp 7, 59-64). Cf. J. Priest “Testament of Moses,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments (ed. James H. Charlesworth, New York: Anchor Bible/Doubleday, 1983), pp 924-925. Also, of great assistance is Steve Delamarter A Scripture Index to Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (New York: Sheffield, 2002), p 47. Delamarter’s work is a cross-reference for all quotes and allusions from the works contained in Charlesworth’s two-volume set to Biblical texts.
32 It is reasonable to assume that the original author of the extra-biblical work The Assumption of Moses had Elohim or YHWH in mind, just as in I Enoch. The words “The Lord rebuke you!” are then apparently appropriated from Zechariah 3:2 in The Assumption of Moses, with Jude, in turn, re-appropriating them in yet another way. However, it must be understood that Jude’s other purpose here, which could well be his main purpose (vv 8-9), is to illustrate that even Michael appealed to the higher authority of the Lord, as opposed to the apostates who “slander celestial beings” on their own authority.
33 Saarinen (Pastoral Epistles, p 215) seems to affirm this, but the context is ambiguous; Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter) is clearer, stating “it is probable that Jude interpreted the term as a reference to Jesus…” (pp 62, cf. 49).
34 There is also the matter of Hort’s conjecture that the original text merely contained the article, ὁ, with neither Ίησου̃ϛ nor kύριοϛ following, with the subject either substantivized (“He who redeemed”), or assumed from earlier usage (see notes 7 and 8 above). However, this is doubtful, as this would allow too much ambiguity (was it YHWH from Exodus, or is the referent from verse 4?). This is especially so given that Jude purposely changed the OT and an extra-Biblical reference of God to kύριοϛ or Ίησου̃ϛ instead. However, that aside, my personal position is that such conjecturing as Hort’s, being arguments from silence, should never be undertaken, for it can lead to a lack of confidence in any and all Scripture. In TC we must always take the extant evidence and work from there.
35 See H. A. G. Houghton, preprint version of “Recent Developments in New Testament Textual Criticism” (Early Christianity 2.2 (2011)), pp 1-10. There are a number of different methods mentioned including the “Coherence Based Genealogical Method (CBGM).” Tommy Wasserman’s monograph on Jude is noted (The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission (ConBNT 43: Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2006) which is a continuous text of all the known variants in Jude’s epistle, providing an “interesting comparison with the ECM (Editio Critica Maior),” with the ECM purporting to contain a “fuller critical apparatus than any previous editions” (p 7).
36 However, see notes 21, 22, and 29 above and the associated texts.
37 F. F. Bruce, New Testament Development, pp 35-36. Italics in original, bold added for emphasis.
38 While the NA27 had text identical with the UBS4 (together known as “NU” for shorthand), the NA28 includes the reading of Ίησου̃ϛ, while the UBS4 contains kύριοϛ. It seems likely that the forthcoming UBS5 will conform to the NA28, to include amending this particular variant.

Panentheism and the Trinity

Panentheism is an English word derived from Greek roots: pan = “all”, en = “in”, the, from theos = “God”.  This is in distinction from pantheism, meaning “all God”, or “all is God”.  Before more fully defining panentheism, we’ll briefly review the Christian Trinity in order to compare and contrast.

The Trinity from an Historically Orthodox Christian Perspective

The Christian God, known as the Trinity, is a tri-unity consisting of God the Father, God the Son (Christ, the Word), and God the Holy Spirit. Each Member of the Trinity is co-essential (united in essence/being) and co-equal with the others.  God is spirit, i.e., incorporeal, having no physical body.  There are a number of divine attributes associated with the Godhead, including omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.  Christian philosopher Thomas V. Morris explains the interrelationship between these three attributes with respect to His creation:

Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of [omniscience] and power over [omnipotence] any and every spatially located object [creation].1

God is immanent, i.e., present in/among His creation (as opposed to within, immersed inside its substance, though indwelling true Christians, of course), by virtue of His omnipresence.  He is infinitely aware of even the tiniest details concerning the universe – which the Godhead created out of nothing (ex nihilo) – and, due to the Word’s continuous sustaining activity holding it together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), “He keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos,”2 to borrow H.C.G. Moule’s memorable phrase.

The ultimate display of God’s immanence is when the Son humbled Himself by taking on human form in the Person of Jesus Christ (Immanuel – God with us), retaining full divinity in becoming fully human, and then dying in our place, in His plan of redemption.  What a God we serve!

Yet, God is also transcendent, wholly outside His creation, as the Trinity is not affected in any way by the cosmos (creation).  In no way does it act upon Him.  God is self-existent, self-sufficient, immutable (unchanging), and eternal, existing outside time, yet acting within it (immanence).  An inherent aspect of creation, time is His own construct.  As such, the Godhead Lord’s over it, thereby fulfilling time, according to His purposes.  God has been present and active throughout the entire history of humanity, is currently active in human affairs, and will continue to be actively governing humanity, though allowing free will.

While imprisoned by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed a different understanding of transcendence. He contended that Jesus’ “being for others” is the true meaning of transcendence, suggesting that we not think of immanence and transcendence as opposites.3  Thus, in Jesus’ dying on the Cross for the sins of mankind – because God “so loved the world”, thereby providing eternal life for those who believe in Him – the ultimate display of God’s immanence climaxes in the supreme act of ‘transcendence’.

Recognizing the beautiful, poetic force of Bonhoeffer’s words, yet still we understand that God truly is transcendent – so wholly other than His creation – yet God is also immanent, fully active in/among His creation. He is the Potter; we are the clay.

The Christian Trinity is a divine mystery.  Attempts to fully explain the mystery of God’s three-in-one-ness can lead to heretical conclusions such as tritheism (three Gods), modalism (one God in three different modes, one at a time), or other distortions.4

Panentheism Defined in ‘Christian Esotericism’

While there are a number of different views of panentheism in the various and varying religious systems in the world, there are some consistencies in the doctrine with respect to how it relates to the Christian Trinity and Jesus Christ in esoteric literature.  In Richard Smoley’s book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition is a general view of the doctrine of panentheism as it pertains to ‘Christian esotericism’:

…The Father is the ineffable, transcendent aspect of God; the Son is God’s immanent aspect. This divine spark or Logos is the first sounding-forth of existence from the depths of infinity: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). [Jesus] Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God.

So are we. “Without him was not any thing made that was made.” Nothing comes into existence unless this divine spark of consciousness, no matter how faint or dim, lies at its center. This was true of Jesus, it is true of me, and it is true of you…We may not be as exalted as Christ…But at the core we are the same.5

This is obviously a purposeful distortion of the true Christian Trinity, with its use of similar terminology.  Note the two separate aspects of ‘God’: the transcendent, which is the ineffable (inexpressible) “Father”, and the immanent (within all creation) aspect, which is the “Son”.  While the way in which this immanence is described is not at all congruent with the Christian Trinity, importantly, transcendence is described in such a manner that it more closely approximates the true Trinity (though see below), marking this as one of the keys in making the doctrine appear ‘Christian’.  This “immanence” is alternatively called divine seed, divine spark, divine (spark of) light, logos, or Christ.  So, the Son/Christ is a divine entity, and this divine entity is diffused throughout creation as a seed / spark / light.

This view of panentheism is such that all is in God (the transcendent Father is wholly outside, enveloping all of creation), and God is in all (the Son/Christ is immersed within all of creation), yet God is not present among creation.6 

In the quote above, observe that, by implication, the two separate aspects are indeed separate.  The Father is not immanent, and the Son is not transcendent.  This indicates that the Father is not omnipresent, as he is not present at all in creation.  On the other hand, the Son is divided up within creation, with each spark, seed, etc. separated from all other sparks or seeds by its outer matter (body, sheath), making omnipresence a bit murky at best, as the seeds / sparks seem individually disunified, though all parts of a whole; however, without an explicit claim of the Son being also among creation, omnipresence is implicitly denied.

It appears as if the Father has absolutely no access to and no power over creation, while the Son is confined within creation, with neither Father nor Son seemingly possessing the ability to interact with the other.  But not to worry, the “Holy Spirit”, a “divine principle”, acts as an intermediary between the two:

How do these two, the Father and the Son, interact with each other?  What enables them to have any connection at all, while still in some way remaining distinct?  There is…a principle that makes this interaction possible.  It is called the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit.

Here, in essence, is the Christian Trinity…Between them [Father and Son] is the Holy Spirit, the divine principle of relatedness, which accomplishes perhaps the most astonishing of all miracles: uniting two separate entities while still allowing them to be separate.7

This implies that the “Holy Spirit” is omnipresent.  However, besides the problems with this doctrine already noted above, from an historically orthodox Christian perspective, this devolves into tritheism (three gods) as opposed to a Trinity, despite its claim of Trinitarianism – that is, assuming that one can even term a “divine principle” a god. 

In addition, notice in the first Smoley quote above that Jesus Himself is called Christ (“Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God”), rather than merely, for example, Jesus of Nazareth, as some cults claim.  Smoley quotes from A Course in Miracles to describe Him:

The name of Jesus is the name of the one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.  So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God.8

This statement identifies this doctrine as explicitly antichrist per the Apostle John’s words in his first epistle (1 John 2:22, 4:1-3), as it separates Christ from Jesus.  Smoley  then goes on to quote the “Jesus” of the Course as saying all can do what He did, describing Him as an exemplar, making the impossible (the distance is too great between us and the Father) into possibility.9  By this he means that the man Jesus became “at one” with God, thereby bridging the gap and becoming an example for others, claiming that all are Christs, at least potentially.10

Of course, according to Christian orthodoxy, Jesus Christ, as the God-man (fully God and fully man), is the intermediary between mankind and God through His redemptive work on the Cross.  One’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as our sin substitute, thereby reconciling the individual back to God through His remission of our sins, is the only way to salvation.  However, Smoley depicts Jesus as merely a man who subsequently attained divine status, becoming a model for others to follow to actualize their own ‘latent divinity’, becoming gods.

Far too many (laypersons and theologians alike) make statements to the effect that Jesus was reliant upon God during His earthly ministry, stressing His humanity at the expense of His Deity.  We must always recognize that Jesus Christ was/is God Himself, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity, as God in the flesh.  Of course, there are times in Scripture in which Jesus’ humanity is emphasized (growing tired, hungry, etc.), perhaps the most striking example of which is when He is on the Cross crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Yet these must be balanced out by those occasions Jesus declares His own Deity (“I am” – John 8:58; “I and the Father are one” – John 10:30, John 14:9, etc.). To be clear, as the Incarnate God-man, Immanuel (God with us), Jesus Christ submitted, in obedience, to the Father; however, as the second Member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ was/is co-equal with the Father (and the Holy Spirit), and in no way subordinate.  Such is the mystery of the Incarnation!

Now that we have a general view of panentheism in ‘Christian esotericism’ (though also looking at one particular part of A Course in Miracles in the process), we’ll take a look at one specific view.  The false trinity in Theosophy will be discussed – the school of esotericism founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875 and perhaps better known as associated with Alice A. Bailey in the twentieth century, forming the basis of much of the New Age / New Spirituality of today.

The Panentheistic Trinity in Theosophy

Before proceeding, the goal of this section is not to educate the reader on a specific occult teaching as an end in itself.  The intent is to make the reader aware of how the Christian Trinity is perverted such that a Christian could be fooled into thinking another individual is a true Christian when similar terminology and concepts are used, or worse, the Christian could be duped into following this dangerous doctrine.

Without getting bogged down into too much detail regarding the rather complicated Theosophical schema, illustrated graphically in one of Bailey’s books,11 an attempt at explaining and simplifying it will be made, though the following may not be absolutely accurate due to the convoluted nature of it.

There are two separate “trinities”: the “Solar Logos” (The Solar Trinity or Logoi [plural of Logos]) and “Sanat Kumara”.  The Solar Logos is made up of “the Father”, “the Son”, and “the Holy Spirit”.  The Father constitutes the transcendent aspect, the “Absolute Reality”, also referred to as the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID – the all is in ‘God’ aspect.12  The Son is “Life, the Spirit of the Universe”, constituting the immanent aspect, the ‘god’ immersed within creation – the ‘God’ is in all aspect.  The Holy Spirit is “Cosmic Ideation, the Universal World-Soul”,13 and “Creative Wisdom”,14 which makes the Holy Spirit the communicator, the one bringing revelation, and, in effect, seemingly omnipresent, though this is not explicit.

The “Planetary Hierarchy” is headed by Sanat Kumara, the Lord of the World, aka Ancient of Days, the One Initiator,15 the Hierophant16 – clearly all names for Satan (taking into account their respective contexts in Theosophic literature), though some were reappropriated from Scripture.  Sanat Kumara (the name is taken from ancient Hindu philosophy) fashions himself as a trinity, with three separate “Kumaras” emanating from him (the “Buddhas of Activity”), one of which is the Bodhisattva, aka the Christ (not Jesus), the World Teacher.17  But, there are also lesser ‘deities’ in the Planetary Hierarchy, many of whom were, according to this doctrine, former humans who evolved into godhood (“Ascended Masters”), which thereby reduces Theosophy to polytheism (many gods).

Yet in analyzing this schema it becomes obvious that Satan is cleverly presenting himself as both Sanat Kumara and the Solar Logos, with the Solar Trinity/Logos merely a ruse in order to purposely approximate, yet distort the Christian Trinity.18  Evidence of this is found in that the “Lord of the World” is also called, “the God in whom we live and move and have our being.”19  Further support of this collapsing of the two trinities into one is found in a work by H. P. Blavatsky in which the “Serpent” in the Garden of Eden is equated to the “Lord God”,20 and later in this same book, Logos is termed “WISDOM”, which is then equated to both Satan and Lucifer.21

By their functions in portions of the texts, both the transcendent and immanent aspects overlap somewhat, such that when taken together these resemble the Christian Trinity in certain ways, though clearly the graphic indicates something entirely different.  In other words, though the illustration pictures a totally different ‘god’ (or ‘gods’), when described elsewhere in sections of the texts apart from the graphic, one could understand it as not inconsistent with the Christian Trinity with the overlapping functions and the similar terminology.  Though no Christian would likely be fooled into thinking any of the Theosophic texts were remotely Christian when read in complete context (if one doesn’t get lost in the confusing nature of it), the stated goal is to subvert Christianity from the inside by readapting this material into Christian contexts,22 as Bailey remarked in another work, “Christianity will not be superseded.  It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished….”23  This demonic threat should not be taken lightly.

Like second century Gnosticism, there is a Dualism, a dichotomy between spirit and matter (creation).  Matter is the “not-self”, as opposed to the soul/spirit, which is the “self”.  However, this does not mean that matter has no function.  It’s not quite the ‘evil’ of second century Gnosticism, for “matter, being inspired by spirit, conforms”,24 providing the means (the vehicle) by which spirit can evolve:

…The development of spirit can be only expressed as yet in terms of the evolution of matter, and only through the adequacy of the vehicle, and through the suitability of the sheath, the body or form, can the point of spiritual development reached in any way be appraised…25

In other words, the outer body will improve concurrent with spiritual progression, or so it’s claimed.  The human is made up of soul/spirit, mind and body.  However, once “perfected consciousness”26 is attained, the body is destroyed, annihilated27 marking the “escape of Spirit, plus mind, to its cosmic centre”28 – the cosmic center being the transcendent aspect of this version of panentheism.  So the formerly ‘trapped’ (inside the “not self”) essence of the particular individual (the “self”), as part of the immanent aspect, is now united to the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID, the transcendent aspect.29

Spiritual progression is  accomplished through meditation,30 in other words, contemplative or centering prayer.31  The method is described as emptying one’s mind, yet controlling thought, requiring full concentration:

The true meditation is something that requires the most intense application of the mind, the utmost control of thought, and an attitude which is neither negative nor positive, but an equal balance between the two.  In the Eastern Scriptures the man who is attempting meditation and achieving results, is described as follows… ‘The Maha Yogi, the great ascetic, in whom is centred the highest perfection of austere penance and abstract meditation, by which the most unlimited powers are attained, marvels and miracles are worked, the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great Spirit of the universe is eventually attained.32

When one reaches “perfected consciousness” through meditation, one has achieved “union with the great Spirit of the universe”.  Along the way, as one ‘grows spiritually’, one will receive supernatural powers to include the ability to work miracles, or so goes the claim.  The exact method of approach to meditation is left to the individual:

True meditation (of which the preliminary stages are concentration upon and application to any particular line of thought) will differ for different people and different types.  The religious man, the mystic, will centre his attention upon the life within the form, upon God, upon Christ, or upon that which embodies for him the idealWe need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation.33

Ultimately, the panentheistic god (Satan) of Theosophy is dependent upon mankind, for “humanity itself is the key to all evolutionary processes and to all understanding of the divine Plan, expressing in time and space the divine Purpose.”34  This “divine Plan”, aka “divine Purpose” is anything but divine!  “The Plan” includes receiving extra-biblical revelation from “Masters”, former humans (or so it’s claimed) who have attained godhood.  And this extra-biblical revelation resulting from meditation (centering prayer, contemplative prayer, “soaking”), in turn, brings one into union with the divine, meaning the attainment of self-divinity.  In reality, this leads to bondage or outright possession.35

And last, but certainly not least, as earlier hinted, Jesus is depicted as merely a man, though a very good man.  Because Jesus was deemed worthy, He had the Christ spirit (part of the “trinity” of Sanat Kumara) descend upon Him, thereby manifesting the Theosophical Christ, eventually attaining His own divinity (becoming “Master Jesus”), and providing a model for the rest of humanity to follow.  Of course, as noted earlier, this is antichrist doctrine.

Is Your Teacher or Church Promoting Panentheism?

Armed with the above information, we can determine if our favorite teachers, including those at the church we attend, are promoting panentheism, rather than a Christian orthodox understanding of the Trinity.  Answering any of the following questions (not an exhaustive list) in the affirmative is not absolute proof the doctrine is being taught, but at the least should provide food for thought, and, hopefully, a desire to seek more information:

1)      Is there an emphasis on “going inside yourself”, centering prayer (aka contemplative prayer), “soaking”, seeking the “manifest presence of God”, etc.?

2)      Is Jesus Christ diminished in some way, i.e., is Jesus described as being somehow less than fully God.  Is he humanized at the expense of His Deity?  Is it claimed that He was totally reliant upon the Spirit (or God) for all supernatural workings?

3)      Is Jesus described in an overly personal manner, such that He’s discussed as one would a family  member rather than One Who is so far above us, worthy of our worship, our Savior and Lord?

4)      Is there a focus on receiving extra-biblical revelation for human direction?  Is this revelation superior to Scripture?  Is this revelation integral to ‘spiritual growth’?

5)      Is God presented as One who is dependent upon humanity, as practically helpless in creation without our assistance?  Is mankind depicted as integral to God’s plans, such that our importance is overemphasized?  Is humanity spoken of in equivalent, or near-equivalent terms as the Godhead?

The panentheistic trinity in ‘Christian esotericism’ is certainly quite different from the Christian Trinity; however, there are enough similarities that the unsuspecting seeker or Christian may not notice a difference at first, or even at all.  This potential is especially possible with the increasing Biblical illiteracy rampant in, and quite frankly, promoted by some churches.  Without at least somewhat of an understanding of the Christian Trinity, the possibility of individuals falling for a false view of the Trinity – and potentially led astray – is a real threat indeed.

 

1 Thomas V. Morris The Logic of God Incarnate, 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK, p 91.  Bracketed comments added.
2 H.C.G. Moule Colossians Studies, 1898, Doran, London, p 78, as cited in David E. Garland (Terry Muck, Gen. Ed.) Colossians and Philemon: The NIV Application Commentary, 1998, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p 89.
3 Bonhoeffer quote and ideology from Widerstand und Ergebung: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft, new ed., Ed. Eberhard Bethge, 1977, Chr. Kaiser, Munich, translated by John F. Hoffmeyer “Christology and Diakonia” in Andreas Schuele and Gunter Thomas, Eds., Who is Jesus Christ for us Today?, 2009, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY, p 161
4 See Alister McGrath Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. © 2009, HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, pp 30-31.
5 Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, 2002, Shambhala, Boston, MA, pp 134-135; all emphasis added.   Cf. p 103: “…the immanent aspect of God [is] the part of the divine nature that is active and present in the world…But there is something beyond the Word.  It is the silent vastness out of which everything, even the Word arises.  It neither exists nor does not exist…It is the transcendent aspect of God.  Meister Eckhart spoke of it as the ‘Godhead’; the Kabbalists call it the Ain Sof (which is Hebrew for the ‘infinite’) or the ‘Ancient of Days.’  In esoteric Christianity it is the Father.”  This seems to imply that “the Father” is superior to all else (see note 25 below).
6 Some panentheistic systems seem to imply that the immanent aspect and the matter surrounding it (body, shell) are ontologically equivalent (or almost equivalent), which would amount to pantheism (all is god); however, this immanent aspect is also usually viewed as inferior to the transcendent (see note 5 above), resulting in the conclusion that the immanent ‘god’ has lower status than the transcendent ‘god’, thus devolving into ditheism (two gods), or even polytheism (many gods), depending on the specifics.
7 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 103-104; emphasis added.
8 Quoted in Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135; from  Helen Schucman A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume, 1992 (2nd ed), Foundation for Inner Peace, Glen Ellen, CA, Teachers Manual, p 87; italics in original, other emphasis added.
9 Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135
10 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 135-136
11 Alice A. Bailey Initiation, Human and Solar, © 1951 Lucis, NY, (4th paperback ed, 1980), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 48-49
12There is one Boundless Immutable Principle; one Absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested conditioned Being.  It is beyond the range and reach of any human thought or expression. The manifested Universe is contained within this Absolute Reality and is a conditioned symbol of it” [Alice A. Bailey A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, © 1951 Lucis Trust (1925, 4th ed 1951), Lucis Publishing Company, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 3; italics in original, other emphasis added].  The Son and Holy Spirit also appear to be a part of the “Absolute Reality”, thus overlapping roles, as described below.  Cf. Bailey Initiation, pp 19, 150, 162; Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp  148-149, 292, 511, 1161, 1230, 1242.
13 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 3
14 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 94
15 Bailey Initiation, pp 28-29, 48-49
16 Bailey Initiation, p 161.  Here “the Hierophant” is equated with “the Lord of the World”.
17 Bailey Initiation, pp 48-49.  In ancient Hindu philosophy, in the Chandogya Upanishad, is one “Sanatkumara”. Much of Theosophy is appropriated from Hinduism.
18 The way in which the graph depicts “Sanat Kumara”, it is clear that these “Three Kumaras” correspond to the same identical three separate “Aspects” of each member of the “Solar Trinity”, thus amounting to the two “trinities” collapsing into one, though the intent is seemingly to make it appear as though one is subordinate to the other.  We must not be unaware of Satan’s schemes.
19 Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 551
20 Helena P. Blavatsky The Secret Doctrine, Vol II: Anthropogenesis, 1888 (1977 Facsimile edition), Theosophical Publishing/University Press, Pasadena, CA, p 215
21 Blavatsky Secret Doctrine II, p 230; cf. pp 231, 233-237
22 “ …[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving lifeEventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: the false Christ] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle [ED: in a “mass incarnation”], the true second Coming, has been accomplished…
“The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplishedThe church must show a wide tolerance…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance [ED: occult/esoteric meaning]The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated [Bailey Externalisation, pp 510-511; emphasis added].
23 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 20.  Emphasis added.
24 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148
25 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 49-50.  Here is where one can construe a quasi-pantheistic element in the “immanent” aspect; though, as noted below (note 27), matter is eventually destroyed.  Moreover, as noted earlier, it’s also implied that “the Father” is superior to “the Son”, thus reducing the immanent aspect to inferior in status as compared to the transcendent.
26 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 51
27 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 51-52.  “…[T]he first Logos [ED: "the Father"] is called Destroyer, because He is abstraction, if viewed from below upwards [ED: from the point of view of creation / the immanent aspect].  His work is the synthesis of Spirit with Spirit, their eventual abstraction from matter, and their unification with their cosmic source.  Hence also He is the one who brings about pralaya [ED: death; cf. p 128] or the disintegration of form, – the form from which the Spirit has been abstracted” [Cosmic Fire, pp 148-149].
28 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 52.  UK spelling, e.g., “centre” rather than center, is used throughout the Bailey material.
29 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148; Bailey Initiation, p 19, 150, 162
30 Bailey Initiation, pp 150-162
31 Alice A. Bailey The Consciousness of the Atom, © 1961 Lucis Trust (1st prtng 1922, this issue 9th prtng 1974 {2nd paperback ed.}), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 110-116
32 Bailey Atom, pp 110-111; italics in original, other emphasis added.
33 Bailey Atom, pp 111-112; emphasis added.
34 Alice A. Bailey Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, © 1950 Lucis, NY, (2nd printing, 1957), George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 126
35 Actual possession is the stated goal: “Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control…” [Bailey Externalisation, p 588; emphasis added].

Answer to Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church

Since the original Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church has not received much interaction apart from regular readers here on CrossWise, it seems best to fully explain the selected text comprising that challenge in this separate post, as I deem this information critical to understanding the basis not just of Johnson’s Christology, but of his entire theology.

In the following message, taken from Bill Johnson’s 12/20/09 sermon Jesus is our Model (2nd service), all CAPS indicates Johnson’s emphasis, other emphasis is added, indicating portions important in understanding the overall message: 

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.”  “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

We find Johnson here making the claim that Jesus’ first temptation from Satan was to question His identity, who He was.  By this he means that “IF you are the Son of God” is the focal point of this temptation, rather than trying to persuade Him to turn the stone to bread.  Johnson reaches this conclusion by going back to the Father’s words to Jesus in Luke 3:22.  This is why he stresses “WORD of God” in Luke 4:4.

However, quite simply, the word if should be taken as since: “Since you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.”  The IF in the initial clause is not conditional; it’s descriptive.  Satan knows full well Jesus is the Son of God (James 2:19); and, Jesus had been well aware of His identity as evidenced by His words to his mother Mary as a 12 year old, “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV). Therefore, from a Biblically orthodox perspective, this temptation was to persuade Jesus to use His own intrinsic power to satisfy His human need, rather than to fulfill the work He came to do by relying on the Father for His sustenance while in the wilderness.

Here’s the main problem with Johnson’s words above: His teaching posits that Satan was tempting Jesus not to believe the spoken words of the Father (from Luke 3:22).  In effect, this turns Jesus into one who is dependent upon the so-called ‘present truth’, or ‘new revelation’ (“what God is saying and doing” below) that hyper-charismatics claim are greater than Scripture in terms of authority.  This is made clear in the very next section of his message (“Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?”).  But, more importantly, note how Johnson is making the claim that Matthew 13 applies to Jesus, not just mankind:

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their person.  They’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.  And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?

According to Christian orthodoxy, the Parable of the Sower/Soils (Matthew 13:1-23) pertains to humankind, not to Jesus.  The “Word” (seed) in this parable refers to the Gospel message that Jesus Himself, as the “farmer” (Matthew 13:3), was proclaiming, contrary to Johnson’s explanation.  Moreover, this parable has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Luke 4:1-13).

Given the potentially confusing nature of the above, we’ll recap.  In making the claim that Jesus’ first temptation from Satan was to question His identity as the Son of God and then using the Parable of the Sower/Soils to explain his meaning, Johnson has reduced Jesus to one who is dependent upon the so-called ‘present truths’ for His identity and guidance, just like the rest of humankind.  Consequently, as per Johnson, Jesus is potentially subject to stumbling when “persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word”, because Jesus Himself could have chosen to listen to Satan rather than God if He didn’t have enough ‘depth in His Person’. 

Obviously, Johnson is way off base Biblically here, but to what ends?  Why has he conflated and reinterpreted Scripture so?

Interestingly, Johnson’s interpretation of the first temptation as Satan questioning His identity, with Jesus’ replying that He/we are to rely on “present truths” is found in New Age / New Spirituality teaching.  In the following note how “Satan” is equated with “Ego”, which, in occult terminology, is the so-called “lower self”, the human nature.  This is as opposed to the “higher self”, the divine seed/spark, or “Christ” within. This particular author is using the parallel passage in Matthew of Luke 4:3-4:

“And when the tempter (Satan / Ego) came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he (Jesus) answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:3-4).

Our ego always compromises the truth by masking true reality for the grand illusion; in essence, the ego is the anchor to the physical perspective. But Jesus overcomes this perspective. He tells Satan that man does not live by bread alone (physical existence), but by every word from the mouth of God (spirit). In fact since Jesus denies the bread completely, we understand that ultimate truth lies beyond the veil of the physical realm and instead resides in the spiritual realm, or the realm of consciousness that operates beyond this 3D physical experience [bold in original; other emphasis added].

Bill Johnson has used (as have others in hyper-charismaticism) this very same physical realm vs. spiritual realm false dichotomy more than once.  Here’s one example:

The focus of repentance is to change our way of thinking until the presence of His Kingdom fills our consciousness.  The enemy’s attempt to anchor our affections to the things that are visible is easily resisted when our hearts are aware of the presence of His world

If the Kingdom is here and now, then we must acknowledge it’s in the invisible realm.  Yet being at hand reminds us that it’s also within reach…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance [ED: aka, “intimacy with the Father”, “ascended lifestyle”, etc.].  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 reality… [WHIE p 38.  Italics in original; emphasis added.  Cf. SPTM p 41]

Keep in mind that in Johnson’s dictionary repentance comes from having “intimacy with the Father” (which leads to the “ascended lifestyle” or “renewed mind”), performing “Biblical meditation” (which, as Johnson describes it, is not Biblical, but just like contemplative prayer, or centering prayer in method), aka “soaking”, etc. [see here for more explanation].  Contrary to Scripture, Johnson teaches that to repent is to perceive the spiritual realm, with increasing “repentance” providing more and more access to the “invisible” realm.  As he states, “Repentance is not complete until it envisions His Kingdom” [WHIE p 38; cf. SPTM pp 42-45].

Going back to Johnson’s sermon, it’s the rest of this particular section in Johnson’s monologue that puts all the pieces together in this specific teaching:

The Scripture, this story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower, actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning.

Note that there are two seeds – one external and one internal.  To differentiate, the internal seed here is in green colored font.  The above underscored “seed of God” is ambiguous in the context; it could refer to the external seed or the internal seed.

This section of Johnson’s message above will be explained in-depth, as it’s very confusingly worded.

The external seed is “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God”.  This could be construed one of two ways.  The first is that God’s Word has a seed which is called “sperma of God”.  That is, the “seed” / “sperma” (of God) is a subunit of God’s Word.  The second possible understanding is that God’s Word = the “sperma of God”.  In other words, this could be rephrased as ‘God’s Word, which is a seed, also known as the sperma of God…’  The first view seems to make the most sense in this context.

More important is the internal seed called “the seed” (and possibly “seed of God”).   The internal seed is the one which “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God” is released into.  To state another way, the external seed, “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God”, is released into the internal seed, which is in the individual’s “soil”.  To put yet another way, through the Word (of new revelation) the external “seed of God’s Word (“sperma of God”) is released into the internal “seed” in the soil of the hearer:

the [external] seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the [internal] seed, through His Word [new revelation], into the [internal] soil.

So then, “His Word”, the so-called “present truth”, aka “new revelation”, is the vehicle by which the external seed, the “sperma of God” is released into the internal “seed” in the soil of the individual.  Bear in mind Johnson’s claim above that Matthew 13 also pertains to Jesus.  This means that Jesus Himself had a seed in his soil, and that “through His Word” (present truth, new revelation), the “sperma of God”, aka “the seed of God’s Word” was released into His internal “seed”, which is in His internal “soil”.

Tying it all Together by Going Back to the Roots

Putting all this together, Johnson is teaching that Jesus, like all men, has a seed within Him, which can either grow by paying heed to so-called present truth, aka new revelation (“the most powerful thing in the universe”) such as “YOU are My beloved Son”, or the seed can be choked out by other “IDEALS”, “VOICES”, “WORDS”.  Jesus’ first temptation in the wilderness is an example of these other ideals, voices, words, yet Jesus withstood this temptation, providing an example for the rest of mankind.

A form of this teaching, known as Gnosticism, goes all the way back to the second century (and perhaps the first century).  Early church leaders (some term them “fathers”), perhaps most notably in the writings of Irenaeus, battled against the Gnostics, using the pen as their sword.  The basic worldview of the Gnostics was dualistic, such that all matter is evil, while spirit is good.  Humankind, while inwardly spirit and hence good, was enfleshed by evil matter, the outward body.  The goal was to escape the flesh, thus attaining self-redemption.  This was accomplished through secret knowledge, or gnosis (new revelation) that came by way of mystical experiences from mystical practices.

This doctrine is reprised or repackaged in varying forms in the New Age / New Spirituality teachings of today.  In Levi Dowling’s popular book titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, originally published in 1907 and still in print today, is an introduction that recounts these teachings.  The following two quotes describe the basic doctrine, comparing remarkably well with Johnson’s “sperma of God” concept.  First, there is a “Christ” within (internal divine seed, spark of divine light), which was deposited in all of creation at the very beginning:

Christ, the universal Love, pervades all spaces of infinity…

Perfection is the ultimate of life.  A seed is perfect in its embryonic form, but it is destined to unfold, to grow.  Into the soil of every plane these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…and to each be a perfection of its kind. [AGJC, p 6; capitalization from original, emphasis added]

These seeds then are the “Thoughts of God” lying dormant in each and every thing or being.  The key is to awaken, or “sow” the seed through Christ:

Christ is the Logos [Word] of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.[AGJC, p 6; CAPS from original, emphasis added]

 Let’s compare this directly to Johnson’s teaching above:

the[external] seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the [internal] seed, through His Word [new revelation], into the [internal] soil.

In each case, the vehicle is “through the/His Word”.  Levi states that “Thought and Force” are “made manifest only “through the Word”, while Johnson’s doctrine above is such that new revelation/present truths are made manifest “through His Word”.  These are striking similarities.  The only difference is that Levi is explicit that the seed inside all things is divine; Johnson is ambiguous with his seed.

Levi’s doctrine is explicitly panentheistic, i.e., God is IN all [pan = all; en = in; the, from theos = God].  Bill Johnson’s is not incongruent with panentheism, though, as noted, he’s ambiguous.  Is Johnson’s internal seed divine like Levi’s, which would mean he’s teaching panentheism?

While there are a number of different views of panentheism in the varying religious systems in the world, there are some consistencies in the doctrine with respect to how it relates to Jesus Christ and Christianity in esotericism.  For perhaps a clearer understanding, here’s Richard Smoley from his book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition: with a general view of “Christian” esotericism and the doctrine of panentheism:

…The Father is the ineffable, transcendent aspect of God; the Son [ED: Christ] is God’s immanent aspect. This divine spark or Logos is the first sounding-forth of existence from the depths of infinity: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God.

So are we. “Without him was not any thing made that was made.” Nothing comes into existence unless this divine spark of consciousness, no matter how faint or dim, lies at its center. This was true of Jesus, it is true of me, and it is true of you…We may not be as exalted as Christ…But at the core we are the same [IC, pp 134-135; all emphasis added].

Note the two separate aspects of God: the transcendent, which is the ineffable (inexpressible) Father, and the immanent (within all of creation) aspect, which is the Son (Christ).  This immanence is alternatively called divine seed, divine spark, divine (spark of) light, logos, or Christ.  So, the Son/Christ is a divine entity, and this divine entity was diffused throughout creation as a seed / spark / light.  This view of panentheism is such that all is in God (the transcendent Father is wholly outside, surrounding all of creation) and God is in all (the Son/Christ is within all of creation).

Yet, observe that Jesus Himself is called Christ (“Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God”), rather than merely, for example, Jesus of Nazareth.  Smoley quotes from A Course in Miracles to describe Him:

The name of Jesus is the name of the one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.  So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God [ACIM, Teachers Manual, p 87; emphasis in original].

Smoley  then quotes the “Jesus” of the Course as saying all can do what He did, describing Him as an intermediary, making the impossible (the distance is too great between us and the Father) into possibility [IC, p 135].  The author goes on to affirm that all are Christs, at least potentially [IC, pp 135-136].

But what of the Holy Spirit?  Smoley describes this false trinity, to include the integral role of the Spirit:

How do these two, the Father and the Son, interact with each other?  What enables them to have any connection at all, while still in some way remaining distinct?  There is…a principle that makes this interaction possible.  It is called the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit.

Here, in essence, is the Christian Trinity…Between them [Father and Son] is the Holy Spirit, the divine principle of relatedness, which accomplishes perhaps the most astonishing of all miracles: uniting two separate entities while still allowing them to be separate [IC, pp 103-104].

Levi Dowling either conflates and/or confuses the Holy Spirit (“Holy Breath”) with the ‘external Christ’, or he’s trying to convey the same thing as Smoley above [AGJC, pp 8-9].  That is, it may be that “Holy Breath” activates the Christ/Word within and/or communicates the Word from the Father to the inner Christ.  Either interpretation brings forth the same basic idea as Smoley’s description.  What has Bill Johnson said about the relationship between the Father and the Son?  Keeping in mind the foregoing, look for the similarities in Johnson’s words below with so-called “Esoteric Christianity”:

The Father, by the Holy Spirit, directed all that Jesus said and did [F2F, p 108].

It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying [DWG, p 136].

If we were to assume that Johnson’s internal seed is indeed the divine seed (spark, Christ, etc.) concept, his theology would fit right into the above.  Even his “eternally God” statements would have no trouble being synthesized, as certainly if everything has a seed/spark of the divine within, then it’s not a stretch to claim all are, in essence, God, to include the human Jesus Johnson portrays.  This is precisely why New Agers can call themselves “Christs” or “gods” with a straight face.

This “seed”/”sperma of God” concept is equivalent to “the anointing”, that is, Johnson’s teaching that Christ = “the anointing” or “anointed one” (of many) [see The Christ Anointing section here for in-depth look], with “the anointing” itself coming from the Spirit which brings the Word of new revelation.  Johnson’s view more closely aligns with Levi’s; the first quote below comes from Dowling’s book, the others are from Johnson’s Face to Face with God:

The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ED: actually Christos] and means anointed…The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed [sic]… [AGJC, p 6; italics in original; bold added.] 

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 [ED: the anointing] there could be no title [F2F, p 109; italics in original, bold added]. 

…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… [F2F, p 77; emphasis added].

Keep in mind that Jesus’ “anointing”, as per Johnson in the above, is referring to the Spirit descending as a dove upon Him, which is subsequent to His baptism in water by John, and that this is how He received the title of Christ.  In the Apocryphal/Gnostic Gospel of Philip from the 2nd century is the same idea.  In the following, there is a specific distinguishing between water baptism and ‘anointing’ [chrisma (not chrism as in the text) 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 – just like Bill Johnson’s teachings:

The chrism is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from baptismChrist 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 [GoP, p 200; emphasis added].

Integral to the Gospel of Philip is the divine seed / spark ideology.  Bill Johnson’s overall Christology would fit nicely into this same Gnostic framework, with his seed as the divine seed / spark.  Assuming Johnson’s seed is divine, with each subsequent “anointing” by the external “seed”/”sperma of God” (which is the “word” of new revelation, or “what God is saying and doing” as per Johnson above), the internal “seed” grows towards maturity (perfection).

Again, assuming Johnson’s seed is divine, then the “spiritual DNA” teaching, which is becoming more prevalent, would be yet another way of stating this concept. That is, when the “seed”/”sperma of God” [anointing] is “released into the seed [inside the individual], through His Word, into the soil [ED: which contains the individual's 'seed']” initially, then this is the point in which the individual’s divine spark/seed is activated, which is equivalent to one’s latent “spiritual DNA” activated. [See Getting Down to the DNA of Spiritual DNA section here.]

It seems that the interpretation of this internal seed as being the divine seed concept (divine spark, Christ within, etc.), as used in “esoteric Christianity”, makes the most sense of Bill Johnson’s usage in the context above when viewed in the light of some his other teachings (“the anointing”, “spiritual DNA”). 

 

Cf. (cf.) = compare, or see also

ACIM = Helen Schucman A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume, 1992 (2nd ed), Foundation for Inner Peace, Glen Ellen, CA

AGJC = 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

DWG = Bill Johnson Dreaming with God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World Through God’s Creative Flow. 2006, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA

F2F = Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL

GoP = “The Gospel of Philip” in Wilhelm Schneemelcher; 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

IC = Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition,2002, Shambhala, Boston, MA.  In the Acknowledgements section is “Reverend” Cynthia Bourgeault (author of The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message. 2008, Shambhala, Boston, MA, which has been quoted from on CrossWise), Jacob Needleman, among others.  Endorsements include Jean Houston and David Spangler.

SPTM = 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

WHIE = Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA

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.

Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church

[09/07/13: An in-depth "answer" to this post is now available: Answer to Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church.]

The following transcription comes from a sermon on 12/20/09 titled Jesus Is Our Model1 from Bill Johnson of Bethel Church.  This is the same one which contains Bill Johnson’s infamous “Jesus was born again” statement.2  This time we’re taking a closer look at a different and more lengthy portion of this sermon.

Before proceeding, a brief review of the Trinity may be in order.   The first Person of the Trinity is God the Father, the second Person is God the Son, and the third Person is God the Holy Spirit.  Orthodox Christianity affirms that each member of the Trinity has the divine attributes of omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (possessing all knowledge), omnipresence (being everywhere present),3 immutability (inability to change, divine constancy), and other divine properties, in distinction from humanity.  For our purposes, even more needs to be said on the second Person. 

The Gospel of John describes the second Person of the Trinity as the Logos, “the Word”, who was “with God” in the beginning and who was (and is) God [John 1:1-2].  Then, the Logos, the Word “became flesh” and dwelt among us [John 1:14].  That is, the eternal Word, the second Person of the Trinity, entered our temporal realm as God in the flesh – fully/truly man and fully/truly God.  Jesus Christ is the one, unique “Word made flesh”.

With our brief review completed, we can proceed with the selected statement of Bill Johnson.  In the following selection, ALL CAPS indicates words/phrases in which Johnson himself is being emphatic; underlining is added to bring the reader’s attention to something deemed important towards understanding Johnson’s overall statement.  Interspersed throughout the selected transcription is some explanatory commentary as well as some questions (in green text) which comprise this “challenge”.

To participate in this challenge, simply copy and paste the question(s) you’d like to answer into the comment box with your answer(s) following.  You may answer any or all questions, but please keep each individual comment relatively brief with one or perhaps two questions and your responses in each comment box.  Any comment which does not attempt to answer a question constituting this challenge may be summarily deleted, unless it is in response to another’s comment.  Please view the Before You Comment tab if you are new to commenting on CrossWise.

First, we’ll provide the transcription in full, and, following that, we’ll repeat the selection, breaking it down into smaller sections while adding the related commentary and questions.

Here’s the complete selected text in order to provide full, uninterrupted context.  Johnson begins by describing Jesus’ testing in the wilderness in Luke 4, quoting from the NKJV:

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.”  “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their person.  They’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.  And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities? 

The Scripture, this story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning.4

Now, here’s the same selection broken down a bit for our challenge: 

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.” “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

In this first section, by Johnson’s context, to whom or what does “WORD of God” refer: Jesus Himself, the written Word (Scripture), the Father’s words spoken over Jesus following Baptism, or a combination of some or all of these?  Explain.

Considering the Biblical context of Luke 4:1-13, how did Jesus Christ answer the devil in each of the three temptations?  Which kind of “Word” does Jesus refer in each of His answers?  Is each response a different kind, is one different from the other two, or are all the responses the same kind of “Word”?

Take note how Johnson relates the Father’s words “You are My beloved Son” and “In You I am well pleased” from Luke 3:22 to his interpretation of Luke 4:3-4, which is that the devil’s temptation was “to question who He was”, and how Johnson then proceeds to correspond this to Matthew 13 [verses 18-23] as “Jesus explains this later to the disciples”:

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their personThey’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.   And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause following for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?

Given that Johnson has started this section with “Jesus explains this later”, how exactly does Matthew 13 ‘explain’ how the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness [Luke 4:3] “was to question Who He was”?

Did Jesus Christ potentially have ‘no root in Himself’?  In what way is it possible, or is it impossible, that Jesus could be in a position to ‘hear the Word but there was no depth in His Person’? 

Is it possible Jesus could have been in any position in which He had “not been prepared for what God is saying and doing”? Explain.

Could Jesus have ‘stumbled’ due to “tribulation or persecution because of the WORD”?

In Johnson’s question “Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?” it’s clear that Johnson is referring to himself and/or his audience as ‘believers’.  Does this mean Johnson is referring to the words spoken over Jesus by the Father in Luke 3:22 and that these words will be ‘declared over’ the believer’s life; or, does he mean some other declaration?

From a Biblical perspective, does Matthew 13 even apply to Jesus at all?  If not, then to whom does Matthew 13 apply?  Explain.

Finishing up the selection:

The Scripture, this story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning.

Taking the full context of this selection of Bill Johnson’s Jesus is Our Model message, is the “Word of God” (“Word of the Lord”) used in the second and third parts of the transcription the same as the “WORD of God” in the first part (from Johnson’s interpretation of the NKVJ of Luke 4:4)?  Why or why not?

Could Jesus have succumbed to other IDEALS, VOICES, and/or WORDS and therefore have ‘choked out’ the Word of God?  Explain.

Is there Biblical support for Johnson’s assertion that the Word of God is “the most powerful thing in the universe”?  If so, cite chapter(s) and verse(s). 

Is the “Word of God” more powerful than the Trinity or any one Person of the Trinity?  Explain.

From a Biblical perspective, what is meant by “Word” in Matthew 13:21-23 when put in the full context of Matthew 13:1-23, i.e. does it refer to new revelation from God, the written Word (Scripture), the Gospel, Jesus Christ as the Word made flesh, something else, or a combination of some or all of these?  Explain.

Does Bill Johnson’s statement in any way affirm that Jesus Christ is the one, unique “Word made flesh”; and, if so, how?  If not, then does this selection actually affirm the converse, i.e., that Jesus Christ is not the one, unique “Word made flesh”; and, if so, how?

This “sperma of God” concept of Bill Johnson is rather difficult to unravel by the context.  It seems that everyone, or every potential ‘believer’, has “soil” within which contains a “seed”.  The “sperma of God” is the same as “the seed of God’s Word” which is then released into the ‘seed’ of the individual, which is in the individual’s ‘soil’.   Thus, there appears to be two “seeds”: one is “the seed of God’s Word”/“the sperma of God”/”Word of God”; the other is the “seed” within the “soil” of the individual which may be brought to life by this “seed of God’s Word”/”sperma of God”/“Word of God”.

Please note that Biblically it’s only “the farmer” [13:3-4] with seed who then ‘scatters’ it, with it falling either: “along the path” to be eaten by birds [v 4], i.e. snatched by the evil one [v 19]; on rocky places in shallow soil with the resulting plants scorched “because they had no root” [vv 5-6] lasting only for “a short time” [vv 20-21]; among thorns which choked the resulting plants [v 7] due to the “worries of life” and “deceitfulness of wealth” [v 22], or on good soil where it produced a crop of “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” [vv 8, 23].

However, there is an occult/New Age concept in which all things have a divine seed/spark/‘”Christ” within’,5 which may be ‘activated’ to grow by “the Word” aka “the Christ”.  That is, there is a “Christ” without:

Christ is the Logos [Word] of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.6

And, there is a “Christ” within:

…Now Christ, the universal Love, pervades all spaces of infinity…7

The above quotes are taken from Levi Dowling’s 1907 book titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.  The ‘Christ without’ is the only vehicle through which all things were made;8 hence, it could be called “the most powerful thing in the universe”. 

The following provides some more explanation:

Perfection is the ultimate of life.  A seed is perfect in its embryotic life, but it is destined to unfold, to grow.

Into the soil…these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…9

These “seeds” (‘Christ within’) were cast into all of creation from the very beginning.  The goal, then, is for each person (and thing) to listen to the “Word” aka the ‘Christ without’ in order for “Thought and Force” to be “made manifest”, thus activating the seed/spark/‘Christ within’, with the goal of growing to “perfection” by transcending the outer material ‘shell’ with only the ‘divine’ remaining.

In this occult/New Age conception, Jesus is not actually the Christ as in the Jesus Christ of Scripture.  Jesus was merely a man (but a special man) who, like all of mankind, had the ‘Christ within’; conversely, “Christ” is ‘God’ as part of a false Trinity.  Jesus’ ‘Christ within’ was activated by the “Christ Spirit” (the ‘Christ without’) when it descended upon Him as a dove.  At this point, Jesus received the “official title” of “Christ” and became known as “Jesus the Christ”, with “Christ” referring to His office.10 

This Jesus is but man who has been fitted by temptations overcome, by trials multiform, to be the temple through which the Christ can manifest to men.11

Thus, He began the journey to become “the Christ” for our current era/aeon, which was not fully consummated until Ascension.  At Ascension, He became the fully divine “Master Jesus”, and as such, He became the pattern for all to follow towards the attainment of self-deity/divinity.12

This leads to the final question of this challenge:

Keeping in mind the title of Johnson’s message – Jesus is Our Model – and the entire content of the selected transcript, could this be an adaptation of the occult/New Age concept described above?  Why or why not?

1This is from the 2nd of two services that morning.
2Johnson’s statement was covered in an earlier article, “Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part I” <http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/bill-johnsons-born-again-jesus-part-i/>
3I particularly like the way in which Thomas V. Morris [The Logic of God Incarnate. 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK] describes omnipresence with its close dependence on the other two ‘omni’ attributes and vice versa: “Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of and power over any and every spatially located object” [p 91].
4Bill Johnson Jesus is Our Model sermon from 12/20/09, Bethel Church, Redding, CA, taken from compact disc subtitled “sunam2” (Sunday AM, 2nd message, 11:00); 25:21 – 28:24.  CD (and DVD or MP3 download) available at ibethel.com, titled “Jesus Is Our Model 11:00am December 20, 2009” <http://store.ibethel.org/p3322/jesus-is-our-model-11-00am-december-20-2009> as accessed 02/24/13.
5Levi 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.  On page 3 is the following from the “Introduction” by Eva S. Dowling: “The full title of this book is ‘The Aquarian Age Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age’…”  See also 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; pp 162-163, 280.  A favorite Biblical text to pervert in this regard is Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
6Dowling; p 6
7Dowling; p 6
8Dowling; p 6
9Dowling; p 6
10Dowling; p 8, 82-83.  Also, Bailey; pp 100-101.
11Dowling; p 8
12Dowling; pp 8-9.  Also, Bailey; pp 231-284

Round the Mulberry Bush with Bill Johnson

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
the mulberry bush,
the mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
so early in the morning.

Yesterday evening a storm came through knocking out electrical power in the immediate area from just after 5pm until about 1:15 this morning.  No air conditioning.  No computer.  With the growing stuffiness, I had opened some windows to get some air flowing and therefore was rudely awakened by the sound of the condensing unit kicking on which is just outside my bedroom.  But, hey, at least I had air conditioning!  So, I closed all the windows and decided to check emails.  There was one showing a new Facebook quote of Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  Just a bit later, another individual sent the same quote plus one other.

“Here we go again,” I said to myself.  “Maybe I’m still half asleep and this is merely a dream,” I hoped.  But, alas, these emails were still in my inbox when I got up just after dawn.  Here are the two statements:

If Jesus Christ performed His earthly miracles as God, I stand amazed. But if He did them as a man dependent on God, I am compelled to follow His lead. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, August 11, 2012]

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]

The first one is merely a reiteration of other similar statements Johnson has made to promote what I call his “Annie Get Your Gun” doctrine – ‘anything Jesus can do I can do better’ – based upon a faulty interpretation of the “greater things” in John 14:12.  This fallacy of Johnson (and other hyper-charismatics) has been covered in a previous article.

The second quote is a bit thornier.  It looks almost orthodox.  One could construe this as functional(ist) kenosis, i.e. that the divine Logos retained all divine attributes when He took on flesh at the virginal conception [this term is more accurate than “virgin birth”] yet He elected not to use any of His divine attributes during His earthly ministry, instead relying solely upon the Holy Spirit for all supernatural workings.  This view does not hold up under Biblical scrutiny, however (cf. John 2:11; John 5:21-22, 24-27; Mark 4:35-41, etc.).  [This will be covered in-depth in an article currently in the works.]

Note that Johnson uses “Son of man” in his partial quote of John 5:19, yet in this passage Jesus uses “Son” only.  It seems Johnson makes the common mistake of ascribing “ the Son of man” to Jesus to denote His humanity at the expense of His divinity.  He does this same thing in the following passage from one of his books:

Most all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer. The Mount of Transfiguration raised the bar significantly on potential human experience…The overwhelming lesson in this story is that Jesus Christ, the Son of man, had the glory of God upon Him. Jesus’s face shone with God’s glory, similar to Moses’s after he came down from the mountain… [Face to Face with God 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 200.  Emphasis in original.]

Notice how Johnson states that the “Son of man had the glory of God upon Him.”  Let’s be clear: Jesus Christ was/is God.  When the Word/Logos took on flesh at the virginal conception, He remained a divine ‘person’; He remained a part of the Trinity.  Jesus Christ is one divine person consisting in two natures – one divine and one human.   “Son of man” was Jesus’ favorite self-designation; but, He also called Himself “Son of God”.  Both titles refer to the one divine person of Jesus Christ.  “Son of man” was used in the Book of Daniel as a Messianic, prophetic passage – to refer to the coming Messiah (Daniel 7:11-14).  By the context, clearly this “Son of man” would be divine.

I’ve already pointed out the problems in Johnson’s assertion that Jesus had the glory of God upon Him at the Transfiguration [see “Transfiguration” section here]; however, they bear repeating.  During His earthly ministry Jesus was, as already noted, a fully divine person; therefore, it was His inherent glory which the Apostles glimpsed at the Transfiguration.  This was nothing like Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai, and we believers will not experience our own Transfiguration like Jesus.  This illustrates just how far Johnson wishes to go with his “greater works” theology.  To make this doctrine work, he must reduce Jesus to the level of a Spirit-filled man and simultaneously exalt man to the status of Jesus as exemplified in the NT.

But, what does John 5:19 actually say?  As with any text, one must place it within its proper context.  Here are the verses preceding:

16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

Jesus’ Equality with God

18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. [NASB]

“These things” in verse 16 refers to verses 1-15 including Jesus’: healing of the paralytic (v 8) and instructing the now healed man to “pick up his mat and walk” (vv 8, 11-15) – all on the Sabbath.  With Jesus’ statement that He is working as His Father is working (v 17), the Jews understood that Jesus was equating Himself with the Father.  This confounded their strict monotheistic viewpoint; therefore, they deemed this blasphemy wanting to kill Jesus as a result.

So, what does Jesus do in verse 19?  According to Johnson in the Facebook quote above, Jesus, in effect, backs down and states that He can do nothing at all without the Father’s help as He was “illustrating His dependence”, as if He was wholly incapable of doing anything apart from divine intervention from the Father or the Spirit, or choosing not to use His own divine capabilities.  Yet, of course, this does not fit the context.  Note how the NASB begins a new subsection title with verse 18 – “Jesus’ Equality with God”.

In proper context, Jesus, in verse 19 and following, is affirming the Jews’ assertion that He is “equal with God” since Jesus, the Son, is part of the Trinitarian Godhead with the Father.  Jesus claims He can actually “see” the Father (vv 19-20); therefore, His dependence here is as opposed to acting independently from the Father.  Jesus does not just ‘do His own thing’, as it were; He acts of His own divine power as He emulates His Father, following what He “sees”, in obedience. Contrary to Johnson, He is not reliant on the Father or Spirit – as in not having the ability in and of Himself or choosing not to use this ability– as the rest of the context makes clear:

19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an 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 just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [NASB; emphasis added]

So, in continuing with this pericope, we see Jesus “gives life to whom He wishes” just like the Father (v 21); and, moreover, all judgment is left to the Son (v 22, 24-27).  This clearly illustrates Jesus used His inherent divine power as He was granting eternal life in the then present (v 24-25) indicating inaugurated eschatology, i.e. the Kingdom of God had already begun [cf. Craig S. Keener. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One 2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 650-652].

Marianne Meye Thompson does an excellent job describing the way in which Jesus receives “life” from the Father comparing this to Jesus’ “giving life” to believers and the way in which believers receive “life”:

…Unless Jesus’ life were granted to him from the Father, he would have no life; unless he came from the “living Father,” he would be unable to confer life.  The two assertions of this verse [v 21] offer analogous, although not parallel, affirmations about the way in which Jesus and the believer receive life.  Just as the Father has life and gives life to the Son, so the Son has life and gives life to those who have faith.  Jesus lives because of the Father’s determination that he should have life in himself (cf. 5:21, 24-27), even as believers live because of Jesus’ determination that they should have life.  There is a difference, however, for believers always have a mediated life, never “life in themselves.”  They cannot pass on their ‘life’ to others; they have no offspring or heirs.  If others live, it is because they receive the Father’s life through the Son.  Furthermore, although those who believe are said to become “children of God” who are “born of God” (John 1:12-13) or born “from above” by the power of the Spirit of God, the terminological distinction between them as children who are born of God and Jesus as the Son who comes from God remains. [Marianne Meye Thompson The God of the Gospel of John  2001, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI / Cambridge, UK; pp 79-80.  Emphasis in original.]

Jesus did not “give life” by the Holy Spirit and neither can we.  To paraphrase Thompson, Jesus “gives life to whom He wishes” by the divine authority conferred upon Him by the Father; yet, it is of His own inherent divine power that Jesus confers eternal life to those individuals who have faith.

Craig Blomberg notes that there are two things Jews recognize that God continues to do on the Sabbath, namely, giving life (birth) and passing judgment (death) [The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary 2001, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL; pp 112-114].  Jesus illustrates that He Himself does these very things so that the Jews may understand He is further equating Himself with God (vv 21-22 & 24-25; cf. John 9:39-41).  This indicates quite clearly that Jesus did not live his earthly life merely and solely “from His humanity” as Bill Johnson states above implying this is to the exclusion of utilizing His inherent divine attributes.

Note also that Jesus uses both Son of God (v 25) and Son of Man (v 27) for Himself (speaking in the third person) in this particular pericope.1  This illustrates that Jesus used these self-designations almost, if not wholly, interchangeably.2  Both refer to God in the flesh, i.e. the Person of Christ, including both His divine and human natures.

Here’s the bottom line.  Even if Bill Johnson comes out with an unambiguously orthodox Christological statement, this would not undo the unclear, contradictory, and flat-out false statements he’s made with respect to Christology.   There are many unclear statements such as the following which could be construed as either functional(ist) kenosis or ontological kenosis (the Logos divested Himself of certain or all divine attributes during His earthly ministry), in and of itself:

…Jesus set aside His divinity, choosing instead to live as a man completely dependent on God. [Face to Face; p 108]

This one below reads like ontological kenosis and perhaps even metamorphosis (the Word literally transformed Himself fully into a man devoid of all divine attributes during His earthly ministry).  While some have tried to read functional(ist) kenosis into this, such a reading is forced.  Johnson’s claim of Jesus being eternally God either contradicts the first part of the quote; or, Johnson construes eternity as wholly separate from temporal time and thus envisions an eternally divine Jesus apart from an earthly non-divine Jesus:

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 for us to follow. [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.]

And here’s one that is flat-out false.  An essential aspect of a divine Being is the possession of supernatural capabilities:

…He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever! [When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles 2002, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 29]

Unless and until Bill Johnson both comes out with an unambiguous, orthodox statement and corrects all his other unorthodox statements I remain unconvinced that he actually intends on promoting orthodox Christology.  This would be a monumental task, for sure; however, “with God all things are possible” [Matthew 19:26].

[See also The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit and the series Bill Johnson's Christology: A New Age Christ?.]

1 I note that my NIV 1984 omits “of man” in v 27 (NASB capitalizes the “M”); however updated NIV translations (that I checked) contain it.  I’m assuming it was an error as it is in the original Greek.
2 Yet, there may be a very nuanced difference; see Herman Ridderbos The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary 1997, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 200-201, 92-93.

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

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

1In the beginning was the Word [Logos.]
and the Word [Logos] was with God
and the Word [Logos] was God.
2He was in the beginning with God.
3All things came into being by Him,
and apart from Him
nothing came into being
that has come into being
14And the Word [Logos] became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
[John 1:1-3,14 NASB]

The prologue to the Gospel of John is among the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture.  It is also one of the most theologically brilliant.  Not only does John assert that the Logos was WITH God in the creation account of Genesis by paralleling the first few verses with those that begin the canon of Scripture, John states the Logos WAS God.  He is illustrating the plurality of the Godhead, i.e. that God is monotheistic yet more than one ‘Person’ (John would describe the Person of the Holy Spirit later in 14:15-16:15).  The Gospel writer makes it clear that God the Word/Logos became flesh, yet He was fully God in the flesh and not ‘merely’ human.

However, other groups claimed that John had different thoughts in mind for the Logos.  Some Gnostics in the 2nd century (and later) claimed John’s Gospel has a dualistic Gnostic backdrop with his contrasts of light and darkness (v 1:5) and other dichotomies, and they interpreted John’s Christology as congruent with Gnostic redeemer myths117 (redemption through autosoterism, or self-salvation).

Some have claimed Hellenistic (ancient Greek) influence.  According to NT scholar Craig Keener, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the 6th century BC, “reportedly spoke of ‘Thought’ as guiding and ordering the universe” and his work refers to the Logos as being “eternal, omnipresent, the divine cause”.118  The Stoics took this further as Zeno “identified Socrates’ logos, or rational principle, with that of Heraclitus” calling this “the common law” or “natural law”.119  Apparently, these groups believed the Logos was present in all of creation, i.e. they had a panentheistic (God is in all) worldview.

Others asserted that it was Philo’s Logos that John had in mind.  Philo combined aspects of Stoicism (including the Logos as the divine mind, or nous120) with his own theology which was influenced by Platonism (from the philosophy of Plato):

In Philo’s scheme, the Logos is directly below God and directly above the powers through which God rules creation; the powers appear as angels when related to OT imagery, but Philo elsewhere identifies them with Platonic ideas.  The Logos, as God’s archangel and eldest offspring, functions as ambassador to humanity and separates the creature from the Creator; as such it is a mediator of God’s activity in the world and of revelation.  The Logos is God’s image, through whom the universe was formed.  In Platonic thought the sensory world is merely a copy of the real world of ideas, of eternal forms.  The Stoics, by contrast, saw the Logos as immanent in the world of matter.  Philo combines these strands of thought, following the syncretistic lead of middle Platonism in his day.121

Still others claim that John had in mind the Wisdom literature in Scripture [Proverbs 8, 9, etc] and extra-Biblical writings of the time including the Apocrypha (the Deuterocanonical books in the Catholic Bible including “Wisdom of Solomon”, “Wisdom of Ben Sira”, etc.) and the Pseudepigrapha (literary works circa 200 BC to 200AD).  This position asserts that John had envisioned Jesus as Wisdom personified given the many seeming parallels between his use of Logos and the way Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is used in the Wisdom literature.  Yet the Gospel writer never actually uses Sophia in reference to Jesus. Therefore, some scholars claim reliance on this motif while others may affirm perhaps partial influence.122

Andreas Kostenberger sees John’s intent more in line with personifying the Word of God in the OT noting the strong parallel of John 1 with Genesis 1, the parallels of John 1:14-18 with Exodus 33-34, and the Logos concept in Isaiah 55:9-11 (and other passages in Isaiah).123  In addition, Kostenberger seems to suggest the Logos concept was used as an apologetic against prevailing Greek thought:

…Though John does not elaborate on the precise way in which Jesus was made flesh, his contention that deity assumed human nature in Jesus would have been anathema for Greeks who held to a spirit/matter dualism and could hardly have imagined immaterial Reason becoming a physical being.124

It seems quite plausible that the Gospel writer, being well aware of current philosophical and religious thought, wrote the prologue and parts of the rest of the Gospel with a dual purpose – as both a Gospel and an apologetic against these threats.  This is especially possible if one assumes a late date of authorship as do most scholars (between 90AD and 100AD).125  In fact, Irenaeus, in his Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), circa 180AD, makes the claim that the Gospel of John is an apologetic against the burgeoning Gnostic (or proto-Gnostic) threat of John’s day.126  John’s Gospel (and, of course, his epistles, especially 1 John which contains elements of the Gospel’s prologue) can function as an apologetic against current Christological heresies as well since some of the concepts above are being perpetuated in slightly different forms today.

The Word Becoming Flesh

Christian orthodoxy affirms that Jesus Christ was/is the Word made flesh; i.e., the Word/Logos, the second Person of the eternal Triune God, added human flesh to Himself and became the unique God-man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  This hypostatic union retains throughout eternity, for Jesus Christ is yet still both human (with a glorified body) and divine as He sits at the Father’s right hand.  However, Bill Johnson explicitly denies the uniqueness of the Word made flesh:

…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible] 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.127

What does he mean by “the Word becoming flesh in us again”?  Are we to be just like Jesus, i.e. divine?  Or was Jesus not the second person the Trinity made flesh in the first place?  Is this what Johnson means by “Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man”?128  Perhaps this is speaking of the false parousia as mentioned in part II?  Or, is this a combination of some or all of these?

In yet another sermon, titled “Jesus is Our Model” – the same from which is the blasphemous ‘born again Jesus’ statement – we have Johnson speaking on the word Word yet again:

…Look at verse 3 [of Luke 4], “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was129

Not many theologians would agree with Johnson that the first temptation was “to question who He was” by emphasizing if.  The majority of scholars assert it was a test to satisfy His hunger by miraculous power rather than relying on the Father for provision.130  But, more importantly, Johnson stresses Word having in mind the Word of Faith (WoF) “rhema” Word, i.e., ‘new revelation’ – NOT that Jesus is Himself the unique, second Person of the Trinity Word/Logos made flesh, although that is how it may appear at first.  This will be evident as we continue on with Johnson:

…Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their personThey’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing131

In applying Matthew 13 to both Jesus and mankind rather than just mankind, Johnson has reduced Jesus to a man who Himself is indwelt by (NOT in hypostatic union with) the “rhema” Word.  Simultaneously, he’s reinterpreted this Scripture to pertain to those who either accept or reject the WoF “rhema” Word.  [The Greek words rhema and logos are used interchangeably in the Bible although the Apostle John specifically refers to Jesus as the Logos made flesh (John 1:1,14).]  Continuing on:

…It says, “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?132

Please note that the Scripture in Matthew 13 [13:21-22] refers to the Gospel message, not the “rhema” Word as Johnson would have us believe.  Scripturally, either one accepts the Gospel message and stays true to the Faith (the true convert) or one drifts away when trials and tribulations arise, when persecution comes, or the message is choked out by the concerns of life (the false convert).

At this point we’ll compare to more text from Levi Dowling’s New Age book which was referenced in part IIIa:

  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.  

…Through Christ all life was manifest; and so through him all things were done, and naught was done in forming worlds or peopling worlds without the Christ.  

Christ is the Logos of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.133

This is obviously a perversion of the prologue in John’s Gospel.  Both “Thought” and “Force” are capitalized in the original [“thought” is not capitalized the first time though].  This sure reads like WoF doctrine with “faith” as a ‘force’ and the “rhema” Word, ‘new, ongoing revelation’, coming into our thoughts.  “Christ” here is in reference to a member of this false Trinity who also “pervades all spaces of infinity”134, as in panentheism, meaning that all matter contains a “seed” of “Christ”, including man, and it takes the “Christ Spirit” to activate these “seeds”:

Into the soil…these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…and each to be a perfection of its kind.135

To reiterate, this “Christ” is the occult version of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27] with “Christ” being the dormant, non-activated seed as well as a member of this false Trinity who permeates all matter.  This is evident in the following words of Levi’s “Jesus”:

Look to the Christ within who will be formed in every one of you, as he is formed in me.136

Now, let’s pick up where we left off in the sermon of Johnson:

…This story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning…137

We’ll elaborate more on the “sperma of God” in the section below on “spiritual DNA”; but, it seems obvious that it’s analogous to Bob Jones’ “God sperm seed” from part II.  This “sperma of God” compares remarkably well with Levi’s “seeds” account above, does it not?  In addition, Levi’s statementthrough the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest” seems akin to Johnson’s “rhema” Word made manifest in both Jesus and ‘believers’ as we consider Johnson’s words, “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.”

Also, note Johnson’s negative emphasis on ideals, voices, and words – is this a knock against Christian theological orthodoxy?  Perhaps so, since later Johnson speaks of ‘religion’ as, “mowing down the seeds so that they all look the same”.138  Bill Johnson continues to make more parallels to Levi’s doctrine:

The most powerful thing in the universe, the Word of God – that created the world, that spoke things into being, that Word has been planted in your heart.139

You’ve got to know the mind of the Lord if you’re gonna stand strong.140

Overall, Johnson appears to be making the point that to be strong, to grow in the faith, one must become more and more attuned to the ‘continuing revelation’ of the “rhema” word.  This is instead of the Christian orthodox view of sanctification by submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than our own flesh, carnality.

Levi’s teachings are not unique to him as these are also common in Gnostic literature (as stated earlier, Gnosticism also informs New Age doctrine).  In Benjamin Walker’s Gnosticism: Its History and Influence, he uses this same “seed” concept referencing Matthew 13 like Johnson.  Walker notes how man may either “identify with the upper realm and be transformed by it, or with the lower and perish as a result.”141

This type of man hears the call, but whether he listens and responds, or not, lies entirely within himself.  He is capable of receiving the seed sown by the sower.  But he is fertile ground for both tares and wheat (Matt. 13:25).  He must take care that the thorns of intellectualism and disbelief do not grow and choke the seed.  He has free will and tends both to good and evil, and must make up his own mind in which direction he will move…142

Biblically, the parable of the wheat and the tares/weeds [Matt 13:24-30] is about true Christians and false Christians.  The false Christians (tares/weeds) will be intertwined with the true (wheat) until the eschaton, the consummation, the end of all things.

This same false teaching is also in the Unity Church doctrine.   The following is a portion of the Unity Church’s definition for “kingdom of God” in their Metaphysical Bible Dictionary which compares favorably with both the Gnostic account above and Johnson’s version of Matthew 13:

…Jesus likened the kingdom to a seed because a seed has unexpressed capacities, and needs to be planted in the soil best suited, and when planted in a receptive mind it brings forth the fruits of the Spirit.  The life of the word is the spiritual idea it contains.

The kingdom of heaven is attained, first, by one’s establishing in one’s mind the consciousness of the truth of Being; second, by one’s outer life to Truth.

Jesus used many commonplace things to illustrate the establishing of the kingdom of heaven in consciousness in order that we might the more easily adjust all our thoughts and acts in harmony with the ideas that make heaven.

Jesus likened heaven to a man that sowed good seed in his field, but when he slept an enemy sowed tares there (Matt. 13:24-30).  The explanation is this: The field is consciousness; the good seed are our true thoughts, which are sown when we express our mind positively.  The tares are the error thoughts that drift in when the consciousness is negative or ignorant143

For further comparison, here are two quotes from Constance Cumbey’s September, 1988 New Age Monitor in which are transcriptions of question and answer sessions with David Spangler and Michael Lindfield, both of Findhorn Foundation, an openly New Age organization (which has been around for 50 years and counting).  Both individuals were taped at Boulder Episcopalian Church in Boulder, CO on October 26, 1987144 the day following an important series of meetings with Evangelicals and New Agers over the weekend.  First is Spangler:

…Even today, you know, in meeting with people who are leaders of the evangelical and pentecostal community, it was quite evident they were saying, ‘you know, the Spirit of Christ is in the world.’  It is in all people.  That is in scripture and as a consequence, people who have never encountered Christianity can still encounter Christ.  And a number of these evangelicals came up with examples of this in their travels around the world, and pointed to scriptural passages to substantiate this…145

Spangler makes the claim that both Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders stated that ‘Christ’ is “in all people” such that even non-Christians can “encounter Christ.”   Lindfield makes a similar claim about himself having his “own essential Christhood” and then makes a further claim about the “word made flesh”:

…I claim my right to freely explore my relationship with God and with Christ.  And if that makes me a New Ager, I will proudly wear that label, if that makes me a fundamental Christian, I will proudly wear that label.  Whatever it is that allows me to freely explore my relationship with God – my own essential Christhood – I will gladly take that on…There are many books and many writings purporting to express ‘this is the New Age.’  But in essence what I feel we are searching for is the word made fleshnot just the word made paper146

Levi Dowling makes this concluding statement with respect to the “Word made flesh”:

…[A]fter thirty years of strenuous life the man [Jesus] made his body fit to be the temple of the holy breath [Holy Spirit] and Love [Christ] took full possession, and John well  said when he declared: ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’147

Dowling’s point is that Jesus of Nazareth so demonstrated His worthiness to become ‘the Christ’, the World Teacher of the Piscean Age, that He was fully possessed by ‘the Christ’, the member of the false Trinity.  That is, Jesus, like all others, had the seed within Him (‘Christ within’, the “Thoughts of God” which pervade “all spaces of infinity”) which was then activated by ‘the Christ’, the Son of the false Trinitarian Father, who eventually  “took full possession” of Him.  Once ‘the Christ’, the Logos of Infinities, the false Trinitarian Christ, took full possession of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus then became ‘the Word made flesh’.  The now ascended Master Jesus, the “World Teacher” for the Age of Pisces, is now our example to follow towards our own ascension to godhood.  To that end, we ourselves must also become “the Word made flesh”.

Given the earlier comparison (in part IIIa) of some Christological quotes of Bill Johnson to those of Levi and the comparisons in this particular section, it is entirely plausible that Johnson intends the same meaning as Levi with respect to “the Word made flesh”.

Interestingly, later in the “Jesus is our Model” sermon, Johnson comes close to correctly explaining Jesus’ first temptation as Him not succumbing to the Devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread: “He could have used the anointing that the Father had given Him through the Holy Spirit to turn the stone into bread.  But, He would not prostitute the favor, the anointing, the power, for personal gain…He faced it; He quoted Scripture; He brought the Word back into focus.”148   However, note that He refrained from using “the anointing that the Father had given Him” rather than His own inherent divinity.

Yet, Johnson follows this up conflating Scripture with the “rhema” Word, then he proceeds to use an example of a personal predictive prophecy which purportedly came to pass years later thereby emphasizing the “rhema” Word and, hence, coming full circle.  Subsequently, he closes his sermon and restates his original wrong exposition on Jesus’ first temptation.149

So, initially, Johnson goes to great lengths to show that Jesus’ first temptation was to question who He was as the “rhema” Word made flesh; yet, he later claims that Jesus first temptation was to get Him to use the power of ‘the anointing’ “for personal gain” thereby contradicting his first interpretation.  However, he asserts once again that Jesus’ first temptation was to “question His identity” near the very end of this sermon.150  This aptly illustrates Johnson’s duplicity.

The Word Becoming Spirit

In the following is another example of Johnson proclaiming Jesus as the “rhema” Word made flesh in yet another sermon.  However, Bill Johnson goes a bit further.  In this first bit, Johnson is making the point that most don’t have the full reality of what God ‘has already imparted into us’.  By this, he apparently means we’ve not yet fully actualized the seed implanted in us:

…We take such small risks because we live with such ignorance of what we possess.  I pray…that the ongoing revelation of God would come upon us as a people to discover what He has already been imparted to us; so that we can reasonably pursue the increase in what we’re lacking, what we’re missing…the real issue is that we live in ignorance of what has already been deposited into our lives.151

This “ongoing revelation”, this “rhema” Word, activated by “the sperma of God” will help us to literally release ‘the Word’ into the atmosphere – as it did for Jesus:

…Jesus said the Kingdom is within you.  Now that Kingdom is released in many different ways.  It is released through touch, it is released through the prophetic act, it is released through word.  In John chapter 6, Jesus said, “My words to you are spirit and they are life.”  Whenever Jesus spoke, He spoke what the Father was saying; so, nothing originated [from Him]…152

Johnson goes on with his usual kenotic motif of ‘Jesus did nothing of Himself being totally reliant on the Father in order to model a Spirit-filled life for the believer’.  Then he continues, claiming that when Jesus, “the Word made flesh”, spoke, His Words literally became Spirit by taking John 6:63 out of context.  He expounds on this proof-text by taking Romans 14:17 out of context as well which is followed by more Scripture twisting in order to make his esoteric point:

…So Jesus makes this declaration: “My words to you are spirit and they are lifeJesus is the Word of God made flesh; but, every time He spoke, the Word of God became SpiritWord made flesh; Word made Spirit…  Why is that important? 

…Paul said this in Romans, that the Kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but it is righteousness, peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit.  The Kingdom of God is not meat or drink, it’s righteousness, peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit.  The Kingdom of God is IN the Holy Spirit.  When words become Spirit, the realms of God’s dominion are released over humanityWhen we say what the Father is saying then we literally impart Presence through speech.  It is not the volume.  It is not the profundity.  It is the source: Was it from the heart of the Father?  If we tap the heart of the Father and we speak, then something is released and it is the person of the Holy Spirit who Himself contains the realm of the King-dom – King’s domain.  The realm of God is contained in the realm of the Spirit. When we say what the Father is saying, we change the options of every hearer…

When Jesus said, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” He was letting them know ‘when I talk to you, a reality is released over you that changed your options’.  And your answer is within reach.  It’s at HAND.153  

Is this Levi’s (God of) Force ‘made manifest’ “through the Word”?  The similarities are striking indeed.  Later in this same monologue, Johnson tells the audience the entire purpose of “all ministry” which is to literally “impart the Person of the Spirit of Christ”.  Which “Spirit of Christ” is being imparted?

…It’s my conviction that all ministry can be summed up…can be boiled down to one thing: All ministry is actually imparting the Person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation.  It’s actually imparting [ED: Johnson here points to his mouth] the person.  “Freely you have received, freely give.”  What have you received?  Him.154

This doctrine is not found anywhere in the pages of the Holy Bible; however, this concept is remarkably similar to an occult teaching regarding the etheric realm.  In Alice Bailey’s Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, she describes the etheric realm as the panentheistic realm – that substance of ‘god’ which is within all matter.  She uses the term omnipresence to describe its nature:

…Omnipresence has its basis in the substance of the universe, and in what the scientists call the ether; this word “ether” is a generic term covering the ocean of energies which are all inter-related and which constitute that one synthetic energy body of our planet.155

In panentheism, God is both transcendent (outside the cosmos) while simultaneously immanent, within all matter.  This immanence is the ‘god within’ (or “Christ within”, seed, divine spark) which inter-connects with all others; i.e., the ‘god within’ one person or thing is of the same essence as the ‘god within’ another.  This ‘divine immanence’ is the etheric realm, and omnipresence characterizes the nature of the entire etheric body.  This then makes omniscience possible to all:

It is a fact that omnipresence, which is a law in nature and based on the fact that the etheric bodies of all forms constitute the world etheric body, makes omniscience possible.  The etheric body of the planetary Logos is swept into activity by His directed will; energy is the result of His thoughtform playing in and through His energy body.156

Bailey asserts that this inter-connectness of the panentheistic, etheric realm makes collective omniscience possible since “divine thought” permeates this realm.157 Through “concentration and meditation”, individuals become “inspired Thinkers” with the power to direct this energy thereby acquiring “the clue to ultimate world salvation”:158

The thought-directing energy has for its source a Thinker Who can enter into the divine Mind, owing to His having transcended human limitation; the thought-directed receiver is the man, in exoteric expression, who has aligned his brain, his mind, and his soul.159

…Advanced humanity, the mystics and the knowers, are becoming increasingly aware of the mind which directs the evolutionary process.  When this awareness is cultivated and the individual mind is brought consciously into contact with the mind of God as it expresses itself through the illumined mind of the Hierarchy of adepts, we shall have the steady growth of omniscience.  This is the whole story of telepathic interplay in the true sense; it portrays the growth of that oligarchy of elect souls who will eventually rule the world, who will be chosen so to rule…160

Going back to Johnson, “The realm of God is contained in the realm of the Spirit”.  And, “If we tap the heart of the Father and we speak, then something is released and it is the person of the Holy Spirit who Himself contains the realm of the King-dom – King’s domain”.  So, in speaking the “rhema” Word (or through touch or the “prophetic act”), we release the “person of the Holy Spirit”, or, in other words of Johnson, we impart “the person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation”.  This is the purpose of “all ministry” as per Johnson.  In comparing to the Bailey concept above, it seems plausible that Johnson is releasing the ‘etheric realm’ into the atmosphere through the spoken “Word of God” via the omnipresence inherent in the ether.  Let’s compare this to more words of Bailey from another book:

Instruction is being given at this time to a special group of people who have come into incarnation at this critical period of world’s history.  They have come in, all at the same time, throughout the world, to do the work of linking up the two planes, the physical and the astral, via the etheric.161

It would be instructive to point out that occult / New Age / New Spirituality teachings are also expecting a “kingdom of god” as illustrated in Alice Bailey’s From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, her 1937 work explaining how Jesus is ‘our model’:

It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…162

…A new kingdom is coming into being: the fifth kingdom in nature [ED: kingdom of God] is materialising, and already has a nucleus functioning on earth in physical bodies.163

Bailey explains this concept of bringing in the “kingdom of god” in yet another book, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, with the book’s title about the intent of ‘externalizing’ the “Spiritual Hierarchy” (of demons) onto the physical plane (the earth):

Hovering today within the aura of our planet are certain great spiritual Forces and Entities, awaiting the opportunity to participate actively in the work of world redemption, re-adjustment and reconstruction.  Their Presence is sensed at times by the spiritually-minded people of the world, and Their reality is recognised by the mystics and occultists working in every land.  Men and women express this recognition according to the trend of their religious and psychological training and the particular mental or emotional bias…164

The book goes on to note how the different religions await various messianic figures each according to its own particular religious views and how this can create a powerful “thoughtform”.   This collusion of thought can hasten an event:

…[W]hen a thoughtform has been constructed of sufficient potency and has been built over a long period of time by the people of the world, a further and final stage becomes ever possible.  The form can be rendered so magnetic that it can attract an Energy which will inform it and give it active potency; it can then become a vital link between the subjective world of energy and the objective world of forces and a thing of power, of impelling and guiding activity, and therefore the expression of a Life.  This thoughtform, duly informed, becomes a mediating factor, constructed by humanity but animated by the will-to-good of some great and spiritual Entity… 165

Is this the method Johnson has in mind “to impart Presence through speech”?  Is this what is meant by his conviction that the ultimate goal of ministry is “actually imparting the Person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation”?  While Johnson does not make any explicit or implicit claims of omniscience in believers with his words above, he implies it in the following section (while Bob Jones does so explicitly).

We’ll close this section with additional words of Alice Bailey stating fairly concisely the intents and purposes of the “Spiritual Hierarchy” of which she communed indicating the needed cooperation of humanity:

Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control…The fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….166

Getting Down to the DNA of Spiritual DNA

In his Shepherd’s Rod 2005, Bob Jones used this same concept of the ‘Word becoming flesh in us again’ with the ‘Word’ being the WoF “rhema” word, i.e. new, ongoing revelation, in referencing spiritual DNA:

The Living Word or Bread of life once again desires to be made flesh through a body of people joined with Him in a holy consummation.  As we live not by natural bread alone but by the living Word proceeding from the mouth of God, the bread of abundant life, even so the hidden truth of godliness will become part of our spiritual DNA.

…Mysteries reserved deep in the heart of the Father, locked away in the mind of Christ, and dispersed by the Spirit who searches the deep things, await the passionate embrace of a latter-day company of overcoming, holy, victorious ones…167

Since Jesus identified Himself as the “Bread of Life” [John 6:35, 48], it is clear Jones is claiming that some believers will, at some point, be just like Jesus as “the Word made flesh”, thus mirroring Johnson above.  Apparently, in living by the “living Word proceeding from the mouth of God” the spiritual DNA is expanded.

In part II it was shown how Bob Jones differentiated between the physical body which contains our DNA as compared to “His [God’s] genetics” / conscience / spirit within each person that has “authority over DNA”.  This is subsequently added to the human body (clay).  Jones’ teaching appears to be a ‘Christianized’ version of the esoteric/occult doctrine of reincarnation.

Apparently, “spiritual DNA” provides the means with which one can attain the literal mind of Christ (omniscience) as Jones also mentions in his teaching at the 2011 Piercing the Darkness prophetic conference:

…But there are Christians who are maturin’ now in their mind to where they’ll have the mind of Christ, and they’ll have the answers…168

This presumably occurs when one taps into “the Wisdom of the Ages” [see part II and below].  It is entirely possible, if not probable, that Jones has in mind ‘the Christ’ which is part of the false Trinity of Levi, i.e. the one which “took full possession” of Jesus of Nazareth (or a similar teaching).  This then would mean that when Jones speaks of ‘Christ’ “coming IN my people” [see part II] – referencing the false parousia – he’s referring to this same false Christ.

To reiterate, and perhaps make clearer, here’s additional context of Jones’ “God sperm seed” statement in which his claim is that this “spirit of God” comes into everyone at conception:

…Everyone of you, when you were conceived in your mother’s womb, a spirit of God came into you.  It’s your human spirit which is your conscience.  When this came into you, this spirit was as mature as it’ll ever be because this spirit came from God.  And, this is what’s been guiding your life – your conscience, your human spirit.  Man is six things.  He’s mind, will, and emotions.  He is human spirit, Holy Spirit and Wisdom of the AgesWhat happens if you begin to tap into the Wisdom of the Ages?  In that little bitty God sperm seed – 1st Peter 1:23 is all the Wisdom of the Ages.  That genetic thing – you have authority over DNA169

When Jones speaks of those Christians “who are maturing’ now in their mind” he’s speaking of those who are in tune with this ‘spirit’ which has “been guiding your life”, a “spiritual guide” which is providing these ‘new revelations’.  For those not familiar with New Age or esoteric/occult terminology, “spiritual guide” is the term used most commonly for a disincarnate spirit which guides the individual (which can seem like a ‘god within’).  Jones adds more to the above (quoted in part II):

But what He put in here [ED: the body] was not DNA.  It was His [God’s] genetics that has authority over DNA… For this conscience of yours is really your spiritual guide.  God gave this to you to guide your lives.  Don’t violate your conscience.  In certain places it’s called your spirit.  Especially in 2nd Corinthians 7:1 it’s called spirit and flesh.170

Jones is reiterating that it’s the spirit which is “as mature as it will ever be” which was “put in here [the body]” at conception.  It seems Jones’ “God sperm seed” is the agent which activates “His [God’s] genetics”, “your conscience”, which allows one to “tap into the Wisdom of the Ages”.  This “God sperm seed” is apparently what activates the “spiritual DNA” which “has authority over DNA”.  This appears to be very similar to, if not the same as, Johnson’s teaching on the “sperma of God”.

Johnson sets up his account of the “sperma of God” by explaining that ‘God’s Word’ brings conflict; however, again, Johnson is not speaking of Scripture.  He is referring to the “rhema” word as in the Word of Faith teachings as noted above:

…This story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God…171

Johnson’s point is essentially that other concerns “choke out” the ‘rhema Word’ preventing the “seed of God’s Word”, which is the “sperma of God”, from growing in the soil of the human.  With this teaching, he may well be promoting, in a more subtle way, the same doctrine of reincarnation that Jones has explained a bit more explicitly in part II.  The following quotes will help explain this a bit more.

In his book When Heaven Invades Earth, Bill Johnson speaks of “spiritual DNA” in two different passages.  Bracketed comments are inserted for explanation:

God is our Father, and we inherit His genetic code [at conception].   Every believer has written into his or her spiritual DNA [activated by the “sperma of God”] the desire for the supernatural….172

It is abnormal for a Christian not to have an appetite for the impossible. It has been written into our spiritual DNA [activated by the “sperma of God”] to hunger for the impossibilities around us to bow at the name of Jesus.173

God’s “genetic code” is the not yet activated “spiritual DNA” that all receive at conception.  This “spiritual DNA” is activated when one begins to listen to the ‘Word of God’, or “conscience” / ‘spirit’ as Jones would put it, thus beginning the ‘born again’ experience.  Here are some additional quotes:

…Exposure to the supernatural works of God changes the capacity of leaders to lead, thereby changing the bent of the people of God to pursue Him.

Such exposure is the equivalent of a spiritual change of DNA.  Something is altered in that person that enables him or her to lead in a way that the people of God inherit a heart for God through the leader’s influence.174

It is said that when a kernel of corn is planted, every kernel that grows has the exact same DNA as the original kernel in the ground. Jesus became the ultimate seed that was planted in death, and we were born again by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead.  Every born-again believer has the DNA of Christ.  That is amazing!

This DNA of Christ in us is practical in that it enables the Godlike capacity to dream…He [Jesus] was planted to redeem people unto something.  And that unto something involves accurately and fully representing who Jesus is on earth as in Heaven.  We have His DNA and therefore manifest His face to the world…175

In this context, ‘born again’ refers to the point at which the ‘spiritual DNA’ is activated.  Once again, Johnson stresses how Jesus was raised by the Spirit rather than by the Father AND Christ Himself as per orthodoxy.  And this same ‘Spirit’ provides the ‘born again’ experience of every ‘believer’.  Johnson stresses this elsewhere in the same book: “The Holy Spirit in us is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.  He is the Spirit of the resurrected Christ.”176  Johnson emphasizes ‘the Spirit’.  Could Johnson be referring to the same “Christ Spirit” that Benjamin Crème had in mind as indicated at the end of part IIIa?

Also, his assertion that we should be “accurately and fully representing who Jesus is on earth as in Heaven” in this context has overtones of the heretical Manifested Sons of God (MSoG) teaching.  And the ‘kernel of corn’ comparison reads much like the “seed of God’s Word”, “sperma of God” teaching above.  Johnson reiterates this teaching in a Charisma piece from last year’s special issue featuring Bethel Church:

When the Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residence in our bodies, all of heaven positioned itself to see what we would conquer in His name. Resurrection power is in our nature, in our spiritual DNA.  When we were born again, we received the same spiritual DNA as Jesus.  His resurrection power now is to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit…177

This “resurrection power” described above was discussed in Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II illustrating likely roots in MSoG teaching which has a parallel teaching in the occult / New Age / New Spirituality which itself is predicated on the false doctrine of reincarnation.

Let’s compare Johnson’s teachings with those of Eternal Vision Ministries which adheres to the following creed: “We believe that all of creation was designed and set forth to fulfill God’s Eternal Purpose”.178  Their teachings are reminiscent of other hyper-charismatic ministries with a decidedly New Age bent.  There’s no explicit mention of the Gospel while there’s a vague “Gospel of Eternity” promoted.  The following is from their teaching “The Function of the Bride”:

It is clear that growth cannot be accurately measured by the number of doctrines we learn or the amount of knowledge we achieve. Spiritual growth is measured by the spiritual life we have received from Him. This is the Zoe Life that IS Christ in us. This is the Life that comes into us as the sperma of God when we are born again. This “sperma” is the living and abiding word of God. It is also called the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of His Son. The same “sperma” that was impregnated into Mary to develop into the Man Christ Jesus also comes into us. The growth of that “sperma” was the incarnation of God in a human body.

God’s goal for the church is the incarnation of Christ IN His body now on earth. For that reason God begins by infusing the “sperma” of God which is the living and abiding Word of God into each of us individually. Then individual “members” are assembled into a local body called the church. The corporate church is said to be the fullness of Him that fills all in all. In other words this church is the manifestation of Christ.

Jesus said if you have seen Me you have seen the Father because He was the manifestation of the Father on earth. Hopefully we will be able to say if you have seen me you have seen Christ, at least if we see His fulness we will see the “corporate Christ”. A “body with many members”.179

This looks a LOT like Bill Johnson’s teachings.  Not surprisingly, Eternal Vision asserts that Jesus was formed from the same “sperma” that ‘infuses’ “each of us individually”.   This correlates to Johnson’s teaching of Jesus as explained above regarding Jesus as the “rhema” Word made flesh by this “living and abiding word” indwelling Jesus rather than Jesus as the second Person of the Trinity made flesh via the hypostatic union.  Of course, this also correlates with the teaching of Levi above.

In an article titled Creating Heaven on Earth, is an interview of New Ager Jean Adrienne by Asa Wulfe in which they discuss bodily ascension as a way of creating Heaven on Earth in the here and now.  Note the similarity in title as compared with Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.  In the Adrienne/Wulfe interview, Adrienne describes the process of ascension as being “started by activating additional strands of DNA – the spiritual DNA”:

…[I]f additional strands are activated, we awaken new abilities, gifts, and powers that have been dormant…Perhaps our DNA could be a ladder into the Fifth Dimension…180

This “Fifth Dimension” is analogous to Bailey’s “Fifth Kingdom,” also known as the “Kingdom of God”, which is only accessed by achieving the fourth (and higher) initiations with the fourth initiation resulting in the attainment of a manifested son of God.  [see “Christ” in the New Age article on this site]:

Certainly, everything that we are physically is encoded in the DNA.  We have physical DNA in our cells, and spiritual DNA that is in our energy field.  These two energies have to be connected, just as the left and right hemispheres of the brain must become integrated and balanced as we move into the Fifth Dimension.

All of our inner knowledge is stored in the DNA…When we become authentic, we no longer search outside ourselves for ‘true knowledge.’  It is within us.181

Bill Johnson’s friend Che Ahn of HRock Church has clearly defined spiritual DNA in an old Ministry Today article:

While no two of us are exactly alike physically, it would appear we have the same spiritual DNA, according to the Scriptures. Like Adam and all of humanity to follow him, the image of the Godhead has been passed down…

…[C]an we fathom the untold significance of having our Father’s DNA?

I no longer merely confess that I am the righteousness of Christ. I realize that with His DNA in me through His blood, I could be nothing else. I realize the attributes of His DNA reside in me—whether dormant or active.

No longer do I see the fruit of the Spirit as something we “will” by self-effort or following the law. Rather, I see that in my DNA, God has already placed genes of love, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are waiting to be activated by the Holy Spirit.182

This sounds much like what Bill Johnson is stating although it explains some aspects a bit more clearly.  From another New Age / New Spirituality site we see, once again, the same concepts:

In our current DNA structure, we have two visible strands, which are called backbone DNA, but all the other 10 other strands are present…According to Esoteric teachings, the first two strands are Physical DNA, the other ten strands are Spiritual DNA.

Activating your dormant DNA, which in time will also give you access to the secrets and mysteries of which you are and what your life-purpose is, will allow you to realize your full potential here on Earth.183

Divine Nature Activated

Bill Johnson’s friend Todd Bentley defined “DNA” as “Divine Nature Activated” under the Supernatural Training Center tab on his old Fresh Fire Canada site.  This seems an apt way to define the activation of the “spiritual DNA”:

Christ wants us to know Him intimately by the power of the Holy Spirit and to catch His vision for our lives.  His desire is to build godly character into our DNA – Divine Nature Activated….184

Also, his now-defunct Fresh Fire Canada site featured his “Joel’s Army Internship” in which was found the following quote from Jerame Nelson of Living at His Feet Ministries:

…I have experienced a true impartation of the Fire of God, as well as faith to see the divine nature of Jesus Christ manifest in the earth today185

Do we have a divine nature?  Scripture shows we have a fallen, sinful human nature but never does the Bible say or even allude to humans having a divine nature. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in the true believer which makes us “partakers of the divine nature” [2nd Peter 1:4 NKJV] but only through Him.  The word partake does not mean become.  Yes, we can say “Christ in us, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27]; but, this does not mean we become Christ or divine.  Only the Trinitarian Godhead is divine.

However, as explained earlier, esoteric/occult teaching is such that man has a dual nature – one human and one inherent but latent divine nature which must be actualized through self-effort.  Once an individual acknowledges their inherent divinity, then they can work towards actualizing it.  This seems like the best explanation for Bill Johnson’s concepts of the “sperma of God”, “Word made flesh”, “spiritual DNA” and the other material brought forth in this article.

The significance of “Divine Nature Activated” is explained quite well by New Ager John Lewis of Age to Age Ministries:

Citizens of planet Earth, you have been incarnated in your present physical form at this time to witness and participate in the Transformation of human kind.  This phase of human evolution is to bring him into full manifestation of his Divineness

You are not here by accident, chance, or coincident.  Your parents were only convenient for you arriving in the physical 3 dimensional existence you now experience.  You came through your mother, but you came from God.  Parents gave you the physical and biological stuff to house who you really are until the appointed time of the Divine Nature Activated.  You are being summoned and wooed to an experience that transcends what is known as the human experience.  Therefore, arise and shine because the Light within is coming to full expression and the glory of God will become more visible on your physical being.186

Once again, one can almost hear the refrain of the popular song by the soul/rock group The 5th Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”.  Clearly, this is very similar, if not the same as, Manifest Sons of God teaching.  Continuing with Lewis in his subsection titled, “DIVINE NATURE ACTIVATED”:

We are partakers of his divine nature.’  97% of our DNA is unused, not active; therefore, the science communities don’t understand it.  I believe that the discovery of DNA at the time it was discovered was carefully orchestrated by God in man….

 …The 97% of your DNA that’s not activated is GOD waiting to be activated in man.  You have the information and intelligence of the Adam the son of God encoded in your DNA.  Access and activation to this information will cause you to live as Adam the God-man in the Garden of your Be-ing….

One will only be able to fulfill the Divine purpose when he is walking in awareness of his own divinity.  It is our belief system that hinders us from being the Gods we are…187

John Lewis’ teachings sure do resemble those of Johnson, Jones, Ahn and Bentley, do they not?

Part IV will discuss how some other teachings of Johnson resemble those of occult / New Age / New Spirituality and will conclude this series.

117Rudolph, Kurt; trans. R McLachlan Wilson Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. © 1977 Koehler & Amelang; translation (from German) of second, revised and expanded version © 1984 T&T Clark Ltd, Edinburgh; 1987 (1st paperback), HarperCollins, New York, NY; pp 159-160, 305-306.  Craig Keener, in his commentary on John [The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One.  2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 339-363], exhaustively covers the various possibilities for the Gospel writer’s reason for using the term Logos.  Keener contends that any Gnostic influence on the Gospel writer is “not probable” [p 340].
118Keener; p 341
119Keener; p 341
120Keener; p 344
121Keener; p 345
122Keener; pp 347-363.  While Keener is convinced of the parallel, Andreas Kostenberger [Kostenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Encountering Biblical Series). July 2009 (8th prtg (paperback), (1999)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 52-57] is less so as he sees “Wisdom” as a divine attribute instead [p 53].  Kostenberger believes the parallel is not close enough and, “if no closer parallel can be found, it may be necessary to conclude that personified Wisdom constitutes at least a remote parallel to the characterization in John” [p 53].
123Kostenberger, Encountering John; pp 52-56
124Kostenberger, Andreas J. John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. July 2009 (4th prtg (2004)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 41
125Keener; pp 140-142.  Keener notes that “John’s literary freedom” [p 140] makes it easier to date the Gospel.
126Bercot, David W., Ed. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.  © 1988 David Bercot, November 2000 (3rd prtg), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 91
127“whizzpopping” YouTube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. Uploaded November 1, 2009 , taken from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, <http://www.ibethel.tv/watch/399/open-heavens-conference/2009/10/14?session=113> Open Heavens Conference October 15, 2009, morning session, Bill Johnson  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4RZ_ctiwlE>; 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 04/23/12.   Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
128Johnson, Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing; p 75. Emphasis added.
129“ewenhuffman” Jesus is our Model- Sermon of the week 20 Dec 09. Posted December 23, 2009, “Bill Johnson sermons for downloading”, mp3 audio, taken from <http://www.ibethel.org/> December 20, 2009, original sermon titled “Jesus is Our Model”  <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2009/12/23/jesus-is-our-model-sermon-of-the-week-20-dec-09/> 24:07 – 24:24 (Johnson continues reiterating this thought until 24:57 at which he point he explains this via Matthew 13); as accessed 04/21/12.  Emphasis added.
130Bock, Darrell L. Luke, Volume 1 – 1:1—9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). © 1994 Darrell L. Bock, Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 372-374
131“ewenhuffman” 24:57 – 25:17.  Emphasis added.
132“ewenhuffman” 25:17 – 26:18.  Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
133Dowling; p 6
134Dowling; p 6
135Dowling; p 6
136Dowling; p 8
137“ewenhuffman” 26:19 – 27:11.  Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
138“ewenhuffman” 27:30 – 27:48.
139“ewenhuffman” 29:11 – 29:28.  Emphasis added.
140“ewenhuffman” 32:14 – 32:17.  Emphasis added
141Walker, Benjamin Gnosticism: Its History and Influence. © 1983 Benjamin Walker, 1989 (1st published 1983 Aquarian Press), Crucible/Thorsons Publishing Group, Northamptonshire, England; p 62
142Walker; p 62
143Unity School of Christianity Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. 1931 (1955, 8th pr.), Unity School of Christianity (no publisher specified), Lee’s Summit, MO; p 388.  Emphasis added.
144Cumbey, Constance E. “An Evening with David Spangler” New Age Monitor. September 1988, Vol. 3, No. 1, Pointe Publishers, Center Line, MI; p 8
145Cumbey, “Evening with Spangler”; p 10
146Cumbey, “Evening with Spangler”; p 12
147Dowling; p 8
148“ewenhuffman” 30:21 – 31:01.  Importantly, Johnson indicates Jesus refrains from using the power of “the anointing” as opposed to stating Jesus refrained from using His inherent divinity which would be the predominate historical orthodox view.
149“ewenhuffman” 31:01 – 33:00
150“ewenhuffman” 35:03 – 36:04
151“ChasingRiver” YouTube video Bill Johnson – The Resting Place – VERY POWERFUL MESSAGE. Uploaded October 1, 2011, taken from GodTV <http://www.god.tv/node/503> and <http://www.god.tv/node/504> , venue: International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV), <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsQmLuG-Exo&feature=related> 11:17 – 12:04.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/23/12
152“ChasingRiver”; 12:14 – 12:39.  Emphasis added.
153“ChasingRiver”; 13:09 – 15:08.  Emphasis added.
154“ChasingRiver”; 34:40 – 35:08.  Emphasis added.
155Bailey, Telepathy; p 2
156Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
157Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
158Bailey, Telepathy; p 6.  Emphasis added.
159Bailey, Telepathy; pp 6-7
160Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
161Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. © 1951 Lucis, NY, 4th paperback ed, 1980 (First printing 1922), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 67.  Emphasis in original.
162Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 210
163Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 254
164Bailey, Externalisation; p 222
165Bailey, Externalisation; pp 222-223
166Bailey, Externalisation; p 588
167Jones, Bob & Paul Keith Davis Shepherd’s Rod 2005. © 2002 Bob Jones and Paul Keith Davis, Bynum Printing, Waynesboro, MS; pp 15-16. These “Shepherd’s Rods” are purportedly ‘prophetic words’ Jones receives each year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  What is the significance of Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement to the Christian when Jesus’ blood sacrifice IS the Day of Atonement and the fulfillment of this Jewish holy day?  The year of Jones’ “Shepherd’s Rods” is always the year following Yom Kippur, in this case the actual date was September 25, 2004 (from page 1 of the booklet).  Paul Keith Davis is of White Dove Ministries.
168Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 5:02 – 5:11.  Emphasis added.
169Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 10:53 – 11:59.  Emphasis added.
170Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 24:48 – 25:30.  Emphasis added.
171Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 26:19 – 26:38.  Emphasis added.
172Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81. Emphasis added.
173Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 25. Emphasis added.
174Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 140.  Emphasis added.
175Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 147.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
176Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 135.  Emphasis in original.
177Johnson, Bill, “Super-Natural by Nature” Charisma. June 09, 2011, online version <http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/component/content/article/1571-features/31221-super-natural-by-nature> par 13.  As accessed 4/26/12.
178Eternal Vision Ministries, home page <http://www.eternalvisionministries.com>.  As accessed 4/27/12.
179Eternal Vision Ministries “The Function of the Bride”, <http://www.eternalvisionministries.com/_writings/writings/10022_bride_function.html> par 4-6.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
180“The Spirit of Ma’at” website by Asa Wulfe “Creating Heaven on Earth with Jean Adrienne”, Vol 4, No 5, n.d.      <http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/dec4/adrienne.htm> par 13.  As accessed 4/27/12.
181Wulfe; par 14-17.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
182Ahn, Che “Spiritual DNA” Column: First Priority, Ministry Today; June 30, 2007, online version  <http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/first-priority/15390-spiritual-dna>;  par 4-8.  Emphasis added.
183Humanity Healing Network website, ‘hhteam’, “Spiritual DNA”, <http://humanityhealing.net/2010/08/spiritual-dna/>; par 6-7, 15.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
184Fresh Fire Canada website, Todd Bentley, “Supernatural Training Center” courtesy Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine),<http://web.archive.org/web/20070826155456/www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Id=4&pid=994>;  par 3.  Emphasis in original.  As accessed 4/27/12.
185Fresh Fire Canada website, Todd Bentley, “Joel’s Army Internship” ‘Testimonies’, courtesy Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine), <http://web.archive.org/web/20070825050149/www.freshfire.ca/?Id=943&pid=994>; emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12
186Age to Age Ministries, John Lewis, “DNA 2002: Divine Nature Activated”    <http://www.atam.org/DNA.html>; par 1-2.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
187Age to Age Ministries, John Lewis; par 21, 24, 32.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.  As accessed 4/27/12

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

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

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

Heresy has become the term used to describe anyone who disagrees with a particular leader, but that is not so.  We need to give more grace to those who differ from us.  The essential doctrines of the church – the Virgin Birth, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the Atonement, and the like – qualify as issues we should fight for.

- Bill Johnson1

There are certainly those who are hasty in labeling doctrines as heresy when they are not really so.  This is both irresponsible and hurtful to the body of Christ.  Let’s call teachings heresy and teachers heretics only when this is indisputably evident.

By inference, it would be fair to assume that with Bill Johnson’s statement above he would define heresy as any doctrine which departs from the orthodox Christian teachings on the essentials of the faith.  These are “issues we should fight for” and Johnson should consider the following a fight, a defense of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ and the Atonement over against Johnson’s own doctrine with respect to these essentials.

This article will restate and clarify Bill Johnson’s teaching on Christology – the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ – which has been the subject of many different articles here on CrossWise.  Johnson’s Christology will then be compared to that of New Age / New Spirituality teaching which is really not very ‘new’ as it goes all the way back to the early Church.

Preliminary Background

In Constance Cumbey’s pioneering work, the 1983 book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, is the assertion that New Age Christology meets the test of antichrist as per the Apostle John in his first epistle [1 John 2:22].2  Cumbey notes that “New Agers generally do not openly repudiate Christianity”.  Instead “they often clothe New Age concepts in Christian language and…undermine Christianity while pretending to be its friend”.3  This was the specific goal outlined by Alice Bailey in her numerous writings (most of which were channeled through her by “Master Djwhal Khul”) and it’s these writings which form much of the basis for the current New Age / New Spirituality:4

The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished…The church must show a wide tolerance…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance [ED: occult/esoteric meaning].  The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated.5

In a 1982 letter to Cumbey, Marilyn Ferguson, author of the New Age book The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980’s, defends her professed stance as a ‘Christian’ yet she promotes liberal, non-Christian methods to expand Christianity while simultaneously denigrating orthodox teaching:

My definition of Christianity has expanded over the years.  After I became involved in meditation, for example, I experienced the vision of Christ more vividly than I ever had through sermons and dogma.  You would be surprised, I think, to know how much of the New Age Movement centers on Christ Consciousness.  Many Christian churches are seeing that direct spiritual experience offers a revitalization for modern Christianity.6

“Christ consciousness” is another term for the “expansion of consciousness” or “transformation of consciousness” akin to contemplative prayer aka centering prayer which are all in reality much like transcendental meditation (TM) in methodology. [See “Christ Consciousness” section of the “Christ” in the New Age article.]   Note how Ferguson stresses spiritual experience, i.e. mysticism, over “sermons or dogma”.  She appears to be following the agenda as set forth by Alice Bailey in the above quote.  As Bailey states elsewhere, “Christianity will not be superseded.  It will be transcended…”7

Bill Johnson’s Christology Explained

In essence, Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, a recognized “apostle” by some, teaches that at conception, or at least prior to the Virgin Birth, Jesus divested Himself of all His divine attributes thereby living a sinless earthly existence by being totally reliant upon the Holy Spirit while receiving the power to do miracles at His baptism.  This divine self-emptying is known as the kenosis doctrine as discussed here.  The quotes used in this section are taken from six different books by Bill Johnson (and one sermon) to illustrate that this teaching undergirds his entire theology.

Jesus did everything as a man, laying aside His divinity in order to become a model for us.8

…Jesus did everything in His earthly ministry as a man who had set aside all His divine privileges and power in order to model the Christian life for us.9

..Jesus set aside His divinity, choosing instead to live as a man completely dependent on God.10

…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…11 

The above quotes can be construed such that Jesus retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to exercise them; however, the following illustrates that He no longer had inherent deity:12

Jesus Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son can do nothing.’  In the Greek language that word nothing has a unique meaning—it means NOTHING, just like it does in English!   He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!…He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God.13 

…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, something for us to follow….Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…14

Given that deity is by very definition supernatural, Johnson has, in effect, reduced Jesus to less than God.  With Johnson’s claim that Jesus had no inherent ability to perform miracles in and of Himself, it is clear that Johnson means Jesus no longer had his divine attributes to utilize even if He so desired.  He “had NO supernatural capabilities”; He was totally and completely a man but “in right relationship to God” by the Holy Spirit:

 The Father, by the Holy Spirit, directed all that Jesus said and did.15

Analytic theologian Oliver Crisp describes this view that Jesus Christ performed all His miracles by the Holy Spirit rather than His inherent divinity/deity as “not conventional”.16  Furthermore, this doctrine is simply not Biblically accurate.  Jesus certainly exercised His deity in providing life to whom He “is pleased to give it” [John 5:21, NIV 1984] during His earthly ministry pre-Cross [John 5:24-25; cf. Luke 23:43].17  This life-giving to the believer was performed by Jesus not as an agent through whom the Spirit worked but because Jesus had “life in himself” [John 5:26].18   In other words, the life Jesus Christ as God the Son gives to those who believe comes from God the Father since both are part of the Triune Godhead.  Jesus was not an intermediary per se in this regard.19

Johnson makes the explicit claim that Jesus became the Christ after coming up out of the water at His baptism in the Jordan by John when the Spirit came upon Him as a dove at which point He received the “Christ anointing” (see quote further below) contradicting Luke 1:35/2:11 [cf. Matt 1:22-23/Isaiah 7:14, etc.].  Brackets are inserted to provide 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 [Spirit resting upon Him after baptism in the Jordan]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] in an experience [Spirit resting upon Him] 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 [after water baptism in the Jordan].20

Admittedly, this is a bit confusing; but, with his concluding sentence above logic follows that if “the name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit” immediately following John’s baptism, then, by further implication, before baptism He must have been simply Jesus of Nazareth [again, contrary to Luke 1:35 / Luke 2:11].  Bill Johnson is more direct in the following:

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 [“Christ anointing” by the Spirit after water baptism] there could be no title.21

In Christian orthodoxy the term “Christ” denotes deity/divinity22  which would mean that in Johnson’s Christology Jesus was not divine before the Holy Spirit came upon Him after His baptism by John in the Jordan and, consequently, Jesus would be made divine by virtue of this “Christ anointing” after which He is “qualified” to be called Christ.  This is exactly Johnson’s intended meaning:

The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil.23

This statement flows logically from all the previous statements.  This “anointing” ‘enabled Him’ for He had “NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever” having laid His divine attributes aside.  To reiterate, if, as in the Johnson Christology, the ‘anointing’ “linked Jesus, the man, to the divine” then, as implied earlier, Jesus is merely a human made divine at baptism by virtue of the “Christ anointing” by the Holy Spirit coming upon Him.  Further, this would infer that as others receive this same “Christ anointing” they too would be “linked to the divine” in the same manner.  The following adds weight to this inference:

…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…24

Moreover, given that Jesus was called “Christ” when He was, as Johnson puts it, “smeared by the Holy Spirit”, believers should logically be called “Christ” at this “Christ anointing”, too.

Johnson calls Jesus’ second baptism in the Jordan (the first is water, the second follows and is by the Holy Spirit coming upon Him) the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and this is available to all who believe.25  This is consistent with the over-arching theme permeating all Johnson’s work that “Jesus is our model”.  After quoting John 1:32, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” [NKJV] Johnson continues

…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…26

Johnson continues to drive home his assertion that Jesus was not inherently God but merely divine by virtue of the Holy Spirit as He was “perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God” (“the presence of God” being the “Christ anointing” or “baptism in the Holy Spirit”) so that the Spirit of God did “rest upon Him”.  And we can enjoy this same privilege if we are just as ‘faithful’ proving that we are “trustworthy”.

This anointing [“Christ anointing” / “baptism in the Holy Spirit”] is what enabled Jesus to do only what He saw the Father do, and to say only what He heard the Father say. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed the Father to Jesus.27 

It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus [“baptism in the Holy Spirit” / “Christ anointing”]  that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying.  That same gift of the Spirit has been given to us for that same purpose.28 

If the Son of God was that reliant upon the anointing, His behavior should clarify our need for the Holy Spirit’s presence upon us [“baptism in the Holy Spirit”] to do what the Father has assigned….This anointing [“Christ anointing”] is actually the person of the Holy Spirit upon someone to equip them for supernatural endeavors.29 

The second baptism deals with…getting us filled with God so we can walk with Him and more effectively represent Him as His agents of power on the earth.30

Without this “Christ anointing” there seems to be no possibility that God could perform supernatural works through an individual (including Jesus Christ) in Johnson’s theology.  The individual is simply powerless until this second “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.  In addition, one receives the ability to “walk with God” only after receiving this “Christ anointing” / “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.

Jesus’ inherent powerlessness is carried all the way beyond the Cross to the Resurrection thereby negating the efficacy of Jesus Christ’s Atonement for our sins.31  He cannot even raise Himself from the dead contrary to John 2:19/10:17-18:

…The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin).

The anointing Jesus received was the equipment necessary, given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitation…32

…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…33

Of course He did not raise Himself from the dead; He could not as He was “powerless” except by virtue of the “Christ anointing” according to Johnson.  Faulty Christology always has negative implications on the Atonement.

Bill Johnson’s Christology can certainly be described as heresy.  It is known as separationist Christology34 for it separates Christ from Jesus and vice versa.  By definition, as Cumbey states above, it meets the test of antichrist as it denies Jesus is the Christ [1 John 2:22] since He is only human (having “laid His divinity aside”) and becomes Christ only by virtue of the “Christ anointing” which also, in effect, denies Jesus is the Son of the Father (as opposed to merely a son) which in turn denies the Father [1 John 2:22-23];35 moreover, Johnson’s Christology denies that the person of Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [1 John 4:1-3] since it was merely Jesus of Nazareth who came in the flesh.

However, Johnson at times makes statements which appear entirely orthodox in and of themselves:

Jesus Christ was entirely God.  He was not a created being. Yet He became a man and lived entirely by man’s limitations…36

The first two sentences are completely orthodox while the third is not, yet this third sentence is consistent with Johnson’s Christology as put forth in the foregoing.  Confoundingly, these first two seem to contradict the rest of Johnson’s Christological doctrine – but, do they really?  Keeping in mind the Alice Bailey goal of “transcending” Christianity by “preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages” let’s compare the above with these two quotes from the well known New Age book The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

Before creation was, the Christ walked with the Father God…The Christ is son, the only son begotten by the Almighty God…37 

We recognize 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.38

Notice how, in the New Age version, Christ is distinct from Jesus for Christ was God as God’s son while Jesus was merely a man.  This is not inconsistent with the Christological views of Johnson as shown in this article.  This will be explored in much more detail in Part II, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, and Part IV (Conclusion) of this article.

[For more on Johnson's Christology, including more indications of a separationist Christology, see "The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit".]

1Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 71.  Emphasis in original.
2Cumbey, Constance. The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism. 1983, rev. ed., Huntington House, Shreveport, LA; p 146.  This resource is also available as a free download at <https://public.me.com/cumbey> “HIDDEN DANG…ND COVER.pdf”
3Cumbey, Hidden Dangers, p 146.  Emphasis added.
4Cumbey, Hidden Dangers, p 39
5Bailey, Alice A. The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; pp 510-511; [underscore from emphasis in original; bold added for my own emphasis.] While the book was not published until 1957, most sections within the book have corresponding dates of initial writing, or, more accurately, transmission.  The portion quoted here is from 1919, some of the earliest writings of Bailey/The Tibetan.
6Cumbey, Hidden Dangers, pp 146-147
7Bailey, Alice A. 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 20.  Emphasis added.
8Johnson, Bill Strengthen Yourself in the Lord. 2007, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 26
9Johnson, Bill. Release the Power of Jesus. 2009, Destiny Image “Speaking to the Purposes of God for this Generation and the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA; p 79
10Johnson, Bill Face to Face, p 108
11Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 79
12The terms “deity” and “divinity” are used throughout this article interchangeably (as always on CrossWise unless specifically identified otherwise) both defined as “God” or “godlikeness”.  Bill Johnson seems to prefer “divinity” over “deity” as the latter is not readily found in his material.  He uses “divinity” as in “godlikeness” e.g. divine attributes.
13Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 29.  Emphasis and last ellipsis as per original; underscore added for my emphasis.
14Johnson, Bill, 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.  Emphasis and last ellipsis as per original except underscore added for my emphasis.
15Johnson, Face to Face, p 108
16Crisp, Oliver D. Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered. (Current Issues in Theology series) 2007, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK; p 25.  Crisp continues, “A conventional view would claim that Christ was able to perform miracles in virtue of the action of his divine nature in and through his human nature in the hypostatic union.”  Crisp is being polite in not calling this view heterodox or heresy given that Crisp’s point was that such a view violates the Chalcedonian Creed which itself was codified in order to combat the heresies of its day and to provide a means by which to judge future doctrine.  To be at odds with Chalcedon is to be in the realm of heterodoxy.
17To make the claim that it was by the Holy Spirit that Jesus “gave life” logically infers that any Holy Spirit indwelt individual can give life to whom s/he chooses – obviously an incorrect assertion.
18Marianne Meye Thompson explains [The God of the Gospel of John. 2001, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI]: “[T]he Son partakes of the very life of the Father: the Son has life in himself.  Therefore, when Jesus confers life on those who believe, they also participate in and have to do with the life of the Father because the Father has given the Son to have life in himself, even as he has it.  Such predications assume and are dependent upon the conviction that there is but one God, one source of life.  Jesus is not a second deity, not a second source of life, standing alongside the Father.  Rather, the Son confers the Father’s life, which he has in himself” [p 78; italics in original, underscore added].  “[T]he Son exercises certain divine prerogatives and…exercises them even as God does….Jesus exercises these powers as no other figure – save God – can or does” [p 175].
19Herman Ridderbos expounds [The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary. 1997, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; translated from the Dutch by John Vriend], “Just as the Father as Creator and Consummator possesses life, he has given that possession to the Son, not merely as the executor of incidental assignments but in the absolute sense of sharing in the Father’s power.  And it is on account of that power and authority that the great decisive ‘hour’ of God is not only coming but here” (during the Incarnation).  [p 178; emphasis in original]
20Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 79.  Underscore added; other emphasis in original.
21Johnson, Face to Face, p 109.  Underscore added; other emphasis in original.
22Grudem, Wayne Systematic Theology. 1994, Inter-Varsity, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33.  Also, Berkhof, Louis Systematic Theology. 1941, 4th revised and enlarged ed, 1991, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66.
23Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 79.  Underscore added.
24Johnson, Face to Face, p 77.  Underscore added.
25Johnson, Face to Face, pp 79, cf. 21-22, 58, 77-82, 100-102
26Johnson, Face to Face, pp 21-22.  Underscore added.  “The first baptism deals with getting us out of the red…The second baptism deals with getting us into the black – getting us filled with God so we can walk with Him and more effectively represent Him as His agents of power on the earth” [p 58].
27Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 80.  Underscore added.  This creates a logical fallacy within the Johnson theology: if Jesus could only see/hear the Father by virtue of the “Christ anointing” He received at John’s baptism, how could He know to ‘be about His Father’s business’ [Luke 2:49] as a 12 year old?
28Johnson, Bill 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; p 136
29Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 80
30Johnson, Face to Face, p 58
31Insufficient Atonement means no salvation for the sinner.  No salvation means no eternal life!  As Erwin Lutzer contends [The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians. 1998, Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI]: “…The real question is whether [Jesus] Christ is capable of being the Savior of mankind” [p 33]. “If [Jesus] Christ is not God, then God has not saved us” [p 34].  “Only an incarnate Christ who is fully God qualifies to be Savior” [p 36].
32Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 79.  Underscore added.
33“ewenhoffman” Maintaining the crosswalk- sermon of the week Feb 27th 2011. <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2011/03/01/maintaining-the-crosswalk-sermon-of-the-week-feb-27th-2011/> 16:45-17:00.  Emphasis in original; underscore added.  As accessed 03/11/12.  Johnson stated the same basic thing on Facebook in mid-February of 2011 in an exchange with Kevin Moore: “…He needed to be raised from the dead. Acts 13 calls Him ‘the first born from the dead.’ He did not raise Himself. The Father through the Spirit raised Him…”
34This term is defined in Heikki Raisanen’s The Rise of Christian Beliefs [2010, Fortress, Minneapolis, MN; p 208].
35Judith M. Lieu [I, II & III John: A Commentary. 2008, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY] makes an excellent point on this verse by putting it in proper context: “It appears that what sounds like the traditional formula of belief in Jesus as Messiah has taken on a new dimension of sonship…This confirms that the force of the correct confession is ‘that Jesus is the Christ,’ and not, as is grammatically possible, ‘that the Christ [about whom we know] is Jesus [rather than someone else or as not yet appeared]’…The author’s logic is simple and can be understood within its immediate context.  His strategy is to start from what matters: the real charge is not about ‘the Christ,’…Rather, it is that the antichrist denies the Father and the Son: this is no longer denial of belief about (‘that’) but a refusal to acknowledge…it is ultimately a question of acknowledging, or denying the Son…the Son is Son only in relation to the Father, and the Father is Father only in relation to the Son; to reject the Son is to reject both, even if this was not the intention” [p 106].  While Lieu refers to “sonship” this explanation works just as well with the respect to separationist Christology.
36Johnson, Face to Face, p 199.  Johnson’s phraseology here sounds not like ontological kenosis but rather metamorphosis instead: God the Son literally transforms Himself into a fully human being devoid of any deity/divinity.
37Dowling, Levi. 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.  On page 3 is the following from the “Introduction” by Eva S. Dowling: “The full title of this book is ‘The Aquarian Age Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age’…”
38Dowling, Aquarian Gospel, p 8

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…”

- Kris Vallotton, August 15, 2010

Kris Vallotton is Senior Associate Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California under Senior Pastor Bill Johnson.  The above quote of Vallotton follows an August 15, 2010 sermon of Bill Johnson titled, “The Real Jesus” (with complete context below).  Johnson had just spoken of his desire for a “corporate anointing” and Vallotton was making a few comments after this sermon.  The following YouTube video1 captures both Johnson and Vallotton (my understanding is this video is available at www.ibethel.tv if one registers at the site):

Here’s a portion of Johnson’s “word”:

“…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.  There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways.  We are so encouraged.  But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual.  To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God…” 2

After finishing his sermon and following up with some prayer, Johnson relinquishes the podium to Vallotton who goes on to reveal a purported conversation he had with God:

…so, I was in a prayer chapel and laying on the floor and I said, “God would you give me the mantle of William Branham?”  And, He said, “Well, how could I do that? If I did that it would destroy you.”  Then, I was layin’ there and it was like, the Lord asked ‘how could I do that’ so then I said – I waited about a few minutes – I was thinking about and I said, “Well, you could put the same mantle on a whole generation then we wouldn’t stand out from one another.” He said, “Alright, I’ll do that.”

Isn’t that awesome?  That’s what the Lord wants to do.  He wants to put the, He wants – not just the mantle of William Branham, but how about the mantle of Jesus Christ?  That’s even a bigger one there, and, uh, He wants to put it on every single person

So, wasn’t that just a great word that Bill brought us right there…” 3

I agree “that’s even a bigger one there” but not in the same way as Vallotton, I’m sure.  First, note that by the usage of the word “mantle” Vallotton is equating it with Johnson’s “anointing.”  Bill Hamon states these terms are similar in meaning if not synonymous.  He defines “anointing”:

“An in-depth study of the word anoint reveals that it was used to consecrate people to a particular position or ministry…In present-day application, this means the manifest presence of God upon a person to meet specific needs.

“…Mantle has a similar meaning.  If someone has prophesied that you have a prophetic mantle, it implies that you can minister in prophetic ministry…” 4

It follows then that the desire to “put the same mantle on a whole generation” would be the same as what Johnson calls a “corporate anointing.”  Further, this “mantle of Jesus Christ” would be akin to a “corporate Christ anointing.”  This is the heretical manifest sons of God (MSoG) teaching.  [For more on Bill Johnson and MSoG, see Bill Johnson's 'Born Again' Jesus, Part II.]  The most extreme view of MSoG culminates in the “Birth of the Man-Child” teaching in which the “birth” of the corporate Christ is through the corporate Church body.  More on this in a bit.

William Marrion Branham’s Doctrine and Practices

Both Johnson and Vallotton promote William Branham.  Who was William Marrion Branham?  There’s already quite a bit of info available regarding Branham, so, briefly: he declared a number of foretelling prophecies which failed to come to pass, he denied the Trinity, and his doctrine included a belief in pyramidology and astrology in conjunction with the Bible.  He also taught the Serpent Seed doctrine in which the claim is that the serpent in the Garden of Eden mated with Eve resulting in a tainted lineage beginning with Cain and continuing to this day.5  Apparently emanating from this perversion of the The Fall is the following from Branham:

“Who does the world belong to?  The Devil.  Who controls it now?  The Devil.  Exactly right. The Devil controls the world…” 6

Yet Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” [NIV 1984]  In the book of Job, Satan must receive God’s permission in order to test Job [Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6].  And, in Job 38:33 is the following: “Do you know the laws of the heavens?  Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” [NIV 1984]  God is sovereign over all.

 Branham’s son, Billy Paul Branham, reiterates his dad’s claim that he was the end-time spirit of Elijah:

 “The Word of the Lord has promised that He would send to the earth once again the spirit of Elijah in the form of that end-time messenger who is the angel to the Seventh Church Age in the these final closing days of time.  We firmly believe that this promise was fulfilled in the vindicated ministry of our precious brother, William Marrion Branham.” 7

Branham also taught that all Christian denominations lacked full revelation (Branham’s, that is), that denominations were the mark of the beast [Rev 13:16], and, thus, all those attending denominational churches were not really saved and are, in fact, antichrist.8  All congregants of denominations are actually the pale horse, death, of the fourth seal of Revelation [Rev 6:7-8] and will be killed off by the collective white horses made up of Jesus and the ‘church’ [Rev 19:14].9

In addition, Branham denied everlasting torment claiming the lake of fire was created and hence could not be eternal:

“…Anything that was created is not Eternal…That’s the reason there cannot be an Eternal hell.  If anybody ever tells you that you’re going to burn in an Eternal Hell, I want the Scripture for that…” 10

Well, here’s the Scripture: “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” [Rev 20:10, NIV 1984; see also Matthew 25:41-46, etc.]  It should be noted that Branham affirmed eternal life for the believer11 even though mankind is, of course, created thereby illustrating one of many contradictions in his teachings.  Some claim that Branham was orthodox in the beginning yet went astray toward the end of his life and ministry.

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.  26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. [I John 2:19, 24-26 NKJV]

Clearly, Branham was a false teacher propounding heresy.  Branham claimed – and others claimed as well – that he was a prophet and a healer; but, with such aberrant theology, why would we believe he was truly of God?  Is the sole criterion of a Christian the miraculous [see Matt 7:21-23]?  Aren’t we to worship in both spirit and truth [John 4:23]?  Given this, why would Bill Johnson promote Branham’s “anointing” and why would Kris Vallotton want his “mantle” as a “corporate mantle” / “corporate anointing?”  Would God really want to give anyone, let alone the entire church corporate, the “mantle” of one like William Branham?  Does God really talk to Kris Vallotton in this manner?

The “Mantle of Jesus Christ”

Setting aside for the moment the obvious blasphemy of even suggesting such a thing, what would it mean to receive the “mantle of Jesus Christ?”  The context of the message in the video/audio seems to be, in general, the “greater works” teaching prevalent at Bethel.  This may point to the Jesus Christ during the Incarnation as the model for this “mantle.”  If this is the case then, given that Jesus’ primary purpose was to lay down his life in propitiation for the collective sins of mankind, would this be a part of this “mantle” as well?

Or, does this “mantle” refer to the current glorified Christ and/or Jesus at the Second Coming, when He returns to complete all of God’s purposes including the final judgment and the consummation of the Kingdom of God?  This is certainly a possibility as will be made evident below.  Either way, however, or if this “mantle” includes Jesus both at the Incarnation and in His glorified state, this is blasphemy of the highest order as it equates mere men to God.  While Christians will receive a new glorified body in eternity, we will never become equal to Jesus Christ who was, is, and always will be God.

This phrase “the mantle of Jesus Christ” is not without precedence, however, as “The Mantle of Jesus” is the title of a ten year old article in which it is claimed the entire Church body will “operate in all the anointing that He [Jesus] did” as we “transition into the manifestations of the sons of God”:12

“…As we come into the unity of the faith the mantle of Christ will arise upon us, in ONE HEART and ONE MIND.  It is the will of Father for us to be in unity of heart and mind as this occurs the scripture will be fulfilled.

“…We will not come into the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, the perfect man until we stop causing separation of the mantle of Christ.  There still is a season where these callings and anointings will operate separate but soon as we grow in Christ and become ONE MIND and ONE HEART we will beat together as the BODY of CHRIST.” 13

Bill Johnson’s friends Bob Jones and/or Todd Bentley could not have been much more straight-forward than that in their respective manifest sons of God teachings. 

In addition, “the mantle of Jesus Christ” is mentioned by The Order of Christ~Sophia [Sophia means “wisdom”] as it’s included in their “Purposes” statement which is based on the “ancient Wisdom Teachings,” or, in other words, New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Among other things, the site desires “that all may know the love of their Creator and the reality of their Divine Birth” and to demonstrate to all “the Christ Consciousness and the Way of Return to the Creator.”14   Part of “ancient Wisdom Teachings” is the belief that we can attain sonship as fully manifested sons of God here on earth.

The Manifestation of the Sons of God

As noted at the beginning of this article and evidenced by the immediately preceding section, this “corporate anointing” and “corporate mantle”  which Johnson and Vallotton refer to respectively in the context of the video/audio is tantamount to manifested sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  To illustrate further, I’ll quote from a few other proponents of this teaching.  Bill Hamon explains this teaching in his 1997 book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God [with foreword by C. Peter Wagner and endorsements by Oral Roberts, Cindy Jacobs among others] which come to the enlightened via so-called “present truths”15 purportedly by the Holy Spirit.  These manifested sons of God will emerge “in one generation”16 displaying all kinds of “signs, wonders and miracles”:17

“…God has predestined a certain quantity of members with Christlike qualities for the full functioning of His eternal Church…” 18

“The [New] Apostolic Reformation will cause believers to manifest the supernatural grace, gifts, and power of God.  The one-man show will be over…” 19

“God has released the Holy Spirit to bring His revelations and activation to the end-time Church.  This will bring forth the last generation of mortal people, unlimited power…dedicated to fulfilling God’s present-truth purposes.” 20

This will culminate in what Hamon terms the “Resurrection-Translation” (R-T) of the saints – his terminology and version of the Rapture:

“…We must realize that the Resurrection-Translation (R-T) of the saints does not take place because of a negative situation on earth.  It is a positive event that takes place to fulfill God’s timely purpose.

“…The positive purpose of the R-T is to enable the army of the Lord [Joel’s Army, or MSoG militant] to finalize the war against all evil. The army of the Lord will progress on in the war until they have accomplished all they can in their limited mortal bodies.  The R-T is for the purpose of immortalizing their bodies.  This will remove all the earthly limitations, thereby enabling the saints unlimited abilities.  They will be able to travel in all space realms of the heavenlies the same as Jesus and the angels do now.  They can move in and out of all dimensions of the natural and spiritual realms as Jesus did in His resurrected flesh-and-bone body.” 21

These fully manifested sons of God, or, Joel’s Army, will execute judgment on those who will not go along with their plans.  Hamon claims Joel 2:1-11 is a prophecy for this near future ‘army of God.’22 

God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven.  The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly armyAll that is destined and needed will be activated during God’s restorational Army of the Lord  Movement…” 23  

Bob Jones and Todd Bentley are other proponents of the manifest sons of God teaching.  Here, in the following, Jones calls them the “New Breed.”  From August 08, 2008 [for full transcription, see "New Breed of Elected Seeds" section of Bethel to Feature Bob Jones at Upcoming Prophetic Conference]:

“…The New Breed will be those that  are partaker of the divine nature.  As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-a-way you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic; plural of “Jesus”] all over the world. 24 

Johnson, himself has referred to a “new breed of believer” resulting in “a reformation [that] will impact society on all fronts”25 in his book Face to Face With God.  Recall Johnson’s words from the above transcription, “I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.” Here’s Bentley from May 28, 2008 at Lakeland making explicit references to what is called “birthing the man-child” – the ‘birthing’ of the “corporate Christ” which he states is a prerequisite for Jesus Christ’s return:

“‘Tonight is a crossing over and we have a moment,’ says the Lord, ‘where we can labor and travail until Christ is formed in you…’

“…I feel if we gave it a big push that we can literally form Christ – Christ in you.  I’m talking about a maturing of what God has placed on the inside of your spirit.  It’s gonna come out of the birth canal – it’s gonna come out of the womb – because there is a labor and there is a travailing that is going on in the spirit…

“…Under the anointing you make a declaration and it forms tonight…

“…We’re going to go back into travail right now until Christ is formed.  God promised a day where heaven and earth must retain Him until the restoration of all things.  Heaven will hold back the coming of Jesus Christ until sons and daughters come into maturity.  It’s called the Manifestation of the sons of God

“Heaven will hold back the Second Coming… A mature church manifests the glory of God.  A mature church manifests the Word of God in truth and power.  A mature church walks in holiness and character.  A mature church walks in miracles, signs, and wonders.

“I’m talking about a maturity tonight – and it’s being formed in you.   Let Christ be formed in maturity.  Let the full man, let the fullness of God come forth, and let the womb open tonight… and let there be a great birthing…” 26

Obviously, MSoG is not Biblical.  One of the proof-texts used is Romans 8:15-24.  And, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 15:23-28, it is clear that Jesus is the one who puts “all His enemies under His feet” – not the Church.  Heaven will not “hold back the Second Coming” due to the failure of the Church to somehow prepare the way for Christ’s return.  If Jesus is waiting for a “perfected Church” as some erroneously teach (based on a faulty interpretation/proof-texting of Ephesians 5:27), He’ll be waiting for all eternity as we are inherently imperfect and will never be perfected this side of glory!

The New Age of the Manifested Sons of God

Constance Cumbey, in her 1985 book A Planned Deception illustrates how an adamant New Ager from a Unity Church in Kansas City recognized the Manifest Sons of God doctrine as taught in hyper-charismatic churches, or “Neo-Pentecostalism” as being New Age in nature [see also Ascended Master under “Glossary of New Age/Occult Terms and Concepts” and “Jesus of Nazareth / Master Jesus” in the “Christ” in the New Age article on this site]:

“Rev. Ernest Ramsey, an associate pastor at Unity’s Kansas City Founder’s Church, Unity on the Plaza, is an enthusiastic follower of the Alice Bailey and Benjamin Crème teachings.  In his Research Report #2, he tells of something he was led to by a spirit guide – what he terms ‘Neo-Pentecostalism.’  An aberrant branch of Pentecostalism, this is more commonly known as ‘Manifest Sons of God.’  That movement is also referred to as ‘Sonship’ or ‘Overcomers.’  Ramsey concludes based on even less evidence than I have personally collected that this is part of the New Age Movement.

“…The most interesting section of Ramsey’s report dealing with ‘Neopentecostalism.’  Ramsey spent a semester at one of the Neo-Pentecostal or Manifest Sons of God seminaries – in upstate New York ‘at a location surrounded by tall pine trees.’  Already familiar with the Alice Bailey writings, he was amazed to see that there was a branch of Pentecostalism that embraced the same teachings – albeit using different terminology.

“Like those seeking the ‘Age of Aquarius’ these people too were seeking a ‘New Age.’  Like the other New Agers, these people taught that ‘The Christ’ was an anointing – not necessarily one man.  They taught that Jesus was a pattern son who was to be a sign of something even greater to come – the ‘Manifestation of the Sons of God.’ They too believed the earth was to be cleansed of evil.  And chillingly like the other New Agers, they believed they were to be ‘God’s’ instruments to do such cleansing.  The New Agers believed they were gods.  The Manifest Sons of God likewise taught that if one accepted their ‘new revelation’ that they themselves would actually become Christ at the time of the unveiling or manifestation of the Sons of God….” 27

Theosophist/New Ager Alice A. Bailey (mentioned above by Cumbey), in her 1937 book From Bethlehem to Calvary, an occult rendering of the life and work of Jesus Christ, teaches the MSoG doctrine: 

“Let me state here briefly and succinctly, what it would appear really transpired when Christ died on the Cross.  He rendered up the form aspect and identified Himself as Man with the life aspect of Deity.  He thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and of 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…” 28

The asterisk above denotes a reference in the original text to John 17:16 illustrating one of many instances of proof-texting.  Note that, according to Bailey, Christ did not die for our sins so much as He died for our own deification – becoming a model, a pattern to follow in attaining our own godhood.  The last part of the last sentence above is describing manifested sons of God with the claim that Jesus Christ had released us “from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.” Bailey is also describing the dualistic Gnostic concept which recognizes the spiritual realm as the ‘real’ with the material realm as illusion and/or intrinsically evil.  This is also alluded to in Bill Hamon’s book Eternal Church in which he states: 

“…When the Church realizes its full sonship, its bodily redemption will cause a redemptive chain reaction throughout all of creation…” 29

This sounds not unlike the Kabbalistic doctrine of divine sparks which are within all matter requiring mankind to liberate and redeem them to perfection. 

In the following, Bailey is a bit more explicit in her manifested sons of God teaching:

“…Its form [orthodox religion] must be sacrificed upon the Cross of Christ in order that it may be resurrected into true and vital life for the meeting of people’s need.  Let a living Christ be its theme, and not a dying Saviour…Mankind can descend from the cross as Christ did, and enter into the kingdom of God, a living spirit.  The sons of God are ready to be manifested…” 30

The book goes on to quote Romans 8:16-24, just as those in hyper-charismatic churches do in promoting MSoG teaching.  Continuing with Bailey:

“Towards this glorification of God we are all moving.   Some of the sons of men have already achieved, through the realisation of their divinity.” 31

In addition to the ability to travel between the physical and spiritual realms at will, other characteristics of the fully manifested son of God are an impossibility to sin,32 being group conscious33 (the recognition of the imperative of unity), and a cessation of ongoing reincarnations.34 In the following, Bailey equates the attainment of sonship with entrance into the Kingdom of God and describes how Christ’s Incarnation furthered this possibility:

“…Christ’s incarnation, apart from its historical value, and apart from the keynote which He sounded, marked the closing of a great cosmic cycle, but it marked also the opening of that door into the kingdom which had opened only occasionally theretofore, in order to permit the entrance of those sons of God who had triumphed over matter.  After the advent of Christ, the door stood wide open for all time, and the kingdom of God began to form on Earth…” 35

This “door into the kingdom” is also known as a “portal” or “veil.”  The initiate “triumphs over matter” through meditation i.e., seeking the ‘presence of God,’ which brings increasingly deeper levels of “Christ consciousness,” or, in reality, increasing soul-control/possession. [See “Christ Consciousness” section of “Christ” in the New Age.]  Bailey makes it clear that the ultimate purpose is to build the kingdom now and this purpose can only be accomplished by both the individual and the entire human race attaining divinity.

“It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…” 36

“This divinity in man must be brought to the birth, both in the individual and in the [human] race, and thus can the kingdom of God on earth be brought into being.” 37

Obviously, this is not the true Biblical Kingdom of God which should make the reader wonder just which kingdom Dominionists/Restorationists/Kingdom Now adherents are seeking to build.  [See Fifth Kingdom in Nature and Kingdom of God under “Glossary of New Age/Occult Terms and Concepts” section of “Christ” in the New Age.]

Which Kingdom?

The late Earl Paulk made a distinction between the “Gospel” and the “Gospel of the Kingdom” in a glossary near the end of his 1984 book Ultimate KingdomHere are the two definitions respectively:

Gospel: The good news of God’s redemption to man. [Luke 4:18, 9:6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:15]

Gospel of the Kingdom: The good news principles of daily life taught by Jesus that the Church must demonstrate as a witness to the world in order to return the rule of the earth to God.  [Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14] 38

Notice again how it’s the Church which must “return the rule of the earth to God” which is, as already noted above, unbiblical.  Bill Johnson, in his book When Heaven Invades Earth also differentiates between the “Gospel” and the “Gospel of the Kingdom”:

“…the company of people who have joined this quest for an authentic gospel –  the gospel of the kingdom – is increasing.” 39

There is also a teaching in the New Age in which when “Christ” – actually the antichrist – ‘reappears’ (the belief is He never left the earth), He will have the ability to manifest Himself in many bodies at one time not unlike the “Birth of the Man-Child”40 teaching of MSoG.

“The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations. For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time. He impresses the space with his images, and so forth.” 41

Paulk also defines “Man Child” in his glossary as “Jesus Christ” (while referencing Revelation 12:5, 13).42  Francis Frangipane, in his book In the Presence of God, espouses this “Birth of the Man-Child” doctrine implicitly in a chapter titled “The Virgin Shall Be with Child”:

“Secure this thought in your mind: when the Spirit of Christ comes into the physical world, He must enter through a physical body…When Christ first entered our world as a child, it was Mary whom God chose to give Christ birth.  Mary’s life symbolized the qualities the Church must possess to walk in the fullness of Christ…[God is preparing us] as He did Mary to give birth to the ministry of His Son.  Even now, in the spiritual womb of the virgin Church, the holy purpose of Christ is growing, awaiting maturity; ready to be born in power in the timing of God…the virgin church is ‘in labour and in pain to give birth (Rev 12:1-2)…even now, hell trembles and the heavens watch in awe, for I say to you, once again, the virgin is with child.  Before Jesus Himself returns, the last virgin Church shall become pregnant with the promise of God.  Out of her travail, the Body of Christ shall come forth, raised to the full stature of its Head, the Lord Jesus.  Corporately manifested in holiness, power and love, the Bride of Christ shall rise.” 43

As evidenced by the title of his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until… Paulk believes we either hinder or hasten Christ’s return.  Paulk made no bones about his belief in MSoG as he writes:

“…When I say, ‘Act like a god,’ I can hear people saying, ‘There he goes with the theory of the manifest sons of God.’  Forget about theories!  Forget about doctrine!  Just go back to the simple Word of God!  We are ‘little gods,’ whether we admit it or not…” 44

Paulk goes further by explaining that we are an “ongoing incarnation of Christ”:

“…Jesus was the firstfruit of God’s incarnation, a man living out God’s perfect will.  Now He says, “…My people will bring forth life as they become the ‘incarnate Word’ on planet Earth.”  …the Church is the ‘ongoing expression’ of God.” 45

 “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.” 46

 “…The Seed, Jesus Christ, multiplied Himself by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers

“…the Holy Spirit within us makes us become the incarnation of God.  The seed begins to grow within individuals, and grows corporately into a tremendous church…” 47

Bill Hamon wrote regarding Paulk on the Rapture that his view “to most Evangelicals and Pentecostals [is] a denial of the rapture bordering on heresy”:

“He [Paulk] taught that the departed saints would be resurrected and the living saints would be translated in the twinkling of an eye, but this was not for the purpose of leaving the earth.  Rather, it was for establishing God’s divine order for the human race and Christ’s rulership over all the earth.” 48 

Please note this is essentially what Hamon teaches (see above).  Even though Hamon does not specifically mention the already departed saints, it is inferred by the “Resurrection” part of his “Resurrection-Translation” doctrine for “resurrection” can only refer to the deceased.  While I may not  have found what Hamon refers to explicitly regarding Paulk (if I do find something more definitive, I’ll update this portion), here’s Paulk, once again, from Held in the Heavens Until… inferring this as he continues in his line of thought from above [this may well be the quote Hamon had in mind]:

“…‘Christ in us’ is God’s continuing incarnation…The Church is Christ’s body, the incarnation of Christ today.  The mystery which has been hidden but is now revealed to His saints is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’  The mystery of this generation is Christ in us.  We never understood that mystery fully.  We pray to a ‘God beyond the clouds in heavenly places’ when Christ is in us.  The hope of glory is not in the heavenlies – the ‘hope of the heavenlies’ is on earthEvery departed saint is gathered, waiting to see how many of us are going to receive understanding and bring Christ from the heavenliesThey are waiting for total redemption as we are.

“If God’s love is going to be manifested on planet earth, who is going to demonstrate it?  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  God has no other place to show His love except through His body.” 49

I do believe God is quite capable of displaying His love apart from the Church body.

Concluding Remarks

This article has shown that a “corporate Christ mantle” or “corporate Christ anointing” is akin to Manifest Sons of God teaching.  Further, the logical conclusion to this teaching in most quarters is an establishment of the “Kingdom of God” through these manifested sons.  These doctrines have a direct parallel to New Age teachings.  Given that MSoG along with its associated doctrines are not Biblical, we must ask ourselves: Which Kingdom is Johnson, Vallotton, Hamon, Jones, Bentley, Frangipane, (and the late Paulk), et al actually attempting to establish?

Endnotes:

1“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>; as accessed 07/03/11
2 “ChasingRiver” 0:36 – 1:30, emphasis added; as accessed 07/03/11
3 “ChasingRiver” 7:28 – 8:10, emphasis added; as accessed 07/03/11
4 Hamon, Bill. Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. 1997 (2nd printing), Destiny Image “We Publish the Prophets”, Shippensburg, PA; p 282. Bolding in original, underlining added.
5 Branham, William Marrion. The Revelation of the Seven Seals. 1993, Voice of God, Jeffersonville, IA; pp 425-27.  From sermon tapes of March 17-25, 1963.
6 Branham; p 426
7 Branham; introduction
8 Branham; pp 259, 249-95
9 Branham; pp 281, 249-95
10 Branham; p 435
11 Branham; p 436
12 Jesus “R” Ministries. “The Mantle of Jesus” <http://www.jesusrministries.org/Mantle%20of%20Jesus.htm>; par 2, 3; as accessed 07/03/11
13 Jesus “R” Ministries; par 3, 5.  Emphasis added.  Also note the very last paragraph uses Joel 2:1-18 presumably for the Latter Rain version of Joel’s Army as well as the IHOP version.
14 Order of Christ~Sophia (Centers of Light) “Purposes” <http://www.orderofchristsophia.org/OCS_purposes.html>; points 3, 6, 5, 6 respectively; as accessed 07/03/11
15 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
16 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 11
17 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
18 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 11
19 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
20 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 18
21 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; pp 264-65
22 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; pp 255-56
23 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 252
24 MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08” DVD.  A truncated version is on Jones’ site: <http://bobjonesnew.unionactive.com/Docs/Words%20of%202008/2008-09-The_New_Breed.htm>
25 Johnson, Bill. Face to Face with God. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 139. Emphasis added.
26 Bentley, Todd. Monologue from Lakeland Revival, Day 57 May 28, 2008. Originally accessed here: <http://injesus.com/index.php?module=message&task=list&GroupID-WB0062AX> access date unknown, website link no longer valid.
27 Cumbey, Constance. A Planned Deception: the Staging of a New Age “Messiah”. 1985; Point Publishers, East Detroit, MI; pp 171-172. Emphasis added.  Also available as a free download: <https://public.me.com/cumbey> “A PLANNED…ULL BOOK.pdf”   pp 78-9
28 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; p 187. Emphasis added.
29 Hamon, Bill. Eternal Church. 1981 (2003 revised ed), Christian International, Santa Rosa Beach, FL; pp 359-60
30 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 189. Emphasis added.
31 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 189. As per original (sentence fragment in orig.).  Emphasis added.
32 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 202
33 Bailey, Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 694
34 Bailey, Rays; p 697
35 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 184
36 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 210
37 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 50
38 Paulk, Earl. Ultimate Kingdom. 1984, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 335
39 Johnson, Bill When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 27. Emphasis in original.
40 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 07/03/11
41 World Service Intergroup website. Dubois, J.D. “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/christ-reappearance/4543145171>; par 5; as accessed 07/03/11
42 Paulk. Ultimate. p 337
43 Frangipane, Francis. In the Presence of God. 1994, New Wine Press, UK; pp 153-57 as cited in Booth, Tricia “The Birth of the Manchild”. Emphasis added
44 Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until…: God’s Strategy for Planet Earth. 1985, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 171. Emphasis added.
45 Paulk. Heavens. p 163.  Emphasis added.
46 Paulk. Heavens. p 197.  Emphasis added.
47 Paulk. Heavens. p 227.  Emphasis added.
48 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets. p 199
49 Paulk. Heavens. p 229.  Emphasis added.

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