Book Review: The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark, by Mark F. Bozzuti-Jones

[Mark F. Bozzuti-Jones, The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark, 2012, CreateSpace Publishing, North Charleston, SC, 157 pages ]

Blasphemy against the Christian God while desecrating Sacred Scripture

In a word: blasphemy.  Not only does the author blaspheme/revile/malign/profane sacred Scripture (cf. Titus 2:5), as evidenced by the title, he also equates a mere man – in this case Barack Obama – to Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Christian Holy Trinity:

In the year 1961…Barack Hussein Obama was born…The Anointed One was incarnated into this world on August 4, 1961, praises be upon him [p 2; CAPS in original, other emphasis added].

No matter one’s political persuasion, we are not to deify any man.  There was only one Incarnation of the “Anointed One”; His name is Jesus Christ, the One for whom the real Gospels (good news) in Scripture are named.  The above quote is not ‘merely’ one isolated passage; the entire book is filled with this sort of heresy.

The author impiously fashions his book in the form of a Biblical Gospel complete with parables paralleling or approximating the true Gospels’, but with Obama as narrator/speaker in place of Jesus; however, he adds bits of BHO’s speeches, plus “imagined conversation, and fictional situations” [back cover] to his sacrilegious stew.  Bozzuti-Jones’ idea here is not even wholly original, for avowed atheist Jose Saramago wrote a book titled ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ’, in which Saramago reimagined Jesus’ life (and those around Him), embellishing some Biblical accounts, while making up others out of whole cloth.

Unless the reader is both well-versed Biblically and well-read regarding Obama’s personal life, it will be difficult to ferret out what is true, quasi-true, fictional, or a conflation for the irreverent author’s own rhetorical effect.  Bozzuti-Jones states that Barack Obama had been elected president of the Harvard Law Review, noting, “In its 104 year history, an African American had never been elected to lead this group” [p 20].  This appears to be wholly true.  Yet, the author perverts the sending of the 72 in the Biblical Gospel of Luke (Luke 10), conflating this with other Biblical accounts, while conjuring up the rest:

Behold I send you out into the cold…When they tell you to eat fruit, remember my words to you.  And when they throw stones at you, say to them ‘Peace be unto you.’  When you see the wolf, do not be afraid to bleat, because you are the sheep of God [p 69].

Of course, I’m writing this from the perspective of a Christian – in the historically orthodox sense.  Bozzuti-Jones is not.  This author self-identifies as “a priest for pastoral care at Trinity Church Wall Street” (as per back cover), a very liberal Episcopalian church in New York.  By “very liberal” I mean one in which all humans are “Divine”, at least potentially.  As he states on the Dedication page, “And let the reader seek and reveal his or her own Divinity” [Caps in original]. 

For those who may disagree with my views here, framed by my orthodox Christian perspective, let me just state that I’m not being “intolerant” of the views of this author.  As an American, this man shares the same First Amendment rights as have I.  He may choose to blaspheme my God and my Savior, and desecrate Holy Scripture.  That’s his prerogative.  I, in turn, choose to defend my faith against this blasphemy by writing this review, thereby exercising my own First Amendment rights.

I carefully considered whether or not I should even pen this critique.  I feel sure that some will seek out this book precisely because of my negative review.  But I felt that true Christians should know how some of those who claim to hold to the Christian faith are actually quite the enemy of our faith instead.

Interestingly, the author published other books on the sometimes theologically liberal-leaning Christian imprint Augsburg Fortress (associated with the ELCA), yet this work was self-published.  Perhaps Bozzuti-Jones could not find a Christian publisher willing to print this particular one, prompting him to self-publish instead?

Zero stars.  Very strongly not recommended – especially to true Christians.  Non-Christians may find the author’s musings entertaining and humorous.  I’m appalled.

 

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

Hello it’s the Real Me

As one being particularly enamored with music as long as I can remember, occasionally, out of the blue, I’ll recall a particular song, record, etc.  Todd Rundgren’s 1973 hit “Hello It’s me” just flashed through my brain again this morning, bringing fond remembrance.  This then reminded me of the album from which the song is taken titled Something/Anything?, which includes two other singles, both released prior to “Hello It’s Me”: “I Saw the Light” (an homage to both Laura Nyro and Carole King, with Rundgren’s voice sounding much like the latter) and “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (credited with founding the “power-pop” genre).  The three songs are fairly basic love songs, very catchy and memorable.

In 1975, Rundgren released the single “Real Man”, which didn’t interest me at all, and it was only recently that I found out that Rundgren was the artist.  Back then, I recall seeing the album containing the single, titled Initiation, though it never captured my interest.  It’s this album which brings me to the reason I’m carrying you along with me down memory lane.

As I recently saw again the title to his ’75 album release, given my recent studies into the occult for apologetics purposes, I decided to check out what Rundgren meant by Initiation.  Ooh boy.  Looking at the Wikipedia entry, the entire second side of the original LP is an instrumental suite titled “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire”, taken from a book of the same name by Theosophist Alice Bailey (I have a copy of the book and have referenced it on CrossWise).  Checking out the lyrics to the title track, offered no surprise.  The single “Real Man” is more of the same, though not as overt.

The point of this post is to illustrate the prevalence of the occult in pop culture, perhaps in places one might not expect.  Who would have thought that the guy who would pen such simple love songs would go on to be a strong advocate for the occult, basing an entire album around the concept, to include a (vinyl) side-long suite named after an Alice Bailey book?  Rundgren would explore more esoteric teachings, as evidenced by his 1981 album Healing.

For those not old enough and/or not familiar with Rundgren’s pop-oriented material, most would be aware of his ’83 hit “Bang on the Drum” (I don’t want to work / I want to bang on the drum all day), which has become an anti-work anthem and has been featured in commercials, etc.  Now try to get that song out of your head today!

This theme of New Age / occult in popular culture was mentioned in more detail in the CrossWise article Misplaced Trust, part II, (see New Age / New Spirituality in Contemporary Culture section).

Kris Vallotton on Becoming an Incarnation through Holy Communion

Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA (Bill Johnson is Senior Pastor), recently stated the following on his website:

When Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood, he wasn’t talking about cannibalism, but he was referring to ingestion that leads to incarnation. Christ is the Word that became flesh. It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us. Ingestion without digestion will lead to feeling full but not being transformed. Digestion is more than just a taste test, it is the full meal of His presence that conforms us to His image. There is an old saying that is true in this case, “You are what you eat!

Many people ingest the Bible but they don’t digest the living, active Word of God. Religion fills their souls but never satisfies their longing for real life. Digestion requires assimilation, not just consumption. Truth was never meant to just be recounted, it was intended to be experienced. When we exchange the communion meal for a dinner commentary or a cookbook, we deprive ourselves of the privilege of abundant life, and relegate ourselves to a meager existence in the Kingdom. [Tuesday, July 16, 2013; emphasis added]

How do we interpret Kris Vallotton’s message?  The key is in the word incarnation.  Of course, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ occurred when the Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  This took place at the moment of the Virginal Conception (Luke 1:35).  But, do Christians become an incarnation?

While there are a few different meanings for the term incarnation, as it applies to Jesus Christ it implies preexistence, as in the preexistent, eternal Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity took on a new mode of existence as the one, unique God in the flesh.  The fully God and yet fully man Jesus Christ IS the Incarnation.  And since, according to orthodox Christianity, humans are not preexistent, then humans cannot become an incarnation in that sense of the term.  (However, those who believe in the preexistence of souls affirm reincarnation – not a Christian doctrine, specifically deemed anathema at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, or Constantinople II of 553 AD.)

So what does Kris Vallotton mean?  Certainly, he’s adhering to the typical Word of Faith (WoF) doctrine of ‘new revelation’ (what Vallotton terms “living, active Word of God” above), or as Kenneth E. Hagin termed it, the “rhema” word.  According to WoF, these ‘new revelations’ are superior to Scripture, the written Word (Hagin called this the “logos” word).  But what does that have to do with becoming an incarnation?

The other modern day definitions for the term incarnation are used in a figurative sense, yet it’s clear Vallotton is speaking literally, as he states, “until Christ is literally formed in us”.  Taking the context of Vallotton’s message above, this seems similar to an old and oft-repeated quote by Hagin:

Every man who has been ‘born again’ is an Incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle.  The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.1

Hagin equates the Incarnate Word of God to the ‘born again’ believer.  Others have stated something similar, and here are two examples from Earl Paulk – one who taught explicit Latter Rain doctrine as well as WoF:

It was the quickening and bringing alive of the Word which was incarnate in Jesus ChristThat Word became incarnate in the Church. 

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.2

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 ours3

While Vallotton has not gone so far as to declare the Church body “the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth”, he’s not very far off.  More important though is that if one reads the Vallotton quote carefully, one sees that the ‘believer’ becomes the ‘new revelation’ word made flesh.  Does this mean that, in the Vallotton quote, Jesus Christ was also the ‘new revelation’ word made flesh rather than the Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity made flesh at the Virginal Conception as the unique fully God and fully man, as the Hagin and Paulk selections above seem to imply? 

To see that this interpretation of ‘believer’ as ‘new revelation’ word made flesh is indeed the correct understanding, we’ll go through the above Vallotton quote sentence by sentence.

When Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood, he wasn’t talking about cannibalism, but he was referring to ingestion that leads to incarnation

This means simply that partaking of Communion leads to “incarnation”.

Christ is the Word that became flesh. It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us 

These two sentences are the most crucial as far as interpretation.   Here, we’ll have to make an initial hypothesis which will prove itself as we continue.  First, note the two uses of “the Word” above.  From a strictly orthodox perspective, the first sentence would be speaking of Jesus Christ as the eternal Word made flesh at the Virginal Conception.  But is this what Vallotton means?  We’ll return to this later.

Regarding the second, this could refer to either Scripture, or the ‘new revelation’ word.  However, in the second paragraph of the complete quote, Vallotton is clear that he’s referring to the ‘new revelation’ word, since he’s made a direct comparison between this and Scripture, with the ‘new revelation’ word the one to be “experienced”.  Therefore, for now we’ll tentatively conclude that this is the intended meaning here, as this Word “causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us”.

Ingestion without digestion will lead to feeling full but not being transformed. Digestion is more than just a taste test, it is the full meal of His presence that conforms us to His image. There is an old saying that is true in this case, You are what you eat!”  

Here “the Word” is personified as “His presence”.  Also, this implies that Holy Communion consists of the real presence, just as it does in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Lutheranism, and only a few others within Protestantism.  The majority of Protestant churches deny the real presence in Holy Communion, seeing it as symbolic instead.  For Vallotton, “His presence”, that is, the ‘real presence’ in Communion, literally makes the ‘believer’ become that which was ingested: “the Word”.

Many people ingest the Bible but they don’t digest the living, active Word of God. Religion fills their souls but never satisfies their longing for real life.

The message in these two sentences is that reading (“ingesting”) the Bible results in “religion”, the term used pejoratively; whereas,  the “living, active Word of God” (“His life” and “His presence” in the first paragraph), i.e., the ‘new revelation’ word brings “real life”.  By positing this false dichotomy between the Bible and ‘new revelation’, this confirms the earlier working hypothesis that the ‘new revelation’ word was the intended meaning in the first paragraph.

Digestion requires assimilation, not just consumption. Truth was never meant to just be recounted, it was intended to be experienced.

Studying and memorizing Scripture is not the real goal.  The “truth” of these ‘new revelations’ is to be digested, experienced, assimilated.  This is the goal.

When we exchange the communion meal for a dinner commentary or a cookbook, we deprive ourselves of the privilege of abundant life, and relegate ourselves to a meager existence in the Kingdom.

If Holy Communion is viewed as symbolic, rather than the ‘real presence’ of “the Word”, i.e. ‘new revelation’, then we become a spiritual ‘have-not’ instead of a spiritual ‘have’.  Why?  Because it’s “important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us.”  If we don’t “ingest the Word of God” in this way, then “Christ” will not be formed in us, literally. 

But, what does all this really mean?  The mystery and confusion evaporate when this is viewed from a Gnostic, or, more specifically, a Neo-Gnostic (New Age / New Spirituality) perspective.  First, we’ll need to provide a brief sketch of a basic Neo-Gnostic conception, keeping in mind that this is a perversion of Christianity.

In the Neo-Gnostic (New Age / New Spirituality) conception of deity, there is an eternal trinity consisting of the Father, the Holy Breath (sometimes Mother), and Christ (the logos, usually the offspring of the first two).  Christ is “the Word of God”, the “word” of Thought, Force and Love.  This “word” formed the entire cosmos, leaving a part of himself in all of creation, alternatively known as a seed, spark, Christ.  Therefore, the eternal word (third person of this false trinity, as opposed to second in orthodox Christianity) is the ‘Christ without’, while the internal seed/spark in everything is the “Christ within”.This is the doctrine of panentheism, that is, God is within all, yet simultaneously transcendent.

In the Gnostic understanding, mankind has two natures, one human and one divine spark/seed, or ‘Christ within’.  In order for humans to progress spiritually, the goal is to awaken the ‘Christ within’ (Christ in you, the hope of glory – a perversion of Colossians 1:27) via the “Christ without”, i.e., the “word” which provides “Thought and Force”,5 or ‘new revelation’.  As one increases in ‘new revelation’ knowledge, one progresses spiritually.6  This progression occurs over multiple lifetimes, as the spark/seed is then reincarnated into a succession of human forms.

Though “Christ” (divine seed/spark) was yet still latent in humanity, due to ‘selfishness’, most of the human race did not recognize this and, thus, was not progressing as it should.  This necessitated that the eternal Christ (of this false trinity), the “Word of God”, be made manifest in human form “by taking his abode in some pure person”.7  That “pure person” was Jesus of Nazareth.  This “Word of God”, ‘new revelation’ of “Thought and Force”, became flesh in the man Jesus at baptism, specifically when the dove (Holy Breath) landed upon him.  This is when the incarnation of the “Word of God” began.8

Once ‘the Word’ was “made flesh” in Jesus of Nazareth at baptism, Jesus became the model for all towards their own spiritual progression, for their own self-redemption.  The goal then for mankind is for each one to become his own ‘word made flesh’, to become his own incarnation, by recognizing the divine seed/spark within, and then begin its path towards actualization.9  This false Jesus instructs others: “Look to the Christ within who shall be formed in every one of you, as he is formed in me.”10  What was it that Vallotton wrote above?  “It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us.”

Viewing Vallotton’s complete statement from a New-Gnostic perspective works well indeed.  Using Neo-Gnosticism as our lens with which to view this statement, we can see how to interpret “Christ is the Word that became flesh”, and this adds clarity to the entire Vallotton quote.

As regards Vallotton’s references to Holy Communion, we’ll compare to material on a Gnostic website.  Please note that there are many different flavors of Gnosticism, with each one borrowing from other religions and occult traditions.  This particular one incorporates Hinduism, Jewish mysticism to include the Kabbalah, Tantric Yoga, and others into its own mix of Gnosticism.  Also, as a side note, the reader may have recognized that Hagin referred to the ‘new revelation’ word as the “rhema”, while above (and below) it was used as the “logos” instead.  This is not unusual, as terms are not necessarily consistent, though concepts usually are.

Jesus says that man cannot live upon this bread alone, this bread of Moses.  In other words, the teaching that Moses gives is vital, it is important, but it is not enough; there is something else.  And that something else is the Word of God, as Jesus says.  But here we have to look deeper than the literal meaningSome interpret this passage as meaning that we need the scripture or the Bible in order to have life, but this is only a literal, superficial meaning of the phrase. The document from which the quote is taken was written in Greek, and in Greek, ‘word’ is ‘logos’…11

Just like Vallotton, we have to look beyond the literal meaning of Jesus’ words in John 6, we must “look deeper” for the mystical meaning, as per the Gnostic quote above, for if we don’t, then this will result in “not being transformed”, per Vallotton.  The Bible is not enough.

…In other words, man cannot live by bread alone…but by the Word of God, by the Logos, by the Christ.  So he is pointing out a very important mystery that we need to comprehend…. 

receive the blessed elements so they can take those atoms [of the Christ] into their bodies as assistance for their work.

…these elements which will house the forces of Christ (the Logos) so that the congregation can receive those forces.12

As Vallotton concluded his first paragraph, “You are what you eat!”  This is what he means by “His life” and “His presence” in the first paragraph.  But, whose life and presence is this really?  All this reminds me once again of the following Alice Bailey quote, only this time I’ll place other emphasis:

…[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 above, actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle [ED: spirit of the ‘new revelation’ word], 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.13

  

   1 Kenneth E. Hagin “The Incarnation” in The Word of Faith, (1980, December; #13) Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK, p 14, as quoted in Russell Sharrock Covenant Theology: A Critical Analysis of Current Pentecostal Covenant Theology, 2006, Lulu Enterprises, Morrisville, NC, p 109.  Emphasis added.
   2 Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until…God’s Strategy for Planet Earth, 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA, p 163.  Emphasis added.
   3 Paulk, Held in the Heavens, p 197.  Emphasis added.
   4 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.  Dowling is cited as merely one Neo-Gnostic text, but there are many others, with subtle differences in basic doctrine.  However, Dowling’s very closely matches the Vallotton quote, and hence, serves our purposes here.
   5 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 6
   6 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, pp 6-7
   7 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 7
   8 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8.  The point at which this false incarnation begins is detailed: …Jesus was man; Christ was Divine Love – the Love of God; and after thirty years of strenuous life the man had made his body fit to be the temple of the holy breath and Love 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.”
   9 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8
   10 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8
   11 “Gnostic Instructor” “Sacrament of Communion” gnosticteachings.org website <http://gnosticteachings.org/courses/sacraments-of-the-gnostic-church/666-sacrament-of-communion.html>, as accessed 07/20/13, © Glorian Publishing, Brooklyn, NY; emphasis added.
   12 “Gnostic Instructor” “Sacrament of Communion”
   13 Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 510-511.  Underscore from italics in original; other emphasis added.  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.

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

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IV (Conclusion)

[See also: Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part II, Part IIIa, and Part IIIb.]

One of the most persistent themes in early Christian accounts of heresy is that it smuggles rival accounts of reality into the household of faith.  It is a Trojan horse, a means of establishing (whether by accident or design) an alternative belief system within its host.  Heresy appears to be Christian, yet it is actually an enemy of the faith that sows the seed of faith’s destruction.*  It could be compared to a virus, which establishes its presence within the host, ultimately using its host’s replication system to achieve dominance.  Yet whatever the ultimate origins of heresy might be, the threat comes from within the community of faith.

- Alister McGrath188

 As McGrath points out, there is a long tradition of heresy distorting Truth, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to the destruction of the faith.  The asterisk above denotes a footnote reference in the original text of a Thomas Aquinas quote from Summa Theologiae: “[H]eresy is a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas.”189  The Trojan horse/virus analogy is an apt description of the way in which heresy is spread.  As the dark intentions of Djwhal Khul, Alice Bailey’s demon, makes clear, “The Christian church in its many branches can serve…as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.”190  This is effected by “preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages”.191

Jesus is Our Model

Jesus Christ died for our sins.  He is also a model for us.  His sacrificial life provides an example of how we are to live:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. [Philippians 2:3-7, TNIV]

We are to serve others in humility not thinking ourselves more important keeping in mind Christ’s example as He, though fully God, condescended to take the form of man (without diminishing His deity) with all its inherent limitations, except for the sin nature, in order to redeem man.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. [1 Peter 2:18-25, NASB]

We are to submit to authority even to the point of enduring unfair treatment, as Jesus had.  We must “die to sin” by yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit rather than our inherent sinful nature [Romans 8:1-17] which never takes leave this side of glory.  Those who remain in Christ will bear much fruit [John 15:1-17] evidenced by good works [James 2:14-26].

In contrast, the Theosophical/New Age/New Spirituality writings of Alice Bailey also cite Jesus as an example to follow, but, of course, not in the same way as orthodox Christianity.  As noted in Part IIIa, in occult literature man has two natures: one human and one latent divine nature (divine spark/seed), the latter needing to be awakened.  Once activated, the divine nature (the “ego”, or “higher self”) is to be actualized while the human nature (the “lower self”) is simultaneously diminished.  This process is also known as “dying to self”.  One ‘dies to self’ through much self-effort such that the divine spark/seed grows eventually overtaking the lower human nature (aka the “not self”) so as to fully actualize inherent divinity, to become ‘gods’.  This is a works-based system accomplished in part by asceticism and service.192  This is the polar opposite of Christianity.

The New Age / New Spirituality Jesus’ life both symbolically and actually represents “The Path” of the aspirant signified by five markers, or initiations, as identified in Alice Bailey’s From Bethlehem to Calvary: the Initiations of Jesus.193  Recall also that these five initiations do not have to be achieved in one lifetime as they are cumulative carrying over from past incarnations, just as they had for the Theosophical Jesus of Nazareth.  Following are the signposts:

1)     Birth at Bethlehem – a/k/a virgin birth, or new birth.  “The birth of Christ in the cave of the human heart.194 Recognizing the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” – your inherent but latent divinity (duality).195  The divine spark/seed is activated.  “Freedom from the control of the physical body and its appetites.”196

2)     Baptism in Jordan – Water baptism “purifies the emotional nature” which precedes the “purification of the mind by fire,”197 or the “baptism of spirit and fire” / “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” thus providing the ability to consciously reject all evil.198What therefore lies ahead for the initiate who has entered the purificatory water, or rather fire?”199  This is the point at which Jesus of Nazareth became “the Christ”200 having received this title and name at Baptism.201

3)     Transfiguration on Mount Carmel – “transfiguration of the [human] nature” into “full-grown man in Christ” – learning to “die to self;” i.e., working towards overcoming the ‘lower, human nature.’  “Develops fourth dimensional vision.”202 Full-grown man working towards manifested son of God.203 Receives “terrific voltage” of Kundalini.204  “[T]he mind…begins its true task as an interpreter of divine truth…205 (i.e., new revelations, reinterpretations {usually allegorical} of Scripture).  “Third eye” is opened.206

4)     Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha – “The Great Renunciation.”207 The “sacrifice of humanity” by totally “dying to (lower, human) self” in order to achieve divinity and to arise as fully manifested son of God.208  Sin becomes impossible.209  Moving towards attainment of full ‘group consciousness.’210  At the final stage of this initiation, post-‘Great Renunciation’, one dispenses with the fleshly body and attains resurrection body thereby becoming free from death:211 “and the causal body, the soul body is relinquished and disappears.”212 “[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.”213

5)     Resurrection and Ascension – “The cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life.”214 Attainment to full status of ascended Master in which the individual can move between and live in the physical and/or the astral realms.215If he chooses to take a physical vehicle (as many will when the Christ reappears and the Hierarchy is externalised on Earth), 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.’…They will therefore need no centres on the etheric levels of our planetary physical plane.”216

This is “The Path” open to all regardless of religious affiliation.217  Bailey summarizes the five steps above:

The babe in Christ, the little child, the full-grown man, the perfected man!  Through the Bethlehem experience the babe is born.  The little child grows to maturity and manifests his purity and power at the Baptism.  He demonstrates at the Transfiguration as the full-grown man, and, on the Cross, he stands forth the perfected Son of God.  An initiation is that moment in which a man feels and knows through every part of his being that life is reality and reality is life.  For a brief moment his consciousness becomes all-enfolding; he not only sees the vision and hears the word of recognition, but knows that the vision is of himself, and that the word is himself made flesh.218

Recall Bill Johnson’s statement about ‘the word becoming flesh in us again’ in part IIIb:

…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.219

As Johnson states quite often, Jesus is our model - even to the point that we become the ‘Word made flesh’.  Is Johnson using the New Age / New Spirituality Jesus as his model?  Let’s compare some of his doctrine to the five initiations above.

New Birth

Bill Johnson says little about initial conversion, yet each time he does, there always seems to be more attached to it.  For example, he’s made it clear that “an authentic gospel” is “the gospel of the Kingdom220 which means one in which it is accompanied by signs and wonders in order to supposedly take dominion back from Satan (Dominionism) – in distinction from merely preaching the plain ol’ Gospel.  However, he rarely, if ever, actually explicitly states the Gospel message.  Johnson’s ‘gospel’ always includes miracles221 as if any gospel preached which doesn’t include a manifestation of miracles is not authentic:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of power and must become manifest through supernatural demonstration.  Miracles aren’t optional.222

Does this mean those individuals whose conversion experiences were without signs, wonders and miracles in evidence are not true Christians?

As noted in part IIIb, Johnson refers to the “seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God,” which is “released into the seed,” within the individual, “through His Word,” which is deposited “into the soil” of the individual (the ‘soil’ containing the individual’s ‘seed’).  He claims this is the proper exposition of Matthew 13:18-23.  However, this seems more in line with Bailey’s ‘new birth’ in which the divine spark/seed is activated thereby marking this ‘new birth’.

In addition, the “spiritual DNA” concept, which resembles the “sperma of God” schema, is correlated to the ‘new birth’ or being born again as evidenced by the following Bill Johnson statements:

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…223

Every born-again believer has the DNA of Christ.224

Progressive Repentance

In Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth is a chapter titled “Repent to See” with the ‘seeing’ referring to the Kingdom: “Most Christians repent enough to get forgiven, but not enough to see the Kingdom.225  Progressive repentance?  Is this a form of Gnosticism (recall that Gnosticism is inherent in Theosophy / New Age) – the quest for secret knowledge, new revelation, via mysticism in order to advance one’s spiritual walk?

This subject has been covered in-depth in a previous CrossWise article illustrating the strong possibility that Johnson’s use of the term repentance is of the likes of Unity, Christian Science and New Thought which were all influenced by Theosophy.  This alternative definition is used by New Ager / Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault who goes back to the Greek metanoia claiming, “[t]he word literally breaks down into meta and noia, which…means ‘go beyond the mind’ or ‘go into the larger mind.’”226  One goes ‘beyond the mind’ and ‘into the larger mind’ through meditation a/k/a contemplative prayer a/k/a ‘soaking’.

Johnson has distorted Jesus’ words to Nicodemus (John 3:3) to mean that in becoming ‘born again’ one will, with the benefit of additional training, attain the ability to literally see the Kingdom in the here and now:

Through Christ, God has made it possible for every person to see the kingdom. Our conversion experience gives us access to that realm, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3, NKJV). However, it is our responsibility to develop this capacity, to train our senses to perceive God through renewing our minds and feeding the affections of our hearts on the truth227

In the John 3 passage, Jesus is making the statement that no one will see the eschatological Kingdom unless one is ‘born again’.  Jesus is not saying we will literally ‘see’ the Kingdom upon conversion (not initially, but after enough ‘repentance’).  Yet, this is a persistent theme of Bill Johnson:

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.  It was as though He said, “If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking that what you see in the natural is the superior reality.  Without changing the way you think you’ll never see the world that is right in front of you.  It’s my world, and it fulfills every dream you’ve ever had.  And I brought it with me.” All that He did in life and ministry, He did by drawing from that superior reality.228

The Kingdom does not gradually unfold before our eyes as we ‘renew our minds’ or through repentance (as defined by Johnson) as Johnson asserts by essentially putting words in Jesus’ mouth.  The Kingdom will only come at the eschaton, the end of all things, when Jesus Christ returns.  However, this concept of progression in general and of the ‘hidden’ Kingdom on earth in particular is part of Theosophy:

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 controlThe 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….229

Here’s Alice Bailey describing the purpose of initiations indicating a progressive ‘seeing’:

…[E]ach initiation enables the initiate to “see ahead” a little further, for revelation is always a constant factor in human experience.  The whole of life is revelation; the evolutionary process is, in relation to consciousness, a process of leading the blind out of darkened areas of consciousness into greater light, and therefore into vaster vision.230 

…It is a spiritual fact that those who have passed from the cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life can be seen, and at the same time evade the vision of the believer; seeing and recognition are two very different things…231

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

In addition, Bailey says at the second initiation, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, the tri-part aspect of human personality (physical body, emotional nature, and the mind) is perfected bringing man “en rapport with the existing universe, and therefore with God, immanent in nature.”232

The physical body enables us to touch the tangible, visible world.  The emotional, feeling nature enables us to say, “I lift up my heart unto the Lord.”  Most people live in their heart nature and in the feeling body, and it is through the heart that we find our way to the Heart of God.  Only through love can Love be revealed.  When through right use and understanding the mind is definitely and properly oriented, it is brought en rapport with the Mind of God, the Universal Mind, the Purpose, the Plan and the Will of God.  Through the illumined mind of man, the Mind of Deity stands revealed.  Thus man is seen as “made in the image of God.”233

Is this what Johnson means by ‘repenting enough to see the Kingdom’?  Is the above what Johnson is referring to in the following?

…‘Re’ means to go back.  ‘Pent’ is like the penthouse, the top floor of the building.  Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our emotions, and every part of our lives234

Bill Johnson claims that it’s only at the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Christ anointing), that Jesus obtained the ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the Father and this same ‘anointing’ is available to every believer providing these same abilities:

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.235

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.236

This means, according to Johnson (and other hyper-charismatics) that those Christians who have not experienced the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ lack the ability to commune with the Father.  Yet the writer of Hebrews tell us that believers have the right to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-24) with no mention of a ‘second blessing’ being necessary for this privilege.

(See Part IIIa and Part I for more details on Johnson’s baptism in the Holy Spirit / Christ anointing.)

Transfiguration

So far we have Johnson claiming we are ‘the Word made flesh’ with the baptism in the Holy Spirit enabling Christians to both ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the Father.  In addition, we can ‘see’ the kingdom increasingly unfold in front of our eyes through ‘progressive repentance’.  Thus far, this appears to parallel the Theosophic model as put forth by Bailey above.  But Johnson goes further in the Theosophic ‘Jesus is our model’ theme:

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.  But Jesus’s clothing also radiated the glory of God, as if to say this was a new era as compared to Moses’s day. In this era the boundaries had changed – a veil could not be used to cover Jesus’s face as it shone with glory, as the veil itself would also soon radiate the same glory.  We influence and impart what God has given us to change the nature of whatever we touch…In the kingdom, things are different.   

…Through the Spirit of the resurrected Christ living in us we are designed to carry the same glory.  But we still must go up the mountain – to the place where we meet with God face to face.237

First, let’s get this straight.  At the Transfiguration it was Jesus’ inherent divine Glory that was radiated; it wasn’t God’s glory coming down upon Him like Moses on Mount Sinai.  As Grant Osborne explains, “Moses reflected the glory of God in his ‘radiance’ when he descended the mountain (Exod 34:29, 33-35), but here Jesus’ true preincarnate glory shines through his humanity.”238

Note how Johnson not only humanizes Jesus, but he raises man up to the Incarnate Christ’s (lowered) level in the last two sentences of the quote.  This is just like New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Johnson is saying we can match the glory of Jesus, that our garments will radiate God’s glory as we ‘go up the mountain’, as we progress in the “kingdom”.

At Todd Bentley’s ‘commissioning’ ceremony at the “Lakeland Revival” on June 23, 2008, Bill Johnson spoke the following words over Bentley:

…We shape the course of history by partnering with you giving honor where it’s due.  You welcome the glory as well as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life – I long to learn from you in that and I bless you.  And, I pray with the rest of these that the measure of glory would increase, that Moses would no longer be considered the high water mark with the glory shown from his face but instead the revelation of the goodness of God would change the face of the Church.  And that he would use your voice, he would use your grace, your anointing, to alter the face of the Church before this world239

Wait, wasn’t Jesus’ example at the Transfiguration a progression from Moses and thereby the new high water mark?  Well, so much for theological consistency from Johnson.  (Please note the publishing of Johnson’s Face to Face with God, from which the above quote on the Transfiguration is found, predates the Bentley commissioning by at least 1.5 years.)

Crucifixion, the Great Renunciation

The Theosophical / New Age / New Spirituality “dying to self” culminates in the “Great Renunciation,” the cross.  In the Theosophical model, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are very closely related with the latter usually immediately following the former.

Christ’s major task was the establishing of God’s kingdom upon earth.  He showed us the way in which humanity could enter that kingdom – by subjecting the lower nature to the death of the cross, and rising by the power of the indwelling Christ.240

Let’s compare the above words of Alice Bailey to those of Bill Johnson in a sermon from February 2011:

…How did you get into the Kingdom in the first place? The Cross. What does the Christian life look like? It is only as strong as our connection to how we got in. It is the Cross.  It never deviates from that.  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…My emphasis is on – the Christian life is not the Cross, the Christian life is the Resurrection; but, you can’t get there without the Cross…But the problem is, is the focus of the people of God – it can create an appetite for success.  Meaning, more books sold.  Or, ya know, you put it in your world; I have to try to filter this through the things that I face – that success has some sort of external measurement instead of that internal sense: ‘I have laid my life down for His honor, for His glory’. It’s the Cross; it’s the Cross.  My job is to die; HIS is to raise me. My job is to prefer others; HIS job is to exalt ME…241

Taking the first sentences in and of themselves, this can be understood as orthodox.  Yes, the Cross is the only way into the Christian life.   However, one may call this quibbling, but we are either ‘connected’ to the Cross by salvation through faith in Jesus Christ or we aren’t.  There aren’t degrees of ‘connectedness’.

As already pointed out in part I, Jesus did, in fact, raise Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22, 10:17-18) as it was the entire Trinity who raised Jesus: Father, Son and Spirit.  And, as pointed out in part IIIa, Johnson’s phraseology on this reads like New Ager Benjamin Crème’s.

Yet, it’s the portion in the middle and following which is of interest here: “the Christian life is not the Cross, the Christian life is the Resurrection; but, you can’t get there without the Cross.”  From an orthodox perspective, we cannot reach the future resurrection of the saints (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) unless we’ve accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross by grace through faith and nothing else – no works.  But Johnson states that ‘the Christian life IS the Resurrection’ as if that is for the here and now.  By Johnson’s full context, it makes more sense when viewed with a Theosophical / New Age lens.  He seems to be comparing Jesus being raised ‘by the Father through the Spirit’ with himself, “My job is to die; HIS is to raise me.”  So, presumably, like Jesus, Johnson is to be raised ‘by the Father through the Spirit’ by ‘dying to self’ as per Theosophy – in virtue of works through self-effort.

According to Bailey, it is after this initiation that “the initiate now works from above downwards”.242  Compare this to Johnson’s words in the following: “He wants you to see reality from God’s perspective, to learn to live from His world toward the visible world.”243  On his Facebook page, Johnson recently stated something similar:

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.244

One other goal the New Age / New Spirituality aspirant seeks relative to this particular initiation is the attainment of full ‘group consciousness’.  This is gradually developed as one progresses on “The Path”; however, it’s full manifestation comes at the “Great Renunciation”.  In the following, Johnson speaks about a “corporate anointing” which seems akin to the Theosophical / New Age “corporate Christ” concept [This was covered more completely in a previous article.]:

…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 God245

Resurrection Life

The final stage in the Theosophical schema is the Resurrection at which point the aspirant is now a Master and no longer an earthly disciple.  The physical body is shed as it’s no longer necessary.  However, there will be some who will stay behind to help further the cause:

If He chooses to take a physical vehicle (as many will when the Christ [ED: actually antichrist] reappears and the Hierarchy is on Earth), the Master “will function from the above to the below” and not (as is the case today with disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) “on the below towards the above”… 246

The individual who stays “to help humanity on this globe” will be “in charge, also, of large work, teaching many pupils, aiding in the many schemes, and is gathering under him those who are to assist him in future times.”247  This ‘physical vehicle’ will, of course, be a ‘resurrection body’.

Bill Johnson claims that our current model is the glorified, resurrected Jesus of Revelation 1:13-16.248  He proof-texts a portion of 1 John 4:17 to make this point, yet in its context, the Apostle John is speaking of how we are to be like Christ in love, not like Christ’s current glorified state:

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

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

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross.  It is found because of the Cross.  It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…249

Clearly, Johnson is promoting that we attain our glorified, resurrection bodies in the here and now.  This is known as the heretical Manifested Sons of God doctrine.  As can be seen, this mirrors New Age teaching.  The “resurrection power that energizes the believer” could be construed as the Theosophical “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, the divine spark/seed.  Johnson expounds further claiming emphatically that we follow Christ “all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!”:

At some point the reality of the resurrection must come into play in our lives – we must discover the power of the resurrection  for all who believe…we must follow Him all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!”250

…Religion is unable to mimic the life of resurrection with its victory over sin and hell.251

For comparison, here’s an Alice Bailey quote illustrating a few Scriptures being pulled out of their contexts in order to create pretexts, including 1 John 4:17:

…Inherent in the human consciousness…is a sense of divinity.  “We are all children of God” (Gal. III.26); “One is our Father, even God,” [John 8:41?] says the Christ and so say all the world Teachers and Avatars down the ages.  “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement. …“Christ in us, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27] is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.252

The common theme in all of these is ‘inherent divinity’ and universalism, as in all are potential gods.  The Galatians verse should read, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus“; and, in the Colossians verse, the original “you” is replaced by “us” to make it more inclusive.  The verse from John’s epistle is used much like Johnson does above.  Interestingly, Johnson hints at universalism in a snippet from an advertisement for the “Open Heavens 2010 Conference“: “What does it mean to you when it says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on A-L-L flesh?’”[Acts 2:17/Joel 2:28]

Going back to the so-called Lakeland Revival, Georgian Banov delivered two anointings ‘from the Lord’ to Todd Bentley at his ‘commissioning’ ceremony.  Prior to this, Banov, speaking for ‘the Lord’, deemed Bentley a “well pleasing son” – the very words used by the Father at both Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration:

…And The Lord says that because you’ve loved his personal presence there are two anointings that are released on His presence and I just want to release those two anointings on you from the LORD.  By the way, the Lord says ‘you are well pleasing son.’The Father, Abba, says that to you personally.  The first anointing is the anointing of the pleasure of the LORD.253

For this first anointing, Banov quotes Isaiah 53:4-6, a Messianic passage, i.e. Scripture pertaining to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Interestingly, this Scripture speaks primarily about the Cross:

‘Surely He has borne our grief, sickness and weakness and carried our sorrow and the pain and the punishment of us all. He was considered stricken, smitten and afflicted by God; but, He was bruised for our transgression. He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities and chastisement that brought our peace came upon him and by His stripes we were healed and made whole.’  And, yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him and in His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.   And, God’s releasing his pleasure of what He did to Jesus upon you Todd.254

It seems this can well be construed as a ‘crucifixion anointing’, or the fourth initiation of Theosophy.  The second anointing is based on Psalm 45:6-7 – another Messianic passage.  Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, explains:

…[V]erse 7 distinguishes between God, your God, and the king of verse 6.  This paradox is consistent with the incarnation, but mystifying in any other context. It is an example of Old Testament language bursting its banks, to demand more than a human fulfillment…255

These verses, as Banov notes below, are referenced in Hebrews 1:9.  The writer of Hebrews puts it in the context that Christ is above the angels in status and is worshiped by them.  Of this verse, William L. Lane states: “…The implication that the Son shares the quality of deity only intensifies the reference to his eternal rule and sharpens the contrast between the unchangeable Son and the mutable angels…”256   With this in mind, it seems Banov is ascribing deity to Bentley which, from a Theosophical standpoint would represent the fifth initiation, resurrection, in which one becomes a Master:

And, the second anointing that he wants to release upon you is in Psalm 45 but it’s also in Hebrews chapter one verse nine.  It says, ‘Because you have loved righteousness and you have delighted in integrity and virtue and uprightness in heart and thought and action and you have hated injustice and inequity; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond your companions.’  We bless you.257

Hebrews 1:9 is also a parallel passage to Philippians 2:9 – a part of the ‘Philippians hymn’ [vv 2:6-11]: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” [NIV 1984].  Again, this represents Jesus Christ’s Resurrection (and Ascension).  Interestingly, Todd Bentley himself, a little over one month later, would speak of “resurrection life” describing a progression in its attainment:

…And, I just believe there’s an impartation to call forth ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. And, I want to take one moment church, and I want to press in, I want you to press in with me, to go from one floor, to two floors, to three levels, to four.  And, let’s progress and let’s say, ‘God, beyond raising the dead, beyond notable miracles, beyond healing, let there be a release in the Church of the realm of glory and power and dominion and authority that affects everything that’s death and decay around us.’  And, it’s true victory, it’s true resurrection life, true resurrection power, and true resurrection gloryPeople will be made alive – born again.258

When was it that Johnson claimed Jesus was ‘born again’?  It was at the Resurrection:

…Did you know that Jesus was born again?… I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin. 

In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”  He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’259

Just like the name of the sermon from which the above was taken echoing words of Bill Johnson in other contexts: Jesus is our model.

Conclusion

This rather lengthy series attempts to illustrate that not only is the Bill Johnson Christology (and by extension, others within hyper-charismaticism with similar teachings), his Jesus, not like the one revealed in Scripture, his theology could fit into the New Age / New Spirituality model.  Whether one agrees or not, the hope is that the reader at least has been given food for thought and the desire for further investigation.

[See part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, part II, part IIIa, and part IIIb.]

Endnotes:

188McGrath, Alister. Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. © 2009, HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY; p 34
189McGrath; p 239 n3
190Bailey, Externalisation; p 510
191Bailey, Externalisation; p 511
192Bailey, Initiaton; pp 92-93: “Students must get rid of the idea that if they are ‘very good and altruistic’ suddenly some day they will stand before the Great Lord.  They are putting effect before cause.  Goodness and altruism grow out of realization and service, and holiness of character is the outcome of those expansions of consciousness which a man brings about within himself through strenuous effort and endeavor.”
193Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary.  From back cover: “…These experiences are both symbolic and actual, setting guideposts along the way of the disciple.  They exemplify the experience of the human soul through the five stages of its spiritual journey and can be invaluable to individual man facing the vast span of the same five-fold experience.”
194einterface, “The Master Jesus” par 2; as accessed 06/18/12
195Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 26, 47.  Bailey, Initiation; pp 114-15
196Bailey,  Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 685, cf. 664-673
197Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 99
198Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 27, 47-48
199Bailey, Rays; pp 677, cf. 673-687
200Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 100.  Dowling;  pp 83
201einterface, “The Master Jesus” par 2; as accessed 06/18/12
202Bailey, Initiation; p 89
203Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 26, 48
204Bailey, Rays; pp 687, cf. 688-89, 367
205Bailey, Rays; pp 688
206Bailey, Rays; pp 689-91, 368
207Bailey, Initiation; pp 56-57
208Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 28, 48-49, 184-194, 206-207
209Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 202
210Bailey, Rays; pp 694
211Bailey, Rays; pp 695-699.  Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 178, 184, 186
212Bailey, Rays; p 695
213Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 187
214Bailey, Externalisation; p 597
215Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 28, 49-51.  Bailey, Externalisation; p 468-71.  Bailey, Rays; pp 699-703
216Bailey, Rays; p 699
217Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 9
218Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 105.  Emphasis added.
219“whizzpopping” YouTube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 04/23/12.   Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
220Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 27
221Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 33-34, 25-28
222Johnson, Bill “Mandate for Miracles” Ministry Today. September/October 2008, Vol. 26, no. 5; p 70
223Johnson, Bill, “Super-Natural by Nature” Charisma, par 13; as accessed 4/26/12
224Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 147. Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
225Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 37
226Bourgeault, Cynthia The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message. 2008, Shambhala, Boston, MA; p 37
227Johnson, Face to Face; pp 89-90.  Emphasis added.
228Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 38
229Bailey, Externalisation; p 588.  Emphasis added.  This portion originally written in 1946.
230Bailey, Rays; p 703
231Bailey, Externalisation; p 597.  Emphasis added.
232Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 88
233Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 88
234Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 44.  Emphasis added.
235Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80.  Emphasis added.
236Johnson, Dreaming; p 136.  Emphasis in original
237Johnson, Face to Face; p 200.  Emphasis in original.  Cf. Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 149-150
238Osborne, Grant,  Arnold, Clinton E. (Gen. Ed.) Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. © 2010 by Grant R. Osborne, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 646
239“nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley’s Apostolic and Prophetic Commissioning 2/4” Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A05WQYi7aQ> Bill Johnson; 1:30 – 2:10
240Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 206
241“ewenhoffman” Maintaining the Cross-Walk; 16:31 – 17:55.  Caps from emphasis in original.
242Bailey, Rays; p 701
243Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 45.  Emphasis in original.
244Johnson, Bill Facebook, May 12, 2012
245“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>; 0:36 – 1:30.  As accessed 07/03/11
246Bailey, Rays; p 699
247Bailey, Initiation; p 90
248Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 145
249Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 145
250Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 146
251Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 147
252Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 145
253“nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley’s Apostolic and Prophetic Commissioning 3/4” Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjl5wKso9eU&feature=player_embedded#t=0shttp://>; Georgian Banov, 6:23 – 6:49; as accessed 06/24/12
254“nowbelieve” Banov; 6:49 – 7:34; as accessed 06/24/12
255Kidner, Derek Tyndale Old Testament Commentary: Psalms 1 – 72; © Inter-Varsity Press, London, 1973 (2008 reprint), Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, England/Downers Grove, IL; p 189
256Lane, William L. Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8; 1991, Thomas Nelson, Nashville/Dallas/Mexico City/Rio de Janiero; p 29
257“nowbelieve” Banov; 7:34 – 8:11; as accessed 06/24/12
258Bentley, Todd.  Excerpt of his monologue from an August 08, 2008 conference held at Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center featuring Todd Bentley, Bob Jones and Rick Joyner.  DVD sold through Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08” <http://www.morningstarministries.org/store/teaching-sets/todd-bentley/todd-bentley-healing-and-impartation-service-08-08-08>; 1956:46 – 1957:53.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/01/12.
259“ewenhoffman” Jesus is our Model  sermon by Bill Johnson. 33:48 – 34:57; as accessed 06/23/12.

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