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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christ Anointing

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

Christ = the anointing
antichrist = against the anointing 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eternally God Yet Temporally Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Two Realms of the Manifested Son of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming Some Objections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing up the selection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, there is a “Christ” within:

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

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

The following provides some more explanation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leads to the final question of this challenge:

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

1This is from the 2nd of two services that morning.
2Johnson’s statement was covered in an earlier article, “Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part I” <http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/bill-johnsons-born-again-jesus-part-i/>
3I particularly like the way in which Thomas V. Morris [The Logic of God Incarnate. 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK] describes omnipresence with its close dependence on the other two ‘omni’ attributes and vice versa: “Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of and power over any and every spatially located object” [p 91].
4Bill Johnson Jesus is Our Model sermon from 12/20/09, Bethel Church, Redding, CA, taken from compact disc subtitled “sunam2” (Sunday AM, 2nd message, 11:00); 25:21 – 28:24.  CD (and DVD or MP3 download) available at ibethel.com, titled “Jesus Is Our Model 11:00am December 20, 2009” <http://store.ibethel.org/p3322/jesus-is-our-model-11-00am-december-20-2009> as accessed 02/24/13.
5Levi Dowling The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ: The Philosophic and Practical Basis of the Religion of the Aquarian Age of the World. © 1907 Eva S. Dowling and Leo W. Dowling, © 1935 and © 1964 Leo W. Dowling, (11th printing, 1987), DeVorss, Marina del Rey, CA; p 6.  On page 3 is the following from the “Introduction” by Eva S. Dowling: “The full title of this book is ‘The Aquarian Age Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age’…”  See also Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus. © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; pp 162-163, 280.  A favorite Biblical text to pervert in this regard is Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
6Dowling; p 6
7Dowling; p 6
8Dowling; p 6
9Dowling; p 6
10Dowling; p 8, 82-83.  Also, Bailey; pp 100-101.
11Dowling; p 8
12Dowling; pp 8-9.  Also, Bailey; pp 231-284

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

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

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

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

- Albert James Dager, Vengeance Is Ours85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparing Specific Christological Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater Works Shall You Do

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

-The Gospel of John 14:12, NKJV

What are these “greater works” which those who believe in Jesus Christ will do?  What can be greater than calming the wind and the waves of a raging storm by rebuking [Mark 4:35-41; Matt 8:18, 23-27; Luke 8:22-25]?  Halting a hurricane perhaps?  Or, how does one do greater than raising Lazarus from the dead after four days [John 11:38-44]?  Raising the dead after five days? Six days?  Thirty days?  A year?

Craig Blomberg notes Jesus’ emphatic “double-‘Amen’” [“Verily, Verily” in the KJV or “Truly, truly” in the NASB, rendered “Most assuredly” above, which literally translates as “Amen, amen”] yet, “it is not likely that the later church would invent a saying ascribed to Jesus susceptible to the interpretation that the disciples were greater than their master.”1  So, what does this verse mean?  What are these “greater works” we will do?

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, teaches that Jesus is referring to greater signs and wonders.  This is based, in part, on Johnson’s claim that Jesus Christ performed the miraculous merely as “a man in right relationship to God…not as God”2 who was “completely dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him”3 because He had “laid his divinity aside”4 in His “self-imposed restriction to live as a man”5 therefore possessing “NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever”.6  In Johnson’s theology, if Jesus Christ could do all He did as a Spirit-moved man, then Holy Spirit indwelt Christians should be able to exceed the greatness, the quality, of Jesus’ miracle workings:

Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement.  Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief.  It does not impress God to ignore what He promised under the guise of honoring the work of Jesus on the earth.  Jesus’ statement is not that hard to understand.  Greater means ‘greater.’  And, the works He referred to are signs and wonders.  It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark.  He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure.  What could millions do?  That was His point, and it became His prophecy.

This verse is often explained away by saying it refers to quantity of works, not quality.  As you can see, millions of people should be able to surpass the sheer number of works that Jesus did simply because we are so many.  But that waters down the intent of His statement.  The word greater is mizon [sic] in the Greek.  It is found 45 times in the New Testament.  It is always used to describe ‘quality,’ not quantity.7

Johnson is correct in that the Greek word meizon (not mizon)8 refers to greater in quality rather than quantity.  But are the ‘greater works’ referring to “signs and wonders” as in calming storms and raising the dead?  Gary Burge asserts, “The promise can hardly mean that the efforts of disciples will exceed those of Jesus who, for instance, provided the stupendous miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.”9  Andreas Kostenberger reflects:

Do greater things than Jesus did?  This claim seems daring.  The difficulty evaporates when one realizes that these ‘greater works’ are still works of Jesus, now carried out from his exalted position with the Father through his commissioned, faithful followers.   Because Jesus is now with the Father, we can expect to do greater works than even Jesus did: on the basis of his once-for-all death on the cross, and in answer to believing prayer for all that is necessary to accomplish the mission Jesus never relinquished.10

And what was Jesus’ mission?

“Because I Go to My Father”

J. Louis Martyn refers to the “highly paradoxical”11 nature of this verse.  However, the key to interpreting and understanding this verse, as in any Scripture, is to keep it in its proper context as “he clearly says in the promise that all this will take place because he is going to the Father.”12  What occurs after His Ascension?  Two things: 1) Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father providing intercession for us as our Mediator through prayers in His name; and, 2) after Pentecost, all true Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  For more complete context, here are verses 12 through 17a in the NIV (1984):

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

15If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — 17the Spirit of truth. [NIV 1984]

Kostenberger: “For once Jesus is exalted in his Father’s presence, believers will be able to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, and Jesus himself will answer these prayers.”13  Burge states, “What is ‘greater’ is that these works will be done by regular people in whom the power of Christ has taken up residence following his glorification.”14  However, Kostenberger adds, “understanding the impact of Jesus’ words to his original audience requires historical imagination.  For what was a novel vision for Jesus’ first followers has become an everyday reality for us today: to be indwelt by the Spirit and to pray – in Jesus’ name”.15  (Kostenberger also clarifies, “Praying in Jesus’ name does not involve magical incantation but rather expresses alignment of one’s desires and purposes with God [1 John 5:14-15]”,16 i.e. obedience to the written Word [v 15].) While both of these should remain awe-inspiring to the child of God, these privileges are, shamefully, very easy to take for granted.

Partnering with God Rather Than Exceeding His Greatness

Martyn sees in John 14:12 a continuation of partnering with Jesus which Jesus Himself had told His disciples back in John 9:4 (and first mentioned in 3:11): “We must work the works of him who sent me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” [NASB].17  This will progress until the culmination of all things:

The work of Jesus appears not to be terminated in the time of his earthly life.  On the contrary, his going to the Father inaugurates a time in which his followers do his works.  Indeed, 9:4a leads us to see this continuation of Jesus’ works as an activity of the Risen Lord in the deeds of Christian witnesses.18

After Jesus’ glorification, the Father sent “another Counselor” [Helper, Advocate, Comforter], another parakletos (Paraclete) [v 15], the “Spirit of truth” [v 17; 15:26; 16:13].  This other Paraclete is invisible to the world as the world does not know Him [14:17].  Yet, He will teach believers all things [14:26].  He will bear witness of Jesus [15:26]; He will glorify Jesus [16:14] not speaking of His own authority, only what He hears [16:13].  He will judge the world and convict of sin [16:8-11].19

Observing some obvious parallels between Jesus and the Paraclete (parakletos), Martyn illustrates how the Gospel writer compares these to believers.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world [17:18 (NIV) compared to Jesus in 8:42 and the Holy Spirit in 15:26/14:26, also 12:49/14:24 and 16:13].  The reason that the world does not know us [believers] is that it did not know him [1 John 3:1 (NIV), also John 17:25, compared to 8:19/17:25 and 14:17].  And you [believers] will bear witness also… [15:27 (NASB) compared to 8:14 and 15:26].  Noting the current application of the narrative of John 9, Martyn states of 9:39, “Jesus [in the person of the Christian Witness] said, ‘For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind’” [compared to 3:18-19 and 16:13].  And, lastly, Martyn sees Jesus’ work extending into the present through believers specifically in the “greater works” verse: Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father [14:12 (NASB) compared to 14:25 and 14:26/16:13].20

So, while Jesus literally healed the blind man by giving him the eyesight he never had [9:1-11], there is also a figurative/spiritual application in this teaching narrative/discourse as spiritual sight in contrast to spiritual blindness [9:35-41].  Jesus tells the unbelieving Pharisees [‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath’ – 9:16 NIV], “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” [9:41 NIV].  These Pharisees were now guilty because they remained in their sins despite seeing the Son of God:

39And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and those who see may become blind.’ [John 9:39 NASB]

Yet the man formerly blind from birth passed from eternal death to eternal life as he gained his spiritual sight [9:38-39] – something much more important than merely receiving physical sight!

As J. Louis Martyn rephrases, “this [miraculous works to include healing] is not terminated in Jesus’ earthly lifetime…but rather…the Risen Lord continues his earthly ministry in the work of his servant, the Christian preacher…”21  This is the privilege of all children of God as we preach the true Gospel – that we are hopeless sinners in need of a Savior who has already paid the price for our sin debt – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth [14:17; 15:26; 16:13] works through us, His children, convicting of sin [16:8-11] leading to repentance.  While there will be those in the world who wish to hold on to their sin and thus hate God and His disciples [15:18-25], it is still our distinct privilege to preach the Gospel to the lost.

To reiterate, the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own, only what He hears [16:13], which means He does not glorify Himself or even bring any attention to Himself whatsoever as He will bear witness to and glorify Jesus Christ [15:26; 16:14] instead.  And by extension, we, as Holy Spirit indwelt Christians, do the same: we do not glorify or magnify ourselves but rather we bear witness [15:27] to and glorify Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior by the power of the Spirit working through us.

Eternal Life – The Greatest of Miracles

F. F. Bruce finds precedence of the “greater works” motif of John 14:12 in 5:20:

When, after the healing at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus affirmed that the works he did were those which the Father showed him, he added, ‘he will show him greater works than these, to give you cause for marvel’ (John 5:20).  Now [in 14:12] he tells his disciples that they in turn would do the works that he did.  That must have been surprising enough.  But what were they to think when he went on to say that, because he was going to the Father, they would do even greater works than they had seen him do?22

Likewise, so does D. A. Carson see 5:20’s “greater works” in 14:12.  As per Kostenberger’s BECNT commentary, “[Carson] correctly locates the clues to a proper understanding of 14:12 in the parallel in 5:20 and in the final clause ‘because I am going to the Father,’ and points to the disciples’ greater understanding after the resurrection in the ‘new eschatological age that will have dawned.’”23  For a better understanding of how 5:20 relates to 14:12 we need to take a closer look into the pool of Bethesda.

The pool of Bethesda is the place where individuals of various afflictions would congregate waiting for someone to stir the pool assuming this stirring would provide curative powers in its waters [5:7].  Jesus met the paralytic man waiting beside the pool, told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” [5:8], and the man was cured, then he picked up his mat and walked away [5:9].  Since this miracle was performed on the Sabbath [5:9], the Jews informed the now healed man that it was unlawful to work (carry his mat) on the Sabbath [5:10] according to their extra-biblical oral tradition. Jesus later found the former paralytic and said, “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” [5:14].  This prefigures the healing of the blind man [9:1-7] who subsequently received his spiritual sight [9:39] by believing Jesus to be the Son of Man [9:35; cf. Daniel 7:13], the Messiah (Anointed One) [Daniel 9:26], then believing in and worshiping Him.

The Jews were angry that Jesus not only healed on the Sabbath, but that He instructed the man to ‘sin’ by ‘working’ on the Sabbath [5:16].   Once Jesus equated Himself with God as God’s Son working on the Sabbath along with His Father [5:17], the Jews desired all the more to kill him [5:18].  Jesus responds by reiterating His relationship with the Father as both His Son [5:19] and His equal [5:20-21], and, further, by claiming that Jesus Himself will judge rather than the Father [5:22; cf. 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”].  Blomberg expounds, “Verses 21-22 refer to two major ‘works’ that Jews recognized God continued to perform on the Sabbath – giving life (as children were born) and exercising judgment (as people died).”24

20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
25 Truly, Truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live.
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;
27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [John 5:20-27, NASB; emphasis added]

The “greater works” [5:20] referred to in this passage – greater than healing a paralytic on the Sabbath – is the fact that Jesus “gives life to whom He wishes” [5:21], which means providing “eternal life” [5:24] in the then present [5:25] continuing till the eschaton (end of all things).  In addition, Jesus has been given authority to judge all [5:22] in the then present [5:24] and at the eschaton [5:27-29].  He provides eternal life to those who honor Him [5:23a] while judging those who refuse [5:23b].  The thief on the Cross is an example of how Jesus ‘gave life to whom He wished’ [Luke 23:43] during His earthly ministry.  Conversely, after witnessing the blind man who could subsequently see, the Pharisees met Jesus’ judgment [9:39-41] for their unbelief in Jesus as the Christ/Messiah.

Craig Keener also recognizes the “parallel language” of 14:12 and 5:20 [and 1:50].25   He comments, “The claim that God delegates the judgment to Jesus would have unnerved his opponents.”26  Keener adds

Like the Father, Jesus could give life (5:21; cf. 17:2); this made him act in a divine mannerThe resurrection of the dead was a divine work, specifically attributed to God…God was widely viewed as the giver of life, hence the only one who life was not contingent  on a giver of life…In the context, the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda prefigures in a small way the resurrection; Jesus will raise the dead, just as he told the lame man to ‘rise’…That he gives life to ‘whomever he wills’ (5:21) reinforces the image of divinity in this Gospel; God made alive (cf. 6:57, 63) and drew to life those whom he willed (6:37, 44, 65; cf. 3:8).

The discourse reports a number of divine activities the Father has ‘given’ the Son: judgment (5:22, 27), life in himself (5:26), and divine works (5:36; cf. 5:20)…27

For those who insist, like Bill Johnson, that Jesus performed all His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, the above Scripture [5:20-27 and the others Keener cites] irrefutably proves otherwise.  To assert the Holy Spirit was the vehicle used in Jesus’ ‘giving life to whom He wishes’ and ‘executing judgment’ is to defy logic.  How could Jesus ‘give life to whom He wishes’ (and its converse – execute judgment) if He was dependent upon the Holy Spirit instead?  Or, did Jesus command the Holy Spirit to give life to whom He willed?  Of course not; if Jesus was functioning strictly as a man dependent on God, as Johnson asserts, then He certainly could not command God the Holy Spirit to obey Him.

Furthermore, if we were to assume (incorrectly, of course) that Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit both to “give life” [5:21, 24-25] and “execute judgment” [5:22, 24, 27], then Holy Spirit indwelt Christians should be able to ‘give life to whom we choose’ and judge those whom we wish to judge.  Of course we can neither grant eternal life/judgment to anyone in and of ourselves nor can we command the Holy Spirit to do so [however, Christians do have a role in judgment after the eschaton, cf. Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3].  Instead, we play an integral role in effecting eternal life (or judgment) as the privileged vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works in and through as we preach the true Gospel and as we humbly pray for others in Jesus’ name.

The greatest miracle of all is the changed hearts of individuals as they transition from eternal death to eternal life by the acceptance of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ: by believing and confessing that Christ died on the Cross in propitiation for the collective sins of mankind, was raised from the dead, and by acknowledging individual inherent sinfulness and subsequently repenting, one is spared God’s eternal wrath, passing from death to everlasting life.

Nineteenth century expositor J. C. Ryle puts it succinctly:

In short, ‘greater works’ mean more conversions.  There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul.28

Keener, commenting on 14:12, asserts “The promise of ‘greater works’ calls John’s audience to look not only backward but also to the present, where Christ continues to remain active through his presence by the Paraclete and his proclaimed word.”29  The “greater works” then refers to Christians, mere mortals, whom the Holy Spirit works in and through to effect salvation to those who believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and are saved, in contrast to exacting judgment on those who refuse Him and His sacrifice.  This is “greater” than Jesus who did these things as God – not a Spirit-moved man – during His earthly ministry.

see also:
Kenosis, Christology and Bill Johnson, part I
Kenosis, Christology and Bill Johnson, part II
Kris Vallotton and the Mantle of Jesus Christ/Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing

Endnotes:

1 Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. 2001, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL; p 199
2 Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 29.  Ellipse in original.
3 Johnson; p 29
4 Johnson; p 79.  In original text a footnote follows this phrase referring to Philippians 2:5-7, a proof-text used for those propounding the unorthodox/heterodox kenosis doctrine.
5 Johnson; p 29
6 Johnson; p 29
7 Johnson; p 185.  Underscore from emphasis (italics) in original; bolding added for emphasis.
8 Strong, James; J. R. Kohlenberger, III and J. A. Swanson, eds. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 2001, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 440, 1514.  Meizon is Strong’s # 3187.
9 Burge, Gary M. “John’s Gospel” in Evans, Craig A., ed. The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: John, Hebrews – Revelation.  2005, Victor/Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, CO; p 127
10 Kostenberger, Andreas J. “John” in Arnold, Clinton E., gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 2: John, Acts. 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 139.  Emphasis added.
11 Martyn, J. Louis History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 2003 (3rd ed. rev. (1968)), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY; p 135
12 Martyn; p 136.  Italics in original.
13 Kostenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John (Encountering Biblical Series). July 2009 (8th prtg (paperback), (1999)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 156.  Italics in original.
14 Burge; p 127
15 Kostenberger, Encountering John; p 156
16 Kostenberger, Andreas J. John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. July 2009 (4th prtg (2004)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 433-434
17 Martyn; p 38 including important footnote 20.  Pronoun emphasis in original: We (Jesus and His disciples and, by extension, all subsequent believers) are to partner with the Father (the one “who sent me”).  This was begun in 3:11: “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” [NIV 1984]
18 Martyn; pp 38-39.  Emphasis added.
19 This section somewhat roughly follows the outline of Martyn; pp 137-138
20 This is adapted from a chart in and quoted from Martyn; pp 141-142.
21 Martyn; pp 39-40
22 Bruce, F. F. The Gospel & Epistles of John. 1983, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 300.  Bruce notes in the Preface, “The biblical text which is printed at the head of each section of the exposition is my translation from the Greek of the Nestle-Aland edition of 1979.”  This explains why the translation of 5:20 is not exactly like any other.
23 Kostenberger, John: Baker Exegetical Commentary; p 433 (footnote) citing Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John: Pillar New Testament Commentary. 1999, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 495-496
24 Blomberg; p 114
25 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume Two. 2010 (1st softcover ed, (2003)), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 947
26 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One. 2010 (1st softcover ed, (2003)), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 651
27 Keener, Gospel of John: Vol. One; pp 650-651.  Emphasis added.
28 Ryle, J. C. “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John 13:1-21:25Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume Four (John 10:31-21:35). 2007 (1878), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 67.  Originally part of a seven volume series with one each of Matthew and Mark, two of Luke (1-10 & 11-24), and three of John (1-6:70; 7-12:50; 13:1-21:35) beginning in 1856 and completed in 1878.
29 Keener, Gospel of John: Vol. Two; p 947. In the larger context of Keener’s thoughts here, it seems he is promoting the idea of ‘greater works’ as signs and wonders. However, he also notes that the various contexts of ‘works’ in John’s Gospel “indicates that these may include miraculous signs (5:20, 36; 7:3; 9:3-4; 10:25, 32-33, 37-38; 15:24) but also his mission as a whole”; and “…’works’ in this Gospel includes doing God’s will” (p 946; emphasis mine). Yet, Keener also contends that ‘greater’ would “imply “greater magnitude” (p 947), with no further comment indicating what that could be. Jesus’ “mission as a whole” was salvific, and that seems to be the main point of the Upper Room discourse. Miracles, in the sense of signs and wonders, may or may not attend the proclamation of the Gospel, but it’s the conversion that it is the ‘greater work’.

“Christ” in the New Age

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, and teach no revolutionary doctrines or cling to any reactionary ideas.  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.  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.” [1]

                                                                – Alice A. Bailey, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy; 1919

The Christian life is a life of war as we continually fight against the flesh (our own sinful desires) and the attacks of the enemy (Satan and his minions).  During wartime, one method of attack is the attempt to destroy the enemy from within by chicanery – using deception as a strategy to infiltrate the opposing camp.  Satan, our enemy, has employed this method from the very beginning.  A particularly effective means to accomplish this goal is to redefine standard orthodox Christian terms and concepts in a way which permits those in the Church to understand them as seemingly orthodox resulting in – to borrow words from Hannah Newman, author of The Rainbow Swastika – a “Trojan Horse of semantics.”[2] This article will focus on the word “Christ” illustrating some of the various ways it is used within the New Age and occult.

Who (or what) is “Christ” according to the New Age / New Spirituality?  It all depends on context.  There are at least seven different meanings/aspects.  Obviously, this can lead to confusion both to the insider and the outsider; however, it is especially confusing to those of orthodox Christian persuasion.  And, it’s that way by design according to Alice A. Bailey (AAB), who acted as a medium through which “Master D. K.” (Djwhal Khul a/k/a The Tibetan) would channel, according to the opening quote.  The Bailey books and other New Age/occult literature are available through Lucis Trust (formerly Lucifer Publishing[3]).

Given that, “…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held),” the goal of redefining concepts is clear.  The occult/esoteric teachings of the New Age are to be expressed in such a way that the unsuspecting church attendee does not catch on right away, if at all.  This goal must be accomplished by, “…preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages….”  And, the greatest “basic doctrine” is, of course, that of the person of Jesus Christ Himself.

“Christ” in Christian Orthodoxy

It would be prudent to first provide the established orthodox Christian definition of “Christ.” The term comes from the Greek transliterated Christos which is defined “Christ,” “Messiah,” or “Anointed One.”[4]  Christos itself is derived from chrio, “to anoint.”[5]  From the Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, here’s the definition of Christos:

“Christ, Anointed One, Messiah, the Greek translation of the Hebrew 4899 (cf. Greek 3323).  The Messiah is the Son of David, an anointed leader expected to bring in an age of peace and liberty from all oppression.  In the NT, the Messiah is Jesus, who came first to bring liberty from sin and peace with God and who will come again to bring all things under His control [6]

In the New Testament, chrio is used five times, two of which refer to Jesus’ Baptism [Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38], another most likely to His Baptism [Acts 4:27][7], and once at or after His Resurrection or Ascension [Heb 1:9; cf. Ps 45:6-7, Isa 61:3, Php 2:9][8].  In the remaining instance, chrio is used to refer to Holy Spirit-endued Christians [II Cor 1:21].  The noun form of chrio is chrisma, “anointing,”[9] which is used only three times, and each time in John’s first epistle to denote the Holy Spirit anointing of believers [once in I John 2:20, twice in 2:27].

Both chrio and chrisma are always used in a sacred and symbolic sense; whereas, the Greek words aleipho [Matt. 6:17; Mark 6:13, 16:1; Luke 7:38,46; John 11:2, 12:3; James 5:14], epichrio [John 9:6,11], enchrio [Rev 3:18], and murizo [Mark 14:8], which are also translated anoint/ed/ing, are always used in a physical sense [10] in the NT.

The word “Messiah” is only used twice in the New Testament although it is derived from the Aramaic rather than the Hebrew [11].  This term is used solely in the Gospel of John [1:41, 4:25] and each time it is used in conjunction with Christos presumably for emphasis of Jesus Christ’s deity.  It is therefore noteworthy that when the word “Christ,” (Christos) is used in the NT, it is exclusively for the person of Jesus Christ and nothing or no one else (except when Jesus Himself is referring to false Christs as in Matthew 24).  As both Louis Berkhof and Wayne Grudem illustrate in each of their respective Systematic Theology’s, “Christ” is a term denoting His divinity.[12][13]

Unfortunately, many online lexicons define Christos as Christ = “anointed” which is misleading and confusing.  In the NT, Christos, though derived from chrio which means “to anoint” as noted above, is defining the unique Christ, Messiah, Son of God and He is thus the “Anointed One” as per the two sources for definitions above.  While Christians are anointed by the Holy Spirit at baptism, we are obviously not referred to as “Christ” (Christos) upon baptism; and, furthermore, Jesus was described as “Jesus Christ” at the virgin birth which means the term was applied to Him prior to Baptism (of course, He was always Christ as noted above) rather than later at His Baptism by John as these online definitions would suggest.  The importance of these distinctions will be made more obvious a bit later in this article.

The confusion likely stems from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament from which early Catholic Bibles have been translated.  (Interestingly, many NT quotes from the OT are taken from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Masoretic Text.)  The term christos is rendered as “anointed” in Lev 4: 4, Lev 6:22, 1 Samuel 2:10 (appropriate by the contexts) as well as a few other passages[14] and designated with a lower case rather than a capital “c.”  In Psalm 2:2, the “C” in this term is capitalized (Christos) since this is considered a Messianic passage (prophecy about the coming Messiah).  This distinction in uncapitalization/capitalization is illustrated in Brenton’s The Septuagint with the Apocrypha: Greek and English[15].  In the NT, I’m reasonably sure the convention of capitalizing Christos in each and every instance is followed in both the NA27 Novum Testamentum Graece and the UBS4 The Greek New Testament. [I’ve not checked all the references; so, if a reader finds an exception, please let me know.]

Glossary of New Age/Occult Terms and Concepts

This section and the remaining sections constitute my current understanding of New Age doctrine and concepts.  Likely, at least some parts of individual sections will be amended in the future as my understanding grows.  I welcome any comments which could shed further light in this area.

It will be helpful to define some other New Age terms and concepts before we go on to define “Christ” in New Age/occult teachings.  Terms may be added, again, as my knowledge increases.  I want to caution readers that this is occult teaching and the goal is to confuse the reader into believing this is Biblical truth which, of course, it is not.  It is a ‘spin’ on orthodox Christian truth.  My reasoning for bringing forth this information is educational because, alarmingly, there are parallels of some of the following concepts with doctrines currently taught in quite a few of our churches!

Probably the most important doctrine in the New Age/occult is the belief that all humans have two natures, one human (of course) and one latent divine nature. 

Initiation:

“…an expansion of consciousness – a means of opening the mind and heart to a recognition of what already exists in reality.”[16]  Also known as overshadowing.  With each successive overshadowing the initiate is brought to increasing levels of soul-control, or, in other words, demonic possession.  While there are five initiations in total for the human, each overshadowing does not necessarily equate to one of these five ‘milestones’ of initiations.[17]  [Note: I personally do not believe true Christians can be demonically possessed although they may be oppressed.]

Evolution:

Evolution is a central tenet of occultism partly because, of course, it is in opposition to the creation account of Genesis 1 & 2.  The New Age belief is that mankind has been evolving over millions of years and we are now on the cusp of the next great evolutionary leap – from homo sapiens to homo universalis.[18]  On the macro level, this evolution will come forth as the collective “consciousness” of human minds expands to a certain “tipping point,” or “critical mass.”  On a micro level, individuals themselves “evolve” by the “expansions of consciousness” from man into godhood as Ascended Masters by taking all five initiations. [19][20]

This ascendance to godhood is the ultimate goal of all.  Unity is of primary importance since, without it, this “evolution” of the human race will not be possible.  Disunity or, the refusal to go along with New Age ideals, therefore, is considered the only real “sin” – the “sin of separation” or “sin of separatism.”  [See “Evil of Separatism” section of this Lucis Trust article.[21]]

Reincarnation:

Once an individual dies, his soul returns to the physical realm by reincarnating into a body with the same atomic makeup but with different outward physical characteristics as the previous one as determined by his birth parents.  This is also known as rebirth or being born again. Therefore, death is not seen as a negative thing at all as it provides another chance at life in which the individual may reach a state of perfection ascending into godhood and thereby becoming an Ascended Master.  So, the ‘removal’ of those who will not unify would be seen as best not just for the common good but for the individual ‘removed’ as well.  “Resurrection is the keynote of nature; death is not.”[22]  Souls reincarnate in groups.

Ascended Master:

An Ascended Master is a former human who, through extreme self-effort, enabled himself to transcend humanity by attaining divinity.  This is done when the “higher self”  (Christ within or Inner Christ) transcends the “lower nature”, (human), or Ego, so that the individual becomes a god.  This results in “the body of flesh” changing to the “body of bliss.”[23]  This requires five initiations.  One does not have to make all five in one incarnation as these initiations are cumulative carrying over from previous lives to subsequent ones.  Ascended Masters live in the Fifth Kingdom which is a spiritual state and these Masters have the ability to travel between the spiritual and physical planes at will [24].

This ‘ascent into godhood’ teaching is similar to Manifest sons of God doctrine which has been taught in some Christian churches [see Kris Vallotton and the "Mantle of Jesus Christ" / Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing and Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again Jesus, part II at the “Manifest Sons of God: The New Breed” section (especially Todd Bentley’s four floors/levels teaching) and Bethel to Feature Bob Jones at Upcoming Prophetic Conference under “The New Breed of the Elected Seeds” section].  At the fourth initiation one becomes a Manifested son of God with the ability to travel between the astral and physical planes at will[25].

Fifth Kingdom in Nature:

There are five kingdoms in nature, the first four of which are: mineral, vegetable, animal and human, respectively[26].  The Fifth Kingdom is a spiritual state and is only fully visible by those who’ve taken the fifth initiation. This Fifth Kingdom will eventually materialize as the forthcoming Kingdom of God. [27]  The following quote captures the essence of this doctrine:

“Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection.  …man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…. …The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control. …The fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….” [28]

Kingdom of God:

The goal is “[t]hat the Kingdom of God, the Spiritual Hierarchy of our planet, can and will be materialized on earth.”[29]  This “Hierarchy” (of fallen angels) will be “externalized” on the physical plane, on earth, when the human race has fully evolved into homo universalis.  This will be a “return” to “the Garden of Eden” in which ‘gods walked with men’ and ‘men walked with gods.’  However, the “men” in this case will be “gods” also ( as Ascended Masters following the attainment of Manifested sons of God[30]).   One method to facilitate this is to “bring heaven to earth” as in Hermeticism[31] using ritual magick which can best be described by the phrase “as above, so below;” i.e., what happens in the spiritual (above) affects the natural (below) and vice versa.   The following explains this:

“Instruction is being given at this time to a special group of people who have come into incarnation at this critical period of world’s history.  They have come in, all at the same time, throughout the world, to do the work of linking up the two planes, the physical and the astral, via the etheric. [emphasis in original][32]

These individuals are using the spiritual, or etheric, realm in order to link the physical plane (that which we see) to the astral plane (the unseen) which is the place of the Spiritual Hierarchy.  This is the purpose as exemplified in the title of AAB’s book The Externalisation of the Hierarchy – to bring the astral plane to the physical plane while simultaneously bringing the physical to the astral through the merging of the two together using the etheric/spiritual by “expanding consciousness.”  Bringing ‘heaven to earth’:

“It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…” [33]

“…A new kingdom is coming into being: the fifth kingdom in nature is materialising, and already has a nucleus functioning on earth in physical bodies.” [34]

Spiritual Hierarchy; also simply the Hierarchy:

A hierarchy of spiritual entities claiming to be divine influencers in world and individual affairs which are, in reality, demons.  These include Sanat Kumara / Lord of this World (The Ancient of Days, The One Initiator), Ascended Masters, the Manu, the Bodhisattva (the Christ*, the World Teacher), the Mahachohan, and even a Solar Trinity.  For more about the Hierarchy, see “Descent and Sacrifice.”[35] (*“The Christ” will be defined more fully below.)

To accomplish and even hasten their plans[36] on earth, the Spiritual Hierarchy needs the cooperation of humans who act as “co-laborers”[37] with them.  Communication arrives from the Hierarchy to humans on the physical plane as “inspiration”[38] and “impressions.”[39]

Sanat Kumara, Lord of this World (The Ancient of Days, The One Initiator):

He is at the top of the Planetary Hierarchy and is better known, of course, as Lucifer.  He is never referred to as “the Devil” as this is instead used as a pejorative term sometimes describing the true Jehovah God, Christians, and Jews or Judeo-Christian principles and others who refuse to ‘evolve’ (sometimes “Satan” is used as well, although Blavatsky has used “Satan” as an alternate for Lucifer).  Notice how “Ancient of Days” has been reappropriated [see Daniel 7:9,13,22].  He is known as “the Great Hierophant,” “KING,” “Youth of Endless Summers,” “Fountainhead of the Will,” “the ineffable Ruler,” [40] “Great Lord,”[41] “Lord Maitreya,” and “Morning Star” [see Revelation 22:16 as reference for Jesus Christ] as well.[42]  In the context of some of the other writings, he is referred to as “the Christ,” the Son, and it appears he may also be the ‘Father’ as well as the ‘Holy Spirit.’

Solar Logos:

Made up of the Solar Trinity consisting of: The Father (Will), The Son (Love-Wisdom) and The Holy Spirit (Active Intelligence).  The Father is also known as “the first Logos” which is also claimed to be the “ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID.”[43] This is obviously a distortion of the True Holy Trinity of orthodox Christianity.  In the diagrams on pages 48-49 [44] in the Bailey book Initiation, Human and Solar, the Solar Logos may appear as though it rules over Sanat Kumara but, this seems to be just a concession to make it look “Christian.”  It really depends on how one views the diagrams.  The way I interpret them, Sanat Kumara and the Solar Logos are one and the same.  This makes sense within the contexts of some other writings and in light of the fact that Lucifer wants to be God – his goal from the time of his initial rebellion.

Shambhala or Shamballa:

The place where the Planetary Hierarchy currently dwells.  It is said to be in the Gobi desert.  However, mere mortals cannot see the Hierarchy until the five initiations are completed.

Age of Aquarius:

Our current era/aeon is the Age of Pisces which is now coming to a close and giving way to the next one – the Age of Aquarius.[45]  Each age has its World Teacher.  This will be explained in more detail below.

The next few sections will describe the various ways in which “Christ” is used – distorted – in the New Age/occult.

“Christ Consciousness”

“Christ consciousness” is the current state of an individual’s progress towards attaining Manifested Sons of God / Ascended Master status[46] and even higher states via initiations or, to phrase another way, the extent of one’s overshadowing or soul-control.  The goal in increasing “Christ consciousness” is to evolve from individual to group consciousness and thus be united with other “gods.”  Each successive initiation brings the individual in increasing alignment with New Age goals; i.e., group-think and unity.  Bailey defines the term:

“The evolutionary force to which we give the name ‘the Christ consciousness’…focused itself in the person of the Christ* in a manner hitherto unknown. This is the potency, latent in every human heart which is described by St. Paul as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col I.27), and is that which, under evolutionary law, brings man eventually into the Kingdom of God and “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. IV.13.)  Of this potency and glory, Christ has ever been the symbol…” [47] [*see below for explanation of “the Christ” as the “Christ within”]

Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the East is a way to expand one’s “Christ consciousness.”  In Hinduism, for example, the aspirant chants “OM” repeatedly in attempts to unite with Brahma and thus achieve “at-one-ment” with the divine.  In the West, some churches are using Contemplative Prayer or “soaking prayer” with a goal to “experience God’s presence” and this practice bears a remarkable resemblance to TM, or, the expansion of the “Christ consciousness.”  This pursuit of “at-one-ment,” or unity with the divine, as exemplified in Christian Science, Unity and Divine Science and other metaphysical schools of thought is a New Age goal for the Christian Church[48].

Another way to effect change, to further goals of New Age “Christ Consciousness,” is to alter ‘outmoded’ procedures:

“It is not easy for the average person to be fluid and to change details and methods in relation to that which has been taught in the past about which he has evolved definite and distinct ideas.  Are you, therefore, prepared to throw these overboard and work in the way which will meet the new world need under the new incoming influences?

“ The disciple upon whom the Master can most confidently depend is the one who can – in periods of change – preserve that which is good and fundamental while breaking from the past and add to it that which is of immediate service in the present.  An attitude of spiritual compromise is right, needed and very rare to find.  Most of the things about which there may be argument and contention among disciples concern methods and relative non-essentials: they deal with points of organization.  They are not so important as the inner unity of vision and the ability to concede where no wrong is involved and where a fellow worker fails to see the point.  Disciples need to see to it that they do not hinder by any form of self-assertion, or by imposition of their own ideas or by any authoritarianism, based on past procedure.  Ponder on this…The task of the disciple is to sense need and then to meet it and this, again, is part of the new emerging technique of invocation and evocation.” [49] [emphasis added]

As noted above in the Spiritual Hierarchy section, new revelation; i.e., communication from the Hierarchy, comes in the form of “inspiration” and “impressions.”

The “Christ Within” or “Inner Christ”

As noted above, the New Age/occult view is that all individuals have two natures: one human and one of latent divinity.  The former is also known as the “lower self” [sometimes identified as “Satan”], or Ego, while the latter is the “higher self,” Christ within, or inner Christ.  Realizing one’s own inherent divinity is the first step on the path to actualizing godhood.  For this reason, a New Ager can say with a straight face “I am a god” – we are all gods even if we’ve not yet fully attained godhood.

In Gnosticism and some forms of the Kabbalah this is called a “divine spark.”  New Agers, Gnostics, and these Kabbalists (generally) believe everything – including minerals, plants, animals, as well as humans – has a Christ within, inner Christ or “divine spark” respectively.  This belief system is known as panentheism (God is in all).  Accordingly, their “god” is not omnipresent (present in all places at once) but rather immanent (within all), however, in addition, this “god” is also said to be transcendent (transcending the universe – the other aspect of panentheism: “all is in God”) being both impersonal and unknowable.[50]  [See Spiritual Hierarchy and Solar Logos above.]

From this panentheistic viewpoint springs the “green” movement, the belief in the “oneness” of all, etc.  The eventual goal is the release of these “Christs” within or ‘sparks’ so that the “reintegration” of all these ‘pieces’ of the ‘divine’ can be one again.  Once this occurs, “god” will be complete yet again after having scattered part of himself throughout the solar system in past millennia; and, simultaneously, all will be “god” and all matter, or “not-self” (which is evil), will be destroyed.  This stems from 2nd century (or 1st century depending on whose viewpoint we accept) Gnosticism or perhaps even earlier.

Of humanity’s “inherent divinity” which we must work towards achieving full actualization (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory), AAB explains:

“…Inherent in the human consciousness…is a sense of divinity…‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement…“Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.” [51]

This “Christ within” becomes fully manifested by taking all five initiations.

The “Christ Anointing”

In the introduction to Levi Dowling’s well known New Age book, originally written in 1907, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ is a list of questions with corresponding answers to aide the reader in understanding terms and concepts in the book.  Question 4 reads: “What is meant by ‘the Christ,’ as the Word is used in this book?”  The answer:

“The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ed: actually “Christos”] and means anointed.  It is identical with the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed.  When the definitive article ‘the’ is placed before the word Christ, a definite personality is indicated, and this personality is none other than a member of the Trinity, the Son…” [52]

Here, Dowling is referring specifically to the occult meaning in which individuals are “anointed,” or “christed” (initiated) by “the Christ” [which Dowling refers to as the “definite personality” and “member of the Trinity, the Son” above] as “Head of Hierarchy” or by one acting on “the Christ’s” behalf, i.e., other demons.  While, according to the occult, every individual has the “Christ within” (inherent but not necessarily active divinity), not all have received the “Christ anointing,” and it’s this “Christ anointing” one needs in order to receive the five required initiations to reach Manifested sons of God and eventually Ascended Master status.

As noted above in the “‘Christ’ in Christian Orthodoxy” section, Christos always refers to the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament; whereas, in the Old Testament Christos/christos would be defined as either “anointed” or “Christ” depending on context.  In the book of First John, the word for “anointing,” chrisma, denotes those endued by the Holy Spirit – Holy Spirit-indwelled Christians.

In hyper-charismatic circles the term “Christ anointing” or, simply, “the anointing” is used.  Is the Dowling book, or one like it, the root for this teaching?

“The Christ” as “Head of Hierarchy”

“The Christ” as “Head of Hierarchy” is “an official name” or title[53].  The current “Head of Hierarchy” is the one who has been assigned to be “the Christ” of the current age/aeon.  He is directly subordinate to “the Great Hierophant,” aka “Lord of the World,” [54] aka Lucifer who is, confusingly, also known as “the Christ,” the Son.  [See the Dowling quote above in “The ‘Christ’ Anointing” section.] The “Head of Hierarchy” is also the “Great World Teacher” and “Firstborn among many brethren.”  The “Head of Hierarchy” administers the first two initiations; whereas, the three others available to humankind are provided by “the Great Hierophant,” “the One Initiator,” “Lord Maitreya,” Lucifer, himself.[55]

The “Head of Hierarchy” for the Age of Pisces, our current age, is the “Master Jesus” [see below].  He will be succeeded in the forthcoming Age of Aquarius by the new “World Teacher.”  From an orthodox Christian perspective, he will be the Antichrist.

Here’s an explanation of this aspect/function from World Service Intergroup, a New Age website:

“Christ, in this aspect, is a name that is considered to be a title or office.  When the present head of Hierarchy surpasses Himself and moves on to a greater position, the One who will replace Him will also be called “the Christ.”  The Head of Hierarchy does not belong to any one religion but to all religions, to the whole of humanity.” [56]

Historical Christ 

In the New Age/occult teachings, the “Historical Christ” is the Son, the one of the “Trinity.”  He is referred to as “the Christ,” and, although listed separately in the Solar Logos above the Planetary Hierarchy, it seems that this “Christ” is one and the same [as is the rest of the “Trinity”] with Sanat Kumara, Lord of this World, The One Initiator, Lord Maitreya, etc.

Sanat Kumara, the One Initiator, provides the third through fifth initiations in humans whereas the subsequent sixth and seventh initiations of Masters in the Planetary Hierarchy are administered by “that One of Whom Sanat Kumara is the manifestation, the Logos of our scheme on His own plane” who “becomes the Hierophant”[57] which I assume to be “the Historical Christ.”  This seems to create a logical incongruity since it is claimed that when Jesus of Nazareth received His fourth initiation at the Crucifixion en route to becoming “Master Jesus,” simultaneously “the Christ” received the seventh from “the Father.” [58]  Further, as quoted above, “the One of Whom Sanat Kumara is the manifestation…” is referred to as “the Hierophant” yet Sanat Kumara himself is referred to as “the great Hierophant” [59] in the same book a few pages earlier.

Jesus of Nazareth / Master Jesus

With many previous incarnations including as Joshua, the son of Nun, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a man who had volunteered Himself to be used as a vehicle through which “the Christ,” as Sanat Kumara / Lord of this World, the One Initiator, manifested although He did eventually achieve “Master” status and is now an Ascended Master[60].

In Levi Dowling’s The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ  are the “Akashic Records” which purport to detail some of Jesus’ so-called ‘lost years’ between the ages of twelve and thirty[61], Jesus passed the “seventh brotherhood test;” and, in so doing, received the “highest degree, THE CHRIST.”  This title and degree had to be conferred upon Him by “God himself” at Baptism[62].  Prior to this, Jesus could not rightly be called “the Christ” or “Jesus Christ” as He was merely Jesus of Nazareth; however, after Baptism He was on His way to become “the Christ” as “Head of Hierarchy” for the Piscean Age.  Dowling’s book is in chapter/verse format so that it looks like a “Bible”:

“…and now you stand ready to take the last degree. 6 Upon your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth you are THE CHRIST. 7 This is your great Passover rite.  You are a neophyte no more; but now a master mind. 8 Now, man can do no more; but God himself will speak, and will confirm your title and degree. 9 Go on your way, for you must preach the gospel of good will to men and peace on earth; must open up the prison doors and set the captives free. 10 And while the hierophant yet spoke the temple bells rang out; a pure white dove descended from above and sat on Jesus’ head. 11 And then a voice that shook the very temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST; and every living creature said, AMEN.” [63]

Dowling explains further about how Jesus received His title of Christ in the Introduction:

“The word Christ means “the anointed one,”* and then it is an official title.  It means, The Master of Love.  When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ.  Jesus won his Christship by a strenuous life, and in chapter 55 [of Dowling’s book], we have a record of the events of his christing, or receiving the degree Christ.  Here is where he was coronated by the highest earth authorities as the Christ-King; properly speaking, ‘the Master of love;’ and after this was done he entered at once upon his Judean and Galilean ministry.

“We recognize the facts that Jesus was man and that Christ was God, so that in very truth Jesus the Christ was the God-man of the ages.” [64] [*This contradicts his assertion above as quoted in “The ‘Christ Anointing’” section that Kristos [sic] means simply “anointed.”  Further, Dowling stated that “the Christ” is part of the ‘Trinity,’ whereas Jesus of Nazareth is not, although he was anointed by “the Christ” and subsequently became “the Christ” as “Head of Hierarchy” for the Piscean Age which is what he’s trying to explain here.  My point is to show the logical incongruity in some of these teachings.]

Alice A. Bailey, in her 1937 book From Bethlehem to Calvary states essentially the same thing:

“This initiation [Baptism] marked a tremendous change in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  Up to that time, for thirty years, He had simply been the carpenter of the little town, and the son of His parents.  He was a personality doing much good in a small sphere.  But after the purification in Jordan, having ‘fulfilled all righteousness,’ He became the Christ…” [65]

“The Christ,” as Sanat Kumara / Lord of this World, the One Initiator, which provided this initiation, remained with Jesus until the Crucifixion at which point “the Christ” left him:

“The Christ is an immortal being transcending all laws of nature and it is not possible for anyone to crucify or kill the Christ.  They killed his disciple Jesus through whom the Christ was speaking by crucifying him…” [66]

This is apparently where the “Jesus Died Spiritually” teaching of Kenyon/Hagin/Copeland, etc. originates [see also point 4 below: “Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha”].

The view that the “divine Christ” joined the human Jesus at Baptism and left him before His death is essentially the same view espoused by Cerinthus as noted in Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part I.

When Jesus was raised from the dead following His crucifixion it was not by his own power but by “the Christ”:

“Jesus was raised from the dead by his teacher the Christ who entered his body 3 days after his death. Jesus was no longer in that body and it was the Christ whose personal name Lord Maitreya who lived in that body for the 41 days after the resurrection.” [All as per original][67]

In the New Age/occult view Jesus did not provide Atonement on the Cross as the propitiation for our sins.  Rather, He provided a pattern/model for each of us to follow in order to actualize our own divinity and thus save ourselves (auto-soterism).  Dowling’s book claims to speak for Jesus post-Resurrection:

“My human life was wholly given to bring my will to tune to the deific will; when this was done my earth-tasks all were done.

“You know that all my life was one great drama for the sons of men; a pattern for the son’s of men.  I lived to show the possibilities of man.

“What I have done all men can do, and what I am all men shall be.” [68]

Jesus’ life is mapped out as symbolically (not actually) representing the five initiations:

1)      Birth at Bethlehem –  “the birth of Christ in the cave of the human heart.”[69] Recognizing the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” – your inherent but latent divinity (duality) [70][71].  “Freedom from the control of the physical body and its appetites.” [72]

2)      Baptism in Jordan – Water baptism “purifies the emotional nature” which precedes the “purification of the mind by fire,” [73] or the “baptism of spirit and fire aka baptism of the Holy Spirit,” thus providing the ability to consciously reject all evil [74]. “What therefore lies ahead for the initiate who has entered the purificatory water, or rather fire?”[75]  Jesus became “the Christ”[76] having received this title and name at Baptism [77][78] in working His way towards becoming “Head of Hierarchy” for our Age; and, similarly, we can receive the “Christ anointing” on our way to becoming Ascended Masters.

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.”[79] Full-grown man working towards manifested son of God. [80]. Receives “terrific voltage” of Kundalini[81] “…the mind… …begins its true task as an interpreter of divine truth…” (i.e., new revelations)[82] “Third eye” is opened. [83]

4)      Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha –“The Great Renunciation.”[84]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 [85]  Sin becomes impossible [86]  Moving towards attainment of full ‘group consciousness.’[87] Soul (spiritual) death “and the causal body, the soul body is relinquished and disappears.” [88][89]. “Liberated 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.” [90] = manifested sons of God.

5)      Resurrection and Ascension – “The cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life.” [91] Attainment to full status of Ascended Master in which the individual can move between and live in either the physical and the astral realms[92]. [93]

It’s important to stress that the above is only a symbolic representation of how we can attain divinity.  Jesus Himself did not actually achieve all five initiations in His lifetime as the following explains:

“…He [Master Jesus] is well known in the Bible History, coming before us as Joshua the Son of Nun, appearing again in the time of Ezra as Jeshua, taking the third initiation as related in the book of Zechariah, as Joshua, and in the Gospel story He is known for two great sacrifices, that in which He handed over His body for the use of the Christ [ed: at Baptism], and for the great renunciation [ed: the Cross] which is the characteristic of the fourth initiation.  As Appollonius [sic] of Tyana, He took the fifth initiation and became a Master of the Wisdom.  From that time on He has stayed and worked with the Christian Church, fostering the germ of true spiritual life which is to be found amongst members of all sects and divisions, and neutralising as far as possible the mistakes and errors of the churchmen and the theologians…” [94]

Jesus of Nazareth, reincarnated as Apollonius of Tyana, lived as a manifested Son of God having achieved this status as a result of His Crucifixion.  At the death of Apollonius of Tyana, according to this New Age/occult teaching, Jesus ascended and now this “Master Jesus” is “the Christ” as “Head of Hierarchy” who guides the Christian Church as well as all of humanity in this Age of Pisces.

“Cosmic Christ”

“The cosmic Christ has existed from all eternity.  This cosmic Christ is divinity, or spirit, crucified in space…” [95]

“The Cosmic Christ [is] the soul of the Universe.  The Cosmic Christ can be recognized as the link standing between matter and spirit.  The Cosmic Christ is not only the bridge between Hierarchy and humanity but also the bridge between Hierarchy and Shambhala.” [96]

The following article from an online source explains the “Cosmic Christ” and at the same time delineates some of the other meanings of “Christ”:

“This does involve the recognition of the Christos as a vast spiritual principle which narrowed Himself to make entry through the prepared and perfected vehicle of Jesus, 2000 years ago.  Thus Jesus and the Christ are not identical.  The Master Jesus is now the Head of Hierarchy who work[s] to prepare the way for the Great Coming of the Lord.

“This lifting and thinking of the Cosmic Christ helps to clear much confusion about the relation of the Christianity to the other great religions.  All the great religions, as we have said before, foretold the descent of the Exalted Lord of the Spiritual Sun. None could know precisely when and how the event would happen.  Spiritual knowledge reveals that the descent of the I AM took place at Baptism on Jordan, at the deepest point on the surface of the Earth. [97]

The “Great Coming of the Lord” is also known as “the reappearance of the Christ,” or, in actuality, the coming Antichrist.

“Reappearance” of the Christ

New Agers are waiting for the new “World Teacher,” Lord Maitreya to “reappear.”  They use the word “reappear” as the belief is that he never really left.  He has been initiating other “World Leaders” throughout the ages and dwells in Shambhala.  And, while Christians await the Second Coming of Christ, Muslims await the Imam Mahdi, Jews await the Messiah, and Buddhists are watching for the Fifth Buddha, this new “World Teacher” will fulfill all these roles, according the New Age religion.

The Christ expressed Himself as Jesus. But it is not Jesus who will be reappearing, but rather Christ, the head of Hierarchy, Who is coming… [98]

This will culminate in the end of the Piscean Age and the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, also known as the Kingdom of God.  AAB in From Bethlehem to Calvary states:

“…We can produce, and as a [human] race, give birth to, the next kingdom in nature, which Christ called the kingdom of God; this is the kingdom of souls, the kingdom of spiritual lives, and herein, uniquely, Christ emerges…” [99]

Here Bailey is referring to the “reappearance” of “the Christ,” or Lord Maitreya.  Note her words: “give birth to.”  This sounds eerily similar to what is known as “Birthing the Man-Child” in some hyper-charismatic circles:

“The key event toward which all of today’s world events as well as all of earth history has been working since the cross is a birthing of a first generation of believers directly into a place of immortal union with Christ.  It is by this birthing that heaven will definitively declare that the kingdoms of this world have at last come under actualized captivity to the Lord and His church.” [all emphasis in original] [100]

And, here are some excerpts from Todd Bentley’s monologue from May 28, 2008 at the Lakeland ‘Revival.’  Notice the New Age references:

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

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

“…And, we are saying LET THERE BE LIFE.  And, there was life—speaking things into existence.  I am talking about a creative realm… …Under the anointing you make a declaration and it forms tonight…

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

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

“I’m talking about a maturity tonight – and it’s being formed in you.  Let Christ be formed in maturity.  Let the full man, let the fullness of God come forth, and let the womb open tonight… and let there be a great birthing…”  [101] 

Also, as part of the “Birthing the Man-Child” doctrine is the belief that Christ will return in “His body, the Church.”  This is what Bob Jones was speaking of in his monologue on August 8, 2008 at the Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries when he proclaimed there will be “’Jesuses’ all over the world”:

The New Breed will be those that are partaker of the divine nature.  As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-away you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic; plural of “Jesus”] all over the world.”  [102]

According to New Age, when “The Christ” “reappears,” he will also have the ability to manifest through many at one time:

“The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations. For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time. He impresses the space with his images, and so forth.”  [103]

In the following, “Christ” refers to the coming antichrist which will be empowered by “the Christ” aka Lucifer:

“Christianity will not be superseded.  It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished, and Christ will again give us the next revelation of divinity….” [104]

Contrary to AAB and the New Age, Christianity will not be transcended!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [Hebrews 13:8, NIV 1984]

But you remain the same and your years will never end. [Psalm 102:27, NIV 1984]

God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change his mind. [Numbers 23:19, NIV 1984]

In my opinion, by distorting the Christian faith, specifically the person of Jesus Christ, the New Age/occult is not only trying to “transcend” Christianity (its primary goal with respect to Christianity), it wants to deny seekers the true salvation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and/or to render Christians ineffective by the resulting confusion.

20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen [Hebrews 13:20-21, NIV 1984]

The following is how it is really going to end:

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. [Romans 16:20, NIV 1984]

12 “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” [Revelation 22:12-13, NIV 1984]

 

[This article will likely be changed/updated with new information as my understanding grows of the different terminology and aspects of the term “Christ” in the New Age religion.  This may include adding quotes and accompanying footnotes].

[1] Bailey, Alice A. The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 510-511; [underlining from emphasis in original; bolding added.] While the book was not published until 1957, most sections within the book have corresponding dates.  The portion quoted here is from 1919, some of the earliest writings of Bailey/The Tibetan.

[2] Newman, Hannah. The Rainbow Swastika: A Report to the Jewish People about New Age Antisemitism.  <http://philologos.org/__eb-trs/naC.htm>  Quote taken from section C: “The Gods of the New Age.” par 1; as accessed 05/08/11. Excellent expose of the New Age movement especially from a Jewish perspective even though I disagree with some of her conclusions with respect to “Master Jesus” and the “Planetary Hierarchy.”

[3] Lucis Trust website. The Esoteric Meaning of Lucifer. <http://www.lucistrust.org/en/arcane_school/talks_and_articles/the_esoteric_meaning_of_lucifer>; as accessed 05/08/11

[4] Bauer, W., W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1958, 2nd edition; Chicago, Chicago, IL; pp 886-87.  Also known as “BAGD.” 

[5] Bauer, p 887

[6] Strong, James, Dr. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. fully revised by John R. Kohlenberg III and James A. Swanson; 2001, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Strong’s #5547; p 1542

[7] Bruce, F.F. The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary. 1990, 3rd Revised and Enlarged Edition, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 157

[8] Bruce, F.F. The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text; NIGTC. 1982, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 20

[9] Bauer, p 888

[10] Vine, W.E., Unger, White. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. 1996, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN; p 28 New Testament Section

[11] Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One. 2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 619.  Reference from Gustof Dalman’s Jesus-Jeshua: Studies in the Gospels. 1929; p 13

[12] Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. 1941, 4th revised and enlarged ed, 1991, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66

[13] Grudem, W. Systematic Theology. 1994, Inter-Varsity, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33

[14] Thayer, J. H. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. 1979, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 672

[15] Brenton, C. L. The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. 1851, 11th printing, 2005, Hendrickson

[16] Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. 1951 Lucis, NY, 4th paperback ed, 1980, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; back cover.  First printing 1922.

[17] Bailey, Initiation.

[18] Hughes, Dennis. Share Guide: The Holistic Health Magazine and Resource Directory. Interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard. 2004, par 6; as accessed 05/08/11

[19] Bailey, Alice A. The Consciousness of the Atom. 1961 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1974, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY.  First printing 1922.

[20] Bailey, Initiation.

[21] Lucis Trust website. <http://www.lucistrust.org/en/arcane_school/talks_and_articles/descent_and_sacrifice> par 8; as accessed 05/08/11

[22] Bailey, Externalisation. p 469

[23] Bailey, Alice A.  From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis, NY, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 237

[24] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 51

[25] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 187

[26] Bailey, Consciousness. p 58

[27] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 185

[28] Bailey, Externalisation. p 588

[29] Bailey, The Unfinished Biography. 1951 Lucis, NY, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; p 294

[30] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 57-58

[31] Discernment Research Group. “Yoism: Creating Heaven on Earth” <http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/05/yoism-creating-heaven-on-earth.html> as accessed 05/08/11

[32] Bailey, Initiation. p 67

[33] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 210

[34] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 254

[35] Lucis, Descent.

[36] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 262-63

[37] Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Volume I. 1972 Lucis, NY, 8th printing, 1972, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 32.  First printing 1944.

[38] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 268-69

[39] Bailey, Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle. 1950 Lucis, NY, 2nd printing, 1957, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA

[40] Bailey, Initiation. pp 38, 88

[41] Bailey, Initiation. p 93

[42] Newman, Rainbow Swastika. “The Gods of the New Age.” Part 4

[43] Bailey, Alice A. A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. 1925 Lucis, NY, 4th edition, 1951, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; pp 146-48

[44] Internet Sacred Text Archive website. Bailey, Initiation, Human and Solar. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/ihas/ihas09.htm> diagrams of pp 48-49; as accessed 05/08/11.

[45] Bailey, Alice A. The Destiny of the Nations. 1949 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1974, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 149

[46] Center for Christ Consciousness website. “What is Christ Consciousness?” <http://www.ctrforchristcon.org/christ-consciousness.asp> as accessed 05/08/11

[47] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948 Lucis, NY, 4th paperback ed, 1979, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 75

[48] Bailey, Alice A. Esoteric Psychology, Volume II. 1970 Lucis NY, 6th printing (paperback), 1971, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 100.  First printed in 1942.

[49] Bailey, Discipleship I. pp 681-82

[50] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 181, 185-86

[51] Bailey, Reappearance. P 145

[52] Dowling, Levi. The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. 1907, 1935, 1964, 11th printing, 1987, DeVorss, Marina del Rey, CA; p 6.

[53] Bailey, Externalisation. p 588

[54] Bailey, Initiation. p 88

[55] ibid.

[56] World Service Intergroup website. Dubois, J.D. “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/christ-reappearance/4543145171> Point 3; as accessed 05/08/11

[57] Bailey, Initiation. p 92

[58] Bailey, Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 697

[59] Bailey, Initiation. p 88

[60] Bailey, Initiation. pp 56-57

[61] Dowling, Aquarian. Back cover

[62] Dowling, p 82.

[63] Dowling, pp 82-83

[64] Dowling, p 8 

[65] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 100-101

[66] einterface website. “The Master Jesus” taken from Benjamin Crème’s works Maitreya Mission, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. <http://www.einterface.net/gamini/indexju.html> par 5; as accessed 05/08/11

[67] einterface, par 3; as accessed 05/08/11

[68] Dowling, Aquarian. pp 7-8, 255

[69] einterface, par 2; as accessed 05/08/11

[70] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 26, 47

[71] Bailey, Initiations. pp 114-15

[72] Bailey, Rays. pp 685, 664-673

[73] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 99

[74] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 27, 47-48

[75] Bailey, Rays. pp 677, 673-687

[76]  Bailey, Bethlehem. p 100

[77] Dowling, Aquarian. p 83

[78] einterface, par 2; as accessed 05/08/11

[79] Bailey, Initiations. p 89

[80] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 26, 48

[81] Bailey, Rays. pp 687, 688-89, 367

[82] Bailey, Rays. pp 688

[83] Bailey, Rays. pp 689-91, 368

[84] Bailey, Initiations. pp 56-57

[85] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 28, 48-49, 184-85, 206-207

[86] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 202

[87] Bailey, Rays. pp 694

[88] Bailey, Rays. pp 695-699

[89] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 178, 184, 186

[90] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 187

[91] Bailey, Externalisation. p 597

[92] Bailey, Bethlehem. pp 28, 49-51

[93] Bailey, Externalisation. p 468-71

[94] Bailey, Initiations. pp 56-57

[95] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 181

[96] World Service Intergroup; Dubois; point 4; as accessed 05/08/11

[97] Trevelyan, George. The Cosmic Christ in the New Age: A Wrekin Trust Lecture, 1977. <http://www.sirgeorgetrevelyan.org.uk/tht-cosmicchrist2.html> par 34-35; as accessed 05/08/11

[98] World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 8; as accessed 05/08/11

[99] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 259

[100] Anderson, Chris. “Revelation 12: A Paradigm for Understanding the End Times” endtimespropheticvision website <http://www.etpv.org/2009/rev12.html> October, 2000; par 7; as accessed 05/08/11

[101] Bentley, Todd. Monologue from Lakeland Revival, Day 57 May 28, 2008. Originally accessed here: <http://injesus.com/index.php?module=message&task=list&GroupID-WB0062AX> access date unknown, website link no longer available.

[102] MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08” DVD.  Starting at 1934:39.

[103] World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 05/08/11

[104] Bailey, Bethlehem. p 20

Open Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters

[Here's Another Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters.]
[2/27/13: Here's another challenge: Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church.]

The following is based on an original idea of and primarily written by W B McCarty in conjunction with Craig who provided minor additions, changes and editing.

Many have charged that the teaching of Bill Johnson is unbiblical and wrong. Not a few have charged that his teachings violate orthodoxy – the ancient, common theological understanding of the Christian Church – and therefore entail or promote heresy. On the other hand, no small number of Bill Johnson supporters have denied these charges.

This brief article challenges Johnson supporters to reconcile just one of Bill Johnson’s statements in his book When Heaven Invades Earth (WHIE) with Christian orthodoxy. The article does not address all the suspect statements in that book or suspect statements in other books, sermons, or talks.

Here is the selected statement of Bill Johnson:

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

And, here are the questions that comprise the challenge:

1. To what “limitations” does Bill Johnson refer? Does he mean that the God-man Jesus, in His divine nature, lacked divine attributes such as omniscience (possessing all knowledge) and omnipotence (being all powerful)?

a.)    If so, how could God relinquish divine attributes and yet remain God?  In what sense might a limited, finite man be considered God, when the very term “God” denotes infinity?

b.)    If so, given that all things consist in Jesus (Col. 1:17) who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), why did the world not cease to exist during His Incarnation?

c.)    If so, how did Jesus regain His divine status? Can other non-divine beings gain divine status?

d.)    If so, how could the finite sacrifice of a non-divine man pay the infinite penalty of the sins of humankind?

2. What does Bill Johnson mean when he writes that Jesus “laid his [sic] divinity aside?”

a.)    What, exactly, was laid aside? That is, what does Bill Johnson mean by “divinity?”

b.)    Did Jesus cease to be God at the time of His Incarnation?

c.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, what is the significance of his name Emmanuel ["God is with us" (also Immanuel)]?

d.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, how was he able to forgive the sins of the paralytic man (Mk. 2:9)? Can anyone other than God actually forgive sins?

e.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, how could John’s account of His ministry have as its purpose the affirmation that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:31, emphasis added]?

3. When Bill Johnson writes “He laid his [sic] divinity aside,” why does he write “his” rather than “His?”

a.)    Does “his” refer to a non-divine Jesus?

b.)    If “his” refers to a non-divine Jesus, how and at what point did Jesus regain divine status?

4. As a sacrifice, was Jesus “powerless?”

a.)    That is, was He or was He not in possession of the divine attribute of omnipotence even as He hung on the Cross?

b.)    If He was not in possession of omnipotence during His time on the Cross, and was therefore unable to free Himself, in what sense was His sacrifice willing?

For those who lack training in the Scriptures and Christian theology, here is a summary of the main points of orthodoxy at issue in Bill Johnson’s statement:

A. Jesus is the eternally pre-existent, second member of the divine Trinity.

B. At His Incarnation, Jesus took on a second, human nature in addition to His divine nature.

C. Since the beginning of His Incarnation, Jesus has been at all times fully God and fully man (known as the hypostatic union).

D. God possesses a number of divine attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence.

E. By definition, divine attributes are a necessary and sufficient condition of divinity. That is, no one but God may possess divine attributes. And, if God were hypothetically to cease to possess any divine attribute, He would cease to be God.

Note: For further exposition of these points, including biblical references, see any good discussion of the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds, which are common to the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Protestant Church. No one who rejects these creeds has any reasonable basis to claim to be Christian in the usual, historical sense of that term.

Finally, here are some ground rules for the discussion that the authors of this article hope will ensue:

1. It isn’t intended that the statement/answer/response be selectively cited. Those who wish to support Johnson by bringing in other explanatory material from the book WHIE are free to do so. However, those who challenge the orthodoxy of the statement should not bring in new material. Let’s keep the discussion as focused as possible.

2. Bringing in explanatory material from sources other than the book is prohibited, as doing so would unduly widen the discussion. If this challenge proves popular, the authors may find time to offer similar challenges based on other statements within WHIE and other of Bill Johnson’s books and sermons. The authors believe there is no shortage of suspect statements requiring explanation by Bill Johnson’s supporters or ideally by Bill Johnson himself. Those who are unfamiliar with the works of Bill Johnson should not suppose that the offered statement is the only of his statements that seems unorthodox or heretical.

3. To respond, copy both the corresponding number and its question followed by the corresponding letter and question.  For example, if responding to “2b)” then copy and paste from the article the following with your response following that:

2. What does Bill Johnson mean when he writes that Jesus “laid his [sic] divinity aside?”

b.)   Did Jesus cease to be God at the time of His Incarnation?

[your response]

Who will take the challenge?

_______________________________________________________________________________

Here’s a new challenge.

Misplaced Trust, part II

[Part I here]

Spirituality and the United Nations

The UN is “an international organization formed after World War II in 1945 to promote international peace, security and cooperation under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations.”[1]  On a website detailing the “Evolution of The Great Invocation“[2,3] – a prayer for the New World Religion (and to Lucifer and his demons) – is found the following:

“…The United Nations Conference on International Organization convened on April 25, 1945 in San Francisco, for five days right at the time of the Wesak. (That year the Taurus full moon fell on April 27.)” [4] [Emphasis mine]

The Wesak Full Moon Ritual[5] is a celebration of the ‘birth and enlightenment of Buddha.’[6] It is one of three major festivals known in the occult and all three are centered around full moons.  The other two are the Easter Festival (Aries full moon of late March into April) and The Christ’s Festival (Gemini full moon – late May into June).  It’s interesting that this initial meeting of the UN was held right smack in the middle of an important occult/esoteric holiday celebrated by the New Age / New Spirituality.

 The Charter of the United Nations was signed on June 26 (exactly one month after the Gemini full moon of 1945, on May 26) and enacted on October 24, 1945, with the 51 signatures representing all sections of the planet.[7]

Since 1952, World Invocation Day[8] has been observed during the “Festival of the Christ” (or Festival of Humanity / Festival of Goodwill) “to invoke and evoke healing energies for the United Nations and Planet Earth.”[9]  According to the spokesperson of the 2010 event, Ida Urso, Phd., World Invocation Day is “a culminating point – providing a crescendo of revelation which can lead to transformative planetary changes.”[10]  Obviously, New Agers hold the United Nations in high regard and hopes or expects the UN to play a key role in the future of our planet’s “healing.”

“In complete, focused silence, visualize the United Nations’ General Assembly, overshadowed by the Avatar of Synthesis and infused by the Love of the Hierarchy and the Christ.  Meditate on the Purpose that seeks to guide the ‘little wills of men.’” [11] [as per original]

“Overshadowed” is a euphemism for demonic control/possession, the “Hierarchy” in this context is the collective of Satan’s demons and “the Christ” is Lucifer who will likely embody the coming antichrist.  The “little wills of men” is taken from The Great Invocation.

The UN has its own meditation room:

“We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence.  This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense.” [12]

The above quote is by Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961.  The Meditation Room opened in 1957.

Beginning in 1970, the late Sri Chinmoy began leading “The Peace Meditation at the United Nations.”  [See Chinmoy's influence on guitarists John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana below in the "New Age / New Spirituality in Contemporary Culture" section.]  This group consisted of UN staff, UN-accredited journalists, delegates, and representatives of NGOs (non-governmental organizations recognized by the UN).[13]  Chinmoy, from his book The Garland of Nation-Souls: Complete Talks at the United Nations, is quoted:

“…Man has to realize what he eternally is: God Himself.  Man is now God veiled; with patience-light man will unveil his inner divinity.  Man is God yet to be consciously and constantly realized, and God is man yet to be manifested totally, completely and unmistakably here on earth.” [14]

“In the evolutionary process of human life, the first rung of the ladder is the United Nations, the second rung is world-union and the third rung is man’s total and perfect Perfection.” [15]

Lucis Trust enjoys “consultative status” with the UN as an NGO[16] – an organization which was “placed on the roster by virtue of action taken by the Economic and Social Council on the recommendation of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations” –  since 1989[17].  One of Lucis Trust’s affiliates, World Goodwill, is recognized by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service as having provided assistance (and I assume ongoing assistance) in “Consultation on the Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System.”  World Goodwill provided opinion in three areas:[18] “Financial regulation, macroeconomic issues and addressing the crisis.”[19] Obviously, Lucis Trust wields a fair amount of influence at the United Nations

Eugene Peterson’s Message

It seems Lucis Trust’s influence has even, perhaps indirectly, extended to at least one ‘rendition’ of the Holy Bible.   Eugene Peterson’s The Message “paraphrase” of the Bible is littered with references to New Age Spirituality and the occult.  While I’m certainly not of the ‘King James only’ persuasion (obviously not, as I quote primarily from the NIV), this website[20], which appears to be of the KJB-only camp, quite thoroughly displays the obvious Theosophical/New Age/occult backdrop of Peterson’s “paraphrase.”  (To be clear: I’m not fully endorsing this website as I believe every Bible translation has strengths and weaknesses – some more so than others – however, I cannot, in good conscience, extract the information from this article without providing proper attribution to the source.)  The next two paragraphs will illustrate just a fraction of the information gleaned and verified from this article.

The Message (TMsg) not once puts the words “Lord” and “Jesus” together as in “Lord Jesus,” yet the other translations I checked contain at least 100 different references to our Lord Jesus.  Instead, TMsg has “Master Jesus” 73 times; whereas, the others have no references like this with the exception of the NCV with one.  The obvious question is: why?  As discussed in part I of this article in “The ‘Master Jesus’ and the ‘Christ’ of  Lucis” section, to the New Ager, Jesus was a man who attained the title of “Master” through self-effort by the “Christ” within Him and “the Christ” which overshadowed Him. [See "Christ" in the New Age article for more 'illumination.']  He is now an Ascended Master along with Buddha among others; and, we too have the potential to attain to “master” level.  This is a consistent theme in the Alice Bailey books.

“There is a growing and developing belief that Christ is in us, as He was in the Master Jesus…” [21]

Similarly, TMsg uses “the one” and “oneness” – terms and their particular usage of which are foreign to other translations.  And, once again, these are common New Age / New Spirituality terms.  Peterson even stoops so low as to gratuitously use the Lord’s name in vain in Micah 3:5.  I will let the reader investigate this as I cannot bring myself to display its usage here.

TMsg absolutely butchers the “Lord’s Prayer” as Berit Kjos identifies (and much more) in her post from 1993 What kind of message is THE MESSAGE?[22] Of particular note is Peterson’s “paraphrase” of ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ which he renders “as above, so below.”  The passage, to me, is quite fine on its own in standard Bible translations.  In contrast, the paraphrase adds more ambiguity rather than clarity since “above” could mean any number of things (clouds, atmosphere, sun, moon, etc.) as could “below” (depths of the sea, underground, the underworld).  Isn’t the main purpose of paraphrasing to clarify rather than obfuscate?

Unfortunately, there’s a much more sinister application of the words “as above, so below.”  A former occultist and Temple Master in the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” designated with the pseudonym “Peter Lanz” to protect his identity, is quoted from Kjos’ site: 

“‘I was taught in ritual magick how to go to different planes of existence outside the physical body,’ continued Peter.  ‘I could create a realm there in which I could practice ritual magick and perfect my magical skills.  What I did on the physical plane was what I practiced on the astral plane through creative visualizations.  Through my will and imagination, I made things happen on the physical plane.  As above, so below! This ritual magick is a manifestation of the power of your will.’” [23] [bolding added]

The bolded portion above should be very familiar to many from a charismatic background although it’s usually rendered something like, “What happens in the spiritual affects the natural” or vice versa and variations thereof.   Here is one such usage by Lou Engle from September, 2009 on the Elijah List:

“…The natural things speak of the invisible.  Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm….” [24] [emphasis in original]

“As above, so below.” This phrase comes from  Hermeticism — the name of which is taken from the Greco-Egyptian god Hermes Trismegistos, the god of wisdom and magic, or Thoth[25] – and which in turn is taken from a document known as The Emerald Tablet.[26]

Here is co-founder of the Theosophical Society’s Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s (HPB) paraphrase of The Emerald Tablet:

“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is similar to that which is below to accomplish the wonders of the one thing.

 “…Ascend with the greatest sagacity from earth to heaven, and unite together the power of things inferior and superior….”   [27]

If this is the sort of thing Peterson is promoting I think it best to stay away from this “paraphrase.”

Mixed Messages

Chuck Swindoll of Insight For Living is a teacher whom I generally admire; however, I’ve been concerned over his occasional use of The Message for some time.  Almost a year ago, in one of his sermons on false teaching, he again quoted a bit from Peterson’s paraphrase (he also spoke of Rick Warren in a positive light to my dismay); so, as a result I sent an email of concern to the ministry.

In the email, I quoted the “Lord’s Prayer” and some other Scripture from The Message and I also mentioned the fact that Peterson highly endorsed William P. Young’s book The Shack despite its numerous unorthodox themes.  I received a response from one of the IFL staff claiming that Swindoll was aware of some of the problems with The Message.  The staff member went on to say that there are those who are trying to discredit Peterson who is “not a new age advocate.”  Here’s part of my response:

“…It is absolutely clear that some passages are blatantly New Age in The Message.  When you add to this Peterson’s endorsement of the heretical novel by William P. Young The Shack with its blasphemous depiction of the Trinity (Father God as “Papa” — an African American woman — which has an uncanny resemlance to “Goddess PAPA” of Polynesian lore, Jesus as a carpenter in a plaid shirt, the Holy Spirit as “Sarayu,” or Sophia), I would question his motives further.

 “…It’s a real shame that some who’ve been solid in their teaching have slid into a bit of error.  Left unchecked, this can lead to more error which can lead to blatant apostasy.  While I seriously doubt Mr. Swindol is heading in this direction, I am concerned that he would use “The Message” if he truly understands some of these very questionable passages…

 “… While I certainly understand having to paraphrase bible passages in order to reach certain segments of the population… …certainly one could do this without the use of Peterson’s book.”

In his reply to my second email he offered that he hoped Peterson had not moved to the new age camp.  The IFL staff member also noted they have some critique of The Shack on their website regarding the Trinity and how Jesus is depicted among other things[28].  Further critique was done [29] which I found encouraging.  But, shouldn’t this induce the staff and Swindoll to look further into Peterson since he enthusiastically raves about Young’s book?  While I remain hopeful that Swindoll will cease quoting from TMsg, to my disappointment, I did recently hear him use it a few weeks ago on local Christian radio (KDRY).

Similarly, Max Lucado has a penchant for promoting Peterson’s paraphrase (I couldn’t resist using alliteration – a literary device Lucado enthusiastically employs).  I have two of his books given to me by a friend, one from 2002 (A Love Worth Giving)  and one from 2005 (Cure for the Common Life); and, he definitely quotes from The Message more in the latter and quite a bit less as a percentage in the former.  The “Master” Jesus is referenced at least three times by Lucado in his use of Peterson’s TMsg[30].

It has been reported that Lucado has gone progressively into promoting contemplative spirituality.  In Cure for the Common Life, Max quotes from contemplatives Peterson, Richard Foster and even Carl Jung[31] (Jung is claimed to have been indebted to Hermetic Tradition[32]); however, perhaps more alarming is Lucado’s explicit quote of Martin Buber.  (Coincidentally, Buber’s I and Thou was a favorite of former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.[33])

Divine Spark

Martin Buber broke from his family’s relatively orthodox Jewish tradition and began writing secular philosophical works influenced by Kant and Nietzsche[34].  He later adopted Hasidic Judaism which promotes mysticism with roots in a form of Kabbalah[35].  A central tenet of this belief is that God permeates all matter with a “divine spark” which may be redeemed to perfection[36].  Here’s Lucado’s quote:

“You have one [unique gifting].  A divine spark.  An uncommon call to an uncommon life….” [37] [emphasis added]

Blavatsky (HPB) recognized that this ‘divine spark’ comes from Kabbalist teaching (she spells it “kabalist”) [38].  She also writes:

“…The Hermetists and the later Rosicrucians held that all things visible and invisible were produced by the contention of light with darkness, and that every particle of matter contains within itself a spark of the divine essence – or light, spirit…” [39]

This can be viewed as pantheism (God is all) or panentheism (God is in all) depending on the particular Kabbalistic viewpoint of which the individual adheres (there are many different forms and variations of the Kabbalah).  The panentheistic aspect of Hasidism is explained in this excerpt on Martin Buber’s Hasidic belief system[40] which is itself an extension and refinement of Isaac Luria’s Kabbalah.  Another source for the Kabbalah explains “sparks” in the teachings of Isaac Luria:

“…Much of Lurianic Kabbalah is concerned with corrective actions designed to bring about the repair or restoration (tikkum) of the creation, so that the sparks of light trapped in the realm of the shells can be freed.” [41]

This is essentially what Buber speaks of as Lucado quotes him directly in the endnote corresponding to the “divine spark” reference:

…Jewish theologian Martin Buber writes: “The world is an irradiation of God, but as it is endowed with an independence of existence and striving, it is apt, always and everywhere, to form a crust around itself.  Thus, a divine spark lives in every thing and being, but each such spark is enclosed by an isolating shell.  Only man can liberate it in a holy manner, that is, so that his intention in doing so remains directed towards God’s transcendence.  Thus the divine immanence emerges from the exile of the ‘shells.’” [42] [emphasis in original]

Incidentally, I used to attend the church in which Max Lucado is a pastor (Oak Hills Church in San Antonio).  I can personally attest that he is one of the nicest guys you’re likely to meet (although that quality does not necessarily indicate a person’s ultimate standing in the Kingdom of God).  And, it’s important to note that Lucado is not paid by the church as he earns his living from profits from his book sales.

I really want to believe that Max Lucado was merely trying to make a point in his book; but, I would have to question why he would use a decidedly non-Christian source without researching the full meaning of terms within the source before referencing it in his book.  Perhaps Lucado knows nothing of the Kabbalah; however, that in no way excuses sloppy journalism.  Certainly, his publisher – W Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson – should have caught this.  In any case, the term itself – divine spark – infers some sort of latent inherent divinity which is an obvious red flag.  True Christians are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) ONLY because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We do not have a “divine spark.”

In Constance Cumbey’s second book A Planned Deception, she quotes Swinburne Clymer of the Rosicrucians who identifies the “Divine Spark” as the Christos, or Christ within:

“The ‘Great Work’ is devoted especially and directly to Emotional and Spiritual developments, to the awakening of the Godly love nature, the Divine Spark or Christos, which must become the Conscious Soul or Christic nature as a means to return to the Elysian fields and the becoming of a Son of God, a co-worker with him….” [43] [emphasis and caps in original]

 Alice A. Bailey speaks of “divine life” which is obviously just a variation on the Kabbalistic “divine spark.”  In the book From Bethlehem to Calvary from 1937:

“…The germ of divine life is in us, but we ourselves have something to do about it, and the time has come when humanity as a whole must apply itself to the fostering of the divine life…” [44]

Richard Elliot Friedman in The Hidden Face of God  provides a view of the similarities between the so-called “Big Bang Theory” and Kabbalah in regards to how both viewpoints believe the earth was formed.  In his work, Friedman states that adherents to BBT believe we are stardust; and, similarly some versions of the Kabbalah believe we are divine stardust[45].

New Age / New Spirituality in Contemporary Culture

Assessing the context, this “divine stardust” is likely what Joni Mitchell was referring to in her lyrics of the song “Woodstock” (popularized by the band Matthew’s Southern Comfort in 1970 and more enduringly by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). The first verse begins with her story of coming across a “child of God” and then in the chorus she says:

            We are stardust
            We are golden
            And we’ve got to get ourselves
            Back to the Garden. [46]

New Age Spirituality also believes we must ‘get back to the Garden of Eden.’  Cumbey, in comparing doctrines of the New Age Movement to the Manifest Sons of God teaching, exposes some false beliefs held in common between these two:

“…The Garden of Eden never existed as a real [physical] place.  It instead was a spiritual state from which men fell.

“…We never really leave this planet.  ‘Heaven’ is merely a spiritual state from which we fell which we may reattain by accepting the ‘New Truths’ of Sonship.” [47]

This is born out in the Lucis material:

“Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection.  …man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…. …The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control. …The fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….” [48]

“…We ourselves may have to change in order to express the divine as Christ expressed it, before God can go on to the manifestation of the beauty of the hidden kingdom.   God needs man’s cooperation.  He calls for men to do His will….” [49]

The song medley by The 5th Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the musical Hair, a huge hit in 1969, was in homage to the coming new Age of Aquarius and the corresponding close of the Age of Pisces – the current era – according to the New Age Movement / New Spirituality.  Coincidence or not, the latter part of this medley was one of the official theme songs used in Barack Obama’s 2008 general election campaign[50].

The band’s name itself, “The 5th Dimension,” sounds like it could be just slightly different terminology but yet referring to Bailey’s fifth kingdom which is claimed to be the forthcoming Kingdom of God on earth in the Aquarian Age.  It seems like the band’s moniker could have been derived from a source such as this:

“This evolution of consciousness will inevitably take us into five-dimensional awareness and beyond… For five-dimensional awareness is nothing less than the loss of the sense of separateness from others and from the universe in which we live….

“Fifth-dimensional consciousness is already present for some, and there are many others who are awakening to it even now….

“The advent of this shift has already arrived, creating a foreshadowing of a way of being on the planet that is based in love, not self-protection – one that seeks to serve the good of all, rather than the desires of self.  Such a movement has God at the center by whatever name God is called, for the movement itself does not belong to any nation, religious tradition, or group.”[51] [emphasis in original; underlining added]

This, of course, sounds very much like the writings of Bailey/The Tibetan:

“…There is the emergence of a new kingdom in nature, the fifth kingdom; this is the Kingdom of God on earth or the kingdom of souls.  It is precipitating on earth and will be composed of those who are becoming group-conscious and who can work in group formation.  This will be possible, because these people will have achieved a self-initiated perfection… …and will be identified with certain group expansions of consciousness….”[52]

“…A new kingdom is coming into being: a fifth kingdom is materialising, and already has a nucleus functioning on earth in physical bodies….” [53]

In 1973, the band Three Dog Night had a hit tune written by Daniel Moore titled “Shambala” (lyrics here).  Apparently, this song title is an alternate spelling for the mythical kingdom of the same name of Tibetan Buddhism and Theosophy as spoken of by “The Tibetan” spelled either Shamballa[54] or Shambhala.[55]  Interestingly, I recall seeing band vocalist Chuck Negron on Trinity Broadcasting Network a few years ago.

The late John Coltrane is recognized as a major innovator in the jazz community.  His record A Love Supreme is distinguished as his crowning effort and is considered “one of the most important records ever made” and is essential for any serious jazz library[56].  It’s an homage to God as the liner notes read, “All praise be to God to whom all praise is due.”  Coltrane relates how in 1957 he had a “spiritual awakening” providing him a “richer, fuller, more productive life.”  Disappointingly, however, in his written piece titled A Love Supreme he declares “all paths lead to God”  In reading further, it is clear Coltrane is referring to a panentheistic god (god is in all) – just like the New Age / New Spirituality[57].

Both rock/jazz guitarist Carlos Santana and jazz/rock guitarist John McLaughlin were devotees of the late Sri Chinmoy [see "Spirituality and the UN" section above].  Santana and McLaughlin even did a one-off recording together titled Love Devotion Surrender in ’73 as a tribute of sorts to Chinmoy as they were both very recent disciples at this point.  They play a movement from Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, among other “spiritual” pieces[58].  McLaughlin had already added “Mahavishnu” in front of his name by this time and Santana would add “Devadip” later.

Keith Jarrett, a child prodigy and an incredibly gifted pianist/improviser/composer of international renown and one of the most important and enduring artists of the 20th century and into the 21st, named one of his music publishing companies “Kundalini.”  Jarrett was influenced by the esoteric Christianity[59] of G.I. Gurdjieff[60].  Jarrett memorialized him in his 1980 work of his compositions in G.I. Gurdjieff: Sacred Hymns.  A title of one of Jarrett’s albums is “Fort Yawuh” which is an anagram for ‘Fourth Way’ – a term used by Gurdjieff to describe his approach to self-development.  Apparently, kundalini was one of the methods Gurdjieff employed[61].

“Kundalini rising is sometimes a violent experience, radically changing one’s subtle energy field (making it much less subtle!) and consciousness and perception of energy.  The experience can be (and often is in the West) mistaken for insanity (usually acute schizophrenia) or emotional or physical breakdown on a fairly large scale.” [62]

The above quote comes from a kundalini practitioner who provides caution to the inexperienced.  One of the recognized potential and common outcomes of kundalini arousal (among many) is fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)[63].  Did Keith Jarrett practice kundalini; and, if so, could this have contributed to or even caused his  bout with CFS in the mid to late ‘90s[64]?   Thankfully, Jarrett has apparently been asymptomatic as he’s been very active the past decade.

There are many, many movies and books with New Age themes, influences and references such as Star Wars (“may the force be with you”), Avatar, the Harry Potter series, etc.  Even children’s movies by Disney have quite a few New Age/New Spirituality references – as just one example: when father Mufasa tells his son Simba, the future Lion King, about the “circle of life”[65] – another way of saying reincarnation and teaching panentheism.  Suffice to say that New Age ideas have permeated our entire culture.

In Whom Can You Put Your Trust?

Who can you trust?  Jesus.  The Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible – not The Message which is no Bible at all.  Jesus THE Christ, the one and only Christ, the one and only Messiah.  The Anointed ONE.  The Word made flesh.  The name above ALL names.  The King of kings and Lord of Lords.

Endnotes:

[1] Vinopal, Kelly. American Society of International Law Introduction.  < http://www.asil.org/resource/un1.htm > par 1; as accessed 12/12/10
[2] Lucis Trust The Great Invocation: A Mantram for the New Age and for all Humanity. < http://www.lucistrust.org/invocation/ > as accessed 12/12/10
[3] SouledOut.org Evolution of the Great Invocation. < http://www.souledout.org/gi/gievolution.html > as accessed 12/12/10
[4] ibid.  The quote follows the 1940 version of The Great Invocation; as accessed 12/12/10
[5] SouledOut.org The Legend of the Wesak. < http://www.souledout.org/wesak/wesaklegend2.html > as accessed 12/12/10
[6] Wesak.us/Mount Shasta magazine  Celebrate the Wesak Festival in Mount Shasta, California! < http://www.wesak.us/articles.php > as accessed 12/12/10
[7] SouledOut.org Op.cit. Evolution of the Great Invocation.  The quote follows the one from endnote 4.
[8] Aquarian Age Commununity website How Can World Invocation Day Strengthen the Spiritual Work of the United Nations?  < http://www.aquaac.org/wid2010/ > as accessed 12/12/10
[9] ibid.; quote is under triangle
[10] Aquarian Age Community website In Observance of the Christ Festival/World Invocation Day 2010: How Can World Invocation Day Affect Planetary Consciousness. < http://www.aquaac.org/wid2010/WID2010_agenda.html > par 17; as accessed 12/12/10
[11] World Service Intergroup website United Nations Meditation.  < http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/un-meditation/4543971619 > quote after “MEDITATION” subtitle; as accessed 12/12/10
[12] Spiritual Caucus of the United Nations United Nations Meditation Room. < http://www.spiritualcaucusun.org/medroom.html > par 1; as accessed 12/12/10
[13] Pedersen, Kusumita P. Sri Chinmoy’s work at the United Nations: Spirituality and the Power of Silence. Farlex, TheFreeLibrary.Com < http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Sri+Chinmoy’s+work+at+the+United+Nations%3A+spirituality+and+the+power…-a0239197496  > as accessed 12/12/10
[14] Chinmoy, Sri. The Garland of Nation-Souls: Complete Talks at the United Nations. 1995, Health Communications, Inc, Deerfield Beach, FL; p  210 < http://books.google.com/books?id=fN8lt0l61FkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=chinmoy+garland+of&source=bl&ots=KQM2RBY4vg&sig=0FC9ZaAtLhalZfArLVuQmHbCQYo&hl=en&ei=kZgFTbriKsH_lgf0xJz_CA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false >
[15] ibid. p 69
[16] United Nation Economic and Social Council. List of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council as of 18 September 2008. < http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ngo/pdf/INF_List.pdf  > p 80; as accessed 12/12/10
[17] ibid. p 70
[18] UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service NGO Consultation on the Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System: Contributions from Civil Society.   < http://www.un-ngls.org/spip?page=cfr_contributions&id_rubrique=103 > as accessed 12/12/10
[19] UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service NGO Consultation on the Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System: Contributions from Civil Society: World Goodwill. < http://www.un-ngls.org/cfr_article.php3?id_article=765 > as accessed 12/12/10
[20] Watkins, Terry, Dr., Dial-the-Truth Ministries The Message Bible: A Mystic Mess. < http://www.av1611.org/kjv/mess_bible.html > as accessed 12/12/10
[21] Bailey, Alice A. The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. 1957, Lucis Trust, renewed 1985, 8th printing 1989 (4th paperbook ed.) ; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 592
[22] Kjos, Berit, Kjos Ministries website What kind of message is THE MESSAGE?.  < http://www.crossroad.to/Bible_studies/Message.html >  as accessed 12/12/10
[23] Kjos, Berit, Kjos Ministries website Role Playing Games & Popular Occultism: The ancient message behind role-playing magic  < http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/2003/occult-rpg.htm#magic > par 1; as accessed 12/12/10
[24] Elijah List website Lou Engle: An Urgent Call to Prayer: Signs of the Times. <  http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/8044 > September 20, 2009; par 1; as accessed 12/12/10
[25] Hermetic Fellowship website What is Hermeticism?  < http://www.hermeticfellowship.org/HFHermeticism.html > as accessed 12/12/10
[26] Hare, John Bruno / Internet Sacred Text Archive The Emerald Tablet of Hermes. < http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm > Copyright 2010; as accessed 12/12/10
[27] Blavatsky, H.P. Isis Unveiled. 1972, Theosophical University Press; p 507 < http://kingsgarden.org/English/Organizations/TS.GB/Blavatsky/isis/iu1-13.htm >
[28] Insight For Living: The Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles S. Swidoll website. A Review of The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity. < http://www.insight.org/library/articles/review/the-shack.html > review by Glenn R. Kreider, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary; as accessed 12/12/10
[29] ibid. More Details from This Review of The Shack. < http://www.insight.org/library/articles/review/shack-details.html#one > reviews Kreider as above; as accessed 12/12/10
[30] Lucado, Max. Cure for the Common Life. 2005, W Publishing Group; Nashville, TN; pp 19, 98, 99
[31] ibid. pp 108, 109
[32] Hermetic Fellowship, Op.cit.
[33] Aquarian Age Community. Spirituality at the United Nations.  < http://www.aquaac.org/un/sprtatun.html > par 8; as accessed 12/12/10
[34] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Martin Buber, < http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/buber/ > Copyright 2007 Michael Zank; as accessed 12/12/10
[35] Fact-index.com Hasidic Judaism.  < http://www.fact-index.com/h/ha/hasidic_judaism.html > as accessed 12/12/10
[36] Wikipedia Kabbalah. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah > “Concepts: Kabbalistic Understanding of God” par 5; as accessed 12/12/10
[37] Lucado, Op.cit. p 3
[38] Blavatsky, Op.cit. p 258
[39] ibid.
[40] Brock, Ted and Winnie. Martin Buber: The Life of Dialogue by Maurice S. Friedman. < http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=459&C=373 > par 12; as accessed 12/12/10.  Friedman is Professor Emeritus of religious studies, philosophy  and comparative literature at San Diego State University.  This work originally published by The University of Chicago Press, 1955 and reprinted 1960 by Harpers, NY (First Harper Torchbook).
[41] Low, Colin. Hermetic Kabbalah: Kabbalah FAQhttp://www.digital-brilliance.com/kab/faq.htm > Copyright 1996 Colin Law; “The Orders of the Qlippoth” par 9
[42] Lucado, Op.cit.p 215 here Lucado is quoting Martin Buber from The Way of Man, According to the Teaching of Hasidism. 1994, London: Routledge Classics; p vi
[43] Cumbey, Constance. A Planned Deception.1985; Pointe Publishers, East Detroit, MI; pp 152, 181. As quoted from Clymer, Swinburne. The Great Work; The Coming Masters. 1962, Philosophical Publishing House, Quakertown, PA; p 13.  Also available as a free download < https://public.me.com/cumbey > “A PLANNED DE…ULL BOOK.pdf” pp 69, 83
[44] ] Bailey, Alice A. From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 277
[45] Friedman, Richard Elliot. The Hidden Face of God. 1995; HarperCollins Publishers, 1st paperback ed 1997; New York, NY pp 243, 246 < http://books.google.com/books?id=MYBAWN5UnnMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=richard+elliott+friedman&hl=en&ei=nnnuTOz_IYet8Aah7ZX_Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false >
[46] Mitchell, Joni. “WoodstockLadies of the Canyon. 1969; Siquomb Publishing, New York, NY;  Warner Brothers; Burbank, CA 1970
[47] Cumbey, ibid. p 173 / < https://public.me.com/cumbey > p 79
[48] Bailey, Op.cit. Externalisation. p 588
[49] Bailey, Op.cit. Bethlehem. p 277
[50] Answers.com / Answers Corporation, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In. < http://www.answers.com/topic/aquarius-let-the-sunshine-in > as accessed 12/13/10
[51] Redstone, Julie, lightomega.org Moving Toward Fifth-Dimensional Awareness. < http://www.lightomega.org/Fifth-Dimensional-Awareness.html > par 15, 17, 18; as accessed 12/13/10
[52] Bailey, Alice A. Discipleship in the New Age I. Copyright 1972 by Lucis Trust [1st printing 1944], 8th printing 1972 (paperback); Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 3
[53] Bailey, Op.cit. Bethlehem. p 254
[54] Daily Lama/dailylama.net Shamballa. < http://www.thedailylama.net/Shamballa/Shamballa06.htm > as accessed 12/13/10
[55] Sutherland Mary. Shambhala. <http://www.livinginthelightms.com/shambhala2.html > as accessed 12/13/10
[56] allmusic.com, Sam Samuelson review of John Coltrane A Love Supreme. < http://www.allmusic.com/album/a-love-supreme-r136933/review > Copyright 2010 Rovi Corporation; as accessed 12/13/10
[57] Coltrane, John A Love Supreme. 1995 MCA Records/GRP Records (1964/1965 original)
[58] Wikipedia, Love Devotion Surrender. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Devotion_Surrender > as accessed 12/13/10
[59] Wikipedia, Esoteric Christianity. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esoteric_Christianity > as accessed 12/13/10
[60] Wikipedia, George Gurdjieff. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gurdjieff > as accessed 12/13/10
[61] Wikipedia, Fourth Way. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Way > as accessed 12/13/10
[62] Macbeth, Jessica. Kundalini Rising & Spiritual Healing. < http://www.dharma-haven.org/oas/kundheal.htm >  Copyright 1997; par 10 as accessed 12/13/10
[63] Mudrasham Institue of Spiritual Studies, Helpful Measues in Dealing with Kundalini Emergencies. < http://www.mudrashram.com/kundaliniemergencies.html > as accessed 12/13/10
[64] Gross, Terry (host of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air; Interview with Keith Jarrett) Jazz Great Keith Jarrett Discusses Living with Chronice Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Transcript < http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=7442 > as accessed 12/13/10
[65] Wikipedia, The Lion King. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King > quote found under “Animation” par 4; as accessed 12/13/10

Assorted Bibliography:

Green Agenda website  The Spiritual Agenda.< http://green-agenda.com/spiritualunitednations.html >

Melanson, Terry Lucis Trust, Alice Bailey, World Goodwill and the False Light of the World< http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NewAge/Lucis_Trust.htm >

Melanson, Terry Alice Bailey & Master Djwhal Khul: A Satanic Communion < http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NewAge/Alice_Bailey.htm >

Way of Life Literature The United Nations and the New Age. <http://www.wayoflife.org/index_files/73b3884dc63159024ec23be9d5942076-589.html >

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