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

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

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

- Alister McGrath188

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

Jesus is Our Model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4)     Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha – “The Great Renunciation.”207 The “sacrifice of humanity” by totally “dying to (lower, human) self” in order to achieve divinity and to arise as fully manifested son of God.208  Sin becomes impossible.209  Moving towards attainment of full ‘group consciousness.’210  At the final stage of this initiation, post-‘Great Renunciation’, one dispenses with the fleshly body and attains resurrection body thereby becoming free from death:211 “and the causal body, the soul body is relinquished and disappears.”212 “[Christ] thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world, living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.”213

5)     Resurrection and Ascension – “The cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life.”214 Attainment to full status of ascended Master in which the individual can move between and live in the physical and/or the astral realms.215If he chooses to take a physical vehicle (as many will when the Christ reappears and the Hierarchy is externalised on Earth), the Master will ‘function from the above to the below’ and not (as is the case today with all disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) on ‘the below towards the above.’…They will therefore need no centres on the etheric levels of our planetary physical plane.”216

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

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

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

…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.219

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

New Birth

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

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

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

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

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

When the Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residence in our bodies, all of heaven positioned itself to see what we would conquer in His name. Resurrection power is in our nature, in our spiritual DNA.  When we were born again, we received the same spiritual DNA as Jesus.  His resurrection power now is to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit…223

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

Progressive Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

If the Kingdom is here and now, then we must acknowledge it’s in the invisible realm.  Yet being at hand reminds us that it’s also within reach…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance.  It was as though He said, “If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking that what you see in the natural is the superior reality.  Without changing the way you think you’ll never see the world that is right in front of you.  It’s my world, and it fulfills every dream you’ve ever had.  And I brought it with me.” All that He did in life and ministry, He did by drawing from that superior reality.228

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

Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that controlThe fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….229

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

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

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

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

This anointing [“Christ anointing” / “baptism in the Holy Spirit”] is what enabled Jesus to do only what He saw the Father do, and to say only what He heard the Father say. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed the Father to Jesus.235

It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus [“baptism in the Holy Spirit” / “Christ anointing”]  that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying.  That same gift of the Spirit has been given to us for that same purpose.236

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

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

Transfiguration

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

Most all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer.  The Mount of Transfiguration raised the bar significantly on potential human experience…The overwhelming lesson in this story is that Jesus Christ, the Son of man, had the glory of God upon Him.  Jesus’s face shone with God’s glory, similar to Moses’s after he came down from the mountain.  But Jesus’s clothing also radiated the glory of God, as if to say this was a new era as compared to Moses’s day. In this era the boundaries had changed – a veil could not be used to cover Jesus’s face as it shone with glory, as the veil itself would also soon radiate the same glory.  We influence and impart what God has given us to change the nature of whatever we touch…In the kingdom, things are different.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crucifixion, the Great Renunciation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most consistent way to display the kingdom of God is through the renewed mind. It is much more than thinking right thoughts. It is how we think – from what perspective. Done correctly, we “reason” from heaven toward earth.244

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

…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.  There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways.  We are so encouraged.  But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual.  To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God245

Resurrection Life

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit came with the ultimate assignment at the perfect time.  During Jesus’ ministry, it was said, “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”…[W]hy didn’t the Father send Him until Jesus was glorified?  Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! As a sculptor looks at a model and fashions the clay into its likeness, so the Holy Spirit looks to the glorified Son and shapes us into His image. As He is, so are we in the world 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Endnotes:

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

Learning Etymology with Bill Johnson: A New Age ‘Repentance’?

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 devil

-Bill Johnson1

Etymology is the study of the derivation of words, the history/origin of the elements which make up a word.  For example, the Greek word (transliterated) pharmakeia is translated to English in the New Testament as medication, magic, sorcery, and witchcraft.2  Obviously, the English word pharmacy is derived from this same word.  Hence pharmakeia is part of the etymology of the English word pharmacy.

There are at least two instances in which Bill Johnson breaks down words in order to help the reader understand the meaning.  However in each case, Bill Johnson explained the words in a way which went beyond their actual etymology and true meaning.  In his book Dreaming with God is the following:

A good way to remember the intent of the word desire is to break it down by syllables.  ‘De’ means ‘of.’  And ‘sire’ means ‘father.’  The question should not be, ‘are my desires from God?’  The question should be, ‘With what, or with whom have I been in communion?’*  I can communicate with God or the enemy… 3

For the record, the asterisk above replaces a footnote in the original text which indicates that the portion in quotation marks is from Lance Wallnau.  While it’s possible the above was a sort of mnemonic device (a concept such as the general rule for spelling in English “i before e except after c”) in order for Johnson to make a larger point, it should have been stated for the sake of correctness that this is not the actual origin, the etymology of the word desire to alleviate any potential confusion.

The word de, a preposition,can mean not just “of”, but also “with”, “by”, “for”, “from”, or “in” in Spanish, French, Latin, and other languages.  The word desire is a shortened form of the Latin desiderare with its origin explained in the following:

Early 13c[century]…“long for, wish for,” original sense perhaps “await what the stars will bring,” from the phrase de sidere “from the stars,” from sidus…“heavenly body, star, constellation”…4

So, as can be seen, the word’s derivation is essentially “longing for what the stars will bring” which has absolutely nothing to do with the Wallnau/Johnson claim above.  While the word sire does mean “father”, this is not part of the etymology of the word desire.

Here’s another example.  In Johnson’s book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind is the explanation of the word “repent”:

Renewing the mind begins with repentance.  That is the gateway to return to our original assignment on earth.  Jesus said, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  To many Christians, repent refers to having an altar call where people come forward and weep at the altar to get right with God.  This is a legitimate expression of repentance, but it’s not what the word repentance means.  ‘Re’ means to go back.  ‘Pent’ is like the penthouse, the top floor of the building.  Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our emotions, and every part of our lives…5

In the first example with the word desire the intent of Johnson/Wallnau may not have been clear, however, with Johnson’s repent he appears to be making the explicit claim that his explanation is the true meaning and origin.  Nevertheless, the word’s actual etymology proves Johnson wrong.

The term comes from the French repentir with prefix “re” from Latin (“again”) and penitire (“regret”) which is itself derived from Latin poenitire (“make sorry”) which in turn comes from poena (“punishment”).6  Obviously, within the word is the recognition of and regret for wrongdoing.

With this sort of carelessness with the English language, one must wonder how Bill Johnson handles the Word of God.   As has already been shown here on CrossWise, Johnson is similarly haphazard with Scripture as he reinterprets terms and concepts.  However, despite Johnson’s botching of the etymology of repent, it appears to be similar to the orthodox Christian understanding of the term.  Or is it?  Johnson’s phrase “God’s perspective on reality” is rather peculiar.  We’ll return to that in a bit.  First, let’s establish the meaning of repent from an orthodox Christian perspective.

Orthodox Christian Meaning of Repentance

Repentance is the noun form of the verb repent which means “[g]odly sorrow for one’s sin and a resolve to turn from it”.7  The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines it as, “The act of expressing contrition and penitence for sin.  Its linguistic roots [Ed: etymology] point to its theological meaning of a change of mind and life direction as a beginning step of expressing Christian faith (Acts 26:20).”8

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) is more thorough noting true repentance affects our intellect, emotions, and will.  As to the intellect, “…human beings must apprehend sin as unutterably heinous, the divine law as perfect and binding and themselves as falling short of the requirements of a holy God…”  As to emotions, repentance involves, “…an earnest appeal to God to forgive according to His mercy…”  The most important element is the understanding that to repent is an act of the will; we must choose to turn from sin.  Repentance is not a one time event but the constant choosing between alternatives.  However, equally important is that God takes the initiative.  It’s a paradox of sorts “reflecting the mysterious relationship between the human and the divine personalities”.  The choice is to follow Him or not .9

In terms of how repentance relates to salvation, the ISBE notes:

Repentance is only a condition of salvation and not its meritorious ground. The motives for repentance are found chiefly in the sinner’s experience of God’s kindness (Rom 2:4), love (Jn 3:16), and earnest desire that sinners be saved (Ezk 33:11; 1 Tim 2:4), of the inevitable consequences of sin (Lk 13:1-5), of the universal demands of the gospel (Acts 17:30), and of the hope for spiritual life…and membership in the kingdom of heaven (Mk 1:15).…A consciousness of spiritual poverty dethroning pride…surrender to God…spiritual hunger and thirst, are all part of the experience of one who wholly abandons sin and heartily turns to God who [alone] is able to grant eternal life.10

The words repent and repentance are translated from the Greek (transliterated) metanoeo and metanoia respectively.  In the definitive A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (BDAG) the definition for metanoeo is “feel remorse, repent, be converted”.11  Similarly, metanoia means “repentance, turning about, conversion”.  Now let’s look at the etymology of these Greek words.12

Meta is a preposition in the Greek (and is used as a prefix in English) meaning “with”, “among”, “in company with someone else”, “take”, “bring something along”, “behind”, “after”, et cetera, basically meaning “in the vicinity of”.13

Noeo means “to grasp or comprehend something on the basis of careful thought, perceive, apprehend, understand, gain an insight into”; “to think over with care, consider, take note of”; “to form an idea about something, think, imagine”; or, “to pay heed with intent to set appropriately, be minded”.14

Note again the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms definition near the beginning of this section which states, “The linguistic roots point to its theological meaning of a change of mind and life direction as a beginning step of expressing Christian faith…”  This seems to capture the etymological root of the Greek word metanoia (the noun form of the verb metanoeo) keeping in mind the first part of the Westminster definition, “the act of expressing contrition and penitence for sin.”  Once we understand God’s holiness and righteousness as compared to our unrighteous, sinful condition, we perceive/comprehend/gain insight into the mind of God and act accordingly in penitence.

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states similarly that repent has the meaning “to turn back, away from” sin feeling “[h]eartfelt sorrow for sin” with a call to conversion.  “Repentance is the theme of the preaching of John the Baptist (Mt 3:1; Mk 1:4; Mt 3:8).  Baptism in water unto repentance is accompanied by confession of sins (Mt 3:6; cf. 1 Jn 1:8-9)…Generally…metanoia can be said to denote that inward change of mind, affections, convictions, and commitment rooted in the fear of God and sorrow for offences committed against him, which when accompanied by faith in Jesus Christ, results in an outward turning from sin to God and his service in all of life…”15

This establishes the orthodox Christian understanding of repent and repentance.  Now let’s look at how some of the unorthodox/heterodox16 define the terms.

Unorthodox/Heterodox definitions of Repentance

In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary used by the Unity School of Christianity is the following definition of repentance:

The Greek word metanoia is translated ‘repentance,’ which has been interpreted to mean an admission to God of sorrow for past sin and a resolve to be good in the future.  The field of action for that which has been assumed to be goodness in the sight of God has nearly always been in conduct.  The whole Christian world has in a measure failed to discern the teaching of the New Testament about mental laws.  A proper translation of the mission of John the Baptist is: He came into all the region round about Jordan preaching immersion in mentation for the doing away with shortcomingMetanoia means change of mind, middle mind, transformation of the mind, change of thought and purpose.17

The word “mentation” is not defined, but by the usage it seems to indicate a transformation of the mind by contemplative/meditative prayer.  [See "'Christ Consciousness'" and "The 'Christ Within' or 'Inner Christ'” sections of the "'Christ' in the New Age' article here on this site.]  Apparently, in the Unity view, mainline orthodox Christianity has had it wrong all these years with the focus on sin.

In New Ager Cynthia Bourgeault’s book The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message is a reinterpretation of Jesus’ earthly ministry as a “teacher of the transformation of consciousness”.18   She agrees with fellow New Age author Jim Marion as she writes:

…Jim Marion’s wonderfully insightful and contemporary suggestion is that the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from.  It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns the world into a different place.  Marion suggests specifically that the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus’s own favorite way of describing a state we would nowadays call a ‘nondual consciousness’ or unitive consciousness.’ 19

Apparently Bourgeault and perhaps Marion are not very well informed as this teaching is hardly new having been around for quite a while in the Eastern religions which have infiltrated the US for at least the past 100 years including inside the Church.

Bourgeault also defines metanoia for the reader:

…It doesn’t mean feeling sorry for yourself for doing bad things.  It doesn’t even mean to ‘change the direction in which you’re looking for happiness’…The word literally breaks down into meta and noia, which…means ‘go beyond the mind’ or ‘go into the larger mind.’ 20

Similar to Unity, Bourgeault espouses the contemplative/meditative as a vehicle to the transformation of the mind.  What does “go into the larger mind” actually mean?

…I sometimes joke with my Centering Prayer students that when they sit down to do their twenty minutes of meditation, they are really engaged in an exercise in repentance.  It’s true if you take metanoia in this alternative sense.  They are going beyond their minds, into the larger mind.  And Jesus, the master of repentance, is leading them there.21

Perhaps that would be akin to Johnson’s “go[ing] back” to “the penthouse, the top floor of the building” to receive “God’s perspective on reality”?

It’s interesting how terms meant to convey ideas in a figurative way are literalized instead and, conversely, how terms meant to be understood literally are reinterpreted metaphorically in the New Age and esoteric ‘Christian’ groups.

A Closer look at Bill Johnson’s Definition of Repentance

Bill Johnson rightly mixes repentance with renewing the mind.  Upon salvation/justification one must repent.  After this, each one must continue to repent for sins committed throughout their Christian life.  With sanctification comes the renewing of the mind as this is the process of sanctification as we grow in the Christian faith.  By submitting ourselves to the indwelt Holy Spirit rather than succumbing to the sinful nature (flesh) we continue to be sanctified (Romans 8:1-17; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16-26).  And, it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts of the sins we commit as we live out the Christian life.

Yet, Johnson uses some peculiar wording as he explains both concepts.  Here’s the quote once again:

Renewing the mind begins with repentance.  That is the gateway to return to our original assignment on earth.  Jesus said, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  To many Christians, repent refers to having an altar call where people come forward and weep at the altar to get right with God.  This is a legitimate expression of repentance, but it’s not what the word repentance means.  ‘Re’ means to go back.  ‘Pent’ is like the penthouse, the top floor of the building.  Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our emotions, and every part of our lives…22

Yes, weeping in an altar call, while “a legitimate expression of repentance”, is not the actual meaning of repentance as the definition is much more.  However, to claim that “God’s perspective on reality” is the full definition is not adequate needing both further elaboration and a reigning in.  Since God is omniscient, He has full “reality”; mere men do not and will not.  And as noted above, Christian orthodoxy requires penitence as part of the definition of the term repentance.

Sure, if we take the strict meaning of metanoia as from its etymology we could arrive at the Johnson view divorcing sin and penitence from the definition as we know it and, similarly, we could redefine desire to mean “longing for stardust” thereby adding to its accepted meaning by using its etymological roots.  However, just like there’s an established meaning for desire as a “longing” or “craving”, throughout the past 2000 years the Christian understanding of repentance is as described above in the “Orthodox Christian Meaning of Repentance” section.

Let’s continue with the above quote in order to keep Johnson’s words in proper context:

…Without repentance we remain locked into carnal ways of thinking.  When the Bible speaks of carnality, it doesn’t necessarily mean obvious, disgusting sin.  Most Christians have no appetite for sin; they don’t want to get drunk or sleep around, but because they live without the demonstrated power of the gospel, many have lost their sense of purpose and gone back to sin…23

This is not wholly untrue.  If we do not submit to the Spirit and consequently live by the flesh, we will be stuck in “carnal ways of thinking”.  But, it doesn’t necessarily take the “demonstrated power of the gospel” to keep the already justified/saved Christian from sin; it’s by submitting to the Spirit instead and living by and in faith.  But, this is Johnson’s usual lure: to give the reader/listener the idea that the Christian life is primarily about living in the supernatural realm:

…Having a renewed mind is often not an issue of whether or not someone is going to heaven, but of how much of heaven he or she wants in his or her life right now.24

This goes to Johnson’s faulty premise that we can literally ‘bring heaven to earth’ based on his esoteric understanding of the “Lord’s Prayer” (Mt 6:9-13).  As Grant Osborne explains, there will be a new heaven and a new earth in the age to come at which point the current age is no longer.  Heaven and earth are separate and remain so:

…[I]t is a prayer that the fullness of his will, known only in heaven at present, be fully consummated via the second coming.  This will come with the arrival of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1), when the old order passes away and the eternal order will begin.  At present we cannot introduce his perfect will and lead the people of this world to embrace it.  But we can proclaim his name and guide those around us to follow his will more fully…25

The Apostle Peter explained that the heavens (the atmosphere surrounding earth, not God’s dwelling place!) and the earth will disappear (2 Peter 3:10-13): “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10b-d; NIV 1984).

There are different views of eschatology (end times) which we should not divide over; however, to assume that we can literally bring the heavenly realm down to earth in bits and pieces until Christ returns is not Biblical.  But, it is a New Age and Latter Rain belief.

Johnson also states, “The only way to consistently do Kingdom works is to view reality from God’s perspective.”26  Johnson claims that when Jesus tells Nicodemus one cannot see the Kingdom unless one is born again (John 3:3) He meant that with a “renewed mind” one can literally see the Kingdom in the here and now instead of Jesus’ intent that this will be in the age to come.27  But what exactly does Johnson mean by his line of thinking?

Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing

Bill Johnson has roots in Word of Faith theology as evidenced, for example, by his belief that all Christians should be healed of all afflictions.  E. W. Kenyon is recognized as the originator of Word of Faith doctrine with Kenneth E. Hagin, Sr. popularizing it in the past 40 years or so.  In D. R. McConnell’s book (McConnell did his graduate work at Oral Roberts University) A Different Gospel, he notes how Kenyon appropriated practices from metaphysical cults such as New Thought, Unity and Christian Science in order to form his own theology.28  Of Kenyon he states

The typical pattern in such instances is to disclaim any similarities with cultic teaching on a particular topic and then proceed to teach exactly that.29

In the following, McConnell quotes from Kenyon illustrating this practice:

We are not dealing with mysticism, philosophy or metaphysics.  We are dealing with realities…we are dealing with the basic laws of man’s being, the great spiritual laws that govern the unseen forces of life.30

This is not a new metaphysics or philosophy.  This is reality.  This is God breaking into the sense realm. This is God imparting His own nature to the human spirit.31

Now here’s Johnson with his disclaimer on his repentance/renewing your mind teaching.  He sets this up by pointing out how some have studied theology to the exclusion of living out a life of faith contrasting that with the excesses of others who promote supernatural experience at the expense of any sort of theological orthodoxy thinking doctrine has no value.  Of course, that’s not incorrect.  This then prefaces the following statement:

Many Christians instinctively distrust the mind, thinking it is irredeemably corrupt and humanistic.  They point to Harvard and Yale and other universities that were originally founded on Christian principles, but which today promulgate deceptions and lies…32

He follows this tact for a time setting up the quote above on repentance.  After establishing his definition on repentance and how important a renewed mind is to ‘bring heaven to earth’, he makes this statement:

…He wants you to see reality from God’s perspective, to learn to live from His world toward the visible world…33

This sounds very much like a quote from Bourgeault’s book, “…the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from”.  Also, compare this to part of one of the Kenyon quotes above “This is God imparting His own nature to the human spirit” plus the following quote from Kenyon:

This is not psychology or metaphysics.  This is absolute fact.  God becomes a part of our very consciousness.34

Is Johnson conveying with the above that we need to, in his words, repent, i.e. “go back” to “the penthouse, the top floor of a building” which means regaining “God’s perspective on reality” in order to “to live from His world toward the visible world” and that the renewed mind is literally the mind of God?  That we can literally see the supernatural realm as if we were God himself and “view reality from God’s perspective”?

Compare this to the following taken from one of McConnell’s footnotes:

…It should be pointed out that ‘Reality’ as Kenyon uses it is a term used in New Thought and Christian Science to refer to the spiritual realm and truths that were hidden by the sensations of the physical realm, which were not reality at all, but was considered ‘error,’ the opposite of metaphysical reality….35

This is describing the concept in Brahmanism, a subset of Hinduism, known as maya, or illusion.  The physical realm is considered a dream, illusion.  Kenyon above called it “the sense realm”.  As Ankerberg and Weldon explain, “…Essentially, the idea that the world is an illusion ‘hiding’ Brahman [sic] is a key teaching of Hinduism in America.  The teaching aims at supposedly revealing one’s inward divine nature by ‘contacting’ Brahman [sic] through occult practices such as yoga, meditation, and altered states of consciousness.”36  If Brahma/God is inside everything in “hiding”, then Brahma/God can be contacted by going inward via meditation/contemplative prayer and the individual can become “one” with “God” thereby possessing the very mind of “God”.  That’s the essence of Transcendental Meditation.

Occultist H. P. Blavatsky, one of the founders of Theosophy in the late 19th century and thereby contemporaneous with New Thought and Christian Science, utilized the term “reality” in the same manner, denoting the spiritual realm in opposition to the illusion of maya, the physical universe:

…When the spiritual entity breaks loose for ever from every particle of matter, then only it enters upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana. He exists in spirit, in nothing; as a form, a shape, a semblance, he is completely annihilated, and thus will die no more, for spirit alone is no Maya, but the only REALITY in an illusionary universe of ever-passing forms.37 [all spelling, capitalization, and emphasis in original]

Is this similar to what Johnson means?  Taking the same basic information from another Johnson book, When Heaven Invades Earth, we see the same concepts as explained above, “Repentance is not complete until it envisions His Kingdom”.38

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 reach39

Note how Johnson compares the ‘visible’ to the ‘invisible’.  Is this like Kenyon’s ‘sense realm’ as opposed to ‘reality’?  Johnson continues with the same reference to Nicodemus in John 3:3 claiming we should be able to “see” the Kingdom now on earth rather than Jesus’ intention that this will be in the future at the consummation, the Second Coming.  Continuing with the quote:

…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance.  It was as though He said, ‘If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking what you see in the natural is the superior reality…40

Does this not appear to be expressing the same basic New Age, Eastern and Unity doctrines described above?

Meditating on Johnson’s Doctrine of Meditation

Considering the quote on Brahmanism above and comparing this to Johnson’s use of the word “reality”, what exactly does Johnson espouse regarding meditation?  In Dreaming With God is Johnson’s explicit promotion of meditation which he begins with the definitive statement ‘Learn the biblical art of “meditation”’.41 After quoting Psalm 77:6, he goes into his own definition utilizing the same methodology of Kenyon in making a disclaimer and then actually promoting the very thing disclaimed.  Yet, in this case he misconstrues the occult/esoteric practice of meditation:

…Biblical meditation is a diligent search.  Whereas religious cults teach people to empty their minds as the means of meditation, the Bible teaches us to fill our minds with God’s Word.  Meditation has a quiet heart and a ‘directed’ mind.  Mulling over a word in our heart, with a pursuit that springs from the inquisitive child’s heart, is meditation.42

First, notice that he seems to state the Biblically correct way to meditate on God’s Word in the first few sentences yet his concluding sentence runs contrary to what he just explained.  “Mulling over a word in our heart” is not diligently studying and meditating on God’s Word using our mind.  What he’s describing is actually a definition of occult esoteric meditation!

This is not unlike the way in which cultists work; i.e., making a series of orthodox statements and then concluding with an unorthodox sentence.  The mind is prepared for a logical, orthodox conclusion so that when what seems to be an illogical or unorthodox conclusion is reached instead, the hearer may reject it assuming he just did not hear or read it correctly or some other such reason.  This is known as cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling in holding two conflicting views at once, which results in some sort of action to alleviate this feeling, in this case which may be either by 1) rejecting the negative thought that the conclusion is unorthodox or illogical while mentally inserting one’s own orthodox or logical conclusion instead; or, 2) just dismissing the conclusion as a misunderstanding on the reader/hearer’s part; or, 3) assuming the speaker simply misspoke.

The teachings in Alice Bailey’s books [available from Lucis Trust, known initially as Lucifer Publishing] are recognized as the foundation for current New Age doctrine and practices.  Here’s a section from a book almost 100 years old describing meditation dos and don’ts as well as its purpose :

…The stage at which a man awakens to group realisation, and becomes a conscious participant in the activities of the group is brought about in two ways: through meditation, and through a series of initiations…There is much misconception these days as to what meditation really is, and there is a great deal of so-called meditation which has been truly described by a person not so long ago, as ‘I shut my eyes, and open my mouth, and wait for something to happen.’  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.’  Here this union with the group life is held to be the product of meditation, and there is no other method of attainment.

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 ideal…We need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation.43   

What are “initiations” and their purpose as defined by Bailey above?  By the context, an ‘initiation’ is associated with ‘meditation’ which brings one ultimately in “union with the great Spirit of the universe”.  In a book, of the same vintage as the one above, titled Initiation, Human and Solar, Bailey defines the term:

An initiation is an expansion of consciousness – a means of opening the mind and heart to a recognition of what already exists in reality.44

This “union with the great Spirit of the universe” accomplished by the “expansion of consciousness” corresponding to “a recognition of what already exists in reality” – is this the same as “chang[ing] our way of thinking until the presence of His Kingdom fills our consciousness” thereby gaining “God’s perspective on reality” as Johnson states above effected by using his rather vaguely defined method of meditation?  Note the last sentence of the first Bailey quote above: “We need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation”.  Is this the reason Johnson’s description of the practice is so general?

Johnson asserts later in Dreaming with God, “While it’s true that God does not give His glory to another, we’re not another – we are members of His Body” (the capital “B” in original).45  Does he mean God will give us His full “perspective on reality” along with His glory, or perhaps as Kenyon would say “God imparting His own nature to the human spirit”?  Johnson then goes on to quote John 16:13-15 and explains his interpretation:

…the Holy Spirit is therefore leading us into experiencing all truth.  He receives all of His instructions from the Father.  It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying.  That same gift of the Spirit has been given to us for that same purpose.46

Johnson is once again promoting the unbiblical and heterodox kenosis doctrine [see here for more] in effect denying Jesus’ inherent divinity and, simultaneously, he is claiming that we will be able to communicate with God with the same clarity and frequency as Jesus during His earthly ministry.  This is not too dissimilar from John Hick’s assertion that the Incarnation was not actual but instead metaphorical in that the human Jesus of Nazareth so communed with God that He “incarnated” God in a figurative sense:

The idea of the incarnation of God in the life of Jesus, so understood, is thus not a metaphysical claim about Jesus having two natures, but a metaphorical statement of the significance of a life through which God acted on earth.  In Jesus we see a man living in a startling degree of awareness of God and of response to God’s presence.47

Thus, as per Hick, Jesus is merely an example to which we should aspire.48  Similarly, according to Johnson, we can achieve the same level of communion with God as did Jesus as we repent, as per his redefinition of the term, and renew our minds by receiving God’s glory and thereby “view reality from God’s perspective”.

A New Age of Sanctified Imagination?

Elsewhere in this same book Johnson states, “A yielded imagination becomes a sanctified imagination; and it’s the sanctified imagination that is positioned for visions and dreams.  There is great paranoia over the use of the imagination in the Church of the Western World.”49  I suppose it could be argued that as we submit to the Holy Spirit as opposed to the flesh our entire mind is sanctified which would necessarily include our imagination, however, I contend that we can’t actually submit our imagination to the Spirit by itself as Johnson states.  In addition, Johnson’s words set up an expectation for visions and dreams when it’s the Spirit who gives as He determines (1 Cor 12:11).  But why is he using the word “imagination”?  Here’s Webster’s definition of imagination:

  1. (a) the act or power of forming mental images of what is not actually present; (b) the act or power of creating mental images of what has never been actually experienced…creative power…
  2. image in the mind; conception, idea
  3. a foolish notion, empty fancy
  4. the ability to understand and appreciate the imaginative creations in others, especially works of art and literature.50

Of the choices above the more generic #2 or the more esoteric #1 could apply given Johnson’s context although #1 appears more appropriate.  Johnson makes his meaning more obvious by the footnote accompanying this text:

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 devil51

Does Johnson really believe it’s safe to assume that doctrines and practices of the New Age Movement can originate with God rather than the enemy?!  Does he not understand that the New Age worships a different god (actually many different “gods” including the god of self)?  Continuing with the above:

…I find that form of reasoning weak at best.  If we follow that line of thought we will continue to give the devil the tools that God has given us for success in life and ministry.  In doing so we will be building a confidence in the power of darkness above the Spirit of God.52

So then, what of God’s sovereignty?  Is He too weak to carry out His purposes?  This is yet another example of the numerous false dichotomies Johnson promotes.  However, is he stating this as justification to promote New Age doctrine and practice himself?

It is clear that Johnson’s explanation of repentance and renewing the mind are at odds with historical orthodox Christianity.  While some of the wording is peculiar, this peculiar terminology and phraseology can be found in New Age teachings.  Is Bill Johnson embracing and teaching New Age doctrine whether wittingly or unwittingly?

1Johnson, Bill. Dreaming with God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World through God’s Creative Flow. 2006, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 86 (1st endnote).  Emphasis added.
2Strong, J., Baker, W. and Zodhiates, S. AMG’s Annotated Strong’s Dictionaries. 2009 (November, 1st printing), AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN; p 953.  Pharmakeia is Strong’s # 5331.
3Johnson, Dreaming; p 30
4Dictionary.com, “desire,” in Online Etymology Dictionary source location: Douglas Harper, Historian. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/desire>.  Available: <http://dictionary.reference.com>. As accessed 2/18/2012.
5Johnson, Bill. The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles. © 2005 Bill Johnson, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, PA; p 44
6McKechnie, Jean L. (Ed.) Webster’s New Twentieth Century (Unabridged) © 1983, Simon & Schuster, New York, NT; p 1533.  Dictionary.com, “repent,” in Online Etymology Dictionary source location: Douglas Harper, Historian. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/repent>. Available: <http://dictionary.reference.com>. As accessed 2/18/2012.
7Erickson, Millard J. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology. 1986, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; p 142
8McKim, Donald K. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. 1996, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY; p 237
9Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (Gen. Ed.) The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1988, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 3.136-137
10Bromiley, p 3.137
11Bauer, Walter, Danker, F.W., Arndt, W.F., Gingrich, F.W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2000 (3rd ed.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL; p 640.  Also known as and hereafter identified as “BDAG”.
12BDAG, pp 640-641
13BDAG, pp 636-638
14BDAG, pp 674-675
15Elwel, Walter A. (Ed.) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 1984 (10th pr. 1994), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; p 936
16McKim defines heterodox “[t]hat which is counter to or different from accepted orthodox belief in a church [p 127].  It seems to be a ‘softer’ term than heresy.
17Unity School of Christianity Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. 1931 (1955, 8th pr.), Unity School of Christianity (no publisher specified), Lee’s Summit, MO; p 552.  Underscore added; other emphasis in original.
18Bourgeault, Cynthia The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message. 2008, Shambhala, Boston, MA; pp 25-33.  Bourgeault self-identifies as per the back cover as “an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference speaker”.  The book promotes contemplative prayer, mysticism and worst of all, Jesus as merely one path [pp 65-71] putting her squarely in the New Age camp as well as a promoter of religious pluralism.  In addition, “Shambhala” is a New Age term from the Buddhist tradition.  It is also spelled “Shamballa”and is known in Theosophy/New Age as the dwelling place of the governing deity of earth, Sanat Kumara, and his ‘Spiritual Hierarcyh’ and other associates.
19Bourgeault, p 30. Emphasis in original.
20Bourgeault, p 37.  In a footnote referencing her redefinition of meta and noia she claims indebtedness to Marcus Borg as the source [The Heart of Christianity. 2003, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, CA; p 180].   Also, interestingly, the first quote, “change the direction in which you’re looking for happiness” is Thomas Keating’s preferred definition as per her footnote. Keating, a Roman Catholic Mystic in the tradition of St. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, is a major promoter of centering prayer’.
21Bourgeault, pp 37-38.  Emphasis in original.
22Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 44
23Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 44
24Johnson, Supernatural Power, pp 44-45
25Osborne, Grant, Arnold, Clinton E. (Gen. Ed.) Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. © 2010 by Grant R. Osborne, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 228-229
26Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 42
27Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 45
28McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement. 1988 (4th pr. 1991), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 43-55.  Back cover states McConnell, “did his graduate work at Oral Roberts University in theological and historical studies”.
29McConnell, p 45 citing Kenyon, E. W. The Hidden Man. 1970, Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, Seattle, WA; p 35
30McConnell, p 45 citing Kenyon, The Hidden Man, p 74.  Emphasis added.
31McConnell, p 45 citing Kenyon, The Hidden Man, p 137.  Emphasis added.
32Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 43
33Johnson, Supernatural Power, p 45
34McConnell, p 45.  Emphasis added.
35McConnell, p 55.  This is in a parenthetical note in his 53rd footnote.
36Ankerberg, John, Weldon, John. Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs. 1996, Harvest House, Eugene, OR; p 220.  The authors confuse Brahman with Brahma; “Brahma” is the name of this Hindu deity while “Brahman” denotes something ‘of Brahma’.

37Blavatsky, Helena P. Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology: Vol 1 – Science. 1988 (unabridged from original 1877 first edition), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA; p 290
38Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 38
39Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 38. Bold in original, underscore added for emphasis.
40Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 38. Emphasis in original.
41Johnson, Dreaming, p 132.  Bold in original.
42Johnson, Dreaming, p 132.
43Bailey, Alice A. 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 110-112.  Underscore added for emphasis, other emphasis and spelling as per original.

44Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. © 1951 Lucis Trust (1st prtng 1922, 14th prntg, 1980 (4th paperback ed.)), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; back cover.  Emphasis added
45Johnson, Dreaming, p 135.  Emphasis in original.
46Johnson, Dreaming, p 136.  Emphasis in original.
47Hick, John, The Metaphor of God Incarnate. © 1993, 2005 (2005 2nd ed.), SCM-Canterbury Press, Great Britain; p 102
48Hick; pp 109-110
49Johnson, Dreaming, p 67
50McKechnie, Webster’s, p 907
51Johnson, Dreaming, p 86 (1st endnote).  Emphasis added.
52Johnson, Dreaming, p 86

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