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.

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