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

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

Blasphemy against the Christian God while desecrating Sacred Scripture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Bill Johnson Claims You Can Think and Live from the Right Hand of God

In the SAME measure that the Father put Jesus at His right hand, in the same measure He has put YOU at His right hand, because YOU are IN Christ…. 

-         Bill Johnson, “Thinking from the Throne” podcast, June 9, 20131

It could not have been planned this way.  In the previous CrossWise article, the attempt was made to synthesize Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” statements with his other teachings that indicate a temporally non-divine Jesus, conjecturing that Johnson may have in mind John 3:13, Ephesians 2:6 / Colossians 3:1-3 as a way to account for Jesus living in two realms simultaneously, with the idea that Christians can do the same, as in the manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  Amazingly, the very day the finishing touches were put on the article and it was published (June 9, 2013), Bill Johnson preached a sermon using these very Scriptures towards that very end!  With this podcast as evidence, it is apparent that Johnson DOES, in fact, share essentially the same MSoG view as Bill Britton, as illustrated in the quote used in the last article.

Throughout this current article this podcast/sermon titled “Thinking from the Throne” will be referenced, but instead of assigning footnotes next to each quote, time markers will be placed just before and after the quotes from the transcript.  ALL CAPS indicates Johnson stressing particular words, all other emphasis added: 

[0:24]…I want to pick up where we kind of left off here a few weeks ago…the series that I started about the Throne life, the ascended lifestyle

Jesus stood before His disciples, before Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and He made this statement, He said, “No one has ASCENDED into heaven except He that descended” [John 3:13].  Now this is before His death, before His Resurrection; so He was describing here a lifestyle of intimacy with the Father where even though He was standing on earth He had ascended into heavenly realms in His relationship with God.  The point being, that is an invitation for every believer…[1:52] 

Did you catch that?  Johnson is claiming that John 3:13 means that Jesus “ascended” while He was yet still on earth during the Incarnation, before His literal, physical ascension (Acts 1:9-11) – this “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father” providing the means by which He “had ascended into heavenly realms with God”.  Moreover, this is also “an invitation for every believer” to do the same – that is, to attain the “ascended lifestyle”, or “Throne life” while yet here on earth.

While John 3:13 is a somewhat difficult Scripture to interpret, not one credible exegesis is such that Jesus had mystically “ascended” while still on the earth, before His literal Ascension.  But Johnson’s view is not inconsistent with Gnostic redeemer myths of the 2nd century (and perhaps late 1st century), in which Jesus ascends and descends as a pattern for others to follow towards self-salvation (sometimes with Christ distinct from Jesus as the means by which to “ascend”).2  However, as I’ve stated elsewhere, my opinion is that the Gospel of John was actually written in part as a polemic against this sort of proto-Gnosticism of the late 1st century (see introduction here), though some 2nd century Gnostics interpreted John’s Gospel as a Gnostic text.  Wayne Meeks interacts with the very liberal Rudolf Bultmann’s work in this regard [“Johannine” = writings attributed to the Apostle John]:

…To be sure, [Bultmann’s] observation that the closest extant analogies to the Johannine myth [ED: descending/ascending motif] are to be found in the literature of the gnostic movements stands firm and had been reinforced by more recent discoveries.  The problem comes in assessing the very important differences between the typical gnostic myths and that of John, and therefore the direction of the relationship between the two patterns.  Perhaps the most important difference, which Bultmann did not fail to notice, is the fact that in gnostic myths most comparable with the Johannine pattern the redeemer’s descent and ascent parallel the fate and hope of the human essence (soul, pneuma [ED: spirit], seed, or the like), while in the Fourth Gospel there is no such analogia entis [ED: analogy of being/imitation] between redeemer and redeemed3

In other words, in these Gnostic writings the Redeemer Himself first needed redeeming, and the pattern He set for self-redemption was a model for all (or a select few).  Is this what Bill Johnson means? 

As per Johnson, it seems that the ultimate goal of ‘experiencing God’s presence’, “intimacy with the Father”, “Biblical meditation”, or ‘soaking in His presence’ is to “ascend”, thereby having a fully “renewed mind”, as in the sense of attaining full manifest sons of God (MSoG) status.  MSoG doctrine is not inconsistent with the “Ascended Master” teaching in New Age / New Spirituality.

New Agers call this process leading up to ascension “expanding your (Christ) consciousness”, which is done by “experiencing God” through centering prayer, or contemplative prayer – the same term used by many within Christendom.  This is not incongruent with the 2nd century Gnostic idea of receiving ‘special knowledge’ (gnosis), or mystical insight as a means of self-salvation; in fact, this is an updating of this Gnostic doctrine.  Here’s one New Ager describing such an approach to this “higher consciousness”:

What would it feel like to be embraced by God? What would it feel like to become aware of how deeply you are loved by your Divine Source? It is possible to experience this! You can have a direct personal experience to feel the love your Creator has for you and to grow into the body experience of feeling the love you crave. 

Spirit has the capacity to relate to us in any way we need and want. Relating to God as an energy force or love is certainly one approach to higher consciousness. Love, however, is best experienced in personal relationships–for example you cannot get love from a thing, only another person. We can know God through our hearts simply by wanting a personal relationship. This opens the portal for Spirit to fill us with the love and acceptance we need that we did not get as children or in our adult relationships.4

Once one reaches the full manifestation of a son of God, aka Master, through “higher consciousness” (by a “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father”?), one can, like the title of this podcast, ‘think from the Throne of God’.  Or, as New Age / New Spirituality teacher Alice Bailey states, comparing the manifested son (Master) to the yet-to-ascend disciple, 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’….”5  Much like Johnson has stated on Facebook:

The most consistent way to display the kingdom of God is through the renewed mind [ascended lifestyle, aka resurrection life]. 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]

Or, as Bailey states elsewhere of the goal of the disciple: 

…We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at oncethe life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God6

Am I jumping to conclusions?  Please read on.

The Resurrected, Ascended, and Glorified Jesus as Model for Earthly ‘Believer’

Continuing where we left off above in the podcast:

[1:52]…The Apostle Paul coined a phrase, found language for this later, when he talked about every believer is seated in heavenly places, in Christ [ED: Ephesians 2:6].  So, picture this: Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit of Resurrection.  When He was Resurrected, He Ascended to heaven, and He was seated at the right hand of the Father, and then was glorified.  Alright?  So, we have resurrected, ascended, and glorified….[2:22]

Here Johnson elaborates on his point about the believer’s goal of appropriating the very thing he claims Jesus did in John 3:13 – by faith, “ascending” via a “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father”, with Johnson using Ephesians 2:6 as his proof-text (see previous article for a proper interpretation of this verse).  Does he mean that the ‘believer’ can be “resurrected, ascended, and glorified” and yet be here on the earth? 

In another audio from 2010, Johnson stated the following.   Note his claim of Jesus “re-inheriting everything” as a man, not God, yet Johnson also makes the usual “eternally God” assertion with it.  One must wonder what it is Jesus “forfeited” in order to “re-inherit” it, in the selection below.  But more important for now, notice the stammering in the middle, in which he makes the disclaimer that Jesus “is not an ascended being” as He “didn’t work His way up into divinity”:

The Father so honored Him for His perfect obedience that He now re-inherited everything; but, now not as GodDon’t misunderstand me, Jesus is not an ascended being; He’s not, uh, He didn’t work His way up into divinity.  He is eternally God, eternally God.  But, when He re-inherited everything, He inherited it as a man without sin.  Why?  Because He became our elder brother.  He became the one who inherited everything.  Why?  So, that you and I could be positioned to inherit everything with Him.  He forfeited all so that He could re-inherit in a way that would include us.7

Contrary to Johnson’s disclaimer (again, what was included in the “all” that was “forfeited” and subsequently “re-inherited”?),8 it appears he may be readapting Bailey’s Theosophic teaching that Jesus’ five major events – Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection / Ascension (the latter two grouped as one) – were both actually and symbolically achieved by Jesus in order to provide a symbolic pattern for others.  In other words, according to this esoteric doctrine, Jesus provided an actual concrete pattern, both literal and symbolic, for the ‘believer’ to symbolically do the same.  As further evidence to support that Johnson may be readapting Bailey’s model, he has elsewhere made the explicit claim that “[m]ost all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer”, with the context specifically referring to the Mount of Transfiguration as one example.9 

Bailey’s fivefold pattern is explained in her 1937 book From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, and it would be instructive to quote a somewhat lengthy section to illustrate (note that “myth” is defined earlier here as “a fact which can be proven”):

…Through self-initiated experiment we can prove their validity; through experience we can establish them as governing forces in our lives; and through their expression we can demonstrate their truth to others.  This is the theme of this book, dealing as it does with the facts of the Gospel story, that fivefold sequential myth which teaches us the revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ, and which remains eternally truth, in the cosmic sense, in the historical sense, and in its practical application to the individual.  This myth divides itself into five great episodes: 

  1.       The Birth at Bethlehem.
  2.       The Baptism in Jordan.
  3.       The Transfiguration on Mount Carmel.
  4.       The Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha.
  5.       The Resurrection and Ascension.

 Their significance for us and their reinterpretation in modern terms is our task.10

The “Gospel” here is reinterpreted as self-salvation through self-deification by following the five steps above symbolically rather than actually.  Understand that the “revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ” is referring to a gradual deification, not that the earthly Jesus was divine per se.  In occult teachings such as Theosophy, and some of the Gnostic teachings of the 2nd century (and today), the man Jesus of Nazareth had a divine spark/seed of ‘Christ’ within Him, like all of mankind (occultists pervert Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” to this end), which was awakened at “the Virgin Birth” and continued to grow until He fully ‘died to his lower, material self’ at the “Crucifixion”, ridding Himself of the outer material body, after which He ascended.  It took the “Christ spirit” – which was separate and distinct from the man Jesus – at Baptism for Jesus to actualize the 2nd through 5th initiations (sound familiar?).

So, is this what Johnson has in mind with his teachings?  Keep reading.

In a follow-up sermon to the June 9th podcast, titled “Waiting Patiently in Hope” (June 23, 2013),11 Bill Johnson expounds a bit on the basic themes in his “Thinking from the Throne”.  More importantly, he states the following which fits well into the Alice Bailey model above:

…The death of Christ is also the death of your old nature.  The resurrection of Christ is actually your resurrection.  His ascension is actually your legal access to heavenly realms.  And His glorification is the position of the New Testament believer coming into the glory of the Lord.  We LIVE in this atmosphere of presence…[3:15 – 3:39]

As we well know, the sin nature never leaves us in this life [Romans 7:14-25], but we must live by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature [Romans 8:4] by submitting to the Spirit instead of our sin nature [Galatians 5:16-26].   It is not until the resurrection of the saints that the sin nature leaves the saint – a yet future, one-time event for all Christians collectively, including those who’ve perished in centuries past, at the “last trumpet”, at which point we receive our non-flesh-and-blood bodies [1 Corinthians 15:50-54].

However, in the Alice Bailey Theosophic teachings, and other occult/esoteric doctrines, mankind has two natures – one human (lower self,  ego) and one inherent divine nature (divine spark/seed or “Christ within”, higher self).  According to Bailey’s five steps above, “the Crucifixion” (aka “The Great Renunciation”) is the point at which the “lower self” (“old nature” in Johnson’s quote above?) in the disciple has been completely overcome, overtaken by the now fully actualized divine nature, the culmination of the process of “dying to self”.  Following this death of the lower self (“old nature”?), which renders the disciple a spirit being, having shed the outer material body (known as the “not self”), is the resurrection/ascension.  This is the final stage, and the disciple is now a fully manifested son of God, usually known as “Ascended Master”. 

These steps do not have to be fulfilled in one lifetime, for at death the spirit re-ascends to the heavenlies to await reincarnation into another body, in order to continue the process.  The spirit continues reincarnating ad infinitum until completion of the five steps, i.e. the attainment of Ascended Master, or fully manifested son of God.   The individual is now on par with the occult/Theosophic “Master Jesus” who had provided the pattern for this “Age of Pisces”.

Those who know anything about the manifest sons of God (MSoG) teaching know that “coming into the glory of the Lord”, as Johnson uses it above, is overt MSoG language, referring to a fully glorified ‘believer’ on earth.  And MSoG is not incongruent with Bailey’s teaching on becoming a “Master”, as laid out in the five steps above.

So, in the immediately preceding quote is Johnson claiming that Jesus’ death was the death of His “old nature”, i.e., His lower, human nature?  Did Jesus (re)actualize His divinity at this point because He had previously “emptied Himself of divinity and became man”12 at the Incarnation – perhaps itself a  “reinterpretation in modern terms” of Alice Bailey’s five step process above?  Was Jesus’ divinity a part of, or the entirety of what was “forfeited” and subsequently “re-inherited” in the quote from 2010 above? Note also that Bill Johnson has claimed that Jesus was ‘born again’, specifying that this occurred at His Resurrection, which, again, is not inconsistent with the Theosophic model above.  This statement was made on Facebook in mid-February, 2011 in response to a question from Kevin Moore:

Jesus was sinless for sure. The spotless lamb. BUT He BECAME SIN. He needed to be raised from the dead. Acts 13 calls Him “the first born from the dead.” He did not raise Himself. The Father through the Spirit raised Him. He was born… of Mary. That’s one. He was raised from the dead. That’s two. “Again.” It’s not a statement creating a new doctrine. It’s to make people think, which gets scary for some. Primarily it’s to help us appreciate the fact that Jesus had become sin and was in need of the resurrection as much as we are in need of being born again.    

No credible Christian pastor would even joke about such a thing as Jesus being ‘born again’.  And Jesus did not literally ‘become sin’.  He was our sin-offering, providing Atonement as the Redeemer of mankind (only to those who accept His atoning sacrifice, of course).  However, I do agree on one thing: it’s “not…a new doctrine”, as the basic thrust of this teaching goes all the way back to 2nd century Gnostic redeemer myths, as noted earlier.  But, again, is this part of a reinterpretation of Bailey’s five step process?  (Note also that, contrary to Johnson, the entire Trinity raised Jesus from the dead: Jesus Himself – John 2:19-22/10:17-18; the Holy Spirit – Romans 1:4/8:11; the Father – Acts 5:29-31/Galatians 1:1/Ephesians 1:17-20; God – Acts 2:24/Romans 4:24.) 

Going back to Johnson’s “Thinking from the Throne”, we observe him continuing in his claim that ‘believers’ need to understand that they are now resurrected/ascended – at least potentially – as per his distortion of the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:6, thereby placing the not yet into already (see previous article for explanation of already but not yet).  ‘Believers’ just have to recognize this ‘fact’ and then apprehend it:

[2:23]…Jesus accomplished that on your behalf and mine, so much so that the Bible says WE were raised WITH Him.  So, His Resurrection is actually our resurrection.  To put it in a little more potential [sic] offensive way: WE – because of your faith in Christ – WE are as raised from the dead as is Jesus, because it is actually HIS resurrection.  It’s not like HE was raised and then He shared some of that with us – that’s not it.  The Bible says WE were raised together with Christ.  His Resurrection IS my resurrection. 

…[W]hat is possible is that through Biblical meditations, which is filling your mind with truth, through consideration of a truth that seems to be too big, too good to be true…The Lord actually invites us into encounter where we start thinking and seeing according to the Biblical reality.[3:51]

Note that “Biblical Meditations” refers to seeking “intimacy with the Father” and filling one’s mind with ‘new truths/revelations’, i.e., new ways of understanding Scripture (John 3:13; Eph 2:6) in this case.

Johnson proof-texts Colossians 3:1-3, using it in much the same manner as above, with the understanding that ‘believers’ are now resurrected/ascended (the 5th step?), because they have already died (the 4th step?):

[18:04]…If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; set your MIND on things above not on things on earth.  Why?  Because you died.  Your life is HIDDEN in Christ…Because you’re dead, set your mind on where your life is hidden, which is above, it’s in Christ.  Everything about your life is hidden in this realm…Everywhere else is a field trip…That’s where you live.  That’s where you dwell; that is home…[19:06]

Johnson reiterates his distorted interpretation of Colossians 3:1-3 later in the podcast:

[22:23]…It’s a lifestyle, it is a place from which to LIVE…FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ.  I’m not talking about the theology of the resurrected presence, I mean the encounter…with the almighty God – living from that place changes everything…The THRONE life, the ASCENDED life is the invitation for every believer…[22:58]

As Bill Fawcett, over on the Facebook page Bethel Church and Christianity (on June 21, 2013), so astutely observed of Johnson’s podcast, “the main doctrinal thrust of the message is that we live in a spiritual universe, and the present world is just an illusion.”  This particular theme is an important point made in a previous CrossWise article (see Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing section here).   According to some occult doctrine, the physical world in which we live is all illusory (a “field trip”, to use Johnson’s words), while the spiritual world is reality.

This idea comes originally from the Dualism of second century Gnosticism (derived in part from Platonism), though this is also prevalent in the Eastern religions – a false dichotomy in which all matter is evil, while all spirit is good.  New Age / New Spirituality doctrine is largely taken from Theosophy and other metaphysical cults (all of which adopt doctrines from Eastern religions). The following quotes are from Madame H. P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy (1875), in which she borrows the term maya from Buddhism, meaning “illusion”, in her description of this same teaching:

…The reader must bear in mind that, according to our teaching which regards this phenomenal Universe as a great Illusion, the nearer a body is to the UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE, the more it approaches reality, as being removed the farther from this world of Maya13 [All capitalization and italics in original; bold added for emphasis.]

…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.14 [All spelling, capitalization, and italics in original; bold added for emphasis.]

But if the goal for the “spiritual entity” is to rid itself of matter (as a means of self-salvation towards self-deification) and die no more, then how would this apply to what Johnson is teaching above?  Bailey provides the answer:

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.15 

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’.16

A Master, or manifest son of God, can choose to come back to earth, without or with an ‘earth body’, thereby living in “two realms at once”.17  This is not inconsistent with Johnson who claims that this “ascended lifestyle” provides the ability to live “at the right hand of the Father”, while simultaneously living on earth:

[32:48]…In the SAME measure that the Father put Jesus at His right hand, in the same measure He has put YOU at His right hand, because YOU are IN Christ…The renewed mind considers reality from what the Lamb has accomplished…This is the normal life for the believer. [33:59]

While we will one day be raised with Christ, it’s blasphemy to claim we’ll actually be on the Throne, thinking and living “FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ”, at the Father’s right hand, the place where Jesus Christ now sits.

In Johnson’s message here, and his other works, much is made of the “renewed mind”, but this is effected by “intimacy with the Father”, ‘soaking in God’s presence’, “Biblical meditation”, etc.  These ‘encounters with God’ allow the ‘believer’ to advance in his/her spiritual walk – just like the gnosis of the 2nd century:

[34:00]…And I feel like the Lord, even right now, is inviting us…is drawing us into encounters that adjust our perspective…the person who has encountered God sees from His perspective, sees through His eyes – the invitation every believer has to come up higher…[34:43]

Bill Johnson claims that each ‘believer’ can come up so high as to obtain the FULLNESS of God.  He does this by first quoting Colossians 2:9 noting that “In Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of God bodily” [07:28 – 09:13].  Then Johnson makes the illogical leap that in the ‘believer’, as part of the Church body, dwells the fullness of God (since Jesus is the “Head” and we are the “body”):

[09:15]…I want you to take note that it says that the FULLNESS dwells in Him BODILY – not just in His head…[09:32] 

[10:45]…the FULLNESS of God that dwelleth in JESUS in bodily form, now dwells in the CHURCH in bodily form…[10:55]

Johnson asserts that the Lord’s Prayer is an apostolic prayer in the sense that since the ‘believer’s’ home is in heaven, then earth is “another territory” as compared to heaven.  That is, heaven is “home base”.  This illustrates that the ‘believer’ needs to understand, if they don’t already, that s/he really IS living in heaven, with the goal to bring him/herself here to “‘reason’ from heaven to earth”, or to think “FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ” as a fully manifested son of God “at His right hand”, with the ability to function in both the heavenly (spiritual, eternal) realm and the earthly realm:

[23:16]…because the basic definition of the word “apostle” is to go to another territory and recreate the culture there that you lived in at your home base…so it’s a prayer to recreate on earth a culture that exists in heaven…[23:34]

Prior to this, Johnson was explaining how the ‘believer’ should work towards living in and from heaven, not being deterred by naysayers: 

[19:22]…This is another way of saying “seek first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added to you.”  It’s amazing – we celebrate the person who seeks first the Kingdom, but often criticize the one to whom all things have been added…it becomes offensive…“Submit yourself under the mighty hand of God that He might exalt you at the proper time.”  So we celebrate the person who humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, but criticize the one He exalts.  What it does is it hurts our own future promotion, because if I cannot celebrate the breakthrough of another, I cannot be trusted with my own…[20:31] 

The message here is that the ‘believer’ must not “criticize”, but instead recognize as special those who’ve already reached their “breakthrough” (a common occult term for spiritual advancement), their “ascension”, so that the ‘believer’ can be positioned to attain his/her own “ascension” (“the one He exalts”, “the one to whom all things have been added”).  The subtle implication is that Johnson himself is in this esteemed category as one so exalted, i.e. “ascended”, an “apostle” who is ‘bringing heaven to earth’.  This point is made clearer near the very end of this sermon, as he reiterates this point using Ephesians 4:11 about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers [35:27], until he gets to this climax, using false humility: 

[38:09]…I’ll not do this one for me, I will do this to protect others and to empower so that a CLEAR manifestation of this resurrected Christ is seen worldwide…[38:19]

Obviously, this means that there will be individuals who are exhibiting all the traits of the glorified Christ on a worldwide scale (such as Bill Johnson currently?).  In fact, in his popular book When Heaven Invades Earth Johnson makes the explicit claim that the glorified Jesus Christ of Revelation 1:14-15 IS the model for the earthly ‘believer’!18  In addition, as Alice Bailey has done (and other occultists), Johnson proof-texts “As He is, so are we in the world” from 1 John 4:17 to back up his assertion.19

[28:16]…The Lord is longing to live on earth again THROUGH yielded people…[28:29]              

[13:49]… So what is He looking for?  He is looking for a people that will cooperate with the FULLNESS of God’s presence, operating and manifesting THROUGH them so that this world actually gets a FULL and ACCURATE taste of who Jesus is.  It’s not us; it’s Him.  But He dwells IN us in FULLNESS in bodily form…[14:12]

Let’s be clear, Jesus Christ is not coming to “live on earth again THROUGH yielded people”.  Jesus will be returning bodily in the same manner in which He left (Acts 1:9-11).  But Johnson goes even further than this, expounding on the above.  In typical Latter Rain fashion, he is looking for full unity, by proof-texting Ephesians 4:13:

[36:30]…until we all come to unity of faith and the KNOWLEDGE of the SON of God.  Too many people think they know that don’t know.  So the knowledge of the Son of God, to A perfect man.  Look at the description.  Millions and millions of body members come to A – singular – perfect mana full-on revelation of the Person of Jesus, what He is like, how He is.  To A perfect man, to the measure and stature – equal measure to the fullness of Christ…[37:34]

Equivalent to Christ Himself, these fully manifested sons of God, as collectively ONE perfect man, in which Christ is “on earth again THROUGH [these] yielded people”.  This sounds eerily close to the New Age / New Spirituality doctrine that “the Christ” – in actuality the antichrist (or antichrist spirit) – will manifest himself through many different people at one time:

Eventually, 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: Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished.20 

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.21

Hyper-charismatic Bob Jones was recently at a conference hosted by Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, CA, and stated something not unlike the above: “Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m coming IN my people. Christ in you, the hope of glory. I’m comin’ IN my people.’”22  As already noted earlier, occultists pervert the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” of Colossians 1:27, and MSoG adherents pervert it in a very similar manner.

Conclusion

Bill Johnson is clearly teaching the manifest sons of God doctrine (MSoG).  Individuals attain this MSoG status of “ascended lifestyle” (aka “Throne life”) through “intimacy with the Father”, using methods akin to the centering prayer and contemplative prayer of Eastern religions and the New Age / New Spirituality (as well as 2nd century Gnosticism).  This will ultimately result in the ability to both live and think from the Throne of God, while yet remaining on earth (with a “renewed mind”).  Such a ‘believer’ can ‘think from the Throne’ as they are literally – in a statement of utmost blasphemy – at the right hand of God, as per Johnson.  This version of MSoG has a parallel with occult doctrine, with the fully manifested son / Ascended Master possessing the ability to live in both the heavenly and earthly realms simultaneously.

It seems quite possible that the Neo-Gnosticism of Bill Johnson (and others of his ilk) is a slight variation of the five-fold Bailey model illustrated above.  In this revised model Jesus is portrayed as God pre-incarnate (instead of a reincarnated man), yet “He emptied Himself of divinity and became man” so that He could gradually re-actualize His divinity and thus become the pattern for others towards their own self-deification – similar to the Gnostic redeemer myths of the 2nd century.

 
   1 Bill Johnson “Thinking from the Throne” podcast, June 9, 2013. <http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/thinking-from-the-throne>
   2 See Kurt Rudolph, trans. R McLachlan Wilson Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism, © 1977 Koehler & Amelang; translation (from German) of second, revised and expanded version © 1984 T&T Clark Ltd, Edinburgh; 1987 (1st paperback), HarperCollins, New York, NY, pp 121-134, 338-340.  Also “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: The chrism [anointing] is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from the baptism.  Christ also was (so) called because of the anointing… [p 200].  Cf. G. L. Borchert “Gnosticism” in Walter A. Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984 (10th pr. 1994), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, p 446.
   3 Wayne A. Meeks “The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Mar, 1972), p 44.  Italics in original; emphasis added.
   4 Donna D’Ingillo, “Experiencing God” Center for Christ Consciousness: Open your Heart, Expand your Mind, Unite with God website, par 1, 2 <http://www.ctrforchristcon.org/experiencinggod.asp>, as accessed 07/08/13
   5 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.
   6 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 51.  Emphasis added.
   7 Bill Johnson. Audio clip taken from 2010 Australian “When Heaven Invades Earth” Tour as accessed from Plantagenet Family Church, Mount Barker, Western Australia, 03/21/11 from the following url: <http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>, which now is redirected to a different page altogether.  Link recovered on Internet Archive / The Wayback Machine; however, audio clip is unavailable: <http://web.archive.org/web/20101106155256/http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>.  Originally transcribed by CrossWise on 3/21/11 or shortly thereafter; last access date to original web link unknown but likely Fall, 2011.  All emphasis added.
   A similar quote is available on YouTube by “whizzpopping” Bill Johnson – Bringing Heaven to Earth (Part 2 of 2). Aug 20, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxVdxzJ0vN4> 3:10 – 4:30: “He forfeited everything because He owned everything; literally all that exists was His. And, He gave it all up to become a man; and, then He re-inherited everything as a man so that you and I would have an inheritance – the absolute mercy of God.  So, now He stands after His triumphant Resurrection. The defeat of the power of death, hell and the grave – all that stuff was defeated, the power of sin. And, He stands before humanity and He says, ‘I got the keys back.  That which was lost in the Garden, I’ve got it back. Now, let’s get back to plan A.’  And, he makes this profound statement; he says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  Jesus did not make that declaration as God.  Now, na – He’s eternally God; he’s not a created being, He didn’t ascend, ya know, to some position. He’s eternally God; but, He did not make that statement as God.  How do we know? Because He said, ‘All authority’s been GIVEN to me.’  There’s no one higher than God to give God authority.    When Jesus made that statement, He made the statement as OUR elder brother.”  CAPS from emphasis in original; bold added.  As accessed 07/12/13.  Once again, note the stammering in his disclaimer.
   8 In his book A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement [1988 (4th pr. 1991), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA] D.R. McConnell notes how E.W. Kenyon, the ‘grandfather’ of the Word of Faith movement, of which Johnson is a part, had made specific disclaimers yet proceeded to teach the very doctrine disclaimed!  McConnell 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 [p 45].  It appears Bill Johnson may be doing something similar.
   9 Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL, p 200.  Emphasis added.  Here’s a bit more of the context: 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. While Johnson is not clear on just what constitutes the “new birth”, he does have a teaching which appears to promote the divine spark/seed concept, which is subsequently enlivened and grows by an external ‘word’.  This is detailed in the following CrossWise post: http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/open-challenge-to-fans-and-critics-of-bill-johnsonbethel-church/.  In addition, his teaching on “the anointing”, aka the “Christ anointing” (see previous article) matches quite closely Bailey’s “Baptism in Jordan”.  Taken together, this accounts for steps 1 through 5 of the Bailey model, when we consider the totality of Johnson’s words in “Thinking from the Throne” and the remaining material referenced in this article, which include the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and even glorification.
   10 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 9.   Emphasis added
   11 Bill Johnson “Waiting Patiently in Hope” podcast, June 23, 2013 <http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/waiting-patiently-in-hope>
   12 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.
   13 Helena P. Blavatsky The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol. 1 – Cosmogenesis, 1999 (facsimile edition of 1888 original), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA, pp 145-146
   14 Helena P. Blavatsky 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.  Noteworthy is the fact that Reality was the name of a newsletter written by E.W. Kenyon, and a term used in a similar manner as compared to Blavatsky above.  From a footnote in D.R. McConnell’s A Different Gospel is the following (although the author did not trace the doctrine to Theosophy, he does compare to both New Thought and Christian Science, which were contemporaneous with the roots of Theosophy): …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.  Reality was also the name of Kenyon’s first newsletter [p 55, n 53].  As noted above, Bill Johnson is considered a Word of Faith teacher, having inherited some doctrine from Kenyon.  Johnson uses reality in a similar way, as indicated in this very article and in the Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing section here: < http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/learning-etymology-with-bill-johnson-a-new-age-repentance/ >.
   15 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 187.  Emphasis added.
   16 Bailey, Rays and Initiations, p 699.  Emphasis added.
   17 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 51.   Emphasis added.
   18 Bill Johnson When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, p 145
   19 Bill Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145; 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.
   20 Alice Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 510.  Emphasis added.
   21 World Service Intergroup website. J.D. Dubois “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/?#/christ-reappearance/4543145171>  World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 07/12/13
   22 Bob Jones “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm, 38:53 – 39:05. Emphasis in original. Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website:  <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus>; as accessed 07/12/13.

Biblical Literalism

Are we to read the Bible literally?  That is, are we to literally read all of Scripture literally?

Taking a strictly literal approach to Scripture reading is problematic. Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7, 9); so, does this mean Jesus was the unique Word made flesh, while simultaneously a flat wooden object with hinges in order to allow woolly, bleating animals to enter? Even more troubling are the Apostle Paul’s words to the Galatians: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” (Gal 4:19, NIV). So, not only was Paul in labor to birth the Galatians, he had already birthed them previously! Talk about a miraculous conception!! Today’s varied and many successful attempts at conception have nothing on Paul, a man who self-conceived his many Galatian offspring – simultaneously. 

Obviously, Jesus as a gate is a metaphor, just as “sheep” represents true followers of Jesus Christ.  And Paul was only metaphorically ‘birthing’ the Galatians. The meaning of the verses in John can be easily gleaned by the context.  The Galatians passage is based on a Jewish idiom: “If one teaches the son of his neighbor the law, the Scripture reckons this the same as though he had begotten him”1 (cf. 1 Cor 4:15; Philemon 10).  Therefore, Paul was making the point that he had previously taught the Galatians the Gospel, yet, as they were being influenced by Judaizers, he had to steer them back to the purity of the Gospel message, away from the Law (Gal 5:1-6).  Paul used an apparently well-known metaphorical expression, while adding some hyperbole (“again in the pains of childbirth”) to drive the point home.

Another good example of hyperbole is in the Sermon on the Mount: …If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away (Matthew 5:29, 30; NIV 1984).  Certainly, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation!  He’s illustrating the seriousness of the sin of lust.

There’s also a metaphorical component to these verses: the “right eye” and “right hand”.  Craig Blomberg notes, “[A]s is characteristic of Jesus’ figurative and hyperbolic style, he commands us to take drastic measures to avoid temptations to sexual sin – to remove from ourselves anyone or anything that could lead us into scandal (‘causes you to sin’).”2  The right eye and right hand were viewed as more valuable3 and the right side more powerful than the left.4  Charles H. Talbert adds a bit more:

These two illustrations are hyperbole; they are not to be taken literally.  Together they call for a radical integration of the self.  Whatever does not fit into the self’s integration around God’s will is to be jettisoned, whether it be eye (intent) or hand (action).  The sentiment is reflected in Philo, Planting 36-38, where he says the soul needs to be cultivated, protected, pruned, and even have parts cut off if necessary in pursuit of moral development.  “The maiming that moral life requires will be a thousandfold repaid with the wholeness of selfhood and the life of God that comes with amputation.”5

The “maiming” and “amputation” are, once again, metaphorical, not literal.  This “pruning” is done with God’s help, as illustrated in the Gospel of John (15:2).

As evidenced by the three examples above, Christians cannot interpret all of Scripture literally.  Yet, this is a charge that comes from some liberals who try to demean “Christian Fundamentalism” – a term used pejoratively – by portraying all (or most all) orthodox Christians as foolishly reading and interpreting Scripture in an unsophisticated and anti-scholarly manner, thereby distorting the ‘real’ meaning.6  Of course, it’s these same liberals who distort Scripture by literalizing metaphors and interpreting texts meant to be taken literally as metaphorical instead.

True Biblical Literalism

On the other hand, conservative, orthodox Christianity adheres to a doctrine known as Biblical Literalism for Scripture reading.  So, what is Biblical Literalism if not reading the Bible literally? 

In the best application of the term, Biblical Literalism “Generally…seeks to discover the author’s intent by focusing upon his words in their plain, most obvious sense.”7  This means, among other things, that literal passages are taken literally, metaphors are interpreted as metaphors, and hyperbole is understood as exaggeration for rhetorical effect.

The following excerpt is from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition:

 Article XVIII.

WE AFFIRM that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

WE DENY the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.8

The grammatico-historical method seeks to uncover the author’s intent by studying the grammar, syntax (sentence structure), literary type (narrative, poetry, etc.), literary devices (metaphor, hyperbole, etc.) and historical context.  Here’s more from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition, this time from the Exposition section:

…[H]istory must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g., the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called “phenomena” of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.9

How Many Meanings?

An important aspect of the grammatico-historical method is that there is only one correct reading of any passage of Scripture.  This does not preclude a passage, or even a whole book, from being literal yet also encompassing an allegorical understanding when the context makes this clear, such as the book of Hosea in which the relationship of Hosea to his wayward wife Gomer is analogous to God’s relationship with Israel.10  There are also NT fulfillments of OT types such as Jesus as the manna from Heaven (John 6 / Exodus 16).  Moreover, this does not preclude the Biblical author from using double entendre (double meaning) as in Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, in which John records Jesus using γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, which means is born from above/again (John 3:3).11

Yet, historically, there have been those who have claimed there are multiple meanings, or levels, of Scripture.  Origen (ca. 185-ca. 254) was one such individual. 

It’s important to understand that Origen was influenced by Middle Platonism,12 teaching on the preexistence of souls (and some, as I, construe transmigration of souls / reincarnation as well).  Attendant with this belief was his doctrine of universal reconciliation (all will be saved – including the devil!)13.  Some of Origen’s works were later burned, and he may have been posthumously branded a heretic at the Second Council of Constantinople (553AD) for these beliefs, though scholars are divided on this issue.14

With Origen’s penchant for mysticism, resulting from his affinity for the philosophy of Plato, came his threefold interpretation of Scripture, with a preference for the allegorical, though he sometimes departed from his own triadic formula:

…According to Origen, the biblical texts have a literal meaning, another which is moral, and another which is intellectual.  This is parallel to the presence in humans of body, soul, and spirit, based on what Philo had previously said and done.  But Origen did not always follow this triple scheme; instead he frequently included only the allegorical sense, and at times found a multitude of different senses in the same text….15

In effect, Origen’s belief system created a two-tiered structure of Christians – the unenlightened and the enlightened: “For Origen, those who stayed only with the literal meaning of the text were unenlightened souls who had not realized that Jesus gave some of his teaching in the valleys and some on mountaintops.  Only to the latter disciples, those who could ascend the mountains, did Jesus reveal himself transfigured.”16

Origen was quite influential, even into Medieval times, as his method of extracting meaning from the texts (or variations thereof) continued, expanding to a fourfold (quadriga) sense: literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical (personal foreshadowings, prophetic).17  However, some sought ‘only’ two meanings, while still others reached for seven.  The literal sense was typically viewed as the least important, while the allegorical retained its preeminence,18 a la Origen.

While most rejected or downplayed the literal sense, there were a limited few who gave priority to the literal:

…[Thomas] Aquinas made the other meanings of Scripture dependent upon the literal meaning and thus elevated it above them.  He said, “…all the senses [of Scripture] are found on one – the literal – from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory…” (Summa Theologiae, i.1.10)19

However, it wasn’t until the Reformation that Scripture was afforded the opportunity to speak for itself.  Quoting Martin Luther, “When I was a monk, I was an expert at allegorizing Scripture, but now my best skill is only to give the literal, simple sense of Scripture, from which comes power, life, comfort, and instruction.”20

Protestantism continued with this “literal, simple sense” of the Biblical text amidst a myriad of challenges in the ensuing centuries from Pietism, Hegelian historicism, Liberalism, the “Historical Jesus” movement, Form Criticism, Bultmann’s demythologizing the Bible, Structuralism (Biblical books as literature only), etc.21

Current Trends in Christendom

It seems that in the past 100 or so years, there’s been a shift in some of Protestantism (loosely defined) away from the literal, plain meaning of Scripture back to the allegorical.  Postmodern (or is it now post-postmodern?) thinking has provided an ‘anything goes’ method of understanding Scripture, with one’s own intuition or experience dictating meaning.  In some quarters, there’s a dichotomy between those who dismiss orthodoxy and scholasticism over against those who adhere to the more traditional form of Christianity, such that some in the hyper-charismatic and Emergent wings of Christendom (again, loosely defined) seem to be of the opinion that “my feelings and/or experiences trump your dogma”.  Mystical experiences and/or one’s own thoughts are shoe-horned into Scripture – a practice known as eisegesis (reading meaning into the text).

Sadly, those better equipped to deal with these problems – those who teach at seminaries or Bible Colleges – are mostly deaf to the issues, either by ignorance of these problems, or seeming apathy.  Of those at least somewhat aware of the issues, their silence may render them complicit.  This leaves the task of correction to informed laypersons, many of whom have been and are frantically trying to learn orthodoxy and proper methods themselves, most not having the financial wherewithal, or time, to attend Bible College or seminary, in order to instruct others.  As I see it, properly instructing new converts is the second part of Jesus’ command to make disciples:

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20, NASB]

Just getting them in the door (like the so-called “seeker friendly” churches) is not enough; we must teach them to observe all that Christ commanded.  How can the average church-goer know what Christ commanded if they’ve not been given the teachings?  How can the hyper-charismatic or Emergent church attendee know what Christ commanded if they’re merely reading their own intuitions and experiences into the Bible?

The Way Ahead

What can we do now that instead of one wayward sheep out of a flock of 100 (Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:4-7), there seem to be 99?  (Assuming these are really sheep to begin with.)  Desperately needed is leadership that can properly instruct in order to correct these negative trends.  Basic interpretive principles must be taught, so that the average church goer can be truly made into a disciple of Christ, thereby becoming less likely to stray as a wayward sheep.

Before going further it needs to be mentioned that the true Holy Spirit indwelt Christian can read Scripture on his/her own, without external aids, by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Nevertheless, proper instruction can help to enhance one’s reading and promote good reading habits.

It needs to be stressed that the initial step in understanding any Scripture (or any literary work) is to begin by extracting meaning from the text (exegesis).  Proper exegesis comes from reading a given passage in its larger context (rather than simply ‘proof-texting’ one verse or clause), taking note of metaphors and hyperbole, to include reading the entire book. 

For example, if one wishes to understand what Paul means by some preaching a “different gospel” in Galatians 1:6-7, one needs to read the rest of the epistle to see what Paul is referring to.  To make his case, Paul goes on to explain his position as an authority called by God (1:11-24), that he was accepted as an Apostle (2:1-10), and that he scolded Peter for preferring Jews over Gentiles out of fear, attempting to impose Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles (2:11-21).  The meat of this epistle then is an admonition to continue in the faith and not become slaves again to the Law.  This reverting back to the Law of Moses is the “different gospel” of which Paul speaks in the beginning of this letter.

Once the reader understands the point of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the reader is less apt to proof-text individual verses into meaning something entirely contrary to that which the writer had intended.  One who listens to Bill Johnson, for example, would dismiss Johnson’s teaching that Paul’s “another gospel” was one that would negate an ‘all must be healed’ gospel, for Paul’s message instead is clearly about the Judaizers who were trying to bring back the Law.  In fact, Paul himself speaks of an illness he endured in 4:13-14:

13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. [NIV]

This obviously shows that Paul was not preaching an ‘all will be healed’ gospel, as Paul’s illness brought a trial to the Galatians of whom Paul states “you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (v 15).  Surely, this would have provided a very bad example for the kind of “gospel” Bill Johnson is claiming.  That is, unless Bill Johnson wishes to claim that the Apostle Paul himself was preaching “another gospel” – a quite absurd notion.

Knowing a bit about the societal and cultural background in NT times is also quite helpful towards good exegesis.  Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and even some study Bibles, can provide this information.  For more on getting the most from your Bible reading, I recommend the Gordon Fee/Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.22 

It’s time the Church, most especially the Emergent and hyper-charismatic wings, came back to true Biblical Literalism  –  instead of engaging in eisegesis, thereby taking Scripture out of proper context in order to fit one’s own interpretation.  Teaching congregants how to apply proper exegetical principles will alleviate this sort of thing and bring forth Biblical literacy.  Any subjective experience or thought must be measured against the literal, plain sense of the Bible, and, if not found to be congruent with Scripture, it must be rejected as not of God.

     [1] Marvin R. Vincent Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume IV, 2009 (5th Ed, August 2009), Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, USA, p 147.  This is taken from the Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin, folia 19b as found here: <http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_19.html>, Rabbi, Dr. I. Epstein (Gen. Ed.), n d, Soncino Press, London, as accessed 05/01/13.  While the Babylonian Talmud was not written until well after the Apostle Paul penned the Epistle to the Galatians, it seems very possible that this idiom was in the oral Tradition of the Jews at the time of Paul’s writing of the letter.  Cf. F. F. Bruce New International Greek New Testament Commentary: Commentary on Galatians, 1982, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 212-213, though Bruce does not mention the Jewish idiom. 
     [2] Craig L. Blomberg The New American Commentary: Vol. 22; Matthew, 1992, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, p 109. Emphasis in original.  The Greek word rendered ‘cause to sin’ is (transliterated) skandalov, from which we obviously get the word “scandal”.  Donald Hagner renders this “cause to stumble” [Word Biblical Commentary, 33A: Matthew 1-13, 1993, Word, Dallas, TX, p 119].
     [3] Blomberg Matthew, p 109
     [4] Grant R. Osborne, (Clinton E. Arnold, Gen. Ed.) Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Volume 1: Matthew, 2010, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p 196
     [5] Charles H. Talbert Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7, 2004 (2nd pr. 2007) Baker, Grand Rapids, MI, p 76.  The portion in quotes at the end of the selected text is from Frederick Dale Bruner [The Christbook, A Historical/Theological Commentary: Matthew 1-12, 1987, Word, Dallas, TX, p 186] as cited in Talbert.  While this may seem like Talbert is stating that we do this through self-effort, the point is to submit to the indwelt Holy Spirit.
     [6] See G. K. Beale The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority, 2008, Crossway, Wheaton, IL, p 21, for a brief mention of fundamentalism.  Cf. C. T. McIntire “Fundamentalism” in Walter A. Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984 (10th pr. 1994), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 433-435.
     [7] J. J. Scott “Literalism” in Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary, p 643
     [8] Currently available online at <http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html>, © 2001-2012 Michael D. Marlowe, as accessed 04/28/13.  Also available as Appendix 2 in Beale Erosion of Inerrancy [pp 267-279].  Article XVIII is on p 273.
     [9] Beale Erosion of Inerrancy, p 277.  While Beale generally agrees with the Chicago Statement [p 24], he states in a footnote that he takes minor issue with some of the wording.  In the section as quoted above beginning with “Differences between literary conventions in Bible times…” and ending with “…that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed” he explains: This statement does not take into consideration that even some modern literary genres use non-chronological narration or nonprecise [sic] time or geographical measurements or approximations as an acceptable style.  Also, I would prefer not to speak of “apparent inconsistencies” in Scripture as “illusions” [ED: see last sentence in above quote]…but rather as phenomena that will one day be understood at the end of history, when we shall ‘know fully’ (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12).  This underscores the partial knowledge that we have in the inaugurated eschatological era in contrast to the ‘full knowledge’ that we will have in the consummated eschatological period (see 1 Cor. 14:9-12) [from footnote on p 267].  I would have to agree with Beale.
     [10] Leon J. Wood “Hosea” in Frank E. Gaebelein (Gen. Ed.) The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, 1985, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 164-167.  Cf. Donald E. Gowan Theology of the Prophetic Books: The Death and Resurrection of Israel, 1998, Westminster John Knox, Louisville/London, pp 47, 37-47, in which the moderately liberal Gowan seems unwilling to recognize that it’s Gomer referenced in both chapter 3 and chapter 1 of Hosea, though he sees chapter 3 as allegory: That it was intended to be symbolic, that is, representing in the prophet’s life what was happening in the relationship between God and Israel, is made evident by the comparison: “Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” (3:1).  Israel has been promiscuous, so the prophet must deal with some promiscuous woman the same way God deals with Israel…[p 47].
     [11] BDAG [Walter Bauer, F. W. Danker, et. al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2000 (3rd ed.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL] defines the term as “at a subsequent point of time involving repetition, again, anew”, also noting that in the context of John 3:13 ανωθεν “is designedly ambiguous and suggests also a transcendent experience born from above” [p 92].
     [12] Andrew Louth The Origins of Christian Mysticism: From Plato to Denys, 1981 (1983, 1st pprbk), Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York/Toronto, pp 52-53
     [13] Justo L. Gonzalez “Origen” in Justo L. Gonzalez, Gen. Ed. (transl. Suzanne E. Hoeferkamp Segovia) The Westminster Dictionary of Theologians, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY, p 267; Chas S. Clifton “Origen” Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics, 1992, Barnes & Nobles, New York, 105.
     [14] Clifton, Encyclopedia, a rather abbreviated source, states so definitively [p 105]; Gonzalez [Westminster Dictionary] is less straight-forward, though leaning in the same direction: Such theories were never accepted by Christians in general, and they were soon officially rejected by the church [p 267].  Contra John A. McGuckin “The Council of Constantinople II” in The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology, 2005 (2nd ed.), SCM Press, London: In Anathema 11 the name of Origen himself appears as a heretic.  Modern scholarship has since argued that the name was inserted as a later interpolation into the conciliar acts to justify the burning of his books (though many propositions from Evagrius and the Origenist monks of the desert were certainly condemned here) [p 84; bold in original].  Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok “Origen” in Who’s Who in Christianity, 1998, Routledge, London/New York, is confusing in that the phraseology could be construed as though Origen is branded a heretic at Constantinople II for his teachings on the Trinity; nothing at all is mentioned about his views on the preexistence of souls [p 227].
     [15] Gonzalez Westminster Dictionary, p 266
     [16] McGuckin “Origen” A-Z of Patristic Theology, p 244
     [17] J. J. Scott “Literalism” in Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary, p 643; D. P. Fuller “History of Interpretation” in G. W. Bromiley, Gen. Ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Fully Revised), 1982 (July ’88 reprint), William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, p ii.865.  Hereafter ISBE.
     [18] D. P. Fuller “History of Interpretation” in ISBE, p ii.865;  J. J. Scott “Literalism” in Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary, p 643
     [19] D. P. Fuller “History of Interpretation” in ISBE, p ii.865
     [20] D. P. Fuller “History of Interpretation” in ISBE, p ii.865; from Tischreden, 5285, Oct. 1540.  Cf. J. J. Scott “Literalism” in Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary, p 643
     [21] D. P. Fuller “History of Interpretation” in ISBE, p ii.865-874
     [22] Gordon Fee, Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI

The Sandy Foundation of the International House of Prayer (IHOP)

[The following, except for the opening 6 paragraphs, was initially the final section (excepting the brief conclusion) of a very lengthy two-part article.  I deem it important enough to be its own stand-alone piece.  It was necessary to make some very minor alterations.]

To this day, the Mike Bickle led International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri proudly claims as part of its heritage Kansas City Fellowship (KCF) aka Grace Ministries.1  Bob Jones, along with Paul Cain – who were both important “prophets” associated with KCF – continue to be lauded as Bickle’s “spiritual fathers”2.  It was Bob Jones’ purported “drought prophecy” which was said to have legitimized the Kansas City Fellowship – and now International House of Prayer (IHOP) – “movement”.

Back in late 19823 a young pastor named Mike Bickle moved to Kansas City, MO to found Kansas City Fellowship.  On May 7 of ‘83, Bickle and his growing congregation began a 21-day fast which he claims was brought about by prophetic revelation.4  On the eve of May 28 “prophet” Bob Jones gave a “word from the Lord”5 which, if it were to come to pass, would 1) be a further sign that Bob Jones was a true prophet of God; and, 2) serve as confirmation that God was beginning a new movement in Christianity6 which would “change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation”.7  This new ‘expression’ would be a “great outpouring of the Spirit that will cross all kinds of national, social, ethnic and cultural barriers”.8  This “change” in “the understanding and expression of Christianity” Bickle believes to be referring to our current generation.9

Bob Jones’ “word from the Lord” concerned a forthcoming three month drought.10  What were the circumstances surrounding this “drought”?  A bit, uh, cloudy, it seems.

A number of tapes offered for sale by KCF/Grace Ministries in the mid to late ‘80s until 1990 included talks by Mike Bickle detailing his church’s “prophetic history” including, of course, the Bob Jones ‘drought prophecy’.  Interestingly, the account changed with the passage of time.  Initially, it was recorded that the drought was one of no rain beginning in June of ’83.  Subsequently, it was changed to one allowing for ‘sprinkles’ of rain.  Subsequent to this, it was further altered to include a shifting in the actual start of this “drought”.

These changes were precipitated in large part by a report authored by Ernie Gruen (and some of his staff and elders), the pastor of another church in the same locale as KCF.  In response to Gruen’s May 1990 Documentation of Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries), in which it was shown that Kansas City actually had higher than normal rainfall in June of ‘83, John Wimber/Vineyard (KCF came under the Vineyard umbrella in May of that year in apparent response to the controversy) shifted the timing of the ‘drought prophecy’ from a start date of June 1 to July 1.11 The KCF/Grace Ministries tape titled The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries, listed as “by far our best seller” in a then-current catalog, was among a number of tapes deleted in June of that year at the height of the controversy surrounding the Gruen Document and KCF.12

Various attempts have been made to discredit the Gruen document and some have tried to use Gruen’s reporting of the Jones/Bickle ‘drought prophecy’ toward that end.  Let’s look at the particulars.

A Drought Evolves

From the opening in the Gruen Document:

For example, Mike regularly retells the story of how the so-called “prophet” Bob Jones predicted [on May 28, 1983] a 3-month drought which would finally end with a “drought-breaker” on August 23.

In telling this tale, Mike makes such statements as, “We watched it day by day…June, no rain…then on August 23, three to four inches of rain!” This is portrayed as God’s confirmation of their “Movement.” It sounded like a pretty impressive miracle until we checked with the National Weather Bureau and the daily newspaper accounts for that timeframe. We found the following:

a. Actual readings from the former Richards Gebaur Air Force base, which is only a few minutes from Kansas City Fellowship, show over seven inches of rain in June, which is well above normal!

b. The “drought-breaker” on August 23 actually produced less than one-third of an inch.

c. Of the 12 days it rained in June, [six] of them produced records of rains heavier than the “drought-breaker.” One day alone had over seven times the rainfall on August 23 – 2.35 inches. (See Section I)

From the beginning this could have never been considered a true prophecy.13

Gruen lays out the specific parameters as set forth in the Bob Jones “prophecy” as gleaned from the earliest recording of this event [1986]. This ‘drought’ was to be one of no rain from the time of Jones’ purported proclamation at the end of May until August 23rd, at which point there was to be a drought-breaking rain. This is both very well defined and very straightforward.

Even though there was in fact a drought defined as ‘a prolonged period of less than normal rainfall’ in the late summer of 1983 beginning in July, Gruen’s point was to merely disprove the specific parameters of Jones’ “prophecy” which proclaimed a ‘no rain whatsoever’ drought to encompass all of June, July and August up through to the August 23rd ‘drought-breaker.’ To do so, all he had to show was that there was rainfall in June thereby negating the drought’s beginning and then show that even though there was rain on August 23rd, the amount was very small, much less than the reported 3 to 4 inches of ‘drought-breaking’ rain as reported by Bickle.

The Gruen Document transcribed two different tapes of this “drought prophecy.” The earliest, from Spring 1986 titled The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries, Volume 2, follows. This starts out with Bickle quoting Bob Jones:

‘This is the sign in the heavens, again…For three months there will be a drought in this city.’…The sign is (that) there will be a pattern in the heavens – a weather pattern, and you can’t manipulate weather patterns, so we said, ‘Okay, if it comes to pass, we know the word is true.’…But he says, ‘On August 23, God will send a sign from heaven…’ I said, ‘Bob, I hope this is right.’ Cause it was terrible. June – no rain…August 23, 6:00 at night, it rains, what, 3 to 4 inches of rain…It was a sign in the heavens that no man could have manipulated; it was spoken publicly for all to hear.14

Gruen left out a bit from the audio here (illustrated by the ellipses […]) as, again, his point was to show that the Bickle claim of no rain for the month of June and a pouring rain of 3 to 4 inches on August 23rd were both untrue. Thankfully, we also have David Pytches’ Some Said it Thundered (original, unrevised first edition)15 rendition of this “drought prophecy” which corresponds to the Gruen account above while filling in some of the information missing in the ellipses.

Pytches transcribed KCF tapes as he states this in the “Acknowledgements”: “I want to express my appreciation to Kansas City Fellowship for their ready permission for me to quote from their unedited tapes…”16 Unfortunately, Pytches’ work does not provide footnotes and does not include any tape titles or numbers in the list of references in the back of his book. However, it appears as though he paraphrases a bit rather than quoting directly since some of the words don’t exactly match up to Gruen’s even though the basic details do:

“…[T]here will be the total withholding of everything for three months, although God will allow a little bit of liberty.

In this city everything will be withheld. For three months there will be a drought. That’s the sign! God has spoken!…for three months there will be no rain – not until 23 August.”17

Once again, to restate, according to this “prophecy” there was to be no rain at all, not a sprinkle, until August 23. Picking up where we left off:

Bob had given a specific date for the end of a drought which he predicted was about to begin.

This level of prophecy could certainly be nervy! Mike found himself becoming an expert weather watcher…To quote Mike:

“…For the whole month of June there was no rain! It was terrible! For the whole month of July there was no rain! It was terrible!

No rain still during the first week of August or the second or the third. It was terrible! Bob Jones said the Lord had told him it would come on 23 August. We had all been poised since early dawn that day but by 1 p.m. there was still no rain. By six o’clock we were just resigned to wait for another day when suddenly it began. And did it rain? It poured! No man could have manipulated that. It just had to be God!”18

As Pytches’ clearly describes, the claim is that as “an expert weather watcher” Bickle saw not a drop of rain for the entire period of June, July and August until August 23rd at which time “It poured!” Yet when this is compared to actual rainfall as the Gruen Document states, June had above average rainfall for the area with six of those days well exceeding the .32” of rainfall on August 23rd.19 Furthermore, July and August, while having much less than normal rainfall, did indeed have some rain.20 According to National Weather Service archives, actual monthly rainfall in Kansas City in 1983 for the summer and early fall was as follows: June: 6.46”; July: 1.17”; August: 0.97”; September: 1.91”; and, October: 4.15”.21

Apparently, Bickle found out there really was some rainfall during the period of June 1 through August 22 since he revised this “prophecy” a bit as evidenced by the transcription of a recording from May of 1989 titled Overview of Our Prophetic History in the Gruen Document. Bickle backpedals a bit:

Then Bob stands up at the end and he says, ‘I got bad news.’ He says, ‘The Lord told me that there isn’t gonna be a revival being poured out at the end of this 21 days.’ He said, ‘Worse than that, we’re goin’ to the three months of total barrenness. And there’s gonna be a drought upon the city.’ He didn’t say that there would be, you know, not a, not a sprinkle of rain. He said there’d be a drought. He said through the city. And ah, I checked the newspaper once and found out that it rained an inch in the north over the summer. But ah, you know, I’m not sure exactly how much, or somebody did – I can’t remember all the those details, but we watched it day by day and there was a drought through those three months22

In the earlier account there was the emphatic declaration of no rain yet the later account claims that Bob didn’t say there would be “not a sprinkle of rain.” The first account was three years after this all important prophecy was spoken in 1983, yet in 1989 it seemed they didn’t recall it quite right in the earlier account of 1986. Given that this was purportedly a “word from the Lord,” wouldn’t this have been meticulously recorded? This should have been especially important to write down as this “prophecy” was to confirm the “movement” at KCF.

Bickle “can’t remember all those details” yet he “watched it day by day”? Are we really to believe the “details” of something this important would not be remembered in view of the fact there was so much at stake? And he maintains there was a “drought those three months” including June in which, as stated, there was almost 6.5” of rain with more than a few of those days much more than “a sprinkle.” Continuing:

He (Bob) said, ‘The Lord will break the drought in the natural over Kansas City, and it’s a sign that He will, on an appointed time, break the drought in the Spirit, but not until He appoints the time.’

…And, ah, we’ve had several different theories when that drought was gonna break, but it hadn’t broke yet. And, ah, so, so much for all our theories. But there is an appointed time when the drought breaks in the natural as well as the Spirit. And he said, ‘And here’s the proof that there will, it will break on an appointed day in the natural.’ He said, ‘On August 23, the drought will end and the rains will come to the city. 23

Once again, Bickle makes the claim that August 23rd would be the drought-breaker at which time “the drought will end and the rains will come to the city.” Bickle goes on reiterating how no one could humanly predict that it was to rain on a particular day three months later “to break a 3-month drought.” He proclaimed, “It was a supernatural sign to us.”24

Once Wimber/Vineyard took over the reins of Kansas City Fellowship, the “drought prophecy” was analyzed and explained in a much different way. Their claim was that Gruen was wrong in his dogmatic statement: “There was no drought…This prophecy did not happen. It was a total fabrication to promote ‘The Movement.’”25 Unfairly, they left out a very important part of Gruen’s complete statement which follows:

There was no drought. Anyone who went outside or read the newspaper could not have considered June a month of drought. The sprinkle of rain on August 23 was not considered a drought-breaker. This prophecy did not happen; it was a total fabrication to promote “The Movement.” From the start, this prophecy could never have been considered true.26

To reiterate, Gruen’s point was that the drought as “prophesied” was stated to have begun right away with the specific claim that June had no rain when in fact the rainfall that month was above normal. Gruen does not deny there was a drought as defined by ‘a prolonged period of less than normal rainfall’ as he earlier stated, “July and August were below normal in rainfall;”27 however, it would have been better if he had qualified his initial statement with something like “There was no drought as ‘prophesied’ by the specific parameters set by Jones.” Gruen’s conclusion “From the start, this prophecy could never have been considered true” is absolutely correct given the heavy rains in June.

The Wimber/Vineyard defense consisted of shifting the “prophecy” to one of very limited rainfall instead of no rain simultaneously moving the start date from June 1 to July 1. In addition, the August 23rd date was changed to merely a date of “prophesied” rain (admitting Bickle’s “mistake” in proclaiming a 3 to 4 inch downpour) instead of the drought-breaker, yet no new drought-breaking date was specified claiming instead merely that the drought ended “in early October.”28 What was the date of the definitive drought-breaking rain?

Among other reasons, Pytches would publish a “new edition” of his book as he “corrected details in the case of one prophecy”, which lined up with Wimber’s revised version.29 Using some of the portions already quoted above, we’ll compare the original Pytches rendition with his revised account by listing the ‘uncorrected’ followed by the “corrected” version:

for three months there will be no rainnot until 23 August.

there will be rain on August 23.30

…Bob had given a specific date for the end of a drought which he predicted was about to begin.

…Bob had given a specific date for rain during the drought which he predicted was about to begin.31

…For the whole month of June there was no rain! It was terrible! For the whole month of July there was no rain! It was terrible!

The drought did not begin immediately. In fact there was heavy rain in June, but for the whole of July it was dry. It was terrible.32

Pytches continues with the same paragraph ending with “It had to be God” as in the original account. Then he continues:

 That was still not the end of the drought, however. Although it was not a total withholding of rain, the exceedingly dry period covered a full three months, except for the predicted break on August 2333

Recall that in the very beginning of the original account – which matches the revised version – are the words, “In this city everything will be withheld.” So, why was this initial verbiage retained? It obviously contradicts with the words above “it was not a total withholding of rain…” And the “predicted break” consisted of a relatively scanty .32 inch which was hardly a break from the “exceedingly dry period” which admittedly contained sprinkles of rain during this time anyway. Pytches, like Wimber, does not specify a new “drought-breaker” date.

So, initially in the 1986 version “total barrenness” meant “no rain” (matching Pytches’ original account), in 1989 it was changed to not mean “not a sprinkle of rain” in view of the fact that there was in fact rain in June, which was changed again in 1990 to the drought actually beginning in July since it was further discovered that June had higher rains than normal (matching Pytches’ revised account). Are we to believe that Bickle’s memory is that poor with respect to the “drought prophecy”, yet he was certain that May 7, 1983 was the starting point of a 21-day fast which had just ended at which point Jones had purportedly proclaimed this “drought prophecy” and Bickle was certain of other specific dates in KCF’s history as well? Why would he have meticulously recorded these other dates and not the beginning and end of the “drought?”

The circumstances surrounding the “drought prophecy” are rather troubling.  To quote James Beverley: “…many of Bob Jones predictions were announced ex post facto34 – after the fact. Given the evolving nature of the “drought prophecy,” was it a ‘reverse engineered’ “prophecy” (at least in part) despite the claim to the contrary?

Given that the “drought prophecy” was to provide legitimacy to the KCF (now IHOP) “movement,” why wasn’t this “prophecy” recorded in such a manner as to prove its veracity, i.e., by tape, or, absent that, a transcript from memory shortly after it was “prophesied”? Given that there is no proof, it would be prudent to remain skeptical – especially given the circumstances as outlined above.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [Matt 7:24-27, TNIV]

1 Bickle, Mike, International House of Prayer Encountering Jesus.  “IHOP MP3 stores: Free MP3s”  <http://www.ihopmp3store.com/Groups/1000021591/IHOP_MP3_Downloads/Free_MP3s/Free_MP3s.aspx>. As accessed 11/13/12.
2 See disc 1 of above <http://ihopcontent.ihop.org/ihopcntnt/endis/FreeMP3s/Encountering_Jesus_D1.mp3> 18:45 – 19:35.  As accessed 11/13/12.
3 Bickle, Michael, M. Sullivant, Growing in the Prophetic. 1996 (5th printing Feb ’98), Creation House, Oakland, FL; p 24.
4 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 38-39
5 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 43
6 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 45
7 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 30
8 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 30
9 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 30-31. Bickle equates this with “the last-days outpouring of the Spirit” which he believes “relates to this generation” [p 31]. In addition, Bickle has stated in various ways that he believes we are living in the very last of days, in which the Lord’s return is very close. For example, recently, in another book, Bickle states: “In my opinion, we are in the early days of the generation in which Jesus will return. I believe that there are people alive today who will see the return of Jesus…” [Mike Bickle with Brian Kim 7 Commitments of a Forerunner: A Sacred Charge to Press into God. 2009, Forerunner Publishing, Kansas City, MO; p 13].
10 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 43-45
11 Yet the Bickle/Sullivant Growing states “end of June” [pp 43-44].
12 See this CrossWise post Your Assistance Requested: Seeking Original Audio/Video of Kansas City Fellowship/Grace Ministries as well as the two-part article referenced in the introduction to this current article.
13 Gruen, Ernie & John J. Arnold, et. al. Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace  Ministries). May 1990, self-published; p 10. / pdf prepared for online posting by Tricia Tillin (Booth) <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/kcp/Aberrant%20Practises.pdf>; pp 11-12.  Hereafter listed as pdf first followed by original booklet; e.g.: pp 10 / 11-12. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
14 Gruen, Documentation. pp 41-2 / 55. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
15 Pytches, David Some Said it Thundered. 1990 (first edition, second impression) [unrevised version], Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK
16 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) unnumbered page just before Introduction
17 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) p 89
18 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) p 90
19 Interestingly, data recorded at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), which admittedly is 30 miles north of Grandview, shows that the 22nd was mostly cloudy or overcast beginning at 7am, with a trace of rain [.07”] recorded at 1pm, with the mostly cloudy/overcast conditions continuing into the 23rd. The next day, on the 23rd, data shows rain beginning around 7am with accumulation of .18” by 8am, another .04” by 9am followed by .04” at 10am. The mostly cloudy/overcast conditions continued into the night. This does not preclude the Bickle account of the 23rd from being true including no rain until 6pm, of course, noting the distance from KCF to the airport. This info was gleaned from Weather Underground <http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KMDT/1983/6/1/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA> by inputting the airport code (MCI) and the applicable dates. As accessed 10/15/11
20 Weather Watcher (see link above) indicates rain at the airport in both July and August. Since the “prophecy” was for the entire city of Kansas City, rainfall at the airport must be included in any analysis. In Pytches’ account, which appears to be the same as Bickle’s, it’s explicitly stated there was no rain whatsoever until August 23rd. In August prior to the 23rd, the airport recorded .12” on the 7th with traces [less than .1] on the 9th, 15th, 20th and 22nd.
21 These totals are from the Weather Warehouse which takes its data from the National Weather Service <http://weather-warehouse.com/WeatherHistory/PastWeatherData_KansasCityDowntownArpt_KansasCity_MO_June.html> As accessed 10/15/11
22 Gruen, Documentation. p 41 / 53. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
23 Gruen, Documentation. pp 41 / 53-54. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
24 Gruen, Documentation. p 41 / 54. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
25 Wimber, John “A Response to Pastor Ernie Gruen’s Controversy with Kansas City Fellowship” Equipping the Saints. Fall 1990, Special UK Edition; p 28
26 Gruen, Documentation. p 42 / 56. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
27 Gruen, Documentation. p 42 / 55. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
28 Wimber “Response to Gruen” p 28. Actual rainfall for October as recorded at Kansas City International Airport (MCI) shows none until the 4th with a mere .21 inch of rain and no further rain until nearly an inch [.93”] fell on the 11th; however, this was followed by no significant rain (there was a trace [.02”] on the 16th) until the 19th with about ¾ inch [.79”] which was followed the next day with ½ inch [.57”] and the next with a bit under ½ inch [.40”]. However, as stated earlier, it’s possible there was more (or less) rain in other parts of KC.
29 Pytches, David Some Said it Thundered. 1991 (revised, “new edition”), Oliver Nelson, Nashville, TN; p xxvii. The revised version also omits some verbiage from Cain’s account of the Lord purportedly appearing with him in his car [Pytches (first, unrevised) p 38]. Specifically, the words deleted were describing items Jesus purportedly wore during the incident: “…dressed in a monk’s black habit and wearing a skull cap.” In an August 1990 letter to Prophecy Today subscribers, Clifford Hill states the original Thundered was “at present out of print” although the publishers “intend on reissuing it” in a revised version. Hill also states, “John Wimber told me that he had identified ‘a number of factual errors’ in the book, and Mike Bickle has sent David Pytches a 60 minute tape of corrections.” Keep in mind that Pytches was given access to KCF/GM tapes for the original issue.
30 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 89] is listed first.
31 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
32 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
33 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
34 Beverley, James A. Holy Laughter & the Toronto Blessing: An Investigative Report. 1995, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI; p 128

Chuck Pierce Hosts Conference Referencing ‘One New Man’

[Updated! 09/16/12.  New "word" from Bob Jones on Joel's Army both on the Elijah List and Jones' own site.  See below.]

This weekend Chuck D. Pierce, President of Global Spheres, Inc., is hosting the “Head of the Year Celebration” at his Global Spheres Center in Corinth, Texas.  The full title of the conference, to commence September 20 and conclude on the 23rd, is From Recovery to Wholeness: A Year to Bridge the Past and Enter the Future.  Since this upcoming year will be 5773 on the Jewish calendar, Pierce is claiming this is the ‘year of the camel’ as the number 3 in Hebrew was originally pictured as a camel.  Speakers to include Pierce, C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Jay Swallow, Trevor Baker, “Bishop” Bill Hamon, Paul Keith Davis, Venner Alston, Mark Chironna, Avner & Rachel Boskey, Rania Sayegh, Jeff Jansen and Robert Heidler.

The event is billed with the usual superlatives: “This is a time to keep your feet moving and go beyond where you have been in the past, until you drink and eat of the produce of your promise! The Kingdom of God will become the greatest influence in the earth realm.”

The subjects to be discussed at the Conference are the following:

  1. See the Camels Coming to Bring the Rewards and Reimbursements for Our Sorrows!
  2. Find Our Way of Escape from the Past!
  3. Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future!
  4. Neutralize the Enemy’s Power, Recover Lost Strength, and Nourish Us into WHOLENESS!
  5. See the Priesthood for this Hour Blossom!
  6. Grow Up and Mature into One New Man!
  7. Bring the Impoverished into a New Dimension of Prosperity!

I wish to focus on numbers 3 and 6.

To “Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future” is very likely referring to fully accessing the power of the first century Apostles and ‘bridging’ this to our future ‘glory’.  “Glory” in the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain sense means the erroneous and heretical notion of the attainment to the fullness of manifested sons of God/Joel’s Army such that these ‘elites’ will have received their glorified, resurrection bodies on the earth – contrary to 1st Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-54.  These ‘glorified elites’ will possess powers exceeding those of the REAL 1st century Apostles with an even greater authority.  These manifested sons of God (MSoG) will have the ‘divine’ authority to execute judgment and exact punishment upon those in opposition as explained by “Bishop” Bill Hamon (the “R-T” in the following means Resurrection-Translation):

…The positive purpose of the R-T is to enable the army of the Lord [Joel’s Army, or MSoG militant] to finalize the war against all evil. The army of the Lord will progress on in the war until they have accomplished all they can in their limited mortal bodies. The R-T is for the purpose of immortalizing their bodies. This will remove all the earthly limitations, thereby enabling the saints unlimited abilities. They will be able to travel in all space realms of the heavenlies the same as Jesus and the angels do now. They can move in and out of all dimensions of the natural and spiritual realms as Jesus did in His resurrected flesh-and-bone body.1 

God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven. The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly army. All that is destined and needed will be activated during God’s restorational Army of the Lord Movement2

The “One New Man” is a reference to the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain doctrine of Christ’s “second coming” – the full-on heretical doctrine that Christ will only return IN a perfected body of believers culminating in this “One New Man” (also known as the “birth of the man-child”).  This is what Hamon is referring to in the above.  Two recent examples incorporating both of these false teachings (numbers 3 and 6 above) are: 1) Bill Johnson’s tweet from August 20, 2011 in which he states, “Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to his head”, and, 2) Bob Jones statement at the 2011 “Piercing the Darkness Conference” held at Johnson’s Bethel Church, “Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, I’m coming IN my people. Christ in you, the hope of glory. I’m comin’ IN my people.’3

Bill Johnson spoke on a “corporate anointing” – otherwise known as the “Corporate Christ” concept, which is the same as this “One New Man” – at Bethel about 2 years ago:

…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 God4

A new “word” on ‘Joel’s Army’ was just posted on Bob Jones’ site and the Elijah List using Joel 2:1-11 as the proof-text.  Paul Cain used these verses for Joel’s Army back in the late ’80s, though this is now denied.  The following purportedly came out of an August 18, 2012 trance Bob Jones went in to while napping:

Shortly there will be a war that I will declare and it will be a great victory! For I am going to hire mercy-naries you see and I shall pay well when they work for Me. Health and peace of mind will be their pay and joy they never knew. Money will be the least of things for I will prosper them in all ways. Mercy-naries are professional soldiers that have fought in many lands and fought in many battles. They are well trained in the sword you see. The word of God I will put in them and that will be their victory. They shall know defeat no longer but they shall be victorious. They shall know honor in Me. There will be no defeat for them. They are warriors and I will give them the victory. My pay to them shall be love, joy and peace that they will have within themselves. This shall be the tip of the sword of which they touch many. They have been warriors in many religious churches. Now I call them unto “the church” and they will have a victory in Me. Amen. [Bold in original; underscore added.]

It is claimed that those chosen to be in this army “have fought in many battles and [have been] scarred by the religious spirit. This religious spirit will no longer be able to touch them because they have been healed and delivered from it.” Jones goes on to quote from Joel 2:1, then he declares:

These are the days Joel prophesied! The Father will blow the trumpet in Zion and call His army into formation. (Amos 1:1) These are not battle weary soldiers but warriors well-armed in the power of the word and the fear of the Lord. They march forward in the might of the Holy Spirit never breaking rank. They never strive against one another but move in unity forming God’s most powerful army.

Bob Jones continues to quote the Book of Joel moving to 2:7-10 (the following is in the NASB):

7 They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8 They do not crowd each other,
They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9 They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10 Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.

This is followed by a section boldly titled God is Declaring War!:

The Father declares war but the mercenaries fight it at His command. We are the soldiers of fortune on this land. Our fortune is to do His Will. There will be great prosperity in His peace of mind, joy and love. The voice of the Father is the only one they will hear as they march forward into battle. Their life is spent on doing the Father’s will. Not one will cower to the fear of man or be led astray by the enemy.

This “word” is completed by finishing the section in Joel:

11 The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it? [NASB]

These ideas have parallels in New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Here’s a quote from Alice Bailey from a century ago referencing the “Corporate Christ” concept corresponding to a false second Coming:

…Eventually, 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: actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished5

Here’s another New Age / New Spirituality site proclaiming a similar thing specifying that when this ‘Christ’ “reappears” (the belief is he never left), he will appear in many people 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.6

Barbara Marx Hubbard, former US Vice Presidential candidate (in 1984, although Geraldine Ferraro ultimately made it on the Democratic ticket) and staunch New Ager, explicated a radical version of “Joel’s Army” in an unpublished manuscript from 1980 referencing Revelation 6:7-8 with the ‘pale horse’ of verse 8 representing those “elected to transcend with all their heart, mind and spirit”.7  This pale horse will “kill with sword” (Rev 6:8) the one-fourth of the population which refuses to “evolve” with the rest, deemed the “self-centered”8 – those who will fail to join the others into making the next evolutionary leap from homo sapiens sapiens to homo universalis (Universal Humanity).  Compare the following to Hamon’s and Jones’ words above:

Before this stage of power can be inherited by the God-centered members of the social-body, the self-centered members must be destroyed.  There is no alternative.  Only the God-centered can evolve…

Fortunately, you, dearly beloveds, are not responsible for this act.  We are.  We are in charge of God’s selection process for planet Earth.  He selects, we destroy.  We are the riders of the pale horse, Death.

We come to bring death to those who are unable to know God.  We do this for the sake of the world…

The riders of the pale horse are about to pass among you.  Grim reapers, they will separate the wheat from the chaff.  This is the most painful period in the history of humanity.

Those of you who know what is happening – the one-fourth who are now listening to the higher self – are to be guides for the rest who will be panicked and confused.9

Is this the sort of thing Bill Hamon, Bob Jones and the other hyper-charismatic leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation have in mind for those Christians who refuse to unify with their false belief system?  Must the earth be purged of those “self-centered” Christians – the ones who will not unify with these false ecumenical, pluralistic efforts – to pave the way for the “One New Man”?  Placing Hamon’s and Jones’ quotes above alongside Marx Hubbard’s, one must really wonder which side Hamon, Jones and their cohorts are really on.

It seems that, just like Marx Hubbard’s theology, there must be a battle to get rid of those “self-centered” Christians with a “religious spirit” before the “One New Man” can emerge.  That is, this war must be fought before “Christ” can ‘return’ “IN his people” after which they become collectively “One New Man” a/k/a homo universalis (Universal Humanity).

LORD have mercy upon us all.

1Bill Hamon Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. 1997 (2nd printing), Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, pp 264-265.  Emphasis added.
2Hamon, p 252.  Emphasis added.
3Jones, Bob “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm, 38:53 – 39:05. Emphasis in original. Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website: <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus>; as accessed 09/15/12.
4“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>, 0:35 – 1:45; as accessed 09/15/12.
5Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 510. Underscore from emphasis in original; bold added for my own emphasis. Most sections within the book have corresponding dates of initial writing, or, more accurately, transmission. The portion quoted here is from 1919.
6World Service Intergroup website. J.D. Dubois, “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/?#/christ-reappearance/4543145171> World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 09/15/12.
7Barbara Marx Hubbard The Book of Co-Creation: An Evolutionary Interpretation of the New Testament – Part III, The Revelation: Alternative to Armageddon. 1980, unpublished manuscript, p 59.  From the title page: “The Book of Co-Creation is a three part unpublished manuscript written by Barbara Marx Hubbard in 1980.  Part III follows in its pre-publication form.”  Interestingly, the first edition of a book by Marx Hubbard titled The Book of Co-Creation: The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth [1993, The Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Sonoma, CA], which goes through the entire book of Revelation, entirely omits 6:7-8 proceeding from a reference to 6:1-2 (p 134) to 7:1-4 (p 138).
8Marx Hubbard, p 59
9Marx Hubbard, pp 60-61

Round the Mulberry Bush with Bill Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Equality with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. [NASB; emphasis added]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man (see Philippians 2:7). While He is eternally God, He chose to live within the restrictions of a man who had no sin and was empowered by the Holy Spirit. In doing this, He provided a compelling model for us to follow. [Bill Johnson & Randy Clark. The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick © 2011 by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Bloomington, MN; p 125. Emphasis added.]

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

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

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

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

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

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