Panentheism and the Trinity

Panentheism is an English word derived from Greek roots: pan = “all”, en = “in”, the, from theos = “God”.  This is in distinction from pantheism, meaning “all God”, or “all is God”.  Before more fully defining panentheism, we’ll briefly review the Christian Trinity in order to compare and contrast.

The Trinity from an Historically Orthodox Christian Perspective

The Christian God, known as the Trinity, is a tri-unity consisting of God the Father, God the Son (Christ, the Word), and God the Holy Spirit. Each Member of the Trinity is co-essential (united in essence/being) and co-equal with the others.  God is spirit, i.e., incorporeal, having no physical body.  There are a number of divine attributes associated with the Godhead, including omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.  Christian philosopher Thomas V. Morris explains the interrelationship between these three attributes with respect to His creation:

Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of [omniscience] and power over [omnipotence] any and every spatially located object [creation].1

God is immanent, i.e., present in/among His creation (as opposed to within, immersed inside its substance, though indwelling true Christians, of course), by virtue of His omnipresence.  He is infinitely aware of even the tiniest details concerning the universe – which the Godhead created out of nothing (ex nihilo) – and, due to the Word’s continuous sustaining activity holding it together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), “He keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos,”2 to borrow H.C.G. Moule’s memorable phrase.

The ultimate display of God’s immanence is when the Son humbled Himself by taking on human form in the Person of Jesus Christ (Immanuel – God with us), retaining full divinity in becoming fully human, and then dying in our place, in His plan of redemption.  What a God we serve!

Yet, God is also transcendent, wholly outside His creation, as the Trinity is not affected in any way by the cosmos (creation).  In no way does it act upon Him.  God is self-existent, self-sufficient, immutable (unchanging), and eternal, existing outside time, yet acting within it (immanence).  An inherent aspect of creation, time is His own construct.  As such, the Godhead Lord’s over it, thereby fulfilling time, according to His purposes.  God has been present and active throughout the entire history of humanity, is currently active in human affairs, and will continue to be actively governing humanity, though allowing free will.

While imprisoned by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed a different understanding of transcendence. He contended that Jesus’ “being for others” is the true meaning of transcendence, suggesting that we not think of immanence and transcendence as opposites.3  Thus, in Jesus’ dying on the Cross for the sins of mankind – because God “so loved the world”, thereby providing eternal life for those who believe in Him – the ultimate display of God’s immanence climaxes in the supreme act of ‘transcendence’.

Recognizing the beautiful, poetic force of Bonhoeffer’s words, yet still we understand that God truly is transcendent – so wholly other than His creation – yet God is also immanent, fully active in/among His creation. He is the Potter; we are the clay.

The Christian Trinity is a divine mystery.  Attempts to fully explain the mystery of God’s three-in-one-ness can lead to heretical conclusions such as tritheism (three Gods), modalism (one God in three different modes, one at a time), or other distortions.4

Panentheism Defined in ‘Christian Esotericism’

While there are a number of different views of panentheism in the various and varying religious systems in the world, there are some consistencies in the doctrine with respect to how it relates to the Christian Trinity and Jesus Christ in esoteric literature.  In Richard Smoley’s book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition is a general view of the doctrine of panentheism as it pertains to ‘Christian esotericism’:

…The Father is the ineffable, transcendent aspect of God; the Son is God’s immanent aspect. This divine spark or Logos is the first sounding-forth of existence from the depths of infinity: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). [Jesus] Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God.

So are we. “Without him was not any thing made that was made.” Nothing comes into existence unless this divine spark of consciousness, no matter how faint or dim, lies at its center. This was true of Jesus, it is true of me, and it is true of you…We may not be as exalted as Christ…But at the core we are the same.5

This is obviously a purposeful distortion of the true Christian Trinity, with its use of similar terminology.  Note the two separate aspects of ‘God’: the transcendent, which is the ineffable (inexpressible) “Father”, and the immanent (within all creation) aspect, which is the “Son”.  While the way in which this immanence is described is not at all congruent with the Christian Trinity, importantly, transcendence is described in such a manner that it more closely approximates the true Trinity (though see below), marking this as one of the keys in making the doctrine appear ‘Christian’.  This “immanence” is alternatively called divine seed, divine spark, divine (spark of) light, logos, or Christ.  So, the Son/Christ is a divine entity, and this divine entity is diffused throughout creation as a seed / spark / light.

This view of panentheism is such that all is in God (the transcendent Father is wholly outside, enveloping all of creation), and God is in all (the Son/Christ is immersed within all of creation), yet God is not present among creation.6 

In the quote above, observe that, by implication, the two separate aspects are indeed separate.  The Father is not immanent, and the Son is not transcendent.  This indicates that the Father is not omnipresent, as he is not present at all in creation.  On the other hand, the Son is divided up within creation, with each spark, seed, etc. separated from all other sparks or seeds by its outer matter (body, sheath), making omnipresence a bit murky at best, as the seeds / sparks seem individually disunified, though all parts of a whole; however, without an explicit claim of the Son being also among creation, omnipresence is implicitly denied.

It appears as if the Father has absolutely no access to and no power over creation, while the Son is confined within creation, with neither Father nor Son seemingly possessing the ability to interact with the other.  But not to worry, the “Holy Spirit”, a “divine principle”, acts as an intermediary between the two:

How do these two, the Father and the Son, interact with each other?  What enables them to have any connection at all, while still in some way remaining distinct?  There is…a principle that makes this interaction possible.  It is called the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit.

Here, in essence, is the Christian Trinity…Between them [Father and Son] is the Holy Spirit, the divine principle of relatedness, which accomplishes perhaps the most astonishing of all miracles: uniting two separate entities while still allowing them to be separate.7

This implies that the “Holy Spirit” is omnipresent.  However, besides the problems with this doctrine already noted above, from an historically orthodox Christian perspective, this devolves into tritheism (three gods) as opposed to a Trinity, despite its claim of Trinitarianism – that is, assuming that one can even term a “divine principle” a god. 

In addition, notice in the first Smoley quote above that Jesus Himself is called Christ (“Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God”), rather than merely, for example, Jesus of Nazareth, as some cults claim.  Smoley quotes from A Course in Miracles to describe Him:

The name of Jesus is the name of the one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.  So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God.8

This statement identifies this doctrine as explicitly antichrist per the Apostle John’s words in his first epistle (1 John 2:22, 4:1-3), as it separates Christ from Jesus.  Smoley  then goes on to quote the “Jesus” of the Course as saying all can do what He did, describing Him as an exemplar, making the impossible (the distance is too great between us and the Father) into possibility.9  By this he means that the man Jesus became “at one” with God, thereby bridging the gap and becoming an example for others, claiming that all are Christs, at least potentially.10

Of course, according to Christian orthodoxy, Jesus Christ, as the God-man (fully God and fully man), is the intermediary between mankind and God through His redemptive work on the Cross.  One’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as our sin substitute, thereby reconciling the individual back to God through His remission of our sins, is the only way to salvation.  However, Smoley depicts Jesus as merely a man who subsequently attained divine status, becoming a model for others to follow to actualize their own ‘latent divinity’, becoming gods.

Far too many (laypersons and theologians alike) make statements to the effect that Jesus was reliant upon God during His earthly ministry, stressing His humanity at the expense of His Deity.  We must always recognize that Jesus Christ was/is God Himself, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity, as God in the flesh.  Of course, there are times in Scripture in which Jesus’ humanity is emphasized (growing tired, hungry, etc.), perhaps the most striking example of which is when He is on the Cross crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Yet these must be balanced out by those occasions in which Jesus declares His own Deity (“I am” – John 8:58; “I and the Father are one” – John 10:30, John 14:9, etc.). To be clear, as the Incarnate God-man, Immanuel (God with us), Jesus Christ submitted, in obedience, to the Father; however, as the second Member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ was/is co-equal with the Father (and the Holy Spirit), and in no way subordinate.  Such is the mystery of the Incarnation!

Now that we have a general view of panentheism in ‘Christian esotericism’ (though also looking at one particular part of A Course in Miracles in the process), we’ll take a look at one specific view.  The false trinity in Theosophy will be discussed – the school of esotericism founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875 and perhaps better known as associated with Alice A. Bailey (in her channeled works) in the twentieth century, forming the basis of much of the New Age / New Spirituality of today.

The Panentheistic Trinity in Theosophy

Before proceeding, the goal of this section is not to educate the reader on a specific occult teaching as an end in itself.  The intent is to make the reader aware of how the Christian Trinity is perverted such that a Christian could be fooled into thinking another individual is a true Christian when similar terminology and concepts are used, or worse, the Christian could be duped into following this dangerous doctrine.

Without getting bogged down into too much detail regarding the rather complicated Theosophical schema, illustrated graphically in one of Bailey’s books,11 an attempt at explaining and simplifying it will be made, though the following may not be absolutely accurate due to the convoluted nature of it.

There are two separate “trinities”: the “Solar Logos” (The Solar Trinity or Logoi [plural of Logos]) and “Sanat Kumara”.  The Solar Logos is made up of “the Father”, “the Son”, and “the Holy Spirit”.  The Father constitutes the transcendent aspect, the “Absolute Reality”, also referred to as the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID – the all is in ‘God’ aspect.12  The Son is “Life, the Spirit of the Universe”, constituting the immanent aspect, the ‘god’ immersed within creation – the ‘God’ is in all aspect.  The Holy Spirit is “Cosmic Ideation, the Universal World-Soul”,13 and “Creative Wisdom”,14 which makes the Holy Spirit the communicator, the one bringing revelation, and, in effect, seemingly omnipresent, though this is not explicit.

The “Planetary Hierarchy” is headed by Sanat Kumara, the Lord of the World, aka Ancient of Days, the One Initiator,15 the Hierophant16 – clearly all names for Satan (taking into account their respective contexts in Theosophic literature), though some were appropriated from Scripture.  Sanat Kumara (the name is taken from ancient Hindu philosophy) fashions himself as a trinity, with three separate “Kumaras” emanating from him (the “Buddhas of Activity”), one of which is the Bodhisattva, aka the Christ (not Jesus), the World Teacher.17  But, there are also lesser ‘deities’ in the Planetary Hierarchy, many of whom were, according to this doctrine, former humans who evolved into godhood (“Ascended Masters”), which thereby reduces Theosophy to polytheism (many gods).

Yet in analyzing this schema it becomes obvious that Satan, through these channeled works of Bailey, is cleverly presenting himself as both Sanat Kumara and the Solar Logos, with the Solar Trinity/Logos merely a ruse in order to purposely approximate, yet distort the Christian Trinity.18  Evidence of this is found in that the “Lord of the World” is also called, “the God in whom we live and move and have our being.”19  Further support of this collapsing of the two trinities into one is found in a work by H. P. Blavatsky in which the “Serpent” in the Garden of Eden is equated to the “Lord God”,20 and later in this same book, Logos is termed “WISDOM”, which is then equated to both Satan and Lucifer.21

By their functions in portions of the texts, both the transcendent and immanent aspects overlap somewhat, such that when taken together these resemble the Christian Trinity in certain ways, though clearly the graphic indicates something entirely different.  In other words, though the illustration pictures a totally different ‘god’ (or ‘gods’), when described elsewhere in sections of the texts apart from the graphic, one could understand it as not inconsistent with the Christian Trinity with the overlapping functions and the similar terminology.  Though no Christian would likely be fooled into thinking any of the Theosophic texts were remotely Christian when read in complete context (if one doesn’t get lost in the confusing nature of it), the stated goal is to subvert Christianity from the inside by readapting this material into Christian contexts,22 as Bailey remarked in another work, “Christianity will not be superseded.  It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished….”23  This demonic threat should not be taken lightly.

Like second century Gnosticism, there is a Dualism, a dichotomy between spirit and matter (creation).  Matter is the “not-self”, as opposed to the soul/spirit, which is the “self”.  However, this does not mean that matter has no function.  It’s not quite the ‘evil’ of second century Gnosticism, for “matter, being inspired by spirit, conforms”,24 providing the means (the vehicle) by which spirit can evolve:

…The development of spirit can be only expressed as yet in terms of the evolution of matter, and only through the adequacy of the vehicle, and through the suitability of the sheath, the body or form, can the point of spiritual development reached in any way be appraised…25

In other words, the outer body will improve concurrent with spiritual progression, or so it’s claimed.  The human is made up of soul/spirit, mind and body.  However, once “perfected consciousness”26 is attained, the body is destroyed, annihilated27 marking the “escape of Spirit, plus mind, to its cosmic centre”28 – the cosmic center being the transcendent aspect of this version of panentheism.  So the formerly ‘trapped’ (inside the “not self”) essence of the particular individual (the “self”), as part of the immanent aspect, is now united to the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID, the transcendent aspect.29

Spiritual progression is  accomplished through meditation,30 in other words, contemplative or centering prayer.31  The method is described as emptying one’s mind, yet controlling thought, requiring full concentration:

The true meditation is something that requires the most intense application of the mind, the utmost control of thought, and an attitude which is neither negative nor positive, but an equal balance between the two.  In the Eastern Scriptures the man who is attempting meditation and achieving results, is described as follows… ‘The Maha Yogi, the great ascetic, in whom is centred the highest perfection of austere penance and abstract meditation, by which the most unlimited powers are attained, marvels and miracles are worked, the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great Spirit of the universe is eventually attained.32

When one reaches “perfected consciousness” through meditation, one has achieved “union with the great Spirit of the universe”.  Along the way, as one ‘grows spiritually’, one will receive supernatural powers to include the ability to work miracles, or so goes the claim.  The exact method of approach to meditation is left to the individual:

True meditation (of which the preliminary stages are concentration upon and application to any particular line of thought) will differ for different people and different types.  The religious man, the mystic, will centre his attention upon the life within the form, upon God, upon Christ, or upon that which embodies for him the idealWe need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation.33

Ultimately, the panentheistic god (Satan) of Theosophy is dependent upon mankind, for “humanity itself is the key to all evolutionary processes and to all understanding of the divine Plan, expressing in time and space the divine Purpose.”34  This “divine Plan”, aka “divine Purpose” is anything but divine!  “The Plan” includes receiving extra-biblical revelation from “Masters”, former humans (or so it’s claimed) who have attained godhood.  And this extra-biblical revelation resulting from meditation (centering prayer, contemplative prayer, “soaking”), in turn, brings one into union with the divine, meaning the attainment of self-divinity.  In reality, this leads to bondage or outright possession.35

And last, but certainly not least, as earlier hinted, Jesus is depicted as merely a man, though a very good man.  Because Jesus was deemed worthy, He had the Christ spirit (part of the “trinity” of Sanat Kumara) descend upon Him, thereby manifesting the Theosophical Christ, eventually attaining His own divinity (becoming “Master Jesus”), and providing a model for the rest of humanity to follow.  Of course, as noted earlier, this is antichrist doctrine.

Is Your Teacher or Church Promoting Panentheism?

Armed with the above information, we may be able to determine if our favorite teachers, including those at the church we attend, are promoting panentheism, rather than a Christian orthodox understanding of the Trinity.  Answering any of the following questions (not an exhaustive list) in the affirmative is not absolute proof the doctrine is being taught, but at the least should provide food for thought, and, hopefully, a desire to seek more information:

1)      Is there an emphasis on “going inside yourself”, centering prayer (aka contemplative prayer), “soaking”, seeking the “manifest presence of God”, etc.?

2)      Is Jesus Christ diminished in some way, i.e., is Jesus described as being somehow less than fully God.  Is he humanized at the expense of His Deity?  Is it claimed that He was totally reliant upon the Spirit (or God) for all supernatural workings?

3)      Is Jesus described in an overly personal manner, such that He’s discussed as one would a family  member rather than One Who is so far above us, worthy of our worship, our Savior and Lord?

4)      Is there a focus on receiving extra-biblical revelation for human direction?  Is this revelation superior to Scripture?  Is this revelation integral to ‘spiritual growth’?

5)      Is God presented as One who is dependent upon humanity, as practically helpless in creation without our assistance?  Is mankind depicted as integral to God’s plans, such that our importance is overemphasized?  Is humanity spoken of in equivalent, or near-equivalent terms as the Godhead?

The panentheistic trinity in ‘Christian esotericism’ is certainly quite different from the Christian Trinity; however, there are enough similarities that the unsuspecting seeker or Christian may not notice a difference at first, or even at all.  This potential is especially possible with the increasing Biblical illiteracy rampant in, and quite frankly, promoted by some churches.  Without at least somewhat of an understanding of the Christian Trinity, the possibility of individuals falling for a false view of the Trinity – and potentially led astray – is a real threat indeed.

 

1 Thomas V. Morris The Logic of God Incarnate, 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK, p 91.  Bracketed comments added.
2 H.C.G. Moule Colossians Studies, 1898, Doran, London, p 78, as cited in David E. Garland (Terry Muck, Gen. Ed.) Colossians and Philemon: The NIV Application Commentary, 1998, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p 89.
3 Bonhoeffer quote and ideology from Widerstand und Ergebung: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft, new ed., Ed. Eberhard Bethge, 1977, Chr. Kaiser, Munich, translated by John F. Hoffmeyer “Christology and Diakonia” in Andreas Schuele and Gunter Thomas, Eds., Who is Jesus Christ for us Today?, 2009, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY, p 161
4 See Alister McGrath Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. © 2009, HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, pp 30-31.
5 Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, 2002, Shambhala, Boston, MA, pp 134-135; all emphasis added.   Cf. p 103: “…the immanent aspect of God [is] the part of the divine nature that is active and present in the world…But there is something beyond the Word.  It is the silent vastness out of which everything, even the Word arises.  It neither exists nor does not exist…It is the transcendent aspect of God.  Meister Eckhart spoke of it as the ‘Godhead’; the Kabbalists call it the Ain Sof (which is Hebrew for the ‘infinite’) or the ‘Ancient of Days.’  In esoteric Christianity it is the Father.”  This seems to imply that “the Father” is superior to all else (see note 25 below).
6 Some panentheistic systems seem to imply that the immanent aspect and the matter surrounding it (body, shell) are ontologically equivalent (or almost equivalent), which would amount to pantheism (all is god); however, this immanent aspect is also usually viewed as inferior to the transcendent (see note 5 above), resulting in the conclusion that the immanent ‘god’ has lower status than the transcendent ‘god’, thus devolving into ditheism (two gods), or even polytheism (many gods), depending on the specifics.
7 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 103-104; emphasis added.
8 Quoted in Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135; from  Helen Schucman A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume, 1992 (2nd ed), Foundation for Inner Peace, Glen Ellen, CA, Teachers Manual, p 87; italics in original, other emphasis added.
9 Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135
10 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 135-136
11 Alice A. Bailey Initiation, Human and Solar, © 1951 Lucis, NY, (4th paperback ed, 1980), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 48-49
12There is one Boundless Immutable Principle; one Absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested conditioned Being.  It is beyond the range and reach of any human thought or expression. The manifested Universe is contained within this Absolute Reality and is a conditioned symbol of it” [Alice A. Bailey A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, © 1951 Lucis Trust (1925, 4th ed 1951), Lucis Publishing Company, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 3; italics in original, other emphasis added].  The Son and Holy Spirit also appear to be a part of the “Absolute Reality”, thus overlapping roles, as described below.  Cf. Bailey Initiation, pp 19, 150, 162; Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp  148-149, 292, 511, 1161, 1230, 1242.
13 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 3
14 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 94
15 Bailey Initiation, pp 28-29, 48-49
16 Bailey Initiation, p 161.  Here “the Hierophant” is equated with “the Lord of the World”.
17 Bailey Initiation, pp 48-49.  In ancient Hindu philosophy, in the Chandogya Upanishad, is one “Sanatkumara”. Much of Theosophy is appropriated from Hinduism.
18 The way in which the graph depicts “Sanat Kumara”, it is clear that these “Three Kumaras” correspond to the same identical three separate “Aspects” of each member of the “Solar Trinity”, thus amounting to the two “trinities” collapsing into one, though the intent is seemingly to make it appear as though one is subordinate to the other.  We must not be unaware of Satan’s schemes.
19 Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 551
20 Helena P. Blavatsky The Secret Doctrine, Vol II: Anthropogenesis, 1888 (1977 Facsimile edition), Theosophical Publishing/University Press, Pasadena, CA, p 215
21 Blavatsky Secret Doctrine II, p 230; cf. pp 231, 233-237
22 “ …[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving lifeEventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: the false Christ] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle [ED: in a “mass incarnation”], the true second Coming, has been accomplished…
“The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplishedThe church must show a wide tolerance…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance [ED: occult/esoteric meaning]The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated [Bailey Externalisation, pp 510-511; emphasis added].
23 Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 20.  Emphasis added.
24 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148
25 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 49-50.  Here is where one can construe a quasi-pantheistic element in the “immanent” aspect; though, as noted below (note 27), matter is eventually destroyed.  Moreover, as noted earlier, it’s also implied that “the Father” is superior to “the Son”, thus reducing the immanent aspect to inferior in status as compared to the transcendent.
26 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 51
27 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 51-52.  “…[T]he first Logos [ED: “the Father”] is called Destroyer, because He is abstraction, if viewed from below upwards [ED: from the point of view of creation / the immanent aspect].  His work is the synthesis of Spirit with Spirit, their eventual abstraction from matter, and their unification with their cosmic source.  Hence also He is the one who brings about pralaya [ED: death; cf. p 128] or the disintegration of form, – the form from which the Spirit has been abstracted” [Cosmic Fire, pp 148-149].
28 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 52.  UK spelling, e.g., “centre” rather than center, is used throughout the Bailey material.
29 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148; Bailey Initiation, p 19, 150, 162
30 Bailey Initiation, pp 150-162
31 Alice A. Bailey The Consciousness of the Atom, © 1961 Lucis Trust (1st prtng 1922, this issue 9th prtng 1974 {2nd paperback ed.}), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 110-116
32 Bailey Atom, pp 110-111; italics in original, other emphasis added.
33 Bailey Atom, pp 111-112; emphasis added.
34 Alice A. Bailey Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, © 1950 Lucis, NY, (2nd printing, 1957), George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 126
35 Actual possession is the stated goal: “Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control…” [Bailey Externalisation, p 588; emphasis added].

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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: https://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: < https://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.

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

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

-Bill Johnson1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodox Christian Meaning of Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unorthodox/Heterodox definitions of Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bourgeault also defines metanoia for the reader:

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

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

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

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

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

A Closer look at Bill Johnson’s Definition of Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The focus of repentance is to change our way of thinking until the presence of His Kingdom fills our consciousness.  The enemy’s attempt to anchor our affections to the things that are visible is easily resisted when our hearts are aware of the presence of His world…

If the Kingdom is here and now, then we must acknowledge it’s in the invisible realm.  Yet being at hand reminds us that it’s also within reach39

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

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

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

Meditating on Johnson’s Doctrine of Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

…The stage at which a man awakens to group realisation, and becomes a conscious participant in the activities of the group is brought about in two ways: through meditation, and through a series of initiations…There is much misconception these days as to what meditation really is, and there is a great deal of so-called meditation which has been truly described by a person not so long ago, as ‘I shut my eyes, and open my mouth, and wait for something to happen.’  The true meditation is something that requires the most intense application of the mind, the utmost control of thought, and an attitude which is neither negative nor positive, but an equal balance between the two.  In the Eastern Scriptures the man who is attempting meditation and achieving results, is described as follows… ‘The Maha Yogi, the great ascetic, in whom is centred the highest perfection of austere penance and abstract meditation, by which the most unlimited powers are attained, marvels and miracles are worked, the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great Spirit of the universe is eventually attained.’  Here this union with the group life is held to be the product of meditation, and there is no other method of attainment.

True meditation (of which the preliminary stages are concentration upon and application to any particular line of thought) will differ for different people and different types.  The religious man, the mystic, will centre his attention upon the life within the form, upon God, upon Christ, or upon that which embodies for him the ideal…We need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation.43   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Age of Sanctified Imagination?

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

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

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

Many prominent authors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear assuming that because the new age movement promotes it, its origins must be from the devil51

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

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

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

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

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

37Blavatsky, Helena P. Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology: Vol 1 – Science. 1988 (unabridged from original 1877 first edition), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA; p 290
38Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 38
39Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 38. Bold in original, underscore added for emphasis.
40Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 38. Emphasis in original.
41Johnson, Dreaming, p 132.  Bold in original.
42Johnson, Dreaming, p 132.
43Bailey, Alice A. The Consciousness of the Atom. © 1961 Lucis Trust (1st prtng 1922, this issue 9th prtng 1974 {2nd paperback ed.}), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; pp 110-112.  Underscore added for emphasis, other emphasis and spelling as per original.

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

“Signs That Make You Wonder”

Following is a transcription of a YouTube video[1] from early 2008 with Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California surmising that angels “have been bored for quite a few decades.” Johnson’s words begin at about 1:13 after an introduction by Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic[2] who refers to him as an “apostolic adviser” and “apostolic covering:”

Heaven is invading Earth; and, it’s happening through all different kinds of unusual manifestations. It’s happening through much more angelic encounters – those kinds of things are much more frequent.

And, I know people get nervous when you start talking about angels and this. It’s foolish to worship angels; but, it’s equally foolish to ignore them. God sent them to assist us in our assignment. We’ve been commissioned because we embrace His mission.

And, Jesus needed them. They came, ministered to Him. He cooperated. Paul cooperated with them. There wasn’t this praying to them – there’s not that sort of thing; but, they are there to assist us. And, quite frankly I think they have been bored for quite a few decades in this country and they’ve been looking for a generation that will live with some risk ‘cause that gives them something to back up. Because their whole deal is to enforce the Word of the Lord.

And, the Word of the Lord in Psalms 103 comes in two ways. It comes from God declaring a matter and it comes from Him speaking to His people and His people declaring a matter. And, they can tell when a word has originated in the heart of the Father ‘cause it carries that fragrance of the Throne Room with it and they recognize, “This is my assignment.” And, they jump all over that and enforce it. I’ve watched it; I’ve seen this happen where a word comes from the Father it’s declared in a room in a setting and instantly there is the absolute, most impossible situation reversed simply because of a declared word. And, I know there’s angelic assistance in enforcing them.

So, that’s, uh, it’s just increasing all kinds of manifestations. It’s the angelic realm; it’s just the supernatural breaking into this one: the gold and the oil and the wind. We’ve been having gusts of wind that just come out of nowhere. And, uh, ya know, it’s all good. It’s all signs that make you wonder and it’s just good to be in awe again. It’s not healthy to not be in awe. It’s not healthy to live accustomed to what’s going on around you. It’s really important that we live with that sense of awe and that appreciation for God’s unusual ways of working with us.

So this is, uh – I love it, I just welcome all that He’s doing.

While the exact vintage of this video is unknown to this writer, it should be noted that this upload of February 3, 2008 predates the Lakeland ‘Revival’ by a couple months in which Todd Bentley claimed all sorts of things regarding angels. In this video[3] of Lakeland from April 25, 2008, Bentley speaks of forthcoming ‘revivals’ and he states that a ‘revival’ was already taking place at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church:

…Denny Cline,[4] are you watching me in Albany? Bob Jones[5] told me it’s coming back to Washington, Oregon, California… …Ya know Albany, Oregon was the first healing outpouring that I had in America. Ya know why it broke out? Because I was in Shreveport, Louisiana and the angel of the Winds of Change was released. I went all the way over to Grant’s Pass, Oregon and I went all the way to Albany, Oregon and the healing revival broke out and it launched our ministry. And that Bob [Jones] told me that same Winds of Change angel had come all the way back to Lakeland.

We know it’s already happening in Bethel – in northern California. It’s happening in Redding, California…”  [emphasis mine]

So, did the Bethel ‘revival’ rival the Lakeland ‘revival’ regarding angels? Did the same “Winds of Change angel” visit Bethel at the same time as Lakeland? Are angels omnipresent?

Todd Bentley stated back in 2002 or 2003 that it was an “angel called Healing Revival” that came to him in Grant’s Pass; whereas, above he says it was the “Winds of Change angel” who launched his ministry. Perhaps the angel changed his name later to “Winds of Change” because of a change in the wind? In the following, Bentley mentions that this “Healing Revival” angel was the same one of John G. Lake, William Branham and John Knox:

I first saw the angel called Healing Revival on December 5 of 2000 in Grant’s Pass. The angel came to me again in Albany the next February. He stood in the church service with his body going through the ceiling of the church. Then the Lord told me the angel’s name and that he was the same angel I saw in Grant’s Pass earlier. God also revealed to me that this angel was involved in the ministry of John Lake, William Branham, and John Knox in Scotland. This angel, the Lord said, is from the North West Healing Revival and is manifesting again as a sign that God is restoring the Voice of Healing revival and opening up the ancient wells.

In our ministry over the last year, this angel has come frequently and on many different occasions… …Many other people have also seen or had contact with this angel in the meetings. And whenever this angel shows up the miracles go off the charts. Instead of a few healings, we’ll get three blind eyes in one night or maybe a cripple guy gets out of a wheel chair.

I believe the angel showed up in Albany as a sign that God was endorsing what was taking place and that it was opening up a healing well. Everywhere I have seen this angel the miracles continue after I leave and a healing well is established in that church and in that city… [6]

From Scripture we know there are angels who minister to us. And, according to Psalm 103:19-21 – the verses Johnson must be referring to in the video above – we find another function of angels:

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will. [NIV]

In this context, it is made evident that angels obey the Word of God and are commanded by God [see also Psalm 91:11]. It is the Father who dispatches them; they do not, as Johnson states, “recognize” their “assignment.” Rather, they obey their assignment.  They do not act on their own accord. 

Quoting Johnson from the transcript:

 And, the Word of the Lord in Psalms 103 comes in two ways.  It comes from God declaring a matter and it comes from Him speaking to His people and His people declaring a matter.

With the latter part of the second sentence above Johnson sets up a straw man argument which is incumbent on him to defend as it is extra-biblical.  For more on the function and nature of angels, here’s the Hebrew word from which we get “angel” — mal’ak — as defined by Strong’s:

 messenger, a human representative; angel, a supernatural representative of God, sometimes delivering messages, sometimes protecting God’s people; the “angel of the LORD” sometimes shares divine characteristics and is sometimes thought to be an manifestation of God himself, or of the preincarnate Christ [Theophany]. [7] [bracketed comment mine]  

Even Satan, a fallen angel, is constrained by the permissive will of God [see Job 1:12; 2:9]. To quote J. Hampton Keathley, III from his article Angelology: The Doctrine of Angels:

Surely it is comforting to know that God may protect, provide, and encourage us through His angels, but this fact does not always guarantee such deliverance, and certainly we should never presume on this provision of God. … we should keep in mind that God does not always deliver us from danger or supply our needs in miraculous ways whether by angels or by His direct intervention. For His own sovereign and wise purposes, the opposite is sometimes His will as life clearly illustrates and Scripture declares (see Heb. 11:36-40).

But there is another truth regarding angels that needs to be kept in view.  Just as people usually do not think of the punitive ministry of angels, so people, in their popular ideas about angels, often ignore the Scripture’s teaching about the deception of Satan’s evil angels (2 Cor. 11:14-15). [8]

Here[9] is a post on an angel named “Breakthrough Revival” in which Randy DeMain claimed this angel came to him while he was in Nigeria. While the YouTube video from which the transcription is taken from has been removed by the user, the bulk is verifiable as the contents are referred to both on another blog and in a ‘prophetic word’ which will be quoted from later in this article:

“All of a sudden I realized there was a presence of God that I had never experienced before upon my life. And in that moment of time, I heard a voice say this: ‘I have a gift for you, will you receive it?’ And it stunned me. And I looked up and it was like a veil between the natural and the supernatural opened, just an opening of the veil.”

It needs to be pointed out that the ‘veil’ DeMain speaks of sounds suspiciously like what is known in the New Age Religion as a “portal.” The author here[10] defines portals as “‘…inter-dimensional doorways, two-way tunnels, curtains of light’” and “’are a recurring concept in our cultural tradition allowing for travel between worlds and a means of transcending time and space.’” She states further:

“Some people say they can travel physically through portals, but most of those who visit the portals in Sedona move within their minds, as in meditation. This is commonly known as an out-of-body experience as they project their consciousness into an astral realm…

“There is an awareness that entities exist beyond our third dimensional existence, and that it is possible that there is movement between dimensions at portals…”

Going back to Randy DeMain’s account of his “visitation:”

And when this opened, the light became very bright, and as I looked up that living Lord Jesus Himself walked through that veil and stood before me just as a couple of feet in front of me and began to speak to me. He said, ‘An angel has come to me and asked to be assigned to you. His name is ‘Breakthrough Revival.’ He has seen in you the same heart and perseverance as the ones he has formerly served who have since died. He has new assignments since that time…”

Jesus Himself, in speaking of signs of the end of time gave this warning, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” [Matthew 24:23 NIV] Therefore, it is very doubtful that DeMain actually saw Jesus Christ. In fact, given that we have no photos or verifiable representation of what Jesus actually looked like, how could DeMain be sure?

Continuing on with DeMain:

“…And then He said this: ‘What you saw tonight, what you experienced tonight is what the angel does. He goes before you and he opens up the realm of the area you’re ministering in and he drives back all the power of darkness. And, he creates an atmosphere where it is on earth as it is in heaven.’ And, as you say… …the word of God manifests instantly just like there is in heaven, there’s no hindrance; and, I was just overwhelmed at what the Lord was saying…

“…One of the things I said to the Lord, ‘…Why would I take this mighty angel… … from Nigeria, that’s causing all these things to happen, and take this angel from here back to America?’

“…And, immediately the Lord said, ‘because his work is done, it’s now the work of gathering and reaping angels. They will go forth now into the harvest and partner with men in the harvest just like they did with Philip in the New Testament…’ I come to find out historically that this is also true because to this very day the born again rate exceeds the birth rate in that nation of Africa; so, indeed, its work was done.

“The second thing really stunned me though. The Lord said to me, ‘It’s America’s time’ and I knew that all of a sudden the gaze of God had come to America.”

So, is it that God’s ‘gaze’ can only be on one nation at a time? This whole idea of angels moving from one region to another contradicts the pervasive belief in charismatic circles that angels and demons are constrained to specific geographic areas. This thought is one of the bases for the ‘spiritual warfare’ known as “spiritual mapping” written on extensively by C. Peter Wagner of Global Harvest Ministries[11]and practiced in the modern prophetic movement. This notion of “territorial spirits” is debunked here.[12]

In the following, Shawn Bolz relates how this “Breakthrough angel” worked through Liz Jones of Guildford Prayer School (UK)[13] while she was visiting his Los Angeles church:

“…Liz Jones, saw an angel, and said the angel’s name was “Breakthrough.” He had come to bring revival to California and breakthrough to us, or city, and the State.

“When she told me I was encouraged, but it did not fully register. In the past ministry I was involved in, WhiteDove Ministries, we did a series of conferences on a similar encounter that Bob Jones and Randy DeMain had reported having about an ‘angel of breakthrough’ who is instrumental in revival…

“…I recently went to a conference with Randy DeMain who had had an encounter with what he also called the “Angel of Breakthrough” in Nigeria while on a ministry trip in 2004. This angel had been involved with Benson Idahosa during the great Nigerian revivals of the 1990’s. Bob Jones had a similar encounter a few months later with similar details about this ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ being released in America… I told Randy about Liz Jones’ encounter when I was with him during a conference held on Valentines weekend in Idaho. He looked surprised. He said the presence of the angel had left him, and that the Lord told him that he was taking ‘Breakthrough’ somewhere else for a while. However, the ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ would be back with Randy in the future! Randy said, ‘So, that is where he is!’” [14] [Quotes (‘ ‘) and capitalization on ‘Angel of Breakthrough’ are mine. All else is as per original]

In a ‘prophetic word’ on the Elijah List[15] from April 4, 2006, Paul Keith Davis of White Dove Ministries relates how Bob Jones had a vision of Randy DeMain’s “Breakthrough Angel” on March 24th of the same year. In this ‘word’ there were to be three “major” moves “soon to take place.” When did they occur? There does not appear to be any specific expression of this particular angel with the exception of the rather minor encounter referenced by Shawn Bolz above. Here[16] Bolz relates in a little more detail the account of Liz Jones and this angel with a claim of 100 people in his congregation, including the homeless, receiving jobs within a month; however, again, it does not seem to be a “major” ‘move.’

There was an account in early 2009 of “Breakthrough Angel” showing up in Harrisburg, PA[17] ; but, it did not seem to materialize into a “major” revival – if one at all. Here’s a snippet from the advertisement:

“…We see this as a time to pull Heaven down and establish the Kingdom of God with every step that you take as the revival breakthrough angel is displacing spiritual forces over this region…” [all as per original]

In this ‘prophetic word’[18] from a March 2, 2010 “angelic visitation” referenced on Bob Jones’ website, Jones speaks of a ‘breakthrough’ in Ohio. No other information on this ‘revival’ is yet to be found as of the date of the writing of this article. Please note some confusing words at the end of Jones’ ‘word:’

“Let’s take an aggressive stand against the spoken word. Don’t give the enemy an inroad. Pray to cancel the power and authority out of the spoken word that is not aligned with God’s destiny for your family, city and state. Stand firm on the word of God and be assured ‘With God All Things Are Possible!’ Welcome the Breakthrough Revival Angel to do that which is necessary to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven…”

According to modern charismatic belief, isn’t the spoken word the rhema, which is the one of ‘prophetic revelation,’ while the Word of God is the written word, the logos, the Bible? How does one know which ‘spoken word’ is “aligned with God’s destiny for your family, city and state?”

It has been since early 2006 that this Bob Jones’ ‘prophecy’ about the three “major” ‘moves’ of the “Breakthrough Angel” were to “soon take place” yet to date they have not come to fruition. With all the different angels of the Lakeland ‘revival,’ “Breakthrough” was not one of them. What happened to the “Breakthrough Angel?” Isn’t the “Angel of Breakthrough” supposed to return to Randy DeMain?

Is it possible that the unnamed angel of the Bethel ‘revival’ Todd Bentley references in the April 2008 clip above is the elusive “Angel of Breakthrough?” This seems doubtful since if this were a partial fulfillment of Jones’ ‘prophecy’ certainly it would have been promoted as such.

Taking all the above into consideration I would have to agree with this portion of Bill Johnson’s words from the transcript at the beginning of this article:

“It’s all signs that make you wonder…”

 

[1] “fr33info4u,” Bill Johnson – Heaven invades Earth <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdOY42jUeks> February 3, 2008;  as accessed 10/10/10

[2] Extreme Prophetic homepage <http://www.extremeprophetic.com/>

[3] “GodOfElijah,” Todd Bentley Florida Healing Revival 3 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-nwMfOKgXo> April 25, 2008; as accessed 10/10/10

[4] Jesus Pursuit Church home page <http://www.vcfalbany.org/>

[5] Bob Jones Ministries home page <http://www.bobjones.org/>

[6] Bentley, Todd / Fresh Fire Ministries (archived), “An Angel Called Healing Revival” Angelic Hosts <http://www.etpv.org/2003/angho.html> as accessed 10/10/10

[7] Strong, James, Dr. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. fully revised by John R. Kohlenberg III and James A. Swanson; 2001, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Strong’s # 4397; p 1414 “mal’ak,”

[8] Keathley, III, J. Hampton, “The Ministry of Angels” Angelology: The Doctrine of Angels. <http://bible.org/article/angelology-doctrine-angels> par 18-19; as accessed 10/10/10   

[9] “endtimespropheticwords” Randy DeMain’s Jesus encounter and the Angel Breakthrough Revival <http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/randy-demains-jesus-encounter-and-the-angel-breakthrough-revival/> July 25, 2008; as accessed 10/10/10

 [10] “Jocelyn” Portals <http://www.sedonanewagecenter.com/newsletter/html/2005/cnanewsletter5-11.htm> Center For The New Age Newsletter, Volume 5 Issue 11, November, 2005; as accessed 10/10/10

[11] Global Harvest Ministries homepage <http://www.globalharvest.org/>

[12] Stevens, David E., “Daniel 10 and the Notion of Territorial Spirits,” Bibliotheca Sacra. 157: 628 (2000): 410-431 <http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/daniel10.pdf> Stevens is Senior Pastor, Central Bible Church, Portland, Oregon; as accessed 10/10/10

[13] Guildford Prayer School (UK) <http://www.guildfordcommunitychurch.org.uk/Articles/9689/Guildford_Community_Church/GCC_life/GCC_Guildford/Prayer/Guildford_Prayer_School.aspx> as accessed 10/10/10

[14] Bolz, Shawn “The Release of Breakthrough in California (Not another cliché breakthrough word)” blogs.myspace.com/shawnbolz <http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=19410816&blogId=476320097> March, 13 2009; as accessed 10/10/10

[15] Elijah List, Paul Keith Davis and Bob Jones: “The Angel Stated That His Name Is ‘Breakthrough’” <http://elijahlist.com/words/display_word/3959> April 4, 2006; as accessed 10/10/10

[16] “RevivalFiresMedia” “The Angel of Breakthrough” Interview with Shawn Bolz <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kkaq4ZXeLPs> May 24, 2010; as accessed 10/10/10

[17] Life Center Ministries advertisement for “Firestorm 2009” <http://www.lcmi.org/about/firestorm-february-26-28-2009/> as accessed 10/10/10

[18] Jones, Bob “Invite Breakthrough Revival Angel” Damn the Torpedos Full Speed Ahead! Breakthrough is in Ohio! <http://bobjonesnew.unionactive.com/Docs/Words%20of%202010/2010-03_BreakthroughInOhio.htm> as accessed 10/10/10