Charisma news, specifically, Jennifer LeClaire, and Dr Michael Brown have recently done a PR job on Bethel and Bill Johnson. This is unfortunate, because Dr Michael Brown, and Charisma, often attempt to represent the best of contemporary charismatic Christianity – and Bethel and Johnson, in my view, represent the worst aspects of charismatic Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, Johnson can and does say some good things, and Bethel Church, through their music ministry, Jesus Culture, have written and performed some very powerful contemporary worship songs – I even have a few of them on my Kindle. However, Johnson and Jesus Culture also produce some really unhealthy material. I don’t have time in this blog to get into all the issues surrounding grave-sucking, or the glory clouds (glitter and air ducts) or even the fortune telling disguised as prophecy – there is a ton of material online about this stuff. Instead, I want to simply respond to the recent Charisma News release and highlight the issues.
Firstly, the Charisma article begins with a video interview between Doctor Michael Brown and Bill Johnson. This video interview begins with a promotion of Johnson’s new book, ‘God is Good’. In his book, Johnson claims “God’s goodness is the cornerstone of all theology.” Johnson is giving us the premise that book is built upon, yet this is a faulty premise. God’s goodness is not the cornerstone (foundation) of all theology. God is the cornerstone of all theology.
This is of fundamental importance. The foundational premise of theology is that God exists, God can be known, humans have the capacity to know God, and God has revealed himself – he has made himself known and the scriptures are the revelation of God. God is the foundation of theology, and the scriptures reveal knowledge of God. God has many attributes (characteristics). And whenever we emphasise one single attribute of God over others we are ultimately creating a false god.
Aside from promoting Bill’s book, Brown’s interview links to a Charisma article that endorses Johnson and the ministry at Bethel. However, whilst the article is intended to persuade readers, and the charismatic community that Johnson is sound, the article actually clearly demonstrates why Christians should be wary of Johnson and Bethel.
What are the issues? From the article alone, I would say that Johnson and Bethel should be avoided because of 1) heretical influences 2) False teaching about healing 3)The downgrading of the doctrine of Revelation and Scripture 4) The down grading of preaching 5) Unbiblical mysticism 6) Occultic Influences 7) Human manipulation. That’s quite a list, but it seems obvious from the LeClaire interview that these are key components of Bethel and Johnson’s ministry. In this blog we will look at 1 and 2.
1) heretical influences
There are two references to John G Lake, in the article, and both times it is made clear that John G Lake is one of Johnson’s heroes. Granted, he is not alone, there are many pentecostal and charismatic leaders who revere Lake. However, not everyone will know this, but Lake was a heretic. That’s not me being unkind, that’s me simply describing him. Lake taught that humans were a deity – in other words, God has made people to be ‘gods’.
I encountered John G Lake’s teaching sometime around 2004 A pastor gave me some copies of his books, and even wrote a word of encouragement in the inside, encouraging me to follow in the footsteps of Lake. He also wrote a prophesy, saying that God was use me in healing, deliverance and signs and wonders. This wasn’t new, from around 2001, to 2007, I received several prophesies from various Christians, and Christian leaders, from a variety of churches, all claiming the same thing.
Personal Copy of Lake’s Sermons
However, as I studied Lake’s materials, I soon discovered that he was not just a faith healer, he was also a false teacher. Lake says,
“My conviction is that the greatest transformation possible to the race is that men shall realize that instead of being enemies of God and of each other, God intends us to be gods.”
What does Lake mean, and why does he say this? He explains:
The margin of my Bible says that it means, “Thou hast made him for a while a little lower than the angels.” Some translations read, “Thou hast made him a little lower than God.” I believe it means of the same quality and substance, but limited in degree of understanding. That is my conception of this verse, and I believe it harmonizes with God’s picture of man all the way through the Book.
First let me say, that margin notes are never a good source to build theology upon, especially when you take the margin note to mean something that is clearly unorthodox. Whatever Lake is teaching here, this much is clear, this is not a Christian doctrine – in fact it is a grave error.
Lake further expands his heretical notions,
As we view the Scripture from beginning to end we see the wondrous truth that man is not a separate creation detached from God, but he is a part of God Himself.
Really? Bang goes the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s now, Father, Son, Holy Spirit – and all of humanity.
Lake further tries to justify this, but only makes matters worse.
I do not believe it is any violation of the spirit of the Word and the truth of God to say that that is the man whom God Himself cannot destroy. Why? Because God cannot destroy Himself, and man is of the substance of God.
Okay, so God, in making humanity, has made a kind of Frankenstein’s monster – he has created a mini-god that he can never destroy.
Okay, so that’s Lake. But what about Johnson. Surely we can’t just make him guilty by association? Fair enough. Maybe Johnson rejects that part of Lake. Butlet me say two things, one he doesn’t distance himself from Lake’s heresies – there is no disclaimer for his endorsement. Secondly, even if it is just Lake’s teaching on healing, that isn’t any better. In fact, it is clear from the article that Johnson teaches Lake’s view of healing, exactly as Lake taught it. And that should concern us.
2) False teaching about healing
Regarding healing, Lake says,
GOD ALWAYS WAS THE HEALER. He is the healer still, and will ever remain the Healer. Healing is for YOU. Jesus healed, “all that came to Him.” He never turned any one away. He never said, “It is not God’s will to heal you,” or that it was better for the individual to remain sick, or that they were being perfected in character through the sickness. He healed them ALL. Thereby demonstrating FOREVER God’s unchangeable will concerning sickness.
Do you see that? According to Lake, it is always God’s will to heal, and it is never God’s will not to heal. In fact, Lake would teach that it is sin to pray ‘if it be your will’ when praying to God for healing. He called that unbelief.
Regarding healing, our article on Johnson notes,
This is really bad. If it’s always God’s will to heal, and if God doesn’t heal, yet is never to blame – who gets the blame? Quite simply, either the one praying, or the one being prayed for – and from experience, it is usually the latter. This is a pastoral minefield. This is the worst kind of theology. This isn’t just a pentecostalim that believes that God answers prayer for healing (all Biblical Christians believe this), or that God gives some people the gift of healing, (both of those can be argued biblically) this is hyper Word of Faith. It damages people, and it brings disrepute to the character of God. To claim that God promises healing, and for that not to happen, is destroy confidence in the trustworthy nature of God.
The influence of Lake, and Johnson’s teaching regarding healing should be enough to concern any Christian. A rejection of Bethel need not mean a rejection of all-things pentecostal and charismatic. There are a number books on healing from a pentecostal perspective that are far more balanced. Make no mistake about it, Bethel is on the fringe, and it is dangerous.