Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Divinity of Christ - NOT!

As a result of the publication of this article, additional information has been sought and obtained, including a clarification from Bill Johnson. We refer you to the update on this article posted April 26, 2011.

"Apostle" Bill Johnson is the leader of a West Coast Apostolic/Prophetic movement based around his Bethel Church in Redding, California. Having left the Assemblies of God several years ago (it seems that they don't recognize the "office of the apostle"), apparently Johnson left good doctrine behind as well. Because Johnson is so influential in the movement, and works closely with related ministries such as Mike Bickel's IHOP, Rick Joyner's Morningstar and John Arnott's TACF, his beliefs need to be scrutinised.

Johnson, in his book "When Heaven Invades Earth" (read below) makes some strong points about the divinity (or lack thereof) of Jesus Christ. Simply put, he takes the approach that since "Christ" can mean "the anointed one," and since we too can be anointed by the Holy Ghost, the deity of Christ was not at all unique. He calls "Christ" a title that points to an experience - being "smeared with the Holy Spirit." (1) The final result of this path is to believe that we too can be baptized in the Holy Spirit and become "christs," something that has long been known as "Copeland's little gods heresy."

States Johnson: "Jesus lived his earthly life with human limitations. He laid his divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin."

We will return to the concept of Jesus laying his divinity aside in just a moment. What I would like to bring to your attention is that Johnson believes that Jesus had to work hard (he "sought") to live life as a man without sin.

Funny, that sounds a lot like a "works based" religion, doesn't it? Did Jesus have to work hard to not sin? Was there ever any question about his fulfilling "the assignment?" Could Jesus have gone "rogue?" What would God have done if He had?

Johnson goes on to say that the "anointing Jesus received was the equipment necessary, given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitations." Which causes me to wonder if Johnson believes that Jesus lived as a sinful child before the Holy Ghost (in the form of a Dove) came down on him at John's baptism. (2)

Owww, brain hurts!

I heard one writer state that Jesus even pooped in his diapers as an infant. I suppose that is true, but since when is a baby pooping in diapers the same as "sin?" That's a real straw-man argument.

Yes, this is heavy theological stuff. But Johnson is teaching it, and one must be prepared to give an answer to it. By the way, Johnson makes the point that by simply questioning what he presents - simply thinking about it - means that you are controlled by an "antichrist spirit." (3) Nice- an ad hominem argument to boot.

He challenges his readers to enter "the realm beyond reason" by following (his concept of) the anointing. The Bible challenges its readers to "test all things and hold fast to that which is good." (4) Personally, I'm going to be filled with God's Spirit and use the brain - and the bible- that He gave me. It is not an "either/or" thing.

Now, I'm going to tag-team this article and let my friend "WB" complete the teaching.

Like many other Word-Faith teachers and their Latter-Rain forbears, Bill Johnson regularly teaches that Jesus, at the time of His incarnation, gave up His divinity. And, by “divinity” neither Johnson nor I mean a white, nut-filled confection. Divinity is a somewhat outmoded term for what is now known more often as “deity.” Johnson’s error, which is generally considered a heresy on account of its extreme severity, is often called the “kenotic heresy.”

Here are the three quotations from Bill Johnson’s books, each of which demonstrates his denial that the divine essence was present in the Incarnation:

“But even Jesus Himself had to grow . . . in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). This verse amazes me. I can understand the fact that He needed to grow in favor with man, but why did He have to grow in favor with God? He was perfect in every way. The answer lies in the fact that Jesus did everything He did as a man, laying His divinity aside, in order to be a model for us.” (5)

“Through the shedding of [Jesus'] blood, it would be possible for everyone who believed on His name to do as He did and become as He was.”

“[Jesus] said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’ He had set aside His divinity.”

Bear in mind that these quotations come from three widely published books. Presumably, copy editors and theological reviewers were available to Johnson. That he has not seen fit to modify his expression of this doctrine over the course of several years seems to reliably indicate that he is satisfied that his words clearly communicate his meaning. Therefore, it is reasonable to take his words at face value–that is, as an instance of the kenotic heresy.

Please note that there are many things that Christians can and will disagree on. But fundamental to Biblical Christianity are the concepts of right Christology - the very nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus was both man and God - at all times. That is not negotiable.
Johnson's entire theology has a foundation of wrong Christology - and so the slide down the slippery-slope begins.

For further information on the kenotic heresy, see: or


(1) Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 79. See next window.

Matthew 3:16.

(3) Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 81

1 Thessalonians 5:21.

(5) Johnson, Bill. Strengthen Yourself in the Lord (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2007), p. 26.

(6) Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 138.

(7) Johnson, Bill. The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 50.


  1. Excellent and well-written analysis. I appreciate the fact that everything you said is also well-documented. Wrong Christology is indeed at the root of many slippery slopes.

    I hadn't placed Bill Johnson in the Word of Faith camp until I saw that claim in the article a couple of weeks ago. I associated him only with the Apostolic/Prophetic movement. Now I see that he is drawing on the deviant teachings of both movements.

  2. This article is a complete misrepresentation of Bill's Chirstology.

    Please remember what it says in Phil 2:7

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)

    Phil 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

    Bill teaches the complete divinity of Christ and the same time recognizes that Jesus was fully man.

    For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus... 1Tim 2:5

    Notice, JESUS is FULLY GOD and FULLY MAN!

    I recommend you think long and hard about what you are doing.


  3. Dear Robert,

    As a matter of fact I have thought long and hard about what I am doing. Thanks for your concern.

    Affirming the hypostatic union is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately YOU cannot affirm it for Johnson. And as I hope the article has demonstrated, Johnson viewpoint leans toward the kenotic heresy.

    Read through the three quotes from Johnson's books again. And then consider this:

    Quoting the theopedia:

    The question regarding the kenosis comes to this -- What does it mean when Scripture says Christ "emptied" Himself? Did Jesus cease to be God during His earthly ministry? Certainly not, for deity cannot stop being deity or He would never have been true deity to begin with. Rather, the "emptying" is satisfactorily explained in the subsequent words of the verse, taking note of the two participles which grammatically modify and explain the verb: He emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. This emptying, in fact, was done as the man Christ Jesus, and neither of these ideas necessitates or implies the giving up of divine attributes.

    Christianity maintains that Jesus did not "empty" himself of any of his divinity in the incarnation, although it is true that his divine attributes were veiled. When the Kenosis theory concludes that Jesus is or was less than God (as has been the case in the past), it is regarded as heresy.

    -end quote-

    Now, if you really want to discuss this, how do you think Johnson would answer this:

    Did Jesus have to work hard to not sin? Was there ever any question about his fulfilling "the assignment?" Could Jesus have gone "rogue?" What would God have done if He had?


  4. Robert, you charge the author of this blog with the sin of making a false claim. Yet you provide no evidence. You merely contradict. That is not responsible. If you have evidence that Bill Johnson's christology is sound, you are obligated by your claim to adduce it. Otherwise, you owe the author an apology. Where, exactly, does Johnson affirm the Chalecodonian formula of the dual nature of Christ?

  5. Having read through parts of several Bill Johnson books and listening to some of sermons and then hearing teaching from several people who have been through the Bethel Schools it seems to me that Bill would not deny the hypostatic union if asked what he believed - but I think the end result of what he teaches is Kenosis.

    There also seems to be this weird thing they do with sin once youre saved - they reject the title 'sinner saved by grace' and say now youre saved you are no longer a sinner. Part of their reason is that it is not helpful to 'focus on the sin' but on your righteousness. But it seems slightly off kilter - they seem to forget that law preached with gospel brings us to the cross and Jesus - the object of our faith.

    I dont hear a lot of gospel being preached in their revival... shouldnt that be the main thing?? Not 'oh I met this person after the service in the cafe whose broken arm was healed last week'. Sure that is great and God should be glorified for HIS grace for that person but a healed arm is not going to save anyone without the preaching of the gospel.

  6. Robert, you appear to understand the kenosis in an orthodox fashion. The issue at hand is Bill Johnson's understanding of the kenosis. Citing verses relevant to the kenosis and the hypostatic union doesn't make your case. The claim on the table is that Johnson understands these verses in a heretical way.

    To make your case, please cite any of Johnson's discussions of the kenosis in which he teaches clearly that Jesus came as God in the flesh. I can't claim to have read all that Johnson has written. But I don't find him teaching that crucial truth alongside his claims that Jesus came as a prophet. It seems to me that any responsible, orthodox teacher would be careful to include it in any discussion of the kenosis. How do you explain its absence?

  7. Robert Crabbe has informed me that he will not likely be able to revisit this issue until after the 10th of August.

  8. Wow. your inability to understand even just the quotes that you used is amazing. How can you twist words like that? Don't you see what you are doing?

  9. Dear Christina,

    I think I know exactly what I'm saying. It would be nice to discuss this beyond the shallow level presented by Johnson supporters. I had hopes that Pastor Crabbe would actually take seriously the committemnt he made to discuss tis further, but he seems unable to do so.

    What exactly do you take issue with and why?
    I promise I'll be kind.


  10. I'm quite curious why "Pastor" Crabbe "recommends" that William Fawcett "think long and hard about what" he's doing." Robert, is William suppose to be intimidated so that you dont have to actually sift through all the data and explain why Bill Johnson isnt actually doing much damage to Christians who dont yet have the discernment to reject his false teachings? Is that how you've learned to decieve people into believing the false doctrine and false prophesies that you and your vast number of false teacher / false prophet buddies have been peddling around the world for decades, all the while constantly "hearing God's voice" (and constantly making sure everyone knows it) about all kinds of things (including how many potatoes to buy at the grocery store) EXCEPT corrections of your own false doctrine, as if God actually affirms that your doctrine is sound and therefore we should all follow you and the rest of your ilk, including Bill Johnson? By the way, what ever became of the great end-times revival the false prophets in the Vineyard spoke so much about? It's now 2010, Robert, your de facto postmillennialism in the guise of a prophetic word is long overdue, yet you still hold onto the hope of it as if it's still 1990. It's about time for you to think long and hard about this, "pastor." You latched onto a counterfeit hope that appealed to God's strange act's off-the-charts, totally unjustified spiritual arrogance. A mere babe in Christ whipped you on a basic tenant of The Faith, the hope of the gospel (glory to God alone). Cut yourself some slack, Robert, you were just a 21 year old kid, why expect to have had enough discernment back then to discern it was all a massive deception. Humble yourself, it was a bad investment whose actual value was always zero, it's time to sell.  btw, the way you quote scripture is condescending, we dont respect you as a "pastor" (whose job description apparently includes telling others what God's will for their lives is), so try to turn down the arrogance, at least when you get on these forums to attempt to intimidate those who dare expose those who take immature believers for a ride.     

  11. William F,

    Mr Crabbe's style is typical vineyard, affirm the truth to deflect criticism (of course we affirm the resurrection, what, you're just grasping it? What a babe) and then spend 99.9% of the time emphasizing the false doctrine. Also, the perpetual delay in his response, typical Robert, he doesnt have time for this, he's got to be traveling the world circuit to speak at conferences promoting all his false doctrine and false prophesies. You just need to realize how much of an incredibly anointed man of God he is, if you know what's best for you you'll take down your criticism of Johnson and ask for Robet's autograph, maybe request a signed copy of one of his dvd's

  12. Here's a word of caution to those who insist that Bill Johnson's views are fully orthodox. Bill Johnson affirms the Word of Faith doctrine that Jesus was born again (, accessed October 1, 2010). How can it be that one who is fully God and fully man would need to experience spiritual rebirth, which marks the transition of unregenerate sinners from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Col. 1:13)?

    Johnson's teaching on this topic misconstrues 2 Cor. 5:21 and contradicts the Protestant doctrine of imputed sin. He thereby compromises the key Reformation doctrine, justification by faith, the cornerstone of which is the so-called "double imputation" of our sin to Jesus and his righteousness to us. Unless the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, we have no grounds for hope of withstanding the just judgment of a holy God. From the standpoint of Protestant Christianity, Johnson's teaching on this topic is heretical in the sense that one who persistently holds it thereby jeopardizes his/her eternal destiny.

    When it comes to the topics touching on the Gospel itself, one has a right to expect the public statements of a minister of the Gospel to be both clear and accurate. Those who follow Johnson may well object that he doesn't _intend_ teaching heresy. But the objection hardly matters. Johnson's personal intention is irrelevant to the peril in which he places the souls who accept his teaching on this crucial topic.

  13. As a result of the publication of this article, additional information has been sought and obtained, including a clarification from Bill Johnson. We refer you to the update on this article posted April 26, 2011.


  14. WF,

    I just read your April 2011 redux on this and it looks like what Bill J has done here, which triggered you feeling you had to post the redux, was exactly what I identified as "typical Vineyard" behavior in my post above 9/28/10 10:47 PM, first sentance. It's all part of the deception: to affirm the truth for 5 seconds so you'll give him credit so he can then say anything else he wants forever and ever with impunity in the eyes of his followers in the context of being called out about the (if not ANY) false doctrine from now on. He's trying to inoculate himself from criticism, he's trying to inoculate his followers from critically examining his teachings. It sounds like "craig" at least agrees with me. So I guess for the sake of completeness/credibility it was OK for you to quote Bill Johnson's latest affirmations, but no one should be too impressed by such - that should be the emphasis.


  15. Anonymous,

    No one here has denied that Bill Johnson is teaching some very confused and dangerous theology. It just seems that denying that Jesus was God at all times during the incarnation is not part of it.

    I have no problem at all with believing and stating pulically that Bill Johnson is a deceived person who is teaching and promoting deception in many ways.

    But I do not believe that we have enough evidence to accuse him of being a deliberate deceiver who only speaks the truth when it is to his advantage in order to hide the rest of his deception.

  16. Sherylu,

    I think I can accurately describe a behavior without passing judgment on whether or not the behavior is "deliberate." But try to find in Scripture a place where you have a false teacher identified whose motives are described as anything but bad. Just sayin


  17. Hebrews,

    Well, describing a behavior without calling it deliberate is all fine and good--if you hadn't already said he did it all as part of the deception to draw people's eyes away from examining his teaching to see whether it was true or not. Maybe you didn't use the word "deliberate", but what you accused him of evidently doing certainly sounds deliberate, does it not?

  18. cherylu,

    I believe in giving every deceived person the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judging whether or not the deceptions they spout are deliberately intended to deceive others. In fact, I can't imagine any amount of "evidence" could persuade me otherwise. All these people, Jack Deere, Robert Crabbe, Bill Johnson, John Arnott, John C. McClure, James Ryle, Mike Bickle, John Paul Jackson, Paul Cain ... all horribly deceived, therefore not deliberately deceiving others. Of course, back to my previous point, surprisingly, the Bible isn't so generous in showing restraint when it comes to judging deliberateness, at least when it comes to false teachers. For example, "...deceiving and being deceived..." And we all know how the Bible spends so much time encouraging Christians to gather evidence as to whether the one deceiving others is doing it deliberately or not. Personally, the only people I feel comfortable judging their deliberateness are those whom are not deceived themselves. I'm sure you can think of as many of not more verses in the Bible than I, that talk of false teachers who, while deceived themselves, are not deliberately deceiving others. I would vastly prefer to see thousands of people deceived by another person that is not deliberately deceiving them, than see thousands of people deceived by another person who is deliberately deceiving them. It makes a big difference.

  19. Hebrews 928,

    Regarding your last comment "Huh"'? If that was supposed to indicate something profound other than sarcartism, it didn't give me any more information than you were making an indirect answer to a direct question, which all of us are trying to ask.

    Gotta tell you if you can't post under your real name how are the rest of those of us who are supposed to take your criticisms of the rest of us seriously?

  20. Hebrews 9:28,

    Just not quite getting where you are coming from regarding your last comment to cheryu. Could you elaborate more on what you've said, from a biblical viewpoint, rather than just asking us where we might be coming from, intended or not? Your reply was somewhat obligue, and a little bit sarcastic, IMO. and dependant upon our answers.

    Some of us here are seriously wondering if you are making fun of those of us who still do have serious questions regarding the fact that we do think BJ's theology is seriously flawed, but maybe don't think he is getting a completely fair shake from the other side. Certainly, I'm not a fan of Bj's theology, having come out of the hyper-charismatic movement, but think it's going too far on the other end of the spectrum that we automatically consider his theology heretical.

    If I am wrong in the way I misunderstood your last comment,please I feel free to correct me. Like you and others here, I'm just trying to get to get to to the bottom of this, but don't think it is it the way to lead folks to repentance by gloating over the fact that we're right and they are wrong. I think that attitude calls into question our own personal motives.

  21. Mbaker,

    I think you understood my last comment To cherylu just fine.

  22. Hebrews 9:28,

    While I agree that BJ’s theology is confusing at best and seriously flawed at worst, I personally refuse to go so far as to accuse a professing Christian personally of being a deliberate deceiver, nor even sarcastically suggest it, without much more solid evidence than what we have found against him so far. To do so, IMHO, without documented proof, is going to the opposite extreme, and rather than being helpful in bringing out the truth turns into a pot calling the kettle black thing.

    That certainly doesn’t mean I believe BJ’s obvious theological errors shouldn’t be pointed out, and biblically compared and corrected. Nor should they be excused, or deliberately glossed over in order for us to simply appear more ‘loving’ or more acceptable to his followers.

    It’s the ongoing personal speculation about his possible motives, the sarcasm, the gloating I see among fellow Christians in accusing him of being deliberately deceptive, without definitive proof that I object to. I am serious about getting to the bottom of this for the sake of all the people who seem to be being misled and confused.

    The idea should be to help bring others out of genuine error, not use public Christian discernment sites or pulpits as an opportunity to speculate, or destroy someone’s credibility under the disguise of theological ‘correction’. Although we see such unreasonable practices routinely going on all over the internet nowadays and in other in other venues in the name of free speech, in the Christian blog world it’s not very honest or God honoring on either side, whether we’re the authors or the commenters.

    Don’t know about you folks, but that kind of thing gets old in a hurry to me, and my eyes start to glaze over when people on either side insist on defending their own opinions ad nauseum, without backing it up with proof. I don’t see that sort of thing as accomplishing very much for the Lord on either side. It certainly does nothing at all to convince me.

    So while we may not always agree, I do respect the way that the author of this site, when new information about BJ’s belief in Christ’s divinity was discovered, stated on the redux of this thread that getting to the truth is a lot more important here than being right. Whoever we are, may God grant us all the wisdom to do that in ways that honor His truth first, and bring lost souls into salvation.


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