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.” (6)
“[Jesus] said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’ He had set aside His divinity.” (7)
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: http://www.theopedia.com/Kenosis or http://www.carm.org/kenosis.
(1) Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 79. See next window.
(2) Matthew 3:16.
(3) Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005), p. 81
(4) 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.