Response Number 1
"God can and will use whatever He pleases to show himself real to people"
This is a variation of the classic "you can't put God in a box" argument. It is based on the false premise that we cannot understand or comprehend God and denies the fact that God can put Himself in a box.
We know certain things of God to be true:
He is faithful. He is truth. In Him there is no guile. He is all-knowing. He is everywhere. He knows our heart. He is jealous. He loves us. He is long-suffering. He is not capricious. He is just. He is righteous. And this is not a comprehensive list- let's just say He has revealed himself and we can know Him.
How do we know such things? Well, He has revealed Himself in history, and that revelation is recorded in scripture, which He has given to us. This concept is so important that theologians have given it a name: perspicuity. Quoting theopedia:
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the “perspicuity of Scripture”) teaches that the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will. The witness of the Church throughout the ages is that ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there.
OK, back from that rabbit trail. We can know certain things about God. And we know these things, not just based on our subjective experiences (which can lie) but based on the written Word of God, and our experiences and the teachings of others - tested against the Word of God as per 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ("test all things").
What is a box? It suggests a boundary - inside the box is one condition, outside the box is another. The National Weather Service, for instance, will post a Tornado warning and draw boundaries on a map- inside the warning "box" is a warning condition, outside is not. They even use the term "box" for these warnings.
So, to help us understand God let's make a little diagram. A box if you will. Let's use a few of the attributes listed above to form the boundaries of that box.
I think you must agree that God has placed himself in a box and there are certain things that He will not do. He is not a wishy-washy capricious God like so many false Gods, who act on a whim. Not only can we grasp the nature of God, but He wants us to, for He wants us conformed to His image. it is not, to use another metaophor, a "moving target."
How can anyone who argues "His heart aches for all to know Him in a VERY intimate way" not understand that God is knowable because He has (metaphorically) placed Himself in a box.
Variation on the Theme
Further discussion is merited because the original statement in the present discussion was not solely the "box argument" but rather incorporated the sovereignty argument. And this is a good question - if God is sovereign (He is) then can He do any thing that He pleases?
Let's cut to the chase on this. The answer is yes, but the more honest question is "WILL He do anything that pleases?". The answer to that question is no. And we are back to the "box" argument. God will not do things that are contrary to His nature (attributes).
As a side note, I find it interesting that many Johnsonites like to play the "sovereignty card" in matters of manifestations, but not in matters of healing- which is a huge part of Bethel doctrine. Most Johnsonites would take exception to the Calvinte view of sovereignty.
Response Number 2
"If it takes "gold dust"...to get someone's attention, God would do it if He wanted to."
My first response would be a Rob-Bellish “and you know this how?” But seriously, this reasoning is as bizarre as positing "If it takes sexy naked ladies to get someone's attention, God would do this if He wanted to." Sure.
Even Bob Jones, who is highly esteemed in the signs and wonders movement and spoke recently at a Bethel conference, has long acknowledged that the three major temptation for men in ministry are "Girls, gold and glory." The concept seems understandable - even to Jones whose weakness apparently was “girls” (sexy naked ladies, to be precise).
And so it seems incredulous that God would use what is a major source of temptation to "get someone's attention." Especially since He has already given us his written Word (the Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus, the sacrifice Lamb). Isn't Jesus enough?
As to his written Word, God has already stated:
"take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather that choicest gold."
And He goes on to say:
"For wisdom is better that jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her (wisdom)."
Is God's Word Sufficient?
Historically we find the signs and wonders movement drawing on the teachings of John Wimber, who brought forth his thesis of "power evangelism" to the charismatic church. In essence this thesis teaches that signs and wonders are required for the propagation of the gospel. Scripture tells us that signs and wonders will follow the preaching of God's Word. but this has been distorted in recent years, most notably by teacher Bill Johnson, into a situation where often signs and wonders have replaced the preaching of God's Word.
This has been promoted by the Bethel practice of "treasure hunting." Reports now are coming in from California of Johnsonites publicly rebuking street preachers attampting to preach the gospel. Because God has showed them a better way? What does God have to say? Isaiah 55 might give us a hint:
"So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."
Romans 1:16 gives us further understanding about the gospel message:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.."
My goal here is not to proof-text the sufficiency of the written (and preached) Word for instruction in righteousness, or its ability to speak to ears that are dull. No, I think we need to question an image of God that is so weak that He has to send pigeon feathers or Mylar glitter to capture man's attention. Or, perchance, even the real things.
I mentioned earlier that God has revealed himself through history. That notion comes from Hebrews 1:1. If we read on to verse 2, we find that, in "these last days" He has revealed Himself ("spoken to us") through his Son.
And so I ask this: did Jesus, God incarnate, actually die on the cross for our sins? Did He rise again on the third day? Was this witnessed by not only the believers but by unbelievers? Here is the bottom line: if this does not get you attention, nothing will. And if it takes gold (or sexy naked girls) to get you attention, are you really saved?
To use yet another metaphor, God has "drawn a line in the sand." He is looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9). He is not looking for carnal followers, those whose attention is gained by carnal things.
"For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
We are Left With This
On one hand we have those whose mandate is to "preach the Word." On the other hand we have those who feel they must demonstrate an over-realized kingdom theology that appeals to man's lust for signs and wonders (c.f. Matthew 12:39) and justify it by stating, as John Wimber implied, that the Word was not enough.
This, of course, is a much bigger issue than the original question regarding whether the feathers and gold dust of Bethel are a valid sign from God, or if they are even possibly a sign of judgment.
The response "God can and will use whatever He pleases to show himself real to people" is trite, untrue, and does little to advance the Bethel position. And, in spite of anecdotal tales, "If it takes 'gold dust'...to get someone's attention, God would do it if He wanted to" can be considered to be no more than conjecture and brings with it some serious baggage. So far, no Johnsonite, nor even Bill Johnson himself, has developed a useful apologetic for “feathers and gold.”
Let's talk about it. Just to keep things civil, I'm going to delete any responses that use the terms such as heretic, blasphemer, antichrist, Sadducee, Pharisee, or scoffer. Play nice.
--adding two videos 11/2/2011 - see comments --
From September 2011 service
From 10/14/11 service
From 10/22(21?)/2011 service
Adding this 11-8-2011. I'd love to see the cut diamond that grew before thier eyes examined, but not holding my breath. What sort of cut marks would it exhibit, since it grew while cut?