Friday, August 30, 2013

Original Sin or Original Gospel? Bethel Church

Weekly, if not daily, we get inquiries about the popular "Jesus Culture" movement. Jesus Culture is more than just music, the concerts also include teaching. And it is the teaching (doctrine) more than anything that is cause for concern.

Pastor Eric Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA (the home of "Jesus Culture") has recently made a clear affirmation of the Pelagian heresy.  In a message on July 28, 2013 entitled "the Joy of Consecration," Johnson denied the biblical concept of "original sin."

This biblical concept is best stated in Psalms 51:5

Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.

The heresy being taught at Bethel is know as "Pelagianism," and no, it really isn't original to Bethel. According to Theopedia:

Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will.

Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

So what exactly did Johnson say?

"You're not born evil. It's amazing how many teachings and theologies start with that thought. Anytime you start with that you will create a controlling, manipulative environment."

"Every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are fundamentally good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved. We have to start from that premise."

I have listened to the full sermon to make sure this is not ripped out of context, although I can't imagine ANY context in which this statement would be deemed compatible with Christianity.  And just to make it clear, later in the sermon, Johnson has this to say:

"We have to adjust our perspective of people. We have to realize that people are good and they mean to do good."

Let's compare that to the scriptures which state in Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

To make it clear, what Johnson is teaching is not the typical Arminian perspective, and certainly not the perspective of the Assemblies of God, of which Bethel church was once a part of. Arminius stated the "Free Will of man towards the True God" was "imprisoned, destroyed, and has no powers whatever except such are excited by Divine Grace."

Original sin is not a secondary doctrinal issue. It is a deal-breaker for those who consider the Bible to mean what it says. Quoting the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12

So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.

Sin is inherent in man, it came from the fall of Adam, and it remains with us today.

Again Johnson states:

"Every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are fundamentally good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved. We have to start from that premise."

Compare that to Ephesians 2:1-3

And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

When Johnson made these statements even his congregation was stunned. Silence and then a few nervous giggles. May God open their eyes and may this be a turning point for them.


  1. Do you happen to have a link to the full sermon that this was taken from?


  2. Hi! Wow, this is important. Can you tell me which sermon this is from?

  3. "The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are 'words and names' which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when he makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner." -J.C. Ryle, Holiness.

    Read this today, and thought of your post, Bill. Might be out of the Johnsons league though.

  4. In a message on July 28, 2013 entitled "the Joy of Consecration," Johnson denied the biblical concept of "original sin."

  5. So apparently he considers himself a more reliable source than the Bible? What is wrong with people that they sit there and put up with such heresy?? Could it be biblical illiteracy?!?

    1. These are my thoughts exactly. People should be leaving this kind of false teaching in droves!!! What will happen with this kind of thinking is, people will give others a false gospel, people will not be repenting. They won't see a need to repent. There will be hoards of false converts sitting in these churches, waiting for the glory to fall down. Or gold dust.

  6. @Leslie
    2Th 2:9
    The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,

    2Th 2:10
    and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

    2Th 2:11
    Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,

    2Th 2:12
    in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


  7. While I can understand his heart behind this (telling people they are evil is not a great selling point for any belief system) it cheapens the power of the Gospel. If we are generally "good" people then it's not as difficult to then draw the conclusion that we deserve to be saved. That's not the point of grace and that's not how it works.


  9. Perhaps I should have been more descriptive... Eric Johnson did it AGAIN, Oct 6th, 2013.. attempting somewhat to clarify his earlier position, but again porports the Pelagian position.. In direct contradiction to Romans 3:12, "... there is none that do good; no, not one." His definition of "good" is humanistic, and, as I wrote him in a personal letter to his FB account, any time that you say ANY deed of a sinner is "good", it is a place of his heart and life where that sinner does not have to submit to Christ.. ALL unregenerated works are abominable.. they are "filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6.

  10. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary”

    ~ James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 51

  11. So... What exactly is your goal in posting this? Is it that everyone should run from this ministry and refuse everything that they do? Is it that we should label this particular pastor as an idiot or a complete heretic based on one teaching? Should we be going to your church or exclusively your blog for right theology? I am a bit confused about your motives. Anybody who has spent time at Bethel will tell you they have incredible oversight and review of their team and are incredibly intentional about the culture of their community. In any way this is incorrect it will likely be corrected. But it's also one sermon out thousands and doesn't represent the entire breadth of their community... A community that I don't believe you are involved in. I guess I just don't understand what you are trying to accomplish. Why not state your concerns and explain why you might disagree? It sounds like you are trying to rip apart an entire ministry based on a couple statements, correct or incorrect. "May God open their eyes and may this be a turning point for them..." You clearly have a readership that believes in what you have to say, and this seems like an interesting way to exercise the power your readers have granted you. If there is anything I know about that community in Redding, it is that they would never want to go against God and stand in incorrect theology. If this is a teaching moment for anybody on their team, that is none of our business. However, I would reconsider why you have chosen to exercise your voice and platform in this way... If anything is disheartening, it is the way you chose to write this.

  12. Wasn't it Jesus who said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"

    Look the issue isnt about "good" or "bad" it is about "dead" or "alive" ... Colossians 2:13-14 : And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

  13. I don’t usually respond to things like this, I’m actually surprised you posted it, but this time I will (its perversion, gossip and slander to the core – what the blogger wrote, not what Eric said).

    Well the blogger asked a portion of the right question “Original Sin? Original Gospel?”

    The conclusion one draws depends on what they are seeing as the Original. My Bible says in Gen 1:31 “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Gospel)

    And it was after that that sin entered. (Sin was not our created value)

    Jesus paid the amazing price He paid of laying down His life, becoming sin, so that we could be restored back to our Original Value, pre-sin (pre-Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit). He knows how He created us, very good, and He paid the price that He did to have what we were never made to be, sin, removed from us, so that we could manifest everything that He predestined for us to be before the foundations of the earth. In case there is any confusion on that, we were created in the image of love, not in the image of sin.

    Bottom line, Jesus saw how incredibly amazing and valuable we were and gave His life so that we could be brought back into that. He didn’t die because we were such wretched sinners, you don’t pay such a high price for junk. He saw, what we were never created for eating us alive and made a way to have that removed from us. If you believe that you are a sinner after you’re saved, you haven’t received the revelation of redemption and restoration.

    Yes, every person must make a choice to be born again, and have the sin nature removed (put off the old man) and be born into Christ (put on the new man). When you’re born again you died with Him and are raised with Him and are seated in heavenly place, a new creation, one that never existed before (sin nature that you were born into in the flesh is gone, dead, buried). Call no man on earth your father, you have but one…your true identity and nature comes from your Heavenly Father. Some people need to be reminded of that and called back into their destiny (the one that God purposed for them), not the one the devil duped them into believing.

    Eric doesn’t deny the need for Salvation, we have calls for Salvation at Bethel all the time. His focus in this message was about living a life of consecration, holiness and purity and about the Daniel’s that will be serving the Nebuchadnezzar’s. What the author of this blog did, as so many do, was to come into a family discussion that’s been going on for months and take a 1 minute 49 second snippet and make a rash decision and then proceed to pervert and twist it and spew it out as if was the teaching in its totality and not only making a rash, erroneous conclusion, but he proceeded to drag names and ministries through the mud at the same time. Might have been a better idea if he would have just communicated with Eric and gotten clarification before posting this out to the world and putting this wrong thought (I think the Bible calls it gossip and slander) into others minds and eyes, so now those who don’t know Eric, Bethel or Jesus Culture have a tainted view and not God’s. We’re called to see as He sees, not as a blogger sees. Take everything that you hear and take it before God (use His Word and His Spirit to get some discernment) and if you have a problem with a brother take it to him Matt 18:15-17 (not to the world). If after listening to all the previous MONTHS of teachings that Eric has done, you still don’t understand what he was saying about man being good, maybe you can listen to Dan Mohler (, he explains it pretty clearly. But best of all would be you just getting alone with God and letting Him, reveal it to your heart. That’s what this article completely missed, Eric’s heart and the heart and nature of God. By claiming that Sin and Evil is the original, you have stated that’s what you were created in the image of and God has no evil in Him.

  14. Hey guys.

    I attended Bethel for 4 years and went through their school of ministry, so I feel like I have a pretty healthy understanding of their core values and teachings as a church.

    Bethel believes that all men are born fallen and sinful in nature. But at the same time, their vision is to focus on the beauty and inherent goodness that every human being has because they were created in the image of God. They believe that focusing on the value of a person, because they were created in God's image, is the best way to see a person fully. But you do that while still fully understanding that they are still subject to their fallen sinful nature.

    The "goodness" or "good" that Eric talks about people being born with, is not the goodness that equivocates to the righteousness that is only found through faith in Jesus. He is just taking about the same goodness that God attributed to men when He created them. There is a predestined glory or predestined potential, built into each person and that is the thing God loves about each of us and why He died for us. So that we would not be subject to our sinful natures but step into who we actually were created to be.

    I read a response from someone and I thought it accurately described the discrepancy:

    "easy slip in a culture that places high priority on valuing people as made in the image of God. What Eric would have been pointing to (which is a big deal at bethel) is the concept that the law of sin at work in us (Rom 7:14-17) destroys who we are, it's not the truth of who we are."

    The truth of who we are is that we are God's creation: we are "good" (valuable, not righteous) because He made us, His sons and daughters, predestined for glory. That is what Eric and Bethel want us to focus on. While still acknowledging that yes, unbelievers have a sinful nature.

    Does that help at all?

    I fully understand how outside of knowing Bethel personally as a ministry, this one off message can seem to communicate clear heresy and "redefinition" of the Gospel.

    Eric is advocating a perspective shift, not a theological shift.

  15. I hope that you went to your brother, Eric, and talked to him before you blog about him

  16. I appreciate all the good comments. Please stick to the theological discussion, this is not about me, my motives, or why Matthew 18 does not apply to public teachings.

  17. I want to thank God for this blog. I'm sorry. To all Bethelites who are defending Eric I implore you to know that this is not what the Lord Jesus has taught. Any one who calls himself a true "Christian" cannot at the same time, defend Bethel. If you are, then please leave our Lord out of it. Go down the humanistic road but let's notdare defend Eric as Biblical. I say that because I fear the Lord and I know His commands and His ways.


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