Ok, after much thought and frustration, I've decided that I need to address this issue. I know that many will be offended by this, but I need to take a chance to defend the gospel where it is blatantly attacked by leaders that I know my close friends are following.
Recently a link to a bethel.tv sermon excerpt was sent to me and I took the time to listen to it. Usually I'll give a preacher the benefit of the doubt when I only hear a portion of a message, but this excerpt was so complete, self contained, and self explanatory that it would be impossible to take such a statement out of context for the sake of character assassination. Here is a link to the excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZQqBntB0C0#t=95
In one of his recent sermons, Eric Johnson (coincidentally he has the same name as this author), the son of Bill Johnson made a statement concerning the nature of Christ's work on the cross. He then gave his thoughts on the nature of man, both saved and unsaved.
“I struggle with the idea that before the cross, God hated people, he was just mad at them. But after the cross, ok now he's happy. That's what's taught—ok now he's in a good mood. He was in a bad mood, but now he's in a good mood. We've got this moment, this delineation, that the cross was the moment when, ok, now God's happy, he can relax and take a deep breath.
No, God has always been happy.”
He eventually continued,
"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, manipulating environment."
"Every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved. We have to start from that premise."
What frustrates me is that many of you who are reading this are allowing your mind to work overtime to make this statement take on an orthodox Christian meaning. Please resist this temptation and allow the plain meaning of Johnson's word's to stand.
Please, I'm asking you to step back for a moment and allow the ministry and the name behind this statement to not factor into your theological discernment. Is this statement in any way compatible with Christian doctrine?
Around 400ad, there was a teacher named Pelagius who taught something similar. He stated that grace and the cross were not necessary to please God. He claimed that we had not inherited the guilt and nature of Adam. He eventually was condemned as a heretic and false teacher. The Christian church has stood in unity across all denominational boundaries over this issue ever since.
Why the unity throughout history? It's simple, scripture is clear over this issue. Allow me to compare Johnson's statements to the clear testimony of scripture:
Johnson: “I struggle with the idea that before the cross, God hated people, he was just mad at them.”
Scripture: Psalm 5:4-5 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong.
Johnson: “But after the cross, ok now he's happy. That's what's taught—ok now he's in a good mood. He was in a bad mood, but now he's in a good mood. We've got this moment, this delineation, that the cross was the moment when, ok, now God's happy, he can relax and take a deep breath.”
Scripture: Romans 3:24-25 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (wrath averting sacrifice) by his blood.
Johnson: “No, God has always been happy.”
Scripture: Psalm 7:11 “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.”
Johnson: "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."
Scripture: Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”
Johnson: "Every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved. We have to start from that premise."
Scripture: Romans 3:9-18 all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Remember, Romans was written after the cross.
There is only one explanation for why Johnson would fall into such error. He thought that changing people's practical thinking would excuse faulty doctrine. This is the epitome of theological pragmatism. I've said it before, and I say it again now, if we sacrifice true doctrine for practical doctrine, we will soon have neither.
I have yet to find out whether Bethel church will recant this theology or if the rest of the teaching staff agrees. I pray they do not defend these statements. I pray they show a spirit of humility, repentance and submission to the scriptures.
If these statements are true, then they are ultimately nonsensical. If those outside of Christ are truly God seeking by nature, then they need no salvation. Therefore Johnson should not call them unsaved.
If these statements are indeed going to become the working theology of Bethel, then they have cut to the root of the gospel. This MUST be understood. Please do not think I say this lightly. And please feel the weight of what this means.
If this is where Bethel Church goes, then they will abandon the gospel, which is the foundation of the church, and they will therefore leave the Christian faith. Pray for them.