Bill Johnson Addresses Some of the Controversies Concerning Bethel Church
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Bill Johnson recently addressed some of the points of criticism raised against Bethel Church. We believe it is helpful to talk about them here.
Charismanews.com, a Christian information website, titled the interview “Bill Johnson Answers Hard-Hitting Questions About Bethel Controversies.” The interview is rather lenient, and it seems to be more of an opportunity for Bill Johnson to talk about his new book, “Good is Good,” while clearing Bethel’s name. The interview is conducted by Dr. Michael Brown, who interviewed Benny Hinn concerning controversies. In this interview with Bill Johnson, Michael Brown plainly says that he is keeping the questions short so that Bill Johnson has time to present his book.
In the interview, Michael Brown addresses three topics:
- Sin and repentance, which are not dealt with in Bethel Church’s teachings
- Daughter-in-law Jenn Johnson’s description of the Holy Spirit. Jean Johnson is a pastor at Bethel Church and Bill Johnson’s daughter-in-law. She presents the Holy Spirit in the following manner: “I view the Holy Spirit like the Genie from Aladdin. And he’s blue. And he’s funny, and he’s sneaky.”
- Grave sucking, which is the practice of soaking up deceased people’s anointing on their grave
Of course, Bethel Church is reproached for many more things, but let’s hear what Bill Johnson has to say on these three topics.
Sin and repentance
Michael Brown calls out Bill Johnson concerning a video in which Eric Johnson, pastor at Bethel and one of Bill Johnson’s son, declares that man is born good — this is clearly heresy.
What about sin, then? In the interview, Bill Johnson answers that sin exists and that repentance is necessary. What his son meant, he says, is that everyone is to be honored since they were created in the image of God.
We can only appreciate the fact that Bill Johnson recognizes that man is sinful and needs repentance. That is good to hear.
In the sermon that led to the controversy, Eric Johnson said this:
“Every government, every structure, 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 with that premise.”
In the same sermon, he says:
“We have to adjust our perspective of people. We have to realize people are good and they mean to do good.”
Two months later, he talked about it again, visibly due to the criticism received in the wake of the previous sermon. In that sermon he explains that non-believers, atheists even, can do good, even more good that some Christians. He also says that even though one might do all the good they can, they cannot attain righteousness without Jesus. But by confessing Jesus, one obtains righteousness through faith.
However, he makes no mention of repentance.
But if Bill Johnson himself acknowledges man’s need to repent, what then is repentance for him?
Here is what he says about it in his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind:”
“Renewing the mind begins with repentance. That is the gateway to retur to our original assignment on earth. Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. To many Christians, repentance refers to having an altar call where people come forward and weep at the altar and get right with God. That is a legitimate expression of repentance, but it’s not what the word repentance means.. “Re” means to go back. “Pent” is like the penthouse, the top floor of a building. Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our intellect, our emotions, and every part of our lives.”
In his book “When Heaven Invades Earth” is found a similar statement:
“The focus of repentance is to change our way of thinking until the presence of His Kingdom fills our consciousness.”
So when Bill Johnson recognizes that man needs to repent, he refers to that.
Thus, his definition leans more toward “seeing with God’s perspective” and/or “changing our thinking so that our conscience is filled with the presence of His Kingdom,” rather than turning from sin and to God.
For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
We need to realize that we are on the wrong track, in sin, and to get on the right path.
Repentance is vital:
I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:3
The Holy Spirit alone can convict of sin:
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
The Lord Jesus tells us:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. John 6:44
But then we need to accept that we are sinners, to ask God for forgiveness, and change our behavior; not “fill our consciousness with the Kingdom of God.” The apostle Paul wrote:
but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. Acts 26:20
Here’s a very good article on repentance according to Bill Johnson.
Jenn Johnson’s description of the Holy Spirit
“The Holy Spirit to me is like the genie from Aladdin, and he’s blue, and he’s funny – and he’s sneaky […] “
Notice how she uses the adjective “sneaky,” which comes from “snake.” This is particularly shocking. Jenn Johnson made that description multiple times (at least twice in the first video, and yet another time in the second video).
We encourage you to watch the first video (1 min 26 sec). Her attitude is particularly telling.
What does Bill Johnson have to say about it?
He explains that he wouldn’t use these terms himself, and that these statements were made a long time ago. He adds that he talked about it with her and that they solved the issue. Good!
It is sad and puzzling that those videos are still on YouTube. The second clip was posted by Bethel itself, thus they can delete it whenever they want and should do it.
Grave Sucking / Mantle Grabbing
In response to accusations, Kris Vallotton had already posted a text on the topic on Facebook. The text is contradictory, as Kris Vallotton first says that he had never heard about grave sucking until a few months prior. But further down the article, he writes that it was a running joke at Bethel. As for the rest, the position that he adopts in the article is correct in that he rebukes the idea that one could receive the anointing of a deceased person by laying on their grave.
Granted this is just a joke, it doesn’t change the fact that by not communicating about it clearly, the practice misleads many. It is a bad joke, to say the least.
In the interview by Michael Brown, Bill Johnson confirms that Bethel Church does not teach people to seek anointing on deceased people’s graves, which is good to hear.
However, he does say that God told him to honor those that he considers great men of the faith, and that if we honor them, then God can release the same anointing again. He said this in the past already, and it is the reason why he is building a library museum with artifacts from past revivals, such as items that belong to Kathryn Kuhlman. God told him that he would then receive their anointing. Bill Johnson is thus expecting to receive the anointing of the people that will be honored in his museum. Thus there is no laying on graves, but we can’t help seeing the similarities.
Bill Johnson also wrote this is his book “Physics of Heaven” :
“There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left, because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.” (Davis, 2012) Physics of Heaven – Bill Johnson
Hence, Bill Johnson teaches that anointings are unique and can be passed on. It is possible to get a hold of them where they have been left (and thus, where would that be, other than where the person who had that anointing died?)
What should we think of this statement by Cal Pierce (previously involved in Bethel and founder of the Healing Rooms)
“It was July 22, 1999 when we re-dug the wells of healing and opened up Healing Rooms in Spokane, Washington. The healing wells of John G. Lake had been waiting to be re-dug since 1935 when he passed away. I knew for this work to be available to the whole body of Christ, the focus must come off of a man, John G. Lake, and onto the Holy Spirit.”
Further down, Cal Pierce writes:
“Where the Holy Spirit is, His anointing is available to every believer.”
It is thus to be understood that the anointing is available at a specific location. Cal Pierce explains that he went and prayed on John G. Lake’s grave every month for a year until the Lord told him that he was to open a healing room at the very place where John G. Lake had his ministry. Ironically, Pierce ran a healing room in what he believed was Lake’s home, and several years later found out that Lake’s house had been torn down and rebuilt a long time prior. Thus it was the same location, but not the same house.
Once again we read about the concept of anointings that are bound to a specific person and can be passed on. Anointings seem to rest where the person was, and it is necessary to start from there before taking it further.
What the Bible says about anointing
It is a vast topic. Nevertheless, a distinction exists between what is said about it in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Anointing consists in pouring oil on a person or an item. In some cases, that anointing was accompanied with divine power.
In the Old Testament, anointing was reserved for high priests, kings, and some prophets, as well as leprous people.
Biblical references: Exodus 30:25-33; 1 Samuel 10:1; and 1 King 1:39; 1 King 19:16; Leviticus 14:17.
When a king died, his successor would be anointed by a high priest or a prophet. In the case of David, however, he was anointed while Saul was still alive.
Some artefacts were also consecrated in the same manner. This is no longer to be done under the New Covenant, yet some still do it.
In the New Testament, following Pentecost, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was made available to all born-again believers.
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” 1 John 2:20
“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27
Then, there are gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are different for each believer:
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:6-8
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Is grave sucking something that is really practice, or is it just a joke?
Grave sucking is in fact not a joke.
For example, Benny Hinn (who topped the list of the “friends of Bethel” on Bethel’s old website) stated that he regularly visited Kathryn Kuhlman’s grave and that he feels a special anointing when there.
John Crowder, a friend of the Johnson family, openly teaches this practice. He welcomes many Bethel students in his courses. See this video of John Crowder .
Moreover, several charistmatic magazines condemned the practice:
Other resources :
- This video, in which Bethel students and Ben Fitzgerald, a leader from Bethel, can be seen teaching the concept of grave sucking;
- Multiples pictures of Bethel students lying on graves;
- Pictures of Beni Johnson (wife of Bill Johnson and senior pastor at Bethel Church) lying on C.S. Lewis’s grave and hugging Charles Finney’s grave.
These practices are happening.
Does Bethel teach that practice?
A diversity of examples of Bethel teachings indicate that they consider that:
- There exist special anointings;
- Those anointings can be passed on from one person to another, as well as (or exclusively?) after death;
- One can “pick up” those anointings where they have been left;
- One can “pick up” those anointings by honoring those who carried them before (could that potentially be idolatry?). This tends to remind us of veneration of saints.
From there, seeking to receive anointings on graves is not that great a stretch.
Bill Johnson may not do it, but his wife, leaders from his church, and students seem ready to engage with it.