(415) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: The New Age & Bill Johnson – IHOP, Bethel Church, NAR
The New Age & Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)…..etc.
These are names that I am hearing more and more frequently. To be honest, the first picture that comes to my mind when I hear the word IHOP is PANCAKES. But, as much as I love pancakes, that is not the topic we are talking about here. Specifically, IHOP is the International House of Prayer.
Many Evangelical leaders are tripping over themselves to associate with major youth events which are very popular in the Christian world. These mass youth rallies were developed over the course of several decades by Mike Bickle’s IHOP (International House of Prayer) movement, which is interconnected to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). IHOP and the NAR share both personnel and doctrine, with roots that go back into the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God. In a previous posting, I shared the “Naked Cowboy” which displayed a questionable performance by the worship team Hillsong which shares similar paths with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
My goal is to do a series of posts on these groups. For now, I just want to highlight a common issue of New Age teaching that is creeping into churches such as Bethel Church. I want to refrain from passing judgment on other areas relating to signs and wonders, spiritual gifts….etc., but focus on the influence of the New Age on people like Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, NAR...etc. It is important to understand their teachings with these New Age influences are being used by many churches across the country. In addition to my comments, several sources will be used including several footnotes in this posting from the article by “The New Age Propensities of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson” by John Lanagan. I also want to stress that my main concern is the mixing of New Age in with Christian teaching which I would think is a major problem with these groups – a problem that you and I should be concerned about. While you can draw your own conclusions, I am not trying to say all is bad fruit from these groups. I haven’t done enough research to make that decision – there are plenty of other organizations that do that type of thing if you are interested.
Let’s start with some background. In Redding, California, Bethel Church has become one of the largest evangelical churches in North America. Many people from around the world travel to Redding to attend the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, and C. Peter Wagner (“founder” of the New Apostolic Reformation movement) has called Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, an “apostle.” This article combines several articles along with comments from me –
Given that title with claims on the church website that Bethel has a “global impact as a revival resource and equipping center,” it is expedient and responsible to examine Johnson and determine if he is indeed an apostle sent from God to the body of Christ.
The Physics of Heaven, a recent book Bill Johnson contributed to, and his personal assistant co-authored, reveals a very different picture than that of the apostles described in the Bible. It appears that rather than an apostle of God, Bill Johnson may be poised to serve as the vehicle that carries the New Age and quantum spirituality deep into the Body of Christ.
At that time I could not find a single Christian leader who shared a similar interest in finding out if there were truths hidden in the New Age. Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians “taking back truths” from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.1—Ellyn Davis, co-author, The Physics of Heaven
Being drawn to New Age ideas is not something new to Bethel’s leader. In a 2006 book titled Dreaming with God, Johnson writes, when referring to a practice associated with the New Age:
Many prominent pastors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear by assuming that because the New Age promotes it, its origins must be from the devil. I find that form of reasoning weak at best. If we follow that line of thought we will continue to give the devil the tools that God has given us for success in life and ministry.3
Stop and think about what is being said here: “the tools that God has given us” somehow ended up in the New Age? How did that happen? And which tools is he talking about? Why would a professing Christian say something like this? New Age teaching is in total opposition to the Word of God. To suggest that New Age practices are really just hijacked Christian truths is utterly absurd.
Research analyst Ray Yungen explains the basis of New Age thought:
Everything that exists, seen or unseen, is made up of energy—tiny particles of vibrating energy, atoms, molecules, protons, etc. All is energy. That energy, they believe, is God, and therefore, all is God. They believe that since we are all part of this “God-energy,” then we, too, are God. God is not seen as a Being that dwells in heaven, but as the universe itself.4
I’ve heard Dr. Oz talk about these energies on his television show as he combines New Age with Eastern Mysticism while his audience ingests his reasoning because he is a medical doctor. Bill Johnson and Bethel Church exert significant influence in the body of Christ. And whatever path Bethel and its leaders travel is the path on which many will follow. We need to pay attention to what is happening here, using discernment and godly wisdom.
In addition to Johnson’s own contribution to the book (one full chapter), his personal assistant, Judy Franklin, is a co-author; and the foreword of The Physics of Heaven is written by Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate leader at Bethel. Vallotton lauds the contributors as “seers.”5 Banning Liebscher, Director of Bethel’s Jesus Culture, adds his praise.6 Bill Johnson’s wife, Beni Johnson, also has a chapter in the book. With all that, The Physics of Heaven undeniably has the approval of Bethel’s leaders.
So what does The Physics of Heaven reveal?
The Next Move of God?
Ellyn Davis, one of the authors of The Physics of Heaven, says this:
[The contributors of the book] all agree that the next move of God will cause a shift at the deepest level of who we are—perhaps the very “vibrational level” that the New Age movement has been exploring. They also all agree that there are precious truths hidden in the New Age that belong to us as Christians and need to be extracted from the worthless.7
Contributor Jonathan Welton adds:
I have found throughout Scripture at least 75 examples of things that the New Age has counterfeited, such as having a spirit guide, trances, meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and more. These actually belong to the church, but they have been stolen and cleverly repackaged.8
We need to begin to use [New Age] counterfeits as signposts. Every time a counterfeit shows up, take it as the Lord presenting you with an opportunity to reclaim . . . the Church’s stolen property.9
This is like taking a bottle with a “Poison!” warning on it and re-labeling it, “Honey.” Contemplative prayer, which is essentially Eastern/New Age meditation disguised with Christian terminology, entered the church in just this manner.
Co-author Ellyn Davis asserts:
It wasn’t that I wanted to become a New Ager, I just wanted to find out if maybe they had uncovered some truths the church hadn’t.10
Davis then attempts to justify her position by claiming much of what she found “embodied biblical principles” and “could be backed up by Scripture.”11
In contrast to such a mindset, Scripture exhorts us:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Compare Davis’ desire to sample New Age wisdom with the resolve of the newly saved Christians in Acts 19: These saints separated themselves from the occult; they did not peruse their occultic literature one last time in case there were some “truths” there. The unholy books were gathered and set on fire:
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)
The action taken by these bold new believers caused the Gospel to spread.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:20)
Lacking basic discernment about involvement with the New Age, co-author Davis, the Bethel Redding contingent, and the other contributors have rendered a great disservice to the Body of Christ. The Bethel contributors, in particular, can potentially do the most damage because of their popularity and high visibility.
Bill Johnson’s view of Scripture may give us a clue as to how he ended up being attracted to extra-biblical leanings. According to Johnson:
Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know.12
This is dangerous thinking. The Bible is our map. To go “beyond what we know” is to go beyond the parameters of Scripture.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:103-105)
The Physics of Heaven, whether intentionally or unintentionally, serves to illustrate how the false church will form—or, more accurately, how it is forming. New Age practices will increasingly be welcomed into the Body of Christ. These practices will be presented as redeemed or Christian in origin. The church will be subverted—turned toward Eastern/New Age/Quantum mysticism. Language, terms, and trappings may even remain essentially “Christian”—but acceptance of the biblical Christ will diminish.
1. Ellyn Davis, The Physics of Heaven (Crossville, TN: Double Portion Publishing, Kindle Edition, 2013), Kindle location: 405.
2. Bethel Redding website, http://bethelredding.com/about.
3. Bill Johnson, Dreaming With God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World Through God’s Creative Flow (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2006), p. 86.
4. Ray Yungen, For Many Shall Come In My Name (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), p. 17.
5. Kris Vallotton, The Physics of Heaven, op. cit., Kindle location: 96.
6. Ibid., Banning Liebscher, Kindle location: 85.
7. Ibid., Ellyn Davis, Kindle location: 447.
8. Ibid., Jonathan Welton, Kindle location: 808.
10. Ibid., Ellyn Davis, Kindle location: 392.
12. Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles(Shippensburg, PA., Destiny Image Publishers Inc., 2003, Kindle edition), p. 1113.
13. Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Crosswise Blog, http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/kenosis-christology-and-bill-johnson-part-ii.