Is Bill Johnson a false teacher?

Category 5

Verdict: Bill Johnson is a false apostle within NAR and should be avoided.

Preface

Part of how this Discernment ministry operates is taking in reader questions about prevalent teachers. There were multiple requests to investigate Bill Johnson, and due to him leading the field of requests, this investigation into his teachings was undergone. You can make a request here and see our answered verdicts here.

Scope

The Evangelical Dark Web is primarily established to combat three false gospels. However, this verdict will briefly examine the teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) but is not designed to prove that this false teaching is heresy. Furthermore, this verdict is not designed to weigh into the debate over the continuation of spiritual gifts. The question of whether Bill Johnson is a false teacher or not does not hinge on the cessation of certain spiritual gifts or the lack thereof. Bill Johnson has been called a false teacher from both sides of this debate and we draw from both sides in this verdict. This verdict is not intended to be exhaustive. The primary focus of this verdict will be Bethel Church and Bill Johnson’s association with NAR which are sufficient in proving a Category 5.

Bethel Redding

Bill Johnson is the pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. He took the reigns of Bethel Redding in 1996, a church his father once pastored. Under Bill Johnson’s leadership, the mission of Bethel Redding can be summarized with one word: revival. But the larger question is: revival of what? Bethel’s mission on its website is this:

Bethel Redding’s mission is to create a vibrant family of hope-filled believers who deeply experience the love and presence of God and partner with Jesus to express the joy and power of His kingdom in every area of life.

The beliefs section of this page is quite deviant from any other church’s website I have encountered. It reads:

We Are About Revival
The personal, regional, and global expansion of God’s kingdom through His manifest presence.

We are a community of believers who are passionate about the things of God:

Relationship with God
Our number one priority is our personal relationship with God. Our first ministry is to God with extravagant joy and gratitude.

Freedom through Salvation
Salvation frees us from the power of the devil – sin, lies, sickness and torment.

Supernatural Ministry
Every believer is a supernatural minister of the gospel of power. All ministry flows from the prayer “Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven.” We equip and send the church to carry on the signs and wonders that followed Jesus.

Impact through Love & Power
Serving a city, not just a church, we demonstrate God’s grace by impacting every sphere with His unconditional love and transforming power

A Glorious Bride
Christ is returning for a glorious overcoming bride – His Church. We are sons and daughters of the King, more than “sinners saved by grace.” We aim to fulfill the Great Commission and steward revival to the next generation. We embrace the biblical government of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

WE BELIEVE:
– There is only one true God who is the eternal King, Creator and Redeemer of all that is.
– He is perfectly holy, just, loving and truthful.
– He has revealed Himself to be eternally self-existent – one being in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
– The Bible to be the inspired and only infallible and authoritative Word of God.

The statements of beliefs under the mission section is quite deviant.[1] The part about salvation has no mention of Jesus and his work on the cross. In their mission, there is no mention of the Resurrection, repentance, or baptism (aside from referencing the Great Commission). Bethel Redding claims that salvation frees us from sickness which is a component of the Prosperity Gospel. Similar to Hillsong and much of the Church Planting Industry, the missional focus is on cities. And it would be remiss to not mention the overemphasis on the supernatural which characterizes Bethel Redding (see below). Ironically, despite focusing on the supernatural, there is no mention of angels or demons here. The most core doctrines of Christianity are relegated to a small section at the bottom which is indicative of how important Bethel Redding views these teachings.

Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry

Bethel is perhaps most distinct for its supernatural school known as BSSM. BSSM like its parent organization places a large emphasis on revival. BSSM is intended to make revivalists, not necessarily pastors, for Bethel Redding aspires to produce apostles, evangelists, and prophets. Kris Vallotton is the head of BSSM.[2]

Having skimmed the academic curriculum of BSSM, these are the findings. The most academically rigorous class appears to be “Bible Exegesis, Interpretation and Application” which combines hermeneutics with Old and New Testament surveys. For comparison to a seminary, it reduces this to an equivalent of six credit hours. Theology and church history are combined into one class as well (equivalent of 3 credit hours). Four of seven of the classes are charismatic by design. Conspicuously absent is the study of Kione Greek or ancient Hebrew. This will limit the ability of students to exegete Scripture to their fullest potential. Furthermore, the reading material for BSSM include Bill Johnson’s heretical material containing a false Christology (see below).

There is little intellectual diversity within the training BSSM provides. They train students to be like Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton and certify them accordingly. The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is a good way to train leaders of a cult.

Dead Raising Team

Perhaps the most unique thing about Bethel is their Dead Raising Team, an off shoot of BSSM helmed by Tyler Johnson.[3] Despite claiming to have witnessed double digit number of resurrections, there is no evidence provided to corroborate this claim. No people, dates, or locations that could lead to an independent investigation are provided. Therefore, it would be prudent and Biblical to reject the claims of a resurrection made by Bethel.

In early 2020, Bethel Redding drew a lot of attention over the failed resurrection of a child. The Dead Raising Team seems as though a massive scam designed to sell books, book conferences, and provide training sessions.

Conclusion

Not only is Bethel not a recommendable church, it appears as though a cult.

New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)

Briefly, NAR is an unbiblical movement largely within charismatic churches that asserts that churches are to be led by apostles. The NAR understanding of Apostles comes with supernatural abilities and new revelations from God.

Already we see the tributes to NAR ideology with the misapplication of Ephesians 4:11 in the mission page of Bethel Redding (see above). Their “seminary” BSSM also emphasized the “five fold distinctions” found in Ephesians 4:11. The New Testament understanding of Apostles is equitable to Old Testament Prophets. However, the qualifications for an Apostle laid out in Acts 1 require that someone having witnessed seeing the Jesus post Resurrection. What an Apostle says we should be writing down. The books these pretender Apostles write would be canon if they were legitimate in their title. Acts 1:21-26 ESV reads:

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord,  who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

It is supremely narcissistic to call oneself an Apostle. There are other theological issues with NAR including its Kingdom Now belief and a reductive Christology.

Is Bill Johnson NAR?

NAR is more of an occult false teaching, in that teachers will deny their affiliation with the movement. Bill Johnson is no exception to this fact and denies association with NAR to Christianity Today. CT reported:

McCurdy, Johnson, and other critics believe Bethel to be instrumental in leading some Christians to embrace tenets of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement known for dominion theology and a belief in the continuing ministries of apostles and prophets alongside those of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Bill Johnson is regularly listed as an NAR leader. He believes in the apostolic and prophetic ministries, but says the church does not have any official ties to the NAR.

Bill Johnson does not go so far as to openly call himself an apostle regularly. But NAR proponents often do not while insisting that they are apostolic. It is necessary to note that the term “New Apostolic Reformation” was coined by C. Peter Wagner. NAR is one of several, but the most recent, movements bent on restoring the five folded ministry. The Latter Rain Movement was one of the originals in this quest, at least within Pentecostalism. It was formerly denounced by the Assemblies of God in 1949. The embrace of similar ideology in NAR could explain why Bethel Redding is no longer affiliated with the AoG.

In 2008, NAR apostle Todd Bentley launched the Lakeland Revival. In this video, Che Ahn, the current leader of NAR due to Wagner’s death, refers to Bill Johnson among others as apostles. Che Ahn also anoints Todd Bentley with oil to the approval of the others. This was prior to Todd Bentley disgracing himself in multiple ways, which exemplifies the lack of judgement on the part of the so-called apostles.

The more legitimate NAR organization is ICAL, the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders. They put on several conferences which not only has Bill Johnson spoken at but was also referred to as an apostle. Bill Johnson and the NAR founder, C Peter Wagner, have a history together. In 2012, Johnson received an honorary doctorate from the Wagener Leadership Institute. Therefore, the statements made by Bill Johnson to Christianity Today are false. Bill Johnson is not only associated with NAR but has a demonstrable history of embracing its core beliefs, such as the Kingdom Now and has made numerous statements of questionable Christology.

Bethel exemplifies the Kingdom Now belief system, with many of its practices include the advance of a record label. The Kingdom Now doctrine also believes in over-spiritualizing politics. Bill Johnson is quoted speaking in Todd White’s Lifestyle Church saying:

There are tens of millions of believers who did not vote in the last election, and I’ll tell you why: is because they don’t believe their vote matters. They don’t believe that when you do a natural thing a spiritual power is released.

They actually believe that the world is supposed to get worse and worse and that’s when the Lord comes back, and so why work against that which brings Jesus back to earth? They don’t have an expectation of the glory of God, they have an expectation of the increasing evil, and that would be the sign that brings the Lord back, so why work against the purposes of the Lord?

So they actually become contributors, their silence makes them a contributor to the growing evil in the land.

Physical obedience brings spiritual release. Every time you vote in Jesus’ name’ you release the power of God into the atmosphere. You’re not voting by yourself, there’s an angelic presence with you that is shouting ‘amen’ to voting the value system of heaven. Stop voting for personality, start voting for values.

It is not wrong to advocate Christians partake in elections. However, voting is not a spiritual event. Moreover, one could conscionably stay home on election day. And this would fall within the realm of Christian liberty. Bill Johnson’s error statements reflect his belief in NAR’s Kingdom Now doctrine.

On the Christology front, Sara Boyd documents many questionable statements here. Crosswise also has a more exhaustive list of quotes from Bill Johnson’s writings and sermons and concludes that Bill Johnson has a New Age Christology. From the many quotes, it appears Bill Johnson has a tough time grasping how God the Son can perform supernatural miracles. This provides insight into his own views on human’s capabilities to perform miracles as well. The largest issue surrounding Bill Johnson’s Christology is what appears to be a very kenosis view of Jesus’ divinity.

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title. He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.
Heaven Invades p. 79

Bill Johnson is absolutely wrong here. Jesus was born the Messiah. He did not become the Messiah. His anointing was to reveal not to receive such title. Johnson would go on to claim that the “The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil” on page 79 also. Crosswise concludes this:

Bill Johnson’s Christology can certainly be described as heresy.  It is known as separationist Christology34 for it separates Christ from Jesus and vice versa.  By definition, as Cumbey states above, it meets the test of antichrist as it denies Jesus is the Christ [1 John 2:22] since He is only human (having “laid His divinity aside”) and becomes Christ only by virtue of the “Christ anointing” which also, in effect, denies Jesus is the Son of the Father (as opposed to merely a son) which in turn denies the Father [1 John 2:22-23];35 moreover, Johnson’s Christology denies that the person of Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [1 John 4:1-3] since it was merely Jesus of Nazareth who came in the flesh.

The research done by Crosswise ultimately shows the manifestation of Bill Johnson’s Christology that heretically stems from the view that Christ is separate from Jesus.[4]

Prosperity Gospel

Bill Johnson has often been associated with the Word of Faith movement, also known as the Prosperity Gospel.

In this video[5], Bill Johnson asserts that he does not accept a theology that allows sickness. He talks about how many interpret the thorn in Paul’s side as an illness. Bill Johnson calls this interpretation “a different gospel.” This is certainly the health component of this false gospel.

Where is the revival at?

It is worth putting on the Gamaliel hat, it is necessary to examine what the fruit of Bethel Redding is. Is there a revival going on? Without doubt, it can be said that Bethel Redding has grown tremendously. But that is a different question. What distinguishes Bethel Redding as a brand is music and cultish behavior.  From the fire tunnels to the dead raising teams, there’s a lot of deviances with how Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton lead their church. It appears as though a cult rather than a church.

Conclusion

Bill Johnson falls squarely in the NAR category which is not a new movement within church history. Movements like this that exalt one man, or multiple, to apostolic proportions tend to die out or become denominations such as Mormons, 7th Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But in the meantime, Bill Johnson has built a cult and brands it as a truer Christianity on the basis of his supernatural experiences. This gnostic understanding of the Christian life is dangerous and demeaning to actual believers. Bill Johnson repeatedly lies about his lack of affiliation with NAR despite having a documented history of interaction with the movement both on an organizational level and a personnel level.

Bill Johnson, whether he admits it or not, views himself as an apostle and allows others to do so as well. From a Biblical understanding of who and what an apostle is, Christians who deny Bill Johnson’s apostolic calling would be in heresy if he truly is a living apostle today. But we can gather from his confusing at best and heretical at worst Christology that he is no apostle. Therefore, this verdict resoundingly rejects his apostolic calling. Therefore, this verdict concludes that Bill Johnson is a Category 5, for not only is he a false teacher, but is leading a hyper-charismatic cult.


[1] Deviant is only used on this site as a statistical term.

[2] While this is a verdict on Bill Johnson, all implications can be carried over to Kris Vallotton.

[3] Tyler Johnson does not appear to be Bill Johnson’s son. Possible relative, but no conclusions are contingent upon his familial relationship.

[4] In the interest of brevity and presentation, the plethora of quotes used in the conclusions written are not included. We respect the original authors and their research and refer you to them rather than copying and pasting whole swaths of their articles.

[5] One needs an account to watch on Bethel Redding’s website. Audio is from a sermon titled “Jesus Is Our Model” dated December 20th, 2009
https://www.bethel.tv/watch/390

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