When Theology Runs Off the Rails

In this post, I am sharing a few videos that attempt to tackle the theology of modern day apostles and prophets or what some may refer to as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The most prominent entity being Bethel Church in Redding , CA. I am adding some additional thoughts; however, to really get an idea of where the leadership of this movement is coming from, I highly recommend watching the videos. Yes, the videos are lengthy, but it is difficult to properly discuss the theology of an entire movement in just a few minutes. It’s worth the time investment.

If you have ever listened to the music of Bethel or Jesus Culture, heard an inspiring message from their leadership, or read one of their many books and have wondered what their theology is truly about – well, here it is.

Let me start by saying that I am NOT a cessationist. I believe that God still heals and performs miracles, signs and wonders. I do not fear the Holy Spirit moving, nor do I have a religious spirit or an anti-Christ spirit. I do believe in worshiping God both in the Spirit AND in truth (John 4:24).

Revival, at ANY cost?

There are a lot of people in “discernment ministry” who attack Bethel, and others who believe like Bethel, in very odd and oftentimes, mean ways. I am not interested in doing that. The videos that I am sharing are not to bash Bethel. They are, however, going to reveal the theology behind what those outside of their camp (or family) refer to as the NAR or New Apostolic Reformation. Within their group, you may hear “modern day apostles and prophets.” Their un-biblical theology has infiltrated churches all over the world. The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry pumps out thousands of students, every year, who then go back to their home churches to implant the teachings in order to usher in “revival.” A revival that the leadership at Bethel, as well as, those who follow the same teachings, are trying to bring in at any cost…even if that cost means sacrificing the TRUTH of God’s Word on the altar of revival.

I have a confession to make…

I used to be a revival junkie. I loved going to conferences where the Holy Spirit was “moving” and you could feel the “presence.” It was electric and euphoric. In that atmosphere, I was able to “experience” God in ways that I didn’t always get to in my home church. They were not fake experiences…they were very real. I could feel the love and power of God and it was so exciting to be surrounded by brothers and sisters who were just as zealous, or even more so, than I was about taking that love and power out into the world. We were so passionate! 

But we were passionately wrong.

Yes, God is love! Yes, God is powerful! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the God of the universe. The God of creation. He is the God of healings, miracles, signs and wonders! But the very core of Christianity stands firmly on the fact that – He is the God of our salvation! The One who sent His one and only begotten Son to pay the penalty of sin – which is death – for each and every one of us! 

Jesus came to save us. And even if we experience no other sign of God’s tremendous power – that is enough.

He is NOT a genie. He is not a spirit that we summon and demand things from…even if those things are healings, miracles, signs and wonders in order to advance the kingdom. When we try to manipulate the spiritual realm outside of the will of God, it is witchcraft…and it is something that we have been told – in the Word of God – to avoid.

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Deuteronomy 18:9-11

In order to preserve His chosen people, God allowed Israel to be taken into captivity when their worship turned to the very practices listed above. Those practices produce real results and they are dangerous. The spirits behind those practices are demonic. When I first began studying the Old Testament, I saw captivity as a punishment, only. But the more time I spent in the Word, I realized that it was through the captivity that the Israelites were truly brought to their knees in repentance to, and dependence upon, God. Once in captivity, they would repent, turning from those sins and back to God. They faced many hardships, but through those hardships they were ultimately preserved. Perhaps this is why we are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5

Christianity is not about avoiding pain and poverty and getting what you want (prosperity gospel and “little gods” doctrine). Oftentimes it is in the midst of pain and poverty that we experience the most growth and begin to see God for who He truly is. A sovereign and holy God…whose throne sits on the foundation of righteousness and justice, and whose love and faithfulness goes before Him (Psalm 89:14). 

The modern day apostles and prophets’ cult-like behavior is disturbing and needs to be thoroughly examined by the Church. “Cult” is a harsh word, I know; however, the study of cults has been an interest of mine for many years, and when I look at the NAR movement, I see many similarities. Don’t believe me? Begin questioning the beliefs and practices to the people caught up in the movement. They will usually see any pushback as a direct assault on their apostles, prophets and beliefs. If you are in their camp, you will be shunned. If you are outside of their camp, you will be labeled as having a religious or anti-Christ spirit. An example of this can be found HERE. Shamefully, I have been guilty of scoffing at another believer for “not having enough faith” and not being open to the Holy Spirit moving. What happened to the love that I was supposed to be full of???

Some examples of cult-like behavior: 

-saying Scripture is authoritative, but then downplaying Scripture

-taking (Bible) passages out of context and building an entire doctrine or movement on those passages 

-leaders cannot be questioned because they are anointed and have “special” revelation and wisdom, directly from God 

-there is usually a “Jesus +” doctrine: (Jesus + works) or (Jesus + “special” revelation or teachings) 

-there is another book or teaching on par with the Bible…or even another version of the Bible

-doctrine cannot be challenged because to do so means that you lack faith and are not a “true” believer

 Something that is often heard in this movement is, “touch not God’s anointed.” This is a prime example of taking Scripture out of context. Those verses are not to keep self-proclaimed apostles and prophets from criticism. If you would like some insight into 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15, it can be found HERE. To those who say, “touch not God’s anointed” I say, “take not Scripture out of context.”

God is not afraid of our questions or our doubts. He has answers for all of them. He can even reveal Himself in miraculous ways. But not because we have manipulated Him to do so. God is sovereign and moves when He wills.

VIDEOS 

This first video dives into the “theology” and double-speak of the leadership at Bethel…and other modern day apostles and prophets. Again, this is not an attack on the people who attend Bethel or who have gone through the school. I believe that they love Jesus with all their hearts. Unfortunately, much of what they experience, and the doctrine they are following (whether they fully understand it, or not), are either extra-biblical or un-biblical. And I’m not attacking Bill Johnson as a person, but I do believe that his theology – his teachings on behalf of Jesus Christ that he is exporting throughout the world – should be thoroughly examined, biblically.

This second video dives into another book that comes out of Bethel. If you want to see how new age/new thought/new spirituality beliefs and practices are being used within the Church, this would be a prime example. We cannot redeem for the Kingdom what belongs to the devil. This is why we are told – by God – to avoid these practices.

The third video I am sharing touches on the Pelagian heresy. There is a popular thought that people at their core, are GOOD. If you take the time to investigate, you will realize that this popular thought actually denies original sin. In the parable of the rich young man found in Matthew 19, Jesus states that there is only One (God) who is good. Man is not “good.” If we were good, then we would not have needed the Son of God to come to earth and die for our (original) sin. This is not an issue with a secondary belief. Jesus dying for our sin is an ESSENTIAL belief in Christianity – the very Gospel of Jesus Christ! And this is not just a Bethel teaching. It can be found all throughout the Church, as well as, the New Age.

I would also like to note that normally I would not share Fighting for the Faith videos – which is unfortunate because Pastor Chris Rosebrough actually uses the Word to refute the crazy teachings that the Church has embraced. His approach can be quite sarcastic and mocking, which I do not agree with or necessarily appreciate. I have decided to share this video because the content explains the heresy well and he keeps the mocking to a minimum. 

Warning: Make sure your volume is turned down before you start this video…unless you really like loud exploding noises.

I am also including this video from Mike Winger. He is firm, but kind, in his biblical approach to breaking down the teachings of Bill Johnson and Bethel. Again, this is not bashing Bethel (this is actually the nicest of the commentaries). However, the modern day apostles and prophets (NAR) movement that is coming out of Bethel is huge. It is something that can be found in churches all over the world. And we should be like the Bereans who received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11ESV)

I hope and pray that you have taken the time to watch the videos. I know it’s a lot to process. I’ve been immersed in study about cults, the occult, new age/new thought/new spirituality, Christian mysticism, contemplative prayer, channeled writing, the enneagram, destiny readings, angel cards, grave soaking, astral projection, witchcraft, spirit guides, psychics, prophecy, yoga/meditation, kundalini/serpent spirit, “holy” laughter, false prophets, false signs and wonders, angels, demons, the Emergent church, NAR, Word of Faith, etc… for hundreds of hours (which I do not recommend unless you are called specifically to do so). And I can see the web. The web of lies and deep deception that is difficult to tackle because they are all so intricately intermingled and connected. Even though, on the surface, much of it sounds like Truth. 

BUT, taking the time to examine the Scriptures – IN CONTEXT – using Scripture to interpret Scripture, begins to break down the web. The Word of God is our standard and it can be trusted. There are many out there who say the Bible has been tampered with…that it is not infallible or inerrant. I would like to tackle those statements in another post. Just as God has been able to preserve His people throughout time, He is able to preserve His Word that was given to us by the Holy Spirit. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

Some additional thoughts…

I would like to say that I agree with what Melissa added at the end of the first video. As I have taken in everything I have learned (and continue to learn), I can see how new age/new thought/new spirituality could be used to usher in a one world religion. Every major religion has a “mystical” branch and some belief systems are in and of themselves, mystical. The danger in mysticism is that it often appears to allow us to maintain our core beliefs – simply adding to our foundational doctrines special, “revealed” mystery and wisdom. Unfortunately, that leaves us open to subjective experiences which then begin to skew how we see God and the world around us…eventually changing our doctrine, especially if the power behind those mystical, subjective experiences is not from God. The Word warns about how a little leaven will leaven the whole batch of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6).

God did not command us to become mystics. He commanded us to become disciples and to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

I know it all sounds very conspiracy theory-esque; however, the Bible talks about the lawless one. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23 

I am praying for all those who are lost in deception. For all those who are seeking and believe they have found truth…but are actually following lies disguised as truth. I was once blind, too. Even now, I am still trying to untangle the mess that was my system of belief. I praise God that He did not leave me in that mess. Even when I was unfaithful – chasing after revival and experiences that I had placed above simply knowing Him – He was faithful to rescue me. As I look back, I see where He would reveal truth to me…but I refused to see. I wanted “revival,” at any cost. I see, now. And I repent. I repent of the idolatry and I repent of the damage I have done as I led others to do the same. These false beliefs do a disservice to the TRUE God of the Bible, to the ultimate act of love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and to the work of the Holy Spirit. My heart grieves because of this and there is a righteous anger that is rising up. I used to worry about offending people – but not anymore. It’s bad enough that people will spend an eternity in Hell. What’s worse, is that there will be people who truly believe that they are going to Heaven, but will end up in Hell because of deception. The deception that we are warned about, time and again, in God’s Word.

I do still long for revival, but one driven by repentance. A revival of turning our backs on every sin that hinders, and turning to a pure devotion to God. A revival that finds us on our knees, drawing us into an obedience to, and dependence upon, God, alone. I believe it is only then – when they are no longer the primary focus – that healings, miracles, signs and wonders can be rightfully and powerfully displayed. Within God’s will and in His timing.

Beloved, read your Bible. KNOW what God says in His Word so that you can test every spirit and every doctrine. The Holy Spirit is there to guide you in understanding – that’s what He does. Take every question and every struggle to God, in prayer. He is faithful to answer. And don’t be afraid to reason. God gave us a mind and we are to use it.

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