"Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?" (1b)
By Craig of The Crosswise Blog [notunlikelee.wordpress.com]
The Christ Anointing & The Antichrist Spirit
In Bill Johnson’s popular book When Heaven Invades Earth is a chapter titled “The Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit”.1 In Johnson’s theology “the anointing” is variously termed “the Christ anointing”,2 “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”,3 “the Holy Spirit’s presence upon” an individual (including Jesus),4 and “the presence of God”.5
The “antichrist spirit” is defined as essentially ‘anti-anointing’ in this chapter and is thus a redefining of this term as compared to the Apostle John’s definition.
Orthodox Definition of the Antichrist Spirit
Here are the Apostle John’s words in his first epistle defining the antichrist spirit:
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. [1 John 2:22-23, NASB]
One must confess that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. John makes it clear that there is only one Christ and He is Jesus, and if one denies the Son by denying that Jesus is the Christ, then consequently the Father is also denied. It’s a flat out rejection of God. However, the one who confesses that Jesus is the Christ and, hence, is also the Son, has the Father.
The Apostle John also commands us to test the spirits providing one more identifying mark of the antichrist spirit:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of antichrist of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. [1 John 4:1-3, NASB]
One must confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This means one must confess that Jesus was the Christ at conception or at least the Virgin Birth [Luke 1:35/2:11; Matt 1:18] thereby precluding any adoptionist or separationist Christology.6 A confession to the contrary is evidence of the antichrist spirit. Colin G. Kruse expounds:
…[I]t is not only those who…remain faithful to the message heard from the beginning and who love fellow believers who claim an experience of the Spirit. There are many others who claim to be indwelt by God, to have received the Spirit, and to speak in his name…[John] warns his readers to exercise discernment when they encounter people claiming to speak in the name of God…Not everyone claiming to speak in the name of God actually does so….7
Kruse continues warning about “false prophets operating within the Christian community” [Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; 2 Pet 2:1, etc].8 He then describes the test:
…The spirit of God is recognized as the one teaching human beings (‘every spirit’) when they acknowledge that Jesus Christ ‘has come in the flesh’…The expression ‘to acknowledge Jesus’ is but a shortened version of the expression ‘to acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’ [ED: from verse 2]. It is important to note that… here…the Spirit’s role is that of witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.
When in 4:2 the author refers to the confession ‘that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’, he uses a perfect form of the verb ‘to come’, indicating that it is Christ’s status as one come in the flesh, rather than simply the historic act of his coming that he had in mind….9
Judith Lieu notes also the Greek perfect tense and explains the phraseology “in the flesh”. It is not merely making reference to the Virgin Birth/miraculous conception (not to be confused with the false view of the RCC known as the “immaculate conception” of Mary) but the entire manner with which His being is made known to us during the Incarnation:
Yet to acknowledge Jesus Christ as having come in flesh is not merely another way of saying that he has come into the world. “In flesh” signals not destination but mode and location: the means by which and wherein his presence is known….10
Bill Johnson Redefines the Antichrist Spirit
Bill Johnson initially defines antichrist spirit correctly (though not completely as anti can also mean “instead of”11):
The nature of the antichrist spirit is found in its name: anti, “against”; Christ, “Anointed One.”12
Yet, on the very next page he deceptively redefines the term:
It would seem that with all the significance attached to the name “Jesus,” anyone desiring to undermine His work of redemption might be referred to as “Anti-Jesus,” not “Anti-Christ.” Even religious cults recognize and value Jesus, the man. At the very least, cults consider Him to be a teacher or a prophet and possibly “a” son of God. This horrendous error provides us with an understanding of why antichrist was the name given to this spirit of opposition. The spirits of hell are at war against the anointing, for without the anointing mankind is no threat to their dominion.13
Notice the sleight of hand in the last sentence. While the preceding sentences seem to build the case as to why cults and false religions value Jesus as a man yet not as the Son of God, Johnson’s conclusion totally redefines his own definition of antichrist spirit on the previous page from “against Christ” or “against the Anointed One” to ‘against the anointing’ or ‘anti-anointing’. This revised definition is used throughout the remainder of the chapter such that anyone who is against “the anointing” (as defined in the beginning of this article) has an antichrist spirit per Johnson.
As noted in an earlier CrossWise article in which this same methodology was employed, this is the mark of cultic teaching and bears repeating here:
This is not unlike the way in which cultists work; i.e., making a series of orthodox statements and then concluding with an unorthodox sentence. The mind is prepared for a logical, orthodox conclusion so that when what seems to be an illogical or unorthodox conclusion is reached instead, the hearer/reader may reject it assuming he just did not hear or read it correctly or some other such reason. This is known as cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling in holding two conflicting views at once, which results in some sort of action to alleviate this feeling in this case which may be either by 1) rejecting the negative thought that the conclusion is unorthodox or illogical while mentally inserting one’s own orthodox or logical conclusion instead; or, 2) just dismissing the conclusion as a misunderstanding on the reader/hearer’s part; or, 3) assuming the speaker simply misspoke.
Yet, just as important if not more so, we see that Johnson has subtly split ‘Christ’ from ‘Jesus’ in his redefining above. By stating “anyone desiring to undermine His work of redemption might be referred to as ‘Anti-Jesus’ rather than ‘Anti-Christ’” and his subsequent explanation and redefinition of the antichrist spirit, Johnson seems to illustrate the very thing the Apostle John warned against – that the antichrist spirit separates “Christ” from the person of Jesus Christ. This redefinition itself could be construed as antichrist in nature. This may be confusing, but please read on.
Johnson Redefines “Christ”
This same methodology above is in evidence in the first two paragraphs which begin this chapter in Johnson’s book – he starts with the correct definition of Christ then redefines it to anointing:
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.
The word anointing means “to smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism. The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.14
In this case, Johnson is absolutely correct with his first two sentences; however, with the third and fourth he is claiming that the “title” of Christ was received in a later “experience” which he identifies as “the anointing”. This “anointing” is consistently defined throughout Johnson’s various works as noted above in the beginning of this article.
The second paragraph continues this line of thought with his concluding sentence making his redefinition clear: “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit”. By further logical implication Jesus became “Christ” only after He was “anointed” or “smeared with the Holy Spirit” and, consequently, He was merely Jesus of Nazareth prior to this “anointing”. That this explanation/analysis is itself correct is borne out in Johnson’s own redefinition of antichrist as essentially ‘anti-anointing’. Hence, Christ = the anointing and antichrist = ‘anti-anointing’ in Bill Johnson’s theology.
As noted in the previous article, separating Christ from the person of Jesus is known as separationist Christology and is, by the Apostle John’s very definition above, antichrist Christology.
Further Explications and Implications of Johnson’s “Anointing”
With this sort of linguistic gymnastics one is left wondering what is truth and what is falsehood and what the real definition of other terms are in Johnson’s theological corpus. Which parts of Johnson’s theology can be trusted to be true and accurate?
Johnson carries this same redefinition of Christ as anointing into other works. Here in another book he states that this “Christ anointing” (aka “baptism in the Holy Spirit”) was not only for Jesus but for all in the Church:
…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the sameChrist anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him…15
He makes a clear distinction between believers who would by necessity have the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion and “the anointing”:
The spirit of antichrist is at work today, attempting to influence believers to reject everything that has to do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing….16
Just to be clear, every truly converted Christian believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thereby has the Holy Spirit anointing as per Scripture [Eph 1:14; 2 Cor 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20]. Johnson’s “anointing” is separate and distinct.
With his redefined antichrist spirit, Bill Johnson also claims that it leads to “religious spirits” which are described as
…demonic presence that works to get us to substitute being led of our intellect instead of the Spirit of God…Anything that will take the place of dependence upon the Holy Spirit [ED actually, again, Johnson’s “anointing”] and His empowering work can be traced to the spirit of opposition.17
Here we have one of the many times Johnson promotes false dichotomies – as if the intellect and the “Spirit of God” are mutually exclusive. We worship in Spirit and Truth [John 4:24]. Yes, a person can be led of the flesh and hence his/her own mind; but, as noted by Bob DeWaay, there’s a consistent “anti-intellectual bias” permeating this book (and other works of Johnson). Also, notice how he has, in effect, drawn a line in the sand between his unorthodox doctrine of “the anointing” and orthodoxy by claiming those who allow the Spirit to lead the intellect have the “spirit of opposition” and a “demonic presence”.
He also promotes “Toronto Blessing” style manifestations while speaking negatively on anyone who opposes these.18 Near the end of the chapter in his book he attempts to flip the table on orthodoxy stating more clearly that those who “embrace Jesus apart from the anointing”, once again, have the antichrist spirit:
The antichrist spirit has a goal for the Church – embrace Jesus apart from the anointing. Without the anointing, He becomes a safe religious figure who is sure not to offend us…How can people who love God be offended by the anointing of the Holy Spirit?19
If the reader does not understand that “the anointing” is separate from the true Holy Spirit indwelling, s/he would be left wondering why anyone would reject the Holy Spirit and therefore agree with Johnson.
This illustrates quite clearly that Johnson’s Jesus is not only NOT the Jesus Christ of the Bible, Johnson’s whole Christology emanates from an antichrist spirit. His Jesus could be termed ‘Jesus, the one among many anointed by “the anointing”’ (aka “Christ anointing”, “baptism in the Holy Spirit”, “presence of God”). The following words by the Apostle Paul could well define Johnson’s theology and his followers:
4 For if someone comes to you and preaches another Jesus other than the Jesus we preached , or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. [2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15, NIV 1984]
But, it’s not yet too late for Bill Johnson and his followers to repent.
1Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003; Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; pp 79-86
2Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House ,Lake Mary, FL; p 77. Underscore added.
3Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22, 58, 77-82, 100-102
4Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80
5Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22.
6Judith M. Lieu [I, II & III John: A Commentary. 2008, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY] does an excellent job describing vv 2:22-23 in 1 John by putting it in its original context: “It appears that what sounds like the traditional formula of belief in Jesus as Messiah has taken on a new dimension of sonship…This confirms that the force of the correct confession is ‘that Jesus is the Christ,’ and not, as is grammatically possible, ‘that the Christ [about whom we know] is Jesus [rather than someone else or as not yet appeared]’…The author’s logic is simple and can be understood within its immediate context. His strategy is to start from what matters: the real charge is not about ‘the Christ,’…Rather, it is that the antichrist denies the Father and the Son: this is no longer denial of belief about (‘that’) but a refusal to acknowledge…it is ultimately a question of acknowledging, or denying the Son…the Son is Son only in relation to the Father, and the Father is Father only in relation to the Son; to reject the Son is to reject both, even if this was not the intention” [p 106]. While Lieu refers to “sonship” this explanation works just as well with the respect to separationist or adoptionist Christology. The term separationist as regards Christology is defined in Heikki Raisanen’s The Rise of Christian Beliefs [2010, Fortress, Minneapolis, MN; p 208] and is specifically referring to 1st century proto-gnostic Cerinthus.
7Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary. 2000, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 144. Emphasis added.
8Kruse; p 145
9Kruse; p 145-147
10Lieu; p 167
11Vine, W.E., Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (With Topical Index). © 1996 W.E. Vine Copyright Ltd. of Bath, England, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN; p 30 of New Testament section.
12Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 79. Emphasis in original.
13Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80. Emphasis in original.
14Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 79. Emphasis in original except underscore added.
15Johnson, Face to Face, p 77. Underscore added.
16Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81
17Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81
18Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 81-85
19Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 84-85
Continue to PART TWO
- Part I
- The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit
- Part II
- Part IIIa
- Part IIIb
- Part IV (Conclusion)