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I’m Drawing a Line in the Sand

Friends, I’m not one to quickly jump on bandwagons. I like making up my own mind about things. I try to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. So when I say that I’ve been slow to draw this hard line in the sand, I really mean it. I’ve literally been several years slow on this. So, let me draw my line, then do some explaining.

Bethel Church, in Redding, California is promoting New Age heresy and should therefore not be trusted for any theological understanding of Scripture or practical models for training believers in ministry.

Six years ago (approximately) a few strong believers in our church raised concerns about Bethel, and doubted that we should be singing their music. I started doing my own digging. At that time, the only people I could find who were raising red flags against Bethel were men and women who, as best as I could tell, had an axe to grind with all charismatics. Being a continuist* myself, I wasn’t interested in hearing from people who would be critical no matter what. They are a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking for problems, and you already have a confirmation bias, you will ultimately find exactly what you’re looking for. I don’t hold much regard for that kind of scrutiny.

Then a video from Mike Winger was released that examined the teachings of Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel Church. Mike is in the charismatic camp. He is the first person whom I felt was a qualified voice to evaluate and offer a perspective that would be Biblical and fair to a charismatic understanding of Scripture. It has been a long time since I watched that video, but as I recall, his main conclusion at that time was that there were problems with Bill Johnson’s leadership and view of Scripture, but nothing that rose to the level of heresy or something that would necessitate disfellowshipping him from the Body of Christ.

That didn’t satisfy many of the people I personally know. Some of them thought Winger was too soft on Bethel. So, while I was satisfied with Winger’s conclusion, many people I fellowship with still had major reservations. But, because I trust the discernment of my fellow workers, in my mind I kept the case open.

This hasn’t been something that constantly stays on the front burner for me, so the issue was tabled for me for a while. Then the guys at Remnant Radio began interviewing people from Bethel to get answers for some of the crazy things that they’ve been accused of over the years. A few of the problematic things – like the Holy Spirit is a blue genie – had apparently been dealt with a long time ago. But not everything had a sound answer. The Remnant Radio guys – who are also charismatic – kind of landed where Mike Winger had landed a few years before: concerning, but still brothers.

Then a book called, The Physics of Heaven, came on my radar. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve never read it. It’s not a book that I would read if John Piper himself wrote it. It just doesn’t pique my curiosity. And furthermore, I don’t intend to read it. I heard about it, first, on Remnant Radio, and they did not speak highly of it. I reasoned that if these guys, whom I often agree with on charismatic theology, don’t care for it, neither will I. And it remained mostly in the realm of wacky books I’ll never read.

But Mike Winger recently posted a new video that takes a deep dive into that book. I quickly learned that this book was written by Judy Franklin and Ellyn Davis. Judy Franklin works at Bethel. The foreword of the book is written by Kris Vallotton, a senior leader at Bethel, and has been endorsed by Bill Johnson. This book is by definition a Bethel book. And, this book is what has pushed me over the edge. In my heart, this is no longer an argument about whether we sing Bethel’s music or not. It’s about calling out false teachers and false prophets so that the Body of Christ can distance itself.

Because the leadership of Bethel Church endorses the content of this book, I can no longer view Bethel as a church I could cooperate with in spreading the Gospel. I cannot recommend anything that they produce. Bethel leadership needs to repent, resign, and release the leadership of their followers to pastors who will lead them in pure devotion to Jesus, the pure milk of the Word, the elementary teachings of the Christian faith, and return to the foundation that was laid by the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone.

I am deeply saddened by this. I might be a little Johnny-come-lately to this, but I had hopes that things would turn around for Bethel. I had hopes that things would come to light that would give better context to the craziness. I had hopes that the LORD would break through to Bill Johnson and the rest of the leaders there. He may yet do it. But for now, with a grieved heart, I think we must call them out and distance ourselves from their ministries until they repent.

Below is Winger’s video where he deep-dives into The Physics of Heaven book. Watch it and pray for Bethel’s repentance.

* Someone who believes all of the gifts of the Spirit will remain operational in the Church until Christ returns. [Return]

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Last modified: February 9, 2023
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