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New Apostolic Reformation Kryptonite

Remember the one thing that could strip Superman of his unstoppable powers? If this thing was found in the vicinity of the “Man of Steel,” he’d be as helpless as a baby Giraffe on ice. That thing was Kryptonite. 

No matter your position on the continuation of gifts that produce signs and wonders, there are certain truths that orthodox Christians have stood together on for millennia. When taught faithfully and proactively, these truths are Kryptonite to destructive doctrines that creep into the church.

Throughout church history, subgroups of mystically-inclined movements have spun off the reservation and well into heretical theological territories by their overzealous seeking of signs and wonders. When this occurs, there is often a fog of confusion that sweeps over the Church. What are the grounds for calling someone a “heretic?” Should we, as some suggest, simply “chew the meat and spit out the bones?” Shouldn’t we avoid controversy and just love people? 

Regardless of varying position, people can’t follow a leader who isn’t clear. With that said, there are certain truths that every pulpit must be clear in presenting lest people be swept into doctrines that destroy. Perhaps there is not a more destructive force sweeping through the church today than the so-called, “New Apostolic Reformation.” This movement’s beliefs trample the deity of Christ, falsely guarantee healing for all who will follow their formula, and claim that their anointed leaders are a part of God’s reinstating of the Apostolic Era once again. Meanwhile, those leading the movement live like prosperity preachers and keep a tight grip on their positions of power. Don’t be deceived, this is a serious issue in the church today.

Here are five proactive truths that every pulpit should preach in order to protect those you serve from the winds of New Apostolic Reformation doctrine (Ephesians 4:14):

  1. Earthly healing is not guaranteed in the atonement.

This truth counters one of the more common lies that was birthed out of the early phases of the charismatic movement. Over the last several decades, it’s caught on like wildfire in the word faith movement, prosperity theology, and New Apostolic Reformation. The teaching goes something this:

Jesus paid for your sin and your sickness. He was wounded for your transgressions, and by His stripes you are healed! Isaiah 53:5 says so! Why are you holding on to that sickness if He already paid for your healing? Let go of that cancer. Release infirmity. Receive your healing by faith. 

Some basic questions should be asked, and answered. Are the problems of sin, sickness, pain, tears, and death all solved because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross and His subsequent resurrection from the grave? Absolutely.

Does that mean that all of the benefits from the atonement are fully realized on earth? Absolutely not. We still have to die (Hebrews 9:27). We aren’t yet in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). And God has not yet taken away all sadness, tears, and sorrow (Revelation 21:4). Further, I don’t experience the fullness of salvation until Christ is revealed (Colossians 3:4).

So, is salvation and healing a “package deal” as many faith healers claim? If so, what’s wrong with so many sick Christians? Is Joni Eareckson Tada sick because she’s simply not “tapping into” the atonement?

The answer is clearly and logically, no.

Teach your people how to praise God when He heals and even when He doesn’t. Say like Job, “He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

  1. Not all can heal and prophesy

This one isn’t hard to understand, but many “schools of signs and wonders” are charging people tuition under the illusion that they can learn to heal and prophecy. Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry does this in Redding, California. But, can we guarantee that everyone is going to operate in all of these gifts, move in signs and wonders, and heal people? Can you bundle gifts of the Spirit like you bundle home and auto insurance?

Let’s let Paul do the talking through the Holy Spirit’s direct and final revelation:

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

Those are rhetorical questions from Paul. Teach your flock to be discerning and steer them clear of schools and teachers who promise signs and wonders for students. You’ll save them money, and maybe even their soul.

  1. There are no more Apostles

This used to be an open and shut case. Few, if any, were arguing that the office of apostle was in operation today. However, this is now something preachers must be clear about time and time again.

Two distinctions should be made here.

First, in a sense, there is such a thing as being apóstolos (ἀπόστολος) today. This Greek word means “a delegate” and is synonymous with those who are commissioned to pioneer new gospel-work through planting, missionary work, or other frontier-like ministries. This is being a gospel-ambassador!

Second, there is no such thing as being an apostle in the sense of the New Testament office. This was restricted to a very specific group who met a specific criterion. When you survey the New Testament, you can gather that real apostles were:

  • Commissioned and appointed personally by Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13 John 15:16; Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7-9)
  • Personally with Christ from baptism to ascension (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 10:38)
  • Fulfilling prophecy when Mathias replaced Judas’ specific office (Acts 1:19)
  • Performing undeniable and instantaneous signs and wonders (Acts 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12)
  • Given direct revelation from God (John 16:13)
  • Operating as the initial foundation for the Church (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11)
  • Distinctly gifted for their uniquely foundational office (1 Corinthians 12:29)

While many people will be “apostolic” in their ministry in the sense that they are sent forth to do gospel work, based on what the Bible teaches about the requirements for being an apostle, it’s impossible for there to be any more apostles today.

  1. Jesus was always truly God and truly man while on earth

One foundational (and false) teaching proliferated by the New Apostolic Reformation is that Jesus did His miracles as a man in right relationship with God, and not as God. The idea is that since Jesus wasn’t God when He did signs and wonders, you can do them too. This very twisted interpretation of the kenosis takes the “emptying” or “humbling” of Christ in Philippians 2:3-8 beyond biblical boundaries. Bethel Church pastor, Bill Johnson, and Todd White (Lifestyle Christianity) are two of the leading voices for this heretical belief more formally known as ontological kenotic Christology. Space in this article does not allow for extensive treatment here, but we offer plenty of footnotes and direct quotes from their teachings and their books in Defining Deception. OKC is essentially the belief that Jesus laid aside His deity and takes variants of kenotic theory much too far. Any claim that Jesus was ever “not God” is deceptive heresy. In fact, Jesus Himself makes the claim that His signs and wonders were displays of the “works of God” (John 9:3). He was, as R.C. Sproul put it, “Truly God and truly man” while fulfilling His purpose on earth.

Never once does the Bible ever teach that Jesus laid aside His deity and ceased to be God. He was in perfect balance as the God-man; humbly adding humanity to His divinity. This was subtraction by addition.

Many evangelical churches have become holding tanks for heretical teachings whether it be through inviting these false teachers to headline conferences, using their music and endorsing their worship bands, or by downplaying the seriousness of their errors.

Make no mistake about it, this is a tier one issue. Preaching a proper view of the kenosis is essential for equipping your church faithfully.

  1. Judge a teacher’s words against Scripture

Teaching this will be a valuable way to equip discerning Christians. People being deceived are taught never to question their anointed leader. Therefore, it will be a distinction of a biblical church and a faithful pulpit that people are taught to weigh every word taught in light of Scripture. This is the right kind of “judging” and believers are wise to exercise discernment.

Pro-active preachers who want their flock to be well guided and guarded do well to encourage them to weigh every word from any pulpit by the word of God.

More truths can certainly be added to this list, but if you’re looking for key ways to assess your own ministry or to be more proactive in shepherding the flock of God, this list of teachings is a great place to start.

***If this is your first time encountering this kind of doctrinal indictment on Bethel Church (and music), the New Apostolic Reformation, or leaders like Bill Johnson and Todd White, please refer to the following article and read the sources linked in it for further research.

Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

One of the top questions I receive is about Jesus Culture and Bethel Music. Inquiring minds ask, “What do you think about listening to the music, or using only the songs that are sound?”

It’s a fair question that deserves an answer. Still, each person must determine how they’ll proceed. To spark your consideration, the 5 reasons below approach the topic from a few unique angles.

Let’s start with the obviously theological reasons, then let’s move to some practical implications that can directly or indirectly effect your church and ministry.

  1. Their movement & leaders preach a heretical version of Christ

When I use the “H” word here, I’m not being extreme. Scriptural teaching, early church teachings, early church councils, and your Bible college textbooks would all confirm, the “Jesus” that Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Bethel Music, and Jesus Culture propagate is not the real Jesus. Blending Kenotic Theory (that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity), and shades of Arianism and mysticism, Bill Johnson’s teaching is beginning to be widely rejected after years of remaining mainstream and acceptable. So what took so long? Perhaps it was the tolerance narrative that evangelicalism tends to lean towards, or, people have to see enough friends and family led astray before it hits home. Whatever the reason, it’s praise-worthy to see church leaders standing up for the true gospel.  There is no debate here. The “Jesus” of Jesus Culture and the rest of the Mystical-Miracle movement is not the Jesus of the Bible. If you’re not familiar with Bill Johnson, Bethel Music, or Jesus Culture, here are 5 options to read through (both short and long). I’ve listed our book last since it’s the longest.

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement  By Stephen Tan

Book Review: When Heaven Invades Earth, by Bill Johnson By David Schrock

Responding to the False Teaching of Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, and Todd White By Gabriel Hughes

Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture By Jonathan Aigner

Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement By Costi W. Hinn & Anthony G. Wood

  1. They need to be rescued with truth; not mitigated in their errors

A typical response to this article might be: “Even if the movement is heretical, the music is still really good. I’ll just not sing the ‘bad songs.’” Or, “We’re just singing catchy songs, it’s not like Bill Johnson is preaching our Sunday services.” 

Let’s be honest for a second, even it stings a bit. You’re avoiding the real issue if this is your attitude. If their version of Jesus is the “kenotic theory Jesus,” then there could be a lot of people believing in, singing to, leading others to, and following a false Jesus. In other words, like Mormons or other false religions who appear to be “Christian,” a lot of people in this movement aren’t being given the truth and they need the real gospel. There are many following these false teachers (like many of us were before being rescued) who are in serious danger. That means we need to view them as a mission field instead of making excuses for our using the music. We need to engage them with the truth and reason with them from Scripture. The power we need is the power of the true gospel. When we start making concessions on the music, or using apathy to avoid facing hard truths, we’re cowering from the Great Commission. Be different. Don’t sing the music. Don’t muddy the waters. Reach these people.

  1. They get paid royalties to keep funding their heretical cause

Perhaps the most practical reason not to sing their music at your church is that by doing so you’re (or your church is) paying them royalties. These royalties fund their schools and programs like Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry and WorshipU, that allow them to keep reproducing more false prophets, more music, and more musicians; spreading their teaching around the world. Through CCLI, direct downloads, or other purchase methods, even when you use the “good songs” and leave out the “bad songs,” you’re putting money in the same pockets. In the previous generation, there was little discussion about using the music produced by false teachers like of Juanita Bynum, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn. First Baptist down the street was not going to feature a special recording during the offertory by Hinn’s crusade choir just because it sounded good. The unanimity around them being prosperity preachers and a danger to the gospel was, and is, without question. Therefore, no discerning Christian wanted to support their ministries financially by using their material. We need to take the same approach today. However, this is a new generation and the lines must be drawn again. I don’t know too many believers who want to knowingly support false teachers. Avoiding their music is a sound decision.

  1. You could be limiting the creativity and talent of your church’s own band

How many songs would be written if we stopped using Jesus and Bethel Music and had to come up with our biblically reliable music? How much would it challenge us to new heights of excellence if we had to make great sounding music that was not on the downgraded slope of apostasy? What next-generation world changers would rise up to be used of God in the music industry if we fostered their value in our congregations by asking them to write homegrown songs? If we knew that our music originated in the right place, our questions on this issue begin to fade. Many churches are sitting on amazing talent and gifts but do not use what God has provided. Take advantage of the autonomy that Christ allows each individual assembly to have and take ownership of creating your own songs and music.

  1. People need clarity on this issue more than ever before

People will naturally call it legalism when we’re taking about whether or not to sing Jesus Culture or Bethel music. But the church may do well to “steal” an idea from our Baptist friends. Just like a most Baptists avoids drinking altogether for the purpose of avoiding even the appearance of evil, a church may consider avoiding singing songs by heretical groups under the same guiding principle. Wisdom and prudence may be in order on this subject because it has become such a stumbling block for people today – just like alcohol. Is it sin to sing a Bethel song with sound lyrics? Is it a sin to take a sip of wine? No. But it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to risk confusing people in an effort to not come across legalistic. There are better hills to take, and more pressing issues to focus on. This one gets put to rest if we just draw a hard line and move on. If anything, the question of music is an easy one to deal with if you keep things biblically balanced. Why even associate with anything that is unbiblical or in question? Some New Testament guidelines that can help with this hot-button issue are:

  • Avoid being a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13-23)
  • Avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
  • Dangerous people should be silenced, not supported (Titus 3:11)
  • False teachers should be marked, not mitigated (Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Leaders are responsible to guard their doctrine and lives closely (1 Timothy 4:16)

While you may not agree with all the points listed here, at the very least, I hope I’ve provided you with some food for thought as you determine your own trajectory both at your church (whether in leadership or not), and in your home.