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Brain Stopper No. 5: Bill Johnson’s Book Ban

book ban“Brain stoppers” is a term I came up with to refer to a variety of tactics used by leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) to discourage their followers from thinking critically about NAR teachings. I’ve written a series of posts about different brain stoppers, starting with “Brain Stopper No. 1: Name Calling.”

Another brain stopper, I call the “Book Ban,” is employed by Bill Johnson–senior pastor and NAR apostle over Bethel Church in Redding, California. Johnson tells his readers not to read books that are critical of teachings he promotes. He does this in his popular book When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. Here are his words.

Be childlike and read the works of those who have succeeded in the healing ministry. Stay away from the books and tapes of those who say it shouldn’t or can’t be done. If the author doesn’t walk in power, don’t listen, no matter how proficient they may be in another field. … Someone once brought a book to my office that was critical of the revival that started in Toronto in January of 1994. I refused to read it and threw it away. … For me to consider the criticisms of this revival would be the same as giving audience to someone trying to prove I should have married another woman. First of all, I love my wife and have no interest in anyone else. Second, I refuse to entertain the thoughts of any person who desires to undermine my love for her. Only those who will add to my commitment to her are allowed such an audience with me. Anything  less would be foolishness on my part. The critics of this revival are unknowingly attempting to separate me from my first love. I will not give them place. (Chapter 10)

Married to a revival?

His words about his wife and “first love” sound nice–even noble. What’s the problem with his analogy? It falls apart in at least three ways.

First, Johnson implies that he’s so committed to the Toronto revival it’s as if he “married” it. He’s making a logical error called a “category mistake.” A commitment to a person and a commitment to a set of beliefs about revival are completely different things. When you marry, it’s for life. But you should be willing to separate from certain beliefs if they’re shown to be in error. To do so takes humility and wisdom.

Second, he’s “begging the question.” By saying he won’t listen to any criticisms of the Toronto revival, Johnson has already determined that this particular revival was a genuine work of God. Yet that’s the very question the critics are asking. He’s made up his mind before they could even present their case.

Third, notice that he switches from talking about the Toronto revival to talking about his “first love.” Presumably, his “first love” is God. He has engaged in a classic bait and switch. The Toronto revival and God are not the same thing. Many people believe in God, and love Him dearly, while challenging the genuineness of certain revivals or specific teachings about revival.

His analogy doesn’t hold.

Correct Me If I’m Wrong

What does the Bible say about examining our beliefs and being open to changing our thoughts?

A lot. Consider the following scripture verses.

  • “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
  • “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
  • “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil [false prophecy].” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)
  • “In an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
  • “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

To be fair, Johnson does say he welcomes correction from his friends: “I have no time for critics, but I do ‘welcome the wounds of a friend.’ (Proverbs 27:6).” Yet, given Johnson’s refusal to listen to his critics, it seems he has limited the correction he will hear to those who already agree with his NAR teachings. That’s unwise.

To love God with all your heart does not require you to accept Johnson’s teachings without question. But to love God with all your mind does require you to evaluate his teachings on the basis of Scripture and careful reasoning. Part of your evaluation process is reading books that are critical of his teachings–books he has banned.

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16 Responses to “Brain Stopper No. 5: Bill Johnson’s Book Ban”

  1. James Says:

    I’m not too sure what the purpose of this post actually is. I would assume you must be someone who takes criticism pretty well then, considering you highlight the speck in someone else’s eye? To be honest, I can’t help but struggle to see the benefit of a post such as this. I read your articles on this site and very rarely do I find it written from a place of love. Instead too often they seem to have been written from a place of hurt. You claim to use this site to reveal a spirit of error, yet fail to present a spirit of love. I get that you’re trying to warn others of ‘false teachers’, but I just can’t help but feel as though you condemn them at the same time.

  2. Mark Scheiderer Says:

    Holly-
    Great comments! 24 of the 27 books in the New Testament refute heresy, name the names of heretics, etc., and even pronounce JUDGEMENT on those who teach heresy ( see Galatians 1 ). People like James still resort to ad hominem comments and Johnson himself is basically laying a false guilt-trip on those who compare his false teachings and practices with Scripture. Has he deleted Acts 17 ( where the Bereans are commended for testing Paul’s teachings with Scripture) from his Bible?
    Johnson is doing EXACTLY what cult leaders do – engaging in information control.
    No doubt he has misapplied the words “Touch not My anointed” when people have questioned him or his fellow heretics.
    To NOT judge ANY Christian’s words and action with Scripture is unbiblical. Those who follow Johnson and his ilk unquestioningly are simply “drinking the Kool Aid”. ( And don’t forget where that term came from : Jim Jone’s  People’s Temple cult where over 900 people died in a mass suicide, where, near Jone’s own dead body was a sign that read, ” Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)
    Godspeed Miss Pivic!

  3. Richard Says:

    The purpose of the post is clearly the exposure of false teachings, just as the apostles did in their epistles. Are you suggesting that Paul was wrong to warn the Galations when they wandered from the true Gospel? These can be much more serious than a “speck” if they are promoting extra-biblical teachings. Tell me, is it loving to let someone continue in false teachings to the peril of his soul? No one enjoys criticism, but it’s better to hear the truth from scripture on this side of the grave than find out too late.

  4. Byron Says:

    James, The false Doctrine that Bill Johnson spews out of his mouth is hardly a speck.  It is actually the Love of God to name names and rebuke Publicly…
     
    Warning people of false teachings Is the Love of God,
     
    “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4: 1)
    “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them “ (Rom. 16:17)
    “war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some have put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme “ (I Tim. 1: 18-20
     
     
     

  5. Jeff Says:

    Jesus defined this spiritual war Christians are in when He defined His nature and the nature of Satan. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Satan, inversely, is a killer, and a liar, and his way leads to the pit. Making bold stands for the truth of God’s word is the only way to stop these heretical movements, and the New Apostolic Reformation is one of the worst offenders in the way of bad doctrine. And bad doctrine always brings forth bad fruit. Bad doctrine is Satan’s way; a way of lies and death.

    With all the NAR/Catholic Church stuff springing up the last 6 months I’m kind of on the edge of my seat. Is the modern Christian world ready for a possible ecumenical false signs and wonders revival led by the unholy alliance of the pope and these NAR super apostles?

  6. Mark Scheiderer Says:

    Jeff -
    Your question at the close of your comments is frightening to contemplate.
    Although it may sound off topic at first, what gives the enemy a HUGE entry into Christian’s lives is SIN. Josh McDowell has been talking about the problem of porn amongst Christians. His research concluded that 68% or men and 40% of women IN THE CHURCH have a problem with internet pornography. That works out to 54% of the people in the church! A simple majority. That is just one sin problem the church has , and , IMHO is why heresy is running amok in today’s church, especially in the affluent West.
    The Puritans used to say ( my paraphrase ) that ” prayer will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from prayer.”
    No prayer = a Christian ripe or the picking ( by the enemy.)
    Mark

  7. Racz Says:

    Jeff, your on the right track. Interesting the NAR are dominionist. They have a 7 mountain mandate. Sound familar? 7 mountains, book of Revelation, the harlot. Many are seeing this.

  8. Jeff Says:

    Mark, I agree the compromise in the church, especially in leadership, has helped with the decline. You do have to understand, though, fruits are not the sole indication of whether or not a movement is right. Myself, I participated in one of the more conservative arms of this NAR movement under Dr. Brown’s Fire School of Ministry. The Brownsville Revival, of course, was heralded among classic pentecostals for it’s regular calls to repentance and holiness (not that there’s anything wrong with those things). 

    The trouble, however, is we cannot judge a movement or ministry solely on fruits of repentance or testimonies to people getting delivered from addictions and such. Why? Because the devil can counterfeit those.

    In the 1990′s, when I was totally lost in my sin, I got into metaphysics and new age occult practices. At the time, I had been smoking for over a decade and could not stop no matter what I tried. Again and again I would try, but always went back. Finally, I found this new age book that had these visualization practices. Guess what happened? I was totally delivered from smoking! Praise… wait… yeah… It was a demon that helped me because demons are deceptive and Paul clearly warns that the Satan always disguises himself as an angel of light. Moreover, you can find countless new agers out there that have a bunch of joy, peace, and what they’re calling very loving demeanors. Is that the Holy Spirit at work in their lives? NO! Demons are manifesting to deceive people into thinking they’ve got qualities that only the Holy Spirit can truly bring into a person’s life. So, we’ve got to look at fruit and doctrine. And that’s where this NAR movement that was born out of those false revivals stumbles horribly. 

  9. Jeff Says:

    I agree Racz, I noticed that just a couple months ago. It really seems like the Catholic church has actively subverted the Pentecostal church with this NAR movement. Here are some very telling videos of what the NAR has been doing the last 6 months alone with their embracing of the Catholic Church:

    Lou Engle kissing priest’s feet

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrV1G5rVzXs

    Todd White praying for unity with catholics:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbNdh9ELX1Q

    Ihop university now has an “ecumenical” catholic track at their school:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0_jCvHms-M&list=PL4S19ubs2BxdgP4XrvSUWHVuTe4tM-LI7

  10. Richard Ho Says:

    I agree with James, I am surprised that on one hand he said he believed in healing and then demolished all the known healing evangelist as false prophets. Show me who are the real prophets or maybe you don’t believe such prophets and healing is not of today. Just come clean on your stand.

  11. Racz Says:

    Jeff, I Saw those videos and you can really see where this is headed. Matt 16:4 says a ” wicked generation seeketh after a sign” then 2 Timothy 3:8. Jannes and Jambres Withstood Moses with what? Signs and wonders. Serpents. what is serpent power? Kundalini. Do some research on that as it is the sign that those seekers will get. God Bless you for being a real berean in the word.

  12. Sharon Says:

    Upon reading Bill Johnson’s avoidance of anything that “reads” contrary to what he believes and in advising others to do likewise, it reminded me of my days in the Christian cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s classic cult talk. When something like this is advised and no doubt followed by those in the signs and wonders movement, it keeps them locked in to that system of belief. To verge from this would be seen as a lack of faith and as opening yourself up to the teachings of demons. It’s always incredibly scary to read something like this because it leads to believing falsehood with no other voice pointing them to reasoned belief and faith. It’s all about control. That’s what Christian cults do and that’s what Bill Johnson is doing.

    In response to James’ comment.  Scripture says we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I am forever grateful for those who had the courage, determination, dedication and love to point out the errors of the Jehovah Witnesses doctrine.  I needed sound Biblical proof that what I believed was wrong. I didn’t need what I call “sloppy agape.” I needed truth. James 5:19,20 tells us, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.”

  13. Jaeson Says:

    My NAR relatives are totally stalkers. So this is really no shock to me.  I remember posting one comment on a Facebook page that discusses how some of the practices NAR organizations are wrong.  No sooner had I done that, when, out of the blue, one of my NARcoma family members contacts me to “ask how I am doing?”  Literally I have not heard or seen this individual in over 15 years.  To me it just put another sledgehammer into how “cult like” the NAR movement is.

  14. L Says:

    Recently I experienced a very strange thing.  We started attending a church.  I admit that I
    have been listening to Joseph Prince and some hyper grace teachings (which I know I need
    to be very careful of)  but God was using these to help me (or so I believed). At the church I
    met some very lovely and sincere Christian people who have ministries who are involved with
    Bethel teachings in various ways.  I don’t know these people closely but they are gracious,
    loving people who love Jesus and have a good track ministry.  One of them ministers to abused
    people after herself suffering sexual assault in a church. 

    I attended a strange retreat for women.  This woman, mentioned above, who is a mental health
    counselor and a pastor (with her husband) do minister some good things.  Our identity in Christ and our position as a child of God.   There are simultaneously errors that are unbiblical going on. My personal experience is that many of these people are as far as know, very sincere believers who were questioning things in the church that needed questioning.  Unfortunately they too have gone too far in areas.  I find the emphasis on God’s grace and love very helpful but that does not mean every belief or practice is biblical.  These errors have been hibernating and evolving over a long time and co exist with (imo) good and needed emphases such as God’s love and forgiveness, His willingness to heal and help us, etc.

    Since I have no real background in reformed or other mainline Christianity it is highly possible that God’s love and other things were already taught.  I don’t know.

    One problem I see is that there is much legitimite questioning but no one seems to really have answers.  The Bible is clear that we need to test everything.  It appears obvious that there are many problems within the Bible believing community as a whole. 

    But what is the answer?  Is the answer to reject the entire Charismatic and Pentecostal
    experience?  The groups that formed in various revivals which were the forerunners of the modern groups may have also been in error or deceived. 

    How do we properly interpret the Bible itself? 

    What if the cessesionists and other groups who love the Word of God and rightly queston
    some of the crazy stuff, are also wrong?

    Does anyone here believe in the gifts of the spirit yet reject what is error? 

    Is the entire charismatic movement a ploy of Satan?

    I’m confused.

  15. Nancy Hollo Says:

    L., I believe in the gifts of the spirit, but I don’t follow the formulas of the charismatic/prophetic movement.  The gifts of the spirit I value are wisdom, understanding, counsel, etc.  As for counsel, I have begun asking the more difficult doctrinal questions directly to God, writing them down in my prayer notebook.  The Lord has led me to some very educational experiences and information since I’ve looked to Him as Teacher.  It’s very important in this day and time to develop a solid reliance on the Word of God and on God Himself, and while fellowshipping in praise and worship and service with others, don’t be too entangled.  Develop a freedom of spirit that will let you move through the Body of Christ following the Holy Spirit’s lead, and learn to obey your instincts under His guidance.   If it gets weird, it’s time to go.  It can get weird in the Roman Catholic Mass, the prophetic prayer meeting, the Baptist Sunday school.  This is a spiritual war we’re in, and we’re all in it together.  Develop a mindset of intercession for others and a defensive stance against the enemy, wherever you fellowship.  God bless you!  Be brave!

  16. BMO Says:

    “Another brain stopper, I call the “Book Ban,” is employed by Bill Johnson–senior pastor and NAR apostle over Bethel Church in Redding, California. Johnson tells his readers not to read books that are critical of teachings he promotes.”
     
    Sorry, but this is a misrepresentation of what Johnson is saying.  I’ve read the book.  I don’t agree with everything that is said in it.  I’ve never met the man and I am not affiliated with his ministry.
     
    In this passage, he is talking to a specific audience.  He is speaking to those who:
     
    - Believe in the gifts of the Spirit
    - Hungrily want to see the gifts in their lives
    - Haven’t seen the gifts manifest in their lives to the degree they would like
     
    He is telling them that the way to grow in this area is to protect your faith by taking risk and learning from those who have gone before.  In his clear example, if you believe in healing and want to see Jesus heal people while you pray for them, don’t focus your efforts on reading from those who say Jesus doesn’t heal through prayer anymore.  Focus your efforts on learning from those who actually see the sick healed through prayer.  This is logical and straightforward.
     
    If you wanted to be an excellent tennis player but your game isn’t what you’d like, then you should study and learn from those who actually play tennis.  Not only that, you should only study and read materials that will improve your tennis game.  For example, you wouldn’t go out and read books on why tennis is an inferior sport to basketball – this would undermine your efforts to grow.  Also, you wouldn’t read a book on tennis written by someone who has never played the sport.
     
    In any other context in which growth through effort is possible (sports, cooking, business) this analogy makes perfect sense.  Unfortunately, since this is something we all hold very dear (faith) the underlying motives and messages can be misunderstood due to a variety of factors.   In fact, re-read his paragraph but substitute miracles with French Cooking and it’ll “click”.  

    Be childlike and read the works of those who [are French Cooks]. Stay away from the books and tapes of those who say [French Cooking can’t be done]. If the author doesn’t [cook French Food], don’t listen, no matter how proficient they may be in another field…and so on

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