An interesting Instagram post from WorshipU has been doing the rounds on social media over the last few days. And it’s never surprising to see such posts coming out of Bethel – like a ‘gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster’ (link), what makes Bill Johnson’s Bethel movement very dangerous is not only their aberrant theology, but their music as well.
“This movement has a foundation paradigm that’s “outside” the word of God. It’s not based on the mind and knowledge but on feelings and experiences and music is what induces it. As JMac says… this isn’t faith, it’s doubt looking for proof. They induce an emotional high to convince you of a reality that isn’t there. If you have the real thing, there’s no need to go beyond the word of God. The fact that the word of God isn’t enough to satisfy tells you all you need to know.” (Link)
Which brings us to Bill Johnson’s latest claim:
“Music bypasses all of the intellectual barriers, and when the anointing of God is on a song, people will begin to believe things they wouldn’t believe through teaching.”
And how does the Bible refute his outrageous claim?
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17
Owen Strachan, Director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Associate Professor of Christian Theology, had this to say on his social media platform:
“Just saw this from Justin Peters Ministries (see the picture): “Though he did not intend to do it, Bill Johnson just revealed the key to the charismatic movement’s success. Repetitive, emotionally charged music disengages the mind and makes one malleable. It makes one believe subjective experiences over and against objective truth.”
Owen Strachan continues:
“Bill Johnson leads Bethel, a very influential group in California. Justin is right. (Johnson is right, too – his unfaithful group draws many people through their songs.) This is part of why we must be VERY CAREFUL about what songs we sing in corporate worship. If we would not commend the books of a given group, we should not sing the songs of that group.
This extends beyond Bethel–for example, we should be very careful about groups like Hillsong. I recognize that there are solid churches led by godly men who sing Hillsong in their services; I do not want to make this the litmus test of faithfulness. Those who care about doctrinal health, though, would do well to consider what Al Mohler said about Hillsong five years ago: “What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the Gospel, and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality.”
Friends, some may say you are unloving if you think carefully about these matters. But you are not being unloving. You are actually loving the sheep by guiding them away from unbiblical teaching. This is not what some are called to do as pastors; this is fundamentally the work of a pastor. Again, if your church occasionally sings a Hillsong number, I’m not arguing that you have necessarily left the reservation. That is not the point here. I would say, however, that it might be worth thinking a little more about this matter. God forbid that people would start to believe things through song that they would NEVER believe through teaching and preaching.
In a way that is frankly hard to quantify, music can lead us toward unhelpful influences. Said differently, we might sing the songs of a group whose books we would never recommend. We need to be very careful here. Many sheep have not been trained to think wisely and carefully. With graciousness and genuine affection (not unbridled anger that constantly spills out), guide the sheep toward health, toward faithfulness, toward sound doctrine and those who stand for it.”
Source: Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100259102228897&set=a.554263454477&type=3&theater. Published September September 25, 2019. (Accessed September 26, 2019.)
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“Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:16