08 July 2013

Bad Doctrine Yields Bad Fruit . . . and Bad Comments Defending Bethel Church

Doctrine matters. And all doctrine, good or bad, has consequences both now and for eternity. Bad doctrine yields bad fruit. No matter how one "feels" when he is absorbing that doctrine, if it is erroneous and false, ultimately it will be deadly. Eternally deadly.

Below is an example of some extremely rotten fruit. It is the apparent fruit of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, home of "pastor" Bill Johnson and the "Christian" music group, Jesus Culture. It comes to us in the form of a comment left on the post "Bethel Church's Jesus Culture to Plant New Church in Sacramento." Though comments typically are not published on posts as old as this one, an exception was made in this particular instance because it offered a good teaching opportunity. Here is the comment in question:
Though a cogent response already has been offered by a reader of this blog, this comment seems to be asking for even more. So let us look at it point by point.
This blog is ridiculous . . .
We will come back to this.
your (sic) bashing a wonderful church
Bashing? I suppose one is entitled to one's own opinion. If it is considered "bashing" to state that the teachings of the leaders of Bethel Church raise red flags, then so be it. If noting the blasphemous nature of the claims by Jesus Culture's lead singer Kim Walker-Smith that she has stood in the presence of God the Father is "bashing," then fine. But even a cursory glance of the article in question reveals that it was written in an even-handed manner.

Let's move onto the "wonderful church" portion of this comment. If it is true that Bethel Church is propagating false teaching and heresy, and it is, as has been demonstrated in the aforementioned article as well as the post, "Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Others at Giglio's Passion 2013," then it would seem that Bethel is not so wonderful after all. This will be opened up as we delve further into this comment.
this is why Christians have such a bad representation to the world and it's condemning, under the law people that send hate and criticism to the world. God is love and not condemning at all, we are supposed to represent his love. It's condemning people and people who send hate that give people a very wrong perception of God, and send a terrible perception out to the world of Christianity.
Moving backward through this portion of the comment, this blogger would argue that it is people like this commenter who are sending out a "terrible perception" of Christianity. Why? Because those who trust in this gospel and this God are trusting in something that cannot save. When they share that same false gospel with the world, they are helping to send lost souls to an eternity of damnation.

The most striking sentence in this entire comment, however, is in bold above. "God is love and not condemning at all." For the lack of a more intelligent word: Wow. This idea already was skillfully refuted by another commenter who pointed out the following verses in Jude:
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:5-7)
Jude certainly does succinctly and adeptly destroy the argument of the Bethel Church defender. And since Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it seems that it would be God who is making this point. Jesus Christ Himself also spoke firsthand about condemnation:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11, 12)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 
(Matthew 25:31-46)
In truth, there are only some who are saved from condemnation:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
These are those who have been born again, or born from above (John 3:3), redeemed by Jesus Christ and regenerated by His Holy Spirit. For those who do not bow the knee to Christ, however, there is condemnation. God is love, yes, but God also is just and righteous and holy (Isa 6:3). Because He is all of these things, He cannot and does not override one attribute for the sake of another. God at all times perfectly executes every one of His attributes. To suggest otherwise is blasphemous. To believe otherwise is to worship an idol.

Bad doctrine yields bad fruit.
Yes, this commenter worships a false god of his own imagination. As one astute individual pointed out, to say that "God . . . is not condemning at all" is to say that this "God" accepts adultery, rape, murder, etc. This is not the God of the Bible. This "sounds like a demon, not God." Indeed. How sad it is to think that this is some of the fruit produced by a so-called Christian church.

When we say that "God is love" and do not clarify that statement by defining love as the Bible does and by equally exalting God's other attributes, we misrepresent the God of the universe, and we lead people to a false and damning gospel. What a dreadfully unloving thing to do! Let us continue:
Gods (sic) grace doesn't condemn us, the only thing the Holy Spirit condemns us of is righteousness. 
Jesus can respond to this better than I, especially since it is His words that have been taken out of context:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)
As an aside, it might be helpful to point out that in this discourse, Jesus goes on in verse 13 to say that, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." The Holy Spirit guides the true Christian into truth. This should be quite sobering considering the nature of the untruth that is being discussed.
So with all kindness who are you to say that people should be condemned when Jesus died on the cross for us so we wouldn't be condemned. 
We will ignore the absurdity of the "with all kindness" remark in light of other statements made in this comment and simply point out the obvious: this sentence appears to advocate universal salvation. If no one ever will be condemned, one really does wonder what Jesus was talking about in all of those previously shared verses speaking of judgment.
I'm sure most of the Christians who are so condemning aren't perfect in fact no one is except God. So focus on Gods (sic) grace instead of pointing your worldly, judgmental finger at people. God bless.
Finally, something in this comment is accurate: only God is perfect, and in fact, only He is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). Yet, because of God's goodness and the grace and mercy He extends to those who are His, the Christian ought to strive for holy and righteous living (Matt 5:3, 6). With no spiritual assets of his own, the Christian relies solely on the righteousness of Christ alone, and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help him live a godly, God-honoring life, worthy of the manner of his calling (Phil 1:27; Col 1:10). Those who are His will obey Him (John 15:14). Part of that obedience includes rightly proclaiming and teaching His Word, His entire Word, not merely the portions about "love" or "grace":
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)
The broader context of both of these verses is exceedingly important, and quite appropriate to this conversation. In Acts, the Apostle Paul would go on to warn the elders of the Ephesian church:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30) 
And to Timothy, the Apostle would warn:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4)
So, as our commenter ends his thoughts with a fleeting "God bless," questions remain. If all we are to do is speak of love and grace, how is it that this person can come to this blog calling names and condemning a particular article? Such behavior seems contrary to his message. Ultimately, however, this matters little except to illustrate the importance not only of doctrine, but of reason.

What ought to be of greater concern is the "God" that is espoused by this individual. Is this indicative of the "God" that is preached by the "wonderful" Bethel Church? It seems possible, considering leaders such as Kim Walker-Smith are telling such blasphemous fables as this:

The message proclaimed by this commenter, that "God is love and not condemning at all" is in fact one of the most unloving, condemnatory statements one could make. With such a proclamation, lost men will not be made aware of their sin, and without this knowledge they can never know or understand why it is that they need a Savior. The message of Christ was that men should "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17). This is likewise the message that His followers are to proclaim (Luke 24:47).

To this commenter, then, I say: Open your Bible and read it, without the influence of Bill Johnson or Jesus Culture or Bethel Church. Simply read the Word. Pray that God would grant you understanding of what it says. See that you are a sinner and that, unless you repent of that sin and trust in Christ and His work alone, you will be condemned. You say that God is not condemning, but you do not understand the God of the Bible. One day you will discover your error, but it will be too late, for He will say to you, "Depart from me, I never knew you." One day you will learn that God must and does judge sin. Repent today, today! Turn to Christ, for He already has suffered the wrath of God for the sins of those who will believe. Today is the day of salvation, and salvation is found in Christ alone—the Christ of the Bible, not the Christ of our own making.

photo credit: Jakob E via photopin cc

Further Reading
Jesus Culture and Judah Smith to Join Piper, Moore, Chan and Other's at Giglio's Passion 2013
The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
Thank You, Lord. Reader Is Led to "the Truth I Tried to Reject"


  1. Not sure about Bethel Church, but there has been a lot of air play of the song (from Jesus Culture) on the radio. Do you see anything doctrinal wrong with this song?

    Your Love Never Fails.
    Nothing can separate
    Even if I ran away
    Your love never fails

    I know I still make mistakes
    But You have new mercies for me everyday
    Your love never fails

    You stay the same through the ages
    Your love never changes
    There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning

    And when the oceans rage
    I don't have to be afraid
    Because I know that You love me
    Your love never fails

    Verse 2:
    The wind is strong and the water's deep
    But I'm not alone here in these open seas
    Cause Your love never fails

    The chasm is far too wide
    I never thought I'd reach the other side
    But Your love never fails

    You make all things work together for my good

  2. You can delete my earlier comment or comment on it if you like. Apparently, the writers were Anthony Skinner and Chris Mcclarney. Jesus Culture (Chris Quilala) performed it.

  3. you wrote:
    Though a cogent response already has been offered by a reader of this, this comment seems to be asking for even more. So let us look at it point by point.

    After reading the segment, and looking around thinking "Huh"? I read the text copied above and thought to myself, "you go Girl" =D Now I will go back and read the rest of your critique of this comment. Go EB!

    your sister in Christ Jesus,
    Cherie c.

  4. The importance of this post cannot be over-emphasized. God is love, absolutely, but a cursory reading of the Genesis, Exodus or the Book of Revelation will show the many attributes of God - not just His love.

    People want the Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild, but not the God who destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea, or the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah or killed the first born in Egypt on that first Passover, or the God who sent the plagues on mankind in the past and will again in the future.

    I pray the commenter will read the Bible in its entirety and see God as He truly is.

  5. In our world today we have to define our terms. What is biblical love? It is not the love spoken of by the world. Same thing with God; the world uses this word in numerous ways, but it is likely not the God of scripture, the One True God. Many purport to speak for God, or to hear from God. But folks we have ALREADY heard from God and it's in the scriptures. How would you like people who did not even know you to describe you, just based on their own imaginations, dreams, etc? Would they be accurate? No. So people who want to talk about God's attributes or say what He is like apart from the scriptures will not be able to accurately describe Who He really is. From His creation we know He exists and that He is glorious and powerful. But beyond that we must read the scriptures to truly know God. We must pray for understanding given by the Holy Spirit. The man without the spirit will not understand spiritual truth, nor will he accept it. It is foolish to him. But those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit will agree with the truth from the scriptures and they will trust it. It is our only trustworthy source. Those seeking truth and seeking God apart from the scriptures are blind followers of the blind. Scripture says that both will fall into a ditch.

  6. If you really want to get a small glimpse of what God is like, read Isaiah 46. Not many people refer to this chapter, sad because He says it very succinctly.

    Your sister in Christ Jesus,
    Cherie c.

  7. I found the video clip deeply disturbing. I got to about 1:25 and had to stop it. I cannot believe people believe this. I don't believe this encounter happened, except perhaps in her imagination. It would not be possible to have truly had such an encounter with the risen Christ and then be on stage bopping around and joking and making mockery of it all. Mock your audience, mock yourself, mock the conference - but if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit by claiming something to be of God that you know is not - there will be no forgiveness. If she had a shred of credibility she would be unable to relate this without being on her knees and weeping. (Wait - don't print that. It might give these charlatans another idea.)

    Pray for their lost souls, and those who are there lapping it up.

    Thank you Erin for a good example of how to rightly discern using scripture as the measure. This was a teachable moment and I learned from it. Blessings.

  8. I,too, couldn't watch the whole thing -- the irreverence was glaring. It seemed rather like a pitifully silly woman with vain imagination. Was the audience really affected and edified by it?


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