Wednesday, November 13, 2013

book review—Manifesto for a Normal Christian Life by Bill Johnson

vain imaginations

In regards to the book itself, a good portion of it could have been left out, as it consists simply in Johnson repeating himself, even to the point of repeating the same stories. Even knowing that these are transcripts of speeches Johnson gave, one would assume that the editors would have done some work at avoiding such needless repetitions.

Concerning the contents, well, it's basically typical Bill Johnson—a bunch of made-up ideas he claims to have gotten from out-of-context Bible verses, which don't say what he says they say, all with the intent of boosting the egos of the people listening.

It could be said that Johnson's problems begin with how he says he reads the Bible. “It has not been given to us to try to assign the scriptures to particular seasons...The Bible is filled with rich promises. It is theologically irresponsible to take the great promises of scripture and ascribe them to a period of time for which I have no responsibility.” (Kindle Locations 361-363). This seems to be saying that the context of the biblical passage, who is being addressed and the context of the statement, are not important to Johnson. “If I could encourage you to do anything in your life it would be that, any time you have a problem, get into the Book and read until he speaks to you.” (Kindle Locations 837-838).

There is a way of reading the Bible that I've seen compared to the Magic 8-Ball toy, where you basically read until something “jumps out at you”. This is not a valid way of reading the Bible, and this seems to be something like what Johnson is recommending.

This reckless use of Scripture is evident through the book, when he bothers to use Scripture at all to support his ideas. “In Matthew 10: 8 we have this commission, one of the commissions that Jesus gave his disciples: ‘heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’” (Kindle Locations 155-156), and he tried to make it seem like this is something we should do today, without regard to either whom Jesus was speaking to, nor even all the instructions Jesus gave here. For example, Johnson doesn't touch on Jesus' command in verse 5 for the disciples to not go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, nor verses 9 and 10 where they are told to not acquire gold or silver for their journey, nor take a bag with them, nor an extra change of clothes or shoes.

“What was it about the shadow of Peter that could heal people? There is no substance to a shadow. Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you, whatever you live conscious of, whatever you carry.” (Kindle Locations 175-176). The account of people trying to get Peter's shadow to fall on them is found in Acts 5:12-16, and you will not find any mention of a teaching like “ Your shadow will always release whatever overshadows you” in that passage. Johnson is simply making that up. Regarding the account in Mark 4 were Jesus slept during a storm at sea, he says “Do you know why he could sleep in a storm? Because the realm he was dwelling in has no storms.” (Kindle Location 1081). He even gives the passage in his book, and you will not find any such statement in the passage, nor anything like that even hinted at. Johnson is simply making that up. Again concerning that same passage, he writes, “You have authority over any storm you can sleep in.” (Kindle Location 1095). Jesus doesn't even come close to saying that, Johnson has to twist and change Jesus' words to make it seem like He's saying that to the disciples.

Of course, he doesn't limit his ideas to things he claims to have found in the Bible. “People ask me often about a lifestyle of miracles. How do you come into a lifestyle of miracles?... But I found out something. You need to take time to get alone with God, to get in a secret place with God and cry out to him.” (Kindle Locations 680-685). He offers not biblical support for such a claim, and the Bible does not teach this. “Nothing happens in the Kingdom until first there is a declaration. Everything hinges upon the simple faith of people who will make decrees.” (Kindle Locations 880-881). Johnson offers no biblical support for this statement, because the Bible doesn't teach that. This if Word of Faith heresy. “He always manifests himself opposite to his surroundings. He manifests himself opposite to the spirit of the day that has captured the affections and the attentions of a generation. Because he has a better way. He has a better solution. That means that when you live at a time when people are going broke, bankrupt, when there is financial crisis and chaos, and fear is spreading all around you, that’s the time God wants to prosper you.” (Kindle Locations 1245-1248). The Bible doesn't teach that, this is just Prosperity Gospel heresy.

This is only a small sampling of the ludicrous things Bill Johnson teaches in this book.

Where are the church leaders who hold this guy accountable, that tell him that his teachings are not biblical and that he should step down from his pulpit and actually study the Bible before he's allowed to speak before anyone again? It is a testimony to the sad state of the church today that Bill Johnson is considered a successful minister, when he has no idea how to properly handle the Word of God.

For better, far more biblical teachings, I would recommend The World-Tilting Gospel  by Dan Phillips.


DJP said...

Yep, Phil's a great guy. I love his stuff.

Kirby said...

Methinks you would like to correct your last line to read, "by Dan Phillips"

And yes, it's an awesome book.

jazzact13 said...

You're right, sorry about that. Should be fixed now.

DJP said...

But Phil is a great guy, and I do love his stuff!