Doctrine and theology: sour words in the ears of many today, and with good reason. Knowledge can puff up (1 Cor 8:1), inflating otherwise well-meaning Christians with hot air. You probably even know someone seemingly more concerned with crossing the “t” in theology than showing the love of the cross.
Yet, God designed our hearts and minds to grow in doctrine (instruction or teaching), and we can’t go far in our Christian walk without it. Consider Jesus, who employed sound doctrine when His proper understanding and application of God’s Word defeated Satan’s temptation (Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13). He also chastised the poor doctrine or teaching of the leaders of Israel, saying, “Have you not read” (Mt 12:3, 5, 19:4, 22:31; Mk 12:10, 26; Lk 6:3). He equated knowing Scripture to knowing the power of God (Mt 22:29). His Great Commission includes the directive to make disciples and to teach them (Mt 28:18-19). As such, if we attempt to avoid learning biblical doctrine, our spiritual lives will resemble those of the unbelieving Pharisees more than they will Christ’s life.
When we consider Scripture as an inspired Word from the Holy Spirit, we can understand this more. If the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and of righteousness, and He authored a book through human writers, then it follows that the Spirit convicts through our study of the Bible. With that in mind, it makes sense that Peter can tell us to grow grace and knowledge (2 Pt 3:18); there’s a knowledge that doesn’t puff us up, when it comes through obedience to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit commands us through Peter to be eager to add scriptural knowledge to our saving knowledge in Christ (1 Pt 1:3, 5). The Holy Spirit wrote a book so we could follow Christ’s discipleship commission.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will avoid the trap of postmodern, anti-intellectual thinking. Doctrine is unavoidable. If you attempt to explain God to unbelievers, what He is like and what He wants of them, you use your own doctrinal understanding to teach others theology (“study of God”). If you have visited a class or sermon with the intent to learn and grow in your Christian faith, you engaged in theological, doctrinal studies. If you pray in tongues, especially knowing that other Christians don’t, you choose one doctrinal position over those other doctrinal convictions. You can’t live the Christian life without doctrine; we should endeavor to make it as biblical as possible so we can be as filled with the Holy Spirit as possible.
The Holy Spirit not only wants us to seek out good doctrine, He also wants us to identify and avoid those who teach bad doctrine. Through Paul, He tells us: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Rom 16:17). Therefore, there is a negative aspect to being a disciple: identifying spiritually unhealthy teachers on the air, those who spread doctrine contrary to the prophetic and apostolic teaching of Scripture, and turn them off.
Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, teaches and instructs every week through sermons, Bible studies, and through Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry. Their worship band, Jesus Culture, teaches and instructs through testimonies and song choices. No one can deny that it is a doctrinal and theological rich environment. So, is it a spiritually healthy one, one that teaches in line with the Holy Spirit?
Having known people influenced by Johnson’s ministry, and having lived in California for the past several years, my concerns with its soundness only grows the more I study this church. In fact, after prayerful study of the theology and methods of this church, I can only conclude that its teachings and its music are spiritually dangerous. Therefore, in the following posts, we will examine two key reasons to avoid Bethel Church: 1) it promotes false doctrine, and because of that, 2) it hosts false signs and wonders… next week.