This is a continuation in my series of reviewing Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth. You can read Part I here.
The Spoiled Milk
Fideism (or Faith as True Knowledge)
Fideism is “the doctrine that knowledge depends on faith or revelation,‘ ‘faith is independent of reason,’ or ‘reason and faith are hostile to each other with faith being superior.’
Johnson says, “Faith is neither intellectual or anti-intellectual. It is superior to the intellect…. When we submit the things of God to the mind of man, unbelief and religion are the results. When we submit the mind of man to the things of God, we end up with faith and a renewed mind.” It’s a nice turn around, but Johnson doesn’t explain how that concept really works. He goes on to say, “Much of the opposition to revival comes from soul-driven Christians. The apostle Paul calls them carnal. They have not learned how to be led by the Spirit. Anything that doesn’t make sense to their rational mind is automatically in conflict with Scripture” (ps. 46-47).
“A religious spirit is a demonic presence that works to get us to substitute being led by our intellect instead of the Spirit of God” (p. 81).
“But how can we follow Him if we don’t recognize His presence? The more pronounced His presence, the more unique the manifestations of our God encounters become. Although the manifestations we experience while encountering Him are important, it’s God Himself we long for” (p. 82).
So all of this talk about God’s presence, what is God’s presence? How do we know when His Holy Spirit moves? It seems to be in the greater ‘manifestations’ we would experience.
The irony in Johnson’s title (When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles) is that Johnson doesn’t really tells how to live a life of miracles. He doesn’t tell us what ‘being led by the Spirit’ means, or how the Spirit moves, or what we really need to do to let the Spirit work.
Maybe He speaks in a still small voice? Does God always have to move in great manifestations? In 1 Kings 19.11-12 the Lord passes by Elijah and a great wind tore the mountain and broke rocks into pieces, then after an earthquake, then a fire, but the Lord was in none of these. Then a voice (19.13) asked Elijah what he was doing there. In 1 Kings 18 the Lord had just shown Himself in the fire that fell on the altar, yet King Ahab and Queen Jezebel refused to turn to Yahweh. Now, there will be no more signs. Instead, judgement. God would ‘speak’ so quietly that only those who know Him would hear His ‘voice.’
Yet, if such is the case, why are we to be looking for great manifestations of the Spirit? Even false prophets can perform signs (Deut. 13.2).
A Faith Summary
On pages 48-49 Johnson gives “A Faith Summary” from Hebrews 11.2-34 on the affects of faith found in that passage. The affects range from how “By faith” “Abraham received promises,”dwelled in a land of promise,” “By faith” “the walls of Jericho fell” to they who “By faith” “subdued kingdoms,” “shut the mouths of lions,” and “were made valiant in battle.”
What’s the problem?
Johnson stops at Hebrews 11.34, the very verse before we start to read about some who (“By faith”) were tortured, refused accepting release so that they might obtain a better resurrection. They suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stonings, beatings, being sawn in two, afflicted, mistreated, etc (Heb 11.35b-38).
Paul in Romans 8.16-18 says something similar, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Faith Cuts Verses?
The Holy Spirit lives in my spirit. That is the place of communion with God. As we learn to receive from our spirits we learn how to be Spirit led. ‘By faith, we understand’ [*Heb 11.3]. Faith is the foundation for all true intellectualism. When we learn to learn that way, we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).
Yet this is not what Hebrews 11.3 is saying at all. “By faith we understand…” What do we understand? “…that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
The author of Hebrews isn’t trying to teach his readers how to be Spirit led, but what our faith is placed in. God created the world by His word. God gave His people promises. He gave promises to:
- Adam (Gen 3.15),
- Abel [through Adam] (Gen 4.4),
- Enoch (Gen 5.24; Jude 14-15),
- Noah (Gen 6.13-14; 8.21-9.1,7),
- Abraham (Gen 12.1-3; 15.4-7, 13-16, 18; 17.1-9),
- Sarah (Gen 18.10-11; 21.1).
Yet, they died not having received the full and fulfilled promises of inheriting the land (Joshua 1-24). But Heb 11.40 says, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” If they didn’t not see all (but did see some) of the promises fulfilled, yet had faith, should we not have more reason to believe God?
God’s Promises to Us
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1.20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” And from 2 Cor 1.20-7.1 Paul lays out these promises that have come and are being fulfilled in Christ:
- Forgiving the offender (Mt. 18.15-20) [we are in Christ who is the true temple (Jn 2.19-21)],
- New Covenant (2 Cor 3; cf. Jer 31.31-34), the light of Christ’s Gospel (2 Cor 4.6; cf. Gen 1.2-3; Isa 9.2),
- Assurance of resurrection and the day of judgment (2 Cor 5.1-5, 10; cf. Dan 12.2),
- Beginning of new creation and reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5.17-21; cf. Isa 43.18-19; 65.17),
- And, in having the Spirit of God in us, being the temple of God (2 Cor 6.16-18; cf. Lev 26.12; Isa 52.11; Jer 32.38; Ezek 20.34.41; 2 Sam 7.14).
All that to say, God gave promises, He has kept them, and they are starting now. We have the Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee (2 Cor 5.5) that believers, unlike unbelievers, recognize that our fearful Judge came to us first to be our Savior. Unbelievers don’t fear Judgment Day. We are looking forward to the consummated New Creation (Rev 21-22) so that we can be out of the suffering and affliction the world lays on us now.
So we have ‘better’ promises in Jesus, ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb 12.2). He endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now sitting at the right hand of God. We are to ‘lay aside every weight’ and ‘run the race with endurance’ with Christ as our Perfect Model.
Leap of Faith
Taking from Johnson quote above, “…we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).
We are not making a ‘leap of faith’ like those in the Enlightenment. During the Enlightenment, Reason came to power and ‘faith’ could no longer be proved. Reason ‘proved’ the Bible wrong, and to believe in the Bible one had to make a jump ‘into faith.’ They just had to believe that there was something to believe.
But this is not our position. We have historical proof of God fulfilling His promises in His Son Jesus Christ. We have His Spirit which, as we go through trials and affliction, causes us to look forward to the promise of the physical new created world which God’s presence will pervade.
And though we believe by faith, it is not something ‘superior’ to intellect for we use our intellect to show how this makes sense. We use our intellect to know that the Bible is true. We use our intellect to look back at history and see that God has fulfilled His promises, and we believe by faith that God will continue to keep His word, even in the midst of our afflictions.
Johnson claims that we are to look for manifestations of the Spirit. The greater His presence the more unique the manifestations. He assumes that by faith we know that we know that we know. We believe the Bible not by God acting throughout history, but because we experience Holy Spirit manifestations of grandeur now. At least, we should, so the argument goes. If manifestations are our proof, when happens when we don’t get them? Believe harder? Are we doing something wrong? Johnson doesn’t tell us. We just simply have to believe “because faith does not require understanding to function” (p. 47).
In the next review we’ll look at “rejecting everything we don’t understand” and pitting Paul against Pentecost.