As one of my readers kindly pointed out, I was pretty imprecise in my first post, mixing Pentecostals and charismatics with abandon, and acting as though they all believe the same thing. I repent. I do know better. There’s tremendous variety among Pentecostals and charismatics. Many hold theological views that are very close to mine. Bill Johnson doesn’t represent them.
What he does represent is the sharp edge of Pentecostalism. He’s confidently advocating the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a Christian life filled with miracles. God can do them, he wants to do them, and if we live faith-filled lives we will see him do them. Miracles are normal in the Kingdom of God.
That’s a strong and attractive message, which I suspect has always been the heart appeal of both Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. In part it’s a reaction to dull, solemn assimilated Christianity. That’s why exuberant worship is always a key feature, though there’s no reason in principal that Calvinists can’t worship exuberantly. But it’s more than that, and I think Johnson does a good job conveying what it is.
“One of the major functions of miracles and supernatural living is to offer immediate, irrefutable proof of what God wants to happen on earth. It demonstrates who God is by showing what His reality looks like.”
And, “Aren’t you tired of talking about a gospel of power, but never seeing it in action? Aren’t you tired of trying to carry out the Great Commission without offering proof that the Kingdom works?”
His theme is, “on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, there is no sickness. Therefore our witness is miraculous healing. That is the normal Christian life.
I’d agree with Johnson wholeheartedly in his thinking about the Kingdom. “On earth as it is in heaven” really is what the coming of the Kingdom means. And that has physical as well as spiritual implications. The whole earth is to be renewed. Christians live as witnesses to that expectation. We’re meant to demonstrate what the Kingdom is like.
The question is, though: why isn’t this the normal Christian life. It isn’t, not even in Pentecostal churches. Not even, I strongly suspect, in Bill Johnson’s church. Because if his church really were like heaven, he wouldn’t have to write a book about it. The New York Times would write about it. And not on the religion page.
So I have to start with a theological question: why is life so consistently not like heaven? And when heaven does seem to burst forth on earth, even if only partly, what should we do with that? Try to imitate the circumstances that (apparently) led to it? Or thank God and go on with whatever we were already doing?