Johnson claims, “For decades the Church has been guilty of creating doctrine to justify their lack of power. . .” (Johnson: 116). It is hard to imagine what “problem” he is reacting to when most of our evangelical educational institutions are committed to postmodern mysticism, with their heroes being mystics like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. It is hard to find a Bible college or seminary that does not promote “spiritual formation,” which is merely a fancy term for Roman Catholic mysticism. Yet Johnson decries the presence of doctrine. We will see later just how willing he is to depart from orthodox doctrine.
He resorts to an often misused passage that promotes his anti-scholastic bias: “A powerless Word is the letter not the Spirit. And we all know, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’” (Johnson: 116). This twisting of Paul’s meaning in 2Corinthians 3:6 has a long history of use to promote subjectivism and mysticism. The false implication is that studying the Bible will kill you spiritually. The context shows that Paul was speaking of the letters written on stone (verse 3), meaning the Decalogue. Paul explains how the law “kills” in Romans 7:5, 6. It kills because of our sinful passions that it exposes, not because it is studied for what it means.
For example, does “you shall not steal” have some secret, mystical meaning that can only be assessed by certain elite persons with subjective spiritual impressions, or does it mean what it says? It means what it says. But to truly live as a person who is free from the sin of stealing we need the grace of God that comes through the gospel. In 2Corinthians 3, Paul is speaking of those who have the Law but reject Christ. Bill Johnson is warning Christians that studying the Bible will kill them. In so doing he abuses the passage and lowers the value of Scripture in the minds of his readers.
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