"John MacArthur would do well to imitate Gamaliel and stop his war against Charismatics."
The Strange Fire conference has set off fireworks around the globe, and there appears to be no letting up (just Google Strange Fire). I began hearing about John MacArthur's book Strange Fire a few months ago, and last week a conference by the same name attracted several thousand attendees. Here is how the conference was promoted: (link)
For the last hundred years, the charismatic movement has been offering a strange fire of sorts to the third Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. And evangelical churches have chosen to be silent or indifferent on the matter. This hasn’t served the church or the Spirit of the church with honor.
So what should be our response?
Strange Fire is a conference that will set forth what the Bible really says about the Holy Spirit, and how that squares with the charismatic movement. We’re going to address in a biblical, straightforward manner what many today see as a peripheral issue. On the contrary, your view of the Holy Spirit influences your relationship with God, your personal holiness, and your commitment to the church and evangelism.
Speakers at the Strange Fire conference included John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Conrad Mbewe, Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, and others. We have mentioned Mbewe before — you may recall that he is often referred to as "the African Spurgeon".
The three-day conference was streamed live, and there were quite a few who watched. The archived messages should be online soon.
As we mentioned over the weekend, Mark (never miss a media opportunity) Driscoll and James MacDonald crashed the party (link) because they were in the area doing their own conference ironically called "Act Like Men". What is wrong with this picture???
In the wake of the Strange Fire conference, John MacArthur has responded to his critics. Here are just some of his remarks:
He first said that he hosted the Strange Fire conference to help the Church, and people who believe the Bible is the word of God and that God has revealed Himself clearly and consistently and without contradiction.
"This is for the true church, so that they can discern; so that they can be protected from error; and so that they can be a source of truth for others outside the church," he said, adding that his book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship, can withstand the most intense scrutiny, when measured against the word of God in the Bible….
"We have also been accused of being divisive. I would agree with that. Truth by its very nature is divisive. That's why Jesus said, 'I came to bring a sword.' To divide people, to divide families. Truth by its very nature is separated from error. And it is far more important to be divided by truth than united by error." ….
Another accusation has been that MacArthur and cessationists are talking about something that is only true of the extreme, lunatic fringe of the movement, to which he contends is "patently not true." Because he believes there is error in the Charismatic movement that sweeps through the entire movement.
"Ninety percent of the people around the world connected to the Charismatic movement take ownership of the prosperity gospel," he said. "Twenty-four to 25 million of them deny the trinity. One hundred million of them are Roman Catholics. This is not some fringe; this is the movement. And it is growing at a rapid rate." …
For those who've told MacArthur that he's attacking his brothers in Christ, MacArthur responded that he "wished he could affirm that." In his opinion, he and his fellow speakers noted throughout the conference that the Charismatic movement is made-up largely of non-Christians.
"If reformed leaders who know the truth, Gospel and word of God don't police this movement, the spiritual terrorists will dominate," he said…
"According to MacArthur, the Charismatic movement is an "alien movement" whose roots can be traced back to 1966 when the hippies of San Francisco moved to Orange County and joined Calvary Chapel and the "barefoot, drug-induced young people told the church how the church should act." he said. "Hymns and suits went out. For the first time in the history of the church, the conduct of the church was conformed to a sub-culture that was born of LSD and marijuana."
MacArthur contends that the Charismatic movement is a culturally-bound, culturally-driven and seeker-driven church movement that depreciates and diminishes the glorious way the Holy Spirit worked in the foundation of the church.
MacArthur also pointed to those who call themselves continuationists as aiding the problem, because they want to give a place to the Charismatic movement, and said they are not helping to resolve the issues of false doctrine.
"The broader Charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other doctrinal aberration in this modern day," MacArthur added, noting that in chapter 12 of his book, he has written an open letter to his continuationist friends.
The continuationists are extremely upset and are speaking out against MacArthur and his conference. Here is a case in point. I was listening to WTRU this afternoon, and Dr. Michael Brown, whose ministry is near Charlotte, had two guests on his broadcast — Adrian Warnock, a reformed charismatic who hails from Great Britain, and Dr. Sam Storms, a pastor in Oklahoma.
Adrian Warnock mentioned Phil Johnson and said that when Johnson looks at the charismatic movement, he identifies it with the prosperity gospel and wackiness. Warnock explained that MacArthur and gang 'airbrush' so much of the genuine charismatic love. He went on to say that he was absolutely astonished that MacArthur would claim that the charismatic movement is made up of unbelievers. Warnock cannot get over the fact that MacArthur and his colleagues are condemning the vast number of charismatics to hell (based on the abuse of some in the movement).
Warnock has posted the following response on his website: Strange Fire – A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur
Dr. Sam Storms told Dr. Brown that the sweeping generalizations of charismatics were grievous to him. He admitted: "I was heartbroken by the sessions I watched." Storms went on to state that John Piper and Mike Bickle (continuationists who are widely divergent) are two of his closest friends. It hurts him to see them being lumped together with the prosperity pastors (which we have roundly condemned here at TWW).
No doubt there will be much more discussion to follow… Perhaps a clue as to why this conference took place is the "African Spurgeon", who hails from Zambia. MacArthur has a following in Africa, where those in his organization are planting churches.
Wade Burleson has written a thought-provoking post, which we believe will be beneficial to our readers. (see below)
By: Wade Burleson
"Gamaliel rose and spoke saying..'Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God'" (Acts 5:38-39 NIV).
After the ascension of Christ, the disciples of our Lord went about Jerusalem proclaiming the risen Christ, healing the sick, and becoming quite well-known among the common people. The Sadducees were "filled with jealousy" and had these followers of Christ arrested and imprisoned. But an angel from the Lord miraculously opened the prison door and told the disciples to "go on and tell others about this new life" (Acts 5:20). Peter went straight to the Temple and began preaching Jesus. He was detained again and brought before the Sanhedrin where he was reminded he had been already arrested for preaching Christ and had been told to stop! Peter responded with his famous words, "We must obey God rather than man!" (Acts 5:29). Peter so infuriated the Jerusalem religious leaders that they cried out for his death and all those who followed this insurrectionist Man from Nazareth.
In the midst of the bedlam, a wise and respected leader of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel calmly stood up and spoke the words recorded in Acts 5:38-39 (see above). The wisdom of Gamaliel persuaded the angry Sanhedrin and the Christians were released unharmed. The Orthodox Church made Gamaliel a saint, believing that he and his son had converted to Christianity from Judaism. The Feast of St. Gamaliel is celebrated on August 3rd. Ironically, when Christopher Columbus set sail "across the ocean blue" from Spain, he had been ordered by King Ferdinand to leave on August 2nd, which in 1492 happened to be ninth day of Av on the Jewish Calendar. The ninth of Av is a Jewish holy day called Tish B'Av, commemorating the date of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples of the Jewish nation. Columbus deliberately chose to wait and leave on August 3rd, the Feast Day of Gamaliel. I do not believe it is far fetched to say that Christopher Columbus, an ethnic Jew himself, wished to honor Gamaliel and identify with his conversion to Christ by delaying his departure. Gamaliel has been revered by Christians throughout the centuries.
John MacArthur would do well to imitate Gamaliel and stop his war against Charismatics. At McArthur's Strange Fire Conference in California this week (October 16-18, 2013), he "called out charismatic Christians." Specifically, MacArthur claims that "nothing good has come out of the Charismatic Movement." In addition, MacArthur has grouped men like John Piper, Sam Storms, Adrian Warnock, Mark Driscoll, Scott Camp and a host of other theologically sound continuationists with every far-fetched Charismatic ministry and called them all "strange fires, not from the Lord." My departed grandpa might say of MacArthur's rhetoric "Them there be fighten words!" I think Gamaliel, in contradistinction to MacArthur's tactics, would have stood up before the people in California this week and pointed out that it is unnecessary to attack Christian ministers regarding their purposes, tactics, and activities. "If it be of human origin it will fail. But if it be of God you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." How does a ministry fail? The fires of affliction reveal the character of one's ministry. It doesn't happen overnight. Just wait. God will reveal the character and quality of all ministries and ministers. Afflictions come to us all. Times of testing are in the appointment book of God for every one of us (I Thessalonians 3:3). When those fires of affliction come, GOD will reveal the character of our ministries.
This is precisely the teaching of I Corinthians 3. Every preacher, evangelist, church leader, and kingdom worker ought to contemplate and mediate on this chapter of the Bible. Contrary to popular but mistaken dispensational interpretation, this text is not referring to the Day (of Judgment), but rather, to days of affliction in this life. This chapter, written about ministers and shepherds of God's people, is a clarion warning for us pastors to focus on our own ministries and stop worrying about what others are doing. The early Hebrew Christians would have known that a foundation in their church of "gold, silver, and precious stones" was precious gospel truth. A foundation of "wood, hay and stubble" is a ministry built on "heretical doctrines, damnable heresies" (Gill). There is no need to burn down the work of another ministry. God has a way of bringing down churches and ministries built on "wood, hay, and stubble." The wisdom of Gamaliel is a far superior than the war of MacArthur.
I do not speak in tongues. I do not have any gift of prophecy. I am a continuationist theologically and a cessationist experientially. That just means I leave these matters up to God. I was twice censured by my fellow trustees on the International Mission Board because they wished to root out from service those who believed in and/or practiced a continuation of spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy (i.e. President Jerry Rankin). I suggested we should leave our fellow Christians alone on this issue and preach Christ, supporting the work of all those called by the Spirit to serve on the mission field. I am beginning to believe that theological cessationists who demand every other Christian agree with them are more dangerous than we realize. Why? Because in their attempt to stamp out strange fires, they very well may be fighting against God. Let's leave others alone and concentrate on our own work. It's far better to allow God to burn the wood, hay and stubble of other ministries than to have Him write Ichabod on our own.
Lydia's Corner: Job 20:1-22:30 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 Psalm 40:11-17 Proverbs 22:2-4