Archive for November 22nd, 2013

Strange Fire 2

MacArthur, John. Strange Fire The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship. Thomas Nelson Inc, 2013.

During and after the Strange Fire Conference, SLIIMJIM and I have been on an spiritual gift escapade.  We have been reading countless blogs and other resources that echoes the points and themes of the conference.  There is a myriad of resources out there.  If you have not read any, we encourage you to read them in order to be familiar with the subject matter.  Many of the web-related resources were birthed out of the conference.  Based on the Twitter feeds and social media outlets, there seemed to be more negative reviews than positive reviews.  Many of the negative reviews came from Charismatics.  Many voiced their outcry because they felt that the conference was misrepresenting them.  They believed that the speakers were using the broad brush.  For those who think that the speakers at the conference used a broad brush to paint every Charismatic as a heretic–you really need to listen to the entire messages of the conference and even read the book.  You can’t just take soundbites or selected exercpts from the book to argue your case against Pastor MacArthur.  Doing so would disconnect it from the context.  Pastor MacArthur was very nuanced in his approach and was very careful in terms of who are the counterfeits and who are not.  For example, in his book, he considers many of his evangelical and Reformed Continuationists as partners in the Gospel.

There was heavy and concentrated fuel that was pumped into the conference and this book because Pastor MacArthur believes–in his own words,

The New Testament calls us to guard carefully that which has been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14).  We must stand firm on the truth of the gospel–the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  Whoever compromises with the error and subjectivism of charismatic theology allows the enemy into the camp.  I am convinced that the broader Charismatic Movement opened the door to more theological error than perhaps any other doctrinal aberration in the twentieth century (including liberalism, psychology, and ecumenism).  That’s a bold statement, I know.  But the proof is all around us.  Once experientialism is allowed to gain a foothold, there is no brand of heresy or wickedness that will not ride it into the church.”


Part 1: This section advises how one is to confront a counterfeit revival and many of the  false Charismatic teachings.  Examples of counterfeit revivals and teachings can be seen through outrages charlatans such as Todd Bentley 2008 Lakeland revival, Benny Hinn’s healing crusades, Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thons, etc.  Some of these outrages revivals and teachings are quite vulgar and violent.  For example, many of its leaders that specifically come out from the Word of Faith movement have been exposed by many illicit relationships.  As for violence, Todd Bentley, Kenneth Hagin, Rodney Browne have used physical violence in their crusades.  Punches, slaps, and kicks are implemented in the name of the Lord.  They do it in the name of the Holy Spirit, but in reality, this shenanigan is nothing but a mockery of the Holy Spirit.  In the words of Peter Masters who pastors London Metropolitan Tabernacle–a church that Charles Spurgeon once pastored, accurately describes this movement,

With the unbelievable rapidity charismatics have lurched from one excess to another, so that now we are confronted by a sense of utter confusion.  Many in the charismatic fraternity have gone over to ideas and practices which come straight from pagan religions, and large numbers of young and impressionable believers have been spiritually corrupted in the process.  Leading healers have arisen who unite the subtle tricks of the theatrical hypnotist with ancient occult techniques in their quest for results, and multitudes follow them” (12).

And in the words of John MacArthur, the majority of the Charismatic movement is nothing more than a “gospel of greed, materialism, and self-promotion” (11).  Much has been said, but how do believers combat this movement’s sacrilegious behavior? What are some of the tests that believers are to implement in order to combat false fire?  To answer that question the author references Jonathan Edwards.  In the need to defending the Great Awakening, Edwards gave an address in Yale College in 1741 concerning some of the emotional outbursts that was evident in the revival.  The message was entitled, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.  Since true revival cannot be based or determined on emotion, Edwards lists a few fundamental points for application.  Pastor MacArthur refers to it as the fivefold test.  The fivefold test, which is based off of 1 John 4:1-8, consists of this: does it exalt the true Christ? Does it oppose worldliness?  Does it point people to the Scriptures?  Does it elevate truth?  Does it produce love for God and others?

Part 2: This part provides a great comprehensive treatment and disclosure of the counterfeit gifts.  The area he covers are the succession of the apostles, the folly of fallible prophets, twisting tongues, fake healings, and false hopes.  There is much to be said, but since it is a review, I am not going to plough through all the details.  But two of the hot areas are tongues and fallible prophets.  Majority of the evangelical world will not espouse the succession of the apostolic office; nor the fake healings and hopes.  But many of  the practices of tongues and prophecy is due to prominent evangelicals and Think Tanks such as Wayne Grudem, who espouses them.  In fact, some of these so-called sign gifts  are seeping rapidly in Reformed churches/New Calvinist movement.  One prominent Reformed charismatic pastor in Seattle,WA believed he received pornographic visions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVyFyauE4ig).  One of the topics that concerns me the most is the fallible prophecy section; whereby key leaders of the Reformed movement such as Wayne Grudem, espouses the notion of fallible prophecy. He believes that one can  prophesy in the name of the Lord and not be under the hammering weight of scrutiny/condemnation of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, when one prophesies  falsely.

Part 3: This section is great.  Due to Pastor MacArthur’s high view of the Holy Spirit, he ventures into the fieldwork of  rediscovering the Spirit’s true work.  The Charismatic movement in general, not all, are an anomaly to this  work of the Spirit.  His work is seen via  the Holy Spirit and salvation, the Spirit and sanctification, the Spirit and the Scriptures.  Although the author ploughs through the Charismatic movement, he is not done, but he expresses a heartfelt address, an open letter, to his Continuationist friends.  He believes that the advocacy of the continuation of the sign gifts is precarious because it holds no exegetical support from Scripture.  In his letter, he provides eight main points for his friends to consider.


Treatment of the “perfect” (1 Corinthians 13:10) was not detailed as I preferred, but it was still a good summary.  He lists the four main views from prominent scholors concerning the “perfect” (teleion): B.B. Warfield, Robert Thomas, Richard Gaffin, Thomas Edgar.  Because 1 Corinthians 13:10 is an important verse of greater significant concerning the sign gifts, the author should of devoted an entire chapter to it.  Instead, he only devoted a few pages.  For those who want more information on the perfect, I suggest that you go to the works of the men mentioned above.  They will provide a more lengthy treatment of the subject.  He also refers to his friends as closet Cessationists.  I am not sure that referring to them with that epithet is wise because many of these dear brethren have caused much damage concerning the worship of the Holy Spirit.  Many of the Charismatics continue to flourish and argue their case because many of them anchor their views from leading Continuationist scholars.


Overall, this book was exceptionable and I recommend it as a book to read. Unlike Strange Fire Conference, where at times, I thought Scripture was not interacted with as much as a whole due to the emphasis of history and tradition, here in the book,  Scripture was provided in a voluminous amount.  The conference was great, but this book puts all the details into perspective because it connects the dots with many of the prevalent and critical issues in the Charismatic movement.  I also appreciated the appendix who there is a myriad of quotes from church fathers, reformers, and other great men of the faith concerning their perspective on the sign gifts.

Another positive about this book was its documentation concerning the pervasive error within the Charismatic movement.  It is backed up with 49 pages of citations. Clearly the book was careful and meticulous with its research.


If we claim allegiance to the Reformers, we ought to conduct ourselves with their level of courage and conviction as we contend earnestly for the faith.  There must be a collective war against the pervasive abuses on the Spirit of God.  This book is a call to join the cause for His honor.  My prayer is that my continuationist friends (and all who are willing to join the cause) would see the dangers in the charismatic theology, that they would bodly reject that which the Bible condemns as error, and that together we would apply the mandate of Jude 23, rescuing souls from the strange fire of false spirituality” (248).

Amen to that Pastor MacArthur.  I pray that this topic that was addressed in the conference and in this book will have a colossal impact upon this generation.  Perhaps it may not be now, but I think it be colossal when he enters into glory.

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