Arminian Today

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A Chapter By Chapter Review of Strange Fire (Introduction)

Over the next few posts I will be looking at Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  This book, as the subtitle suggests, is about the danger of offending the Holy Spirit with counterfeit worship.  The book is aimed at correcting the abuses and errant teachings of the charismatic movement.  The book also is aimed at teaching the truth about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

Let me make a few general observations before I begin to tackle the book chapter by chapter.  Let me first highlight the positives and then the negatives.

The Positives

I appreciated the biblical basis that MacArthur places on the work of the Holy Spirit.  Over and over again MacArthur quotes from Scripture as the final and absolute authority concerning the work  of the Spirit.  I appreciated that MacArthur focuses on the Word of God to build a doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, I would expect this from MacArthur.  He is known for his excellent preaching of God’s Word.

I appreciated the number of footnotes to back up what MacArthur was saying or whom he was quoting.  As with Charismatic ChaosMacArthur does list names.  Like Paul the Apostle in 2 Timothy 1:15, MacArthur names teachers from the charismatic movement that he disagrees with such as Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland (both Word-Faith teachers) or even mainline Pentecostals such as Jack Hayford.  From what I have heard, MacArthur and Hayford use to golf together from time to time.  The footnotes helped the reader to see that MacArthur is not seeking to just lift quotes from charismatic preachers.  He wants the reader to research them if they so wish.

Finally, I appreciated the emphasis on the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles.  MacArthur shows that the healing ministry of Jesus and His chosen Apostles was unique.  He leaves no doubt that the healings that we find in the Gospels or Acts were clearly miraculous healings that demonstrated the power of God for the purpose of the gospel (Hebrews 2:3-4).

The Negatives

My biggest complaint would be that MacArthur (and he says that he was intentional) paints the charismatic movement with a broad brush.  As I have written before, I have known many godly Pentecostals.  All of them could have read this book and agreed with much of what MacArthur wrote (though they would obviously disagree with MacArthur over Spirit-baptism and the gifts of the Spirit with emphasis on tongues and prophecy).  To lump godly Pentecostals together with Benny Hinn or Copeland was not fair.  MacArthur would not want to be lumped with Fred Phelps (who is a Calvinist by the way).  MacArthur would reply that the experience element is the problem here though and my godly Pentecostals are just as guilty of promoting false teachings about the Spirit as these Word-Faith preachers are.

MacArthur is a cessationist.  He seeks to build his case in this book but oddly, at least to me, he seeks to build it using the bad examples mainly from the Word-Faith movement.  It seems both movements, whether cessationist or continuists, often build their cases from what the Bible doesn’t say than from what it does say.  This is true of MacArthur.  His strongest arguments seem to be from comparing modern healings to those in Scripture or from his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8.  I feel this is a weak point for MacArthur.  Though I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote, I felt his case was not very well done from Scripture.  The case is just weak from the beginning.

Lastly, I, of course, rejected MacArthur’s Calvinism thrown into the book here and there.  While I could read the book comfortably, MacArthur states that one of the errors of the modern charismatic movement is largely that they are Arminian in their view of salvation.  At one point MacArthur is writing about the sealing of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) and he is clear that he believes that this is teaching the eternal security of the believer.  He then attacks charismatics by asserting that they often hold to apostasy (or in his words, “lose their salvation”) and thus have no true security in the Spirit.  This is yet again another broad brush as there are charismatics who hold to eternal security (Sam Storms, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John Wimber, Jack Deere).  Further, Arminians, such as myself, would reject the notion that we “lose our salvation” but rather we teach that security comes through necessary perseverance (as Calvinists would teach but place the emphasis on God keeping us while ignoring personal responsibility in my estimation).


Overall this was a good book.  I will begin now a chapter by chapter look at Strange Fire.  I hope to show the many positives this book has while also pointing out areas of disagreement.  MacArthur, like us all, is a fallen man who is not infallible.  He can and does make mistakes.  I know he would agree with me that we need to take 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 seriously and examine all things by the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  I plan to do just that by the grace of God.


Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/11/2014 at 1:15 PM

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