Arminian Today

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Strange Fire Review: Introduction

These series of posts are focused on the book by John MacArthur, Strange Fire.  I do recommend reading the book and this review will not cover every detail of the book.  The book has generated much debate (which is good) over the work of the Holy Spirit in our day, the charismatic movement, and whether the sign gifts are functional today.  I pray that God would be glorified through it all.

Normally I would not comment much on an introduction to a book.  After all, most introductions are short and they are not the meat of the book.  They simply lay a short foundation for what is to come.  This is not the case with Strange Fire.  From the start, MacArthur takes out his guns and begins a war with charismatics.  He opens with the story of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3) and how they offered strange fire to God.  He then turns to the blasphemy of the Spirit in Matthew 12:30-32 and how the Pharisees were guilty of this by crediting Satan with the work of God (Matthew 12:24).  MacArthur takes these two accounts and says that the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movement are guilty of these two things: offering strange fire to God as worship and blaspheming the Spirit of God by claiming that His work among them is true when in reality it is the work of Satan.  MacArthur feels that the Pentecostal movement is preoccupied with the Holy Spirit despite the words of Jesus in John 15:26.  He believes that the Holy Spirit is said to be at work among charismatics but He often is
“mind-numbing babbler of irrational speech, or a cosmic genie who indiscriminately grants self-centered wishes for health and wealth.”

MacArthur goes on to write,

“It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor Him.  How do they do it?  By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences that have nothing to do with Him.  They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work.”

MacArthur goes on to write that millions of charismatics each day are giving praise to a false image of the Spirit and have become like the Israelites in Exodus 32 and dishonoring the Lord.  He says that the charismatics have ignored the truth about the Holy Spirit and are setting up an idol spirit in the house of God.

He goes on to write briefly about how Pentecostals have become mainstream.  He points out that the Pentecostal movement was viewed as cult by Christians at the turn of the 20th century but today they are fully embraced and demand acceptance despite virtually no change in their theology.  He believes that the charismatic movement has done more damage to the body of Christ than any other movement in history.  He believes it is a cesspool for error and a breeding ground for false teachers.  He believes it has:

“warped genuine worship through unbridled emotionalism, polluted prayer with private gibberish, contaminated true spirituality with unbiblical mysticism, and corrupted faith by turning it into a creative force for speaking worldly desires into existence.  By elevating the authority of experience over the authority of Scripture, the Charismatic Movement has destroyed the church’s immune system – uncritically granting access to every imaginable form of heretical teaching and practice.”

He believes that past generations would have responded to the Pentecostal movement as he has, by saying that it is heresy.  Dr. MacArthur wants the evangelical church to do that now.  To stand with the Reformers and label the modern charismatic movement as heretical and its teachings on the Spirit as false.  He hopes to do two things in this book: to show the errors of the charismatic movement and then to look at the biblical truth about the Holy Spirit so that we might truly glorify Him.

What do I think about this?  I know that MacArthur is doing two things in his introduction.  First, he is panting with intention the entire Pentecostal and charismatic movement.  Frankly, he believes that the movement has a whole opens the door for heresy.  In the final chapter MacArthur will come back to this issue but he truly believes that the only biblical position one can have regarding this issue is to be a cessationist.  Anything less, in his mind, opens the door for heresy.  Even the “open but cautious” view is dangerous to MacArthur and he will state why later on.

Secondly, MacArthur lumps all Pentecostals and charismatics together.  Again, he does this intentionally I believe because he sees them all one and the same.  In his mind there is no difference between Kenneth Copeland and Dr. George Wood.  Both are extremes.  Both represent error.  Both produce error.  While I don’t agree with this, MacArthur must do this to prove his point.

Let me be honest here, I felt that MacArthur was playing to his base in his introduction and he does truly believe what he writes: that the entire movement is wrong.  He wants to hit hard so that you’ll read the book.  No doubt, both a charismatic and a non-charismatic are going to be intrigued to see where MacArthur is going with this and how he is going to show that the entire movement is false? His writing is laying a foundation for what is to come.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/12/2014 at 11:48 AM

One Response

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  1. “He then turns to the blasphemy of the Spirit in Matthew 12:30-32 and how the Pharisees were guilty of this by crediting Satan with the work of God “

    Scripture’s reference to blasphemy of the Spirit relates to people attributing TRUE works of God’s Spirit as works of Satan. The term does not refer to works of Satan being identified as works of God.
    If there is a danger of blaspheming the Spirit within the cessationist- continuist argument, I see the danger falls more on the side of the cessationists like MacArthur if they mis- identify genuine gifts as being satanic in origin.

    Onesimus

    01/12/2014 at 5:11 PM


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