Arminian Today

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Strange Fire Review: Chapter One

Chapter one of Strange Fire is entitled, “Mocking the Spirit.”  Dr. MacArthur takes on the charismatic movement quickly by making chapter one all about how charismatics mock the Spirit of God.  He begins by telling story after story of bizarre and weird episodes in the charismatic movement from men such as Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, and others such as Andrew Womack.  His point is to show that the charismatic movement doesn’t exalt the true work of the Holy Spirit but they mock Him and bring shame to Him.

MacArthur writes,

“If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices – like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages, uttering fallible prophecies, worshiping in disorderly ways, or being knocked senseless by the supposed power of the Holy Spirit.  They ought to interpret their experiences to match the Bible; instead, they reinterpret Scripture in novel and unorthodox ways in order to justify their experiences.”

He goes on to write,

“By abandoning the final authority of the text, the Charismatic Movement has made itself susceptible to the worst kinds of doctrinal deception and spiritual exploitation.”

MacArthur believes that the charismatic movement has clearly abandoned the Bible as the authority for faith and practice and have exalted experience above the Word.  He finds it ironic that the very movement that claims to be from the Spirit, the Pentecostal movement, is not focused on the exalting the true work of the Spirit.  How can God bless such a movement?

This was a very short chapter and MacArthur spent most of his time showing strange stories (thus Strange Fire!) coming from the charismatic movement.

Let me point out the good parts of this chapter and the parts I would disagree with.  First, I agree with MacArthur on several issues.  I agree that many in the Word-Faith movement are not biblical.  Their “prophecies” and their actions demonstrate that money is their god and not the true God of the Bible.  I agree with him that the likes of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, or Todd Bentley are often a mockery to the name of Jesus.

I also agree that each of us needs to make the Bible the final authority.  May we all follow the Bible above following the works or actions of men.  May God be our passion and may the Bible be our guide and may the Spirit of God lead us into all truth in the holy Scriptures.  I completely agree with Dr. MacArthur on this point.

However, I do disagree with, once again, MacArthur making the likes of the Word-Faith movement the examples of charismatics.  I know of no Pentecostals who would associate with any of those whom he names in this chapter.  I know that there is controversy with Dr. Michael Brown appearing on Benny Hinn’s program but other than that, I know of no Pentecostals who would desire to be named with the Word-Faith teachers that MacArthur lists.  Further, every Pentecostal scholar I know would denounce the Word-Faith teachers and movement as a whole.  For example, one of the best books on the Word-Faith movement is from D.R. McConnell who taught at ORU and wrote the book, A Different Gospel.  Dr. Gordon Fee, an Assemblies of God minister, wrote the book, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels.  Pentecostals actually wrote on the false teachings on the Word-Faith movement before evangelicals did.  How can then MacArthur lump all Pentecostals and charismatics with the Word-Faith teachers that he cites or gives examples from?

That said, I agree with Dr. MacArthur that much of the charismatic movement needs to hear MacArthur’s words and they need to follow his advice.  We all do.  Whether you are a charismatic or not (I do not place myself in the charismatic camp but of course have love for many of them), we all need to hold firmly to the Word of God.  May we be a people who heed 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:6; 2 Peter 1:16-21.  May Scripture be our anchor that we hold firmly to.


Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/14/2014 at 12:11 PM

One Response

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  1. MacArthur said: “If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices – like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages,”

    If scripture alone was truly MacArthur’s final authority he would not resort to such a description as the above. He would see that Paul describes tongues as something legitimate (not nonsensical) and also something legitimately used for prayer.
    Using such loaded and mocking descriptions may appeal to his own followers, but it does absolutely NOTHING to address what SCRIPTURE says about a very important matter.

    1 Cor 14
    “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…”

    “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.”

    In reality, this whole “Strange Fire” issue has little to do with the Truth. It is merely a squabble over two equally unbiblical views of Spiritual gifts: that of the extreme charismanics and that of the extreme cessationism of MacArthur.

    “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” A warning that is equally applicable to both of the above mentioned camps.


    01/14/2014 at 4:48 PM

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