Arminian Today

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Strange Fire Review (Chapter 12)

This is the final chapter of John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.  To find the previous posts, you may begin here.

In this final chapter, MacArthur writes an open letter to his continuationist friends.  This would include mainly Reformed theologians and preachers who are charismatic such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, CJ Mahaney and Sam Storms.  Both Piper and Mahaney have spoken at MacArthur’s church and at conferences with him and I believe that Grudem has taught some classes at the Master’s Seminary.  All of these men (and many other charismatic Calvinists) would disagree with MacArthur over some (not all) of what he has written in this book.

MacArthur gives eight reasons why he believes that the continuation of the revelatory gifts is dangerous.  I will only list them without comment:

1.  The continuationist position gives an illusion of legitimacy to the broader Charismatic Movement.

2.  The continuationist position degrades the miraculous nature of the true gifts that God bestowed upon the first-century church.

3.  The continuationist position severely limits the ability of its advocates to confront others who fall into charismatic confusion.

4.  By insisting that God is still giving new revelation to Christians today, the Continuationist Movement opens the gates to confusion and error.

5.  By insisting that God is still giving new revelation to Christians today, the Continuationist Movement tacitly denies the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

6.  By allowing for an irrational form of tongues-speaking (usually as a private prayer language), the Continuationist Movement opens the door to the mindless ecstasy of charismatic worship.

7.  By asserting that the gift of healing has continued to the present, the continuationist position affirms the same basic premise that undergirds the fraudulent ministries of charismatic faith healers.

8.  The continuationist position ultimately dishonors the Holy Spirit by distracting people from His true ministry while enticing them with counterfeits.

MacArthur ends by calling his continuationist friends back to the Reformation and what it means to be Protestant.

Interestingly, I read after the Strange Fire Conference that MacArthur stated that he wanted to draw a line in the sand at some point and ask all who agree with him to stand with him.  He stated that he would ask his friends who share his theology (Reformed) to cross over and denounce the charismatic movement once and for all.  I have not heard more about this as of this post.

In my estimation, Satan usually offers counterfeits to the truth.  Cults often take some truths of Scripture and build on them but they deny the gospel in essential ways.  Satan will take some truth and sprinkle it into many lies but he seeks to counterfeit the power of God.  This is the case with false healings.  Satan raises up fake healers to spread their heretical “health and wealth” gospel while using a truth about God, that He can do miracles but they ignore that God does them for His glory.  I think that we should not cast away our desire for God to do miracles, for His name to be glorified through His divine intervention simply out of fear of fakes.  This is what I see and hear when I read Strange Fire.  

MacArthur has made many valid points and Pentecostals can read this book and will no doubt amen much of what he has written.  I believe that all disciples of Jesus (whether you agree with MacArthur or not) would agree that the Bible must be our sure foundation.  The Bible alone is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13) and we must stand on the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).  This must be the case when examining healings or those who would claim to speak for God (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

Yet I also believe that MacArthur has labeled many people in the Pentecostal or charismatic with tags that they would not appreciate.  I know of godly Pentecostal missionaries who are gospel centered in their preaching and are in foreign nations now preaching the gospel to the lost.  These are not heretics who are wishing to dethrone Christ from His place of honor and worship.  These are godly men and women who have given up everything for the King.  I know of godly Pentecostal prayer warriors who spend hours in prayer for others and for the nations.  I know of godly Pentecostals who love the Bible and seek to exegete the Word of God using sound skills of interpretation.  To simply label the entire charismatic movement as a false manifestation of the Spirit is misleading and wrong.

That said, all of us need godly correction.  None of us (including MacArthur) are perfect in our understanding of God or His Word.  We see through a glass rather dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).  While our hearts must be for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), we humbly acknowledge that we are imperfect people seeking to know a perfect God.  I rejoice that God reveals Himself to us in His Word (John 20:31) and I rejoice that the Holy Spirit leads us into His truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).  I rejoice for the grace that He has given to me to know Him (Philippians 3:9-11).  None of us have arrived to perfect doctrine but we strive to know God, to understand His truth, to interpret His Word, and to preach His gospel.

I pray that whatever areas of correction I needed while reading Strange Fire, I pray that the Lord does use MacArthur and the Word of God to correct me.  But I equally pray that for MacArthur.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/26/2014 at 9:02 PM

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