Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Assemblies of God

Where is the Discernment?

One of the things that troubles me about many Arminians is their utter lack of discernment.  This is true of course for all believers and not just Arminians but I want to speak to my camp here.  An upcoming event called “Together 2016” features many different people including Roman Catholics.  For the life of me,  I cannot understand how Protestants can join hands with Roman Catholics in any real sense until the Catholics renounce their Catholic beliefs.  The very gospel is at stake here.  This is not just about personal differences or traditions.  This is a gospel issue.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the gospel.  They deny justification by faith.  They deny the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They teach a form of works righteousness.  They deny even declared righteousness imputed to the believer by God.  They deny sola scriptura.  They deny sola fide.  They deny sola gratia.  Everything that our Protestant forefathers did for the sake of the gospel, the blood shed in defense of the Bible and in defense of the gospel cannot be lost.

When you read the list of speakers for the “Together 2016” one not included (because he will not there in person) is the Pope.  Yes the Roman Catholic pontiff (whom Arminius called the antichrist) will address evangelicals.  Alongside the Pope will be men such as Lecrae (whom I have lost respect for), Dr. Tony Evans (whom I lost respect for sometime ago), and Dr. George Wood (the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God).  Before you think that only non-Calvinists are there, Calvinists such as Trip Lee and Francis Chan (who studied at the Master’s Seminary) will speak alongside the likes of Hillsong (who has wandered far away into something), Christine Cane, Lou Engle, and Mark Batterson.

What is disappointing about this is the lack of discernment.  Can you imagine Arminius speaking where he knew the Catholic pontiff would be welcomed?  Can you imagine the likes of a John Buynan or Charles Spurgeon preaching at this event?  Would John Wesley join hands with known mystics to promote this “unity?”  Would Leonard Ravenhill promote such an event?

I think the answer is clear.

Arminius wrote about the Roman Pontiff:

Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honourable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that “the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favour of God and Christ to that dignity.” For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.

Arminius called the Pope the “pimp of the harlot Church.”  He further wrote:

Although the Roman pontiff calls himself “the servant of the servants of God,” yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, “began to smite his fellow-servants.” (Matt. 24:48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow- servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments — sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces — so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which “was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion,” and by which the Roman empire was prefigured — and to have “had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed.”

I call on Arminians to follow in the footsteps of Arminius and denounce the Roman Catholic Church.  I am not calling for hatred of Catholics themselves for they need the gospel.  I am calling for a hatred of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.  I am calling for biblical discernment (Jude 3-4).

We need to heed 1 Timothy 4:1-2.  We need to heed 2 Timothy 4:3-4.  We need to stand agains the Roman Catholic Church and preach against her false doctrines.  We need to call Catholics to repent and believe the gospel.

I pray that men such as Dr. George Wood would not only decline speaking at the “Together 2016” event but denounce it.  I pray that men and women of God would rise up and denounce the event altogether.  In our troubled world we need the true gospel and not a mixing of errors.  Now is not the time to lay down our swords in the midst of a sinful world.  What is going to slay the evils we see of racism, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, wicked killings, etc. is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  We lose the gospel.  We lose the war.

Advertisements

Theological Matters & Unity

When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God.  My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church.  We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening.  Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.

In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG.  Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name.  Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church.  I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least.  I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.

Fast forward to today.  In my city there are about 10 AG churches.  Only two have the AG name.  COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name.  This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors.  Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”

Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular.  Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names.  Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in.  I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.

First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with.  There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL.  Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.”  The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over.  This was the Rick Warren stream.  Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God.  Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches.  I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles.  Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did.  They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.

Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology.  When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches.  Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching.  I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost.  Pentecostal theology was vital.  I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.”  At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized.  When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost.  The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.

Fast forward to today.  Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all.  In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs.  I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter.  He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church.  Where does this come from?  Rick Warren!

I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church.  What did he do?  In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings.  This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost.  Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant.  The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives).  Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church.  They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth.  Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray).  In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks.  At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s?  He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.”  The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to.  Theology is not the issue.  Prayer and preaching is not the issue.  Pragmatism is.

Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God.  I have no dog in the fight.  I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers.  I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time.  I was there.  I am thankful I am not now.  The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense.  Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door.  My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car.  All gimmicks designed to get people in the door.  Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.”  Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized.  Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church.  And my friend has one goal: numbers.  It’s all about the growth.  His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.

Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley.  Why?  Because they were not Pentecostals!  Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days.  The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.

Some see all of this “unity” as good.  I don’t.  Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology.  In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal.   I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal.  What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel.  I see unity around methods.  John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology.  I agree.  The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches.  Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place.  It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.

There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology.  The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21).  Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Unity in the local church must be around theology.  We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs.  Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction.  This is why we need the church.  The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).  The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).

The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences.  I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time.  We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living.  Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles.  He would teach theology and how to put it into practice.  For example, Ephesians is six chapters.  The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature.  The last three are application in nature.  Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst.  This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel.  Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost.  Salvation is gone.  The Lordship of Jesus is robbed.  Life is hopeless.

My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine.  Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).  Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  I want all this for myself and the church of God.

May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!

My Thoughts on the Assemblies of God Position Paper on Reformed Theology

The Assemblies of God is the denomination that I was saved in and I served for over 10 years while in the “ministry” (I place this in brackets because I am still in the ministry as I serve the Lord while driving a truck for a living and seeking to glorify Christ through that).  The Assemblies of God (AG hereafter) have a special place in my heart and in my prayers.

Historically, the AG’s have been an Arminian fellowship.  As a boy, I was taught early on in Sunday School at our AG church that we were not Calvinists and most of it centered in my mind on the doctrine of eternal security.  In fact, after I was saved, for about three years, I honestly thought the entire Arminian-Calvinist debate was over the issue of “once saved, always saved.”  This was the doctrine that I believed was at the heart of Calvinism.  Of course, I know better now.

The AG’s preached hard against “once saved, always saved” but never taught me much about Arminianism nor about Calvinism.  I honestly never heard the terms even after being saved in our AG church.  While our pastor preached the Word of God, I remember him mentioning Calvinism only once and it had to do with predestination.  Our church focused more on the Pentecostal aspects and upon the end times.  While our church preached salvation, the doctrine of salvation as it related to Arminianism or Calvinism was not touched.  I also remember one Pentecostal pastor mentioning his Arminianism during a watch night service of all places.  That is it.

In my own times as an AG youth pastor and then pastor, I rarely touched the issue myself.  By the time I started this blog, I had left the church.  My family has attended a few AG churches over the years and I have known many AG pastors but I have yet to hear them speak of Arminianism or Calvinism.  I know of one pastor who left the AG’s over the issue as he became a charismatic Reformed Baptist (that I didn’t know existed till he left).

In my own experience, the AG’s were Arminian though they did not teach it per se.  My own youth pastor gave me books to read covering AG doctrine when I was first saved and I still have them.  Their theology is clearly Arminian in soteriology.  The official systematic theology text used by the AG’s (and edited by the late Stanley Horton) rejects Calvinism while trying to maintain an in-between over Arminianism.  I am not sure why.  The AG’s have long held to Arminian views regarding the work of Christ (unlimited atonement) and have rejected unconditional election as well as perseverance of the saints.

In the latest position paper published by the AG’s, the General Council (the core leaders of the AG’s) seek to reject Reformed theology while seeking not to be labeled Arminian.  At least that is how I read it.  While they acknowledge their Arminian roots, they don’t seem to take a stand for one against the other.

What I wish the AG’s would do is just come out in favor of Arminianism.  This would be no shock to those of us who are familiar with the AG’s nor would it create waves in the Bible colleges.  In fact, many would be grateful to know where the AG’s have stood on these issues.  Many younger pastors in the AG’s have been influenced by Calvinists such as Piper, MacArthur, and Wayne Grudem (they especially enjoy Grudem for his stand on the charismatic gifts).  Meanwhile, Arminian leaders have been slow to preach core Arminian doctrines among the AG’s.  In fact, many AG leaders seem to favor methodology over theology.  I know of one local AG pastor who is clearly pragmatic in his approach and will copy even Calvinists so long as they are growing (he flew out to Seattle while Driscoll was preaching out there to learn from him).  Many younger AG pastors reject many of the core Pentecostal teachings such as speaking in tongues as the initial, physical evidence of Spirit-baptism and many favor grouping with even Calvinists for church growth.  To many AG pastors, growth is the issue and not theology.  I have personally had AG pastors tell me that they avoid theology because “theology divides.”

The AG’s will see an influx of Calvinist pastors.  While the official AG position is only to reject “eternal security,” many Calvinists would agree as they hold to perseverance of the saints and not “once saved, always saved” (though I suspect there is not much difference).  The AG’s will see an in house debate over the Arminian-Calvinist issue as we are seeing in the Southern Baptists in the future.

In closing, I would not classify myself as Assemblies of God.  Again, I share much love for them and it was in the AG’s that I was saved and my life was transformed by the grace of God.  My salvation is in Jesus, of course, and not in a church group.  I classify myself as “non” but of course I would hold to the Wesleyan-Arminianism of men such as Vic Reasoner.  I use to describe myself as “Reformed Arminian” but moved away from that after studying more and seeing how Wesleyan theology is vastly different than the holiness movement of the late 19th century.  That said, I pray that many Arminian denominations (even those like the AG’s who lean that way but do not label themselves as such) would reject Reformed theology and preach and teach the doctrines of love as found in biblical Arminianism.

One final note: This is not meant to be an attack on Reformed brothers and sisters.  I regard Calvinists as my brothers and sisters in the faith.  We are united in Christ (Ephesians 4:4).  In heaven, there will be only disciples of Jesus and not denominations or isms of men.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/24/2015 at 5:50 PM

If I Pastored A Calvinist Church, I Would Resign

Dr. Roger Olsen recently wrote on what he called “stealth Calvinism” where pastors have been taking church positions (mainly in Baptist churches but others as well) but not telling the church that they were Reformed only later to introduce Calvinism through both the pulpit and by leadership.  I have witnessed this myself at two Baptist churches.  Both of them were Southern Baptist and both elected pastors whom did not tell their congregations that they were Reformed Baptists.  They simply affirmed the SBC statement of faith and moved on.  Later, however, they begin to teach classes on theology in which they introduced and indoctrinated the church into Calvinism.  They appointed various pastors (such as youth pastor and music leader) who likewise were trained at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville which is a Calvinist seminary.  The church slowly but surely became a Reformed Baptist church though never leaving the SBC.

Some Calvinists I know don’t have a problem with this.  After all, the SBC embraces both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (though they are truly Arminians but refuse to be labeled Arminians over fear of rejection) and many evangelical denominations such as the Assemblies of God are seeing a rise in Calvinistic pastors and leaders.  One Calvinist brother pointed out that Dr. John MacArthur took over Grace Community Church in 1969 and it was largely a Methodist leaning church with strong Arminian ties.  MacArthur broke those ties and today Grace Community Church is a bastion of Calvinism.

What I don’t appreciate about all this is that it seems to me to be lying.  If I were pastoring a Calvinist church, I would resign because I am not a Calvinist and don’t agree with Calvinism.  It is unfair and lying to try to pretend that I am Reformed in my theology.  I am not even close to being a Calvinist.  Could I preach the gospel in a Calvinist church?  Certainly.  But could I openly try to be a leader in a Calvinist church?  I could not and I would not.  I will not hide who I am nor will I hide my Arminianism.  It is part of me and comes out in my teaching all the time.

Honesty is the best policy.  If you are honest, tell the church you are attending your theological views.  Tell them that you are not in agreement with them on this issue or that.  Don’t hide who you are.  I once had a friend who would not get ordained in a church because he rejected a core doctrine of that church.  He was told to just agree to the doctrinal statement on paper but preach what you like.  He could not do this and feel he was being honest before God.

If the church I was going to pastor was clearly a Calvinistic church or even leaned toward Calvinism, I would inform them that I was an Arminian and go with that.  If they still wanted me to come, that is another issue.  I once had a large Baptist church call me about being their youth pastor (this was when I was younger and was in full-time youth ministry).  I talked to the pastor for a few minutes but informed him that I was not a Baptist, was an Arminian, and could not come to his church and hold to some of his doctrines (particularly the doctrine of eternal security).  He was gracious toward me and we parted ways though I prayed with him before he ended the call, that God would lead the church to the man they needed. (Ironically they selected a charismatic Baptist who didn’t tell them he was charismatic and led the youth group into the charismatic movement).

We need honesty from leaders.  After all, Hebrews 13:7 says that we are to “consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  Could I ask someone to imitate my faith if in fact I was not being honest about my faith?  Leaders are to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2) and lying is not above reproach.  Not fully revealing who you are is not “above reproach.”  Telling people what they want to hear just so you get a job and then introducing what you truly believe later on is not “above reproach.”

I don’t doubt that some pastors feel they cannot resign.  Where can they go?  I still say that honesty and a pure heart before God is more important than your position.  Where is your faith in God?  Where is your faith that if you are honest before the Lord and honest before people that He may not bless you?  Faithfulness to God is more important that a paycheck that you are lying to collect.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/11/2014 at 12:48 AM

Dr. Stanley Horton Has Gone Home

I was sad to hear that Dr. Stanley Horton passed away on July 12, 2014 at the age of 98.  Dr. Horton was a well-respected scholar with the Assemblies of God and he wrote many books including What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit which was one of the first books I ever read on the Holy Spirit.  He also served in various educational capacities for the Assemblies of God before his retirement.

Dr. Horton continued to travel the world teaching the Bible up until age 92.  He was general editor of the Assemblies of God systematic theology text.

One a personal note.  When I was first saved in the early 1990’s (before the Internet), I had some theological questions so I wrote a letter to Dr. Horton.  To my surprise, he sat down and wrote me back in his own hand.  I have never forgotten that simple gesture toward this young disciple.

I rejoice that Dr. Horton is now resting in His Lord.  His faith has now been made sight.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/13/2014 at 4:12 AM

Posted in Books, Death

Tagged with , ,

Three Issues Facing the Assemblies of God (And Others As Well)

I had the opportunity to speak with a theology professor from Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL).  I asked him what major issues did he see facing the Assemblies of God over the next few years.  I had previously asked him if he felt that the issue of inerrancy or the rise of Calvinism were already issues facing the Assemblies of God.  He acknowledged that inerrancy would be an issue perhaps in the next ten years but that was not the major issues facing the Assemblies of God theologically.

The three theology issues facing the Assemblies of God (in his mind) currently are:

  • The initial, physical evidence teaching.
  • Same-sex “marriage.”
  • Abstinence from alcohol.

In brief, the Assemblies of God has taught, since its founding in 1914, that the initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues according to Acts 2:4.  Having grown up in the AG’s, I know firsthand that speaking in tongues was preached as the first sign that one was truly baptized in the Spirit.  One could be saved apart from this experience (Romans 8:9) but one could not claim to be baptized in the Spirit apart from speaking in tongues.  While speaking in tongues was not the end all of the Spirit-filled life, it was the doorway to the Spirit-filled life.  This doctrine, I feel, was a reactionary doctrine rather than a biblically based doctrine.  In other words, the early Pentecostals were reacting mainly to the Holiness Movement over whether they were baptized in the Spirit.  The early Pentecostals contended that only they were truly Spirit-filled since they spoke in tongues like the Apostles in Acts 2.  Many younger Assemblies of God ministers now reject such a position though the AG’s maintain the doctrine as essential.

The second issue is facing all of biblical Christianity and that is over same-sex “marriage.”  For me, the issue is not an issue other than going against the culture on this one.  It will be unpopular to oppose same-sex “marriage” but we must stand firm and if we hold to the authority of the Word of God, we will stand firm.  I predict the seeker churches, the pragmatic churches, those who are soft on the issue of biblical authority, topical preachers, etc. will cave in most cases to the culture and will allow (or tolerate) same-sex “marriage.”  However, those who hold to inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and who preach expository sermons will face persecution.  We must stand firm for the truth of God no matter what it costs us.

The last issue about abstinence from alcohol is because the new cultural norm in the United States is following Europe on this one.  The AG’s has preached abstinence for many years and requires all their ministers to abstain from all alcohol.  With alcohol now being a normal part of American life, the AG pastors are beginning to question whether the abstinence doctrine is a cultural doctrine and not found in the Bible.  Personally, I have long preached against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and I do believe that alcohol is dangerous but I also don’t believe that an air-tight case can be made for abstinence.

I fear that the AG’s must deal with the issue of inerrancy.  The Assemblies of God has, in their Sixteen Fundamental Truths, affirmed the Bible as the Word of God but nothing is said about inerrancy.  I fear that as the Church of the Nazarene has now gone astray in many ways and has adapted to postmodernism in their churches and seminaries, the Assemblies of God will face this if they don’t preach and proclaim the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word (John 17:17).  When a church is facing a culture that no longer regards Christianity and has no concept of absolute truth, the loss of biblical authority will spell their doom.  A movement that does not preach the absolute authority of the Bible will fail and will become nothing more than a social movement that deals with social issues but will not preach the gospel and will see no lasting results because God will not be in it.

Just my thoughts on these issues.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/21/2014 at 10:10 AM

Final Thoughts on Strange Fire Book Review

My review of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire has been a long process.  For that I do apologize.  I actually read the book in January and started my review then.  However, because of my work schedule and family duties, etc., I have had to post here and there on the book.  I pray that you did learn something from the review as I tried to be fair with the book and the content.  You can find the first post on this series here.

The book has an appendix in which MacArthur quotes from various Church Fathers and leaders through the centuries about the nature of spiritual gifts.  His point is to prove that many church leaders including men like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon all held to modern cessationists views.  Of course, modern charismatic theologians will often respond in two ways.  One is to say that even such views were held, this does make them right or wrong simply because they held those views.  The bottom line for authority is not Augustine or Gill but the Bible.  I know that MacArthur would agree.  Secondly, some charismatics would argue that the Pentecostal revival brought back an emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit that had been buried by tradition and unbelief.  Others, like Dr. Jack Deere, would argue that it is just unbelief and a presupposition argument against miracles that leads to such views.  You can find Deere’s views in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.  

In conclusion to my review, let me state that I do believe that charismatics would benefit from reading MacArthur’s book.  I said the same when he released Charismatic Chaos back in the early 1990’s.  I read Charismatic Chaos three times!  I agreed with much of what he wrote back then and still do today.  I think most charismatics (and I do not align myself with this camp) would agree with much of what MacArthur points to in his books.  The errors of the prosperity gospel, the errors of the healing movements, the sinfulness of some charismatic leaders, etc., are all things that we should all oppose.

Nonetheless, MacArthur painted with a big brush.  He grouped together men such as Dr. George Wood with men such as Todd Bentley.  He grouped together even Reformed charismatics like Wayne Grudem with the likes of a Rick Joyner.  He blasted all charismatics as blaspheming the Holy Spirit while ignoring the good that is done in the name of Jesus by groups such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, TN), or the Foursquare Gospel Church.  What about ministries such as Teen Challenge that was started by a Pentecostal (David Wilkerson) and is still maintained by Pentecostals?  Teen Challenge remains the top ministry for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.  I personally have visited Teen Challenges and seen the good that they do.

Two prominent seminaries, the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) and the Church of God Theological Seminary (now called the Pentecostal Theological Seminary) are both schools that seek to glorify Christ and exalt the Word of God.  AGTS teaches its students that expository preaching should be the norm for biblical preaching and teaching.  These are both seminaries with theologically trained teachers.  These are not fanatics are they?  Should we lump AGTS alongside Bill Johnson and Bethel Church?

However, the main issue is what does the Bible teach.  It is easy to lump people together in groups and say that they are all the same.  Both Arminians and Calvinists and have done this for years.  Yet people are still people.  Some charismatics are out there.  Most are not.  There are false teachers among Pentecostals.  There are also false teachers among the Presbyterians as well.  People have fallen into sin in the Pentecostal movement.  The same is true of people in all other circles as well.  None of us escape the temptations of the flesh.  But we must seek to be biblical.  The Bible must be our guide.  Not one teacher or group.  The Bible is where we must fall or stand.  I am grateful that I personally know godly Pentecostals who love the Bible and preach the Bible.  They would be appalled if someone said that they were basing their faith on their emotions and not the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19).

I pray that God would use MacArthur to call all of us back to the Bible.  The Bible and not MacArthur or a study Bible or a denomination must be our foundation (Matthew 7:24-27).  We must be people who love the Word of God and delight in His commandments (Psalm 119:131).  We must be like the Bereans and search the Word of God for truth (Acts 17:11).  We must not be foolish and fall prey to false teachings (1 John 4:1-2) but we must embrace and love the truth of God (Psalm 119:173).  This is my earnest prayer, that God would help us all to love the Word and follow Him with all our hearts.

%d bloggers like this: