Strange Fire…

John MacArthur is one of my favorite Bible teachers. I find his books insightful and compelling.

However he is holding a conference in October called “Strange Fire” calling out the dangers of the Charismatic movement, and it seems to be more of a personal vendetta than a helpful dialog about the activity of the Holy Spirit in our present age. From the videos, and based on his books and previous teachings on the subject, it is being heralded as a stage to blast the “Charismatic church/ movement” as heretical, a false doctrine, and a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to call it a “work of Satan”. Which I personally believe is dangerous and quite a loaded and scary accusation to make at fellow believers.

(site is here:

His 3 main points:

1. The charismatic church has emphasized the third person of the trinity over the second. The Holy Spirit is meant to testify of Christ and not have attention drawn to him.

2. That the Charismatic movement has emphasized prophecy as equal to or greater than the canonized scripture.

3. That Speaking in tongues and the Holy spirit gifts were for establishing the cannon, and not for today. and can jeopardize the cannon.

As one who not only grew up in the Charismatic movement, was a leader at the International House of Prayer and served under Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, and now pastor a Charismatic church in upstate New York, I must say that most of his conjectures are more accusatory then based on fact.

Sure the Charismatic movement has it’s quirks. It has guys like John Crowder, Todd Bentley, Patricia King and others whom I pray for, consider them brothers to the extent I’m required to by scripture, but wouldn’t want to be known as “affiliated” with them. Not anymore then MacArthur would want to be known as “Affiliated” to Brian McLaren. The Charismatic movement has had strange “revivals” where interesting things have transpired that cause even this charismatic to tilt his head side ways and wonder at times. But it’s had it’s necessary breakthroughs as well.

The streams of the Charismatic river I’ve been apart of, especially IHOP, have taught me the opposite of what John claims they teach.

To MacArthur’s first point. I have only ever heard that the Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ and is important and not to be devalued because His job is to reveal Christ to our hearts. I’ve never heard a message (aside from some of the more wacky folks I mentioned) where the Holy Spirit was to be exalted higher than Jesus, or even equal to Jesus.

I believe there was a season in the last thousand years where an emphasis, or reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ministry was and is important to remember in our living, teaching, and talking about the Gospel.

To Mac Arthur’s second point. In 20 years of Charismatic Christianity, 11 years at the International House of Prayer, I never heard that prophecy was equal to or greater than scripture. In fact it was at IHOP I learned about the 5 “Solas of the reformation” and specifically MacArthur’s favorite “Sola Scriptura”.

I have watched people get rebuked tenderly for trying to hijack meetings with un-biblical prophecies. I have only ever heard that prophecy is to testify of Jesus and the person of Jesus embodied by Scripture and taught about through scripture. I’ve only ever heard that the Bible is the living, active word of God, and is to be defended and protected at all costs. On that note I can at least appreciate MacArthur’s energy to defend the word. I think he’s misguided here.

To his third point. It’s true, we are called the “charismatic” Christians. We aren’t cessasionists. Meaning we believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit and the gifts. However I don’t believe that is a heresy, in the way he would like it to be. Nor do I see the Bible either condemning the gifts after the cannon. Nor do I see it causes them to cease after the cannon. In fact cessasionism is a hard Biblical argument to make. Which is why it’s usually made through church history and subjective experience. Also why Reformed Calvinist teachers such as Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, etc are not cessastionists.

I’ll state again. I love MacArthur for his zeal for the integrity of the word. It’s needed. However, he seems to be barking up the wrong tree here and making enemies out of friends. To call Charismatics “debased”, “unbiblical” and “a work of Satan”.

Well them’s is strong Words.


6 thoughts on “Strange Fire…

  1. This is nothing new for MacArthur. Twenty years ago he wrote “Charismatic Chaos” and made roughly the same set of charges. As far as the mainstream of the Charismatic movement he got it as wrong then as he does now.

  2. Zack

    Please review this YouTube video of Mike Bickle talking/teaching about prophesy.

    Mike Bickle doesn’t SAY that prophesy supersedes scripture in those words

    In your second point of your response you say; “I have only ever heard that prophesy is to testify of the Jesus and the person of Jesus embodied by scripture and taught about by scripture”.

    Since Jesus cannot lie, cannot speak or teach any untruth, how can Bickle’s claim that a “prophet” can be wrong line up with scripture?

    The problem I see, is that in word, you claim that scripture is inerrant. That is entirely true. But, in deed, you condone Mike’s claim that one can prophesy in the name of Jesus Christ, yet be errant or wrong, and up to 80% of prophesies can be in error.

    I think your heart has good motives. You know scripture is inerrant. The question is begged; does what Mike Bickle says in this video defend that inerrant scripture. Can what Bickle says be backed up with scripture? If not, he is a false teacher and has motives other than to glorify Jesus Christ. The next question then becomes; Why? Why would someone who has a “ministry”, one who teaches teenagers, challenges families, trains people to “prophesy” etc; why oh why would he not be teaching only what lines up with scripture?

  3. Oi vie. I think I’m getting too old for this. I have been arguing this for 11 years online. If you are newer at this and wanting to try out your arguments, please spare me. (Sorry if that’s real blunt, but I’ve been around this corner a thousand times)

    I was there when this video was filmed. I was in leadership at IHOP during this season. You clearly know nothing about what IHOP teaches. Go look at the last 3 years of sermons and tell me where mike isn’t teaching exegetically straight out of the word of God. (Again my bluntness isn’t meant to be mean, just getting straight to the point. Hope you understand)

    Like many on line “truth seekers” ( google around, I’ve been in the middle of all these debates for a decade) you have a handle full of videos and statements and loads of obfuscation from guys like John McArthur, John White, and Hank Hanegraff.

    But in the name of being kind: I’ll answer in one paragraph. .. Or more.

    We are not cessasionists, we teach nothing different then renowned reformed Calvinist Wayne Grudem teaches, and many others who are not cessasionists. In order to reach for Paul’s call to the church in I Corinthians 14 “I desire that all would prophesy” there has to be a learning period in which people learn to hear and reach for The Lord. Using it for edification, exhortation and comfort,

    AT IHOP if anyone does hear from The Lord they have to have a scripture verse that their word pertains to In order to share it. Meaning that the prophetic word is encouraging and exemplifying the Word. If it is real prophesy then what it is points to the Word and stirs up the faith of the giver and receiver for the word to dive into the Bible. Some people do it wrong, say it wrong, think they hear something but didn’t. That doesn’t mean that they are false prophets. As long as they are not declaring a separate gospel etc.

    Mike Bickle fully teaches, embraces, and I have seen him many times ask people to leave who don’t ad here to Sola Scriptura. We agree, the Cannon is closed and should be defended.

    Do your self a favor. Get a better handle on the Charismatic Movement and it’s different “streams”, don’t lump them all together like JohnMcArthur does. Which is rather ignorant. It’d be like saying “All baptists are exactly a like” they all teach this they all believe this. Etc.

    I believe that there ARE those who teach error concerning prophecy and those in the Charasmatic movement in severe danger of the anathema in Galatians 1. However do better research, that’s not the case with Mike Bickle. NOT at all.

    Ankhs for stopping in.m

  4. Zack, thank you for responding to my comment.

    Your initial post about the Strange Fire conference certainly didn’t elude that you were tired and “getting too old” for defending your opinion or beliefs. Why then after reading my comment did the age creep in?

    First of all in not new to the Charismatic Movement, Zack. I’m 58 yrs old and grew up in an AG church. Have several in my family who have been pastors, etc. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

    I do know full well what IHOP teaches, preaches, etc. I have several friends who have MOVED there and been there for 12-13 years. I’ve listened to many “sermons” by Mike Bickle over the years. I’ve read LOTS of text on the website. I follow people associated with ihopKc on twitter etc.

    Upon reading your response to my comment, I took your invitation and went to ihop website and pulled a “sermon” from the top 4 listed on the first page. Clicked on the transcript, read it and copied it.

    Your response said that Bickle “exegetes the text”.

    In the link below to the “sermon” I read, I see MOSTLY where Bickle talks about what IHOP does.

    Yes, there are a few verses at the beginning and Mike does attempt to re phrase them in the name of exegeting. I’m terribly bothered by the number of times he uses phrases that talk about “what ihop is doing”, rather than what the Bible says that God is doing, has done and will do.

    In Paul’s epistle of I Corinthians 14
    where he says, “I desire that all would prophesy”, I don’t see anywhere where Paul says or even aludes to the fact there will be a learning curve to prophesying.
    Do you know what the word prophesy means? Strong’s Concordance defines the word like this; Definition: prophecy, prophesying; the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth.

    Zack, the revealed truth doesn’t involve a learning curve. The revealed truth is the word of God; The Bible. Paul was simply saying he would desire that all men would proclaim and communicate the word of God to the world around us.

    In the linked “sermon” below, Mike Bickle still and repeatedly refers to Bob Jones and Bob’s visions and even dreams/visions that Mike himself has had. Mind you, this sermon was on the cover page of the website tonight; 12/16/13!!! Where and how does this show ihop does anything different than they used to do “years ago, even when you were there?” How does anything Bob Jones says or stands for line up or point to or in any way agree with the canon of scripture?

    I am very aware of the many “streams” of charismatics within the world. Remember, I once was one.

    I hope you will at least be open to what I’ve said here. I am trying to respond in love and concern.

    I guess to sum up my response, I’m probably even more concerned now after reading your response than I ever was about the abuse and flippant manner of handling the word of God amongst “Charismatics”.

    Nothing here is meant to be offensive, Zack.

    I’ve simply been changed by the word of God in the past 5 years and would hope that many would be open to hearing real truth and letting the word of God do it’s work through the divine power of the Holy Spirit.

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