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: http://www.tmstrangefire.org/)
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.