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Posts tagged ‘John MacArthur’

Are We Charismatics Doing Enough to Correct Abuses in Our Midst?.


Michael Brown
Michael Brown

We’ve heard this charge many times in the last six months: “If you charismatics did a better job of cleaning up your own act, there wouldn’t be a need for a Strange Fire conference and book.”

Is this true?

Before leaving the subject of Strange Fire vs. Authentic Fire (which I plan to do for now with this article, turning my focus to the issue of Hyper-Gracenext week), I feel it is important to respond to this charge clearly and directly, summarizing here what I detailed in more than 20 pages of citations in my Authentic Fire book.

To begin with, let me state plainly that there is absolutely no excuse for the many abuses that do exist in the charismatic movement, both doctrinal and moral, and if some of the worst charismatic TV preachers were true representatives of our movement, I would never call myself a charismatic.

On the flip side, with more than half-a-billion charismatic adherents worldwide, it is ludicrous to think that there is a homogenous “charismatic movement” and that, if a few more leaders spoke out clearly, the abuses and errors would go away.

Pastor John MacArthur has now written three books against the charismatic movement, and with all his influence (and the influence of his last, large conference), he has hardly stemmed the tide of the abuses that do exist. (To be clear, many of his charges are greatly exaggerated, but even where he is accurate and even where I say “Amen” to his criticisms, his efforts have not changed the movement he critiques.)

In fact, one of the real problems in the body today is the lack of true accountability for many leaders and churches (charismatic and non-charismatic alike), making it very difficult to bring correction and discipline when it is needed. (To be perfectly candid though, there were errors that existed in New Testament times and in the succeeding centuries; the church has always had to confront error and heresy.)

That being said, and as I document in Authentic Fire, Pentecostal and charismatic leaders have been addressing errors and abuses for decades now, and we continue to do so to this very day.

As noted by Reformed pastor John Carpenter, “the suggestion that ‘charismatics’ simply never police their own is false. David Wilkerson was outspoken and just as severe in his appraisal of the prosperity ‘gospel’ as is John MacArthur. … The Assemblies of God famously tried to discipline Jimmy Swaggart and eventually defrocked him when he wouldn’t submit. Yes, there should be more of such correction but people are only responsible to discipline what is under their authority. Should we hold all Baptists responsible for the Westboro Baptists? Should we accuse everyone who believes in the inspiration of Scripture (like me) for being as irrational as the King James Onlyists?”

I could easily cite here statements by charismatic leaders like John Wimber and Derek Prince, who raised concerns about certain types of healing and revival services, or of David Wilkerson, who lifted his voice against a “Christless Pentecost” (also using profound quotes from Frank Bartleman, a Pentecostal pioneer involved in the Azusa Street revival), or Prof. Gordon Fee, who wrote about The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, or of Lee Grady, who has penned many columns on these very Charismapages exposing a wide variety of uniquely charismatic sins.

And I could easily cite the life messages of charismatic leaders like Jack Hayford and Jim Cymbala (among many others) who have avoided the extremes by aiming for the middle—meaning the most central issues of the gospel and of life in the Spirit.

In my own ministry (not to pat myself on the back but simply to respond to the endless stream of questions that has come my way), in 1989, my book The End of the American Gospel Enterprisefocused largely on the compromised state of many of our American charismatic churches (since these were the circles I primarily traveled in) while my 1990 book How Saved Are We? contained an entire chapter renouncing the carnal prosperity message along with another chapter focused on carnal fundraising techniques. (For the record, these abusive techniques—honed to a science today on Christian TV by men like Mike Murdoch and Steve Munsey—have only become more pervasive since 1990.)

In 1991, my next book was published, entitled Whatever Happened to the Power of God: Is the Charismatic Church Slain in the Spirit or Down for the Count? (I trust the title and subtitle were clear enough), while in 1993, It’s Time to Rock the Boat: A Call to God’s People to Rise Up and Preach a Confrontational Gospel, addressed more issues of gospel compromise, many of which pertained to charismatics. Then, in 1995, in From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival, I spoke of the need to go beyond the “refreshing” movements that were current in that day and to seek God for a repentance-based, outpouring of the Spirit.

During my years serving as a leader in the Brownsville Revival (1996-2000), I brought messages calling believers and leaders deeper, and right through 2013, I have been addressing my charismatic brothers and sisters. For example, one of the most widely read articles we posted in 2013 was “Sex Symbols Who Speak in Tongues,” largely a critique of our contemporary, charismatic gospel message (as opposed to being a critique of the sex symbols, whose names I didn’t even mention).

Even the Hyper-Grace book, which is about to be released, focuses on abuses of the grace message occurring primarily within the charismatic movement. And bear in mind that I am just one leader among many addressing abuses and errors within our movement and, again, I only share these things to respond to valid questions; and even so, I do so with hesitation, lest I be misunderstood. (Of course, when praying and preaching and writing, I always point the finger first and foremost at myself.)

When you read the citations within Authentic Fire, I believe you’ll be shocked to see how many Pentecostal and charismatic leaders have been addressing issues within our movement for decades now, dating back more than 100 years. At the same time, I believe we need to do much better, working harder to deal with the theological sloppiness, the moral looseness, and the personality cults that are found all too often in our midst.

If only leaders like John MacArthur could recognize the marvelous contribution being made to the gospel today by countless tens of millions of faithful charismatics worldwide, we could work hand in hand to correct the very real problems that do exist. And perhaps we charismatics could help our cessationist brothers and sisters address the problems that exist in their own house as well.

As I wrote in Authentic Fire, embracing the true fire is just as important as rejecting the false fire. May God help all of us to do both.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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Michael Brown’s ‘Authentic Fire’ Book Answers John MacArthur’s Accusations.


Michael Brown
Michael Brown

John MacArthur set off a firestorm of debate in November when he launched his Strange Fire book and conference flatly charging the charismaticchurch with irreverence to the Holy Spirit, heresy through prosperity teaching and other offenses.

Now charismatic Bible scholar and theologian Michael L. Brown is offering an in-depth response in an e-book entitled Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire. Indeed, the book confronts one of the most explosive current debates among Christians.

“We feel there’s a real urgency to get this message out,” says Tom Freiling, director of Excel Publishers and founder of Xulon Press. “That’s why we’re releasing Authentic Fire as an e-book. MacArthur unfairly criticizes charismatics in his book, and the body of Christ deserves a response. There’s no better scholar and author than Michael L. Brown to make the biblical case for charismatic theology.”

In direct contrast to the “collective war” launched by MacArthur, Brown makes a biblical case for the continuation of the New Testament gifts of the Spirit and demonstrates the unique contribution to missions, theology and worship made by the charismatic church worldwide.

Brown also calls for an appreciation of the unique strengths and weaknesses of both cessationists andcharismatics, inviting readers to experience God. And he demonstrates how charismatic leaders have been addressing abuses within their own movement for decades.

“This project is innovative on many levels,” Freiling continues. “First, the author wrote the book miraculously in less than one month—all 420 pages with hundreds of endnotes. Second, we designed, typeset and produced the e-book in a mere two weeks.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

The ‘Strange Fire’ of John MacArthur.


John MacArthur
John MacArthur

As a lifelong Pentecostal-charismatic, I recommend that every Pentecostal-charismatic leader read Strange Fire by John MacArthur. I say this because we need to see how the bizarre “spiritual” behavior and doctrinal extremes by some in our movement are viewed by those on the outside, and used to whitewash the entire movement.

We have done a very poor job of addressing these problems from within, so I do not doubt that God has raised up a voice that is fundamentally opposed to our movement to address these extremes. If God could use a pagan Babylonian king to discipline His people in Israel for their sins (see Jer. 25:8-11), could He not use a merciless fundamentalist preacher to point out our shortcomings?

That being said, MacArthur’s latest book does not represent an honest search for truth. It is obvious that his mind was already made up when he began his research for Strange Fire, and he found what he was looking for. He presents a circular argument, beginning with a faulty premise and proceeding with selective anecdotal evidence that determines the outcome.

He begins with a commitment to cessationism, i.e., the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the 12 apostles and the completion of the writings of the New Testament. That being the case, then modern expressions of spiritual gifts must be false. He then utilizes the selective anecdotal evidence to buttress his presupposition, which leads him back to his starting point of cessation.

It seems that MacArthur wants to believe the worst about the movement of which he writes. At times I felt he was embellishing the bad to make it even worse. For example, Oral Roberts was not a Christian brother with whom he had profound differences but a heretic who did much damage to the body of Christ—“the first of the fraudulent healers to capture TV, paving the way for the parade of spiritual swindlers who have come after him,” he wrote.

Make no mistake about it, MacArthur is not out to bring correction to a sector of Christianity with which he disagrees; his goal is to destroy a movement he considers false, heretical and dangerous.

MacArthur is either unaware or purposely ignores the historical evidence for the continuation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as was presented in my book, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. He ignores clear statements of church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Augustine about healings and miracles in their time. He uses Augustine’s statement about tongues being “adapted to the times” as an argument that the gifts had ceased. He ignores, however, Augustine’s later works, including Retractions, in which he acknowledges the ongoing miraculous work of the Spirit and tells of miracles of which he is personally aware.

MacArthur’s biblical argument for cessation is also very weak. He relies primarily on Ephesians 2:20, where Paul told the Ephesian believers that they were being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. He then argues that the gift of apostleship was only for the foundational period of the church, which in his mind is the first century. He goes on to say that the other gifts of the Spirit passed away with the gift of the apostle.

This, at its best, is convoluted thinking that goes far beyond what the text actually says. Paul’s point in this passage is not to teach cessationism, but to show the common faith of Gentile and Jewish believers in that both are built on the same foundation, which is Jesus Himself, and this fact is witnessed to by the Old (prophetic) and New Testament (apostolic) writings.

MacArthur’s disdain for women and their prominence in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement spills over when he refers to 1 Corinthians 14:34, which carries the admonition for women to be silent in the churches. He then says, “Given the nature of typical Pentecostal and charismatic church services, simply following that final stipulation would end most of the modern counterfeit.” He fails, however, to address the fact that Scripture itself states that women will have a prominent voice when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, as Peter so eloquently stated in Acts 2:17-18. The prominence of women, therefore, may be seen as an indication that the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.

In summary, we who embrace the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world must not flinch or compromise our commitment because of Strange Fire. At the same time, may we be diligent to address the errors and extremes that always creep in to any Spirit-filled movement, whether the church in Corinth, early Methodism or the modern Pentecostal-charismatic movement.

This article originally appeared at pneumareview.com.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Eddie L. Hyatt is a seasoned minister of the gospel, having served as a pastor, teacher, missionary and professor of theology in the U.S. and Canada and having ministered in India, Indonesia, England, Ireland, Sweden, Poland and Bulgaria. His ministry is characterized by a unique blend of the anointing of the Holy Spirit with academic excellence and over 40 years of ministerial experience. Visit him online at eddiehyatt.com.

To My Fundamentalist Brother John MacArthur: Grace to You Too.


 

John MacArthur
John MacArthur

Fundamentalist pastor John MacArthur is a gifted preacher, author and lover of Scripture. His Grace to You radio program points countless people to the Bible, and his Master’s Seminary trains hundreds of ministry leaders. He’s a staunch Calvinist, but that doesn’t make him any less my brother in Christ.

Unfortunately, MacArthur can’t say the same about me—and that’s sad. In his new book Strange Fire, he declares in no uncertain terms that anyone who embraces any form of charismatic or Pentecostal theology does not worship the true God.

My brother in Christ has written me off.

In John MacArthur’s rigid world, anybody who has sought prayer for healing, claimed a miracle, received a prayer language, prophesied, sensed God speaking to them, felt God’s presence in an emotional way or fallen down on the floor after receiving prayer has already stepped out of the bounds of orthodoxy.

MacArthur says charismatics think they worship God but that actually we are worshipping a golden calf. “Every day millions of charismatics offer praise to a patently false image of the  Holy Spirit,” MacArthur says early in the book. “No other movement has done more damage to the cause of the gospel.”

He doesn’t just write off fringe elements of our movement; he skewers the original founders of Pentecostalism and even goes after Baptist author Henry Blackaby for teaching that God can speak to people today.

MacArthur, who is 74, urges evangelical Christians to engage in a “collective war” to stop the spread of the charismatic movement, which he describes as a “deadly virus,” a “deviant mutation of the truth” and a “Trojan horse” that has infiltrated mainstream Christianity. MacArthur writes, “Charismatic theology has turned the evangelical church into a cesspool of error and a breeding ground for false teachers.”

No one familiar with MacArthur is surprised by Strange Fire, since it is really a rehashed version of his 1993 book Charismatic Chaos. Unfortunately, some charismatics have given MacArthur plenty of new ammunition to support his case that we are all a bunch of sleazy con artists and spiritual bimbos. Our movement is new and fraught with problems, so MacArthur doesn’t have to look hard to find examples of troublesome doctrine. But instead of offering fatherly correction, he pulls out his sword and hacks away.

I’m no five-point Calvinist, but I will make five points here in response to MacArthur’s book:

1. Not all charismatics and Pentecostals have embraced errors or excesses. To MacArthur’s credit, he quotes charismatic leaders who have addressed legitimate abuses and errors in our movement. But then he writes us off with a broad brush. Actually, the majority of our movement is not in error, even though we all know of doctrines and practices that need correction. There are millions of healthy charismatic and Pentecostal churches around the world that are winning the lost, launching missionary endeavors and helping the poor. And charismatics and Pentecostals are fueling the global growth of Christianity—even with our flaws.

2. We must leave room for the present-day power of God. MacArthur believes God’s miracle-working power stopped around 100 A.D. He says healing, tongues, prophecy, visions and other supernatural manifestations described in the New Testament don’t work today. MacArthur is particularly irked that charismatics emphasize speaking in tongues (which he calls “gibberish”); he also complains that we have a “perverse obsession with physical health” (in other words, if you get sick, just accept it because God doesn’t heal anymore). But the New Testament doesn’t tell us that heaven flipped a switch and turned off the Spirit’s power. That is MacArthur’s opinion, not a biblical doctrine.

3. The church needs a fresh emphasis on the Holy Spirit. MacArthur says charismatics are guilty of an unhealthy focus on the Holy Spirit. He claims that the Spirit points only to Jesus and that we shouldn’t seek the Spirit’s power or presence because He likes to stay in the background. My question: If that is true, why did Jesus teach so much about the Holy Spirit? And why is the Spirit’s powerful work so clearly highlighted in the book of Acts and the epistles? It’s true that the Spirit wants all the credit to go to Jesus, but we are making a huge mistake if we ignore the Spirit or limit His power. The church today needs God’s power like never before.

4. There is a difference between biblical correction and judgmentalism. Anyone who reads this column knows I speak out regularly about whacky practices in our movement—from prosperity doctrines to necromancy to adulterous pastors who say God told them to divorce one wife so they could marry another. I believe we must address sin in the camp. But there is a difference between confronting specific sins and condemning a whole movement to hell. John MacArthur’s book has crossed that line.

5. We should love MacArthur anyway. Strange Fire lists numerous ways charismatics are misusing or abusing the Holy Spirit, in MacArthur’s view. But he forgets to mention that one of the important works of the Holy Spirit is to unify and connect the Christian community in deep fellowship. The New Testament urges us to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3, NASB), and we are also told that love is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But Strange Fire was not written out of a heart of love.

Still, there is no need to retaliate against MacArthur. He is our brother because we all believe in and worship the same Savior. The best thing we can do in response to this extremely unkind book is to love our brother in spite of his unfortunate bias against us.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.

J. LEE GRADY

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project(themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

Why the Strange Fire Conference Matters.


When I began blogging through last week’s Strange Fire conference, I had no idea how big an impact the event would have. Even while attempting to transcribe John MacArthur’s opening address, I was not convinced I wanted to dedicate three days and eight or ten articles to it. But once I began to see and hear the reaction, I determined there would be benefit to listening in, writing it down, and in opening it up for conversation.

I attempted to make my summaries as objective as possible—simply sharing what each speaker had said without offering my own opinions. Today I want to circle back one more time to share a few final reflections on the event. Here is what I am thinking several days later.

A WORLDWIDE ISSUE

This is a worldwide issue and I need to ensure I see it that way. We need to ensure we see it that way. Those who listened to the conference heard again and again just how many charismatics there are in the world—somewhere around 500 million. Conrad Mbewe made it clear that in many places in the world, and especially in the developing world, to be a Christian does not mean that you trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, but that you believe in and practice something akin to the miraculous gifts. Charismatic theology is a North American export that is making a massive impact elsewhere in the world.

There is a challenge here for myself as a Reformed, North American believer: I have a very narrow view of the Christian world—a too-narrow view. MacArthur made it clear that he did not host this conference in order to critique the Wayne Grudems and John Pipers of the world; if these men were representative charismatics, Strange Fire would have been a non-event or, at the least, a very different event. He hosted the event because there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who make the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts the heart of their expression of the Christian faith.

This is the time to address that issue. There is a call here for all of us to build on and even improve what MacArthur began and much of the onus here falls on charismatics to do this from the inside. As Clint Archer concludes, “All true believers are on the same team, and we’re all against the abuses and excesses of masquerading unbelievers. Conservative Continuationists need to start their own version of the conference to police the excesses as best they can, or they should muster a cheer while the Cessationists do it.”

A POLARIZING ISSUE

The charismatic/cessationist issue is polarizing. Before Strange Fire I did not know just how polarizing it could be, though I suppose others did know, and this is why we have been loathe to address it. Based on the reaction to the event and the discussions back-and-forth, it seems clear that this is an issue many of us feel as much as it is an issue we believe by reasoning it out from Scripture. It is one of those issues where we see our own position with utter clarity and look to the opposite position with shock that they can believe something so absurd. Those tend to be the most dangerous issues of all because they can turn sour so quickly and easily. In the face of such a polarizing issue, I need to consider how I can maintain unity in the faith while still holding fast to what I believe the Bible teaches.

CONFIDENCE IS NOT ARROGANCE

I saw at Strange Fire that we can sometimes confuse confidence with arrogance. And it’s not just we, but me because I suspect that if the tables were turned, I might react in much the same way. I am convinced one of the reasons so many people reacted badly to the event is that MacArthur and the other speakers are so sure of what they believe. They spoke with confidence about their understanding of what the Bible permits and what it forbids. Some of the reaction from those who were offended seems to imply that certainty is incompatible with humility. If this is what they truly believe, they have succumbed to dangerous and worldly thinking.

Trevin Wax goes into some detail on this and says, “If you agree with MacArthur, the best way to engage critics is not to defend him as if he were the pope, but to back up your claims by appealing to Scripture. If you disagree with MacArthur, the best way to engage the conference is not by railing against the man, but by showing specifically the ways you think he caricatured your position and by providing a calm, sober affirmation of continualist claims, backed up by Scripture.” And again, “let’s not judge the conference speakers as wrong simply for gathering together and taking a stand against doctrines they believe to be false. As Christians, we may be continualists or cessationists, but we are not relativists.”

THERE IS MISUNDERSTANDING

I have long believed that many of the issues related to charismatic and cessationist theology owe to misunderstandings between the two sides. The reaction to this conference—the many discussions through social media and elsewhere—reveal that we need to do a better job of understanding one another, of affirming common ground, and of determining the importance of our differences. As a convinced cessationist, I was troubled to hear caricatures from charismatics about quenching the Holy Spirit, about elevating Scripture above God, about excluding all possibility of miracles, and so on. All of these caricatures show an uncharitable and unhelpful misunderstanding of cessationism. I am sure many cessationists were equally unfair and that I, myself, do not understand the continuationist position as well as I should. The simple fact is, until we rightly understand one another, we are in a weak position to bring critiques. But I know I am prone to do it anyway, to argue out of ignorance. I have to challenge myself here to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and when I do speak, to speak through the Scriptures.

WHAT WE BELIEVE (NOT WHO)

This is a late addition to the article (a half hour after posting it), but I wanted to express it. We always face the danger of making our theology about who we believe rather than what we believe. The last thing we want or need is “I am of MacArthur” and “I am of Grudem.” I am sure this is the very last thing those men want. So even while we take our cues from the men we admire and the men who may think better than we do, let’s be sure that we are all Bereans, that we are all going back to the Bible to determine what we believe. Let’s be known for what we believe far ahead of whom we believe.

THERE IS MORE WORK TO BE DONE

Strange Fire was an event that primarily targeted the worst of the charismatic movement. As I said when I offered an early look at the book, it is more about Benny Hinn than Bob Kauflin. While the Reformed charismatics may be a valued and significant part of the New Calvinism, they represent only the smallest fringe of the wider charismatic movement. What still remains to be done is to interact with the best arguments of the best of the charismatics and to address this from within the Reformed resurgence. This would be a very different event with a very different purpose and I hope someone will sponsor it before long.

CONCLUSION

Only time will tell of the long-term impact of Strange Fire, but as I think back to the past few days, I find myself grateful for it. I suppose that may be easier to say as a cessationist than a charismatic, but I believe the event and its aftermath will prove beneficial. I continue to pray that God would use it to to strengthen His church and to glorify His name.

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Tim Challies

Tim Challies is a blogger, author, and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. Visit his blog at www.challies.com

Cessationist John MacArthur Can’t Put the Real Holy Spirit Fire Out.


Pastor John MacArthur
Pastor John MacArthur

Author’s Note: Recently I became aware of the buzz surrounding a new book, soon to be released, by a prominent cessationist who has been around for a long time. I was asked by the Pneuma Foundation to write a review of this book for its Pneuma Review publication. I thought it important enough to share with all of you. Here it is.

Strange Fire by John MacArthur is basically an attack on anything and everything related to thecharismatic movement and the various movements descended from it, as if the whole of it were composed of one monolithic set of doctrines and practices that all of us espouse. It invalidates anything that smacks of the supernatural or of emotion freely expressed in God’s presence.

MacArthur pours his vitriol—and I mean vitriol—through the filter of his own prejudices and theological presuppositions in a way that blinds him to the differences between the various movements within thecharismatic stream and causes him to deny the existence of the majority of us who do not agree with or practice the abuses he objects to. In doing so, he ignores or reinterprets, through very poor exegesis, the clear teaching of much of the Scripture as well.

Ironically, as he formulates his attack, he builds upon concerns that many of us in the movement share. I share his concern over abuses in prophetic ministry, aberrant doctrines, fallen leaders, manipulative fundraising, acting out in fleshly ways that are not of the Spirit and fakery on the part of some associated with the movement. As an insider, I confront these things as well, seeking what is genuine and calling for biblical grounding. MacArthur commits grievous error, however, in claiming that these abuses characterize the movement as a whole. They do not.

For example, I am a charismatic and have been from my childhood in the 1950s. I am also a 1976 graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. Consequently, I have been steeped in exegetical principle and the doctrines of the historic faith from a time when Fuller described itself as “reformed” in its theology. Consequently, I do not embrace aberrant theologies.

Reading MacArthur, you’d think all charismatics espouse prosperity teaching. We do not. You’d think we are all Word of Faith adherents when, in fact, they constitute a small minority and promote a doctrine many of us oppose. I actually wrote a rebuttal of those two doctrines in my own book Purifying the Prophetic.

On a side note, in his introduction, MacArthur asserts that Fuller Theological Seminary abandoned the doctrine of biblical inerrancy in the early 1970s. I was there from 1973 until my graduation in 1976, and I can state categorically that Fuller at that time held to inerrancy. MacArthur is wrong on many fronts and should be held accountable for what is either blatant intellectual dishonesty or just inexcusably sloppy research.

In reading MacArthur uncritically, you’d think that all charismatics focus in unbalanced ways on manifestations and behavioral aberrations like barking and animal sounds. We do not. Over the years, I’ve spent at least a cumulative five months in meetings at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, now known as Catch the Fire, serving for 14 years in leadership as a regional coordinator and international council member. Never in all that time did I hear an animal sound. I think MacArthur must be reacting to what he has heard from other revival critics rather than his own eyewitness experience. This, again, constitutes intellectual dishonesty and sloppy research.

MacArthur states, “I’ll start believing that the truth prevails in the charismatic movement when I see the leaders, who are the people who are most exposed to its principles, looking more like Jesus Christ.”

Yes, some very few of us have been guilty of seeking or walking in anointing without character. Our exercise of church discipline in response to their failings has often been deficient. Tragically, some of those failures have been seen in people with prominent ministries, and as a result we have all had to wear the mud we didn’t deserve.

The truth is that the foundation of the Toronto Blessing, for instance, was and is the kind of transformation of character to conform to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29) that has produced people like Rolland and Heidi Baker. In their ministry in Mozambique, not only are many thousands of orphans given homes and countless thousands of hungry fed, but thousands of churches are planted, hundreds of thousands come to Jesus, the dead are raised, the sick are healed and the lame walk. The vast majority of lesser-known leaders in the renewal go quietly about the business of doing those same things in the places where they labor all over the world. The fallen leaders and those operating with less than the character of Jesus to whom John MacArthur actually objects are not my leaders and never were for a majority of us.

In bashing spiritual gifts, MacArthur characterizes the gift of tongues, for instance, as “babble,” relegating it to the flames of “strange fire,” seemingly ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture on the various uses of it. It was evangelistic on the Day of Pentecost, but Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 clearly defines its use in corporate prayer (with interpretation) and for private personal edification, saying, “I wish that you all spoke in tongues.” The 120 did, in fact, speak in tongues on the Day of Pentecost. Paul did, in fact, franchise its disciplined use in gatherings in Corinth and clearly described it as praying with an unfruitful mind for personal edification. Nowhere does the Scripture say that any of thesupernatural gifts would cease.

MacArthur cries out against people falling into senseless trances but seems to miss that this very same thing happened to Daniel, who broke into physical trembling when the angel touched him after he awakened from what was clearly a trance state. MacArthur seems to miss that the priests at the dedication of Solomon’s temple couldn’t stand up under the weight of the presence of the glory of God. And didn’t the disciples appear to be drunk on the Day of Pentecost? Speaking in foreign languages would have attracted little attention in a city where many thousands of Jews from different regions of the world had gathered for the feast, so it had to be their drunken behavior under the power of the Spirit that drew the comments. Through the filter of his cessationist theology, when these things happen today, McArthur calls them “strange fire.”

This book isn’t about strange fire. It’s about putting the fire out.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

R. LOREN SANDFORD

R. Loren Sandford is the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colo. He is a songwriter, recording artist and worship leader, as well as the author of several books, including Understanding Prophetic People, The Prophetic Church and his latest, Visions of the Coming Days: What to Look For and How to Prepare, which are available with other resources at the church’s website. 

Time to Talk, Not Fight: A Response to John MacArthur’s Ministry.


Dr. Michael Brown
Dr. Michael Brown

Editor’s Note: Michael Brown’s blog, In the Line of Fire, is now available as a newsletter. To have his cutting-edge commentary delivered to your email inbox—for free—click here.

On July 25, Fred Butler, writing on behalf of Pastor John MacArthur, posted an article on the Grace to You website in response to my recent articles on CharismaNews. With a desire to be constructive rather than combative, I write this response, calling once again on Pastor MacArthur and his team to sit down face to face with me and other charismaticleaders, putting the scriptural and practical issues on the table together in reverence before God.

According to Mr. Butler, “For a month now people have been contacting our ministry insisting that we answer Dr. Brown’s criticisms. Those folks would say John MacArthur wrongfully equates that heretical nonsense saturating TBN with ‘sound’ charismatic continuationists. If John was truly honest about engaging and taking on genuine continuationists, he would stop going after the TBN health-N-wealth crowd who are easy to attack, and interact with Dr. Brown who represents those ‘sound’ charismatics.”

Mr. Butler’s guest article on Pastor MacArthur’s website, along with an article on his personal blog, provides a response to the concerns I raised.

While Mr. Butler is very appreciative of my Jewish apologetics work (specifically, my five-volume series on Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus), my stand on moral and cultural issues (articulated in the book A Queer Thing Happened to America), and my defense of the modern State of Israel, with regard to my view of fellow-charismatics he claims that I am “completely off the rails.”

How else, he asks, could I endorse or work with people whom he calls “wackos” and “charlatans”? Obviously, I must be terribly lacking in discernment, and so, he can no longer recommend my other writings without issuing a “clear warning” as well.

Perhaps Mr. Butler should look at this from a different angle? Specifically, if he believes I had the biblical scholarship and spiritual sensibility to produce these works – some of which he calls “stellar” – perhaps I know who these alleged “wackos” and “charlatans” really are and understand more accurately what they really believe? And perhaps it is because of careful study of the Word that I am more affirming of the Spirit’s work today?

Mr. Butler writes, “though Dr. Brown has written so thoughtfully on important aspects of apologetics, he dismisses the serious theological errors prevalent within the charismatic movement as mere ‘excesses.’”

Actually, when I speak of “excesses,” I’m referring to emotionalism or hyper-spirituality or silly practices; where there are “serious theological errors” among charismatics, they need to be rebuked sharply, just as the serious theological errors among non-charismatics need to be sharply rebuked.

But before I suggest a positive way forward, let me respond to two major points raised by Mr. Butler.

First, he questions whether I have truly addressed abuses and extremes in the charismatic movement.

Actually, I raised a number of relevant issues in my books The End of the American Gospel Enterprise,How Saved Are We?, and It’s Time to Rock the Boat, all of which speak to primarily charismatic audiences, while one of my books is entitled, Whatever Happened to the Power of God: Is the Charismatic ChurchSlain in the Spirit” or Down for the Count? (These books date back as far as 1989; the title and subtitle of the last one speaks for itself.)

My forthcoming book, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (due out January, 2014), focuses on doctrinal abuses found primarily in the charismatic church, as do quite a number of my recent articles, including the widely read “Sex Symbols Who Speak in Tongues.”

So, the answer is a categorical yes. I have addressed abuses and extremes in the charismatic movement for decades, and I continue to address them. In fact, if Pastor MacArthur recognized the glorious things that the Holy Spirit is doing around the world, I would gladly join him in exposing and rebuking the truly “strange fire.”

Second, Mr. Butler took exception to my charge that Pastor MacArthur was using a double-standard by calling out charismatic abuses while failing to do the same with those who held to a cheap, once saved always saved gospel, pointing out that, to the contrary, this has been the hallmark of his ministry for decades.

I certainly understand Mr. Butler’s indignation here, but my point was simply this: Since, in my opinion, easy-believism is far more pervasive than is the alleged “strange fire,” and since, I believe, it is even more deadly than a carnal prosperity message (though both must be renounced), why isn’t Pastor MacArthur holding an “Easy Believism” conference? And why is he putting the blame for the majority offalse doctrine and moral scandals at the feet of charismatics?

Mr. Butler urges me to “follow John’s example with regard to [Mike] Bickle, [Lou] Engle, and [Cindy] Jacobs” – some of those dubbed “wackos” by Mr. Butler – “rather than attack someone” – meaning John MacArthur – “who has spent his life as a caring, faithful shepherd of the sheep.”

To be clear, I am not attacking Pastor MacArthur, whom I commended in so many ways in my first article and whom I referred to as “my senior in the Lord” in my second article. Rather, I have respectfully taken issue with the way he has lambasted others, some of whom have also spent their lives as caring, faithful shepherds of the sheep.

In contrast, I am the one saying, “Let us sit together as servants of the same Lord, with humble hearts and Bibles open, and let us dialogue face to face.”

Perhaps, in such a setting, Pastor MacArthur and his team would realize that some of those they have publicly scorned are actually devoted and sound men and women of God. (Mr. Butler brings a number of charges against leaders with whom I have ministered over the years, but this is not the place to respond to his guilt by association accusations. At the same time, to be perfectly clear, the fact that I post articles on CharismaNews certainly doesn’t mean that I agree with every speaker who advertises on the website.)

Pastor MacArthur and his team slam the charismatic movement for being thoroughly unbiblical, but while some aspects of the movement are clearly in serious error, cessationism must also be challenged as unbiblical. This has been done by brilliant charismatic thinkers like Craig Keener, one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars, and J. P. Moreland, one of the most respected Christian philosophers, just to name two. This means that, as Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues are speaking out against strange fire, they are also guilty of putting forth the false teaching of cessationism.

In the most constructive tone possible, I issue an invitation for Pastor MacArthur and his top theologians to spend a day with me and several other charismatic scholars, probing the Word together on this important subject. I’m sure all of us are extremely busy, but wouldn’t this glorify the Lord and send an example to others in the Body? And perhaps we could actually learn from each other?

If a public debate-dialogue was preferred, I would welcome it in a heartbeat, also believing that we could model a spirit of Christian unity and respect in the process, just as Dr. James White and I have sought to do with our debates on Calvinism. In fact, Dr. White and I actually prefer to debate on the same team, against others, than against one another.

And I would appeal once more to Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues to modify the rhetoric they are using, since “blasphemy of the Spirit,” as defined in Mark 3:22-31, is attributing the works of the Holy Spirit, performed by Jesus, to Satan, and it is an unforgivable sin. Yet Pastor MacArthur and his colleagues freely use this expression when critiquing many leaders in the charismatic movement. This is inaccurate, divisive, and harmful.

And so, I humbly appeal to Pastor MacArthur and his team to recognize what the Spirit is genuinely doing today – and it is not just among the “gullible,” as Mr. Butler claims – to reconsider their stance on cessationism, to be more careful with their rhetoric, and, at the least, to sit down together with me and others for frank, Christ-honoring, discussion, prayer, and interaction. Why not?

I could easily avoid this subject, but I feel it is right to pursue this in the spirit of Ephesians 4:1-7, where Paul exhorts us to make every effort to be united in the Spirit under the lordship of Jesus.

And if I did not respect and honor John MacArthur, I would not write this at all.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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