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Posts tagged ‘Theology’

A Great Big Blind Spot.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

On Oct. 24, I began to write a new book entitledAuthentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’sStrange Fire. By God’s grace, three weeks (and more than 400 pages) later, with contributions from Craig Keener and Sam Storms and others, the book was completed and is now available as an e-book.

In the next few articles, I’ll share some of the key contents of the book with the hope that this will help deepen our hunger for God’s truth and God’s Spirit. Here, I’ll focus on Chapter 3 of Authentic Fire, entitled “A Great Big Blind Spot,” where I examine Pastor MacArthur’s claims that:

1. “The charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine.”

2. “People who have any connection to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It is a striking anomaly, however, that there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where’s the charismatic hospital? Social services? Poverty relief? This is a scam.”

3. “The movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship.”

4. “I’ll start believing the truth prevails in the Charismatic Movement when its leaders start looking more like Jesus Christ.”

I’m sure that some of you are shaking your heads, wondering how a leader of Pastor MacArthur’s caliber could make such extreme statements (either in his Strange Fire book or at the Strange Fire conference).

One answer would be willful ignorance, meaning he knows what he is saying is false and yet he says it anyway. To that I can only say God forbid. My esteem for Pastor MacArthur and my commitment to walk in love toward him does not allow me to consider this possibility even for a moment.

What then is the problem? If it is not willful ignorance, then it must a blind spot—a great, big blind spot, one that is so large that it does not allow him (or those who follow in his footsteps) to see these issues clearly.

In Authentic Fire, I take almost 35 pages to expose this blind spot. Let me take a few paragraphs here to address the first of these four claims, touching very briefly on the last three claims at the end of this article.

Have charismatics, as such, made real contributions to biblical clarity, interpretation and sound doctrine? Absolutely!

Of course, one could immediately challenge the idea that the positive contributions of charismaticscholars and theologians as charismatics can somehow be separated from the positive contribution of charismatic scholars and theologians in general.

This would be like discounting most (or all) of the positive contributions of cessationist scholars and theologians since, it could be argued, they did not primarily make those contributions as cessationists. Not only so, but this line of thinking actually produces a false dichotomy, as if you can easily separate one’s theology and spiritual experience from the whole of one’s life—be it in biblical interpretation, theology, worship, acts of service or character.

Still, let’s answer this question on Pastor MacArthur’s terms, since it can easily be demonstrated that charismatics as such have made wonderful contributions to biblical interpretation, theology and sound doctrine.

To this day, the most widely read devotional is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. What many readers do not know is that the transforming experience for Chambers as a believer was beingbaptized in the Spirit, and from 1907-1910, he was a traveling speaker and representative of the Pentecostal League of Prayer.

Go back and read Chambers again, noting the depth of his spiritual penetration, his exaltation of Jesus and his pointing to the work of the Spirit, and recognize that this beloved author believed in the baptism of the Spirit and ministered as a Pentecostal, although he opposed division over the question of tongues.

And how about A.W. Tozer, read more today than he was in his lifetime, famous for extraordinarily rich books like The Knowledge of the Holy?

Tozer was mentored by F.F. Bosworth, author of Christ the Healer and an early Pentecostal leader who was touched at Azusa Street, and Tozer believed the gifts of the Spirit were for God’s people today.

It was Tozer who once wrote, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

This makes much more sense now.

In the realm of biblical scholarship, some of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars speak in tongues (and/or affirm the gifts of the Spirit for today), including Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, Peter H. Davids, and N.T. Wright. (Wright described tongues as being “like a private language of love.”) There is no question that their spiritual experiences have enhanced their scholarship (think of Fee on 1 Corinthians or on the Holy Spirit in Paul; think of Keener on Acts or on miracles, past and present; think of Davids on healing in 1 Peter and James [Jacob]).

And then there are leading philosophers like J.P. Moreland, committed to integrating rigorous intellectualism with the power of the Spirit, and scholars like Wayne Grudem, general editor of the ESV, whose theological studies include an emphasis on continuationism. (In fact, the emphasis on the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit is an important doctrinal contribution by the Charismatic Movement.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is enough to expose this massive blind spot in the Strange Fire camp.

As for the question of “Where is the charismatic hospital?” how about Calcutta Mercy Hospital, founded by Pentecostal missionaries Mark and Huldah Buntain, serving 100,000 needy Indian patients every year? This is actually one of countless charismatic hospitals and ministries of mercy.

And what of Teen Challenge, a ministry of compassion birthed in the Spirit and carried on by the Spirit? (Again, the list is almost endless.)

As for the charge that the Charismatic Movement has made no real contribution to worship (!), just think of Hillsong or the Vineyard or even Jack Hayford himself (author of “Majesty”), just to mention a very few out of many.

As for the charge that charismatics need to look more like Jesus before their truth claims can be taken seriously, think of Corrie ten Boom of Hiding Place fame, one of the most beloved, godly women of the 20th century and a committed, tongues-speaking charismatic—and she is one of millions.

You can read more in the Authentic Fire book, but enough has been said here to render this great, big blind spot exposed.

And that is good news, not bad news, since all this is to the glory of God, not man, with the help of the Spirit and for the good of the world and the church.

Rather than argue about it, we should rejoice.

(Print versions of the book are only available through our ministry at


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.

{ Day 341 }.

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders—Acts 14:3

Revelation itself is not going to help the body unless it goes through the process of interpretation and application. The interpretation may be accurate, but if a person jumps the gun and gets ahead of God in the application, a considerable amount of hurt and confusion may result. Consequently, there is as much need for divine wisdom in the interpretation and application as there is in the revelation. God never works as fast as people think He should. Don’t get involved with prophetic people and words if you are not willing to wait on God to bring them to pass. God will declare His intention through the prophetic gift, but if the application is not in His timing, you’ll find yourself trying to step through a door that is not open. The way is not yet prepared, and the grace is not yet sufficient.


Father, help me to understand that when Your Spirit speaks through Your prophets to Your people, we must clearly know how You desire Your people to apply those words to our lives. Don’t let me get ahead of You or fail to respond when You speak to me.

God never works as fast as
people think He should.


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.”


Do You Live Your Theology?.

Kim Martinez photo

Kim Martinez

Every once in a while, we have to sit down and balance our checkbook. We take the time to assess what we’ve spent and how we are doing financially.

In a similar way, from time to time we need to take a spiritual inventory and a full audit of our theology. As leaders, it is easy to get in the performance habit—living our faith so publicly—that we forget the deeper parts of life that really comprise our foundation.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the basics.

Is God real? Of course we believe God is real—for the most part, we get paid to believe that God is real. However, when things go wrong, when people don’t act their best, is your first call to your resource list or to God? Oftentimes the first place we find discrepancies in our theology is in our attitudes and emotions. We might still act right, but we feel God might not show up or that He too is watching us to find out how we’ll solve this problem.

Does He reward those who earnestly seek Him? Jesus said that if we ask anything in His name (and implied in the John 14 passage is that we need to be doing the work He has called us to) that we will have it. Yet so many times when we have need, we put it on a justice scale—how can I earn the right to have God provide this thing? Worse, when we sin (and due to the human factor, you are going to sin), we figure out ways we can earn our way back into God’s good graces instead of just humbly seeking Him.

Is the Holy Spirit active in the lives of those you lead? The Holy Spirit’s job is to teach, guide, correct, comfort and convict the world of sin. Although we are called to lead, teach, encourage and even confront those we walk with, it is tempting to think we go it alone. The Holy Spirit is active in the lives of your congregation. He is also alive in their neighborhoods, calling people to Himself. How does this fact impact how you live out your theology?

How does communion impact your life? I was raised in a church where communion was a ritual. It is easy to go through the motions and fail to realize the power that communion represents. Jesus walked the road to the cross with people jeering at Him, abusing Him, and eventually killing Him—yet He walked in love. That same power that was in Him now lives in us. You have the power to walk in love, even when people are less than kind.

Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for our sin, so that we could live free. Yet so often we feel we must hide our sin (which causes it to grow) instead of bringing it to God and another human being and choosing to walk in the freedom of forgiveness and restoration.

So, how did you do? If you are normal, you found some places your theology and your life don’t quite match up. Thankfully, we are on a journey, and we get the opportunity to course-correct every day. What is one thing you can do differently today that will help you live your beliefs?.

Written by Kim Martinez

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at She writes a weekly column for

Fall Favorites: Faith.

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8:9

Recommended Reading
Psalm 8 ( )

John Piper wrote, “When I was in seminary, a wise professor told me that besides the Bible I should choose one great theologian and apply myself throughout life to understanding and mastering his thought…. The theologian I have devoted myself to is Jonathan Edwards.”

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Piper was particularly influenced by Edwards’ dissertation about the reason God created the world, which was ultimately and exclusively for His glory. Everything is  of  God and  in  God and  to  God. The presence of beauty in this sin-cursed world is a reflection of the glory of God.1

This autumn as you watch the swirls of oranges, reds, and browns; as the birds migrate above you; as the harvest rolls in around you; and as you see the sun set earlier in the sky, take time to reaffirm your faith in God. Trust the Creator with all your heart and say to Him: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth.”

In the creatures’ knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged; His fullness is received and returned.
Jonathan Edwards

1John Piper in the introduction of  Jonathan Edwards on Beauty  by Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 15-17.

Hosea 1-9

By David Jeremiah.

{ Day 136 }.

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! —Job 13:15-16

I speak this confession to God when I face pain and pressure: “I am loved, and I love You; therefore, I am successful. I love You even when my love is only in seed form and is still immature. Even though my love is weak, the position of my soul is to be a lover.” The pain of pressure drives our souls into the secret place. When circumstances are difficult, many individuals hold to their confession that the circumstances will improve in a certain way. But a higher confession is this: I am loved, and I am a lover; therefore, I am successful. Pain will drive you to the only place of comfort—to that confession—the confession that delivers our hearts from despair.


Father, with Mike Bickle, help me to confess daily: “I am loved, and I love You. Even though my love is weak, it is my position and desire to be a lover of You. Therefore my life is a success.”

One reason why God allows pressure is because it
refocuses our souls on reality.


{ Day 134 }.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. —Psalm 36:5-6

Sometimes my ministry has good cycles in which it goes well, and sometimes it has bad cycles when I cannot sense the anointing of God’s presence and the people seem bored. Sometimes my circumstances have cycles of blessing, and sometimes I have life cycles where I can hardly see any blessing at all. Sometimes my health is very good, and sometimes it has been assaulted. Sometimes my most important relationships are healthy; sometimes they are being undermined. But none of these circumstances ever change the fact, the bedrock of truth, that I am loved and that I am a lover. When pressures come in all areas of life, the confession that brings me comfort, the confession that brings me out of despair, is this: I am loved. I am a lover. Therefore, I am successful.


Father, nothing compares in life to the fact that You utterly and unconditionally love me! As long as I remember Your love, I know that I will be successful before You.

In the most absolute sense, I am successful
before God.


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