Spirituality Strange fire john macarthur

Published on October 18th, 2013 | by David Housholder


Pentecostals in Error? #0247 Life & Liberty

Sure, in every movement there are loonies. This goes for Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians too. Just watch some “big hair” evangelists on TV.

But John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Fellowship in Los Angeles, is hosting a big meeting called “Strange Fire,” which is a full court press against the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

Here is an outstanding critique of the conference by David Hayward.

Another one from Political Jesus blog: LINK

Adrian Warnock tackles the issue from London: LINK

Alan Smith chimes in: LINK

Mark Driscoll tangles with MacArthur. His books confiscated? LINK

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The Charismatic/Pentecostal movement started on Azusa street in (the same city of) Los Angeles in 1906.

A primer on the movement:

Light Your Church on Fire

A great scholarly/popular look at the movement:

Fire from heaven Cox

This movement has about a billion followers, up from zero in 1905. Much faster-growing than Islam.

John MacArthur Strange Fire John MacArthur, crusader against Pentecostalism?

I find the whole thing unfortunate. One speaker after another lambasting miracles, the supernatural, etc.

Time and time again, intellectuals try to expunge Christianity of its spiritual, non-cognitive content. This dead Christianity in turn attracts….nobody.

The MacArthur-Ites claim that the bible encapsulates the exhaustive truth of everything. I love the Bible. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Which is why I believe John 21:25 (all the books in the world couldn’t contain Jesus’ teaching) and John 14:12 (we can and will do greater things than what he did).

Airing grievances (some very personal) against other believers can go very, very dark.

Can you imagine the Creator of the universe cheering this conference on?

John MacArthur, just stop it.

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About the Author

David Housholder

Believes that a spiritually-awakened non-coercive voluntary society is possible. Author of a number of books. Surfer/Snowboarder. Pastor of Robinwood Church in Orange County, California.

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  • CRKinsey

    Whoa! I had no idea this type of argument and bickering still existed in the Christian church. Have we become so enlightened we can know the mind of God – completely? My destiny is in my Savior’s hands and He has changed my life. What more do I need to know? It does not enhance my salvation to critique or criticize another Christians’ belief or style of worship. These types of arguments literally drive people away from Christ -my opinion mind you. Maranatha!

  • DJLund

    What I find incredible is that today anyone even needs to make the argument that bobbing and cackling like chickens, barking like dogs and vomiting in worship is ungodly and to be condemned and shunned. How in the world have we come to this point? Why do we need to soft-pedal the critique of these things to maintain unity in the Spirit and the bond of peace? What unity and bond of peace could disciples of Jesus Christ possibly have with these things?

    Manifestations of evil (along with the sort of immorality the African pastor pointed out) must be clearly rejected and condemned, otherwise they become confused with the true activity of the Holy Spirit. If there is confusion, some people will get the idea that the Holy Spirit has something to do with these things.

    • PJ,
      I respect your heart for pastoral discernment re: charismatic manifestations. I could have respected MacArthur’s treatment of such had he NOT…
      a.) held a conference on it, rather than engaging His charismatic brothers and sisters in a face to face dialogue. Paul exhorts us to “make EVERY EFFORT to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” [Eph. 4:2,3] Clearly, obeying this scripture was inconvenient to Johnf’s purpose.
      b.) broad-stroked – AND “condemned” every pentecostal, charismatic believer along with the very few excesses that drew his dogmatic ire. When you’re saying “Charismatic theology has become the strange fire of our generation, and evangelicals have no business flirting with it on any level.” and “I’m convinced the charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other modern movement.” while likening pastors and leaders of a 5 billion member movement to “spiritual terrorists” isn’t even close to doing Ephesians 4, much less “discharging his pastoral duty”. It’s an irresponsible broad-stroke condemnation of a most vital part of the body of Christ.
      c.) I watched more of the conf than I thought I could tolerate. Mockery, jocularity, guilt-by-association flowed freely from the platform – again, not even close to the spirit of Ephesians 4 tenderness, humility and gentleness…
      I’ve been in the pentecostal/charismatic pool of the Holy Spirit for over three decades. I am currently serving as a pastor of one of the featured “targets” of MacArthur’s denigration. In the 30+ years of my involvement in anything evangelical, I’ve never met more people who have been more radically transformed, more in love with the God/Man Jesus, more committed (in terms of prayer, life involvement and finance) in reaching the nations with the gospel, more zealous for the vital connection of “understanding” and “doing” the Word of God, nor more committed to a sound, authentic expression of the body of Christ than I’ve experienced here. I have yet to see a clucking chicken or a barking dog. :o) What I see are weak individuals who, having been rescued by the mercy of God are hungry to encounter His love in ways that manifest a wholehearted response of love through their heart, soul, mind and strength. I am deeply grieved by John MacArthur’s condescending condemnation of this tangible Kingdom work of God. My guess is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are grieved all the more.

    • Bark bark bark! Woof! Just kidding. 😉

  • 1 Corinthians 14.18:
    I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you;


    • Paul Lundgren

      Here is what I feel- All this and all that we are currently seeing in our government, culture etc are satans bidding ,he is causing confusion, division and a lack of trust. I don’t profess to be an educated bible scholar but I am sure of this Jesus is Lord, He died for me and you,He shows me in His word how to live in this world and to pass that love on to my family,friends and everyone I dont want to waste time on this division any longer and if I sound frustrated it is because I am, Jesus is not division or confusion and for sure shouldn’t be complicated . I love Him and you know what, He Loves me more (and ALL of us)
      P Lundgren

  • DJLund

    MacArthur is not diplomatic. His style and personality is easy to dislike. Others in the conference express themselves in gentler tones. But beyond the ad hominem, what about the message? There is in fact a great deal of wickedness in what goes under the heading of “charismatic.” Maybe there is a way to describe the difference between the faithful instances and the selfish, carnal, perverse and yes, demonic manifestations. (Hous, do you have a rule for discernment that you can express in 2-3 sentences?) Many spirits are not of God. Very many. Whenever I hear “the Spirit is leading us in new directions,” or giving us (or especially, me) new revelations, above and/or beyond the canonical Scriptures, I know I am hearing someone who wants to have power over other people, and who wants to make things up and say it’s God– whether it’s liberals worshipping the goddess or pentecostals and their excesses. Jesus is Lord. No one else. How do I know this? The Bible tells me so. Experience brings me closer to him, but my experience did not tell me so.

    • Power over others. Many ways to do that. Control the doctrine (MacArthur, Piper), pipeline (Benny Hinn, et al), taxation (Gov’t theft).

    • I’m not interested in experiences, good or bad, that supposedly establish or attack particular doctrines. I don’t want to wade through evidence, positive or negative, because, as DJLund says, there is plenty of both. What I’m interested in is a solid Bible/Jesus based conversation/debate on “tongues ceasing” or the other scriptures that cessationists use to build their theology. Hous, can you cite a place where MacArthur or others debate the question “What does Scripture say?” about Pentecostal/Charismatic phenomena/experience? I, for one, am not convinced that Scripture teaches the “end” of the supernatural, nor have I read any convincing Christ-centered Bible-based theology that tries to do that. I contacted the LCMS people at “Issues Etc.” once asking about it and read some really negative stuff about pentecostal/charismatic experience, but what they were teaching still seemed experience based rather than scripture-based.

  • Glad you posted this.

  • Dan

    Mark’s books were in no way confiscated, not even close. Check the follow up articles online, multiple sources confirm that on church premises he tried to give the church the books out without them being endorsed by the conference (teaching is opposite the conference is teaching), and he was an unpaid attendee. He then posted a biased photo with a untruthful caption. This was exactly the lack of discernment MacArthur has been preaching about this week.

    • You shall know them by their fruit? Is the conference not producing more heat than light?

    • You will always find evidence of questionable behavior among people of whatever theological position. Always. Citing experiences, good or bad, solves nothing.

  • Rick Mysse

    Bib-ol-atry — when we worship the Bible more than the author. The Bible itself says “the world couldn’t contain all that Jesus said and did.” Sadly, what people need today is NOT another lecture but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. If the Apostles returned now they would undoubtedly comment: “How is it these people believe with so little evidence?”

    • Well said, Rick. John 14:12

    • We can trust the Holy Spirit inspired scripture, that is, he WHOLE scripture, centered in the Word made Flesh, because the Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself. Discernment, scripturally speaking, is not a simple task, and the scriptures will give a very wide arena for us to play, pray and work in. When we use pet verses to narrow the interpretation we have trouble. Scripture interprets itself and the scriptures that we find after the fullest revelation of God (in Christ) do not, as I read them, proclaim that there will be an end to supernatural activity among us. It’s just that God has given the scriptures as a guide to discernment. Our discernment is never perfect, however, and we will always see through a glass darkly, so we need to be quite liberal in allowing things that are not clearly against Christ and His holy Spirit inspired Written Word.

    • Carrie

      “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; ; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away….” (1 Cor 13:8). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matt 24:35). God puts the greatest emphasis on His word, being living and powerful to change hearts and transform minds. The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the heart of God through Jesus and empower us to be like Christ, not necessarily through acts of charismania, although the gifts are certainly important in building the body of Christ, but through His words of truth. Our belief in Christ is made evident by the works that overflow from our faith. The way we discern someone’s actions is by knowing the truth of scripture and using it as our barometer. I’m not discounting anyone, just saying that we should be able to find scripture to lead us correctly in all things. I once went to see a very well known speaker at a conference. When time for the after glow came the people were instructed to come forward as the leaders made two lines facing each other, about 12 people on each side. The attendees began to walk down between the two rows of leaders and instantly started bobbing their upper bodies like chickens as they clucked like chickens. Some screamed out in horror, some fell on the floor. I have to be honest, the Spirit of Christ in me was not in agreement with that spirit, yet the msg that night was right on according to the word. I see that many people are misguided because they don’t study the word for themselves. They take the opinions of others to solidify their doctrinal beliefs. I was like that for years. I was the person spoken of in James 1, tossed to and fro because I didn’t know what I believed for a fact and was always changing my mind. It is the word of God that has changed me, not a new wave or manifestation of the Holy Spirit. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and since the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). He also the same yesterday, today and forever. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thanks for letting me share!

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response. Please browse the rest of the articles on Life and Liberty, Carrie, and comment on them. Thanks again!

  • My wife and I have been praying that Jesus would visit John one morning on his way to the conference… :o)

    • That would be SO FUN. 😉

      • Sad that Sola Scriptura is so often intoned by those who have a blind spot re Ephesians 4:2,3
        “With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, make EVERY EFFORT to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
        Good to know The Word didn’t stay in heaven and hold a conference about sinful mankind on the sea of glass.

        • Sola Scriptura? It was in the Bible that I learned that God speaks directly… 😉

          • Precisely! Once met James Houston for a project in sem. He observed: “it makes little difference what your position on scripture is if you’re still the one who chooses which parts you’ll follow.”

          • yes, and that is what I want MacArthur or others to address

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