Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What God Told Me About "Strange Fire" By John MacArthur

I recently finished Strange Fire by MacArthur, and I learned a lot.  He goes through a lot of history and I learned about a denomination and a movement that I have never really been a part of.  So, as a Baptist, as a non-Charismatic I opened MacArthur's book thinking I would probably agree with most of what he wrote.  What I found was what I typically see of MacArthur and why I choose not to read a lot of his books.  I like and respect John MacArthur a great deal.  He is brilliant, he has a mature and discipled congregation, he stand firm on what he believes and for the most part I think his theology is good.  I agree with much of MacArthur, but there are things that make me shy away from his writings and teachings.

I have found that MacArthur can push to the extreme in much of what he says.  In his book, he finds the most obvious issues, men like Benny Hinn and many of the men who have had moral failure and uses them as an example.  I agree, there is a side of the charismatic movement that I would call destructive and heretical.  MacArthur then pushes all charismatics into this category, saying they are all degenerate heretics. There are some out there in the charismatic world who are doing great things for the kingdom.  He also lumps in things that I don't find to be the evil he calls them.  MacArthur lumps "Experiencing God" by Blackaby in as a negative thing, since it teaches to listen for God speaking in your life.  He also spins "Jesus Calling" as a negative book, since it writes devotions from God's point of view.  Discussing this with fans of "Jesus Calling", the consensus is that MacArthur is taking this out of context, since the devotions always point to scripture, not detract from it.  In the end, MacArthur calls for all Continuists to renounce their views, become Cessationists and condemn Charismatics.  I would call myself a Continuist.  I don't believe that speaking in tongues as the gift appears in the New Testament is practiced, I have never experienced the gift of prayer language or glossolalia and I have mixed emotions about it.  I don't believe that the office of Apostle is legitimate, since the requirements of a Apostle is to see Christ resurrected.  Paul was the last Apostle.  I don't believe that there are modern day prophets, but instead those who have a gift of prophecy simply illuminate and communicate scripture.  I don't believe that anything trumps God's word, adds to it or is as authoritative as it.  That being said, I don't call myself a Cessationist for a few reasons.  First, I'm not a dispensationalist.  I believe that God did some things in the past that He is not doing now, but I would not go as far to say that it's a time that He cannot do similar things.  I believe that God continues to do the same things in different ways, He doesn't change, things just naturally change.  He called men to pour the foundation, he called men to build the frame, he is calling men today to finish the work, and one day the church will be complete as Jesus returns.  God is continuing to do what He began, the structure just needs different work.

When it comes to the issue of Charismatics, MacArthur calls for us to make a stand and to purge them, take away all legitimacy from their movement and condemn them as a heresy.  While I agree that there are frauds that are getting rich by taking advantage of people, but I think we need to focus on one area.  Paul told his followers what to watch for, who to listen and who to avoid.  We need to teach our people to listen to the right voices, shun those who teach false doctrines and test everything by scripture.  If we teach and train people to be correct, we will have done our part.  Those deceived by false teachers will be deceived by something, if not these men, then other heretics.  It has existed as long as Christian faith.

When it comes to men like Hinn, when it comes to others that I believe teach false doctrines, I don't mind pointing out what they teach that is false, but I will avoid condemning the person.  If they claim to serve Jesus Christ, I have three verses that I use when it comes to this issue.

Mark 9:38-41 tells the story of some disciples who tried to stop men from casting out demons in Jesus name, since they were not part of the disciple's group.  Jesus told them not to stop them, because men serving in the name of Jesus today will not curse and turn against Him tomorrow.

John 21 tells us about Peter asking Jesus about John, what John was going to do.  Jesus replied in verse 22 that if Jesus wants John to remain until He returns, that's not Peter's concern, that Peter should just follow Jesus.

Finally, Romans 14:4. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. I will trust in the Lord when it comes to those who proclaim His name.  This doesn't mean that I won't warn those around me not to listen to some of the things they say, but I will not cast judgement on them as Christ's servant, that is not my place.  While I agree with much that MacArthur says, and I will encourage those that I teach and disciple to watch out for over emotional, non-Scriptural teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine.  I think MacArthur goes a little overboard in his book.

All in all, it was a good read, it was well written and I learned a lot.  I would recommend this book to those who want to see where the Cessationist viewpoint is.  It should be read with an open mind, MacArthur uses very strong verbiage and descriptors when it comes to this group.  If you are a Charismatic, you will probably be offended.  I wouldn't say it open up for dialogue, but it makes strong points.  If you are on the fence about the issue, give it a read and consider what MacArthur says, but also look at other opinions.

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