Monday, November 11, 2013

John MacArthur Responds to Questions Regarding "Strange Fire"

I have just read the two part interview that John MacArthur gave to church leader and blogger Tim Challies (posted at challies.com) following the Strange Fire Conference, concerning the questions raised and concerns of those who followed the conference (like I did) in writing, blogs, and online as it was progressing.  MacArthur gives clear answers, and a number of his statements are more congenial in tone, even if there is no sense of backing away from his original purposes or concerns.  I think these answers are worth reading, and I want to read his book, to see if it offers a more robust and convincing defense of cessationism than I have previously seen.

Like others I've cited in my previous posts, I am one who is theologically continuationist (this position wins the biblical argument, in my view, because there is no statement that the Holy Spirit has or would stop giving whatever gifts are needed in the Church until the Second Coming), but a practical cessationist (charismatic claims seen by me have not met the biblical definitions of the gifts and so I don't consider them to be what the Bible speaks about.  The few exceptions I can note have been in extraordinary circumstances).  Because of this, I am open to consider good arguments.

Read part one of MacArthur's responses here.

Read part two here.

Points MacArthur does make with which I concur and share his concerns:

1. The vast majority of world Pentecostalism embraces the "prosperity gospel," which is a perversion of the true message of Christ and a danger to the Church and to souls worldwide.  The statistics he cites in part one of his answers are particularly convincing and troubling on this point.

2. The vast majority of claims of miraculous sign gifts are, as MacArthur states, "fallible prophecies, unintelligible tongues, and failed healings," none of which we see or expect in the New Testament.

3. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements (which are not the same thing) have given birth to any number of significant errors related to the doctrines of salvation and the Holy Spirit which are not "secondary issues" if they lead to basic misunderstanding of how one is saved.  This is especially true when it comes to embracing the practice of gifts as a primary confirmation that people's beliefs about the gospel are OK.  What should be said about a Catholic charismatic who still prays to Mary and the saints, believes the sacraments must be received in order to be saved, and does penance as a means of receiving God's grace?  Are Oneness Pentecostals (who deny the Trinity) preaching the true gospel?  If someone accepts Jesus because he "promises" that they will never get sick according to his will and will receive earthly wealth, have they really heard his message?