John MacArthur accuses half-a-billion Christians of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

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Today one in four of the two billion people who identify themselves as Christians are Charismatics or Pentecostals (ref).  I want to be absolutely clear that I am very happy to identify myself as one of their number.  Do I have concerns about some charismatic leaders? Of course!  Do I believe that abuses have occurred in many places? YES.  There are some who call themselves charismatics, but their beliefs and practices are frankly unbiblical. Surely there are extremes in every movement.

Unapologetically, I do believe that much good is coming out of our movement. The Charismatics and Pentecostals are acknowledged by experts to be  proliferating like no other previous movement in history. It seems to me that the movement contains many  vibrant, faith-filled people who have a deep trust in God, a sense of a relationship with God, and a strong desire to share the gospel.  Outside of the West the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movement dominates the Evangelical church.  Whether you are Charismatic or not yourself, I hope you agree that these hundreds of millions of people are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we share in salvation together as one Body.

You can imagine then that I was a bit disappointed  when I first heard that John MacArthur was hosting a conference entitled “Strange Fire,” about what he feels are the errors of the Charismatic Movement. It seems pretty clear from this title and the use of Leviticus 10:1–2 that this is likely to be a conference hostile to the ideas I hold dear. But, of course I accept that there are cessationsts who think differently on these issues. I concluded that there was nothing I needed to say about it at the time.

What has totally shocked and appalled me now, however, is viewing the brief clip with which I end this post. In it John MacArthur accuses the charismatic movement as a whole of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit:

Here is a transcript of the relevant portions:

“Why don’t evangelical leaders speak against this movement?  Why is their such silence? Look When somebody attacks the person of Christ the Evangelical world rises up and says “no, no, no!”  . . . the Holy Spirit has been under massive assault for decades and decades, and Ive been asking the question ‘where are the people rising up in protest against the abuse and the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?‘ The only thing I can suggest is that they have been literally backed up into a corner by intimidation that they need to be loving and accepting and tolerant and not divisive in the body of Christ, thats been the mantra. . .”

This clip does not appear to limit the accusation of blasphemy but applies it the whole movement. This is very serious and concerning since Jesus describes  blasphemy against the Holy Spirt as the unforgivable sin (Mark 3:28-29).  Christians should not accuse one another lightly of this sin.

I have reviewed the other other media clips by MacArthur and in various places he speaks of  ”aberrations, heresies, terrible manipulation and deception,”  claims that in the Charismatic Movement an implanting of the Word of God into people “just doesn’t happen,” and that the movement has a “wrong understanding of Scripture.”

Its clear that MacArthur is an extreme cessationist as he even states in one of these clips that he believes that we cannot bind Satan, something that I am surprised to hear, since even traditional denominations have exorcism rites.

In the clip “Why is it important to warn people against charismatic error?” he assumes that all charismatics teach that if you give them money you will get health and wealth.  He then states,“people caught up in any kind of error are cut off from God’s blessing.”  I really feel that is again going too far.

For example, take baptism. I presume that since we are both baptists, MacArthur and I would agree that, if what we believe turns out to be correct, those who teach and practice infant baptism are in error.  But I would definitely not argue that every pedobaptist is cut off from God’s blessing!

It seems to me that MacArthur has made a fundamental error: He is confusing primary gospel issues with secondary issues. Surely we all believe in the centrality of Christ, in the gospel, in the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture, and in all three persons of the Trinity. Charismatics are definitely Evangelical. These are the things we should contend for, and we have enough enemies already without taking up arms against each other.

I have many friends on both sides of the charismatic debate. I do know many who are solidly reformed and calvinistic, and may even describe themselves as cessationists but would find MacArthur’s tone and generalising unfortunate. There are many in the new reformed movement who would go further and describe themselves as theologically if not experientially charismatic. However, in one video MacArthur seems to take aim against those who are “open but cautious” about these things, claiming certain well known pastors are giving “cover” to true charismatics.

We can have different perspectives on disputable matters. But lets do so as brothers who are one in Christ. Lets be like the elder Arminian John Wesley who shared fellowship with Calvinist Simeon and gladly preached at George Whitefields funeral despite previously describing his doctrine as damnable heresy.

There is a complex spectrum of views on Calvinism and Arminianism which leads to disagreements that will probably never be resolved, and yet many today do not oppose each other on this issue so angrily.  There is a similar specturm on Charismaticism vs cessationism.   These days I generally see a softening of these arguments however. It seems to me that MacArthur’s intervention may have its aim at stoking these fires.

I believe that whatever your view on the charismatic issue you should not be called a blasphemer and heretic.  Do you agree?

UPDATE

A reader has kindly pointed us to a previous sermon in which MacArthur expands on what he means by charismatics blaspheming the Holy Spirit:

“Mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name. And they do it constantly.

How do they do it? By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit…visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out of body experiences, trips to heaven, anointings, miracles. All false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit . . .

The Charismatic Movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit. It is a false form of the Holy Spirit. They’ve exploited the Holy Spirit and demanded to be able to do that in an uncriticized manner. Nobody can say anything against them. That’s divisive, unloving, cantankerous . . . So the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit is that golden calf who is not God, not God the Holy Spirit, but a false creation, an idol around which they dance in their dishonoring exercises.

From “The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”

 

 

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About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. His book, Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything was published by Crossway, January 2010. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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  • bloomingdedalus

    Pentecostalism is just an adaptation of African Voodoo – there’s nothing remotely Christian about it. There are no words for incompetence in parenting so deep that someone would put their children through this as I was put through it.

  • Breckmin

    I attended Grace Community for years and John MacArthur is my former pastor. John taught that the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was a First Century sin committed by the Pharisees (in that Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were hopeless because they were seeing His miracles/signs and still blaspheming) so it makes no sense to me that John would be saying that anyone today is committing an unforgivable sin. I think what we have here is a misinterpretation of the phrase “where are the people rising up in protest against the abuse and the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” The abuse and blasphemy here is not talking about the unpardonable sin that Jesus was referring to but rather John is saying that sins against the Holy Spirit are being committed in a different way…. why aren’t more pastors speaking out against this chaos and abuse? sort of questioning. For the record, I do not personally agree with John’s position on the historical blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (exactly) nor am I a cessationist. I DO agree with “most” of his criticism of specific theologies being taught by Pentecostals that are being examined and discussed at the Strange Fire conferences. John is a humble servant of the Lord when you talk with him personally and there is no one living that I have more respect for (no matter how much we disagree on peripheral theology). John is doing an important work here for the Lord out of his love for the church and out of his love for Jesus. He is asking for accountability which is needed (much needed) in the charismatic movement.

  • Citizen99

    If your only complaint is that MacArthur is picking “secondary” versus “primary” issues to complain about, you’re argument against him is weak. It seems he is correct. The man knows his bible. That you downplay the way the HG is used in the Charismatic movement because you fill it’s a minor offense to God….does not jive with scripture. God takes blasheming the HG very seriously…according to scripture. I suggest you do also.

  • eric

    John macrthur says blasphemy agsent the holy spirit is a final rejection of Jesus.

  • Chris Dagostino

    I don’t portend to be able to literally see spirits the way Christ did, so I don’t know if it’s the Holy Spirit or an entirely different spirit working through those who speak in tongues. If the cessationists are wrong, it could very well be the former; if they’re right, then it stands to reason that it could be the latter. Since there are intelligent men in the Church who make strong cases for and against Cessationism, I just kinda throw my hands up and say, “Come whatever may.”

    The Pentesmatic denomination is comprised of hundreds of millions of believers, so I hope for their sake that those gifts of the Spirit haven’t ceased.

  • TheQuandarer

    I realize I’m a day late and a dollar short on this issue, but I understand “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” to mean that someone attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Am I right? If so, MacArthur essentially has his theology backwards.

  • Darin

    Why can’t Christians get along? Don’t you see that the world is looking on? Doesn’t the Lord say to turn the other cheek? All of the debates and the conflicts and the arguments between the churches just causes more confusion to the gospel. Do we not know where confusion comes from? Certainly not from God….God forbid!! We must pray for those who oppose or oppress the gospel and never let them see anything but the Love of God…..do not accept the ways of the world but do not take offence when you hear someone make accusations or give you reasons to believe the way they do……your life should line up with the holy scriptures and that is it. Do what the Lord commands and you will have fulfilled the law of God……this is the free gift of salvation to mankind if we trust in the Lord and believe that he is the Savior of our life and we turn from our wicked ways and crucify the flesh, take up our cross and follow him……..do not fight and argue and debate over the church beliefs because the world is watching and they see and know everything you do. Christians are an example of Christ…..who are you representing?

  • Miguel Pereira

    Many people wonder what the “unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit” is. In the original Greek the word sin here is “blasphemos”, which in Greek means a “profanation”, an exposure of special knowledge.
    It is obvious that in the universe everything is trying to run down to undifferentiate into nothingness, or some are being built up by that which is running down. Our person is a closed circuit in the arising reticular formation of the medulla oblongata of the brain.
    Whatever undifferentiates this circuit causes pleasure. Ultimately it can undifferentiate into nothingness. There is a veil in the brain which veils the great satisfaction of deep sleep and other common causes of unconsciousness. Pleasures override this veil.
    There is a secret sound, called the “lost word” which gives you moments of near nonexistence. If the nonexistence was total you would remain permanently nonexistent. This sound is the cylindrical sound. It induces other closed circuits which, by the attraction of confluency, causes the personal closed circuit some undifferentiation, which is that euphoria called “nirvana”. The “lost word” bypasses that veil, and shows that nonexistence will be the total satisfaction of all desires.
    There is a Hebrew word, which is called “onomatopoeic”, which means that it sounds like that which is described. It is the “lost word”, which means a “well”, a hollow cylinder, spelled “aleph yod nun”, translated, “ain”, but pronounced “eyennn…, like the German word for one, “ein”.
    Ain also means nothingness, that which is sampled by paying attention to this sound; and an eye, and a ring. When meditating upon this sound you will also see inside your closed eyelids concentric rings, like an eye, with black in the middle, then around that, rings of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and outside that, brown.
    Knowing that the satisfaction from undifferentiation into nonexistence is infinitely greater than any possible joy of a billionaire, is the special secret of the Holy Spirit. In the one substance, energy, motion can only be in closed circuitry, that there be something to move out of the way and fill in behind. Everything is ultimately composed of closed circuits.
    The true opposite polarities are the direction of this circuitry: counterclockwise (male) on one side, and, clockwise (female) on the other side. The iron in the cytochromes of every cell are magnetically polarized, facing out, counterclockwise in males, and, clockwise in females.
    Undifferentiation of circuits by the undifferentiation provided by confluency (counterclockwise and clockwise are confluent when face to face) is polarity cancellation. A very fast polarity cancellation rate is fire. A fast polarity cancellation rate is identical with a fast entropy production rate, which is an analogue of velocity in mechanics, and likewise, but without the gravitational component, accesses globally bent timespace. The Underworld is in globally bent timespace.
    So, those who “know where it’s at”, know the secret of the Holy Spirit, don’t want immortality. They are “unforgivable” for they don’t want to be forgiven. They want to delve into the Lake of Fire for the orgy into permanent nonexistence, the eternal satisfaction of all desires.

  • Timothy Law

    What MacArthur’s doing/has done is not surprising. He’s not condemning those who love God in the movement. Simply, it’s that the movement is not required for whatever good Christians have done, whether some identified with that movement or not. Because those good deeds are done out of the credit of non-charismatic movements, though not denying God as the source. But MacArthur and I would not agree that some Charismatic movement has any credit – if so, it is still from non-charismatic.
    Much can still be said. But as I said before, not a surprising thing by MacArthur. There are giant movements from the East (Asia) that have been emphasizing that which is similar to StrangeFire for a while now. Glad to see America has caught on a bit.

  • Lamar Carnes

    The problem is very much deeper than you are indicating. Paul the Apostle, states so clearly that the most important aspect of the Christian life is “LOVE”, not only love toward God, but love toward our fellow saints, even as the Apostle John so indicated in his short epistles. In fact, if we do not “love” the brethren who we can see how can we love God who we cannot see, so says John! And Paul speaks of the gifts of the Spirit which were being give by God to the saints in the Churches, but the message he spoke was to specifically the Corinthian Christians. They were out of order on all of these gifts issues in terms of improper teaching on the subject as well as misuse of the same. He states clearly that the most important gift anyone can have is to be able to preach the Gospel, prophesy (tell forth) the word of God to others. And in fact, just on the issue of one particular gift (languages) he states he would rather speak I a “language” people understood than having abilities to speak in all known languages. It is to bad that translators have always used the Greek term glossolalia into the English term tongues when in fact it means language. Then h speaks about NOT every person has the same gift and each has a different gift. And not only that, but GOD is the controller of a gift and by His discretion and at the time and place and person gives various gifts. So He may give a gift or He may not! He may withhold gift or gifts for multitudes of years if He so chooses. He has done that before. For 400 years folks did not hear from God on one occasion. He is in charge and not a Church or a Pastor or an individual. Yes, one can pray for God to bless with a gift but God may or may not give it. So, to be dogmatic that ALL of the gifts have to be functional in the Church all the time and everyone having the same gift also at any given time and season, is unbiblical and false teachings. I NEVER heard one true and factual person speak in a known language on this earth as a gifted ability like what took place on Pentcost and I have searched and searched and listened and waited for now 50 years and never can find one. It is time to go forward in faith and preach Christ to the lost and get busy building up the saints in the faith and exercise the gifts that we have that are authentic and observable and factual. Love, helps, preaching Christ, teaching the word of God, being kind, helping orphans and widows, giving, sharing, praying for others, sharing one anothers burdens, etc.! Yes, we pray for the sick and ill, and many times God heals folks, but many times He doesn’t, do it the way we would wish and it is not immediate. Many times folks die and it isn’t because they lack faith or the prayer hasn’t faith, but God hasn’t chosen to do so, for He wishes to take the person home to glory. Immature people get caught up in these things and do not move to maturity in the faith. They stay hung up on labels, and incorrect doctrine and preach things so strange it is totally heretical and not sustainable by the scriptures. John is much more closer to the truth that the Pentecostals will ever be and I was ONCE one of them. I know first hand. John would never say God can’t do something in the areas of miracles or a special gift display when He wishes, but John, as well as the major Church Fathers, recognized that God was not doing He hone in the beginning days of Christ and the Apostles. And remember GOD is in charge of the gifts and not people or preachers. If HE doesn’t give it no amount of wishing, hoping, and demanding will avail, and until HE does people need to quit mis-representing God on the matter! Blame toward a person or the person claiming a gift and it not function by saying they just did not have enough faith, is foolish and wrong. God doesn’t make mistakes and if He has given a gift it will function and one will know it and so will everyone else. Let’s move away from these side-line issues which keep Christians mixed up and apart, by following the word more carefully and not our own personal desires or feelings.