Strange Fire: John MacArthur claims no good has come out of the Charismatic Movement

I’ve just listened to most of the first session of the Strange Fire Conference. My connection was spotty, so I missed some of it.

I know that wisdom would probably dictate that I should wait, listen to it all, even read his book, then respond to it as a whole.

But, my brothers have just been insulted. How can I not rise to their defence immediately?

As I suspected there was no attempt to demonstrate from Scripture that the charismatic view of matters like prophecy was wrong.

MacArthur did acknowledge that there are some of us charismatics that are clear on the gospel. I’m grateful for that, but really he was being inconsistent, because he was clear he believed that everything we attribute to the work of the Spirit is really the work of demons. It’s clear he really does believe we are all blaspheming the Spirit, which Jesus says is the unforgivable sin!

He went so far as to say that “nothing good” has come out of the Charismatic Movement. Specifically he listed worship and biblical understanding. I’m grateful to Tim Challies for posting his detailed notes of the session. Here is how he records the relevant section:

“. . . the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship. It has made no contribution to biblical clarity, biblical interpretation or sound doctrine.”

Just for completeness, someone else has posted a full transcript, and like Tim has felt the need to explain what he felt MacArthur meant by what he said. Personally, I don’t buy the explanations unless the man himself issues a clarification. But you can judge for yourself.

It is astonishing to me that the great modern choruses and hymns written by charismatics could be rejected so wholeheartedly. What of such popular songs as “In Christ Alone” written by a team including Stuart Townend, part of the same family of charismatic church’s as myself? Has that song not been a blessing? Has it not, dare I suggest it, added to biblical understanding for many? Does he really reject Hillsong music like this, not to mention Jesus Culture, and a host of others? The Charismatic Movement has contributed masses towards worship! Not just the songs, but a renewed passion for God, and dare I say it a more biblical approach to using our whole bodies to worship God at times noisily.

It is strange indeed to minimise the contribution of charismatics to worship for the whole church. But it is even more bizzare to say that the Charismatic Movement has not contributed to Christians understanding of the Bible.

Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology has been a landmark work. For the first time making complex theology accessible and understandable to ordinary folks. It is incredibly popular for very good reason, and has definitely contributed to biblical understanding across many branches of the church. Grudem is clearly a charismatic by any definition.

The following preachers also share charismatic beliefs, how can he really believe that none of them helped people understand the Bible: Gordon Fee, Sam Storms, Jack Hayford, John Piper, Terry Virgo, Mark Driscoll, Darrin Patrick, Matt Chandler, I could go on and on and on! Here is a helpful list of charismatic theology books that someone put together.

John MacArthur rightly rejects many excesses in the Charismatic Movement. But he is very wrong to through the baby out with the bath water and claim that the successes seen is because my family, my people, are drawing power from the Kingdom of Darkness.

In the 1960s and 1970s men like Terry Virgo and many others fought battles to build churches that were free in the Holy Spirit. MacArthur is very wrong to reject the whole of the movement much of which I love.

Towards the end of his talk MacArthur spoke actually very beautifully about how the work of the Spirit in us is like it was in Jesus (although the miraculous work was remarkably absent in his description!) He concluded by saying that he would begin to believe in the work of the Spirit in the Charismatic Movement when he saw our leaders has been changed to be more Christ like. Well, I invite him to arrange to meet with any of the people I mentioned above, after all one of them, Jack Hayford, lives in the same town. I think if he spent time with any of them, he would recognise they serve the same lord as he does, and the same Spirit is at work in them transforming them into the likeness of Jesus.

I am grieved tonight. Sorely grieved. Somehow I feel that the one who prayed for His church that we all would be one is also grieved.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he seves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso.

Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.

Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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