I had only read a partial transcript of this portion of the Strange Fire conference before, as during the event I watched some sessions live and read transcripts of others. Someone recently sent me a link to this YouTube clip and I was again shocked and horrified. I really feel that more than almost anything else this clip demonstrates the reason for my concern about MacArthur’s comments in the conference and book.
I keep thinking I am done with all this, and then new things are said, or new aspects are revealed. But I can assure you that this week I will be posting also about other things here on the blog. Some people keep trying to defend MacArthur, saying he doesn’t really believe charismatics are unsaved, but this video together with quotes I have shared previously here and here are pretty clear.
He is adding to the gospel by saying that in order to be saved you must agree with MacArthur’s views on the charismatic issue. I wonder how far along the broad spectrum of views on this subject he would draw the line and say, beyond this point people are not saved.
I have written a transcript of the relevant sections below the video:
And this is why I believe that we are not dividing the body of Christ in this conference. We are trying to identify the body of Christ and show that these people aren’t part of it…People have been hitting the Twitter thing all day . . . One of the criticisms s coming is: this is divisive, these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They’re not. Should we be happy about that? No, we should be heartbroken. If we want to talk about “fire,” we need to talk about snatching brands from the burning (Jude 23). These people need to be rescued . . .the reality is that these people are lost in this system, and they are throwing the word Jesus all over the place. They don’t know the gospel, and they don’t understand the gospel . . . people can’t be saved out of that movement until they hear the gospel.
“Because this is such an important issue, I am certain with the people sitting here, they might say Dr MacArthur though I know some people, and I know its wacky and its goofy, but think they love the Lord, and they would tell you they were a Christian”
So are the Mormons.
Phil Johnson has commented below that MacArthur didn’t really mean to include all charismatics in his statement above. Obviously I would like to hear that from MacArthur’s lips. Here are some more quotes from his book which seem to confirm that he at the very least feels that being a charismatic puts a big question mark on whether or not you are saved.
“The Charismatic Movement began barely a hundred years ago, and its influence on evangelicalism can hardly be overstated. From its inception by Charles Fox Parham to its most ubiquitous modern representative in Benny Hinn, the entire movement is nothing more than a sham religion run by counterfeit ministers. True biblical interpretation, sound doctrine, and historical theology owes nothing to the movement—unless an influx of error and false- hood could be considered a contribution. Like any effective false system, charismatic theology incorporates enough of the truth to gain credibility. But in mixing the truth with deadly deceptions, it has concocted a cocktail of corruption and doctrinal poison—a lethal fabrication—with hearts and souls at stake.”Strange Fire, Page 113
“By claiming fallible prophecies as legitimate, charismatics open the door wide open to satanic attack and deception—putting their movement in the same category as cult groups like the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Errant prophecy is one of the clearest earmarks of a non-Christian cult or false religion.” Page 128
“I do believe there are sincere people within the Charismatic Movement who, in spite of the systemic corruption and confusion, have come to under- stand the necessary truths of the gospel. They embrace substitutionary atonement, the true nature of Christ, the trinitarian nature of God, biblical repentance, and the unique authority of the Bible. They recognize that salvation is not about health and wealth, and they genuinely desire to be rescued from sin, spiritual death, and everlasting hell. Yet, they remain confused about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the nature of spiritual giftedness.
As a result, they are playing with strange fire [NOTE: which he has previously identified with blasphemy against the Spirit]. By continually exposing themselves to the false teaching and counterfeit spirituality of the Charismatic Movement, they have placed themselves (and anyone under their spiritual care) in eternal jeopardy. For true believers, the Charismatic Movement represents a massive stumbling block to true spiritual growth, ministry, and usefulness. Its errant teachings regarding the Holy Spirit and the Spirit-inspired Scriptures perpetuate immaturity, spiritual weakness, and an unending struggle with sin. A parallel exists between those Christians who are trapped in the modern Charismatic Movement and the true believers who were part of the Corinthian church in the first century.” Page 81-82
“If the Spirit were still giving divine revelation, why wouldn’t we collect and add those words to our Bibles?
The reality is that the modern Charismatic Movement falsely calls itself evangelical because it undermines the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It is neither orthodox nor truly evangelical to elevate spiritual experiences, including imagined revelations from God, above the Bible . . .
The sad fact is that biblical truth has never been the hallmark of the Charismatic Movement, where spiritual experience is continually elevated above sound doctrine.” Page 71
“It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor Him. How do they do it? By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences that have nothing to do with Him. They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work.
In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders of Israel blasphemously attributed the work of the Spirit to Satan (Matt. 12:24). The modern Charismatic Movement does the inverse, attributing the work of the devil to the Holy Spirit. Satan’s army of false teachers, marching to the beat of their own illicit desires, gladly propagates his errors. They are spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans. We can see an endless parade of them simply by turning on the television. Jude called them clouds without water, raging waves, and wander- ing stars “for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (v. 13). Yet they claim to be angels of light—gaining credibility for their lies by invoking the name of the Holy Spirit, as if there’s no penalty to pay for that kind of blasphemy. . .
Put simply, charismatic theology has made no contribution to true biblical theology or interpretation; rather, it represents a deviant mutation of the truth. Like a deadly virus, it gains access into the church by maintaining a superficial connection to certain characteristics of biblical Christianity, but in the end it always corrupts and distorts sound teaching. The resulting degradation, like a doctrinal version of Frankenstein’s monster, is a hideous hybrid of heresy, ecstasy, and blasphemy awkwardly dressed in the tattered remnants of evangelical language. It calls itself “Christian,” but in reality it is a sham—a counterfeit form of spirituality that continually morphs as it spirals erratically from one error to the next” Page 17
“In earlier generations, the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement would have been labeled heresy. Instead, it is now the most dominant, aggressive, and visible strain of so-called Christianity in the world. It claims to represent the purest and most powerful form of the gospel. Yet it primarily proclaims a gospel of health and wealth, a message completely incompatible with the good news of Scripture. It threatens all who oppose its doctrine with charges of grieving, quenching, resisting, and even blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yet no movement drags His name through the mud with greater frequency or audacity.” Page xvi
“Here’s the point: we can’t make God into any form we would like. We can- not mold Him into our own image, according to our own specifications and imaginations. Yet that is what many Pentecostals and charismatics have done. They have created their own golden-calf version of the Holy Spirit. They have thrown their theology into the fires of human experience and worshipped the false spirit that came out—parading themselves before it with bizarre antics and unrestrained behavior. As a movement, they have persistently ignored the truth about the Holy Spirit and with reckless license set up an idol spirit in the house of God, blaspheming the third member of the Trinity in His own name.” Page xiv
“Errant pneumatology is not ancillary to the charismatic movement. It is the very thing that defines it. And when an entire movement is defined by a heterodox theology that threatens the purity of the church by tolerating and even promoting false forms of the gospel, it must be boldly confronted . . .I do believe that modern tongues is an unsafe spiritual practice” Challies interview
“Ive been asking the question ‘where are the people rising up in protest against the abuse and the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?‘” See this video
UPDATE: John MacArthur has recently stated that he did not intend to say that every Charismatic is not a Christian. I struggle to put that statement together with some of the quotes above which to me do seem to say exactly that. But, to give him an opportunity to explain himself a bit better than he does in the book or the conference that Q and A is worth a listen.