Strange Fire: Can’t we just get along?

Strange Fire: Can’t we just get along? October 28, 2013

This morning we go into the second week of what has been a continuous run of blogging for me about the Strange Fire conference and book. I thought I would pause for a moment and outline again why I think this is so important, and why I have not finished yet!

Firstly, there is the biblical question. I do passionately believe that cessationism is incorrect and rests on very flimsy Scriptural foundations. Today’s extreme form of cessationism risks squandering the rich heritage of experiential christianity.

I am determined to go through the whole of MacArthur’s book and show why I do not believe that any of the biblical arguments within it are fatal to charismatic theology.

It is my concern that just as charismatics are claimed to be experinece rather than Bible-driven, on this issue cessationits are lack-of-experience driven. As a writer in Charisma News put it:

“The arrogance of making experience into a theology that trumps Scripture is exceeded only by the arrogance of making lack of experience into a theology that trumps Scripture.” READ the rest.

Thus, the reason I am devoting so much time to this is to urge us all to go back to the Bible..

Secondly, I am deeply concerned about the implications for Church unity. I really don’t mind if people have cessationist views, especially if they do not allow their theology to smother any sense of a relationship with God. There are definitely different degrees on both sides!

But, it seems that MacArthur’s intervention has been calculated deliberately to seek to destroy any unity or accommodation between his followers and those of us who love the Bible but believe it teaches spiritual gifts are for today. I have seen nothing so far that disproves that opinion I have formed.

Indeed just today Phil Johnson has posted in a manner that is very provocative and demonstrates no desire to build unity with people like me.

I remain open to be dissuaded of that, and I invite MacArthur himself to show us how we can be One despite statements like the following:

“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. 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.”

This is not exactly an attempt to reach out and win over us “sane charismatics” ! Even if MacArthur is right to make the parallel between people like me and those true believers in the Corinthian Church, he has a big problem.

Most would agree that the excesses seen in Corinth were at least as bad if not worse than seen today. But Paul didn’t tell the Corinthians that most of them were not saved. Instead he said instead they were the crown of his apostleship! (1 Cor 9:2). What is more, he didn’t tell them to stop using the gifts, instead further encouraged them to pursue both tongues and prophecy. If I was Paul, I would have said something like, “Right you lot, just so you know, these gifts you are abusing are due to stop in around 30 years anyway, so for you lot they stop now! I’ve prayed and the Spirit has withdrawn his true gifts, so anyone who claims to prophecy or speak in tongues with you from now on is definitely a fake!”

Paul doesn’t patronisingly tell the Corinthians that they are confused either!

Why can’t MacArthur just acknowledge that there are many godly scholars and pastors who just think differently about him on this issue? It is patronising in the extreme to use such a word. I would never dare to suggest that MacArthur is “confused” about these matters. Truth is, though his study of the Bible, and his life experience he has just come to a different perspective than me and those I chose to follow. For me and my friends till now the differences we have with MacArthur have not stopped us from respecting him, and learning from him, and seeing him as a brother. If, in reality, he does not see us as true brothers then it is going to be much more difficult for that respect to continue.

So the stakes are high. I am not trying to convert every cessationist into a charismatic! I am just calling for us all to respect one another, and actually listen to what it is we really do believe, and appreciate that godly people on both sides of this debate are honestly trying to follow God’s Word.

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  • Ben Thorp

    While I have greatly appreciated your posts about MacArthur’s book (and look forward to the completion of the series), I think my one sadness is that the primary (if not the only) response from the “sane charismatic” camps seems to be a robust Biblical defence of charismaticism. Whilst this is very important, I think that we also need to see a good, Bible-based push in the other direction – identifying some of the charismatic doctrines that we agree are false, and highlighting areas of contention and question within the movement.

    If all we do is highlight the differences between the charismatics and the cessationists then all we will achieve is what MacArthur seems intend on doing – dividing the church in that way. Surely it would be better to highlight the differences between Biblical charismaticism and the questionable excesses of “charismania” so as to find the central “common ground” and provide a unified stance?

    So can I request, following the conclusion of your series on Strange Fire, that perhaps there is room for a series on different charismatic doctrines?

    • Brandon

      A kingdom divided in two, can not stand. The “church” as you term it, referring to the cessationists and charismatics is not all of sudden becoming divided, it has always been divided. Unification in its entirety can not exist in regards to this matter, just as Catholicism and Protestantism can not be unified.

      • LintonCaldecott

        Catholics and Protestants can not be unified because we differ on the essentials. Whereas most of the speakers at the strange fire conference professed to having Christian brothers in the charismatic camp. This “division” is not even remotely the same as the division between catholic and protestant. Unless of course we are talking about the division between cessationists (not that all cessationists are all genuinely regenerate because of their cessationism) and the likes of Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley and all their Ilk, that division is between light and darkness. It is a division based on a true and false gospel.

  • In my reading of Scripture, cessationism is untenable and simply tries to put God in a box. I am convinced that The Almighty pretty much does what he wants, using whom he desires and His purposes are never thwarted. Many very intelligent Christians want revival/salvation to be more a theological experience than an emotional one. In the history of the Church, however, revivals come with LOTS of emotion. Yes, its messy, just get over it.

    • Brandon

      But the charismatics seem to think God can not be put in a book; Bible. They think that He has been restrained and feel the need to extend the book to fit their size. You may not be able to put God in a box, but you can certainly put Him in a book, and that book is The Holy Bible.

      • Jesse Ratcliff


        Ok, maybe I’m slightly facetious but where so Charismatics ever say that God is ‘restrained’ by the Bible?!

        Oh, and the excluded middle. We have the Bible therefore we don’t need any other revelation. The sufficiency of scripture does not mean that no other revelation can be given.

        • Brandon

          Jesse- “The sufficiency of scripture does not mean that no other revelation can be given.”

          One problematic conclusion with this statement, and that is when defending the faith (Christianity) your going to get yourself in a position where it would practically be impossible to refute the Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Seventh-Day Adventist, and so on. These false religions have built there entire faith around so called “divine revelation”. I wouldn’t buy it from them and/or from the Charismatics. Ask any credible Apologist such as titans like William Lane Craig or J.P. Moreland if this statement could be defended and they would shoot it down very quickly. You ask how I know? I seen it happen while I studied Apologetics at Biola University. So called “Divine Revelation” outside of scripture can not be used in defending the faith, but only for the satisfaction of a person or group.

          Sola Scriptura

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            Sola scriptura does not exclude God from revealing himself through other means (e.g. nature, other religious texts, religious believers, prayer) it just means that they are not on the same level as scripture; scripture is the ultimate authority. Hence, why we reject Jehovah Witnesses, et al; their revelation contradicts scripture.
            This is still an example of the excluded middle; either God only reveals himself through the Bible or he reveals himself completely apart from the Bible. Neither of these positions are correct. There is a third position which is held by most charismatics; that God can be experienced through his Word and his Spirit. As I said, most Charismatics do not believe the Bible ‘hinders’ God, hence a straw man argument.

            (Oh, mentioning Biola University? illegitimate appeal to authority…)

          • Brandon

            Loophole ALERT!!!

            Most Charismatic leaders as well as other so-called “prophets” give prophesy or special divine revelation that is in neutral ground, meaning that, it doesn’t conflict with scripture. As long as it doesn’t conflict with scripture you could make any thing up, throw it out there, and label it from God. Am I not right!? 🙂 After all, how could anybody prove you wrong!? So to say that all you have to do is test it against scripture and if no conflictions occur, then BAM…its perfectly okay. Wrong! I think you need references. Check out this for example, we’ll use a respectable preacher amongst the Charismatics, someone I even somewhat like such as David Wilkerson. He prophesied many, many things that totally failed. Nothing he said went against scripture, but his prophesies were obviously not of God, if they failed. As you being a Charismatic, please tell me how you would have responded to such behavior from a man that didn’t seem loony and seemed sincere in his ways.

            Let’s reply back Biola style, meaning like–please address to the above questions.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            Again with the straw man arguments. I know of no Charismatics who say that as long as a prophecy doesn’t conflict with scripture then everything’s ok. Most Charismatics I know (and I agree with them) believe in testing prophecy.

            No they are reasons why prophecies might not come true beyond asserting ‘they are not of God’. e.g. Jonah’s prophecy against the people of Ninevah didn’t come true as they repented and God changed his mind. When Paul received a prophecy that he would be bound and handed over to the Romans, that strictly didn’t happen. Was Agabus’s prophecy not of God or was his interpretation mistaken? We won’t know for sure but Luke obviously didn’t have a problem with them. I reject your assertion that the only reason why prophecies fail is that they are not of God.

            As for David Wilkerson, you’ll have to give some specific examples as I have no idea what you’r referring to and my knowledge about him doesn’t go beyond what I know from ‘The Cross and the Switchblade.”

            (oh, I also have no idea what ‘Biola’ style is, although I have a suspicion that it’s similar to Gangnam style.)

          • Brandon

            Your comparing two totally different things. First, you give examples of prophecies that were “canceled” by God due to specific reasoning. But what you seem to fail to realize is that we know if these through scripture. Now, on the flip side (outside of scripture) of things, we would no longer be notified that God canceled a prophesy after the canonization of scripture, we have no one to tell us that, therefore your trying to relate how God might make a prophet of our time look like a fool and jeopardize his credibility. I have to assume you and others ‘have’ to agree that this would be totally uncharacteristic of God to do such a thing that in which could negatively impact advancing the Kingdom of God. I am really surprised that you believe that even though a false prophesy given could still be given from God, despite it failing. I find this to be if total ignorance of OT & NT guidelines of testing if prophesy is of God or whether it is not and the consequences given to us by God in which we should put in to place. You give me only two instances where God changed a prophetic word, that in which were later explained through scripture to us. A lot of things are different, especially in a day and age where most are already skeptical of prophesy, that is a very doubtful assumption that God would change His word in our times with notification that He did so, at least to me.

            Do your research on David Wilkerson, it’s worth knowing about these things. There are to simply too many failed prophesies to list. BUT I could be wrong, these could have been changed. :O

            Biola style, like the titans who defend our faith. Arguably the best we have, William Lane CraigCraig (Biola Alumni). Defend your position likewise.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            I’m sorry but I don’t understand what you mean when you say I’m comparing two different things? If you mean that I’m comparing prophecy today with prophecy in the Bible then yes I am! Thank you for seeing that there different degrees of prophecy.

            The point I was making was simply that some prophecy does fail and the reasons behind that are more than they are not of God. The examples I gave were simply to illustrate that fact. You are correct that we know of them through the Bible but that doesn’t alter the fact that the people of Ninevah didn’t, all they would have known was that the prophecy didn’t materialize. The same for Agabus, he wouldn’t have known the reason why his prophecy didn’t happen exactly the way he saw it. Prophecy in the Bible is more complex than simply “It must be true otherwise it’s not of God” and certainly I believe in the NT era that is what we see.

            I am bewildered why you keep asserting that God must do something or allow something to happen without letting us know in advance. He allowed Jonah look like a fool as his credibility mattered less than saving a whole city from destruction. If a prophet interprets their picture or message wrongly is God obliged to change things just to allow them to save faith? There are many things that Christians do that bring the Kingdom into disrepute that God allows to happen (e.g. conferences that stereotype whole groups of Christians), why should prophecy be any different. As I have said already, concluding that God must do something from partial information or uncertain premises required humility as there is the chance we can be wrong.

            As for David Wilkerson’s prophecies, it appears people are doing precisely what they are commanded to; they are testing what he says (a la John Piper). I don’t have the time or desire to do much research (hence why I asked for examples), but I would be happy to concede that some of his prophecies appear to be wrong. Whether they make him a false prophet and invalidate his whole ministry is another question entirely.

            I try and defend my position humbly and as well as I can with the aim to seek truth, (I’m not too sure why this is ‘Biola style’, seems more like common sense). Part of that is to engage with the strongest representation of someone’s argument, otherwise accusations that you are using straw man arguments apply. Something to think about…

  • That’s it Adrian, we don’t have to agree on every detail – just on the fundamentals. And we can still be loving and graceful and the way we handle each other. You may have read it already, but something I posted about experiential hermeneutics seems appropriate:

  • To quote from Cripplegate:

    “Aside from this, the conference also labored to show that there are over 100 million Charismatics who self-identify as Roman Catholics, those who not only deny but anathematize the cardinal salvation doctrine of justification by faith alone (cf. The Council of Trent, Canon XXIV) … Given all this, it is not at all inaccurate to speak of great numbers in the Charismatic movement as being devoid of a saving knowledge of Christ.”

    To follow the logic

    Catholics are not Christians
    100 million + Catholics are Charismatics
    The Charismatic movement is not Christian

    So even if you disassociate yourself from Word of Faith, Hill songs, Bethel, IHOP, (draw then line where you will) it remains that Reformed Charismatics share a moderate Charismatic core experience of Renewal in the Spirit with millions who hold pre-reformed theology and are devoid of a saving knowledge of Christ.

    You would have to state that the Charismatic movement seen in Catholicism is a demonic imitation of the authentic movement found in Reformed Charismatic circles.

    (Edit: To clarify I do not support this view – just pointing out the extremity of the logic)

    • Brandon

      Well put.

      • Of course @disqus_VLbzVb7kuL:disqus I don’t follow the logic, and I am a Thomist and consider a broadly Catholic faith to be the fullness of faith.

    • Jesse Ratcliff

      Sorry, I’m not sure of your point. Do you agree with MacArthur on this? It’s not clear. I don’t think you do and if so I would agree with you. Characterizing 100 million Catholics are ‘not Christian’ is judgmental. Has he talked to all 100 million Catholics personally to ascertain whether they are saved or not? I have little time or interest with the Catholic church as a denomination but in my own experience I have met a number of Catholics who are believers. To dismiss an entire group of people purely on their affiliation with a group you disagree with is a poor argument.

      • @19f87854f30601d24728e96d7ae07e72:disqus I certainly do not agree with MacArthur! I would see ‘default’ Christianity as represented by Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Oriental Christianity, and see much of protestantism as a reduction from the fullness of the Apostolic Faith.

        I also happen to be Charismatic, and serve in a communion where Evangelicals and Catholics work together for the sake of the Gospel.

        • Brandon

          Charismatics share many similarities with Catholics on the doctrine of spiritual gifts, yet find a majority of Catholicism heretical in doctrine.

          • Really?

            Certainly in the UK the majority of Charismatics and Evangelicals in general participate in ecumenical groups of which Roman Catholics are part. As an Anglican-Catholic I work with a colleague who is Anglican-Reformed, and we are both moderately Charismatic.

            So although we have different theologies, we look for commonalities rather than throwing heresy backwards and forwards.

        • LintonCaldecott

          There was a little thing called the reformation, at the time of the reformation the catholic church persecuted and killed the reformers because of their insistence on the 5 Sola’s, grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone with the only governing authority for faith and practice being scripture alone.

          Catholics have not moved off their position of anathematization of any who believe in the doctrine of grace alone through faith alone. Which means that if we are “working together for the sake of the gospel” that it is protestantism that has moved away from the importance of those distinctives, and who no longer find them important.

          Which is concerning, because if we do not have grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins then you do not have the true gospel.

          Protestants and Catholics cannot work together for the gospel because we believe in a different gospel.

          • There were Martyrs on many sides – protestants killed protestants too. However the Western Catholic Church is part of a wider Apostolic church, including the Orthodox and the the Eastern (or oriental) Churches. Then there are the Reformed-Catholic communions of Sweden, England – represented by ‘Porvoo’. These things are hardly black and white.

            By claiming a different Gospel you are detaching yourself from the Church from the time of St.Ignatius of Antioch until Calvin.

            As a theological catholic I clearly do not hold the ‘solas’. I do not consider them historical orthodoxy, but I do not believe that holding them prevents anyone from attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Underlying this I recognise with Aquinas that saving faith or works are impossible without the active Grace of God.

          • Jesse Ratcliff

            Think you are confusing the Catholic Church as a denomination (where I would agree with you) with the individual Catholics and Catholic churches (where I don’t). We can and should partner with anyone who does believe in the gospel and there are Catholics who do believe in the same gospel. Joseph Fitzmyer, L.T. Johnson are some examples of Catholics who are if you read there writings obviously believers.

  • Nick Uva

    Thanks for pointing out that the argument from a lack of experience is also an argument from experience!

    I’d like to hear your thoughts at some point about what I’m calling “cessationist historical omniscience.” It manifests in statements like these:

    1. Bible tongues were real, but modern tongues are gibberish. (In other words, we know all 7,000 modern languages, all extinct languages, and all languages of Heaven to boot. We dismiss all stories of modern xenoglossy, no matter how reputable the witnesses.)

    2. There were no gifts in the Early Church. (In other words, even though there is plenty of attestation among the Church Fathers, we’re willing to deny such quotes and testimonies exist, right to your face. We won’t talk about Augustine changing his viewpoint, especially.)

    3. The gifts today aren’t the New Testament gifts because they aren’t the New Testament gifts. (What?)

    I’m afraid that much of cessationism rests on a disingenuous representation of what history and the Word are actually saying.

    • Brandon

      What about angelic tongues? When has an angel ever spoke in a tongue other than a tongue (language) that was not native to the individual they were speaking with!?

      • Nick Uva

        We don’t know whether Paul was saying that some tongues are actually angelic languages. It seems likely from the text that he is being hyperbolic, and not saying that there are angelic tongues. However, it is certainly possible that he is saying just that.

        But in any event it is not necessary to resolve that question in order for me to make the point that cessationists are arrogant to say that tongues are not real. It would require knowing perhaps several tens of thousands of languages which humans have spoken over time.

        And, by the way, I will also say that I have heard real xenoglossy. It does still happen.

    • Brandon

      Also feel free to answer the critical and important questions I addressed after your original post.

    • Derek Smith

      3. The gifts today aren’t the New Testament gifts because they aren’t the New Testament gifts. (What?)

      Yes – I especially like this one.

    • LintonCaldecott

      If it is indeed the case that tongues is a form of a lost language then every single instance I have had the misfortune of hearing an individual speak in tongues on more than one occasion they are repeating the same phrase over and over again, and that individual invariably starts with the same word. So once this lunacy has passed and can be interpreted, it only needs to be interpreted once and can then be understood by everyone that knows that individual from then on out.

      In every instance I have witnessed in person the practice of speaking, praying or singing in tongues it is always a repetition of the same nonsense phrases over and over again, randomly there is a wild phrase or noise thrown in to the mix, but invariably it returns to the same gibberish over and over again. This goes for every video I have seen of the “practice of the gift”. We can surely agree that tongues, exercised in this manner at least, is an abuse?

  • Brandon


    Here is something worth thinking about. Let’s assume that we both agree that the spiritual gifts are indeed still activated and have not expired. Given that, let’s both agree to a percentage of people and/or churches that we believe inappropriately misuse and abuse the gifts according to the strict guidelines written by the Apostle Paul, that in which was inspired by The Almighty. The percentage % has to fall within the majority; a high number of Charismatics. I grew up as a Charismatic, this is my pulling weight to some degree or another for my reasoning on these issues, particularly in reference to abusing the gift of speaking in tongues. Does anyone (church or individual) really abide completely by the rules and regulations given by Paul? Not from what I’ve seen, and I would be fascinated in finding out the estimated percentage of those who don’t abide properly, 50%+????

    My second point is, would God continuously sustain and grant these gifts if it was being improperly used in a radical and chaotic way? My guess, absolutely not, and thankfully ‘strange fire’ hasn’t been poured out on those as punishment. Accomplishing perfection in life is impossible as scripture points out, but obeying the gifts perfectly is possible, commanded, and expected.

    I brought this up to my dear and closest Charismatic friends and these questions stood very thought-provoking to them. I personally don’t know why MacArthur hasn’t thrown these questions out there with great enthusiasm, above all arguments that is to say. One of my Charismatic friends said, “well…look at the Corinthian Church and how they abused the gifts and God seemed to be lenient and willing to work them on correction!…” I was well aware of that, but those are two very different comparisons, one was a during the birth of the gifts vs. 2000 yrs later of digested scripture. Paul was a personal guidance and influence to the Corinth Church vs. The Word of God being OUR primary source of guidance. You’re not going to have the lenience today as you did 2000yrs ago.

    Why would God explain that tongues would cease? Could have our omniscient God known that if the gifts hadn’t ceased that it could actually turn in to more harm than good? Take a look at every major cultist religion, they’re a huge fan of prophesy. I mean I could go on and on about this, and the Charismatic wants to tell me that the cost of using the gifts orderly amongst the very minority somehow outweighs the cost of millions upon millions falling victim to false prophesy, false miracle healers, churches that abuse speaking in tongues!?!?!? I can not imagine why God would keep these gifts open given the horrifying outcome and expense on the very birth of religions such as Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, ect, let alone everything else that has went wrong. *All these religions came in to existence based on false prophesy. If I was a Charismatic I would be obligated to wrongfully sympathize so greatly with these people who are doomed to damnation simply because they thought God was still revealing revelation and prophesy in modern times. This is why God said that prophesy would end and tongues would cease. He knew the enormous problems that would arise out of this. Look at the difference, people who gave false prophesy up until a few centuries ago were most like put to death, but false prophesy given there after was simply harmless and an act of freedom of speech. The enemy has always tried to hijack the gifts, but it wasn’t until the early 20 century (U.S.) when he completely soared when all accountability for false prophesy (death penalty / imprisonment) was lost.

    • Jesse Ratcliff

      You seem to be implying that you know what God would or should do today in regards to the spiritual gifts. Why shouldn’t God treat us as leniently as the Corinthians? Why shouldn’t God allow the continuation of a gift that blesses people today even in the face of its abuse? (We could make the same argument for preaching!) Problem is none of us know what God wants or chooses to do; we’re not God! Stating that God should do something just because we think he should isn’t the greatest argument…

      • Brandon

        Stating what God would most likely to do or not to do based off His characteristics, attributes, and ways throughout scripture is relevant in knowing what God would do or wouldn’t do, but limited in its entirety. If you can’t figure this out as a believer than you could make an assessment that all scripture is irrelevant in knowing anything about The Almighty.

        • Jesse Ratcliff

          Yes i agree if it is a deductive argument (i.e. the conclusion must follow from the premises) such as the omniscience of God, his omniprescence, etc. But in this case you are making an inductive argument. Your conclusion does not necessarily follow from your premises as there are other plausible explanations. The danger is that we speculate what we think God should do and then assume that must be what God would do. The dangers of such an approach should be self evident. I’m not saying you are necessarily wrong but a little more humility in that it is entirely plausible you are wrong wouldn’t go amiss.

    • Alternatively …

      The miraculous and gifts of many forms have continued throughout church history, in Roman, Orthodox and Oriental communions. There have certainly been times of reformation and renewal, and times where gifts were less available.

      However since the Reformation (for the record Rome needed reform) there has been a trend towards rejecting the supernatural – in the witness of tradition, in the power of the sacraments – which sowed the seeds of modern liberalism.

      In response to this we have the Charismatic movement, a stirring of God’s Spirit, just as much of protestantism was perishing in divisions and abandoning creedal orthodoxy. What does this mean? What message is God giving to Protestantism by this movement that raises questions of unity and doctrinal authority and order, as Charismatic encounter brings Christians of diverse theologies together?

      For me personally it has meant embracing a wider and deeper understanding of faith rooted in the Apostolic Fathers, the sacraments and the liturgical forms that they declared to be the practice of the Apostles.

      Or alternatively it could all be a devilish popish plot!

      • Derek Smith


        The trend towards rejecting the Supernatural in Protestant thought was partly due to a power play during the Reformation. Rome had miracles to back up her authority, so many of the Reformers adopted cessationism to partly undercut that authority. – check out Jon Ruthven’s paper and book ‘On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles’. The paper is online.

        • Derek Smith

          So is the book (on Scribd)…

        • I will have a look of that, thank you.

  • Reagan

    I think something that needs to be kept is mind was well stated by C. S. Lewis in his preface to Mere Christianity.

    “One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before one asks whether such-and-such a point ‘really matters’ and the other replies: ‘Matter? Why, it’s absolutely essential.'”

    You seem to be saying you don’t so much have a problem with MacArthur’s position on the gifts, but with the fact that he thinks one’s position on this matter is actually important. On this I fall in to Lewis’s latter category in thinking that with this issue, no matter what side you fall on, surely it must be important!

    If on the one hand, as the charismatics believe, the gifts continue and are normative right down to today, then a large part of the church (cessationists) are actively attempting to suppress the work of the Spirit by forbidding many of the most important Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:28). To me, that seems important.

    Or on the other hand, if as cessationists believe, the gifts have ceased and are no longer normative in our day, then that means a large portion of the church (charismatics) are deceived and/or actively participating in fakery or worse. To me, that seems important.

    It’s a disagreement that deserves much more than a “let’s all just get along”. Someone is ‘confused’. Whether that feels patronizing or not, we should at least be able to acknowledge that there is a right or wrong on this and that surely it matters what we believe. So let’s stop talking about our hurt feelings, gird up our loins, and hash this thing out like adults.

    • Jesse Ratcliff

      No, I think what Adrian is pointing to that there are doctrines/beliefs that we can agree are not essential for saving faith and therefore there is latitude for difference of opinions until we finish ‘hashing this out’. This seems to me to be an example of the excluded middle; two positions are presented as the only choice when there is actually a third option.
      Also, I disagree with your use of the words “most important”. No-one is saying that these miraculous gifts are the more important, (or if they do they’re mistaken!). Teaching is an important gift and one that is evident in many different churches, charismatic or cessationist. I myself have been blessed by many godly, spirit filled people who did not believe or practice the supernatural gifts. I feel the two positions presented here are not entirely fair or faithful representations of the positions held.

      • Reagan

        Hi Jesse,

        Thanks for responding to my comment. What I was trying to communicate was that something can not be essential to saving faith yet still be of very great importance. If you put yourself in the shoes of either position, take on their assumptions, and look across to the other position it’s rather alarming. If someone is pretending that the Holy Spirit is doing something that He isn’t that is a big problem, and if someone were kicking and fighting against the Spirit’s work that’s a big problem. Either the gifts continue and are normative for our time or they aren’t. My point is that there are deep implications, if one is consistent (which arguably many are not), that flow from what position you take.

        As for my remark on “many of the most important gifts” I cited 1 Cor. 12:28 in which Paul offers a priority of gifts given to the church, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing,helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (ESV).

        All I’m saying is it matters. It’s an argument worth having. And I for one am happy to see it happening—I just wish people had a little thicker skin, on both sides.

  • Adrian Pursglove

    Great post Adrian. Found myself giving quite a few hearty amens. Keep contending brother.

  • Jon Cranfield

    But would you join with him in rebuking respectable excesses of the charismatic movement. By this I mean what has on occasion happened on the ‘Holy Spirit weekend’ as it is often dubbed on a certain popular and respected evangelistic course where all sorts of behaviour has been observed and encouraged which in the New Testament would definitely appear at demon possessions only e.g. making animal sounds, going in to a state of mental and emotional disorder etc. I may not agree with MacArthur on all issues but I think all too often error is not rebuked so he has a point.

    • Jesse Ratcliff

      A very good point lost in poorly chosen words and whitewashing of an entire movement.

  • Kathleen A. Peck

    I was amazed when I recently found out Dr. R.C Sproul received the gift of speaking in tongues but ceased exercising the gift because the abuses he witnessed in the church, not because it was unscriptural.

    • Daddy50

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! Good think R.C. got out when he did or he’d be pilloried at these anti-charismatic meetings!

    • Brandon

      It seems this was more a experimental of faith than anything, mostly derived from influence. Many Christians have at one point in time believed in incorrect theology or ‘wishy washy’ doctrine(s), until later corrected. This doesn’t entitle any sort of truth or credibility, but only a lack of. The idea that he still abandons the gift of tongues solely from the abusing power is wrongly assessed, it now has everything to do with scripture and not just the abusing power. Now, presently speaking, I’m confident that scriptural reference has everything to do with with why he believes that the gifts were only activated during the apostolic age. This is a classic example of theological maturity.

  • DaveTea

    Adrian, I’d love to see you respond to Phil Johnson’s Broad Brush post. I
    know you said it ‘grieved’ you, but why? Phil raises some serious
    concerns. I’m a member of a NewFrontiers church and to be honest I found
    myself agreeing with a lot of what he wrote. It’s left me pretty
    confused, especially as no one from our family of churches seem prepared
    to stand up and call out the extremes, excesses and downright false
    practices – in fact many of our churches are happy to promote them! It’s
    left me thinking that maybe it’s time to leave NewFrontiers. I’m not
    sure I can continue in the movement when I can’t trust the leaders’
    discernment over these important issues.

    • I think that discernment will vary depending on what church you are in. Many people dont have time to sift through all that is going on and avoid the bad but cling to the good. I know I don’t. But these days different churches will be drawing the discerning line at different places.

      • DaveTea

        Thanks Adrian. I don’t expect leaders to sift through all that is going on, though I do hope that they know enough to help protect their flocks from dangerous outside influences. In response to Strange Fire I really want to side with you because I am a continuationist, but I’m all too aware that the extremes of charismania do not represent some small fringe, but as Phil Johnson notes, they are right in our midst.

    • Bryan Burke
    • Jack O’Connell

      Hi Dave. Well done on recognising the corruption. Dont shame yourself and dishonour Christ by being part of such a ministry!

  • Bryan Burke


    I got into blogging because of this conference. I’ve followed your postings pretty much since the conference started. There were times when just the fact that you were also sincerely grieving, was a big encouragement to me. I share your heart in this post as well. Perhaps I’ve allowed this conference to affect me more than it should, but it has targeted something so special and intimate to me. It’s also targeted and cherry-picked men that I respect dearly…most specifically Jack Deere, who performed my wedding and whose books were referred to me by a pastor from the Village Church in Flower Mound TX before I read them and eventually found myself in a small group where Jack was teaching on the gifts. He is an amazing man. In fact my first experience with the Holy Spirit gifting me with a prophetic word, was for Jack…and it was correct:) And I used to be a hardcore cessationist…so I was blown away at whole thing anyways. It has been difficult to see and hear him personally discredited and wrongly quoted by the conference while his actual biblical arguments in his books are largely ignored. His chapter called, “Confessions of a Bible Deist” in “Suprised By the Voice of God” is extremely relevant right now I think.

    Thank You for continuing to contend with all this considering what all you probably have going. I’m right there with you in reading the book and doing all I can to respond with the whole truth.

    I have written one post about the conference here:

  • Jack O’Connell

    Hi Dave. Its a sign of a desire to honour Christ when you do not want to associate with men who compromise and shut their mouths at demonic activity that is attacking our glorious faith. Luther said whatever else anyone else stands for is just flight and disgrace if you do not stand against that point where Satan is currently attacking the church. He said ” where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proven”. You need to flee from men who stand aside yet proffess how much they love Jesus while Satan is sending his apostles to loot the temple and set up their idols in the church. Dont even hesitate, get out and find men who fight against evil with all their strength, who hate evil. Men who are cowards or too ignorant to know whats going on arent fit to lead the flock.
    Men who seek excuses not to enter the battle or profess to be too loving arent like the men in the Bible.They invent any excuse not to stand against what would result in persecution or unpopularity. They say, its not our job, lets just stick to the good, lets just win souls. The result,the church is soft on sin,weak,wordly,ignorant and having heretics like Bill Johnson and Rick Joyner as so called great prophets and leaders. Many dont think a greater man of God exists than these workmen of Satan telling Gods soldiers to get drunk and giggle instead of wage the good warfare.