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

Strange Fire: John MacArthur claims no good has come out of the Charismatic Movement October 16, 2013

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.

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  • Erik Pedersen

    Interestingly you wrote that “Hill$ong music like this, not to mention
    Jesus Culture, and a host of others?” Two of the main influences at
    present. Hill$song in itself is a great example of what bad theology and
    good music mixed together causes. I live in Australia and have seen
    more bad than good come from this Corporation as it makes a mockery of
    Christ in both music and theology and has caused so many problems in the
    lives of countless people without regard. Jesus Culture as well, coming
    from one of the best examples of Charismatic madness, Bethel Church in
    Redding. One only has to listen to the absolute garbage that Bill
    Johnson both writes and teaches to quickly discern it is another Gospel.
    Sadly Jesus Culture only propagates this mindless, just turn off your
    brain and experience God’s presence theologically void understanding of
    the Gospel..

    • DaveTea

      Great points Erik. I think MacArthur is shooting himself in the foot a little by not defining what he means by ‘charismatic’, for there are many solid, bible believing Christians being lumped in there unfairly. However, Adrian also puts his foot in it here by holding up Jesus Culture as one of the good examples, even though they promote all kinds of false teaching and bizarre new age nonsense! Listening to MacArthur tonight it was pretty clear that his criticisms are aimed at “churches” like Bethel, the home of Jesus Culture. He was totally right – us charismatics need more discernment!

    • Peter Den Haan

      “You washed my sin and shame away/The slate is clean; a brand new day/Free now forever/Now boldly I approach your throne/To claim this crown through Christ my own/Yours now forever/…/I’m alive to live for you”

      _In Christ alone_ it isn’t, and I share your concerns about Bethel’s theology, but I wouldn’t call this “theologically void”. Isn’t it interesting, by the way, how Adrian identified “worship” immediately with “music”? MacArthur generally doesn’t – but I didn’t hear the session, so maybe in this case music is what he meant.

      The charismatic scene is a pretty broad tent and has breathed new life into some pretty dead corners of the church. MacArthur’s blanket dismissal seems very poor judgement to me.

      • Sam Hailes

        Come on now Peter that’s a TIM HUGHES song not a Bethel/Jesus Culture one!! They merely covered it.

        • If they covered it, then we can presume they believe it, no?

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      Interestingly, you (conveniently) leave out Adrian’s reference to Stuart Townend, a darling within MacArthur’s circles.

    • I am surprised by these examples too Adrian. I would consider Bethel and Hillsongs as both over the line.

      • See above.

        • Actually I retract my comment. As both a bit too close to the line.

          • hwshy

            oh that was quick

    • I stand by my comments that many of their worship songs are full of gospel and biblical truth expressed in a way and with music that impacts. I haven’t studied the theology of their underlying movements in detail but suspect there may well be some areas id agree and others where I disagree. The songs tho demonstrate to me a clear gospel focus in many cases.

      • Erik Pedersen

        Of course you would stand by your comments, as do I. Look into the theology and foundations of these two and you would understand why it would not only be wise to throw out the bath water, but the baby as well. Adrian, I spent almost 20 years defending what John is preaching against, and sadly he is right as are the others at the conference. I was involved in The Foursquare, AOG and Vineyard in that time and also trained as a DHT (Devine Healing Technician) with JGLM. I help plant churches and poured my life into it wholeheartedly. How do you think I felt when God pulled the rug out from under me after proclaiming, teaching and admonishing those under my care all that time only to realize that the majority of what I taught and believed was not to be found in the light of the Gospel. I was totally shattered and left in despair until through His Spirit I was strengthened, given hope and understood that it all had its purpose not only in my life but also others who may have been led astray by falsehood. My heart breaks for those brothers and sisters who are caught in this and I can only hope and pray that God in his mercy would open there eyes to see and ears to hear.

  • rdrift1879

    Adrian, John MacArthur has met Jack Hayford. He’s had John Piper speak at his Shepherd’s conference, and C. J. Mahaney at his youth conferences, and Wayne Grudem has taught special classes at The Master’s Seminary. Dab your eyes.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      Doesn’t mean he was paying attention, which I think was Adrian’s point.

      Nice condescension at the end, though.

      • So, then it seems he feels those men are not Christlike although he’s met them. That makes it even worse.

        • rdrift1879

          You are being willfully ignorant of what he is saying, brother. So you are saying he invites these men to teach his people, but he doesn’t think they are Christ-like in any way? He is saying that their being charimatic adds nothing to what they offer, and at times it takes away from the good they offer. Grudem is a good example of that, yet MacArthur wanted him to teach at his seminary anyway. Is it really so hard to just admit you don’t know enough about him and misunderstood him?

          • We shouldn’t have to parse, interpret and qualify what he said. His closing comment standing alone said if he believed these men you speak of were Christlike he’d believe their doctrine! So as he doesn’t believe their doctrine his comments standing alone necessarily imply he doesn’t think they are Christlike!

          • rdrift1879

            No fair-minded person would ever draw conclusions on “stand alone” statements, but rather the full context, in this case the common “corruption and the unholiness and the foolishness” found in the Charismatic world. You should especially be willing to not judge on “stand alone” statements when others have pointed out clear examples that refute your interpretation of stand-alone statements. I am confident you don’t preach the Bible on “stand alone” statements. Or do your men have plucked out eyes? Or do you fill in a little context when John says “No one who abides in Him sins.” I’ll bet you do. C’mon, brother…play fair.

          • Dmitriy
  • BrendtWayneWaters

    “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Too bad that MacArthur isn’t willing to “come and see”. (John 1:46)

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Challies: “He paused to state that he is not discrediting everyone in the movement. He
    knows there are charismatics who desire to worship God in a true way.”

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      And therefore, we should ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Sorry, I’m not that gullible.

  • scottcheatham

    I believe much is being attribute to MacArthur that isn’t necessarily so. He’s not bashing the movement as a whole but a segment of it which he believes is more domineering in it’s theology and is warning of the dangers of it. That is what I’ve taken from what I’ve heard from him. To be faithful to the discussion, I’ve not heard the conference itself and am waiting to read the book but I believe many you’ve quoted here have stated similar things from the fringe element of the movement which I believe is what MacArthur is addressing here. I will withhold criticizing him until I read his book but he’s never done any bashing the likes of which I’m reading about on the internet in the past 72 hours.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      If MacArthur is addressing a fringe element, why do the promotional videos for the conference say, “Charismatics do XYZ”? Why, in over a dozen videos, does he not ONCE say that he’s addressing a fringe?

      • And why do his friends feel the need to spin his comments? It’s clear he wants to put a nail in the coffin of the whole movement.

        • Lisa

          With all due respect, I completely disagree with you on this, Brother Warnock. People are not spinning his comments, but rather they are trying to listen objectively, and not allow emotions to dominate their reactions. I know this issue is near and dear to you, but I plead with you not to allow emotions and present assumptions/convictions to dominate how you hear things. Often when we do it’s because we are resisting a truth ourselves. I share this from first-hand experience. I come out of a reformed charismatic background, and even in a discussion the other day with my husband regarding this issue, I got really upset with him, only to realize later that I wasn’t intentionally trying to hear out what he had to say and weigh it objectively.

          Also, this is NOT the fringe movement – reformed charismatics are the fringe, in the sense they are a very small amount of charismatics worldwide. And so he is addressing the core of the movement.

          Last, he does believe there are believers in the charismatic movement (you can hear that in his Strange Fire promo video, I think the second one in the series). And he is not saying that nobody in the movement does anything good, just that the charismatic theology and movement have not contributed anything positive. So when good is done, it’s based out of a right soteriological theology.

          I pray that all of us will be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God desires”.

          In Christ,

  • Dirtbeard

    In what ways are Grudem, Driscoll, and Piper charismatic?

    • They all believe the gifts of then Spirit are for today.

      • Joey Elliott

        But does believing the gifts of the Spirit are for today, automatically make you a part of the “charismatic movement”? Perhaps there is a difference, in MacArthur’s mind, or in reality, between those who believe in the gifts and are in various denominations, backgrounds, ministries, etc., and those in churches or ministries that are more explicitly charismatic such as specific Pentecostal churches? If so, I have no idea why MacArthur has not clarified this and think he should.

        For whats its worth, I think there is a difference and the difference matters. I would never say that Grudem, Driscoll, Piper, Mahaney, Chandler, etc. are part of any “movement” other than historic evangelical Christianity. I don’t think they would either, but I’d be curious to know. Either way, that they believe the gifts are for today is neither here nor there as it relates to fruitful gospel ministry, in my opinion. Which makes the vagueness of this conference, and the negative response, a little confusing to me. More effort should be spent discrediting the prosperity gospel, which to MacArthur’s credit, seems to in large part come from what he identifies as the “charismatic movement”.

        • John B


          Good observations. The problem with this conference is that MacArthur is a cessationist and believes anyone who is a continuist is in error. But many continuist have a history of speaking out against “stange fire”, as a Pentecostal I would rather listen to those inside contuism then an outsider looking in. I also agree with Adrian that John doesn’t offer a Biblical defense of cessationism at this conference. The position is weak, maybe John doesn’t want that vulnerability.

          • Joey Elliott

            Forgive my ignorance, because I’m just trying to fully understand the controversy here, and I admire MacArthur, and Adrian, Piper, Mahaney, etc. a lot. But is MacArthur’s intent with this conference to refute the “error” of continuism, or to call out the abuse of it and the consequences of that abuse, namely the prosperity gospel? I don’t think he would need to defend cessationism if his intent is not specifically to debate the two sides. All he would need to do is convincing show the unbiblical nature of the abuse, and the reality of its consequences.

            Perhaps he can’t successfully do that without defending cessationism a little more. So he should, if not to draw a line in the sand, at least to make sure everyone understands his stance and the stakes. But I think he, or anyone else, especially those who believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today but are not what I would call part of the “charismatic movement”, would be able to show the unbiblical nature of the abuse, show the consequences and why it matters.

            Again, why aren’t we all just talking about how bad the prosperity gospel is? I think that is MacArthur’s ultimate objective, but I agree his approach is confusing. If this conference is about cessationism vs. continuism, he should say so. I personally don’t think it is, but that’s what I’m trying to figure out. In any case, as Tim Challies has said, I think MacArthur deserves our discerning ear.

          • John B


            For the record my family has a deep history in the Pentecostal movement, founders of the largest Pentecostal denomination here in the US all the way back to 1907. So the legacy of God honoring worship continues to this day, in Spirit and in truth with discernment.

            Johnny Mac’s interest is not to just discredit the “prosperity gospel” but to discredit the entire movement. Notice how he compared it to the reformation movement in his speech.

            This really is a theological argument based on Scripture. Johnny Mac is also skipping large portions of Church History in his argument, there has always been the continuing of the gifts of the Spirit in church history and an interest in the activity of the HS beyond what the Reformers taught. Are they all in error? From what I am hearing Johnny Mac say is, if your not embracing reformed theology see what happens.

          • Jordan S.

            “I also agree with Adrian that John doesn’t offer a Biblical defense of cessationism at this conference.”

            I’m going to assume that you wrote this before this mornings session by Tom Pennington called “a case for cessationism”. it seems like you guys are being a little quick to judgment, and by the way tomorrow night Macarthur will
            be speaking to his “continuationist friends” the charismatics that he thinks have done a lot of good for the church. (which you guys in this comment thread think are inexistent) You guys need to do less typing and more listening.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          Joey, MacArthur doesn’t even make a *real* distinction between Charismatics and those who aren’t but don’t bash them. And I don’t mean that he has simply failed to say anything to that issue, but that he is specifically on record that (in his view) there is none:

          So a greatly more granular distinction (such as what you wonder why he hasn’t made) isn’t coming. This conference has all the nuance of swatting a fly with a nuclear warhead.

          • John B


            Not that Johnny Mac is offering a reputable understanding at his conferences, but we have to admit discernment is lacking if you look at the movement the way Johnny Mac is.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            John B, I realize you’re only trying to throw J-Mac a bone, but I’m one of those weirdos who actually believes the Bible, and Galatians 6:1 implies to me that it does not suffice to merely stand around, pointing out the problem (and charging people to listen to you whine) when you have the power and influence to actually DO something to correct it.

            Seeing as how I’m not God, I don’t know J-Mac’s heart. But his *actions* are those of a man who doesn’t really give a rip if “such a one” is restored.

          • John B

            I have no interest in throwing Mac a bone, but just thought we would be in agreement that discernment is needed and lacking with those that are continuists. I know Mac’s goal is for all to be cessationists but if he succeeds in bringing some discernment where it has been resisted, that would be good

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            John B, sorry to have misattributed. 🙂 While I agree with your final analysis, I believe that if actual value comes out of MacArthur’s kvetching, it will be the ultimate proof that God still works miracles.

  • andrew8curry

    Adrian I think you missed the point. You personalized the theology. John clearly said he has many friends who are charismatics. He is not saying that no good has come from those friends, he actually said people have been saved by the gospel through those men.
    Instead he is saying that no good has come from their charismatic theology.
    I am sure you would still disagree with that statement, but maybe a your response would be different.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      “John clearly said he has many friends who are charismatics.”

      Why do I keep hearing, “Some of my best friends are black”?

      • Crunchymamajhb

        As a black person (yes, also charismatic and reformed), i keep hearing that too, and i keep thinking how insincere it is. Right on, brother!

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          Always nice to get affirmation on an issue of race from one of my less pigmentationally-challenged brothers. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in.

      • hwshy

        i have heard an interpretation of blaspheming the HS as it being the sin of not accepting christ as lord and saviour. this is based on the reasoning that we only confess christ as lord BY the spirit. therefore, not accepting this is blasphemy.

        christ is after all ready to forgive ALL our sins, that is IF we don’t commit the only one unpardonable sin which is not accepting him!

        also, and quite fundamentally, the HS’s mission and character is to point and lead us to Messiah. the major argument of each of our lives will be our decision for christ. and how does this happen? by the spirit. therefore by denying this power, this authority (of the spirit), you are blaspheming Him.

        seems alot better than the open-ended idea that could lead to us launching off, in a conference seen around the world, as to what we believe is “proper” worship. which for all we know could devolve into someone telling us that blaspheming the HS includes letting one go while you are in church. or wearing yellow.

        when you tell me i made an error interpreting god’s voice, and hold me to eternal account for that error, you not only reveal your legalistic measuring stick, but also show a misunderstanding of the nature of new testament prophecy, which is couched in grace and in accountable, loving community. prophecy is designed to declare the grace by and in which we live, and as such you demonstrate a potential misunderstanding of the functioning or at least extent of grace

        now, as that “darling brother” Kenneth Copeland likes to sign out, I’ll leave “y’all” by declaring: Jesus is Lord!!!

        and as jesus and rodney said: be filled. literally. from your innermost being. but don’t worry. its only 9 in the morning. it does indeed (BIBLICALLY) look like they are drunk, but it is not alcohol – it is SOMETHING ELSE! (call the exorcist! but we don’t have one!)

        and those unintelligible groans. well i don’t know now. animal spirits?

        and paul? well i’d say we have to write him off as a voodoo artist and as having a serious misunderstanding of how god really works. after all, why else would he state that he longs to be physically, presentially with a group of people so that he can transfer a spiritual gift to them?

        and why indeed should we even read such a disturbing verse, if, as the last apostle breathed his last, all the hundreds/thousands of gifts freely spread abroad, were suddenly – SCHWOOP – taken back by God. Hah! Baa humbug!

        When exactly that moment took place I am not sure. Who was the last apostle? When exactly was the work so completed that the gifts were no longer needed? And if today half a billion people are so deceived, and all tribes have not yet heard the gospel, why ever did God take away his gifts?!!!

        but seriously, the western world has done such a thorough job of convincing us that the spiritual aspect of life is just not there. as this is the main connection point between us and god, i am intrigued to see god’s response to this. japheth is that enlarged, intellectual type who lives under shem’s spiritual covering, but sometimes just doesnt understand the how of shem’s blessed connection with the most high, literal, physical, intimate, spirit/soul/body creator.

    • Keith Roussel

      “no good has come from their charismatic theology”

      I wonder if he made an investigative survey, or by declaring Charismatic doctrine as false, made the assumption that everything it produced was of zero benefit.

  • Jordan S.

    Your title is completely dishonest! are you lying or did you misunderstand? He clearly stated that no good has come from charismatic theology. not that no good has come out of the movement. I think it’s unfortunate that many charismatics will read this blog post without watching the message because you have lied to them and they won’t know the truth. Also if you knew what Macarthur’s position on the unpardonable sin is you would know that he doesn’t believe that it can be committed today and it was only possible in Jesus’s day. If you are an honest person you have to change this title.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      Mark 3:29 — but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation

      So if MacArthur doesn’t believe that the unpardonable sin can be committed today, does that mean that he was lying when he said that Charismatics blaspheme the Holy Spirit, or is he stating that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not unforgivable (and therefore, Jesus was full of it)?

      • Jordan S.

        I can’t speak for Macarthur, but I would say that the way that they blasphemed the Holy Spirit was by stating that the Holy Spirit was not behind the work that Christ was doing, and that, that specific sin was unforgivable. Sure I think that every word that comes out of Benny Hinn’s mouth is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but unless he claims that Christ’s miracles were a work of Satan (i don’t think he does), everything he has said in his ministry is sin but it isn’t unforgivable, and until he is dead he still has an opportunity to repent and embrace Jesus has his personal Lord and Savior, I pray that you can see that people like Benny Hinn blaspheme God when they do their miracle healing, if you don’t then it’s kind of worthless to be speaking with you about this. but rather we should be focusing more on what the gospel is.

        • Tylor Standley

          I don’t remember Jesus mentioning two ways of blaspheming the Holy Spirit and then saying that he would forgive one but not the other. He emphatically said that if you blaspheme the Spirit you will not be forgiven. You can’t just make your own definition of “blaspheming the Holy Spirit.”

          Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but your last sentence here sounds like you’re suggesting that anyone who disagrees with your statement about Benny Hinn is not saved. If one doesn’t believe that Benny Hinn is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, then they just need to hear the gospel? Really? I’m not saying I agree with Benny Hinn AT ALL. I think he’s a moron and a charlatan. But I don’t know if he’s blaspheming the HS because I am not in a place to judge anyone of that, especially when it means that they will not be forgiven (according to Jesus). I’m just going to let God be the judge of that. I think MacArthur should do the same.

          • Wayne Foil

            The question is not whether Jesus used two definitions of “blaspheming the Spirit.” The question is whether “blaspheming” can be used in two ways. And, clearly, it can.

          • Virginia Roof Wash

            Well, I share the love of Jesus; follow Jesus three year example; I willingly co-labor with the Holy Spirit, Helper. I purpose to do exactly what Jesus gave us charge to do, is demonic?

            My Jesus is risen, He is alive and God’s Holy Spirit lives and moves at my hands; as I release faith, the kingdom is now. I am a believer who fully believes, experiences and practices what I believe.

            If your Jesus doesn’t do this, then you need to renew your mind to the Jesus which is not conformed to this world. Honor and glorify the sweet name of Jesus Christ in all we do and say. This is crazy… you nor I will be looking around in heaven thinking “ya, I told so n so.”

            We are commissioned as Ambassidors to proclaim the Kingdom of God; for God so loves the world He gave so we may receive.

            Your doctrines are non-avail with power without the Spirit of the Living God moving and breathing through you, at your hands.

      • Jordan S.

        By the way you didn’t address the most important part of my quote above about the fact that this article is a complete lie! change the title. It’s misleading and dishonest! Piper and Mahaney are wonderful men of God that God has used in many ways, even though they are wrong (in my opinion) about the gifts. this whole article is a complete lie.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          I “didn’t address the most important part of [your] quote” as I thought it more important first to determine if MacArthur was merely lying or spouting heresy. Still don’t have any clarity on that issue, even from your own standpoint — just more diatribe on Hinn — an even grosser generalization (if that’s possible) than what MacArthur makes.

      • Wayne Foil

        Good question. It seems that MacArthur was using the “blasphemy against the Spirit” language more generally (i.e., to speak evil against) than was referred to in Mark 3:29 or Matthew 12. What was going on in the gospels at that point was more historical-redemptive than individualistic and repeatable. Jesus had entered history to offer himself as the Messiah to the people, and he was being rejected, so as to be killed. From this “blasphemy” there was no turning back and no forgiveness. Jesus was headed to the cross, and, from this point on in the narrative, began turning his attention to the disciples primarily, and you do not see him reaching out to the masses the way he had done previously. So, when MacArthur says that the charismatics have blasphemed the Spirit, all he intends by that is to say that the teaching regarding the Spirit which comes from them is at least partly in error.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. MacArthur is not of an ilk to do that kind of origami with Scripture. The passage doesn’t say anything about “in this manner” or “when it comes to Me”. And there is no other reference to “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” to give him precedent/license to use the term “more generally”. Your interpretation would mean that he was using a theological term VERY sloppily for the sake of crass sensationalism.

          • Wayne Foil

            You’re the one that said MacArthur denies that the blasphemy of the Spirit can be committed today. I’m taking your word for it, and, rather than accusing him of lying, I’m making a logical (but not necessary) conclusion, based on a widely held belief that the blasphemy of Matthew and Mark is a historical-redemptive event.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            Actually, no, I’m not the one. Jordan S is. I said *if* that was true and laid out the only logical conclusions (unless you’re willing to add crass sensationalism and theological origami — I may have lost a lot of respect for the man, but not enough to go that route)..

    • That’s not what I heard. Perhaps someone needs to make a transcript.

      • Jordan S.

        I hope you didn’t write an entire blog post based on what you heard from someone. you have 15 thousand followers on twitter, you need to be more careful than that. Macarthur has invited John Piper and CJ Mahaney, to several conferences, because they obviously had a lot of good to share. This title is a lie. I don’t know you at all I don’t even know if you teach the gospel, so I might be wasting my time, but you have lied in this title and you need to change it.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          What he heard from MacArthur’s own lips. Had you actually read the post with any cerebral integrity, you’d know that Adrian was not making his claims off something he heard off the grapevine, as you imply here.

        • Keith Roussel

          Is not the movement based upon its theology? If the practice of their theology manifest as movement then, the fruit of the movement originate from the theology.

          I guess it would be quite difficult for him to thuroughly investigate the many personal experiences from the movement to determine what “good” came from what aspect of the theology since the Charismatic part of the theology is intertwined with the aspects of their theology that he would approve of.

      • Daniel King
        • The transcript confirms my memory of what I heard was accurate. Like many it’s author feels the need to make MacArthurs qualifications for him. Would that he’d done that himself!

          • Daniel King

            I agree. Even with the qualifications, what MacArthur says is wrong.

  • Richard Klaus

    Here is a portion of J. I. Packer’s assessment of the charismatic movement from 1989:

    “The charismatic renewal has brought millions of Christians, including many clergy, to a deeper, more exuberant faith in Christ than they had before. It has quickened thousands of congregations, invigorating their worship, making love and fellowship blossom among them, increasing their expectancy and enterprise, and giving stimulus to their evangelism. Charismatic insistence on openness to God has transformed countless lives that previously were not open to him. Is this from God? The question answers itself.”

    I quote more of his thought in this blog post:

    • Paul Gesh

      J. I. Packer also believes that idol worshiping Catholics are Christians.

  • Samuel S. Choi

    Adrian, I watched the first session, too.

    It’s the symptom of the 20th century moralistic (we’re right, they’re wrong), therapeutic (we are the true worshippers with hymns, strings, and a solo artist), and deistic (acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s work in Jesus but not in saints today) religious ideological campaign that is waged against God’s people (just like the OT Israelites who almost killed off a whole tribe out of their moral outrage.

    What I grieve is not only unjust treatment of the charismatics, but a lack of focus on the mission. If mission exists, because true worship of God does not (John Piper). Then what does mission for those who focus on true worship of God look like?

    Maybe and hopefully, the remaining days of the conference would address the question I raise.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    More John MacArthur via Tim Challies: “People have been saved in charismatic churches, but nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. Nothing within the movement has strengthened the gospel or preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion and error.

    (Note: I am adding a clarifying note (3:57 PM EST). I do not take MacArthur to mean “nothing good has ever come out of the charismatic movement” but “nothing good has come out of the charismatic movement that is attributable to charismatic theology.”)

    • Intrigued by Challies clarifying note. I definitely didn’t hear MacArthur say anything like that.

      • BrendtWayneWaters

        MacArthur has been at this too long to need spin doctors, don’tcha think?

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      movement, theology, whatever — At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, as it is logically and scientifically impossible to prove a universal negative. MacArthur’s contention that “nothing good has ever come out of” whatever is, at best, utter foolishness.

  • Dave Warnock

    I note how angry Adrian is that he and his heros are being excluded and rejected.

    Yet all the preachers Adrian mentions (all men by the way) are notorious (as is Adrian himself) for excluding and rejecting others, particularly women.

    The arguments are so familiar. Part of the message of this conference seems to be that Charismatics are welcome as long as they adopt acceptable theology and don’t embarrass anyone.

    The consistent message from these men is that women are welcome as long as they accept the men’s theology and don’t embarrass them by standing up and speaking.

    I look forward to the day when Adrian and his friends start standing up for the people they have excluded and rejected.

    • Skotiad

      There is no “men’s theology.”

      I’m so sick of hearing left-wing clowns talk about women being “excluded” from the church. Any church in the world, on any given Sunday, has MORE women than men in it, always, anywhere. Is someone forcing them to go? No. They choose it. The ones who feel “excluded” for whatever reason either find a different church or drop out altogether, but most stay where they are. Some churches ordain women – fine. Some don’t – and if they don’t, why is that the business of people outside that church? Churches are private associations, they can set their own standards. Catholics have never ordained women, but walk into any Catholic Mass and count heads – more women than men, always.

  • Dan Edelen

    Ignoring everything else associated with this conversation, here’s a simple question: If this were simply about correcting errors in fringe elements of the charismatic movement, then where are the sympathetic charismatic speakers partnering with MacArthur at this conference?

    Regardless of what has been the case in past conferences, that I see no known charismatics offering keynotes or any other kind of teaching at this conference is telling. I mean, if you were going to hold a televised conference on correcting errors in military strategies, would you not have at least one speaker who is in one of the military branches? Or someone who is a a military historian with expertise in battle plans? What validity would your conference have if no one speaking/teaching is a military insider?

    • rdrift1879

      The errors, unfortunately, are not in fringe elements. They are massive…in many mega-churches, on vast, powerful television networks, and dominating whole continents, destroying the work of Christ in places like Africa and Asia. The correct analogy would be to have someone from Africa talk about how these doctrines have eroded the faith there, and that’s what the conference offered.

      • BrendtWayneWaters

        You and the other JM apologists need to have a strategy session, then. Because many of your brethren are scrambling around, trying to provide cover for MacArthur by claiming that he’s not broad-brushing, but merely addressing the fringe.

      • hwshy


  • BrendtWayneWaters

    Maybe he should send back those advertising revenues, then. 😉

  • Jacob Tromburg

    Adrian, I think you missed his point. He was referring to the theology, not individuals who are reformed charasmatics. Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology (which was a required text in some of the theology classes at TMS when I was there), was not contributed to through charasmatic theology. His point was not “since he’s a reformed charsmatic, he has never contributed anything,” his point was that the charasmatic theology has not contributed anything to… well, I’ll let him say it as quoted in this blog ““. . . the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship. It has made no contribution to biblical clarity, biblical interpretation or sound doctrine.”

    He means the movement, not the men. In other words, Wayne Grudem did not receive direct revelation from the Holy Spirit when he penned his systematic theology, he did it like any other good theologian. Hard work and careful research. That is what Macarthur meant.

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    It would seem that Challies’ “clarifying remark” is 100% in error. Straight from MacArthur’s FB page: “The charismatic movement offers nothing to true worship because it has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine.” ( )

    I’ll be over here holding my breath, waiting for the flood of apologies from all those who accused Adrian of misrepresentation.

    • Matt

      I’ve listened to the message. He was stating that anything new the movement has offered does not add biblical clarity, better interpretation or sound doctrine. Conversely, he was saying that nothing sound, clear, or orthodox within the movement is not something they have not already received from the long history of orthodox church history. That is 100 percent accurate. Also, the entire conference is now available for free online. You have the source available to you.

  • Crunchymamajhb

    My reception in Joburg was not patchy and i sure heard J Mac say nothing good has come out of the movement and those charismatics with sound theology have that theology in spite of them being charismatic. it seems to me he was basically saying “Piper et al” i like you guys, but you need to become cessationists in order to be fully acceptable.” Lawson and Sproul said as much without specifying names. I do wonder if J Mac wanted to sell one last book in his old age, which he knew many of us 500 million charismatic “fools” would buy to critique. It is very sad that this is the topic du jour among Christians, while the world is on fire and souls need to be told about Jesus.

  • Brian Wilson

    I find both some of the publicity attached to this conference and the reaction to it unhelpful. I think there is a celebrity culture in evangelicalism today which is unhelpful – and the sort of publicity (positive and negative) attached to this conference ties in with that celebrity culture.

    There are others who will have studied the publicity material more carefully than I; but I did distinctly see a video from John MacArthur saying he recognised there were faithful, Biblical people in Pentecostalism – and they needed to distance themselves from unbiblical aberrations in the movement. John MacArthur is right in saying that Jonathan Edwards was concerned about aspects of the revival in New England – and wrote specifically so that people could discern what was of God and what was of the devil in relation to that revival.

    I am not a complete cessationist; but I agree with people like the late John Stott that talk of ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is unhelpful. To pick up on the very helpful video interview from Terry Virgo that you referred to, I agree that God’s Holy Spirit should work in various ways after a person’s conversion – it is the stereotypical insistence on ‘baptism of the Spirit’ that I have a problem with. Thus, I have no doubt, for example, that God worked spectacularly in D.L. Moody’s life one day on Wall Street – I simply wish that it is not referred to as a baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Baptism is the language of initiation – it is the Spirit who initiates into the Christian life.) Terry Virgo is right in saying that there are problems in thinking of one major blessing alone at conversion – my problem is that it is limiting also to think of a two blessing theology of the Spirit: there are an infinite progression of blessings in the Christian life.

    I looked at some of the range of speakers in this conference – people like Joni, Conrad Mbewe and R.C. Sproul, and I do not think they would have taken the platform if they did not think there was a genuine problem with some of the claims being touted as of the Spirit today. Mbewe is the only one I have heard preach in the flesh – and it is very obvious he has a deep love for Jesus and knows God’s unction on his preaching. I would like to believe it is a concern for some aspects of Christian life in his native Zambia which prompts his being there.

    If John MacArthur genuinely thinks there is nothing good in the charismatic movement, I do have a major problem with that. I do not see Bible evidence that tongues or healing should cease – I probably disagree with John MacArthur there. I agree that people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Stuart Townend, etc. can be described as sympathetic to or part of the charismatic movement. (I do not think, however, that Stuart Townend’s Northern Irish collaborator on many of his hymns, Keith Getty, regards himself as part of the charismatic movement.) However, I have, for some time, had a bit of a problem with the charismatic failure to recognise that not all periods of Bible history are equally marked out as being marked by the miraculous. The miraculous is associated with the prophetic activities of an Elijah, for example, in the way it is not associated with the ministry of an Isaiah.

    To sum up, I find the publicity for and against this conference unhelpful. Although I have been rattled by some of the debate, the tone of some of your concluding remarks, Adrian, is helpful – the debate about spiritual gifts should be seen in the same way as the debate about baptism, e.g.: a matter on which equally godly people read Scripture differently on. I have been diverted from work for too long by getting engaged in this debate!

  • John MacArthur’s behaviour is really embarassing. Here’s my response to his errors:

  • Bryan

    dude, why do you rant against those in the Charismatic movement who are perverting it? Name names, brother. Stand up. Act like a man. Warn the sheep about the wolves, that is exactly what MacArthur is doing. And you’re no MacArthur and are ultimately complicit to their false teachers….

  • Jon Cranfield

    I think we all (cessationist and non cessationist alike) need to be careful that we do not presume to judge who is a brother and who is not. It is the gospel of Christ alone that saves not doctrinal understanding, thankfully!. That said I agree too Adrian that issues over the character, method and mission of the Holy Spirit have been an unhelpful division. For instance if you read the introduction to The Resurgence by Pastor Mark Driscoll he repeats a sweeping generalisation of beliefs on the Holy Spirit that would be recognised by a small minority of the groups he describes. I think and hope we’d all agree that ministries that attribute the Holy Spirit to experiences which in the New Testament would be called demonic (e.g. losing ability to think clearly, making animal sounds etc.) should be challenged in love. Also John Piper and Stuart Townend have been a massive blessing to both the cessationist and non cessationist arms of the church.

  • Martin Trench

    So, are you actually going to “call out” John McArthur as someone teaching false doctrine over the next few months (like you have done with Steve Chalke, Rob Bell, and others) or does he get a free pass for being Reformed? Because he and other speakers at his conference have both insinuated and outright said terrible things about charismatics – they are going to hell, they don’t know Christ, they have committed the unpardonable sin, they are not Christians and their churches are false churches etc. So, Adrain, that makes you and NFI false Christians and Churches and only just saved, if saved at all. Don’t you think he has gone way off the deep end much further than those who preach a generous orthodoxy?

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    I’m sure that “seeking authorial intent” would be a lot easier for you if the author didn’t keep saying stuff that messed up your interpretation. Stop trying to tell us “what he really means”. He’s making what he really means perfectly clear, with no need for re-interpretation, clarification, or spin-doctoring.

    MacArthur is screaming that the building is burning to the ground and his apologists keep trying to tell us that what he really means is that there needs to be some re-evaluation as to whether we are in complete compliance with the latest fire codes.

    The man is VERY zealous about his beliefs. Why are so many of his supporters trying to quench his zeal?

  • Ejody

    Rev. MacArthur refuses to have anything to do with The Church on the Way where Pastor Jack Hayford was the senior pastor for decades. (I know this for a fact.) Yes, they may have met, but that was it. According to MacArthur’s views, Pastor Jack’s ministry is heresy.

  • jn424

    I’ve spoken with Jack Hayford…he has breakfast with John MacArthur once a year. Should be interesting discussion at the next one.

  • Here’s an open video letter I made to John MacArthur: The top seven strange “Strange Fire” statements

  • Jamie Black Bertucci

    Can I ask, even beg some of you gentleman to take the same zeal and fight against those who deny the gospel such as N.T Wright and Scott McKnight. Please. Stand up and fight. These men are undermining the work of Jesus. The church needs your support . It needs it’s leaders to be bold and confident. I’m asking, even pleading.

  • Levedi

    I was raised in the conservative Calvinist tradition. My parents love McArthur. So, as a born and raised Calvinist, I just wanted to say that my Pentecostal friends have enriched my life by modeling how to pray with hope. I don’t mean a simplistic prosperity gospel – I mean praying with the earnest belief that not only could but would respond to us with generosity as a kind father to his beloved children. Instead of endless lectures on how not to be demanding of God, my Pentecostal friends just pray. They tell God what they feel, want, and need. They praise him unreservedly and they trust his benevolence. That has significantly enriched my faith. McArthur should not underestimate the significance of that contribution to the life of the church.

  • Jack O’Connell

    Adrian , the fact that you list Jesus Culture who spread Bill Johsons demonic doctrines around the world as the great worship coming out the Charismatic movement proves either your deception or wilful support of evil. When they go around the world and promote spiritual drunkeness, animal noises, fire tunnels and false conversions, it is not something to glory in.
    When they claim as they did in our town during a performance that you cant preach people into salvation but instead should give them an experience they are destroying the foundation of our faith.The deceit this causes is greatly damaging, people who follow this revived gnosticism think they can save people by calling down the Holy Spirit and causing Jesus to appear to people in visions. This is a feeding ground for demon Spirits as Andrew Strom showed in his documentary, Kundalini Warning. We are seeing a demonic invasion that is changing Christianity into mysticism and some churches resemble hindus, hare krishns and pagans. Chanting, animal noises, drunken behaviour, women preaching and an atmosphere conductive to lawlesness is created.
    Jack Hayford, whom you list as an example of a Christlike Charismatic shows you have a false view of Christ. Hayford claims the Holy Spirit told him not to judge the Catholic mass!! This is your example of Christlikeness! Christ threw tables over for far less blasphemy than Hayford accepts. If thats acceptable to him, no wonder he tolerates other things.
    Adrian, your post is pathetic. A man of God sonds the alarm against an enemy within the gates and you trifle and seek to critique the finer points. Wake up and sound the trumpet instead. We are to be watchman on the wall, not dumb dogs that do not bark!

    • Erik Pedersen

      Don’t expect a reply to that as Adrian won’t when he knows he is wrong! Both Adrian Warnock and Michael Brown shut up shop when they know they are in the wrong or can’t take statements out of context to back up their point of view and just stick their heads back in the sand until the storms goes by them.

  • Frd

    “Myth Three: John MacArthur Believes that Absolutely Nothing Good Has Come Out of the Charismatic Movement

    This final myth (i.e., the final myth that I’ll address; unfortunately not the final myth that is floating around through the internet) has specific reference to MacArthur’s comments in the opening session at Strange Fire. In response to this session, Adrian Warnock accusesMacArthur of “wholeheartedly reject[ing]” (a) great worship songs like “In Christ Alone,” (b) outstanding theological labors as are represented in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, (c) and the blessed preaching of John Piper.

    But such an accusation is entirely baseless, and seems to willfully ignore what MacArthur actually said in that session. Here’s the relevant portion:

    Am I discrediting everyone in the movement? No. I think there are people to desire to worship God in a true way. … But the movement itself offers nothing to enrich true worship. The Charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine. … Do some in the movement believe the truth? Yes. Do some hold to sound theology on some issues? Yes. But none of those true understandings have come to them through that movement. The true understandings have always been there in the long line of preachers and teachers that God has used to keep the church and truth on track. The movement adds nothing to that. It detracts and confuses. It’s not a source for any advancement of our understanding of Scripture or sound doctrine.

    It’s plain that MacArthur has not claimed that absolutely nothing good exists throughout the entire Charismatic movement. Rather, he is saying that the good that does exist—which would include the fact that he believes that people have been truly saved through the evangelistic efforts of the movement, among other things like Grudem’s Systematic Theologyand Piper’s preaching—all that good that has come from the movement has come in spite of it, and not because of it. He goes on to say just that just a bit later:

    Have people truly been saved in Charismatic churches? Yes. But nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. … Yes, there are people in the movement who know and love the truth, have an orthodox Gospel, but are heterodox on the Holy Spirit. Not all of them are heretics. But I say again the contribution of truth from the people in the movement doesn’t come from the movement, but in spite of it.

    So, the point is not that there can be no good found within any circle that is remotely associated with Charismatic theology. Rather, the point is that Charismatic theology as suchhas not been responsible for the good within the movement. The good has come in spite ofCharismatic theology, and not because of it. That is worlds apart from claiming that nothing good at all exists in the movement. To insist otherwise would be to perpetuate a myth.

    An Appeal to My Continuationist Friends

    So with that in mind, I’d like to make an appeal to my Charismatic and Continuationist friends. Gentlemen, if you want to be taken seriously by cessationists in your response to the Strange Fire Conference—and more than that: if you want to do your due diligence in “preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” would you please cease perpetuating these and other myths about John MacArthur and the Strange Fire Conference?

    I know things were said that were very strong. I can even fully understand why some would think our critique too strong—especially our Reformed and conservative evangelical charismatic brethren. They are our allies on many fronts, and perhaps they expected that we would totally exempt them from our negative appraisal of charismatic doctrine. I know that by declining to treat the issues that way, we hurt some feelings. We take no pleasure in that. Indeed, I can empathize with my charismatic friends’ disappointment. I wish we could be completely affirming. But we are compelled by conscience and Scripture not to minimize errors that we believe are very serious and are built into the continuationist perspective. We want to focus on that issue, and not matters of style or personalities. Would you do your part in advancing an honest narrative by tackling the substance of the biblical argumentation set forth at the Strange Fire Conference, rather than sensationalizing out-of-context sound bites and seeking to poison the well?”

  • steve

    lol its the charismatic christians that are preaching the gospel and seeing millions saved, look at the church in china, they see 30000 a day being saved now! so sad to see people so deceived

  • Cal Koe

    Strangely many names were mentioned by Justin Peters as false prophets and teachers but there is only silence on their part. The loud protest are not from those named and criticised most at the conference. Honestly I would love to hear their biblical defence. They were the reasons for the conference. What does HBrown say now. He was vocal before the conference started, but quiet now. Maybe silence is the best defence because very soon this episode will pass away and then back to business as usual.

  • Jane P.

    Referring to your post yesterday, John MacArthur said that sincere people, if they stay in the Charismatic movement, are putting their SOULS IN JEOPARDY! His description of a sincere person sounded like a true believer…so isn’t he contradicting himself, considering his theology of Eternal Security???.

  • john mancini

    isn’t it interesting as the ones who preach Eternal Security and Lifetime Guarantee
    error condemn the charismatics. So let me think since MacArthur thinks my salvation is in jeopardy and I think Eternal Security false doctrine will send folks to hell then who is saved, anyone? Lets be reasonable here folks, there are some errors in every church and there are extremists in TBN. In spite of all the warts and wrinkles of TBN and the warts and wrinkles of MacArthurisms people are being reached for Christ in both !! Remember (in Corinthians I think)it says whether the gospel is preached with piety, pure motives or wrong motives the gospel will not return void. I do not know of any ministry that does not preach some error.

  • Độc cô chém gió
  • Just Thinking

    Just stumbled onto this and felt I needed to at least declare what I believe I have learned now since being immersed in the “worship” music of the charismatic church of America.
    I was a very big promoter of this music and worked to have it brought into conservative evangelical church out here in the mid west.
    I found that after getting saved, I was immediately convicted to abandon my extensive library of secular rock and roll and traded it in for the music coming out of west coast Pentecostalism.
    Many times trough those years I found myself drawn to the music over the Word of God and kept telling myself I was praising God; however, it took many hard years to be honest with myself and admit I was worshiping no one but my “sarx” (my flesh)…I was gravitating to the same “hooks” and “riffs” that animated me when listening to secular rock and roll.
    After decades of fighting some besetting sins that I couldn’t get control over, I went out and threw all christian “worship” music from my home.
    I had no expectations as to the results of this; however, everyone in my home declared it was like we were walking in a dark house with candles and now had all the lights on and windows open…the Word of God became alive like it had been right after getting saved and significant growth and additional discernment has come with it.
    Then I learned by studying christian liberty for myself that I and those who allowed what I consider to be”strange fire” (Hillsong etc.) worship music that we were “sinning against Christ” clearly articulated in I Cor. 8.

    I would beg everyone to throw all of this music out of your homes and cars and see how life in Christ should be….sorry for the “dogma” folks; however, I spent decades now on both sides of this issue.

    I see nothing but a groundswell of this music flooding into all corners of the church while some days when I think about 5 out of 10 pastors here in the US. are enslaved to pornography today and nearly 7 out of 10 laypeople…Billy Joel and David Bowie were honest enough to declare that rock and roll is the spirit of sexuality and rebellion…why can’t we?