John MacArthur tries to retreat from some of his most challenging language

John MacArthur tries to retreat from some of his most challenging language November 5, 2013

Over at Tim Challies, MacArthur has been interviewed about the criticism that has surfaced of him following the Strange Fire conference.  This is interesting for two reasons. Firstly because of his brief summary of his case, and secondly for an attempt to rein in some of what to many of us seem like clear statements rejecting charismatics wholesale.

Regarding the arguments he choses I thought I would briefly address them here:

What are the gifts? MacArthur believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were solely given to accredit the Apostles. We believe that 1 Corinthians alone demonstrates that is not the case as there is no evidence that the Corinthians were Apostles. He also believes any modern manifestations are different in kind from what seen in the Bible.  We would acknowledge that in the vast majority of cases they are different in extent.  In other words we believe that modern gifts are the same qualitatively as those seen in the NT but that quantitatively they are different.

Thus, for us. a healing is a healing whether it happens in response to a whole church praying, or whether an Apostle can authoritatively command the sickness to leave.  The person was still healed.  Interestingly in this summary MacArthur doesn’t explain how he sees the modern experiences: are they genuinely of God (in at least some cases), solely of the flesh (which seems hard to accept given for example the supernatural knowledge sometimes seen, eg by Spurgeon), or inspired by the devil (which seems strange if it is indeed leading to more salvations, and a greater love for Jesus in many lives).

In our view if we are seeing a lesser form of some of the gifts, we think it is helpful to use biblical language to describe them.  If our argument was just over what to call these things, then I think it would never have got so vociferous as it sadly often does.

He then makes the historical argument that the gifts accompanied the gifts of the Apostles, but only stopped when the Canon of Scripture was complete. This is a strange argument as it is hard to see what the gifts were needed for during the interim between the death of the last Apostle and the councils that determined the extent of Scripture.

MacArthur then does attempt to honour the charismatics who he acknowledges to be biblical scholars, but I think he insults these people by refusing to acknowledge that they are driven by an alternative interpretation of the Bible, not by some “anomaly” in their thinking:

First, let me reiterate how much I do appreciate those men. As I explain in the book, I am truly grateful for the extensive contributions they have made to the truth and life of the church. I have personally benefited from my interactions with each of them, and from the many helpful books they have authored. I love these men as coworkers in the ministry of the gospel, and I thank the Lord for giving them as gifts to the church in this generation.

As I noted at the conference, I believe their openness to modern charismatic gifts is an anomaly.  Obviously, I cannot read minds nor do I desire to judge motives. But I do wonder if perhaps their positions are evidence of either the influence of personal relationships with charismatic friends and family members, or the pervasive impact charismatic theology has had on the wider culture.

He goes on to assert that in fact it is not really possible to believe in modern gifts and not devalue the Bible. This is a stinging accusation that suggests to me he has not really listened to charismatics.

I am deeply concerned with the notion of ongoing revelation in the church today. Though my continuationist friends would never intentionally attack the sufficiency of Scripture, I believe their acceptance of modern prophecy actually undermines the sufficiency of Scripture in profoundly destructive ways.

Then two quotes are cited from Strange Fire that seem to be intended to show that MacArthur is perhaps not as antagonistic to the charismatics as we have all assumed. This is actually very misleading as in each case the quote cited is lifted out of context, and is in the book immediately followed by some of the most damning language it is possible to conceive of. The first quote I have already shared, complete with its context in my post “Can’t we all just get along?” The second quote is immediately followed by this: “The Charismatic Movement is teeming with false teachers and spiritual charlatans of the worst kind.”

MacArthur then tries to distance himself from the idea that nothing good has come out of the charismatic movement claiming he didn’t say that or mean that. I really feel that a man of his stature should not have to exegete his statements and he would have done well to be more careful during the conference. He did say those words, but it seems he didn’t mean them quite in that way, but instead that while the movement hasn’t contributed anything, some people within it have! This would presumably include Wayne Grudem’s excellent Systematic Theology which is ironically a set text at the Master’s Seminary!

If MacArthur is serious about reaching out with an olive branch to charismatics, then he should agree, not to a debate, but to a conversation with someone from the charismatic branch of the church. I know Justin Brierley is willing to graciously moderate such a discussion. And we understand from Driscoll’s invitation that he or Wayne Grudem would be happy to speak with him. I would personally love to see him have such a conversation with John Piper.

Those who love the gospel, love Jesus, should love each other, and love Jesus’ whole Church, as imperfect as it is. Jesus loves his church. all of it. It is incumbent on all of us to do the same.

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  • Trezire Reforma

    1)Baptism with the Holy Spirit
    2)Gifts of the Holy Spirit
    3)Healing and miracles of the Holy Spirit

    These 3 points are most embarrassing for cessation theology, wherever they would try to flee from it they get in the same place – a endless debate about the Holy Spirit work in the individuals and in the Church. In order to easy the theological pressure they prefer to correct the ones who really live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    1) Music and disco entertainment (rock music, madness)
    2) Bizarre manifestations (holy laughter, shows with falling on the ground, etc.)
    3) Manipulation (prophecies never checked in the light of the Scripture, lavish and opulent life stile of the leaders, etc.)

    These 3 practices cannot be put under carpet and pass by. We really need to wake up and say that we are ready to clean some of the stuff that is worldly and manipulative. Surely there are things on both sides that need to be corrected and if each side shows the problems of the other, then, there is no chance forever to have a real reformation. May God guide us toward the right way to approach these issues.

    • Shawn Matthew

      I agree with your second two points, but how is a music genre considered biblical or unbiblical…? You realize that organs were once controversial and contemporary? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words used for praise make me wonder if the Israelites would have been called demonic or wordily because of their music styles:

      • Trezire Reforma

        Brother, personally, I consider David’s style of worship a going back to Hebrew style of worship, but we are the Church, where we do not need to go back to Hebrew style. Where can we find in the NT huge disco shows in the Church? Where we can find these rock concerts? For me it’s an embarrassment to dance, listening hard core music, (which is like an addiction drug) and to call myself a christian. We rarely find in NT the word “sing” which tells me that christian of that time were not so deepened in worship theology of today. So, in my view, worship means to pray, sing, express words that glorify God, the Father, or Jesus, which we can do it without so much disco style. We can do it even with no musical instruments, in case we would want to return to NT church model, probably none of us would need musical instruments. I do call this music demonic, but surely I can call it worldly.

        • Shawn Matthew

          I’m not saying we need to go back to the Hebrew style of worship, I’m just pointing out that their worship was acceptable to God, and is surely comparable to that which you condemn. I think we all have our own preferences in ho we corporately worship God – but we must not apply our preferences as a matter of right and wrong… especially when Scripture is mute on the topic (or not mute, as I showed with OT worship).

          • Trezire Reforma

            But see that’s exactly what charismatic is defending over and over, dancing as David did, shouting laud as in psalms, etc. I live in very orthodox country and if look carefully at their religion, they a mixture, they have hundreds of pagan elements in their faith, and some of the OT teachings mixed with some NT creeds. If we look today in a lot of Charismatic movements they import a lot a stuff from the contemporary pagan worship, music, films and media and go back to David style. So in a sens they get a mixture, Christianity teachings, pagan music and worship, Hebrew things, but we return to old debate of fist disciples of Jesus after penticost: Christianity is not Hebrew culture, Christianity is not pagan syncretism, Christianity is something total new!

          • Shawn Matthew

            Tell me how your church worships and I’ll show you “pagan music” in the same exact style…

            And you do realize that the first disciples were all Jews, met in the temple complex, etc.? They actually did not do away with Jewish culture and customs – they just refused to bind Gentiles by them.

          • Trezire Reforma

            I tell you how we worship, most of the time we kneel down to pray, sometime we stand and pray. We also we sing with our voices. I don’t say that we do not allow people coming to sing with instruments but we do not usually sing with them. I am not against using instruments, but in this issue it must be with common sense. See you recognize that apostles did not bind Gentiles to their rituals and style, then why so many Christians bind themselves or try to bind other Christians to sensual style of music, rock, pop, or other music that is renown in some cases as satanic worship. If somebody will try to understand this stupid music industry and balance it, someone must admit that a lot music of today is like a powerful drug. Think a millions of youths addicted to music, I don’t care which style, think of sensuality of this music stars, clothing, makeup, etc. I still remember first time in India, a night when we were invited to teacher where she had a class of girls to dance. What devilish thing, it was a trap, I get up immediately and left, the rest of the team remained there. When I got home, I met a sister that was Hindu before she became Christian and I told her my story, she was the wife of the local missionary. Her reactions was firm, we Christians have nothing to do with this pagan worship. Sadly, today, the Church in West is caught in the trap of the society that suffers so deeply of a spiritual vacuum. They try every devilish thing to fill their religions vacuum and the Church is trying to adopt her people to this worldly and pagan culture. Most gays from the Church in the West do not understand their situation, their syncretist views, their conformation to the world blinded themselves. A lot of you would be ready to came as missionaries in other countries, but the Church from receiving countries would consider them unconverted to Christianity when they come with their worldly style, You may send missionaries abroad, you may send aid in foreign countries, but, remember, the Church from the West exported so much garbage in our countries so for, for a few generations will be impossible to clean it up.


          • Silverdire

            Thank you Trezire Reforma for your excellent comments. I say very good! I don’t know where you come from, what is the country you live in but, excellent speech!

            My experience is that we don’t really need to figure out what style of music we can use. If we are true believers and have a good relationship with the Holy Spirit, we will know what music is holy. As you say with many shallow and distant relationships with the Spirit of Christ many seek intellectually what music is right. But we ought to musically love with the heart towards Christ, not with the brain, to make us feel good!

            Indeed the pagan worldly influence is so prevalent in our western church culture today. The polyrhythmic music we have allowed to creep on us seeking in a pagan way greater spiritual buzz, has corrupted the spiritual discernment. Society and some of the church is already fooled to call what is bad good and good, bad! Apart from music homosexuality is the most obvious.

            Recently I heard a testimony of a young Christian man brought up in Christian family all set for success He got progressively into that music addiction thing you mention about. For a long story short; that sent him in a long period of time, to end on a heavy usage of hard drug. Today, Praise God for His forgiveness of sin, he goes around trying to educate about that evil enrolment, that is modern “techno” and other pagan mixed musics. It generally stirs and draws to the sins of the flesh…, and some in the name of Christ? Should we be surprised that many young people walk out of the church and of their faith today more than ever, with more music than ever? It is such an unobtrusive insidious evil influence! Should we be so dumb not to realise these dynamics? But… there is pair pressure and fashion. Powerful tools to induce sin unfortunately, how not to love it?

            We hear at this time about the bomb thrown into the midst of Charismatics by John McArthur but it seems that they also needed a wake up call and a loud one! Who knows if some would even wake up and do something about it rather than appeal, about the size of the blast… And the music aspect is also to be taken in consideration for that matter! But will they?

            Nice to read your post Trezire. God bless for your discerning and pure heart to worship. For Christ is the only Worthy One to received our unaltered worship. Amen!

          • Trezire Reforma

            Thank you for your appreciation. I am from Romania, Eastern-Europe. God be glorified! @revivreforma

  • Jeremy

    With respect, you very much misunderstood or misheard or misread John’s comments on Challies. He’s not “retreating” from anything he said. He is being very respectful. Being raised in Charismatic Theology and living with it for 25+ years, I’ve not once seen the miraculous gifts performed in the manner and way of the Scriptures. JM’s conference was needed and should have been done sooner. JM’s points are very solid Biblically along with just tracing the roots to so much of this movement and belief. It’s not good. The main points I always get from most Charismatics revolves around their experiences and feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing.

    • Shawn Matthew

      You just appealed to your own experiences, not Scripture. Therefore, now when charismatics tell you about all of their experiences with signs, wonders and miracles – you can’t tell them that their experiences are an invalid measure of truth.

      • Jeremy

        What experience did I appeal to? The fact that all of the “manifestations” of the Spirit I saw never lined up with Scripture? That’s not experience that’s observation based upon what is revealed from Scripture.

        • That’s exactly what continuationiists would say! They have observations based on what is revealed in scripture. That’s what most Protestants mean (cessationist or not) when they refer to experience or give testimony.

        • Shawn Matthew

          “Being raised in Charismatic Theology and living with it for 25+ years, I’ve not once seen the miraculous gifts performed in the manner and way of the Scriptures.”

          You’re appealing to your experience of not witnessing, after 25+ years in a charismatic context, miraculous gifts performed in the manner and way of the Scriptures.

          A charismatic could say the opposite, based on his many years of experience in a charismatic context where he witnessed miraculous gifts performed in a biblical manner.

    • I’m sorry you grew up in a bad church or couple of churches. There are, unfortunately, too many of those of both cessationist and continuationiist stripe. If others have seen gifts operate in a manner consistent with the NT, what would you recommend they believe?

      • Jeremy

        Brother, I don’t know about that. I can only say believe the scriptures and what they show. They show that these miraculous gifts given to the apostles were amazing and not something that could be denied. To see them operate in a consistent manner today I guess would mean that people start talking other known languages which they previously didn’t know and them being interpreted, but not more than 2 or 3 at a time, and that people get healed immediately from being crippled and get up and run around, with no waiting. I guess there would be new revelation to be written down too, right? I’m not trying to be smug at all, I hope you know that. I’ve just never seen any of that the way its described in the NT, therefore I stay away to be safe. I’ve seen too much get passed for the Holy Spirit that to be honest looked more demonic. Blessings to you and yours.

        • On the upside, I’m with you about scripture being the leader in our theology. I’ve seen tongues interpreted to wonderful effect (this post has a good story of mine, if that would matter). As to revelation, by which I assume you mean a prophetic message, you should realize that the scriptures make it clear that while all scripture is prophetic (I’ll give my best definition in a second), not all prophetic messages or actions are intended to be scripture. Scripture has a very unique purpose for all God’s people for all time. Not all prophetic messages or actions are intended to be scripture, as the practice in Ephesus and Corinth makes clear (and there are many other such examples).

          Briefly, I see prophecy (from the verses given below and more) as something (usually little) that God reveals to a person or persons that they didn’t know apart from his direct help. For example, the love chapter says “if I have the gift of prophecy, and [even to such a degree that I] can fathom (perceive) all mysteries . . .” So, at it’s base, prophecy is God giving direct insight or direction based on insight that is beyond the person’s natural ability, which is a very broad area, given all our limitations of knowledge. The insight can be what particular godly message or teaching needs to be given to a particular person or people at a given time, or it can be about the future or past or the present. The woman at the well, for instance, when Jesus tells her about her present and past “husbands” says in response, “I see you are a prophet!” While that “revelation” was nothing to build a theology on, it had tremendous personal significance. Similar when Jesus said to Nathaniel, “When you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Further, Paul says that if an unbeliever walks in to a gathering in which Christians are prophesying, “the secrets of their heart will be laid bare” and they will acknowledge God’s presence and activity in the group. More could be said, but I hope you get the idea. Prophetic “revelations” can be small, by that I mean specific to persons and times and not giving any doctrine at all. Or they could also be sound, tested, biblical doctrine that God knows should be presented to a specific person at a specific time in a specific way. I have seen and even done this on many occasions, and God received much praise and love for it, and people were built up in their faith in him. How else should we categorize these experiences when we see the same things talked about in Scripture as “prophetic”?

          • Jeremy

            Briefly and I’ve got to be done, I would agree with you in the sense that the Holy Spirit illuminates the scriptures to us as we read and study them. The non-believer reading for academic purposes may can ace a multiple choice quiz but not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins and rose on the 3rd day. I believe as we’re faithful, God does open our eyes and minds to His truth. That is miraculous in a sense.

            As stated before, cessationist don’t teach that God no longer does miracles. Salvation is a wonderful miracle as we can no more change our hearts than a leopard can his spots. God most certainly does heal sometimes through the prayers of His people that can’t be explained by modern medicine. I’ve seen it happen and we rejoice in these! What we do say is that God is not giving these “miraculous gifts” to individuals in the way he did the apostles back in that era. And i’m sorry, but it seems those in the spot light who claim that He is and they’re the ones He’s giving it too, almost always turn out to be immoral or a sham, certainly not above reproach. The healing gift is a huge example of that as I can’t drive across the country side without seeing a sign asking me to come to a church and receive “my miracle” or be healed of my sickness. This is not how it was done in the NT. Jesus, and some some of the apostles laid hands on them and said get up and walk and “immediately” they got up and walked. Jesus raised a man from the dead for crying out loud. That’s not happening today. This authenticated that He truly was God. God is not working through man that way today, He doesn’t need to. Salvation ultimately is not about perfect health and healing of my physical body, its about being reconciled to God through which I can do nothing to accomplish that. Jesus did it for me. I must repent, trust and believe the Gospel.

            I hope this makes sense, but I see that when you open the door for the possibility of these things in the church, you really open up Pandora’s box and it just snowballs from there. If someone says they have a word from the Lord, how do you discern that? They said they did, are they lying? How do we know?

            The foundation of the church has been laid, we don’t need to go back re lay it. There’s a reason Paul charged Timothy to preach always, be ready in and out of season. We see no charge in the NT to practice such gifts. They are simply recorded for God’s glory and for us to believe they happened by an awesome and all powerful and mighty God. A God that I believe you worship along with I. I’m just trying to keep our worship biblical and pleasing to Him, not to please to us.

            Again, I mean no ill will or harmful speech.

          • Jeremy

            Plus I’ll add one more thing since this post is about MacArthur. He is by no means infallible, but we must give credit where credit is due. JM knows scripture, better than most anyone. He’s spent his life studying God’s Word and has been faithful for decades. I find it much suspect when people attack him and most always use no scripture to do so. I’m not saying you’re doing that, but I’m seeing it all over the web. JM is wrong! (no biblical reason why) The why reason is because their “experiences” tell them otherwise, which could be why the Holy Spirit moved Peter to write 2 Peter 1: 17-21. We should always place scripture above experience.

          • Shawn Matthew

            There are some charismatics who hold a high view of Scripture, and because of that they are charismatics.

          • Jeremy,

            I hear you. This is the one area that I know of where the folks who most champion sola scriptura use a totally different approach. There are so very many verses in the NT that teach and example the gifts (including specific commands to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy!). In order to disobey these direct commands in scripture, I want clear and hard scriptural support. So where is it? I’ve got clear teachings from Paul valuing all the gifts, commanding me to desire them, teaching me how to do them (and how not to) and what purposes they serve. So where does Paul or some other scripture writer tell me, just as explicitly if not more so, that these parts of scripture no longer apply to me? By what warrant do I ignore the apostle (let alone Jesus, who says believers will do the kinds of things he did) on this subject, and teach others to do likewise? I know of no other area of theology in which so many conservative Christians allow vague inferences to overturn direct, explicit commands of the NT. It’s precisely because I dare not do so that I bought into continuationism before I had experienced any of it, to my knowledge.

          • Jeremy,

            I’ve gotten no ill will from you. Quite the opposite, so no worries. If you can’t respond today or ever, I understand, but the conversation has been civil and illuminating. I hope we can continue given that. I’ll do my best not to misunderstand cessationism.

            You didn’t quite reply to my questions, especially as to where we put the present experiences that the NT seems to put in the prophetic category. For those of us who have believers and unbelievers come into our gathering, and have the secrets of their heart laid bare and therefore say “God is really here!” — how should we categorize that experience biblically when the bible seems to call it prophecy?

            Also, I’d like to discuss a few statements from your last comment: “it seems those in the spot light who claim that He is and they’re the ones He’s giving it too, almost always turn out to be immoral or a sham, certainly not above reproach.” So, several charlatans fake healings, etc. to make money. People did this in Paul’s day. People still do it. The existence of fakes (especially on TV) doesn’t prove anything. There are fake “preachers” in cessationist camps too; it doesn’t mean there aren’t real ones. As long as people can make money off of the Lord’s name, some will do that. That healings “sell” well isn’t proof that God doesn’t do them, as cessationists attest.

            Secondly “I can’t drive across the country side without seeing a sign asking me to come to a church and receive “my miracle” or be healed of my sickness. This is not how it was done in the NT.” And cessationism is more like the NT!? We can have another conversation about the way churches use billboards (often badly), but, in the NT, I see Jesus, the apostles and the churches experiencing both healing (though not universally or at will) and other gifts, even amidst great confusion, ignorance and even some immorality (See Corinth).

            Finally, “when you open the door for the possibility of these things in the church, you really open up Pandora’s box and it just snowballs from there. If someone says they have a word from the Lord, how do you discern that? They said they did, are they lying? How do we know?” Paul and Jesus both devote teaching to those subjects. Let me suggest that we have very similar questions on teaching doctrine (as this and other debates demonstrate). In both cases (trying to discern true teaching as well as true prophetic work) we count on the Spirit to help us discern as we individually and communally test things against the scriptures–for teaching and prophecy. But I don’t feel the need to correct all people everywhere on all things (for teaching or prophecy). Proximity and severity of error matter.

            I hope that helps. Best to you and thanks.

          • Jeremy

            Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

            Its apparent that you and I won’t agree on the meaning of this verse, which is where much of this comes from. But it clearly states that tongues will cease, and they did. Cease means comes to a real stop. No more. No real record of them late in the NT or in church history till the 1800’s when oddly enough Joseph Smith was said to speak in tongues. Oh there’s rare oddities here and there throughout history, but nothing like what we see today. This movement of them didn’t really take off till 1905 or 06. Then the men who lead these “revivals” turned out to be immoral men. So while we are told to test the spirits, the roots of this movement are not solid at all.

            We can prophesy in the sense that we teach or preach God’s word. But prophesy for new revelation? I don’t buy it. Sorry. Scripture is closed and God has spoken what is needed for eternal life, and will come again in His due time. If one reads Revelation last after reading the whole Bible, its like, ok, what more does God need to say? I dare not speak for Him, but it certainly is clear to most that He’s finished speaking for now.

            When you mention present experiences that the NT refers to as prophetic, I’m just not sure what you’re referring to, and I grew up in and was Charismatic for 25+ years. And i’m not saying the whole experience was bad, I believe the Lord saved me while in those churches and I do have fond memories of a lot of wonderful people. But there was a lot of confusion and not much exposition of scripture if any at all. I was taught you could lose your salvation, needed to seek a second blessing from being filled with the Holy Spirit, and evidence of course was speaking gibberish. I was taught that I could bind satan, sang songs about him being under my feet. I could go on and on with stuff that you and I both know are not scriptural. I find that all Charismatics I come across believe those things. I realize all may not, but it seems the overwhelming majority do.

            I’d say if you really want to understand all of this from a Cessationist stand point, give JM’s book a chance, buy a cheap used copy or something when available. Read it. I read Charismatic Chaos 15 years ago and it made me mad. I thought JM was a jerk. But I kept going back to how he backed up everything with exposition of scripture, something that was foreign to me. God used that book and teaching to slowly remove me from the movement. I still have family in it so I don’t hate them or anything. My heart just breaks over much that I’ve seen.

            But alas, to my original reason for posting here to begin with, Adrian is incorrect here. JM is not retreating from any of what was said at all. He’s taught these things for decades. This is just the first time they’ve had a conference on it. He’s quite used to be slammed for his teaching.

      • Brandon

        In Tue time of Corinth, I believe through scripture we can see that those who previously abused the gifts had them d

        • Brandon,

          You must be on your smart phone. Been there. Hope you can finish that comment.

  • Keith Schooley

    I’ve written before about an internal self-contradiction in cessationism. Cessationism treats the Bible as essentially a systematic theology whose primary value lies in the doctrinal information one derives from it. But the Bible is not that. It is a narrative that, among other things, bears witness to the ongoing work of God among people. The cessationist is in a very similar position to those addressed by Jesus in John 5:39-40: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Scripures are not an end unto themselves, and to make them into that is a form of idolatry. The Scriptures point to a reality outside themselves, and surely the narratives about God directly interacting with humans point to God’s ability and willingness to do that with the reader.

    • Jeremy

      With respect, would you say that God is still giving new revelation? Would you not agree that the Scriptures are God’s way of revealing Himself to us? Should we not hold the scriptures in most highest regard? Think about what Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 19-21. Was Jesus not clear that if we don’t listen to the prophets (scripture) that we won’t even listen to a dead man who comes from the grave to warn us? Might you rethink your position on John 5:39-40 placing the Cessationist in the boat with the pharisees? Cessationist don’t believe that God can’t or doesn’t still perform miracles, I know He does. But we believe that he doesn’t give the miraculous gifts to individuals today the way he did the Apostles. Would you agree with that?

      One other point, the Jews most certainly thought that eternal life was in the scriptures because they knew the scriptures better that most and rested in their knowledge of them for salvation, and the fact that they were Jews and believed chosen through the bloodline. Yet they clearly missed God when He stood right before them. They failed to recognize their sinfulness and turn to Him. Certainly the most staunch Calvinist OR Charismatic could fall in that boat. Nothing there about needing miraculous signs for salvation, even though they witnessed them in Jesus! The still wanted to kill Him.

      • Keith Schooley

        Hi Jeremy,

        Thank you for a kind and thoughtful reply. Sorry it took so long to respond – I had to go to work.

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at with the string of (rhetorical?) questions in your first paragraph. I agree that the Scriptures are one of God’s ways of revealing Himself to us, and certainly the preeminent one. Yet Scripture itself describes other ways that God reveals Himself: “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.” It also describes a number of prophets whose prophecies never made it into Scripture (Philip’s daughters). This is my point exactly: you can look to the Scriptures and find non-scriptural ways in which God interacted with human beings.

        When you write that “he doesn’t give the miraculous gifts to individuals today the way he did the Apostles,” what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about the Twelve? Does that include Matthias, or Paul? Are you including others who are referred to in Scripture as Apostles? What about non-Apostles like Luke, Mark, and Jude who were used to write authoritative Scripture? Nothing is clearer in Scripture that miraculous gifts were not limited to the Apostles.

        The main point that I think you are making is that believing in present-day revelation from God somehow threatens the authority of the closed canon of Scripture. All I can say is that every Charismatic and Pentecostal church I’ve ever been to has always placed Scripture above any present-day revelation. In fact, the first test of any prophecy or divine knowledge is whether it conflicts with Scripture.

        • Jeremy

          No worries, we’re all busy and don’t have the time we would like to discuss these things. I ask those questions because its hard for me to figure out what many Charismatics do believe as it seems to run the spectrum. I appeal to 2 Cor. 12 where Paul writes The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. These were signs given to the Apostles to authenticate the message, to prove they were who they said they were. So, If you have a whole line of people and they all claim to be apostles, you look for the ones who bear the marks of an apostle, the sign of an apostle. how do you identify an apostle? Well an apostle had to have seen the risen Christ. Acts chapter 1 makes it very clear that someone who is going to be chosen to fill the position of Judas, somebody was going to be permitted to take his place in the Twelve and it turned out to be Matthias, had to have been an eye witness of the resurrection, have to have had a direct call from the Lord Jesus Christ, be appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, which was done by a miraculous superintending of the casting of lots by which Matthias was selected by the Lord Himself.

          The apostle Paul saw the Lord on the Damascus road and several other times and was personally called out of darkness into light and called to be an apostle by Christ Himself. So we could say one of the signs of an apostle was that he had seen the risen Christ and been directly and personally called by Christ to this office. There are a number of other remarkable characteristics and elements of apostleship. The apostles were also marked out, they had a complete knowledge of the gospel derived by the direct revelation from Jesus Christ. The apostles didn’t read the gospel from anybody that had written it down, they got it directly from Jesus Christ. He explained to them why He came. He explained to them that He had to die. He explained to them that He would rise again. He explained to them that He would go to heaven. He explained to them that He would return and establish His Kingdom on the earth. Jesus explained it all to them with His own lips during His time on earth, including His post-resurrection 40 days when He filled in all the remaining teaching about the Kingdom. By this definition which I believe to be biblical, we don’t have apostles walking around today.

          So yes, one can most certainly look at the heavens and earth and know there is “a” god, but the scriptures and scriptures along testify to who that God really is. Hope this makes sense. I don’t need any more revelation as God has given and preserved for us everything we need to know for eternal life. I’ve seen (not saying your in this camp) too many charismatic preachers practice control over their flock by using the words “God told me this” and so forth. While I admit we can agree to disagree on some of the definitions and meanings of the words in scripture around these issues, I don’t see the need for much of what I’ve seen the pentecostal/charismatic church push. Just a side note, I was in that movement for 25+ years. I’m very familiar with it and while it wasn’t all bad, there was a ton of confusion, which we both know God can’t be the author of.
          Hope this makes sense, have a great day.

          • Keith Schooley

            Jeremy, it’s great to be able to have a real discussion, instead of an argument, with mutual respect and love on both sides.

            I think the key line in your response is, “what many Charismatics do believe … seems to run the spectrum.” Indeed, and if MacArthur were merely combating the excesses of the movement, including especially the so-called “Faith Movement,” I’d be highly supportive. But it’s too easy to squelch the Spirit in order to control the abuses. That’s what Paul could have done in 1 Corinthians 14 to deal with the clear abuses going on there. But he doesn’t. In fact, as much as the Corinthians were abusing tongues, he cautions against going to the opposite extreme and forbidding them in verse 39. This is exactly where I think MacArthur has gone too far.

            I think we agree on several points: There are no modern-day apostles (by definition) in the sense of people who have seen the risen Christ in the flesh.The Bible is God’s preeminent revelation of Himself (at least, now that Jesus has ascended) and contains everything necessary to lead us to a saving knowledge of Him. We don’t need any extra revelation *for salvation*. Leaders do often manipulate and control people through stuff like “God told me this.” And there is a lot of confusion, mainly by bad Bible teaching that lends itself to people relying on the teacher’s ferreting out of “hidden meanings.” We can agree on all that, I think.

            Here’s where I think we disagree. Your argument seems to create a chain of authority: first Jesus, then the Apostles (by definition, only one generation), and then the Scriptures. But I don’t think there is such a nice and neat transfer of authority as all that. First of all, as I mentioned before, God used several non-Apostles to write significant portions of the New Testament, so that takes down the idea that only an Apostle can give the kind of inerrant prophetic word that gets written in Scripture. The Apostles themselves didn’t have a perfect understanding of the implications of the Gospel, which is why Paul had to oppose Peter to his face (Galatians 2). For this reason, I don’t think we can accord the kind of nearly papal infallibility to the apostles that a cessationist wants.

            People other than the 12 (plus Matthias, plus Paul) are called “apostles” in Scripture (e.g., Acts 14:14, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6), which undermines the idea that the Apostles were a unique group with inerrant authority. (Personally, I think an “apostle” is a church-planting missionary; I’ve written more about that here.) And the scriptures themselves talk about people other than the Apostles prophesying and doing miracles. The only thing that suggests that these things should stop is a sketchy exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8.

            Actually, I think our situation is very similar to that in the New Testament. There were true apostles and false apostles. There was good teaching and bad teaching. There were true gifts and counterfeit gifts and perhaps true gifts used badly–hence the repeated exhortations to discernment. I think the best course of action is not to invent a theology that excludes miraculous gifts a priori. The best course is to prayerfully discern when gifts are being correctly used and when they are not.

            God bless you, my brother.

  • Young Calvinist

    Adrian, I watched the conference and this is not what Dr MacArthur said – “MacArthur then tries to distance himself from the idea that nothing good has come out of the charismatic movement claiming he didn’t say that or mean that.” What is your interest in twisting his words?

    • Shawn Matthew

      “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. We’ve had an accurate biblical interpretation and sound doctrine long before the Charismatic movement happened, going all the way back to the Apostles, a clear stream of truth. The Charismatics haven’t added to that, but have brought chaos, confusion, misinterpretation.

      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.

      Have people truly been saved in Charismatic churches? Yes. But nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. [That is, not that there is nothing good from Charismatics, but the good is in spite of the movement, and not because of.] The Gospel was the reason they were saved, and it wasn’t invented by that movement. In some places it’s still intact. In some it’s not.

      Nothing coming from the Charismatic movement has provided recovery or strengthening of the biblical Gospel. Nothing has preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion, and error. 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 to the people in the movement doesn’t come from the movement, but in spite of it.” – MacArthur.

      I don’t really see twisting of words. MacArthur clearly states that the good in the charismatic movement does not come from the movement itself, and exists in spite of the movement.

  • TimRake

    “a man of his statue”? Really? You’re a published author? A man of your stature ought to do better!

    • Very droll. Typos are harder to cast out than demons! Have exorcised this one now tho so thanks!

  • Martin Smith

    JM isn’t nearly as harsh as Jesus will be when he comes back.

  • Corey

    I’m sorry, but when you made the point about why would it be necessary for apostolic gifts between the death of the last apostle and the councils that determined the extent of scripture, you’re not even beginning to TRY to understand what John is saying. Think about it… at the time the councils chose the extent of the scriptures, those scriptures had already been completed. John was’n’t referring to the time between the apostles death and the time of canonical choosing, but rather up until the time of the last scripture being inked. Big difference! So, there is no interim since the scriptures that were chosen, were finished BEFORE the death of the last apostle. That’s so logically obvious that I can’t possibly conceive how you can overlook something like that and make such a thoughtless point and expect me not to believe that your article is not completely motivated by a self-fulfilling biased argument. Not to mention John even says, those gifts were no longer available AFTER the apostolic age. Wouldn’t it go without saying that his point doesn’t include anytime AFTER the apostles death? Once the last apostle has died, that’s the end of that age.

  • Geoff Hughes

    One becomes atrue Christian by genuinely repenting and turning to God in Christ and then live the rest of their life the same way. When I see in the Bible that genuine tongues are actually real languages spoken to people who know their own language I now understand and I refuse to accept any other interpretation of scripture on this doctrine. People who claim to be Christians and insist on speaking in gibberish are , as far as I am concerned, counterfeit Christians, IFthey refuse to repent of this sin as any other sin. They are denying the authority of scripture which is equivalent to denying the God who bought them with His precious blood. Jesus said scripture cannot be broken andwhen these people come running to Him professing their devotion ,He will profess to them a confession of His own: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. I never knew you. The word of God is black and white, clear,not confusing, clean and pure, not obtuse up for grabs to every strange interpretation and every false bible teacher and false convert.

  • Geoff Hughes

    When someone writes on this site that it doesn’t matter whether an apostle commanded a healing or whether the whole church prayed for the healing, the only thing that matters is that there was a healing I am flabbergasted.. Talk about man centered instead of God centered!. Well sir, It matters to God. This is His self revelation to us, His creatures. What matters is His Glory, and He says that there was a time when He granted such power to mere men. Im sorry but you need to repent of such foolishness and start praising Him for granting to His church today the of prayer ANDin the past the powergiven to certain men to command healing.