Strange Fire: John MacArthur responds further to his critics

Strange Fire: John MacArthur responds further to his critics November 11, 2013

The second part of John MacArthur’s interview with Challies has been released. You are encouraged to read it for yourself but here are the headlines, in which all except one are very sad for me to read:

  • MacArthur refuses to agree that Baptism and Eschatology and the charismatic debate are secondary issues, but states that the charismatic issue is more significant.
  • MacArthur denies that Muslims are being converted through dreams of Jesus. (See for example this).
  • For the first time that I have noticed MacArthur does give SOME room to the idea that God may use certain cognitive purposes: “Now, can God providentially work in such a way as to use people’s thoughts and impressions to draw them to faith in Jesus Christ? Yes, I believe that’s possible. As I noted earlier, God can do whatever He wants. But that work is neither revelatory nor miraculous.”
  • MacArthur refuses to join in any event that would involve him dialoguing with charismatic scholars.
  • MacArthur again states that all charismatic teaching is serious error and doesn’t seem to make any distinction for the various shades of charismatic.  See for example these quotes:

“Drawing attention to serious error—error that’s being tolerated even in some of the otherwise-healthiest of churches—in order to recover and uphold the truth is a loving thing to do.”

“Errant pneumatology is not ancillary to the charismatic movement. It is the very thing that defines it. And when an entire movement is defined by a heterodox theology that threatens the purity of the church by tolerating and even promoting false forms of the gospel, it must be boldly confronted.”

“I do believe that modern tongues is an unsafe spiritual practice”


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  • David

    For me, the glaring distraction in Dr. MacArthur’s responses is in part one where he says, “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.”

    In the 1990’s, Rev. Marvin Rosenthal and the late Robert Van Kampen (to whom MacArthur dedicated the first edition of “The Gospel According to Jesus”), challenged MacArthur in a direct way on pretribulationism. Just as MacArthur challenges Charismatics out of his love for the Church, they spared no passion in their love for the Church when confronting him on the errors of pretribulationism. With that long-past confrontation in mind, the same assertion Dr. MacArthur makes in part one of Challies’ interview can be leveled against him with the following paraphrase and amplification:

    MacArthur’s unwillingness to offend his own seminary staff (i.e., “personal relationships with [pretribulational] friends”) and the “pervasive impact [pretribulational] theology has had on the wider culture” reveals to us that our esteemed present-day theologians like Dr. MacArthur are not exempt from the very thing they disdain: a disinclination to honestly and openly evaluate their system of doctrine against Scripture, allowing Scripture to correct obviously-flawed & contradictory exegesis upon which their eschatological view is based, a view that arguably creates the kind of lukewarm Church that Jesus warns about.

    In other words, Dr. MacArthur “lovingly” laments real damage Charismatic Christianity has ostensibly inflicted upon the Church, while at the same time ignores calls over the years for him to evaluate the real damage to the Church others believe has been propagated by bad eschatology, an eschatology he preaches and cannot even question without alienating his Seminary colleagues.

    Even in the narrower sense of appealing to churches that really do preach the gospel, such as the Assemblies of God or Sovereign Grace Churches, it would seem that Dr. MacArthur just expects people to listen to him and shout (by virtue of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, no less), “Eureka! We see the light and the error of our thinking! We hereby change our theology!”, while at the same time he is immovable in his own certainty in the realm of pretribulational eschatology, which has seen broad, cross-denominational rejection over the past quarter century.

    If Continuationism is broadly-bad because of it fictitious outworking, association with bad teachers, and exegetical fallacy, then what of this eschatological view MacArthur holds? Arguably, it is 1) the very fodder for decades of gross apocalyptic fiction; 2) allows for people to accept the Mark of the Beast and yet repent (violating Revelation 14:9-12 in no uncertain terms); and 3) has seen greater exegetical dismantlement than perhaps any other broadly-held view of British & American churches in the past 150 years. Even MacArthur is not exempt from guilt-by-association when he continues to defend a strange and relatively new eschatological position that is particularly championed by the heretical “Mid-Acts Pauline Dispensationalists”. While he makes a solid case against the Benny Hinn extreme of the Charismatic spectrum (which one might argue is outside the true Church), his own eschatology is just as dangerous inside the true Church of Jesus Christ, given that it does not prepare the Christian against deception. Rather, it demonstrably anesthetizes the Christian to the reality of persecution & pressure immediately prior to the return of Jesus Christ. The fact is, MacArthur defends his own Strange Fire masquerading as truth: the Strange Fire of pretribulationism and, by extension, the fictional fruit of “Left Behind”.

    I was at the Shepherd’s Conference when Dr. MacArthur said, “I want to be corrected, but I don’t know what I don’t know.” He’s been challenged. But we have no evidence that he is as willing to listen and be corrected as he would expect John Piper or Wayne Grudem to be.

  • quin

    Who cares what this guy thinks. He looks for things to divide on, he loves division. This is giving the moron too much oxygen.

  • And then Alan Kurschner makes this “revealing” comparison: http://www.alankurschner.com/2013/11/15/strange-trib/

  • kuruus

    if the gifts of the Spirit have ceased then why hasn’t the greatest gift the the Spirit, salvation, ceased? I respect MacArthur quite a bit, but his absolute denial of anything miraculous is extreme.