Strange Fire Debate stoked by Grace To You Internet Ministry Coordinator

Strange Fire Debate stoked by Grace To You Internet Ministry Coordinator February 15, 2014

Over on Twitter, and also in the comments section of my recent post about how Christians should behave online, someone who describes himself as a representative of Grace To You (although he has been in touch to make clear that his posts on Twitter are not in his official capacity) has been string up the embers of debate that I have left alone for weeks now.  This is far from over, however, and I see that many people are still reading, and writing about the debate even after all these months.

I believe that the whole Strange Fire episode was the most divisive intervention by a major church leader in my lifetime. If you somehow missed the whole issue, I have multiple posts on it here, or you can see some of the highlights linked later in this post.

In fact, Church leaders who are not part of Grace To You (GYT) or closely associated with it seem largely to share my concerns. They are either publicly opposing it, or are privately embarrassed that MacAthur would approach things this way. I have not yet found a single leader outside GTY willing to go on record as supporting the way this was all approached by them.  That should concern the folks at GTY, but I don’t think it does.

UPDATE
The only proposed support anyone has been able to offer to counter my assertion is this clip from Albert Mohler starting at the 12-minute mark.

I’m afraid that link won’t do. Yes Mohler is cessationist. Many are. Yes he agrees with MacAthur’s arguments. But he is very anxious to say that charismaticism per se is not a heresy contrary to MacArthur’s comments catalogued here. Mohler is also careful to say he is not an an fry cessationist and doesn’t attempt to justify MacArthur’s more inflammatory statements.

If MacArthur had spoken like Mohler we would not have had the firestorm we did. So the challenge remains, find me a single significant church leader not affiliated with GTY who is willing to go on record that he believes that these comments are acceptable and wise. No, I think MacArthur has succeeded in isolating himself on this point.

Most of the recent Twitter conversation can be seen in connection with the following tweet:

This post is reproducing my reply to Gabriel’s comment which can be seen at the original post.

Gabriel, you are skirting dangerously close to the edge of conformity with my blog comment pollicy by your comparison of Mike Bickle with Mormons and JW’s, which incidentally is similar to John MacArthur’s claim that charismatics as a group follow a false religion. To me the GOSPEL is the thing we must look for, and if Bickle and others believe in the gospel of Jesus why would we anathematise them over secondary issues? As far as MacArthur is concerned I have tried to be very fair to him, for example posting this:

“I’m not saying that everyone in the charismatic movement is not Christian” John MacArthur

I will not simply let this go. Unless and until MacAthur publicly apologises for some of the comments he made and admits he was wrong to make them I will not be simply giving him a pass on this. See for example this post on which I have a collection of the worst of them, although this is far from all of them:

VIDEO: MacArthur consigns charismatics to hell and likens them to Mormons

But the harsh reality is from your perspective, Gabriel, that as far as I can see NOBODY outside of the Grace to You set up have backed up MacArthur’s approach. From public and private conversations I have had it is plain to me that most reformed people are at best embarrassed and at worst appalled at the way he has gone after parts of the body of Christ. I am FAR from the only one who thinks this. Take for example this debate I had with Doug Wilson, who expressed his concern about the conference.

Premier’s Unbelievable? with Adrian Warnock and Doug Wilson on Strange Fire

I wish that MacAthur would repent for his divisive comments that have sought to make a secondary issue into a primary one. I wish that he would be willing to have a public conversation with any Bible loving charismatic of his choice. I wish that he would look that brother in the eye on camera and say, “May I apologise to you on behalf of all the charismatics I have hurt these past few months” I wish that he would be razor sharp in his focus nor scattergun in attacking real Christians.

As far as rebuking false teachers is concerned, most of those verses seem to me to be talking about the context of a local church congregation. We do have a responsibility as leaders of churches to keep our own churches pure. Fascinatingly as far as I can see most of the most egregious examples of unhelpful teachers are not part of a local church or denomination at all. Our independence as Christians is what is hurting us the most. One of the reasons I don’t speak out much against the real false teachers is because I am busy putting forth a positive message. I want to help people understand the truths of the Bible, so that they will be able to recognise for themselves falsehood. I also want to be able to receive positive things from people that I may disagree with on important secondary issues.  I have shared my thoughts on Christian TV elsewhere.

I think that a key verse for us to understand in all this debate is Ephesians 4:15-16

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Paul tells us to speak the truth, and I will concede many of the accusations MacAthur made are true. And perhaps people in the camp I am in are less good at speaking out truthfully at times.

But he also tells us to speak it in LOVE. I did not feel winsomeness on display in the conference. I did not feel love flowing to someone like me who is just trying to follow Jesus as best I can, and am a charismatic because I am convinced that is what the BIble says. I think that our camp is a lot better at showing love.

Perhaps there is a middle ground that we both need each other to discover, where we actually do speak the truth in love.

But notice the other part of the verse I quoted that speaks of EACH PART of the Body of Christ doing its work. I am concerned that if we bring division in the Body, this will prevent us from benefiting from each other. My new friend Rice Broocks spoke of how some parts of the church are good at building the structure of a fireplace but can’t light a fire. Us charismatics can sometimes light a fire alright but we burn the house down. We all need each other. See this post: God’s Not Dead: The Movie, and a new friend

The sad thing is that the number one effect of this fiasco so far is that most of my charismatic friends who said they used to listen to MacAthur’s radio ministry are now saying the do not want to do so any more. They are missing out. But I understand why. We are one Body, and we should act more like that.


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