Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Some of the Evidence for the Cessation of the Gifts of the Spirit, and the Devilish Nature of Today's Counterfeits of the Gifts

The Strange Fire Conference definitely did convince me that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that were so evident in the early church stopped completely after the apostolic era.  I had read arguments along these lines before but none of it was convincing to me as is the evidence that was given at the Conference. 

The main evidence given for this was Biblical, and most of it was given at the Conference by pastor Tom Pennington: [A Case For Cessationism]    the Biblical fact is that ALL the miracle-working powers possessed by individuals throughout the Old Testament were clearly given by God to authenticate either His messenger or the message brought by him.  There were only two periods in Old Testament history when miracles were common, and each was only 65 years in duration:  the period of Moses and the period of Elijah and Elisha.  There were isolated instances in between but those two periods were when miracles were most prolific, and in between there were very long periods when no miracles were done at all.  There were over 700 years from the last Old Testament miracle in Hezekiah's time until Christ, during which no miracles were reported.

The third and last period of miraculous working was during the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel.  There are various clues in the text that the miracles were given as God's authentication of His messenger, authenticating Christ as Messiah and the gospel message as God's.   Somehow we manage to overlook the implication of such clues as the fact that Jesus told John that if he doubted Him, at least he should believe the works He did, the works being His credentials from God [John 10:37, 38]; and He told Philip the same thing [14:11].  We also fail to grasp the implication of the fact that the Lord Jesus gave His disciples miraculous powers when He sent them out to preach the gospel, but the gospel WAS the message they were to preach:  He did not tell them to preach that miraculous powers are available to all believers as today's Charismatics teach.  Clearly He gave them those powers to authenticate the message they were to preach.  

R. C. Sproul answered the typical Charismatic claim that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, in the form originally given at Pentecost where they all spoke in tongues, is an experience all believers in all times should expect to receive, showing that the instances of separate Spirit baptism in the New Testament occurred at the entry of specific groups of believers into the Church:  the Jews, the Gentiles, the Samaritans, and the "God fearers."  I'd have to listen again to the talk to be able to argue this case myself, but I found it convincing:  each separate group represented a specific extension of the gospel into the world and God gave a special authentication at the entry of each into the Church in the repetition of the events of Pentecost, Pentecost being THE sign of the inauguration of the gospel.  That initiation was never to be repeated except in those special instances, but those special instances were in reality the gospel being given to other parts of the Foundation of the Church and not representative of all believers since then.  Once the Foundation was established and ratified, believers since then are not to expect to receive the sign of Pentecost.

There is secondary evidence as well, including the fact that apparently the miraculous powers were waning by the time Paul's ministry was drawing to a close, and that after the apostolic age they had ceased.  Charismatics try to rationalize this away on the basis of an assumed spiritual deadness in the post-apostolic churches, but that is nothing but assumption.  In fact it's just circular reasoning:  the "deadness" is proved by the cessation of the gifts.  Some of the early Church fathers as well as other Christian leaders down the centuries, declared the cessation of the gifts.  Pennington in his earlier talk quoted Calvin on that subject.

The fact that the "gifts" as practiced today are really nothing like the gifts practiced in the Apostolic era, is another piece of secondary evidence.  Today's "prophecy" is not required to be 100% accurate as biblical prophecy was required to be, although they claim it's based on the New Testament, and besides that a great many of the "prophecies" are either useless or just plain silly (I wrote about Jill Austin's "prophecies" here some time ago).   As for the gift of healing the evidence is just about nil for the thousands of claims, although in principle there is no reason God can't heal miraculously today and no doubt does from time to time;  and I'll get to the "gift of tongues" next:

Tongues speaking ought to be discredited by the mere fact that Mormons and some practitioners of pagan religions may speak in tongues, plus the fact that they are not known languages but are used entirely differently than they were used in the early church.  By the way, I supposedly HAVE the gift of tongues.  I received it while praying out loud in my bedroom during the period I was involved in the Charismatic movement.  But from the very beginning it didn't FEEL right to me, and over the years I've struggled with understanding it, have prayed the Lord would take it away but I still have it and sometimes just blurt it out.  It may be what Nee calls "soul power" in which case simply working to deny it and suppress it may be the best I can do.

What was the original gift of tongues FOR?  To demonstrate God's plan to spread the gospel to all people groups of the world, that the Messiah was not simply the Messiah of the Jews but the Savior of the entire world understood to have been promised as far back as Adam and Eve.  Again, once God's new work was authenticated there was no further need of the authenticating signs.  To continue to expect them is to completely miss the point of what God was doing.

The conclusion from all this and more is that miracles were never in themselves to be part of the gospel message but were given to establish the gospel message as coming from God.   All the emphasis on miracles is a distraction from the gospel.  Not that God doesn't sometimes still give miracles for specific purposes, but that they were never intended to be normative in the life of the Church.

There is probably more than the above evidence that I'm forgetting but I'd like to add what I wrote about in the previous post from Watchman Nee's warnings about "soul power" being mistaken for the work of the Holy Spirit. 

This isn't evidence but I find it a compelling way of understanding some of the Charismatic phenomena that is clearly not just human imagination but has a supernatural element to it, without always having to invoke demons as their author (although probably demons are behind the expression of these things in one way or another anyway.)  It's the fact that the Charismatic phenomena occur through unusual channels and are NOT something normal human abilities could produce that misleads people into thinking they are from God, figuring that Well, we're Christians so where else could such things come from?  Cessationists who think only in terms of ordinary human powers or some sort of trickery completely miss the point that the phenomena just "happen" to people and can be quite astonishing.

Nee took most of his thinking on this subject from Jessie Penn-Lewis who was involved in the Welsh revival of the early twentieth century, specifically her book, Soul and Spirit.  The writings of both of them are rather quaint as they make much of the early twentieth century "scientific" studies of parapsychology in their discussion.

And they both affirm the continuation of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.  After the Strange Fire Conference I'm now convinced that both of them were deceived about that.  They are at great pains to distinguish genuine manifestations of the God-given gifts from the counterfeits that both were acutely aware of.  Whatever miraculous events were genuinely given from God that either of them witnessed would have been done through God's sovereign will and not as a continuation of the gifts, but unfortunately many of those may also have been counterfeits. 

Penn-Lewis wrote extensively about the activity of evil spirits in connection with the revival.  It is most likely that the confusion of God's gifts with counterfeits gave place to the devil to do his work, and there is every reason to think that the devil is working among Charismatics today who have fallen into the same mistake.

Lord, set us free from the devil's deceptions.

October 30:
Now they're saying, well, Michael Brown is, that the Biblical arguments for the cessation of the spiritual gifts prove nothing. 

He also dismissed the fact that Kundalini yoga brings about the same jerkings that were so evident on videos of the Brownsville "revival."  He said if they're the result of preaching Jesus then it means nothing.  However, ALL we see on the videos is that sort of phenomena, we do not see Jesus being preached.  It is clear that those who made the video think the strange body movements are of major importance and the preaching of Jesus not so important. 

And Michael Brown doesn't seem to know that he can't just SAY Brownsville was all about preaching Jesus if there is no evidence for it, which there isn't.  But there IS evidence for all those jerkings and falling down.  Also the whole atmosphere of the "revival" on those videos is giddy rather than appropriate to a true Christian revival.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Soul Power Counterfeits the Holy Spirit: Predicting the Future

It was while listening to Friday's radio show by Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Brown Answers Your E-Questions that I decided to post again on the subject of Soul Power, even perhaps at some length, because I believe it may explain a great deal of what is experienced in Charismatic circles as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, although in reality it may be nothing but heightened natural human powers.

On that radio show Dr. Brown goes into some detail about the Charismatic claim that New Testament prophecy is different from Old Testament prophecy in that the prophet is not required to be 100% accurate.  He also tries to answer the accusation that it is new extrabiblical revelation, and I have to say I agree with him about that:  that is, most of the "prophecy" in question is focused on strictly personal individual concerns, which is an entirely different thing from the Old Testament prophecies which were given to God's People for revelation of the ways of God, which are instructions for the edification of all of us in all times and places.

But this amounts to a denial that anything like biblical prophecy is being exercised at all.  As someone at the Strange Fire Conference quipped, this denial, along with the denial that healings on the level of the New Testament are occurring today, and the denial that today's "gift of tongues" is  the same as the New Testament gift of tongues, makes closet Cessationists of Charismatics. 

There is truth in that observation.  The claimed gifts are really not like the supernatural gifts that were exercised by the Apostles and many believers in that era.

Brown gave two examples of what he means by "New Testament" style prophecy that is not like Old Testament prophecy: 

When he was teaching part time but had been privately told he would soon replace a full-time teacher on the staff, someone in his class received this knowledge in his mind and spoke it out loud.  It was true, Brown knew it was true, and he considered it to be a prophetic speaking.

Another example was given of a woman missionary to China who was told by a Charismatic prophet that he "saw" her working in Palestine although such an idea had never occurred to her.  Over some time other similar words of "prophecy" were brought to her and finally it was also confirmed in her own understanding as God's will for her, and she did eventually go as a missionary to Palestine.

If we just accept these as true reports, and I have no reason to doubt them, the question I'd have is whether either of them describes prophecy in the biblical sense at all.  And I'd answer, No.

Consider something about these two examples:  Don't they strike you as peculiarly empty and useless?  Even if true what good is there in either case of such a prediction being given?  Did either Brown or the missionary need to know about it, did it serve any purpose in their lives?  Wouldn't Brown have taken over the other teacher's job in any case, and the missionary have gone to Palestine in any case, and what good purpose did it serve for either of them to have it revealed in advance?  Isn't it obvious the answer is None?

Well, what is it then?   Is it demonic?  Not necessarily.

My guess is that it's what Watchman Nee identified as "soul power."  There can be demonic influence involved but it's nevertheless a human power, which he explains as built into human nature at the Creation but suppressed as a result of the Fall.  Although such powers are suppressed in us, it is possible to release them to expression through various disciplines such as are practiced in many of the world's religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism.  Nee discusses the ability to foretell the future as one of these "supernatural" but fallen human powers on pages 22 and 24 of his little book, The Latent Power of the Soul

He also mentions healings as one of the powers, and sees Christian Science as the practice of controlling the mind in order to bring about certain kinds of healings.  He regards such phenomena as often successful, which may or may not be borne out in reality, but his idea of how it works is interesting and compelling it seems to me.  It explains for one things the strenuous disciplines, the ascetic practices, the breathings and meditations, that many go through in Eastern religions to acquire the ability to control the mind and body.  Books written by many practitioners of Hinduism, such as Paramahansa Yogananda, often describe strange phenomena and powers that its adepts are capable of, from telepathy to telekinesis to clairvoyance and so on.  I've tended to think of these abilities as demonically inspired, but now I think this explanation is better. 

The simple repetition of a mantra or even a prayer such as the Jesus Prayer practiced by Russian mystics, can release such abilities in a person.  But such practices and disciplines aren't the only means of releasing the latent soul powers, as many Christians today have come to experience some of them from a sort of contagion, especially in a highly emotionally charged atmosphere as can occur in some "revivals."   The jerkings and shakings and falling down may include demonic involvement, or they could merely be the effect on the human frame of a heightened "religious" frame of mind that can trigger the release of the powers in question.  Again I'd recommend watching the video presentation by Andrew Strom about false spirits in the Church, which I've posted at the upper right of this blog.  It is abundantly clear that the same jerkings that occurred in the Brownsville "revival" are part of Hindu Kundalini practices as well.  How gullible we are, and so eager to embrace anything out of the ordinary that seems supernatural.

Could genuinely born-again Christians experience these things and mistake them for the Holy Spirit?  Contrary to John MacArthur who seems to believe that being born again should protect us from all such counterfeits, I don't know for sure but I'd hesitate to say they couldn't.  In any case these are NOT the biblical Gifts of the Spirit, they ARE counterfeit.  And Nee (who himself had a psychic power he at first attributed to God but then learned to renounce as contrary to Christian life) teaches that rather than allowing their expression we should die to them and deny them expression because as powers of the human soul they interfere with the genuine workings of God through the Holy Spirit.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" can apply to this subject.  If we don't know we are being deceived by a counterfeit we can fall into all kinds of error and miss the Holy Spirit altogether.


Just want to add here that Nee sees human nature as made up of three parts, body, soul and spirit, which is found in one place in the Bible, though others such as John MacArthur believe in only two parts, body and soul.


I'm inspired to collect my usual list of the Doctrines of Demons I believe the true Church has been laboring under for a long time, that we need to repent of, that we need to correct.  Yes, this is just my own opinion, but I can muster quite a bit of evidence and have done so on many of my blogs. 


1)  The denial of the head covering for women that I blog about at Hidden Glory.  I'm putting this first because although it may be the least of the deceptions in the Church, I keep having the suspicion it's not, that it's the toe in the doorway that has allowed others to push their way in.  This one has seduced many of the best preachers of our time.  Women sit bare headed in the vast majority of true Bible-believing Christian assemblies these days, an affront to God's Creation Order, an affront to the Glory of God, as expressed in verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 11:
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man.
Therefore her head should be covered in the worship service, so that not man's glory but God's glory may be on display.  Isn't it a clue that after two millennia of Christian understanding of Paul as requiring women to cover our heads, we stopped doing this about the middle of the twentieth century when feminism was taking off?

2)  The acceptance of the Bible versions that have come down from the Revision of 1881.   I've been coming to think of this as the devil's biggest triumph against the Church these days, getting true believers to accept his own clever undermining of the English Bible, from the assault on it by Westcott and Hort in 1881 through all of today's increasingly worse "translations." 

Westcott and Hort built their abomination of a "revision" on their preferred but bogus Greek manuscripts, against the instructions given to the revising committee which they came to dominate; along with an inexcusable mangling of the English in 36 thousand unnecessary changes, also against the instructions.  All to destroy the King James which they hated.  Well, they succeeded.  Now modern preachers have accepted their frauds as genuine, even to impugning the King James and its Textus Receptus as the erroneous Bible.  Oh do read John Burgon, and do listen to Chris Pinto.  Consider carefully that the devil is very smart and that there can be conspiracies clever enough to deceive us all where there is a will to undermine the true work of God.

3)  The Dragon-Sized Wolf in Sheep's Clothing is the acceptance of Roman Catholicism among true Christians.   This one is common among Charismatics, which may be the main door through which the dragon has entered.  John MacArthur has been one of the most faithful opponents of this trend in the church while other big-name preachers have been guilty of embracing as orthodox the very system that was the reason for the Protestant Reformation. 

Chris Pinto (Adullam Films and Noise of Thunder radio) has opened my eyes over the last year or so to the fact that the Roman Church has been tirelessly working without a break to destroy the Reformation and restore their former power, while true believers are taught to think of the Roman "church" as just another Christian denomination, and its Inquisition that tortured and murdered some fifty million true Christians along with another seventeen million others (yes these statistics can be supported), as dead history we can safely ignore.

There are plenty of apostate movements, cults and heresies that threaten true Christian doctrine these days, but for the most part they are recognized and rejected by true Christians and under scrutiny by many Discernment ministries.  What I'm listing are hidden insidious influences WITHIN the true Church.  The above are the top three on my list although I keep thinking I'm forgetting something. 

I could, and may, add the Charismatic Movement along with its Word-Faith/Prosperity Gospel version,  which the recent Strange Fire Conference did such a good job of exposing, even possibly Dispensationalism, which is also accepted as true Christian doctrine, and perhaps Evolutionism insofar as it has undermined the belief of true Christians in the inerrancy of the Bible.

Praise God for the resurgence of Reformed thinking in the churches, but even the Reformed are susceptible to many of these deceptions.  We need a New Reformation, we need a Revival with Holy Spirit conviction of the sins of false doctrine (that it seems to me do feed individual propensity to personal sins, which is a whole topic I've been thinking about -- but Romans 1 is a clue), and with Holy Spirit inspired repentance from all these errors.  We need Fear of God, we've lost our Fear of God.

May be back to add or correct.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bogus Bibles: A Complete Tangent to the Strange Fire issues but it was getting to me

It kept bothering me as I listened to the Strange Fire Conference so I'd like to register my objections:

I have a separate blog on the Bible manuscript controversies, The Great Bible Hoax of 1881,  and am probably hypersensitive to quotations from any of the modern Bibles, having come to regard them as based on the bogus Greek manuscripts that were introduced into all our new Bibles with the Revision of 1881.  At the Conference every time a lengthy quotation was read from -- presumably --  the New American Standard, I cringed.  The English is just plain awful in that translation, which is a different problem from the fact that it's also one of the modern versions that is based on the Critical Text, which includes the corrupt Westcott and Hort Greek text.  The NAS is considered to be a good "literal" translation, but in fact it is a klutzy rendering that is deaf to English, attempting to render the Greek in ways that are simply alien to the English language.   For one thing, it keeps on saying "keeps on doing" this that or the other, which is NOT the way ongoing action is normally conveyed in English.  John Burgon pointed out this strange mistreatment of English  -- yes it's a legacy from the 1881 Revision -- in his book, The Revision Revised, a massive critique of the 1881 Revision put out by the Westcott-and-Hort-dominated committee.


Burgon also pointed out the equally bizarre mistranslation of the Greek word "aeon" as "age" as opposed to the King James rendering, "world."   "Age" is now in most of the new Bibles and is staunchly defended as the "correct" meaning of the Greek term, at the Conference by Justin Peters if I recall correctly, although Westcott and Hort's insistence on it merely demonstrated their ignorance of nuances of translation from Greek to English (OR possibly a more sinister motive?  They DESPISED the Textus Receptus and the King James).  Of course it also bothers me that it wouldn't just be obvious that the King James translators were the highest caliber scholars who knew Greek far better than W and H did, but maybe you have to read Dean Burgon to have a sense of the difference. 

And I also cringe at the name "Yahweh" as the Name of God in the place of "Jehovah."  As for the scholarly excuses for the change - the reasons are NOT as clear as is often claimed -- even at best they are not worth the confusion and disruption of the historical usage in the minds of millions of English speaking Bible readers, not to mention the disruption of the literary and cultural heritage of centuries.  Not only does it sound to me like the name of a tribal god, a lesser god, but it shows only too tellingly the lengths to which some "scholars" are willing to go to undermine the King James Bible in one way or another.  There was NOTHING wrong with "Jehovah" just as there was nothing wrong with MANY of the English words in that Bible that the Westcott and Hort Committee chose to change, some 36 thousand UNNECESSARY changes in the English alone, that went on to spawn more and more change-for-change's sake in subsequent translations (although much of that is due to the fact that a certain number of differences from other versions is necessary for a translation to qualify for copyright). 

It's something of a puzzle why people do not simply HEAR the problem when all these different translations are compared, not to mention why we don't hear the confusion that is created by simply HAVING so many translations used by so many Christians, the cacophony, the confusion of tongues, even the simple inability to locate a verse because you've remembered its wording from a different translation.  The effect is to GARBLE THE BIBLE.  But I didn't hear it either once upon a time, I've had to learn all this stuff over the years. 

Chris Pinto is now the best source of information about what all this is REALLY about, at least the Greek manuscripts (he doesn't object to the English translations as I do).  Hint:  Vatican, Jesuits;  the Roman Catholic behemoth's plots to destroy the English Bible and ultimately whatever is left of the Protestant Reformation.  Westcott and Hort were at least Anglo Catholics, and so were/are many of the scholars who have been promoters of their Greek text.  I know, conspiracy conspiracy.  Well, you need to hear Chris Pinto and I've done some work myself toward demonstrating all this at my blogs including the Catholicism blog, nowhere near as much as needs to be done.  Pinto is the best source of all this information.

Of course this doesn't apply only to the Strange Fire Conference, it is just as true of most of today's Christian teachers, of Reformed teachers and Charismatics as well.  I do a lot of cringing these days as I listen to sermons by today's preachers.  It's just that I know MacArthur is a strong NAS guy and it started to get to me so I had to mention it.  I'd call it a "pet peeve" but obviously I take it a lot more seriously than that.


Later:  Listening to the Charismatic radio show host, Dr. Michael Brown, I encountered another common affront to the Church brought to us courtesy of the Westcott and Hort 1881 debacle, the belief that the last twelve verses of Mark are not authentic.  The vast majority of supposed Bible-inerrancy believers now accept this devil-wrought slap in the face of the Church.  Well, that's what we get for accepting the work of scholars who are unbelievers, who let their disbelief in the supernatural dictate their dating of the Bible among other things.  Not to mention scholars who are Jesuits.  How gullible today's Church is!  Is it too late to wake up?    

Friday, October 25, 2013

So the Charismatics are Missing the Points made at Strange Fire, even the "good guys."

Dr. Michael Brown, who wrote a widely circulated plea against the Strange Fire Conference before it began*, has been following up with specific answers to the Conference on his radio show, and one I just partly listened to was on October 24th titled "Thou Shalt or Thou Shalt Not Prosper" in which he either misunderstands or intentionally mangles the arguments against the Prosperity Gospel by characterizing them as being against prosperity itself.  

He goes on and on about how prosperity is a blessing from the Lord, quoting scripture, quoting a rabbi and so on, in what is such a blatant Straw Man argument you'd think he himself would have to see through it.  The first thing that popped into my mind as an objection was that far from embracing poverty the so-called Protestant Work Ethic made many wealthy through the practice of Biblical principles of frugality and hard work, and was arguably the reason for the unprecedented national prosperity of the United States. 

Brown tries to relegate the *true* offenses of the Prosperity Gospel to a fringe minority of preachers of what he calls a "carnal" doctrine (although he even calls these supposedly minority fleecers of the flock "brothers"), denying the statistic given in the Conference that some 90% of Charismatics around the world follow this health-and-wealth "gospel."  And of course he implicitly denies that every single one of those who preach this "gospel" is a charlatan and a denier of the true Christ, as was amply demonstrated at the Conference.

Later:  Need to clarify here that the statistic refers to rank and file BELIEVERS who FOLLOW the Prosperity Gospel, based on a specific report I've again failed to note down.  The percentage of preachers and even Word-Faith congregations is something else, but nevertheless there can't be a single one that is not guilty of promoting a false gospel as long as they hold up health and wealth as central expectations of living for Christ.

I want to emphasize that:  Michael Brown seems to think the problem with the prosperity teachers is mainly their "fund raising tactics," of which he gave an example on the program, but he doesn't so far seem to have objected at all to the doctrine itself that is taught by them, which IS that health and wealth are to be EXPECTED by a follower of Christ, as if they are promised as part of the gospel.  And he certainly hasn't noticed what Justin Peters pointed out in a "breakout" session at the Conference, that what they teach has nothing in common with Christianity at all, but has its roots in a nineteenth century metaphysical movement which has more in common with New Age doctrines.

Another recent radio show by Michael Brown was Dividing Over Truth or Just Divisive, the first hour being an interview with Phil Johnson of John MacArthur's ministry on some issues in the Strange Fire Conference, and the second hour an interview of two "Continuationist Calvinists." 

The main thing I want to say about this is that Johnson says the gospel is not evident in Charismatic presentations and Brown insists that the gospel is central, that people are being saved by Charismatics all over the world and so on.  The Brownsville "revival" was a case in point as Brown insisted that the true gospel was preached there, that people repented and so on, but as Johnson pointed out, there is no way for anyone to know that from the public presentations that are available to us.  The You Tube videos of the "revival," which I posted at this blog some time ago, clearly emphasize the odd manifestations, the jerking and falling down, as if they were the whole point of the revival.  And yet Charismatics will say that those things are considered to be lamentable excesses that may attend any true revival, which was Jonathan Edwards' argument about the Great Awakening.  The problem is that in practice they are not treated as fringe excesses but as the main point, they are not relegated to a dark corner of the auditorium but brought up on stage and put on display as some kind of proof of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  And a clear presentation of the gospel of salvation is not anywhere to be found, at least in any of the videos I've seen.

So Johnson said he'd like to see some proof that the gospel is preached by certain Charismatic leaders and Brown agreed to produce the evidence.  I look forward to it.

There is also a problem with the indignation about all the Charismatics working to further the gospel around the world being treated by the Strange Fire speakers as not even Christians, because the fact is that there is a lack of evidence for the claim that they ARE furthering the true gospel.  They may sacrifice themselves for their work, they may do much practical good and so on, but that doesn't prove that it is the true gospel they are preaching and serving, despite Brown's strenuous assertions that that is the case.  There is simply no evidence.  Exactly WHAT gospel ARE they preaching?  HOW are they preaching it?  IS it the true gospel and is it central to their work?  You can assert and assert that it is, and even believe it yourself, but since experience has often shown that in reality a diluted gospel or some other gospel altogether is being promoted through Charismatic work, evidence is needed.  I hope there IS evidence, I hope Brown will produce it.

Then there is this article Michael Brown wrote for a Charismatic publication, Let's Not Bite and Devour One Another, in which he tacitly accuses the Strange Fire Conference of an unloving attitude, which I for one found nowhere in the Conference, and doesn't address a single issue raised at the  Conference. 

Again a comment about the Prosperity Gospel catches my attention:
It’s the same with the prosperity gospel. Some people take it to mean “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8), which is obviously biblical and true. Others take it to mean that Jesus died to make us rich and that the test of our spirituality is the abundance of our possessions. This is a dangerous and deadly deception (Luke 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:6-10).
 But this is a disingenuous argument here.  There is nothing called the "prosperity gospel" that is based on 2 Cor. 9:8 which simply teaches God's provision for giving, and clearly the Conference was not addressing anything of the sort.  How that passage is interpreted could be subject for discussion, but it's just misleading to try to associate the Prosperity Gospel with it at all.  Perhaps Brown simply didn't listen to enough of the Conference, I guess that's possible.  He should listen to both of Justin Peters' "Breakout" sessions.
I know rich Christian businessmen who are absolutely committed to Jesus, living godly lives and believing God has given them wealth to help spread the gospel worldwide. And I don’t see them as being attached to their money at all, although they pray for prosperity in accordance with many biblical texts. I know other people who are carnal and worldly minded as they pursue prosperity with the help of some manipulating preachers. (Click here for my 1990 chapter on “The Prosperity Trap.”)
The first category of wealthy givers are known to all Christians, they are not in any sense motivated by their specifically Charismatic beliefs as the second category are.  Again, the Prosperity Gospel is the teaching that ALL Christians should expect health and wealth as part of their gospel heritage.  THAT is what the Strange Fire Conference was addressing that is not getting addressed here.  My impression is that Brown probably agrees with that teaching.

Brown is right that there is a major communication disconnect here but it's a different disconnect than he has in mind.

One last radio show for now:  Authentic Fire and Strange Fire, in which a couple of Charismatic missionaries are supposed to disprove the view that the Charismatic Movement does not produce social benefits;  in which it becomes only too clear that the biblical word "power" has one and only one meaning to Charismatics, that is, the gifts of the Spirit and similar phenomena;  in which a caller who is a Continuationist but claims to have been through MacArthur's Masters Seminary obviously didn't hear how Cessationism was defended from the Bible at the Conference;  in which a Cessationist caller is unfortunately thrown off his point by a strange analogy Brown seems to think makes sense.  Among other things.  There's a lot to respond to in this one, not sure I'll try to do that.

At least a word about the missionaries.   They were at the Brownsville revival and became missionaries as a result.  They are establishing an orphanage, rescuing babies, providing refuge for women who would abort, and many similar things.  Would John MacArthur take back his opinion that the Charismatic Movement produces "essentially zero social benefit" on hearing these things, or would he simply want to find out whether their motivation was specifically Charismatic or Christian, which was a distinction he raised more than once.  If a person goes into the Charismatic Movement as a Christian already, or just to a Charismatic "revival" as a Christian, with an already established  Christian mindset, then is any fruit they may produce Charismatic or Christian? 

Brown keeps telling us that Brownsville was characterized by the gospel of Christ;  the problem is that the publicly available evidence of the "revival" shows absolutely nothing characteristically Christian at all.  What was it about that "revival" that inspired these women to be missionaries?  When asked about the effect of the revival they affirm its importance in their decision but their description is so vague as to leave us without an answer:  one was "blown away by the power of the Holy Spirit."  To anyone who has seen the videos of the revival that most likely has to refer to the physical manifestations, the jerking and falling down and so on.  The Strange Fire Conference shows that these are not of the Holy Spirit but are the same kind of manifestations that occur in Hindu contexts, which can be seen in the videos I've linked at the top right of this blog.

It sounds like they are doing much practical good as missionaries, and although the impetus may have come from the revival the actual motivation to do good may simply be from their Christian background, to which they've tacked on their Charismatic experience.  At least this is still a question.  And another question is:  are they representing the true gospel in their work?  That's a major question, and after hearing this show there is simply no way to know.  Again, over and over it is asserted that the true Biblical gospel is preached, is intrinsic to Charismatic doctrine and experience, but again, there is no clear evidence that this is so.  If there is Michael Brown needs to produce it.

I may or may not comment on more of this show later, but I do want to note that Brown again misconstrues the statistic that was given at the Conference, that some 90% of the five hundred million Charismatics worldwide are Word-of-Faith followers.  Brown gave the misleading answer to that statistic that  "TV preachers don't represent most of charismatics worldwide."  But that is not what was claimed.  It's not about what "TV preachers" represent, but what 90% of ordinary Charismatic believers DO, and what they do is believe and follow the Prosperity Gospel teachings.

* (November 3 addition)
In his pre-Conference plea to John MacArthur, Michael Brown wrote this:

As I write these words, the Holy Spirit is moving mightily around the earth, saving lost sinners, bringing rebels to repentance, healing sick bodies, setting captives free and, above all, glorifying the name of Jesus. According to pastor John MacArthur, however, this is actually “a farce and a scam.”

In his new book Strange Fire, he claims that this work of the Spirit actually represents “the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity,” and he calls for a “collective war” against these alleged “pervasive abuses on the Spirit of God.”
One thing I've discovered from reading some objections to the Strange Fire Conference by various "Continuationists" or Charismatics, is that they take their own theology so for granted that it doesn't occur to them that they need to explain it to those who see things differently.    So, for instance, I find the word "power" as in the power of the Holy Spirit, or even the "power of the gospel" is always taken as referring to miraculous powers, as if it just doesn't occur to them that the Holy Spirit's powers are expressed in many hidden ways, even in salvation and changed hearts.

In this statement by Michael Brown he doesn't see any need to try to prove that through the work of Charismatics "the Holy Spirit is moving mightily around the earth, saving lost sinners, bringing rebels to repentance, healing sick bodies, setting captives free, and, above all, glorifying the name of Jesus."

But of course this is precisely what is brought into question by the Strange Fire Conference.  Exactly HOW is the Holy Spirit "moving around the earth" if in fact 90% of Christians world-wide are followers of the Word-Faith teaching?   ARE sinners being saved?  Where is the evidence?  What does Brown have in mind?  Where's the evidence for the repentance?  Can he quote anyone preaching repentance or credible testimonies to the same?  Perhaps he can here or there, but why doesn't it occur to him that he needs to do this?   And of course physical healings are notoriously unevidenced in Charismatic circles, to the point that fraud is often the only explanation.  And how could the Name of Jesus be glorified if these things are what Brown has in mind?  It couldn't.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some ponderings in the immediate aftermath of the Strange Fire Conference

Well, the "dialogue" has heated up between the Cessationists represented by the Strange Fire Conference and the Continuationists or Charismatics who were the subject of the Conference's denunciations.

MacArthur and other Conference speakers were careful to say there are true Christians in the Charismatic Movement, and also that by their blaspheming or insulting of the Holy Spirit he (MacArthur) didn't mean THE blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that Jesus said will not be forgiven, which he characterized as a stubborn hatred of Jesus Christ that he does not impute to the Charismatics;  but some of the Charismatics aren't in a mood to be so generous to him, some classing HIM within the general apostasy we are witnessing today, accusing HIM of being the false teacher. 

The Conference grounded all its objections on the Bible, very effectively in my opinion, yet some of the Charismatics come back accusing MacArthur and company of being unbiblical.  Did they hear the arguments at all?  They don't address them at all, choosing instead to highlight perhaps a conclusion someone drew without the evidence that backed it up.  The Conference speakers concluded for instance that the Charismatic Movement is simply not Christian,  meaning the movement itself, its doctrines, not all its members, having clearly said many times that there are Christians within the movement;  but Charismatics insist that they condemned them ALL.  Were they listening at all?   It's easy to miss important points if you're perhaps disposed to pick up certain affronts to your beliefs and tune out the rest.  Just a thought.

Besides insisting on certain miracles, many of the Charismatics simply miss the point that nobody at the Conference said the Holy Spirit has completely stopped working, but that He works through Providences rather than miracles, and many of the Charismatics confuse the two in their objections to the Conference.  I many times pray for Biblical light on a particular subject and sometimes it comes to mind immediately.  That's not a miracle, that's a Providence.  Once years ago with Jehovah's Witnesses at the door I quickly prayed that God would show me what to say to them:  "I will not give My glory to another" from Isaiah came immediately to mind, which gave me a terrific starting point for talking to them.  Now THAT is Biblical, it HAD to be the Holy Spirit, but it was not a miracle, it was a providence.

Although I say I'm now a convinced Cessationist there still are some gray areas that concern me.  I am completely convinced that the GIFTS of the Spirit to individuals have ceased, that no one can rightly claim to BE a prophet or a healer these days;  but the Cessationists apparently have more in mind than that, that ALL miracles ceased after the apostolic age.  [Later:  Been listening to Pennington's talk again and he does say that God has done miracles since the apostolic age.  I did have the impression from others that they don't agree with that].  I've been praying about it and the answers do seem to keep coming back that they DID cease.  I ask about a particular phenomenon and something from scripture will come to mind that suggests it doesn't hold up to that standard.   I'm still not sure about some miracles many I know claim to have witnessed, including among family members; but many personal experiences and "communications" such as I have experienced over the years have not been holding up.

Yet surely the Lord can and does occasionally still do miraculous healings and even other miracles.  I think of brother Andrew back in the 50s who reported that God healed his war-shattered ankle at the moment he submitted to God's call to take Bibles into Communist and other nations hostile to Christianity.  I think of Corrie Ten Boom in the Nazi concentration camp whose bottle of medicine never ran out although she kept dispensing it to other women in her barracks.

But I'm not sure the Cessationists DO mean to exclude ALL such claims.  I've listened again to some of the talks and will keep listening but so far no clear light on this question.

In holding up some of my own past experiences to scrutiny over the last few days I've tried to be very strict with myself, "Do not spare, Lord, I want to know if I have been deceived."  There is something very convincing about such experiences, such as a sense of receiving a communication about some situation one is going through, a sense of being guided in a certain direction perhaps.   There is more I need to examine and I don't want to get into detail at this point, but as I say above the general result so far has been that they probably were not from the Lord.  I say probably because some of them were VERY convincing and in no clear way contradicted anything Biblical either.  SOME were shown to me in the Bible itself and those I'm not doubting.

Of course most Charismatics will claim to be grounded in the Bible, and wouldn't object to anything Steve Lawson said about Sola Scriptura, until he got into the Biblical interpretations of the Puritans and others who agreed that the gifts ceased at the end of the apostolic age. 


I haven't yet heard Tom Pennington's talk again but want to soon, but still remember it as giving a very thorough BIBLICAL basis for the cessation of the gifts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Few Things I Learned from the Strange Fire Conference

Finally, after many years of uncertainty, now after hearing the Strange Fire Conference over the last three days I can say I am a convinced Cessationist, that is, I am finally convinced that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that were given to the apostles of Christ and many believers of the apostolic era as well, are no longer in operation among Christians.  The speakers at the Conference all gave convincing Biblical, historical and other evidence for this position, and what a relief after so many years to finally have a settled view of this.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the talk by Tom Pennington on Day 2 was particularly eye-opening for me, as he thoroughly covered the Biblical examples of God's use of supernatural powers and miracles to authenticate His chosen spokesmen and His work, showing that there is no reason for us to have the same gifts as were needed to authenticate the mission of Christ and the founding of the Church as God's work.  But I also have to say that ALL the talks worked together building one upon another to consolidate and confirm that understanding.  I'm VERY grateful to John MacArthur and his team for putting on this Conference and I hope it will be as much of a blessing to many others as it has been for me.  From what I've heard, they had a very good audience following the streamed video from around the world.

The Conference is on You Tube now;  it's a bit hard to find all the sessions in order but it can be done.  You Tube also stops a lot on my computer so I may do better when they are able to get them posted on Grace's streaming video page again:  http://www.tmstrangefire.org/ 

Also, the Sunday (October 20)  service at Grace Community is going to be streamed at 10:30 AM PDT and MacArthur's message will continue the theme of the Conference.  They expect a great number of the Conference attendees to be present along with the regular congregation.


I just want to note a few things that I learned from the Conference:

90% of Charismatics around the world are Word-of-Faith or Prosperity Gospel believers, that is, those who follow the charlatans who promise health and wealth while fleecing the flock and living outrageously extravagant lives at the flock's expense, many of whom are extremely poor.

There is a music group called Jesus Culture that is apparently very popular with young people across all the denominations, whose hypnotic repeated phrases can serve as an enticement to Charismatic doctrine.  They come out of Bethel Church in Redding, California, one of the wildest Charismatic churches these days, where the kind of phenomena seen in the "Toronto Blessing" and the "Brownsville Revival" are experienced.   Video of both these phenomena and performances of Jesus Culture were shown at the Conference.

Pastor Conrad Mbewe of Zambia presented a sad picture of the biggest churches in Africa these days, which are charismatic churches, where the pastors are no longer preaching the word of God but behaving more like witch doctors and committing sexual sins with members of their churches, one pastor having fathered ten children by as many women in his church, and nobody condemns these practices.  We often hear that great revivals are ongoing in Africa, apparently based on these very large congregations, but Pastor Mbewe made it unfortunately all too clear that if this is revival it certainly isn't CHRISTIAN revival but something pagan to the core.

Over and over it was demonstrated at this Conference that absolutely nothing good has come out of the Charismatic Movement, that the supernatural powers claimed always turn out to be bogus and that there is a very high incidence of immorality among the leaders.  This ought to be apparent to those of us who have had experience of the movement, as so very very little of it is ever really convincing, it's mostly all rhetoric.

I think it was Steve Lawson who presented the information about the Puritans along with many others of the greats of the church through history as having specifically denounced the sort of claims to supernatural powers that are claimed by today's Charismatics, and specifically declared that the supernatural gifts had ceased.  This I want to hear again.

I was also interested to hear John MacArthur denounce the Jesus Freaks of the 60s and 70s for changing the style of the churches.  This included the change to casual dress and new music styles, both bringing the hippy culture into our standard Christian experience and laying the foundation for many of the excesses the Conference was exposing.  I'm so used to hearing that the Jesus Freaks were an authentic revival, that stuffy and hidebound churches had missed this move of God that saved thousands (which did happen), that I simply hadn't given any thought to the cultural impact they had on the Church, which was NOT for the better.  The general trend to trivializing and demeaning God and worship can be traced back to them.

Well, all that is off the top of my head and I may add to it later.   I was educated, exhilarated and uplifted by everything about this Conference, it was extremely well done in every way I can think of, from the program to the music to the best streaming arrangement I've ever seen.

However, after the Conference I found myself in a discussion with a very pro-Charismatic friend who hadn't seen the Conference and didn't seem to think he needed to see it, but threw all the usual Charismatic arguments at me, even accusing me of the usual spiritual failures Charismatics generally accuse nonCharismatics of.  I suppose that's to be expected and I also expect that the internet is going to be hopping with arguments about the Conference for some time to come. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Strange Fire Conference: Medicine for the Church

I've been watching a wonderful Conference exposing the errors in the Charismatic Movement put on by John MacArthur's church in Southern California.  It started yesterday morning but I didn't hear about it until the evening.  I did hear the talk by the African pastor Conrad Mbewe as well as today's talks so far by MacArthur, Tom Pennington, Phil Johnson and the panel which just finished and they've all been great talks, even eye-opening for me.  I'll be coming back for the 7 PM PDT talk by Steve Lawson.  Then the Conference continues tomorrow as well.   It's being streamed live at http://www.tmstrangefire.org/

For years I've struggled with uncertainty about some of the charismatic phenomena, the claims to personal supernatural powers, especially the gift of prophecy but also healings and other miracles and so on, and although I pulled out of that movement in the early 90s after seeing through many of its errors, and have recognized even more errors as the years have gone by, there has always remained a bit of doubt in my mind.  I read books attempting to show how the whole thing is false, even John MacArthur's book Charismatic Chaos, without being absolutely convinced.

For one thing there are many true Christians in the charismatic churches, and if they don't see through it that contributes to my doubt. 

For another the arguments from the Bible have never been completely convincing, just too vague.

Well, today a pastor from Texas, Tom Pennington, finally mustered the Bible in a way that completely convinced me:  The men in the Bible who were able to perform miracles were ALWAYS men God had chosen to be His particular spokesmen, and the miracles were given to demonstrate that the teaching did come from God.  That was true of Moses for starters, of many others of God's people through the Old Testament, and it was especially true of the apostles who did miraculous works to show that Jesus Christ was truly from God.  And many in the early church had supernatural gifts for the same reason, to validate the work of Christ. 

They are careful to say that just because the supernatural gifts ceased because they are given for the specific purpose of ratifying a person or work as from God, that that doesn't mean God has stopped working in the world and in our personal lives, and may still do miracles if He so wills.

I hope the conference is going to continue to be available because I'd like to hear that talk again among others.   All the other talks have been excellent, it's just that right now this one stands out in my mind.

And a couple of remarks by Justin Peters on the afternoon panel also stand out.  His point was that true Christians can lend credence to false teachers by merely appearing with them, as on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, a point I've made about Jonathan Cahn's appearances on many charismatic shows, as well as on Glenn Beck.  Cahn is a charismatic but he should have more discernment than that.  

Justin Peters also objected to Christians going on Fox News, say O'Reilly's show, giving credence to Roman Catholicism, even calling Catholics "brother," and that made me VERY happy.  It's so rare that anyone will call out anything Catholic these days and that's one of the biggest hidden rotten spots in today's Church.  Fox News as a whole should be shunned by Christians because the station as a whole is Roman Catholic.  It's so seductive because there are so many Catholics who have a right and even Christian understanding of what's wrong with this country, but the true Church has to wake up and agree not to give any support to that evil Antichrist system, the system whose doctrines cannot save but send millions to Hell every day, the system that martyred millions of true Christians down the centuries and is still looking only to regain the power it lost through the Reformation.

That's enough of a note for now.  I hope many who may not have known about it will listen to the rest of this conference, and I look forward to following the buzz that's sure to follow.