Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Strange Fire: Sorting Out the Issues, Part 1: John MacArthur Answers His Critics

(sorry, don't know how these got out of order.  If I'm up to it I'll switch them around later)

In a two-part interview by a Reformed blogger who invited him to answer various criticisms of the Strange Fire Conference, John MacArthur Answers His Critics, Part 1 and Part 2 , John MacArthur says he considers this a "vital issue" that needed a strong statement as a "trumpet blast," a wake-up call to a complacent and ambivalent Church.
Because the honor of the Holy Spirit is at stake, we were convinced that we could not remain silent...

The charismatic quest for extrabiblical revelation, subjective impressions, ecstatic experiences, and so on, represents a massive danger to the church. Error is still error, even if there are true believers who embrace and espouse it...

The reality is that the gospel being proclaimed and believed by the majority of charismatics around the world is not the biblical gospel...

[It] breaks my heart to think that hundreds of millions of souls are being caught up into a movement where they are being seduced by false forms of the gospel.
   In Part 2 he continues:
Now someone might ask, “But isn’t this a secondary issue?” I would respond by asking, “Is the true understanding of the dignity of the Holy Spirit a secondary issue?” That’s a frightening notion, since the worship of the true God in the true way is our highest priority. And this issue has dramatic implications both for how we view God and for how we worship Him...

[Most objections don't]... take into account both the severity and the ubiquity of the charismatic error on the global level. 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...
These are strong statements, but for the most part the Continuationists or Charismatics have been reacting against the very idea of criticizing "another branch of the Church" and denigrating the Conference as focusing on secondary issues to no good purpose, rather than addressing the actual arguments presented at the Conference.

Personal communications on it I've received from Continuationists have ranged from a disgusted objection to "such a trivial concern," calling it "just another doctrinal conference that divides Christians when we need so desperately to be unified against the evils we are facing," which unfortunately included a refusal to listen to any of it; to a lengthy denunciation of the Conference full of Bible quotes condemning the presenters as heretics, also without having heard any of it. 

To these Charismatics there is no point in addressing the issues, it doesn't even occur to them.  They believe they already know the issues, and criticism of the Charismatic movement is not something to discuss but something to denounce, period.  So far the trumpet blast hasn't gotten through to them.

Well, IS it a "massive danger to the church" or just a trivial secondary matter it would be better to let lie for the sake of unity, or even a heresy itself to challenge it?  ARE people being "seduced by false forms of the gospel" through the Charismatic movement?

As I've already said in other posts, I think the Conference made its case, that it is a great danger, which justifies holding such a Conference, and justifies further attempts to get it across to Christians who have been taking it for granted. 

However, it's important that the critics get it right, and what MacArthur calls a "quest for extrabiblical revelation, subjective impressions and ecstatic experiences" misrepresents what the Charismatics believe they are doing.  As I say in my previous post, Charismatics do believe they base their belief in the continuation of the "gifts of the Spirit" on the Bible so that it is not a matter of personal seeking of revelations or impressions or experiences but of being open to what the Holy Spirit brings to their spirit.  Getting this right is crucial if the debate is going to make any headway.

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