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.
Seeking God again
4 months ago