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.