Strange Fire: Initial Thoughts

October 15, 2013
Author Article

John MacarthurJohn Macarthur's new book Strange Fire will be released on November 12th 2013, and ties in with a conference of the same name. The book raises the flag for cessationism, in a manner more forceful than anything since Walter Chantry published Signs of the Apostles.

Yes, the whole concept behind book and conference saddens me. There have always been high-profile cessationists around. Indeed, Macarthur's own cessationist views have not been secret. His rejection of biblical pentecostals, however, is, IMHO, influenced by 2 failures on the part of biblical pentecostals. 1. While seeking to be gracious in joint meetings with cessationists, and in order to find common cause, we have sought to play down our pentecostalism. By doing so, we have given the impression that we beieve our own pentecostalism to be simply an “optional extra” to biblical Christianity, rather than an essential part of biblical Christianity. 2. Related to point 1 is that we have become timid about teaching the Baptism in the Spirit. we have allowed people to think that it is not essential. We have covered for people, who quite simply don't want it. We need to become more bold in biblical teaching on pentecostalism.

We should now be taking the biblical high ground. It's like we've been saying to the cessationists – “Don't worry about us. We do a few weird things in private, but we are not like those really wacky, heretical New Apostolic Reformation people, so please, please accept us into your little club.” Instead, while not being proud, and while seeking to be as humble as possible, we need to be clear that cessationism is definitely Christianity Minus. t should be they who are seeking to be onside with us, as we should be seen to be the biblical scholars and leaders, who are clearly in tune with God.

3 responses on “Strange Fire: Initial Thoughts

  1. Ben Edens

    I'm a Calvinist. This conference only added to my already unfavorable opinion of MacArthur. McArthur's actions were very divisive. Lumping all Pentecostals together as heretics is ridiculous. While I don't believe that the gifts of tongues and prophesy are still active , writing a book and having a conference over what MacArthur himself said is a secondary doctrinal issue only hurts the body. Unlike MacArthur, I don't cry heresy when there is a minor disagreement on non essential doctrine. I say we agree to disagree on these points, and continue to work together, spreading the gospel of Christ.

  2. Frank Turk

    Paul —

    In your view, since Pentecostalism is necessary to the Christian faith, let's assume that the majority of Christians globally (who are cessationists) are simply out in left field and should be dealt with harshly.

    What about the actual Charismatics/Pentecostals? You know, for example: I think that preaching from the Bible during worship is necessary for the church. I think most places with a cross over the front door do it wrong — probably 65% are simply not doing it, 15% more are actually misusing the Bible, 10% more are opening the Bible but not really preaching from it (it's a fortune cookie approach), and the other 10% are inside the ballpark — some better, some worse, but all preaching from God's word. In my view of it, 90% are doing a terrible job and need correction.

    In you view of things, in the remaining set of people (those with Charismatic beliefs), what percentage are “doing it right” and what percent are “doing it wrong?”

    1. Paul Taylor


      I do not believe that cessationists “should be dealt with harshly”. that is a clear example of the mistaken manner in which these issues are currently being debated. Obviously, it goes without saying that I believe that cessationists are incorrect on their reading of Scripture.

      The “word of faith” people – who constitute a large majority of those who might be labelled “pentecostal/charismatic” should be dealt with more “harshly”. They should not normally be treated as brothers. Therefore, I was not happy about Michael Brown's association with Benny Hinn, and wrote to tell him so. But I do not practise double-separation, and therefore still respect Dr. Brown as someone I have a lot more in common with than Dr Macarthur, for example.

      My observation is that the web seems to be awash with bullying of biblical charismatics, and, though I do not always respond appropriately myself, it is that attitude that disturbs me. For example, Justin Peters' excellent article on gty made clear that he still refused to class Michael Brown and Benny Hinn in the same bracket, though was clearly (and correctly) criticizing Michael Brown working with Hinn. Justin, though himself a cessationist, has repeatedly over years and years emphasized that there are many of what he refers to as “clear-thinking charismatics” who support his criticism of WoF teaching. It was notable, for example, that in his recent tour of Australia, many of the churches that booked him were pentecostal. Yet many of the links to Justin's excellent article placed on FB by other cessationists gave an incorrect spin to the article, and continued the cyber-bullying.

      No one should be afraid of criticism or of being held to account. There are ways and means of doing so – and it is incumbent upon cessationists to analyze closely how much of Scripture they are deliberately cutting out of their Bible, and how many “misunderstandings” they continue to peddle about the biblical charismatic position.

      And where are we going to draw the line on these issues? For example, you yourself take an unbiblical position on Genesis 1 – a position rightly criticized by Macarthur, but, ironically, supported by Piper. What level of importance should be given to that theology? Macarthur believes that literal six-day creationism is foundational, but you do not. Many cessationists today would disagree with Macarthur on eschatology – most seem to be partial-preterist post-millenials. Certain well-known cessationists have made a strong point of hammering home my supposed errors on eschatology! Still others are KJV-Onlyists – an issue on which Macarthur, you and I would, I imagine, all have the same view (i.e. agin KJV-Onlyism, while not being agin KJV).

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