Last week, John MacArthur had a Conference for a book he wrote.
The book is called Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship.
The conference and the book is a direct criticism of the Charismatic movement of Christianity. This is not the first time he has done this. In his opening address of the conference, he admitted he spent decades of his ministry critiquing the Charismatics. He has also written books called “The Charismatics” and “Charismatic Chaos”. He is also a strong believer that the spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12 have ended. He believes they ended in 100 A.D.
For your interest, I posted this video for you. However, I will particularly point out at about the 35 minute mark of this talk. This is what he says.
“The Charismatic movement continues to dishonour the Father, it dishonours the Son. But more specifically, it dishonours the Holy Spirit.
If you one of the Charismatics, you might be offended by this.
Wait, he goes on.
The movement itself has done nothing to enrich true worship. It has made no contribution to Biblical clarity. It has made no contribution to Biblical interpretation . It has made no contribution to sound doctrine.
While MacArthur is free to make this claim, the fact is it isn’t true. For the evidence, I will start on a personal level. Then I will go to a broader level.
On a personal level,some of my church background is from the Charismatic background. One of my first introductions to Christianity was a little Pentecostal church in Calgary. I came from a Catholic background. So entering this Pentecostal church, with instruments like a drum, an electric guitar, and a keyboard was a shock to my system, Seeing people raise their hands like they were asking a question to a teacher was also a shock to my system.
However, the people I met, and there are very many of them, were really special. They stepped and cared about a guy that might have been hard to care for.. I found out that hand raising was a sincere worship to God. That encouraged to worship God. They introduced me to the Bible, which I was actually scared of at first, but ended up enjoying reading it. And still read it today. I also had a Youth Pastor who was very intelligent and taught Scripture well.
So on a personal level, I disagree with MacArthur. I would say that on a personal level, the Charismatic movement has had a lot to contribute.
However, MacArthur doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. Quite frankly, if we met, we would probably not get along. We clearly do not look at the world the same way. But his critique is not about my personal story. It’s about the broader contribution to the church community. For that, I think it would be good to look at three contributions. I realize this a little simplistic, however the intent is to give a broad overview to them.
They have had a huge influence on the way we worship. I would say it’s one of the key strengths they have done. They have given time, talent and even creative expression far above just music and to other areas.Actually, that is quite unique to the many of the typical traditional faiths. It is not an uncommon thought about seeing a difference in worship between a Charismatic Church and elsewhere.
They have given life to the Bible. Often will hear and notice some unique verses that they bring out that others may not have noticed. They seem to have made the Bible more accessible than other traditions.
They have spoken and taught about the Holy Spirit. They have also talked about money. Generally, those two topics have been avoided by churches, Agree or Disagree, they have talked about them. When it comes to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, there have been many Christians I know that are not quite aware of who and what exactly the Holy Spirit is.
I could go on. Their role in social justice, mission work and ability to adapt to the times around them. The point being that the Charismatic movement has spoken into church history and should be commended for their role. Not declared into hell by a simple generalization.
In saying all this, there has been some valid criticism and concern by some of the behaviours done by some involved in the movement. At times, many of the leaders have seemed motivated more by your money then glorifying the God they worship. We cannot deny in anyway that this happens. However, that does not give permission to show a blatant disregard to the many amazing people involved in the community. The fact is many Christians of many different traditions have critiqued that. Including the Charismatics.
In closing, I would liker to give a few thoughts on MacArthur and this Strange Fire Conference. For a Pastor of 40 years that has been given the respect he has within the Christian community, his comments on a church movement are 100% unacceptable and inappropriate. I would highly suggest Mr. MacArthur read 1 Corinthians Chapter 1. Specifically, verses 12 which says this.
What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasfn”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
The Christian community has a rich history of contribution from many different denominations. Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans and many more to share here.
Instead of accusing one of “Strange Fire,” perhaps it is time to stoke a fire of unity.