October 19, 2017

MacArthur vs. Strange Fire

Optimized-StrangeFire-GracetoYou-JohnMacArthur

You don’t need to wonder about what my views are about John MacArthur and particularly about his latest “Strange Fire Conference.” Suffice it to say that I think the name of his teaching ministry — “Grace to You” — is rather a misnomer.

I’ve been aware of MacArthur for forty years now, and frankly, have never found his approach to Scripture or Christian faith appealing or convincing. He has said things I’ve appreciated over the years, but we have fundamentally different understandings of so many matters that I’ve pretty much just moved on and tend to ignore him. However, he has been getting quite a bit of buzz around the web for this latest conference and so I thought I’d give you the opportunity to check him out for yourself. He is a strong voice in certain segments of the conservative evangelical world, and he is unafraid to call out even those closest to him when he thinks they are going astray.

Here are a couple of paragraphs by Tim Challies summarizing John MacArthur’s opening message at his “Strange Fire Conference,” in which he denounces charismatic Christianity:

macarthurThe charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. It dishonors the Father and Son, but most specifically, the Holy Spirit. Many things are attributed to the Holy Spirit that actually dishonor him. In many places in the charismatic movement they are attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have actually been generated by Satan. Again and again MacArthur stressed the great danger for those who worship God flippantly. It is a tragic and agonizing irony that those who claim to be most devoted to the Holy Spirit are following patterns that blaspheme his name.

He paused to state that he is not discrediting everyone in the movement. He knows there are charismatics who desire to worship God in a true way. Yet the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship. It has made no contribution to biblical clarity, biblical interpretation or sound doctrine. The church had all of these things long before the charismatic movement happened. A Christian today can go back and read the apostles, the Reformers and the Puritans and find richness, understanding and clarity; the charismatics have not added anything but chaos, confusion, misrepresentation and misunderstanding. People have been saved in charismatic churches, but nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. Nothing within the movement has strengthened the gospel or preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion and error.

You can follow the Live Stream of the conference itself HERE. and at the GTY Blog, where you will also find posts related to it.

Challies is following the conference at his blog.

Mike Riccardi is also providing notes at his blog.

Adrian Warnock responds at his blog.

I have a friend who used to summarize John MacArthur in these words: “He ain’t neutral about nothin’.” If you want to hear JM at his most “non-neutral,” this will probably be the conference for you.

Then again, maybe this incident that took place in the House of Representatives last night proves that MacArthur has a point.

Comments

  1. Anonymously Yours says:

    The No Fire Conference.

  2. I think both sides have a point. Yes, charismatics are deluded, but conservative evangelicals are evil as well.

    • MacArthur was quoted as saying, “No movement based on an orthodox Gospel has done more damage to the church.” Wow.

      • Well as socially contemptible as it is to point the finger, I’m not sure if there any other movements nearly big enough to be a contender agains the Charismatics for that charge. Even if their doctrine were 99 percent right, there’s just too many of ’em!

        • Only problem: Is there A charismatic movement?

          • Absolutely. It is diverse and eclectic, not coloring within the lines of denomination, tradition, or theological systems. But there are certain ideas about the Holy Spirit and how It works that define Charismatics, and these ideas have spread far and wide, infiltrating other movements/traditions of greater or lesser orthodoxy. Yes, Gordon Fee is not in the same ball park as Benny Hinn, but I don’t think what sets them apart is mostly in the realm of pneumatology.

        • What is a “movement,” anyway? I guess it must be different from a denomination. Let’s see, there’s the Prosperity Gospel…should we just stop there?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            A movement is a group of people large enough and with a common enough focus to group together, create media, and raise money. Charismatics certainly qualify.

            Personally I am *extremely* skeptical of Charismatism, but attributing it to “Satan”? Eh, nah. I think it is more goofy than anything else. I’ve been to numerous Charismatic services. The preaching was mostly doctrinally sound and pretty vanilla IMHO, except for the triumphalism and constant belief in the a coming reformation or great movement [still waiting….]. Triumphalism and general goofiness always seem to go hand in hand. Evangelicals are the same except they are constantly crooning about a coming apocalypse – really the two are the same. Charismatics believe Christ is victorious and coming with his mighty armies of angels while Evangelicals believe Christ and his angels are a beleaguered rebel force in enemy territory.

          • cermak_rd says:

            “…And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
            Singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an
            Organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
            Fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and
            Walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement….”

            Arlo’s definition of a movement.

          • I hate the Prosperity Gospel.

            Telling people if they donate such and such an amount – usually ten percent, but some will quote, say, “Bible Book Chapter 12 verse 34,” and say, “Send my ministry $12.34, and God will send you $1,234!”

            And the flip side: if you don’t tithe, God will supposedly punish you.

            These are the same guys who are also known as “Name it and claim it” or “Wealth and Health.”

            If you have cancer, or your loved one just died from cancer (or your were laid off from your job, you broke a toe nail, you are undergoing crisis X), it’s all your fault because you did not pray long enough, hard enough and/or “lacked faith” and/or you did not speak a positive confession over your situation. Blame the victim, in other words. 🙄

        • Oh wait! I just thought of one: Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Baptist doctrine, especially combined, just may have “done more damage to the church.” 😛

          Oh yeah, Wexel. The Prosperity Gospel is definitely big enough to be a contender. Unfortunately.

          • Not that all Charismatics are Prosperity Gospel proponents, many shun the Health and Wealth faction in their midst, at least in Canada, can’t speak for Africa or Latin America, they may be more enmeshed in the Souther Hemisphere, but in boring old Canada, most Charismatics I know don’t go for that brand of preaching.

      • Ah yes, the “superlatives only” rhetoric. Yawn.

  3. Nothing within the movement has strengthened the gospel or preserved truth and sound doctrine.

    Oh, the irony. As if a Reformed Baptist Dispensationalism were the historic Christian standard of “sound doctrine.”

  4. This is one of my dismays about some U.S. missionaries in Latin America. Not only do they denounce Roman Catholicism but also the charismatic movement. This is unfortunate for them (and for the kingdom of God) because the Catholics are the largest Christian group in Latin America and the charismatics are the fastest growing.

    MacArthur may have some valid points but he speaks in absolutes, and all of that stuff just ain’t true.

    I realize that Tim Challies is live-blogging, and that MacArthur’s quotes are paraphrased—but I suspect that Challies is pretty accurate here. I just read his coverage on the link above for better context.

  5. Sadly, I’m not at all surprised by this. Twenty years ago I was a regular listener to his daily radio program and I read many of his books. I didn’t realize at the time that I was, in fact, a card carrying fundamentalist, but in retrospect, I now know that I was. And a surprisingly strident one at that. I could argue many a person into a corner over the finer points of doctrine, meanwhile being completely devoid of any grace. And as a consequence leaving those in my wake with an evil taste in their mouth of what it meant to be a Christian.

    I thank God he delivered me from that angry legalism. I still hold fast to the cross of Christ. God, descending low in the wounded flesh of Jesus of Nazareth, saves me. Not my cognitive superiority of knowing the “Doctrines of Grace” TM.

    I pray God breaks the heart of that angry old man. I’m eternally grateful God broke mine.

  6. It sounds like he needs to reread Mt 12:22-32!

    • “It sounds like he needs to reread Mt 12:22-32!”

      THIS is the biggest issue I have with the ‘movement’. There really is very little genuine response to criticism. If someone says something ‘negative’ you simply disregard them for their lack of character or spirituality.

      Many other groups do the same thing with different criteria for dismissal (tradition, majority, authority), but I think the charismatics have made it a tenet of their faith.

      In the charismatic’s version of the temptation of Jesus, He should have just ignored the devil’s words altogether. He was the devil after all.

      • “If someone says something ‘negative’ you simply disregard them for their lack of character or spirituality.”

        Yup.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Zip Code time!

      Who needs to recite the Party Line when you can just duckspeak the chapter-and-verse Zip Codes!

      Or is this the Twitter version of Bible Sword Duels?

  7. “A Christian today can go back and read the apostles, the Reformers and the Puritans and find richness, understanding and clarity,” says John MacArthur. There’s a pretty substantial 1500-year gap there. It’s like saying that American history was the Pilgrims and then World War II, or that the African continent consists of Morocco, South Africa, and Swaziland.

    • Yep. That’s the view of history. Miguel called it “Reformed Baptist Dispensationalism.” It’s reformed — though not in any way like the magisterial Reformation traditions; only in view of its more Calvinistic doctrine. It’s baptist — growing out of English separatism and puritanism. And it’s dispensational — rooted in the novel teachings of Darby from the 1800’s. Wrap it all up in a view of inerrancy that is rooted in modern presuppositionalism and…

      That’s MacArthur’s “biblical” faith.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        It is sad to say, but I’ve had all sorts of people being nice to me. Muslims, Pentecostals, Orthodox etc etc. But if any group can be characterized as being nice and then turn around and kick you in the nether regions when you disagree / do something they don’t like, then it has been Reformed Baptists. I have too many scars from them.

      • You should read his book on Creationism. He draws a very straight line from Darwin to Marx to Nietzsche to the Holocaust. Nice and tidy.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          FYI everybody: Caleb W has been trolling Wartburg Watch for the past couple days, Defending Mac Arthur and the Biblical(TM) YEC Uber Alles faith against all comers.

          • I am YEC in so far as I remain a Christian, but I don’t generally debate about it.

            It saddens me when people on blogs lump all YECs together as being mean, judgmental, or as uneducated rubes.

            (I have no idea if Caleb W is that way because I’ve not spent much time on the last handful of YEC type threads at the TWW blog).

            Not saying you, HUG, were doing that (lumping all YECs together), but I see commentators doing that in threads on TWW and other blogs/ forums where the topic comes up.

          • HUG, I don’t think you meant Caleb W…

          • Fascinating. I thought he was being sarcastic. I honestly did.

        • Well now we know he’s totally cracked…

        • Randy Thompson says:

          If it’s “nice and tidy,” it probably isn’t true.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “A Christian today can go back and read the apostles, the Reformers and the Puritans and find richness, understanding and clarity,” says John MacArthur. There’s a pretty substantial 1500-year gap there.

      A gap filled by Romish Popery(TM).

      MacArthur has the exact same view of church history as the Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists: The church went Apostate with either the death of the last Apostle or with Constantine and there was no church, only Popery, until WE Reformed and Restored the True Church, i.e. US.

      • “A gap filled by Romish Popery(TM).”

        Yup. Also by vast numbers of Eastern Christians, about whom I would bet money that JM knows nothing, but if he did, would also write off.

        I had the same thoughts as you and Damaris, HUG, when I read that. Guess the Holy Spirit really did leave the building when the last of the 12 Apostles rejoined the Lord…

        Dana

      • Dan Crawford says:

        I stopped listening to MacArthur when he spent a good chunk of his radio program dragging in Greek (usually translated and interpreted incorrectly) and the rest of the program denouncing the “errors” of those he disagreed with and didn’t like. He got into trouble in California for instructing mentally ill people to avoid mental health professionals and use the “counselors” in his church. He does have his disciples, though, and maybe he has actually introduced some people to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. He is not one to whom I would send someone eager to know Jesus.

        • @ Dan. I think I read about a similar thing in a book I have about mental health by a Christian psychiatrist (“Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded”).

          I believe the author mentioned a patient of his who went to MacA’s church.

          The patient had to see the doctor (who happened to also be this book’s author) on the sly and take medication for his depression, but not let anyone at his church know about it, because MacA would say Christians don’t get depression and/or he was saying that Christians don’t need mental health docs or meds.

          MacA’s views on depression and other mental disorders are ignorant, based on what I’ve read.

    • Mike Dunster says:

      It sounds as though the Rev McArthur is what we might call a Double Cessationist – not only did the spiritual gifts cease at the end of the Apostolic Era, but our Lord stopped saying anything to the church about 300 years ago!

    • A Protestant friend of mine recently did a post pointing out all the errors in MacArthur’s statements about Catholicism: http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/macarthurs-mistakes-heresies-of-the-catholic-church-grace-vs-works/

  8. Your first two paragraphs summarize my thoughts as well on MacArthur, although I did like his teachings for a little while, but moved on from there and haven’t found much grace as you say.

  9. I had to chuckle when reading (cessationist) Michael Patton’s ‘Parchment and Pen’ blog yesterday. He made the comment that if Johnny Mac ever did an anti-complementarian conference, it would be called…

    ‘Wife Beaters’.

  10. If you can wade through MacArthur’s literalism, absolutism and judgmental approach, occasionally he makes a good theological point, but having to do that has never appealed to me. The man has a very narrow view of the faith, and of the world (e.g. in the Muslim world it’s relatively common for people to come to Christ through visions and other supernatural phenomenon, but for J Mac that’s anathema). And he does a lot more damage than he knows. I have a family member who is deeply in his camp and I’ve watched this person transform from graceful, open, humble and honest to spiritually elitist, dishonest, greedy, contemptuous of outsiders, and absolutist. In short, they have become the kind of person it’s very difficult to be around for long, so I don’t. And I’m not the only one who has seen this kind of transformation among some of his followers.

    I check in on his blog from time to time just to keep a pulse on things and the paraphrase of his views on the charismatics is pretty accurate, even a bit tamer than the original if I recall correctly.

    I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, to beware of those who thinks they have an exclusive on all the right theological answers and who aren’t open about their own faults and weaknesses. I have a hard time believing that’s what Jesus wanted his church to be.

    • “And he does a lot more damage than he knows.”

      This is what I refer to as the “twice the child of hell” principle. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for making their disciples more zealous than themselves. MacArthurites can be far more judgmental and narrow than JMac. There is the type who will call Grace to You and say, “Here’s my zip code. Where’s the nearest pulpit with a Masters grad?”, show up at that church and go at it.

      “…beware of those who thinks they have an exclusive…”

      With him and many of his followers there isn’t a large group of secondary issues in the faith. Quite a bit gets elevated to an essential, as we can see from Strange Fire.

      • <With him and many of his followers there isn’t a large group of secondary issues in the faith. Quite a bit gets elevated to an essential"

        Yes, definitely. A lot of this stems from an uber sola scriptura postiion combined with a strong literalist bent. It often borders on bibliolatry. For example, their standard argument is that if you don't believe in a young earth you have a low view of Genesis, and if you have that, you are in danger of a low view of all scripture. Same with many other issues. It's inflated paranoia of the slippery slope. A lot of it is driven by fear.

        Related to all this, and perhaps more sad, in this sort of system where everything is explained and laid out and all the answers given, there is no room for a sense of mystery in the life of faith, and thus no real sense of awe or humility.

      • I recall reading Macarthur’s answer once when someone asked “What do you need to believe to be a genuine Christian?” His answer was really long and specific!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And could probably be summarized as “Agree completely with Me.”

        • His answer was really long and specific!

          That’s kind of funny. The old children’s song says “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” and Jesus said to ‘believe in Me’.

          I can see the danger in “easy believism,” I guess, and that might be the reason some Christians get into long explanations about how to become a Christian, but on the other hand, I think some Christians make becoming a Christian, or being one, far more complicated that Jesus ever did.

        • If one believes that salvation is a point-in-time transaction that occurs once certain intellectual assents are made, then it seems one’s answer would have to be long and specific.

  11. The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship.

    And only a few days ago he penned this on his blog.
    http://www.challies.com/articles/why-i-am-a-six-day-creationist

    I guess if you don’t agree with him 100% on everything you dishonor God.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship.

      These kind of statements bother me anyway. I’m confident the Creator Almighty can keep account of his own honor. There is no need for *me* to defend *him*. What do these kinds of statements accomplish other than to get the dander up of aspiring holy warriors? I am at a loss at to what other motivations could lie behind speaking in this manner.

      So very little in Christ’s teaching sounds like he is recruiting an army.
      I just do not see a ‘Christian paladin’ drubbing down on infidels, one cannot get there from scripture.

    • Somebody needs to tell Pope Francis that he isn’t Pope anymore. Johhny Mac is, or at least he thinks he is.

      • Dan Crawford says:

        MacArthur knows he is infallible which is why he infallibly denounces infallibility.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          No, Johnny Mac is MORE Infallible than the Pope when speaking Ex Cathedra.

          In the RCC, Papal Infallibility (Ex Cathedra) is actually pretty limited to making a decision on matters of Faith and Morals, must be specifically announced as Ex Cathedra, and must agree with precedent of Bible and Tradition. In times when Ex Cathedra Infallibility has come into play, it’s been in the context of a legal ruling making a binding decision on a Doctrinal dispute. Much like a Supreme Court ruling on a case.

          Truly Reformed Infallibility has NO such limitations except for availability of proof-texting, and can be applied anywhere, anywhen, to anything.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I guess if you don’t agree with him 100% on everything you dishonor God.

      Ees Party Line, Comrades.

  12. I often feel sorry and afraid for people who make such strong statements against other Christians, the unpardonable sin at its simplest understanding is attributing to the enemy the works of the Spirit. If even a slight part of the Charismatic movement is an action of God then MacArthur is in a whole lot of trouble.

  13. And there’s the rub: yes there is a notable problem with what Chuck Smith called charismania (self-appointed prophets, prosperity gospel, teachings from “angels,” weirdness for the sake of weirdness, even laying on dead people’s graves to soak up the “anointing” as is happening with Bethel and Jesus Culture these days). The problem is: John MacArthur doesn’t see the difference between a mainline Lutheran pastor who speaks in tongues during his prayers at home and Bill Johnson’s students looking for Gold Dust during their worship services.

    In short, There’s a problem, but he ain’t the one to address it.

    • “The problem is: John MacArthur doesn’t see the difference between a mainline Lutheran pastor who speaks in tongues during his prayers at home and Bill Johnson’s students looking for Gold Dust during their worship services.”

      Great point!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …even laying on dead people’s graves to soak up the “anointing” as is happening with Bethel and Jesus Culture these days).

      No Skubalon? “Just like Necromancy, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

      I’m a weirdness magnet, an aficionado of the weird, and this is getting too weird for this hobbit.

      “I thought I had a most morbid imagination, as good as any man’s. But it appears I have not.”
      — Aliester Crowley

    • Can you provide a link to a story about Jesus Culture and the graves thingy? Is this the same “movement” who writes all those songs people are always nagging me to sing?

      • Brianthedad says:

        YouTube video. Search bethel church soaking up the anointing of dead people. A google search of ‘Jesus culture grave soaking’ will get you plenty of links too. Don’t know about the authenticity, but there you go.

      • Yes, Jesus Culture is an outreach of Bethel in Redding, which is at the forefront of the weirdness (and also colleges with such luminaries as Todd Bentley and John “Tokin’ the Ghost” Crowder). To their credit they cover some good modern worship music and sometimes write good ones, but they also write some pure nonsense. They actually have a song that says “my heart is in lust for you.” The teaching of their church and leaders is in the category of “weirdness” that Michael lamented many years ago.

        Here’s a start, with a Bethel teacher bragging about his kids walking on water after a Jesus Culture conference:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSNojCrel-I

        Here’s an article about Bethel students laying on graves to soak up anointings:

        http://beyondgrace.blogspot.com/2011/07/bill-johnson-and-john-crowders-leaven.html

        There are plenty more out there, but I don’t want to run the risk of being caught up in moderation with more links 😉 This is the stuff charismatics and non-charismatics alike can look at and say “nope, we’re not going to endorse this.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Tokin-the-Ghost” Crowder?
          Of “Jehovah-juana” fame?
          And the Pee-Pee Miracle?
          That explains a lot…

          “And we’ve just come to the grave today to release to you an impartation of healing revival, of city building, restoration city-taking anointing, master-building apostolic anointing, and so we just rip it right out of the ground, we just suck it right off his dead bones, in Jesus name, and loose it to you., a healing-revival-glory-master-building-apostolic anointing glory…”

          “Yoing Yoing Yoing…”

    • Are you implying that MacAurthur demonstrates a lack of nuance?

  14. “Grace to You”.

    What a joke. I really don’t think he’d know the grace of God if it hit him squarely in the face.

    I will sometimes listen to his preaching/teaching on my drive into work (just to see what he’s up to).

    He is an assurance destroyer. A law banger through and through. I’m sure that the devil is quite pleased with what comes out of his mouth (MacArthur’s).

  15. From Challies’ website:

    “MacArthur then contrasted Reformed theology with the charismatic movement and said that Reformed theology is not a haven for false teachers. It is not where false teachers reside or where greedy deceivers and liars end up. You won’t go to an association of Reformed churches and find false miracles, visions, prophecies, anointings and other supposed miraculous manifestations of the Spirit. Once experience, emotion and intuition become the definition of what is true, all hell breaks loose.”

    Holy sacred cow, Batman!

    The lack of self-criticism among the young, restless, and reformed continues.

  16. “The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship.”

    There could certainly be a decent study/correction of this issue, but he’d better plan on getting more specific and subtle than the quotation. It’s way hyperbolic. He’s overplaying his hand. He’s whipped up into a frenzy and making sweeping statements. It undermines one’s credibility and hope of edifying anyone when you speak like this all the time.

    And really, a *conference* on opposing the charismatic movement? Make your points in real life, and move on. Don’t hold a conference. I’m pretty critical of the charismatic movement myself, but there’s so much wrong with this idea, it hurts.

    I’m guessing he’s pretty wide of the mark himself on his view of the Spirit, if what I’ve heard is representative. I’ll take the criticisms of people who don’t have an axe to grind of trying to prove their cessationism theory, thank you very much.

  17. My husband and I were attending a small Presbyterian church for about two months. Then they began a sunday school class about fundamentals of the faith using John MacArthur material. I declined the invitation to join the group. It was going to be about not only the fundamentals but, reformed doctrine. I laughed since he can only be called reformed due to his love of double predestination and limited atonement. I have come to learn that reformed means much more than that!

  18. Mayor McGuinness says:

    I remember my first exposure to the writing of Jonathan Edwards was his classic bit of righteous piss and vinegar “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. It was many many years later that someone turned me on to Edwards’ more “graceful” offerings, but by then Edwards’ fire and brimstone moment was so inculcated in my mind that I still have a hard time reconciling the Edwards of “dangling spiders over fiery pits of hell” or whatever and the Edwards of God’s love and grace. My problem with MacArthur is similar to that i experienced with Edwards. While I appreciate MacArthur’s tell it straight approach in some instances, I am equally repelled by his rabid Christian fundamentalist theology right-wing Gran Moff Tarken mode he consistently stuck in. Man, I just don’t know if I would turn someone seeking in the faith (read newbie or agnostic) to this guy. No doubt he’s learned in the Book, but me thinks he needs to harsh his theological buzz a bit and come down off the mountain top on occasion.

  19. One other thought… I can appreciate his desire for people to recognize that God is holy and a desire for sincere biblical study but, he has zero grace and I am not sure that the Gospel is ever clearly proclaimed in his church. If it is proclaimed it has a huge disclaimer attached with a severe warning to those who sin that you may not be elect. This type of preaching literally left me with an urge to commit suicide and get on with my eternity in hell. He convinced me that I might not be one of the elect.

    I just don’t see Jesus or Paul using doctrine in such a way to scare someone right out of the kingdom. I am not saying that they never gave warnings that were terrifying, it just seems that the warnings were to those who were safely hiding behind their false religious exterior.

    The way I see MacArthur loves that there are those suffering in hell. But, Jesus cried out because Jerusalem wouldn’t come to him.

    I don’t know why J. MacArthur is so angry but, I suspect many in his church have to feel a little worried about themselves because how can someone honestly hold to the standard that J. Mac expects of his congregants? There isn’t any absolution just a call to take a look at your life this week and see if your desires reflect Christ’s. In order to make it in that environment you would have to become deluded. There is no other way.

    • Captain Whitebread says:

      “This type of preaching literally left me with an urge to commit suicide and get on with my eternity in hell. He convinced me that I might not be one of the elect.”

      I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one to get that feeling. After my divorce, my clinical depression got even worse. I was looking for answers, and stumbled across MacArthur and his hangers-on. What did I get? I read that I wasn’t likely saved because I was divorced (even if I didn’t initiate it), and my depression was, essentially, sin because Real True Christians don’t get depressed. I not only felt like committing suicide, but actually tried it. It’s by God’s grace I’m still here and doing better. But I simply can’t listen to MacArthur anymore. Like others have said…he’s all Law, no Grace.

  20. Only thing I can say is how tired I am of Jokers like this guy. So convinced of how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. I see no grace here, I see no love.

    Sadly, I have lost a friend of mine into his sort of ilk. We both were damaged by that last church I went to, but we went in wildly divergent directions – while I turned my back on Evangelical Christianity, she dug her heels in deeper, convinced that they “Just weren’t doing it right.” She quotes Piper, Spurgeon, and possibly this guy on FB daily and I have to bite my electronic tongue so hard.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …while I turned my back on Evangelical Christianity, she dug her heels in deeper, convinced that they “Just weren’t doing it right.”

      “This time we WILL achieve True Communism!”

  21. Everyone hates this doctrine or is afraid of that teaching, What a sad commentary on a people who through Christ by his grace are called to be overcomers. MacArthur is just another sad example of what passes for defending the faith these days. Legalism from one side preaching with no responsibility of any doctrine on the other.
    To offer a disclaimer I have experienced and used the Gifts in my life with wonderful results, but have also learned doctrine to go with them to avoid the tragic excesses that have followed the movement. ALL Christians should have the Holy Spirit working in their lives and I don’t mean just the gifts but everything the Bible teaches on being filled with the Spirit every day. After all.grace is imparted by the Spirit, and since most of the post here deal with grace, what better place to start? A lack of grace or legalism or strident teaching without a redemptive purpose of imparting love and growth show a lack of the Spirit and understanding of His work. You can sum up many on both sides of this issue with those words.

    • I’m reading a book called “Reborn to be Wild” by Ed Underwood, who became a Christian through the Jesus Movement. He offers good insights as to how the revival developed (“it was all about Jesus”) and why it then failed (“it became about other things than Jesus”). He says that one of the things that derailed it was that as new Christians became more and more familiar with the Bible and going to seminaries and teaching/preaching, the more that doctrinal and theological lines began forming. Instead of living, breathing and teaching about Jesus, they began fighting and defending their positions (for instance, the “must speak in tongues” crowd vs. the “where does it say that” crowd).

      • The Jesus Movement was (imo, as a survivor of it) pretty simplistic. Some good things came of it, but truthfully, most everyone I knew ended up in an authoritarian, cultic “church” after a bit of time had gone by. (me, too.)

        I’d have to read the book you’re talking about to understand better what the author is saying, but honestly, it sounds like he’s into drastic oversimplification and further, that he might well be totally ignoring the fallout from the movement.

        There are LOTS of walking wounded out here who came of age there and then.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Then again, maybe this incident that took place in the House of Representatives last night proves that MacArthur has a point.

    Yeah. That public crackup made it to all the news media, including the audio on local morning drive-time radio. I figure the steno just lost it from stress (or other reasons) had a loud breakdown then-and-there, and had to seize the mike and go public. Sorry, ManaGawd Mac, I don’t see much “charismatic” in it; mostly End Time Prophecy and Conspiracy Theory a Go-Go. I suspect she was reading and listening to and viewing a lot of Christianese Conspiracy media and it just went synergistic with the stress until she went CRACK! In public.

  23. Yet the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship. It has made no contribution to biblical clarity, biblical interpretation or sound doctrine. The church had all of these things long before the charismatic movement happened.

    If this is all that John MacArthur cares about (and it certainly seems like it is), he needs to re-read James. “Even the demons believe, and shudder.”

  24. In my humble observation the Lord has placed cool people and freaks in pretty much the same percentage in about every denomination and confession. There might be issues on which I agree with MacArthur, even in the subject of charismatic churches. I’ve witnessed a couple of church services that left me irritated with the question: “Who was being worshipped here?”
    At the same time I have some issues with people that define themselves by putting down others. Like it or not, the style of worship is a cultural matter. And fixing myself on the puritan-american culture would neither do justice on the different culture I live in nor to the fact that the world has been keeping on turning in the last centuries. Yes, worship has changed in the last couple of decades (and although the question wether “contemporary worship” is bringing people closer to God or just entertaining is legitimate, it is quite so to ask wether singing old hymns in the language of the 17th century is doing it better). There are theological surrealities in the charismatic field, but I find such (albeit on other topics) in the bretheren/dispensationalist/whateveryoumaycallit sort of churches.
    It’s a sort of favourite topic of MacArthur. I’ve read his book “charismatic chaos” (quite promising title, isn’t it?) in whose foreword he says that his intention is not picking out the freaks and throwing everyone else charismatic into the same pot, then spends the rest of the book pretty much doing exactly that. I just can’t take this man serious.

  25. Randy Thompson says:

    My wife grew up in a John MacArthur-type church in Southern California. Growing up in that environment, she says, means that you grow up with the sense that the Bible, and the Christian faith, is mainly a past-tense phenomenon, with nothing but the rapture to look forward to, not realizing that the “rapture” is a rather dubious theory and theological distraction. There, the Christian life is too often an endless, boring Bible study where everyone knows what the passage says even before they open the Good Book to look at it. The only excitement is the complete terror that comes at the (weekly) altar call when you wonder whether or not you really meant it when “went forward” at the previous week’s altar call, and whether you’ll be “left behind” when the rapture comes, which usually is presented as coming sometime next week. Fundamentalism, it seems to me, too often reflects this cycle of boredom and terror.

    The charismatic renewal, for folks like my wife who come out of this background, looks awfully good because it is a Christianity of the present moment’; the Holy Spirit is alive and well and doing stuff here and now. The problem is (and pardon a generalization that I’m sure has many exceptions), the anti-intellectualism that’s at the heart of much of charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity. The tragedy of Pentecostal Christianity is that it has never come to grips with critical thinking. Too often, thinking is seen as getting in the way of following Jesus like “a little child.” I don’t know how many times I hard Pentecostals talk about being like a “little child,” and it always smacked of playing dumb (or even being dumb).

    As a friend of mine once put it, I have a lover’s quarrel with Pentecostals. There is much I admire. I am grateful for the fact that they take the gifts of the Spirit seriously. I’m glad that their gatherings are enlivened with the expectation that God will speak. Unfortunately, too often it’s the nuts who seem to “speak” for God: Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, any one on TBN, and etc.

    Maybe a better critique of the movement comes from Ronald Knox in his (old) book, “Enthusiasm.” Knox looks at some of the extreme sects of two or three hundred years ago, like the Quaker, Shakers, Ranters, and Levellers. And the Methodists too, come to think of it. Despite the fact that the book is a pre-Vatican II Catholic sneer at all things zealously Protestant, he does make a good point: There is a difference between a move of the Spirit and what he termed “enthusiasm.”

    I’ve been thinking lately that maybe a more fruitful way of thinking about Pentecostals’ beloved “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is by looking to Catholic Contemplatives rather than to Pentecostals. The Contemplatives go deep in the knowing and loving of God., Too often, Pentecostals short-circuit this deep-knowing by leaving their minds behind, losing themselves not in God but in the electronically-induced ecstasy of contemporary worship or in mob psychology.. Maybe that’s unfair. I’d be interested in hearing what others might think of this line of thought.

    A loving but critical analysis of Pentecostalism probably would be a good thing. John MacArthur is not the one to do it. John MacArthur’s criticisms strike me as saying way more about him and his self-rightness than they do about what it is he’s criticizing.

    Grace to you, unless you’re a Pentecostal.

  26. This seems warmed-over from the eighties, when I may have heard heard McAurthur talk about this the first time. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of neo-charismatic worship, which is much more prevalent and likely has
    A foothold in many “reformed” congregations. In my opinion, the problem remains therapeutic, moralistic deism, which crosses all doctrinal boundaries – including both charismatic and reformed.

  27. Yes, charismatic weirdness is a problem. So is dispensational weirdness, a theological movement that Macarthur not only embraces but considers a near-essential issue (he delivered a talk once called “Why any self-respecting Calvinist is a dispensationalist”). So are we going to get a conference attacking the endtime-decoder headline scanners? Probably not.

  28. He hasn’t changed much in the last 30 odd years. I went to his church for a while when I was in college. One Sunday he started ranting about those awful charismatics. I realized at that moment, that I did not belong there, and never came back. It almost seems like he has become a caricature of himself. It’s pretty hard to respect someone who has not grown or changed much at all in that amount of time.

  29. I went to his college for my undergrad and felt like writing to him http://anirenicon.com/2013/10/18/come-down-dear-john-the-strange-fire-thing-isnt-worth-it/

    The most common response I received went something like “you need to watch the whole conference,” which makes sense because I wouldn’t want to caricaturize a whole movement or anything…

  30. May the conviction of God fall on John MacArthur …and yes it will be strange to him. God have mercy on his self righteous soul for the utter damage done to the body of Christ in the name of religion… MacArthur you don’t know me or even think to understand the relationship I have with my Lord Jesus Christ. I am washed in the blood of Jesus and He Knows My Name. Seems to me at at your conference you should have just stood up and yelled crucify! Now to any Pentecostal or Charismatic BELIEVER please remember we are not who they say we are.

  31. Doesn’t like Charismatics, Pentecostals, Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen….
    Whatever happened to kindness and humility?