John MacArthur’s *Strange Fire* Conference, Charismatics, & Christ

I really cannot think of any charge more severe to make toward other human beings than to say that they have blasphemed the Spirit of God.

I’m not normally the watchblogger type. I find many critical blogs and bloggers quarrelsome, and not to be in step with the characteristics of the godly. As the Apostle Paul put it, “…the Lord’s servant *must not* be quarrelsome” (2 Tim. 2:24, emphasis added).

Christian’s should be known much more by what and who they are for than by what and who they are against. Yes, Christians must distinguish between that which we are for and that which we are against, and this comes from naming what we are against, but this should not be our central mark. Nevertheless, what follows is all done with what began here in mind.

For some time now I have considered a blog post on John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference that is coming up in October. After reading Reformed-Charismatic Adrian Warnock’s post today about John MacArthur essentially calling those in the charismatic movement blasphemers of the Spirit, I thought another one might be warranted.

Earlier this year I attended the Shepherd’s Conference and came away enriched by the ministry of John MacArthur (his deeply sobering sermon on Peter and Judas was dynamite) and others, but was quite disturbed by a promo vid for his future conference “Strange Fire”.

In it, MacArthur made, what I thought, was an extremely broad mischaracterization of an entire group of Christians, namely, the charismatic movement. He states,

It’s in the context of Leviticus 9 and 10 that I want to direct your attention towards “strange fire” that is being offered to God today. And it could well bring his judgment. What I’m talking about is the charismatic movement. It offers to God unacceptable worship. Distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit, even the work of Satan.

When I heard this, I almost walked out of the conference. And this was not because I am unaware of aberrations and heresies within the charismatic movement. There are. Nor is it because I am unaware of MacArthur’s position on this. Years ago, I read most of Charismatic Chaos and his cessationist reading of Scripture is widely known. But it is irresponsible–to put it mildly–of him to lump an entire group of Christians as blasphemers of the Spirit. In fact, I believe, his sweeping generalization deeply grieves the Holy Spirit of God.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. And being or not being a charismatic is not the main thing. Jesus Christ, whom I know MacArthur and many charismatics love, is.

However, I don’t know that he even truly believes what he said here. It is my understanding that CJ Mahaney, a charismatic, preached in his pulpit and that he has relationships with other continuationist pastors like John Piper. Maybe it was intended to be alarmist to better “market” the conference? After all, in a later video, he seems to clean this up a touch, as he gives a “word of encouragement to faithful Pentecostals” and says that the conference is addressing the aberrations and extremes of the movement. (Would of been nice to hear that the first time). But this was *not* communicated in the first video, even if it was intended.

On a personal note, I too am charismatic. I was raised in an Assemblies of God church and love many in and am friends with some of the leaders of the movement itself. Though I am no longer a part of the Assemblies of God (even after attending one of there colleges) and disagree with certain doctrines and teachings of the charismatic movement, I also strongly believe that many of the desires and pursuits and experiences within the movement are because of the Scriptures not in spite of them. The zealous pursuit of spiritual gifts, the eager expectation for God himself to intervene and act tangibly in our midst, the passion for the “already” and the power (not just talk) of the kingdom of God, the pursuit of God’s healing and delivering power, the longing to be filled with the Spirit (not just once) but continually, are all biblically rooted desires and goals of the charismatic movement as a whole. We are brothers and sisters not enemies of the cross of Christ.

Blasphemy of the Spirit is a dead serious charge. I really cannot think of any charge more severe to make toward other human beings than to say that they have blasphemed the Spirit of God. The charismatic movement, as a whole, has not blasphemed the Spirit. Many affirm wholeheartedly the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. Sure, some charismatics can elevate, at least in emphasis, secondary issues (healing, experience, signs and wonders, etc.) above primary ones. But isn’t this exactly what MacArthur is doing here and then he’s calling others blasphemers for possibly doing the same thing?

I don’t doubt I will agree with some of the critiques within parts of the charismatic movement that will be made by the speakers at the Strange Fire conference. But the irresponsibility of MacArthur’s sweeping generalization should be candidly addressed and critiqued by other Christian leaders (continuationist or not). These kind of remarks further divide the church and grieve the Spirit by whom we all have been sealed.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. And being or not being a charismatic is not the main thing. Jesus Christ, whom I know MacArthur and many charismatics love, is.

8 thoughts on “John MacArthur’s *Strange Fire* Conference, Charismatics, & Christ

  1. MacArthur preached a sermon at his church entitled, “The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” in October 2011. You can read the entire transcript on his website here:

    In it he states” The Charismatic Movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit. It is a false form of the Holy Spirit. They’ve exploited the Holy Spirit and demanded to be able to do that in an uncriticized manner. Nobody can say anything against them. That’s divisive, unloving, cantankerous. That’s why Benny Hinn said about me, “If I had my way, I’d take my Holy Ghost Machine Gun and blow his brains out. You’re not allowed to question anything they say about the Holy Spirit. They have co-opted the Holy Spirit and demanded to do that without being criticized, without being confronted, and they go on with their exploitation and so prove testimony concerning the Holy Spirit as pushed and repressed, underground because it’s going to be divisive, they’re not going to like it. It will offend somebody.”

    Please keep in mind that MacArthur tends to be somewhat careless with words. If you ask him directly, “Do you mean ALL Charismatics” he would undoubtly say, “No, no, no! I just mean the false teachers”.

  2. Hate to burst your bubble…but when is the last timeyou went to your “charismatic” church and saw someone raise the dead? That was a very commonapostolic gift in Peter and Pauls day, yet today,we dont see it at all. I went to a really good charismatic church for about 10 years, I watched as people were made to feellike they weren;t real believers because they could not speak in tongues..totally unbiblical position by the way…even Paul makes it clear not all speak in tongues…its not even vague. So what is the injury such poor doctrine….well atthe time, I was running a prison ministry to inmates. I had one inmate come through, confess his sins, commit his life tothe Lord, when he got out, I sent him to my church. About 6 to 9 months passed, and low and behold this person is back in prison. Now normally, I can expect to see guys cycle through, but not believers, even baby christians ashe is, so I was shocked to see him, so I confronted him. I asked him what happened,I thought I had sent him out to a good Christ loving church, my own church! He said he was going there, and he met with one of the Four Elders there (the Most Charismatic One), and he was told point blank that he wasnt a believer, because he could NOT speak in tongues. In tears he elaborated that this Pastor had told him how to speak in tongues!!! (A gift of God is NOT TAUGHT, it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the gift in the individual!, not the individual!) When he couldnt do it, even after being told to just babble, it will start on its own..the Pastor told him,well youre not really saved then, so youre just wasting your and my time! Having been told this by an Elder thisbabychristian rationalized that if he wasnt saved,he had nothing to live for, so he went out got as drunk ashe could and tried to committ suicide by know what that is? Thats whenyou go on an armed crime spree waiving a gun around, praying a cop will come and shot/kill you….needlessto say, he didnt get shot, he got tazed, and is going to jail for about 20 years…thanks to bad theology of charismatic quacks. I know this is not an isolated incident,I also know this is satanic, and it is in the church. I have many many more stories Ive personally witnessed over the years,stories of spiritual ABUSE, All occurred in different Vineyard churches, in spite of them claiming to have repented of their past shinanigans.Ive watched faith healers cause a woman to have a complete breakdown in the church,because they could not accept she wasnt being healed by them after about 35 minutes of laying on of hands…as they laid hands on her…I literally had to intervene and pull these misguided schmucks off of her as she collapsed…idiots. No my friends, after 30 years its become clear to me certain gifts just dont exist today as they did in the apostles day. Apostolic healing was ALWAYS instant and complete. Today faith healers wait weeks to take credit for natural healing to take place…what power is that…the satanist on the corner has that same power….Not all gifts are gone, it just sems to me, again from having lived in the charasmatic church, that all “show” gifts are gone…they seem to be have been used to demonstrate witness to early apostolic authority…today we have the word of God and the Holy Spirit as our witnesses. The testiminy of two or three is all thats required. I take no offense to MacArthurs statements, on my journey, I was enfuriated by him at first, but honestly, after what I witnessed, I began to see his point…and I can testify the abuses I saw were from men and not of God…and that was in several different charismatic churches over 30 years time. Me thinks thou dost protest too much…show me your guy who raises the dead…like the apostles and Ill believe your silliness, otherwise you are pushing a satanic message and passing it off os the Holy Spirit..and it is counterfit…and DOES blaspheme the Holy Spirir. Show me the man who raises the dead…show me..i know you cant already. There is yoyr answer!

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  6. Hi BJ – Wikipedia tells us that J. MacArthur does not believe in Gifts, dreams, etc. So be it.

    The Lord saved me and put me in the Charismatic wave in 1980. It’s hard to find a true Charismatic group. Many don’t believe in the supernatural anymore….or, I guess they never really did. In my understanding – All God is – is Supernatural!
    I believe the Lord commissions all of us Charismatics to be evangelists, raise the dead, cast out demons and pray for the sick so that He may heal them, etc, etc. I guess no wave or denomination “got” the whole picture before the Charismatics to believe the whole Word of the Lord and believe it is all for us now. Of coarse – there are those believers that read the Word for themselves and study it and come up for air as radical Christians. I would call Thurman Scrivner of TX a true Charismatic, a man of “GREAT” faith. Not perfect but pretty close! I myself have had 3 visions, 1 miracle, many healings, words of Knowledge from the Lord to me, many spiritual realities. Many answered prayers. I expect much more. It is exciting!!!
    May the Lord bless you and your family. i learned much from your porn article. Thanks. I am 100% of clean of porn, and I will NOT cross over into that horrible demon snarl. No thank-you!

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