Wednesday, June 26, 2013

John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conference

I want to commend John MacArthur on his repudiation of the Charismatic movement as a whole.  For awhile, his church has been advertising the Strange Fire Conference on October 16-18 of this year for the purpose of exposing the Charismatic movement.  I also believe that he is right in saying that a majority of the problems in churches today are related in some, close way to the Charismatic movement.  I wish that he would also repudiate the continuationism of John Piper and the Charismaticism of C. J. Mahaney, and to reject the Jesus' Movement of the 1960s as a counterfeit revival, but I rejoice in what can be rejoiced in here.  I'm writing something positive about him, especially since the movement is such a monster, and that he's making a gigantic effort to confront it.  I'm not encouraging anyone to attend his conference, because I can't fellowship with John MacArthur, but I support his church's idea.  Love rejoiceth in the truth.

History tells the story of Charismatic types of groups since the first century, but none so bad and widespread as the modern Charismatic movement.  Aspects of it have infiltrated almost every segment of professing Christianity.  The worst are found in the mainstream of the Charismatic movement, but I see the influence of Charismaticism everywhere, including in and perhaps especially in fundamentalism in the way of revivalism.

In one sense, the modern Charismatic movement came out of the Pentecostal movement, which originated out of and was predated by the Keswick or Higher Life movement.  All of this is about a second work of God in someone's life after salvation, sometimes referred to as a second blessing, the baptism of the Spirit, or the filling of the Spirit.  Among the Charismatics, the experience of a second blessing or the baptism was and is to be accompanied by signs and wonders.  The revivalists see the second blessing mainly in a unique dosage of God's power for the purposes of Christian living and evangelism success.   These movements are departures from historic Christianity on salvation and sanctification.

Various types of continuationism are rampant in fundamentalism and in independent Baptist churches, and they very often don't even know it.  They think God still speaks to them.  They might excuse carnality as a phase of the Christian life previous to a dynamic spiritual experience.  They use human means, either with a preaching voice or the rhythm and harmonies of their music, to impersonate or concoct the sense of a spiritual experience.  Some still pray for the outpouring of the Spirit.

An irony about MacArthur is the influence of the Charismatic movement on the worship experience of his own congregation.   A lot of the music there manufactures a kind of ecstatic experience, a sort of counterfeit spirituality, a type of music that originated out of the Higher Life movement and then exploded out of the Charismatic and Jesus movements.  People like having it and would be unhappy if they didn't get it, much like the reaction of Charismatics without their own experiences.  It is not sacred music.  It dovetails with the gratification of the flesh in all sorts of pop music today.  The false worship of this Charismatic music is a strange fire too.  It is an impostor spirituality that fools people about the reality of their spiritual condition.

If John MacArthur really wants to get serious about counterfeit Christianity that choreographs artificial spiritual experiences, much like Jonathan Edwards was warning in his Treatise on the Religious Affections, then judgment should start in his own house.  He should rid his church of its own new measures and earthly cleverness.  The bad is not justified by even much good.  In this case, if we want to get the beam out of someone else's eye, we should start with the mote in our own eye.

If the Charismatic movement truly is strange fire, then the source of the fire, the continuationism found with Piper and Mahaney should be blasted by MacArthur.  If he wanted people to stay away from the strange fire, he would attack it, douse it, at its root level and warn of those who promote it in the most fundamental way.  If the Charismatic worship is strange fire according to MacArthur, and Mahaney is a participant and Piper is at least a supporter, an advocate by his own testimony, why isn't he more clear about those two.  Can there be fence straddling on strange fire?  If you are going to use that term, and I agree with it, then really mean it.  It's either strange fire or not.  Nevertheless, I'm thankful for what disavowal we get of the Charismatic movement by the leading conservative evangelical in the world today.  I'm backing him on this.

Telling the truth about the Charismatics and their relatives is an important aspect to battling the movement.  Either separating from disobedient brethren or not fellowshiping with unbelievers is another teaching of the Bible about warring against it.  Charismatics should be separated from.  If you write a book or hold a conference, and you don't separate, you don't mark and avoid, then you are not doing what God said to do about it.  If not, then you too are playing with strange fire.


The Preacher said...

Brother Kent,

I appreciate your fight against this Charismatic foolishness and carnality, for it is sensual not having the Spirit.

Its basis is that "every man did that which is right in his own eyes" and its root is not having biblical final authority. Though John MacArthur is a good brother, he is a perpetuator of changing the bible and he and his church are beginning down the slippery slope of "strange fire" that infects many churches today.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Kent

I was struck by a point you made in this post when I first saw it regarding the connection of Pentecostalism with Keswick theology. I think you are mistaken on this point, at least according to George Marsden. In his book, Fundamentalism and American Culture pp. 94-96, he discusses a sharp distinction between the Holiness movement (from which Pentecostalism sprang) and the Keswick movement. The two had similar roots, but there was a sharp distinction between the two.

In addition, many Holiness groups strongly resisted Pentecostalism, even groups from which it had originally sprung. I think Charles Parham may have come from the group I grew up in, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). In any case, the CoG resisted tongues for many years. I can recall fights in their conference meetings when I was a teenager where my dad and my uncle among others were strongly opposing some who wanted to bring the tongues into the CoG.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Don,

I think it's always possible that some of these groups arose independently, but they seem to have the fundamentally same characteristic, that is, some kind of after justification event to reach a higher spiritual blessing, a second blessing.

Is the Marsden book public domain?

Kent Brandenburg said...

These articles seem to back what I wrote:

And more.

Don Johnson said...

Well, its not a big point, but when you first wrote that, I thought of commenting, but then checked Wikipedia and they seemed to contradict me also (not that they are the definitive source). However, I'm reading Marsden just now and came across this today. Marsden is very respected, I'm sure you know of some of his other books. I would tend to give a lot of weight to what he has to say.

And no, this book isn't public domain, but it is really probably must reading if you want to understand the movements behind fundamentalism, the alliances, how the various groups interacted. When you hear people talking about "historic fundamentalist", reading this book will tell you most people haven't got a clue what they are talking about. The book is really worth studying thoroughly, probably worth making a class out of it so you can read it several times and really get a handle on the material. Important stuff on almost every page.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Don. I appreciate it, and as well your apology for using Wikipedia. I would have jumped all over that. Not really. Wikipedia is generally better than many books I read on subjects and has the opportunity to be shot down from many sides. I like using Wikipedia

clarence said...

The charismatic movement can idolize spiritual experience over God himself. John Mac Carthur idolizes 'the truth' and 'sound doctrine' above God himself. His ultimate treasure is sound doctrine.