Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Want to Love the Strange Fire Conference -- What's Tough Are Absolute Contradictions

"You aren't going to find that kind of music in a reformed church."  John MacArthur said that about the music of the Charismatic movement in the Strange Fire Conference (HERE is the a semi-transcript---there is stuff missing).  He said it is in fact the music is what drives these events and brings the attraction.  He says, "the attraction is sensual experience that disconnects you from the realities of life."  He says it would end if you shut down the music and turn on the lights, and they must be "white lights," he says.  John MacArthur is saying this.  Even more is said.  Todd Friel said that his children listened to "Jesus Culture."  He asks, "Should I be concerned?"  MacArthur says, Yes, and it is demonic and pagan.

In fact, you do have this in reformed churches all over.  Where is MacArthur coming from?  What about the reformed Charismatics?  What about the sovereign grace churches?  What about C. J. Mahaney?  But that's not all.  It's all over the place in reformed churches.  You find worse in John Piper's reformed church.  It's just not true!

Pennington said that the music is the avenue to bring them into their teaching.  He said, "Mormons do the same thing."

At the afternoon q and a, which I'm watching right now, they say that the music is where the problem is.  He says that evangelical churches are using unacceptable to suck people in, as if the music will result in people being saved.  It's so close, MacArthur says, to what evangelicals use.  It's hypnotic.  They are pulled in.  The music, the style, is what pulls them in.  They are saying this.

These men act like that this is somewhere else.  This is at MacArthur's own church.  People who leave Grace Community and Masters bring it with them.  It's all over.  The staff there, their defenders, are very touchy about that.  They use what they are attacking.  And a reason why people are at Grace is because this is acceptable.  Like Friel said, his own daughters have it on their play list.

Let's go further with this.  The men they fellowship with, the men they promote, also listen to this kind of, even worse, pagan music.  You see the rock music their people enjoy.  James 3 speaks about this with the tongue.  Out of the same fountain can't come bitter and sweet water.  If your fountain has this kind of pagan, godless, immoral, sensual music, then how can you say it is wrong or that it can't be used for worship.  And in fact most of them do use that for worship.

The contradiction should be obvious.  I understand that some will say that it isn't.  If it is wrong, then it is wrong.  I agree with these men.  A major problem is when the "good guys" sit with the "bad guys," something Justin Peters said.  MacArthur and Grace and Masters College validates it by either having it or accepting, and it is accepted all over among these men.  They have bridged that gap and will not take a stand against it, so even though they are saying really great things against it, in their practice, they are not taking the stand against it.  They will push Douglas Wilson, who while working on one of his blogposts, wrote this:

While working on this post, to take a snippet of my playlist at random, I have listened to "Feelin' Alright" by Joe Cocker, "Rivers of Babylon" by the Melodians, "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians, "Lonestar" by Norah Jones, "Almost Hear You Sigh" by the Stones, "Watching the River Flow" by Dylan, "Motherless Child" by Clapton, and you get the picture. 

If you play the music for any episode of Mortification of Spin with Carl Trueman, a favorite of these men, ironically a play on John Owen's Mortification of Sin sermon, you get just the opposite of mortification.  Some would say this doesn't matter.  It does!  You don't mortify sin with this kind of music.  You make provision for it.  Owen would turn over in his grave.

These men also allow the eschatology, the dominion theology, by allowing and fellowshiping with postmillennialism and amillennialism.  The postmillennialism is common.  But they continue to fellowship with these men who make this kind of millennialism popular, that turns the goal of the church into a social goal.  And yet they don't separate from Dever, Sproul, Keller, and Wilson, who push their amillennialism and postmillennialism.  You are going to get more of the same.

They talk about kind of mindless, new age style of music, and rock music.  They use it.  It helps keep them popular.  MacArthur said that the Jesus Movement was a true revival, and that bridged the gap for that music and that worship.  This is what fools people.  MacArthur said and it is written (you can find it):

I can trace certain trends and a visible process over the past twenty-two years. When I first came to this church as pastor, I started to preach this way and people flooded the place. It was an interesting time. It was just after the publication of The Living Bible — for what it is worth — and that certainly gave people a fresh insight into Scripture. Then came the New American Standard Version, the “Jesus Movement,” Calvary Chapel, and the intensive interest in personal Bible study. People came to church carrying Bibles with covers featuring a dove and a cross, and all that. Christian bookstores and publishers began to flourish. Maranatha Music hit — and Christian music exploded.  I really think that one hundred years from now the 1970s and the early 1980s will look like a revival — and that period really was.

For the similarities on the music, you can see it in these pictures from the Resolved Conference, which is put on by MacArthur and Grace.  Look what they do to And Can It Be.  This is exactly what MacArthur himself was speaking against.  Lights off.  Rock music.  it's blasphemous. But now they are bringing it into the Shepherd's Conference too (look at between 52 seconds and about 1:10 especially).  Look at Todd Friel himself and his intro (this is typical).  They use the same thing.  I see this as a bigger problem even than a John Piper, who is in the fuzzy middle between the Charismatics and the non-Charismatics, that Phil Johson talked about in his afternoon.  The gap is being bridged with the music.

I hope they will have this in either video or audio or at least in print in their archives afterwards so you can hear this session, the first q and a on Thursday (THEY DO, HERE IT IS---as I went through it, stuff is missing).  Friel says something like this:  The Charismatics will say that there is nothing in the Bible about falling down, shaking, etc. (he says a few more of these things), and so it is permissible, so what do you say about that?  I thought that was a tell-tale moment, because this is typical of these evangelicals.  The Bible doesn't say it's wrong!  Phil Johnson himself would say that when we deal with these extra-scriptural issues that we are going beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6) and he would treat me dismissively and disrespectfully.  MacArthur's answer to this Charismatic argument, the same as what evangelicals and Phil Johnson himself would use?  That's such a cheesy argument.  That's his answer.  He counts it as nothing.  And, of course, it's true, but it is their argument.  Here's a statement from their Pulpit Magazine:

[T]he Bible tells us “not to exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). We cannot add to the Scripture without subtracting from its effectiveness in our lives. If we elevate personal preference and man-made tradition to the level of God’s Word (Mark 7:6-15), we risk entangling people in the bondage of legalism and diverting them from the true issues of sanctification (Romans 14:17).

Cheesy?  What do you think?  Same argument.

MacArthur went into a long explanation for why it's OK to use instrumental music with what point?  The only point it could have been was to try to explain the compromise of his own music.  It's not that they use instruments.  And he extrapolates from that there is nothing wrong with guitars, and then electrical instruments.  Point being?  He's justifying what they do with their music.  It's not what instrument -- it's what they do with those instruments.  And if you are going to use electric guitars, what is a sacred or godly use of that instrument invented for rock music, to put on a particular tone that is in fitting with pagan music.  He says they need to turn on white lights.  Why?  Where does scripture say they need white lights?  He's making applications all over the place.  MacArthur says the music is sensual.  It's not the words.  The words aren't very good, but they're not wrong per se.  That's a point Friel was driving at, and Friel could not get a solid answer, because he's dealing with people who are tip toeing all around the edges because of their own compromise.  You listen to it or watch it yourself.

I could write a lot more, and this is not a very formal presentation, more off the cuff, but it is important, I believe, for folks to think about.  If this is going to change, and they want it to change like the Strange Fire Conference is talking about, then these very people need to repent of the past and make a change, to count it as dung, like Paul was willing to do with his past.  They need to stop defending it.  Do I think they will?  I wish it were so, but I don't think they will.


Anonymous said...


Conservative evangelicals remind me of conservative establishment Republicans. They have no backbone. They'll complain about this and that, but in the end they'll ultimately side with the very people and principles they groused about.



PSFerguson said...

I think we should applaud MacArthur for going after the Charismatic movement. That took some courage and it was the right thing to do.

However, I also agree with Kent that this is MacArthur's 2 Samuel 12:5 moment when he attacks an evil he himself is openly guilty concerning. I was interested listening to a conversation with Phil Johnson and MacArthur over Iain Murray's criticism in his autobiography over MacArthur's worship styles in Grace CC. MacArthur never addressed the criticism but tried to portray it as some extreme exclusive Psalmody fringe opinion.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You are right about applauding MacArthur. It took courage for him to do it and it was right.

It was amazing that they did in fact trace music as the pivotal aspect. This was the gateway to the movement was the music. When they ask how it happens, it is the music. And then they describe the music, and they are describing a big chunk of their music.

I hope all is well with you, Paul. I appreciate you.

Kent Brandenburg said...



Anonymous said...

Any form of rock music is a gateway into more radical forms of music. If you listen to CCM, then secular rock is less offensive. If you have CCM on your iPod, you probably have secular rock on it as well. The two go hand in hand.

Don Johnson said...

Paul, do you know the link to the MacArthur/Johnson audio you are referring to? I listened to one where they were discussing music (some time in the past) and MacArthur's comment was something like (paraphrase!) 'I don't like it, but it seems to engage the young people' so he tolerated it. (please note, I am paraphrasing, not quoting). I can't find that one anymore - should have saved it the first time I heard it

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jonathan said...

To be fair, when Todd Friel was saying that his kids listened to it, I'm fairly confident he was playing the devil's advocate. In other words, there was an implied "hypothetically speaking, if I were a parent who's kids loved this stuff..." At least that is what I got from it, and I watched that portion of the video several times before posting this just to be sure I wasn't misinterpreting what he said.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I hope I didn't misrepresent Friel. I don't want to do that, but this has been a little while ago now. If my memory serves me correctly, I think he said a little bit more about his kids as it related to this kind of thing sometime else. Did you listen to the whole interview that I linked to so that people could check it out themselves?

Also, the sense I had was that the kids of these folks are listening to it. Does that sound wrong?

horace said...

@ Anonymous

You mean centre-left neoliberal Establishment Democrats... ;)

horace said...

@ Anonymous: You mean centre-left, Establishment Democrats... ;)