Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Reformed Continuationists: Strange Fire or Not?

We have our Word of Truth Conference this week.  You'll at least have audio from the conference, some before it's over and all shortly thereafter, Lord-willing.  You'll probably have video.  I'm looking into live-streaming.  We've never done it.
I'm also planning on finishing the series on Ekklesia, or the last part of that series, which would lay out what we think is so damaging to universal church doctrine.  Besides that, there is at least one other post I'd like to write on the issue that relates to history.
For those who read Thomas Ross's John Wesley post, I'm still interested in how he is wrong.  I got the name-calling, the ad-hominem, the judging of motives, the slandering and smearing, got all that, and also got how that other men have said good things about John Wesley, but I'm waiting for the actual proof that it was wrong.  Maybe that's not how fundamentalists and evangelicals roll.  Oh well, too bad.  Perhaps just typical.  Now to this post.


I have been watching what could be described as an intramural fight between reformed cessationists and reformed continuationists.  I'm talking about that where John MacArthur is on one side with all those preachers who identify and associate with his Strange Fire Conference (I'm not sure they're in the majority) and then John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms.   This is tough for some watching, because there is so much admiration among young, even fundamentalists, for John Piper and Mark Driscoll today.  Let me give my take, or my play-by-play of what is taking place.  I'm doing this because I believe there is very important issue here, one that has led me to take a break from one or two other issues to talk about this.  I do want all of you to pay attention.  Stick with me.  I'm not doing this out of sheer human interest.  I haven't read anyone write this, but I think it will nail this, and the reason I can do it is because of a unique perspective and independence, I believe, that I have.

John MacArthur is actually not a fundamentalist.  He's very, very close, but not quite.  He doesn't even call himself one, and I'm sure he knows why.  By the way, what I believe holds evangelicals back from being fundamentalists is their consistency in their ecclesiology, and that's a whole other series of blogposts again.  Because of this Strange Fire Conference he held at his church, and other things like that, some would rightfully, I believe, evaluate that he is moving closer to fundamentalism.  But this is where the rub comes.

When you listen to the reformed Charismatics or continuationists (same thing), you hear them opine about how that MacArthur is broad-brushing, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, etc. that he is judging the Charismatics as not saved.  Why would that be the criticism?  Why?  Because the gospel is the center of evangelicalism of which these reformed continuationists consider themselves.  I have never seen MacArthur make a big whoop about any issue except gospel-related issues in the true heritage of evangelicalism.  That's also what many fundamentalists would say, except they would add that you are to sort of separate over the gospel.  MacArthur doesn't delineate the separation so much.

What it sounds like, however, is that MacArthur and Johnson, et. al., just go about exposing and perhaps mocking the freaky practices of Charismaticism, related to continuationism, like barking like a dog, strange trances, night club looking worship, rolling on the floor laughing, fake healings, etc.  These are wrong and embarrassing in that order, but are they gospel?  This is where Charismatics and continuationists, especially the reformed ones, who are paying attention and less loony tunes, would cry foul.  "You can't not call us Christians!"  "Not barking like a dog isn't a way that a person is converted or gets saved!"  They've got a point here.  How do these particular practices, scripturally, mean that someone is not saved?  Especially these reformed Charismatics would say the same thing about salvation by grace that MacArthur would and also would defend their "holy rolling brothers."  Shouldn't MacArthur just ease up, since this isn't a gospel issue?

But MacArthur is saying it is a gospel issue.  That point came out again and again in the conference.  He's saying these people are not saved.  Why?  They are offering strange fire to the Lord.  Their worship practices indicate that they are not saved.  They might say they are saved, might claim to be saved by grace through faith, but MacArthur can't get through those practices and say they're not saved.  The problem here, and I get it, is where someone is supposed to draw the line in evangelicalism.  When has someone gone over the line, to where you would say he isn't saved unrelated to the gospel?  This isn't unrepentant adultery or shacking up or support of homosexuality or the like.  These people would not support that.  MacArthur hasn't taken a stand on the regulative principle.  I never heard it uttered from his mouth until, I think, once in the conference, but he wasn't even endorsing it.  I can't imagine he supports it, based on many of his own practices.  He's been a guy that has protected his own style by saying that his only draw lines where the Bible says, never going beyond what is written.  So there.  But the Bible doesn't prohibit, for instance, barking like a dog.  And the "charisma" is just a doctrinal difference with these guys -- they still all believe it's salvation by grace through faith.  MacArthur is being put in a spot where he looks very, very inconsistent, very, very selective in his targeting here.  It looks like he might be up in arms about a preference, and he's "dividing the body of Christ" (his and their view) by doing so.  Again, they've got a point, I think.

Even MacArthur himself in the past without retraction, said that the Lonnie Frisbee, Calvary Chapel, Jesus movement will be viewed as a true revival.  He's said that at least twice in the past as an important early aspect to Grace Community Church.  Now in this conference he says that his stream doesn't flow from there (like he's been reading me -- it really does read like it), but from the reformation.  That first stream actually did do a lot of feeding of GCC in the first several years, and MacArthur took advantage of those folks then.

So MacArthur is either saying that there is a serious gospel problem.  Most Charismatics are not saved and you can see it in their worship.  How people worship, their style, is in fact an indicator, even though there is no scriptural evidence of that, or at least none has been given in the past.  The reformed continuationists are encouraging this lack of salvation, aiding and abetting.  Or he is saying that false worship is a problem.  We've got to be against false worship.

I say that the gospel and worship dovetail.  How you worship says what or who you worship. You can decide who someone is worshiping by how they worship what or whom.  If it is irreverent, then it isn't God they're worshiping, even if they say they are.  MacArthur says this isn't Jesus and it isn't the Holy Spirit in the Charismatics, and he's judging by their worship.   They can't know God, because God wouldn't want what they're offering Him.  And you can't be saved with the wrong God, the wrong Jesus, the wrong Holy Spirit.  People think they're saved, but they're not because they are placing their faith in the "grace" of an impostor.

I believe, and have already been writing and saying for years, that the false worship of evangelicalism, not just Charismaticism, is tell-tale to their false Jesus, their other Jesus.  They have a Jesus crafted in their own lust, that accepts their lust as worship, like those in Ephesus and in Corinth.  The ecstatic utterances were just one manifestation in Corinth of ecstasy and euphoria.  People are fooled too who have never spoken in gibberish or barked like a dog.  MacArthur has used the same strategies at his church that offer people the same feelings that are deceiving of the true Holy Spirit.  They give a feeling that deceives.  The people are less deceived than at these Charismatic locations, but they are moving their direction, because that is where the beguiling and the seduction is, by painting a different image of God with the aesthetics and the feelings.  This is the vehicle that the demons use to carry people away to their dumb idols, their own lustful fancies, their lying vanities.

It really is not the pot calling the kettle black.  It is perhaps an old frying pan calling the kettle black.  It's not quite a pot, but it's halfway there.  It's angry at the kettle.  It think the kettle is ruining everything.

Let me give an easy example.  The Charismatics have extreme activities, freakish ones, for which they credit the Holy Spirit.  We say that's not the Holy Spirit.  You've got these cessationist evangelicals who play their rock music, promote their rock music, love their rock music, and even worse, and then all their worldly entertainment, and we're supposed to think that's God, that's Jesus, that's permissible, that exposing that is going beyond what is written.  Why?  It's the same thing.  It comes from the same poison fountain.

Not aside from the main point is when someone makes judgments of beauty relativistic.  There is one God and, therefore, truth, goodness, and beauty are also transcendent.  When you fiddle with beauty, make it relativistic, there goes truth and goodness.  And you'll get barking like a dog, calling it worship, without people knowing the difference.  When Paul said think on what's lovely, there must be an objective lovely to think about.  MacArthur has fudged on that, but he wants the Charismatics to change their tune (pun intended), or they're not saved.  It's hard to stomach for some.  Is "think" on lovely just when you've got the lights on the platform and the service has started, or do these rock music loving friends of MacArthur get to pick and choose when to think on lovely and what is lovely.  If that's going to be relative then it's all relative as far as they're concerned.

These conservative cessationist evangelicals do see this as a gospel issue.  So many people are being deceived, they have to say something.  It's no wonder that those being targeted don't see it as fair.

The Charismatic movement is obvious to John MacArthur and people like him.  He's obvious to me.  I hope he listens.


weecalvin1509 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
weecalvin1509 said...

Hi Kent,

The issue in the discussion re: John Wesley is not so much if Thomas is right. I think you are missing the boat on that one. I have already given my reasons why I think he is wrong. The issue is "What if Thomas is indeed correct?" Where does that leave John Wesley and by extension those men who fundamentally endorse him as a basicly orthodox preacher of the gospel?

If Thomas doesn't want to go there, then opening what is perceived to be a tin of worms isn't maybe the best things to do.

FTR (if needed) I haven't questioned any ones motives in any comments that I have made.