Last month Dr John MacArthur convened an anti-charismatic conference and fired his latest written salvo against Pentecostals. Both the conference and the book were called ‘Strange Fire’, an appellation taken from Leviticus 10 where the sons of Aaron offered unauthorised offerings to the Lord and as a result were consumed by fire. MacArthur and other speakers made huge assumptions based on superficial and flawed interpretation and research. In the final analysis they charged most of the 500 million charismatics and Pentecostals in the world with blasphemous doctrines and practices and assigned them to the status of unbelievers. When criticised for dividing the church MacArthur tweeted the now infamous, ‘We are not trying to divide the body of Christ with this conference. We’re trying to identify the body of Christ’. That about sums up the tone and content of the conference.
I am not going to add to the growing number of responses that have already been published such as Frank Viola’s ‘Pouring Holy Water on STRANGE FIRE – A Critique of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos.’ You can download this paper without charge provided you do so within the next 10 days or so –
Instead of castigating, analysing, and countering I would rather pose a simple question; ‘what would Jesus make of this and how would He respond?’ This is a question we can attempt to answer because of the wonderfully sufficient revelation in scripture. We can get a good idea of His nature and character from what He said and did and we can then apply this to the case at hand.
Consider how Jesus dealt compassionately with the woman caught in the act of adultery recorded in John chapter 8. Read again his charitable response to the ‘unauthorised’ man who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9). Then mark well that the only people He really got angry with were the Pharisees!
Would Jesus approve of the aberrations, antics and smoke and mirrors of SOME charismatic pastors and evangelists? Clearly He would not! What He said concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:29 would no doubt apply – but I fear it would apply even more directly to those who attribute the work of the Spirit of God to the devil! Would Jesus approve of sweeping generalities, harsh judgments and pseudo-intellectual elitism? No He would not!
They say there is no smoke without fire. What the few high profile charismatics sometimes do is indeed ‘strange fire’ unacceptable to God. However, what MacArthur and company are doing is just unholy smoke. What a sad and tragic combination. May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us all.