I normally do not blog on timely topics, but this one is too important to pass up. Last week, Southern California pastor John MacArthur led the Strange Fire conference. MacArthur’s passion in hosting this conference was to call the evangelical church to publicly refute what he sees is the error of the Charismatic Movement.
There are a few things to say about this. First, John MacArthur is very influential in the church and he is not alone in his views. MacArthur’s radio ministry, Grace to You, is heard by thousands and thousands of Christians across the world on a daily basis. MacArthur, who stands in a rather curious mix of Reformed and Dispensationalist theology, is a master communicator known for his effectiveness in the skill of expository teaching from the Bible. MacArthur is also a cessationist, which means that he believes that the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, ceased to be active in the church at the end of the Apostolic age, the first generation of the early church.
Secondly, the Charismatic Movement that MacArthur is protesting against is perhaps one of the fastest, if not THE fastest, growing movements in the church worldwide. While the growth of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches is modest in the United States, it is a completely different story in places like South America and Asia. Literally millions of people are being exposed to different expressions of the Charismatic Movement. I know from personal experience how significant this is as I helped to lead the music ministry at a small Charismatic church for a brief period back in my college years.
Thirdly, positively speaking, many, many Christians have been extremely blessed by what they have experienced in Charismatic churches and grown spiritually by their teachings. On the other side, tragically as with other movements, there has also been a large number of other Christians who have experienced spiritual abuse, theological confusion and tremendous disappointment in Charismatic communities of faith.
Needless to say, not everyone is happy with John MacArthur’s blanket characterization of the movement as a whole (see Adrian Warnock here and here with Loren Sandford for CharismaNews). There is a good chance that people in conservative churches will be having “spirited” conversations about John MacArthur’s conference (and the new book associated with it) for some months to come. Despite the controversy, MacArthur is raising critically important issues for the church. Down the road, Veracity will tackle the phenomena of the charismata in future posts, but hopefully it will be done in a more irenic and less polarizing manner than what MacArthur has done with Strange Fire.
Please join the Veracity community at the Facts & Faith Symposium, to be held at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, on several Sundays in November, 2013 (the 10th, 17th and 24th) at 6:30pm.