Thursday, August 8, 2013

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference


John MacArthurMuch to my surprise, John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference is causing a great deal of consternation within the Pentecostal/Charismatic ranks these days. Now, before you go getting all holier than thou on me and accusing me of blaspheming the Holy Ghost, you should know I was saved in a Pentecostal church at the age of 14. My conversion took place at the Crawley Creek Church of God just outside of Chapmanville, WV. For the first 8-10 years of my life, I was staunchly Pentecostal. I have been to the healing services, to the miracle services, and to the Holy Ghost crusades and revivals that Pentecostals so often exalt. I have seen R.W. Schambach, Ernest Angsley, Jimmy Swaggart, and several others multiple times in person. I do not speak about Pentecostal theology merely in the abstract; I also speak from experience. No one knows what goes on in Pentecostal churches and circles any better than I do. I have been the object of amazing prophecies that never materialized and have watched others subjected to the same. Some of the non-sense I have witnessed is enough to make your skin crawl.

My grandma was supposedly healed of diabetes by Earnest Angsley only to find out when she got back home that life was the same. My cousin was also proclaimed healed when in fact she died from breast cancer a few months later. None of these disappointments deterred my commitment to Pentecostal theology. I was like any other committed devotee. These phenomena can be multiplied 1000 times over again. Yet, what I find so very fascinating is the number of non-Pentecostals, even reformed thinkers who are siding more and more with this theological orientation. Pentecostal theology, broadly speaking, contains some of the most serious error in the Church and in some cases, outright heresy. Let’s talk about that.
One of the most disturbing teachings among Pentecostals is extra-biblical revelation. Pentecostals believe that God speaks to them in a variety of ways outside of Scripture. God speaks to their minds, gives them supernatural impressions, He comes to them in dreams, visions, and prophecies from fellow Pentecostals. In fact, this concept is so prevalent and such an obsession with this sect that it can serve as one of their defining characteristics.

In addition to this, Pentecostals believe that there is no difference between God’s work in Scripture and God's work today in terms of the supernatural gifts witnessed in the text. In other words, Pentecostals believe that God is still endowing individuals with the gifts of healing and miracles. The difficulty with this view is first and foremost, no one individual seems to possess these gifts with any legitimacy in contemporary times. Now, this is not a denial that God can and does heal. There is no basis to assert that God never heals. We have verification of God healing individuals on occasion these days. However, we do not see “healers” walking around performing healings the way Jesus and the apostles did in Scripture. We hear claims, we know someone who knows someone who knows someone who claims to know a faith healer. But for some seemingly inexplicable reason, we can’t seem to produce a genuine faith healer or miracle worker. There are men, like the fellows over at Triablogue, who think they can refute my comments using formal and informal argumentation as if this discussion can be settled in the abstract. While the attempts are put forth with diligence and sincerity, they fall flat. You see, not every truth is established by rational argumentation. Some truths are established by empirical means. And this would be one of them. The argument that faith healers and miracle workers are out there continuing to do what the apostles did is an empirical claim, and as such, can be tested empirically. After all, if I make the assertion that fire does not burn to the touch, the most efficient way to test my claim is through empirical verification. Faith healers and miracles workers must be subjected to empirical verification to determine if their claims hold up. Investigation after investigation of these claims, have shown them to range from the extremely nebulous story to proof of outright fraud. The best way to defend the legitimacy of the claim to miracle workers and genuine healings is to provide indisputable empirical vindication. For that proof, we are still waiting.

The Devil Could be in the Theological Details

Concerning “The Baptism with the Holy Spirit,” the Assemblies of God teaches, “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement [sic] of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry. This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as, an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, a deepened reverence for God, an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work, and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost.”

The Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. Moreover, this particular teaching on Spirit Baptism is widely held by all Pentecostals with very little variance. In this teaching we see the assertion that one has not been baptized in the Holy Spirit when they are initially converted to Christ. The experience is distinct from conversion and regeneration. Secondly, this specific experience is viewed as a commandment of Christ. In other words, we are in charge of baptizing ourselves with the Holy Spirit. I am not sure how that works, but this is their statement of faith. People who have this experience are supposedly able to have deeper reverence for God, a more intensified consecration to God, and greater dedication to God’s work, and a more active love for Christ and for His Word as well as for the lost. In other words, if you do not have this experience, you are utterly deficient in all of these areas when compared to the Pentecostal. My purpose here is not to engage with these assertions in order to refute. That is been done repeatedly over the years. My purpose is to point out the very public theological positions of these groups so that we can understand just how dangerous and abhorrent their teachings actually tend to be.

Again, the AOG statement asserts that, “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” In other words, unless you are speaking in tongues, you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is a very dangerous teaching and clearly contrary to the teachings of Scripture. There is a serious conundrum here. If the Holy Spirit is the one who enables me to speak in tongues and I am not in charge of the Holy Spirit, can is it that Christ commands me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? If He is the baptizer, why am I commanded to do what only He is able to do? This is all very confusing. It is more than just a little contradictory. It is downright irrational.

Once more, the AOG affirms that divine healing is included in the atonement as do most all Pentecostals as far as I know: “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.” If this were true, then no one who is actually cleansed from sin and forgiven in Christ should ever get sick. This teaching among Pentecostals deserves to be rooted out for the cruelty it inflicts on people.

The Church of God, another very large Pentecostal denomination asserts the following about sanctification: “In sanctification subsequent to the new birth, through faith in the blood of Christ; through the Word, and by the Holy Ghost.” According to this teaching, you can be fully regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, but not at all sanctified. How could a born again person ever be “not sanctified.” I once asked a COG minister if born again people could go to hell. He said no. I then asked if an unsanctified person could go to heaven. He said of course not. So I said what happens to the born again person who is not yet sanctified if they die. He literally had no answer. I was stunned! It is part of their statement of faith! The COG also believes that the Holy Spirit baptism is evidenced by speaking in other tongues. In their doctrinal commitments, the COG affirms that divine healing is provided for all in the atonement.

The single greatest threat that Pentecostalism poses to Biblical Christianity is its view on divine revelation. It amounts to materially the same kind of view that the Roman Church takes toward the Magisterium essentially. The Pentecostal believes that God speaks to them and even commands them outside of Scripture. This process is an entirely subjective process that usually takes the form of some impression, or feeling, or perhaps a dream or supposed vision. In addition to these vehicles, God speaks through inspired divine utterances of their prophets. And how do these prophets know its God and not their own mind? Quite honestly, they don’t. The defense is that you better believe their word or else you are opposing the Holy Ghost. When the Pentecostal hears from God via any of these vehicles, who is anyone else to question or oppose it.

In addition to these large denominations, there are literally thousands of Pentecostal denominations in existence, each with their own little nuanced beliefs, giving occasion for their separation and division from the others. The Pentecostal notion of revelation is would be naturally attractive to any highly individualistic culture like America. The individual and their subjective feelings, impressions, dreams, and visions displace the authority of Scripture in some cases and augment it for the individual in many others. In many cases these special cases of revelation run contrary to Scripture. In many cases, they are just plain silly. And in some cases, they are very damaging and disturbing. In all cases, they injure the testimony and witness of the Christian community by making a mockery of the sacredness of divine revelation. The experiences of the Prophets and Apostles in Scripture in no way resemble the claims of modern Pentecostals. Biblical interactions with God were far more profound and far more serious than these emotion driven downgrades we hear from the Pentecostal camps.

In Summary

·         Pentecostal extra biblical revelation undermines the Christian view of Scripture, mocks God speaking, is impossible to defend, introduces mild error to outright heresy in the Christian community.
·         Pentecostal theology claims that regenerate born again Christians are not filled with the Holy Spirit.
·         Pentecostal theology denies that regenerate people are not ipso facto sanctified by the very fact of their conversion. Sanctification is a distinct experience from regeneration.
·         Pentecostal theology asserts that healing was provided for in the atonement.
·         Pentecostal theology holds that faith healers and miracles workers remain active to this day despite no evidence for their claims. These are empirical claims and require empirical verification. They are not claims in the abstract, nor are they historical claims.
·         Pentecostal theology also denies the doctrine of perseverance and even repudiates the very idea of eternal security.
·         Pentecostal theology has a disturbing view of Christ’s atonement, holding that the believer is not eternally secure can only mean that Christ’s atonement is less than sufficient for the forgiveness of sins, even for those who do endure. What is required is Christ’s death plus the enduring works of the individual. More needs to be said about this doctrine.
·         Finally, Pentecostals deny the role of men in leadership positions, asserting that God places women and men in eldership or pastoral roles.

There are many other views that Pentecostals espouse that are even more disturbing than the ones I reference here. For example, the view of tongues and Spirit Baptism is also held by all the oneness Pentecostals as well. Their experience of these phenomena and their views of these gifts are identical with the exception that they deny the Triune God of Scripture. Scripture is sufficient.

Here is just one of a thousand good reasons for the Strange Fire Conference. Nothing mocks Christianity more than this vile and blasphemous folly. This IS Pentecostalism and even for the few conservative ones within that camp, they can mount nor reasonable argument against this truly contemptible behavior.

Click here to view the video clip


9 comments:

  1. My mother was healed from trigeminal neuralgia.She never got sick again.
    The promsises of God, are still valid today.
    "Examine yourself,to see if you are in the faith"

    ReplyDelete
  2. My reply may be a ramble and randomized- as I think on your article-

    Do YOU believe that the Spirit leads us, in order that His message get through to whom He is seeking to counsel ? Are we not all the HANDS and feet of Jesus ?
    I think that the church that you went to as a younger person misled you~ The Assembly Of God Church I attend (though I don't claim to be Pentecostal) Knows and preaches that ALL healings and prayer answered are OF God and not of man. We also KNOW that we have a Triune God. Furthermore- we agree with Christ that there is neither man, woman, slave or free, Greek or Jew once we accept Christ. He views us ALL as equals.
    You can not JUDGE what we- who ALSO LOVE and serve Christ feel and know- by the televangelists and RICH ministries of NOW and of history OR by your younger self.

    God provides that there are multiple denominations- so that He can reach people of different personality and realities.
    I for one do not want to kneel or respond with memorized responses on command. Yet others NEED that type of service- they PREFER a known order and routine and pomp and pageantry. It gives them the opportunity to draw closer (or not)to God.
    As for speaking in tongues- Who are you to say that it is NOT available to everyone who desires that ? Could it not be that those who seek it have no fear in asking ? SO they receive it?
    Many in other denominations DISLIKE and mock their OWN denomination for having a second service for a more modern style and music- a freer service. Where is the CHRIST like LOVE in that ?

    POINT BEING- We are ALL sinners- we all have the potential to GROW or to FALL. Each true Christian is given the choice to serve or to divide-
    Each Christian no matter the denomination is asked to serve His kingdom with love toward mankind- in order that we may draw people CLOSER to God- so that THEY TOO will want to meet Jesus.
    People who earn a living by being on a circuit- or performing Christian music- or writing books should be held more accountable ,as they are accepting the role of TEACHER- His word says that they will be held MORE accountable for those they have harmed with their 'works'. There are a few well known’s now preaching prosperity- while they gather their OWN wealth from people who can not afford to pay their utilities---- HOWEVER-- these very people are reaching multiple hurting souls with God's REAL promises too- OUR hope and prayer should be that ALL people grow IN Christ- so that THEY may see and discern the parts they should eliminate from the teachers works.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My reply may be a ramble and randomized- as I think on your article-

    Do YOU believe that the Spirit leads us, in order that His message get through to whom He is seeking to counsel ? Are we not all the HANDS and feet of Jesus ?
    I think that the church that you went to as a younger person misled you~ The Assembly Of God Church I attend (though I don't claim to be Pentecostal) Knows and preaches that ALL healings and prayer answered are OF God and not of man. We also KNOW that we have a Triune God. Furthermore- we agree with Christ that there is neither man, woman, slave or free, Greek or Jew once we accept Christ. He views us ALL as equals.
    You can not JUDGE what we- who ALSO LOVE and serve Christ feel and know- by the televangelists and RICH ministries of NOW and of history OR by your younger self.

    God provides that there are multiple denominations- so that He can reach people of different personality and realities.
    I for one do not want to kneel or respond with memorized responses on command. Yet others NEED that type of service- they PREFER a known order and routine and pomp and pageantry. It gives them the opportunity to draw closer (or not)to God.
    As for speaking in tongues- Who are you to say that it is NOT available to everyone who desires that ? Could it not be that those who seek it have no fear in asking ? SO they receive it?
    Many in other denominations DISLIKE and mock their OWN denomination for having a second service for a more modern style and music- a freer service. Where is the CHRIST like LOVE in that ?

    POINT BEING- We are ALL sinners- we all have the potential to GROW or to FALL. Each true Christian is given the choice to serve or to divide-
    Each Christian no matter the denomination is asked to serve His kingdom with love toward mankind- in order that we may draw people CLOSER to God- so that THEY TOO will want to meet Jesus.
    People who earn a living by being on a circuit- or performing Christian music- or writing books should be held more accountable ,as they are accepting the role of TEACHER- His word says that they will be held MORE accountable for those they have harmed with their 'works'. There are a few well known’s now preaching prosperity- while they gather their OWN wealth from people who can not afford to pay their utilities---- HOWEVER-- these very people are reaching multiple hurting souls with God's REAL promises too- OUR hope and prayer should be that ALL people grow IN Christ- so that THEY may see and discern the parts they should eliminate from the teachers works.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with you whole heartedly. I have always been telling my fellow Christians, to assert that when Jesus said, (paraphrasing)"...you will do greater things than I..." that this applies to us today then we have to take that scripture out of context.

    Theologically, Jesus was only talking to the apostles and so at it's core it only applies to the apostles.

    Anyways, good blog, VERY good blog.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love when Pentecostals leave comments and arguments on my blog. They make my points for me far better than I ever could.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I too was raised in an Assembly of God Church, all my life. At the age of 38 I finally heard the Gospel. The preacher was not yelling, he was not running around the church, he was not speaking a language that is really not a language at all. He took the Bible read it and explained what happened at the cross in such detail, my life has never been the same. I agree with you. I was actually somewhat angry the first couple of years after I was saved because I thought all this time, I had not heard the truth. Now I understand they themselves are ignorant and I don't mean that in a mean way but it's true, they are ignorant in so many areas of the Bible. John Macarthur has struck a nerve because the truth always does that. The truth makes most people angry, however I pray the truth might just set some free. God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you Kim for giving us a wonderful and gracious testimony of the work of God in your heart. It is so encouraging to see God working in the hearts of His children! Take care.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You want to be healed go to the prayer closet and ask your Heavenly Father in Jesus Christ name to heal you. You DO NOT need any charlatan money scaming faith healer that perverts God's word. God still heals his elect that follow his word and sincerely try to live by it. We are all sinners till we come to Jesus Christ and he covers us in his grace and mercy. Have a Blessed Day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem with your theology Michael is first of all, it does not comport with Scripture nor does it reflect reality. A person asks for God to heal them, they don't get healed, and you are telling them that it is because of some defect in their Christian life. How encouraging is that? How long have you been in the Christian way?

      Delete

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