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Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire?

MacArthur Strange FireDid tongues and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit cease in the early church? John MacArthur says they did and that practicing them today is false worship—an abomination before God.

Pneuma Review invites you to respond to these criticisms and to renew the biblical command to “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor 14:1).

We’ve been here before
In 1978, MacArthur wrote The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective (Zondervan). Charismatic Chaos (Zondervan) was published in 1992. Dr. MacArthur launched his latest attacks against Pentecostal/charismatic beliefs with the Strange Fire conference (October 16-18, 2013), with speakers including Joni Eareckson-Tada and R. C. Sproul. His new book is Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson), due out on November 12, 2013.

Not known for a conciliatory approach, John MacArthur’s inflammatory language is sure to polarize any attempt by Christians to discuss the gifts of the Spirit. We all agree that spiritual gifts can be and have been misused. There are significant doctrinal errors and poor theology being taught by some Christian leaders today. But are all Pentecostal/charismatics worshiping God falsely? Are they believing and teaching a counterfeit Gospel?

Invitation to participate
Pneuma Review has invited Pentecostal/charismatic scholars and Bible teachers from around the world to read and respond to MacArthur’s book. This is your opportunity to join the discussion about the continuation or cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Use the Comment box below so that all of us may read your posts.

As we have this needed conversation
Please keep in mind the Pneuma Foundation’s (parent organization of Pneuma Review) principles for discussing controversial topics.

When presenting teachings over which there is disagreement in the body of Christ, the Pneuma Foundation will not make its position in a manner that alienates or ignores opposing views. It is better to follow the Biblical mandate of preferring others over ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). The Foundation desires to present the differing viewpoints and promote dialogue, acknowledging that the goal of our instruction is love (1 Tim. 1:5).

Pentecostals too? Is John MacArthur being as hard on Pentecostals as he is on charismatics? This brief video by MacArthur might make you think that he is more sympathetic towards classical Pentecostals. However, Dr. Michael Brown sent this note to us that he posted on his Facebook page:

For all those writing to me and claiming that Pastor MacArthur is reaching out to “faithful Pentecostals” in a conciliatory way, make no mistake about it: He renounces the entire charismatic movement as being in serious error and ends his book with a strong appeal to his reformed charismatic friends to completely renounce their beliefs in continuationism. It’s black and white, in his book, on my desk, no doubt about it.

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by R. Loren Sandford R. Loren SandfordStrange Fire by John MacArthur is basically an attack on anything and everything related to the Charismatic Movement and the various movements descended from it, as if the whole of it were composed of one monolithic set of doctrines and practices that all of us espouse. It invalidates anything that smacks of the supernatural or of emotion freely expressed in God’s presence. MacArthur pours his vitriol – and I mean vitriol – through the filter of his own prejudices and theological presuppositions in a way that blinds… [Read more]


John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Eddie L. Hyatt
As a life-long Pentecostal-Charismatic, I recommend that every Pentecostal-Charismatic leader read Strange Fire by John MacArthur. I say this because we need to see how the bizarre “spiritual” behavior and doctrinal extremes by some in our movement are viewed by those on the outside and are used to whitewash the entire movement. We have done a very poor job of addressing these problems from within, so I do not doubt that God has raised up a voice that is fundamentally opposed to our movement to address these extremes. If God could use a pagan Babylonian king to discipline his people Israel for their sins(Jeremiah 25:8-11), could he not use a merciless fundamentalist preacher… [Read more]


Frank Macchia on the Gifts of God to the Church
In the context of this hoopla over cessationism, it might be interesting to see how the issue of spiritual gifts was dealt with in the first round of international talks between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Pentecostals (of which I was a participant). We agreed together that all of the gifts from the New Testament have value today, but that both global church families tended to favor different lists of gifts from the New Testament. In response, we affirmed that no single list of gifts is to be held up as all determinative for judging the quality of a church’s spirituality and that both sides must expand its horizonsby embracing the value of the gifts cherished by the other side… [Read more]

ruthven_small[1]John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, A Brief Biblical Response by Jon Ruthven
As we shall see, John MacArthur’s abhorrence of “further revelation” via prophecy and related spiritual gifts derives, not from scripture, but from the frustration of Calvinists under Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) of watching so many of their members defect to the Quakers, the crazy charismatics of the time. People were falling down, making a lot of noise and encountering Jesus in visions, prophecies, and healings. Sound familiar? Calvinist scholastics responded to this outrage with the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF)—often now regarded as the gold standard… [Read more]

Bill Dearteaga 1John MacArthur’s Strange Fire as Parody of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology, by William De Arteaga
The thesis of John MacArthur’s new book, Strange Fire is that Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement, are heretical movements that must be rebuked and eliminated from the church. 1 Everything to do with these movements is fraudulent, inauthentic or a misrepresentation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Strange Fire continues his war on the Pentecostals and charismatics begun with his book published twenty years ago… [Read more]

CHAS_6[1]John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Charles Carrin
You will soon be hearing about two books: Strange Fire by Dr. John MacArthur and Holy Fire by Dr. R.T. Kendall. Dr. Kendall has written only in the emergency to defend Scripture and charismatic Christians from Dr. MacArthur attack. John MacArthur is a man of significant Christian stature.  He is the author of more than 150 books, a study Bible, other best-selling material, and a College President.  R.T. Kendall is equally a man of great achievement. He holds a PhD. from Oxford University, authored more than 60 books, for twenty-five years was pastor of… [Read more]

111110ATS-keener002-200x300[1]John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener
While offering some very needed points, John MacArthur’s Strange Fire unfortunately extrapolates from those points to an entire “movement.” As I note below, I also believe that MacArthur suppresses some biblical truth on the basis of a postbiblical doctrine, the very offense with which he charges others. Nevertheless, there is much to be learned from his criticisms; he has brought again to our attention some serious errors that charismatic churches must be on their guard against. I start with some agreeable points in the book and then move to points where I believe MacArthur has clearly overstepped the bounds  of reason and Christian civility… [Read more]

FrankViolaLargeWhy I Took Time to Respond to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire
Someone has asked me, “Why waste your time on responding to MacArthur’s writings against the charismatics?” When I was in my 20s, I wrote a critique of John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos because a brother in the Lord broke fellowship with me and my friends after reading MacArthur’s book. Jesus said to His disciples, “If they reject you, they’ve rejected me.” So to my mind, restoring a brother to… [Read more]


Strange Fire and Churches of Christ
Maybe you’ve noticed that over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk around charismatic vs. not charismatic protestant Christians. Some people held a conference, and John MacArthur wrote a book about it. Mark Driscoll even showed up at the conference and started giving away his newest book and just confused everyone. But what caught my eye is what these non-Charismatics called the conference. They called it, “Strange Fire” Which may not mean much to you, but… [Read more]

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire: Estranged by misinterpretation? (Quotes and Discussion)

MORE on the TOPIC:

Tim Challies: Lessons Learned at Strange Fire

Adrian Warnock: Strange Fire – A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur

ALEX MURASHKO: MacArthur Continues Case Against Charismatic Movement at ‘Strange Fire’


SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: John MacArthur Suffers From Spiritual, Cultural and Theological Myopia

Joela Barker: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference

MICHAEL BROWN: A Final Appeal to Pastor MacArthur on the Eve of His ‘Strange Fire’ Conference

Sarah Pulliam Bailey: John MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll: Megachurch pastors clash

Benjamin Robinson: Strange Fire? A Response to John MacArthur


R. T. Kendall: Dear Dr. MacArthur

J. Lee Grady: To My Fundamentalist Brother John MacArthur: Grace to You Too

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  1. Bibliata TV says:

    Very timely indeed! The difference between Pentecostals and Charismatics should have been set a long time ago…

  2.' L. Edward Prince says:

    John MacArthur has been totally irrelevant to all Spirit-filled believers for many years. He is the definitive epitome of the truth that THE PERSON WITH THE EXPERIENCE IS NEVER AT THE MERCY OF THE ONE WITH NOTHING BUT AN ARGUMENT. He is in serious danger of blasphemy, if in fact he has not already waded in its waters. May God have mercy on him and all who would be so spiritually naive as to follow him into the ditch of heresy.

  3. Pneuma Review says:

    L. Edward Prince has sent the following comment:
    John MacArthur has been totally irrelevant to all Spirit-filled believers for many years. He is the definitive epitome of the truth that THE PERSON WITH THE EXPERIENCE IS NEVER AT THE MERCY OF THE ONE WITH NOTHING BUT AN ARGUMENT. He is in serious danger of blasphemy, if in fact he has not already waded in its waters. May God have mercy on him and all who would be so spiritually naive as to follow him into the ditch of heresy.

  4. So they ended with the disciples. WHICH one, he probably thinks it was John. SO let me get this straight. John and the 12 had converts that were filled with the spirit, they had converts that were filled with the spirit, they had converts that were filled with the spirit, "THEIR children's children had converts that were filled with the spirit. THEN ALL of a sudden GOD TOOK IT FROM THEM ALL AND THEY COULD NO LONGER SPEAK IN TONGUES. John MacArthur's books are a sham written by a man that is ignorant regarding the spirit. "At one time God winked at ignorance."

  5. Gerard Wassink says:

    This argument is soooo old… Can't believe that there are still people advocating it against all evidence of the contrary in present days. We're best of not giving this any more attention. One of my favorite scriptures comes to mind: 2 Timothy 3:5 "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away".

  6. Pneuma Review says:

    Pneuma Foundation president, Jim Dettmann, says that MacArthur certain could have found more examples of doctrinal abuses and excesses since the last time he wrote about this in the 1990s. Addressing these issues as Pentecostals and charismatics is why we started The Pneuma Foundation and our journal, Pneuma Review.

  7. Pneuma Review says:

    You are right that this argument is old. We have been here before.
    Is "not giving this more attention" going to be helpful?

  8. Pneuma Review says:

    Pneuma Foundation president, Jim Dettmann, adds: As someone who respects his other works, it is sad when MacArthur provokes Christians like this. All Pentecostal/charismatics are not the same. It is easy to find the excesses and the extremes. Why are thoughtful, solid continuationists ignored?

  9. Bibliata TV says:

    Have you, gentleman, actually read the book?

  10. Pneuma Review says:

    Strange Fire does not release from Thomas Nelson until Nov 12. The panelists that are writing for Pneuma Review have been sent pre-publication copies. But there are already numerous videos from MacArthur's conference this past week (it ran Oct 16-18).

  11. Bibliata TV says:

    Pneuma Review Well then this is a very dangerous task. I just read the last review by Benjamin Israel Robinson who says:

    "I’m sure his book will spell this out) that the charismatic movement began in earnest in 1906 at Azusa St?"

    Wouldn't making assumptions on what a book will assume as thesis prior to its reading (even publication) be exactly the charismatic behavior that has got us here as a movement?

  12. Pneuma Review says:

    Christians believing that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased is nothing new. But is MacArthur saying that continuationists are not Christians?

  13. MacArthur's arguements are old and have been addressed many times before.

  14. I was somewhat surprised at the shallowness of MacArthur's argument. MacArthur is either unaware or purposely ignores the historical evidence for the continuation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as was documented in my book, "2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity." He ignores clear statements of church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Augustine about healings and miracles in their time. He uses Augustine’s statement about tongues being “adapted to the times” as an argument that the gifts had ceased. He ignores, however, Augustine’s later works, including "Retractions," in which he acknowledges the ongoing miraculous work of the Spirit and tells of miracles of which he is personally aware. His Biblical argument is just as weak.

  15. Kyle David Huckins says:

    "2000 Years" was great; wish MacArthur would read it

  16. If even the rocks would cry out, how dare mcauthor tell anyone, male or female, slave or free, gentile or jew to be silent anywhere.

  17. Rob McAlpine says:

    A look at the logical fallacies in MacArthur's eight-point appeal to his continuationist "friends".

  18. John Caldwell says:

    Having been deeply involved in teh pentecostal/charismatic movements for 12 years, I would say MacArthur has a lot to teach the movement. To simply dismiss him is to shut our ears to the corrective word of God. Here is my response:

  19. Bibliata TV says:

    Have you read the book or are you just responding to the conference?

  20. Pneuma Review says:

    On Oct 24 on the Pentecostal Theology Worldwide Facebook Group (, Richard W. said:
    "If what has been offered by the two authors thus far (Hyatt and Sanford) is to be indicative of further responses it would be better off to say nothing at all. Quite frankly if Pneuma review wants to consider its self a respected academic resource for all things Pentecostal they would serve themselves and the cause better if they published articles that actually defended their position (biblically)."

    On Oct 24, Micah P. wrote:
    "^ Disagree. Keep up the good work. Loved it"

    On Oct 26, Pneuma Review added:
    "Thank you for responding. We asked our panelists to review John MacArthur’s *Strange Fire*. While we would be glad to publish more in-depth responses, a full defense of continuationism was outside the scope of what we requested. We invite anyone interested in beginning such a project to contact us."

  21. Surely Jon Ruthven has already accomplished this in his "The Cessation of The Charismata", this is what grieves me about MacArthur he ignores competent scholarship such as this. There are so many excellent theological works by Pentecostal/Charismatic authors but he ignores them.

  22. Gene Mills says:

    Years ago a fundamentalist associate gave me a copy of MacArthur's, "Charismaric Chaos," which I read. It struck me as odd that MacArthur, who is noted to be strong in the use of Scripture, barely used biblical references to support his view that cessationism was the proper approach to take when discussing gifts, etc. In another place he wrote, to my bewilderment, that a person who comes to faith in Christ will find it impossible to grow in correct doctrine if merely left alone with the Bible. So, although this man is a talented teacher and expositor he is certainly human with all the bias that comes with not having complete knowledge. Therefore, I agree that Charismatics / Pentecostals benefit from reading those with whom they may disagree in order to see themselves through the eyes of those that are in opposition to their strongly held views. MacArthur, in the end, though surely sincere about his minority opinion, is just that, an opinion in the very small minority, of the few fundamentalist enclave left. His is a battle already lost in the larger arena of Christian faith and we must move on and not fight again battles already won.

  23. Jon Ruthven says:

    That's the same observation I had of Warfield's *Counterfeit Miracles*. He based his entire argument on the "experience" of history, almost nothing on scripture, except to try to refute those passages used by those advocating healing. The precedent was set by his *Westminster Confession of Faith* Paragraph 1, setting out cessationism. They could only quote Hebrews 1 for support–something that had nothing to do with the cessation of the charismata! Even then, the writers of the Confession were forced by Parliament to support all their claims with scripture, because they feared (reasonably) that this group of scribes was foisting a new canon–a new Christianity–on them. Many of those "supports" were a major stretch exegetically.

  24. Gene Mills says:

    It would be very difficult if not impossible to base a cessationist argument on Scripture.

  25. I feel sad for him as he does not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how wonderful the Word of God is concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. Also, Jesus' stand on women is totally explained in Sue Hyatt's Book, "We are Equal in the Spirit." Religious spirits certainly do blind the eyes of many leaders and it is sad to say they create confusion in the Body of Christ. The Book of Acts is for today and a continuation of the Church of Jesus Christ. Without the Charismatic Renewal many Catholics would have not found themselves Baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues like Jesus' mother Mary did in the Upper Room. Come on let's read the Word of God. We are Kings and Priests who offer up a sacrifice of Praise and Worship to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Enough said…you cannot argue with someone who is not open to what God is doing today you have to pray for the eyes of their understanding to be opened to the truth. They have ears to hear and they do not hear…etc.

  26. Pneuma Review says:

    J.D. King writes:
    I know you have been compiling and posting Pentecostal-Charismatic reactions to MacArthur's "Strange Fire." I wrote the following post in regard to it.

  27. […] Pneuma Review | November 5, 2013 | 2 comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  28. […] Pneuma Review | October 19, 2013 | 4 comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  29. […] Pneuma Review | October 23, 2013 | 7 comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  30. […] Pneuma Review | November 6, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  31. […] Pneuma Review | November 8, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  32. Pneuma Review says:

    Many of those that are defending John MacArthur's arguments are saying that they see few continuationists making a Biblical defense of their position. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

  33. […] Pneuma Review Editor | November 15, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  34. Pneuma Review says:

    On Pneuma Review's timeline, HS wrote:
    "The cessationist and deviation of reformed theology has really divided the body of Christ even in Indonesia I already heard today that they campaign the same thing as McArthur. Why they are so blind? While they speak about the supremacy of Love, but no Love at all in what they are doing. I still think they are brother and sister, but they don't want me to be their brother. I become suspicious, may be we worship different Jesus? sad."

  35. Rod Nolte says:

    Gene Mills , thanks for your post. However, you seem to see "fundamentalism" as something negative. I also believe in the Bible as the word of God, it is my "foundation" for the revealed general will of God, but that does not make me a Cessationist. Quite contrary, the Bible (my and the cessationist foundation) says these gifts WILL continue. So let us please not wrongly frame this debate as "fundamentalism" versus "liberalism".

  36. Bibliata TV says:

    Jon Ruthven If we based it truly on history, we will need to base it also on the story of 600,000+ who say they have experienced it genuinely. I’d love to pick up this topic under your review of MacArthur’s book when you've got the time!

  37. […] Pneuma Review Editor | November 19, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  38. Michael Raburn says:

    No, I don't think it is a fair assessment. The first thing we have to do (imo) is redefine what counts as a "biblical defense." MacArthur doesn't get to just use "biblical" as his self-reaffirming adjective. I think we have to challenge how he even uses and understands Scripture. Unfortunately, too many Pentecostals have fallen for the heresies of sola scriptura and inerrancy, leaving them wide open to the overly literal, atomistic reading of Scripture one has to do to make the sort of claim MacArthur is making. Our response should be, "You don't know the Scriptures or the power of God," but to make that stick, we have to wake up to how differently Scripture functions outside a fundamentalist framework. MacArthur's argument only holds if you buy into his heretical presupposition.

  39. […] Pneuma Review | November 22, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  40. […] Pneuma Review | November 25, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  41. Pneuma Review says:

    In an email received on Nov 26, MR wrote: "I am also glad to hear you are getting some international involvement on this. I am sure you will thus get some varied though needful responses to MacArthur's book from this international pool representative of the southern hemisphere. Blessed thanksgiving be yours through the Spirit of Fellowship."

  42. […] Pneuma Review Editor | December 24, 2013 | no comments Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) […]

  43. Timothy Lim says:

    Wished MacArthur have read Anthonyy Thiselton's The Holy Spirit before he rushed to publish his poorly informed and outdated understanding of Renewal

  44. […] Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion) From Pneuma Review Winter 2014 […]

  45. Brian Roden says:

    Not really surprised, but Al Mohler has publically agreed with John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" categorization of Pentecostals in a recent episode of his podcast 'The Briefing'" (starting about the 11:52 mark)
    He states that the revelatory gifts of prophecy and tongues ceased when the Apostles departed, that no orthodox believer after the time of the Apostles believed they continued, and that the revival of the gifts at the beginning of the 20th century occurred among those "whose theology was by and large aberrant — and that's an understatement" — people who did not represent biblical Christianity.
    He does go on to try to nuance his reply to state that continuationists within Evangelical biblical Christianity are not heretics but brothers, and point his disapproval more at the prosperity gospel and those who "depend on signs and wonders." But his claim about those who "resurrected" the gifts of tongues and prophecy seems to throw classical Pentecostals such as A/G, CoG-Cleveland, COGIC, Foursquare, etc. under the bus.
    I'd like to hear others' perceptions after listening to the segment.

  46.' Mickie says:

    Very good website you have here
    Thank you!

  47. John Caldwell says:

    Bibliata TV It's a response to charismatic responses to the conference.

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