Subscribe via RSS Feed

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire as Parody of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology, by William De Arteaga

This caused some concern and criticism among the clergy, and Edwards wrote Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741) to answer some of these concerns. In that important short work he affirmed that “exercises,” bodily manifestations, often accompany revival, and often bear good fruit, but they can also be counterfeited, or merely self-induced. Thus exercises themselves are not proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Rather one has to judge the exercises by the fruit of real change and spiritual progress of the persons and congregations affected by revival.

He developed the criteria based on the Scripture to assess the fruit of revival and see if it was truly from God, regardless of intensity, or lack of intensity in the exercises.

These were five general criteria for discerning if revival and its accompanying exercises were truly from the Holy Spirit:

1. When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.

2. When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing men’s worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit.

3. The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God.

4. Another rule to judge of spirits may be drawn from those compellations given to the opposite spirits… “The spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” These words exhibit the two opposite characters of the Spirit of God, and other spirits that counterfeit his operations. And therefore, if by observing the manner of the operation of a spirit that is at work among a people, we see that it operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true, we may safely determine that it is a right and true spirit.

5. If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God. 9

By this time there was considerable excess among other and often intemperate revival preachers. One revivalist believed he could discern the spiritual state of a church pastor, as to whether he was truly converted or a false believer. His negative judgment would prompt the congregation to remove that pastor from the pulpit. This caused much resentment among the clergy towards the revival.

In Edwards’ next work, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1743), he aimed at allaying the fears and resentments of the clergy by informing them of the overall benefits of revival in spite of its faults and indiscreet preachers. In this work he urged that revival must be judged as a whole and not by its extremes.

Another foundation-error of those who reject this work, is, their not duly distinguishing the good from the bad, and very unjustly judging of the whole by a part; and so rejecting the work in general, or in the main substance of it, for the sake of some accidental evil in it.10

Edwards again pointed out how often and how many churches had truly experience good fruit in revival worship and enthusiasm for the Christian life. He affirmed that revival exercises, although strange, such as Abigail Hutchinson’s faintings, often bore much good fruit in the long run. He also pointed out that exercises such as the fallings had occurred before, as in the Scottish Presbyterian Revival of the 1600s, and were continuing in his time.

Yea, such extraordinary external effects of inward impressions have not been found merely in here and there a single person, but there have been times wherein many have been thus affected, in some particular parts of the church of God; and such effects have appeared in congregations, in many at once. So it was in the year 1625, in the west of Scotland, on a time of great outpouring of the Spirit of God. It was then a frequent thing for many to be so extraordinarily seized with terror in hearing the word, by the Spirit of God convincing them of sin, that they fell down, and were carried out of the church, and they afterwards proved most solid and lively Christians.11

Edwards repeated and expanded this message, in his last and now classic work on revival A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1742). By the time it came out, revival was on the wane and under severe attack, principally by the writings of the Boston pastor, Charles Chauncy—the great Pharisee of the Great Awakening.12

Pin It
Page 3 of 912345...Last »

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Spirit, Winter 2014

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?