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

Let me share a bit of the history of the Charismatic Movement to demonstrate that the Charismatic Movement in fact affirms and cherishes the Scriptures in a way that Edwards would admire. The Charismatic Movement first broke out among Episcopalians in 1960, and then spread to other mainline denominations such as the Lutheran, Presbyterians and Methodists. All of those denominations had suffered from decades from liberal creep. That is, the seminaries had been slowly captivated by non-believers who taught a de-mythologizing theology. They asserted things like saying the miracles of the Bible did not really happen and that Paul exaggerated the lordship of Jesus. This had a poisonous result as increasingly liberal pastors replaced their more orthodox predecessors who died or retired. This process dampened and destroyed the faith of their congregations in the veracity of the Bible.

What the Charismatic Movement did was to sharply reverse that trend. That is, the demonstration of real healings, exorcism and other miracles destroyed the foundations of liberal demythologizing. If I just saw a miracle of healing, why should I believe the seminary professor who said the miraculous is “unscientific” and never happened in the Bible?

The end result was that those congregations and pastors that became charismatic also became much more orthodox in traditional doctrine and affirmers in the veracity of Scripture.17 Those pastors and churches that rejected or disregarded the Charismatic movement (a majority of the mainline churches—the seminary poison was too deep) drifted further into liberalism, which led to all sorts of theological distortions such as liberation theology and the drive to normalize homosexuality as something “good” to be affirmed.

In my home denomination, the Episcopal Church, the disregard for the teachings of Scripture on these issues led many of us to leave the Episcopal Church and form orthodox congregations as Anglicans—congregations that are predominantly charismatic.18 We felt a need to separate from the poisonous Episcopalian hierarchy, reaffirm the truth of the Scriptures on every issue, and get away from the liberal seminaries. That has cost many orthodox congregations their beautiful buildings and forced the divisions of many churches. The process is in the news practically every day. MacArthur’s assertion that charismatics lose esteem for the Scriptures and exalt prophecy over Scripture is strange and not true. It comes out of his Pharisaic spirit and from not following Edwards’ warning of viewing a revival as a whole, and not on its extreme parts.

“Fake healings and False Hopes”

MacArthur’s critique of the modern Christian healing movement is perhaps the most exaggerated and offensive piece of the entire work. It is obviously written from the perspective of a person who has no experience with the healing ministry, except perhaps in turning on his remote and viewing some of the more flamboyant TV evangelists.

MacArthur begins his assault by criticizing the ministry of Oral Roberts and claiming that Roberts has no proven track record of authenticated healings. Actually, Oral Roberts University has good records and videos of many of his miraculous healings. A mere assertion to the contrary does not constitute truth.

The thrust of his attack on Roberts is that he invented the “seed-faith” concept of coupling a donation to ministry with a biblical promise of a multiplied return. Now that is a separate issue, and yes, it is annoying and has been abused by many televangelists. MacArthur then turns to Benny Hinn and essentially does the same thing. He also asserts: “At best, Hinn’s supposed healings are the result of a euphoric placebo effect—in which the body temporarily responds to a trick played on the mind and the emotions” (161). How does he know that? Again, an assertion takes the place of proof.

He does not examine or mention any of the less flamboyant and highly effective ministries that dot the country and are found around the world. He could easily find healing minsters that don’t couple their ministry to seed faith doctrine and act with great effectiveness and integrity.19 Dr. Francis MacNutt’s Christian Healing Ministries out of Jacksonville, Florida, or Canon Mark Pearson’s Institute for Christian Renewal in Vermont, for example, represent ministries of great integrity and effectiveness.20 Christianity Today ran a cover story about the amazing and sacrificial healing, evangelistic ministry of Heidi Baker in Africa.21 The Bakers have an astoundingly anointed ministry with many miracles, and a medical journal’s verification of their effectiveness.22 MacArthur makes no mention of these or similarly effective ministries.

At the heart of MacArthur’s cessationist dismissal of the modern Christian healing movement are two huge errors in interpreting the biblical evidence. The first is the incredible assertion that that “New Testament healings did not depend on the Faith of the recipient.”23

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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

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