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

In incredibly inept exegesis to prove this, MacArthur points to the incident of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus (Luke 17: 11-19). MacArthur claims all were healed, but only one had faith—the one who returned (163). This is clearly untrue. The Scripture describes that all had the faith to believe that Jesus would heal them, and all had the faith to obey Jesus command to show themselves to the Temple priests—as commanded by Mosaic Law. What nine lepers did not have was the virtue of gratitude, the point of the incident.

There are numerous examples in the Gospels where the recipient’s faith is affirmed by Jesus as a key to healing. For instance, consider the incident of the woman with internal bleeding in Matthew 9.

For she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well (Matt 9: 21-22; See also Mark 10:52, Luke 8:48, Luke 18:4).

MacArthur’s’ woeful misinterpretation of Scripture seems to be based on the Calvinist interpretation of miracles. That is, that they are all entirely due to the sovereign act of God, with no human input. That this is contrary to the biblical evidence is especially clear in the miracle of Peter walking on the water. Jesus called him, and at first he could walk on water, but when saw the wind and the waves his faith faltered, and he began to sink. God did not change, but Peter’s faith level did, which means it was a factor in the miraculous event.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:29-30).

I believe another reason that motivates MacArthur’s “strange” exegesis is his animus towards the Word-Faith preachers such as Kenneth Copeland who make much of the need for faith in healing and the miraculous. But anger is not the best basis for theological reflection, and as MacArthur has demonstrated, leads to foolishness.

The second major interpretive error that MacArthur makes on the healing ministry is his claim that modern healing ministries cannot be authentically New Testament because modern healing minsters often fail in their results. MacArthur claims that Jesus and the Apostles never failed (167 ff). The biblical evidence is to the contrary, as described when Jesus ministered in his home town.

And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief (Mark 6:3a-6 NASB).

Herein lays a hint at why the healing ministers in the United States and Europe are not as effective as most of the New Testament accounts of healing and why healing evangelists are so effective in Africa. Centuries of cessationist theology and liberal de-mythologizing in the West have sapped the faith-expectancy of the general public, reducing it to the levels even below that of Nazareth. Many people who go to a healing ministry have in the back of their minds that “this is not possible,” etc. Like Peter’s fear of the waves, this diminishes their faith. This is not to blame the recipient of healing prayer for not being healed, as there are many and subtle impediments to receiving the grace of healing.24

Another factor could be that the modern healing ministry is still relatively new, and new discoveries are still being made to improve it. For instance in the 1980s the Pentecostal couple Charles and Francis Hunter discovered that there is no example in the New Testament of a petitionary prayer for healing. Rather, healing is always a command based on the authority of Jesus’ name. That change in prayer technique, which remains controversial and is far from universally accepted, seems to increase the effectiveness of the healing ministry.25

MacArthur’s Historical ignorance vs. Edwards’ command of church history

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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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