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

That God often uses imperfect and sinful persons for great things is clear in the Bible. Most readers would immediately think of David’s murder and adultery. Or Peter’s denial of Christ, and his later attempt to please the Judaizing faction of the Church (Gal. 2:11) There is an infrequently cited and seldom preached passage in Hebrews that makes this doubly plain. In chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews praises the faithful men of the Bible such as Moses and Abraham then ends in a flourish.

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight (vs.32-34).

All of these men were heroes of the faith, but most had serious moral failings and weakness. Samson had an uncontrolled eye for the girls, and Jephthah was a judge of Israel who executed his own daughter because of an impetuous oath. Yet their faith and achievements were celebrated.28

As a biblical commentator, and one who spent years in doing a line by line commentary of the Bible, this should have been obvious to MacArthur. But his intemperate animus towards Pentecostal/charismatics blinds him to this biblical point. Further on, MacArthur cites the moral lapses of Amie Simpson Macpherson (60) and others, as proof of the corruption and heresy of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. Certainly, he is correct in noting the recent the plague of scandals among some of the televangelists. There is something seriously wrong, demonstrated by the lack of accountability and oversight, the temptations of big money and influence, and exaggerated prosperity doctrines. But evangelical and Reformed pastors have also fallen into sin and ruined their ministries. It happens in all denominations.

Other unhistorical conclusions

MacArthur makes a major issue of Parham’s error in understanding the tongues gift. Parham believed that when his students began speaking in tongues at the Topeka Bible College on New Year’s 1901, they were doing what Peter had done in Acts 2. That is, their tongues were real human languages unintelligible to themselves, but could be understood by foreign listeners. Christian scholars call this “xenolalia” and it is a very rare gift, but not completely unknown in modern times.29 Parham concluded that with this gift of tongues he could send missionaries to the farthest reaches of the world without language training. There they would be able to communicate the Gospel just as Peter did on the day of Pentecost. In fact, Parham and other early Pentecostal teachers sent young men and women as missionaries with that premise, and they failed miserably. This was indeed a big mistake.

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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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