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

But quickly, such persons as William Seymour, the African-American leader of the Azusa Street Revival, realized that the tongues at the Azusa Street revival were of the nature described by Paul in 1 Cor. 12 and 14. They were for worship, edification, prophecy, and not the same as tongues in Acts 2. The theology of tongues was corrected and Pentecostalism matured and went on.

Further, MacArthur attempts to smear Pentecostalism by pointing out that the early Pentecostal movement birthed a faction called the Oneness Pentecostals when a small minority embraced an aberration and negation of Trinitarian theology. A further error, according to MacArthur, was that Charismatics and Pentecostals later adopted into fellowship the Catholic Charismatics. MacArthur concludes that a movement that birthed or succored such heresies could not be of the Holy Spirit (Chapter 3 “Testing the Spirits, Part 1”). To use this as a proof merely demonstrates his sectarianism and anti-Catholic fundamentalism.

MacArthur seems to be comparing the Pentecostal/charismatic movement with a flawless Reformed movement that exists only in his imagination, or a mythical Early Church without factions or divisions. In fact, the Apostolic Church—within the first generation, while the New Testament was even still being written—split into Hellenistic Christians and Jewish Christians. The Jewish Christian faction, who believed that the Law of Moses had to be followed for salvation, became known as Ebonites and survived as a minority faction into the 5th Century.30 Similarly, the Reformation quickly broke into major and minor denominations, to the glee of its Catholic adversaries. It immediately birthed the Radical Reformation, including a separatist Anabaptist group who formed a commune in Munster, Germany that ended tragically. Reformation historians are clear that radical fringe groups of the Reformation do not either typify the movement as a whole or discredit it as a whole—a Jonathan Edwards perspective. Rather, the Reformation needed time to mature, to “shake down and settle in.” MacArthur’s attempt to make Pentecostalism ridiculous looks an awful lot like a Catholic apologist critiquing Protestantism, “Heresy! Too many divisions, and too much chaos!”

In summary, MacArthur’s attacks on Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement is a work of Phariseeism. It will stand with other works of Phariseeism such as Charles Chauncy’s Seasonable Thoughts, Lavington’s, The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Considered, Dave Hunt’s Seduction of Christianity and other opponents of this Holy Spirit.

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Notes

1 John MacArthur, Strange Fire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).
2 John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992).
3 From MacArthur’s keynote speech at the “Strange Fire Conference,” Oct 16, 2013. Available at www.standfirmfaith.com
4 William De Arteaga, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1992). In my forthcoming work, “The Fall and Rise of Pauline and Hebraic Christianity,” I locate Phariseeism among two other “discernment heresies” that deface the work of the Church: Sadduceeism and Gnosticism. All have a distorted understanding of spiritual phenomenon and reality. In Quenching the Spirit I already identified MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos as pharisaic in nature. He in turn identified me as a deluded charismatic with “reckless faith.” See, John MacArthur, Reckless Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 160-169.
5 George Lavington, The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Considered (London: G. and B. Whitaker, Sherwood & Co. 1820), 2nd ed., with introduction by the Rev. R. Polwhele.
6 My most important contributions to the history of revivals are: Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1992), and Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). Although an enthusiastic Wesleyan, I have much respect for the Reformed tradition. See Forgotten Power, especially Part Two: “Revival and the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Tradition.”
7 Jonathan Edwards, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton, sect. ii, 354. All citations of Edwards’ work are taken from the very fine website, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/works1
8 Ibid., sec iii, p. 360.
9 Cited from: Jonathan Edwards, The distinguishing marks, In: Goen, C.C. ed., The Great Awakening (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 253.
10 Edwards, Faithful Narrative, sec iii, 371.
11 Edwards, Faithful Narrative, sec. ii, 370.
12 See my discussion of Chauncy in Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996), Chapter 3, “The Great Awakening Quenched.”
13 Note: my summary and analysis of Edwards’ theology of revival can be easily verified, as Edward’s major writing are now hosted on several excellent websites. I would especially recommend the reading of his Some Thoughts by everyone who is following the Strange Fire controversy. It is concise. Pastors and teachers might want to take the extra time needed to read his classic, Religious Affections.
14 On this point see Gerald R. McDermott, “The Great Divider: Jonathan Edwards and American Culture,” Books and Culture (Jan/Feb 2010).
15 Strange Fire, 69, citing a work by Donald Bloesch, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000).
16 John MacArthur, The Wrath of God (Moody Press, 1986). Actually, an excellent work, on a topic often ignored.
17 See my description of this process in my description of St. Michael’s of Gainesville, Florida in Forgotten Power (chapter 14).
18 From the Anglican Church of North America’s statement of beliefs: “To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a ‘Mere Christian,’ at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.” Website is: http://www.anglicanchurch.net
19 My wife and I have labored in the healing ministry for decades, seeing many miraculous healing—and some disappointing failures. We understand that no healing minister or ministry is perfectly gifted, but many do have anointed and powerful ministries. As chaplain of the OSL (Order of St. Luke) I have witnessed many healing events at churches which were wonderfully effective and had holy and humble ministers. The Order of St. Luke mission is to spread knowledge of the healing ministry to all Christian churches. It began in the 1930s when cessationism was rife. For a brief history of the OSL see my blog posting at: http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-anglican-tradition-in-healing-part.html
20 CMI’s webpage is: http://www.christianhealingmin.org, at which are offered the best and most mature works of the Christian healing movement. The ICR web is http://christianrenewal.wordpress.com
21 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/may/miracles-in-mozambique.html
22 Brown, Candy Gunther; Mory, Stephen C.; Williams, Rebecca; McClymond, Michael J. (2010). “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique”. Southern Medical Journal 103 (9): 864–869
23 Strange, 162
24 See Francis MacNutt, Healing (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1974), Chapter 18 “Eleven Reasons Why People are not Healed.”
25 On the amazing history of the ministry of Charles and Francis Hunter and its potential to further expand the reach and power of the healing ministry, see my blog posting: “The Hunter’s Revolution in Healing Ministry.” http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-hunters-revolution-in-healing.html
26 The pamphlet was widely distributed and deeply influential. It can be accessed in translation in several internet sites.
27 A good review article on Luther’s anti-Semitism is; Robert Michael’s, “Luther, Luther scholars and the Jews,” Encounter 64 #4 (Autumn,1985),339-356.
28 See the magnificent article on this by Lee Roy Martin “Judging the Judges: Searching for Value in these Problematic Characters,” Pneuma Review (13:4 Fall 2010), 54-75.
29 See H. Hunter, “Spirit Baptism in the 1896 Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina,” Pneuma, 5:2 (1983), p. 13, note #3.
30 In this case, I am not ashamed to affirm that the Wikipedia article on them is quite good.

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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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