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John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Charles Carrin

Jesus said to the Father: “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me, and they have received them …” John 17:8.

Peter said: “But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” I Peter 1:25.

Peter said again: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” II Peter 1:21.

Paul said: “Be diligent … rightly diving the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15.

Paul said again: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” II Timothy 3:16.

Paul said once more: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8.

David said: “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven.” Psalm 119:89.

When the New Testament was canonized in 367 and all its books identified, Bishop Athanasius, the leader, demanded the same qualification for every writer whose work they included:

1.  The writer had to have been an eye-witness to the life and ministry of Jesus.

2.  His writing had to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Without those two qualifications, no writing was accepted.  Even writers whom they believed had been genuinely inspired were rejected because they had not been eye-witnesses.  Had Athanasius believed that any writing would lose its inerrant purity after being canonized they would have rejected it instantly! That would have included Paul’s Corinthian letters.  No exceptions were made. The team involved in that holy work guarded it with such jealous devotion and care that today we can only be awed by it. Athanasius said, “These books are fountains of salvation … Let no man add to these, neither let him take out from these.” Those who now make the absurd claim that Scriptures authorizing spiritual gifts lost their validity at the same time they were canonized are woefully ignorant of the Bible’s Divine inspiration and are insulting the character of the men involved in that holy work.

In response to Dr. MacArthur’s graceless attack, Michael Brown, a significant Pentecostal voice said: “I have worked side by side with some of these fine men and women myself, precious saints who have risked their lives for the name of Jesus, giving themselves sacrificially to touch a hurting and dying world with the gospel, literally shedding their blood rather than compromise their testimonies.”

According to Dr. MacArthur, however, the ministry of these is actually “a farce and a scam” and he insists that this work of the Spirit actually represents “the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity.” He calls for a “collective war” against these alleged “pervasive abuses on the Spirit of God.” Pastor MacArthur argues, “The ‘Holy Spirit’ found in the vast majority of charismatic teaching and practice bears no resemblance to the true Spirit of God as revealed in Scripture,” even accusing the modern charismatic movement of “attributing the work of the devil to the Holy Spirit.”  In fact, he claims that leaders of the movement are “Satan’s false teachers, marching to the beat of their own illicit desires, gladly propagating his errors. They are spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.” — Michael Brown.

What is the argument all about? Are spiritual gifts that important? The Apostle Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road and was born again; three days later in the Damascus Room through the laying-on-of-hands by Ananias. he experienced the Holy Spirit and received the Spirit’s baptism.  Later, this same man wrote an 84 verse treatise on spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12,13,14. His Biblical explanation provides the most comprehensive, authoritative information we have on the subject. More importantly, it is the only resource bearing the seal of Divine Authorship. All conflicting opinions, no matter how cherished or long-established, are but human speculation and must be discarded. That includes Dr. MacArthur’s theory. Scripture is our final, absolute authority.

The Apostle begins his dissertation with the plea: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 12:1. This appeal that we “not be ignorant” appears seven times in the New Testament concerning different topics. Once, it is by Peter and six times by Paul. Each time, the request reveals an especially deep concern of the writer. Its’ appearance here should command the attention of every conscientious believer. The Apostle then proceeds carefully to detail the operation of nine grace-works of the Spirit. These are the direct result of the Spirit’s baptism. Having defended the need and purpose of the gifts, Paul then concludes his discourse with the stirring rebuke, “But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant!” 14:38. In other words, he says, “After this careful explanation of spiritual gifts, if anyone refuses to learn, I have nothing more to say to him. Let him remain illiterate!” Paul seemingly anticipated that some believers would reject his teaching on miraculous works of the Spirit and added this harsh warning:

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About the Author: Charles Carrin, D.D., has served the body of Christ for over 65 years. Educated at University of Georgia and Columbia Theological Seminary, he denied, in belief and practice, the contemporary ministry of the Holy Spirit until a personal crisis opened his eyes to what he had been missing. He is the author of Spirit-Empowered Theology (Chosen, 2017), The Edge Of Glory: Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit (Creation House, 2002), Sunrise of David Sunset of Saul: A Message to the Church in the End-time (1985, 2014), On Whose Authority?: The Removal of Unwanted Scriptures (Burkhart Books, 2014), a revival novel with Dorothy Easley: Island in the Sun (Xulon, 2010), and a contributor to Word Spirit Power: What Happens When You Seek All God Has to Offer (Chosen, 2012) with R.T. Kendall and Jack Taylor. Today his ministry centers upon the visible demonstration of the Spirit and imparting of His gifts. Read his biography at

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