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John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Dennis Balcombe

Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion)

MacArthur Strange FireJohn MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013), 333 pages, ISBN 9781400206414.

Strange Fire by John MacArthur is a vicious and callous attack on the worldwide Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, and a great affront to the hundreds of millions of born-again Christians in every nation of the world who have found Christ directly through the work of the Holy Spirit as He works through Spirit-filled ministries. This is especially true in China, where I have lived and worked for the past forty-five years. The majority of the estimated 100 million Chinese believers have come to Christ through Holy Spirit anointed preaching and teaching, and the work of the Holy Spirit in healing the sick and performing all kinds of miracles.

While MacArthur has been accurate in pointing out some errors in doctrine and practice as well as moral failures among some well-known Charismatic leaders, the book is full of doctrinal errors and a severe distortion of the truth. And by relegating what is clearly the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as being that of Satan and false teachers, he is certainly bordering on the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. We are used to attacks from certain overseas Chinese ministers like Rev. Stephen Tong of Indonesia, but even their condemnations of the Pentecostal movement do not begin to approach the acrimony, distortion of facts and malevolence that permeate this book.

First, his theological defense of the cessation theory can in no way stand up to solid Biblical exegesis. The supernatural manifestation of God’s power through miracles, healing of the sick, casting out of devils, and God speaking directly to people is recorded throughout the Bible and is at the foundation of the Christian faith. There is not the slightest hint anywhere that these have ceased or would cease in the future. Secondly the two thousand year record of church and mission history following the death of the apostles when these supernatural gifts and ministries were to have ceased, prove without a doubt the falsehood in the writings of MacArthur. Thirdly, the testimonies of millions of Christians today totally refute everything in this book.

Others have addressed the first and second points more thoroughly and efficiently than I can do, but I think after 52 years in the Pentecostal movement—having travelled to almost every nation in the world—I can address the third point. I have personally seen and witnessed hundreds of miracles of healing, casting out of demons, miracles where God intervened in the course of nature, supernatural and extremely accurate words of knowledge as the Holy Spirit speaks through people, people speaking in tongues in fluent foreign languages they have never learned and accurate fulfilled prophecies. And the result of all the above has been literally millions of people in China and other nations I have visited turning to Christ.

I certainly would not recommend any Christian to read this book, for the contents are in no way objective or factual and is as close to hate speech as anything I have ever read. But for those who have not read it, this paragraph on page xvii in the Introduction summarizes MacArthur’s position: “In recent decades, the Charismatic Movement has infiltrated mainstream evangelicalism and exploded onto the global scene at an alarming rate. It is the fastest-growing religious movement in the world. Charismatics now number more than half a billion worldwide. Yet the gospel that is driving those surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the sprit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was a farce and scam from the outset; it has not changed into something good.”

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: Dennis Balcombe knew he was called to be a missionary to China while he was a teenager, and was one of the first to enter the mainland when it opened to the West in the 1970s. He founded Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong in 1969 and continues to plant churches, travelling and ministering in China and internationally. He shares his story in One Journey, One Nation: Autobiography of Dennis Balcombe, Missionary to China (2011) and he is the author of China's Opening Door: Incredible Stories of the Holy Spirit at Work in One of the Greatest Revivals in Christianity (Charisma House, 2014). Revival Chinese Ministries International

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