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John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Dennis Balcombe

If what he says is true, it means the vast majority of professing Christians in most nations are part of a false church, the church as we know it is a cult and its ministers are preaching heresy, and obviously if the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit, it is the work of Satan and false spirits. According to this view, the vast majority of what is known as Protestant Christianity is false, in error, and only those who hold to MacArthur’s extreme prejudiced views are right. In a way, I real feel sorry for anyone with such a view, and realize how miserable they must be to see the explosive growth of Pentecostalism all over the world.

At the very heart of the Pentecostal Full Gospel Charismatic movement is the phenomenon of glossolalia or speaking in tongues. This is covered in depth in Chapter Seven, “Twisting Tongues”. MacArthur may have truly heard of or even seen people who simply speak gibberish, words that are not a part of any language, people simply repeating certain syllables quickly, or people who have been taught to speak in tongues. But I can totally refute the criticism of the University of Toronto linguistics professor William Samarin (p.134). He claims tongues are always “strings of syllables, made up of sounds taken from among all those that the speaker knows, put together more or less haphazardly but which nevertheless emerge as word-like and sentence-like units because of realistic, language-like rhythm and melody.”

It is true there are some individuals who believe in speaking in tongues, and desperately want to speak in another fluent language, but for whatever reason have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and make up their own language or imitate others. But where I live and work (in China and other Asian nations), such instances of imitated tongues or people speaking gibberish are isolated and due mainly to the lack of good Biblical teaching. The vast majority of Spirit-filled believers will pray in beautiful fluent languages that are immediately recognized anywhere.

We cannot even begin to number the many instances where Chinese—without even the most rudimentary knowledge of the English language—spoke in perfect fluent English, at times quoting portions of the Bible (from the Book of Psalms), or bringing messages to others. And we have on many occasions heard Westerners speaking fluently in Chinese Putonghua or other dialects, such as Cantonese, Shanghainese, and on one occasion in the dialect of Chongqing in central China. This occurred at a “Get Ready” youth conferenced in Lüdenscheid Germany when we heard an eighteen year old young German sister, with absolutely no knowledge of Chinese, speak fluently in this language. We knew this for a Chinese sister on our team ministering in this youth conference was from Chongqing. This is one of the more difficult local dialects of Chinese, something no foreigner could learn unless he lived there most of his life. This girl had never been to China once.

Obviously John MacArthur has never experienced speaking in tongues under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and doesn’t have the slightest clue what it is all about. People who speak in tongues know clearly it is a miracle and something that can never be made up or something that comes from the human mind. Having spoken in tongues for up to several hours daily for over 52 years, I could not possibly write or remember even one phrase. It comes from the Holy Spirit working in our spirits, and not from the mind. Thus we have the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 of both praying in the Spirit and praying in the understanding. By the way, on a few occasions others have told me they recognized the language I was praying in, once in Italian and more recently in Swedish, both being languages I have never studied at all.

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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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