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John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Dennis Balcombe

Not only Bethany (GBI), but many other Pentecostal churches and denominations all over Indonesia have congregations of thousands to tens of thousands.The American evangelist Marilyn Hickey has on many occasions preached to Muslim congregations or large crusades in Pakistan, the Middle East and even at mosques in Canada. She avoids doctrines that would be controversial to a Muslim, but simply preaches Christ as the Healer. Many Muslims come forward for prayer, are supernaturally healed, and often through this give their lives to the Lord.

I will not take the time or space but could share similar testimonies of the work of the Holy Spirit resulting in tens of thousands of salvations in places as diverse as India, South Korea, many African nations, many nations in South America, the Philippines and of course my nation, China. Even John MacArthur will acknowledge the majority of professing Christians in these nations believe in the Full Gospel message.

In this rebuttal to MacArthur’s book, I have focused primarily on what is happening in nations outside North America, for these are nations where I live, work and have firsthand experience in witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit. But there is also a genuine great move of God though the Holy Spirit in parts of North America that has impacted the world.

Yes, there may be some false prophets, rip-off artists, immoral leaders and preachers of false doctrine in the ranks of those who claim to be Pentecostal, but they are a small minority compared to the majority of solid God-fearing leaders and believers. The vast majority of Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations are solid, Bible based, preaching the Gospel, reaching the lost and supporting or sending missionaries to the nations of the world.

God moved greatly in Toronto, Pensacola and other places in the 1990’s, and these revivals brought joy, deliverance and inner healing to countless numbers around the world. We all have emotional needs, and both in the record of the Bible and throughout history, many revivals have been characterized by physical responses such as laughter, weeping, shouting, falling onto the ground and even shaking and other more extreme emotional responses.

The vast majority of such emotional responses are people responding to God working in their lives, though there obviously will be some who will simply imitate others. We also cannot deny that at times evil spirits may be at work, for the Gospel is like a huge fishing net that attracts all kinds of people. Some people with mental illness, emotional problems, or even those who are demonized might attend some of these meetings. I personally have never seen or heard people making animal sounds as MacArthur claims, and I would guess these were only isolated events. However I have seen people being pushed down to the ground during prayer, a practice that I do not approve of and find disgusting.

From North America, the Pentecostal revival and Charismatic renewal, especially the Vineyard movement under the late John Wimber and what some call the “Toronto Blessing” has truly impacted the nations of the world resulting in phenomenal church growth. Again, MacArthur considers all these to be false and part of the strange fire, not of God and not Biblical. But is it reasonable to believe Satan’s working and deceptive doctrines would result in millions of people believing in and following Jesus Christ?

First, Jackie Pullinger of the U.K. came to Hong Kong in the 1960’s, a Spirit-filled young woman, and began to work among drug addicts in the Kowloon Walled City. Like David Wilkerson who started Teen Challenge in the USA, they found that once the addicts were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, they would often immediately come off the drugs and not have go to through a painful process of slow withdrawal. Her book, Chasing the Dragon is a classic and a clear testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit, and can refute much of what MacArthur claims about this being false, close to a cult.

Later, during the Vineyard movement in the 1980’s and 1990’s, she invited John Wimber to Hong Kong, and it literally changed Hong Kong. Hundreds of evangelical pastors flocked to the meetings and were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach a message of the Kingdom among us. Now the vast majority of the 1,400 or so Protestant churches in Hong Kong are either totally Spirit filled, or at least open to the Full Gospel. Very few are opposed and as such most congregations in Hong Kong are seeing real growth.

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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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