Subscribe via RSS Feed

John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Monte Lee Rice

In the Part 2 (“Exposing the Counterfeit Gifts”) MacArthur repudiates as fraudulent “apostolic” and “prophetic” roles or categories, prophetic utterances, spiritual gifts and miraculous phenomena, tongues speech, and alleged healings that all together characterize Pentecostal-Charismatic spirituality. Grounded upon his firm cessationist position, MacArthur contends that biblical narrative points to an understanding of tongues speech as translatable human languages (thus xenolalia rather than glossolalia, unknown languages; pp. 138, 143-144, 154). MacArthur then uses this premise to dismiss the Pentecostal-Charismatic practice of tongues speech as mere gibberish, analogous to similar phenomena observed in pagan religious practices and heretical Christian groups (pp. 134-136, 143, 154). Finally, MacArthur dismisses most contemporary healing experiences as counterfeit hoaxes, primarily popularized through of Pentecostal-Charismatic healing evangelists (pp. 155, 176). He does however affirm that “according to His sovereign purposes,” God may heal people in response to answered prayer (p. 176).

In Part 3 (“Rediscovering the Spirit’s True Work”), MacArthur outlines a true biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit’s role and activity in human salvation (chapter 9), sanctification (chapter 10), and empowering the meaning to Scripture (chapter 11). He concludes his book with “An Open Letter” (chapter 12), to conservative Reformed evangelicals, who identify themselves as “Continuationists.” Here MacArthur urges them to recognize the “dangerous ramifications” of their continuationist position, given its link to the counterfeit Pentecostal-Charismatic movement (pp. 234-235), finally warning that failure to do so shall further pollute the evangelical tradition with heresies, wickedness and theological error (p. 247).


Inflammatory defamation guised as pastoral correction

MacArthur’s Strange Fire book generally reiterates themes first propagated in his 1978 book, The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective, and his 1993 book, Charismatic Chaos. Writing from a Calvinistic fundamentalist perspective, MacArthur has distinguished himself as a highly prolific popular writer, conference speaker, and senior pastor of the 8,000 member plus Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, USA.

Notwithstanding my disconcertion with the emotive and strong inflammatory rhetoric that peppers every aspect of his Strange Fire book, I sense that MacArthur believes he is discharging an urgently needful pastoral correction to what he remains convinced to be a demonically charged spirituality that is undermining the spiritual integrity of contemporary evangelicalism (pp. xvii, 113, 128, 247-248). On the other hand, MacArthur’s wonton proclamation of anathema upon a global block of Christianity may well belie any well-intentioned motives. In his own review, Craig Keener provides excellent reflection on how MacArthur’s book may provide necessary rebuke for where we have lacked effective processes towards restraining extremities within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.[1] I think that his concession to this one redeeming role of MacArthur’s message places him on high moral ground as he demonstrates MacArthur’s logical fallacies and his gross misconstruing of Pentecostal history.

Apparent intentional misconstrual of information

What I shall foremost stress is that MacArthur’s research and scholarship is at best shoddy, and at worst—intentionally misconstruing, misrepresenting, and misleading, all for the purpose of maliciously maligning all Pentecostal-Charismatic traditions, movements, spiritualities, and resulting past and on-going theological constructions. MacArthur’s ultimate purpose is to stem their influence within the Reformed tradition via Reformed Continuationists, by exhorting them towards cessationist doctrine and ideology. Here we are perhaps touching on a deeper root to MacArthur’s inflammatory rhetoric, which is his dismissal of any soteriological doctrine other than that of Reformed doctrine. This is why he titles the beginning chapter to the book’s final part, “The Holy Spirit and Salvation.” As I earlier mentioned, this is also why MacArthur argues at book’s beginning, that the foundational root to the systemic Pentecostal-Charismatic theologically flawed nuance on experience, is the movement’s “deficient soteriology” which he roots in 19th century Holiness soteriology (p. 27).

Pin It
Page 2 of 512345

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

About the Author: Monte Lee Rice is a Pentecostal minister based in Singapore who served in churches and Bible colleges as a pastor, church planting director, and theological educator. He has ministered within some 15 nations in Southeast Asia and Africa, and graduated from Asia Pacific Theological Seminary with a M.Div. in theology (summa cum laude, 2002). He is an independent scholar in Pentecostal theology, co-administers the Pentecostal Theology Worldwide Facebook group, and is impassioned towards the global renewing of Pentecostal spirituality, its theological tradition, and its ecumenical promise for the Church worldwide. Visit his blog at: LinkedIn Twitter: @MonteLeeRice.

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter 1349 Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Then, Now, and Later

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    A Keener Understanding of the Bible: The Jewish Context for the Book of Revelation

    Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., is a prison chaplain, former award-winning journalist, and independent scholar of church history. He holds a doctorate from the University of Pretoria, S...

    F.F. Bosworth and the Role He Played in the Ministry of T.L. Osborn: An Interview with Dr. LaDonna Osborn