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Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire: A Critique of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R.T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. Or Peter Ruckman and Jack Hyles, et al. to characterize Fundamentalist Baptists. Or William R. Crews and L.R. Shelton Jr., et al. to represent Reformed Baptists.

My point is that countless charismatic, Reformed, and Baptist people would strongly object to the idea that any of these gentleman could accurately represent their respective tribes.

Even so, the game of burning down Straw Man City with a torch is nothing new.

The people whom MacArthur highlights as the poster boys for charismatics–Kenneth Copeland, Peter Popoff, Paula White, Bob Jones, E.W. Kenyon, Eddie Long, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson—simply do not represent the views or practices of the majority of charismatic Christians in the world today.

(pages 14-15).


5. MacArthur makes statements that smell of elitism, sectarianism, and judgmentalism.

He says that charismatics do not have the “true gospel” and the “spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit.” But that’s not all.

MacArthur bulbously claims that the charismatic movement “was a farce and a scam from the outset” and accuses it of being a “false church” (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. xix). He then rallies the troops saying, “this is the time for the true church to respond.”


MacArthur is part of the “true church” and all those poor charismatics are part of the “false church” which is driven by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit?

These vitriolic statements suggest that charismatic Christians are not true followers of Jesus.

In addition, MacArthur insinuates that the charismatic “movement is characterized by worldly priorities and fleshly pursuits” (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. 57). Hmmm . . . so David Wilkerson, Dr. Michael Brown, Adrian Warnock, Francis Frangipane, Sam Storms, and Jack Hayford (and their followers) are/were worldly and fleshly?


MacArthur accuses charismatics of being “obsessed with the supposed gifts and power of the Holy Spirit” (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. 53). By the same token, one could say that all Reformed people are obsessed with Calvin’s doctrine. But neither comment is fair nor accurate. (pages 15-16).


4. Does the New Testament Teach That the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?

Most cessationists, including MacArthur, teach that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture (the completed writings of the Bible) was completed. Either that or they say the gifts ceased in A.D. 70.

They maintain that the Bible answers all of our spiritual questions and negates the need for the miraculous manifestations of 1 Corinthians 12.

In my opinion, this idea is a colossal stretch of logic and imagination.

Despite MacArthur’s claim, there is no verse in the New Testament that suggests that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit have ceased or will pass away before Christ’s second coming.

The burden of proof, therefore, rests upon those who would say that the work of the Spirit has somehow changed since Paul’s day.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 is the only text in the entire Bible that is routinely interpreted to support the cessationist view.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; BUT WHEN THE PERFECT COMES, THE PARTIAL WILL BE DONE AWAY … For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Here, Paul’s main point is that although the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will one day cease, love will never cease.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

About the Author: Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including God’s Favorite Place on Earth, From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, and The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. He blogs regularly at Twitter

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