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Response to hard cessationist critic, by Craig Keener


MacArthur Strange Fire

John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Nelson Books, 2013).

As for me allegedly claiming that miracles (in the dramatic sense) happen abundantly or regularly: if we are talking about happening somewhere in the world, yes, I believe they are happening abundantly or regularly. If we are talking about them happening regularly in one individual’s life: I have never claimed this. For example, I have only ever witnessed one person that I knew personally instantly healed of inability to walk. One member of my wife’s family was apparently raised after three hours of no breathing, but that was the only raising anyone in the entire family ever experienced, so obviously we are not claiming that it happens on a regular basis. I will stop recounting examples here, however, since it has been complained that I appeal to experience (even though here I appeal to experience only to explain that in my circles these events are rare; still, it is true that I dare not extrapolate from this experience to assume they are rare everywhere). They may happen most often on the cutting edge of groundbreaking evangelism, but not on a regular basis in everyone’s life—though I have no doubt that God is always working in our lives.

As for claims that charismatics in the media are often an embarrassment: certainly I agree. But painting all charismatics with the same brush is a logical fallacy of guilt by association, unless you have examined each case; the same practice can be used against any group. Political claims made by certain evangelicals have contributed to public hostility against all evangelicals, but branding the average evangelical pastor or church because of this is guilt by association. I’m ordained Baptist, and those of us who are Baptist can be embarrassed if anyone’s knowledge of Baptists is gained from media coverage of Westboro Baptist Church (“God hates” gays, etc.) Someone who gets their knowledge of charismatic life from prosperity teachers on TBN and not from charismatic or continuationist teachers such as Gordon Fee, Wayne Grudem, R. T. Kendall, John Piper, Sam Storms, Ben Witherington and others will likewise hold and probably propagate a biased view of charismatics and continuationists.



Charismatics in the media are often an embarrassment, but painting all charismatics with the same brush is a logical fallacy of guilt by association.

As for why I gave some arguments from experience as well as from Scripture: I was responding to a polemical book’s arguments from experience. For example, the book argued that modern prophecies regularly prove vague or false, so I appealed to counterexperience, namely specific prophecies that have proved strikingly true. Although the polemical book to which I responded discounts experience of one sort, it invokes experience of a different sort to argue its case, without admitting any of the counterevidence. That is, it is so single-mindedly devoted to discounting all charismatic experience on the basis of some particular charismatic claims that it is highly selective in its appeal to evidence. Scholars normally make caveats and concessions (e.g., in my case admitting that yes, there are charismatics who teach and prophesy falsely, something I have also complained about elsewhere). By contrast, an argument that ignores all evidence contrary to its case (in this case, charismatics who prophesy truly) is normally deemed polemic, hardly the “objective” standard the post wants to value.


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Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

About the Author: 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, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. Twitter: @keener_craig

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