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Should we keep talking about Strange Fire?


Jonathan Downie, a regular contributor to, wrote to the editors about the ongoing coverage we have featured here of John MacArthur’s 2013 book, Strange Fire. Please read his concern and our response below it.


I am growing concerned about how much coverage the Strange Fire book is getting in the Pneuma Review. If it is as wrong as your reviewers say, I fail to see what good the extensive coverage will do. In fact, I am very concerned that it is taking over the Pneuma Review and pushing out the more practical and impactful content for which the publication has rightly become well known.

My concern is even greater given that some of the responses seem to have attempted to delineate between “true” and “false” charismatics based mostly on what TV channel they appear on or whether they have a big ministry. This is very worrying as it seems to be adding to divisions in the church, something Scripture warns us about.

Please reconsider your coverage and return to issues that have a more direct effect on church practice and the growth of the kingdom.

Yours in Christ,
Jonathan Downie


Thank you, Jonathan, for sharing your concern about how much time has spent on John MacArthur’s Strange Fire.

Since MacArthur’s challenge is about whether Pentecostals and charismatics understand and worship God wrongly, it is a subject that has gained the attention of church leaders and even some scholars. This debate has been an opportunity to explore the biblical use of the gifts of the Spirit, a subject that has always been an emphasis for The Pneuma Review and all Pneuma Foundation (our parent organization) publications.

Over the years, the Pneuma Foundation has taken time to focus on issues that have been important to church leaders. These have included “How Much Does God Control?” “How Shall We Lead the Church?” and “Postmodernism, The Church, and The Future.” While the debate concerning MacArthur’s book does not have the same scope as these discussions, all of which appeared in The Pneuma Review over the course of years, it is a timely subject which concerns the very core of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement and has been addressed by layman and scholar alike. is glad to help facilitate this discussion.

One of the editors wrote:

A good deal of space on was given to the Strange Fire controversy. Some of the content of the book was justified (aberrations and abuses) but quite a bit of it was outlandish. The Pentecostal/charismatic response to Strange Fire was either to ignore it or counter it. Apart from how the controversy was addressed by authors, MacArthur’s book set off a firestorm on its own drawing strong responses to it that were published in many other places. Also, not all of the coverage of Strange Fire was specifically about MacArthur’s book or the October 2013 Strange Fire conference. Some of the posts were reviews of Michael Brown‘s book, Authentic Fire, R. T. Kendall‘s book, Holy Fire, and Strangers to Fire, edited by Robert Graves. I think that the bulk of the conversation is behind us for now (unless MacArthur publishes a follow-up book as he said he would do).

As to your concern regarding adding to divisions in the church, authors often share opinions that garner strong responses. The renewal movement of Pentecostals and charismatics is broad, and many voices are heard. is an open forum and readers are encouraged to leave comments and challenge what they read.

Raul Mock and the editors


For our panel of contributors talking about Strange Fire, including scholars like Michael Brown, Craig Keener, Jon Ruthven, and Frank Macchia, please see: Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire?

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Category: Fall 2014, Spirit

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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