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The Mouse Under the Elephant in Strange Fire

 

What’s ironic is that he does not consider that John’s books – Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos – are considered to be the very same thing! John builds a straw-man out of the biblical charismatic and then burns it in effigy against the unbiblical charismaniac. He’s a dear brother and friend, make no mistake. But there just doesn’t seem to be honest acknowledgement that when compared to other biblical charismatic scholars, preachers, pastors, teachers, etc., what he is attempting to argue against is the very same thing that biblical charismatic leaders are arguing against. Honestly, Strange Fire hit me like Dave Hunt’s book, What Love is This?, hit them (and myself). I read and listened and watched thinking to myself, “I know what they are saying is true about charismaniacs. But they don’t represent me! And they don’t represent, for example, the 900+ churches worldwide of the Newfrontiers movement, formerly led by the likes of Terry Virgo! And that’s just for starters!” Perhaps I could take a moment and respond to the playbook.

  • Dogged insistence that the gifts of prophesy, tongues, and healing continue to the present day.” They do. I just witnessed and experienced it this morning. I watched demons being cast out of a person, with quiet, unassuming, unostentatious authority given by Jesus Christ. The one ministering deliverance gave a word of knowledge and/or a word of wisdom about a situation he could have known nothing about. And it was right in alignment with Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5 about giving thanks and receiving the situation as the will of God. And I spoke in tongues earlier this morning, too. The Bible teaches that if I speak in tongues I am speaking to God. Just because Cameron doesn’t believe these things doesn’t make them true.
  • Vague anecdotal evidence in support of the continuation of those gifts.” My experience is not necessarily vague or anecdotal. I know the Strange Fire crew don’t like to build anything on experience. But it is Say otherwise to the blind man in John 9 and see what happens. Experience is, in fact, pretty powerful evidence. In my sphere of interaction, people are coming into a fuller understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, a son of the Father, and a home where the Holy Spirit dwells. Their fruit and experience are evidence. What really counts is what the Bible says, though. Cameron and I agree on that much. But here’s where we disagree: there’s no indication exegetically or theologically that God would stop doing the same thing today that He did initially to launch the New Covenant, which we are still in. And there’s no indication that God intended the New Testament, for that matter, to even serve as an authoritative encyclopedia on all of the spiritual gifts and miraculous things God would ever do among His church. Instead, the New Testament simply provides a safe and secure trajectory for the kinds of things God has done and will continue to do today.
  • Unshakable confidence that the worst charismatic abusers and charlatans represent only the renegade fringe of the movement, and that they wield limited influence among mainstream charismatics.” What’s strange is that Cameron has unshakable confidence that these abusers and charlatans do represent the movement. But I’d bet that neither he nor I actually know enough of them to be so confident on that point. Besides, it’s biblically not my problem. See my next response below.
  • Staunch refusal to name, criticize, or publically disavow those abusers and offenders at the supposed fringe of the movement.” Jesus, Peter, Paul, Jude, and John. What do they all have in common? They publicly disavowed, named, and criticized abusers and offenders within their sphere of ministry. John MacArthur’s idea that the charismatics should police their own movement is frankly an unbiblical practice. I don’t have any authority, influence, or platform to rebuke anyone who is not under my leadership. And those who think they do have a problem with control. It’s honestly an appalling display of pride and arrogance to believe that you have the authority to speak to people who are not even under your care. Why would they listen to you in the first place? I can’t understand why this biblical practice keeps being overlooked and overstepped in the name of some strange, internal, impulsive “need” to protect the gospel. It’s God’s gospel. He’s a big God. He can protect it from weirdos. And He does just that through biblical leaders who lead and influence their people biblically.
  • Dire warnings that rejecting anyone who claims to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit or wield His power is tantamount to rejecting the Spirit Himself.” That’s pretty arrogant, I’d say. I’ve never heard anyone say that before, and I listen to a few prominent, biblical charismatic teachers. That sounds like abuse of the sheep to me. It most definitely happens, to be sure. But there are also cessationist pastors who act with as much arrogance. I’ve never heard John MacArthur policing them, and I’ve listened to hundreds and hundreds of hours of his preaching. Perhaps I missed it somewhere.
  • Total disinterest in discussing or debating any doctrinal or ecclesiological issues other than continuationism versus cessationism.” I’m not disinterested in that stuff, necessarily. But let’s face it. My doctrinal and ecclesiological issues that Cameron wants to debate and discuss are built on my continuationism. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work today in the very same ways that He was in the New Testament. And I believe that sound doctrine must account for and include that truth. And I believe that the local church ought to seek to be a complete New Testament church. His representation of a playbook seems to indicate that his mind is made up. So is mine. So we can either use precious time to discuss and debate, and perhaps some good will come of it. Or we can both get to work ministering the gospel to the lost and bringing them into the fullness of their identity in Christ, and equip them to do the work of ministry.
  • Confident assertions about the explosive growth of the charismatic church worldwide, and blithe acceptance that everyone who claims to be a charismatic is an authentic believer.” Once again, there’s a tone here which seems to belie that Cameron, and the Strange Fire crowd, believe that they have some sort of authority to rebut the authenticity of a charismatic’s conversion. Absolutely stunning. The Scriptures we both read could not be any clearer that the angels will handle the tares when Jesus returns. Again, I have no authority or influence over believers who are not under my sphere of authority or influence.
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Category: Fall 2014, Spirit

About the Author: Rob Wilkerson, M.Div. (The Master's Seminary, 2000), B.S. (Luther Seminary, 1994), is a follower of Jesus in Woodstock, GA, where he works in the tech industry as an analyst and consultant. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 21 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, love one another, and make disciples. www.robwilkerson.net. Google+ Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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