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The Theological Pillow Fight from the Nosebleed Section


Instead, when I was in that world, if I disagreed with someone, they were always wrong, because in my view, they were doctrinally divergent and dangerous. Therefore, they stood in need of reproving and rebuking. This usually came across with a judgmental attitude, usually to my congregation, as well as mocking and scorning them behind their backs to my friends. Sometimes this trended toward villainizing and demonizing people, an attitude not uncommon in conversations about charismatics. But we always believed we were doing it in love. If I had read Michael’s book eleven years ago this would have been my behavior. I would have preached a sermon series against it. I would have followed it up with a watch-blog series. I’m ashamed of that. I can’t imagine Paul or Jesus doing this with the guys they were discipling.

Now, let me set a few things straight. I may have heard John opine about the possibility of charismatics being deceived by the devil or perhaps even demon-possessed. But I’ve never, ever heard John do anything that I would personally consider to be mocking or scorning someone he disagreed with theologically. Nor did I ever hear him talk to anyone with a judgmental harsh attitude.

I have, however, participated with other staff members there who did mock and scorn. I don’t believe John would have put up with that if he were to have overheard it. I would have been rebuked, if caught. And I would have deserved it. The Bible calls that slander and malicious talk. That said, John’s mindset about this charismatic issue can often lead to a scorched earth philosophy. When you argue for truth but fail to demonstrate love and grace you can hurt those you are supposed to be helping.

This was what I did and I still shudder at my past attitude. People’s feelings are important.

For this reason, I think Michael’s chapter entitled, “Shall We Burn One Another?” should have been the first chapter in Authentic Fire. In Michael’s opinion, John’s “strategy is tantamount to blowing up an apartment building filled with law-abiding civilians because there are terrorists inside” (p. 245). John seems to have eclipsed the sunshine of God’s grace, which shines on all of His children, with a smoldering cloud of “I call it like I see it, no matter who it may hurt.” At least, that’s what I felt when listening to and watching Strange Fire talks. John seems to be okay with his biblical version of acceptable spiritual losses and casualties, which is biblically unethical and frankly destructive to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.


The Sin of Separationism

Fundamentalism as a whole, regardless of which denomination or religion, is also guilty of one of the most heinous sins today: separationism. I remember attempting to complete a semester at Pensacola Christian College. I had been there four weeks. My previous ministry experience had gained me a place among the sophomore leadership and I was asked to lead the Sunday School for the men. A couple of days later, when the Sunday School leader saw my John MacArthur books on the shelf in my dorm room, they immediately removed me from any position of leadership, stating that I was reading heresy and that I needed to get my head screwed on straight.

As a strange turn of events many years later, after becoming a charismatic, I learned one day that my name and church were no longer on The Master’s Seminary alumni list or map.[11] When I contacted the seminary to inquire, as I recall, I ended up talking to a friend and former fellow student. He explained that I should not be surprised since my views no longer represented those of the seminary. So let’s get this straight. I got mildly persecuted for following John MacArthur in college. Then I get blacklisted by his seminary. Christianity is a strange place to be sometimes. More often than not, it seems that among the Strange Fire camp there is little urgency and attention given to the prayer for unity that Jesus prayed in John 17. The fact of the matter is that we can all get along because we are all forgiven by King Jesus, and because the evangelization of the world depends on it!

In my personal experience, as well as the experience of others, both institutions (PCC and TMS), while nothing alike in many ways, are similar when it comes to the fundamentalist bent toward separationism. If you are involved in something they deem unorthodox or unbiblical then you find yourself without their fellowship any longer. That’s called first degree separation. If you currently or have in the past associated with someone else whom the ministry believes is unorthodox or unbiblical, then you may also find yourself without fellowship any longer. That’s called second degree separation. I have experienced both. It hurts. Jesus’ blood runs through my spiritual veins too, and it is that and that alone which unites us at the throne of God. So why can’t we live like that here and now?[12]

In chapter four, “The Genetic Fallacy and the Error of Guilt by Association,” Michael writes the third best chapter in this book. I think if Michael had done a little more digging he might have made the connection between fundamentalism and John MacArthur.[13] This would have perhaps given Michael more perspective on the reason why the genetic fallacy, guilt by association, and separationism seems so deeply rooted in John. And as a heart-check to me in writing this article, I humbly acknowledge that a blind spot may be leading me to commit this same error, so I want to tread with care and courtesy.

Just reading the first page of chapter four led me to see that the logical end of John’s views (my former views) on the charismatic, combined with the genetic fallacy, would have brought him to repudiate Paul’s ministry in Corinth. He’d never say that of course. But trains of thought have a destination, whether we like where they are going or not. In short, John applies an unreasonable prejudice toward charismatics, and Michael calls him out graciously, even going so far as to apply the same principle to John’s dispensational theology and its roots (pp. 93-94), as well as John’s reformed theology and its roots (pp. 100-110).

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

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. Google+ Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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