The Strange Ire of John MacArthur October 16, 2013Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
Tags: charismatic theology, John Macarthur, Matt Chandler, reformed theology, strange fire, Tim Challies
If you follow American Christianity at all, chances are you have heard of John MacArthur. He has been acclaimed as one of the best Bible teachers in the world. He is a member of the Reformed theology tradition and is a staunch cessationist, meaning he believes certain spiritual gifts (namely: tongues, miraculous healing, prophecy, etc.) ceased with the completion of the Bible. In MacArthur’s view, the Bible is God’s perfect gift to us and we no longer need those more miraculous spiritual gifts. That brings us to today’s post. As I write MacArthur is currently hosting the Strange Fire conference; a conference all about dismantling the continuationist or charismatic view of spiritual gifts (the view that the gifts spoken of in the Bible still do happen today).
I have a problem with MacArthur’s view and his conference. Mainly, I find it in high error for MacArthur to attack the millions of believers who hold to charismatic theology. From MacArthur’s own research, there are 500,000,000 Christians who hold to charismatic theology. It is one thing to disagree, that is fine and I’d argue that disagreement can even be healthy when done in peaceful dialogue with those whom you are in disagreement. But, MacArthur does not do that. In fact, MacArthur claims that when events happen that charismatics attribute to the Holy Spirit, it is actually Satan that is behind them. This claim is sickening. MacArthur basically accuses 500,000,000 of his brothers and sisters of devil worship. The troubling part of this is that this is exactly what the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing in Matthew 12:24. MacArthur has unwittingly sided with the Pharisees against Jesus.
Another problem for MacArthur is that he touts Reformed theology as true “biblical” theology, and contrasts it with charismatic theology. But, there are many believers who adhere to both charismatic and Reformed theology. One of the most renowned reformed theologians in the world is Wayne Grudem. Grudem’s massive Systematic Theology textbook is required reading in many seminaries. Grudem also happens to be a charismatic. I’d be interested to hear the dialogue between these two. But, the “Reformed Charismatic” label doesn’t stop with Grudem. Prominent reformed pastors like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Joshua Harris, and John Piper also hold to charismatic theology. For MacArthur to put Reformed theology and charismatic theology at odds is completely unnecessary and misleading.
I don’t want to mislead anyone either. There are times when certain charismatic believers have gone too far. The charismatics who use theatrics and the charlatans who have used their “gifts” to turn a profit need to be rebuked and corrected. But, these that pervade Christian television are not the true example of charismatic Christianity. MacArthur is right about one thing, discernment is needed to see when people are truly acting in the power of the Holy Spirit and when they are making a mockery of the power of the Holy Spirit. True followers of Jesus who believe in and pursue the gifts of the Spirit have so much to offer the Church. It is shameful, arrogant, and sickening to claim that charismatic Christians are operating under Satan. As Matt Chandler said in regards to his view of charismatic theology, “I have never read anything in the Scriptures where the devil was in the business of converting hearts to Jesus Christ.”
*The references to what John MacArthur said have come from Tim Challies blog where he is live blogging the Strange Fire Conference. You can follow his updates at http://www.challies.com
**You can see an interview with Matt Chandler on being a reformed charismatic here
***You can see two interviews with John Piper talking about his charismatic views here