“The Charismatic Movement operates on the premise that everything that happened in the early church ought to be expected and experienced in the church today.” ~John MacArthur, Strange Fire, available at Cleveland's Visible Voice Books
“Most charismatic prophets are no different than sideshow psychics and palm readers.” ~John MacArthur
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father”. ~Jesus of Nazareth, John 14:12
MacArthur’s work is an odd string of arguments. Personally I don’t believe in labels that include denominational distinctions. There is no biblical basis for calling someone a Baptist or Pentecostal or Protestant or Catholic or any other thing.
The closest ‘label’ you find in scripture for those who pursue a life in Christ is “followers of the Way” (Acts 24:14).
But for convenience sake, using common labels, MacArthur admits that there are half a billion people who believe in the current gifts, or charisma, of the Holy Spirit. He also shares this is the fastest growing segment of the “church”.
Yet, instead of seeing this as a move of God, he is convinced all these people in all these diverse cultures in all these separate countries are simply deceived and following a “false gospel”.
He claims that people that claim to operate in the gift of healing are simply using a “gimmick” to get people “to loosen their wallets”. He especially takes issue with Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Kathryn Kuhlman and Benny Hinn. He even takes aim at T. L. Osborn and Reinhardt Bonnke, the latter of which currently has crusades in Africa that draw over 1.5 million people on a regular basis.
Consider for a moment, the average church in the United States has 75 members. There are an estimated 350,000 congregations in America. David Cho’s leads a congregation in South Korea that has one million members, the largest in the world.
Yet MacArthur takes issue with each of these men, claiming they are theologically impotent and deceiving those who are seeking after Christ. The audacity of such an attack is simply mind boggling. Rather than seeing a move of God, MacArthur’s book is a defense of how right he is and how wrong everyone that disagrees with his theology is.
Is it not miraculous that millions of people come to a crusade? Are they all simply lying when they claim miraculous healings? Are we to believe that these men are such good con artists they can proclaim the gospel of Christ with impure motives and fool hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis?
Jesus had a word for such drudgery. When speaking with the Pharisees he told them, You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24). What he was referring to was their use of special cups with netting to cover their drinks lest they swallow a bug and be “unclean”. Yet they would freely take in gulps of hatred and criticism and bitterness, i.e. swallowing a camel, without even noticing. They were so caught up in arguing that they were right about everything, they missed how clearly wrong their own efforts and critical spirits were.
This is perhaps the most apt metaphor for MacArthur’s whole argument. Is he right on some finer theological points? Perhaps, but what camel does he imbibe in the process, to his own and his readers misfortune?