On Oct. 16-18, 2013 a group of nearly 3,000 gathered at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. for pastor John MacArthur’s conference relating to his new book “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”. Mac Arthur’s purpose for the conference was to enlighten Christians to the dangers of the charismatic movement. A committed bible scholar, pastor and seminary president, MacArthur holds a cessationist viewpoint that stipulates the so-called charisms such as speaking in tongues and prophecies ceased to occur with the death of the original apostles. However, MacArthur’s comments in both the book and the conference have raised great concerns due to the perceived offense it causes charismatics. The audio from these sessions may be downloaded here.
The charismatic movement is the largest and fastest growing group in Christianity with hundreds of millions of followers branching across all denominations worldwide. Many of these Christians believe they have been grossly misrepresented by MacArthur’s statements. Indeed, even teachers and preachers who largely agree with MacArthur’s particular stream of theology are disturbed by the blanket declarations that charismatics are not true Christians, but rather have distorted the gospel message of scripture to something unrecognizable to the orthodox faith.
While one can admire MacArthur’s commitment to the necessity of proper respect for and understanding of scripture, one must also question the wisdom of inciting such ire in a people who are to be known by their love. Many Christians have strong feelings on this subject and it may result in deepening divides that were already present. However, it may also be just the invitation needed to open doors of communication that may result in clearer understanding and unity within the body of Christ. Whether or not MacArther’s goal of warning Christians of false forms of worship will be accomplished remains to be seen. But one thing is certain, the floodgates have been opened and it may be difficult to close them.
For further thoughts and reviews on the current situation click on the highlighted names below. Each links to a specific blog or article discussing the controversy more in depth.
Tim Chalies is a Canadian pastor and blogger. His reviews of each session of the Strange Fire conference are approached from his cessasionist viewpoint.
Eric Davis posted a blog discussing the more encouraging and helpful aspects of the conference. Davis writes for a website devoted to the teaching and ministry of the reformed Puritians. Other responses to the conference may be found here as well.
The Christian Post included an article presenting the defense John MacArthur gave at the end of the conference. The article allows the author’s own words responding to his critics.
Frank Viola responded to the controversy in his blog explaining where he feels MacArthur got it right and where he got it wrong. Viola is a writer and pastor focusing on the house church movement.
Oklahoma pastor and author Sam Storms has posted several blogs in response to the conference and book. This particular link focuses on the fundamental differences between cessasionists and charismatics. Storms is a respected voice in the reformed charismatic world.