There's a war brewing in Christendom. Let me rephrase that. A war that has been brewing for about a hundred years is about to erupt full scale. It definitely will become a conflagration if one man's clarion call to arms is heeded by his brethren. The big question remains as to how the other side will respond.
Have I got your undivided attention here or have wars and rumors of war become so commonplace that you're yawning and preparing to flip back to Facebook or Yahoo Sports? The man sounding the battle cry is Dr. John Macarthur, in a rehash of a book he wrote back in 1993. His cessationist diatribes against those who practice the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" are not new. He's apparently advanced from sniping to the use of cluster bombs. It can be an admirable thing when a man stands up and fights for what he thinks is right. However, that man should prayerfully consider the consequences of his battle, especially if his premise for fighting is flawed. Here's an editorial by Frank Viola concerning the first book entitled Charismatic Chaos and its successor: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/strangefire1/?utm_content=buffer4e978&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer.
Here are some of the broadsides issued by MacArthur in his new book Strange Fire, which releases in November.
"Every day millions of Charismatics offer praise to a patently false image of the Holy Spirit," "No other movement has done more damage to the cause of the gospel." "Charismatic theology has turned the evangelical church into a cesspool of error and a breeding ground for false teachers."
These statements also come from Lee Grady's article, but are not quoted. I'm not sure if these are MacArthur's words or a paraphrasing of MacArthur's by Grady.
MacArthur says Charismatics think they worship God but that actually we are worshipping a golden calf. MacArthur urges evangelical Christians to engage in a "collective war" to stop the spread of the charismatic movement, which he describes as a "deadly virus," a "deviant mutation of the truth" and a "Trojan horse" that has infiltrated mainstream Christianity.
For a great read on how a giant in the charismatic community, Lee Grady, advises his clan to react to Mr. Macarthur, check this out: http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/18919 Another great article by Dr. Michael Brown can be found here: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/41494-let-s-not-bite-and-devour-one-another Dr. Brown will be writing his own book to refute MacArthur in the near future.
The world, which loves a good donnybrook in any form, would love to witness such a civil war among the Jesus followers. Just think of the irony of seeing disciples of the Prince of Peace taking up the sword (figuratively, I hope) to hack each other to pieces. Thank God for men like Lee Grady who can eloquently step up and refute in love, in an attempt to defuse this situation before the bomb that MacArthur has armed detonates. To Mr. MacArthur I would issue two challenges. First of all, consider the parable of the body. Does the hand mock the foot because it can't pick anything up? Is it possible that Charismatics are a part of the body with a special function in God's plan? And secondly, I'd challenge him to spend a few days with Heidi Baker in Mozambique. Perhaps he'd believe in God's continuing intervention in the lives of humans if he went searching in earnest. I'd issue that same challenge to atheists.
I have never spoken in tongues nor prophesied nor healed anyone (that I know of). But I see no evidence in the Bible that the gifts of the Holy Spirit should suddenly vanish from the Earth. I have attended several charismatic churches however, and do so today, and have seen the power of God at work. I have received more than one word of prophecy, including one from Lee Grady. Those words of knowledge spoken into my life have been very insightful and helpful. In fact one of my pastors spoke over me that I would be a bridge between the charismatic and non-charismatic worlds. I have tried to fulfill that role by including charismatic events in several of my novels. I want to bring unity into a situation that threatens not only the sacred peace, but the witness of people who are genuinely striving to make disciples of all men.
Discernment and wisdom are necessary here. The Bible warns about those who will deceive using signs and wonders, but also points out that such phenomena will follow those who believe in Jesus. In Mark 16:17-18 we find this passage: "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Thus we do have the need to be prudent and cautious with spiritual gifts. We must make sure they are genuine. How do we tell? As it says in Mark 16:17, those signs will be done in the name of Jesus. Another criteria is that such miracles will never be done in an environment of lawlessness, and the gifts should never become more important than the Giver. Miracles performed by others will be counterfeit and those are things we need to avoid. So Mr. MacArthur, throw out the bathwater, but make sure the baby remains in the tub.