John MacArthur, the Calvinist, Fundamentalist, Cessationist preacher from California has done it again. With his newest attack on Pentecostals and Charismatics, Strange Fire, MacArthur, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, continues his hopeless quest to put an end to the most energetic and fastest growing group of Christians in the world. MacArthur never quits. This is his third book on the subject, and perhaps his last.
His first attack was The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective which was published in 1978. His second attack was a similar one titled Charismatic Chaos which appeared in 1993. This newest one, published in late 2013 is a continuation of the first two with the same oldthreadbare arguments retooled for a new generation of readers. In all three books he singles out the worst extreme cases he can find and tries to brand all Charismatic Christians as fanatics offering up “strange fire” in their theology and worship styles. If one aimed the same criticisms at his own Calvinist tradition, they also would be subject to the same criticism since there havebeen extremes in all religious movements including among his fellow Calvinists. Perhaps a reminder that many of the things he objects to among Charismatics occurred in his own Calvinist tradition. Witness the screaming and falling under the preaching of the Puritan Calvinist Jonathan Edwards in New England and the shouting, barking and falling at Cane Ridge Kentucky among Presbyterians. Perhaps he needs to offer the same corrections to his own tradition.
Most serious Pentecostals will acknowledge that there have been some extremes over the years. But they have always come under discernment and have been corrected over time. But to judge and condemn hundreds of millions of solid Christians who love Jesus with all their hearts and who are evangelizing the world on a scale never before seen, is the essence of blind prejudice. After all Satan has never been known to make lovers of Jesus. Also, the very spiritualgifts that MacArthur condemns the most are the very ones that have led to the massive growth of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches around the world. The dramatic miracles of tongues and interpretation, of exorcism of demons, and of divine healing have convinced hundreds of millions of pagans that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is estimated that over 80% of conversions from paganism are credited to the ministries of Pentecostals and Charismatics. One might ask about the world evangelization records of his own fellow Fundamentalists as compared to the Pentecostals and Charismatics.
MacArthur is one of the few hyper-cessationists still standing. Looking back, there is a long list of similar attacks that have been made over the years by both Fundamentalists and the classical Holiness churches that rejected speaking in tongues after the Azusa Street revival of 1906-1909. One of the worst was Alma White’s vitriolic Demons and Tongues published in1910. Despite these attacks, the Pentecostal Movement continued to grow exponentially around the world. With the advent of the Charismatic Movement after 1960, a new generation of critics arose, including MacArthur. But more and more, these are lonely voices in their own fundamentalist wilderness, largely ignored by bemused leaders in the rest of Christendom.
When MacArthur published his first attack, The Charismatics in 1978, there were already about 100,000,000 Pentecostals and Charismatics in the world. By the time he introduced his second attack, Charismatic Chaos in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1993, the number had grown to 450,000,000. And now with the publication of his third attack, Strange Fire, the number has reached to no less than 628,000,000. All I can say is, the more McArthur attacks us, the more we grow.
Write another book John.