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John MacArthur on the True Legacy of the Charismatic Movement

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | Comments (13)

Strange Fire starts tomorrow. Throughout the last several months building up to the conference, we’ve heard critics saying that we don’t understand the true nature of the charismatic movement—that we’ve chosen too broad a brush to paint with. Defenders are quick to point out that any negative elements only represent the outer edges of an otherwise healthy Christian movement.

But is that an honest assessment? Is it true that the loudest, most notable charismatic voices only represent a rogue, fringe element? Is the heart of the movement truly committed to the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture? And is the genuine work of the Holy Spirit identifiable amidst manifestations of bizarre signs and wonders?

In the following video, John MacArthur gives his assessment of the charismatic legacy:

We understand that not every charismatic preaches heresy, perverts Scripture, contrives miracles, or fleeces his flock. But the overwhelming tide of the movement drags people away from biblical literacy, spiritual discernment, and disciplined maturity.

From the beginning of our conference promotion, we have worked to encourage faithful charismatics to be vocal critics of the abuses they see within the charismatic movement. We will continue to give that encouragement throughout the conference as our speakers lift up the sufficiency of Scripture and the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

We hope you’ll join us for rich exhortation and encouragement from the Word of God. Please be sure to watch via the free live stream at

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Douglas Kofi Adu-boahen  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 2:28 AM

Very much looking forward to the conference!

#3  Posted by Sara Service  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 5:42 AM

I can't make it to the confernce or watch it streamed live. Will I be able to download it over the weekend to watch it??

#6  Posted by Don Fizell  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 9:33 AM

God is at work in and through His people. I praise God that the wicked works of darkness are being exposed to the light of the Word of God. We can't be quiet any longer. The Church is regarded in scripture as the pillar and ground of the truth, and not a den of iniquity. We are the representatives of the Lord Jesus, and we need to be the people that God has called us to be. Our place as Saints is to be dedicated to the service of the Lord. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

#7  Posted by Sterling Brown  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I was once in the charismatic movement about 5 years ago. At the age of 18 the Lord saved me from the clutches of Satan of a life of crime and darkness. I was attending a charismatic church at that time however I was taught that I had to maintain my salvation. I was taught that I had to speak in tongues, that I had to have these experiences to be truly saved and perhaps if I had enough of these experiences then maybe I would be sealed for the day of redemption. Not only did I spend my Christian life in fear, you had to serve the pastor of the church constantly. I had to wipe his sweat away from his face, there were people who competed in bringing him water because we were told that we would receive a reward for such service. I know we are suppose to honor our spiritual leaders and I do but this was taken to a level of serving the pastor extensively at every moment. The pastor was the object of everyone's worship, even though it was unspoken our actions screamed it out, everyone was battling to be in the pastor's good graces and blessings. During the worship service he would tell the congregation "Some times you have to fall on the floor and flap a like a fish." The members would do so as he stated supposing that made them a true worshipper or a better worshipper than someone else. Only one of the church pioneers was mentioned, Martin Luther, but never discussed who he was or what he taught in depth. The sermon would start with a couple of passages and the rest was he could hear people's conversation even though they were out of normal sight and hearing, or how your breakthrough (health or wealth) was on its way. Eventually I became an elder of the church and a Sunday School teacher. As I begin to study the Word of God in depth I saw where the pastor was not saying the same thing as the Word of God. When I taught or preached I was openly insulted in front of the congregation for studying too much. In trying to adhere to the pastor I stopped studying and fell into sin. Because of God's grace I am no longer in that place of worship, I am at a bible church that teaches the Word of God, that led me to listen to men like John MacArthur, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathon Edwards etc. Through the preaching of the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit I am worshipping and serving Him in spirit and in truth. I am praying for the Strange Fire conference, for a blessing for the speakers (thank you John MacArthur for allowing God to use you to spread the truth you are one of the agents God used to help free me from the clutches of deception) and for the deliverance of those in that movement. While there may be some charismatics who are trying to stand on the Word of God that doesn't excuse the thousands upon thousands who are lost eternally and, those who may be saved, that are extensively deceived. This deception has hurt an insurmountable amount of people and even if you are freed it is only the grace of God that helps you recover. God bless.

#10  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Whilst I believe charismatic theology is false, I wouldn't be quite as negative as pastor John is here.

The charismatic movement has undoubtedly revitalised thousands of churches and deepened the faith of numerous christians. It has brought about an increased and genuine desire for prayer, worship, bible study, and evangelism, and lots of people have come to saving faith in Jesus as a result. I also know that many have done theological training and gone into full-time ministry as a result of the charismatic movement.

Yes, the crazy end of the movement is particularly dangerous, but many churches do manage to keep it at a distance. And there is a bit of heresy in all of us.

But there is one thing that really strikes me. Through contemporary worship music, the charismatic movement has brought a lot of joy into the church. Evangelicalism was historically associated with miserable christians and dull church services. This is far less so today, even in non-charismatic churches. I doubt the change would have happened if it wasn’t for the charismatic movement shaking things up

And, to my mind, if you say that nothing good has come out of the charismatic movement, you cannot use any music written by charismatic authors. Even Grace Community Church doesn’t go that far.

I am not endorsing the charismatic movement or promoting all contemporary worship music. It’s just that a proper evaluation is not straightforward.

#11  Posted by Daniel Wilson  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Look forward to this... The H.S. can't be controlled or put in a box.. Amen... Thank you and God bless you and your mission

#12  Posted by Jessica Moore  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 6:48 PM

I live in Lewis County, NY. There are several charismatic churches here and many new buildings going up. The Mennonites seem to be doing well too. Beside these a few Independent Baptist congregations. All have serious theological maladies. After two years in an Independent Baptist Church (King James Only, of course ) my patience was completely exhausted and I bid them farewell with a heavy heart. Only the aberrant doctrines were to blame; we enjoyed the fellowship. Any thoughts on this sect? I know you're dealing with the charismatics, but I think this group is perverting the truth also(even though they seem legitimate). It has been difficult for us lately. Although there is no persecution here, if a man stands for the truth he will suffer. Christ said it would be so. I will not deny my Lord or his Word. Any advice for a churchless Calvinist? Any word of comfort? Any man willing to try and bring life to a theological desert? Thank you for your labor in the Lord. Sincerely, John and Jessica Moore. God be with you all. Amen.

#13  Posted by Mary C Rodriguez  |  Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 11:41 PM

I live in Mexicali Mexico. Im not sure if I am still part of a charismatic church, since last may 2013 that i saw a very famous pastor from Guatemala doing excentric things and then say that it was the "power of the Holy Spirit"...i see that video with confidence because my local pastor used to talk good things about that other pastor. When i saw people on the floor as if they were in a convulsion,an atack I understood that It wasnt from God. Then when I listened for the first time the anouncement of this conference i print the information, my pastor said that it is not good for me see this conference but i choose do not go back to that church. I read instead the book : Diferencias doctrinales entre carismaticos y no carismaticos ( I think is named just Carismatics in english ) I have seen a lot of videos on youtube from pastor MacArthur and nao i can see the light a bout it. I have no congregation now, just my 1490 am kgba I use to listen grace to you there...i am waiting for this event since monts ago. God Bless you

#14  Posted by Steve Davies  |  Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12:30 AM

I am living in the UK therefore due to the time difference the live stream is no viable. Is it possible to download the conference addresses

#15  Posted by Barbara Henderson  |  Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:42 AM

From the Charismatic movement has come emotionalism and seven eleven songs. Emotionalism - looking for a 'feeling' instead of truth and knowledge. Seven-eleven songs - seven words sung eleven time. Emotionalism and seven eleven songs are combined in a wicked attempt to force people to experience something. The emotional 'high' gained in a Charismatic service doesn't last past the parking lot and the seven eleven songs are boring beyond measure.

It is very sad to see so-called contemporary music replace music that is both uplifting, scripturally sound, and true worship of God. Charismatic music has -unfortunately - made its way into many non-charismatic churches. It is a toe-hold of the 'feel-good' movement that leads to feel-good preaching. And people look for more and more personal emotional responses leading to more preaching for emotional responses than true conversions. The beginning of charismatic heresy creeping into a sound church is the music.

#16  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Referencing comment (10): "Whilst I believe charismatic theology is false.......(the) movement has undoubtedly revitalised thousands of churches and deepened the faith of numerous christians. It has brought about an increased and genuine desire for prayer, worship, bible study, and evangelism, and lots of people have come to saving faith in Jesus as a result."

Really? False doctrine (theology) accomplishes revitalization, deep faith, increased desire for prayer, etc....and even saving faith? There is certainly heresy in that!

Praise the LORD for this Conference and the men with the courage to speak the truth in genuine love; refuting false teaching, and leading untaught, unstable, and the deceived toward saving faith.

#18  Posted by Lane Anderson  |  Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 1:40 PM

i really hope this conference gives people the clarity of the gifts. i live on a christian camp and all the churches that come for retreats are charismatic. what i believe is that GOD can do anything at any given second. alot of the charismatics i have talked to if you do not believe in their ways you are not saved or have a demon. i have dealt with this issue for a year and half. i am a new christian and i really learned alot about this issue. and i hope alot of charismatics will learn the truth from this conference. by the way with the help of a couple of people at GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH they showed me thru the bible what the real truth is.

#22  Posted by Carmen Hubbs  |  Friday, October 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Ok, so I am interested in reading this book, I have been reading a lot about the Person of the Holy Spirit over the past year. My comments here are not accusatory in tone, they are just saying what they are saying. It is so hard to tell when only writing in this format and not seeing facial expressions and hearing inflection.

My first question is (and may not be related to all of this) why do Christians call themselves anything else other than Christians? Why should I call myself a Lutheran or a Calvinist and such. If we are following Christ, we are all Christians.

There is much in the Charismatic Movement I am not completely aware of, but I am not a 'cessationist' by any means. I don't know that I need to get into all of that, but know that I am coming from all of this from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in a Pentacostal-labeled church.

In the Christian community there has been a lot of finger pointing and fighting and I really don't think it does us a lot of good to do that. It's that viewpoint of the World that says, 'They can't even get along with themselves...why should we join a church?' I do believe there is a lot of apostasy happening in individual churches around the world. I believe that there are issues within the 'mega-church' community and the idea of building a social gospel that are detrimental to the Gospel message as a whole.

I have attended many different individual Pentacostal and non-denominational churches over my life and I was never told anything other than we are saved by God's grace and that the Holy Spirit lives within us from the moment we are saved. Water baptism is not taught as a way to salvation, Spirit baptism is not taught as a way to salvation or even as a way to secure salvation, neither is Spirit baptism always evidenced by speaking in tongues. People are not looked down on for never speaking in tongues. The only way to salvation is Jesus through the redemptive work He did for us on the cross.

One of the major things I have always been taught in church (all Pentacostal btw) is that we HAVE to be discerning of spirits and know from whom we are hearing. One of the things that I have heard of, but never been around, is the animal noises in worship. This seems to be coming from a spirit other than the Holy Spirit and I can't understand why it persists in churches. Another thing that has me totally baffled is the talking to snakes thing...I can't get my mind, heart or spirit around that as a ministry at all.

As Christians we are part of the body of Christ and I can't wait for the day that we drop all the division and can be as we were meant to be (which will likely not happen this side of Heaven). Christ's ministry was one that was deeply rooted in for God and love for the people he was speaking to...that none should perish.