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The Broad Brush

Monday, October 28, 2013 | Comments (41)

by Phil Johnson

Without question, the most common complaint I hear from my charismatic friends about the Strange Fire conference is, “You always paint with a broad brush!

I hate being pedantic, but I can’t resist pointing out that such a criticism itself is a fairly sweeping overstatement. It’s true that some broad generalizations were made during the conference. Language without nuance can sometimes be useful to make one’s meaning forcefully clear (Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis).

But it can also have the opposite effect, especially in a hotly contested family dispute. This is one of the first lessons young husbands learn—sometimes the hard way.

For that very reason, I don’t much like generalizations in a context like this. I therefore tried in my seminars to be very specific. For example, in a breakout session titled “Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?” my main goal was to explain as precisely as possible why we don’t believe there is a safe zone in the whole universe of charismatic conviction. I also wanted to explain why we believe some of the finest and best-known Reformed non-cessationists are unwittingly providing cover for aberrant people and movements in some of the most problematic districts of the charismatic community. I quoted, named, and documented a fair number of specifics.

So far no one has played any sound bite from my seminar and complained that I personally was guilty of broad brushing. The main grievance against me has been precisely the opposite. I was too specific. Did I really need to criticize certain leading Reformed continuationists by name?

Still, I am quite happy to agree wholeheartedly with our critics about one important thing: Broad-brush arguments alone are not a sufficient answer to the problem Strange Fire attempts to address. But I also want to challenge fair-minded people to look further than the sound bites you hear critics of the conference repeatedly citing. There certainly was more substance to the conference than a few cherry-picked sound bites. Once again, those who say all the arguments set forth in the conference were applied with an industrial-size roller are themselves making an unfair generalization.

Let me add this: It took a spectacular lack of self-awareness, blended with a stunning ignorance of the actual concerns we are raising (or a prodigious dose of chutzpah), for Michael Brown to coax from Sam Storms an effusive endorsement of Mike Bickle, just minutes after Brown played sound bites from other Strange Fire speakers and scolded me with the you-shouldn’t-lump-us-all-together stanza of the broad-brush complaint. Dr. Storms boldly and emphatically held Bickle up as a spiritual model to follow, suggesting that Bickle is John Piper’s equal in piety and gospel clarity.

There’s your answer, in case you are still wondering why some of the speakers at Strange Fire refused to pause and draw a hard-line distinction every single time they mentioned Reformed continuationists. Why don’t we automatically exempt our Reformed charismatic brethren from all the criticisms we aim at the lunatic mainstream in Third Wave, word-faith, drunken-glory, and holy-laughter fraternities? Why don’t we portray mild continuationism as a perfectly safe middle road? Why don’t we just shut up and let our charismatic brothers and sisters who are Reformed or conservative evangelicals follow after whatever miracle-claims and charismatic prophecies they like?

Well, let’s review:

Sam Storms is one of the most frequently cited names whenever anyone lists the soundest theologians in the continuationist camp. Dr. Storms is a Calvinist in the tradition of S. Lewis Johnson. He’s a gracious, likable, kindhearted, and usually well-spoken man who is supposed to be living proof that someone can be Reformed, charismatic, and biblically responsible all at once.

Mike Bickle is the founder of Kansas City’s International House of Prayer (IHOP). Bickle is also the guy who admits with a grin that 80 percent of the phenomena in the thousands of charismatic meetings he has sponsored and participated in have been utterly false—phony, fraudulent, fleshly—totally and completely fake. Bickle insists that’s not a problem. He is willing to “allow the false for the sake of the real.”

Bickle and Storms worked together as mentors to the Kansas City Prophets during the prophets’ rise to fame and fall into moral disgrace. The leading figures associated with that movement (and by most accounts the most gifted of the bunch) were Bob Jones and Paul Cain. Both of them suffered scandalous moral failures. Neither Bickle nor Storms (nor any of the self-styled prophets) saw it coming.

Another leading figure in the prophecy movement of those days was Rick Joyner, head of MorningStar ministries (home of the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey” and other worse nonsense). Joyner is frequently seen these days with Michael Brown discussing various topics ranging from politics to Pentecostal phenomena. Dr. Brown has given every indication that he is a close pal of Joyner’s.

Joyner personally engineered the public restoration and return to ministry of Todd Bentley, the adulterous, biker-booted heretic who (in terms of fame and influence) is arguably the single most hideous corruption of “ministry” the charismatic movement has yet produced. Bentley is a living blasphemy and a walking reproach.

In other words, the Todd Bentley madness and the worst abuses of charismatic prophecy are much more closely connected to Michael Brown's circle of fellowship than Brown and Storms want to admit. There’s really only one degree of separation between Michael Brown and Todd Bentley.

So Sam Storms gives fulsome praise to Mike Bickle; Michael Brown collaborates with Rick Joyner. They are like Aaron and Hur—holding up the arms of these prophets who freely admit to prophesying falsely. Meanwhile Bickle spreads havoc among naïve charismatics with phony phenomena and false prophecies. And Joyner aggressively promotes a wanton spiritual menace.

But note well where Brown and Storms aim their criticism. They both doggedly insist that the nuttiness of popular charismania is overblown by critics like me.

Dr. Brown says he is totally unaware of some of the most egregiously false prophecies and bizarre shenanigans we have specifically pointed out to him—even though these things are happening right under his nose. Yet he wants the critics (and me in particular) to trust him when he says he is confident that the charismatic movement worldwide consists mainly of people with sound faith and sober minds who are godly, biblically literate, informed believers. Sure, he’ll admit that there are occasional “extremes and imbalances”—but Dr. Brown refuses to say that the prosperity gospel is a damnable false gospel, or that it’s dangerous to follow the lead of unhinged charismatics like Bickle and Joyner.

Frankly, I don’t own a brush broad enough to paint that mess. Is it reasonable to believe that the best and brightest charismatics are seriously concerned about what’s biblical—while these men give Mike Bickle and the modern prophecy movement a ringing public endorsement and balk at acknowledging that the charismatic movement is beset with very serious problems?

Are they even capable of recognizing “extremes and imbalances” when they see them? Remember, Dr. Storms worked with, and affirmed the supposed gifting of, the charismatic movement’s most famous prophets for years, and apparently none of them had enough genuine discernment to realize that their main prophetic guru (Paul Cain) was a drunkard, a homosexual, and a fraud. When it comes to discerning charismatic claims and distinguishing truth from make-believe, Dr. Storms is frighteningly naïve.

During the Brownsville Revival (a fiasco which Michael Brown insists was a mighty work of God, even though the host church was left as spiritually and financially desolate as Detroit), Dr. Brown was so adept at causing people to be “slain in the Spirit” that his nickname was “Knock ′em Down Brown.”

These men have indeed seen and participated in the dark side of the charismatic movement. Perhaps readers will understand why I’m skeptical of their cheery optimism about the overall state of the movement.

The false doctrines and bad practices that dominate charismatic television are not confined to one corrupt branch on an otherwise good tree.  In reality, both historically and by direct line of descent, the whole movement stems from a rotten root. Error and delusion are the phloem and xylem of its central belief system.

I don’t mean that as hyperbole. That’s the point we are trying to make.

(NOTE: I received an e-mail from Dr. Storms correcting some inaccuracies in the original version of this post. He informed me that Rick Joyner was never an actual member of the Kansas City Prophets, nor did Dr. Storms meet him more than once or have any influence as his teacher or mentor. Dr. Storms also wanted me to make clear that he has not seen or spoken with Paul Cain in over a decade and does not in any way endorse him now as a true prophet. I've also clarified a few phrases that were ambiguous. I apologize to Dr. Storms for both the inaccuracies and the ambiguities. I do not want to misrepresent his position.)


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#1  Posted by Blaine Simons  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 4:28 PM

You use a fine brush to paint a lot of detail in my opinion! Thanks brother!

#2  Posted by Wilton Quattlebaum  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Phil thanks for your awesome work in the ministry and for John's. I have the complete set of NT commentaries and a large number of books from GTY that I have bought over the years. I enjoyed the conference and the direct approach of dealing with doctrine. I value your opinions and appreciate your defense of the Gospel. That being said I still struggle with being a continuationist!!!! I have no problem with saying what we see in modern charismatic movement is not only contrary to scripture but should be openly rebuked.

My questioning about it really centers around the tribulation period. During the tribulation period, will the two witnesses that stand up have the gift of tongues? The TRUE GIFT of tongues not the mombo jumbo that the Pentecostal movement is trying to deceive people with. Also do the Angels have that gift? Do they speak in a language that everyone understands them in their own language? I guess I struggle with those questions really is the only reason I am not ok with saying the gifts have stopped? Not sure what the heck that makes me in terms of the gifts.... By the way VERY NICE job by everyone involved in the conference. YOU GUYS HANDLED A TOUGH SUBJECT out of love, motivated by the right reasons, even though it is politically incorrect to do so. THANK YOU ALL. May God continue to bless you

#3  Posted by Matt Tarr  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Thanks Phil! Very helpful... I was thinking through this the other day as well when I came across Titus 1:12b-13a, "'Cretans are always liars, evil beats, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true." Paul was obviously not affirming that every single Cretan was a liar, evil, and lazy, since this would also put Christians who were Cretans into that category. It's understood that he was speaking categorically of the whole. As you noted, "language with nuance can sometimes be useful to make one's meaning forcefully clear." That seems to be exactly what Paul does in Titus.

#4  Posted by David Dean  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:19 PM

I listened to the podcast of you and Dr. Brown on his radio show discussing the Strange Fire Conference and I must say you have been blessed with incredible patience. Thanks for the work you all are doing at GTY in exposing these folks.

#6  Posted by Adam Blauser  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 7:47 PM


I can certainly understand your exasperation at charismatics not wanting to exercise discernment. It has been something that has bothered me about them for a long time. I was actually engaged to a charismatic girl in the Assemblies of God, and while I loved her dearly, it bothered me that people in her church did not call out some men who were obviously false teachers who people in her church knew were false teachers.

Still, I do think we need to be careful about the broad brush. For example, take this statement:

"Why don’t we automatically exempt our Reformed charismatic brethren from all the criticisms we aim at the lunatic mainstream in Third Wave, word-faith, drunken-glory, and holy-laughter fraternities?"

The obvious answer to that is the reason we should automatically exempt them is because they have different positions. We should seek to listen to them, and critique what they say, and not make assumptions that just because they have lapses in judgment that you can somehow use the same arguments as wackos like Benny Hinn. Fairness, and, dare I say, integrity, demand that, at very least, you *do* automatically assume that they are exempt from the same criticism until they make the same error. There is at least one distinction which I am hope you would agree with-Piper and Storms are Christians, and Bentley and Hinn are not. That is one criticism Piper and Storms are quite exempt from.

More than that, I think we need to be careful of statements like "charismatics believe in new revelation." It is true, there are quacks that do believe such things. However, the charismatics that I have run into try to make a distinction between prophecy and word of knowledge on the one hand, and revelation on the other. How they can hold that position together, I don't know. That is why I am not a charismatic. However, in all fairness, there is a distinction that must be acknowledged [though not necessarily thought of as coherent], if we are to be fair.

Turning this around, one might use is the fact that John MacArthur is a dispensationalist, and so is Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsay. And yet, I have heard John MacArthur say some of the same things I have heard those quacks say. I have never heard John MacArthur condemn these men's teachings. It would be very easy [and tempting, given some of the unfair criticisms of dispensationalism today] to lump you all together, and make broad sweeping statements. A lot of people do that, and it is wrong and unfair. Especially with brothers in Christ, we need to be careful how we represent them. Discernment with out wisdom and fairness can become a monster. Again, this does not excuse Michael Brown, or any of the other charismatics for their extremes in the other direction. I firmly believe there are problems there. However, we need to show fairness and Godly patience so God will hopefully show them what is in their blind spot.

#7  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Adam: The operative word there is "automatically." See context.

#8  Posted by Adam Blauser  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 5:41 AM

Phillip Johnson,

About the only thing I can figure [and I do want to understand and fairly represent you] is that you are saying that there are those who would say that we should *never* levy the same individual criticism against Reformed continuationists that we do against the wackos that believe in things like holy laughter. The problem is, I have never heard anyone say that. What I *have* heard people say is, if you do make the same criticism of both sides, there needs to be a fair and concerted effort to make sure that you distinguish between the different kinds of charismatics, so that, when you do say that both the Reformed continuationists and the quacks on TBN are guilty of the same thing, you will not be misunderstood as lumping those two into the same group.

For example, if you go get Benny Hinn's Good Morning Holy Spirit and John Piper's The Justification of God, the difference between the two is night and day. If you go to a service with Benny Hinn presiding and a service with John Piper presiding, the difference, is, again, night and day. Without that recognition, rightly or wrongly, it can seem as though you are lumping the two together. I have actually had that complaint raised against me before, so I know that such a misunderstanding is possible. For example, when I talk about dispensationalism, I am always clear to distinguish Hal Lindsay, Jack Van Impe and their ilk from John MacArthur and my former theology professor Dr. John Feinberg, because one time someone thought I was equating MacArthur with Jack Van Impe. However, having done so, I will be more than happy to say that the church/Israel distinction both groups make is wrong, that their inserting of gaps everywhere is wrong, and other points that both have in common.

I would say, especially at a conference where, as Dr. MacArthur said, you are trying to define the body of Christ, and say [rightly I believe] that quacks like Todd Bentley are not part of the body of Christ, in can be extremely misleading to make the same criticism of both reformed charismatics and the TBN quacks without first taking the care to distinguish. I understand, as you can see so clearly in your own mind what you are trying to say, but it is possible to be misunderstood when proper distinctions are not made, as I myself have found out.

However, that also doesn't address the problem of saying that charismatics believe continuing revelation. Many do not. I would say that *is* an example of broadbrushing. Yes, I agree, it is inconsistent for the not to believe in continuing revelation, but, to be fair, there are charismatics that try to hold that there is no continuing revelation today.

#9  Posted by Kevin Courtright  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 8:50 AM

Hi Adam: I'm not entirely on-board with Jack Van Impe, but, especially in light of your over-all point that you are making to Phil here, how is it that you are comfortable calling Hal Lindsay a "quack"? (I have absolutely no problem with Phil's points, by the way. I am a member of Grace Community Church and I attended the Strange Fire Conference, and everything I heard and was taught was biblically accurate--as is always the case with John MacArthur and those in his circle. The outrages of the charismatic movement were perhaps not even exposed enough--if that were possible.)

#10  Posted by Gian Monzeglio  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Dear Phil. You are sorely missed at Team Pyro. Thanks for a great post and for your boldnesss together with staff at Grace in making this an issue. It was way overdue and it needed the heavy treatment that it got because it is a global issue of epidemic proportion in spite of what the critics are claiming. It needed a broad brush treatment because it has been running unchecked like a forest fire for a decade at least. Those who should be helping to put it out are instead giving it fuel. I was amazed to find out recently that Michael Brown not only endorsed Brownsville but was a protagonist. He also endorsed Cindy Jacobs in a pre-conference attack of the SF conference. Thanks to the prompting of James White I watched a clip of a girl named Alison from Brownsville - readers please watch it because this is what is passing as a move of God's Spirit these days. I remember Cindy J coming to southern africa some years ago and holding meetings in Zimbabwe where she "prophesied" about the imminent flourishing of the nation. Her prophecy was emblazoned on posters that people put up in their homes - I actually saw one. The diammetrically opposite thing happened after that. Zimbabwe became probably the poorest country in the world, with no vaild currency and farmers had to leave their homes and possessions and run for their lives. I remember churches in SA sending missions teams to Zim to help feed people who had nothing to eat in their homes. many Zimbabweans have left their homeland. yet the false prophetess still gets an endorsement from a vocal critic of the conference (because the test is Grudem's vineyard version and not Deut 18) and makes regular appearances on local "christian TV". The same Dr Brown also happens to believe that the manifestations in that clip are a move of the HOLY SPIRIT? Someone is WAY off the mark here and if he and Dr Storms are the best examples of scholarly sanity amongst the movement the rest of us are either very deceived or we are in big trouble and hence the need for a conference like this.

#11  Posted by Wayne De Villiers  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Adam (#6 & #8),

I think the "broad brush" is appropriate because there is a common theological problem: charismatics believe that God continues to speak today by means other than Scripture. Although we know some charismatic brethren try to distinguish "prophecy" from revelation (a fact that was observed many times during the conference), the result is the same: they believe God continues to speak outside of Scripture. Once people are open to God speaking through so-called "prophecy", even if they admit that "prophecy" must be tested because it is subject to error, objectivity is lost, and they are now at the mercy of people's "discernment" which becomes hopelessly subjective. So, I think you're being too generous to say they have different positions. I think the difference is superficial because the core problem is the same cancer. The differences are in degree and terminology, not in substance. John Piper’s inability to immediately dismiss the "prophecy" that his wife would die in childbirth stems from the same theological problem as the people who “prophesy” on TBN. Phil is right in saying it all comes from the same rotten root.

#12  Posted by Sean Lov  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 10:42 AM

(1) Listening to the audio link provided in the post, their glowing endorsement of Mike Bickle as a man who is humble, self-effacing, Bible-centered, Gospel oriented... People say the same things about the Pope. Does that mean we should listen/follow the Pope too?

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Titus 1:16)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

(2) Regarding, them stating there is a difference between a false prophet and someone who claims to be a Christian prophesying falsely, is a lie intended to deceive their listeners (Colossians 2:4).

God’s Word about this is clear and God is not a man that He should lie:

1 John 4:1; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 29:8; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1; Ephesians 5:6,7; Mark 13:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:3

(3) Regarding Rick Joyner, Phil Johnson forgot to mention that Rick Joyner is also a member of the Knights of Malta.


The Knights of Malta is a Catholic Order whose leader is a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and its allegiance is to the Pope.


(Do some simple searching on Google and you will find Rick Joyner announcing it to his congregation and then encouraging them to join the Knights of Malta too.)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc 12:13)

#13  Posted by George Canady  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Thank you Phil for your strong stance. I have family members who are caught up in this movement. I so long for straightforward language about this that will get their attention. I watched the live stream, almost the whole thing here from Houston, Texas. I'm glad you are one to take some heat for us. I hate to add to the heat, but I think we might all need it. I did hear boos and hisses during the conference. I wonder if we don't encourage that sometimes with our tone and some leading inferences. It seems like there maybe some corrective notes you could add about approach that would be helpful.

#14  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Dear George,

Do you mean the kinds of "boos and hisses" you see on Twitter, or audible boos from the audience at the conference? Because I didn't hear any boos in the auditorium. There were a few gasps and rumblings at times when some fact was cited or video was shown that shocked people--but the disapproval wasn't aimed at the conference speakers. In fact, I have to say, the feedback from the people who actually came to the conference was completely positive. One man challenged me vigorously a couple of times between sessions, but even he was polite and friendly. I didn't detect the slightest whiff of ill will.

Nevertheless, I think I know what you are saying, and yes, I do think an ugly tone can undermine even the best of arguments. I know I'm not always the best judge of how my own "tone" comes across. When I was writing at Pyromaniacs, "tone" complaints were too common to blow off completely. And in Dr. Storms's email to me, he admonished me to dial back the rhetoric.

I take the point, but I also wrestle with the fact that we live in postmodern times where honest, virile dialogue has been eclipsed by an effeminate and unbiblical notion of artificial cordiality. We speak of "transparency" (which has a fragile and gossamer sound) rather than "honesty," which is more how truth should be handled. Today's tone police would almost certainly cry foul against virtually every biblical writer and prophet. Paul might be jailed for hate crimes over Titus 1:12-13, which (let's face it:) paints with a fairly broad brush.

Still, for the record: I appreciate candor; I don't approve of deliberately insulting language. Sometimes the former is interpreted by the recipient as the latter. That's unfortunate, but not a sufficient reason to be less than truthful.

At the end of the day, I AM more concerned with the truth than I am with whether people think meek-and-mild is the only way to represent Jesus properly. I hope and believe that the time is coming in this over-tolerant culture where voices of candor WILL be the voices that are heard. It would seem to me that if true communication is ever going to take place again, there HAS to be a shift like that.

#15  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 2:20 PM

Due to the length of this comment, I will need to submit two posts.

I have some questions. I have posed these and other questions by attempting to post them on other GTY blogs re Strange Fire, but apparently my blogs have been rejected, because they were never actually posted. I find this very disturbing, especially given the fact that virtually every blog that has been posted is complimentary to John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference. I am hoping that you will not continue this course of action.

So as to not waste my time and yours, I will ask only the first of my questions here. If it does not get posted and answered, I guess there is little point in asking the rest of them. So here goes .....

I have listened to Mr. MacArthur's presentation, and I have read everything I can find about Strange Fire and all of the varied responses thereto. Regardless of Dr. MacArthur's intent, most people seem to feel that he lumped all Charismatics together into a group. He then stated that they are "largely" (his words) not part of the Body of Christ. This statement can only have one meaning. He must mean that most of the people who identify themselves as Charismatics are not Christian. They are therefore by definition not saved.

I did not begin my spiritual journey in the Charismatic arena. I accepted Christ in a mainline conservative non-denominational Bible teaching church. Probably a church much like yours. My wife accepted Christ there too.

Over the last three decades, my wife and I have gradually and slowly gravitated towards a more Charismatic mindset, and, while we have serious issues with the fringe element in the Charismatic movement, we now consider ourselves Charismatic, both in theology and application. We do not agree with cessationism, and we value our dynamic and experiential relationship with Jesus. Just so you know, we do not bark, howl, or handle snakes, but we have been known to shout for joy from time to time. I am laughing at myself, now.

#17  Posted by George Canady  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 3:55 PM


Thank you so much for taking your time to give this lengthy response. Your thoughts on this are of great value to me and I hope all of us.

I agree with you that it is time to stand and speak the truth on this in terms that any who hears will not mistake its meaning. I am biblically and experientially aware that many will be upset when that that has been the status quo for so long, is confronted. I believe you to be in a group of men who handle confrontation very well. My concern however, is with the audience response to a comment made about one of the known false teachers. I heard boos and I think hisses. I believe it was one of John's openings.

Sometimes I am guilty of an attitude that I think I heard on display, so I may be more sensitive to it than some. I hope my tone is respectful as I bring this to you.

I would not like to be in your shoes right now. I am glad you are willing to take the tremendous criticism as your love for the church is on display.

#18  Posted by Steve Carlton  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 4:31 PM

This is the second part of my post...please read both parts together.

As I listen to both the words and inflections of John MacArthur's statements, it seems clear to me that he is saying that we are not part of the Body of Christ, and therefore he must be saying we are not saved.

What kind of theology would allow for even an intimation that this is true of us? I can come up with only two possibilities. Either John MacArthur believes that my wife's and my original salvation was not a true salvation, or he believes that, while we were once saved, we have lost that salvation.

If this observation pertained just to me and my wife, the answer would be easy. But the fact of the matter is that virtually every Charismatic person I know has had the same history...saved in the mainline Church, but then gradually migrating to a Charismatic mindset.

So, then, the question. What does John MacArthur believe to be true about me, my wife, and my Charismatic friends? Are we saved or not? From what theology does his belief emanate?

Please do not try to answer the question by saying "well, that depends" or "we do not know you". After the "largely" statement and the other tacit and even explicit generalizations made at Strange Fire, I really feel a more direct and straightforward answer is warranted.

I am not trying to be antagonistic here. I am deeply and profoundly concerned about the way this whole controversy is affecting the Body. And before I decide how to decide, I need to ask this and other questions.

Thank you for considering my request, even if you choose not to respond.

#19  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Steve Carlton,

I didn't get what your actual question was. But let me respond to some of the things you said:

We don't censor comments just because they are negative or at variance with our opinion. We would only censor profanity, intentional insults, off-topic posts, over-the-top anger, or things of that variety. I'm sorry your earlier comment[s] didn't post. I'm not part of the process, so I won't speculate about what may have happened. But if you'll read the comments again, you'll discover that they are not all "complimentary to John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference." That's no doubt the majority opinion, because a lot of our ministry's partners and supporters hang out here. But we do try to be fair with dissent.

Perhaps your question had to do with the rationale behind the suggestion that a large number of charismatics are not truly converted. Read Matthew 7:13-14; 22-23. I think further that John MacArthur's opinion on that point is based on the absence of a sound biblical message in virtually all the major charismatic media outlets and megachurches; the prevalence of the prosperity gospel in charismatic strongholds worldwide (even places like Africa, Latin America, Haiti, India, etc.); a general gospel ignorance among professing evangelicals of all kind; plus the fact that the simple gospel is either downplayed, left out, or twisted in volume after volume of charismatic literature.

Non-charismatic evangelicalism is not exactly in a stellar state, either, to be perfectly candid. We get that point. But we say what we can about that as well, decrying pragmatism of all kinds at every opportunity.

#20  Posted by Brian Miller  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Praise God for the coming together of these Godly men who will stand for the truth at the Strange Fire Conf. That is Love.

#21  Posted by Steven Lamm  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Steve Carlton,

I have read two comments by you on on the October 23 blog "What Now?"(#12,17) and then Travis Allen graciously responded to your questions (#18). So, GTY has not been unfair with regard to that question at least. Your question here is similar to that one, so you have been answered. Perhaps not to your liking, but you have received an answer.

After reading your comments, it's appears to me that you take MacArthur's statements about the world-wide Charismatic movement as a personal attack. They obviously are not. But, given the abundant evidence that the movement world-wide is awash in false teachers promoting false doctrine particularly about the Gospel, there is good reason to make this statement.

Frankly, as Phil has stated, the entire evangelical movement is populated by many who think they are saved who probably are not because they have believed in a false Gospel. (That's another issue GTY and MacArthur have already addressed many times).

So, I would urge you to do what we all should: examine yourself to see if you are in the faith as Paul instructs (2 Cor. 13:5).

Let me also say this: you and others continually object to what you call "generalizations." Well, a generalization is something that is true of a significant majority of individuals within a group. I think that a major objective of the SF conference was to provide evidence that most of the modern Charismatic/Pentecostal movement around the world is awash in damnable heresy that is an affront to the Holy Spirit. It's my view that the SFC went a long way to establishing that. Whether or not this generalization applies to you cannot be answered by Phil or John MacArthur since they don't know you personally. They don't know what you are trusting in for your salvation. Of course, I trust that you do.

I trust that you have believed in the true Gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ and His cross work. I trust that the Jesus you have placed your faith in is the true Jesus of the Gospels. If your faith is genuine saving faith, then your life and doctrine will reflect that when examined by the truth of the NT.

By the way, your name seems familiar to me, perhaps from many years ago.

Blessings to you.

#22  Posted by Michael Kennedy  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 8:32 PM

Mr. Steve Carlton; (now, this is written in love, please know that)

Sir, nice to meet you, my name is Mike Kennedy.

So, since God is in control of everything, I think He would just like me to get to the point of why I believe you really need to ask God to show you what things of the char. beliefs are wrong and what the Bible really says....courtesy of God who uses John and others to do so. I prefer John, myself; there is no other man who is totally taught and capable to do the job on interpreting God's Word. Been listening to him for over 34 yrs.

I was 28 when God called me and now I am 62..(been around ) and because I asked God to show me what I needed to know and why, He has graciously been answering me these last 34+ yrs.....mainly because He is in CHARGE of me and knows what I need when I need His timing alone.

First, after salvation, He left me in the char. realm and listen to John, for 10 yrs., not to punish me or confuse me, but to let me genuinely KNOW FOR SURE what was in fact the truth about Him and His Word. Stuff that was confusing like; tongues, any more revelations from God, sanctification, losing salvation (coming out of catholicism, that guilt trip is lonnnnng),etc.,etc, etc..

See, what I thankfully learned is that, ok, God is going to see if I can pass this faith- test-thing, (and He will) or will He just let me be God to myself, and let me think whatever I learn is right cause I think it is. I know for a fact, He WANTS TO TEACH YOU EVERYTHING NOW AND FOREVER MORE!!! Prov. 3-5,6. And if you don't let Him do that, you will be caught up in the wrong stuff and not believe the truth when it comes to you because your pride will think you know it already. And you may, IF (biggest word in the dictionary) you do know all that Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that's in that Bible.

And although He will try to stop you from dragging yourself into the WRONG stuff (especially) about the Holy Spirit, you won't because of that pride that will cause Jesus to say what He said in Matt. 7-21. I had it happen to me, sir, and it was a BIG shock of fear that took a while to wear off, and I don't wish that on anyone. I call it , "having the spiritual rug pulled out from under you". The first time I was frightened for 4 months....and the second time... Once you've been there and again, it's still scary, but hopefully not as long.

Yes, God loves us, sure, but what happened to the disciples that booked after they supposedly got saved????? God's not looking for perfection, but direction, as CLOSE to perfection as we can get. But He knows it'll never happen, but if He stops us in our tracks when we're on the wrong road, it IS for our good. Maybe this is something to stop you? HE stopped me, cause He knew I would listen and ask questions and change.....HE is in charge, so I would let Him. (I suggest checking out John's sermons on your questionable items, they will really help......they did me)God bless

#23  Posted by Sean Lov  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 11:16 PM

For those readers/listeners who continue to think/insist that Phil Johnson, et al. brought up fringe Charismatics, or things from the past that the Charismatic community has already sufficiently dealt with, etc., here is Rick Joyner LAST WEEK on his TV program ‘Prophetic Perspective on Current Events’ with his good friend Todd Bentley, talking about the “revival healing angel” that visited him, and Bob Jones’ “the angel of the wings of change”, the glory of God coming down like a canopy, manifesting gold all over the floor, bed, raining gold, everywhere from this angel, boasting of their supposed signs and wonders in South Africa...

LIES, LIES, LIES, and more LIES:

Oct 21, 2013, Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley:

Oct 22, 2013, Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley:

Oct 23, 2013, Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley:

Oct 24, 2013, Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley:

Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3)

They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. (Ezekiel 13:6)

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:

There is no fear of God before his eyes.

For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.

The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.

He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil. (Psalm 36:1-4)

More from God’s Word is Truth:

2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Jeremiah 23:16; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1)

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. (Mark 13:5)

#24  Posted by Suzanne Tromburg  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 12:06 AM

Great article, Phil, well done..and those links..phew (!)

I guess the work of actually investigating a thing makes taking the broad generalization a much less resistant would seem. The flames of this "broad brush" have been smoldering for weeks now and all attempts to stomp them out, as such, seem more and more futile (at least to our naked eye). You've done a fine job here and in your conference messages, Phil, all the messages were Golden, but there are some deaf ears out there that need true miracle healing. (I say that knowing my own "hearing" is far from fully developed!)


I just don't get it.. how is it that people hear so differently what was presented so clearly and articulately at this conference? I don't mean everyone was supposed to come away in absolute agreement with ev-er-y-thing presented, and I realize there are people not so familiar with MacArthur's preaching and strong stance, (he is after all one of the last men standing strong for the Faith) but seriously..for anyone to say for instance that he proclaimed ALL charismatics are going to hell..? (that is if one had actually listened to him). Preposterous. One only needed pay the slightest attention to the context of his words (and the videos in the mix) and it would have been clear that's not what he meant. And people are upset about his "nothing good ever came out of the charismatic movement" comment. I understood that to mean he was not talking about the Common Grace that God continues to make available to all men-even through false movements and religions; but "good" as in true Righteousness, true Holiness and a True Gospel that truly saves. Finally, the consistent misrepresentations of what true cessationism isand is not as charismatic leaders/bloggers and commentors continue propagating a cessationism that says God has ceased doing miracles, or ceased healing, or the Spirit has ceased His work in us, or ceased gifting His church etc... These are false and tiresome representations of cessationism. (may I suggest an excellent article explaining these things: )

I really appreciate what Pastor Clint Archer said: "The difficulties the church encounters—from persecution to petty squabbles—are opportunities for us to grow closer to the Lord and closer to each other, as our faith is tested and tempered...And let us never have our compassion deadened to the point where we relish a fight, where we gloat in perceived victory, or be guilty of savoring the smell of theological napalm in the morning. (source: )

In the end we must all get along--because we have been given all that we need by the Spirit to work joyfully in the Spirit to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, doing all in humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

#25  Posted by David Smith  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 12:07 AM

Let me briefly throw my two cents in...

ALL pentecostals and charismatics have a common origin, namely Azusa Street, and before that Charles Fox Parham's Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas. Don't believe anyone who says that the charismatic movement began spontaneously in the 1960s. It did not. It was the result of a deliberate strategy by the pentecostals to bring their beliefs and practices into the mainstream.

If you study what happened at these events, you have to come to the conclusion that it was all fake, promoted by liars and charlatans. There was never anything genuine there. The "tree" is poisoned and all its "fruit" are bad.

Yes, there are good men who have been deceived by this - Piper and Storms amongst others - but they are part of a family which includes some very dubious members, and whose ancestors were basically crooks.

#26  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 5:37 AM

I have been listening to Grace to You for over 25 years and it has made an enormous impact on my life. I have talked to people who have called John MacArthur unloving and an “in your face” person, but they have taken his sermons out of context without hearing the whole message. John IS loving and passionate for truth, and sometimes people don’t take the time to hear all that he has said. This is especially true when people listen to a portion on social media of what John has said and not the whole message. I challenge people that make that claim to visit the Grace to You website and listen to the entire message. I believe John cares more about exalting Christ than anything else and has been misinterpreted by those who choose not to make those informed decisions.

#27  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 5:50 AM

I was raised in a Presbyterian Church and married a Roman Catholic man. At that time, I believed that Roman Catholicism was just another Christian denomination, with just more symbolism. I was not aware of all the Roman Catholic doctrine and neither was my husband. After we married, I began listening to GTY. Gradually, I felt like I was not being fed at the Catholic Church, but continued to go with my husband and counted on Grace to you for my “food”. This went on for several years. Eventually, I shared with my husband that I felt like I needed more biblical teaching at church, so he continued to go to the Catholic church and I started attending a strong bible-teaching church. We moved out of state. My husband’s co-worker was an elder at a PCA church and invited us to his church. We began alternating each week between the PCA church and the Catholic church so we could go together. Later, when GTY was aired on DirecTV, we would get up early before church and watch GTY on television. My husband began to see how much he was missing. All this time, I kept praying for my husband and patiently waiting on God to see what He would do. Over a few more years, my husband began reading his Bible more and more, and eventually he decided that he no longer wanted to attend the Catholic church. He has grown into a very strong, biblically-sound Christian and loves the Word of God.

I think it is important to pray for our brothers and sisters that may be in ANY system or church that is contrary to the gospel. We have to be patient with our loved ones and friends knowing God is sovereign. It is necessary to confront false teachers, and God has placed us in situations with friends and family we need to reach and we have to be careful to not alienate them while we are trying to reach them. It is natural to want instant results and even manipulate those we care about. We need to point out the truth in love and leave the results to God.

My point is, be patient, pray, and be continually loving without brow-beating your family and loved ones while you point out error and speak the truth. Leave the results to God in HIS time, not yours. God is faithful and may be using you to lead others to the truth. Everything God chooses is at the proper time. Many times, what God does, are things we could not have planned ourselves. I would rather leave the results in His hands because His timing is perfect and is what is needed at that time. I think of Isaiah 64:3-4 where God does unexpected things for those who wait upon Him.

#28  Posted by Lazar Lazarovski  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

Why don't we just see what Scripture says right?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Speaking of even one false prophecy)

"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled [c]rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you."

Quoting from Strange Fire, the book:

"Any self-proclaimed prophet who leads people into false doctrine and heresy is a false prophet... the New Testament is relentless in echoing that same warning. Anyone who claims to speak for God while simultaneously leading people away from the truth of God's Word is clearly shown to be a false prophet and a deciever." (p. 106-107).

Discernment is heightened when we take all that we see, do, feel and hear and test it to what the Word of God says. If anyone wants to discern truth from error, test it to Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Further, how are these people not afraid of the warning of Revelation 22:18-19 made by our Lord?

The only answer that I can think of is that these people are not true believers and they know they're frauds. I say that because any true believer, trembles at God's Word, handles the Word of God carefully and realizes the sufficiency of Scripture.

Sola Scriptura! We don't need anything more than that.


#29  Posted by Lazar Lazarovski  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Just one other suggestion that will be tremendously helpful:

If you haven't already, read the book and listen to the sermons given at the conference. It will help you make a more informed opinion.


#33  Posted by Bryan Burke  |  Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 7:32 AM


I understand the frustration with the over-use of the "broad-brush" comments even after you've dealt with specifics and had that come back also as a criticism. I have a confession: I too have used the phrase to describe the conference, so this post has helped me to re-think through my reasons for using that phrase other than it possibly just being an effortless and convenient cliche to use carelessly because I haven't done any substantive homework. But, having watched the entire conference live, with some other reading, I don't think that's the case. While I can agree with you that there was a lot more substance than mere cherry-picked soundbites, there still were individuals and particulars that were either avoided or distorted, seemingly intentionally.

Is this not a good way of understanding what "broad-brushing" is?...To paint in such a way as to leave out details or mis-characterize the "individuals" and "particulars" that, if given more, adequate, or complete attention, might significantly lessen the immediate splash and wave of impact you're actually trying to accomplish?

You've admitted above that you misrepresented Dr. Sam Storms. And we appreciate that sincere apology and public clarification. But could not that ironic mishandling of the particulars with that individual in this post indicate something that is probably not limited to just this post?

Indeed it does.

Broad-brushing is just a nicer way of saying "Half-Truthing".

And to be fair, you can't avoid broad-brushing and not presenting the whole truth on everything, because in this case, it's what you don't know that's causing you to paint articulate colors blindly and broadly.

And come on Phil, is it not "broad-brushed" to make one huge stroke over to the charismatic crooks and cranny's and then a huge stroke back in an effort to proselytize everyone over to cessationism?

I know. You said we say you "always" paint with a broad brush. Well of course if you quote us like that, then we have to agree you don't "always". But here where the Truth Matters, or in the case of the "strange fire" conference--the Half Truth matters, you have crafted your own broad brush, that I will agree with you, in terms of truth, is not near broad enough.. or detailed enough.

You can't avoid the fact that you've done this no matter how many times you attempt to discredit others personally by propagating some sort of charismatic blood-line, while avoiding their scriptural arguments and their tested experience.

A glaring example:

See my next post.

#34  Posted by Bryan Burke  |  Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 7:35 AM

A glaring example:

Jack Deere's name came up only twice (that I can recall)--Once when John Macarthur intentionally misinterpreted/misquoted Jack as saying/believing that the "doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture is demonic" (while the audience gasped); Second, when you told your story about you, Lance Quinn, and John meeting with Jack and Paul Cain in John's office.

First, anyone who has read Jack's books would never come away with the conclusion that he believes that the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture is demonic. And, has Jack not asked you guys to stop misquoting him on that very thing? Yet you still have continued to use that as a way to discredit him while ignoring the impact his biblical arguments have made on many ex-cessationists.

I think you know Phil, that any honest interaction with the arguments in Jack's books require a lot more work than what your readers will ever attempt, especially if you make him look like a villain first.

Second, your story about meeting with Jack and Paul Cain in John's office is quite a deceptive that you've used for a couple decades now to ignore the actual content of Jack's books. How long has it been since you've spoken with Jack? I know for a fact that you and John both have publicly, grossly, and unfairly mis-represented Jack. I think it also, along with what you've written publicly to Dr. Sam Storms, deserves a public apology.

I'll ask it again:

Is this not a good way of understanding what "broad-brushing" is?...To paint in such a way as to leave out details or mis-characterize the "individuals" and "particulars" that, if given more, adequate, or complete attention, might significantly lessen the immediate splash and wave of impact you're actually trying to accomplish?

I like that definition. And yes, I understand it cuts both ways. That's why mature conversations are the most helpful, not militant crusades.

We may all be guilty of use "broad-brush" tactics, but one thing is for sure, our use of that phrase still stands and still applies to what you've done with this conference, what you're doing now, and how you're doing it.

So paint away...

#37  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Bryan Burke: "You've admitted above that you misrepresented Dr. Sam Storms."

That's an interesting way of putting it. See, I would have said that I bent over backward not to misrepresent Dr. Storms. I actually said (above) that I have no desire to misrepresent him.

I give you full points for brazenness in doing the very thing you claim I'm guilty of. But I do think in doing so you have undermined the potency of your argument.


Bryan: "First, anyone who has read Jack's books would never come away with the conclusion that he believes that the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture is demonic. And, has Jack not asked you guys to stop misquoting him on that very thing?"

To my knowledge Dr. Deere has not made that request, nor was I even the one who cited him on that. But I did find where he addressed the issue with Philip Jensen: Vineyard Position Paper 2. (see p. 23).

In essence, Dr. Deere seems to suggest that he is operating with a unique definition of "the sufficiency of Scripture," and that is supposed to absolve him from the charge that he said the historic doctrine of biblical sufficiency is "demonic."

He writes, "This quote is typical of the rest of The Briefing and of our discussion with Phillip Jensen when the subject of the sufficiency of the Scriptures came up. Not one time in The Briefing do any of the authors define 'the sufficiency of Scripture.' This whole discussion in The Briefing makes no reference to what the Scriptures say about their own sufficiency."

The classic theological definition of biblical sufficiency is the one given in Westminster Confession of Faith (I.6):

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

Jack Deere has a different definition, one that accommodates "new revelations of the Spirit." Indeed, the denial of fresh revelations from the Spirit is precisely what Deere labeled "demonic." If he has a different explanation of what he meant, I have never heard it. Bottom line: I think the charge is fair. It is, after all, what he said.

#38  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Bryan: "Second, your story about meeting with Jack and Paul Cain in John's office is quite a deceptive that you've used for a couple decades now to ignore the actual content of Jack's books. How long has it been since you've spoken with Jack?"

  1. I haven't "ignored" the content of Dr. Deere's books. I have, however, emphatically disagreed with him and declined to recommend his books.
  2. There's nothing "deceptive" in the description I gave of that meeting. There were two more eyewitnesses who will verify the details of my account. Lance Quinn, whose memory is famously near-photographic, can add some details. Jack Deere himself has never to my knowledge disputed what happened that day.
  3. It's been years since I spoke to Dr. Deere. Certainly he did not seek me out when Paul Cain's private life was exposed to acknowledge that our concerns about Cain were justifiable.

Bryan: "Is this not a good way of understanding what "broad-brushing" is?...To paint in such a way as to leave out details or mis-characterize the 'individuals' and 'particulars' that, if given more, adequate, or complete attention, might significantly lessen the immediate splash and wave of impact you're actually trying to accomplish?"

What you really seem to be suggesting is that if I don't acknowledge and affirm whatever spin Dr. Deere would prefer to put on our interaction, I'm guilty of unfairly broad-brushing. Is that it?

Believe that if you like. I say Dr. Deere still has not sufficiently explained his "that's demonic, even though Christian theologians have perfected it" remark. Worse, he was the loudest evangelical voice championing Paul Cain all those years, and he is culpable for the massive confusion and multiple false prophecies he aggressively gave credibility to. Instead of scolding cessationists who haven't managed to look past his dismissive accusation about biblical sufficiency and doctrines of demons, you ought to be challenging him to take his share of responsibility for the Paul Cain fiasco and own the rotten fruit that came from that.

#51  Posted by Sheralee Tonnessen  |  Monday, November 4, 2013 at 5:35 PM

It seems clear that 'continuists' are succuming to that old original sin of wanting to 'be God'. I watch this happen all the time with people in general. A restless discontent with simply being a created being saved by God's sovereign grace. Very similar to an addicts craving for 'more', never satisfied with 'enough'. When genuine gratitude for God having anything to do with you is experienced, the cup does indeed runneth over, and genuine satisfation of the soul is experienced. There isn't a circumstance confronting any human situation not addressed clearly in scripture. But, of course that isnt going to get you 'high' on special insight, power or knowlege. Simply put, outside God's provisions in His word lay egoism, emotionalism, low self-esteem, addictive personality types.....saved or not.

Thank you for adressing the chanting 'whip you into a frenzy', very intoxicating, new 'worship' music that feeds into all of the above, coming out of the groups Jesus Culture, Hillsong, etc.

#52  Posted by Delvin Arnold  |  Monday, November 4, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Thoroughly enjoyed the Strange Fire Conference. Been a follower of GTY for nearly 26 years. Have already read the book Strange Fire which treats these critical matters with thoughtful scholarship and biblical exposition. Unfortunately we are in the itching-ears-era that Paul expressed to Timothy. Sound doctrine is being subverted by subjective experiences and gross false teaching. I echo John's heart and those that loves God's truth to earnestly contend for it which always makes one unpopular. You're always labeled as intolerant and unloving when confronting their error.

John as a cessationist has defended his position biblically and now it is incumbent upon the Charismatics to defend theirs.

If there is a Truth Matters conference in the future, I would love for the theme to be the "Doctrines of Grace".

#54  Posted by Scott Reed  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 11:24 AM

I would love to see a former Charismatic speak at one of these conferences. I believe all the issues have been put on the table, but it would really give a different perspective I think, I could be wrong.

#55  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Scott, I used to have charismatic beliefs.

Whilst I was pleased with the Strange Fire conference and I am in general agreement with its message, there were some things that concerned me.

I cannot accept that the majority of charismatics are not christians. My experience is that they are definitely born-again and would agree with cessationists on most things. They generally have a deep and sincere faith. I need to emphasise that things we have in common are far greater and far more important than the things that divide us.

I don't think most charismatics major on extra-biblical revelation and they would generally regard it as always being subject to the test of scripture.

And I don't believe that 90% of charismatics have word-faith or prosperity gospel beliefs.

[Note: I do not have experience of Africa etc and things may be different over there. The situation in Nigeria is quite different to America, for example].

People are attracted to the charismatic movement because of the sorry state of conservative evangelicalism. The joy of the Lord and the life of the spirit are sadly lacking in the cessationist world, both individually and corporately. This is also a broad brush, but sadly it is true. And charismatics are often egalitarians and do not place limits on women's ministry, which again is attractive. (Having studied both sides of the debate, I personally believe that egalitarianism is the correct understanding of the Bible's teaching - but that's another matter).

The way the charismatic movement grows is by people having some sort of "baptism in the holy spirit" experience and speaking in tongues. This convinces them that the claims of the movement are correct and causes them to reject the cessationist viewpoint. They become locked in by virtue of their experience. After all, if I can speak in tongues, that must prove that the sign gifts haven't ceased. And even if there are problems in the movement, the basic principle must be correct, because my experience confirms it.

It takes a lot to break free of this mentality!

Also, theology never happens in a vacuum. If there is a large movement in the church that is continuationist, then theologians (Piper, for example) will consider if the Bible supports their beliefs.

I don't know if this is the sort of perspective you were looking for - I hope it's helpful. If you'd like, I'll write something more about the whole subject of experiences, which is key to understanding the movement.

#56  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 2:57 PM

David (#55),

May I ask how many charismatics you know? Because if experience is the ultimate measure of truth, I highly doubt you've got the anecdotal evidence to make any valid claims about what "most charismatics" believe.

We all must dispossess ourselves of the notion that our experience is at all a valid measure for truth. What I can see and touch and hear is not comprehensive in the least--in fact it's remarkably limited.

Charismatic defenders love to say that their friends aren't anything like what we see on TBN--that faith healers and prosperity preachers are just the fringe of the movement. And yet tens of millions of people worldwide tune into TBN every day. That kind of audience isn't the fringe of anything.

For all the charismatic defenders out there: Please stop using the broad brush of "my experience" to whitewash the entire movement.

#57  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 3:54 PM


I considered myself a charismatic for almost 30 years. In that time I visited numerous churches, read a lot of books and magazines, and went to many conferences. I've had encountered pentecostals, denominational charismatics, and the "new" churches (eg Vineyard). I would guess that the number of people I met during that time is in the thousands. So I think I am pretty well-versed on the charismatic movement. That's the basis for my views.

I agree, experience is not the test of truth. So when it comes to charismatic demographics, there needs to be some statistics to back up the claims. Things like "90% of charismatics follow the prosperity gospel" do not ring true to many, including me. I haven't seen any research to confirm them. It's just as anecdotal as my own experience.

Likewise with TBN, how do we know their viewing figures are true? I would treat them with great suspicion. And some people may just watch a particular program, not be a wholesale consumer of everything the channel broadcasts.

I am not a charismatic defender, in case that wasn't obvious. I regard charismatic beliefs (ie the continuation of the miraculous or sign gifts) as false teachings, I no longer hold to them, and I share my reasons for rejecting them whenever it is appropriate.

I do believe that the Biblical case for cessationism is strong. But, as I was trying to say earlier, charismatics will rarely be convinced by a presentation of cessationist theology. They will say "well, I speak in tongues, as do many of my friends, so cessationism can't be right". How do we respond to this? The answer lies in understanding speaking in tongues...

#58  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 4:44 PM


You wrote: I agree, experience is not the test of truth. So when it comes to charismatic demographics, there needs to be some statistics to back up the claims.

How about the statistic you causally dismissed in your very next sentence? Or do you think John MacArthur and the other speakers at Strange Fire simply made up the stats they referred to during the conference? I hope you'll take the time to read Strange Fire and study the compelling evidence it presents.

I'm glad you no longer consider yourself a charismatic, and that you don't intend to defend their position or their practice. But this theological scourge has thrived primarily because too many people have underestimated just how corrupt it truly is. Let's not make that same mistake.

#59  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 5:24 PM


I don't have a copy of Strange Fire, although I am planning to get one in due course.

But I know that others queried the 90% figure when it was first made, and I haven't seen any explanation offered online so far. So why not tell us, here and now, how it was arrived at.

#62  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 9:52 AM


Frankly, it doesn't need to be explained again online. The speakers at Strange Fire cited their sources, and I'd encourage anyone who has a gripe with what they heard--or what they've heard about what was said at Strange Fire--to go back and listen to those messages. Sound bites and pull quotes aren't the best way to advance the debate or edify each other.

As for the 90% statistic you've taken issue with, it's not a new number devised for Strange Fire. It previously appeared in John T. Allen's book The Future Church, and was originally derived from research data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Those and other sources are thoroughly cited in the book.

I hope that helps.

#63  Posted by Lamar Carnes  |  Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Again right on target. I came out of all of this mess years ago before these "new " guys got into it all. Fraud, deceit and just plain false doctrine is the order of the day in most all I ever experienced and was involved with. The Church at large throughout history has dealt with all of these heresies and renounced them soundly as such. Church history doesn't seem to matter any more with these type of movements, for they wish their experiences to be the criteria of Biblical inerrancy! God's word is of no real importance unless you can take a few words out of context and make a pretext.