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Monday, October 13, 2014 | Comments (24)

by John MacArthur

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Strange Fire Conference, we are posting an article by John MacArthur which will appear in the next issue of the TMS Journal. For the purposes of this blog, the article will be posted in three parts throughout the week.

Introduction

Southern California has always been a hub of Pentecostal influence. Although the first experiments with modern tongues-speaking took place in rural Kansas in 1901, Pentecostalism became an actual movement with the Azusa Street Revival of 1906, in a dilapidated section of downtown Los Angeles.

The first spark was ignited in a private home some two miles northwest of the Azusa Street location. An African American holiness preacher named William J. Seymour was preaching to a small group that had broken away from a nearby church after the elders of that church rejected Seymour’s teaching. Indeed, Seymour’s knowledge of Scripture and his grasp of essential gospel truth seemed marginal at best. Even the Holiness Church Association with which he was affiliated (no paragon of evangelical orthodoxy itself) considered his teaching dangerously unbiblical. But Seymour was obsessed with the Pentecostal gifts, and one morning, after praying all night long, he began speaking in tongues.

Pandemonium ensued. In the words of one observer, “They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house.”[1]

The revival meetings soon moved to Azusa Street, where they continued for nine years. People from all over North America and various parts of the world came to investigate the phenomenon. Many became convinced that the glossolalia of Azusa Street signified a genuine revival of the New Testament gift of tongues. Seeds of Pentecostal doctrine thus spread quickly from Southern California all across the nation and beyond.

Early Pentecostalism remained a fringe group, akin to the holiness movement and cousin to most of the perfectionist sects. Pentecostals stood apart from any major stream of historic evangelicalism. The first Pentecostal luminary to gain nationwide recognition was Aimee Semple McPherson, a Canadian-born faith healer and traveling evangelist.

In the early 1920s, Sister Aimee settled in Southern California. She saw the potential of radio for propagating Pentecostal teaching. She also understood the strategic value of Los Angeles as a media center. In 1923, she built (and filled) the 5300-seat Angelus Temple in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. A year later, she was granted a broadcasting license by the FCC. She ran a 500-watt powerhouse radio station (KFSG), broadcasting through two tall radio towers on the Angelus Temple roof. She thus became the first female broadcast mogul, the first media-driven Pentecostal celebrity, and the first woman to pastor a megachurch. Sister Aimee’s popularity spawned a major Pentecostal denomination, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Today the denomination boasts 60,000 congregations worldwide. The group’s headquarters are still located in Los Angeles.

Chuck Smith was a Foursquare Pastor in Santa Ana before moving to Costa Mesa, where in 1968 he founded the Cavalry Chapel movement. That fellowship now comprises 1600 congregations worldwide, with hundreds of Calvary Chapels scattered throughout Southern California, and new ones being planted almost weekly.

The Association of Vineyard Churches spun off from Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda in 1977. Although the denominational office has since moved to Texas, the flagship congregation is still the Vineyard Church of Anaheim. There are reportedly more than 1500 Vineyard churches worldwide.

All those denominations have strong Pentecostal roots. By 1960, Pentecostal teaching and Pentecostal practices had begun to move out of Pentecostal denominations and infiltrate mainline and independent churches. With the broadening of boundaries the word Pentecostal gave way to the expression charismatic. The former name was laden with parochial connotations; the latter was a term that intentionally crossed denominational and ecumenical boundaries.

Like Pentecostalism, the Charismatic movement traces its roots to an unexpected event during Easter season in an unlikely location in Southern California. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys is just 16 miles as the crow flies from Azusa Street. In 1960 the church was a typical left-leaning Episcopalian parish, not evangelical in any historic sense. Both doctrinally and liturgically, it was at the opposite end of the spectrum from all the Pentecostal churches in Southern California.

But on April 3 (Easter Sunday) in 1960, during the first of three morning services at St. Marks, Rector Dennis Bennett announced to his congregation that he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and received the gift of tongues. The backlash among congregants and other staff members at St. Mark’s was immediate and profound. One of Bennett’s assistant priests peeled off his vestments and stormed out of the church in protest. Members of the vestry quickly met and demanded Bennett’s resignation that very morning. The controversy escalated as the morning progressed, and during the third service, Bennett tendered his resignation. His presiding bishop later reassigned him to a church in Seattle.

But the excitement in Van Nuys took root and spread. Most charismatic historians see that tumultuous Sunday morning as the start of the modern charismatic movement. It was now evident that Pentecostalism was moving beyond the Pentecostal denominations and beginning to infiltrate mainline denominations and independent churches. To this day the charismatic movement remains a dominant influence—perhaps the single most powerful culture-shaping element—in Southern California’s evangelical community.

Non-charismatic churches on the West Coast have been surrounded and under siege by the movement for years. That isn’t necessarily true of all communities in the US. Older pastors in the Presbyterian Church of America or the Southern Baptist Association, for example, haven’t necessarily been forced to deal with aggressive charismatic influences throughout their whole ministries. They may wholeheartedly share our commitment to the principle of sola Scriptura, our belief that the canon of Scripture is closed, and our unshakable conviction that prophesying falsely in the Lord’s name is evil. But in the regions where they minister, the challenge to those principles typically comes from the world, not from within the church. Perhaps it’s hard for someone in a context like that to appreciate the difficulty of keeping one’s sheep faithful to biblical principles while facing a relentless onslaught of charismatic pressure, propaganda, proselytizing, and hype. I suspect that explains why there was a degree of diffidence from certain corners with respect to the need for a conference the size and scale of Strange Fire.

Prior to the 1960s, biblically-based critical analyses of Pentecostal teaching were fairly commonplace and easy to come by. But over the past four or five decades, non-charismatic evangelicals have gradually adopted a laissez-faire stance with regard to charismatic claims. It has been twenty years or so since a significant critique of the movement was published—even though some of the most visible and influential charismatic figureheads (including Joel Osteen, Bill Johnson, T. D. Jakes and an army of the best-known televangelists) are rapidly drifting from anything resembling basic Christian orthodoxy—and they are taking millions of people with them. Charismatic falsehoods (ranging from the rank heresy of the prosperity gospel to patently false miracle claims) have all but silenced the gospel on the movement’s leading edge. The full catalogue of charismatic errors is colossal. The worst false teachers in the movement have become its biggest celebrities. Since the heretical districts are where the most numerical expansion occurs, the proliferation of heresy from within has gone virtually unchecked for decades. It is now a massive global problem.

Among more conservative charismatic leaders (and many non-charismatic evangelicals) embarrassed silence has become the standard response to most of the movement’s patently false and spiritually deadly teachings. The consensus seems to be that the problem must be swept under the rug in the name of brotherhood and harmony.  As critics have been silenced (or silenced themselves) the charismatic movement has been gaining a frightening amount of momentum. (The Strange Fire Conference was an attempt to sound a clear warning in hopes of slowing the movement enough to give as many passengers as possible an opportunity to jump off.)

The charismatic movement makes its appeal to people at the visceral and emotional level. The promise of the supernatural is a lure that will always draw crowds of people, whether or not they are authentic believers. People crave miracles and paranormal wonders, but that craving is no true sign of faith. (This is one of the central lessons of John 6.) Eastern religions are rife with the very same kinds of phenomena that are touted as gifts of the Holy Spirit in the charismatic movement.

My desire in writing Strange Fire and hosting the conference was to make those points, to expose the vast amount of chicanery that has been given a pass by gullible charismatics, and to encourage people to evaluate these issues critically by measuring charismatic claims against Scripture—to be like the Bereans. In that respect, we have certainly seen a significant measure of success. The statement we made was long overdue. Some people were offended, of course, not only because the issue itself is divisive, but also because the charismatic movement has enjoyed such a long moratorium without any significant critique. These days, any word of caution would come as a shock. And let’s face it: the truth is usually divisive. Nevertheless, those charged with guarding the flock cannot afford to avoid issues just because they are controversial. The truth must be exalted and error must be exposed. We must teach what is positive and warn our people against that which is destructive (Colossians 1:28).

For every person who was offended, many other people were greatly helped. In the months since the conference, we have heard from countless pastors (and evangelical lay leaders) who say Strange Fire was a great help and encouragement. Our prayer is that they will be emboldened not only to hold the line but also to speak and teach with a whole heart and deep conviction on this difficult issue. If not, charismatic and continuationist doctrines will continue to spread without any significant challenge, and that would be a far greater travesty than the temporary chagrin of charismatics whose feelings may have been hurt because someone who disagrees with them spoke out.

It should also be noted that the direct response we have received by way of mail has been mostly positive. That surely is to some degree a reflection of the constituency we generally reach. But it is a fact that virtually all the negative response we received from readers and listeners was simply heat without light. Our critics for the most part did not even attempt to give answers grounded in solid biblical exegesis. They did not deal with the major issues we raised. The most common objection was that the conference attacked the whole charismatic movement with too broad a brush.

One of the most visible and vocal critics who first made that charge was Dr. Michael Brown. But just eleven weeks after theStrange Fire Conference, Dr. Brown announced that he had made a series of four television broadcasts with Benny Hinn. Over the years, Hinn has been the subject of countless exposés by investigative reporters regarding his fakery and false prophecies. In 2010, he also made headlines with a moral scandal involving fellow televangelist Paula White. (Both of them were in Rome at the time, reportedly to meet with Vatican officials.) Despite many factors that clearly mark Hinn as a charlatan and false teacher to be avoided (see 2 John 7-11), Brown greeted Hinn on the air with an enthusiastic high five, establishing a tone of mutual affirmation and agreement that was carefully maintained throughout all four broadcasts. Pressed by critics and supporters alike to explain his involvement with Benny Hinn, Brown later insisted that he knew of no reason to consider Hinn a false teacher or charlatan.

Brown has likewise either commended or defended the ministries of Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Reinhard Bonnke, Kenneth Hagin, and other false prophets and prosperity preachers. He cites the explosion of ministries such as those worldwide as “evidence of the work of the Spirit.” Confronted with specific abuses and false teachings, Dr. Brown downplays the prevalence of problems in the charismatic movement. It’s simply inconsistent to tolerate (or worse, defend) false prophets and gospel-corrupters while boasting that the ultra-broad boundaries of charismatic fellowship are a good thing—but then complain that critics are painting the movement with too wide a roller.[2]

The main problem with the broad-brush complaint is whatever variegations appear on the charismatic spectrum are differences in degree, and not type. All essentially affirm the same theology, but they apply it with differing levels of intensity. There are no clear and obvious dividing lines. Even the most conservative charismatics do not seem to want to draw any lines of division. They can’t, for fear that they might unintentionally subvert some “new move of the Holy Spirit.”


[1] Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901–2001 ( Nashville: Nelson, 2001), 49.

[2] Dr. Michael Brown disputed the accuracy of these comments as originally worded, so the second and third paragraphs from the end this article have been revised and corrected.

For more information on Strange Fire, click here for all the conference media, as well as articles and book reviews.


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#1  Posted by Ian Kip  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 2:05 AM

I don't understand the argument that the conference used too broad a brush. Did they want something like:

-Strange Fire 1 'addressing the tongue speakers'

-Strange Fire 2 'addressing the modern day prophets'

-Strange Fire 3 'addressing the exclusive revelations' etc. etc.

I personally think the brush used was just the right size because charismatic extremists are the logical conclusion of continuationists.

Strange Fire was of great help to me though I hail all the way from Kenya. I can confirm all what Dr. Conrad Mbewe was talking about is true and to some extent watered down as you wouldn't believe the pervasiveness of the prosperity ministry in Africa.

I just find it sad that we should address such issues to our fellow Christians while there are millions of Roman Catholics and Muslims who haven't received the gospel according to Christ.

I just hope the work done by GTY and associated ministries opens the eyes of the charismatics.

#4  Posted by Jason Larose  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 8:00 AM

I think the main thrust of this argument is that using the ungodly lives of the most notable prosperity teachers as examples of the ill effects of Pentecostal teaching in general isn't fair to the Joe Everyday Pentecostal member who wouldn't go to that extreme personally.

The problem with that perspective, as John pointed out so well with the Micheal Brown example, is that most making the argument in the first place turn around and shake hands with the very people they'd just thrown under the bus a second ago in an attempt to come away clean.

Having personally come out of a Pentecostal congregation, one of the things you just become accustomed to is that every critique of the belief structure is met with an acknowledgement of the nebulous nature of Charismatic doctrine. Everything in negotiable and shifting, so that nothing can be nailed down.

If you catch them fawning all over a teacher(usually using them as an example of powerful Holy Spirit living) and then show them the ungodly character of the teacher, they just say that you can't trust the internet, the author is bias, or that it's been taken out of context and the teacher should be given a chance to explain themselves (if taken from their very own website).

At that point it would be intellectually responsible to do their own research if they don't trust your sources, but they won't. In fact, research is generally considered dangerous or prideful. Better to just pick what you like, leave what you don't, and claim that anything bad must be "some other group".

#2  Posted by Chris Carter  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 5:22 AM

Pastor John...I was actually a late comer to the Strange Fire debate. What I mean is, that while I heard about the conference last year, I did not really pay attention to it. I then saw that my wife was reading the book Jesus Calling. I came across Justin Peters' presentation at the conference via YouTube. His powerful lectures, led me to listen to the entire conference. Prior to listening to the conference, I would call myself a 'moderate continuationalist.' Now, having seen the overwhelming Biblical proof and love for truth that was displayed by all the participants, I have a more Biblical approach to these matters, and identify with the cessationist crowd. Thank you for speaking the truth. I was able to share with my wife the dangers and problems with 'Jesus Calling' and she has since disregarded this book. I also want to let you know that the beliefs of the Charismatic movement have a strong foothold in many churches as you know. These strong beliefs lead to so much abuse and heavy-handedness that it is quite scary to see how many believers are caught up in this. Please continue to preach the word with boldness and clarity. These are dangerous times we live in and they are not times for weak, feel-good messages, but for bold and clear exposition of God's truth that ultimately leads to repentance. God bless you!

#3  Posted by Brian Henson  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 7:26 AM

Simply, thank you.

#5  Posted by Clint Fortner  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 9:18 AM

I deeply respect Pastor MacArthur. His book Hard to Believe was very instrumental in my faith. I'm not a cessationist but I think he's far more right than wrong about the charismatic movement in general. One part of the conference that rung true with me is that the Holy Spirit points to Christ and his work. When this is absent in "manifestations" that are attributed to the Holy Spirit, it is clear that he is not involved. May God bless this ministry richly.

#6  Posted by Bruce Medlyn  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Dr. John, I can't tell you what a blessing your ministry has been to me. I'm also amazed at how Jesus has surrounded you with such excellent, scripturally grounded men. Many cessationists have had trouble putting their finger on the pulse and the of this madness and confusion which is destroying the church. Thanks, again, for your faithfulness.

I've often argued that, from a common sense standpoint, that if the gifts of healing and tongues were in full operation today that they would manifest themselves in believers regardless of whether believers sought these gifts or not, and in all denominations in which true regenerate Christians reside. God, at his sovereign discretion gives spiritual gifts to balance the ministry of the church (not everyone could be a hand, foot, or eye, etc). Teaching, preaching, etc. We get the gifts that He deems to give us... for the ministry to the body and for evangelism of the lost, not for pride or showmanship. Also, I may be able to bandage a wound, but that doesn't automatically make me a doctor. I could fill in for a sunday school teacher, in a pinch, but that doesn't give me the gift of teaching. We just don't see these miraculous gifts anymore and even if God deemed to perform a miracle, in an isolated incidence, there should not be such expectation since it is unnecessary. We have the whole of scripture and the Holy Spirit. We have all we need. I just don't see it.

#7  Posted by John Fast  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 10:43 AM

The Charismatic movement is a movement that is based primarily on experience, either one's own experience or the anecdotal accounts of the experience of others, not on exegesis. As such it is a movement that breeds error to one extent or the other. Those who claim to have experienced charismatic phenomenon, or who support those who make such claims, cannot question the legitimacy of these claims, no matter how bazzar, without calling into question the legimacy of their own experiences. They cannot deny the reality of other's experience and still maintain the reality of their own. Scripture, not experience, must always be the ultimate authority. To undermine the authority of Scripture is to undermine its innerancy, which undermines its inspiration, which undermines it sufficiency. You cannot violate one principle without denying the rest. Charismatic theology denys them all. Maybe not in its profession, but certainly in its practice.

#8  Posted by Keith Sedillo  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Thank you Pastor John and Grace to You, the conference was definitely needed. I learned many things that I didn't know and I learned things that I believed to be right that were actually wrong. Thank you for your commitment to the Truth of the Gospel.

#9  Posted by Kathy Ripka  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Dr. MacArthur, thank you so much for your steadfastness and commitment to God's Word. Your "Strange Fire Conference" has solidified so many issues that I felt were askew in the "church" today. The hard part is correcting the errors, and getting others to see these errors. We keep praying God will be glorified in our attempt.

#11  Posted by Joyce Atela  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Having been originally Catholic & told I couldn't understand the Bible by a Jesuit priest, the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up at my door. I spent ten years studying with them & only was taught their interpretation using the concordance in the back of their Bible & topics they taught. I never felt comfortable at their services & stopped studying with them. after a few years of nothing I started going to an Assembly of God church. The people were friendly but no serious Bible study was taught. Then I went to a Vineyard church & wanted to join in their Bible study class. No Bible again, just people acting strange, speaking in tongues, laughing or crying for no reason or people shouting out words of knowledge??? I stayed to get Baptised & then left. I found a Bible church which was the best but the pastor was a bully to these seniors who had been in their church for 40 or more years. When they left so did I. The pastor was new & got his education on line, but needed his head examined. He's was a retired cop & I think he took the job to suppliment he income. For the past 3 or more years GTY is my church. I thank God everyday for this ministry.

#12  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM

Joyce,

thank you for your testimony and your kind words concerning GTY. Unfortunately, there are many who have trod a similar path to you where changing "church" has amounted to nothing more than an exchange of error. I have endured similar frustration having lived five years in Europe. It is also true that GTY is an excellent and trustworthy resource for biblical truth on a wide variety of matters, and I am thankful that you come here for spiritual nutrition - please continue to do so. But as an online ministry to the wider body of Christ, GTY is unable to deliver certain necessities that can only be provided by a sound biblical church close to where you live. It is why the author of Hebrews warned Christians to be "not forsaking our own assembling together" (Hebrews 10:25).

Jesus' barometer of authentic discipleship was love for fellow believers (John 13:35), and the local church is where we get to put that to the test. The local church is the place where we can obey the Lord's command to be baptized (Matthew 28:19) and partake of communion at His table (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). As sinners saved by grace, we also need a place where godly shepherds can encourage us, exhort us, and provide correction for our lives (Matthew 18:15-20).

As frustrating and disappointing that your previous experiences were, you must persevere in the search for a good local church. Finding a good church is challenging for most Christians which is why GTY has provided some very helpful articles to assist you in making a discerning search:

  • I'm having a hard time finding a good church in my area. Is it okay to make media ministries my church?
  • What should I look for when choosing a new church home?
  • Furthermore, John MacArthur pastors Grace Community Church which is also the site for The Master's Seminary (where he is president). TMS has produced thousands of graduates and their churches can be located on this map:

    http://www.tms.edu/AlumniMap.aspx

    I cannot vouch for every single church on that map, but it will substantially improve your likelihood of finding a sound Bible believing church pastored by a godly shepherd. Please contact us if you need further assistance.

    #14  Posted by Tom Moore  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Hey Joyce,

    Your tenacity and perseverance is a great example of a hungry and teachable heart. Praise God. Thanks for being transparent with all of us. I hope you can find a good, Bible-believing fellowship of saints to be around and get fed by.

    #13  Posted by David Hunt  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I did not attend Strange Fire (as I live in Australia) but heard various comments about it, then listened to a follow up interview between Phil Johnson & Michael Brown. I appreciate the need for such a conference. I just have one question. In the interview, Michael Brown claimed that John MacArthur stated that Charismatic churches have not started any hospitals around the world. In fact, from memory, he played a segment of a talk by John in which John said this. This disturbed me, as I personally visited a huge AOG hospital in Calcutta, India, where many people were being cared for and hungry people fed. I'm sure there are many such works. So I'm simply seeking clarification: Is it the belief/position of those who ran the 'Strange Fire' conference that Charismatic churches have not started any hospitals? (I am not a Charismatic. I serve as pastor of a conservative church. I'm simply concerned for accuracy about the above mentioned issue).

    #15  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    David,

    Thank you for your question and your desire to seek clarification rather than jump to hasty conclusions. Michael Brown's interview of Phil Johnson was rather unfortunate because he relied heavily on sound bites from the Q & A sessions that lacked context and failed to cite content from the many keynote presentations. Furthermore, Q & A often has an off the cuff nature that can lack the finer details of a carefully researched presentation.

    Having said that, Phil Johnson interviewed John MacArthur several times in the aftermath of the conference in an attempt to respond to a number of false accusations. One of them dealt with the hospital quote. The video and transcript (beneath it) can be viewed here:

    Strange fire Q&A: Answering the Critics

    Due to character limits, I will post the pertinent part of the transcript in the following three comments.

    #16  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    PHIL: All right, one more question. Because this is a big one, you at one point, at one of the Q&A sessions at the conference, you said this. I want it quoted exactly. You said, “People who have any connection to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It’s a striking anomaly, however, that there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where’s the Charismatic Hospital? Social Services, Poverty Relief, this is a scam,” unquote.

    Now your critics say that’s unfair. There are Pentecostal missionaries who do medical work. You know, Charismatics often minister in disadvantage areas doing disaster relief work, stuff like that. Joyce Meyer has two hospitals, one in India, and one in Cambodia…

    JOHN: No, one in India and one…yeah, Cambodia.

    PHIL: Cambodia. And I know…well I know you’re aware of these things so explain what you were saying.

    JOHN: Okay, let me explain….let me explain. You can go down here, you can go around in America, you’ll find a Catholic hospital, you’ll find Cedar Sinai Jewish hospital, you’ll find Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, all through the Midwest, all through the south you’ll find Baptist hospitals in every major city, the Baptist Medical Center in Dallas, everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. There is a philanthropy tied to Judaism and Christianity that rises out of the Bible’s concern about poverty and all of that. Where is the Pentecostal Hospital? Where is the Pentecostal Medical Research Center.?

    Oral Roberts tried to pull that off. You’ll remember.

    PHIL: Yeah.

    JOHN: So Oral Roberts decided he was going to build a medical center and he was going to build…he built a 60-floor building and a 35-floor building, 95 floors in a city already with more hospital beds then they had patients. But he said that if he didn’t get the money to do it, God was going to kill him. Remember he had that vision. So some guy gave him the money. Those two things sit there like monstrous white elephants, tributes to a man’s folly. They’ve never functioned as a hospital…never. In a sense, it’s contrary to the Movement. It’s contrary to the Movement that says if you…you can speak your prosperity into existence, you can speak your healing into existence. You can speak your well-being into existence. You can’t sell that kind of thing, it doesn’t work.

    #17  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    JOHN: Now let me go back to Joyce Meyer’s two hospitals….they’re clinics in underdeveloped countries, very underdeveloped countries among very poor people. Look, there are many faithful Charismatic missionaries around the world who are giving out the gospel, who are helping poor people, who are ministering. But the Movement itself is alien to anything that’s of any significance for a number of reasons.

    For example, those two hospitals, from what I understand, are underfunded and they’re always trying to get money, get money, get money. And then you look at the lavish lifestyle of Joyce Meyer and you realize that she has a mega-million dollar G4 Jet and a fleet of a hundred thousand plus-dollar Mercedes and two little underfunded clinics. Something wrong with that picture.

    PHIL: That’s what you mean when you say it’s a scam?

    JOHN: What I’m saying is and an art collection and an antique collection, and furnishings and mansions, yeah…I mean, why…how does that connect? How does that connect? There was this thing on the media the other day about Joel Osteen’s ten-point-five million dollar house. And he was on, I was sitting there with my grandson Oliver, and we happened to watch Joel Osteen the other day and this is what he said. He said, “Your priority is to make certain that you’re happy.” That’s what he said. Your priority is to make certain that you’re happy…you’re happy. Oliver is seven, he looks at me and says, “Poppa, that’s not right.” But in a system where your happiness and your health and your wealth are priority , there’s not going to be philanthropy. There’s not going to be sacrifice. There’s not going to be self-denial. This is all about chasing the dream for you. That’s what the prosperity gospel produces. And then the idea of healing in the atonement and faith can produce your own healing, I look…I’ve met these people around the world. I’ve met people in places in the world with camera crews taking pictures of desperate people to go back and raise money for hospitals that don’t exist.

    I talked to a guy at a table in former Soviet Union, I said, “Why are you here?” He said, “We’re taking video to raise money when we go back.” I said, “Do you have a ministry here?”

    “No, we just show the pictures and it raises money.” I’m not saying that individual Charismatics aren’t precious Christians and aren’t sacrificial and self-denying and do good and there are people working in third-world countries, you know, from Pentecostal churches and they are helping and all of that. But there’s no great philanthropy there. That’s contrary to what’s going on. The people at the top of the pile are the ones getting all the money. So that’s all I was trying to say.

    And you know, when you’re preaching, you say things and…

    PHIL: Yeah, that’s an off-the-cuff thing.

    #18  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, October 13, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    JOHN: Yeah…plus it’s a valid point, that even those who are doing philanthropy, the motive of that is rooted in the second great commandment, not in any of the distinctive teachings of the Charismatic Movement.

    JOHN: No, philanthropy’s…the Jews do it, the Roman Catholics, I mean, whose been more philanthropic than the Roman Catholic Church? That’s all rooted in a biblical view of loving and caring for people who are poor and needy. That’s there. That’s in Judaism. That’s in Catholicism. That’s not in that Movement. You have all these people trying to get what they can get for themselves and the people on the top are the ones that are getting… There’s this church in Singapore, pastored by some guy named Kong-Hee(?), they have something like twenty thousand people, and he was just indicted by the Singapore government for absconding with twenty-three million dollars off of his church…

    PHIL: I was there just last month.

    JOHN: To fund his wife’s secular sexually suggestive music career. And the government shut him down.

    PHIL: They haven’t shut him down yet because his followers…

    JOHN: His followers have risen up to defend him because this is consistent. Hey, he’s getting what they want. So that’s more consistent with the Movement in its broad sense, that’s all I was trying to say. Does that?

    PHIL: I get it. All right. I would keep asking you questions but we do have to quit. So I’ll let you…

    JOHN: Well I just want to finish by saying, Charismatic Christian people, real Charismatic Christian people have made great contributions to the Kingdom of God. They’ve been faithful Christians, they have evangelized effectively. They have represented Christ honorably. They’re real Christians having a real impact. When I said that there’s no impact by the Movement, I mean Charismatic Theology as such adds nothing. But the truth in a Charismatic person is a powerful thing. Okay? Very good.

    #19  Posted by Horace Ward  |  Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    On John MacArthur's sermon on "Are Catholics Saved" there is an interesting thread on youtube due to this sermon by no doubt catholics - Here is one of my comments to a die-hard catholic in defense of God's word:

    +Peggycass May I ask your opinion on the mass where the priest sacrifices the Lord Jesus time & time again believing that it is the "actual" body of Christ & blood when the book of Hebrews says that Christ was offered "once" at the cross to bear the sins of many. The catholic church also insists that the Apostle Peter was celibate/single but in Matthew's gospel it says when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever and healed her. Doesn't the Bible say that "absent from the body, present with the Lord"? If this is true then Mary has never heard any prayer from anyone as she confessed that she herself was in need of a Savior. I have a lot of questions of the catholic church as it was revealed I'm sure you know that the biggest gay nightclub was discovered early this year underneath the apartment (inside the Vatican) of a prominent cardinal. You know; I really admire the noble Bereans that Paul mentioned in Acts 17 in that they searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were true. So if John MacArthur is only 50% factual in the belief system of the doctrine of the catholic church then according to Galatians 1:6-7 wouldn't this be another gospel? If so; then in the book of Revelation 22 says that if "anyone" adds to the words of this book then the plagues that are described in it would be added and if "anyone" takes away from the prophecy of this book then God shall take away his part from the Book of Life. I think that John Bunyan said it best in "Pilgrims Progress" when he said; " many people will go to hell thru the portals of Heaven" - In other word's so many will be shocked to find themselves separated from God in that day. Lastly; according to Matthew 7 our Lord says that many will go thru the broad gate as narrow is the way. When Scripture is revealed it should be magnified volumes. According to present stats; on average 150,000 people die everyday. According to what God has said on the few; out of that 150,000; less than 000.1% have a right & intimate relationship with Jesus. Pretty scary that maybe 100-200 out of that number get to spend eternity with the Father. Since Psalm 119: 160 states that "The entirety of Your Word is true" ( meaning that there is not a speck of untruth in the scriptures) - And since 2Tim 3:16 say that "All Scripture is inspired by God" and since in Peter's epistle he says that "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; think I'll continue to search the Scriptures daily. Blessings

    #20  Posted by Michael Kennedy  |  Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    When I was saved, 1979 ...out of catholicism, I remember having to re-think the whole" worship Mary" thing after my teacher helping me said that it wasn't right ; and then I remember having to re-think the whole "tongues thing" too, when I thought that it was an oh, so right and blessed manifestation. I kept feeling funny in my thinking about the tongues being possibly wrong...and I'm like..."so what is right?" So, I did the only smart thing that I had learned to do since salvation and that was to, ASK GOD TO SHOW ME THE TRUTH!

    And God is faithful everybody...just try Him and ask Him to show you what you want to know and guess what? He will!

    It wasn't through the "Strange Fire Conference, because He showed me that what I was believing was wrong waaaay before that. About 1995 to 2002; it wasn't fun or pretty, but I was finally understanding that what I thought wasn't right.

    I was showed somethings that caused me to believe all together differently ; and that's what it takes to get out of the brainwashing, to say, "MAYBE THEY ARE WRONG".....cause if a charasmatic doesn't check it out, they will be lost forever.............and God will show you through John's conference and studies, or maybe in a different way...........but THE "STRANGE FIRE CONFERENCE " is a good place to start.

    Talk about being set free????????? Again, You ask God to show you if what you're in is right or not and I guarantee...He will! You can't believe your own thoughts and then add God's word to it...it just doesn't work.!

    Thanks John for all that God has used you to do . MKK

    #21  Posted by John Deckert  |  Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 12:41 AM

    It has been very difficult dealing with this issue. I attend a small conservative baptist church and it appears that even here the charismatic movement has taken effect at different levels. I would say that our church to a large extent is a product of the "christian pop culture". Whether it be through the contemporary christian music, radio ministries like focus on the family or various well known preaching ministries.... our church like most churches becomes a product of what we think has value. Some of these influences are very good, some are a waste of time, and some are down right dangerous. Like MacArthur pointed out, the charismatic influence 110 years ago didn't exist, 40 years ago was scandalous, and today is the norm. It's very offensive to point out to people that the normative of today is actually scandalous. Historically and doctrinally it last existed when the Apostle Paul was alive. That's a hard sell to people who's doctrine is a mile wide but 1 inch deep. People are not going to go there. It takes a lot of work to get to that point. The cost is too great. The potential strife between brothers is even greater. So we look the other way. I too am responsible for this response. Being the great minority makes it even more difficult. Scriptures have been quoted in my direction such as Titus 3:10-"Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition." Romans 16:17- " ..note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." Although these accusations are hurtful and confusing at times I am confident of my convictions founded in God's Word. I came out of the charismatic movement and that is one of my greatest assets in warning others.

    With ministries like Focus on the Family endorsing IHOP and contemplative prayer, preachers like Timothy Keller teaching monastic contemplative prayer in his church http://apprising.org/2010/09/09/the-way-of-the-monk-class-schedule-redeemer-presbyterian-church-of-tim-keller/, John Piper practicing Lecto Divina in front of thousands, or Sam Storms giving creditability to Mike Bickle by calling him a mentor, these follies leave the rest of us who are learners of such men utterly disappointed and frustrated.

    I ask the question while shaking my head, "why did you do that?" I struggle with where is the line. When has it gone too far? I often ask what would Paul do? Would Paul give the thumbs up on Roman Catholic spiritualism manifested in contemplative prayer? Would Paul commend men like Keller who gush over a Jesuit priest (Ignatius Loyola) who presided over the counter reformation and refined the contemplative prayer movement? No. I believe he would have opposed him to his face as he did Peter. What makes such things seem so difficult is that we live in politically correct society but as christians we adhere to a politically incorrect bible.

    Adhering to one causes you to not jive with the other. Everyone be strong and be encouraged.

    #23  Posted by Clint Fortner  |  Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Brother, I understand, in a sense, what you are communicating. I went to a prominent charismatic "Bible" school and saw/heard many terrible excesses and heresies. And many people I've cared about are unable to break free from this. I have been grateful to John MacArthur's ministry through the years. Although, I've never become a cessationist because I don't see that it is explicitly taught in Scripture. Question for you: are there any disagreements you have with Pastor MacArthur on theology and practice? If so, do these disagreements cause you to feel the same about him as you do John Piper or Sam Storms?

    #22  Posted by Greg Wesson  |  Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    This is the first I've heard, that the foursquare church was started as a result of Aimee Semple McPherson's ministry. My Mom & Stepfather (along with us kids), went to one of those churches back in the 60's. Even in my youth, the things I saw didn't match what I understood from reading the Bible. I have since then, been leary of anything connected to Pentecostalism! Thank God for preachers & teachers like John MacArthur, who are dedicated to the Truth!!

    #24  Posted by David Smith  |  Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    A late comment from me. I felt the Strange Fire conference and book were excellent. I regularly recommend the book. And the "broad brush" accusation is not true, normally coming from people who have not read the book, which is careful not to paint all charismatics as crazies, but nevertheless makes it clear that all charismatics have the same flawed theology of continuationism.

    On a personal note, when I was first exposed to charismatic teachings, I was warned that these were wrong, but the people who warned me could not make a convincing argument. Consequently, I ignored the warnings and became a charismatic. It was much later that I finally realised that I had been deceived by a false teaching. If Strange Fire had been available then, things might have been different.

    #25  Posted by David Smith  |  Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 4:44 AM

    A late comment from me. I felt the Strange Fire conference and book were excellent. I regularly recommend the book. And the "broad brush" accusation is not true, normally coming from people who have not read the book, which is careful not to paint all charismatics as crazies, but nevertheless makes it clear that all charismatics have the same flawed theology of continuationism.

    On a personal note, when I was first exposed to charismatic teachings, I was warned that these were wrong, but the people who warned me could not make a convincing argument. Consequently, I ignored the warnings and became a charismatic. If Strange Fire had been available then, things might have been different. It was years later before I realised that I had been deceived by a false teaching.