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Providing Cover to Charismatics

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | Comments (26)

Today there is widespread hesitancy among many evangelical leaders to criticize the claims of charismatic theology. While many of these leaders are not charismatics themselves, they are open and sympathetic to the supernatural claims prevalent in the movement.

In the following video, John MacArthur speaks to genuine believers who subscribe to that open-but-cautious perspective on the charismatic movement. He also addresses the need for all believers to exercise biblical discernment.

Being reluctant to criticize charismatic theology may seem like a safe, middle-ground approach for noncharismatic leaders. But as John pointed out, their silence has given cover to false teachers.

One of the goals of the Strange Fire conference is to awaken open-but-cautious believers to that reality, and encourage them to be strong voices of discernment. For more information about Strange Fire, visit the conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Walter B Phelps  |  Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 4:01 AM

We are long down the road for the need of this conference. I hope many of the silent, fence straddlers will listen to the audio since space is unavailable. As a bi-vocational minister in the "Bible Belt" south I can attest to the inroads this dangerous trend is having. I have witnessed families of Southern Baptists raise children that became charismatic and now are pressured by their families to be sympathetic; and have been a part of discussions of such families that admit to the degradation it is having in their families. There is no question this is diluting truth in our churches. II Th. 2:11

#2  Posted by Sheryl Harris  |  Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 4:35 AM

"The argument that unity is more important than truth, and love more important than right doctrine, is wrong to the core."

-E.W. Lutzer

#5  Posted by David Messier  |  Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

As a chaplain of a rescue mission in Northern ,CA, I've been able to get the pulse of the churches in this area. I have spoken out and even felt the heat for doing so. You see each night a different church that supports the mission comes in to bring the message. The speaker from the church last night began saying; "Is there anyone here with lock jaw, or is there anyone here named Eric?" etc. Even though he struck-out on his guessing, more and more churches are coming into the mission and beginning to do this. I said to an associate sitting next to me. Its amazing they all have a "word from the Spirit", but that word has never yet been REPENT of your sins. One group told the hundred or so people sitting in front of them, that they are about to release on the people, the power of signs and wonders. Thankfully I have in my possession, and have shown or will be showing videos in the mission from such pastors as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Steve Lawson, John Barnett, John Reisinger, Al Martin, Art Azurdia, etc. I look forward to attending the conference in October and bringing back information to help combat this growing crisis in the church.

#6  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:55 AM

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#7  Posted by Daniel Wilson  |  Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 5:58 PM

How do I approach to someone that is charismatic discerning the truth from God's Word why it's wrong?

#8  Posted by David Pauley  |  Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Charles Williamson wrote above: "In limited ways, Luther was a charismatic. He certainly believed tongues had ceased, at least to some extent, but had great faith for miracles. Luther prayed for Pastor Fredrich Myconius, a close friend and colleague, who was dying with tuberculosis. "

Response: Might I suggest a different interpretation of Luther's actions. IMHO this does not make Luther either a charismatic or a non cessationist even a little bit. Prayer for healing is not a mark of charismatic leanings on any level. There is a very big difference between affirming the continuance of the spiritual gift of healing as an ongoing and unrelenting manifestation of the Spirit in a person's life as a gift of the Spirit (i.e. charismatic theology) and individual prayers for healing (according to the will of God) on a case by case basis (as in Luther's case).

#9  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 4:41 PM

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#10  Posted by Alejandro Gonzalez  |  Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 7:45 PM

when did delivering the final word (derived from a clear interpretation of Scripture) on any subject become a matter of ones humble opinion?

#12  Posted by John Muriango  |  Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 4:17 AM

Hi, I'm a young boy in Kenya. In our country, it seems that almost every church is saturated with charismatic doctrines, infact, I was formerly raised in a Pentecostal Assembly of God Church since in the part of the country where I come from are them who were the first missionaries but unlike other charismatics, they didnt believe in most doctrines that charismatics believe in. I started a careful Bible Study on myself and discovered that these claims of charismatics are all far-fetched mystics and false doctrine. I shared with with my friends telling them how they were "following every wind of doctrine" that are totally not Biblical as proved by the Bible and also by asking them questions if the so called 'prophecies' came to pass but they instead told me that I was trying to decrease their "faith" thus making them not please God as Hebrews 11:6 says. As a result, I lost many friends and people started calling me many names but thanks be to God Who counsels us when we are trouble, I was able to overcome it all and my prayer is that the eyes of these people will be opened and start by living by true Biblical faith.

#13  Posted by Jeff Rokusek  |  Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 4:43 AM

Jesus said,"Sanctify them by Your truth.Your word is truth." All personal experience MUST be held in the light of Scripture.

#14  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 8:36 AM

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#15  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Charles, #14 writes,

Some within the church deny the use of tongues continued after the age of the apostles,...etc.

One denial you didn't cover is that cessationists don't believe in modern tongues because biblically, the gift of tongues was the supernatural ability to speak a known language. This is certainly clear from a basic reading of Acts 2.

When Paul wrote about tongues in 1 Cor. 12-14, nothing he states even hints that he meant some gibberish, pseudo-prayer language that is distinct from what happened in Acts 2. Even in the early days of the modern Pentecostal movement that began with Charles Parham, the individuals who believed in the baptism of tongues understood the gift as speaking known human language.

Moreover, Paul is also explicitly clear in 1 Cor. 14 that a tongue speaker cannot exercise his gift apart from one who interprets.

Just those two items alone is enough to convince me that the modern tongues phenomena is nothing like what is recorded in Scripture.


#16  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 4:17 PM

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#17  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 10:32 AM


It sounds like you're taking a stand on not taking a stand .

Does an earnest heart always supersede damnable error? How do we know which false doctrines to overlook and which to confront? Or does the same "mercy" extend to anyone who claims to know and love the God of the Bible, regardless of what they actually believe? How do we bring the truth of the gospel to Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims if we can't be clear about how their religions diverge from true, biblical doctrine?

We may—and clearly do—disagree on whether or not charismatic theology is false, but that’s why we’re hosting the Strange Fire conference. Because we see clear, biblical teaching on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit that we think the charismatic movement has ignored, redefined, and in some cases, twisted for their own unholy purposes. So let’s get past whether or not we can voice differing opinions. We can, and for the sake of God’s character and glory, we must.

We can't make the mistake of equating mercy with silence. Mercy doesn't prioritize temporal feelings over eternal souls. Mercy calls people out of the darkness of false, demonic doctrine and shines the unmistakable light of God's truth into their lives.

That's point of Strange Fire. We don't want anyone to believe a lie because we didn't speak up about the truth.

#18  Posted by Phillip Johnson  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Someone e-mailed me today to disagree with John MacArthur's comments. My correspondent challenged me to cite one concrete example of any well-known Reformed Charismatic who ever provided cover to any charismatic fraud or extremist.

OK, here:

Paul Cain was a celebrity during the Third-Wave fascination with extrabiblical prophecy in the mid-1990s. I met with him once, when Jack Deere brought him to a meeting with John MacArthur in 1992. It was instantly obvious that Cain was not what he claimed. He appeared to be drunk. He was bleary-eyed and nearly incoherent. He said a few things purporting to be prophetic, and he was wrong in every detail. When he saw he was getting it wrong, he stopped trying to "prophesy" and lapsed into sullen silence. Jack Deere later attributed Cain's behavior at that meeting to the eccentricities of a powerful prophetic gifting.

It astonished me at the time that so many "respectable" charismatics gave Paul Cain any credence whatsoever. But MANY did. He was openly endorsed by Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms (who was affiliated with Cain and the Kansas City Prophets for some years), and R. T. Kendall (who actually gave Cain a prominent position of leadership at Westminster Chapel in London, once Lloyd-Jones's pulpit).

Cain's theological pedigree was tainted long before he found acceptance among Reformed charismatics. He had spent years as a disciple and cheerleader for Wm. Branham. (Look it up.). Then in 2005, after almost 15 years of affiliation with Wimber, Deere, Grudem, Storms, and other Reformed charismatics, it came to light that Cain had been indulging in homosexual behavior and alcohol abuse "for an extended period of time"--i.e., all those years.

Yet to this day, Cain's Reformed enablers have not fully renounced his "prophecies." No less than John Piper says, "He was a charlatan, I think. But he really prophesied."

That's the kind of thing John MacArthur is talking about.


More references provided on request.

#19  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Charles, #16 writes,

Fred, the biblical description you gave above is exactly what happened through me. I wasn’t seeking it, I wasn’t contriving it,

Charles, I noted in my initial comment that the gift of tongues as described in Scripture is the God given ability to speak real, human languages, like French, Russian, whatever that was not known to the speaker. If you "spoke in tongues" and what you spoke wasn't real, human languages with nouns, verbs, adverbs, and all the other grammatical components necessary for linguistic communication to function, then you did not exercise the gift of tongues.

Moreover, the one who speaks in tongues must be accompanied by one with the gift of interpretation. If you spoke in tongues and there wasn't anyone interpreting for you, then you were either A) not speaking in tongues, or B) misappropriating the use of that gift in violation of Paul's words in 1 Cor. 14.

#20  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 8:01 PM

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#22  Posted by Joyce Wilson  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 10:30 PM

Fred, do you believe that 1 Cor 14:26 allows for someone to speak in tongues to himself and God as an alternative to speaking in the church? In other words, if you have no interpreter, you're not to speak in tongues in the presence of others; but might you be able to speak quietly to yourself and to God in tongues? To begin with, in verse 2 it says you speak to God, uttering mysteries. So how do you interpret the whole chapter, especially the end of verse 26?

#23  Posted by Orlando Delgado  |  Friday, June 21, 2013 at 10:38 PM

For all in this forum please google Justin Peters Ministries, he is a devoted Christian who is suffering from an illness he describes as a moderate form of Cerebral Palsy. He gives so much veracity to the ministry entrusted to him. He takes head on the Prosperity-Healing Gospel charlatans. See him on

I do not think the issue in this blog is that God has the ability to do a miracle in somebody´s life. One of the most beautiful testimonies I have ever heard was from J MacArthur himself about his wife Patricia in a car accident and how you can see that through prayer the hand of God worked through the issue and how God himself takes the Honor and Glory. The issue is that the Charismatic Movement and the like advocate, promote, foster that certain people can control the power of God at will and use it as they please.

Between spirit-ism, Roman Catholicism, and Charismatic-ism, I grew up watching all these non-sense, people speaking for God giving prophesies from God, God told me to tell you, etc. What was striking to me was that in all of those charismatic engagements none of the alleged messages from God were to tell a person to stop sinning or get your life straight. On the contrary just about all received the same message: I am with you, I am not finished with you, you give a lot to the church and that is good, I have a plan for you, need you to minister in my church. Also, I must mention that before all this, the so called prophet, as he was making his round around the pulpit, after a very tear jerking, piano melody, altar call, the church pastor was behind the prophet feeding information about the life of the next person he was going to "prophesy" to.

Also, one person above mentioned about Luther. Oh Lord he even included CH Spurgeon as a charismatic. For Luther one has to be very careful in which box you want to place him. Luther's theology was a work in progress until the day he died. He hated Jews with extreme passion, but I am certain that had he lived longer and providing he had studied the issue in more depth his position would have probably changed. The same with Spurgeon, one has to be careful of whatever point you want to make about his position. He was initially a major supporter of Arminianism, or at least that was his background before embracing the doctrines of grace. None of these great men of the faith are to be taken out of context, particularly when the sources provided are questionable.

Thanks for the opportunity.

#24  Posted by Jn Bolt  |  Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Working in a missionary context overseas, I deal with charismatics all the time. The impact they are having on the developing church around the world is quite saddening. What may be equally saddening is that many who fly the banner of "Sola Scriptura" are willing to let charismatic missionaries go around teaching new converts that they must seek mystical revelation and other charismatic experiences. It seems to me that, of all people, missionaries should be teaching converts to obey all that Christ has commanded, which is of course written down for us in the pages of the Bible.

#25  Posted by Holly Schrader  |  Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 4:17 PM

My husband and I had an unusual experience this AM attending a newer church in our little northern AZ town for the first time. I visited their website earlier in the week and it never said that they were a charismatic church. I sent them a message asking if they were charismatic and received no answer. We went, hoping that we had finally found a local church where we could worship, only to find out that it was indeed charismatic! The pastor finally came forward after 45 minutes of emotion-laden and repeticious singing and chanting. He went so far as to interject some prosperity gospel rhetoric to get us going. Speaking in tongues (gibberish) here and there, he paced around in front of the platform and attempted to work the crowd of 100 people into a frenzy.

Finally, after standing for an entire hour, we were able to sit down, which is when this pastor, with Bible in hand- but still unopened, proceded to encourage the congregation in an explanation of his mid-week study of the Holy Spirit, ie, who He is, what He does, and the need for the evidence of speaking in tongues. That is when I stood up and shouted, "That's a lie! Tongues ceased after the book of Acts," and my husband and I walked out of the church. As we were leaving I yelled that I had been in the charismatic church for 13 years, and that it was false, and that they should go to Grace to You and listen to John MacArthur.

We got in our truck and as we were leaving the church a younger man ran up to us and said he was new there and was unsure about what they were teaching, so we gave him the GTY website address and phone number. I feel badly for disrupting a church service like that, as I have never done that before, and believe me my husband had wanted to leave much earlier and was glad we walked out, but I felt God's spirit rise up within me to take a stand against what I know from my own experience, and Pastor MacArthur's teaching, that the charismatic movement is an evil trap and a huge deception from hell. I am going to the Strange Fire Conference and look forward to hearing the truth proclaimed. God bless this ministry!

#26  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Monday, June 24, 2013 at 2:57 AM

Fred, your responses to Charles (#14 and #19) do not seem to agree with what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 12-14.

(a) The possibility of speaking in the tongues of angels as well as in the tongues of men is, at the very least, implied by verse 1 of chapter 13: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels …’

(b) Your statement that ‘a tongue speaker cannot exercise his gift apart from one who interprets’ ignores Paul’s focus on behaviour that is appropriate in church. In 1 Cor 14:28 he wrote ‘… if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.’ Paul did not tell those who speak in tongues to keep silent everywhere if there is no interpreter present, but to keep silent in church.

(c) Your cessationist stance seems to be in opposition to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 14:5: ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.’

Indeed, if we broaden this out, here is what puzzles many of us about the cessationist stance. The apostle Paul’s teaching about the spiritual gifts is clearly that they are to be used to build up the church (see for example 14:12). Why is it that some Christians want these gifts to have ceased when, IF they are applied biblically, they are useful for building up the church?

Yes, there are some extreme claims and some extreme abuses around, but is that a reason to dismiss the spiritual gifts completely? When our battle is against ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’, do we not need the spiritual gifts?

In 14:1 Paul wrote: ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.’ Surely it is crystal clear that we are to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, and that the reason for this is to be better equipped to build up the church.

#27  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Monday, June 24, 2013 at 5:53 AM

Robin, #26, let me see if I can provide you a response,

Regarding (a), Paul is not suggesting that Christians are given the ability by the Holy Spirit to speak “angelic” language, or that tongues is such “angelic” language. He is using an illustration to contrast what genuine use of the gifts should be like clothed in true, sacrificial love. In other words, he is saying, “It doesn’t matter if I can speak the language of angels, if I have not love, such an ability is worthless.”

Moreover, it is hardly the case that the gibberish that is passed off as “speaking in tongues” by the modern day charismatic churches is “angel” language. This implies that angels communicate without the function of normal rules of grammar, subject-verb agreement, use of adjectives and adverbs, etc.

Regarding (b) I believe the cessation of the gift of tongues is established on other grounds, particularly 1 Cor. 13:8 and following. John’s teaching from 1 Corinthians and his sermon on the gift of tongues from his Charismatic Chaos series will put that in proper perspective. Transcripts of those messages can be read here, and here,

But for the sake of discussion, let’s grant that you are correct, that Paul is saying that the gift of tongues is still valid and if a person is compelled to speak in tongues and no interpreter is present he is to remain silent and speak the gift to himself like a private prayer language.

First, the receiving of the gift is not taught this way by the majority of charismatics. On the contrary, speaking in tongues is viewed as proof of baptism in the HS. But that is not being baptized in the HS.

Moreover, there is no congregation that practices the view of tongues you suggest here. If there is, they are rare and do not represent the majority of charismatic/Pentecostal style churches where tongue speaking is wild and out-of-control. Your view would eliminate at least 95% of all “tongue” speaking.

Regarding (c), again, cessationism is confirmed by other factors contained in the whole of Scripture, not just three chapters in 1 Corinthians. I would encourage you to listen to John’s series of messages on spiritual gifts from 1 Cor. 12-14 to get a fuller picture of what it is cessationism teaches and why.

You ask,

Why is it that some Christians want these gifts to have ceased

when, IF they are applied biblically, they are useful for building up the church?

In the context of Scripture, tongues was for the purpose of communicate the Gospel in the languages of foreign peoples. It was also a sign for the Jews to see that their messiah had come. Those functions have been fulfilled. Turning the question back to you, how is the church “built up” and equipped with tongues today? Especially in light of the overwhelming amount of extreme abuse you seem to recognize?

#28  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Fred, #27, thank you for your response, I will just make 4 comments for the moment:

(1) Given the worldwide nature of the Lord’s Church, and the many thousands of congregations that it includes, it is surprising that you state: ‘Moreover, there is no congregation that practices the view of tongues you suggest here.’ Is any human being in possession of sufficient knowledge to make such an unqualified statement?

(2) You also state that: ‘In the context of Scripture, tongues was for the purpose of communicate the Gospel in the languages of foreign peoples. It was also a sign for the Jews to see that their messiah had come.’ The giving of the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues described in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44-46) and in Ephesus (Acts 19:5-7) do not fit comfortably with your statement. I think we need to take great care with explanations of these things, in case we put inappropriate limits upon what God will do and his motives for doing it.

(3) You ask: ‘how is the church “built up” and equipped with tongues today?’ One way the church is built up through the genuine gift of tongues is by the strengthened faith of the believers who receive it. They gain personal confirmation that God gives supernatural gifts, and they come to understand more of the Scriptures, such as what Paul meant when he wrote: ‘For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful’ (1 Cor 14:14). If they do not abuse the gift they have received, their local church will be built up simply by the presence of those believers. Their strengthened faith will show in the way they live – thanks to God’s generosity.

(4) Yes I do recognize that there is abuse of what some claim to be spiritual gifts, and some of that abuse appears to be extreme – as in the video that Phil Johnson posted recently. But the existence of abuses does not negate the existence of authentic gifts. Indeed, many would argue that the existence of the counterfeit indicates that the genuine exists too.

#30  Posted by Eliane Galle Carr  |  Monday, June 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Pentecostals say that Matthew 28:19, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, was added to the book of Matthew by catholics. This is absurd because if this chapter was added, how about this or that other chapter. Were they added also?

How do I refute the idea that Matthew 28, more specifically, Matthew 28:19 was not mistakenly added to the Bible?



#32  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Eliane, #30,

I ran into an anti-Trinitarian United Pentecostal apologist a few years back. He raised the same claim you note here that Matthew 28:19 was added to the text later and it doesn't reflect what Matthew originally wrote.

My immediate reaction was that his claim smacks of conspiracy. When I had the opportunity to investigate it through a variety of commentary and textual critical resources at our seminary library, my reaction was confirmed.

Out of all the major commentaries I researched, including many of the high-end, liberal variety, none of the authors even suggested that this passage was added later after Matthew wrote it. Even studying a variety of manuscript evidence, none of it offered any proof that these words were added.

How to "refute" the notion can take many avenues, but I would suggest two approaches: First and foremost is that any person raising that challenge has to provide some legitimate, textual evidence that we can examine or that has been examined by experts. I would suggest asking that person to show you proof of his assertion. IOW, where exactly is he getting that claim and is it sustainable.

Next I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with the doctrine of the Trinity. What exactly is it that Christians are affirming when they speak about the Trinity? A simple lay level review of the Trinity can be found with James White's book, "The Forgotten Trinity." He lays out the doctrine well. For a popular treatment you can find on the internet, check out the Department of Christian Defense,, that has many online articles interacting with and answering objections to the Trinity.