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Strange Fire Recap: Day Two

Friday, October 18, 2013

John MacArthur – “Testing the Spirits”

John MacArthur kicked off the second day of Strange Fire with an exhortation to “test the spirits” of the charismatic movement. He explained that true spiritual warfare is a fight for the mind, and that “for the charismatic movement to succeed,” it has to “turn discernment into iniquity.” Preaching out of 1 John 4, he highlighted several biblical principles for testing the spirits, focusing primarily on the Holy Spirit’s role in exalting Christ. By contrasting the biblical truth about the Person and work of Jesus with the spurious version proclaimed by many charismatic leaders, John made the clear point that a true movement of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t preach an inaccurate Christ.

Tom Pennington – “A Case for Cessationism”

Tom Pennington provided us with a biblical case for the doctrine of cessationism. He began by defining cessationism as the belief that God ended His use of the miraculous gifts that existed during the first century. He went on to explain that miracles were unique in Scripture, showing that they only appeared during profound moves of God, particularly during the ministries of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Christ. Miracles validated those specific ministries, as well as the ministries of the apostles who laid the foundation of the church. When God finished that crucial work, the miracles ceased because they were no longer needed. That teaching has been the church’s standard position on signs and miracles throughout its history.

Phil Johnson – “Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?”

“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” That simple maxim has been the knee-jerk defense for charismatic apologists against criticism of their movement. Their reaction to Strange Fire is just the latest example. In his first breakout session, Phil Johnson attempted to identify anything salvageable from the doctrinal sludge of the charismatic movement. He pointed out a smothering fear within the movement that any criticism will quench the Spirit, noting that discernment is labeled as sinful rationalism. He said the “open but cautious” crowd cannot be content to wait and see what is of the Lord and what is not—and that in fact they should be the loudest critics of charlatan prophets and phony miracle workers. He concluded that the movement doesn’t produce good fruit because it is actually a bramble bush.

Justin Peters – “The Devilish Puppet Master of the Word-Faith Movement”

Justin Peters’s breakout session was loaded with video clips and quotes from Word-Faith and prosperity preachers. Letting the charlatans’ words speak for themselves, Peters was able to easily illustrate how far the movement’s core doctrine is from the truth of Scripture. Focusing specifically on key tenants of Word-Faith teaching, he exposed several damning inaccuracies that color the movement.

Nathan Busenitz – “A Word from the Lord? Evaluating the Modern Gift of Prophecy”

Nathan Busenitz tackled the issue of modern prophecy in his breakout session. He focused on one of three tests that any true prophecy must pass: Does the prophecy possess predictive accuracy? (The other tests focus on the doctrinal orthodoxy of the prophecy and the moral integrity of the prophet.) He explained how those in the charismatic camp—as well as many in the noncharismatic, continuationist camp—have created a second tier of prophecy, one that is not held to the test of absolute accuracy. Busenitz debunked the supposed biblical support for this second, lesser level of prophecy and warned against any teaching that permits and promotes fallible prophecy. He concluded that the “self-proclaimed prophets who fail any of the three tests should consider the serious biblical warnings against falsely claiming to speak for God.”

Panel Q&A

Christian radio host and commentator Todd Friel moderated a lively question-and-answer discussion between John MacArthur, Justin Peters, Tom Pennington, and Steve Lawson. The focus of their discussion was primarily the theological foundation—such as it is—of the charismatic movement. Friel played several video clips of various charismatic worship services, focusing on key words, phrases, and practices that show up frequently in charismatic teaching. The speakers had visceral reactions to the video clips, which vividly depicted the aberrant theology and brazen manipulation of Scripture that permeates the charismatic movement.

Steve Lawson – “The Puritan Commitment to Sola Scriptura

Day two of Strange Fire closed with Steve Lawson’s excellent examination of the Puritan devotion to the sufficiency of Scripture. He began with a thorough examination of the Westminster Confession of Faith and its assertion of the perfect and complete quality of God’s Word. He then traced the dilution of that doctrine in Quaker teaching, showing the similarities between its theology and that of the charismatic movement. He closed his session with several quotes from the writing of John Owen, who was a staunch Puritan defender of Scripture’s sufficiency. Quoting Owen, he concluded, “As the teachings of the fanatics contain matter alien to . . . the Scriptures . . . shun them as diabolical, execrable, useless, groundless, and false.”

That’s just a brief glimpse of Day Two. We hope you’ll join us today for more excellent Bible teaching. Watch the free live stream at gty.org, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest conference updates.


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#1  Posted by Taylor Shepherd  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 12:15 PM

I have not been able to see all the sessions but what I have has been so helpful and encouraging. I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma one of the major meccas for the charismatic movement. I attend a PCA church in town but outside the church I am surrounded by people who attend Victory and ORU that fight imaginary spiritual battles and blame the sick for their lack of healing. I am hoping you will be making all of these sessions available on DVD or repeat them on GTY.org so I can see the speakers I have missed and listen again to those I have already enjoyed. I would also like the opportunity to share these messages with friends.

Thank you for your faithfulness over the years in battling this dangerous movement with the Word of Truth.

#2  Posted by Hanna Morton  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 3:21 PM

Thank you so much Pastor Johnny Mac!!! You have no idea how God has used your ministry to impact my life and my parents life! Thank you for staying faithful to the calling of preaching God's Word! We love you! Thank you to your ministry and Grace To You!

#4  Posted by William Ostrom  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 4:12 PM

Very grateful for the emphasis on Sola Scriptura and the careful explanation from conference speakers on how this doctrine is undermined by the fundamental assumptions within charismatic theology. With respect to MacArthur's critics, I find it curious that they view a biblically faithful preacher like him, and not the charismatic hucksters, to be the problem. Why not join with him and others to decry the way the Holy Spirit is being dishonored in our day. Love for our triune God compels us to speak truthfully about him and to grieve when he is misrepresented.

#5  Posted by Ann Rupert  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 5:10 PM

Thank you for streaming the Strange Fire Conference. My daughter and I had registered as soon as registration began and were looking forward to it all year. Unfortunately, a family situation with a niece required our attention.

Although we miss being there in person, the live video is great. I hope you would make the conference available on DVD.

#6  Posted by Lauren Holladay  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 7:19 PM

Oh! What an incredible blessing this conference has been! My husband and I have sincerely been touched and are filled with the real, true Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, the third Person of the Trinity! Everyone was great, but I must give a "shout out" to Dr. Steve Lawson for his glorious sermon about the Puritans!!! I was in tears at the end and Dr. MacArthur ended it perfectly by calling Lawson's presentation "Epic" -- indeed it was Pastor Mac...indeed it was. God be with you all, we love you very much!!!

#7  Posted by Joseph Wade  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 9:10 PM

I learned volumes from this sermon about the Bible, in fact I will be revisiting this messages for weeks to come, Thank you Dr. Lawson, for teaching us the history and pillars of the 5 "sola's".

#8  Posted by John Wolf  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 9:13 PM

God bless you Dr. MacArthur and I cant wait to get the book. I watched Strange Fire by stream. You spoke with patience and in grace. I am saddened by Mark Driscoll's childish behaviors. Even Joel Osteen acts more mature than that man. So sad for that man...

#9  Posted by Louis Bell  |  Friday, October 18, 2013at 11:14 PM

Hats off the GTY and John Macarthur! This Conference was much needed in this day when so many people are confused about the Truth of God's Word. The material covered was so informing to me personally that it will surely assist in my discernment of the Truth of Scripture.

Dr. Steve Lawson gave such a great sermon that I am sure it will be one heard over and over again. The information was spot on the mark! Sola Scriptura!

All Guest Speakers gave us a clear look at the "Movement" that is in our view. This is a serious problem and it is not just on the outter fringes of Charismania but on the forefront of this "Movement" that is set out to destroy the True Church.

Their problem is: what was given in the Word of God is not enough, they feel it is insufficient. But it is the exact opposite, as the Strange Fire Conference and the True Servants of Christ who delivered the truth, had made very clear for us.

In Christ

Louis Bell

#10  Posted by Chew Kek Liong  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 2:16 AM

I am from Malaysia. I watched live.

I am of the opinion that Steve Lawson's treatment of 'sola scriptura' is indeed, like John Macarthur said, an epic. It is a masterpiece and that presentation should be reckoned as a common and standard stand of the true believers of Jesus Christ.

I hope there will be another such event soon and hopefully one that is at least a week long. Thank you to everyone who helped in the work. God bless you all. I am doing my little part now to draw attention to those who were unaware of the conference or who didn't wish to know anything about it. The message of the Strange Fire Conference must be heard loud and clear in the whole body of Christ - not just one part of it.

#11  Posted by Kelsey Waters  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 4:55 AM

I look forward to being able to see the conference as I cannot watch it live.

I learned a new word today. "cessationism". I knew the concept before, but not the term.

Even when these gifts were around, Paul said not to place too high of a value on them. Love is always more important than the flashy stuff. And even back then not everyone had the gifts. As he asked in I Corinthians, "Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" The answer being "no." So obviously the idea that to prove you have the Spirit you have speak in tongues is erroneous.

People who place such a high value on outward signs and miracles remind me of the people who followed Jesus just to see him do tricks.

Sometimes God uses people in that way. Other times he goes long stretches without. I think he still can do miracles and still does when he sees fit, particularly for saints in dire straits in third world countries who have no other recourse. But holding the massive rallies and expecting all of your problems to be poofed away if you have enough faith is not Biblical. And quite frankly, it makes us look stupid.

I think in the Tribulation period these gifts will truly return. Until then, do the work and quit worrying about the flash.

#12  Posted by Patricia Blackmon  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 7:42 AM

I really enjoyed being at the Strange Fire Conference. I have benefited much from John MacArthur’s teaching over many years and I am a supporter of Grace to You.I have also benefited from John Piper’s teaching and have great respect for him. I am sad for the attacks on John Piper and the damage done to his reputation. I heard several people coming out of this meeting saying he is Charismatic.That is really sad!!!

#13  Posted by Kim Eriksen  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 11:03 AM

Dear Pastor John and GTY & GCC

Thank you so much for your faithfulness to God and His Church!!

i enjoyed the conference and I know God was Highly Exalted and Worshipped!! I loved the music that played during the breaks! I used that time to pray for the next session..I am on the East Coast Georgia I would love to know if that CD of lovely soft music is available? I have asked my Father God to provide it for me:) Thanks again for your faithfulness to God and His word may He truly bless you and yours!! until we meet at the feet of our Lord in Glory.

#14  Posted by Barbara Laurie  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 12:53 PM

@#12 Hey Patrick, I'm sorry people were saying that, I did notice, as I watched live, the Q&A #2 that Phil Johnson and John MacArthur DID address Pastor Piper, and tried to correct that thought... hopefully people will hear that, though John Piper has not been someone I have listened to over these years, I do know the guys tried to make it clear they were NOT labeling him in with Charismatics, but instead that it's frustrating that he doesn't rebuke them either. even in the evangelical movement, where there are so many "non" denominations, error should be corrected by the mature pastor and elder, if not them, who? Not knowing Piper I walked away from the live streaming conference thinking they held a great respect for Piper and were just asking him to stand with them. I hope that helps some.

#15  Posted by David Knight  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013at 1:53 PM

I hope and pray that GTY will release the entire conference on DVD as soon as possible. I saw the discussions and preaching that was carried via live stream, but I know that other events were also occurring at other places on the campus.

Please GTY, release the entire conference on DVD.

#16  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Monday, October 21, 2013at 7:08 AM

Patricia (12), I was not in attendance at the Conference. I only witnessed the live streams. I hope false witnesses (confusing loving admonition with personal attack on one's reputation) do not succeed in their slander of men sent from Heaven to minister to the saints.

The phrase "men sent from Heaven to minister to the saints" refers to the speakers of the Conference, NOT to John Piper. Anything spoken by a Conference speaker were truths (not attacks) revealing Piper's character for the sake of protecting God's holy and chosen people from irreverent influence. Piper's dismissal and distortion of truth is revealed by Nathan B. and exposes Piper's reputation by eliciting truths that reveal his genuine character (Hebrews 4:13). Praise the LORD for that! Thank you Nathan for taking up the shepherd's staff! Thank you Pastor John MacArthur for your appeals and the patient love you demonstrate to all who are made in the image of God.

#17  Posted by Taylor Shepherd  |  Monday, October 21, 2013at 11:16 AM

To those who are saying John Piper was personally attacked and his reputation damaged, I watched the conference online and I saw nothing cruel, misleading or false said. John MacArthur made it clear that while Piper has publicly said he wishes to speak in tongues (you can see Piper say this on youtube if you doubt) MacArthur has great respect for Piper and believes his ministry has been a blessing to the body of Christ. MacArthur said disagreeing with Piper on tongues is no different than the fact that MacArthur also disagrees with RC Sproul about infant baptism. I don't hear anyone getting worked up because MacArthur told people about RC Sproul's public teaching of infant baptism. You are making an issue because Piper's view on tongues was discussed. Piper's view on that is not a secret. If it is upsetting you that Piper said he used to and at times still prays to speak in tongues than your issue is with Piper not MacArthur. Let John Piper know that you are concerned that he has made such public statements. If you don't agree with infant baptism then write RC Sproul and tell him your feelings about that, but don't blame the conference speakers for stating the truth. The panel's lament was that considering Piper is not charismatic (and even vehemently anti "name it and claim it" theology) is it sad that he would make the public statements he did and even refer to tongues as a "toy" he wanted. By making such statements Piper seems to put a stamp of approval on the charismatic belief system. That was the point MacArthur was trying to make.