Tim Challies has begun what apparently might be a multi-part interview with John MacArthur about his recent controversial Strange Fire conference. Here’s an example of a question, and an excerpt of MacArthur’s response.
In his review of your book, Thomas Schreiner says that you painted with too broad a brush and failed to acknowledge some of the good qualities of the reformed continuationist movement. He says, “The clarion call of warning should be modified with clearer and more forthright admissions that many charismatics adhere to the gospel and are faithful to God’s Word.” How would you respond?
Certainly, I would affirm that there are charismatics who adhere to the true gospel, and I acknowledge that point in the book. Here are a couple examples:
Page 81 – “I do believe there are sincere people within the Charismatic Movement who, in spite of the systemic corruption and confusion, have come to understand the necessary truths of the gospel. They embrace substitutionary atonement, the true nature of Christ, the Trinitarian nature of God, biblical repentance, and the unique authority of the Bible. They recognize that salvation is not about health and wealth, and they genuinely desire to be rescued from sin, spiritual death, and everlasting hell.”
Page 231 – “I want to emphasize, from the outset, that I regard as brothers in Christ and friends in the ministry all who are faithful fellow workmen in the Word and the gospel, even if they give a place of legitimacy to the charismatic experience. I have good friends among them who label themselves as ‘reformed charismatics’ or ‘evangelical continuationists.’”
After the conference, there were some who accused me of saying that nothing good has ever come from those who are part of the charismatic movement. But that is not what I said, nor is it what I believe. Regarding those who are genuine believers, I would readily acknowledge the positive contributions that various charismatic pastors, authors, and laypeople have made within the larger church. However, I’m convinced that those contributions have been made in spite of their heterodox pneumatology, not because of it.
I think those who accuse me of using too broad of a brush are being naïve about the actual composition of the global charismatic movement. We briefly mentioned this earlier, but it is worth reiterating. The fact of the matter is that the majority of charismatics around the world (including both classic Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals) embrace the prosperity gospel. John T. Allen, in his book The Future Church (Doubleday 2009) explains how pervasive the prosperity gospel really is:
“Perhaps the most controversial element of the Pentecostal outlook is the so-called ‘prosperity gospel,’ meaning the belief that God will reward those with sufficient faith with both material prosperity and physical health. Some analysts distinguish between ‘neo-Pentecostal,’ which they see as focused on the prosperity gospel, and classic Pentecostalism, oriented toward the gifts of the Spirit such as healings and tongues. Yet the Pew Forum data suggests that the prosperity gospel is actually a defining feature of all Pentecostalism; majorities of Pentecostals exceeding 90 percent in most countries hold to these beliefs” (pp. 382–83).
That is a frightening statement, and it reveals just how pervasive the false gospel of health and wealth is within the global charismatic movement. But the data from surveys and studies back up those numbers.
Read the whole thing.