I've still been thinking and lurking-reading the continuing "Strange Fire" and John Macarthur controversy. I do look forward to reading the book when it becomes available in this country at some point. But the issue Macarthur has with "charismatic" worship does deserve careful thought. Do the songs we sing and love potentially deceive and lead us astray? Or in fact do they bring us close to the Throne of Grace and a living encounter with the Risen Son of God?
There are two scenarios I can think of in my church experience. The more reformed/functional cessationist settings were my home church in Dunstable when Stanley Jebb had taken it out of the charismatic movement and essentially banned all choruses. We sang hymns and raising of hands was not approved (and tongues were most certainly forbidden!). The other reformed/functional cessationist situation was when I lived in Bristol and attended the SGM church for 2 years - and most of their SGM songs were "cross-centered".
The other scenario of course has been the charismatic churches I have attended, and the glorious conferences that seek to teach the whole gospel - Cross through to ascension and glorification and outpoured Holy Spirit. Now cessationists would shudder I am sure at the examples I present - but if you can ignore the raised arms and upturned faces to heaven - hear the words!
I love particularly;
"You have overcome the grave, Your glory fills the highest place - what can seperate me now? You tore the veil, You made a way when You said that it is done!!".
And this amazing one; "Worthy is the Lamb! Seated on the Throne! I crown You now with many crowns - You reign victorious! High and lifted up - Jesus Son of God! The Darling of Heaven crucified - worthy is the Lamb".
How much more Gospel-filled can you get?! Because the fact is - the Son of God isn't hanging on a cross broken and dying. So what is the point of "kneeling at the old rugged cross"? Of course we will be forever grateful for His sacrifice, but like Pilgrim in John Bunyan's classic - that is where our burdens roll away! We are then free to stand and march on towards the Celestial City knowing that one day we will see Him face to face!
I would just add a final video which I think strikes powerfully at the heart of this "charismatic/cessationist" controversy. It is by Noel Tredinnick - the Music Director at All Souls Church Langham Place (neither person nor church could be called charismatic in any way!). But Tredinnick was speaking about worship in particular - the wonderful "Prom Praise" concerts held yearly at the Royal Albert Hall in London. And he said this (the video is below);
"Now worship is two-way. Our hearts are being lifted through the music to Christ. We are adoring Him - we are singing our praise to the living Saviour. That is one way - the arrow is going up. But at the same time there is that moment, where God comes down if you like. The veil of His robe fills the temple - His Presence. There is a sense of His holiness where God is coming down into our midst - and that is a very exciting moment to behold".
I would suggest that is the issue. Cessationists want to (as it seems) put God in heaven and leave Him there. And to suggest that He is not only willing but eager to come down and reside among His people seems to shock and horrify them. That's nothing new - it was apparent throughout revivals through the centuries. There have ALWAYS been the rigid prayer meetings continuing to meet weekly to pray for revival, even though outside and around them God is saving souls by the thousands. It is that eagerness to see God come - I think - which perhaps leads some charismatics to embrace experience that is of the flesh.
But that is no excuse to change one's theology and limit God to what He can and cannot do - as Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said quite rightly - the greatest sin of the evangelical church and all that is wrong with "Strange Fire". As this post was touching on worship - it seems appropriate to end with another version of "The Power of the Cross" sung by Chris Bowater at the (also charismatic) Bible Week - "Grapevine".