One of the aspects of the "Strange Fire" conference that slightly staggered me and infuriated me was the utter lack of logic and consistency reported by men who proudly call themselves "men of the Word" - and indeed near the end of Macarthur's final session seems to proudly liken himself to Timothy "guarding divine revelation". What do I mean by that? Macarthur made many blunt and straightforward statements that many of his "spin doctor" fans sought to water down. To be fair to Macarthur (and I respect him for it, as much as I find his sheer arrogance dislikable) - he didn't seek to do so.
And he stated rather proudly he doesn't care about offending people. So I feel little shame in joining the right and proper robust responses against him.
He stated charismatics are, in his eyes, unsaved - and he stuck by it. But even he seemed to flounder a little when confronting issues such as the fact that equally credible and respected theologians such as John Piper or Wayne Grudem would not agree with his hyper-cessationist, anti-charismatic views. Adrian Warnock reported from the Q and A session in the conference that he seemed to bluster;
"With John Piper, that is a complete anomaly. That is just so off everything else about him ... Even Wayne Grudem. I look at this as an anomaly [in his theology]. I don’t know and don’t need to know where this impulse comes from".
The thrust of Macarthur's argument too about worship seems highly inconsistent. His spin-doctor fans on Twitter seem to claim "of course he is not throwing the entire baby out with the bathwater" - apparently Macarthur likes Stuart Townend's "The Power of the Cross". Whether he does or doesn't, or maybe doesn't realise Townend comes from Newfrontiers flagship church "Church of Christ the King" in Brighton - he is clear on his views of charismatic worship offering to the church universal. Challies reports;
"MacArthur disagrees with this opinion. He is convinced that the contemporary style of music in the charismatic movement is the entry point of false doctrine into our churches. A church rooted in historical doctrine and hymns will be reluctant to embrace this music. This movement has diminished music by taking it out of the area of the mind and reduces it to feelings of the flesh".
There are thousands of songs from charismatic songwriters I could quote but as "the Power of the Cross" was cited - let's focus on that;
I love this song because it particularly highlights and preaches the power of the complete gospel. And if Macarthur maybe would claim that this song from Townend is an "anomoly" like he sees Piper and Grudem's more charismatic pneumatology - I would rather counter that I think (I don't know - I haven't heard a testimony of how he wrote it) but actually Stuart Townend's charismatic experience and encounters with God indeed aided and inspired him to see the glorious gospel in it's entirety!
A key example of this is - to me - the baptism of the Holy Spirit (and for clarity's sake - I remain Lloyd-Jonesian in my understanding of this). Macarthur presumably would class this among other "demonic" doctrines. But I loved the way that Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 drew the vital paralell between the ascension of Jesus the risen Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For those with no time to hear the clip - here's what Terry said;
"Every person filled with the Holy Spirit is a proof and demonstration that Jesus Christ is not a corpse in some hidden cave in the Middle East. Every Christian filled with the Holy Spirit is proof that He ascended on high ... only resurrected, ascended Messiah's can give the Holy Spirit. Dead corpses aren't very good at it. It is a demonstration He is alive! It is His coronation gift!".
I would counter Macarthur's vitriol that the charismatic movement has spread in such entirety because it is "offering the world what it wants" - rather I think the charismatic movement is reminded the church what real life in the New Covenant is. Of course I would not claim, as some charismatics do, that reformed evangelicals are "dry, dead and dusty" (although some are). Neither would I claim that ALL charismatic churches are "alive, exciting and in right relationship with the risen Christ".
I actually believe that many charismatic movements and streams have become dry, flabby and complacent. Back in the 1970s and 80s there was much talk of "building a house for God". House churches thrived and there was a passion to relive New Covenant life. There are many charismatic (so-called) churches I visit and one can almost predict what "gift" will be manifested. And this complacency has no-doubt fuelled Macarthur and other anti-charismatic views.
Suddenly (thanks to people like Mark Driscoll - well-intended as he is) the focus has become "mission" - and the endless buzz word is "mission". If your church is not "missional" then you should be ashamed of yourself - we are led to believe. Many charismatic churches have seemed to have forgotten that true life in the Spirit and an enjoyment of the Presence of God naturally leads to a passion for the lost.
As John Piper said;
"Mission exists because worship doesn't".
Oh that many of us could remember the words of Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998 - we are a "dwelling place for God in the Spirit". Oh for churches springing up (or being revived truly) across the UK. Less of the silly counterfeit and more of reality!!