(Photo: The Christian Post/Alex Murashko)
In perhaps what could be considered a promotional game of "book wars," or simply a dispute over theological differences, megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has invited Grace For You ministry leader and pastor John MacArthur to the upcoming Resurgence event via an open letter.
Both MacArthur's Strange Fire 3-day conference held last week in Sun Valley, Calif., and Driscoll's Resurgence conference in Seattle planned for Nov. 5-6, center around the themes of the two pastors new books — MacArthur's Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship and Driscoll's A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?
While many in the Christian community were buzzing over MacArthur's position against the Charismatic movement, which he shared last week at his conference, Driscoll made an unauthorized impromptu book signing at MacArthur's Strange Fire event last Friday.
Shortly after beginning the informal book signing near the back of the church property where the conference was held, Driscoll was told he could no longer pass out the books. A church official helping with the Strange Fire conference security told The Christian Post later that MacArthur and his staff had no problem with Driscoll's appearance at the event, they were just enforcing standard conference proceedure in allowing only pre-approved material.
However, the deeper controversy surrounding the discussion about the person and work of the Holy Spirit is something Driscoll wants to publicly discuss with MacArthur. In a section of his open letter invitation to MacArthur, under the sub-headline "Two Books, God's Timing," Driscoll writes:
Despite taking numerous shots from you over the years (some of which I deserved, as I had erred and needed to publicly repent and grow by the Spirit's grace), I have never responded publicly with anything negative regarding you.
Pastor John, though we've never met, I think I know enough about you to assume that you and I both know that our names don't really matter much, but that the name of God the Holy Spirit matters greatly.
With your Strange Fire conference and book you are, insofar as I can tell, pressing for a conversation among God's people about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I would agree with you that error and excess are often perpetrated, tragically, in the name of the Holy Spirit. This grieves him deeply.
At the same time, like many, I also think that, since the majority of Christians worldwide are not cessationists (believing that some gifts of the Spirit have ceased), it is unreasonable and unhelpful to broad brush faithful brothers and sisters in Christ along with those who may not be faithful or may not even be brothers and sisters in Christ.
Curiously, we've been thinking about some of the same things. In God's providence, your book, "Strange Fire," and my book, "A Call To Resurgence," are coming out within a week of one another. In our respective books, we offer very different visions for what faithful, biblical Christianity should look like in light of a culture increasingly opposed to biblical truth. I am convinced there is a more biblically faithful alternative than tribalism and cessationism.
In "A Call To Resurgence" I lay out the way that culture has changed, and how Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, mission-serving Christians have quickly become an opposed minority. I then explain the cultural trends that have contributed to this shift, and also how tribalism has hurt the Church, as tribal leaders have their own tribes, tribal conferences, and tribal wars with other tribes, which causes us to talk about one another rather than with one another.
I then explain how important it is for us to rightly define our borders: who is in and who is out when it comes to essential Christian doctrines. I discuss the Holy Spirit, how he empowers Jesus' people for Jesus' mission—as he did Jesus—and how sad it is that we wrongly divide over the Spirit's person. This can grieve and quench the Spirit, which of course are two things the Bible he wrote condemns.
From there, I present repentance as something we must preach and practice regularly if we are to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The book ends with a call to mission and practical ways for churches to be faithful to Scripture and fruitful in culture. The book's appendix includes more details on tribes and movements, as well as some warnings for tribal "chiefs" like you and me.
Since I left half a box of "A Call To Resurgence" books at your church, you should easily be able to find one to read. And I will be reading "Strange Fire" once it releases so as to be fair in seeking to understand your vision for what is wrong and what needs to happen to get things right in the church.
Driscoll "formally" invites MacArthur to the Resurgence Conference in the letter, stating that he will pay for his travel, give an honorarium of MacArthur's choice, and cover the travel costs of his pastoral staff as well. In the letter, he then gives five time slots during the conference to choose from where a discussion between the two pastors could take place.
Then he adds, "Finally, I have spoken with Dr. Wayne Grudem, who has taught for both of us. If you would prefer to sit down with him instead of me at our Resurgence Conference, he has graciously agreed and would be happy to have a pleasant and polite public conversation with you about the person and work of God the Holy Spirit for one of the main sessions."
Driscoll's full open letter can be found at the Resurgence website at: http://theresurgence.com/2013/10/25/see-you-in-seattle-pastor-john-macarthur.