John MacArthur, influential author, pastor and seminary president, has kicked off the Strange Fire conference at his California church this week and reportedly stated during his opening remarks that the charismatic movement "dishonors God" and "offers nothing to enrich true worship."
MacArthur, a cessationist, has long been an outspoken advocate of weighing the claims and activities of those in the charismatic movement against Scripture, and tied the conference to the release of his latest book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship. In a series of promotional videos leading up the conference, the 74-year-old Calvinist minister insisted that the Strange Fire conference would focus on "the false worship" coming from the movement, and is not about worship styles or preferences.
In explaining the concept of "strange fire" in one promotional video, MacArthur points to Leviticus 9 and 10 in which acceptable worship and unacceptable worship are contrasted.
"In the ninth chapter, they came according to God's law, a sacrifice was offered, and God sent down miraculous fire and consumed the sacrifice. In chapter 10 (verses 1-3), however, another sacrifice was offered, and God consumed the offerers because they violated His standard and offered strange fire," MacArthur explains in the video.
MacArthur adds, "But it's in the context of Leviticus 9 and 10 that I want to direct your attention toward strange fire that's being offered to God today, and it could well bring His judgment.
"What I'm talking about is the charismatic movement that offers to God unacceptable worship, distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan. People are caught up in it, deceived, led astray."
"This is about honoring the Holy Spirit, rather than blaspheming him," MacArthur insists.
Despite his stated intentions, the California preacher and prolific author has sparked the ire of some charismatic Christians with remarks he made Wednesday at the opening of the Strange Fire conference.
Although his critics welcome taking a corrective stance against what some view as excesses in the movement, some, such as preacher, author and blogger Adrian Warnock, have suggested that MacArthur "is very wrong to (throw) the baby out with the bathwater and claim that the successes seen [in the charismatic movement] is because my family, my people, are drawing power from the Kingdom of Darkness."
MacArthur's opening remarks were live-blogged by evangelical Christian blogger Tim Challies at www.challies.com, and a transcript was provided by a team of ministers blogging at http://thecripplegate.com.
Below are excerpts of MacArthur's opening remarks at the Strange Fire conference held at his Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., which has reportedly drawn 4,000 people in person, and countless others watching the event via livestream.
The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. It dishonors the Father and Son, but most specifically, the Holy Spirit. Many things are attributed to the Holy Spirit that actually dishonor him. In many places in the charismatic movement they are attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have actually been generated by Satan. (challies.com)
We know there are people who are in the Charismatic movement who are deceivers and they know it. They are false teachers and they know it. They're in it for the money and they know it. But we also know there are people who are caught up in this that are deceived and do not know it. They're brands that need to be snatched from the burning (Jude 1:23). Our aim is to expose the deceivers and to help the deceived. (thecripplegate.com)
There are a half a billion of professed Charismatics. For some frame of reference, there are a billion Roman Catholics, and 14 million Mormons. So you see that this is a massive issue. And yet, nobody would fault pastors for confronting Mormonism for their false view of God, Christ, and Salvation. Why then has the church been so reluctant to confront this movement that has captivated so many people? (thecripplegate.com)
God is not to be trifled with. It is dangerous to offer strange fire, corrupt worship. It's dangerous to declare things as works of the Holy Spirit that He would have nothing to do with. There is a radical seriousness in dishonoring the Holy Spirit that apparently escapes these people. (thecripplegate.com)
Am I discrediting everyone in the movement? No. I think there are people to desire to worship God in a true way. They're caught up in this as well, though, because intention is not enough. But the movement itself offers nothing to enrich true worship. The Charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine. We've had an accurate biblical interpretation and sound doctrine long before the Charismatic movement happened, going all the way back to the Apostles, a clear stream of truth. The Charismatics haven't added to that, but have brought chaos, confusion, misinterpretation. (thecripplegate.com)
"I will start believing that the truth prevails in the charismatic movement when I see the leaders looking more like Jesus Christ and I see that they really are partakers of the divine nature." (challies.com)
The Strange Fire conference, which runs through Friday, Oct. 18, also features as guest speakers: R.C. Sproul, Conrad Mbewe, Steve Lawson, Tom Pennington, Phil Johnson, Nathan Busenitz, Justin Peters, Todd Friel, and Joni Eareckson Tada. The Strange Fire livestream can be found at: http://www.tmstrangefire.org/.
Read John MacArthur Takes on Charismatic Movement With 'Strange Fire' Conference for more background on the beliefs of cessationists and continuationists, who disagree on whether the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, are made available to Christians today or ceased with the deaths of Jesus' first-century apostles.