Earlier this week I was tangled up in the comments of this article with a nest of charismatics who swarmed to defend Michael Brown’s response to my GTY blog article. I have to confess that I left my encounter with my heart a bit despondent. I am beginning to realize more and more how charismatic theology devastates folks’ ability for discernment.
The basics of my exchange with Dr. Brown are simple:
John MacArthur has charged the charismatic movement of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by their bizarre antics, horrendous teaching, and false prophecies. The reality of that blasphemy has weighed heavy on the heart of John his entire ministry career. The things charismatics do in the name of God are similar to the “strange fire” Nadab and Abihu offered to God as recorded in Leviticus 10:1-7, and who were subsequently killed directly by God for their inappropriate worship. John felt the need to have a major theological conference addressing and refuting charismatic theology that inevitably leads to such instances of “strange fire” among charismatic churches and the Christian church at large. Hence the name of the upcoming GTY conference on the subject, Strange Fire.
Michael Brown, on the other hand, believes John is terribly mistaken to take up such strong words as “blasphemy” to describe his fellow charismatics. He wrote up a couple of posts challenging John’s assertions even suggesting he is in danger of blasphemy himself because John broad brushes ALL charismatics as being involved in bizarre antics, horrendous teaching, and false prophecies.
Dr. Brown further claims that where the work of the Spirit is, there will be excesses that may need to be corrected, and points to the so-called “excesses” recorded about the first Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. John MacArthur is like those critics of the Great Awakening, who saw the “excesses” taking place during the preaching of those two great evangelists as “blasphemy.” John is guilty of quenching the Spirit and like the pharisees during Christ’s day, calling the clear work of God a work of Satan.
After Dr. Brown published those two articles against John, of course a number of supporters wanted our “official” response to him, so I was tasked to write it up. My approach was straightforward: I wanted to illustrate what John MacArthur means by “blasphemy.” Using the very individuals Dr. Brown claims are “fine godly leaders” I demonstrated from their own teaching ministries that they “blaspheme” in the exact way John describes. They promote false prophecies and errant theological teaching and engage in bizarre antics.
So. Rather than responding to the clear examples I put forth, what does Dr. Brown do? He blows past them and says this whole debate has to do with whether or not continuationism is biblical or cessationism is biblical and we need to meet for a face-to-face to discuss.
No response to whether or not Bickle and Engle are false prophets because they “prophesied” falsely (something Bickle himself claims in this video). No response as to whether or not Cindy Jacobs is a liar on the magnitude of Ergun Caner when she claimed to have fed 3,000 people at a Colorado Springs crusade. Not a word.
The only response I did receive from Dr. Brown is his reiterated claim that he speaks out against the bad stuff that pops up among charismatic circles every once in a while. He even tweeted out a link to an article he wrote decrying the inappropriateness of sexy celebrity preacher women who speak in tongues.
I’ll be the first to shout “amen!” to Dr. Brown’s rebuke against sexy, tongue-speaking lingerie models, but let’s take it a step further: Are those people even Christians? Do they represent biblical Christianity? That is the line of demarcation between myself and Dr. Brown: He willingly affirms, either with verbal affirmation or a silent non-response, individuals that I would say are not even Christians and promote a false, soul-damning gospel, let alone genuinely “manifest” the gifts of the Spirit.
In fact, that is what discouraged me about the entire exchange I had with all the charismatic folks in the comments of Dr. Brown’s article responding to my GTY article. No one was willing to recognize genuine false prophets and charlatans in their midst and call them what they truly are, wolves among sheep.
Instead I was rebuffed for being critical and cutting with my words and having a loathsome tone with how I interacted with people. What I really needed to do is step away from the computer and examine my heart rather than call people false teachers and so forth.
Meanwhile, as I am being chased about by those fingerwaggers, a sidebar ad was running on the very same site promoting a conference featuring T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and Joel Osteen. Seriously. If you recall, two of those individuals are anti-trinitarian, which means they don’t even confirm the orthodox, historic Christian faith.
Honestly. What is “Christian” and “biblical” about the Health-N-Wealth gospel that imagines God as a fertility cult deity who lavishes prosperity upon followers who willingly please him in some prescribed fashion, typically the giving of large sums of money to the self-appointed “priest” who speaks for the deity.
Now Dr. Brown, along with other charismatics, affirm our criticism of Health-N-Wealth prosperity gospel peddlers. To compare all charismatic activity to the things those individuals promote is unfair and off the mark.
However, Dr. Brown specifically defends his involvement with the Brownsville revival that took place in the mid-90s as proof of the genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit among God’s people. He challenges John MacArthur’s criticisms of the revival with his first-hand testimony saying that the Holy Spirit was present calling people to Christ and so forth.
But take a look at this video. Fast-forward to the 1hr. 13min. mark when this guy from Russia starts talking. Behind him stands these people, a few women in particular, who convulse and gyrate as if they are bewitched. One woman looks as if she has been gripped by a seizure and needs medical attention. How exactly is that a genuine “move” by the Spirit?
Take a look at this video. Around the 6min. mark, people begin getting “slain” in the spirit. How is what I see here even remotely related to biblical Christianity? Listen to the evangelist talking and around the 7min. mark he begins going “bah, bah, bah, bah, bah” which I take it to mean he is “speaking in tongues.” For the sake of argument, let’s say the gift of tongues has not ceased and continues to manifest among Christians today. Is this an instance of biblical tongues? I can confidently say that he was NOT speaking with the gift of tongues, but was merely babbling nonsense. Though this guy’s fake tongues appears frivolous, that is the serious blasphemy that John has spoken about. It’s attributing the work of the Spirit to foolishness. If that is not blasphemy, what is?
What really troubles me is this confusing spirit of ecumenism winding itself through charismatic groups. As long as the person or persons name Jesus, can provide emotional stirring events, and draws large crowds, its all “of the Lord” and no one is to judge. We are to all get along without question. But that is a disastrous spirit to entertain in our churches.
Dr. Brown says we need to talk and not fight, but I believe the talk has been long over. We need to fight; he needs to fight. Our disagreement goes beyond an open discussion of continuationism vs. cessationism. There are vicious and cruel spiritual wolves at work in the midst of charismatic circles masquerading as spirit filled leaders that no one there wishes to confront and throw out. Why is that?
When I confront them in that article, or John does in his teaching, we’re branded haters. Everyone else turns a dismissive, blind eye toward them in the name of a phony tolerance and the “love” of the brethren. This cannot be. There are souls at stake here, and charismatic folks don’t seem to see that imminent danger in their own ranks and that worries me.