I’ve been reading with deep concern a number of bloggers concerned about what Strange Fire was all about. They’re grieved and wounded as to why a conference like this one even took place. And like Elihu at the end of Job, they have had their “concerns” aroused and they have unleashed their wrath upon the internet. My pal Menn0knight links to some of their garment rending laments.
But I have my concerns as well regarding these concerned bloggers. And at the great risk of having Steve Hays release a flurry of knee-jerk, reactionary blog whippings upon me, allow me to share with you my concerns.
Let’s get down to the meat of the matter: Charismatics/continuationists have a serious credibility problem. Simply put, continuationists insist the spiritual manifestations of extraordinary signs and wonders that are recorded in Acts are currently happen today in our world. People speak in tongues, they receive words of revelation and knowledge, and they can heal people with the laying on of hands.
The problem however, is that those “manifestations” of signs and wonders the continuationists insist are the works of the Holy Spirit today are never, ever anywhere near the category of manifestations recorded for us in the Bible. Additionally, as a cessationist, I believe God had a specific, primary purpose with the extraordinary signs and wonders recorded in the Bible and when that purpose ended, the manifestation of those extraordinary signs and wonders came to an end as well.
Again – because it seems as though I have to constantly repeat this point with my continuationist critics – I am not saying God can never heal or move in any extraordinary fashion. I am saying God no longer uses spiritually anointed individuals to work extraordinary signs and wonders. The key individuals God did use were the apostles and their affiliates during the era of the NT. Once their ministries ended, those extraordinary signs and wonders ceased.
But let me return to the continuationist/charismatic credibility problem. If you are going to insist extraordinary signs and wonders still function with regularity among Christians in today’s Pentecostal and charismatic churches, then those signs and wonders should, without a doubt, match what is recorded in the Bible. Regrettably, that is not what I am seeing among Pentecostal/charismatic churches.
I’ll zero in upon the three broad categories I noted before and address them one by one.
Continuationists cannot possibly expect me to believe the nonsensical, out of control gibberish and caterwauling that takes place in the the vast majority of Pentecostal and charismatic churches is the spiritual gift of tongues as recorded in Scripture. Additionally, when we turn to the relevant passages, the idea of tongues is a known human language with grammar and syntax, noun, verb, direct object etc. You know, the parts of speech that are absolutely foundational for any meaningful communication. The idea of known human language is made clear in Acts 2 and nothing in the text of 1 Corinthians 12-14 suggests that understanding changes to ecstatic speech. In fact, the first Pentecostals out of Kansas who mainstreamed tongues in the 20th century, even believed they were speaking known, human languages.
Even if one wants to appeal to the so-called angelic language as noted in 1 Corinthians 13:1, are you guys telling me angels speak gibberish? If God created men with specific rules of communication when it comes to language, would I not expect the same with spiritual beings? And the idea of a “private prayer” language is patently absurd. Why do I need to pray to God in a “prayer language”? Why isn’t my Southern English good enough? Does the private prayer language guarantee a break through into the vault of heaven or something?
I’ll be honest with you: Wayne Grudem’s argument for fallible prophecy is lame. There is no two ways about it. (See here for articles refuting his claims). What he presents in defense of fallible prophecy is based upon pained exegesis of the relevant passages. I understand he has a marvelous systematic theology and has written some fine material debunking the error of egalitarianism, but when it comes to prophecy, the man has slipped a life vest over his black leather jacket and has jumped the shark.
Now plenty of continuationists will insist that hunches, impressions, vague notions, burning bosoms, and whatnot that when spoken at “just the right time” to a person who may be struggling with a trial or a major, life altering decision is akin to biblical prophecy. But that is not biblical prophecy, for a number of reasons. The least of which is that for every one outstanding occurrence when the so called “impression” said the right thing to a person, there are countless others where the impression led the person into hopelessness, disappointment, and disaster.
Take for instance the so-called “prophecy” given to John Piper about his wife dying in childbirth but him receiving a daughter from the loss (look it up on the internet if you haven’t heard the story). For months he carried an agonizing burden because he genuinely believed a woman’s ridiculous prophecy, one that she had no real authority to pronounce. It wasn’t until he saw his son being born that he knew it was false. How was that woman any different than the crank psychic, Sylvia Browne and her many, many failed predictions?
Here you have these predictions tampering with people’s lives, manipulating them and loading up grievous burdens for them to bear all based upon a vague hunch that may or may not be correct. Lookit, if the leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation, all avowed “apostles” of the church with the gift of prophecy, could lay hands on Todd Bentley and pronounce God blessing upon his ministry without any prophetic knowledge of the catastrophic moral train wreck his life was to become just weeks after his commissioning, one has to seriously wonder about so-called “fallible” prophecy.
I’ve gone into that one in a couple of articles the last few months, see here and here. Suffice it to say, the so-called miraculous healings allegedly happening today are never anywhere near the level of quality of the ones recorded in Scripture. In the NT, people with major deformities, major paralysis, and lifelong crippling maladies were healed instantaneously and restored to fully functional human being.
It is nice to hear about a person having her hip pain taken away and his flu-like symptoms disappearing, but those miraculous healings, even if they are occasionally supernatural healings (and I am not saying they aren’t) are no where near the kind of supernatural healings recorded in the Bible. I want to see people with the gift of healing going into burn wards, veteran’s hospitals with soldiers who have lost limbs, and hospitals that specialize with spinal cord injuries.
And I’m sorry, those who tell me I haven’t experienced such things and thus I can’t condemn something I’ve never experienced, let me remind them that when Jesus healed, people knew. If there was a real person with a real gift of healing living in Mexico somewhere who was genuinely healing people, believe me, in this day and age, his giftedness would be the talk of the world.
Horrid, Wacko Theology
One last item for discussion is the a-biblical, unChristian, bizarro theology that attends most charismatic assemblies. Granted, you check online and the church will have what appears to be an “orthodox” doctrinal statement. However, the doctrine supposedly affirmed in that statement does not play itself out in the daily practice of the people.
Rather you have bizarre beliefs that attend these groups. Things like fire tunnels, cleansing streams and demonic deliverance style “ministries” (which are practically the same thing as Scientology’s auditing and going clear programs), grave anointings, generational curses (a common topic over at Charisma online), the frenzied, seizure like gyrations that allegedly prove God’s Spirit is upon a person during a “revival” service (video footage is too plentiful), and an uncountable number of just plain, awful Bible studies (Think Cindy Jacob’s Leviathan spirit).
Now, my “Reformed” charismatic acquaintances are gonna say, “Well those are extreme exceptions. You need to read D.A. Carson and Wayne Grudem!” Indeed. Here’s my other concern. You all need to open your eyes and look around. You have lulled yourself into this delusional Matrix like stupor about the reality of charismaticism. Whereas you all are rightly embarrassed and offended by such things as grave suckers and demonic deliverance ministries, those are not the rare exceptions, but the norm.
You need to let this sink in: It is you all who are the rare exception. All the Carson and Piper books can’t change that fact. Once you realize the truth, your concerns about John MacArthur and Strange Fire will grow less concerning.
Reblogged this on The Shepherd/Guardian and commented:
This is so clear, well thought-out and well written.
“If you are going to insist extraordinary signs and wonders still function with regularity among Christians in today’s Pentecostal and charismatic churches, then those signs and wonders should, without a doubt, match what is recorded in the Bible.” – This is THE biggest issue in my mind. You can discuss whether or not the miraculous events recorded in Acts are still happening all day long but If the “gifts” in question do not even resemble their biblical counterparts, the discussion is over at that point because you’re no longer asking if they are continuing, you’re claiming new manifestations of the Spirit have been added to the list.
Nice use of “jump the shark” when I titled a blog post “Has John Piper Jumped the Shark?” my wife and others claimed no one but me would get the reference (at least in church circles). Now I can say there are at least two of us. [And everything else you said was spot on too.]
Very good. I have also been troubled by the ‘concerns’. Here is my response to the Strange Fire Conference from the perspective of someone who was in the pentecostal/charismatic movement for 12 years: http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/strange-fire-conference-call-to.html
Wow. I have been making similar points in my discussions. You have insightfully gone right to the crux of the problem and succinctly laid the issues out clearly. These questions are the ones they haven’t answered and when asked they quickly change the subject to some emotional appeal about how mean we are. I think everyone should print this out to carry with them and use these in our discussions. Excellent.
“And at the great risk of having Steve Hays release a flurry of knee-jerk, reactionary blog whippings upon me, allow me to share with you my concerns.”
pfff. and you deny that the gift of prophecy continues to this day! :-)
“The problem however, is that those “manifestations”… are never, ever anywhere near the category of manifestations recorded for us in the Bible.” – What do you mean by category?
“I believe God had a specific, primary purpose with the extraordinary signs and wonders recorded in the Bible and when that purpose ended, the manifestation of those extraordinary signs and wonders came to an end as well.” – Why do you believe that? What was that primary purpose and where does scripture describe that primary purpose as being the reason for signs and wonders?
Sit on it, Potsie.
Ha, nothing new under the sun!
Clear, concise – excellent Fred. My husband has been using ‘jump the shark’ for a number of years now. Most people our age are old enough to remember the Fonze. :)
Well said. Great article!
Those are good questions, but I think Fred addressed your first question clearly in his post. When Jesus healed, no one, not even the Pharisees, could deny what happened. The healings were so extraordinary and undeniable, all the Pharisees could do was accuse him of healing on the Sabbath. They could not say that the healing did not happen.
What you see in most modern-day “healing services” are healings that cannot really be verified. Limbs are not restored. Men born blind do not see, etc.
As far as your second question, I think one scripture verse that addresses sign gifts is 2 Corinthians 12:12: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”
The “signs of a true apostle” were “signs and wonders and might works”. These authenticated the apostles and demonstrated that what they preached was from God. If EVERYONE was doing those signs, what would set apart the signs of a true apostle? How would the people know that these men were God’s messengers? Does that make sense?
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
Pentecostal pastor responds positively to Strange Fire. This is one of the best pentecostal responses I have read yet. I have reblogged it here: http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/pentecostal-pastor-responds-positively.html
Has anyone else heard James White’s thoughts on the conference? I was a little concerned that he wasn’t more concerned about these issues. Just wonderingwnat others thought.
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Good Thoughts Fred! I’m glad you’re back in the fray!
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Some thoughts on Lee Grady’s concerns: http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/strange-fire-continues-to-blaze-lee.html
I heard James’ comments from Tuesday. I haven’t heard his podcast from Thursday yet.
At the time he made the Tuesday comments, he admitted himself that he hadn’t heard any of the sessions and was still in need of reading the book. His reaction was solely based off the exchange Phil had with Michael Brown and that exchange was more huff and puff from Brown who was mischaracterizing the conference. So I find it odd that James would have problems with how Phil responded to Michael when in point of fact, he hadn’t even heard any of the backstory going into the exchange between the two.
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Rob, not all the healings were extraordinary or undeniable. Often scripture describes Jesus as healing the people of “various diseases and torments.” We have to believe that many of those were garden-variety ailments that you would disqualify today. Did anyone see the fever leave Peter’s mother-in-law? That you limit the miraculous to regenerated limbs strains logic and scripture.
Re; 2 Cor 12:12, do you mean to say, in answer to my question, that the primary purpose for signs is to validate the apostle office holder? Did Jesus perform miracles to validate His apostleship? Did Philip the evangelist’s four daughters prophesy to validate their apostleship, or Agabus the prophet (Acts21)? The seventy in Luke 10, were they all apostles?
If Christians were performing those signs, we needn’t worry if they were thought of as apostles or not, but rather that those signs were confirming the gospel being preached (Mark 16). Why do you hold onto the great commission in that text but say the other part of tongues and healing is not applicable? There is no scriptural basis for it.
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Fred was correct when He said the recorded miracles in Scripture were NEVER disputed and were indisputable. To effective contradict his point, you must be able to show where someone actually disputed the miracle.
Second, I suggest you read a little textual criticism regarding Mark 16.
Third, Fred clearly said the Apostles and their associates.
Hope this helps.
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This article is reliant upon a faulty Premise. You state, ” Simply put, continuationists insist the spiritual manifestations of extraordinary signs and wonders that are recorded in Acts are currently happen today in our world.”
Here’s the problem with that statement and why it undermines your conclusions:
1.The word “insist” provides a hasty generalization, that inaccurately describes many continuationists views.
a. Dick Mayhue in his lecture from TMS Facilaty Lecture Series on Cessassionism, openly stated that God had the right to give the gifts as He see’s fit. Simply Put, Many on both sides would agree that God still uses signs and wonders for their stated purpose ( Acts 2:22 ) of attestation to the biblical message. ( In short, it could be said where there is no bible one would expect signs as attestation, as that is there purpose ).
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“Why isn’t my Southern English good enough? Does the private prayer language guarantee a break through into the vault of heaven or something?”
Oh, oh, I know! The private prayer language is your prayer encrypted so Satan can’t understand what’s being said between you and God. ;)
John, I got it too. :)
You wrote: “I believe God had a specific, primary purpose with the extraordinary signs and wonders recorded in the Bible and when that purpose ended, the manifestation of those extraordinary signs and wonders came to an end as well.,,,I am saying God no longer uses spiritually anointed individuals to work extraordinary signs and wonders. ”
Where did you get this point of view? John Calvin? It seems your entire Calvinist viewpoint and basis for attacking the spirituality of others is based on the word, yet, you fail to demonstrate through scripture anything that supports that point of view. All I read was ranting. So, what you attack others, is not actually supported by scripture at all – it’s just your opinion.
No where in scripture does it say that anything ceased, which leaves me confused about your baptist position. Are you in favor of following scripture like you’re clamoring that other should do, or not? It seems you like to attack people for their view on the scriptures while you yourself follow a pull-it-out-of-your-butt doctrine.
The only thing you’ve demonstrated to me is this: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” 1 Cor. 2:14.
People like you have anesthetized the faith to such a degree, there is no longer a place for God, as it becomes men controlling everything resulting in a nice, neat God-in-a-box faith. To which I say, what’s the point? Who wants to follow a system where nothing is happening. That’s no more than your average Rotary Club. With the exception of their views on prophecy, this belief system is more controlled than Mormonism. I thought God was a supernatural God who made the universe and wildly creative world? So you believe this creative God who is creative to the nth degree, and show his creativity thru his people, in nature, in the universe, in expression of the world…and he wants that everywhere in the world except in worship and church?
You’re just the product of the age of “enlightenment” which was designed to scrub faith clean of anything spiritual. Supernatural events and spirituality gave way to reasoning, thinking, and feeling leaders. People were guided away from hearing God’s voice or taking steps of faith and in the process it eliminated the personal delights of any intimacy with God anyone could expect. God became less sovereign, more distant, intangible and unknowable to the average Christian in an environment like this. God is relegated to being a mystery and deity whose presence is only felt in your anger and judgment. The atmospheres of this kind of god is one of legalism, performance-based, doubt, fear, boredom and dullness. For a people supposedly serving a supernatural God, there is nothing astonishing going on there. It is utter boredom, sameness, and dullness. The result is a church centered on activities all designed to create loyalty, obligation and duty to a system and organization. Obligation to church replaced obligation to God. Duty to the organization replaced hear and obey. Loyalty to church replaced “Return First Love”. Missing is the direct personal encounters with a God for which the evidence is found in the language of defeat among its members. Like your blog, there is no life it in. It’s defined by what it is against, not based on what is for. Gone is the belief that one can do anything in God because no one can do anything apart from church. No miracles occur thru the supernatural power of God using the average man and especially the average woman.
You are part of a people completely unfamiliar with a God of grace, love, power and magnificence. You live by measure not fullness – supposedly believing the Bible* when it suits you, while actually living powerless lives below the level of Christ’s identity and privilege. This is a religious system rooted in the works of men, not a living and wondrous God.
There is nothing more absurd than saying you have a relationship with God but cannot feel his presence. It is simply too ridiculous for words.
I would encourage you, rather than blasting me with a shot from the hip, that you actually go back and maybe re-read my other posts I have put up on this issue. You can locate them under the tags of “cessationism” and “charismatics.” Golly. You don’t even have to do that. Just interact with my four key points I raise in this post.
You have no clue about anything I believe or teach, so to come here and charge me for living some graceless, spiritless Christian life is utterly foolish, and to be bluntly honest with you, it’s stupid. I wouldn’t even claim such things against Michael Brown, and he is far more accommodating to real, spiritual heretics than I allegedly living a spiritless Christianity.
Brother, I could say the same thing to you with how you impugn others under provocative headlines. You basically believe the opposite of what I believe and personally, I’m not sure what you’re expecting. You post attacks on part of the body of Christ and you expect what? …that we throw you bouquets of flowers at you? Did God tell you to post this stuff? And if not, it makes me wonder what spirit did? Just a question. Second, I think you’re linking arms with enemy when you attack part of the body, whether you agree with it or not. Isn’t it God’s problem anyway? Only he can solve something like that if he was truly against it. But when you link to my site under a heading of Horrid, Wacko Theology, and then act like it is ME who is attacking you, I see that as hypocrisy. I read your entire post. I see you believe God can heal. Good, I’m glad! That’s a start. But the rest of your post stands on its own as complete rubbish to me because it’s wholly based on an opinion, not scripture. As I see it, that is lazy when you attack others for their belief that the Spirit is alive, well and available to us all – something that IS actually consistent with scripture, when all you offer in return is your own opinion and belief about cessationism – something that is not scriptural.
So I’m not clear on why you are upset with people like me who you claim there is more than you believe, when it seems you do the same thing with cessationism, claiming there is less. Why is one right and the other such horribly wacko theology?
Thanks and blessings to you. A good spirited debate is NOT a bad thing.
Mark, Just saw where I linked to you. The reason why you believe opposite me is rather apparent. Are you connected to the Bethel Redding metaphysical cult? If you are, then you are practicing a false Christianity. Nothing that Bethel does, including “fire tunnels” is the least bit biblical or Christian. You need to come away from them and trust in the true Christ revealed in Holy Scripture, not the pseudo-Christ proclaimed by the Bethel Redding cult.
Fred. I think from what I see the third person of the trinity in your world is the bible, yes?
I also notice you make a lot of charges that you don’t back up with scripture.
I posted this scripture earlier. I’m curious to know what you think it means:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” 1 Cor. 2:14.
How do you spiritually appraise things? I see no evidence of it on your blog whatsoever.
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