Authentic Fire – Chapter 2 Review

afRejecting the Strange Fire, Embracing the Authentic Fire

Chapter Summary

In the second chapter of his book, Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown addresses the charge that charismatic and Pentecostal Christians never police their own ranks. He acknowledges that there are many, many terrible things done in the name of the Holy Spirit, especially by leaders on so-called “Christian” TV, [AF, 13]. He also acknowledges that virtually all of the abuses seen on TV take place in charismatic circles and that is inexcusable [AF, 38]. But such outlandish things do not represent the core of the charismatic movement and they certainly have not gone without severe criticism from charismatic leaders.

In order to prove his point, Brown lists a number of leading men from within Pentecostal and charismatic churches who have decried for years those terrible abuses propagated by TV preachers. For instance, David Wilkerson, Gordon Fee, Jim Cymbala, John Wimber, Lee Grady, Jack Hayford, and Derek Prince.  All of those men have been extremely vocal critics against the prosperity Gospel, the fund raising manipulation, and wild behavior that characterizes much of what is called “Christian TV.”

Brown then goes on to highlight a good number of books that he has written addressing those serious problems. Many of them were published years before MacArthur wrote Charismatic Chaos, and decades before Strange Fire, so he is just woefully misinformed when he says no one has spoken out against those abuses.

Brown then provides a testimony of his own involvement with the Brownsville revival that took place in the 1990s. He notes how there have been many critics of the revival who in his opinion are honestly ignorant of what happened there. Where as those critics claim there were bizarre, out of control happenings regularly taking place, the focus of the revival was sinners being saved and people spurred on to holy living. Brown even provides an extended footnote that answers a lot of the recent criticisms against Brownsville and the fact it is currently a church on the verge of financial ruin [AF, 46-47, fn. 44].

He wraps up the chapter reemphasizing how he recognizes the embarrassing, inexcusable manipulation that is passed off as the work of the “Holy Spirit.” But he reminds readers that such things are the fringe of the charismatic movement, not the norm, and that Christians cannot afford to miss God’s visitation again today during this critical time in our world [AF, 42]

Analysis and Review

hinnbrownI’ll begin by confessing that I find it difficult to take Dr. Brown’s claims from this chapter seriously in light of the recent series of interviews he did with Benny Hinn for his “This Is Your Day!” TV program. Even though the interviews primarily centered around Jewish evangelism and never got into Authentic Fire related conversation, the fact that he would cozy up to the one man who is the living, walking embodiment of all those extreme fringes Brown claims he has criticized over the years is absolutely stupefying.

Making matters worse for him is how Brown reacted to his detractors in the hours after he announced the interviews on social media. He feigned innocence as to who Hinn really was (which is suspect), saying that he “had heard things” about him, but because he doesn’t watch “Christian TV” he didn’t really know.  His naivete is hard to believe, as Justin Peters wrote in review of the entire episode.

In fairness to Brown, he has given his explanation as to how the interview came about, but I still thought his reasons were troubling, especially his dismissiveness regarding the well-documented false teaching and prophecies that are the center piece of Hinn’s so-called ministry. As much as he may want to paint his interaction with Hinn as an opportunity to maybe confront him about these problems (as if he has never been confronted about them before) and present the Gospel to his vast audience of millions, I believe he completely refuted his key thesis outlined in this chapter.

However, with that stated, let me jump into my review anyways and offer a few observations.

Dumbing Down Error

This second chapter echos a broad complaint against John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference in general.  That being: what MacArthur identifies as frightening and bizarre behavior among charismatics does not fairly represent what charismatics really believe and practice. MacArthur is cherry-picking the low hanging fruit that any God-fearing, Bible-loving charismatic would agree is rotten.

In order to explain why charismatic and Pentecostal generally do not talk more of those problems, Brown writes, “….the reason they don’t feel the need to address the latest abusive service on Christian TV is because it is not part of their world or the world of most (or all) of their congregants,” [AF, 16].

So in other words, the phenomena that MacArthur criticizes is not at all a part of the mainstream of charismatic and Pentecostal practice. Take for example snake-handling. There are churches who practice it who may be “Pentecostal,” but snake-handling is not anything most Pentecostals experience and so they have no need to confront it as error. Additionally, most charismatics and Pentecostal churches do not involve themselves with the kind of manipulative “seed faith” financial fund raising that is typical of televangelists, so it is just patently false to lump the majority of charismatics into one big pile.

Now most people reading my review here are asking themselves, “Is he for real?” How exactly can Brown be so deaf and blind to the ubiquitous You Tube videos that show countless people flopping around on the floor at a Pentecostal crusade, or screaming like a banshee when a babbling evangelist touches him? And they are major charismatic personalities that reach thousands, if not millions, of charismatic worshipers.

Additionally, I have dozens of personal friends and acquaintances who came out of Pentecostal and charismatic backgrounds.  They testify to the bizarre behavior that was regularly witnessed in their churches every week. Furthermore, those massive “crusades” take place in basketball arenas. Folks have to be coming from somewhere and those televangelists have to be getting their millions from somebody.

The Anointing of the Holy Ghost?

I think the primary reason for this disconnect has to do with the fact that what non-charismatics like John MacArthur see as frighteningly, weird behavior manifested in the name of the Spirit, Michael Brown (and by extension, mainline charismatics) consider to be just the normal workings of the Spirit in revival. Brown writes,

The fact is, while the Word does tell us to judge doctrine and conduct, it does not tell us to judge styles of worship (slow songs; fast songs’ choirs; hymns; contemporary tunes; spontaneous singing; dancing; clapping; shouting; raising hands; liturgy; silence; etc) or responses to the Spirit (weeping in sorrow; laughing for joy; shaking; trembling; falling; going into trances; etc), [AF, 35].

Whereas a non-charismatic like MacArthur would view strange manifestations such as violent “shaking” and “going into trances” attributed to the Holy Spirit as ungodly blasphemy that in no way represents biblical Christianity, Brown does not. When he is shown videos of people doing strange things, he doesn’t immediately conclude that they are loopy people doing loopy things all in the name of being anointed by the Spirit. It could really be God at work in revival so he doesn’t want to discount a real move of God. Non-charismatics are left baffled as to why he would draw that conclusion.

Why does he, or any Pentecostal/charismatic for that matter, believe a woman violently whipping her head around in a frenzied manner is the Holy Spirit’s anointing? Or a person convulsing and dry heaving over and over as if he has been gripped by an epileptic seizure is a physical response to the power of the Spirit of God? Does he believe that is how prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah normally delivered their messages? And before anyone says, “But what about Ezekiel? He did weird stuff.” But does Ezekiel’s most unique and unusual ministry represent the norm for the average Christian’s experience with God? Those are the concerns that are at the heart of MacArthur’s criticisms of charismatic worship.

Brown seems content to limit abusive manipulation in the name of God only to the shenanigans perpetrated by con-artist televangelists who fleece viewers for money. “Con-artist televangelists” is apparently a category I guess most charismatics and non-charismatics can agree is bad.  But again, those con-artist televangelists have to be getting their money from somewhere. Who is it that supports them and why?

MacArthur’s concerns, however, go beyond what is displayed on television to what drives charismatic and Pentecostal thinking.  He believes, and contrary to Brown’s assertion that we are not called to judge the legitimacy of those manifestations, that such behaviors do not represent the work of the Holy Spirit by any stretch of the imagination. To insist that they do is the blasphemy to which he speaks.

A biblical understanding of the Spirit’s anointing and power is sobriety of life, a sound mind, and the bearing out of the fruit of the Spirit, in which self-control is numbered among them, (2 Timothy 1:7, Galatians 5:22-23). Rolling about the floor, flailing about, laughing uncontrollably, falling down all over the auditorium, shaking in the fashion of having a seizure (all things that happened at the Brownsville revival) does not demonstrate the work of the Spirit. It is fleshly carnality. That is the point of contention between MacArthur and Brown and charismatics and non-charismatics. Non-charismatics, I believe, rightly say such “manifestations” are a mockery of God, where as charismatics think it is the work of God. However, the two views cannot be correct.

Who Let the Dogs In?

Now Brown goes on in this chapter insisting that if outlandish behavior were to manifest itself at services where he was ministering, he’d be the first to offer a rebuke.  He complains, however, that it is unfair for him to be held responsible for “manifestations” he has never witnessed.

For example he writes that he has never seen people “barking like dogs,”

Of course I do renounce “barking in the Spirit,” but why in the world should I spend my time rebuking a chimera? Why even bring attention to it? It would be like asking me why I’m not renouncing snake handling services – except that those services are far more common than services in which people bark like dogs, [AF, 40]

He then goes on to cite, ironically, Benny Hinn, who has allegedly renounced the “barking” phenomena as devilish, [AF, 41]

I’m a bit suspicious of his claim here. Charismatics “barking like dogs” is likened to a mythical, non-existent monster? I haven’t scoured the entire internet, but just doing a quick internet search I came across this video. Plus we have this recent report out of Africa about people eating grass under the anointing of the Spirit (video here). Not quite “barking in the spirit” but certainly animal like.

Tony Miano recounts his testimony starting out in a charismatic church loosely affiliated with the Anaheim Vineyard where the late John Wimber pastored.  According to him, folks from his church attended a conference at Anaheim Vineyard and returned to report the “extraordinary move of the Spirit” and one of those “moves” was people “barking like dogs.” Keep in mind that Brown identifies Wimber as one of those charismatics who allegedly speaks out against such abuses of the Spirit.

It is also a matter of historical record that the phenomena of animal noises (as well as other strange manifestations) were prevalent among the frontier camp meetings as early as Cane Ridge in Kentucky in 1801.  Pentecostal historian, Vinson Synan writes in his history on the holiness and Pentecostal traditions,

Peter Cartwright reported that in one service he saw 500 “jerking” at once. The unconverted were as subject to the “jerks” as were the saints. One minister reported that, “the wicked are much more afraid of it than of small pox or the yellow fever.” After “praying through” some would crawl on all fours and bark like dogs, thus “treeing the devil” [The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 12].

Paul Conkin, who has written a definitive account of the Cane Ridge camp meeting, records that along with other odd experiences many people,

Under conviction, individuals seemed deliberately to debase themselves by assuming a doglike posture and growling and barking for hours. Several visitors observed numerous people acting like dogs. Even McNemar deplored this most degrading behavior, and attributed it to a reluctance to dance in worship [Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost, 130].

chupaBut let’s grant Brown’s contention. That people “barking in the spirit” is as rare as a chupacabra sighting as he puts it, and charismatic critics are exaggerating non-existent happenings as a means to mock charismatic worship. Given his view that the Word of God does not call us to judge styles of worship or responses to the Spirit, why exactly would he renounce someone “barking in the Spirit”?  What makes “barking in the spirit” an unacceptable response to the Spirit but going into trances, laughing uncontrollably, and shaking violently are acceptable? The inconsistency here is frustrating.

Theological Abuse and False Prophecies  

Because Brown (and charismatics in general) is open to outlandish manifestations as being a regular function of healthy, Christian spirituality, he is dismissive of other criticisms against charismatic theology and practice that MacArthur has raised. While it is certainly commendable that men like David Wilkerson, John Wimber, Derek Prince, and even Michael Brown himself, have spoken out against spiritual abuses, especially manipulative fund raising in the name of “giving your all” to Jesus, what is also troubling is those same men promote theological error that can be just as equally abusive. Even if their error is not on the same level as the manipulative, con-artist TV preachers they rebuke, it certainly should disqualify them from any influential Christian ministry.

Let me highlight a couple of examples of what I mean.

Brown lists the late David Wilkerson as an outspoken Pentecostal critic of spiritual abuse that has taken place within Pentecostal and charismatic churches. That’s all well and good, but Wilkerson is also notorious for giving a number of false prophecies over the years. His prophecies generally focus upon apocalyptic hysteria like cataclysmic earthquakes shaking America, cities being on fire, tanks rolling through the streets, hundreds of thousands of people running for their lives.

doomOne blogger notes a connection between an alleged vision Wilkerson had in 1974 of Japan and the tsunami that took place there in 2011. Another writer sees stark similarities to Wilkerson’s 1992 prophecy about coming apocalyptic doom and another one he gave in 2010 with almost the exact same theme even naming New York once again as a focal point of the disaster. To date, none of the events he prophesied have come to pass. At least with any specificity. Even secular people know Japan’s location is prone to earthquakes and ravaging tsunamis so there isn’t anything particularly prophetic about that.

Regrettably, Brown’s response to those false prophecies, along with most mainstream charismatics, is “oh well.” In fact, Brown would probably bristle at the notion of calling Wilkerson’s prophecies “false” because that would imply he wasn’t a Christian.

But no one is questioning the man’s salvation. We have grave concerns that he stands before an audience of people claiming to have a direct revelation from God about the future that never, ever comes to pass. Consistently claiming God is showing a guy events about the future, as far back as 1974, and none of them ever come to pass raises serious questions about the credibility of the man to lead a church.

Yet this glaring shortcoming on Wilkerson’s part is passed over without comment because charismatics have an unbiblical, watered-down, second-tier view of prophecy propped up by so-called charismatic “academics” like Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms, who by the way, contributes an appendix for Brown’s book on the very subject of fallible prophecies. There really aren’t “false” prophets, but fallible prophets who mean-well who may get things wrong a lot.

Brown also notes Jack Hayford and Derek Prince as outspoken critics of charismatic abuses. Yet both men are heavily involved with promoting deliverance style ministries that are designed to identify demonic strongholds in believers’ lives and help them get free from the power of the devil. Hayford’s church began Cleansing Stream Ministries with the purpose of counseling Christians about the demonic influences they need to clean out of their lives.

I happen to know people who have gone through their program, and the experiences they had were downright disturbing. One gal told how she was directed to shout at the demons in her life and after a prolonged time of repetitive singing, tongue speaking, and all the other trappings of a charismatic experience, she began growling (again with the animal noises) and her leader was telling her that it was the demons coming out of her. Looking back on the experience, she says now that it was just her being caught up in the atmosphere of the place and responding in the way she was expected to by the group.

Anecdotal story, I know. I bet there are positive testimonies. But deliverance ministries teach Christians theological error about the power of the devil, true spiritual warfare, and Christian sanctification. The methods they employ to help people deal with sin issues lead to no good, as well as a spiritually unhealthy fixation on the demonic that is used to absolve the Christian of any responsibility for their sinful habits. In other cases deliverance ministries can lead to pastoral abuse. See here, and here to read examples of what I mean.

Concluding thoughts

Regrettably, a lot of what is talked about in this chapter displays the appalling lack of discernment and the accommodation of bad teaching that non-charismatics like MacArthur find alarming.

In his hurry to defend his charismatic friends from what he perceives as unfair associations, Brown gives his readers the impression that MacArthur is saying all charismatics are like Benny Hinn and infamous grandma kicking revivalist, Todd Bentley. But the larger point we should take away from Strange Fire is to ask, “what sort of thinking about Christianity leads a person to believe God is speaking through men like Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley?”

It is easy to say someone like John “tokin’ the ghost” Crowder represents the “extreme fringe, of the extreme fringe” [AF, 47] and he is no more relevant to mainstream charismatics than Fred Phelp’s and his “God Hates Fags” cult is relevant to all Southern Baptists.  However, the reality is that John Crowder has taken his Sloshfest on a world tour and does his drunken glory bit to sold out crowds of hundreds of thousands of young people, who are, sad to say, charismatic.

I’ll be blunt and say I believe Dr. Brown is wildly out of touch with the goings on in his own movement. And regrettably, I would imagine he embraces much of what non-charismatics believe is disastrous theology and practice. Sure, he may give vague rebukes against certain odd things within charismatic churches, though I wonder by what standard he judges something to be “odd” and “unbiblical.”  But what he claims is the extreme fringe in charismaticism is honestly the mainstream. It is he who is the fringe.

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48 thoughts on “Authentic Fire – Chapter 2 Review

  1. Great stuff!

    I’ve had a hypothetical situation in my mind for some time…I wonder what would happen if someone would enter a charismatic service, strip naked, and start prophesying. Would they stop you, especially if you pointed out 1 Samuel 19:24 or Isaiah 20:2-3 as biblical precedent, what with 2 real prophets actually being directed by the Spirit to strip buck and unleash the word of the Lord.

    They’d obviously tell you to get dressed (I hope), but I wonder what the response would be if you pointed out the Biblical precedent and then asked them whether or not the Lord was the same yesterday, today and forever? I’m guessing that if you pushed it, you’d probably have them in quite a pickle.

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  3. Brown is a smart, educated, articulate man. He has a call in radio show that places him in the “cat bird seat” of christian issues as he interacts with people. With all the discussion about how a man of his ability, experience, training and intellect could justify a series of shows with Benny Hinn; ignorance is not the answer. Among the many things I learned from the Strange Fire Conference, the one that really shocked me was the massive size of the charismatic movement. At some point in time Christians who want an answer that makes sense, and considering the current state of “christian publishing”, are going to have to do what any investigator would do early on: “Follow the money trail”.

  4. I really enjoyed the format of your review/critique. Very thorough, yet easy to follow along.

  5. “But the larger point we should take away from Strange Fire is to ask, ‘what sort of thinking about Christianity leads a person to believe God is speaking through men like Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley?'”

    Golden.

    Also the last paragraph: his “What’s that you say? there’s some controversy about Benny Hinn? Hunh!” was permanently and eloquently very revealing. He wants to drive on from that, retaining the pose of in-touch, rigorously-Biblical expert in all things Charismatic; nobody should let him.

  6. I live near Pensacola and I remember the Pensacola News Journal doing a series of articles on the Brownsville Revival. I remembered something about the evangelist getting the take for the nights offering and buying land and other property with the money. I searched the net and found loads of articles. Below is a link to an article I cut and pasted a few paragraphs. This was taken from quotes in the Pensacola News Journal.

    http://www.pfo.org/lifestyl.htm

    Michael Brown, theologian for the revival and president of the Brownsville Revival School Ministry, has followed the lead of Kilpatrick and Hill and is also moving west. Brown’s organization, “ICN Ministries Inc.,” recently purchased an 11-acre tract in Alabama. The paper reported that “Brown and his wife are building a house, which their building permit estimates at $727,360 construction cost, on a portion of the land that his ministry ICN purchased.” Brown was quick to point out that “ICN is not paying for construction of any house anywhere,” the newspaper said. Brown, in a letter to the editor, challenged the paper’s report and said that “My wife and I are not building a home valued at $727,000. … Actually, the official appraisal sets the value of the house and its three surrounding acres of property at less than $425,000, equal to the value of our home in Pace [Fla.].”

    Brown’s home in Pace was purchased in 1996 for $419,000 and is located at a gated subdivision on a golf course. Reporters from the newspaper told PFO that they stand by their original figures for Brown’s new home.

    Despite the News Journal’s exposure of the dramatic upsurge of the revival leadership’s lifestyles, a lack of financial accountability remains. After three full years, the revival leaders still have not gained certification from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), although two of the three, Kilpatrick and Hill, have formally applied, Brown has not.

    From this I can see why Dr. Brown didn’t criticize Benny Hinn. Benny Hinn just does it better.

  7. The ‘Brown is greedy’ angle is a non-starter. He’s no slimeball, he just freely and joyfully surrounds himself with slimeballs. When does 2 John 1:11 kick in?

    Mr. Butler, this is a great article and another breath of fresh air. I am getting so soul-weary of answering the insipid, irrational, ouroboron (to coin a phrase) ‘arguments’ of my dearly-loved charismatic friends, who are ambling ever further into the movement with glazed eyes. This thing is a monster to be beheaded.

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  9. Excellent article. Thanks to both of you for taking the time to work through this book.

    I would love to hear Dr. Brown’s answer to this question you posed:

    Given his view that the Word of God does not call us to judge styles of worship or responses to the Spirit, why exactly would he renounce someone “barking in the Spirit”?

    How is a barking like a dog different from the many supposed manifestations of the Spirit seen at Brownsville. What is the metric they use to define what is a true and a false manifestation? I do not think there is one or even can be one as they have defined the Charismatic movement.

    And your question, “what sort of thinking about Christianity leads a person to believe God is speaking through men like Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley?”, cuts to the very heart of the problem. Where is the discernment? And, again, by what metric can they exercise discernment when you allow fallible prophecies, non-language tongues, and non-falsifiable healing, …?

    Thanks again.

  10. Dr. Brown seems so defensive about any criticism of charismaticism that he is ready to defend any leader in the movement, and then has to backtrack when he’s challenged with obviously false teachings.

    I finally got around to listening to Phil Johnson calling into Dr. Brown’s show. Two things stood out for me:

    When Phil challenged Michael to his verbal support of Cindy Jacobs, Brown said that he didn’t really know her or knew anything about her teachings. Phil then asked him why he calls her a “godly woman.” Brown’s response was, “I don’t know that she isn’t.” Brown has often said, we need to be extremely careful in who label as an unbeliever. But, by the same token, we shouldn’t be affirming someone’s salvation on the basis of “well, I don’t know that they aren’t saved.”

    Second, Dr. Brown seems extremely isolated and in no way an authority on what is the fringe and what is the mainstream of the charismatic movement. Each time Johnson challenged Brown regarding these leaders in the movement (Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner), Brown replied that he doesn’t really know them because he doesn’t follow them or move in their circles. He says he doesn’t watch TBN. It seems that if he doesn’t have any idea of who is part of the fringe (as he defines it), nor how large it really is. So, what MacArthur (and many, many others) see as the charismatic mainstream, Brown sees as the fringe. Maybe Dr. Brown need to take some time and examine the entire charismatic movement before he accuses MacArthur and others of painting with a broad brush.

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  12. Thank you for this detailed review of chapter 2. Like you I was rather surprised when I heard Dr. Brown was interviewed by Benny Hinn…makes me wonder about his discernment.

  13. All I’ve seen recently is duelling celebrities – where one celebrity preacher is quoted against another. I am still waiting for BIBLICAL evidence that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts. I’m still waiting because there is no such evidence.

    Criticism of “charismatics” is NOT scriptural evidence, no matter how much that criticism is deserved

    Yes, a sizable segment of the charimsatic “movement” promotes and practices terrible things, claiming to be motivated by the Spirit, but even if ALL claimed charismatics were the same that would still not be evidence supporting cessationism.

    The problem in Charismanic circles arises NOT because Spiritual gifts have been withdrawn – but because people have fallen for celebrity worship, following the word of big name men and women instead of the word of God. Running from conference to conference, speaker to speaker instead of taking time to search the scriptures.

    But non-charismatics are no less guilty of that.

  14. Onesimus, you will keep waiting, because plenty of Biblical evidence has been given in support of the cessationist position. You only see what you want to see.

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  16. Brady, I’ve been given absolutely no evidence. As I’ve asked elsewhere (before my comments on that site were doctored by the site owner to express lies) GIVE that evidence. Give BIBLICAL evidence.
    I don’t see that evidence because I look to scripture rather than man’s traditions.

  17. Onesimus writes,
    As I’ve asked elsewhere (before my comments on that site were doctored by the site owner to express lies) GIVE that evidence

    Certainly you aren’t implying this about me, because no such thing has occurred here. Care to clarify your statement?

  18. HI fivepointer, no I don’t imply that it was done here. This thread is the first time I’ve come here, following a link provided by the guilty part on the offending site. See the first comment on this thread if you want to know that blog owner.
    I made comments on that site, was labelled a “troll” – and my last three comments were changed to include false accusations.

  19. Onesimus, John MacArthur and many others have made strong Biblical cases for cessationism. People like Michael Brown will argue for continuationism based on the Bible. The thing that convinced me about cessationism is correct was looking at the practical evidence. Once we disregard the crazies and extremists, there is still nothing to substantiate the claims of the moderate pentecostals and charismatics – their tongues, prophecies, and healings are stil fake. If the theology is true then we should see it in operation. We don’t. And, if we are honest, there are very few moderates out there, so they are not representative of the majority. I’d be happy to change my mind, but I just don’t see any evidence that the movement is anything other than a massive con trick. And reading the stories of how it all began, I get the impression that it was just that.

  20. Hi Fred,
    I have yet to see John MacArthur or anyone else make any kind of biblical case for cessationism.
    By scripture alone I see absolutely no evidence that the gifts are now redundant. When I see the world around me, including the church, I see no less need for the gifts.
    Personally my focus regrading Spiritual gifts is not on the charismatic movement. I don’t look to them or any other person or movement for “practical evidence” or “theological” arguments to sway my views one way or the other.
    I look to scripture and see no evidence of the withdrawal of gifts there – so even IF I see no evidence of the gifts in others, that does not stop me from seeking God for those gifts in my own life. Instead I will follow Paul’s instruction “desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” and “desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues”.
    If I’ve determined that such gifts are no longer available there would be no point in following what Paul said. And the same applies to other gifts. If I believe they are no longer valid it would be impossible to have faith that the Spirit will give those gifts.

  21. Onesimus writes,
    By scripture alone I see absolutely no evidence that the gifts are now redundant.

    Seeing that special signs and wonders style gifts, like healings were designed to authenticate the work of Jesus and the Apostles, (Acts 2:22; 2 Cor. 12:12), what would be the exact purpose of them today? Why is not the preaching of the Gospel good enough? Additionally, why is it that they are only allegedly found among “Pentecostal and charismatic” denominations or those susceptible in seeing them? If God gives the gifts to ALL Christians, then they should be found among every imaginable group of believers. Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, whether they seek them or not. But they are not.

    Moreover, by cessationism, MacArthur is not arguing that all gifts have ceased. Only the ones found during the apostolic age. We still have teachers and evangelists Ephesians 4, as well as those with special giftedness to serve (Romans 12). The ones that have ceased are the ones that were given to authenticate God’s messengers, and once they have given their message, those gifts are no longer needed.

  22. The purpose of gifts today?

    The authentication of the gospel in a world that is less aware of God now than in the time of Jesus and the apostles.

    You ask: “Why is not the preaching of the Gospel good enough? “

    Why wasn’t the preaching of the gospel good enough back then? Why did Jesus and the apostles have to provide authenticating signs and wonders to back up their preaching of the gospel?

    Does God give the gifts to “ALL Christians” or only to those who seek and receive THE gift of the Holy Spirit Himself, given as described many times throughout Acts?

    In Acts the gift of the Spirit is not received surreptitiously, without being noticed by the recipient, but most Christian religious traditions now assume (contrary to scripture) that the Spirit arrives unseen and unheard in a person’s life at times that vary according to their denominational tradition.

    The great forgotten aspect of Jesus’ ministry is that of baptiser – how many times does scripture say that He will baptise in the Holy Spirit? But the idea of Spirit baptism is one traditional theologies prefer to ignore or redefine. Without that baptism as per Pentecost, Cornelius, the Samaritans and the Ephesians (as examples in Acts) we will lack the needed relationship with the giver of the gifts (the Holy Spirit).

    The claim that the gifts are “only allegedly found among “Pentecostal and charismatic” denominations isn’t really true. One of the first contacts I had with people claiming a “Pentecostal” experience was through an Anglican church, over 40 years ago – a church that was one of the most active and effective in evangelism in the city.

    You say that cessationists don’t believe that all gifts have ceased, however, without giving biblical support for the idea, it seems this depends upon which gifts they personally find problematical.

    Why pick and choose which gifts continue and which ones don’t? The whole idea that gifts have ceased because there is no longer a need to “authenticate God’s messengers” is a strange assumption to make, as if there is no longer a message to give and therefor no need for authentication.

  23. Onesimus, so what gifts have you seen today? I haven’t seen any. I was in the Pentecostal / charismatic / continuationist movement for 30 years, and I didn’t see any, if I’m honest. “Speaking in tongues” was mindless babble and gibberish, “prophecy” was either vague, general or didn’t come true, like the numerous prophecies of revival, and “healing” was at best fake and didn’t last. The evidence of church history is that the miraculous gifts that I’ve just mentioned ceased at the end of the apostolic age. Why? Because they were to confirm the authority of the apostles in the period before the New Testament was compiled. That makes sense to me. If you believe otherwise, you have to show one of two options. (1) They continued, which they did not. (2) They were rediscovered by the early pentecostals, which they were not. So why do you believe this?

  24. While disagreeing with your conclusions I can identify with your experience of being involved with Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. I was involved with two such churches and groups for over a decade. My disillusionment and frustration eventually led me to leave and enter a 15 year period of “spiritual crisis”. During that time I had no contact with any church, barely any contact with Christians and went through a time of extreme doubt. I found it hard to believe in God – but impossible to cast Him aside.

    During that period and during the last 14 years since my faith was re-established I’ve had a lot of time to reassess what I believed in the past and to find what I ought to believe now. Most of that reassessment has been done away from traditional church of any kind, away from the influence of any particular church’s theological stance.

    That “spiritual crisis” helped strip me of the theological junk I’d built up over the decade+ of Pentecostal church, and as far as is possible I’ve been rebuilding on a scriptural foundation rather than anything associated with any church tradition.

    So why do I believe in the continuation of the gifts?

    Firstly I believe it because of scripture. Scripture tells us about the gifts and yet nowhere suggests that those gifts will be withdrawn prior to the time that “the perfect” has come. And I’d rather seek to have my experience shaped by the truth of scripture than interpret scripture according to experience.

    Secondly, even in scripture those signs were not confined to the apostles. Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. And Philip (one of the seven like Stephen) went to Samaria and did miracles. [We are told the apostles, who included Philip, remained in Jerusalem and weren’t among those scatter by the persecution, so the Philip in Samaria is not the apostle]. Also NT biblical healing is not restricted to apostles – it is included in the gifts of the Spirit detailed by Paul for use in the body of Christ, and instructions are given by James to call on the elders to anoint with oil and the prayer of faith WILL save the sick and the Lord WILL raise him up.

    And thirdly I believe it because of personal experience with gifts. I speak in tongues (as do many friends), not to the extent that Paul did, but in accordance with Paul’s wish that all spoke in tongues. I find your assessment of tongues being “mindless babble and gibberish” is a presumptuous opinion, possibly based on your personal experience if you resorted to gibberish to fit in with the expectation of others around you (similar it seems to what Lyndon did according to something I read on his blog).

    I have also prophesied, as has my wife and I have personally experienced the gifts of discernment of spirits.

    The matter of healing, like other miracles is a difficult one, but it is clear that most (even Pentecostals) don’t really have the faith for such things due to a strong materialist conditioning. Regarding healing, how quick are we all to rush to the doctor as a first resort instead of turning to God. He usually comes into the picture only when all other avenues have proven futile – more out of desperation than genuine expectation. Note how many times healings done by Jesus are attributed to someone’s faith/belief. I do have a testimony of almost instantaneous healing – but I’m reluctant to share it in a forum where it’s likely to be mocked.

    I’m not sure why the apostles needed confirmation of their authority prior to the compilation of the NT, but those generations between the apostles and the compilation of the NT and our generations afterwards don’t also need similar confirmation.

    Signs and wonders in the times of the apostles was not about confirming the man, but confirming the gospel through the accompanying signs and giving witness to the resurrection of Jesus. [That could lead to another issue – are we preaching a gospel that God would want to confirm with signs and wonders?]

  25. He’s talking about me Fred. He broke the rules of engagement, was warned, ignored the warning, was edited, proceeded to condemn me to hell with some colorful language, then was blocked.

    Onesimus has now come on here because I won’t play ball anymore; I won’t let him post nonsense rants and ignore attempts at interaction. He got 89 comments to try to engage in dialogue, and after 90 tries to talk reasonably, I simply ran out of patience.

  26. Onesimus, let me give some personal background.

    I didn’t become a cessationist because I wanted to, or becuase my experiences as a charismatic put me off. I considered myself a moderate charismatic, maybe a bit like you. And to be honest, I was happy as I was and would have preferred to stay that way. I regarded cessationist theology as wrong and didn’t want anything to do with it. But, as I studied and learnt, I became convinced that continuationism is a false teaching.

    I wasn’t given to speaking in tongues myself, but whenever I heard it, and I have experience of many different branches of the charismatic and pentecostal movements, it was always the same form of “gibberish”. I’ve been in traditional pentecostal churches, modern pentecostal churches, denominational charismatic churches, non-denominational charismatic churches, conferences of all sorts, pretty much every grouping there is in my part of the world, even charismatic catholic prayer groups, and it was never anything else. This view of tongues is shared by everyone who has studied the phenomenon. But when you are on the inside and you believe that people are speaking a supernatural language, you’re not given to question it. It took me decades.

    Despite what people like yourself may believe, there is no evidence that what are claimed as “gifts” today are the ones described in the Bible. So how do you know that today’s gifts are the genuine Biblical ones? And how do you explain the fact that the gifts were absent from the church between, say, 100AD and 1900AD?

    Belief in continuationism is like people giving their money to Bernie Madoff after he’s been exposed as running a ponzi scheme!

  27. It seems you haven’t approved my last two posts in which I replied to you and Lyndon.
    Maybe you can’t face up to the fact that the gifts WEREN’T absent from the church between 100AD and 1900 AD – a fact that can easily be established by someone who really desires to know the truth of the matter.

    At least you didn’t resort to changing my posts like your friend Lyndon did on his blog.

    (This is how my last comment should have read – the previous version was the result of typing and editing in the small comments box and not being able to see most of what I’d typed.)

  28. Yes. You are correct. I am not allowing you to rail against my friend in the comments of my blog. Seeing that I happen to know him a bit better than I do you, the accusations you bring against the way you feel you were treated at his blog, are exaggerated and, well, lying against his character. If you don’t like it, then fine.

  29. I’ve noticed how you’re now following me around the Internet, alerting everyone to how bad I am because I labelled you a troll (for actually trolling the comment thread, the definition of which you may not know and may want to find out) and you wrongfully thought I was accusing you of making fat jokes. I said “He’s now in the penalty box until he can show up and do something more constructive than make fat jokes.”

    That was a comparison of what you were doing (refusing to engage in dialogue while repeating the same line over and over) to making fat jokes, not saying that you were actually making fat jokes.

    I never accused you of making fat jokes. I was comparing your strategy for dialogue to making fat jokes, at least on the level of constructiveness.

    You then proceeded to damn me to hell, so you got blocked.

    I don’t know why you’re so upset that you have to google me, go to where I comment, and then issue a warning.

    You have your own blog.

    Use it to bash me there and stop stalking me. It’s creepy and makes you look mentally unstable.

  30. So you even refuse to post the link (to a Calvinist blog) that I gave earlier that refutes your assertion that the gifts were absent from about 100AD onwards?

    That says a lot. A pity that your other readers will be kept in the dark about your hiding of evidence, just as you continue to cover up the sin of your friend.

  31. Onesimus,
    No one is being kept in the dark about anything. Everyone is aware of post apostolic miracles. I am completely aware of what Sam Storm believes about supernatural happenings after 100 AD. But none of those examples he supplies demonstrates the continuance of gifted people, just that God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence. That is something no “cessationist” as they are called, disagrees with.

    My primary reason for not posting your comments is your haranguing of Lyndon, which I won’t allow. You have your own blog. Write up as many posts against me and him as you wish. I am just not gonna allow them to be posted here.

  32. Fred, it seems you are over-exalting the apostles.
    Those gifts in question have nothing to do with “gifted people” (apostles), and everything to do with a GIFTING God.
    The issue isn’t about “gifted people”. The issue is the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit and miracles provided by the God that the apostles worshipped and promoted. The very same God, the one and only God who is just as real and active in the world today.
    Are the gifts HE made available to the church (not just the apostles) by HIS Spirit, for the building up of the church, still needed and still available today?
    Yes

    Did he restrict those gifts to an elite apostleship?
    No.

    Was their practice limited to an elite apostleship?
    No.
    Did God withdraw any of those gifts after the last of the apostles?
    No.

    Are those gifts still valid, available and practiced today and throughout history, even from 100AD to 1900AD (as evidenced at the link you didn’t allow to be posted)?
    Yes

  33. Fred, you said: “No one is being kept in the dark about anything.”

    Then how about posting the link I gave and let people read and determine for themselves whether the evidence presented is a valid answer to the question you asked me: “And how do you explain the fact that the gifts were absent from the church between, say, 100AD and 1900AD?”
    My answer is that the gifts weren’t absent and the linked articles give historical references that show their continuation.
    http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/spiritual-gifts-in-church-history–2-

    That link is to part 2 of a series of 4 articles on the same blog.

  34. Fred you said: “God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence”

    And what do you think the gifts of the Spirit are – and even the miracles worked at the hands of the apostles?

    Were they not also supernatural acts of God? Or do you suggest there was some power within “gifted people” like the apostles that was used apart from God’s providence?

    The continuing issue here is whether God continues to intervene in this world by His Spirit through the same gifts revealed in scripture. There is no biblical evidence to suggest that those gifts would be withdrawn very soon after Paul wrote about them, but there IS evidence of their continuation, as you have admitted, although you try to redefine that evidence.

  35. I actually think Brown is totally and completely in touch with all the things that goes on in his false movement: I just think he chooses to ignore them because they are inconvenient realities that would hamper his agenda, and he know that ultimately he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Despite his PhD, Brown is exceedingly intellectually dishonest at best.

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