I told her that during the 18 days I would be in Southern California, I wanted to visit some churches. She recommended a few — some of which I later wished I had not skipped — but seemed adamant as to the one I should not bother with, mentioning the name of a pastor, John MacArthur who I had never heard of. The woman had grown up Pentecostal, and noted that the man, in her words, “has not been very kind to us.”
That was a long, long time ago. Fast forward a few more years, and I heard the same pastor’s name mentioned in terms of “dispensational theology” (a term I was yet to fully grasp) and again, his antagonism toward the Charismatic movement in general.
All this to say, by way of introduction, that this week’s Strange Fire Conference comes as no surprise, either to me or to many others. This is, in every sense, the conference John MacArthur has been building toward for a lifetime; it is his legacy culminating 50 years of ministry.
Hyperbole has its place, and Jesus Himself used a variety of rhetorical devices to get His hearers’ attention. But according to the tone and tenor of the conference we’ve been hearing about this week, and in prior promotional videos, this is a slap in the face to each and every one of our Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters. As one writer stated, with broad brush strokes, MacArthur paints a picture of Charismatics that is as anchored in reality as it is to state that the Westboro folks are representative of all things Baptist.
Rather than continue to write further about a conference I didn’t attend or watch, I want to give you some links to articles written by those who, either in person or through the internet, had front row seats. These represent some of the Christian blogosphere’s top writers:
- B. J. Stockman’s article is listed first here because it was published, in great foresight, on September 12th. John MacArthur’s *Strange Fire* Conference, Charismatics, & Christ
- Michael Brown writes for Charisma Magazine. He quotes MacArthur as saying that the movement of which he (Brown) is a part, “represents a deviant mutation of truth.” A Final Appeal to Pastor John MacArthur on the Eve of His ‘Strange Fire’ Conference
- Also earlier in the week, C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen says that with the advance materials promoting the conference, MacArthur “acted very irresponsibly and is doing incredible damage to the body of Christ.” Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice
- Also, Lisa Robinson quotes an earlier article Patton wrote, as well as a helpful graphic he created. Cessationism, Charismania and Criticism
- Adrian Warnock’s piece was published Wednesday, but indicates the degree to which John MacA. has ramped up the rhetoric. Strange Fire: John MacArthur claims no good has come out of the Charismatic Movement
- At the blog, Prodigal Thought, there are some samples of the videos used to promote the conference. The Odd Approach of the Strange Fire Conference
- Michael Grenholm also notes how the language of the discussion has changed from a doctrinal consideration of cessationism, to MacArthur coming out swinging; accusing the Pentecostal movement of being demonic. Why Cessationism is Unbiblical, Irrational and Boring
- Luke Geraty finds himself in “complete dismay” at MacArthur’s approach and finds the California pastor totally misrepresenting the people he attacks. Strange Fire Turns Toward Strained Polemics
- Not to be left out, Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk feels that in light of this conference, the name of MacArthur’s ministry — Grace To You — is a bit of a misnomer. MacArthur vs. Strange Fire
- And the title of this blog post leaves no room for ambiguity — Strange Fire Conference: John MacArthur’s Insufferable Hypocrisy
Patton: John MacArthur is losing his voice, and I don’t want him to. His reputation dismantles his platform to speak at just about any conference. He has worked himself into a corner where every time he writes a book or opens his mouth, many of us say, “Oh no!” before anything else. His radio program is called “Grace to You” and we are often left thinking “grace to who?”
I should say that not everything online presupposes MacArthur’s error in promoting and presenting this conference. Frank Turk at Team Pyro comes off his hiatus to basically challenge any and all among the Charismatic community to a spiritual duel of sorts, to take place on the field of podcast audio.
And if you want balance, I find Tim Challies gets into great detail with his live blogging of each speaker.
- MacArthur’s Opening Session
- Joni Eareckson Tada
- R. C. Sproul
- Steve Lawson
- Conrad Mbewe
- the first day of the conference in general
- MacArthur’s Day Two Session
- Tom Pennington
- Steve Lawson (2)
- Conrad Mbewe (2)
- Conclusion – MacArthur
I have to confess I have not read all Tims Challies’ exhaustive articles in full, but with him and the other writers linked here, I would encourage you to read the comments as well as the articles.