Thinking Out Loud

November 18, 2013

Were Strange Fire Participants Caricatured?

First of all, I want to start a rumor that John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference was actually a misspelling of its original name, Strang Fire Conference, named after Stephen Strang, the publisher of Charisma Magazine. I think with all that’s gone on before, during and after the conference, this story has as much plausibility as anything else.

Second, a question: Am I the only one who found the presence of Joni Eareckson Tada at the even somewhat unsettling?  I mean, I’m sure that over a lifetime she’s been besieged with people wanting her to “claim her healing.” Who wouldn’t want to see someone of her profile get up out of that wheelchair and walk? But Joni is more than a movie and a paperback biography. Her writings on various topics have earned her the right to be heard as a serious theological author, and if she falls on the cessationist side of the dispensational equation, so be it. I still find her inclusion in the conference…unsettling.

But mostly today, I want to direct you to an article at Desiring God (well, there’s a first for this blog!) dealing with what John Piper may have been quoted as saying, or characterized as saying, and what he really believes about spiritual gifts. Here’s a sample:

John PiperAt the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

For years John Piper’s words dominated the Christian blogosphere. I never quite got that. I think he’s still worshiped as some kind of God by various hyper-Calvinists and militant Reformers. But let’s set all that aside today, and consider the possibility that the man offers a great deal of balance on this issue.

Continue reading Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos at Desiring God.

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October 19, 2013

Holy Spirit Falls on Strange Fire Conference

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

John MacArthur FBThe following report is unconfirmed.

Minutes before the end of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, with attendees all together in the convention hall, suddenly there was a sound like the rush of a giant wind, which filled the entire auditorium where they were seated. People reported seeing flashes of fire that subdivided and landed on each person. Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit empowered them.

Conference delegates included people from other nations who were baffled by the sound of their mother tongues being spoken. Amazed, they asked, ‘Aren’t all these people Americans? How then are we hearing them in the national languages of our countries?’ Confused, they started saying, ‘What the heck is going on?’

Some, however said perhaps after three days of this, some of them had a few drinks during the Friday supper break.

Then John MacArthur stood up and went to the microphone and addressed the crowd.

“Well,” he said; “This is ironic.”

Thinking Out Loud is looking for readers who can corroborate this story.

October 18, 2013

Adding Fuel to the Strange Fire

strange-fire

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.”

John MacArthurThat 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:

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.

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.

There will be more. The conference runs all day today, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM.  You can watch some of the live stream at this link.

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