Strange Fire

November 16, 2013

About a month ago John MacArthur had a conference at his church called Strange Fire. All the media from that conference can be found here. Tim Challies blogged the conference. You can find his summaries here. MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, R.C. Sproul and many others expressed their views that much of what is found in charismatic churches isn’t biblical. If you are interested in the issue, at least peruse Challies’ summaries.

I emerged from my high school years having great skepticism about extra-biblical revelation. I had attended an Assembly of God church as a little kid and I never quite escaped the trauma of that event. The church I grew up in experienced a split essentially over the charismatic issue. The years haven’t altered my views. Given that I am a very simple guy, I just haven’t understood the need for extra messages from God. If Scripture equipes us for “every good work,” why would we need anything more? If a prophet delivers a message that is in tune with scripture, it is superfluous. If it doesn’t correspond with scripture, it is error. My view is that God speaks through his Word and Spirit. His Spirit enables us to understand and apply the Word.

I often cite Stephen Altrogge’s writings. I appreciate his teaching. Stephen does believe that the gift of prophecy continues today. Here is what he says about the gift. Essentially he believes that prophecy in the New Testament isn’t infallible or binding. Again, I just don’t see this in the New Testament. If someone is speaking from God, why wouldn’t what he says be truth? Adam Parker grapples with Altrogge’s views. I agree with what he writes. Now for a bit of balance. I resonate with Doug Wilson’s slight push back to the SF conference in his piece “Excesses of the Wahoo Brethren.”

I so appreciate many who of those don’t see things as I do (Altrogge, Piper, Carson, Grudem, and Storms to name a few). The interesting thing is that while our views about the gifts might be different, our practice is very similar. Most, first and foremost, go to the Word and pursue wisdom in making a decision. If they “receive” a message from God they still run it through the grid of scripture and wisdom. My problem is that I don’t like leaving the door open. An otherwise sane, rational, Word-driven believer “hears” something from God and before you know it, he or she is spouting crazy stuff. And, who can argue with direct revelation?

Again, I am a simply guy. Too many sources of revelation and direction confuse me. At my age, the last thing I need is more confusion. I love my charismatic brothers and sisters. We just don’t always “get” the same message.

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9 Responses to “Strange Fire”

  1. Stephen Altrogge Says:

    Thanks for the link!!


  2. I haven’t read all the blogs yet but just off of the top of my head I’ve always wondered about the prayer language Pentecostals receive. I have prayed that if God wanted me to have a prayer language He would give me one. Nothing happened. J.Vernon Magee said that he didn’t speak in tongues so I’m in good company.

  3. Jim Kelly Says:

    I believe God uses many people in many ways with the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, all the gifts, unlike MacArthur who believes the gifts have stopped. I also believe there are many charlatans out there giving a bad name to the charismatic movement. What I find “Strange” is we have 1 Bible and so many different denominations and different beliefs, you can/can’t lose salvation, pre/mid/post tribulations, gay marriage, hell/no hell, Calvinist belief, etc etc. Like you, I love all my brothers in Christ, Charismatic, Calvinist anyone who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  4. Mark Says:

    Jim, I appreciate your balanced response. It is interesting that we do have so many views. I suspect that part of the problem is that we are dealing with a very complex literary document that is ancient. As you know, parts of it are 3,500 years old. While the central truths are clear, many of the peripheral issues aren’t. Then, of course, we all come the Bible with our presupposition glasses on. We see what we want to see. We believe what we already believe.

  5. phfs9 Says:

    The generalization of this article is that it points to “personal belief”. How does each individual and each denomination determine, discern, teach, learn and live what is written in the Bible?

    Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

    “Verse 12 is often cited in refutation of the opinion that sincerity in one’s beliefs is all that matters. One can sincerely believe in atheism or any of the pagan religions or even in his own moral judgments, but they will end in death, not salvation and life eternal with God. God’s Word, not man’s opinion, is the criterion. No humanistically oriented reasoning can ever lead to true life. Note that this warning is repeated again in Proverbs 16:25.”

    Quoted from ‘The Remarkable Wisdom of Solomon’ Henry M. Morris – Master Books.

  6. Mark Says:

    Great quote! People often say that sincerity is the key. I think everyone is sincere. Everyone is sincerely trying to get all they can out of life.

  7. phfs9 Says:

    My personal goal is not so much to get what I can out of life as far as day-to-day living nearly as much as what I can get out of the Bible day-to-day…..how far I can carry what I glean, gather, instill and incorporate what I learn into my daily life. I love Biblical conversations with others. I love Bible study in any form. The Bible reads like Peyton Place as far as human behaviors go. That makes it interesting and it definitely holds my attentions…….so much so that once in a while I start reading so late in the day that I forget about dinner and here comes a hungry hubby from a hard day’s labor. If I were to allow myself to focus solely on what I can get out of my life here on earth I would fall incredibly short of what it is God is trying to convey to me. As it is He has to tell me more than once!

  8. Mark Says:

    You are proving what Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” You are looking for all life has to offer. You have found that in a walk and relationship with God. He is the One who ultimately satisfies; not the things of this world.


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