The Holy Spirit and “Strange Fire”

Strange-FireIn place of my weekly Six-Pack, allow me to share a series of links around a recent “hot button” discussion. Earlier this month, well-known teacher and writer John MacArthur hosted a conference called “Strange Fire”. In a sentence, the event was a call for cautious consideration of the Charismatic Movement.

And it almost blew up portions of the internet!

I, for one, have no strong feelings about John MacArthur. I have at least one of his commentaries on my bookshelf, though I cannot claim him as a key influence of my thought or theology. Truth be told, I likely couldn’t summarize his theology accurately in a sentence or two. More personally, I confess that this discussion may not have even piqued my interest a couple years ago.  But since then, the Spirit of God has been forcefully active in my pocket of the world. In a few bold moves, He forced me to promote Him from the basement-storage-room treatment I had been giving Him as a fringe theological subtopic.  [I have described my long-time dissatisfaction with cessation HERE.]  Part of this journey has involved in a growing commitment to glean the best teaching I can find from my more Spirit-minded brothers and sisters. For this reason, the Charismatic movement means a great deal more to me today than it has in the past — and that is why this discussion now grabs my attention in ways it wouldn’t have a short time ago.

The One who hovered over the original depths of chaos, whose power under-girded the resurrection of Christ, and who empowered the early Church in astounding ways — yeah, He is not keen on being ignored.

That said, He is also not keen of being abused or used.

Thus, a California conference was born in October 2013 to provide a platform for those who hold substantial concerns over the weaknesses, abuses, and blind spots they observe within the Charismatic movement.  In some ways, this conference and its corresponding book may serve as a tip for a far larger conversation. If you care to be up to speed OR to understand why you should care at all about an involved dialog on how the Holy Spirit works in our lives today, below are a series of links that may prove helpful.

  • Strange Fire: This is the official site of the conference. Recordings of all lessons and panel discussions are freely available to all who desire to listen in.
  • Why You Should Care About the “Strange Fire” Discussion: For the Gospel Coalition, Thabiti Anyabwile attempts to summarize why the dialog revolving around this conference and MacArthur’s new book are relevant for far more than pastors and theologians.
  • Strange Fire in the Churches of Christ: John MacArthur, a giant in Reformed circles, is a cessationist. He believes that the gifts of the Spirit were limited to the first-century church. Richard Beck grew up in the Churches of Christ (as did I). Our “party line” has also long been one of cessationism. Here Beck provides a helpful summary of how our heritage might link into this emerging conversation.
  • Strange Fire: MacArthur’s Opening Address: Listening online, Tim Challies offers this summary of what he felt MacArthur was communicating in his conference-starting lesson.
  • The “Strange Fire” of John MacArthur: Eddie Hyatt, a well-educated and long time Pentecostal preacher offers this pre-release review of MacArthur’s new book. In a sentence, he sees a preset bias compromising whatever investigation has been attempted.
  • Strange Fire: A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur: Adrian Warnock offers this gracious yet opposed reply to MacArthur’s views. Primarily, he takes issue with the lack of nuance being observed in the critique of everything Charismatic.
  • Strange Fire: A Refutation: Frank Viola offers this seven-point summary of his assessment of MacArthur’s latest book. Subsequent posts on his blog aim to flesh out this summarized list.
  • See You in Seattle?: Mark Driscoll and John MacArthur haven’t seen eye to eye on a number of occasions. This is likely another of those. That said, Driscoll attended “Strange Fire” and is inviting MacArthur so join him at an upcoming conference for some public conversation. The public letter is intriguing to at least this reader!

YOUR TURN: How do you understand the Spirit’s place in the live of Christians today?  Is He doing anything? Is He limited? Less necessary than in earlier times? Needed more than ever? What are your perception or experiences?



3 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit and “Strange Fire”

  1. Very interesting. I read Driscoll’s letter and appreciate much of his message, though I do wonder a bit at the necessity of posting the entirety of his personal letter to John MacArthur online?

    • Same thoughts here, Harm. The text of the letter is wonderful. Was the public move a noble effort to keep the entire discussion “above board” or a sly strategy to publicly pressure MacArthur into accepting? Or perhaps both? The opinions of these two men are not that formative upon me, but a high-profile and open conversation on the Charismatic movement and the activity of the Spirit would certainly grab my attention, all the same.

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