As many will know, the Strange Fire Conference, headed up by John MacArthur, exploded within the blogosphere world this past week. The main thrust of the conference was to challenge the charismatic-continuationist movement of the past 100 years, with some pretty heavy-handed, sweeping charges against a movement that is well over 500 million strong. I did share some brief thoughts, also linking to some of the more important articles I read from other charismatic-continuationists (with one coming from a non-charismatic).
But, I was interested to find a short video in one of Adrian Warnock’s articles. The video actually consists of a short exposition from Sam Storms (well-known reformed, charismatic-continuationist). In the video, Storms lays out some interesting prophecies (or words of knowledge) given by the famous British preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Now, what one needs to note is that Spurgeon is one of the great fathers of Reformed Baptist theology. This is important to note because this is the main theological position of John MacArthur.
Seems a bit of conflict between Spurgeon’s theology and MacArthur’s.
Now, of course, for many, the way to “get out” of this theological quagmire is to argue that cessationists do actually believe God does as he wills, thus allowing for exceptional situations in which miracles and prophecy would occur. It’s not something to really expect or actually seek – it’s abnormal.
But I was struck at how the video shows that Spurgeon had these personal revelations in more than just a one-off situation. These are Spurgeon’s own words in his autobiography.
And this has been one of the main problems from the past week: Why would this conference make such sweeping statements like this?
“The charismatic movement offers nothing to true worship because it has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine.” (quote from here)
Not only that, but in a video interview with Phil Johnson from a previous year, MacArthur blames the charismatic movement as the main reason for the church being in “the mess that it is in today”!
Again, this is more than asking us to be wise and guard against excesses. This is sweeping aside a movement that, over the past 100+ years, has seen your fair share of Christ-centered fruit around the world (not to mention that I’d argue it is both biblical and historical – see my previous article with specific links to my articles).
So, yes, let’s recognize the problematic teachings of some of the TBN (or God Channel) megastars. But let’s also confess the very helpful theological teachings of many theologians of the past and that of the charismatic-continuationists that have arisen over the past decades – Sam Storms, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Adrian Warnock, Andrew Wilson, Gordon Fee, Max Turner, Jack Deere, Roger Stronstad, Vinson Synan, Craig Keener, D.A. Carson and a host of others (not to mention the thousands of charismatic-continuationist seminary graduates who are now pastoring, teaching, training and involved in global missions, but are not so well-known, as is the usual case).
And, just to note more interesting thoughts from varying pastors and theologians, I encourage you to read this post from today at Internet Monk, one in which Chaplain Mike takes a very close look at the theological teachings of such stalwarts as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and other studied theologians. You might be slightly surprised.
While I believe MacArthur’s intentions were noble in trying to defend what he believes is true biblical theology, I believe a line was over-stepped in his somewhat ruthless approach. And not to mention that he wasn’t as prepared to recognize what God has done across the varying denominations, groups and movements of God’s people outside of the caricatures he produced.
This movement known as the Pentecostal-charismatic-continuationist branch of Christ’s church carries much more weight in healthy theology and practice than one might have been led to believe. And with our faithful brothers and sisters across Latin America, Africa, India and the Asiatics living this out in a way that challenges our nice and tidy western systems, we can truly know God doing something more powerful than we could ask or imagine.
The continuationists will continue to move forward in the purposes of God.