Don Johnson's review of MacArthur's "Strange Fire"

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Jim's picture
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Don Johnson's review of MacArthur's "Strange Fire"

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Thanks Don

I know Don has some issue with MacArthur, but I appreciated the even-handed review of the book. I think Don did a great job reviewing a fantastic book.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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An Important Point

Quoting MacArthur who is quoted in the review:

 

Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over biblical truth. Though many of them pay lip service to the authority of God’s Word, in practice they deny it.

 

This is by and large wrong, IMO.  The problem is that most of the folks who embrace the prosperity gospel — and other views most of us would consider extreme — think they are submitting to Scripture. They just can’t interpret worth a hill of beans.   They confuse description with prescription, and the idea of objective, logical interpretation is nowhere modeled for them.  They believe the Bible is a magic book, not merely an inspirted book to be understood in context.

I have seen the same mindlessness in non-charismatic fundamental/evangelical churches.  It takes effort and discipline to interpret obejctively, and many Christians  consider such an approach “cold.”  Believers of all stripes prefer a simpler, more mystical or devotional approach to Scripture.  

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed,

Ed,

I think the quote says the same thing you are saying. They pay lip service to authority of scripture, but their eisogesis drives their practice more than the scriptures actually do. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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agreed on mindlessness, but...

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I have seen the same mindlessness in non-charismatic fundamental/evangelical churches.  It takes effort and discipline to interpret obejctively, and many Christians  consider such an approach "cold."  Believers of all stripes prefer a simpler, more mystical or devotional approach to Scripture.  

Would mindless fundamentalists/evangelicals equate experience with Scripture? I recall an old J. B. Williams sermon on charismatism. He recounts a story of a service where he was preaching against tongues. A woman came up to him after the service and said, "I don't care what the Bible says, I know what I feel."

And... is not the emotional/mystical/experiential aspects of the modern church a consequence of the heavy influence of charismatic false teaching?

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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Great book

I am almost finished reading Strange Fire. Very hard to put it down, as MacArthur is very good at what he does. One thing I kept an eye on is the charge made by other reviewers who said MacArthur painted with too broad a brush. I did not see that at all. MacArthur repeatedly used language like 'most charismatics,' 'many charismatics', 'some pentacostals' and so on. May this book be widely read. I do want to add a little to what the review linked here said. My impression is that Dr. MacArthur had three objectives here with this book. 1) Strengthen cessationists who have not thought about this issue recently, 2) Attempt to convert those who are 'open, but cautious' only because its cool to hold this view, not because they have thought deeply about the issue, and 3) See if maybe even some like Piper, Carson, etc might re-think their views.

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broad brush

While I think that MacArthur did qualify his comments with most/many, I think he left himself somewhat open to the broad brush charge because the things he objects to the 'open but cautious' people would say, "that's not us". As a result, I think they would dismiss his arguments. However, I think the open but cautious people don't realize that their views have the same fraudulent foundation as the wackier crowd. The theology is exactly the same. I can't remember if I made that point in the review, but I could wish that connection had been drawn a little more definitely.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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You made that point

Don, you did make that point in the review. But its also true as you suggest that the open-but-cautious want to have their cake and eat it too. I see two sub-groups under the 'open-but-cautious' flag. I see those who have thought through the issues, completed their study and decided to dismiss/ignore the case made for cessation (as so nicely done by Tom Pennington in the conference), and embrace the open stance. Then the other group is made up of people who simply want to join with whatever is cool at the moment, and if Piper and others say its cool to be open-but-cautious, then so are they.

I would also point out that one of the great points brought out in the Strange Fire conference was the fact that the caution expressed by the open-but-cautious crowd is always in the direction being worried that they might deny something that the Spirit is really doing, rather than a worry that the Holy Spirit is being blasphemed. Very telling which way their feet are pointed.

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Wouldn't it be loverly!

I'm very interested in the discussion over cessationism and am in the process of listening to the Strange Fire Conference. I know that there will be nits to be picked as JM is not one of "us". Wouldn't it be great if the FBFI could do a conference like this and garner as much attention.

I was encouraged that Dr. Jones III contacted him and thanked him for what he'd done. I'm not aware that anyone else did the same.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Ron, John MacArthur is one of

Ron, John MacArthur is one of us and I gladly stand with him.  Leave the schismaticism to the fringe lounies.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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good analysis

Darrell Post wrote:

I would also point out that one of the great points brought out in the Strange Fire conference was the fact that the caution expressed by the open-but-cautious crowd is always in the direction being worried that they might deny something that the Spirit is really doing, rather than a worry that the Holy Spirit is being blasphemed. Very telling which way their feet are pointed.

Regarding the two types of open but cautious. I also think this portion that I am quoting is particularly important and right on.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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JM as one of us

James K, I agree that he fits my definition of a fundamentalist and probably yours too. My tongue in cheek comment was from my assumption that I don't think that Don would consider him a fundamentalist, although I would hope that he would.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Who are these people?

Darrell, although I haven't yet read the book or listened to the Strange Fire conference messages, I must say that I am really puzzled by this remark:

I would also point out that one of the great points brought out in the Strange Fire conference was the fact that the caution expressed by the open-but-cautious crowd is always in the direction being worried that they might deny something that the Spirit is really doing, rather than a worry that the Holy Spirit is being blasphemed. Very telling which way their feet are pointed.

Who are the people being referred to here? In all my years interacting with men who would identify themselves as "open but cautious" -- mostly Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians going back at least twenty years -- I have yet to know one like those described here. In every case their intention when describing themselves as "cautious" was to assert their skepticism about much -- if not most -- of what passes for works of the Spirit amongst Charismatics. In fact, if the point expressed in your remarks was true, they would not call themselves "open but cautious" at all, for this describes them as being cautious about how open they are willing to be in accepting Charismatic claims, not about how closed they want to be for fear of questioning the work of the Spirit. 

At any rate, I am really surprised by what you have written, and I would like to know who these men are, since I have never come across one. I have in every case found that "their feet are pointed" in the opposite direction to what you have described. To be sure, men like Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms or John Piper might sometimes fit what you have described, but, then, I have never actually found any of them referring to themselves as "open but cautious." Maybe one of them has at some point, and I am just unaware of it. If so, I feel certain every other "open but cautious" man I have ever met would take exception with them over the use of the phrase to describe themselves.