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Pouring Holy Water on STRANGE FIRE

A Critique of John MacArthur's Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

by Frank Viola

Endorsements
"Frank Viola offers a clear, concise, and penetrating response to the harshest expression of hard cessationism today, while at many points also inviting readers to greater biblical fidelity and a deeper walk with Christ." Craig Keener, Professor of New Testament at Asbury Seminary Strange Fire has re-ignited a debate among Christians that will likely never be fully resolved this side of heaven. But the dialogue need not be characterized by angry and divisive rhetoric. While we should all aim for theological clarity and understanding, we should as readily be concerned for Christ-like charity and unity. Frank Violas insightful analysis of MacArthurs rejection of charismatic theology and practice should contribute immensely to our growth in grace and a deeper understanding and experience of the Spirits work in the church tod ay. One need not agree with Viola on every point to profit greatly from this work. Sam Storms, Ph.D., Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK "What a great, edifying read! This is not only an effective, concise rebuttal to Pastor MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire, but it presents a Jesus-exalting, faith-building case for the continuance of the New Testament gifts of the Spirit, replete with excellent, inspirational quotes." Michael L. Brown, Ph.D., author of Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire (December, 2013) "Strange Fire has ignited a debate on the issue of Christian experience that at times has generated more heat than light. Frank Viola's contribution avoids the unhelpful rhetoric of some, and demonstrates his biblical convictions. Viola rejects the extreme views of many who are charismatics or cessationists. This critique will definitely help you understand the perspective of one who could be called a moderate charismatic." Adrian Warnock, adrianwarnock.com

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Acknowledgements
Thanks to Ryan J. Rhoades of ReformationDesigns.com for creating the cover. (If you don't like the cover, blame Ryan.) Thanks to Craig Keener, Dr. Michael Brown, Sam Storms, and Adrian Warnock for reviewing the original manuscript and giving me their critical feedback. (If you disagree with this critique, send your hate mail to Craig, Michael, Sam, and Adrian.) Thanks to Peter Deniet for proofing the book. (If you find a typo, it's Peter's fault!)

Contents

1. Why I'm Making This Critique Available 2. Broken Fellowship Over a Peripheral Doctrine 3. Commending & Criticizing MacArthur's Charismatic Blasting 4. Does the New Testament Teach That the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased? 5. The Scriptures and the Power of God 6. The Relationship Between Truth and Experience 7. Revelation Misunderstood 8. Interpreting the Bible by the Spirit and the Intellect 9. The Third Wave 10. Does God Still Heal Today? 11. What About Health and Wealth? 12. Did the Apostolic Ministry Really Disappear? 13. That Thorny Gift of Tongues 14. Five Big Questions 15. A Challenge & Request

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. ~ Proverbs 18:17

1. Why I'm Making This Critique Available


If you have followed my ministry for any time, you are aware that I rarely if ever write negative reviews or critiques on the writings of others. In October 1994, however, I wrote a critique of John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos (Zondervan, 1992). I was in my 20s at the time. I will explain why I wrote the critique in the next chapter. In October 2013, MacArthur released a new book entitled Strange Fire (Thomas Nelson, 2013). After comparing the two books (Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire), the arguments in MacArthur's earlier book are simply rehashed in the newer volume. Strange Fire simply adds more contemporary examples and ratchets up the vitriolic rhetoric. Strange Fire, then, is the same dance with a newer tune. This critique is a response to both Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos. Let me say at the outset that I have a lot of respect for John MacArthur. He is a gifted Bible teacher, and I receive him as a brother in Christ. This critique, then, is not a personal attack. It is simply my response to his two books. The following is a comment from an early reader. I thought it was so well articulated that I wanted to add it at the beginning of this document. It gives voice to my goal in making it available to a wider audience. "I think your critique will help many who easily get confused about 'charismania' (I still do). I will defend my charismatic brothers and sisters to the end because they are often assaulted by many types of Christians (they are also the whipping boy of the media). When someone like MacArthur writes in the manner that they do about this topic, it can be very persuasive. Also, it can cause intense conflict within because people are left with the notion that they must either embrace this view or reject it (all or nothing is how many people operate with these matters). Your critique allows people to acknowledge certain faults without throwing away that which is valid (or which they themselves may have experienced and now have the conflict of doubting that experience).
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Giving these folks footing with which to navigate this difficult terrain is a service, Frank. There is much that is practiced in the charismatic world that I am uncomfortable with (and some practices/beliefs I outright disavow), but as you said, there is value to what some of that 'movement' has contributed and believers need to feel free to acknowledge both." My hope is that this document will drive you to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word so that you may be equipped to separate the wheat from the chaff regarding the blessed Holy Spirit, and open your heart to all of God's people, no matter how weak, immature, or deficient in light they may be. Yours in His grace, Frank Viola October 2013

2. Broken Fellowship Over a Peripheral Doctrine


The Gospel According to Jesus, Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire are the only books I have read by John MacArthur. After reading them, I was surprised that they were penned by the same author. While I found The Gospel According to Jesus to be a superb and refreshing discussion of the original content of the gospel, Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire were a disappointment. Unlike The Gospel According to Jesus, I found Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire to be exegetically incorrect on a number of levels, full of misrepresentations and overgeneralizations, feeble in biblical and historical scholarship, and severely flawed in many of their conclusions. Overall, the two books lacked the qualities that reflect the mind of an objective theologian. Many evangelicals share my sentiments regarding MacArthur's two anti-charismatic books. Christianity Today's review of MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos had this to say: While MacArthur should be commended for appealing to sola scriptura, the book vastly overstates the charismatic "threat." MacArthur is all too willing to choose selectively the more extreme cases of charismatic activity to justify his argument, and at times he relies on second-hand sources to indict the defendants. Granted, the ambiguity of an unstructured, popular movement gives MacArthur a free hand, but the reader may wonder why the author fails to interact with evidence that might temper his judgment...Perhaps the major flaw of the book is more attitudinal than methodological. In claiming to see things so clearly--so black and white--MacArthur falls into a restorationist mindset, identified by historian Mark Noll as "intellectual overconfidence, sectarian delusion, and a stunningly naive confidence in the power of humans to extract themselves from the influences of history..." MacArthur fails to acknowledge any element of solidarity with the movement he criticizes. While he calls charismatics brothers and sisters in Christ, he fails to explore the historical and theological connectedness of Pentecostalism and evangelicalism and does not see that some of his criticisms in particular apply to evangelicals in general: both represent popular, democratic movements; both are organized around strong personalities; both foster individualistic faith...If he were aware of these commonalities, MacArthur might have written 'Charismatic Chaos' with greater sensitivity and humility--more as a pastor than as a preacher. I must confess that I would have never thought to write this critique on my own initiative, for my calling in the Body of Christ is not centered on correcting the errors of others. God forbid! We are all in process and that includes me.
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However, when a brother with whom I held close fellowship decided to no longer associate with me and my church after reading MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos, I felt the liberty before the Lord to engage in such a task. This work, then, was not initially intended for a general audience. I wrote the very first draft of it in June 1992 exclusively for the brother with whom I had lost fellowship. In 1994, I revised it slightly for some others who were interested in reading it. Yet because I have seen other cases of wounded and confused relationships resulting from MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos over the years, I felt the freedom to include my response to Strange Fire to the original critique and make it available to all Christians in 2013. While doctrinal differences among the Lord's people are to be expected, division on the basis of such differences is contrary to the Lord's thought and desire. The basis for fellowship is the Body of Christ alone. If one is a member of the Body, possessing the life of Christ, we must receive him, no matter how deficient in light, overzealous, or immature he may be. Hence, it is a gross inconsistency to call an individual a "brother" or "sister" and at the same time refuse fellowship with them on the ground of a doctrinal difference. As the Scripture plainly teaches, if God receives a person, then we must also receive them (Rom. 14:3; 15:7). I give thanks to the Lord that sometime after this brother read my critique, God restored our fellowship together. Concerning myself, I am not a charismatic. I consider myself rather to be post-charismatic. While I have had wide experience in various charismatic circles in the past, I do not belong to a charismatic church. Yet I believe in the perpetuity (continuation) of spiritual gifts as described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and I exercise them. But my theological views cannot be understood within the pale of what is generally regarded as "charismatic theology." It is often overlooked that multitudes of the Lord's people throughout church history have embraced the perpetuity of spiritual gifts--many of whom were alive well before the "charismatic movement" existed. Spiritual giants of the past like A.B. Simpson, Andrew Murray, R.A. Torrey, John Wesley, JessiePenn Lewis, Watchman Nee, Martin Lloyd Jones, A.W. Tozer, et al., have all believed in the operation of the miraculous gifts in their day.
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In our own time, Reformed teachers like John Piper, Adrian Warnock, Matt Chandler, Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, Mark Driscoll, and Francis Chan all believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts. And some of them exercise them regularly. The same is true for erstwhile southern Baptist authors like Peter Lord, Jack Taylor, and James Robison. In fact, most evangelicals today are "continuationists," though they may not call themselves "charismatics" (Ed Stetzer is an example). Does MacArthur really believe that Piper, Chan, Storms, Chandler, Grudem, Stetzer, Lord, Taylor, etc. are "false teachers," "charlatans," and "heretics"? Personally, I disavow any label other than that of "Christian," just as many of the people I have listed would. This work, then, is neither a defense nor an apology for the charismatic movement. Like MacArthur, I have found the "movement" to be flawed in many ways. But there is so much diversity among charismatics and charismatic churches today that I think the word "movement" is inaccurate to describe them. The charismatic world is certainly not a monolith by any stretch. For instance, Francis Frangipane and Benny Hinn are light years apart in their theology and practice. Jack Hayford and Kenneth Copeland are as well. The late Ern Baxter and Mike Murdock are so radically different that they appear to come from different planets! Nevertheless, I'm using the term "movement" to describe people and groups who would describe themselves as "charismatic." The excesses, errors, and weaknesses present in charismatic circles do not discount the reality of spiritual gifts. Nor do they leave the "movement" without any value to the church as a whole. While it would be quite easy for me to write a critique on the abuses within the charismatic movement and the underlying causes for those abuses, these are beyond the compass of this small manuscript. The central focus of this critique is simply to show that both Scripture and church history yield strong evidence that spiritual gifts are still extant in the church today. My primary intention in writing it is to help my non-charismatic brethren who have been influenced by MacArthur's books to reconsider and re-examine their understanding of the present-day work of the Spirit. My hope is that my non-charismatic brethren will open up their hearts more fully toward their charismatic brethren and sistren and vice versa.
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Finally, I want to inform my readers that I am releasing this work to a general audience with much hesitation. It is merely a brief and preliminary response to MacArthur's two books. It is neither complete nor exhaustive. Many of the concepts that I raise are not fully developed and some of the questions that revolve around the matter of spiritual gifts are not addressed. For the most part, I have retained the conversational and informal tenor that this manuscript originally contained when I wrote it to my friend in 1992. So in many places it reads more like a personal letter than a formal theological treatise. Nevertheless, due to the extreme position that Chaos and Strange Fire take and the harm they have already caused in the Body of Christ, I felt at liberty to set forth this critique, with all its limitations.

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3. Commending & Criticizing MacArthur's Charismatic Blasting


Having read both Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire, I want to cut to the chase in this Introduction and tell you where I think MacArthur is dead-on and where I think his conclusions are flawed and even outrageous. The rest of this critique will provide evidence and examples supporting each point: 1. The charismatic world is an easy target for any critic because there are a lot of problems within the camp. There is no doubt that a number of high-profile charismatic leaders are guilty of outlandish teachings, absurd practices, stunts, gimmicks, exaggerations, and even fraud. And so are some of their followers. MacArthur is right about this and he articulates the problem well. However, MacArthur is not the only person who has made this observation. Many charismatic leaders have as well. MacArthur even quotes some of them in Strange Fire. Just as those charismatic leaders were not able to reel in the excesses that exist within the movement, I do not think MacArthur's attempts will do so either. In fact, MacArthur's latest book is his third attempt on this score (The Charismatics, 1978; Charismatic Chaos, 1992; Strange Fire, 2013). 2. I cut my teeth as a disciple of Jesus in the Pentecostal/charismatic world, and I know it well. It is true that many of the charismatics I have met put the Holy Spirit on the throne and make Jesus a footnote. I have written extensively about this problem in my books Revise Us Again, Jesus Manifesto, and my blog series Rethinking the Holy Spirit. I have also addressed the plague of seeking the power of the Spirit (God's hand) over pursuing Jesus Christ (God's face). However, charismatics are not alone in falling prey to this error. Many Reformed people and evangelicals have also put some THING (typically theology, evangelism, apologetics, eschatology, etc.) over and above Jesus Christ. So no Christian is immune to this problem. In fact, in my early Christian life, I was guilty of this very thing on numerous occasions without realizing it. See Deep Ecclesiology: One Man's Journey Into Rediscovering Jesus where I tell my story.

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3. MacArthur is wrong in that he paints the entire charismatic world--which would include all charismatics and all charismatic churches--with the same broad brush. The fact is, I have met many charismatics who were not guilty of any of the problems that MacArthur benightedly lays at their feet. For example, the late David Wilkerson was a tremendous help to me when I was in my 20s. He encouraged me to make Christ, not the Holy Spirit, preeminent in my life. Wilkerson--a charismatic leader--wrote a classic article called A Christless Pentecost on this subject. I would encourage anyone who buys MacArthur's arguments to read The Cross and the Switchblade and ask yourself if it is possible that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit are still operative today. In addition, I wonder if MacArthur would admit that Teen Challenge, founded by Wilkerson, has been a blessing to many lost young people. Throughout his books, MacArthur continually uses phrases like, "Charismatics believe ... such and such." "Charismatics think ... such and such." And then "the charismatic movement is guilty of . . . such and such." This is simply false. It would be accurate to say, "some charismatics believe" . . . or even "many charismatics believe . . ." or "some in the charismatic movement believe . . . " Using MacArthur's logic and approach, one could easily write a book about the toxicity of the Reformed movement by painting all Reformed Christians as elitist, sectarian, divisive, arrogant, exclusive, and in love with "doctrine" more than with Christ. And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R.T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. Or Peter Ruckman and Jack Hyles, et al. to characterize Fundamentalist Baptists. Or William R Crews and L.R. Shelton Jr., et al. to represent Reformed Baptists. My point is that countless charismatic, Reformed, and Baptist people would strongly object to the idea that any of these gentleman could accurately represent their respective tribes. Even so, the game of burning down Straw Man City with a torch is nothing new.

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The people whom MacArthur highlights as the poster boys for charismatics--Kenneth Copeland, Peter Popoff, Paula White, Bob Jones, E.W. Kenyon, Eddie Long, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson--simply do not represent the views or practices of the majority of charismatic Christians in the world today. 4. MacArthur misrepresents people. In Charismatic Chaos, MacArthur takes on the late Kathryn Kuhlman. But astonishingly, he relies on a critic who used outlandishly deceptive methods of research to accuse her of fraud. When you get to the part of my critique that discusses this critic, prepare to descend into grunts and sighs. It is profoundly disturbing. At the end of Strange Fire, MacArthur says that charismatics acknowledge that the gifts of the Spirit ceased after the early church and were only recovered in the 20th century. Well, I have never heard a charismatic teach this (though perhaps some have). In the following pages, you will see multiple quotes by the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Church Fathers where they bear witness to miracles, healings, etc. in their day. And I just give a sampling. In fact, MacArthur cherry picks comments from only three Church Fathers, and one of them does not even assert that the gifts of the Spirit passed away. So quoting two Church Fathers does not represent the mind of the post-apostolic church on this issue by any measure. 5. MacArthur makes statements that smell of elitism, sectarianism, and judgmentalism. He says that charismatics do not have the "true gospel" and the "spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit." But that's not all. MacArthur bulbously claims that the charismatic movement "was a farce and a scam from the outset" and accuses it of being a "false church." (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. xix). He then rallies the troops saying, "this is the time for the true church to respond." Really? MacArthur is part of the "true church" and all those poor charismatics are part of the "false church" which is driven by a spirit other than the Holy Spirit? These vitriolic statements suggest that charismatic Christians are not true followers of Jesus. In addition, MacArthur insinuates that the charismatic "movement is characterized by worldly priorities and fleshly pursuits" (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. 57). Hmmm . . . so David
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Wilkerson, Dr. Michael Brown, Adrian Warnock, Francis Frangipane, Sam Storms, and Jack Hayford (and their followers) are/were worldly and fleshly? Really? MacArthur accuses charismatics of being "obsessed with the supposed gifts and power of the Holy Spirit" (Strange Fire, Advanced Reader Copy, p. 53). By the same token, one could say that all Reformed people are obsessed with Calvin's doctrine. But neither comment is fair nor accurate. And then there is this tweet by MacArthur:

Huh? This statement seems to imply that charismatics are not part of the Body of Christ. What other way can one interpret this? Even if MacArthur nuances his comment to say that "most" charismatics are not saved, which a MacArthur fan recently told me, how on earth can he make such a judgment? I have personally known countless charismatic Christians since I was 16 years old and the overwhelming majority were not only saved through the clear preaching of the gospel--repent and trust in Christ alone as absolute Lord and Savior--but they were remarkably devoted to Jesus. In fact, they were more committed to Jesus than many Fundamentalists I have met who "asked Jesus to come into their heart," but lived like hellions when they were not sitting in church on Sunday morning. While I differ with many of my charismatic brethren on the meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the importance of tongues, that does not make them non-Christians. 6. MacArthur's argument that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit have ceased is not only biblically and historically untenable, but it is discounted by the best New Testament evangelical scholars in the world, both past and present. I'm speaking of N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Wayne Grudem, F.F. Bruce, and many others.
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MacArthur is right to say that the Holy Spirit is dishonored when people engage in fleshly mayhem and attribute it to the Spirit of Christ. But I would argue that the Spirit is also grieved and dishonored when a genuine work of God's Spirit is attributed to Satan. The fact is, God sometimes comes to us in ways that make it easy to reject Him. (For biblical examples, see A Vanishing God.) Elsewhere I have made the argument that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements were born with several birth defects from which they have never recovered. Frank Bartleman, an eye-witness to the Azusa Street revival, warned about this. See Azusa Street. But that does not make the entire movement false or without spiritual value. The Reformation was also born with certain birth defects that remain today. Note that I have no ill-will toward MacArthur. I do not know him and I dare not judge his motives (it is serious sin to impute evil intentions to another person's heart). Again, I am not a charismatic nor the son of a charismatic. And I agree with many of MacArthur's criticisms (including his issues with the "New Apostolic Movement"). I also concur with his analysis of what accompanies the Holy Spirit's work (exalting Jesus, confirmed by Scripture, loving others, etc.). And I have articulated these points myself in public writings. But . . . I believe MacArthur destroys his own effectiveness and impact by distorting an otherwise valid critique with misrepresentations, straw man arguments, uncharitable vitriol, and weak hermeneutics. If MacArthur had written Strange Fire without the vitriol, elitism, sweeping denunciations, and misrepresentations, it would have been a good book in my opinion and one that I could possibly recommend. Let us now move onward and upward into the critique . . .

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4. Does the New Testament Teach That the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?
Most cessationists, including MacArthur, teach that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture (the completed writings of the Bible) was completed. Either that or they say the gifts ceased in A.D. 70. They maintain that the Bible answers all of our spiritual questions and negates the need for the miraculous manifestations of 1 Corinthians 12. In my opinion, this idea is a colossal stretch of logic and imagination. Despite MacArthur's claim, there is no verse in the New Testament that suggests that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit have ceased or will pass away before Christ's second coming. The burden of proof, therefore, rests upon those who would say that the work of the Spirit has somehow changed since Paul's day. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 is the only text in the entire Bible that is routinely interpreted to support the cessationist view. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; BUT WHEN THE PERFECT COMES, THE PARTIAL WILL BE DONE AWAY . . . For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. Here, Paul's main point is that although the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will one day cease, love will never cease. Paul goes on to explain how the gifts of the Spirit are in part. This means that they do not reveal the complete mind or will of God, but only a fragment of it. However, when "the perfect" comes, all things which are "in part" will cease to function. Paul uses an illustration to describe what he means by "the perfect" saying that we now see through a glass darkly, but when the perfect comes, we will have a face-to-face knowledge of all things. Paul says that when the perfect comes, he will know "fully just as I also have been fully known." In other words, when the perfect comes, Paul will know all things to the same degree that God knows him.
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What, then, is the perfect? Is it the Bible as cessationists teach? Or is it the perfect state that Christ will usher in at His second coming? A strong case can be made that it is the latter. Here are the reasons: 1. When Jesus returns, and we see Him face-to-face, we will have perfect knowledge and tongues, prophecy, and knowledge itself will cease. Paul uses the same word in Philippians 3 when speaking about the resurrection. . . . That by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already PERFECT, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Phil. 3:11-12) When we are resurrected, we will know "even as we are known." And there will be no need for prophecy, tongues, or even knowledge, for we will already know all things. Does the Bible give us this kind of perfect knowledge wherein we know even as we are known by God? Hardly. While my view of Scripture is very high, believing it to be fully inspired, fully authoritative, and fully reliable, the Bible does not replace the role of spiritual gifts. Nor does it give us perfect knowledge into every question we may have. 2. Paul says that knowledge will cease along with tongues and prophecy. But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. What cessationist would say that knowledge has passed away with the completed writings of the Bible? One has to do a lot of exegetical gymnastics to make that formula work. 3. It is exotically rare to find one commentary written before 1960 that interprets "the perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13 to be the closing of the biblical canon.

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Surprisingly, it is only after the Jesus movement and the charismatic movement blossomed that cessationist leaders began connecting "the perfect" with the closing of the canon of Scripture. The interpretation which suggests that "the perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10 refers to the coming of Jesus (the parousia) represents the historical heritage of the church. The view that says "the perfect" refers to the closing of the biblical canon is a fairly recent interpretation with scant appearances before 1960. (Note to my Reformed brethren: even Calvin and Augustine did not interpret 1 Corinthians 13:10 this way.) The "biblical canon" view developed out of the controversy over present-day manifestations of the Spirit. And it can be traced only to the mid or early 20th century, though there were a tiny number of occurrences before the 19th century. See A History of Interpretation of "That Which is Perfect" (1 Cor. 13:10) by Rodney J. Decker of Central Baptist Theological Seminary for a detailed (and fascinating) study on this matter. 4. The cessationist theory of 1 Corinthians 13 fails the practical application test. Cessationists assert that there is no need for the revelatory gifts of the Spirit today because the Bible is all-sufficient for supplying us with an exhaustive knowledge of God's will. But consider the following biblical examples of how the revelatory gifts of the Spirit were used in the first century, and ask yourself this question when reading them: Could the Bible reveal these same things to us today and thus substitute for these spiritual gifts? 1) Peter received a supernatural word that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the church and to God (Acts 5:1-10). 2) Through the gift of prophecy, a sinner's heart is exposed and falls to his knees claiming that God is alive through His people (1 Cor. 14:24-25). 3) Philip was specifically instructed to preach the gospel to a certain man whose heart God had prepared (Acts 8:29). 4) Agabus prophesied about a future famine that would grip the whole world, enabling the church to prepare for it (Acts 11:28-30). 5) God's Spirit made known the calling of Paul and Barnabas and set them apart to begin a specific work of ministry (Acts 13:2).

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6) The Spirit of God prohibited the apostles from ministering in certain areas for a season (Acts 16:6-7). 7) Paul received a night vision which instructed him to go into Macedonia to preach the gospel (Acts 16:9). 8) Agabus foretold Paul's fate in going to Jerusalem, hence, preparing him for what was to come (Acts 21:11). 9) Peter received instructions from the Spirit to go with certain men sent from Cornelius (Acts 10:20). Peter was reluctant since they were Gentiles. 10) Peter discerned the spiritual state of Simon (Acts 8:23), and Paul discerned the spiritual state of Elymas (Acts 13:8-11), speaking words of correction and judgment to them. I could multiply many more examples from the New Testament. But clearly, the above incidents show that the Bible cannot substitute for or replace the supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, these revelations do not by any means usurp authority over the Bible nor do they contradict it. Revelation given by the Holy Spirit will always flow in accordance with Scripture and be subject to its judgment. Again, Christ and His will are always the supreme focus of the Holy Spirit's revelation to the believer's heart (Matt. 16:17; Luke 10:22; Gal. 1:16). Specific and intensely personal knowledge of people, events, and God's will are not granted by the Bible alone. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that not only would they testify of Him (which they did through the spoken and written Word), but the Spirit would also testify of Him: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, HE SHALL TESTIFY OF ME: And YOU ALSO SHALL BEAR WITNESS, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:2627) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, HE WILL GUIDE YOU into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and HE WILL SHOW YOU THINGS TO COME. (John 16:13)
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But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, HE SHALL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS, and BRING ALL THINGS TO YOUR REMEMBRANCE, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26) John, near the end of the first century, describes the function of the Holy Spirit in the same way that Jesus did. John makes clear that the Spirit's purpose and function has never changed: But the anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as THE SAME ANOINTING TEACHES YOU ALL THINGS, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27) 5. The testimony of post-apostolic writers verify that the gifts of the Spirit were still in operation after A.D. 70. MacArthur dogmatically asserts that tongues and other supernatural gifts of the Spirit are not hinted at in the post-apostolic period. But this is not true. The testimony of history is filled with clear accounts of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit operating in the church well after A.D. 70. Here is a small sampling of accounts of the miraculous power of God written during the first three centuries of the church by Christian writers: According to The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Polycarp (A.D. 65-165) received a vision that revealed the manner in which he would be martyred: And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, "I must be burnt alive" (Ch. 5). In Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-167) writes about the supernatural gifts during his day: ... knowing that daily some of you are becoming disciples in the name of Christ, and quitting the path of error; who are also receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illumined through the name of Christ. For one receives the spirit of understanding, another of counsel, and another of strength, another of healing, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching, and another of the fear of God ... For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that the gifts formerly among your nation have been transferred to us (Ch. 39, Ch. 82).
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In his Second Apology, Justin continues to discuss the miraculous work of God in his day: And now you can learn this from what is under your own observation. For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists and those who used incantations and drugs (Ch. 6). In Against Heresies, Irenaeus (A.D. 130-195) writes the following concerning the empowering of the Spirit and spiritual manifestations: For some do certainly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe, and join themselves to the church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic utterances. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Ye, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the church throughout the whole world has received from God, in the name of the Jesus Christ (2.32.4) ... For this reason does the apostle declare, who speak wisdom among them that are perfect, terming those persons perfect who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all tongues, as he used himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of tongues, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit (5.6.1). In Against Marcion, Tertullian (A.D. 145-220) writes extensively on the gifts of the Spirit. The following are some excerpts: Now was absolutely fulfilled that promise of the Spirit which was given by the word of Joel: "In the last days will I pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy; and upon my servants and upon my handmaids will I pour out of my Spirit." Since then the Creator promised the gifts of His Spirit in the latter days; and since Christ has in these last days appeared as the dispenser of spiritual gifts ... it evidently follows in connection with this prediction of the last days, that this gift of the Spirit belongs to Him who is the Christ of the predictors ... Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer - only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from amongst those specially holy sisters of his. Now all
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these signs of spiritual gifts are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God. Here, then, is my frank avowal for any one who cares to require it (Bk. 5, Ch. 8). In his Treatise Concerning the Trinity, Novatian (A.D. 210-280) speaks about the gifts operating in the church of his day: This is He who places prophets in the church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, offers discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata, and thus make the Lord's church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed (Ch. 29). Here are other examples: * The Apostolic Constitutions affirm that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were still in operation. The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), 7:479-482. A.D. 300s. * An account of miracles in the 4th century can be found in Sulpicious Severus' Life of St. Martin. * An account of divine healing in the 4th century can be found in Gregory of Nyssa's The Life of St. Macrina. * Early church historian Eusebius, quoting Irenaeus, gives "examples of the divine and glorious power left behind in certain churches." Chapter 7, Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius. * John Chrysostom in his Discourse on Blessed Babylas says that apostolic miracles during his day (late 4th century) were in operation and authenticated. * Eugippius' The Life of Saint Severin gives account of the miraculous work of the Spirit during his time (5th century). * In Strange Fire, MacArthur quotes Augustine saying that miracles passed away. But in his Retractions (early 5th century), speaking of his cessationist statement in an earlier work, Augustine writes, "But what I said is not to be so interpreted that no miracles are believed to be performed in the name of Christ at the present time. For, when I wrote that book, I myself had recently learned that a blind man had been restored to sight in Milan near the bodies of the martyrs in that very city, and I knew about some others, so numerous even in these times, that we cannot know about all of them nor enumerate those we know." * In Question 79, Augustine remarks that Christians performed authentic miracles and magicians performed counterfeit signs during his day.
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These are just some examples of the post-apostolic literature that exists on this subject. The evidence is clear, then, that believers in the first three centuries of the church affirmed the perpetuity of spiritual gifts. Another "go-to-text" for cessationists is Ephesians 2:20. Sam Storms addresses their argument adequately here. It is no wonder that Reformed giant D. Martin Lloyd Jones believed that cessationism is guilty of quenching the Spirit. In the 1960s, Jones wrote, Anyone who cuts out portions of Scripture is guilty of very grievous sin . . . I say once more, therefore, that to hold such a view [cessationism] is simply to quench the Spirit. From D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Sovereign Spirit: Discerning His Gifts (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1985), p. 33. William Law, who wrote over two hundred years ago, said this in regard to the need for spiritual power: Therefore to say that because we now have all the writings of Scripture complete we no longer need the miraculous inspiration of the Spirit among men as in former days is a degree of blindness as great as any that can be charged upon the scribes and the Pharisees . . . There is no degree of delusion higher than that which is evidenced by those who profess to teach from the divinely inspired Scriptures that the immediate, continual illumination and working of the Spirit in mens hearts ceased when the canon of Scripture was complete. To deny the present prophetic gift in the church is to deny also that very manifestation of Christ today to His own which the Scriptures teach is the only means to the reality of Gospel Christianity. From William Law, The Power of the Spirit, ed. Dave Hunt (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1971), p. 61. Referring to the indwelling Spirit and the empowerment of the believer, A. B. Simpson, who was once a cessationist Presbyterian, said: But He has left to us the same power He possessed. This [the indwelling Holy Spirit to continue Jesuss life and ministry and to perpetuate miracles] is the mighty gift of o ur ascended Lord. This is the supreme need of the church today . . . the constitution of the church is identical with the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians . . . We cannot leave out any part of the gospel without weakening the rest; and if there ever was an age when the world needed the witness of Gods supernatural working, it is the day of unbelief and satanic power.

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From A. B. Simpson, The Holy Spirit, Vol. II (Harrisburg: Christian Publications, n.d.), p. 20. For details on my understanding of "the manifestation of the Spirit" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, see my blog series Rethinking the Gifts of the Spirit. In that series, I discuss the difference between spiritual gifts and spiritual life and unravel the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed by Paul. For a balanced discussion on the root issue regarding the tongues debate, I recommend Clark Pinnock's article, A Truce Proposal for the Tongues Controversy, published in Christianity Today, October 8, 1971. Pinnock's Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit is also a fair and thorough presentation of the subject.

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5. The Scriptures and the Power of God


A.W. Tozer once made a statement that all of us would be wise to remember, as we are all privy to this problem: A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself. MacArthur argues that the majority of charismatics do not accept biblical criticism of their doctrines, but view such criticism as divisive and unloving. He further asserts that the charismatic's tendency to avoid judging doctrine by Scripture has fostered confusion as well as the emergence of many bizarre teachings. In general, I agree with these points. Many charismatics are weak in their understanding of Scripture and prone to de-emphasize the role of sound teaching. And it is common for some in the "movement" to exalt emotional experiences above the teachings of Scripture. However, MacArthur fails to acknowledge that there are many believers who accept the perpetuity of spiritual gifts who are "mighty" in the Scriptures and who practice the mandate to "judge all things." N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, Sam Storms, Gordon Fee, Jack Deere, Bernard Ramm, John Piper, Michael Green, James D.G. Dunn, Howard Snyder, Wayne Grudem, Russell P. Spittler, J. Rodman Williams, Charles Hummel, Robert Banks, the late Clark Pinnock, and Howard Ervin are just a few examples of men who embrace the continuation of miraculous gifts, yet take a highly academic approach to the written Word of God. Moreover, their approach to spiritual gifts has been balanced, scholarly, and helpful. Ironically, the academic credentials and works of scholarship that some of these men carry far exceed that of MacArthur himself. Hence, it is a gross mistake to denounce the entire charismatic world for failing to accept biblical criticism and embrace doctrinal soundness. The excesses that MacArthur cites in his books raise major questions in my mind as they do in his. Many of the cases he cites are blatantly erroneous from a biblical standpoint, so I agree with his concerns. Others must be weighed by the test of time.

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MacArthur does not seem to realize that abuses in a movement do not make the central theme of the movement false or spurious. As one writer has said, "abuse and misuse ought never lead to disuse." Every great move of God has had its abuses. The Holiness movement, the Evangelical movement, the Restorationist movement, the Discipleship movement, the Anti-Abortion movement, and the Fundamentalist movement have all had their flaws as well as their excesses. And dare I say, the Reformed tradition and "movement" has as well. I believe that the abuses and shortcomings in each of these movements were the result of an overemphasis on a particular truth that God was seeking to recover to His church. I call it an "error-by-emphasis." The charismatic movement is no exception to this tendency. Thus to impugn the entire charismatic world and insinuate that most (or all) of those who belong to it are not part of the Body of Christ is not only outrageous, but it is supercilious hokum. Perhaps the most daunting feature of MacArthur's criticism of charismatics is his incessant invocation of straw man arguments. MacArthur cites the most bizarre and ridiculous anecdotes to represent charismatic experience and theology. I too am appalled at such abuses within the movement and agree that they need to be challenged. But many charismatics have already criticized these abuses themselves over the years, such as James Robison, David Wilkerson, Bob Phillips, Charles Farah, Dr. Michael Brown, Walter Martin, et al. Former editor of Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady, has written a number of scathing critiques of the charismatic movement as well. In effect, MacArthur writes off anyone who is charismatic as erroneous and dangerous due to the abuses of their peers. Interestingly, MacArthur uses experiences to justify his argument. That is, his own experience of observing bedlam within "charismania" and his own inexperience of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

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Using this same method, one can easily write a book about the great blessings that the Lord has brought to the Body of Christ through charismatic Christians. And I'm sure this has already been done. Since MacArthur employs negative experiences to raise doubts about the authenticity of spiritual gifts, I will cite two positive experiences from my own life that show the opposite. (I could list more, but these two will suffice.) I list these two incidents because a common challenge that non-charismatics employ is to assert that they have never met anyone who has seen or experienced a miraculous event firsthand. They have only met charismatics who knew someone who experienced a supernatural act of the Spirit. So such testimonies end up being thirdhand. What follows are two firsthand reports. In December 1991, a Chinese college student named Jean heard about the church I was meeting with and called me on the phone to inquire about our fellowship. In the course of our conversation, she told me that she needed help. She was on the verge of suicide and struggled with deep depression for many years. Jean had seen several psychologists, yet she failed to receive help from any of them. As the conversation continued, she asked me if we could help her. I had never met a person with such a disturbed spirit. Yet I replied that the Lord could surely help her and I encouraged her to visit our fellowship to receive ministry. Although she was skeptical and hesitant, I managed to persuade her to visit. When Jean first visited us, several of us in the group began to pray for her. Our prayers were directed toward breaking the power of Satan, who we felt had oppressed her mind. As Jean sensed God's presence upon her, she began to weep. She later told us that she had never felt so "released" before. Jean also reported that she had never felt the love of God so strong. As we continued to pray, the Holy Spirit began to reveal to several of us facts about her personal life of which we had no natural knowledge. As the Spirit began to reveal those facts to us, we began to share them with her. The following are just some of the things that were revealed to us concerning Jean's personal life:

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1) The Lord showed one brother that her real name was not Jean (I will not go into the significance of this knowledge for the sake of space, but it was confirmed by Jean herself). 2) She had bitterness in her heart, which was one root behind many of her problems. 3) She was seeking a husband, but she felt that she wasn't good enough for God to grant her such a blessing. 4) The Lord made known to us certain things about her future and most all of them have come to pass at the time of this writing. One of the words that had been given was that she would go back to China to minister the gospel. Two years later, Jean had gone back to China to minister Christ to her friends and family. 5) There were prophecies that revealed her calling, i.e., to minister the gospel to her own people. She later told us that this had been an inward burden of hers for a long time. This word confirmed what God had already put within her heart. After that first meeting, Jean brought several Chinese people to our fellowship to be helped. Other prophetic words were given to Jean that tremendously encouraged her faith. We also spent much time ministering the Scriptures to her and instructing her about the authority of Christ and the devices of the enemy. As Jean heard these words, she began to nod her head and weep strongly. When we were through ministering to her, Jean confirmed all the things that were spoken. When she was taken home, she continued to say "they knew, they knew." Jean said that the group revealed her very thoughts as she was thinking them. God had made Himself real to Jean that night. And she came away with an apprehension and awareness of the greatness of our Lord, one that she desperately needed. In short, Jean had experienced the value of prophecy as described in 1 Corinthians 14:25: As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, "God is truly here among you." After that initial meeting, Jean continued with us. Her knowledge of the Lord increased to such a degree that she joyfully testified that she had truly "met the Lord." Her spiritual progress was wonderful. Jean would often tell us, "I love the Lord so much!"
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What a precious testimony, for prior to such ministry, Jean was one of the worst cases of mental disturbance I ever witnessed. Another experience illustrating the reality and value of spiritual gifts occurred in September 1989. My friend Terry (who was a new convert), her husband Pete (who was unsaved, but inquiring), and I had visited a church in town that none of us had ever been to. We heard that a guest speaker from Canada was ministering there, so we went to check it out. We did not know anyone who attended the church nor had we ever met the pastor or the guest speaker. Nevertheless, after his message, the guest speaker asked if anyone wanted prayer for deliverance from unrighteous habits. Terry went up to be prayed for because she wanted strength to overcome her smoking habit. As the speaker prayed, he began to share with Terry about an unrelated issue. He said that the Lord showed him that for a long time she desired to have a child, but that she could not due to a medical procedure. But the Lord was going to fulfill her desire. As he spoke this to her, it came as a surprise to me, for I knew nothing about the matter. The real thrill came when I looked over at Pete (Terry's husband), who was standing right next to me. His jaw literally dropped wide open. He was stunned. He leaned over to me and said with tears in his eyes, "Frank, no one knows about this! No one ... he couldn't have possibly known." Pete then walked forward to where his wife was standing, and the couple embraced and wept. That night, Pete gave his heart to Christ. Point: Bizarre, exaggerated, misguided claims about spiritual gifts, failed healings, and trickery under the guise of the Holy Spirit's power do not disprove the reality of spiritual gifts. These things merely teach us that we need keen discernment to differentiate between the authentic and the fraudulent. The devil only bothers to counterfeit that which is real and a threat to his kingdom. To be sure, the charismatic movement is a mixed bag. But MacArthur's reaction, which is to dismiss it all as spurious, is both flawed and irresponsible.
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The words of Jesus are fitting: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matt. 22:29). "The Scriptures and the power of God." We need both.

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6. The Relationship Between Truth and Experience


In Charismatic Chaos, MacArthur comes out the gate with guns blazing. He asserts the following about charismatic belief: 1. Experience is the basis for the charismatic's belief system. 2. Experiences must be sought after instead of biblical truth. 3. Experiences cannot be judged because they validate themselves. Really? Granted, many charismatics fit the mold of all three characteristics. But MacArthur's penchant to pigeonhole all charismatics by these three criteria, as well as all who believe in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, is absurd. That's like saying that all Reformed Christians love their Bibles more than God, have a strong knowledge of Calvinist doctrine but a shallow knowledge of Jesus Christ, are sectarian, elitist, and have no interest in anyone outside their own Reformed circles. In this connection, someone recently made this comment to me about the Strange Fire Conference, which preceded the book: Can a movement (the charismatic movement) so filled with error and false prophecy REALLY be a moving of the Holy Spirit? My response to that is: Can a movement (the New Calvinist movement) so filled with sectarianism, elitism, and exclusivism REALLY be inspired by the Holy Spirit? (If you are looking for examples, just read the blogs of Scot McKnight and Roger Olson. They have both discussed the penchant within "New Calvinism" to be sectarian, elitist, and exclusive.) While this indictment is certainly true of some--perhaps many--Reformed and New Calvinist people, it is not true of all of them. Consequently, not all charismatics can be painted with MacArthur's colossal brush. No more than all Reformed people can be painted with the above description. I believe MacArthur devalues the role of spiritual experience, except when it strengthens his case. The Bible stresses, both in precept and example, that spiritual experience is the essence of the Christian life. Christianity is not an arm-chair philosophy. Biblical Christianity is Christ. That is, it
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is a living and vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is the testimony of holy Scripture. Without spiritual experience, history, and personal dealings with the Lord, Christianity becomes bloodless theory. For example, the Bible promises the forgiveness of sins by which the conscience becomes undefiled and pure (see Hebrews 5-10). If a believer only knows this teaching with his or her intellect, but fails to experience it through the exercise of faith, what does it profit them? The Bible then becomes a philosophy text rather than a book that contains and communicates God's life. In like manner, the exceeding sinfulness of sin must not simply be understood with the mind, but it must be experienced with the heart for true repentance to occur. And the promise of regeneration, unhindered communion with God, divine guidance, and sanctification will all remain in the realm of theory if one fails to enter into the enjoyment and reality of these truths by the Spirit. The chief work of the Holy Spirit, in effect, is to make real and living in us what Christ has provided for us at Calvary. What is a relationship with God but a progression of spiritual experiences, encounters, and dealings with Him? Is not the spiritual walk to have transactions with God and He with us? In a word, without authentic spiritual experience, Christianity is a dead religion. But someone will say, "yes, but there are counterfeit experiences." You bet, but you can only counterfeit that which is authentic in the first place. In the words of theologian W.H. Griffith-Thomas, It is, of course, essential to remember that theology is not merely a matter of intellect, but also of experience. Theology is concerned with spiritual realities, and must include personal experience as well as ideas ... The feeling equally with reason must share in the consideration of theology, because theology is of the heart, and the deepest truths are inextricably bound up with personal needs and experiences. Of course, there are false spiritual experiences. And as MacArthur affirms, all spiritual experience must be judged by God's Word. But many charismatic leaders teach this.
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All spiritual experience rests upon the accomplished facts that are in Christ. Through faith, the Holy Spirit translates those divine facts into our experience. While many charismatics go to one extreme in putting too much stock in emotional experiences, MacArthur goes to the other extreme in enshrining the intellect in spiritual matters. While countless charismatic Christians place a higher priority on extravagant experiences than on a relationship with God, countless fundamentalist and Reformed Christians place a higher priority on intellectual knowledge than on a relationship with God. One camp often emphasizes knowing God through the emotions while the other often emphasizes knowing God through the intellect. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul levels both extremes. He points out that spiritual experiences that are not motivated by love lack spiritual value (1 Cor. 12-14). Paul equally stresses the insufficiency of human reason in spiritual matters, declaring that "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit" and "knowledge puffs up" (1 Cor. 1-3, 8). Indeed, it is dangerous to have an untheological devotion, but it is just as tragic to have a devotionless theology. As one who believes in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, I do not fit into MacArthur's stereotype. Experience is not the basis of my faith. Rather, my spiritual experiences have been the result of my faith, and in turn, they have increased my faith. Scripture declares that the believer moves from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17) and there are different levels of faith (Matt. 9:29; 14:21; 16:8; Rom. 4:19-20; 12:3). The primary focus in the Christian walk, then, is neither experience nor knowledge, but relationship. MacArthur accuses continualists of basing their views on experience. Yet strikingly, many who make this accusation are guilty of it themselves. That is, many cessationists have embraced their view of spiritual gifts because of their inexperience with the supernatural work of the Spirit. In fact, all the cessationists I have ever known personally were convinced that spiritual gifts are not valid today because of their own personal experience. As a result, they saw in Scripture those things that supported their own viewpoint.
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In the midst of a discussion on the gifts, it is not uncommon for cessationists to say, "I have never witnessed a genuine healing through the laying on of hands" or "I have never seen an authentic case of speaking in tongues," or "I have never seen a person exhibit a real prophetic word from God," etc. That's like saying, "Because I have never seen licorice gum, it does not exist." (It does, by the way. It is called Black Jack and I have several packs in my desk drawer.) While many cessationists feel that their doctrine is unshakably rooted in an objective study of Scripture, in reality it is often a case of unwittingly reading their own experiences into Scripture. MacArthur's books contain a subtext that contains this very element. While he decries charismatics for relying on experience, the bulk of Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire is built on the spurious experiences that MacArthur has witnessed or read about. In this way, arguments against the continuation of spiritual gifts are typically rooted in secondary, not biblical, considerations and fueled by fear of excess and abuse. So it seems to me anyway.

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7. Revelation Misunderstood
When MacArthur talks about "revelation," he makes two big points. First, he cites examples of false prophecy to demonstrate the idea that prophecy is not for today. Second, he argues that if a person believes that prophecy and revelation continue today, he or she must believe that personal prophecy is equal in authority to the Bible. I disagree with both suppositions. Let me explain. First, the fact that there are false prophecies today does not mean that genuine prophecy does not exist. I'm sure MacArthur believes that genuine prophecy occurred in the first century, yet there was an abundance of false prophecy and erroneous teaching during that time. Does that mean that prophecy did not exist in the first century? Of course not. The Bible is the standard by which to judge all revelation, prophecy, and teaching. What is revelation? Do not get spooked out by the term. The New Testament uses the term "revelation" to mean an uncovering or unveiling by the Holy Spirit. God inspired the Word of God once when it was written. We call this inspiration. However, revelation means that God breathes on His Word once again--the written or the living Word (Christ), opening it up to a person's heart. Revelation not only continues in the church, but without it there can be no salvation or spiritual life. You see, the new birth cannot occur without a revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ. "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven did" (Matt. 16:17). All who know God know Him through the revelation of the Holy Spirit; a revelation that is confirmed by Scripture. I realize that some theologians prefer "illumination" over "revelation" to describe this same concept; albeit, this is mostly a semantic issue. See my discussion of "Spiritual Conversational Styles" in my blog series Theology Doesn't Have to Be a Blood Sport.
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The Scriptures contain God's original revelation. They contain the divine truths that serve as both the rule and standard for all faith and practice. Thus the Scriptures are to be regarded as the measuring rod for all religious teaching, revelation, and practice (2 Tim. 3:16). I agree with MacArthur that God does not give ongoing revelation today in the sense of disclosing new doctrines that are not based in Scripture (like that of the Book of Mormon). Rather, the revelation that God grants today illuminates the meaning of what He has already spoken in the past or it is divine insight whereby the Lord shows a person the past, the present, or the future--all for His glory (e.g. Acts 5:3; 9:10-15; 10:19; 11:28; 13:11; 21:10-11; 1 Cor. 14:24-25). A contemporary example of this type of revelation is when David Wilkerson announced to his Sunday evening congregation in 1987, "If you want to see history being made, go down to Wall Street tomorrow!" The next day was "Black Monday" when the stock market crashed. You can also read Wilkerson's amazing book The Vision, where he prophesied about things to come in the USA--most of which have come to pass since he penned the book in 1973. Others have not yet, but that does not mean they will not be fulfilled in the future. I agree with MacArthur that the Scriptures are the objective revelation of God's Son. Christ is the central object of the entire Bible. And all Scripture points to Him. (I even wrote a 400+ page book on the subject.) Moreover, the Spirit of God always seeks to reveal, manifest, and glorify the Lord Jesus. The gift of prophecy, then, is actually an unveiling of some aspect of the Lord Jesus Himself. For this reason, the Bible states that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." This being the case, all true prophetic utterances conform to the revelation of Christ in the Scriptures. If you examine the New Testament carefully, you will find that the apostles used the Old Testament Scriptures to confirm or refute the revelations and teachings of their day. Paul often quoted the Old Testament to either confirm his own revelations or refute false teachings and ungodly practices. Today, we use both the New and Old Testaments to measure teachings, prophecies, and revelations.
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"Personal prophecy" (a prophetic word given to an individual) functions in the same way it did during the first century. Timothy was given a personal prophecy that revealed his calling. The same with Saul of Tarsus through Ananias. How, then, does prophecy today compare to Scripture? Genuine revelations and prophecies are equal in truth with the Scriptures because the same Spirit inspired them both. Again, prophecy is not meant to give new doctrinal revelations. As someone once put it, "If someone is worried about post-biblical doctrine, they should worry about cessationism, which is a post-biblical doctrine." The same for dispensationalism. Both are recent doctrines in church history. However, prophetic utterances are not equal in authority to Scripture because the Scriptures are given to be the judge of all revelation and the basis for all doctrine. The same can be said of a sermon or teaching. A Bible-based sermon can be equal in truth if rooted in Scripture, but not equal in authority to the Bible. Thus even in the first century, Christians were exhorted to judge prophetic utterances. New Testament prophecy is always "in part" and can be diluted by a person's opinion or interpretation if not interpreted or applied correctly (see 1 Cor. 13-14). The fact that the Scriptures have stood the test of time and scrutiny confirms their role as the standard. This is what the word "canon" means, in fact. The Scriptures contain the original apostolic teaching and tradition in which all future prophecies and teachings are to be judged. Hence, Paul commanded the Thessalonians to hold firmly to the traditions that were taught by Paul, not prophesied by him. MacArthur's logic about the prophetic gift can be described thusly: Either revelations are always true or there is no ongoing revelation. Revelations among charismatics are often false or untestable. Therefore, there is no ongoing revelation.
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This logic simply does not follow. Using MacArthur's reasoning, there is no need to use judgment or spiritual discernment in testing revelation. If the gift of prophecy has ceased, then one can simply dismiss all claims of prophetic revelation, healing, or miracles without investigation or critical analysis. Simple enough. But is it accurate? Is it biblical? Paul says we prophesy in part, but he also says we know in part (1 Cor. 13:9). So teaching, like prophecy, must be evaluated. Using MacArthurs reasoning, we should reject all teaching, since so much modern teaching is inaccurate. The Bible is replete with exhortations to prove all things and to exercise spiritual judgment and discernment (1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 5; 1 Cor. 2; 1 John 4). More directly, it exhorts us to weigh (test) prophetic utterances (1 Cor. 14:29). Furthermore, the Bible warns us to "not despise prophetic utterances" (1 Thess. 5:20). Simply put, the fact that aberrant groups in the past (or present) have embraced spiritual gifts does not mean that all groups that practice spiritual gifts today are aberrant. Neither does it mean that if someone prophesies inaccurately or partly accurate that they are a "false prophet." According to the New Testament, a false prophet is not a genuine Christian. A false prophet is unregenerate and knowingly deceives people. Mike Bickle has made the remark that in "manifestation meetings" all over the world, 80% of the alleged manifestations are not real. Yet 20% of them are real. I do not doubt this number when it comes to the kinds of meetings Bickle is speaking about. I visited a "manifestation meeting" in Lakeland, Florida in the early 90s before it moved to Toronto and was dubbed "The Toronto Blessing." I also attended one in Melbourne, Florida during the "revival" there. I was monumentally unimpressed with both, but again, I only attended a few meetings in each place. I have friends who tell me they were touched by God in some remarkable ways in some of those meetings. Even so, I can tell you that in my experience of meeting in organic missional churches since 1988, the vast majority of spiritual manifestations that were displayed by those I was in fellowship with were completely genuine and the prophetic words were accurate. The few that were not authentic were given by people who did not have the gift, but who were operating out of presumption and immaturity.
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By the same token, I would say that 90% of the sermons and spoken messages I have heard throughout my life had no anointing or originality. They were merely a regurgitation of someone else's thoughts. Does that mean that the preaching and teaching gifts have ceased or that they are fraudulent? So again, I'm not sure what Bickle is talking about specifically, but it certainly does not prove that genuine prophetic utterances and spiritual manifestations do not take place today. All told, it is easy to dismiss the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit today because mixture is present. But mixture invariably occurs when the Holy Spirit is operating in supernatural ways. Just read about the revivals under Jonathan Edwards and the Welsh Revival. The Lord's will is still that we "come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:7).

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8. Interpreting the Bible by the Spirit and the Intellect


I agree with MacArthur that many charismatic teachers (particularly those with television programs) take too much license to expound the written Word beyond what it says. However, the greatest theological minds I have learned from have been those who believed in the gifts of the Spirit, and some of them exercised those gifts. Such scholars as N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, John Piper, Howard Snyder, Howard Ervin, Russell P. Spittler, Gordon Fee, Dr. Michael Brown, Sam Storms, J. Rodman Williams, and Michael Green all believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts, yet they are respected teachers in the evangelical academic community. In a word, MacArthur places an overemphasis on the power of the intellect to discern spiritual things. This is something that A.W. Tozer took dead aim at while he was alive. Here are some notable quotes by Tozer on this score: Spirit can embrace intellect, but human intellect won't comprehend spirit. You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually. We need to learn that truth consists not in correct doctrine but in correct doctrine PLUS the inward enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text. For those who may not know, Tozer was an author and pastor in the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church. He was an autodidact (self-taught) who received honorary doctorates from Wheaton and Houghton. 1 Corinthians 1-3 makes clear that spiritual discernment is necessary to grasp spiritual realities. And apprehension of spiritual things requires revelation (or "illumination") by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 16:17; Luke 10:22; 2 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:16). While the use of the intellect is a factor in the study of God's Word, the intellect in itself is insufficient for receiving light and life from the Scriptures. Receiving spiritual truth in the intellect and receiving it in the heart belong to two different realms. T. Austin-Sparks remarks:

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We cannot make too much of this matter of revelation, illumination, seeing. It is basic in salvation (Acts 26:18). It is essential to effective ministry (2 Cor. 4:6) and it is indispensable to full knowledge and full growth (Eph. 1:17)... The kind of seeing to which we refer is an epoch, an encounter, a revelation, a crisis. There is no power on this earth which could have changed that rabid, fanatical, bigoted Saul of Tarsus, a "Pharisee of the Pharisees," into "the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13)... Argument would not have done it. Neither persuasion nor persecution nor martyrdom would have effected it. But it was done! That "conversion" stood the test of all persecutions, sufferings, and adversities possible to man for the rest of his life... Indeed, a fundamental and preeminent work of the Holy Spirit has to do with spiritual enlightenment and supremely as to the significance of God's Son, Jesus Christ. It is all in the Scriptures, but still our eyes may be holden... We can be governed by objective truth. It can be "the truth"--orthodox, sound, Bible truth. We can be governed by that simply because it is taught; we do it objectively. But there is something more than that. There is such a thing as the Holy Spirit taking hold of the truth of God and making it something that lives in us... Many Christians are just Christians: that is, after they are saved, their Christian life consists in doing as they are told by the minister because it is presented to them as the thing they should do. But there is a much higher level of life than that. The thing is right, but it is altogether transformed when the Holy Spirit brings it home to us in an inward way, and adjusts us to it. We no longer do it because it has got to be done: we do it because the Lord has done something in us, and shown us that that is the thing that He wants done...it is no more mechanical, it is vital! In like manner, A.W. Tozer sums up the issue with his usual seminal insight: Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind. If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit. The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired
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the text. ... "Now we have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given us of God. For the textualism of our times is based upon the same premise as the old line rationalism, that is, the belief that the human mind is the supreme authority in the judgment of truth. Or otherwise stated, it is confidence in the ability of the human mind to do that which the Bible declares it was never created to do and consequently is wholly incapable of doing. Philosophical rationalism is honest enough to reject the Bible flatly. Theological rationalism rejects it while pretending to accept it and in so doing puts out its own eyes. Few there are who without restraint will open their whole heart to the blessed Comforter. He has been and is so widely misunderstood that the very mention of His name in some circles is enough to frighten many people into resistance. It is no use to deny that Christ was crucified by persons who would today be called fundamentalists. This should prove to be disquieting if not downright distressing to us who pride ourselves on our orthodoxy. An unblessed soul filled with the letter of truth may actually be worse off than a pagan kneeling before a fetish. We are saved only when our intellects are indwelt by the loving fire that came at Pentecost. For the Holy Spirit is not a luxury, not something added now and again to produce a deluxe type of Christian once in a generation. No. He is for every child of God a vital necessity, and that He fill and indwell His people is more than a languid hope. It is rather an inescapable imperative. Now the Bible teaches that there is something in God which is like emotion. ... God has said certain things about Himself, and these furnish all the grounds we require. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing (Zeph. 3:17). This is but one verse among thousands which serve to form our rational picture of what God is like, and tell us plainly that God feels something like our love, like our joy, and what He feels makes Him act very much as we would in a similar situation; He rejoices over His loved ones with joy and singing. Here is emotion on as high a plain as it can ever be seen, emotion flowing out of the heart of God Himself. Feeling, then, is not the degenerate son of unbelief that is often painted by some of our Bible teachers. Our ability to feel is one of the marks of our divine origin. We need not be ashamed of either tears or laughter. The Christian stoic who has crushed his feelings is only two-thirds of a man; an important third part has been repudiated. Holy feeling had an important place in the life of our Lord. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross and despised its shame. He pictured Himself crying, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.
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The work of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, to rescue the redeemed mans emotions, to restring his harp and open again the wells of sacred joy which have been stopped up by sin. Excerpted from The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer. In this connection, MacArthur has a chapter on "true spirituality" in Charismatic Chaos. I agree with him that cute clichs that depict spirituality in terms of being "zapped" (for example) are silly. Because the subject of spirituality is so vast, however, I would recommend the following books which provide a comprehensive biblical treatment of the subject of biblical spirituality: The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee The School of Christ by T. Austin-Sparks Life on the Highest Plane by Ruth Paxson Unto Full Stature by DeVern Fromke These volumes bristle with extraordinary insight on what spirituality entails from a New Testament perspective. In light of their content, I find MacArthur's understanding of spirituality somewhat shallow. For example, deep awareness of sin is the beginning of spirituality; it is not the mark of it as MacArthur suggests. The book of Hebrews defines perfection as the state in which there is no consciousness of sins. A spiritual person is one whose entire being is governed by the Spirit of God. Their soul and body are ruled by God's Spirit through their regenerated spirit. Walking in the Spirit is walking in love, and hence, walking free from the defiling elements of the flesh. It is a walk of the cross and death to self. To begin such a walk, one must be cleansed of all sin to the point that she or he is free in their conscience. We must begin at God's starting point, which is the work and value of the blood of Christ to cleanse the conscience. It is only when one's conscience is purified by faith in the blood of Christ that he or she can exercise the faith required to walk in the Spirit. For this reason, Romans 3-5 (which deal with
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the blood of Christ) precede Romans 6-8 (which deal with our co-death with Christ and the indwelling Spirit). A.W. Tozer was someone who sounded the alarm on the lack of spirituality and spiritual depth in the Body of Christ during his day. And he wasn't aiming his guns at the charismatics. Sadly, MacArthur treats the desire for spiritual power and a greater (intuitive) knowledge of the Lord as a shortcoming. Certainly, if one's motivation for spiritual power is selfish, God condemns it. However, God has called the church to be built up into Christ the Head, to advance God's kingdom on earth, and to cause Satan's kingdom to suffer loss. These are major facets of God's Eternal Purpose. Here are just a few exhortations of Scripture that conflict with MacArthur's thesis: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled... Let us go on unto perfection... If we follow on to know the Lord ... That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings... Despite Paul's vast knowledge of Christ, Paul realized that he could not exhaust the unfathomable depths that are in the Lord Jesus. Paul's supreme goal was to know Christ in increasing measure and to receive an ever-growing unveiling of who He is. Consequently, near the end of his life, Paul continued to press on toward a fuller apprehension of the Lord Jesus, whereby the cry on his lips was "that I may know Him," that I might reach "forth unto those things which are before," that I might "press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling" (see Phil. 3). These are not the words of a novice, but of a seasoned apostle. The fullness of Christ is what drove him. Along this line, T. Austin-Sparks remarks,

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That ever-growing conception of Christ was the thing which maintained Paul in life, and maintained Paul's ministry in life. There was never any stagnation with him. He never came to any point or place where there was the suggestion that now he knew. What he seems to say is this: I do not know anything yet, but I see dimly, yet truly, with the eye of the spirit, a Christ so great, so vast as to keep me reaching out, moving on. I press on; I leave the things which are behind; I count all things as refuse for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, that I may know Him... How often have we heard Christians say that they are only interested in "the simple Gospel," "the Gospel of salvation," and that they are not interested in "deeper teaching or truth." Paul would have been both surprised and grieved to hear such language, for his "Gospel" was one, and he would say that the fullest and deepest revelation is the Gospel. There can only be tragic and grievous loss and weakness resulting from failure to see that "the whole counsel of God" is the Gospel. To downplay and criticize a genuine desire to know our Lord in greater capacity and to receive clear direction from God's Spirit in greater measure is contrary to the exhortations and examples found in Scripture. Certainly, spiritual contentment and complacency would have drawn from Paul the strongest reproof. And it did so from Jesus in the book of Revelation. I'm speaking of His bone-chilling sentiments about lukewarmness.

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9. The Third Wave


The Third Wave is a label describing those who have combined evangelical theology with charismatic practice. I agree with MacArthur that many in the Third Wave have become excessively phenomenological, subjective, and pragmatic. Yet there are some valid emphases that the Third Wave has contributed to the Body of Christ. Namely, the importance of the Holy Spirit's power in evangelism, the value of intimacy with the Lord in praise and worship, and the encouragement to expect God to work in ways that exceed our expectations. The late John Wimber, who is the target of much of MacArthur's rhetoric in Charismatic Chaos, basically "put wheels" on the theology of the kingdom championed by the evangelical scholar George E. Ladd. Ladd's view of the kingdom is that it is "already, but not yet." While I do not agree with all of John Wimber's theology and practice, I recognize that God used him in the ministry of healing and deliverance. In short, MacArthur's analysis of John Wimber and Jack Deere is largely inaccurate because it is based upon a heavily biased document called "the Briefing." As far as I'm concerned, Jack Deere's The Vineyard's Response to the Briefing is a must read for anyone who takes MacArthur's criticisms seriously. Deere's response is an eye-opening account of how "the Briefing" knowingly spread misinformation, rumors, and false reports about Wimber, Deere, and others, often misrepresenting them and quoting them out of context. Sadly, MacArthur has done the same in his treatment of The Third Wave. For those interested, I would recommend that you go straight to the source and read Jack Deere's two books, Surprised by the Spirit of God and Surprised by the Voice of God. These books will give you "the other side" of the matter by a seasoned evangelical scholar. Each book powerfully documents how a fundamentalist who once believed in the cessation of the gifts (Deere) radically changed his views based upon incontrovertible evidence, both biblical and experiential.

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In addition, it has been documented that many of the charges brought against John Wimber, Jack Deere, and some of the prophetically gifted individuals from Kansas City in the past have been spurious and misapplied. Yet MacArthur cites those inaccurate charges in his anticharismatic denunciations. For details, see the following responses written by Baptist and Reformed Christians: The Vineyard's Response to the Briefing by Jack Deere The Vineyard's Response to the Standard by Wayne Grudem Power & Truth: A Response to the Critiques of Vineyard Teaching and Practice by D.A. Carson, James Montgomery Boice, and John H. Armstrong. Another book demonstrating the unshakable biblical evidence for the perpetuity of spiritual gifts is The Kingdom and the Power with contributions from J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, David Lewis, S.M. Gurgess, John White, etc. Again, while MacArthur balks at letting one's personal experience shape the way they view Scripture, he fails to recognize that his own view of Scripture seems to be shaped by his own experience (or lack thereof). But God can and does sometimes use personal experience to force His children to reexamine their cherished doctrines and interpretations. The Lord in His mercy may use our circumstances to turn our theological worlds upside down and bring us to the truth. (This is essentially what happened to Saul of Tarsus.) Allow me to use an illustration to show how a dramatic experience can cause a person to reevaluate their biblical model of interpretation. Let's suppose that I believe that God does not heal blindness anymore. Suppose I have a female friend who is blind. My other friend, John, is a Christian whom I respect. John believes that God still heals today. My opinion of John is that he is sincere and genuine, but his interpretation of the New Testament is faulty. John seeks, through the Scriptures, to demonstrate to me that healing is for today. I listen to him, but opt for alternative interpretations of all the texts he shows me. One day John prays for my blind friend and her eyes are instantly opened.
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I would be a fool not to re-evaluate my interpretation of Scripture and conclude that I was wrong. John Wimber's testimony is similar to this incident. His interview with Christianity Today (March 19, 1990) is an outstanding testimony of the reality of the miraculous power of God that is available today. The interview was actually a panel discussion between Wimber and several other theologians. In it, Wimber candidly states, The biggest difficulty I've had with miracles is that they do not fit in terms of our worldview. We're twentieth-century materialists, we're rationalists, so we look for natural, materialistic clarifications of things. And I'm not any different than most people. So I've had to struggle with things that I've seen. Let me give an illustration. I was in Melbourne, Australia, last year, and the Lord gave me an impression, what we call a "word of knowledge," while I was ministering. So I said to the audience, "There's a woman here with a cleft palate. You've had two surgeries on the palate to try to resolve it. They've taken your teeth. You now wear a bridge. And the name Emma will be very precious to you. This is a sign to you that God wants to heal your palate." The woman came out of the audience, and a Christian surgeon became very concerned. He said, "Do you understand what you've promised that woman?"... So he explained rather ardently for ten minutes the nature of bones and how the cranium was a bone and that the inside of the mouth was a bone. "Do you understand what a mature bone is like?" he said. "You have to surgically break that bone in order for this palate to come together." And I said, "All I can tell you is what God told me, and I believe that if you'll go to join the prayer group you'll watch this woman get healed." He just looked at me as if I had six heads! Three days later the woman's palate closed. So the surgeon hurried her off to his offices and examined her, giving us one of those miracles that is authenticated by surgical medicine. While it is a mistake to build one's theology upon experience, it is also a mistake to ignore experience when it contradicts our theology. Intellectual honesty and humility would dictate that we rethink what we have been taught when our biblical interpretations do not fit the real world. It is sheer presumption to assert that God cannot intervene in the life of a believer through a mighty spiritual crisis and divine encounter.

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The testimony of Scripture is filled with such accounts, as well as the history of men and women throughout the history of the church. See Crisis Experiences in the Lives of Noted Christians by Dr. V. Raymond Edman.

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10. Does God Still Heal Today?


MacArthur lists various and sundry cases where charismatics failed to receive healing from God. Before I get into a biblical discussion about healing, I want to explain who MacArthur uses to discount the ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman in Charismatic Chaos as it will throw all of MacArthur's research into question. Concerning the late Kathryn Kuhlman, MacArthur cites Dr. William Nolen's study to discredit her ministry. I am familiar with Nolen's study. Nolen's major sampling was based upon only one service. Nolen got 82 names of people claiming to be healed in that service. After checking up on those individuals on his list, he concluded the following: "Did the Kuhlman service even offer a remote chance that a patient with a malignant disease might be cured ... I wrote to everyone on my list who at the time of the meeting had claimed a cure of a malignant disease." Nolen was appointed as an usher of the wheelchair division with Kuhlman's approval. And he interviewed many of the people who were coming in for healing. Nolen's legal secretaries took down the names and addresses of those who said they were healed and who spoke to Kuhlman after the meeting. He then spent months tracking down those individuals on his list. Nolen admitted that his experience was limited by resorting to secondhand evidence. He says, "I know, for example, from talking to people who attended many services that..." It is crucial to point out that Kuhlman would have screeners (some who were doctors) talk with those who claimed they had been healed before they actually testified to a healing in her services. This was to ensure that the individuals were really healed, rather than presuming they were. Kuhlman was hurt deeply by those who were not healed in her services, yet she did not want anyone testifying to a healing that was not genuine. Nolen picked people from this group for his so-called study!

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Nolen writes, "He (Richard Whalen) had tried to claim a cure, but Maggie (one of Kuhlman's screeners) had prevented him from getting to the stage. The legal secretaries had gotten his address." In this case (Nolen calls it Case A), Nolen tried to disprove that Kuhlman healed this man after finding out that he died of cancer 12 days after the meeting. But Kuhlman never claimed the man was healed. In fact, Kuhlman's staff prevented this man from claiming the cure publicly for obvious reasons. He wasn't healed. Yet Nolen documents it as a failure. Nolen also lists the amount of time he observed Kuhlman minister. Get this: it was only an hour and a half. Nolen says, "Not once, in the hour and a half that Kathryn Kuhlman spent healing, did I see a patient with an obvious organic disease healed." This is hardly a thorough study. Yet MacArthur uses Nolen as proof that Kuhlman's ministry was a failure. On the flip side, how does Nolen or MacArthur explain the countless documented cases of people who were healed at Kuhlman's services from ailments such as spinal injury, Hodgkin's disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, dermatomyositis, curvature of the spine, scleroderma, ulcerated intestines, cancer of the ear, bleeding ulcers, crippled feet, asthma, diabetes, blood clot on the optic nerve, back infection, injured cornea, pneumonia, and deafness? These cases are documented in several books and verified by doctors. One source is Craig Keener's Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts where he provides testimonials from medical doctors. Years ago, I recall watching a television interview with a man who had cerebral palsy. I think his name was Ralph Anderson, though I'm not positive. He was healed in a Kuhlman meeting, "rising up and walking" after she prayed for him. The man needed a full body brace to be able to walk. Strikingly, he was completely healed of the palsy at a Kuhlman meeting. Watching the interview, I had no doubts that his testimony was true, and it made me weep. He still had a slight vestige of the disease in the way he moved his mouth, but he was completely whole. He even brought his body brace with him for the interview as a visual witness of his
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former disease. During the interview, I remember he was jumping up and down thanking the Lord for the stunning miracle. A friend of mine, who happens to be a trained scientist, attended five of Kuhlman's meetings. He witnessed incredible miracles that he remembers vividly to this day. Some of them included the sound of bones cracking while the disabled were being healed. I find it curious (and disturbing) that my friend's firsthand testimony is drastically different from Nolen's description. Significantly, one skeptic documented 10 healings in a Kathryn Kuhlman crusade (official hospital documents were reproduced in his book). But he, not being a Christian, proceeded to attribute it to Kuhlman's power of clairvoyance. (See Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Who Believes in Miracles by Allen Spraggett. See also Time magazine, Sept. 14th, 1970, p. 62). Note that the critics of Jesus did the same thing. They attributed His powers to magic or demonic origins. You can find this in the Gospels as well as in the Early Church Fathers. Spraggett provided an appendix complete with doctor's reports. As for Kathryn Kuhlman's uncanny ability to know the sicknesses of people she had never met and know of healings taking place at the moment they were occurring, Spargett concluded that she was "the greatest clairvoyant of our time." That should tell you volumes. Although Spraggett attributed Kuhlman's gift to New Age explanations, he affirmed its authenticity. By contrast, Nolen obviously did his study looking for ways to make Kuhlman look fraudulent. This form of heavily biased research is known as "a self-fulfilling prophecy." That said, it is meaningless to document accounts of failed healings as proof that God does not heal today. According to a report from one of the speakers at the Strange Fire Conference, a well-known Christian author who is disabled went to a Kuhlman meeting many years ago. She wasn't healed during that meeting and felt completely neglected. She admitted becoming angry at God afterwards. It is alleged that this person is now saying (or implying) that Kuhlman was a fraud. This is so profoundly sad.
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Not everyone is healed today, unfortunately. But neither were they when Jesus was on the earth. When Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, for example, there was a multitude of sick people hoping to be healed. But Jesus only healed one person there (see John 5). How sad would it be for some of those people to accuse Jesus of being a fraud because they were not healed that day? Jesus Christ still heals. And He heals today for the same reasons He healed while He was living on earth. Christ did not heal simply to reveal His Deity, as many cessationists claim. No, He healed many simply out of compassion for the sick (Matt. 20:29-39; Luke 7:11-16). He healed others to inflict harm on the enemy's kingdom, "destroying the works of the devil" (Acts 10:38; 1 John 3:8). Many times the Lord told those He healed to tell no one, implying that His healings were not merely to authenticate His Deity before others (Matt. 8:1-4; 9:27-31; Mark 8:22-26). If healing the sick was only a sign or attestation of His identity, the Lord could have done more spectacular miracles on a regular basis such as raining fire from the sky, moving mountains, uprooting trees, etc. Healing, however, is described as much a part of His ministry as teaching and preaching (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:18). This is because healing, like ministering the Word, delivers humans from Satan's oppression. Divine healing, in effect, expresses and demonstrates that the kingdom of God has broken into planet earth. Although God can use sickness, sickness is envisioned in Scripture as a result of the Fall. Sickness is incipient death. It entered into the world through sin. And death is an enemy of God (Luke 13:16; 4:39; Heb. 2:14; Job 1-2). Acts 10:38 says, Jesus went about "healing those who were oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38). The Scriptures are clear that God is the author of healing (Exodus 15:26; Psalm 103:1-3; Matt. 8:2-3; 1 Thess. 5:23; James 5:13-15; 3 John 2), while Satan is the author of sin, sickness, and death. The Bible describes the purpose of sickness in the following ways: it is used as a judgment for sin (1 Cor. 11:30-31); a disciplinary tool to cause people to repent (Daniel 4:33-34); a curse
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(Exodus 15:26; Deu. 28:19-22); and a work of Satan to afflict and destroy (Acts 10:38; Job 2:67). Ultimately, sickness cannot be the perfect will of God for it will not exist in the future kingdom age. Although God often uses sickness as a tool to discipline His children, He does not "willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men" (Lam. 3:33). In this connection, Watchman Nee said the following regarding God's will for sickness and healing: Why do believers overlook their fleshly frames? It is because they erroneously look upon the Lord Jesus as saving them merely from their sins and not also from the sickness of their body...They forget that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8)...He who thinks God is reluctant to heal does not know His will. The earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus included "healing all who were sick" (Mt. 8:16). How can we arbitrarily claim that He now has changed His attitude? The aim of God for today is for His "will (to) be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt. 6:10). God's will is carried out in heaven: is there sickness there? No! God's will is altogether incompatible with sickness. What a serious fault it is for Christians, upon having asked healing of God and having given up hope, then to utter the words, "May the Lord's will be done" as if the will of the Lord were synonymous with sickness and death. God does not will for His children to be ill. Though He sometimes permits them to be sick for their profit, His determinate counsel forever is health for His people. The fact that there is no sickness in heaven fully proves what the will of God is...Realizing that sickness proceeds from the devil, we ought to resist it. We should be clear that it belongs to our enemy and hence is not to be welcomed by us. The Son of God comes to set us free, not to have us bound. I agree with MacArthur that miracles, in themselves, do not cause people to believe. The Lord refused to show a sign to the skeptics and even rebuked them for seeking a sign (Matt. 12:3839). Yet the Bible also tells us that Christ performed miracles to confirm to others that He was the Savior (John 20:29-30; 11:15, 45). The Bible, then, sets forth a paradox on the relationship between faith and miracles. On the one hand, God does not give miracles to those who lack faith (Matt. 13:58). On the other hand, God performs miracles in response to faith (Mark 5:34) and to invite faith (John 10:37-38). The Lord also uses them to confirm the faith of the already-believing and to attest the gospel message to those whom the Spirit has been preparing to repent and believe.
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The paradox clears when we understand that miracles have a distinct purpose for different types of people. Miracles do not bring faith to the wicked and proud in heart (Matt. 11:21-24; Luke 16:30). They actually increase the hardness of their hearts (think of Pharaoh's reaction to God's powerful works in Egypt). To the believer, however, miracles increase faith (see 1 Cor. 12-14; John 14:11; 4:48). Even so, there is a big difference between seeking a miracle so that a person may believe and expecting a miracle because a person believes. MacArthur fails to make this important distinction. When it comes to miracles, I have learned that skeptics are not convinced unless they see one. And God typically does not show skeptics miracles. In the same way, God usually does not reveal Himself to the hardened atheist. The exceptions are rare. So it is futile to try and prove to someone like MacArthur that God still works miracles today, including divine healing. As a general principle, the Lord hides His power from the skeptical and hard-hearted. And He displays His power to those who are humble and ready to believe (see John 6:26-30). For this reason, the Lord could pray, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25). Concerning faith, the Scriptures clearly teach that faith is a condition for both performing miracles in Jesus' name (Matt. 17:20; 20:21; Mark 11:22-24; Acts 3:12, 16; Gal. 3:5) and receiving miracles (Matt. 8:14-15; 9:20-22; 13:58; Mark 2:1-12; 5:21-43; 10:46-52; Acts 14:9). Even Jesus Himself was prevented from doing miracles due to people's unbelief (Mark 6:5). And when He did heal, He often attributed it to the person's faith (Matt. 9:22,28; 15:28; Mark 5:34; 9:29; 10:52). The significance of faith, then, cannot be discounted, ignored, or de-emphasized with respect to divine healing.
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The reasons why people do not believe, however, are numerous and complex. But more unsettling, God often does not heal people who appear to have faith. This is a mystery, and I do not have an explanation for it except to say that we are living in the "already, but not yet" of the kingdom. Thus we may "taste of the powers of the age to come" (as Hebrews 6 puts it), but those powers are not fully yet here. The last enemy is death and it will be completely destroyed in the end (1 Cor. 15:45ff.) Remember, sickness is incipient death. Until then, we will see healings come in waves (usually during revivals) and through certain people who have been given the specific gift of healing (see 1 Cor. 12). MacArthur tries to argue that healing declined in the early church and presents a list of Scriptures in an attempt to prove this. Upon careful scrutiny, however, his list contains little substance. It is solely built upon various conjectures. For instance, MacArthur assumes that Paul was sick when he talks about "a thorn in the flesh" in 2 Corinthians. But Paul never said he was sick in that text. In 2 Corinthians 11-12, Paul uses the word "infirmity" to describe his "thorn in the flesh." The Greek word translated infirmities simply means "weaknesses"; it does not necessarily refer to sickness or disease. I believe the "thorn" was a specific man who was operating by a spirit of jealousy and slander. This man was obsessed with Paul and followed him wherever he went. An evil spirit was behind this obsession. For details on this interpretation, see my article Rethinking Paul's Thorn in the Flesh. With this understanding, Paul's catalog of sufferings in the preceding chapter are seen as the fruit of his thorn (see 1 Cor. 11:23-30). These "infirmities," as he calls them, do not include sickness or disease. Instead, they refer to the persecutions that came as a result of physical and verbal assault. Whenever Paul would go into a new city to preach the gospel, the evil spirit (the thorn) was sent to hinder, obstruct, beat upon, and attack him through a human agent and his followers.

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Because of the menacing nature of this spirit, Paul uses the Old Testament figure "thorn" to describe it (see Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13). MacArthur believes that Epaphroditus' sickness buttresses his argument that the healing gift was being removed from the church. But he fails to mention that the Lord healed Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:27-30) The real reason why Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus is unknown; but possible explanations are countless (e.g., Trophimus lacked faith, he was being chastened by the Lord, or his recovery was slow-going). Even in the Gospels, the authors do not always say that Jesus healed every sick person who desired healing. Sometimes the text says He healed many, which implies that some were not healed. Since Scripture does not state the reason why some were not healed, any explanation is pure speculation. Sadly, it is often the case that when God is silent, men are most vocal. Since there are many sufficient alternatives to MacArthur's conclusions, as well as an abundance of contrary evidence, his point is untenable. Nowhere does the Bible state or imply that the gift of healing passed away.

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11. What About Health and Wealth?


I share much of MacArthur's sentiments about the so-called "health and wealth gospel." From my observation, not all "faith" or "prosperity" teachers are in the same boat. Some are charlatans. Others, I believe, have a message of faith that's genuine and helpful (God responds to faith and the enemy responds to fear). However, their emphasis on financial success is out of balance. Others have whacky ideas, reinventing the New Testament to fit their teaching (like painting Jesus as a financially wealthy man, whereby all the scholarship discounts that image.) While I believe God promises to meet our needs and the Lord blesses people (even with financial prosperity in some cases), there has been an unhealthy and unbiblical emphasis on obtaining wealth by some of the modern "prosperity" teachers. Putting the charlatans aside, for some of these teachers, it is an error-by-emphasis. I personally wish the "Word of Faith" teachers would spend far more time teaching what the Bible says about giving to the poor and bringing justice to the oppressed as they do on how to obtain one's personal dreams. (If you consider yourself to be a "faith teacher," may I implore you to consider this challenged seriously. If you start preaching God's heart for the poor and emphasize how well-to-do Christians could use their wealth to help the poor and oppressed, let me know so I can start promoting your messages on this score.) You can begin here to see the whole sweep of the Bible on this matter. It is important to realize, however, that many charismatics do not believe in the prosperity message as it is commonly taught. That is, they do not believe that God wants every Christian to be financially rich. In fact, some of the most prominent Pentecostals and charismatics have publicly reproved the errors within this stream of the charismatic world. David Wilkerson, Bob Phillips, Walter Martin, Charles Farah, Gordon Fee, D.R. McConnell, and Dr. Michael Brown are just a few examples. Here are some books that break open this issue. I only point to them because MacArthur is under the impression that none of the charismatics denounce the extremes on this issue. Not so. For example . . . A Different Gospel by D.R. McConnell
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From the Pinnacle of the Temple by Charles Farah The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels by Gordon Fee The Health and Wealth Gospel by Bruce Barron Whatever Happened to the Power of God by Dr. Michael Brown

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12. Did the Apostolic Ministry Really Disappear?


The Sunday school teacher asked the class, "Does anyone know what an apostle is?" The little boy answered, "Isn't it a person who is married to an Epistle?" The view that many Christians have--including many charismatics--is not much more accurate than the little boy's answer in this story. MacArthur, like most cessationists, believes that the apostles vanished with the closing of the biblical canon. But can this idea be supported by the evidence? Many continualists believe that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit continue today except for the apostolic ministry. It would be sufficient for this book to show that healing, revelation, prophecy, tongues, etc. are all extant today. But if a valid argument can additionally be made for the continuance of the apostolic gift, then the cessationist case would be shown to be even weaker. So I would like to make this case and get feedback from my continualist friends who were taught that apostles did not continue after Paul of Tarsus. On that score, the following is from Chapter 11 of my book, Finding Organic Church, entitled, "Wasn't Paul the Last Apostle?" Objection: Didnt Paul say that he was the last apostle? And didnt he say that one of the evidences of an apostle is to see Jesus Christ? Therefore, apostles (church planters) have passed away, right? Answer: Paul never said that he was the last apostle. And there is no New Testament text that states that the ministry of the apostle has passed away. In 1 Corinthians 15:89, Paul said that he was the least apostle, not the last. He also said that he was the last person to see Jesus Christ physically after about five hundred others saw Him. But Paul never stated that he would be the last person to see the risen Lord. Such assertions are read into the text. They cannot be found in Pauls actual words. In two of Pauls last letters, he says that God has set in the body of Christ sent ones, that is, apostles (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). There is no Scripture anywhere that overturns, nullifies, or cancels out those statements. To suggest so is to speak where the Bible has not spoken.

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If that is not enough, the last book of the New Testament records the words of Jesus regarding the testing of false apostles. (The mark of a false apostle is one of the following: He seeks money and/or fame, or he supplants the work of other apostles.) If a church must test whether or not a person is a true apostle, this by necessity means that true apostles exist (Rev. 2:2). As Howard Snyder says, Because of the obvious uniqueness of the original apostles, some have argued that apostles no longer exist today. But this conclusion runs counter to the Biblical evidence and makes too sharp a break between the original apostles and the church leaders who followed them. What follows is a list of all the apostles mentioned in the New Testament: Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1) The Twelve (Matt. 10:24; Mark 3:1419; Luke 6:1316). Note: The Twelve have special prominence thats not shared with any other apostle who followed them (Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:14): Andrew Bartholomew (also called Nathanael) James, son of Zebedee James, son of Alphaeus John Judas Iscariot (Matthias took his placeActs 1:26) Judas (also called Lebbaeus and surnamed Thaddaeus) Matthew (also called Levi) Peter (also called Simon) Philip Simon Zelotes (also called Simon the Canaanite)
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Thomas (also called Didymus) In addition to the Twelve, the following are also called apostles(apostolos in Greek): Apollos (1 Cor. 4:69) Andronicus (Rom. 16:7) Barnabas (Acts 14:34, 14; 1 Cor. 9:56) Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) James, the Lords brother (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19) Paul (Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1, et al.) Silas (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6) Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6) Titus (2 Cor. 8:23) Junia (Rom. 16:7). Note: All the evidence points to Junia being a woman apostle. That is how the early church fathers interpreted this passage. In fact, no commentator until the twelfth century understood the name to be masculine (see Robert Banks, Pauls Idea of Community [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994], 155; Charles Trombley, Who Said Women Cant Teach? [South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge, 1985], 19091). See also Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2005); and F. F. Bruce, The Pauline Circle (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 83. Bruce writes of Andronicus and Junia, Jewish believers whose faith in Christ antedated Pauls. They are of note among the apostles, Paul adds (Rom. 16:7), meaning that they were not only known to the apostles but eminent apostles themselves. Clearly, the New Testament makes evident that Paul was not the last apostle. In addition, the idea that an apostle must physically see Jesus has no support from the New Testament either. Some have pointed to 1 Corinthians 9:1 where Paul asks, Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? to prove that apostles must physically see the risen Lord. But Paul was not stating that an apostle must see Christ. He made that statement along with this one: Am I not free? Freedom is not a unique qualification for being an apostle. All Christians are free in Christ, not just apostles.
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If you continue to read the passage, Paul argues that his apostleship is evidenced by the fruit of his laborsare you not my work in the Lord?rather than his being free or having seen the Lord Jesus. While it is true that all twelve apostles saw the resurrected Christ physically (including Matthias), it is not true for many of the other apostles who came after the Twelve. Nevertheless, what is true for all Christian workers is that each of them shares a deep and living revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:7ff.; Phil. 3:10). For upon that revelation the church is built (Matt. 16:1618; 1 Cor. 3:11).

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13. That Thorny Gift of Tongues


MacArthur argues that the charismatic movement has fallen prey to the same errors of the early Corinthian assembly. He asserts that the "movement" breeds catastrophe because it discourages people from discerning truth by using Scripture and sound reason. Again, MacArthur's blanket characterization is unfair. Spiritual error and abuse is not a peculiarly "charismatic" tragedy. Spiritual abuse and error are rampant in evangelical, fundamentalist, and Reformed circles as well. Though not connected to "spiritual gifts," that does not make them any less toxic. I find it ironic that MacArthur makes the same mistakes in biblical interpretation that he levels against charismatic Christians. In describing the situation at Corinth, MacArthur adds much of his own thought and clearly goes beyond the text. For example, in Charismatic Chaos he says that some of the Corinthians were speaking in demonic tongues! What? Where is that in the text? The most careful reading of the text will show that there is not a whisper of that idea present. On the contrary, Paul never questioned the genuineness of any of the gifts that were in operation at Corinth. The issue that Paul was addressing was not one of authenticity, but one of order and motivation. The Corinthians possessed genuine gifts, and Paul encouraged the use of those gifts. But he also exhorted them to exercise spiritual gifts by the motivation of love. In Paul's mind, the gifts were for the sake of edifying the Body, not for personal enjoyment. This is precisely why 1 Corinthians 13 (the "love chapter") is nestled between Paul's discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Additionally, Paul provides specific guidelines regarding the exercise of prophecy and tongues (see 1 Cor. 14:27-30).
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MacArthur's interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 is also flawed, in my view. He states that "Paul was criticizing the Corinthians for using their gift of tongues to speak to God and not to men." This is refuted by 1 Corinthians 14:17, where Paul says that the person who prays in tongues "gives thanks well," but the other is not edified. This latter statement is at the heart of Paul's rebuke to the Corinthians. They were not exercising the gift in an edifying manner. Furthermore, MacArthur's interpretation is discounted by 1 Corinthians 14:28 where Paul says that the tongue speaker is free to pray in tongues to himself and to God. Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 14 is not that praying in tongues is wrong or misguided, but that tongues which are spoken in public are to be interpreted so that others may be edified. Paul never once said or implied that the Corinthians were exercising counterfeit glossolalia "taken from trance-like mystery religions," as MacArthur asserts. (David Aune and Christopher Forbes showed long ago, in scholarly works, that New Testament tongues do not come from such sources.) I equally disagree with MacArthur's assumption that spiritual gifts discourage people from discerning truth from Scripture and sound reason. Proper use of spiritual gifts facilitates the church's understanding of Scripture and vice versa, for both the Spirit and the Word work together. Jesus Himself said, "But when the Comforter comes, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He [ the Spirit] shall testify of me: and you [the original apostles] also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27). 1 John 2 and 1 Corinthians 2 make the same essential point. I do not think that any genuine Christian would suggest that Paul of Tarsus lacked discernment and sound reason. Yet he believed in and exercised spiritual gifts ("I pray in tongues more than you all"--1 Cor. 14:18). The same can be said about countless Christians since. So yes, some charismatic churches resemble the Corinthian assembly, but not all.

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And some evangelical, fundamentalist, and Reformed churches also resemble Corinthian carnality, just minus the abuse of spiritual gifts (which only takes up two chapters of Paul's letter.) The abuse in spiritual gifts was the least of the church's problems, and Paul never connects the exercise of gifts with the more serious problems of sin and carnality. Much more can be said about the gift of tongues, but "tongues" is not an issue that I would die on any hill to defend. While I believe this gift is operative today, prophecy is far more valuable. If you're looking for a footnote on that statement, read 1 Corinthians 14.

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14. Five Big Questions


At this point, I would like to list five common objections to the perpetuity of spiritual gifts along with my responses. Since MacArthur raises many of them in his two books, I think it would be worthwhile to cover them here. 1. I know people who speak in tongues, but they seem to be carnal and spiritually immature. Doesn't this prove that the gift of tongues is false? No. While it is true that there is a demonic manifestation of false tongues that some cults practice, carnality in itself does not betoken false tongues. We must remember that baby Christians can speak in tongues. The accounts in the book of Acts show that many spoke in genuine tongues the same day they believed on Christ. In addition, we know that there was much carnality in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 3:1-4), yet tongues were prevalent there. Paul never once said or implied that the Corinthians were praying in false tongues. Rather, he instructed the Corinthians to use their tongues in a more spiritual manner, that is, in a way that would edify the Body (1 Cor. 12-14). Oftentimes, a gift will operate in a believer's life regardless of how they are walking at the time, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29). Saul, Samson, and Balaam are summary witnesses to the fact that God can still gift a person even if they have a defective character. I have known several highly gifted preachers who could preach powerfully under God's anointing while they were living in carnality (they were jealous of others and engaged in slander, lying, and gossip against them--all sins of the flesh). Some were involved in continuous immorality, yet this did not affect their preaching or writing gift. The same is true for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Paul even hints at this at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13. He says that a person can receive revelation, prophesy, and work miracles, yet fail to walk in love. I remember having a conversation with N.T. Wright in 2007 where he admitted he speaks in tongues. I do not think anyone who knows Wright or his work would accuse him of being carnal or immature. 2. Doesn't the Bible say that speaking in tongues was used for preaching to sinners in their own language? While some have suggested this, there is no example in Scripture that would indicate that believers spoke in tongues directly to humans.
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First of all, Paul makes clear that tongues are toward God and not toward people (1 Cor. 14:2, 14-17). Secondly, in Acts 2, the disciples were magnifying God in tongues, not preaching to people. This is why the people who heard them speak in tongues thought they were drunk. The Bible does not say that Peter preached to the diversity of people in tongues. Peter probably spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, a language that most Jews knew at the time (in Acts 2, the Jews gathered together from many lands to celebrate Pentecost). Thirdly, if tongues are used to preach to people, why the need for interpretation? The Bible makes clear that when one speaks in tongues, their understanding is unproductive, and hence, they need the gift of interpretation in order to understand them (1 Cor. 14:14). I think these three reasons discount the idea that tongues were used to preach to people in their own language. Gordon Fee's book, God's Empowering Presence, contains an excellent scholarly treatment of this question. See also Fee's Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. 3. Doesn't the Bible teach that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit can only be imparted through the hands of the apostles, and hence, these gifts must have ceased shortly after the death of the twelve apostles? As we have already established, there were more than twelve apostles in the early church. Paul, Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Silas, Timothy (1 Thes. 1:1; 2:6), James the Lord's brother (Gal. 1:19), Andronicus, Junia (Rom. 16:7), and Apollos (1 Cor. 4:4-9) are all called apostles in the New Testament. Furthermore, one does not have to be an apostle to impart God's Spirit. Ananias imparted the Holy Spirit to Paul, and Ananias was not an apostle (Acts 9:17). Some have suggested that Philip could not impart the Spirit to the Samaritans because he was not an apostle, and hence, he had to call for Peter and John. However, I believe Peter and John went to Samaria because of the principle of cooperation. Christ desires His work to be accomplished by a plurality of believers and not solely by one person (Matt. 11:2; 21:2; Acts 9:38; 19:22). Philip's main calling was that of evangelist, i.e. to preach and to baptize. Peter and John, as apostles, were church builders. Finally, Philip was the first person to bring the gospel of Christ to a Samaritan city. Given this groundbreaking and highly controversial situation, Philip undoubtedly felt that involving the apostles would be prudent. 4. Why do we not see the kinds of miracles and gifts like we saw in the New Testament?
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Miracles and spiritual gifts operate all over the world. Just because I did not witness a miracle with my own eyes does not mean it did not take place. While miracles do occur in Christian circles that believe in and exercise spiritual gifts, they are less frequent in the well-to-do West than the East because Westerners have been conditioned to embrace an empirical, Enlightenment view of the supernatural realm. Thus faith in the miraculous is more difficult for the Western mind to exercise. Miracles also seem to come in waves. The late 1940s and early 50s as well as the late 1960s and early 70s in North America saw two revivals which were characterized by the miraculous power of God in healing. Even in the New Testament era, miracles appeared to come in waves as well. 5. Is it not true that those who believe in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts place undue emphasis on the gift of tongues and improperly elevate it above all other gifts? While some who practice spiritual gifts over-emphasize tongues, this cannot be said about all charismatics and continualists. To my mind, the Pentecostals are the main group of people who believe that tongues is special. The classic Pentecostal view holds that tongues is "the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit." I disagree with this idea. And so do most continualists. See my blog series Rethinking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for details.

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15. A Challenge & Request


MacArthur holds that charismatics have offered nothing of value to the Body of Christ. This idea is both sectarian and outlandish and betrays the fact that MacArthur knows little about the charismatic world. For a look at the valuable contributions that charismatics have made during the early days of the "charismatic movement," see A Profile of the Charismatic Movement by J. Rodman Williams in Christianity Today, February 28, 1975. The words of the traditional and logical Calvinist J.I. Packer are also fitting: One thing the charismatic movement has been sent to do, I believe, is to alert us all to the fact that God, when trusted, will show His hand in many thrilling ways, and we should be expecting Him to do that, though without dictating to Him what He must do in particular situations. To my mind, the panel discussion on the power of the Holy Spirit hosted by The Christianity Today Institute is an instructive example of where the focus needs to be for bridging the gap between charismatics and non-charismatics. Reflecting back on the panel discussion, the chief moderator wrote, In that atmosphere of surprise, long-held feelings of suspicion evaporated with amazing rapidity. And that was good... Not that we agreed on all points when we were finished, because we didn't. We still disagreed. But now we disagreed over real differences and not over what we thought someone else was saying. Moreover, we realized the things we really do disagree about are not nearly so important to us as the things we thought we disagreed about. The most helpful solution in fostering unity between charismatics and non-charismatics is through direct, honest, and frank communication. This includes an understanding of the three major Spiritual Conversational Styles. As I point out in Revise Us Again, some cessationists will experience the miraculous power of the Spirit without labeling it with biblical terms. In a radio interview with Dr. Michael Brown, Sam Storms gives examples from the life of Charles Spurgeon (who was a cessationist) where he functioned in supernatural prophetic revelation--one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. But Spurgeon did not recognize it to be a supernatural gift because of his cessationist viewpoint.
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Click here to listen to the radio interview. In the first half, Michael Brown debates Phil Johnson (MacArthur's associate). In the second half, he talks with Adrian Warnock and Sam Storms about the Strange Fire conference. All told, without firsthand communication and fellowship, the divisions between these two groups will remain, the chasm will grow wider, and the plethora of misconceptions and suspicions that surround the issue will continue to thrive in the absence of discussion. Again, the words of J.I. Packer are appropriate: I would add that those who practice a ministry of gifts in the style that's been described by John Wimber and Tim Warner ought to visit those of us who do it a different way and vice versa. It's not enough just to read about each other's styles. We need to have personal experience as visitors. Our own appreciation for each other requires this. Note the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians: "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." The Reformed Christian cannot say to the charismatic Christian, "I have no need of you." And vice versa. In the end, nothing is to distract God's people from the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, not even the Person and work of the Holy Spirit or someone's systematic theology. Closing Request If you were a cessationist before reading this critique and you've changed your position in any way after reading it, please write us at PTMIN@aol.com and let us what you found persuasive in this critique. Recommended Resources: Sam Storms' Response to Strange Fire Adrian Warnock's Response to Strange Fire Mark Rutland's Response to Strange Fire Dr. Michael Brown's Appeal to John MacArthur J. Rodman Williams' Response to John MacArthur: Biblical Truth & Experience A Response to Charismatic Chaos by Rich Nathan of the Vineyard
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Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views edited by Wayne Grudem with contributions by Sam Storms The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today by Craig Keener Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist by Sam Storms

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