Strange Fire – John MacArthur – 261 Pages

– The Danger Of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship –

Extracts from the Introduction –

‘The “Holy Spirit” found in the vast majority of charismatic teaching and practice bears no resemblance to the true Spirit of God as revealed in Scripture. The Holy Spirit is not an electrifying current of ecstatic energy, a mind-numbing babbler of irrational speech, or a cosmic genie who indiscriminately grants self-centered wishes for health and wealth. The true Spirit of God does not cause His people to bark like dogs or laugh like hyenas; He does not knock them backward to the ground in an unconscious stupor; He does not incite them to worship in chaotic and uncontrollable ways; and He certainly does not accomplish His kingdom work through false prophets, fake healers, and fraudulent evangelists. By inventing a Holy Spirit of idolatrous imaginations, the modern Charismatic Movement offers strange fire that has done incalculable harm to the body of Christ.’

‘It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor him. How do they do it? By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences, that have nothing to do with Him. They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work.’

‘In spite of their gross theological error, charismatic’s demand acceptance within mainstream evangelicalism. And evangelicals have largely succumbed to those demands, responding with outstretched arms and a welcoming smile. In so doing, mainstream evangelism has unwittingly invited an enemy into the camp. The gates have been flung open to a Trojan horse of subjectivism, experientialism, ecumenical compromise, and heresy. Those who compromise in this way are playing with strange fire and placing themselves in grave danger.’

‘When the Pentecostal Movement started in the earl 1900s, it was largely considered a cult by theological conservatives. For the most part, it was isolated and contained within its own denominations. But in the 1960s, the movement began to spill over into the mainline denominations – gaining a foothold in Protestant churches that had embraced theological liberalism and were already spiritually dead.’

‘The emotional experientialism of Pentecostalism brought a spark to those otherwise stagnant congregations – – – – ’

‘The results of that charismatic takeover have been devastating. In recent history, no other movement has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, to distort the truth, and to smother the articulation of sound doctrine. Charismatic theology has turned the evangelical church into a cesspool of error and a breeding ground for false teachers. It has warped genuine worship through unbridled emotionalism, polluted prayer with private gibberish, contaminated true spirituality with unbiblical mysticism, and corrupted faith by turning it into a creative force for speaking worldly desires into existence. By elevating the authority of experience over the authority of Scripture, the Charismatic Movement has destroyed the church’s immune system – uncritically granting free access to every imaginable form of heretical teaching and practice.

Put bluntly, charismatic theology has made no contribution to true biblical theology or interpretation; rather, it represents a deviant mutation of the truth. Like a deadly virus it, gains access into the church by maintaining a superficial connection to certain characteristics of biblical Christianity, but in the end it always corrupts and distorts sound teaching.’

Further Extracts from the Book –

‘Like any form of false religion, theological liberalism began as an abandonment of the authority of God’s word. Centuries earlier, the medieval Roman Catholic Church had experienced a similar, though more gradual, departure – exchanging the authority of Scripture for the authority of ecclesiastical tradition and papal decree. That is why the Reformation was necessary. By departing from the sole authority of Scripture, both Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism became enemies of true Christianity, fraudulent versions of the very thing they claimed to represent.

The modern charismatic counterfeit is following down the same perilous path – basing its belief system on something other than the sole authority of Scripture and poisoning the church with a twisted notion of faith – –

– – The extent to which both of those corrupt systems destroyed the lives of millions is matched by the doctrinal devastation spreading from charismatic error and confusion.

Though many charismatics give lip service to the primacy of Scripture, in practice they deny both its authority and sufficiency. Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, charismatics seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. Within a charismatic paradigm, biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster.’

‘Although charismatic’s claim to represent the Holy Spirit, their movement has shown a persistent tendency to pit Him against the Scriptures – as if a commitment to biblical truth somehow might quench, grieve, or otherwise inhibit the Spirit’s ministry. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book! It is the instrument He uses to convict unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the sword by which He energizes the proclamation of the gospel, piercing the hearts of the spiritually dead and raising them to spiritual life. It is the means by which He unleashes His sanctifying power in the lives of those who believe, growing them in grace through the pure milk of biblical instruction.

Thus, to reject the Scriptures is to rebuff the Spirit. To ignore, distain, twist, or disobey the Word of God is to dishonor the One who inspired, illuminates, and empowers it. But to wholeheartedly embrace and submit to biblical truth is to enjoy the fullness of the Spirits ministry – being filled by His sanctifying power, being led by Him in His righteousness, and being equipped with His armor in the battle against sin and error.

The New Testament calls us to guard carefully that which has been entrusted to us (2 Tim. 1:14). We must stand firm on the truth of the gospel – the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Whoever compromises with the error and subjectivism of charismatic theology allows the enemy into the camp. I am convinced that the broader charismatic Movement opened the door to more theological error than perhaps any other doctrinal aberration in the twentieth century (including liberalism, psychology, and ecumenism).

That’s a bold statement, I know. But the proof is all around us. Once experientialism is allowed to gain a foothold, there is no brand of heresy or wickedness that will not ride it into the church.

Charismatic theology is the strange fire of our generation, and evangelical Christians have no business flirting with it at any level. I cannot understand why anyone would want to legitimize a practice that has no biblical precedent – especially when the modern practice has shown itself to be a gateway to all sorts of theological error. Continuationists seem blissfully unaware of this and unconcerned by it. Their failure to notice how their teaching undermines the authority, sufficiency, and uniqueness of Scripture amounts to negligent malfeasance.’

We agree with the above but would like to see Mr MacArthur put his Calvanism to the same biblical scrutiny  –  which comes through in chapters on the Holy Spirit.