An Update on the whole Michael Brown/Strange Fire/John MacArthur hullabaloo

Well, for those who have been following it (which up until now didn’t include me), Michael Brown has come back at John MacArthur with another round of responses.  He wrote An Appeal to John MacArthur to Embrace God’s True Fire over at the Charisma website.  Then, Michael Brown tossed some lawn darts at RC Sproul regarding his comments about charismatic false prophecy in another Charisma article entitled R.C. Sproul, False Prophecies and the Word of God.  Then, Dr. Brown tossed another volley at the whole cessationist crowd and suggested that the problem is that there isn’t enough (unbiblical) manifestations of the Spirit with his article Lack of Fire: The True Crisis in the Contemporary Charismatic Church.

In response to Brown’s various comments, Grace to You posted a video about the main problem with the Charismatic Movement from none other than John MacArthur himself here.  Then, GTY posted a video on whether or not sign gifts are necessary for worshiping God “in spirit and in truth” and also a video on how to identify false teachers.  Over at the Cripplegate, Mike Riccardi posted a response to the pragmatic argument that says “people are getting saved, so it must be authentic”.  Most recently, Fred Butler responded to Michael Brown directly in an article entitled A Mess in the Maternity Ward?

So, there has been a fair amount of ink back and forth…but I’m guessing that around 10,000x more ink will be spilled after the upcoming Strange Fire conference.  Once again, I don’t speak officially for anyone at Grace To You, Grace Community Church, The Masters Seminary, or any beauty school anywhere in California (for that matter).  I’m a nobody blogger who every now and then has a thought or two that he shares (in in lieu of thoughts, does things like post a series of links to what other people have written!).

I read Brown’s 3 responses and I have only a few responses of my own (my responses are indented and in italics).

1.  His article An Appeal to John MacArthur to Embrace God’s True Fire:

- Brown quotes MacArthur as saying “I was down in Florida and people are being rocked down there by this Pensacola craziness that’s going on in the name of revival and people flipping and flopping and diving on the floor and gyrating and speaking in bizarre and unintelligible fashion and all of this kind of wild thing is going on. And they keep saying this is God, this is of God.”

- Then Brown responds and says “I calculated that someone visiting us for five days, attending the day sessions, night services, Sunday school and Sunday morning service would hear the Word taught and preached for almost a dozen hours, while students in our ministry school would be immersed in the Word for another 16 hours a week. Yet because we freely welcomed the move of the Spirit—although not as described by Pastor MacArthur—we were allegedly experiencing a mindless, irrational, emotional orgy.”

- So were people being “slain in the Spirit”, experiencing holy laughter, holy glue, ecstatic speech being referred to as “tongues” or not?  That’s the real question.  Brown appears to say that MacArthur is misrepresenting that side of Brownsville; that the “flipping and flopping” didn’t occur.

Well, that sure looks like it is what is happening here (starting at about the 6:00 mark):

And that sure looks like it is what is happening here (for like the whole 2nd hour of the video).

And that sure looks like it is what is happening here (starting at around 1:12.00 mark)

Those videos were from the time that Michael Brown was associated with Brownsville.

Especially that last video, at the 1:12.00 mark, is the point under debate.  Michael Brown says that’s an authentic move of the Holy Spirit.  What do you think?  Is that the true outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers? 

Do you hear biblical tongues in those videos?  No.

Are people biblically prophesying in those videos?  No.

Is there flipping and flopping all over the place, chaos, gyrating and speaking in bizarre and unintelligible fashion?  Sure looks like it.

In the last video at the 1:19.22 mark a woman starts screaming and at the 1:19.37 mark the preacher says “It’s all right, don’t worry about it.  That’s okay.  That’s God.”  Why is it that the pastor needs to console the congregation about whether or not something is God (or presumably, not God…i.e. demonic)?

The real dividing line between MacArthur and Brown is that MacArthur learns what an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit is from the scripture and Brown (apparently) learns from his experience twisting the scripture:

- Holy Laughter isn’t anywhere in the Bible, yet people like Brown claim to believe the Bible and claim it’s authentic.

- Tongues is never ecstatic speech in the Bible, yet people like Brown claim to believe the Bible and claim it’s authentic.

- Getting knocked over by a preacher and stuck to the floor for an hour isn’t anywhere in the Bible, yet people like Brown claim to believe the Bible and claim it’s authentic.

- Getting tossed against a wall by the Holy Spirit isn’t anywhere in the Bible, yet people like Brown claim to believe the Bible and claim it’s authentic.

All those kinds of things are deemed the manifestations of the Holy Spirit by Brown and the manifestations of anything but the Holy Spirit by MacArthur (and arguably the scriptures).

That is not the true fire of God…as if the phrase “true fire” has any biblical precedent in the first place.  The “fire” of God never is used in reference to “passion” in the Bible.  Never.  Just one more example of the scripture twisting machine of the Charismatic movement.

2.  His article R.C. Sproul, False Prophecies and the Word of God.

- Brown reads Sproul’s claims to have experience 40-50 false prophecies and he then writes “I can certainly understand why he concluded the gift of prophecy was not for today. After all, 40 to 50 false prophecies in a row would seem to be conclusive evidence.”

- Brown then gives Sproul 2 questions.  First he asked this:

“First, what about those of us who can attest to giving or receiving amazingly accurate prophetic words over the years—words that glorified God, that exalted Jesus, that were clearly supernatural in origin, that proved stunningly true, that produced a holy reverence for the Lord and lasting fruit for His kingdom?”

- Well, they may well be demonic; empowered by Satan for the “confirmation” of a false movement of the “Spirit”.  Supernatural insight doesn’t necessarily mean that God is behind it.  If Satan can get you to wrongly think that you’re glorifying God, exalting Jesus, having holy reverence and producing lasting fruit, then it’s mission accomplished for him. I mean:

If you’re “glorifying God” by ignoring the scripture and doing whatever you want, then Satan has defeated you.

If you’re exalting Jesus by chasing sign gifts and having 4 hour church meetings that end with half the congregation lying around in drooling trances, then Satan has defeated you.

If you think holy reverence is simply being really excited about God and wanting to go to church 7 days a week, then Satan has defeated you.

If you think that “lasting fruit” means people make a profession of faith, learn a whole lot of information about the Bible, and keep going to church for decades, then Satan has defeated you (and I’d refer you to my previous post on Rachel Slick if you think professions of faith, church attendance and learning theology equals “lasting fruit”).

and then Brown asked this:

“Second, and more importantly, since we agree the Scriptures are our ultimate authority and that everything must be tested by the Word, then don’t we need to investigate what those Scriptures say about the gift of prophecy?”

- Yeah!  We do!  Brown goes on to give a simplistic response along the lines of saying that 1 Corinthians 14:39 says “earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” so anyone who doesn’t desire prophecy doesn’t really believe in Sola Scriptura, or take the scriptures seriously.  Well, I sure stand corrected.  I thought I believed the Bible and clearly I do not…no wait.

- How about we don’t brainlessly assume that everything claiming to be “prophecy” indeed is prophecy and look at the biblical definition of prophecy?  Is if fallible or infallible?  (hint, the prophet speaks on behalf of God, with his authority and accuracy).  Can a prophet ever prophesy “in the flesh”?  (Hint, remember Balaam who tried?  How did that go for him?) On those two points alone, 95% of what’s labelled as “prophecy” in the Charismatic Movement is unquestionably false.  Then let’s let the Bible tell us what the punishment for false prophecy is (Deut. 13 & 18). 

I’m open to the possibility of prophecy if you’re open to the possibility of being killed in church.

Any takers?

Thought not.

3.  His article Lack of Fire: The True Crisis in the Contemporary Charismatic Church.

- Brown starts the article off by saying “The biggest problem in the contemporary charismatic Pentecostal church of America is certainly not “strange fire.” It is the lack of fire—Holy Spirit fire, divine fire, the fire of visitation, the fire of Pentecost.”

- He then writes “Is there some “strange fire” in our midst, some fleshly manifestations and hyped-up emotional displays? I’m sure there is, but it probably represents a tiny percentage of what actually happens in most charismatic Pentecostal churches in America today.”

Funny, because Mike Bickle (you know, the man that Brown defends as a great man of God) proudly says that a majority of the “manifestations” of the Spirit in the charismatic movement are completely fake (starting at around the 5:50 mark) and are actually learned behaviors that people do because they’re expected to do.  He even claims that he “fakes it” at times and says it’s all right to tell the fakers to stop (you can’t quench the Spirit if it’s not the Spirit…I’m not sure if Bickle fully realizes how much his own tongue destroys his movement):

What’s worse, is that in the following video Bickle actually drops the number 80%, as in 80% of the charismatic movement is completely fake, and people can quickly learn to automatically “manifest the Spirit” without the Spirit being involved at all:

- One thought though: how in the world does Bickle know that 20% is authentic and 80% is false?  By what standard?  Why 80% and not 50% or even 5%? Notice how he doesn’t need to even crack a Bible open in either video to teach on the manifestations of the Spirit; he apparently just knows.  Mike Bickle is the authority on spiritual gifts because he thinks his 40 years of church experience makes him an authority.

Mike Bickle doesn’t believe in the inspiration of scripture.  He may claim he does, but he sure doesn’t act like it.  Who needs the word of God when we can have the word of Mike Bickle?

- Brown then writes:

“But where is the divine visitation?

Where is the demonstration of the power of God?

Where is the soul-shaking encounter with the risen Lord?

Where is the outpouring of deep repentance, the instantaneous deliverance of lifelong bondages, the sudden outbreak of miraculous healings?

Where are the prophetic words that bring the sinner to his knees in a revelation of the reality of God?

Where is the move of God that takes our breath away, the extraordinary nearness of heaven in worship that radically changes our perspective in a moment of time?”

- I agree, but is he thinking about the same thing I’m thinking about?

- Brown then clarifies what he’s talking about:

“I am grateful to God for those churches where the Spirit is really moving, but truth be told, there are plenty of our churches that go months—or even years—without seeing a single true convert, that can’t remember the last documented healing, that can hardly point to a significant prophetic word, that haven’t had a Sunday morning service in memory that went on for hours because God was working so powerfully.

Yet we call ourselves Pentecostal and charismatic. Why?

We have gotten so far away from the real power of Pentecost that many of our people don’t even speak in tongues—or if they once did, they hardly do anymore. In fact, some of the professors at our “Pentecostal” Bible colleges don’t even believe in speaking in tongues, let alone practice it.

And we are “Pentecostal”? In what sense?”

- Ah.  I get it.  We need more conversions (agreed), healings, prophecy, multiple-hour church services, and  tongues (disagreed).  There’s no concern as to whether or not the “manifestations” are authentic.  Brown simply assumes that they are and those things are the “true fire” that we need more of.

What Brown calls “true fire” MacArthur calls “strange fire”.

*****

So that’s all I got on that, and it appears that Michael Brown is defending the “flipping and flopping”, false tongues and false healings as the authentic “true fire” manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  I hope you’re looking forward to the upcoming Strange Fire conference (I wonder if Brown, or Brownsville, will get an honorable mention?).  It’s going to cause what I predict will be the largest ripples in evangelicalism we will see this century.  Also, the more I learn about Michael Brown, the more I cannot understand how his theology is so unbelievable compartmentalized.  On Jesus and outreach to Jews, he’s amazing.  On the Holy Spirit, he seems to throw his hermeneutics out the window.  That is both confusing and highly troubling.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “How about we learn about the Spirit from the book he wrote about himself?” Unger

21 thoughts on “An Update on the whole Michael Brown/Strange Fire/John MacArthur hullabaloo

  1. “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Peter 1:3

    “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

  2. This below represents the kind of knowledge people in pentecostal circles have. It’s sad.

    Someone asked Mr. Brown what’s his definiton of prophecy. Someone else replied:
    “The prophet or prophetic person is still human and can hear wrongly at times. Especially as they are in the learning stages of their gifting and anointing. There are no clean births, things can and do get messy sometimes. However, the gifted person should be more and more accurate as they mature. The fleshly additions mistakenly added will be removed and the person will flow only in the Spirit. No human being in ministry is perfect, therefore neither are prophets or prophetically gifted people. We need to give grace as we would want grace. If the word was in error, then an apology given in the same circumstance as the word must be given. Prophecy is the divine word spoken through an individual at the unction of The Spirit. A revelation, insight or knowledge that could not be known by someone who does not have prior knowledge of the person or situation.”

  3. Just viewed the video from JMac on worshipping in spirit and truth. Is there something about the particular greek word for spirit or something in the grammar that would cause him to translate spirit as attitude?

  4. It is called strange fire because people do not understand nor are they open to the Spirit. I would be careful calling false tongues or false healings….the Holy Spirit is moving and to me it sounds like Blasphemy to be making these judgements on the pentacostal movement. After I talk to my brother I may have some more points to add on this subject.

    • Well noted Sherralyn.

      I don’t want you to misunderstand. The reason I call the tongues false and the healings false isn’t because they’re theologically “icky” to me, or I am afraid of the Holy Spirit. I also don’t arrive at these conclusions after 6 weeks, or reading 1 book, either. I’ve worked through the entirety 1 Corinthian 12-14 and Acts 2 in the original language. I’ve worked through every piece of academic writing in print on the issue published after 1996 (and many written before) as part of a graduate research project on the issue of spiritual gifts (and part of my contribution to the upcoming addition to an exegetical digest on 1 Corinthians 12-14). I’ve been part of charismatic churches for over a decade, and have been working through these issues for the decade following my leaving those circles. I have come to firm conclusions, but after 2 decades of working through an issue, I had better come to some conclusions! (If someone studied something for 15-20 years and after all that basically admitted that they didn’t really know enough to have an opinion on it, you’d probably think they were either lying or not playing with a full deck…)

      I hope you can agree that:

      1. The Bible is the book that the Holy Spirit wrote to reveal himself to the world.

      2. The Bible is the book that explains who the Holy Spirit is, what he does, and what it looks like when he moves.

      Where we would disagree would be:

      - As I study the Bible, I am forced to the conclusion that what many continuationists call “tongues” is not called “tongues” in the Bible.

      - As I study the Bible, I am forced to the conclusion that what many continuationists call “healing” is regularly not healing and is regularly not done in the way prescribed in the Bible.

      - As I study the Bible, I am forced to the conclusion that what many continuationists call “prophecy” is not called “prophecy” in the Bible.

      - As I study the Bible, I am forced to the conclusion that what many continuationists call “a movement of the Spirit” is not called “a movement of the Spirit” in the Bible.

      If you pick 1 issue, I’ll do my best to make a strong biblical case for you as to why I am forced to those conclusions.

      I’m also not addressing Pentecostals…I’m addressing a theological stream that runs through many church traditions, from Episcopalian to Baptist. I have many Pentecostal friends that I care for (including yourself) and have no reason to doubt their professions of faith…but many of those same friends are faithful sheep being misled by biblically unqualified shepherds who mishandle and wrongly divide the word of God.

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  11. I write this post from Durban South Africa and have replied directly to Michael Brown on a number of occassions. As a former charismatic, a preaching Elder at that, I can talk with authority having been there! Charismatism is false! They speak in unintelligible language or gibberish that they make up as they move along and use the People’s’People’ssupposed power in themselves’ tactic to make up for their lack of understanding of Scripture. The extra Biblical rituals they conduct is endless! Sadly Michael Brown has this fixation on opposing and criticizing pastor John MacArthur . So this is not new!Michael Brown is only interested in publicity and selling books. I like him to a point but have told him publicly on a number of occassions about my feelings on his unwarranted criticisms,Amen.

  12. I am sorry, but I find this all very, incredibly sad. Here we are, Christ-loving Christians, bickering back and forth about the most precious of gifts given by the Holy Spirit. How grieved He must be. Irrespective of any “movement,” I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit many years ago and it completely turned my dry, theological world upside down. I believe what the Bible says in Acts and you have to experience it for yourself in order to realize that these arguments are destructive and a waste of time, not to mention doing a terrible disservice to your Christian brothers and sisters, and giving Satan ground in splitting up the Body of Christ. Incidentally, I respect both MacArthur and Brown. They are spiritual giants in my eyes. May God Bless them both. Amen.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Imgunhouse. I’d also guess that the Holy Spirit is grieved by people running around, lying through their teeth about him, shackling believers with bonds of pseudo-spirituality and error. Those of us who oppose the life-destroying error running through evangelicalism don’t do it out of some sort of selfish desire to be right; we do it out of love for Christ (the embodiment of truth) and our fellow sheep that are bleeding from wolf bites. We want to stop the bleeding.

      The bottom line is that we both claim to follow the teaching of scripture, but we can’t both be right. If I’m wrong, I need to be straightened out from the scripture because errant belief leads to errant practice and errant practice destroys lives. If you cannot show me from the scripture where I’m wrong, then you need to humble yourself before the God of the word and align yourself to his word in the places where you’re out of alignment.

      • Why don’t YOU do what the others (except Phil Roberts, who REFUSED to use Scripture) won’t do and debate Dr. Brown with the Bible over this issue?

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