Cessationism and Continuationism and Strange Fire, Oh MY! (part 2)

In part 1 of this series, I gave a broad outline of the two camps of continuationism and cessationism.  Today, I’ll talk a little about the history behind the upcoming conference, at least as much as I can guess about it since I’m not longer really “in the loop” at Grace Community Church.

The general roots of the coming conference

Now I obviously don’t officially speak for MacArthur by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m fairly familiar with his ministry and the culture/history of Grace Community Church.  I was on staff there from 2007-2010 and learned a whole lot while I was down there.  It’s also not my aim to defend MacArthur’s upcoming conference as necessary (nothing new will be said there), but rather to simply suggest that the upcoming conference is addressing ministry issues that are constant problems within the walls of Grace Community Church itself.  MacArthur isn’t out to get anyone specific, but rather is openly addressing an issue that Grace Community Church get a lot of questions about.  Here’s a brief glance at some history:

In 1976 and 1977, John MacArthur was preaching through the book of 1 Corinthians and went through chapters 12-14.  His sermons were then compiled and published in 1978 as his first book on the charismatic movement entitled The Charismatics.  That book was well received and caused a few waves in the Los Angeles area.  MacArthur often speaks of many invitations he received to speak at Charismatic churches after the word got out that he had written about Spiritual Gifts, and I know of at least once where a microphone was turned off and he was ushered out of the pulpit (hint – not checking out a speaker before you give him your pulpit makes for severe awkwardness when you kick him out…).

In 1991, John came back to the topic of the charismatic movement and preached the sermon series that became the  1993 book Charismatic Chaos.  He didn’t really have a significant beef to pick with the movement, but seeing that Grace Community Church is less than 3 miles away from the Church on the Way, the charismatic movement and charismatic theology has been a constant issue for Grace Community Church as people leave Church on the Way (or other local charismatic churches) and head to the other big church in the area (you might need to zoom out 2x as the map might not display correctly):

Then, in 2008/2009, John MacArthur had surgery on his back and knee which left him out of the pulpit for a few months.  He was watching TV during his recovery and ended up on TBN.  He came back from his surgery with a renewed loathing for the prosperity gospel, false doctrine and charlatanism on TBN, and he started taking a second critical look at the charismatic movement (which between 1976 and 2008, had become almost synonymous with the prosperity gospel, false doctrine and charlatanism).  He writes about his experience here, and the subject dominated the blog at Grace To You in December 2009 and January 2010, especially in the comment threads where things got heated.

MacArthur had other issues on his plate, but the issue of the charismatic movement kept picking up steam, even among those who associated with Macarthur (i.e. John Piper, James MacDonald, Francis Chan, etc.) or were part of broader reformed circles (i.e. CJ Mahaney, Sam Storms, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, etc.), or were simply hugely influential (i.e. Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Charles Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Brian Huston, T.D. Jakes, Ray Comfort, etc.).  What was worse was how many of MacArthur’s associates were doing bizarre things (like John Piper’s strange “listening prayer” stuff at Passion 2012, or the various scandals of Sovereign Grace Ministries condoned via prophecy).

As is the case at Shepherd’s conference, MacArthur threw down a gauntlet in 2012 and basically suggested that the entire Charismatic movement makes a full time career out of, well, confusing Satan with the Holy Spirit.  You may want to watch this video to hear exactly what he’s talking about:

Then, at the 2013 Desiring God pastor’s conference, Tope Koleoso delivered a message on how anyone who believes reformed theology should also be charismatic:

The Strange Fire conference isn’t some sort of response to Koleoso, but Koleoso’s message was definitely aimed at MacArthur (what with MacArthur easily being the most vocal and high-profile cessationist around).  The roots are FAR deeper than 2 messages (they stretch back at least 4 decades), but those 2 messages will be a general introduction to the topics at hand and a sense for the level of current rhetoric.  The reformed charismatic camp separates themselves from the wacky prosperity gospel preachers, but they also condemn the cessationists as, well, 2nd class believers (like Mark Driscol who described cessationism as being worldly). MacArthur, Sproul and the rest of the speakers at the strange fire conference are hopefully going to challenge the reformed charismatic camp on a biblical and exegetical level, and I’m guessing that they will do a thorough and sufficient job.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Reformed Cessationist” Unger


18 thoughts on “Cessationism and Continuationism and Strange Fire, Oh MY! (part 2)

  1. After 2012 Shepherd’s Conference I’ve been thinking about addressing more of the Charismatic excess since MacArthur is right…why spend all one’s time refuting some Liberal few has heard of in the ivory tower when we have all this problem of wrong Pneumatology before us?

  2. I came out of Word of Faith a number of years ago. It was only after a while that my thinking cleared and I began to see what it was that I had been doing and believing. There are so many various problems in the church to the point that it makes one want to throw up his hands and say, “What’s the use? I can’t begin to even make a dent.” I have decided to make this issue of cessation/continuation one of my main focuses. It’s the root of all the charismatic excesses.

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  4. I don’t know about cessationism being worldly but it’s definitely demonic. Satan doesn’t want to be cast out of those he has bound and he doesn’t want sick people healed either. This ought to be obvious. So the false teaching that Mark 16:15-20 and the gifts of the Holy Spirit aren’t for today is inspired by the enemy.

    • Ah. Thanks for your thoughts. So the idea that Mark 16:15-20 isn’t for today is a false teaching?

      Question for you – In your Bible, does Mark 16:9-20 have some sort of mark indicating a footnote, and does that footnote say something along the lines of “Mark 16:9-20 doesn’t appear in the oldest biblical manuscripts”?

      Just wondering. Every Bible I’ve ever seen has that. Does yours?

    • In that verse, Jesus is speaking to the apostles. He commanded the apostles to do those things. He didn’t command all believers. Assuming you have studied apostleship and see that it has ended, then you know that we are not apostles and were therefore not commanded to do those things.

  5. Don’t believe the doubting double brackets! When I first saw them in the ESV I almost puked. (I’ve been reading the KJV for decades. I got saved in the early ’70s.) Every Bible you’ve seen are modern translations based on the Minority Text. Listen, there’s a reason those manuscripts Tischendorf found in a convent basket, ready to be burned, were discarded. Do you really think God waited 1800+ years to give us His real, pure, true Word? C’mon. Think about it. God gave you a mind. Use it. Think. Earlier does NOT mean better. Jesus spoke those verses and Mark wrote them down. But I’m sure you realize this is an old debate. I just downloaded a free Kindle book, “The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark” by John William Burgon and it’s good. You might want to read it. The bottom line is this: I had deliverance in my life, and the life of my husband, within weeks after I was born again. We were baby Christians but Jesus was answering prayer instantly. So when I heard, way back then, that J.M. didn’t endorse what the Word said and what that we had already experienced, I turned off the radio when I heard his voice. (This was before the Internet and cell phones, and I was glued to Christian radio then.) I won’t listen to anyone who doesn’t know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I’ve studied the Word for years, gone into the Greek and Hebrew. I love the Word of God. I love Jesus! I can give you many testimonies that Jesus is able and *willing* to do just as He did when He walked the earth. Bodily healing is in the atonement. There is no doubt about that. It’s for now. That’s where some miss it. God’s Word is eternal, Mark 13:31, and what Jesus says is surer than the ground we walk on. He is Great Physician. Please don’t forget His benefits, Psalm 103:1-3. He forgives all thine iniquities and He heals all thy diseases. Jesus is alive. Those who know that walk in His love, forgiveness and power, reaching out to save the lost.

    • Oh Amy, Amy, Amy.

      I do have a mind and I do use it. Thinking, asking hard questions and doing some graduate level research into textual criticism has lead me a long way from thinking that the AV1611 Bible is the only preserved word of God in English.

      Thinking also helps me to sort out ideas, like how a book from 1871 might not be the most up to date or reliable source on textual criticism. A lot has developed in the last 140+ years in that field. There are a whole lot of manuscripts around now that weren’t then, and the body of Biblical manuscripts has grown by at least 500% if not more.

      There’s a whole lot more I could say, but I too know how these conversations end up.

  6. Thank you for including the video of brother Tope Koleoso. I was truly blessed by this brother’s teaching.

    I listened to about half of Mr McArthur’s teaching and was just cringing at the broad brush he was using against Spirit baptized brethren.

    There is definitely a need today for spiritual discernment today. May God grant us all eyes to see and ears to hear the truth in His Word, and the grace and power to live it out daily.

  7. every brother is Spirit baptised. If not he aint a brother 1Cor 12:13. the whole point of chapter 12 of 1Cor is unity and nobody having a monopoly on gifting. Charismatic teaching with its false double baptism does the exact opposite. you are the neo-corinthians. read the characteristics of that church and what you have is the charismatic movement today. yes there are exceptions – to every rule.

  8. “double baptism” is just a distraction – whoever has the maximum amount of the consuming fire of God, raise their hand. No takers? Unless you’re walking in perfect righteousness, perfect peace, patience, joy, etc… there is more of God that you NEED. If you aren’t exhibiting ALL of THOSE gifts of the holy spirit YOU are causing HARM. We are COMMANDED TO SEEK AND DESIRE A CONTINUAL FILLING AT ALL TIMES.

    Thank God for his grace, and forgiveness, and patience.. I stood among solid, bible preaching churches… I stood and worshiped and learned doctrine.. but when I repented of my own selfish desires.. God came in and gave me more of himself then I ever imagined. Don’t sell God short for what he wants to do in your life. He stands at your door and knocks, he is a gentle bridegroom.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Josh.

      Were your comments meant for John Monzegliio or myself? I’ll kick in here since John probably won’t see the comment as a reply since you posted in general and not as a reply.

      – No Christian has the “consuming fire” of God. Dueteronomy 4:4, 9:3 and Hebrews 12:29 (the only places where that phrase is used of God in the Bible) are not talking about passion…not even close.

      – No Christian is commanded to, or expected to, have all the spiritual gifts.1 Corinthians 12:28-31 teaches that pretty clearly.

      – We are commanded to be continually filled with the Spirit. That’s does not mean constantly experiencing miracles or sign gifts. Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16-17 suggest something very different.

      – So are you saying that you no longer attend “solid, bible preaching churches”? That’s not something a wise man brags about.

      – God is not standing at the door of my heart and knock. Revelation 3:20 isn’t a metaphor for the filling of the Spirit.

      Just my $0.02 worth.

      If you’re trying to convince me, pontificating and rebuking me doesn’t do anything but evidence a biblical deficit in your position. When you don’t take the time to make a careful case from the scripture, it also shows me how, regardless of your own claims, your actions reveal that you don’t really believe that the Bible is the actual word from the actual mouth of the creator God of the universe.

      If you were speeding excessively and the reporting cop gave you a massive ticket and impounded your car, you’d pay close attention to his words and what the ticket said. You’d pay close attention to the numbers, the dates, the requirements to get your car back, etc. The last thing you’d want would be to show up at the impound yard and expect to pay $50 to get your care when the impound fee was $500, especially with the ticket in your hand that says “release of your vehicle from the impound yard will cost $500”.

      If you had the ticket in your hand and tried the “I didn’t know how much it would cost” defense, you’d look like a moron…and for good reason.

      Show me you take God more seriously than you would take a cop or a speeding ticket.

  9. I’ve just come across this and found the historical context really interesting. I remember watching the talk from Tope Koleoso and thinking how appalling it was.

    The key thing worth noting is that all charismatics and pentecostals, from moderate (the reformed charismatics, also some classical pentecostals) to extreme (the TV preachers etc), are branches from the same tree which sprouted at the Azusa Street revival. As far as I am concerned the tree is rotten and all its fruit (ie continuationist doctrines) are bad. Hence you’ll find that few, if any, moderate charismatics are willing to condemn the extremists.

  10. I know this reply may not be seen due to the time that has passed. I’ll give it a shot anyhow.
    Why, in light of Ephesians Chap 4, do you say that the church no longer has the office of Apostle?
    Thank you.

    • Thanks for the question Susan.

      I’m not super sure what you mean, but I’m guessing that you’re wondering how I can say that the church has no office of apostle when it seems clearly laid out in Eph. 4:11-15. Am I right?

      Assuming that, I’d point out two compelling (I think) reasons:

      1. The requirements for being an apostle.

      The requirements for being an apostle are spelled out explicitly in Acts 1:21-22 –

      “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection”

      Paul doesn’t fit that bill, true, but the apostle Paul was unique among the apostles. 1 Cor. 15:7-10 spells that out explicitly.

      To suggest that there are THOUSANDS of other modern “apostles” who somehow have a special dispensation from the Lord is, to be frank, absolutely insane.

      The major reason I don’t believe that any of the modern “apostles” are authentic is because they can’t possibly be…at least according to the definition laid out in scripture. You can read my extended treatment of the term “apostle” here.

      2. The foundational nature of the office of apostle.

      Ephesians 2:20 explicitly lays out the idea that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Some Charismatic authors (i.e. Sam Storms) make the argument that “foundational” elements are still around once a building is built, so apostles should still be around too. The point of the metaphor in Eph. 2:20 seems obvious. It is pointing to the uniqueness, not presence, of apostles. The foundation of a building is of a very different nature than the rest of the floors that sit atop it, and the foundation is only built once; floors 1-100 are all the same style repeated.

      Beyond that, Luke 11:49, Eph. 3:5, 2 Pet. 3:2 and Rev. 18:20 all lump together apostles and prophets in a unique category that doesn’t include other offices/gifts. There is something unique about them, and I’d dare suggest that it’s their uniqueness (abnormal frequency in history).

      3. The fact that all the modern apostles are generally blazing heretics.

      I’m actually open to the possibility, however remote, of there being some sort of modern apostle…one could make a hypothetical case from Scripture and plead “special dispensation” for a guy, and I wouldn’t be able to say that such a thing was biblically impossible. The final problem arises when every single guy I ever run across who claims the mantle of “apostle” has worse theology than your average bible college drop-out.

      In the Bible, the apostles were savvy fellows who had tremendous understanding of both Scripture and doctrine. The modern claimants of the “apostle” title have neither of those two, and they lack them in ways that are almost slapstick comedy. Let’s just say that I’ve never met, run across or read any guy claiming to be an apostle who was in danger of anyone saying “your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts. 26:24). If you’re claiming to be an apostle and don’t know what “hermeneutics” is, let alone possess half-decent exegetical abilities, you’re possibly many things but you’re definitely not an apostle.

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