For those that are interested in some swashbuckling…


I’ve been invited to engage with famous blogger Frank Viola on the issue of StrangeFire.  He’s posted a second part of his refutation of StrangeFire here (his first post doesn’t actually address the conference per say) and my response is there.  In case it doesn’t post, I’ll write my response below:

Wowzer.  You have some interesting commentators here.  I can only imagine how popular I’ll be in a few minutes…

So you invited me to engage with you, so let’s do that, shall we?

So here’s your refutation:

Point 1 – MacArthur sees problems (but we do it too)

This isn’t any form or refutation…?!?

Point 2 – Charismatics make Jesus a footnote (but you do it too)

This isn’t any form or refutation…?!?

Point 3 – MacArthur paints the entire charismatic world with the same brush…

This is demonstrably untrue.  In his first plenary session, he clearly differentiated between the movement as a whole and individuals within the movement.  He could have been more clear, but he didn’t paint every single individual charismatic with the same brush.

Point 4 – MacArthur misrepresents people (with the only example being Kathryn Kuhlman), wrongly says that the Charismatics acknowledged that the gifts had ceased in the early years, and MacArthur selectively quotes the early church fathers.

I look forward to seeing MacArthur’s research on 1 woman being debunked and the whole book tossed in the trash on the basis of one error.

As for the early beliefs about the gifts in the 1900’s, I’ve actually heard that from Charismatics…kinda like how Peter Wagner says that the offices of apostle, intercessor and prophet were recently re-given to the church.  The fact that you haven’t heard it doesn’t mean anything one way or the other.

With regards to the early church fathers, I’m looking forward to you providing quotes about the sign gifts existing in the post-apostolic church…not miracles and not healing in response to prayer; the specific sign gifts.

Cessationists don’t deny the miraculous and we believe in divine healing. Divine healing isn’t the same as the sign gift of healing…but you are well aware of those exegetically derived nuances, right?

Point 5 – MacArthur makes smelly statements.

a.  Well, what if your nose is broken?  Why are you any authority on tone or tenor?

b.  And what exactly IS the gospel?  I imagine we would agree that involves the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, right?  Is it ONLY those three ideas?  Is it more?  Is the ascension part of the gospel?  The Kingdom?  What’s more, what if you add something TO the gospel that isn’t part of it?  Do you still have the gospel if I add on “and you MUST read the 3rd revision of the King James Bible”?  Do I still have the gospel of have I changed it into a counterfeit gospel?

Almost every Charismatic church I’ve been a part of (AOG, ACOP, PAOC, Vineyard, FourSquare, Victory)adds the doctrine of subsequence to the gospel as the practical validation of salvation/the presence of the Spirit in one’s life.  If the gospel involves me speaking in tongues, is it still the gospel? If repentance is evidenced by speaking in tongues, is it still the gospel?

What do you call a church that preaches a gospel other than the gospel revealed in the scriptures?

c.  As for the idea that the Charismatic “movement is characterized by worldly priorities and fleshly pursuits”, couldn’t help but notice that you had a blatant and rather obvious category confusion.  It’s interesting how you pick out 5 individuals to characterize a movement of 500 million.  MacArthur didn’t say that Wilkerson or the other four were worldly & fleshly, but rather that the charismatic movement (as a monolithic movement) is marked by worldly and fleshly pursuits (NOT worldliness and fleshliness).  Why didn’t you pick out Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, David Oyedepo, Ray McCauley and Frank Houston?

Because those guys are obviously worldly and fleshly, but then hat wouldn’t make your case, would it?

Some might call that kind of rhetoric “deceptive”.  Not me though, I’m sure it’s an honest mistake.

Point 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”

a.  Biblically and historically untenable?  I’ll definitely sleep warmly under that absurd blanket statement.  I’d love to engage you on a sheer exegetical level.  No commentaries.  No cheating.  Just the text of scripture and you, and see who can make the more convincing exegetical case.  Maybe on Monday I’ll get a chance!

b.  So everyone disagrees with him, but you only give four examples, two of which don’t even have concern with this issue at all in the first place…and Keener and Fee…HA!

Fee rejects the doctrine of subsequence, which is a denominational distinctive of his own denomination (AoG).  He’s anything but typical when it comes to charismatics (what with loudly denying that Mark 16:9-20 is part of the scripture and all…)

As for Keener, everyone refers to his book on miracles which brings me back to the whole point that Cessationists don’t have any problem with miracles.  Keener is arguing with naturalists, not cessationists.  As for “Gift and Giver”, I can count on one hand the Charismatics I know who are familiar with that book.  Keener is an academic, but he’s NOT a popular level defender.  That’s like me saying that some obscure, shotgun-toting pastor with 9 wives from a KJV onlyist cult is a representative cessationist.  If people generally don’t know who he is and his literature isn’t widely read, why is he put forth as the official delegate to defend you?

Point 7 – Wait.  Where’s point seven?  Your title says “7 Points” but there’s only six.  Why am I the only one who has noticed this?

Anyways, I look forward to reading your magnum opus on Monday.

It will be fun to see how this all plays out.

Next Week, when he releases his e-book, I take a few slashes at it.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Man Dressed in Black” Unger


14 thoughts on “For those that are interested in some swashbuckling…

  1. Hi, I am a new reader here. You have some great articles and resources, which I am enjoying reading through, thanks!

    This article caught my eye, and having just read the following information about Frank Viola I wondered if anyone here knew anything about the veracity of these serious charges against him?

    (Link about a debunked sexual scandal removed as was a multiple comment thread arriving at this conclusion – Admin)

    A previous pastor of mine endorsed him, and given how far off track he ended up, I am very wary of this man. I have also read discernment articles including (but by no means limited to) Apprising Ministries articles on Frank Viola:

    I wondered how familiar you were with Frank Viola? He seems to be a rather dangerous wolf who is merely stiring up more trouble in the Body of Christ, like Michael Brown seems to be doing as well. Perhaps I am mistaken? Thanks, Sherryn

    • Hmm. Thanks for the heads up.

      I have never heard of Viola until this past month, and I haven’t checked him out. Those are some serious accusations in that first link, but the second link I pretty much already knew.

      If the first link is true (and it turns out it wasn’t – Admin), it wouldn’t change anything…at least as far as our interacting.

      If the second is true, then he’s a mystic, which changes nothing really…but will make our engagements even more interesting.

      I’ve already pretty much got a bead on him (I think). He fancies himself a thinker and theologian, which he is (on a lay level) but isn’t really an exegete. On an exegetical level, he’s fairly non-threatening.

      You may have noticed that I’m being polite but not going soft on him.

    • Sherryn,

      I’ve been troubled by the first article you linked, because I don’t know you and don’t have a clue what is behind this, but those are serious accusations that damage careers and lives and should not just be tossed out there on a public forum without doing some research yourself. You have Google like the rest of us.

      (The rest of the interaction has been removed as the charges against Mr. Viola were agreed upon to have been demonstrated as false. – Admin)

  2. Hi, I had no intention of slandering anyone at all, so my spologies for causing such concern. I just happened to come across that page as I had read your article about Frank Viola and was going to do some more reading about him. I was very surprised to come across that other page, having no background at all on the man except what I had already mentioned to you.

    I don’t know how to edit my own comments once you have posted them and am really happy for you to delete them, or if you know how I can do it, please let me know! (it has been done and I’ve done the edits for you- Admin)

    I wasn’t expecting you to necessarily approve my answer the query publicly, but had searched your website to see if you had an email address I could send the qeury to privately. The site concerned me and I had no idea if perhaps this was common knowledge that had already been dealt with. You seemed familiar with Fank Viola and I thought I would check with you. Sometimes, because I miss some of the news from the USA (I am in Australia, and try to follow what I can) I realise that I may miss things that others know about. We have had some very serious problems arise with some churches and pastors recently, and I have seen some very concerning things over the past couple of years from people I know who have come out of Bethel Church, IHOP and other well-known churches. It just bothered me and I thought maybe you would be able to verify if it was an known issue.

    In relation to me personally, I realise your concern so please, feel free to read my Baptism Testimony on my blog (filed under June 2013 archives) as well as my About page. Sermons from my church are linked on my blog too. You can also email me directly from my profile which contains me email and real name. Also, I can be contacted through my personal Facebook page.

    I am sorry, I would have explained more but got caught up with something unexpected this weekend so couldn’t get back to comment further. I really did plan to just email the query to you, and once I saw the comment was posted, had planned to add some more explanation. I wouldn’t have even included the link except that it is clearly available to the public, and came up from a simple search.

    My apologies for causing any concern. It wasn’t my intention. Sherryn

  3. I should add, my comment in relation to Fank Viola possibly being a wolf in the flock only related to the very concerning teachings in the book of his (and Leonard Sweet) that I had read. It did not relate to my other query. My comment was not intended to even imply that I believed the website…that is why I was asking if this was a false, known and/or dealt with issue. There was no underhanded motive, I assure you. Thanks, Sherryn

  4. Menno –

    I think you are correct in that Viola is not necessarily an exceptional exegete of any sort. And his ideas of church history are that everything went pretty pear-shaped and terrible following Constantine. Still, I wouldn’t discount his thoughts completely – at least in his recent 74-page e-book engaging MacArthur.

    But, as one who does engage on some exegetical level, I have never in my life found an compelling exegetical argument for cessationism. What might be compelling is a particular systematically developed theological approach that has to connect hundreds of dots. But as one wise person said: I think cessationism is a quite difficult to form in just a plain reading of Scripture.

    Now, I’m not negating the formation of systematic theology. I think one might read most English translations of Scripture and come away a complementarian. But I think complementarianism doesn’t hold up in light of both engaging with some passages “as is” rather than through a particular western, post-Industrial Revolution framework and in thinking through trajectory hermeneutics. So a “plain” reading might not be the say-all for the cessationist/continuationist debate. However, simple exegesis doesn’t even get close to leading me to cessationism. It’s more an intertwined system presented that makes sense, though I still think it falls short.

    I can’t remember if in previous comments I noted, but I and a colleague (at least both have seminary degrees) host a continuationist blog. We’d love a little visit. 😀


    • Thanks for the invite, but I don’t have time to address everyone who wants me to engage them. I’m currently engaging with Dr. Adrian Warnock, Frank Viola and Dr. Michael Brown.

      Feel free to enjoy that back-and-forth!

      • Menno –

        I wasn’t really wanting you to engage (though that would have been nice). It was more to point to it in the sense of seeing what we have posted. Thanks, mate! 😉

  5. Menno: “Biblically and historically untenable? I’ll definitely sleep warmly under that absurd blanket statement. I’d love to engage you on a sheer exegetical level. No commentaries. No cheating. Just the text of scripture and you, and see who can make the more convincing exegetical case.”

    Hi Menno,

    This pastor sounds like he’d be willing to engage you (actually more JMac) exegetically:

    (JMac) “Eventually, the book Strange Fire, the conference, and what was said there is going to have to be debated on the grounds of biblical interpretation. That is where we would like to force the issue.”

    (Pastor David Rogers): It is precisely in this spirit that I present my argument here, with the hope that some of you who have taken the time to study the relevant passages of Scripture beyond a surface level may be able to help me out on this.”

    From: My Question to John MacArthur: What About 1 Corinthians 1:4–8?

  6. That was a woefully bad article. Hard to read because the guy thinks he is on to something. The key problem with his argument is his suggestion that the “utterances” or “speech” in 1 Cor. 1:5 is tongues. But the word used there for “speech” is logos, not glossia as in 1 Cor. 14.

    In the comments he makes the claim that the speech is all spoken grace gifts, which includes tongues, but if he believes that, he then has to deal with the fact the tongues is now defined as a known, human language that can communicate. That means that it is a real language, not some redefined heavenly language; that it has to be interpreted, meaning no average charismatic can honestly speak in tongues as a “sign” they have the holy spirit and thus the assurance of their salvation; and there is no room for the “private prayer language” view, because it is meant to be communicated to others. That then leads him to defending WHY, if we still have the gift of tongues to communicate God’s truth, those “utterances” are better than and equal to the authority of Scripture. WHY isn’t the Bible sufficient to communicate what God wants us to know about salvation and living? He cuts the throat of his own continuationist sympathies.

  7. Pingback: Evaluating Holy Water Part 1 – Chapters 1 & 2 | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

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