Let’s get going…but first:
Lamb that looks like it’s wearing ugg boots?
Okay. Now there’s no way this could be misinterpreted as unloving!
Chapter 3 Summary
Dr. Brown opens up the chapter juxtaposing the carefulness with which John MacArthur prepares his sermons against the carelessness with which he speaks about the Charismatic Movement, and wonders how one can make sense of the dichotomy. He gives the options of willful ignorance (but dismisses is) and instead suggests that the answer lies in the idea that “it must a blind spot – a great, big blind spot – one that is so large that it does not allow him (or those who follow in his footsteps) to see clearly” (Kindle Locations 883-884). Dr. Brown then moves on to address four statements that are designed to point out the blind spot:
Statement #1. The first blind spot is summed up in this statement: “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. . . . The Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine“(Kindle Locations 888-890).
Right off the top, Dr. Brown makes a strikingly good observation and writes:
“Of course , one could immediately challenge the idea that the positive contributions of Charismatic scholars and theologians as Charismatics can somehow be separated from the positive contribution of Charismatic scholars and theologians in general. This would be like discounting most (or all) of the positive contributions of cessationist scholars and theologians since, it could be argued, they did not primarily make those contributions as cessationists” (Kindle Locations 891-894).
The objection is essentially that one can no more separate a charismatic from their charismatic beliefs than one can separate someone from their shadow.
Rather than sticking with that objection, Dr. Brown then continues and writes:
“Not only so, but this line of thinking actually produces a false dichotomy, as if you can easily separate one’s theology and spiritual experience from the whole of one’s life – be it in biblical interpretation, theology, worship, or acts of service or worship. Yet as flawed as Pastor MacArthur’s premise is, his claims are, quite candidly, so utterly false that they can be easily refuted, even on his own terms” (Kindle Locations 894-898).
Dr. Brown then offers forth the extended examples of Oswald Chambers and A.W. Tozer, explaining how those two men overthrow the idea from MacArthur. Dr. Brown then continues to offer forth numerous examples in Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and himself.
Statement #2. The second blind spot is summed up in this statement: “People who have any connection to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It is a striking anomaly, however, that there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where’s the charismatic hospital? Social services? Poverty relief? This is a scam” (Kindle Locations 1088-1090).
Dr. Brown expresses that this statement was spoken by Pastor MacArthur and then even defended by Phil Johnson. Dr. Brown restates a similar objection to his initial objection to statement #1, suggesting that Charismatics engage in acts of compassion because they’re Christians, not Charismatics. Not leaving it there, Dr. Brown then writes:
“many of the Charismatic ministries of compassion were birthed out of an encounter with the Spirit, or they were part of the holistic theology of the leaders, who believed in ministering healing through the gospel to spirit, soul, and body (which obviously includes social and humanitarian work), or they were the result of a specific leading of the Lord” (Kindle Locations 1098-1100).
In responding to Phil Johnson and John MacArthur, Dr. Brown offers forth the examples of Teen Challenge and missionaries Dr. Mark and Dr. Huldah Buntain (who feed the poor in India and started a 173 bed hospital).
(This is a Charismatic hospital. It’s called “Calcutta Mercy Hospital“)
Dr. Brown also gives the examples of Latin America Child Care (a large South American ministry of the Assemblies of God), Love-N-Care Ministries (a ministry started by P. Yesupadam which involves children’s homes, public schools, disabled vocational training programs, a hospital, a dental clinic, a nursing home, and a discipleship training center that has resulted in 6,000 churches being planted), and some of the graduates of Dr. Brown’s own school of ministry who feed the poor, look after orphans, combat abortion, and rescue children sold into sexual slavery.
Brown closes off the point saying that the charismatic hospitals, charismatic social services and charismatic poverty relief organizations are “Over here , sir, and over there, sir, and as far as the eye can see around the world, sir. I do hope you will be glad to hear this!” (Kindle Locations 1175-1176).
Statement #3. The third blind spot is summed up in this statement: “the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship” (Kindle Locations 1177-1178).
Dr. Brown open this segment with the word:
“I know that many of you reading these words are shaking your heads with incredulity, since plenty of cessationists recognize what passionate worshipers charismatics are – and I don’t just mean boisterous. I mean passionate in the best sense of the word: fervent, focused , devoted, given over to, and absorbed. That’s why it’s not uncommon for charismatic worship services to go an hour or more before the Word is preached (with the preaching often lasting for an hour as well), and that’s why we sometimes have whole days (or nights) of worship where we come together just to adore the Lord in song and prayer and praise” (Kindle Locations 1179-1183).
Dr. Brown then makes a personal point and writes:
“On countless occasions, I have been in services where Jesus was so exalted in our midst that we could only fall to our knees or on our faces, glorifying the King of Kings. I have often seen God’s Spirit poured out so mightily in worship that suddenly, people began to repent of their sins, convicted by the holy presence of a holy God. And how wonderful it is to see young people with tears of joy celebrating the power of the blood of Jesus and the resurrection of our Lord” (Kindle Locations 1183-1186).
Dr. Brown then offers forth the music written by charismatic musicians like Darlene Zschech & Hillsong, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, John Wimber, Paul Wilbur, Marty Goetz, Israel Houghton, Eddie James, Donnie McClurkin, Andrae Crouch, Kari Jobe, Lindell Cooley, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, The Ramp, and even Jack Hayford.
He closes off by writing:
“The reality is that there is a massive, glorious, God-glorifying, holy river overflowing with powerful Charismatic worship, and to anyone with an open heart and mind, it is impossible to miss” (Kindle Locations 1213-1214).
Statement #4. The fourth blind spot is summed up in this statement: “I’ll start believing the truth prevails in the Charismatic Movement when its leaders start looking more like Jesus Christ” (Kindle Locations 1215-1216).
Dr. Brown begins with the words “On a certain level , this statement, which was actually tweeted out on the Strange Fire account, is the most insulting, as well as the most easily refuted, of Pastor MacArthur’s unfortunate comments , since there are so many godly charismatic and Pentecostal believers” (Kindle Locations 1217-1219).
Dr. Brown then gives the example of Corrie Ten Boom and says
“Pastor MacArthur has claimed that charismatics have ‘polluted prayer with private gibberish’ (meaning tongues), claiming that all modern tongue-speaking is either demonic, learned behavior, or psychologically induced, referring to tongues as ‘mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages.’ Corrie Ten Boom would have strongly demurred, agreeing with Prof. N. T. Wright that the tongues in which she spoke were a ‘private language of love’ to the Lord” (Kindle Locations 1236-1239).
Dr. Brown then gives a second example; one of a nameless Muslim missionary who served selflessly and was killed by AL-Qaeda terrorists and was so loved in his community that many Muslims protested in the streets at his murder.
Dr. Brown closes off the chapter with the following entreaty:
“I too join in that prayer, asking the Lord to help Pastor MacArthur recognize this massive blind spot in his life to the point that in this next season of his life and ministry, he will be deeply appreciative and greatly enriched by the theological, charitable, worshipful , and individual contributions of the charismatic part of the Body of Christ” (Kindle Locations 1258-1260).
Chapter 3 Comments
Statement #1. All right. I’ll just come right out front say that John MacArthur was demonstrably wrong in making this statement…but not for the reasons Dr. Brown gave. Not only that, but I addressed this idea in my review of chapter one, and I have even changed my mind (a tad) since then.
If I were Dr. Brown, I would have simply stuck with the original objection and suggested that charismatic scholars don’t necessarily offer forth their contributions as Charismatics, but neither do almost any other biblical scholars (not just cessationists). Very few original (good) theological/biblical doctrines have come out of any movement in Christianity as a product of something exclusively in that movement. Any good doctrines that have come out of a movement have come from a high view of scripture and biblical exegesis, and no one movement has the corner market on that.
In short, I would have dismissed John MacArthur’s statement as illogical and moved on…but Dr. Brown didn’t.
Now, that being said, what of Dr. Brown’s argument that follows his opening objection?
Has Christianity benefited from the work of Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and Dr. Michael Brown himself?
Unquestionably! Those who are familiar with those authors and their theological contributions would have most likely benefited and been blessed.
The problem is this:
The Charismatic Movement, globally speaking, is marked by an overwhelming lack of biblical clarity, interpretation, and sound doctrine.
But what about all those great charismatic scholars?
Well, let’s see what is being peddled by bookstores/resource pages of the 10 biggest charismatic churches in Africa:
1. Deeper Life Christian Ministry – Lagos, Nigeria – pastored by W.F. Kumuyi
2. Jesus Celebration Center – Mombasa, Kenya – pastored by Dr. Wilfred Lai
3. Living Faith Church – Lagos, Nigeria – pastored by David Oyedepo (look at this too, and guess who has preached in their daughter church, a church that has a sanctuary of 50,000 – claiming to be the largest sanctuary in the world – and has a pastor who is proudly associated with David Oyedeopo…and it seems that I missed one! This church is HUGE; their school of ministry claims 100,000 grads! Let’s look at their bookstore…)
Allow me to take a moment in the middle of this all. Unless he repents, the message at 4:09-5:02 in the previously linked video, preached to the poor and hungry believers in Nigeria, will be the message that damns Kenneth Copeland to everlasting torment in Hell. Kenneth Copeland makes Johann Tetzel look like a raving amateur. Just had to get that out there because the more I study this stuff, the more I get infuriated. In general, the entire ministry of Kenneth Copeland can be summed up in a single picture:
5. Redeemed Christian Church of God – Lagos, Nigeria – pastored by Enoch Adeboye.
6. United Family International Church – Harare, Zimbabwe – pastored by Emmanuel Makandiwa
7. Christian Revival Centre – Bloemfontein, South Africa – pastored by At Boshoff (no bookstore yet, but it doesn’t take much to see where on the charismatic spectrum these folks are.)
8. Word of Life Church – Ajamimogha Warri, Nigeria – Pastored by Ayo Oritsejafor (their website is still nonexistent, but one can examine Ayo Oritsejafor’s facebook page and get an idea for what he’s about. He doesn’t ever quote anyone that Dr. Brown mentions).
So, not a single one of those churches is selling a resources by anyone Dr. Brown names…and you may want to refer here for the links, but those 10 churches are collectively in charge of networks of over 12,000+ churches and influence far more than 12,000 pastors. Not one of those guys sells resources by any of the people Dr. Brown mentions, or even mentions them. They all seem to only be aware of people like Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, etc.
Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and Dr. Michael Brown are the fringe writers of the charismatic movement. I mean, has any one of those outside of Chambers and Tozer sold as many books in their career as this?
Sure, they’re read by the few thousand seminary-trained charismatic pastors or pew-warming theology geeks…but even many of my own local charismatic pastors & theology geeks are not reading Fee, Keener or even Grudem. My local/common Charismatic reads John Bevere, Ann Voskamp, Joyce Meyer, April Yamasaki, etc…
…but yes. I will definitely grant that there are several outstanding and overtly charismatic scholars.
Seeing that the Charismatic fruits and nuts are the ones who are selling all the books, I have good reason to suspect that the contributions of those fringe academics have done precious little to positively influence the global charismatic movement (I explain more of the “why” in my response to statement #4).
Statement #2. Well, this one is a demonstration of a statement made out of ignorance. Charismatics definitely do social work, humanitarian aide, and the like. When I was doing research for my Charismatic Primer series, I was quite impressed by some of the humanitarian work I found, like the Nineveh Outreach at the House Modesto. I don’t have a clue where this one came from, outside of simply not traveling in Charismatic circles at all.
I’d dare say that someone really missed the pitch on this one.
*Update – Jan 30th, 2014* – Fred Butler has alerted me to something that I missed here where John MacArthur explains what he was trying to say. The pertinent part is at the bottom and, in a nutshell, John MacArthur was saying that the Charismatic movement isn’t marked by large-scale philanthropy, meaning there’s no Pentecostal equivalent to things like:
There’s no $400 million cancer research center associated with the Assemblies of God.
Sure, there’s philanthropy, but it’s not a definitive mark of the movement that comes out of distinctive beliefs in the movement. When Charismatic leaders get a few million dollars they tend to buy stuff for themselves (like houses and jets) instead of helps the less fortunate. Charismatic leaders (namely prosperity preachers) get money under false pretenses and then spend it on themselves.
So, I would suggest that John MacArthur was needlessly unclear here, and Phil Johnson didn’t look very good when Michael Brown pushed him on the radio show on this point.
I’ve been involved in both social work and humanitarian aide while I was in Charismatic circles, and in the town where I did those things, the conservative churches weren’t interested in being involved. I’m not convinced about the point en toto, but I see what John MacArthur was trying to get at.
Statement #3. I basically gave statement #2 to Dr. Brown, but on statement #3 he’s got himself into a little pickle. The quote he gives is from Tim Challies live blogging of the opening address from the conference (not an actual quote of MacArthur himself). The actual transcript of the address is here, and here’s an extended quotation to show what’s being discussed:
“Am I discrediting everyone in the Movement? No. I think there are people in the Movement who desire to worship God in a true way. They may be caught up in this false worship as well because intention is not enough. The Movement itself, listen carefully, offers nothing to true worship. Can I say that again? The Movement itself has brought us nothing to enrich true worship.
Why do I say that? Because the Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity. It has made no contribution to biblical interpretation. It has made no contribution to sound doctrine. We have had an accurate biblical interpretation long before the Charismatic Movement started. We have had strong doctrine long before the Charismatic Movement happened. We have had going back in the steady stream of faithful men, all the way to the Apostles, a clear stream of truth that gives us a full rich understanding of the Word of God. That is why a Christian today can go back and read the Apostles and then go back and read the Reformers and read the Puritans and follow the flow of the truth through history and find richness and understanding and clarity on every issue going all the way back. They didn’t add anything to that. They brought in chaos, confusion, misrepresentation and misunderstanding.
Do some in the Charismatic Movement believe the truth? They do. They do. Do some in the Charismatic Movement hold a sound theology on some issues? They do. But none of those true understandings have come to them through that Movement. The true understandings have always been there in the long line of godly preachers and teachers that God has used to keep the truth and to keep the church on track. The Movement adds nothing to that. It detracts and it confuses. It is not a source for any advancement of our understanding of Scripture or sound doctrine.
Have people truly been saved in Charismatic churches and under the preaching of Charismatic preachers? Answer—yes they have but nothing coming from that Movement has been the reason they were saved. The gospel is the reason they were saved and it wasn’t invented by that Movement. In some places it is still intact. In some it’s not. Nothing coming from the Charismatic Movement has provided recovery or strengthening of the biblical gospel. Nothing coming from the Charismatic Movement has preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion, and error. The faith of the biblical gospel has been intact. It has survived. It will survive because God protects it and raises up faithful men in faithful churches to pass it from generation to generation.
Yes, there are people in the Charismatic Movement who know the truth, who love the truth, who are orthodox on the gospel and heterodox on the Holy Spirit. Not all of them are heretics but I say again, the contribution of the truth to people in the Movement doesn’t come from the Movement, it comes in spite of it.”
So is John MacArthur talking about church music?
No. Not for a second. He’s talking about worship in the broad theological sense, not the narrow sense of “church music”. When John MacArthur talks about worship, he’s talking broadly about ascribing glory to God by means of preaching, doctrine, biblical exegesis, etc. When Michael Brown talks about worship, he’s talking about church music. Dr. Brown’s whole response seems to indicate that he doesn’t realize that statement #1 and statement #3 are talking about the same thing.
Has the Charismatic movement, as a global movement, produced technically excellent music?
Without question, yes.
The music, generally speaking, isn’t exactly that deep though it does talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection in a general sense, and some of the stuff coming out of the movement is simply obnoxious…but even then there are several songs that have come out of the charismatic movement that are great songs. Not all charismatics are bad. Then again, not even John MacArthur is suggesting this (as the above quote shows clearly).
Has the Charismatic movement, as a global movement, produced unending waves of horrible preaching, doctrine and biblical exegesis?
Without question, yes.
The examples here could be absolutely legion, and a thousand shining exceptions around the world don’t change the general theological atmosphere of a movement of half a billion. Without question, the general theological atmosphere of the Charismatic Movement is one of homiletical disorientation, doctrinal insouciance and exegetical puerility.
Can I back that up?
Sure…I was going to give a tiny reason why I might say something so brash, but that turned into a 1,500+ word post in and of itself, so I’ve just moved it over to it’s own post and I’ll post it in the next few days. For now, I’ll just leave that hanging. This current post is more than long enough as it is.
Statement #4. Let’s recap.
The statement referenced was “I’ll start believing the truth prevails in the Charismatic Movement when its leaders start looking more like Jesus Christ” (Kindle Locations 1215-1216). Dr. Brown’s response was “On a certain level , this statement, which was actually tweeted out on the Strange Fire account, is the most insulting, as well as the most easily refuted, of Pastor MacArthur’s unfortunate comments , since there are so many godly charismatic and Pentecostal believers” (Kindle Locations 1217-1219).
Read that again. Slowly.
Then think of his examples of Corrie Ten Boom and the martyred missionary in an Islamic country.
I’d dare suggest that this is a rather glaring flying bear.
Notice how the quote was talking about leaders and not regular Charismatics?
Was Corrie Ten Boom a pastor or visible leader of some sort?
How about the unknown and anonymous missionary?
Surely their examples are worthy of emulation, but they’re not what’s being discussed.
The question remains: do the majority of Charismatic leaders look like Christ?
Hmmm…let’s make a list off the top of my head of Charismatic leaders who were associated with scandal/moral failing/heresy. Aimee Semple-MacPherson, Marie Woodsworth Etter, Charles Parham, William Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copland, Ted Haggard, Denny Duron, Paul Crouche (and family), Eddie Long, Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Bill Johnson, Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle (this one is fairly recent, but I can think of another), Bob Jones, Paul Cain, Jim & Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Deitrich Haddon, Frank Houston (founder of Hillsong Church), Mike Murdock, Steve Munsey, Kong Hee, David Oyedepo, Creflo Dollar, Lonnie Frisbee, Kathryn Kuhlman, Chris Oyakhilome and Todd Bentley.
That’s just off the top of my head.
Five prominent leaders who were closet homosexuals for years on that list.
Eight prominent leaders guilty of other sexual misconduct.
All the rest had money scandals or were known for horrid heresy.
Not very Christlike.
I could also talk about all the “small-time” Charismatic leaders, like a whole bunch that are in Canada. I could produce a far larger list by simply including people like Cal & Jan Switzer; people who you’ve never heard of but are/were big Charismatics up here. They were involved in a massive scandal up here with the Victory Christian Center in Edmonton Alberta. This was a mega church that had a sanctuary that sat 2,000 (in Canada, any church with over 2,000 people is humongous) and held multiple services until “pastors” Cal & Jan, prosperity preachers trained by no less a shining light than the astonishingly fraudulent Kenneth Hagin (here’s their alma matter) ran the church into the ground with some bad financial deals that they blamed on Satan. Now the church is renting space instead of meeting in their $18+ million building, and yet is still lying about Yahweh for a living.
Not very Christlike.
Or I could talk about a guy from my very own town whose “ministry” is the evangelical equivalent of Chernobyl…
…but that’s just low hanging fruit.
Todd Bentley’s not very Christlike. (Did I really have to spell that out?)
I could also include Springs Church, the largest mega-church here in Canada with 5 congregations in 4 separate cities. Springs Church preaches a false gospel and is run by Leon Fontaine, a blatant prosperity preacher and the man who runs The Miracle Channel, Canada’s equivalent to TBN. Oh, and the previous leader of The Miracle Channel wasn’t any better (Check out this and this)…in fact Dick Dewert was a guy marked by more than one severe moral failure (am I seeing a pattern?) Springs Church’s current Wednesday night teaching series is by T.D. Jakes (prosperity preacher and modalist)…
…and Springs Church also has a school of ministry whose “Biblical Studies” department has a visiting faculty list that is a veritable “who’s who” of prosperity preachers and disreputable Charismatic hacks.
Not very Christlike.
In case anyone is wondering, Canadian Christian Television is a tiny market, with two other Christian channels (that I’m aware of). There’s CTS and Vision and Grace TV (the third that is actually no longer relevant since it has now merged with Daystar but was previously run by a flaming prosperity preacher). A look at their shows (I linked the pages in the names) let’s one see what they offer: 95% false religion and prosperity preachers.
Not very Christlike.
Let’s be honest here.
An overwhelming majority of the big charismatic leaders are prosperity preachers, N.A.R. quacks and word faith heretics.
The prosperity gospel/word faith is the public, mainstream face of the Charismatic movement.
– The level headed guys aren’t on TV.
– The level headed guys aren’t writing the books that sell.
– The level headed guys aren’t speaking at the conferences.
– The level headed guys aren’t pastoring the big churches.
Every single prosperity/word faith preacher is unregenerate, not because I have personal knowledge of their profession of faith, but because they profess a counterfeit gospel.
They profess and proclaim a false gospel. Even Michael Brown says so!
Where do you find the prosperity/word faith preachers?
Lutheran Churches? Nope.
Presbyterian Churches? Nope.
Baptist Churches? Nope.
Mennonite Churches? Nope.
Brethren Churches? Nope.
Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Apostolic, Foursquare, Vineyard, Victory, etc. Churches?
And they’re mostly big personalities in those denominations! They’re in the big churches!
Are they getting corrected on their falsehood or is the Charismatic movement being warned about them?
But more often than not, we see this:
So Michael Brown can maybe forgive us cessationists for being somewhat confused.
The prosperity preachers, like the scandal-ridden one above who preaches a message that Dr. Brown condemns as false and has a far bigger following/influence and audience than folks like Dr. Brown, are not the Christlike leaders of the movement that people should be emulating?
So who are the Christlike leaders exactly?
How in the world does one tell?
Maybe someone with clout in the movement could provide an objective measure for telling us all who the false teachers ARE?
I’d dare say that the mixed messages in the Charismatic movement that Michael Brown is a part of are rather extreme.
I pity the average pew-warming Charismatic because one respected leader condemns another leader as a “spiritual prostitute”, and then a second respected leader calls the prostitute a “brother in the Lord” and cuddles up to him on national television. This sure looks like one epic circus of confusion and inconsistency.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “is my nose running or did my brain just melt?” Unger