Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5 Continued

Continued

So far, I’ve reviewed the preface, chapter 1, chapter 3 (more chapter 3), and the first part of chapter 5 and Fred has review chapter 2 and chapter 4.

Let’s get going…but first:

Kenny Loggins?

Check.

Blue sash?

Blue Sash

Check.

Cute little lamb being bottle fed by a doggie?

sheepdog-bottle-feeding-a-lamb

Check!

Okay.  Now that the atmosphere is properly set, we’re ready to speak the truth in love!

Chapter 5 Summary ctd.

Michael Brown

(Warning: this again is a meaty chapter and is pretty long.  You might not want to try to sort through this all in one sitting…)

I finished up the last installment by looking at the nine “non-signs” of Edwards.  Now, I’ll address the five positive signs of a genuine work of God that Jonathan Edwards found in 1 John.

Test 1. Does the work cause the Jesus of the Scriptures to be exalted?

joel-osteen-preaching-Bible

Dr. Brown summarizes John MacArthur’s critique here as:

1) Charismatics exalt the Holy Spirit more than Jesus; 2) some Word of Faith teachers deny aspects of the deity of Jesus; and 3) Charismatics have a mixture of odd beliefs, including Catholic Charismatics. (Kindle Locations 2118-2119).

Dr. Brown responds with the following:

This is as remarkable as it is regrettable, and in response , it could be argued that: 1) Reformed Christians exalt doctrine and sometimes even Calvin more than Jesus; 2) the fact that some Charismatic teachers might be in doctrinal error about Jesus is absolutely not an indictment of the countless thousands of charismatic teachers who are not in doctrinal error about Him; 3) Protestants (even Reformed Protestants) have a mixture of odd beliefs, including Reconstructionism. (Kindle Locations 2120-2123).

Dr. Brown then quotes Frank Viola in saying:

And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R. T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. (Kindle Locations 2132-2133).

Dr Brown then writes:

Now, I’m sure some of my Reformed friends reading these lines find this very offensive, saying that their appreciation of “the doctrines of grace” and the teachings of Calvin only enhances their love for Jesus. I do accept that, even though I sometimes hear more glorying in doctrine in these circles than I hear glorying in the Lord. In the same way, the moving of the Spirit in charismatic circles points us to Jesus – in our worship, in our witness, in our personal lives – and one of the most common results of a person being healed or delivered by the Spirit of God is that they immediately begin to confess Jesus as Lord. (Kindle Locations 2139-2143).

With regards to the point that some Word Faith teachers deny aspects of the deity of Christ, Dr. Brown writes:

As for the legitimacy of writing off a movement of half a billion people because it has some false teachers or confused leaders, following this methodology would effectively eliminate virtually every denomination or identifiable Christian group on the planet. Shall I begin to name some serious errors, even Christological errors, in the cessationist camp? (Kindle Locations 2147-2149).

Finally, with regards to the Catholic Charismatics, Dr. Brown writes:

With rare exception, Pentecostals and charismatics hold to a thoroughly orthodox Christology, and it is simply wrong for Pastor MacArthur to point to a few statements by a few TV preachers to discredit the orthodoxy of a multifaceted, worldwide outpouring of the Spirit. It’s also worth mentioning that through the Charismatic Movement, many Catholics have become genuinely born-again, even if they have not yet repudiated all the errors of Catholicism. But even if none of them were truly saved, that would still not account for roughly 80% of the world’s charismatics who are not Catholic. (According to estimates used in Strange Fire, there are roughly 100 million charismatic Catholics.) (Kindle Locations 2154-2158).

Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors “since through the outpouring of the Spirit in the last century, hundreds of millions of lost sinners have been drawn to Jesus, turning away from idols, false religions, cults , and all kinds of deception…” (Kindle Locations 2160-2161).

Test 2. Does the work turn people against Satan’s kingdom by turning their hearts away from sin and worldliness?

grace-repentance

Dr. Brown basically here dismisses John MacArthur as he declares that MacArthur is wrong about the pervasiveness of the prosperity gospel and plays up the small number of scandals by prominent leaders to be representative of the whole.

Dr. Brown’s evidential rebuttal to MacArthur is the suggest that he has misread Paul Alexander’s book Signs and Wonders and misrepresented the statistics by ignoring the obvious explanation.  Dr. Brown writes:

Pastor MacArthur quotes Paul Alexander’s book Signs and Wonders, stating that, “Over 90 percent of Pentecostals and charismatics in Nigeria, South Africa, India, and the Philippines believe that ‘God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.” This theme was reiterated throughout the Strange Fire conference, and Phil Johnson pressed it again during his appearance on my radio show. But is it true? And is there a reason that Dr. MacArthur all but ignored the fact that Pentecostalism worldwide is often a religion of the poor, even though this was noted in the same immediate context in which Alexander was quoted? Why this significant oversight? (Kindle Locations 2173-2179).

Dr. Brown wants to make it clear that he’s against the prosperity gospel and writes:

Let me first reiterate my complete and utter repudiation of the carnal prosperity message – meaning, the idea that Jesus died on the cross to make us rich – and let me state my agreement that it is spreading like wildfire in many parts of the world. I do not question this nor do I defend it, and, as mentioned above, in Chapter Two, I have addressed this forcefully for the last twenty -five years. (Kindle Locations 2179-2182).

Dr. Brown then continues on to explain how he reconciles Paul Alexander’s statistic (90% of Pentecostals and Charismatics in various African, Asian and South American regions believe that God will grant material prosperity to those who have enough faith) and the fact that Pentecostalism is “often a religion of the poor”.  Dr. Brown writes:

The study being cited by John Allen is the October, 2006 Pew Forum survey, “Spirit and Power: A Ten Country Survey of Pentecostals.” 19 One of the survey statements was, “God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith,” and Christians were asked to express their agreement or disagreement with it. Based on the responses from ten countries, we have been told that 90% of charismatics worldwide believe in the “prosperity gospel.” What the Strange Fire camp did not emphasize strongly enough (or, at times, at all) was that: 1) A majority of the population in some of the countries surveyed is extremely poor, which means that “material prosperity” for many of these believers simply meant, “Having enough food for my family so we won’t starve,” or, “Having a roof over my head that doesn’t leak.” Is it so heretical to believe that God will grant that to His children? 20 (Note that, according to some estimates, 70% of the world’s population lives on less than $ 3 per day.) (Kindle Locations 2191-2199).

Dr. Brown then goes on to say that though large percentages of Pentecostals/Charismatics in the survey believed in the prosperity gospel, a nearly equal amount of “other Christians” did as well. He comments “This means that either the vast majority of all professing Christians hold to this same, false message (which then undermines the whole Strange Fire indictment against charismatics), or else the charismatic affirmation of the statement about material prosperity is far more innocent than it appears.” (Kindle Locations 2212-2214).  Dr. Brown then suggests that either the prosperity gospel is everywhere and we all need to attack it, or the Strange Fire crowd is confusing celebrity televangelists with regular Christians who simply are trusting God to meet their regular needs.

Dr. Brown then suggests some contrary statistics to those raised by the Strange Fire book.  He cites a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center involving 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries who attended the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization.  This survey found that 90% of those leaders rejected the prosperity gospel, 76% claimed to have witnessed a divine healing, 61% claimed to have received direct revelation from God, and 47% claimed to have spoken in tongues.  Dr. Brown comments “These stats are also more in keeping with my experience as a leader serving in Pentecostal and charismatic circles over the decades, which is one reason that so many American charismatics are turned off by the lavish lifestyles of some of our celebrity preachers.” (Kindle Locations 2229-2231).

He then continues and writes “But what many charismatic leaders do believe is that God wanted to raise up a mentality of provision rather than poverty for the purpose of funding the spread of the gospel worldwide, as argued by missionary statesman David Shibley in his book A Force in the Earth.” (Kindle Locations 2232-2234).  He continues on to comment on the hypocrisy of lavish North American Christians decrying other believers’ trust in God to provide their needs and he then makes a comment at how it appears “incongrous” for some of the speakers at Strange Fire to have six figure salaries.

Dr. Brown finished off his discussion of this point by pointing out how the survey cited by John MacArthur showed that Pentecostals and Charismatics have more concern with sharing their faith, a higher view of scripture, a more active prayer life, and more outspokenness on moral issues and then writes:

To repeat once more: There is a dangerous, carnal prosperity message spreading across America and into the nations, and it must be corrected and stopped. But this is hardly a charismatic problem alone, and we do best not to frame it as such. At the same time, the great majority of Pentecostal and charismatic believers do not hold to this carnal message, evidencing spiritual vitality and health, especially outside America. (Kindle Locations 2259-2262).

Test 3. Does the work produce a greater love and esteem and honor for the Scriptures?

Little boy hugging an old book

Dr. Brown starts off saying that John MacArthur clearly denies this since Pentecostals/Charismatics are open to the continuing “speaking” of the Spirit (though not on the same level as the Bible at all), and Dr. Brown then references the previously mentioned survey that suggests that Pentecostals/Charismatics have a higher view of scripture than other, non-charismatic Christians.

Dr. Brown writes that since charismatics “are often seeing the promises of the Word of God worked out in their lives on a regular basis, this too produces a greater interest and faith in the Word” (Kindle Locations 2270-2271).  He then gives a story of a Brownsville critic who came and dialogued with the leaders and witnessed an impromptu survey where a class at the school of ministry suggested that they read the Bible anywhere from twice to five times as much after experiencing the revival.  Dr. Brown closes off making an interesting observation:

It is noteworthy that Reformed and Baptist theological seminaries over the decades have often strayed towards liberalism, which is why more than eighty years ago, Westminster Seminary was formed when Princeton Theological Seminary began to deny the authority of Scripture. (Princeton was once a Reformed theological bastion.) In fact, theological apostasy is all too common in non-charismatic denominations, such as Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian . In contrast, Pentecostal denominations and seminaries have tended to remain theologically conservative with a high view of the authority of Scripture. This too is highly significant, pointing to yet another reason that the Strange Fire camp, while rightly rejecting the extremes and errors in the Charismatic Movement, should have been asking charismatic and Pentecostal leaders to join the conference and share the secrets of their real spiritual success. (Kindle Locations 2287-2293).

Test 4. Does the work lead people to the truth?

The truth road sign

Dr. Brown spends the least amount of time here.  He makes three simple points and suggests first that though some leaders are questionable, the major Pentecostal denominations hold to the fundamentals of evangelicalism.  He writes:

while charismatic churches may not be famous for systematically catechizing believers in basic Bible doctrine, the reality is that all the major Pentecostal denominations hold to evangelical fundamentals of the faith, and there is a clear line drawn between heresy and truth. (Kindle Locations 2297-2299).

He suggests second that cessationism itself is guilty of doctrinal error that he promises to expose in the next chapter.

He then closes off with the following:

Third, pointing back again to the Pew Forum, ten-country survey of 2006, it is noteworthy that Pentecostals specifically scored much higher than did non-charismatics when it came to affirming the wrongness of homosexual practice, prostitution, extra-marital sex, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and drinking alcohol. (This was especially true in America, where Pentecostals have much higher conservative moral values, on average, than do non-charismatics.) Of course, I’m aware that there is ambiguity in terms of how many of the non-charismatic “Christians” in this survey are actually Christian at all. (That being said, Pastor MacArthur claims that the vast majority of charismatics are not actually Christian at all!) But it is clear that on any count, the Pentecostals held to high moral principles, based on the truth of the Scriptures. Check this off with a big “yes” on the Edwards list as well. (Kindle Locations 2305-2311).

Test 5. Does the work result in love to God and man?

Hug

Dr. Brown’s case here is fairly straightforward.  Dr. Brown writes:

Here, Pastor MacArthur does a real disservice to charismatics, claiming that their love for God is suspect because, in the words of a Pentecostal theology professor, “We go crazy when we think about all God has done for us and with us. Even crazier than we get for our basketball team.” 29 For Dr. MacArthur, this somehow equates to “irrational and ecstatic phenomena,” to the point that he claims that it won’t take long for anyone viewing TBN or another charismatic network to see people “even barking like dogs.” 30 Seriously? And these TV networks somehow represent most charismatics? (Kindle Locations 2313-2318).

Dr. Brown follows those statements with an expression of confusion how MacArthur makes the colossal leap from excitement to irrational behaviour and suggests that cessationists who cheer for a football team should not judge Pentecostals who cheer for the Lord.

Dr. Brown then focuses on John MacArthur’s suggestions that charismatics have a lack of love for others due to their belief in the value of tongues speaking which, when used in prayer, has the side effect of self-edification.  Dr. Brown suggests that the self-edification is not a focus of tongues speaking, as pastor MacArthur claims. Dr. Brown also takes offense that pastor MacArthur suggests that Pentecostals/charismatics focus on material wealth and thus reflect a further lack of love.  Dr. Brown suggests that since Paul spoke in more tongues than the Corinthians, pastor MacArthur would have to dismiss the apostle Paul as lacking love.  Dr. Brown then writes:

In reality, those of us who pray in tongues do so to enhance our prayer lives and our intimacy with God, also knowing that praying in tongues (which is one of the ways we pray in the Spirit; see Ephesians 6: 18) makes us stronger believers. In other words, this is not some selfish exercise we engage in, similar to feasting at a rich steak house while our neighbors starve; rather, it is like a football player lifting weights in the exercise room so he can help his team win games. In my own life , often before ministering the Word, especially overseas, it has been my habit to pray extensively in tongues as I meditate on the message I am about to preach , sharpening my spiritual focus and increasing my awareness of the Lord as I prepare to engage in sacred service to the lost and to the saved. (Kindle Locations 2332-2337).

Dr. Brown then finishes off the chapter with the accusation against cessationists who have “a conspicuous lack of love in their circles towards those they criticize and reject, to the point that it is all too common to find related posts and blogs mocking and vilifying charismatics in the strongest of terms” (Kindle Locations 2343-2344).  He then points this accusation directly at Pastor MacArthur and says:

Some sections of Strange Fire read like the National Enquirer more than they read like a book written by a seasoned Christian leader, especially when detailing the failings and fallings of other leaders. 34 In fact, on page 64, Pastor MacArthur actually cites the National Enquirer, making reference to a picture of the then divorced charismatic leaders Benny Hinn and Paula White holding hands as they left a hotel in Rome. (They claimed innocence in the matter – God knows the truth – but the fact is that Hinn subsequently remarried his wife Suzanne, as noted, but without appreciation, by Pastor MacArthur.) (Kindle Locations 2346-2350).

Dr. Brown offers his own reading of the affair between Benny Hinn and Paula White by saying “according to my limited knowledge of the situation, there were no grounds for divorce for Paula White and her husband, and I do not see how they can rightly continue in ministry now, especially without even taking a break” (Kindle Locations 2351-2352) and not mentioning Benny Hinn at all.  Dr. Brown dismisses this as a “symptom of celebrity and power more than anything else” (Kindle Location 2355), he suggests also that “we could make quite a long list of divorced and discredited non-charismatic leaders” (Kindle Locations 2356-2357), and he suggests that the “Strange Fire approach is sadly lacking in love for others, which would actually call it into question based on the last of the Edwards’ criteria” (Kindle Locations 2357-2358).

Goon-hockey-fight

The Question:

Dr. Brown then moves on from Edwards and asks of the leaders of Strange Fire “did they reach out to them privately in the past or present to speak into their lives or to appeal to them to repent or to point out what they believed to be their errors or to offer to help them where they believed they were weak?” (Kindle Locations 2360-2362).   Dr. Brown plays up that he’s apparently been appealing for a face-to-face with John MacArthur for months with no avail.  He suggests that this lack of love is manifest in many cessationists on Twitter and Facebook who have mocked Dr. Brown (just like gay activists and atheists) and then quotes Tamara Rice (of HopefullyKnown.org) in asking what good it is to be right when you’re unloving.  Dr. Brown suggests that Strange Fire supporters should meditate on Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13, 12:7 and Jacob 2:13 and start living out the “Grace to You” slogan.

The Truth About Africa

Finally, Dr. Brown tosses the kitchen sink in this chapter and addresses Conrad Mbewe’s claims about Africa.  Dr. Brown references an article he wrote where he quotes Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Ph.D., Professor of Contemporary African Christianity and Pentecostal/ Charismatic Theology in Africa at the Trinity Theological Seminary (Accra, Ghana), Daniel Kolenda (Reinhard Bonnke’s successor and a graduate of Dr. Brown’s ministry school) and “a pastor from Ghana” (Kindle Location 2405).  They all agree with Dr. Brown, so Conrad Mbewe is misrepresenting Africa.  Dr. Brown closes the section writing:

Without a doubt, with the rapid spread of the gospel in Africa, there are all kinds of serious errors, abuses , and foreign mixtures, but they are hardly limited to charismatic circles (quite the contrary) and they hardly represent the larger picture of what God is doing there. Those attending the Strange Fire conference would never know this, nor would they know about the wonderful things the Holy Spirit is doing around the world today which, despite evident flaws and failings, is undeniably a glorious work of God. (Kindle Locations 2410-2413).

Dr. Brown then finishes the chapter with a reference to an article by Timothy George, who in turn references J.I. Packer in suggesting that MacArthur is wrong in his assessment of the Charismatic Movement, and Dr. Brown also makes a reference to his own writing in The Revival Answer Book, making note of how during the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards focused on the wheat and Charles Chauncy focused on the chaff.  Dr. Brown suggests that this same thing is happening here.

******

Chapter 5 Comments

Top-Gun-Slider

All right.  Where to begin, where to begin?

I had originally taken a rather lengthy exploration of the ministry of Jonathan Edwards with a particular look at the claimed “manifestations” that occurred in his ministry, but that has become a post in itself that will be put up whenever it’s done.  Since that was the main bear I was fighting, I’ve corralled it and will deal with it later.

Now, I’ll respond to each of the points:

Test 1. Does the work cause the Jesus of the Scriptures to be exalted?

With regards to the point that Charismatics exalt the Holy Spirit more than Jesus, his response to cessationists of “you do that too (in other areas)” isn’t really a response at all; it’s an implicit admitting of the charge.  Also, his claim that “I sometimes hear more glorying in doctrine in these circles (namely, cessationist circles) than I hear glorying in the Lord” is itself questionable since he doesn’t travel in cessationist circles (and he’s apparently barely aware of what’s happening in his circles).

Brown & Hinn

With regards to the silly Frank Viola quote, I’d just point out two rather glaring points to consider:

a. Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, characterize the charismatic world far more than R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R. T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard characterize Reformed Christians because they’re internationally known and have huge ministries.  I have some cessationist/reformed readers, and I’d dare guess that most of them couldn’t tell you more than 3 facts about Dooyeweerd, Kendall or even tell you who Patrick Edouard is.

b. Secondly, the contrast isn’t between charismatics and reformed Christians.  The contrast is between charismatics and non-charismatics.  This is an apples and oranges comparison (what with R.T. Kendall being a reformed charismatic and all).

When Dr. Brown cries foul regarding the false teachers in the charismatic midst, I only have two responses:

a.  Many of the worst offenders are the biggest names (and those with the widest influence and best selling books).  Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in North America and he’s on a long list of names.  All the big hacks & quacks are pastors of mega-churches or itinerant healers/preachers with massive organizations (like Joyce Meyer; she’s definitely running in the black, or TBN – You know, where the hacks and quacks get all their exposure).  The heretics/false teachers that he would point to in cessationist circles are nobodies, even in cessationist circles.

b.  Cessationists are the loudest critics of errors in cessationist circles.  Where exactly are the books written by charismatics critiquing Reconstructionism? It’s the Cessationists doing the critiquing (like this book or this book or this book), but it’s the Charismatics swallowing it (like here and here and here).  In the Auburn Avenue theology/Federal Vision debate, where exactly did the charismatics weigh in?  What about all the other issues that have assaulted Conservative evangelical circles?

With regards to the Catholic Charismatic point, I’d simply say that if you have not rejected Catholicism’s false gospel, you have not embraced the true gospel.  No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).  Also, as a point of news, it’s worth pointing the following video out since it’s rather informative about both the question of who’s considered mainstream and influential as well as what’s going on in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal:

Frightening?  Telling?  You betcha.

It’s finally worth noting again that the whole “half a million have got saved so it’s definitely a work of God” argument is simply fallacious.  All that anyone can know is that people have made professions of faith but nobody on either side knows how many of those professions are authentic.  Claiming professions of faith as divine validation of any movement is a non-argument.

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

Test 2. Does the work turn people against Satan’s kingdom by turning their hearts away from sin and worldliness?

Now I’m glad that Dr. Brown condemns the prosperity gospel, and it’s interesting that he admits that it’s “spreading like wildfire in many parts of the world”, but I have a sneaking suspicion that his definition as what qualifies as “prosperity gospel” is far narrower than what one could support from the scripture.  When he claims that many poor people in the third world come to Christ with hopes of gaining daily provisions, he pronounces that honorable and dismisses all charges of prosperity gospel since he sums up the prosperity gospel as “Jesus died on the cross to make us rich”.  I’d dare suggest that few people are dumb enough to preach something that explicitly fallacious, and Satan’s tactics generally don’t include bucktoothed idiocy (“hey there, wanna believe an obvious lie and utterly ruin your lives?”).  Rather, any message of salvation promising health or wealth qualifies as a prosperity message.  In other words, if you come to Jesus in order to get either health or financial benefit, you’re not coming to Jesus at all.

Genie

Isn’t that a little bit of a hard line?

Well, consider the following:

a. Health and daily provision are benefits of common grace (Psalm 73:3; Matt. 5:45), but they’re not promised to be given, in any special measure, to people who profess Christ in this life (I know, there’s a whole lot of debate here with many Charismatics, but I can only deal with so many topics at once…).  Jesus will provide those things to believers, certainly, but that will occur in the life to come (Matt. 19:29; Luke 16:25; Is. 65:17-23; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:35-53; Rev. 21:4) .

b.  Jesus overtly warned about the dangers of chasing wealth: he commented on how it would choke the message of the gospel from producing fruit in someone’s life (Mark 4:18-19), he warned against seeking money for acceptable ends at the expense of serving God with one’s money (Luke 12:15-21), he taught that chasing wealth as antithetical to serving God (Matt. 6:24), and he even taught how loving wealth was a barrier to salvation (Mark 10:17-27).

c.  The rest of the disciples/apostles spoke out harshly against chasing money as well.  Paul referred to it as being synonymous with idolatry (Col. 3:5), a mark of wickedness (2 Tim. 3:2), and spoke of a desire for wealth as a snare that plunges people into ruin, destruction and apostasy (1 Tim. 6:9-10).  The author of Hebrews wrote that the Christians’ life should be void of the love of money (Heb. 13:5)

d.  What’s more is that both John the Baptist Paul continually taught that the poor should seek generosity and contentment as opposed to more money (Luke 3:10-14; Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 9:6-15; Phil. 4:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:6-8).  Beyond that, Paul didn’t give poor churches a pass on serving and generosity because they were poor and he certainly didn’t tell them to “claim God’s provision” (or however you want to phrase it).  The Holy Spirit said through Paul:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)

Dr. Brown, speaking of daily provision, asks “Is it so heretical to believe that God will grant that to His children?”  The answer is most certainly “no”, since God promises daily provision to all his children (Matt. 6:31-34).  I’d dare say that Dr. Brown is right in stating that “Pentecostalism worldwide is often a religion of the poor”, but I’d strongly disagree with him as to why that is the case.  In a nutshell, Pentecostalism (and the Charismatic movement in general) is the breeding grown for the prosperity gospel and the prosperity gospel appeals to covetousness, frustration and pain, deceitfully promising the blessings of the kingdom now if only the poor follow the “divinely guaranteed” rules (which mostly involve giving up what they have in order to get what they want).

What about the Pew Forum survey (the entire 231 page document is here)?  Page 10 of that document includes the summary statement that says:

Majorities of pentecostals in all 10 countries surveyed agree that God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith; and in nine of the countries, most pentecostals say that God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?  It’s a single question with agree/disagree options in varying strength.  Not a nuanced question, but it’s the only option that the survey offers (hence the high percentages).

Also, Dr. Brown writes:

The data is similar in all ten countries surveyed. For example , in India, 93% of Pentecostals and 95% of charismatics affirmed the material prosperity statement, compared to 87% of other Christians, while in Nigeria, 95% of Pentecostals affirmed the statement (Charismatics were not listed separately) compared with 93% of other Christians. How striking! This means that either the vast majority of all professing Christians hold to this same, false message (which then undermines the whole Strange Fire indictment against charismatics), or else the charismatic affirmation of the statement about material prosperity is far more innocent than it appears. (Kindle Locations 2209-2214).

Allow me to offer a third and different option to Dr. Brown’s interpretation of the data:

Mismatched Bots

On pages 11 and 12 of the survey, they give the definitions of the terms “Charismatic” and “Pentecostal”:

Charismatic: Those who practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit but are not members of historical pentecostal denominations. Most belong to Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant or evangelical Protestant denominations.

Pentecostals: Members of denominations that emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the belief that speaking in tongues is necessary evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals belong either to one of the historical denominations, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, that originated in the religious revivals of the early 20th century, or to newer, largely independent churches, sometimes labeled as neo-pentecostal churches.

So the two terms are basically “non-denominational tongues-speaker” and “denominational tongues-speaker”.

Then, on page 29 of the document where the “health and wealth” question, all the other countries differentiate between “Charismatic” and “Pentecostal” but one: Nigeria (interesting how that’s the country he chose…).  The “Christians” in Nigeria most likely included the “Charismatics”.  In India, the number of “Christians” (neither part of a Pentecostal denomination or an independent Charismatic church) who believed in the prosperity gospel was still high (87%), but that included Catholics, Orthodox, mainline Protestant and evangelical Protestant denominations.  Subtract the first three categories, and how many evangelical Protestants are left?  Out of the 24 million “Christians” in India, it’s worth noting that an overwhelming majority of them belong to the first three categories.  That doesn’t mean that the prosperity gospel is a problem in conservative evangelical circles, but it’s certainly significantly less of a problem than in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles.

How many evangelical Protestants compose the 43% of American Christians (292 out of 681 surveyed) that believe the prosperity gospel?

The numbers aren’t nearly as shocking as Dr. Brown would like people to believe.  All one needs to do is a little deeper digging to make sense of the initially shocking numbers, both in the Pew Forum study and the Pew Research Center study from the Third Lausanne Congress.  Let’s consider the Lausanne Congress Survey report then, shall we?

The original Lausanne Congress Survey report is here and the claim is that 90% of those leaders rejected the prosperity gospel, 76% claimed to have witnessed a divine healing, 61% claimed to have received direct revelation from God, and 47% claimed to have spoken in tongues.

The percentile of people claiming to have witnessed a divine healing would include myself, the claims to have received direct revelation from God aren’t on the table and the fact that 1/2 of the people there claimed to have spoken in tongues is not shocking in the slightest (though page 22 states that 26% of those in attendance claimed that “speaking in tongues is not compatible with being a good evangelical”.  That is actually shocking!  There are more cessationists out there than I thought!)

But what about the prosperity gospel?

Well, if one looks on page 22, one sees the two options that the survey offered:

a.  God gives wealth and good health to those with enough faith

b.  God doesn’t always give wealth and good health even to believers who have deep faith

Hmmm.  Notice a slight difference in the options?

Why does the second option include “always”?  What’s more, how many prosperity preachers teach that “faith” is all that is needed for acquiring prosperity?  Well, consider what Benny Hinn has to say on the issue.  Not even Benny would say that (and he’s the prince of prosperity preachers), simply because faith isn’t the only thing needed.

I learned long ago that the secret to stacking statistics in your favour lies in asking the right questions.  I’d highly recommend this book if you want to become a supervillain.

Speaking of supervillains, there’s the final issue of how Pentecostals and Charismatics have more concern with sharing their faith, a higher view of scripture, a more active prayer life, and more outspokenness on moral issues.  I know a religious group that, when compared to most Pentecostals on all four of those, is simply out of this world:

MormonMoonMissionaries

Finally, Dr. Brown also implicitly admitted that many charismatic leaders pursue money since “many charismatic leaders do believe is that God wanted to raise up a mentality of provision rather than poverty for the purpose of funding the spread of the gospel worldwide” (Kindle Locations 2232-2233).  Yeah.  Anyone buy thatAnyone Anyone? AnyoneBueller?

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

Test 3. Does the work produce a greater love and esteem and honor for the Scriptures?

Surprisingly, there’s not much of a case offered here by Dr. Brown.  Claims about morality and high views of scripture and reading the Bible more are nice, but I’ve already addressed that.

As for the claims about witnessing fulfilled promises, I’m guessing that is almost exclusively talking about tongues, healing, prophecy, revival, and the like.  Those drive people to read the Bible more, looking for new promises and new scriptures to claim.  I’ll grant that, including the results from Dr. Brown’s impromptu survey of his class.  Regarding the fact that his students read the Bible way more after “being touched by the Spirit of revival”, he writes:

What did this indicate? Simply that those truly touched by the Spirit develop a greater love for God’s Word along with a greater faith in God’s Word and a greater desire to submit to the authority of God’s Word. (Kindle Locations 2283-2284).

I’d like to point something out: reading the Bible is far different that understanding and applying the Bible, and that’s where the wheels fall off this whole movement.

Case in point:  every single husband and wife “pastor” team in the entire movement.  It doesn’t take a very long time to sort through what the Bible says about the office of elder, the biblical terms regarding church leadership, and whether or not the office of elder is open to women…and the office of elder is not open to women.  This isn’t even a really difficult issue, and yet those who claim to have the greatest presence of the Holy Spirit consistently get the scripture wrong on this issue.

Hermeneutically and exegetically speaking, the Charismatic movement has been driving around with a light on for a long time.

Malfunction

I’ll make one comment about the contemporary revelation that’s “obviously not in any way on a par with Scripture” (Kindle Location 2264):

If it’s not on par with Scripture, it’s not the voice of God.  God can only speak with his own voice, and that voice is one of ultimate truth and authority (God doesn’t do an impression of someone other than himself when he speaks).  This doesn’t mean that contemporary revelation needs to be added to scripture (for there is a difference between spoken prophecy and inscripturated prophecy as many prophecies were not included in scripture), but this does mean that all words of God carry his full weight of authority.

Finally, with regards to liberalism, I generally agree that Charismatic schools don’t tend towards liberalism (*cough…Fuller…*).  I don’t really know why, but I’ll take a guess: academic insulation.  Charismatic schools, speaking very broadly, tend to serve denominations fairly exclusively and aren’t terribly involved in academic pursuits, hence the influence from the brutally secular academy is far less pronounced.  That’s just a guess though.

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

Test 4. Does the work lead people to the truth?

The first accusation is that charismatics elevate spiritual experience against sound doctrine. Let’s revisit the quote by Dr. Brown:

First, while charismatic churches may not be famous for systematically catechizing believers in basic Bible doctrine, the reality is that all the major Pentecostal denominations hold to evangelical fundamentals of the faith, and there is a clear line drawn between heresy and truth. (Kindle Locations 2297-2299).

Does that look to you like it does to me?

It looks like he’s somewhat saying “well, it’s true that we don’t teach basic bible doctrine to the people in the pews, but our denominations are orthodox…”

The people in the pew are the overwhelming majority, right?  Are they the ones who are orthodox?  Er…fail.

Mess Up

As for cessationism being an error, I’ll leave that rebuttal to my esteemed colleague to sort out.

He then closes off by getting even more mileage out of the Pew Forum study from 2006 and restates the idea that Pentecostals scored higher than non-charismatics on issues of morality.  Repeat argument already dealt with.

Finally, when it comes to encountering and celebrating doctrinal error, charismatic churches are in an entirely separate league from even reformed charismatics.  I mean, Bethel church and the glory cloud or Bill Johnson’s explanation for the “signs that make you wonder”?  I cannot think of a single cessationist church where that would be anything other than stand up comedy.

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

Test 5. Does the work result in love to God and man?

Here, Dr. Brown simply missed what John MacArthur was saying.  MacArthur’s argument was:

a.  Charismatics, by their own admittance, get excited and crazy in worship.

b.  That excitement leads to rationally disengaged and ecstatic phenomena.

c.  Rationally disengaged and ecstatic phenomena are antithetical to worship.

The point about “irrationality” isn’t that the behaviour doesn’t make sense, but rather that the behaviour is disconnected from the rational faculties.  On page 75 of Strange Fire, John MacArthur writes:

A true work of the Spirit produces a love for God that expresses itself in sober-minded adoration and praise.  That is the definition of biblical worship.  Worship is an experssion of love fror God and therefore by its nature engages the soul’s passions.  Most Christians understand that, at least in a rudimentary way.

But too many seem to think we’re not truly worshipping (sp) until the human intellect is somehow disengaged.  I’ve heard charismatic preachers urging people to suspend their rational faculties because the Spirit supposedly can’t work if we’re doing too much thinking.  That is a totally unbiblical concept.  In authentic worship, thoughts and feelings together – along with all our human faculties – are focused on God in pure adoration.  That principle is implied in the first and great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37, ESV).

The kind of praise the Father seeks is not a cacophony of mindless pandemonium.  Worship is not mere frenzy and feelings…

In other words, John MacArthur is suggesting that charismatics worship God without engaging their mind, which is a violation of the great command.  Disobedience to God cannot ever be loving (John 14:15, 14:21; 1 John 5:2-3), but systemically established and celebrated disobedience is far worse.

As for Dr. Browns’ argument that Paul would be disqualified if John MacArthur’s criteria were applied to him, again Dr. Brown seems to miss the thrust of the argument in Strange Fire.  The problem isn’t the amount of tongues, but the purpose; the problem was that people were speaking in tongues with the only result being self-edification and Paul condemned that, since self-edification isn’t ever what tongues are (1 Cor. 14:13-19).  I seriously doubt that Dr. Brown would accuse the apostle Paul of doing the very thing he condemned, right?

In the light of that, it’s strange that Dr. Brown writes:

Finally, Pastor MacArthur’s attack on charismatics for their alleged lack of love for others is even more offensive than some of his other attacks, as he claims that because we believe in the value of speaking in tongues, which builds us up as we pray, we are guilty of focusing on self-edification. (Kindle Locations 2326-2328).

It sure looks like Dr. Brown is claiming that at least part of the regular effect of tongues is something that the apostle Paul condemned…

Cringe

As for his other quote about how speaking in tongues is like lifting weights, read the quote again:

In reality, those of us who pray in tongues do so to enhance our prayer lives and our intimacy with God, also knowing that praying in tongues (which is one of the ways we pray in the Spirit; see Ephesians 6: 18) makes us stronger believers. In other words, this is not some selfish exercise we engage in, similar to feasting at a rich steak house while our neighbors starve; rather, it is like a football player lifting weights in the exercise room so he can help his team win games. In my own life , often before ministering the Word, especially overseas, it has been my habit to pray extensively in tongues as I meditate on the message I am about to preach , sharpening my spiritual focus and increasing my awareness of the Lord as I prepare to engage in sacred service to the lost and to the saved. (Kindle Locations 2332-2337).

Sound to you like he’s talking a lot about himself in that paragraph?

Me too.

I love the “lifting weights” analogy.  I have had several football player friends, and even when they worked out, the piece of equipment that saw the most reps wasn’t even in the gym…

Mirror

The “conspicuous lack of love” manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly.  I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media.  Many cessationists are legitimate jerks and that should not be the case.  What’s more, the sheer practice of “calling someone out” when you don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact and aren’t holding a biblical office (i.e. an elder in a church) is unbelievably arrogant.  Please everyone STOP IT.

As for the fact that John MacArthur cites the National Enquirer (once) and therefore reads like a copy of the National Enquirer, I’ll just chalk that up to Dr. Brown never actually having read the National Enquirer.  I don’t blame him though.  I’m a Weekly World News reader myself…how else can I keep up to date on the escapades of Bat Boy?

batboy_cooper

I’ve already written enough on Benny Hinn and Paula White.  Read this if you’re interested in my thoughts on that.

I’m glad that Dr. Brown thinks that Paula White shouldn’t be back in ministry.  I fully agree.

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

The Question:

The whole idea that “you cannot address someone’s public error without first privately contacting them and trying to settle the issue” is simply nonsense.  Acts 5:1-11; Gal. 2:11-14 and 1 Tim. 5:19-21 give a little precedent to calling out public error publicly.

As for Dr. Brown’s appeals to meet with Dr. MacArthur, I cannot speak to that as I have no knowledge there.

As for the rude and mocking comments coming from “discernment bloggers” and cessationists on Facebook and Twitter, allow me to restate myself: STOP IT!

Very little hurts truth more than having it associated with the Village idiot.

Idiot

Do I need to be more explicit here or will that suffice?

The Truth About Africa

As for this, a Pentecostal professor, Reinhard Bonnke’s successor and a pastor from Ghana agree with Dr. Brown that everything is hunky dory in Africa?

Well, the first two folks are hilariously biased.  I can’t imagine either a Pentecostal professor or like Daniel Kolenda ever giving up his bread and butter in Africa.  For some reason, I’m not surprised that they tow Dr. Brown’s line.

Beyond that, I have a lot more than three friends that are either in, have been over to, Africa this year and there stories are utterly different.  One local pastor in my area came back from Africa just after Christmas and I heard a tale of how the minute he got to his relatives’ town, the first question that the locals had was “what gift did you bring for the man of God?”  They all assumed that since he was from Canada he was rich, and expected him to give the local pastor a car (or something similarly extravagant).  When he didn’t, they all were totally shocked and thought he was an imbecile for not appeasing their pastor, since their pastor was the only guy in the village with a direct line to God and the way to be blessed was to bless him (if you don’t give him something, your plane might crash on your way home!).

batman-on-bat-phone

Yikes.

So whose friends are right?  Mine or Dr. Browns?

I believe that’s more than enough; let’s call this a wrap.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Good thing I didn’t include my whole excursus on Jonathan Edwards!” Unger

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13 thoughts on “Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5 Continued

  1. “The ‘conspicuous lack of love’ manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly. I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. Many cessationists are legitimate jerks and that should not be the case. What’s more, the sheer practice of ‘calling someone out’ when you don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact and aren’t holding a biblical office (i.e. an elder in a church) is unbelievably arrogant. Please everyone STOP IT.

    Thank you for this. I’m glad to see that someone is willing to say that (and I hope you don’t lose some of your audience for it. As someone who’s been in charismatic circles and cessasionist circles this has been something I’ve noticed, and frankly it bugs me to no end, it stinks of pride.

    I really enjoyed this article, and I hope you continue to offer insights into this ongoing debate. God Bless Lyndon!

    • Thanks Josh. I’ll definitely lose some of my audience, but that’s fine by me. I’ll console myself by thinking I’m like Jesus for speaking up against sinful ideas and practices…or just stupidity masquerading as “faithfulness”.

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