Let’s get going…but first:
Cute little lamb about to realize we’re not in the millennium?
Okay. Now that the atmosphere is properly set, we’re ready to speak the truth in love!
Chapter 7 Summary (I’ve numbered things to make responding easier to follow)
1. Dr. Brown opens the chapter with a story about James Robison and how he used to be judgmental, until Billy Graham told him to”spend time with other believers you’ve been taught to avoid” (Kindle Location 3482), which transformed him and those whom he reached out to. Dr. Brown makes the subtle insinuation that John MacArthur avoids other believers because he doesn’t think they are other believers. Dr. Brown then quotes himself in saying that Heaven will be “a great eye-opener and a great mouth-closer. You will be surprised to see many people there, and many people will be surprised to see you there” (Kindle Locations 3486-3487), and comments about how people like Bill Johnson and Mike Bickle get condemned by some and praised by others. Here’s the full quote:
In the last week, I have been criticized for failing to condemn Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar to hell while, on the other hand, I have been criticized for daring to take issue with their messages at all.
Someone claimed that Bill Johnson was the “biggest wolf ever” [and “an enemy of the True Gospel”] while, on the other side of the spectrum, someone claimed that John MacArthur was guilty of blaspheming the Spirit.
A Calvinist told me that Mike Bickle was a false teacher while someone else asked me how a Calvinist like James White could even be saved.
I witnessed one pastor being attacked for saying that those who did not believe in divine healing were preaching a “different gospel” while this pastor, in turn, was condemned for preaching a “different gospel.”
And then were the lovely tweets like . . . “Charismaticism is a cult of Satan” . . . .
How can we possibly move forward in the midst of such division and name-calling? (Kindle Locations 3487-3498)
Dr. Brown proves his point by pointing to this now infamous tweet sent out during the conference:
Dr. Brown also points to the explanation given here (though the actual transcript of the presentation is here) where John MacArthur said “There are others who criticized by saying, ‘You’re attacking brothers.’ I wish I could affirm that. We’ve said this one way or another this week: this is a movement made up largely of non-Christians . . .” (Kindle Locations 3500-3502). Dr. Brown attempts to make the point that John MacArthur’s name-calling is a problem that is preventing the progress of dialogue.
2. Dr. Brown continues on in the next section, pointing out how the “wholesale condemnation of several hundred millions Christians is totally unmerited” (Kindle Location 3504) and comments on how it’s not exactly the first time in Church history that such angry divisions have occurred, and then gives this post by Tom Chantry as an example of “how unpleasant the rhetoric can get once we start damning one another to hell” (Kindle Locations 3506-3507). Dr. Brown quotes Chantry as saying:
“Well, if John MacArthur wants to train his fire on them [meaning, the charismatics], I say good for him. CAIR [the Counsel on American-Islamic Relationships] may not actually be terrorists , but I’m all for exposing their giving of aid and comfort to terrorists.” (Kindle Locations 3507-3509).
3. Jumping off Tom Chantry’s rhetoric, he looks at the bloody theological battles of the past and points to what happens when Christians toss out the word “heresy” against differences in the Body. Dr. Brown points to the bloody aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, pointing how how tens of thousands perished in the fighting between the Monophysites and Chalcedonians, and gives pages of bloody details involving “hands festering and dripping with blood and pus” (Kindle Location 3538) or of many were forced to “take the Eucharist kicking and screaming” (Kindle Locations 3548-3549).
He then states:
Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not comparing the Strange Fire movement to these murderous, dastardly acts. But I am saying that we need to step back in the midst of our self-confident divisions over “orthodoxy” and start listening to each other and making efforts to understand each other before we pronounce each other hell-bound heretics. (Kindle Locations 3557-3559).
4. He continues his argument about believers killing believers over doctrine and switches topics to the Anabaptists (like Felix Manz, Jacob Falk, Bathasar Hubmaier), some of whom were imprisoned and others were killed by sword or drowning, both by Catholics and “their Protestant brothers and sisters” (Kindle Location 3627). Dr. Brown closes off that section saying:
Obviously, I’m not claiming that all people on all sides of this dispute were believers – only God ultimately those who are His (2 Timothy 2: 19) – but it’s clear that these were all Protestants, and even within their own house, there were murderous divisions. (Kindle Locations 3628-3630).
5. Dr. Brown then moves on to comment about how, before the conference, he attempted a dialogue with John MacArthur to urge him to be more cautious with whom he condemned. He then re-posts this article in it’s entirety, making five points:
a. We really do need each other – He quote 1 Cor. 12:20-21 (insinuating John MacArthur is doing this) and insinuates that John MacArthur doesn’t want to learn from, or serve, his Charismatic brothers or sisters but rather embodies the attitude of the pharisee in Luke 18:11.
b. Surgeons cut carefully – Dogmatism often paints with a broad brush and that doesn’t honor the Lord.
c. Don’t be hasty to call others false prophets or false teachers – Dr. Brown’s entire point is:
Based on New Testament usage, a false prophet is a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing and therefore a hell-bound sinner (see Matthew 7: 15-20), while a false teacher is a non-believer (or backslider) who introduces damnable heresies to the church (see 2 Peter 2: 1, where it states that they “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”).
Because of that, I refuse to call a brother or sister in the Lord a false prophet or a false teacher, even if they prophesy falsely (in which case they need correction and are falsely called a prophet) and even if they teach something false (does anyone dare claim to have perfect doctrine on all points)?
It is therefore unbiblical to use the “false prophet” or “false teacher” moniker for believers who are in error, and we can deal with their error effectively and strongly without damning them to hell. (Are you 100% sure they are not saved? Without a doubt? Remember: I’m not talking about a cult member here but about someone who claims to be born again through faith in Jesus.)
And while there are absolutely times when it is right to address people by name – I have sought to do that in a godly way in these columns over the months; God will be the Judge – in many cases it is possible to deal with issues without naming names, which also avoids unnecessary division and strife within the Body. (Kindle Locations 3658-3668).
d. Before we differ with each other we have to understand each other – Dr. Brown comments how some people mean something other than he does when they use the term “charismatic” or “prosperity gospel”. He comments that people who pray for wealth aren’t necessarily sinning since they do so “to help spread the gospel”, but others pursue wealth in a carnal and “worldly-minded” way (due to being manipulated by preachers). He suggests that it’s best to let people define their terms.
e. Major on the majors – Dr. Brown comments that even people at Grace Community Church don’t agree with John MacArthur on everything, and people don’t agree with him on everything either, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not believers. If we all focus on exalting Jesus, we’ll find that we have far more in common than not.
6. Dr. Brown then comments on Numbers 11:26-29 and remarks that some people “people just do things differently than what we’re used to” (Kindle Location 3699) but we shouldn’t shut them down because of that. He then makes the same point from Mark 9:38-40 and remarks how Joshua and John both wanted to stop those who were doing things differently than they were, but Moses and Jesus both told them to leave it be. He quotes John MacArthur in saying “In matters in which Scripture is not explicit there is room for difference of opinion” (Kindle Location 3711) and comments that “we often pass judgment where Scripture does not give us the right to” (Kindle Locations 3712-3713). He then comments:
I’m very hesitant to label anyone a wolf, a false prophet, a charlatan, a fraud, or a false teacher unless I know for a fact that they either deny one or more of the fundamentals of the faith (such as salvation through Jesus alone; His divine nature; His atoning death and resurrection; etc.) or that they are lying in the claims they are making or that they are living an immoral, godless life. (Kindle Locations 3715-3717).
7. He condemns cessationism as a false teaching but states that he wouldn’t label a cessationist a “false teacher”. He says the same thing about the pre-trib rapture, dispensationalism, and Calvinism. He comments how it’s sad that John MacArthur lumps in the good with the bad (due to his broad brush approach) and often exaggerates “the number and nature of the errors” (Kindle Location 3728) in the Charismatic movement.
8. Going back to the broad brush accusation, Dr. Brown then comments on John MacArthur’s reaction to Tom Schreiner’s complaint about the broad brush. Dr. Brown comments on how John MacArthur claimed that he affirmed some Charismatics as true believers and respected colleagues, and Dr. Brown protests that even in the sections where affirmations were made, there were still remarks about how they “remain confused about the ministry of the Holy Spirit” (Kindle Location 3742) and place themselves in spiritual jeopardy by continual exposure to false teaching and counterfeit spirituality. Dr. Brown then comments on how John MacArthur recognizes that he may be condemned for his broad brush approach, but it’s worth the risk due to the magnitude of the problem of the Charismatic movement. Dr. Brown writes “this strategy is tantamount to blowing up an apartment building filled with law-abiding civilians because there are terrorists inside” (Kindle Locations 3751-3752).
9. Dr. Brown closes off his chapter by reminding his audience about James Robison, giving quotes from J.C. Ryle and John Wesley about unity, and finally a quote from Dr. George O. Wood where Dr. Wood longs for the day “when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ” (Kindle Locations 3771-3773).
Chapter 7 Comments
1. Regarding the James Robison story, I don’t know the details there and cannot comment with regards to what were the actual issues in play with James Robison, but the idea that John MacArthur avoids other believers because he doesn’t think they are other believers is simply laughable. He has met with a ton of questionable charismatics (i.e. Paul Cain, Jack Hayford, etc.) over the years and charismatics regularly have spoken at Grace Church and all their associated conferences (i.e. C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, James MacDonald, etc.). I suspect that this is Dr. Brown taking a jab at John MacArthur because Dr. Brown hasn’t got the audience with John MacArthur that he apparently has sought.
It’s worth noting how defending someone like Bill Johnson is spoken of in the same breath as defending someone like James White. Is Calvinism honestly a “heresy” on the same level as the prosperity gospel? Why does this question keep coming up when I read Dr. Brown’s writing?
Regarding the infamous tweet, the context was one of John MacArthur talking about the N.A.R.
I’d also like to answer Dr. Brown’s question: “How can we possibly move forward in the midst of such division and name-calling?”
Here’s a big step to take: Dr. Brown should get off Twitter and Facebook and let an intern do that so that he will be insulated from all the divisive howler monkeys that are calling names on Facebook and Twitter.
It seems that a majority of his stories about division and name calling come from Twitter and Facebook encounters. I have no idea why Dr. Brown exposes himself to as much idiocy on social media as he does. I’m 1/34th as big an evangelical personality as Dr. Brown, and I find Facebook/Twitter to be emotionally exhausting at times.
2. Regarding the post by Tom Chantry, I’m beginning to wonder if Dr. Brown really made an effort to track the argument there. Well, either that or he’s amazingly blind to understanding almost any criticism of the Charismatic movement.
You think that’s a little too rude?
I honestly cannot think of another option (not one that isn’t simply slanderous), and I suspect that it’s the second. I have a inescapable suspicion that, for whatever reason (possibly the noetic effects of sin combined with the hardening effects of decades of attack), there’s actually a cog missing when it comes to hearing articulate critics of the Charismatic movement.
Go read the article. Just so you don’t have to scroll, it’s here. Read the whole second point. Ask yourself if Tom Chantry is talking about Charismatics in general or something more specific than that (i.e. “health-and-wealth Pentecostal scam centers” or the “God wants you to be rich” type of charismaticism or the guys who try to sell the “Holy Spirit Gravy Train to sudden wealth and comfort” or maybe the cautious charismatic who comes along and promotes both the gospel and the group mentioned in the previous three statements…you read the article and tell me what you think).
3. Regarding the Monophysite & Chalcedonian slaughter, as well as the comments made about the Anabaptists, I just could not believe that I was reading the writing of a serious theologian.
There’s one word I have to summarize the rhetorical strategy used by Dr. Brown here: absurd.
People who slaughter other people in the name of Christ aren’t Christians. People who force conversions at the end of the sword don’t have evangelism, or Christ, in mind at all. There is absolutely no parallel between the Strange Fire conference and the post-Chalcedonian slaughter, the Anabaptist martyrdoms, the crusades, the inquisition, etc.
It’s utterly absurd that Dr. Brown stoops to the level of pulling out the “Christians killing Christians” line, as if a bunch of men webcasting sermons and writing a book is somehow on the same level, or even in the same category, as slaughtering hundreds, or thousands, of people and forcing people to “convert” to Christianity under threat of death. I mean, I cannot possibly understand how Dr. Brown, given his shallow argument, could explain how the Nazi’s were not obviously “Christians”. All one needs to see is their clearly “Christian” belt buckles!
It’s as if anyone in history who says “I’m a Christian” is taken at face value and is a valid target for some sort of theological illustration. It’s as if Dr. Brown doesn’t actually have much discernment when it comes to telling whether or not someone has made any form of reputable profession of faith…
…Oh yeah. Never mind.
4. Regarding the Anabaptists, I wanted to point out something beyond what I mentioned in the previous point. I noticed something that I cannot simply gloss over. Dr. Brown doesn’t have any actual books as sources, and his main source for the whole section is an article from David Cloud (he also quotes another article that is referenced in the Cloud article). For those that don’t know who David Cloud is, he is anything but a reliable source of information: he’s a guy who thinks that the King James Bible (meaning the English translation) itself is inspired and is the kind of unbalanced person who compares a church where people raise their hands (*gasp*) to “an opium den” (that’s just a brief smattering of his nonsense).
What makes matters more incriminating is that Dr. Brown linkned to Phil Johnson’s Anabaptist page where he has links to tons of original source materials, so it’s not like Dr. Brown isn’t aware of actually reliable stuff being out there (it really looks like Dr. Brown spent an hour or two on the internet doing his research for this section). Using a source like Cloud is really questionable and makes me take a finer toothed comb to his writing.
Back to the Anabaptists, he paints the prosecution of the Anabaptists as if it were performed by churches, which is anything but the truth. In 21st century North America, it’s easy to forget that in reformation Europe, the government and the church were often synonymous. There were Catholic kingdoms/nations and Protestant kingdoms/nations, but neither one of those had anything to do with faith in Christ. If you know anything about reformation history, you’ll know that religious orientation, at least in royal families, was not exactly the result of heart-felt conversion (more often than not) as opposed to simple political posturing.
I’d dare say that there were no Christians killing other Christians in the reformation. There was the false religion of Catholicism that had seized political power, and there were the political opportunists who rebelled against the totalitarianism of the Catholic church under the guise of Protestantism. It was almost entirely politics using religious language as a flimsy mask to sanctify thoroughly selfish political machinations. Implicitly comparing the political machinations of the League of Torgau against the Catholic Church/Edict of Worms with the Strange Fire conference’s condemnation of the false teaching in the Charismatic movement is simply tabloid-level writing.
5. Regarding Dr. Brown’s article, I have some simple responses:
a. Yup, though making insinuations of pharisaism doesn’t make someone want to talk with you.
b. Surgeons cut carefully? Yup. Who is the example of this that everyone should follow? I listened to the interview that Dr. Brown had with Phil Johnson and noticed a rather astonishing lack of care used on that interview.
c. On this whole argument, which is one that I’ve heard repeatedly given by Dr. Brown, he’s simply wrong. I’d point to my examinations of the concept of false teachers/prophets here and here. When you call someone a false teacher, that’s not consigning them to hell. That’s telling them that they’re on a path that God clearly states will result in damnation; a call to a false teacher should include a call to repentance (and intrinsically does). Any fear of using the label shows contempt for false teachers, not love…though the label needs to be rightly applied and the gospel needs to be patiently and graciously proclaimed.
Also, there are plenty of clear false teachers in charismatic circles…like Benny Hinn: unbiblical doctrine + sexual scandals + financial corruption + unrepentant nature = clear and obvious false teacher.
Dr. Brown’s reticence to call obvious wolves what they are begs several questions, none of which are flattering.
d. Agreed, but we need the Bible to define the terms and we need to meet there.
e. Who exactly is majoring on the minors? In 40+ years of ministry John MacArthur has one conference on a subject (and he’s held 100+ conferences) and now, somehow, it’s the mark of his ministry?
6. Regarding the differences, I’d dare say that there is some rather wild misunderstandings about the nature of debate. It’s not a debate between people doing things differently. It’s a debate where one group is claiming to be prophets and a second group claiming that the first group is wrong or lying. It’s a debate where one group is claiming to have the gift of healing (in the same way that Jesus and the apostles did) and a second group claiming that the first group is wrong or lying. It’s a debate where one group is claiming to be “very hesitant to label anyone a wolf” and a second group claiming that that hesitancy opens the door to the most terrible threat that the modern church faces.
Speaking of hesitancy, Dr. Brown can say that he’s hesitant to label anyone a false teacher unless he knows for sure that they’re teaching in violation of the fundamentals, are lying or immoral. He can say that all he wants. Given his track record, I’d dare suggest that Dr. Brown would need someone to be rather outlandishly explicit in order to call them a false teacher.
7. Regarding Cessationism, Dispensationalism, PreTribulationism and Calvinism, it’s interesting that Dr. Brown seems to recognize that teaching that which is false is part of what provides a basis for the accusation that someone is a false teacher. Sadly he doesn’t follow through, even though he has personally made accusations against John MacArthur about pursuing money, based on what he considers to be John MacArthur’s reception of an excessive salary.
8. Regarding John MacArthur’s reaction to Tom Schreiner, it seems that Dr. Brown is willing to use a broad brush (and basically embrace everyone short of L Ron Hubbard) in a cautious effort to not shoot a few sheep where as John MacArthur is willing to use a broad brush of condemnation (and condemn hundreds of millions unnecessarily) in an effort to root false teachers out of the Church. This is where theology matters, and Dr. Brown’s misunderstanding of the role of God in salvation (i.e. his aggressive Arminianism) horribly betrays him here. If someone leaves the faith because they’re offended at being called a false teacher, then I have serious questions about a God whose saving will can be overpowered by personal offenses.
That’s definitely not the God I find in scripture.
I’m also continually wondering what exactly Dr. Brown thinks a person does with false teachers once they’re spotted?
Do we kick them out on their rears and deliver them back to Satan or something? Do we give them a “false teacher” name tag and then mock them on Facebook? Do we kick them out of the church and wish them “good luck” with God’s coming judgment against them?
How about when we spot the thousands of false teachers, we shine the light of God’s truth on them, call them to repentance and show love to both them and the millions that they’re deceiving through the whole process? It’s been my consistent experience that with false teachers, once they’re spotted and called on the carpet (even in the most loving way possible), God either uses the process to bring them to their senses (they repent) or God uses the whole process to purify the church; the false teachers label the whole church “hypocrites” and run for the hills…but the church is no longer tormented by them.
9. Regarding unity, I too long for unity. I don’t pursue unity at the expense of the truth of God’s glory, God’s word or God’s people. If our unity that is based in our common salvation (Eph. 4:1-7) does not turn into unity that is cemented in common belief and experience of Christ (Eph. 4:8-13), then we’ll only be continual victims of false teachers (Eph 4:14-16). I believe” victimization by false teachers” is the state that we’re currently in. The way out is to all rally around a proper understanding of the Christian faith as handed down by God in the book he wrote.
Finally, many of us cessationists (including MacArthur) openly admit that many Pentecostals and Charismatics have tremendous evangelistic zeal. The problem isn’t with zeal, for zeal alone is not enough (I’m thinking Romans 10:2). That zeal needs to be refined and magnified in it’s effectiveness with more biblical truth, not less.
And that wraps up chapter seven!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Only four more to go!” Unger
P.S. – I don’t think our cute little lamb is an amillennialist anymore.
But don’t worry. Even before the second coming, there is still some justice.