Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Review of Strange Fire by John MacArthur.

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Strange Fire

by John MacArthur

John MacArthur is the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is also the President of The Master’s College and Seminary, and he speaks on the “Grace to You” radio broadcast each week. He is a well-known and well-respected evangelical leader, so I was excited about reading his latest book on the charismatic movement. Before receiving the book, I thought it might simply be a revision of his previous book, Charismatic Chaos, but this was not the case. The book contains new material and is not a revision or reworking of his original book. The purpose of MacArthur’s book was to expose the danger of many charismatic practices. Because of this, MacArthur did not spend much time addressing the continuationist position. He did address the position and explain several problems with continuationism in an appendix, but the main focus of the book was addressing dangerous charismatic practices.

The book was broken down into three parts: 1) Confronting a Counterfeit Revival, 2) Exposing the Counterfeit Gifts, and 3) Rediscovering the Spirit’s True Work. The first section of the book addressed the theological errors of the charismatic movement and the historical events surrounding the beginning of the charismatic movement. It also contained two chapters based on Jonathan Edward’s sermon “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” In the sermon, Edwards basically presented the following five questions to determine whether a work was truly a work of the Holy Spirit:

1 – Does the work exalt the true Christ?

2 – Does it oppose worldliness?

3 – Does it point people to Scripture?

4 – Does it elevate the truth?

5 – Does it produce love for God and others?

I thought these chapters were especially helpful. I actually read Edward’s sermon in its entirety for a preaching class in seminary, and I thought it applied to the charismatic movement, so it was interesting to see John MacArthur utilize it that way.

The second section focused on the charismatic gifts, which MacArthur contends are no longer in operation. The main argument of this section is that the apostles, prophecies, tongues, and healings associated with the charismatic movement differ significantly from the biblical gifts and are not authentic. The third section discussed the true work of the Holy Spirit. MacArthur discussed the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, sanctification, and Scripture. Then, he closed with a letter to continuationist, who do not necessarily identify with the charismatic movement but still believe in supernatural gifts.

As a whole, I enjoyed the book. I do not believe that the supernatural spiritual gifts are normative for the church today, so I knew I would agree with most of MacArthur’s criticism. Those who are interested in why many conservatives reject charismatic teachings and practices will benefit from this book. I also think this book will benefit charismatics and continuationists. MacArthur challenges and critiques each group, and the book will help them think through their position and be prepared to address objections. So, I would recommend the book and believe it will benefit anyone who reads it, regardless of where they stand concerning the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

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