October 22, 2013

As the Smoke Clears: A Few Afterthoughts on the Strange Fire Conference

by Eric Davis

Strange Fire

It’s been encouraging to see many in the family of faith offering up wisdom for consideration in the wake of the Strange Fire conference. Helpful angles on the conference have been brought from, among others, Clint Archer, Tim Challies, and Trevin Wax. Instead of elaborating on their work, I’ll offer a few afterthoughts for consideration of this impactful event: 

1. The conference did not happen in a corner.

On social media grounds alone, the conference received more attention than some of us anticipated. More blogs have popped up than most of us could keep up with. It was also reported that the conference Twitter hashtag was the most popular late last week.

For more important reasons, the conference is not something we can responsibly shun. As Thabiti Anyabwile wisely pointed out, the difference between caring about the issue and not is, “One takes God’s word seriously; the other tends toward a practical atheism that shuts His voice out.”

Furthermore, it was reported during the conference that some 127 countries were viewing the live stream. All that to say, the conference was not peripheral.

2. The speakers recognized distinctions within the charismatic spectrum.

Leading up to the conference, cessationists and continuationists expressed the necessary desire for speakers to identify the diversity within the charismatic movement. And they did. Not all agree, however. For example, Adrian Warnock claimed, “MacArthur seems to have missed all these nuances [of the charismatic spectrum] and simply want to reject all charismatic thinking as heretical.” But a careful scan of the conference shows otherwise.

For example, in the opening session, MacArthur made it clear that he believes many in the movement desire to worship God in a true way, hold to sound theology, and believe the truth. Later, Steve Lawson devoted an entire message to the minority charismatic calvinists, thus distinguishing within the spectrum. Then, Conrad Mbewe addressed the alarming trends within the movement on his continent, where a portion of “evangelicalism” is rapidly becoming syncretistic, mixing forms of paganism with Christianity. In Friday’s Q & A, Todd Friel asked a question on many minds:

“We would say John Piper and Wayne Grudem are brothers. Here are some biblical scholars that many of us love who are saying things that are causing us to scratch our heads. How do we respond to these men? With whom do we associate? With whom do we break associations?”

Among other things, MacArthur said:

“… I think if we start shutting everybody down who has got one thing they’re not clear on, we’re going to really find ourselves alone. That’s going too far. I have no fear that John would ever tamper with anything that is essential to the Christian faith, starting from theology proper all the way through to the return of Christ. He’s going to be faithful to the word as he understands it.”

There were other examples, but overall, the conference neither ignored the diversity in the movement nor painted with too broad a theological brush.

On a lesser but related note, I bumped into some who were crying down the conference on the grounds of the speakers “lumping us together.” After interacting with some of these claims, they nobly admitted to responding to other things flying around in social media.

3. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit was apparent.

fruitfulEvidences of this could be seen around the conference. For example, in Friday’s Q & A, MacArthur answered Friel’s question regarding Piper and Grudem: “But I do know the great body of work that John Piper has done is true to the faith. John is a friend not only whom I admire but whom I love.”

Also, during that Q & A, MacArthur gave helpful counsel on how to interact with differing viewpoints:

“[I] think you need to say to people, ‘Show me from the Word of God why you believe that. Let’s talk about that.’ If you pounce on them with all your Bible verses you put them on the defensive. But if you ask them to explain why they believe from the Word of God, you can get to the Scriptures.”

Also, though not seen on the live stream, Grace Community Church launched an army of some 700 volunteers to serve the 4000 or so attendees in the name of Christ. Additionally, the live stream was offered up in approximately six languages from which people from 127 countries reportedly benefited.

Other evidences of the Spirit were apparent in the speaker’s concern for the local church (see below). In fact, the mere existence of the conference evidences a healthy concern for the good of Christ’s body. Regardless of one’s view on the issues, the idea of multiple pastors gathering to shepherd God’s people (and those who are not) evidences a godly impulse.

Finally, the big emphasis on Scripture evidenced the work of the Holy Spirit. The basis for that claim is, in part, shown in the biblically parallel passages Ephesians 5:18-6:9 and Colossians 3:16-4:1. To be about the word is to be about the Spirit. A surrender to the Spirit’s sword is surrender to the Spirit. Thus, the respect for, ministering of, and emphasis on Scripture during the conference demonstrated emphasis on the Spirit.

All of these things evidence the power and presence of the Spirit in God’s people.

4. There was a strong emphasis on Scripture.

Obvious effort was given to teach Scripture, stress the centrality of it, and exhort others to emphasize it as our objective source of truth.

scriptureFor example, MacArthur opened the conference by, in part, highlighting the importance of correct worship of God from Leviticus 10 (from which the conference derived its name) and Hebrews 10. R.C. Sproul weighed in with an exposition from Acts, giving helpful insight on the transitory nature of the book, identifying how some charismatics undervalue Pentecost. In doing so, he identified the four unique outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Acts as four different Pentecost events. Tom Pennington offered seven biblical arguments for cessationism. Phil Johnson provided a clarifying distinction between biblical miracles and the remarkable providence of God. Steve Lawson gave what MacArthur said, and I agree, was an “epic” message on Sola Scriptura. Conrad Mbewe, in both sessions, lamented the loss of Scripture’s centrality in much of the African charismatic movement. In Friday’s Q & A, Phil Johnson responded to Friel’s question on how to interact with this issue by shepherding people to, “…immerse yourself in the Word of God. You don’t have to take my word for it. I don’t ask people to change their minds the first time you hear teaching on something.” Answering the same question, Nate Busenitz encouraged people along the same lines: “When we go to the Word of God we are sitting at the feet of the Author of the Word of God: the Holy Spirit. So to go to the Scriptures is to go to the Spirit.”

More could be said, but the emphasis of the conference was to anchor ourselves in the objective source of truth, the sword the Spirit.

5. The speakers stressed the importance of the local church and faithfulness in ministry.

shepherdAt one point Friday’s Q & A speakers were asked what to do if they are in a church where they disagree with the view. Much of the counsel demonstrated a respect for and commitment to the local church. Speakers encouraged God’s people towards humility and unity as much as possible in their respective churches.

Faithfulness in pastoral ministry was also emphasized. In his second message, Conrad Mbewe brilliantly and biblically remarked, “A pastor is someone who faithfully studies the Bible, preaches it in its context, and applies it in the context of God’s people.” In Friday night’s session, MacArthur finished with a reminder of the pastoral charge: “’O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.’…Guard the treasure. What’s the treasure? Divine revelation… Ministry is a guardianship. We not only proclaim the truth, we protect the truth.” He also recognized his personal and pastoral responsibility by saying, “I will be held accountable before God for the discharge of this responsibility.”

All that to say, with the frequent connections made to the local church, it was apparent that these are not loosely-connected, cavalier men whose theology is divorced from the rigors of shepherding. Rather, they demonstrated a level respect for the Lord’s flock and the mandate of faithfulness thereto.

6. The conference was not sinfully divisive.

BogeymanCries of division were not surprising with a volatile issue like this. While roaming the cyberworld scene a bit, it became clear that the Divisive Bogeyman was out and about. Many cried foul due to the mere existence of the conference. Some were turned off by confident teaching of the cessationist view.

But it’s best to avoid errors that were flying around along the lines of, “disagree = sinful divisiveness,” “teaching something different than another = I hate them,” and “biblical certainty = lack of humility.” Those are all slippery postmodern slopes from which we need to distance ourselves. Tim Challies and Trevin Wax offered helpful clarification on these types of errors. And in MacArthur’s closing session, he helpfully pointed out that love speaks the truth and truth, since it is not error, creates a necessary (but not sinful) division.

Furthermore, in Friday’s Q & A, MacArthur defied the factious accusations, when he answered Friel’s question regarding Piper and Grudem:

“But I do know the great body of work that John Piper has done is true to the faith. John is a friend not only whom I admire but whom I love. I don’t know why on this front he has that open idea, but it’s not an advocacy position for the movement and he would join us in decrying the excesses of that movement for sure, and even the theology of it.”

Instead of propagating sinful division, the conference did the opposite: It clarified existing biblical disunity and promoted true unity. Biblical unity is around the truth of Scripture. Someone is right and someone is wrong in this issue. So, where there is straying from the truth, there is no complete, real unity no matter how good of friends we might be. We can like each other and have a form of relational unity, but it cannot be said that we have the most noble of unity, “the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:13), for which God desires all the saints to be equipped. Thus, the divisive bogeyman is merely a bogeyman.

claritySo, one could not conclude that the conference propagated sinful disunity. If we are sinfully dividing, it’s not the conference’s fault, but ours.

Instead, the conference did a service to the body of Christ. God’s people were better equipped to understand the cessationism/continuationist debate. Necessary discussions have been resurrected in the noble quest for truth. Straying sheep and deceived goats have been warned. We’ve been forced to bring our understanding of things like the nature of truth and the definition of unity closer to God’s. And who knows the amount of conversions and sanctification which will result from the conference. For all that, I thank God for what appears to have been a historic and necessary event in church history.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • John Caldwell

    I hope it is okay to share this link. I have been involved in the charismatic movement for over 12 years. Throughout that time I have been concerned about many of the problems identified in this conference. Here are my thoughts: http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/strange-fire-conference-call-to.html

    • Eric Davis

      Absolutely, John. Thanks for sharing.

      • John Caldwell

        Cheers Eric, I have also just posted this today – it deals with two popular criticisms of Strange Fire in light of the history of the Pentecostal movement. http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/as-strange-fire-conference-has-led-to.html

      • John Caldwell

        You may be interested to know that Pentecostal scholar, Simon Chan has identified many of the same problems that the speakers at Strange Fire were raising. This is significant since many pentecostals and charismatics are not aware that some of their own leaders are raising the same issues as J Mac and co (and that it is not just an attack) here is Chan:

        “Spiritual power is being manipulated by charismatic gnostics and magicians who seem to have access to privileged information about principalities and powers and how to out manoeuvre them. Instead of serious discipleship we have virtual fan clubs revolving around the mega church leader. Seldom is worship an encounter with an awesome God; it has become an occasion for cheap thrills and continuous festivity dubiously called ‘praise and worship.”

        http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-origins-of-pentecostalcharismatic.html

        • Eric Davis

          That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing that, John.

  • Jerry W

    Good summary and reflections, Eric!

  • Brian

    Did they have any continuationists speak at the conference? That would have really shown a desire for unity within the body.

    • Adam Howard

      Brian, good question. The purpose of the conference was not by-in-large a call to unity. It’s important to keep that in mind.

      From the website: “Strange Fire is a conference that will set forth what the Bible really says about the Holy Spirit, and how that squares with the charismatic movement. We’re going to address in a biblical, straightforward manner what many today see as a peripheral issue. On the contrary, your view of the Holy Spirit influences your relationship with God, your personal holiness, and your commitment to the church and evangelism. “

    • Eric Davis

      Brian-

      Appreciate the question. Adam’s point is spot on. The goal was to honor God by encouraging conformity to his word. Only then can we have unity. The point of the conference was to give the cessationist side as clear as possible. Generally speaking, the absence of the opposing view does not inherently mean a lack of desire for or working towards unity (see my point above on unity).

      On another note, many, if not all, of the speakers have interacted w/ continuationists. And even yesterday, Phil Johnson went on the Michael Brown Stock show to discuss this issue. They desire unity around the truth (Eph 4:13), which is true unity.

  • Wow… thanks so much Eric! This was a great overview, especially your section on the conference not being sinfully divisive. I know so many people who couldn’t get around the fact that the conference “actually named names” when confronting error. This is a failure, in large part, to understand how public and dangerous the pastoral ministry is, and why “not many should desire the office, since such incur a stricter judgment.” If that’s the case, then I would think that the most LOVING thing to do would be to call people by name and exhort them to return to sound doctrine (a little like a father’s discipline, perhaps?). Public ministry calls for public rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20). I tend to think that if churches were more faithful to holding their pastors to the principles in 1 Tim. 5, our churches would be a lot more solid.

    • Eric Davis

      Matt, agreed. I think you make a good point. An aversion to doing so risks proximity to that slippery slope.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    There are a lot of “ists” and “isms” in this sort of discussion, and I have a feeling it leads to an attitude of “them” and “us”, with “us” always being the wise and prudent, and “them” the enemy. Wasn’t that at the root of the disciples’ complaint about someone they saw casting out demons, but were not “following after us”? And what did Christ say? If they’re not against us, they are for us.

    There might be a lesson in there somewhere…just maybe.

    • Eric Davis

      Hi 4Commence-

      Thanks for the comment. In a sense, you’re right. There is a bit of us and them, but that is ok and inherent to theological disagreement. The various positions believe a truth to be right. So, there are different angles people come from, and, as such, a sort of “us and them.” That’s not automatically a bad thing.

      Those of us in the family of faith can be secure and comfortable in the finished work of Christ. As such, we can discuss, debate, and spar a bit over theological disagreements and not feel threatened but actually spurred on towards the unity of the faith. Those of us who are not in the body, may God reveal that and save many.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Debates over theology can be good exercise and a good method of Bible study, too. What I see in many cases, though, is a tendency to fragment ourselves into smaller and smaller camps as we discover cracks in so-and-so’s positions that we consider erroneous. Otherwise good, solid teachers become those to avoid because they subscribe to (fill in the blank). “Heresy” gets more and more narrowly defined over time, and after awhile we have about 11 people who are trustworthy.

        I have a friend who was brought in to pastor a small church in New England for a few years, and he eventually had to leave it. I asked him what went wrong. Well, he said, they fought me on “King James only”, and they had a problem with my insistence that deacon Smithers be kicked off the church’s board after his 19-year old son got his girlfriend pregnant, and they refused to come in and stand in front of the church so I could invoke Matt 19 discipline on them. Plus, I discovered that a woman was actually allowed to teach Sunday school who was seen regularly wearing slacks in church. And if that wasn’t enough, the elders went and hired an accounting firm owned by a Mormon, and I told them that guy was doing the devil’s work.

        I said, And they got rid of you for that? Can’t imagine.

        And I’m only slightly exaggerating. But I see this trend in theology circles: Oh, he allows for XYZ; and he has this take on that verse; and so-and-so isn’t an ABC, he’s a DEF; and don’t buy his books because he’s changed his view of…

        And good people get smeared because they check off a few boxes that “we” don’t, or vice versa. Everything becomes a test of orthodoxy. Church constitutions exclude useful people because they specify some specific doctrine that is anything but a cardinal issue. We separate company over the littlest things. No wonder the world looks askance at us: we look askance at each other.

        • Eric Davis

          4Commence, I share the gist of your concern here which is pride at it’s root. We all need to be regularly repenting of any of its manifestations. Thanks

  • Johnny

    I’m anxious to hear the audio from this conference.

    • Josh

      I was hoping for the exact same thing! I have a lot more time to dedicate to listening to teachings than I do to reading or watching them. So far the only media I’ve found is 2 min clip

      • Hi Josh, see above 🙂

      • Nicki Ann

        Free audio & video of the full conference will be available in a few weeks at gty.org.

    • There are videos of the conference that have been allowed to stay up at Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/user/PreteristGlobal?feature=watch

      The quality isn’t *great* but the sound is there 🙂

  • Jimmy Shnebby

    Interestingly enough you didn’t include the broad statements that were judgemental and divisive. It’s easy to gather your biggest fans together and make broad statements. This conference would have been a lot more honoring if people on the other side, (Piper, Driscoll, etc) would have been invited for at least one session of dialogue. If you want to know the ‘spirit’ of someone like Friel just look at his popular youtube videos. Lot’s of judgement and condemnation.

    • Jim Anderson

      Jimmy, here is a brief interview with Piper on one of the excesses within the Charismatic movement.(extra biblical promptings of the Spirit) Remember the purpose was not to lump together all Charismatics together regardless of practice but to deal with the sinful excesses within the movement.

      http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-would-you-say-to-someone-who-feels-like-the-spirits-leading-has-authority-over-scripture

    • Eric Davis

      Jimmy-

      Thanks for commenting and I hear what you are saying.

      If I’m understanding you correctly, I want to suggest something. Your argument is along the lines of: “for you to have the right to say what you see in Scripture, means you have to give everyone else the opportunity to say what they believe.” I want to encourage us to please move away from that dangerous line of thinking.

      Let’s distance ourselves from things like, “I don’t like…, I was offended…, if you don’t let me have a turn in the conversation then you’re divisive…” to humbly listening, interacting with the content w/o taking offense to the conference, and be OK in Christ and his family such that we can spar around the issue w/o crying “not fair.”

      Please reread my point on unity.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    The speakers recognized distinctions within the charismatic spectrum.
    I’m glad you addressed this pastor Eric. It looks like it’s the biggest objection out there in the blogosphere.

    • Eric Davis

      Yep, and an unfortunate one. The speakers not only recognized distinctions but embraced certain men by name in the movement.

  • Ahmad Ziya

    Thank you so much!

  • Bert

    How do you reconcile things such things as myself who is not charismatic who witnessed the death of his mother and the doctor declaring her dead and then 4 hours later a pastor (non-charismatic) prayed for my mother and anointed her with oil and she stood up came out and picked me up. Her extremely high fever gone and her throat was opened again?

    • Eric Davis

      Bert-

      Thanks for commenting, brother. Regarding your question, I do not need to reconcile anything. Instead, I praise God for his powerful, sovereign work in your family’s life! God answers prayer and he does great things among us in different ways. What a great God we have and serve, brother.

      Now, if I understand you correctly, you may be saying that this was a miracle, but, cessationists say miracles no longer exist? The cessationist position is not that “God cannot/will not” do great works of providence. Instead, the position says that the spiritual gift of miracles or healing ceased with the apostolic, church-foundation-laying times. But please hear this: cessationists believe, of course, that God does great works of power. Thanks Bert

      • Well put Eric, that’s exactly how I’d see that, thanks for putting it plainly to words. And Praise God your mother was well, Bert :))

        (this isn’t necessarily directed to you, Bert)-
        Many (most?) continuationists seem to get hung up on the difference between the then-and-now. There is unique specificity in the NT biblical narratives that speak of the *miracle*/*sign* gifts that are meant to for that place in that time of redemptive history, and are not *normative* for today–for the post 1st century, post canonical church.

        That’s anything but putting God in a box; or quenching the Spirit; or not feeling/experiencing the Holy Spirit enough or rightly. It’s not “despising prophesies” or “grieving” the Spirit or lessening our Lord’s working in our lives in any way.

        One of the places this argument seems to get stopped-up the most (between the R-Ch’s and the Cess.’s ) is in rightly defining what the miracle/sign gifts actually were and also the context of how they were used.

  • Matt

    Probably one of the best recaps of the conference I’ve seen so far. Very well put.

  • Jorge

    Eric,
    Concerning your second point, do you think charismatics who heard this conference would agree with you? (I’m referring to the theologically Christ-centered charismatics.) How many charismatics have written on the web to agree that there was great concern and care in making distinctions throughout the conference? I haven’t seen any, and that should give one pause.

    What about those who were mentioned by name – John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, Michael Brown – what would they say about this? Well, so far Brown and Storms have gone on record stating that the denunciations were too general. And I bet Piper and Grudem, if they do respond in public, won’t be praising how careful the speakers were in their talks. Well intentioned – yes; nuanced – no.
    That’s why there’s been such a strong reaction. If the conference were about excess and extremes *within* the charismatic movement, there would be no issue. Storms and Brown and Grudem and Piper and others would have joined and celebrated the conference. The outrage is not about whether tongues and prophecy are for today (We agree we’re going to disagree strongly about that. Nothing new here). The outrage is directed at the condemnation of the movement as a whole when orthodox charismatics don’t see the movement as a whole to be unorthodox; some in the movement are but not the whole.
    That’s the major issue.

    • Eric Davis

      Jorge-

      Thanks for the questions, brother. I’ll try to briefly address the different issues you bring up.

      First, I do believe the speakers recognized distinctions within the movement. Just b/c a prominent individual in the movement says they did not, does not automatically mean they did not. The quotes I cited above demonstrate that they made distinctions. Please read the quotes again. Now, were distinctions made according to the satisfaction of every spokesperson in the movement? Did the speakers identify, for example, the 7 or so shades of the charismatic movement recognized by Adrian Warnock? The speakers not only identified various distinctions, but on multiple occasions recognized the sound theology in and love for brothers in the movement. It’s concerning how some continuationists, but not all, persist on this point of recognition.

      Second, there is no need to be “outraged,” brother. As mentioned to some above, can believers not carefully examine varying beliefs in professing Christianity without people getting outraged? Can we not be settled in Christ and humble enough to allow our beliefs to be examined by others, without getting outraged? Especially if those beliefs were not shared by streams of godly men in church history, like the Reformers and Puritans, for example? And if those examining did say our beliefs were wrong and said a particular theology in our movement is all wrong, is there reason to be outraged? And to cry down the conference with outrage instead of humbly offering a counter-view from Scripture, w/o taking offense?

      • Jorge

        Thanks for responding.
        I read the quotes you provided. I know the speakers made it clear that they did not believe *everyone* in that movement was lost; they did admit that a *very few* were doctrinally sound (like Piper, Grudem, etc.). But by making the “orthodox” charismatics a tiny fringe when orthodox charismatics don’t see themselves as a tiny fringe within the movement, it was hard not hear themselves in the sweeping condemnation of the movement as a whole. Please understand that. Again, look at the response from the continuationists on this point. Can you point me to a positive review of the conference by a continuationist who feels the minor distinctions made were adequate and appropriate? You, as a cessationist, may feel enough distinctions were made; but as outsiders of the movement, you and those in the conference have greatly underestimated the way sound continuaitionists view themselves within the movement. I hope this helps you understand better now why some “continuationists…persist on this point of recognition.” I hope we don’t speak past each other on this point. I would encourage you to listen to the Phil Johnson and Michael Brown dialogue on the conference (if you haven’t already).
        About the “outrage.” I’m not outraged, my brother; I’m disappointed. As one of those orthodox continuationists, I certainly do not have a problem with beliefs being carefully examined. Healthy debate on biblical matters is a great thing! But my major concern from the conference isn’t on the biblical disagreements we have; it’s in the way the movement as a whole was characterized.
        As far as offering a counter-view; I’m sure a thorough response to the conference will be coming from the orthodox charismatics soon enough. Personally, I’ve been teaching from the book of 1 Corinthians on Sundays in my church since February (we’re on chapter 8 now). I’ll be addressing this issue when I get to chapters 12-14 a few months from now.
        God bless you, my brother.

        • Margot Murray

          I listened to the (whole) program with Michael Brown, Phil Johnson, Adrian Warnock & Sam Storms. In fact the first 15 mins of the show seemed more an infomercial for Dr. Brown’s books! Perhaps it would have a better program had Dr. Brown actually allowed Phil Johnson to speak without cutting him off, and very obvious that he didn’t do that to Adrian & Sam, (a pity the four men in question couldn’t be on together).

  • Barry Koh

    The times when I was a fervent charismatic, I was very much influenced by John Wimber’s conviction that that the world needs the word of faith sign and wonders type of Christianity to bring them to Christ. Seems like the reverse is happening. The christian faith actually spread around the world well before the charismatics appeared and hijacked the church with their charismatic excitement.The missionaries toiled through hard ground with hard work and love and pointed people to Christ only, the author and finisher of our faith. I came to Christ through their work while living in Malaysia many years back. I thank God for the tireless toil of these not so famous missionaries. They did not preach God wants you to be rich. They did not come out with prophecies and new excitement every now and then. There was no need to have any fancy rock band or other ‘wow factor’ to draw man to Christ. Jesus was Himself the sufficient ‘wow factor’. If Jesus is not sufficient enough to attract them, then it’s not Jesus they are seeking for. So do you wonder why Joel Osteen or Cho Yonggi attracts some of the biggest crowd? We need to remember the Great Commission is to make disciples not a mega or the biggest church. The early missionaries remembered that but it’s different today.
    Continuationists beware. Seems like there is a vast difference between the gifts you believe that God gives to those He so chooses and the charismatic name and claim power gifts which they teach is within the authority and right of every believer who experienced the 2nd baptism with evidence in speaking in ‘tongues’.

    • Eric Davis

      Barry-

      I think you bring up an important point. Thank you for chiming in, brother. I especially like this quote:

      Jesus was Himself the sufficient ‘wow factor’.

  • Pingback: Concluding Thoughts on The Strange Fire Conference :: Fundamentally Reformed()

  • Thanks so much for this recap, Eric..a solid, well detailed explanation and wholly useful article for some time to come.

    I am one of a very few voices of convinced cessationism in our small, dear church. It’s not even an “issue”, as such. I am utterly thankful for the preaching and teaching and growing (in sanctification) we see taking place, and in awe of God’ s grace for giving us such a church in this day. I have some work ahead in studying these things deeper from the word of God. SO thankful for this conference..!

    • Eric Davis

      Suzanne-

      That’s encouraging to hear, sister. Praise God for your commitment to your little, local church there. Good stuff. Similar to your situation, we have dear brothers and sisters falling on various sides of this issue in our church. It makes for some good, healthy interaction.

      • Thanks, Eric, likewise encouraging, brother.
        Straight ahead! 🙂

    • Barbie

      Suzanne, thanks for your post. My husband and I are 2 in a fellowship of 120+ who went from charismatic to cessationists. We loved viewing the conference. It gave us the information and humility to approach our church as servants and encouragers. Maybe we can build strong relationships to share what we see in God’s word. I saw your post, it encouraged me. Thanks.

      • God bless you, Barbie, as you and hub seek to bring God’s word to bear on these things, along with maintaining strong relationships..keep those relationships strong. I especially loved MacArthur’s comments here: “I think if we start shutting everybody down who has got one thing they’re not clear on, we’re going to really find ourselves alone.

  • Eric Davis

    Bruce-

    I see you are stirred up about this, friend. I would encourage you to read Thabiti Anyabwile’s helpful article which address your concerns: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/10/18/why-you-should-care-about-the-strange-fire-discussion/

    • bruce vandermeulen

      Thanks for the link. I am not stirred up about it, it is just obvious to me. When did Christians ever have to prove Christ to other Christians? Christ proves Himself. His life and His might, His power and faithfulness manifests ITSELF. The only people that discuss it are ones that don’t have it I believe. They need to prove a point or justify why things don’t happen in their own life…Meanwhile people are going to hell every second of everyday. While we discuss right or wrong……Instead the Spirit of God will manifest how He desires. He will give gifts to who He pleases. Why it needs to be discussed is a trap of the enemy.. Seek Christ and live like him….Let people talk until they are blue in the face. When you live the life of Christ there will be no mistaking it. In fact people will say like they did in Acts 4……These are unschooled ordinary men, and they took note that they had been with Jesus. When they saw all that was being done they had nothing to say. The problem is people would rather talk about what they think Jesus meant….Instead of being with him. Just smoke. Not heated nor stirred up…Just saddened by the fruit of Christianity today.

  • I hope all the detractors would take the time to actually listen to the conference and also perhaps read this

  • John Martineau

    I have not been able to read through all the transcripts, etc (which might answer my question-so my apologies)… However… in the discussions regarding music of the charismatic movement (and its influences)… were the large hardcore Reformed/Calvinist churches called on the carpet by name (those that have strong influence)– those that have embraced the sights, sounds, styles, and music of the charismatic movement? This has always been a concern of mine: why copy the worship (the worship style/philosophy) if you don’t embrace the theology it was birthed in?

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  • bobbygrow

    You guys are amazing.

  • Barry Koh

    I think this was a much needed conference and now it is up to us individual Christians to continue to speak up and contend for the truth and faith.

    The speakers did make comments on the continuationists. However, my concern is that the conference failed to make mention of strange fires burning and spreading in evangelical and reform churches, the main one being contemplative spirituality which is just as subjective, deceptive, unbiblical and dangerous as the strange fires of the charismatics. Altering one’s state of consciousness to experience the presence of God is not found in my Bible. If a concerted effort to rebuke it is not made soon, then before long it will be accepted as orthodox doctrine especially since they are taught by the evangelical leaders themselves, even in their seminaries.

    Maybe John MacArthur should have another strange fire conference next year, this time to douse the strange fires spreading in some evangelical and reform churches. He should address concerns like : ecumenism, wider mercy and inclusiveness of the gospel, Chrislam and messianic Muslims, seeker friendly gospel,emergent, and of course evangelical mysticism as in contemplative spirituality/prayer. Yes, we need to heed our own backyard before they get burnt up too. Eric, maybe you could ask John Mac to lead again.

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