June 26, 2014

Authentic Fire – Chapter 8 Review

by Fred Butler

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afSpirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain

Coming to chapter 8 of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown explains how charismatics and non-charismatics have something to offer the body of Christ. Rather than fighting, both groups will serve everyone better if they would seek to understand and learn from each other.  That way, both sides will glorify Jesus and touch a dying world [AF, 251]. 

While Brown acknowledges that he believes the Bible clearly affirms his position, charismatics and non-charismatics still have unique contributions to make. What may be one group’s strength, may be another’s weakness, and what may be one’s weakness will be the other’s strength. It is how God established the body of Christ to work together. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:4-5, there are many members, but not all members have the same function. So it is with charismatics and non-charismatics.

Take for instance how non-charismatics are heavily into studying the Word of God. They will know God’s Word inside and out in the original languages and all the theology that goes with that. However, they become so immersed into the “study” aspect of Scripture that they lose the vibrancy of fellowship and lack the empowering of the Holy Spirit. On the flip side, it is all too common for charismatic brethren to pursue the Spirit so heavily that they become sloppy with their Bible study and doctrinal foundations [AF, 257-258].

In order to remedy the differences between charismatics and non-charismatics, Brown suggests what he calls “cross-pollination” with charismatics learning to appreciate expository and doctrinal preaching and reformed congregations learning to include more congregational participation in worship and praise [AF, 260]. There has to be an emphasis upon both spirit and truth together so that all Christians are worshiping God “in Spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.

He then provides some practical examples of what he means.

He begins by noting how non-charismatics tend be more circumspect in their faith, or the “truth.”  That makes them immune to carnal fund-raising that is the centerpiece of most TV evangelists. However, that strength can lead the non-charismatic into skepticism, which may cause him to stumble into an attitude of cynicism. The person is so wrapped up with pursuing “truth,” he doubts any impulse that may prompt him to witness or perhaps casts dispersion upon what really is a true move of the spirit in revival.

Next, Brown points out how charismatics, contrary to non-charismatics, tend to stress the importance of love which provides them a readiness to receive from a wide variety of teachers. But that overt openness can lead to carelessness and confusion and easily draw a charismatic into an “anything goes” mentality. Whereas the non-charismatics will be drawn to overly emphasizing the “spirit of truth,” so that they hunt heretics and engage in prideful, censorious “discernment” ministries, the charismatic will rarely discern at all and be ensnared by bad teaching.

While it is true that some “charismatic chaos” exists, there is also some “Baptist boredom,” and hence the reason both groups need each other. Wouldn’t it be great, concludes Brown, if we could listen to one another and produce fire and faithfulness, power and precision, energetic worship and exegetical wisdom [AF, 267].

hemispheresReview and Analysis

At the risk of sounding too blunt, I truly thought this chapter was bizarre. Specifically because Brown appears to contradict his entire complaint he has been outlining throughout his book against John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference.  In fact, he writes, “Again, I’m not debating here whose theology is right, be it cessationism or continuationism or some variation in between” [AF, 255].

Yet his entire book is one long railing accusation that charges MacArthur with not only falsely misrepresenting charismatics in general, but also promoting a spiritless Christianity that isn’t even based upon the “sola scriptura” he claims to uphold. So I beg to differ. Brown certainly is debating whose theology is right, which he confidently asserts is his charismaticism.

According to Brown, MacArthur and the participants of the Strange Fire conference are terribly wrong-headed about charismatics world-wide and they are out of step with the profound, life changing power of the Holy Spirit. So much so that they reinterpret the Bible to invent a bogus theology they call “cessationism.”  In chapter 7, Brown writes, “In my view, cessationism is a false and unbiblical teaching, but I would never think of labeling the countless thousands of godly cessationist leaders “false teachers.” [AF, 242].  Why not? If he genuinely believes cessationism is false teaching as he has been arguing throughout his entire book, I do not understand why he believes cross-pollination between false teaching and spirit-filled charismatics is a good thing, even if he would never think to label them “false teachers.” Does he not see how utterly disjointed his words are here? They believe false teaching and teach unbiblical doctrine, but he wouldn’t think to call them “false” teachers?

Why would Brown want to subjugate charismatics to what he considers to be an aberrant theology of the Holy Spirit that is advocated by spiritually powerless people who are frozen in cold-hearted orthodoxy and who twist the Scriptures to “defend” their view? What could possibly be learned from them?  He suggests their commitment to exegesis and sound-doctrine, but why can’t charismatics be discipled in those areas apart from cessationist influence? That’s like saying we need to hook up with Mormon families and learn a thing or two about raising our Christian kids right. Really? Moreover, how can he say cessationists pursue exegetical precision and sound doctrine when their exegesis and doctrine produces not only a wrong theology of God’s power, but also a powerless Christianity devoid of signs and wonders? See chapter 6.

True Spirit and Truth

Brown appeals to John 4:24 where Jesus tells the woman at the well that true worshipers worship “in spirit and in truth.” He believes the passage is a formula of sorts that charismatics and non-charismatics must utilize so as to seek common-ground and strike a spiritual balance between their two opposing viewpoints. But it is a ridiculous stretch to suggest Jesus is providing a word about synthesizing two opposing theological positions.

Throughout this chapter Brown defines the “spirit” portion of the equation as charismatic hemispheres2worship that is in tune with God’s voice and experiences empowerment to do ministry. Citing from a book called “Empowered Evangelicals,” he identifies “spirit” worship as high energy, exciting music and singing, hand raising, emotional, heartfelt praise, and of course, prayer for healing that regularly sees sick people healed. He then writes that if cessationists would only embrace the “spirit and power” experienced by charismatics, they would greatly improve not only their worship services, but also their impact for the Gospel.

But is Jesus even talking about loud, emotionally driven hour long praise services that are accompanied by the supernatural?

The “spirit” of John 4:24 is not the “Holy Spirit” as Brown suggests. It is the human spirit that has been changed by the Gospel.  The point Jesus is making about worshiping in spirit and in truth is that true worship is not defined or confined by a location. In other words, people will no longer worship according to external rituals and at a particular religious place (Mt. Gerizim vs. the temple mount in Jerusalem according to the context of John 4). Rather, they will have a heart changed by God and worship will be inwardly from that changed heart. It has nothing to do with “spirit” as in lively and animated praise full of excitement and so called “supernatural manifestations.”

Additionally, worshiping in the spirit requires the worship to be informed by truth. In the context of John 4, a worship that is informed by God’s revealed Scriptures and that is centered upon Jesus Christ.

Brown, on the other hand, seems to define “truth” along the lines of non-charismatics doing academic exegesis of the biblical languages and studying sound doctrine. The benefit of that level of commitment to studying God’s Word, he notes, is that it protects the non-charismatic from being taken in by manipulative televangelists and their fund raising tactics. It insulates them against gullibility. However, while that love of exegesis and the pursuit of sound doctrine is to be commended, it can become the cessationists’ weakness when it causes them to neglect the prompting of the Spirit and become skeptical and censorious discernment Christians.

I find it a bit troubling that Brown believes Christians can become so obsessed with exegetical clarity and the pursuit of sound doctrine that they become skeptical, mean-spirited heresy hunters. It’s as if he believes Christians risk the danger of becoming “too discerning.” Considering the theme of Authentic Fire, non-charismatics like MacArthur who raise alarms against the outrageous claims of charismatics regarding supernatural happenings like healings, speaking in tongues, and personal prophecies, are the ones who are “too discerning.” Their “discernment” really amounts to nothing more than a prideful spirit and divisiveness, and charismatics only perceive them as judgmental haters and not defenders of the faith.

Oddly, after Brown blasts the heresy hunting mentality of cessationist discernment ministries, he has a footnote that states,

“That being said, it’s important to note that some of the top apologetic and cult-watching ministries like Stand to Reason (Greg Koukl), CARM (Matt Slick), and the Christian Research Institute (Hank Hanegraaff) all believe in the continuation of the New Testament charismatic gifts.” [AF, 268, f.n.10]

Of these three ministries, I am personally acquainted with two of them, STR and CRI. Knowing that Koukl comes from the Foursquare denominational background and Hanegraaff was once  associated with Walter Martin and the Calvary Chapel movement, I would not doubt that they would be open to the continuation of spiritual gifts. But are those same individuals friendly to Brown’s view of the charismatic gifts and “cross-pollination”?

While it is true that STR affirms the continuation of charismatic gifts, they are much more cautious about them than what Brown would be. For instance, Koukl has written a brief blog post that argues against the view of fallible prophecy that Sam Storms advocates for in the second appendix of Authentic Fire, as well as a longer article issuing strong warning against the idea of prophets and prophecy in the Church.

Another blog post, written by a STR staffer, dismisses David Wilkerson’s frantic doomsday prophecies out-of-hand. (Readers may recall that Wilkerson is named by Brown in the second chapter as one of the well-known critics of so-called charismatic excesses).  Moreover, anyone familiar with STR knows that Koukl has some of the better material addressing the bad teaching of “hearing the voice of God,” receiving impressions, and other inner promptings leading Christians to determining God’s will. In other words, what is typically understood by charismatics to be the continuing prophecy of God talking to you.

Overall, Koukl, though he may be friendly to the notion of charismatic gifts, is a critic of much of what takes place in charismatic churches that is attributed to the Holy Spirit. At the least, he certainly would be inconsistent, if we can call it that, with what continuationists consider personal, on-going prophecies.

Hank Hanegraaff, ironically, has been one of the leading watchdogs against charismania, especially the stuff that happens in Word of Faith ministries. His book, Christianity in Crisis, is a classic review and rebuttal to the heretical Word of Faith ministries of such men as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland, along with other charismatic doctrines. Pretty much the same errant teaching and out of control shenanigans that Strange Fire was aimed against and which Brown complains is misrepresenting charismatics.

But Hanegraaff is the one well-known apologetic minister to have written a book length treatment titled, Counterfeit Revival, that was critical of what was happening at the Brownsville revival in Pensacola, Florida, during the 1990s. Brown was a key leader, even spearheading a school of ministry started by the church. In chapter 2 of Authentic Fire, in an extensive footnote, he attempts to provide an explanation as to why the present-day Assembly of God church where the revival took place is on the verge of catastrophic financial ruin, even to the point of having to sell off some of their property to the county.

After the publication of his book, Hanegraaff issued a second edition. It was updated and expanded to provide his interactions with the push back he received to his first edition from Brownsville leaders, including Brown. That second edition contains a brief appendix that is a rebuttal to his insistence that Hanegraaff lacked any serious scholarship in his book, especially his discussions of Jonathan Edwards.

Seeing that Hanegraaff has published two major books critical of the charismatic movement, particularly similar criticisms expressed by the Strange Fire conference, Brown’s implying that CRI and Hanegraaff think similarly as he does regarding the continuation of the spiritual gifts is unusual.

two brainsConcluding Thoughts

In this chapter, Brown leaves us with the impression that charismatics and non-charismatics are not that different after all and that both camps have much to offer the church at large if they would just lay aside their differences and cooperate with each other.  But that is an extremely naive and foolhardy opinion.

He suggests that the greatest weakness among charismatics is their gullibility when it comes to manipulative, fund-raising TV preachers. Hence, charismatics can learn a thing or two from cessationists who are inoculated from such tactics because they pursue sound Bible study principles and Christian doctrine.

But are the only real weaknesses with charismatics their susceptibility to con-artist, money-grubbing TV evangelists? Is he saying that if charismatics would merely turn to expositional preaching and reading systematic theologies and church history, TBN would go off the air because no one would be left to give them money?  I believe there are deeper theological problems at the heart of charismaticism than just simple-minded gullibility arising from a heart of love that merely wants to help out what they mistakenly perceive are good ministries.

TV preachers make money because they promote a particular view about God and the Christian life. That being, God wants your life to be nothing but full of health and lots of wealth.  Just watch a few minutes of Benny Hinn standing in Jerusalem, slapping the Bible in his hand, proclaiming that the “words of the living God” is that if YOU, the viewer, would sow seed (meaning give him money), God will bless and increase your storehouses with riches and prosperity. Keep in mind Brown sat with Hinn for a week of TV show interviews. Honestly, if your view of God is that He only exists to be your personal genie, who is obligated to fulfill your selfish desires, then there is more than just kind-hearted gullibility at play here.

Consider also the other numerous examples of bad teaching and outright heretical theology that both Lyndon and myself have been documenting with our reviews of Brown’s book. As a non-charismatic, or “cessationist,” I do not believe it is wise to cross-pollinate with individuals who,

– Value emotionalism over sober-mindedness, believing that loud, cacophonous worship services led by praise bands singing songs with repetitive and vacuous lyrics is the move of the Spirit.

– Make pitiful excuses for the myriads of “faith healers” who promise healing, but never deliver. Thus leaving countless broken lives who were misled to believe God would heal them, but are heartlessly told that they needed to work up more faith.

– Redefine biblical terminology like “tongues” and “prophecy” so as to make the Bible teach Christians should seek ecstatic pagan experiences and interpret their dreams to be the “voice of God.”

– Believe sin problems among Christians are caused by demonic possession and Christians need to seek “deliverance” from such entities through a series of program courses designed to identify demonic influence within a believer. (Just do a search on “deliverance ministries” to see what I mean).

– Provides opportunity for such bizarre things like grave sucking, preachers claiming to have been supernaturally teleported from a church service to China, pastors teaching youth to raise the dead, and the kind of wacked out stuff you see in this video.

Contrary to what Brown wants his readers to believe about charismatics and non-charismatics, the two groups are not just opposite hemispheres sharing the same brain, but are two entirely different brains.

Now let me clarify so that my words are not misconstrued.  I am not necessarily saying they are two different religious faiths, and that charismatics in general are not Christians. Apart from notable exceptions like those associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, and prosperity gospel charismatics, which I will grant represent a large, majority portion of the charismatic spectrum, I believe charismatics by and large affirm and believe the doctrines of the historic Christian faith.

With that said, however, non-charismatics approach their understanding of the Christian faith, the study of God’s Word, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the daily working out of Christian sanctification so radically different than charismatics that any meaningful cooperation could not possibly be accomplished without one or both totally reinventing their practice of Christianity altogether. Thus, Brown’s hope of “cross-pollination” between non-charismatics and charismatics in order to develop some middle of the road hybrid is theologically Pollyannish. It is a blind optimism that is doomed to fail.

Fred Butler

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Fred is a graduate of The Master's Seminary, and currently serves as a coordinator at Grace To You, the media ministry of John MacArthur.
  • Chris

    I only have one question: why can’t worship services be emotional? I love Jesus and what he has done for me, and singing about it sometimes moves me to tears or to raise my hands…I would say that’s the spirit moving in me and stirring my heart in response. Some songs aren’t as theologically deep as others and are a bit repetitive but so what? Does that make them less meaningful or true? And why can’t the worship band be loud? Does the bible say that churches may only use orchestras or organs to accompany a worship service?

    • Shaun Little

      I will personally get moved to tears from singing a good hymn or out of the psalter… heck, sometimes I will even raise a hand. If the truth of saving grace does not move me to feel something then I don’t know what in this world should. But I am fairly neutral to different modes of worship (if thats a proper term). What matters to me is that the words are sound, and that the method does not draw attention away from the glorious truths being sung. I would think anyone performing needs to make sure they understand they are serving the church, humbly submitting their self-expression, and not ‘leading’ the worship. I honestly believe the worship God approves of is not so much judged upon it’s genre or the instruments used, but upon the truth, a love for the truth, and the humble fruit of praise it brings forth to the glory of God.

    • Fibber MaGee

      Worship should be emotional, but do you think it should also
      be reverent? Personally I like the louder worship music. Lincoln Brewster
      rocks! I won’t presume to speak for Fred, however I don’t think he was slamming
      a particular worship style.

      • Fred Butler

        Yes. I am not disparaging CCM per se in worship. My fellowship group primarily does CCM style music for our singing time. My larger point is that contrary to Dr. Brown, the concept of “spirit” in John 4:21 has nothing to do with high energy Pentecostal/charismatic worship services.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Nobody on either side opposes incorporating the emotions Chris; both would agree that worship which does not involve the emotions is shallow worship, if legitimate worship at all.

      Also, nobody is suggesting that theologically “shallow” (or maybe “simple”) songs are bad.

      Also, the genre of music is not in question. Both cessationist and charismatic churches utilize styles of music that, 90 years ago, were associated with booze dens and whorehouses.

      The issues at hand are intentional emotional manipulation, catering to shallow emotional experiences, and actual theological error/incorporating music in a way that undermines the theological goals of worship in the first place.

      Christians have never utilized mantras, or other styles of repetition that are intentionally designed to turn the mind into oatmeal since Christian worship involves filling the mind, not emptying it.

      Christians have never utilized music for the purpose of elevating emotional entrancement for the same reason. The mystic and eastern religions do that because the core of their system involves circumventing the mind altogether: the goal of chanting/repitition I’m Hindu/Buddhist/Catholic/Sufi/whatever theology of religious experience (i.e. “worship”) is to get rid of all rational thinking altogether. The rational mind is a hindrance to enlightenment, hence it needs to be turned to chum.

      Christians function in an opposite way, but a fair amount of charismatic worship practices tend to (unwittingly or unknowingly) copy eastern/mystic practices rather strikingly.

      I’d suggest that is more of what the concern is.

  • j

    “In chapter 7, Brown writes, “In my view, cessationism is a false and
    unbiblical teaching, but I would never think of labeling the countless
    thousands of godly cessationist leaders “false teachers.” [AF,
    242]. Why not? If he genuinely believes cessationism is false teaching
    as he has been arguing throughout his entire book, I do not understand
    why he believes cross-pollination between false teaching and
    spirit-filled charismatics is a good thing, even if he would never think
    to label them “false teachers.””

    I can answer this: it’s because he himself is devoid of sound doctrine, and has not spent the time necessary to “train his powers of discernment”, as the writer of Hebrews indicates in Heb. 5:14. It’s this exact reason why not only has he failed to protect his flock from even worse false teachers, but also why he himself has contributed to leading others astray.

    • Brad

      I understand Brown’s logic. His logic is true in all kinds of ways. Let me give you just one. R.C. Sproul believes in paedo-baptism. MaCarthur would say this is false and unbiblical teaching, but he wouldn’t say Sproul is a “false teacher.” The same is true of MacArthur’s position about John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and many others. MacArthur would say that parts of their teaching are false and unbiblical, but he wouldn’t say they are false teachers. I think Brown’s distinction holds and is helpful.

      • Fred Butler

        But in the case of what Brown defends as the truth, such as what I point out in my concluding remarks, the things that truly divide cessationists and charismatics go deeper, and have greater consequential impact on a Christian than disagreeing about baby baptism.

        Brown just doesn’t defend muddled teaching, but teachers and their teachings that border on the bizarre and in the case of Sid Roth, Bethel Church Redding, and Benny Hinn, what is outright heresy.

        • brad

          Thanks Fred!

          I see your point about Brown, but do you see the trouble with the comment that “J” made?

          • Fred Butler

            If he is saying that because Dr. Brown is devoid of sound doctrine he is really an unbeliever, I would disagree. I am not saying that about Dr. Brown at all. But I don’t think the commenter was saying that anyways.

            Yet at the same time there is something to say about how his theology as caused him some serious blind spots when evaluating and defending individuals that mature Christians would certainly understand are theologically problematic, if not heretical.

            You may appreciate what Dan Phillips wrote along these lines if you haven’t seen it already. http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2013/12/answering-todd-friel-about-emblematic.html

          • brad

            Yeah, I think “J” is saying that Dr. Brown is an unbeliever. I also think that the take away from Strange Fire and the posts at Cripplegate is that charistmatics are heretics and unbelievers and should be avoided.

          • If that’s the “take away,” it’s because people haven’t been listening.

            In the very opening session, MacArthur made it plain that there are heretics and unbelievers who fly under the label “Charismatic,” but there are also those who are true believers and who deserve our compassion:

            We know there are people who are in the Charismatic movement who are deceivers and they know it. They are false teachers and they know it. They’re in it for the money and they know it. But we also know there are people who are caught up in this that are deceived and do not know it. They’re brands that need to be snatched from the burning (Jude 1:23). Our aim is to expose the deceivers and to help the deceived.

            Also from the first session:

            Am I discrediting everyone in the movement? No. I think there are people to desire to worship God in a true way. …

            Do some in the movement believe the truth? Yes. Do some hold to sound theology on some issues? Yes. But none of those true understandings have come to them through that movement. …

            Have people truly been saved in Charismatic churches? Yes. But nothing coming from that movement has been the reason they were saved. …

            Yes, there are people in the movement who know and love the truth, have an orthodox Gospel, but are heterodox on the Holy Spirit. Not all of them are heretics. But I say again the contribution of truth from to the people in the movement doesn’t come from the movement, but in spite of it.

            Unfortunately, despite what has actually been said, over and over again, it seems people simply prefer to believe and perpetuate myths, rather than get at the truth.

      • pearlbaker

        Truth mixed with error is error. Teaching error makes you a false teacher. If John MacArthur taught error (which he does not to the best of my discernment), the he too would be a false teacher. There is no middle ground with truth. Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me, is against me.” ESV And for anyone who would like to counter that with Mark 9:40, then I assert that we must look at the question of “What is truth?” I must return to something I have told my children since they were very small. “Truth is absolute, you do not change the truth by what you believe.” The Holy Spirit must reveal the truth of the one and only meaning of each and every verse in the Bible. It is our job to seek that one meaning as God intended it. John has clearly shown that to believe and teach that the miraculous gifts ceased with the end of the apostolic age is biblical, therefore truth. That is why I am a cessationist, not because I do not like the practice or teaching of any continuist. But, because I have sought and been shown the truth, through sound teaching, but moreover by the reading of the Word and the revealing by the Holy Spirit of what God intended.

        • Brad

          I am saying that you need to be consistent and label John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, and many others as false teachers and heretics. They are preachers who are are “mixing truth with error” according to your standards. I’m saying, I can’t go that far.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Pearl, I’d refer you to my post here on the Cripplegate regarding the concept of false teachers. It’s a little more nuanced than simply “teaching error”…

          • pearlbaker

            Thank you Lyndon, I admit to zealousness regarding truth vs. error, and Brad, I ask your forgiveness if I seemed a bit harsh and legalistic, I would rather reflect Philippians 4:5 to you. God bless both of you dear brothers!

          • Lyndon Unger

            It’s well understood Pearl. Even the best of us struggle with difficult and nuanced issues like this; how to respond with sufficient firmness to properly portray the seriousness of the matter, but balanced with sufficient graciousness as to not harm a sensitive brother.

            I have more than a little growth to do in that balance myself and my failures still outnumber my successes.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Woah bud. Let’s not get too unnessessarily aggressive here. He’s not “devoid” of sound doctrine at all. Dr. Brown has a significant blind spot here, and possibly an almost impossible to comprehend inconsistency, sure…but he’s no idiot and I’d suggest still a brother.

  • Karen

    Jesus said that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” I want to see Charismatics and non-Charismatics come together to serve together, do outreaches together, have prayer and evangelistic revivals together, fellowship together. I know that there are some theological differences between Charismatics and non-Charismatics, but I think there are also areas of common ground that can be found too. I have worked at and volunteered at non-denominational ministries that serve the communities and I have enjoyed working and serving alongside Christians of many different backgrounds. My dad as a pastor enjoyed praying with all the pastors of the various churches around our cities. I have attended Charismatic churches, and I have never heard of anything like grave sucking (what is that?) and no Charismatic that I have met does snake handling. I imagine there are some out there that do that, but that’s hardly what all Charismatics do. I see some positives that have come out of Charismatic worship. I think that charismatic worship has brought a lot of joy and passion into Christian worship services and that is biblical–rejoice in the Lord! In fact, I think King David would love the freedom of expression in a Charismatic church. I would rather see the body of Christ come together as the church of Christ and partner together to reach the lost. Lord, make us one, as you are one.

    • Ty

      Karen,

      It comes back to doctrine. If you believe that “speaking in tongues” is an essential first fruit of salvation, you will be incorporating that into your presentation of the gospel. You will be preaching it, teaching it and modeling it to those whom you are in contact with. The emphasis is on what you get(ie spiritual gifts, physical healing, financial gain, a better life in this world)

      As a “cessationist”, my emphasis is repent, believe, take up your cross and follow Christ.

      If I am out evangelizing…. or in a dialog with someone about Christ….. or discipling a young believer…. Or any ministry I can think of….. I would want to be side by side with a compassionate and doctrinally sound brother or sister.

      I don’t see anything but confusion and strife coming from any kind of “cross pollination”

      Doctrine(what we believe) concerning something that has such a deep impact on faith and practice can not be simply brushed aside for the sake of ecumenicalism.

      • Karen

        Ok, I can see where you are coming from. I think that doctrine is important. Still, I think that the majority of charismatics have a solid understanding of repenting and believing in Jesus for salvation. Not all charismatics believe that everyone has to speak in tongues. I think that speaking in tongues is ok as a private prayer language (1 Cor. 14:14-16), but I know that there are others that disagree with me that are wonderful brothers and sisters. I can fellowship and serve with those that don’t agree with me and I would want them to fellowship with me as someone who does think that God gave us spiritual gifts, including tongues to edify our spirits and souls and build us up spiritually (Jude 22). When I serve in non denominational ministries such as summer camps or helping in an ESL classroom, I love it! It’s one thing if they were denying that Jesus was God, that we are saved by grace, and that it doesn’t matter how we live our lives, but I find many common ground with my brothers and sisters from denominations, including those that disagree with me about the spiritual gifts. More importantly, we are reaching the lost together. I think the biggest work of God that I want to see in my lifetime is the whole body of Christ coming together in unity to fulfill the great commission, and I don’t think that God wants the spiritual gifts to be so divisive.

        • I find the pentacostal charismatics the most difficult to worship with and unity the hardest simply because of the weirdness factor of amplified music, screaming, tongue-babbling and crazy, almost possessed, antics when I’ve been at their services. Those types of hijinks destroy genuine unity and fracture the body of Christ.

  • Fibber MaGee

    Good article, but I’ll take exception with the last line. I
    don’t believe for one second that Brown is optimistic or blind. He is
    attempting to show his compassionate side in an effort to secure his base and
    pull some from the fence top. If he really wants to cross-pollinate then why
    did he treat Phil Johnson the way he did? Brown is full of it and Fred and Lyndon
    have done an excellent job exposing him.

    It is interesting that the closer I get to being “too
    discerning”, the more emotion I feel during worship. That said, Brown has an
    uphill battle to assimilate me into his collective.

  • Link Hudson

    I suspect Michael Brown uses ‘false teacher’ in a very specific sense, the sense it is used in II Peter 2. I don’t throw the term around lightly because of that. The false teachers in that passage entice people to sin, have eyes full of adultery, etc. If the similar passage in Jude is referring to the same folks, then they may be damned. Does Michael Brown think that cessationists teachers, in general, are going to all be damned? I don’t blame him for not readily using the term to describe cessationists.

    I don’t see anything meritorious about being a cessationist. I don’t think being a cessationist makes one a better exegete or student of the word. Liberalism in Europe took hold in churches that had a cessationist bent. The state church in Germany took a very strong stance against Pentecostals, with some wanting to perform the miracle of excorcism on Pentecostals because they believed in miracles and other spiritual gifts. Look what has happened to some of the movements that tended to be cessationist in their theology.

    Barna has done of surveys on topics related to how well different denominations know the Bible or to what extent they believe in the doctrine their churches are supposed to teach.

    I haven’t studied his publications in depth. The reports I’ve read about them have presented evidence that Charismatics tend to know the Bible better than other evangelicals. In one survey on whether church attendees actually believed core evangelical doctrines, two of his categories Pentecostal and Assemblies of God scored the highest. The A/G is Pentecostal, but it was a big enough group to have it’s own category.

    Even within church traditions and denominations that aren’t charismatic, there are thoughtful students of the Bible whose studies convince them that they are not to reject gifts of the Spirit like prophecy, gifts of healing, the working of miracles, etc.

    I don’t see how anyone can become a cessationist without coming to the scriptures with some a priori prejudice against the continuation of spiritual gifts. The Bible simply does not teach cessationism. The individual sees someone telling people he has a some kind of ‘word’ that people who send him money will be financially blessed, or he knows someone who was promised healing from the pulpit but did not get it, or his church or denomination, which he is proud of, does not practice spiritual gifts and he assumes they would if such gifts were availabe. So he goes to the Bible trying to figure out why certain gifts no longer exist these days.

    Just consider the cessationists arguments and how elaborate and contrived they are. For example, there is the assertion that THE purpose of miracles was to affirm Christ and/or the apostles, or making up a theory that the Bible doesn’t teach that miracles are for THE purpose of confirming New Testament scripture and would not be needed when scripture was complete. This ignores the fact that the working of miracles is given to individuals in the body for the common good according to I Corinthians 12. The gift also profits the church, according to scriputre. Choosing one purposes, calling it THE purpose, and ignoring all other purposes of the gifts is poor reasoning, but it is a common approach of cessationists. They end up contradicting I Corinthians 12 based on human reasoning. It is hard to read I Corinthians 1:7 and think that Paul envisioned a time before the return of Christ that spiritual gifts were to be lacking in the church. The last days is to be characterized by prophecies, visions, and dreams.

    Cessationists who hold to a dispensationist eschatology have to make prophecy and miracles done through agency die out and revive so that the two witnesses can prophecy and do miracles. There is no justification for doing away with the gifts and restarting them again.

    • Lyndon Unger

      And the specific sense he uses it is incorrect, hence I devoted an entire article to it.

      • Link Hudson

        I know well-meaning believers can disagree over terminology. But if the phrase ‘false teacher’ is used narrowly in a specific context, that seems to be good reason not to use the same terminology very broadly when teaching in church, especially considering what is said about false teachers. At least not without a lot of explanation.

        • Lyndon Unger

          And the specific sense in which Michael Brown uses it is incorrect. The “narrow” usage that you’re proposing is a non-existent usage of the term. 2 Peter 2 doesn’t use the term in a different sense than the rest of scripture; it’s up to you to exegetically prove that point, not assume it and demand that others believe you “just because”.