Chapter 3 Summary
Dr. Brown opens up the chapter juxtaposing the carefulness with which John MacArthur prepares his sermons against the carelessness with which he speaks about the Charismatic Movement, and wonders how one can make sense of the dichotomy and suggests that John MacArthur has a blind spot in his theology. Dr. Brown makes four statements designed to point out the blind spot:
Statement #1. “In recent history, no other movement has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, to distort the truth, and to smother the articulation of sound doctrine. . . . The Charismatic Movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, no contribution to interpretation, no contribution to sound doctrine” (Kindle Locations 888-890).
Dr. Brown suggests that charismatic scholars don’t make contributions to theology as charismatics, but rather as Christians (just like cessationists) and suggests that one can no more separate a charismatic from their charismatic beliefs than one can separate someone from their shadow.
Dr. Brown then offers forth examples of charismatic contributions to Christian doctrine/practice in Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and himself.
Statement #2. “People who have any connection to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It is a striking anomaly, however, that there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where’s the charismatic hospital? Social services? Poverty relief? This is a scam” (Kindle Locations 1088-1090).
Dr. Brown expresses that this statement was spoken by Pastor MacArthur and then even defended by Phil Johnson. In responding to Phil Johnson and John MacArthur, Dr. Brown offers forth the examples of Teen Challenge and missionaries Dr. Mark and Dr. Huldah Buntain (who feed the poor in India and started a 173 bed hospital).
(This is Calcutta Mercy Hospital)
Dr. Brown also gives the examples of Latin America Child Care, Love-N-Care Ministries, and some of the graduates of Dr. Brown’s own school of ministry who are part of various humanitarian and relief work.
Brown closes off the point saying that the charismatic hospitals, social services and poverty relief organizations are “Over here, sir, and over there, sir, and as far as the eye can see around the world, sir.” (Kindle Locations 1175).
Statement #3. “the movement itself has brought nothing that enriches true worship” (Kindle Locations 1177-1178).
Dr. Brown open this segment with the word:
“I know that many of you reading these words are shaking your heads with incredulity, since plenty of cessationists recognize what passionate worshipers charismatics are – and I don’t just mean boisterous. I mean passionate in the best sense of the word: fervent, focused , devoted, given over to, and absorbed. That’s why it’s not uncommon for charismatic worship services to go an hour or more before the Word is preached (with the preaching often lasting for an hour as well), and that’s why we sometimes have whole days (or nights) of worship where we come together just to adore the Lord in song and prayer and praise” (Kindle Locations 1179-1183).
Dr. Brown then makes a personal point and writes:
“On countless occasions, I have been in services where Jesus was so exalted in our midst that we could only fall to our knees or on our faces, glorifying the King of Kings. I have often seen God’s Spirit poured out so mightily in worship that suddenly, people began to repent of their sins, convicted by the holy presence of a holy God. And how wonderful it is to see young people with tears of joy celebrating the power of the blood of Jesus and the resurrection of our Lord” (Kindle Locations 1183-1186).
Dr. Brown then offers forth the vast quantities of music written by a rather long list of charismatic musicians.
Statement #4. “I’ll start believing the truth prevails in the Charismatic Movement when its leaders start looking more like Jesus Christ” (Kindle Locations 1215-1216).
Dr. Brown begins with the words “On a certain level, this statement, which was actually tweeted out on the Strange Fire account, is the most insulting, as well as the most easily refuted, of Pastor MacArthur’s unfortunate comments, since there are so many godly charismatic and Pentecostal believers” (Kindle Locations 1217-1219).
Dr. Brown then gives the examples of Corrie Ten Boom and a nameless Muslim missionary who served selflessly and was killed by Al-Qaeda terrorists and was so loved in his community that many Muslims protested in the streets at his murder.
Dr. Brown closes off the chapter with the following entreaty:
“I too join in that prayer, asking the Lord to help Pastor MacArthur recognize this massive blind spot in his life to the point that in this next season of his life and ministry, he will be deeply appreciative and greatly enriched by the theological, charitable, worshipful, and individual contributions of the charismatic part of the Body of Christ” (Kindle Locations 1258-1260).
Chapter 3 Comments
Statement #1. If I were Dr. Brown, I would have simply stuck with the original objection and suggested that charismatic scholars don’t necessarily offer forth their contributions as Charismatics, but neither do almost any other biblical scholars (not just cessationists). Any good doctrines that have come out of a movement have come from a high view of scripture and biblical exegesis, and no one movement has the corner market on that.
But has Christianity benefited from the work of Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Peter H. Davids, Max Turner, Graham Twelftree, Jeffery Niehaus, J.P. Moreland, Wayne Grudem, R.T. Kendall, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, and Dr. Michael Brown himself?
Those who are familiar with those authors and their theological contributions would have most likely benefited and been blessed.
The problem is this:
The Charismatic Movement, globally speaking, is marked by an overwhelming lack of biblical clarity, interpretation, and sound doctrine.
But what about all those great charismatic scholars? Well, none of them being peddled in anywhere in Africa by any of the biggest charismatic churches (I document this statement in detail in my original version of this post here.)
I will definitely grant that there are several outstanding and overtly charismatic scholars.
Seeing that the Charismatic fruits and nuts are the ones who are selling all the books (and a lot more books than their scholarly counterparts at that), the contributions of those fringe academics have done precious little to positively influence anyone outside of the few thousand charismatic bible/theology geeks out there.
(Besides this, check out Myth #3 here.)
Statement #2. This one appears to be an overstatement. Charismatics definitely do social work, humanitarian aide, and the like; I’ve personally been involved in such work with charismatic churches. There’s even some charismatic churches in California doing good social/humanitarian work like the Nineveh Outreach at the House Modesto, or the various outreaches at the Dream Center.
So while I understand Brown’s criticism here, I also understand what John MacArthur was trying to say, namely, that the Charismatic movement isn’t marked by large-scale philanthropy like:
In other words, there’s no $400 million cancer research center associated with the Assemblies of God. They’ve never even come close to something like that.
So, I would suggest that I’m not totally convinced about the point, but I see what John MacArthur was trying to get at (and should have originally been more clear on, IMO).
Statement #3. I basically gave statement #2 to Dr. Brown, but on statement #3 he’s got himself into a little pickle. The quote he gives is from Tim Challies live blogging of the opening address from the conference (not an actual quote of MacArthur himself). The actual transcript of the address is here, and when you read it in context you realize that John MacArthur is not talking about church music.
He’s talking about worship in the broad theological sense, not the narrow sense of “church music”. When John MacArthur talks about worship, he’s talking broadly about ascribing glory to God by means of preaching, doctrine, prayer, etc. Dr. Brown’s whole response seems to indicate that he doesn’t realize that statement #1 and statement #3 are talking about the same thing.
Has the Charismatic movement, as a global movement, produced technically excellent music?
Without question, yes.
The music, generally speaking, isn’t exactly that deep though it does talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection in a general sense,and some of the stuff coming out of the movement is simply obnoxious…but even then there are many songs that have come out of the charismatic movement that are great songs. Not all charismatics are bad and not all charismatic music is bad (and on a sheer technical level, it’s frequently exhibiting an exemplary attention to excellence). Then again, not even John MacArthur is suggesting this (as the above quote shows clearly).
Has the Charismatic movement, as a global movement, produced unending waves of horrible preaching, doctrine and biblical exegesis?
Without question, yes.
The examples here could be absolutely legion, and a thousand shining exceptions around the world don’t change the general theological atmosphere of a movement of half a billion. Without question, the general theological atmosphere of the Charismatic Movement is one of homiletical disorientation, doctrinal insouciance, and exegetical puerility.
Can I back that up?
You bet. I’ve written an entire post on it. (That article illustrates the point that even the biggest “respectable” charismatics are frighteningly bad examples).
Statement #4. Let’s recap.
Think of Dr. Brown’s examples of Corrie ten Boom and the martyred missionary in an Islamic country.
I’d dare suggest that this is a rather glaring flying bear.
Was Corrie ten Boom or the anonymous missionary a pastor or visible leader of some sort?
Surely their examples are worthy of emulation, but they’re not what’s being discussed.
The question remains: do the majority of Charismatic leaders look like Christ?
Hmmm…let’s make a list off the top of my head of Charismatic leaders who were associated with scandal/moral failing/horrid heresy.
Aimee Semple-MacPherson, Marie Woodsworth Etter, Charles Parham, William Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copland, Ted Haggard, Denny Duron, Paul Crouche (and family), Eddie Long, Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Bill Johnson, Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle (this one is fairly recent, but I can think of another), Bob Jones, Paul Cain, Jim & Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Deitrich Haddon, Frank Houston (founder of Hillsong Church), Mike Murdock, Steve Munsey, Kong Hee, David Oyedepo, Creflo Dollar, Lonnie Frisbee, Kathryn Kuhlman, John Hagee Chris Oyakhilome and Todd Bentley.
That’s just off the top of my head.
Five prominent leaders who were closet homosexuals for years on that list.
Nine prominent leaders guilty of other sexual misconduct.
All the rest had money scandals or were known for horrid heresy.
Not very Christlike.
Maybe I could also talk about all the “small-time” Charismatic leaders, like a whole bunch that are in Canada. I could produce a far larger list by simply including people like Cal & Jan Switzer; people who you’ve never heard of but are/were big Charismatics up here. They were involved in a massive scandal up here with the Victory Christian Center in Edmonton Alberta. This was a mega church that had a sanctuary that sat 2,000 (in Canada, any church with over 2,000 people is humongous) and held multiple services until “pastors” Cal & Jan, prosperity preachers trained by no less a shining light than the astonishingly fraudulent Kenneth Hagin (here’s their alma matter) ran the church into the ground with some bad financial deals that they blamed on Satan.
Not very Christlike.
Or maybe I could talk about a guy from my very own town whose “ministry” is the evangelical equivalent of Chernobyl…
…but that’s just low hanging fruit.
Not very Christlike.
Or maybe I could also include Springs Church, the largest mega-church here in Canada with 5 congregations in 4 separate cities. Springs Church preaches a false gospel and is run by Leon Fontaine, a blatant prosperity preacher and the man who runs The Miracle Channel, Canada’s equivalent to TBN. Oh, and the previous leader of The Miracle Channel wasn’t any better (Check out this and this)…in fact the previous leader was a guy marked by more than one severe moral failure (am I seeing a pattern?) Springs Church also has a school of ministry whose “Biblical Studies” department has a visiting faculty list that is a veritable “who’s who” of prosperity preachers and Charismatic hacks.
Not very Christlike.
Let’s be honest here.
The prosperity gospel/word faith is the public, mainstream face of the Charismatic movement.
– The level headed guys aren’t on TV, writing the books that sell, speaking at the conferences or pastoring the huge and influential churches.
Every single prosperity/word faith preacher is unregenerate, not because I have personal knowledge of their profession of faith, but because they profess a counterfeit gospel.
They profess and proclaim a false gospel. Even Michael Brown says the prosperity gospel is a false gospel!
Where do you find the prosperity/word faith preachers?
They’re mostly the big personalities in the Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Apostolic, Foursquare, Vineyard, Victory, etc. denominations!
Are they getting corrected on their falsehood or is the Charismatic movement being warned about them?
But more often than not, we see this:
So Michael Brown can maybe forgive us cessationists for being somewhat confused.
The massively successful prosperity preachers, like the scandal-ridden one above who preaches a message that Dr. Brown himself condemns as false and has a far bigger following/influence and audience than folks like Dr. Brown, are not the Christlike leaders of the movement that people should be emulating?
So who are the Christlike leaders exactly?
Maybe someone with clout in the movement could provide an objective measure for telling us all who the false teachers ARE?
I’d dare say that the mixed messages we’re getting from the “level headed charismatics” are rather extreme.