June 5, 2014

Authentic Fire Review: Chapter 5

by Lyndon Unger

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.

Chapter 5 Summary

Michael Brown

Dr. Brown spends almost the entire chapter interacting with the works of Jonathan Edwards; Dr. Brown first comments on the nine non-signs of true revival, as given by Jonathan Edwards:

I. Nothing can be certainly concluded from this, That a work is carried on in a way very unusual and extraordinary; provided the variety or difference be such , as may still be comprehended within the limits of Scripture rules.

Dr. Brown explains: “The point Edwards is making is simple: Just because something is new and intense doesn’t mean it’s not from God, unless it clearly violates Scripture” (Kindle Locations 2015-2016).

II. A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

Dr. Brown explains: “I know that there are charismatics who think that someone falling or shaking like a leaf is proof that the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully, while to some evangelicals, falling or shaking is proof that the people are in the flesh. But the Word of God gives us no right to make sweeping judgments based on these things alone” (Kindle Locations 2023-2025).

III. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of people is not the work of the Spirit of God that it occasions a great deal of noise about religion.

Dr. Brown explains: “Yes, revival will draw a crowd, and it will get people talking. Even the secular world will be stirred, and the media will report both the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of the work. But that doesn’t mean that God is not moving in the midst of it all, and that He is not the Author of the spiritual excitement” (Kindle Locations 2027-2029).

IV. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of a people is not the work of the Spirit of God that many who are the subjects of it have great impressions made on their imaginations.

Dr. Brown explains: “The Bible is full of images — about heaven, hell, and our intimate relationship with God — and these images can stir our imaginations, as can powerful preaching” (Kindle Locations 2035-2036).

V. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that example is a great means of it.

Dr. Brown explains: “It is easy to say that people are weeping, or collapsing, or shaking, or laughing just because they have seen other people do the same. But Edwards claims that learning by example is both reasonable and Scriptural, if, in fact, the work is from God” (Kindle Locations 2040-2042).

VI. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that many who seem to be the subjects of it are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct.

Dr. Brown explains: “On a certain level, this principle invalidates one of the biggest criticisms of the Strange Fire camp, namely, that prominent charismatic leaders have fallen into sin or foolishness. As grievous as this is, in no way does it disqualify the larger movement” (Kindle Locations 2049-2051).

VII. Nor are many errors in judgment, and some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work, any argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit of God.

Dr. Brown explains: “recognizing the massive expansion of the Charismatic Movement in the world in the last fifty years, representing the most rapid expansion of the gospel worldwide in history, it is not surprising that there are “errors in judgment” and even “some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work”” (Kindle Locations 2054-2056).

VIII. If some, who were thought to be wrought upon, fall away into gross errors, or scandalous practices, it is no argument that the work in general is not the work of the Spirit of God.

Dr. Brown explains: “Remember Judas Iscariot? Does his fall from apostleship disprove the ministry of Jesus or throw into question the validity of the other eleven apostles? Or how about Church history? Does the Church’s unspeakably bloody persecution of the Jewish people negate the truth of the Gospel?” (Kindle Locations 2060-2062).

IX. It is no argument that a work is not from the Spirit of God that it seems to be promoted by ministers insisting very much on the terrors of God’s holy law, and that with a great deal of pathos and earnestness.

Dr. Brown explains: “My, how things have changed ! In Edwards’ day, the concern was about too much hellfire preaching; nowadays, the concern is about almost no hellfire preaching. Still, God can send His Spirit in spite of an overemphasis on hell or an underemphasis on hell” (Kindle Locations 2066-2068).

After all that, Dr. Brown deals with Jonathan Edwards’ five positive signs of a genuine work of God as found in 1 John:

Test 1. Does the work cause the Jesus of the Scriptures to be exalted?

joel-osteen-preaching-Bible

Dr. Brown summarizes John MacArthur’s critique here as 1) charismatics exalt the Holy Spirit more than Jesus; 2) some Word of Faith teachers deny aspects of the deity of Jesus; and 3) charismatics have a mixture of odd beliefs, including Catholic charismatics (Kindle Locations 2118-2119).

Dr. Brown responds by essentially saying that 1) reformed Christians sometimes love Calvin more than Jesus, 2) many people are not Word of Faith teachers, 3) reformed folks have a mixture of odd beliefs (Kindle Locations 2120-2123)

Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors.

Test 2. Does the work turn people against Satan’s kingdom by turning their hearts away from sin and worldliness?

grace-repentance

Dr. Brown basically here dismisses John MacArthur as he declares that MacArthur is wrong about the pervasiveness of the prosperity gospel and plays up the small number of scandals by prominent leaders to be representative of the whole.

Dr. Brown’s evidential rebuttal to MacArthur is the suggest that he has misread Paul Alexander’s book Signs and Wonders and misrepresented the statistics by ignoring the obvious explanation (what we see as “prosperity gospel” many in the third world see as “trusting God for daily bread”). Dr. Brown then suggests some contrary statistics to those raised by the Strange Fire book.  He cites a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center which says that 90% of those leaders rejected the prosperity gospel, 76% claimed to have witnessed a divine healing, 61% claimed to have received direct revelation from God, and 47% claimed to have spoken in tongues.

Again, Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors.

Test 3. Does the work produce a greater love and esteem and honor for the scriptures?

Little boy hugging an old book

Dr. Brown suggests that charismatic prophecy actually stimulates a love for the scripture and then references the previously mentioned survey suggesting that Pentecostals/Charismatics have a higher view of scripture than cessationists.

Dr. Brown also proves his point with 1) a story of a Brownsville critic who came and dialogued with the leaders and witnessed an impromptu survey where a class at the school of ministry suggested that they read the Bible anywhere from twice to five times as much after experiencing the revival and 2) an observation that charismatics don’t tend to “go liberal”.

Again, Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors.

Test 4. Does the work lead people to the truth?

The truth road sign

Dr. Brown spends the least amount of time here.  He makes three simple points: 1) though some leaders are questionable, the major Pentecostal denominations hold to the fundamentals of evangelicalism, 2) cessationism itself is guilty of doctrinal error, and 3) the previously mentioned Pew Forum suggests that charismatics are more socially conservative and morally principled than non-charismatics.

Again, Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors.

Test 5. Does the work result in love to God and man?

Hug

Dr. Brown’s case here is fairly straightforward.  Dr. Brown suggests that 1) excited love for God is often wrongly seen as “being irrational”, 2) accusations of speaking in tongues for the purpose of self-edification are wrong since self-edification is always a byproduct of tongues, 3) cessationists are a bunch of loveless critics along the lines of the National Enquirer, and 4) people should stop picking on poor old Benny Hinn (and Paula White) since cessationists sin sexually too.

Again, Dr. Brown declares that the Charismatic movement passes Edwards’ test with flying colors.

The Question:

Dr. Brown then moves on from Edwards and asks of the leaders of Strange Fire “did they reach out to them privately in the past or present to speak into their lives or to appeal to them to repent or to point out what they believed to be their errors or to offer to help them where they believed they were weak?” (Kindle Locations 2360-2362) and plays up that he’s apparently been appealing for a face-to-face with John MacArthur for months with no avail.  He suggests that jerks on Facebook and Twitter are following John MacArthur’s example.  Dr. Brown suggests that Strange Fire supporters should meditate on Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13, 12:7 and Jacob 2:13 and start living out the “Grace to You” slogan.

The Truth About Africa

Finally, Dr. Brown tosses the kitchen sink in this chapter and addresses Conrad Mbewe’s claims about Africa.  Dr. Brown references this article where he quotes Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, (an African Pentecostal seminary professor from Ghana), Daniel Kolenda (Reinhard Bonnke’s successor and a graduate of Dr. Brown’s ministry school) and “a pastor from Ghana” (Kindle Location 2405).  They all agree with Dr. Brown, so Conrad Mbewe is misrepresenting Africa.

******

Chapter 3 Comments

Top-Gun-Slider

All right. Let’s go over Edwards’ nine non-signs:

I. Nothing can be certainly concluded from this, That a work is carried on in a way very unusual and extraordinary; provided the variety or difference be such , as may still be comprehended within the limits of Scripture rules.

Yup.  Acting very unusual isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

Bologna

II. A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

Yup.  Tears and weak knees aren’t proof (in themselves) that something isn’t a work of God…(though it could mean you’re a teenage girl at a One Direction concert…)

SM-Screaming-Fans

III. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of people is not the work of the Spirit of God that it occasions a great deal of noise about religion.

Yup.  The fact that something brings up much talk about religious matters isn’t proof (in itself) that something isn’t a work of God…

OprahAustralianCrowd

IV. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of a people is not the work of the Spirit of God that many who are the subjects of it have great impressions made on their imaginations.

Yup.  The fact that the imagination of people becomes active (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

daydream

V. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that example is a great means of it.

Yup.  Copycat behaviour (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

Japanese Elvis Convention

VI. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that many who seem to be the subjects of it are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct.

Yup.  The fact that someone acts imprudently or irregularly (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

Thriller

VII. Nor are many errors in judgment, and some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work, any argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit of God.

Yup.  The fact that someone does something dumb or believes a lie (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

Dont open that

VIII. If some, who were thought to be wrought upon, fall away into gross errors, or scandalous practices, it is no argument that the work in general is not the work of the Spirit of God.

Yup.  The fact that someone falls into gross error (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

Branch-Davidians

IX. It is no argument that a work is not from the Spirit of God that it seems to be promoted by ministers insisting very much on the terrors of God’s holy law, and that with a great deal of pathos and earnestness.

Yup.  The fact that someone insists “very much on the terrors of God’s holy law” isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God…

 

GHJ

 

Now, let’s look at the five signs:

Test 1. Does the work cause the Jesus of the Scriptures to be exalted?

1) With regards to the point that Charismatics exalt the Holy Spirit more than Jesus, his response to cessationists of “you do that too (in other areas)” isn’t really a response at all; it’s implicitly admitting the charge.

2) When Dr. Brown cries foul regarding the false teachers in the charismatic midst, I only have two responses:

a.  Many of the worst offenders are the biggest names in charismatic circles (and those with the widest influence and best selling books) and this has been documented by myself rather extensively.  The heretics/false teachers that he would point to in cessationist circles are nobodies, and they’re unwelcome to boot.

b.  Cessationists are the loudest critics of errors in cessationist circles.  Where exactly are the books written by charismatics critiquing Reconstructionism? It’s the Cessationists doing the critiquing (like this book or this book or this book), but it’s the Charismatics swallowing it (like here and here and here).  In the Auburn Avenue theology/Federal Vision debate, where exactly did any charismatics weigh in again?

3) Reformed folks have an odd mixture of beliefs, true.  Still, that “odd mixture” doesn’t go anywhere near the realm of this sort of stuff:

Test 2. Does the work turn people against Satan’s kingdom by turning their hearts away from sin and worldliness?

Now I’m glad that Dr. Brown condemns the prosperity gospel, and it’s interesting that he admits that it’s “spreading like wildfire in many parts of the world”, but I have a sneaking suspicion that his definition as what qualifies as “prosperity gospel” is far narrower than what one could support from the scripture.  When he claims that many poor people in the third world come to Christ with hopes of gaining daily provisions, he pronounces that honorable and dismisses all charges of prosperity gospel since he sums up the prosperity gospel as “Jesus died on the cross to make us rich”.  I’d dare suggest that few people are dumb enough to preach something that explicitly fallacious.  Rather, any “gospel” promising health or wealth in this life, guaranteed in the atonement and acquired by means of some specific formula, is a prosperity gospel.

Genie

Isn’t that a little bit of a hard line?  Well, I back it up it at length in my original post.

What about the Pew Forum survey?  I also sort through all the data at length in my original post.

In a nutshell, the prosperity gospel is the mainstream representation of the global charismatic movement.

Test 3. Does the work produce a greater love and esteem and honor for the scriptures?

Surprisingly, there’s not much of a case offered here by Dr. Brown.  Claims about morality and high views of scripture and reading the Bible more are nice, but Mormons have morality and bible reading too and they don’t love or esteem the scripture for a second.

Second, claims about some critic who was convinced about Brownsville because the students at the Brownsville School of Ministry read their bibles more after attending Brownsville suggest that the critic didn’t have biblically informed criticisms in the first place.

Third and with regards to liberalism, I’ll take a guess as to why many Charismatic schools don’t “go liberal”: academic insulation.  Charismatic schools, speaking very broadly, tend to serve denominations fairly exclusively and aren’t terribly involved in academic pursuits, hence the influence from the brutally secular academy is far less pronounced.  Also, what exactly is the definition of “Liberal”?  It would be interesting to know what exactly Brown suggests (i.e. is he talking about historic academic liberalism that J. Gresham Machen opposed?) since I know of many charismatics that have completely swallowed modern manifestations of liberalism like postmodern hermeneutics or the documentary hypothesis.

Test 4. Does the work lead people to the truth?

The first point is ” while charismatic churches may not be famous for systematically catechizing believers in basic Bible doctrine, the reality is that all the major Pentecostal denominations hold to evangelical fundamentals of the faith, and there is a clear line drawn between heresy and truth.” (Kindle Locations 2297-2299).

It looks like he’s saying “well, it’s true that we don’t teach basic bible doctrine to the people in the pews, but our denominations are orthodox…”

The people in the pew are the overwhelming majority, right?  Are they the ones who are orthodox?  Er…

Mess Up

The second point is assumed and not proven (cessationism is a doctrinal error).

The third point is meaningless since many major cults are socially conservative and morally principled (i.e. the Mormons).

Test 5. Does the work result in love to God and man?

First, the point about “irrationality” isn’t that the behaviour doesn’t make sense, but rather that the behaviour is disconnected from the rational faculties.  In other words, John MacArthur is suggesting that charismatics worship God without engaging their mind, which is a violation of the great command (Matt. 22:37).  Disobedience to God cannot ever be loving (John 14:15, 14:21; 1 John 5:2-3), but systemically established and celebrated disobedience is far worse.

Second, the problem is that self-edification isn’t ever what tongues are (1 Cor. 14:13-19).  It’s not that self-edification is a laudable by-product…self-edification is a biblically condemned use of tongues.

It sure looks like Dr. Brown is claiming that at least part of the regular effect of tongues is something that the apostle Paul condemned…

Third, the “conspicuous lack of love” manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly.  I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. You might be right in labeling heretics as such, but heretics don’t have to give account to you.  What’s more, the sheer practice of “calling someone out” when you don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact and have no authority/ministry relationship with them is evidence of brain damage.

Very little hurts truth more than having it associated with the Village idiot.

Idiot

Do I need to be more explicit here or will that suffice?

As for the fact that John MacArthur cites the National Enquirer (once) and therefore reads like a copy of the National Enquirer, I’ll just chalk that up to Dr. Brown never actually having read the National Enquirer.

I don’t blame him though.

I’m a Weekly World News reader myself…how else can I keep up to date on the escapades of Bat Boy?

batboy_cooper

Fourth, I’ve already written enough on Benny Hinn and Paula White.  Read 1(c) here if you’re interested in my thoughts on that.

I’m glad that Dr. Brown thinks that Paula White shouldn’t be back in ministry.  I fully agree.

So has Dr. Brown provided reason to believe that the charismatic movement, as a global movement, passes the test?  Go back, read the test again, and let me know in the comments.

The Question:

The whole idea that “you cannot address someone’s public error without first privately contacting them and trying to settle the issue” is simply nonsense.  Acts 5:1-11; Gal. 2:11-14 and 1 Tim. 5:19-21 give a little precedent to calling out public error publicly.

As for Dr. Brown’s appeals to meet with Dr. MacArthur, I cannot speak to that as I have no knowledge there.

The Truth About Africa

So a Pentecostal professor, Reinhard Bonnke’s successor and a pastor from Ghana agree with Dr. Brown that everything is hunky dory in Africa?

Well, I have a lot more than three friends that have participated in ministry in Africa (like the Cripplegate’s own Clint Archer or Michael Brown’s good friend James White) over the past 18 months and every one of their stories are utterly opposite.  So whose friends are right?  Mine or Dr. Browns?

I believe that’s more than enough; let’s call this a wrap.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Excellent review (and great use of images too).

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Johnny! I aim to edutain!

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  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    Yes, excellent review! I was struck by your rebuttal to Brown that, “self-edification was a biblically condemned use of tongues.”

    I read the referenced verses from 1 Cor. 14, as well as the verses that followed and I don’t think I had ever caught Paul’s admonition that those who speak in a tongue should pray that THEY may interpret what THEY say (v.13) in order that an outsider may UNDERSTAND and be BUILT UP (vs 16, 17).

    Where in the charismatic church has that EVER been practiced?

    • Lyndon Unger

      Yup. It’s one of those things where people assume the permissibility of what happens and don’t actually check their practice against the scriptures. I remember when I caught the same thing you did and wondered the same question.

      I’ve never got an answer, and the leaders/Pentelectuals (smart charismatics) I asked didn’t have a solid answer either. I’ve since found that the general thrust of the movement is to not pay terribly close attention to the text of scripture (with a few exceptions that are outnumbered a million to one).

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Pentelectuals! Love how you edutain! 🙂

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Lyndon, can I ask a question? Since I became a Christian I have had several encounters with people (and one pastor) trying to convince me that I needed to speak in tongues. I am fully aware that this is wrong and can see how they have twisted the scriptures to fit their experience. (As an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, this is always a huge red flag for me).

        Invariably, when I say it isn’t biblical tongues, I am immediately accused of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. When they try to pin me into saying what it is then, I always stop short since I truly don’t know what to answer. I have heard it attributed to a brain thing, a psychological response, demonic, etc. How would you recommend I respond?

        • Lyndon Unger

          Jane, it’s funny how people accuse you of “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” when you suggest that the thing that they’re doing isn’t the same as the “tongues” described in the Bible.

          When people try to force you into a corner to say something like “it’s demonic”, what they’re really looking for is to justify themselves in their own minds because if you say something like “it’s demonic” or “it’s simply non-rational gibberish”, you’re being unloving and therefore they win the debate by default (because Christians who are unloving are, by default, factually wrong…right?)

          When people try to trap you rhetorically, I’d tell them that God doesn’t require you to know all the unlimited things you should not do or believe; God requires you to know and believe the limited things he HAS made known.

          I’d take them to Acts 2 and point out that the tongues there was earthly languages; regional dialects “from every nation under heaven” (2:5) whereby when those tongues were spoken, each listener “was hearing them speak in his own language” (2:6).

          I’d point that fairly clear fact out to them and ask them if tongues was redefined in Acts 10:46 (vs. 47 is the key – ”
          Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” – The JUST AS WE HAVE part suggests that whatever happened in Acts 10:46 was just like whatever happened to Peter et. al in Acts 2.)

          I’d then move on to Acts 19:6 and ask them if tongues were redefined there as well. Since it’s a passing reference, I’d suggest that tongues was functioning in Acts 19 as the same action that it was in Acts 2.

          I’d then point to the fact that Paul planted the Corinthian church in Acts 18, and cut them off at the pass with all their citations of 1 Corinthians 14. The book of Acts was written AFTER the establishment of the Corinthian Church (since the founding of the Corinthian church is recorded IN the book of Acts), and whenever Luke was writing Acts, tongues was still whatever tongues was in Acts 2. Luke doesn’t add any definitions, or clarifications, or anything else (and the book of Acts covers a period of several years following the establishment of the church of Corinth).

          So if tongues were redefined or changed in some way in Corinth, why doesn’t the historical account of the entire period of early church history (i.e. Acts) know anything about it?

          From there, I’d ask them if they’re even considering changing their practice to coincide with the Bible, and if they laugh or refuse or want to turn to 1 Cor. 14, you should re-state the question and then ask them “if my short presentation did nothing to challenge your practice, why am I going to spend another hour walking through 1 Corinthians 14 with you?”

          I’d ask them if they’re even WILLING to face the text of scripture and turn the tables on them.

          I’d express to them that you might be wasting your time talking about tongues with them because they’re not even open to biblical correction, which means they have problems FAR deeper than confusion with regard to tongues.

          I’d suggest that you might not be able to tell them whatever it is that they’re doing, but that’s far less important than their own unwillingness to face what God says they SHOULD be doing.

          You’ll quite easily come across as unkind and unloving and whatnot, but let the scriptures do the hard work for you. Read the passages slowly (especially Acts 2:5-12) with them and let them tell you what it means. They’ll probably agree with you in Acts 2 but will start getting nervous when you get to Acts 19 because they’ll assume that they know where the conversation is going but will likely be wrong.

          The thrust should be “Look, you see what Acts 2 says tongues IS. Neither I nor God really care to explain whatever it is YOU’RE doing. The question is why aren’t you doing whatever the Bible describes as tongues? I don’t care if you’re pickling gym socks or levitating around the room. The Bible is clear as to the definition of tongues and the question remains: why aren’t you doing that?”

          Be kind but firm and let the scriptures be the stumbling block, not your presentation.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            THANK YOU! That is the best explanation I have received in eighteen years! If you could copy that into an article and present it somewhere, you would help countless Christians who have been paralyzed when confronted with this topic. Man, I wish you could have been a speaker at the Strange Fire conference!!

          • Lyndon Unger

            Jane, glad I could be of help!

            Coming out of Charismatic circles, I’ve just learned to be really practical and continually not assume Charismatic theology as “normal”. Most charismatics assume that they are “innocent until proven guilty” (the theological default position) and demand that everyone else prove why they’re not Charismatic. When you take them to the Bible and ask them to defend their own (assumed as “biblical”) theology and practice, the wheels fall off the wagon almost immediately.

            Glad I could help.

            Feel free to pass my ideas on and help others!

  • Thapelo Mpai

    As a South African living in Africa… Everything Conrad Mbewe said is true… Considering I spend years in the charismatic movement in Africa I can attest to the many things Conrad had mentioned.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the affirmation Thapelo. I’m sure that Dr. Brown would dismiss you as an unreliable witness somehow…just like Conrad Mbewe.

  • Barton Waldon

    I have a question I need help answering.. I recently told someone in my family that attributing the work of Satan to the Holy Spirit was sinful but they said that it is not and challenged me to find Scriptures that said so.. How should I respond to this?

    Yours in Christ

    • Jon Loewen

      Attributing the work of Satan to the Holy Spirit grieves the Holy Spirit. Eph 4:30 is an imperative, therefore grieving the Holy Spirit is sin.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      I guess I would come at it from not so much the angle of sin, but as deception. (It’s not that attributing the work of Satan to the Holy Spirit is not sin, it is, but who would ever do that intentionally?) I think the proper response would be to warn your family member about the deception that Jesus warned us of throughout the gospels (false Christs, counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders) that would precede His return, and to test all things against scripture.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Barton, the idea of attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan is found in Mark 3:22-30 (as well as Matt. 12:22-32 and possibly Luke 12:8-10). The idea in Mark and Matthew is that Jesus healed the sick/possessed and the crowds were looking to the Pharisees for an explanation of what they were witnessing:

      a. Unquestionable miraculous power.
      b. Disagreement with (and even condemnation of) the religious leaders.

      The logical question was “If this Jesus is doing authentic miracles but he disagrees with the Pharisees, what gives?”

      The Pharisees couldn’t buckle on (b) since that would mean admitting their own error, so they had to explain away (a) and the only option they had was to question the source of Jesus’ unquestionable miraculous power. The crowds all naturally assumed that the power was from Yahweh, but the Pharisees declared that it was actually from the Devil.

      That “table turning” was what Jesus called the “unforgivable sin”, otherwise known as the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

      Here’s the problem: if Jesus WAS an authentic workman of Yahweh and his unquestionable miraculous power was Yahweh’s authentication of him, the crowds were bound by Judaism to listen to Jesus, whether he agreed with the Pharisees or not. BUT, if Jesus was an authentic workman of Yahweh (namely the Messiah) who the Pharisees told the people to ignore, the people would continue on waiting for a different Messiah and would miss the only real Messiah around.

      That’s why there’s no forgiveness for blaspheming (or speaking against) the work of the Holy Spirit: you miss the authentic workman of Yahweh that the miraculous working of the Spirit is pointing you towards and look for someone else (except all others are frauds and phonies).

      You’re utterly done for if that’s the case since you’ve ruled out the real deal right from the start.

      You can understand then why it’s sinful then to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, right?

      That’s the sin called “unbelief” and Jesus commanded those who listened to his message to NOT commit that sin (i.e. John 6:28-29, 14:8-11).

      I would suggest that doing the opposite, attributing the works of Satan to the Holy Spirit, would also be sinful since it would be bearing false witness regarding the Holy Spirit.

      Does that help?

      • Barton Waldon

        Lyndon,

        Yes it does. It was very kind of you to respond with such careful detail!

        Thank you so much and God bless!

        -Bart

        • Lyndon Unger

          Glad I could help sort that issue out for you!

          God bless brother!