Chapter 7 Summary (I’ve numbered things to make responding easier to follow)
1. Dr. Brown opens the chapter with a story about James Robison and how he used to be judgmental, until Billy Graham told him to “spend time with other believers you’ve been taught to avoid” (Kindle Location 3482), which transformed him and those whom he reached out to. Dr. Brown makes the subtle insinuation that John MacArthur avoids other believers because he doesn’t think they are other believers. Dr. Brown then quotes himself in saying that Heaven will be “a great eye-opener and a great mouth-closer. You will be surprised to see many people there, and many people will be surprised to see you there” (Kindle Locations 3486-3487), and comments about how people like Bill Johnson and Mike Bickle get condemned by some and praised by others.
Dr. Brown proves that MacArthur doesn’t believe charismatics are believers by pointing to this now infamous tweet:
"We're not trying to divide the body of Christ with this conference. We're trying to identify the body of Christ." #StrangeFire
— John MacArthur (@johnmacarthur) October 17, 2013
2. Dr. Brown continues on in the next section, pointing out how the “wholesale condemnation of several hundred millions Christians is totally unmerited” (Kindle Location 3504) and comments on how it’s not exactly the first time in Church history that such angry divisions have occurred, and then gives this post by Tom Chantry as an example of “how unpleasant the rhetoric can get once we start damning one another to hell” (Kindle Locations 3506-3507). Dr. Brown quotes Chantry as saying:
“Well, if John MacArthur wants to train his fire on them [meaning, the charismatics], I say good for him. CAIR [the Counsel on American-Islamic Relationships] may not actually be terrorists , but I’m all for exposing their giving of aid and comfort to terrorists.” (Kindle Locations 3507-3509).
3. Jumping off Tom Chantry’s rhetoric, he looks at the bloody theological battles of the past and points to what happens when Christians toss out the word “heresy” against differences in the Body. Dr. Brown points to the bloody aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, pointing out how tens of thousands perished in the fighting between the Monophysites and Chalcedonians, and gives pages of bloody details involving “hands festering and dripping with blood and pus” (Kindle Location 3538) or of many were forced to “take the Eucharist kicking and screaming” (Kindle Locations 3548-3549).
He then states:
Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not comparing the Strange Fire movement to these murderous, dastardly acts. But I am saying that we need to step back in the midst of our self-confident divisions over “orthodoxy” and start listening to each other and making efforts to understand each other before we pronounce each other hell-bound heretics. (Kindle Locations 3557-3559).
4. He continues his argument about believers killing believers over doctrine and switches topics to the Anabaptists (like Felix Manz, Jacob Falk, and Bathasar Hubmaier), some of whom were imprisoned and others were killed by sword or drowning, both by Catholics and “their Protestant brothers and sisters” (Kindle Location 3627). Dr. Brown closes off that section saying:
Obviously, I’m not claiming that all people on all sides of this dispute were believers – only God ultimately those who are His (2 Timothy 2: 19) – but it’s clear that these were all Protestants, and even within their own house, there were murderous divisions. (Kindle Locations 3628-3630).
5. Dr. Brown then moves on to comment about how, before the conference, he attempted a dialogue with John MacArthur to urge him to be more cautious with whom he condemned. He then re-posts this article in it’s entirety, making five points:
a. We really do need each other – He quote 1 Cor. 12:20-21 (insinuating John MacArthur is doing this) and insinuates that John MacArthur doesn’t want to learn from, or serve, his Charismatic brothers or sisters but rather embodies the attitude of the pharisee in Luke 18:11.
b. Surgeons cut carefully - Dogmatism often paints with a broad brush and that doesn’t honor the Lord.
c. Don’t be hasty to call others false prophets or false teachers – Dr. Brown’s entire point is:
“Based on New Testament usage, a false prophet is a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing and therefore a hell-bound sinner (see Matthew 7: 15-20), while a false teacher is a non-believer (or backslider) who introduces damnable heresies to the church (see 2 Peter 2: 1, where it states that they “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction”).
Because of that, I refuse to call a brother or sister in the Lord a false prophet or a false teacher, even if they prophesy falsely (in which case they need correction and are falsely called a prophet) and even if they teach something false (does anyone dare claim to have perfect doctrine on all points)?
It is therefore unbiblical to use the “false prophet” or “false teacher” moniker for believers who are in error, and we can deal with their error effectively and strongly without damning them to hell. (Are you 100% sure they are not saved? Without a doubt? Remember: I’m not talking about a cult member here but about someone who claims to be born again through faith in Jesus.)
And while there are absolutely times when it is right to address people by name – I have sought to do that in a godly way in these columns over the months; God will be the Judge – in many cases it is possible to deal with issues without naming names, which also avoids unnecessary division and strife within the Body.” (Kindle Locations 3658-3668).
d. Before we differ with each other we have to understand each other - Dr. Brown comments how some people mean something other than he does when they use the term “charismatic” or “prosperity gospel”. He comments that people who pray for wealth aren’t necessarily sinning since they do so “to help spread the gospel”, but others pursue wealth in a carnal and “worldly-minded” way (due to being manipulated by preachers).
e. Major on the majors – Dr. Brown comments that even people at Grace Community Church don’t agree with John MacArthur on everything, and people don’t agree with him on everything either, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not believers. If we all focus on exalting Jesus, we’ll find that we have far more in common than not.
6. Dr. Brown then comments on Numbers 11:26-29 and remarks that some people “people just do things differently than what we’re used to” (Kindle Location 3699) but we shouldn’t shut them down because of that. He then makes the same point from Mark 9:38-40 and remarks how Joshua and John both wanted to stop those who were doing things differently than they were, but Moses and Jesus both told them to leave it be. He quotes John MacArthur in saying “In matters in which Scripture is not explicit there is room for difference of opinion” (Kindle Location 3711) and comments that “we often pass judgment where Scripture does not give us the right to” (Kindle Locations 3712-3713). He then comments:
I’m very hesitant to label anyone a wolf, a false prophet, a charlatan, a fraud, or a false teacher unless I know for a fact that they either deny one or more of the fundamentals of the faith (such as salvation through Jesus alone; His divine nature; His atoning death and resurrection; etc.) or that they are lying in the claims they are making or that they are living an immoral, godless life. (Kindle Locations 3715-3717).
7. He condemns cessationism as a false teaching but states that he wouldn’t label a cessationist a “false teacher”. He says the same thing about the pre-trib rapture, dispensationalism, and Calvinism. He comments how it’s sad that John MacArthur lumps in the good with the bad (due to his broad brush approach) and often exaggerates “the number and nature of the errors” (Kindle Location 3728) in the Charismatic movement.
8. Going back to the broad brush accusation, Dr. Brown then comments on John MacArthur’s reaction to Tom Schreiner’s complaint about the broad brush. Dr. Brown comments on how John MacArthur claimed that he affirmed some Charismatics as true believers and respected colleagues, and Dr. Brown protests that even in the sections where affirmations were made, there were still remarks about how they “remain confused about the ministry of the Holy Spirit” (Kindle Location 3742) and place themselves in spiritual jeopardy by continual exposure to false teaching and counterfeit spirituality. Dr. Brown then comments on how John MacArthur recognizes that he may be condemned for his broad brush approach, but it’s worth the risk due to the magnitude of the problem of the Charismatic movement. Dr. Brown writes “this strategy is tantamount to blowing up an apartment building filled with law-abiding civilians because there are terrorists inside” (Kindle Locations 3751-3752).
9. Dr. Brown closes off his chapter by reminding his audience about James Robison, giving quotes from J.C. Ryle and John Wesley about unity, and finally a quote from Dr. George O. Wood where Dr. Wood longs for the day “when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ” (Kindle Locations 3771-3773).
Chapter 7 Comments
1. Regarding the James Robison story, I don’t know the details there and cannot comment with regards to what were the actual issues in play with James Robison, but the idea that John MacArthur avoids charismatics because he doesn’t think they are other believers is simply laughable. He has met with a ton of questionable charismatics (i.e. Paul Cain, Jack Hayford, etc.) over the years and continuationists regularly have spoken at Grace Church and all their associated conferences (i.e. C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, James MacDonald, etc.).
As for the line about Heaven being the “great eye-opener and a great mouth-closer”, I don’t think we’re going to be as wildly surprised as some people think. It’s not like we’re going to get to heaven and be totally thrown off guard (assuming certain folks don’t repent):
Regarding the infamous tweet, the context was one of John MacArthur talking about the N.A.R.
2. Regarding the post by Tom Chantry, I’m beginning to wonder if Dr. Brown has a blind spot when it comes to grasping many criticisms of the Charismatic movement.
Is that too harsh?
Well, go read the article; it’s here. Read the whole second point. Ask yourself if Tom Chantry is talking about Charismatics in general or something more specific than that. I’d dare say that Chantry is clearly talking about prosperity preachers. Chantry has absolutely no part in”wholesale condemnation of several hundred millions Christians”; he’s condemning the prosperity preachers who preach a false gospel.
3 AND 4. Regarding the Monophysite & Chalcedonian slaughter as well as the Anabaptist martyrdoms, I just could not believe that I was reading the writing of a serious theologian.
I have two responses here:
a. To bring up historical slaughters like this and the say “…to be perfectly clear, I am not comparing the Strange Fire movement to these murderous, dastardly acts…” is to be disingenuous. If Strange Fire is nothing like these horrible occurrences, why bring them up? It’s a rhetorical trick to cultivate certain feelings (and not good ones) in your reader.
b. It’s shamefully absurd that Dr. Brown stoops to the level of pulling out the “Christians killing Christians” line, as if a bunch of men webcasting sermons and writing a book is somehow on the same level, or even in the same category, as slaughtering hundreds, or thousands, of people and forcing people to “convert” to Christianity under threat of death. It’s as if Dr. Brown is willfully confusing a retired news anchor with a retired blogger…Not exactly the same at all.
5. Regarding Dr. Brown’s article, I have some simple responses:
a. I’d guess that making insinuations of pharisaism doesn’t make someone want to talk with you.
b. Surgeons cut carefully? Yup. Who is the example of this that everyone should follow? I listened to the interview that Dr. Brown had with the news anchor pictured above (or possibly the other guy) and noticed a rather astonishing lack of care used on that interview.
c. On this whole argument, which is one that I’ve heard repeatedly given by Dr. Brown, he’s simply wrong. I’d point to my examinations of the concept of false teachers/prophets here. When you call someone a false teacher, that’s not consigning them to hell. That’s telling them that they’re on a path that God clearly states will result in damnation; a call to a false teacher should include a call to repentance (and intrinsically does).
d. Agreed, but we need the Bible to define the terms and we need to meet there.
e. Who exactly is majoring on the minors? In 40+ years of ministry John MacArthur has one conference on a subject (and Grace Community Church has held 100+ conferences) and now, somehow, it’s the mark of his ministry?
6. Regarding the differences, I’d dare say that there is some rather wild misunderstandings about the nature of debate. It’s not a debate between people doing things differently. It’s a debate where one group is claiming to be prophets/healers/apostles and a second group claiming that the first group is wrong or lying. It’s a debate where one group is claiming to be “very hesitant to label anyone a wolf” and a second group claiming that that hesitancy opens the door to the wolves.
Speaking of hesitancy, Dr. Brown can say that he’s hesitant to label anyone a false teacher unless he knows for sure that they’re teaching in violation of the fundamentals, are lying or immoral. He can say that all he wants. Given his track record, I’d dare suggest that Dr. Brown would need someone to be rather outlandishly explicit in order to call them a false teacher.
7. Regarding Cessationism, Dispensationalism, PreTribulationism and Calvinism, it’s interesting that Dr. Brown seems to recognize that teaching that which is false is part of what provides a basis for the accusation that someone is a false teacher. Sadly he doesn’t follow through and examine the teaching of those who are accused of being “false teachers” (that he defends).
8. Regarding John MacArthur’s reaction to Tom Schreiner, it seems that Dr. Brown is willing to use a broad brush (and basically embrace everyone short of L Ron Hubbard) in a cautious effort to not shoot a few sheep where as John MacArthur is willing to use a broad brush of condemnation (and condemn some people unnecessarily…not that he has the power to actually condemn anyone to anywhere…) in an effort to root false teachers out of the Church.
I’m also continually wondering what exactly Dr. Brown thinks a person does with false teachers once they’re spotted?
How about when we spot the thousands of false teachers, we shine the light of God’s truth on them, call them to repentance and show love to both them and the millions that they’re deceiving through the whole process?
9. Regarding unity, I too long for unity. I don’t pursue unity at the expense of the truth of God’s glory, God’s word or God’s people. If our unity that is based in our common salvation (Eph. 4:1-7) does not turn into unity that is cemented in common belief and experience of Christ (Eph. 4:8-13), then we’ll only be continual victims of false teachers (Eph. 4:14-16).
Finally, many of us cessationists (including MacArthur) openly admit that many Pentecostals and Charismatics have tremendous evangelistic zeal. The problem isn’t with zeal, for zeal alone is not enough (i.e. Romans 10:2). That zeal needs to be refined and magnified in it’s effectiveness with more biblical truth, not less.
And that wraps up chapter seven!