March 21, 2014

John MacArthur Responds to John Piper regarding Strange Fire

by Mike Riccardi

MacArthur and PiperSeveral months ago, shortly after the Strange Fire Conference, notable continuationist pastor, John Piper, responded to some of the claims of the conference via his question-and-answer program, Ask Pastor John. Over the last couple of weeks, John MacArthur has begun responding to Piper’s remarks over at the Grace To You blog. These posts represent valuable, rubber-meets-the-road exegetical discussion as it relates to the cessation of the miraculous gifts, and it’s happening between two lifelong students of Scripture who many in our generation consider to be fathers in the faith. It’s surely an exchange you don’t want to miss.

I want to devote today’s post to recapping what’s been said there so far.

#1 Biblical Prophecy and Modern Confusion

In the first post, MacArthur begins with some comments of appreciation for John Piper and his ministry, speaking of his gratitude for Piper’s friendship and partnership in the Gospel. He also takes some time to briefly clarify an apparent misunderstanding of what and wasn’t being said about Piper at the Strange Fire Conference.

He then moves quickly into addressing the issues that Piper brought up in his first podcast. First, he comments on Piper’s definition of prophecy, and notes how he “illustrates one of the central concerns of . . . Strange Fire: the charismatic movement, even down to the most conservative continuationists, has entirely redefined the New Testament miraculous gifts.” He goes on to engage with that redefinition.

Biblical Prophecy and Modern ConfusionNext, MacArthur addresses Piper’s comments regarding Christians’ “obedience” to texts like 1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 14:1, and 1 Corinthians 14:39. Piper says he tries to obey those texts and teaches others to obey them. MacArthur observes that the implication that cessationists disobey those texts is a sort of begging the question, since “the very claim in question is whether the miraculous gifts have continued past that foundational apostolic era. To simply appeal to those texts, which were addressed to believers during a time in which the gifts were operational, and to assume Christians are to apply and obey them in precisely the same way today,” is to assume what you’re trying to prove. He also revisits the implied accusation at the end of the post, showing how cessationists do not disobey these clear passages of Scripture.

Before that, though, MacArthur goes on to provide a sound exegesis of those texts, quoting both from his book, Strange Fire, and Thomas Edgar’s Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit. These provide helpful answers to how cessationists understand these key texts. I would really encourage you to read the full post to learn  more.

#2 Prophecy Redefined

In this second post, MacArthur began responding to the three texts Piper cited as exegetical defense for his view of fallible prophecy, which included 1 Thessalonians 5:19–21, 1 Corinthians 11:4–5, and 1 Corinthians 13:8–12.

In his handling of 1 Thessalonians 5, Piper proposes that the command to test prophecies necessarily implies that legitimate prophecies can be fallible. Why test and evaluate them if prophets “spoke with infallible, inerrant, Scripture-quality authority?” A common assumption behind the continuationist case, MacArthur addresses this helpfully:

But isn’t that precisely what we see in the Old Testament—God commanding His people to test those who spoke with infallible, inerrant, Scripture-quality authority? Whether someone predicted falsely (Deut. 18:20–22), or predicted truly and yet prescribed falsely (Deut. 13:1–5)—if what he spoke was not in accord with God’s previously revealed words—God commanded the people to judge him as a false prophet and condemn him to death. So, does the command to test and judge Old Testament prophets imply they could legitimately deliver fallible prophecies? Absolutely not. . . . To assume, as Piper does, that being told to test New Testament prophecies implies a brand-new category of “fallible prophecy” is baseless.

Prophecy RedefinedMacArthur goes on to make the important observation that if Piper’s view of fallible prophecy was true, it would constitute a radical shift between the nature of OT prophecy and NT prophecy, without the slightest hint from any NT writer. He provides a clarifying quote from pastor and professor Sam Waldron. Dr. Waldron writes,

If New Testament prophecy in distinction from Old Testament prophecy was not infallible in its pronouncements, this would have constituted an absolutely fundamental contrast between the Old Testament institution and the New Testament institution. To suppose that a difference as important as this would be passed over without explicit comment is unthinkable.

This is an important observation because it places the burden of proof upon the continuationist to explain how the nature of prophecy changed radically between the OT and NT without any explicit Scriptural comment. Inferences drawn from texts like 1 Thessalonians 5:19–21 won’t meet that burden. Read the whole thing.

#3 Fallibility and Female Prophets

In the third post, MacArthur addresses Piper’s second exegetical argument for fallible prophecy. Piper turns to 1 Corinthians 11, and says that for women to prophesy infallibly (1 Cor 11:4–5) would undermine the biblical teaching on headship and submission (1 Tim 2:12). Thus, he concludes that prophecy must be fallible.

But MacArthur asks a helpful question that I think really models a sound methodology for this discussion. He writes,

But again I ask: Is the only legitimate answer to infer such a radical redefinition of the gift of prophecy, especially without a single explicit comment from any New Testament author? Is there another interpretation, which fits all the biblical data, does not depend on inference, and requires less explaining away of explicit prohibitions? Indeed, there is a still more excellent way.

Again, I appreciate these questions, because they put the burden of proof where it belongs: on the continuationist. The cessationist is often chided because he does not point to a NT text that says, “The miraculous gifts shall cease at the closing of the canon.” But, particularly where prophecy is concerned, the cessationist is simply defining prophecy as it had always been defined. It’s the continuationist who insists that a radical redefinition has taken place, and that based only on inferences. But, as MacArthur says,Fallibility and Female Prophets if we can provide an alternative interpretation that strains credulity just a bit less, that interpretation should be preferred by default.

MacArthur goes on to offer those very interpretations in the rest of the post. Strongest amongst his three points is the observation that the existence of Old Testament prophetesses (like Miriam [Exod 15:20], Deborah [Jdg 4:4], and Huldah [2 Kgs 22:14]) prophesying with infallible, Scripture-level authority (since all agree that was the only kind of prophesy in the OT) did not undermine biblical gender roles. If Piper’s argument is that women exercising infallible prophecy doesn’t square with complementarianism, he’s either got to argue that the Old Testament was egalitarian or he’s got to abandon his objection. Read the whole post for a full explanation.

#4 Prophecy, “the Perfect,” and the End of What?

In this fourth post, MacArthur responds to the last of the three texts Piper provides as his support for continuationism and fallible prophecy: 1 Corinthians 13:8–12. Anybody remotely familiar with the cessation/continuation discussion knows how much ink has been spilled over this passage, specifically on the nature and timing of “the perfect.” Both cessationists and continuationists vigorously insist that this text supports their view, and puts the nail in the coffin for the other view.

Prophecy, the Perfect, and the End of WhatWhat’s instructive, however, is that MacArthur demonstrates both of the following: (a) cessationists can disagree on what the perfect is and still be cessationists, and (b) cessationists and continuationists can agree on when the perfect comes and yet still disagree about when the gifts cease.  He then draws the following helpful conclusion:

This demonstrates that a conscientious student of Scripture—whether cessationist or continuationist—should not look to 1 Corinthians 13:8–12 as a trump card in this discussion, imagining that a simple quotation of the passage should make it obvious that his view is the right one. This text has to be carefully handled to make the author’s intention plain (2 Tim 2:15).

Both he and Piper agree that “the perfect” does not come until the believer sees Christ face to face. But while Piper says the gifts continue until the perfect comes, MacArthur says that’s inaccurate. In 1 Corinthians 13, “Paul is not trying to teach the Corinthians when the gifts will cease, but rather that there will come an end to the knowledge conveyed through those gifts.” He concludes:

So, although it is often used as a “slam dunk” text to support continuationism, 1 Corinthians 13 teaches nothing directly about when the gifts cease. Paul is once again correcting the Corinthian believers—the knowledge they so highly prized, which came as a result of prophetic gifts, would one day be outshined by the enduring character of love. Rather than trying to show one another up with ostentatious displays of their giftedness, they should focus their energy on loving one another.

Given the assumptions many bring to this text, that interpretation may seem a bit hard to swallow at first. But I would encourage you to patiently read through MacArthur’s arguments (as well as those of Sam Waldron and Thomas Edgar, whom he quotes) and test it against all of the biblical data. I think he makes a sound case.

Conclusion

It looks like there’s more to come in this series, but both cessationists and continuationists ought to be encouraged by the dialogue that has been spawned so far. Two key evangelical leaders who are both solidly committed to the authority of Scripture, are digging into the text and seeking to bring clarity to a difficult doctrinal issue. Certainly we would all do well to pay careful attention to what is said.

Further, I think I’m on safe ground when I claim that neither of them is simply engaging in theological exhibitionism. Neither of them is content merely to spawn dialogue and generate discussion, as if we should be “always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” These men expend their efforts so that God’s people might be guided into coming to conclusionsanswering questions, not merely raising them. As you engage with their (and others’) arguments and measure them against the text of Scripture, do so asking the Holy Spirit to grant you illumination and understanding—that you might come to a firm position on this issue. Come down off the fence and stand firm on the rock of Scripture.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Dan Phillips

    To me, the great irony is how Piper professes his deep admiration for MacArthur, indicates doesn’t actually know what MacArthur said, then goes to respond, anyway. MacArthur expresses deep concern for some of Piper’s positions, but Piper doesn’t see any need to hear him out before responding.

    Conversely, MacArthur actually deals with what Piper actually said.

    Guess whose profession of love and admiration weighs heavier to me?

    • bmh

      Dan, Are veiled accusations towards Piper loving, particularly on a secondary gospel issue such as the cessationsim/continuationism debate? Not for me, but then again, I’ll just as quickly be accused of being unloving for merely entertaining that assessment for some of MacArthur remarks, like these:

      “I hope Christians will see that the support for fallible prophecy and the continuation of the miraculous gifts is exegetically suspect and does not hold up to biblical scrutiny. And I hope they will challenge anyone who attempts to diminish and degrade the full power of God’s prophetic word by redefining it according to continuationist presuppositions.

      “There is no virtue in allowing error to continue unabated and unchecked. Confronting and correcting it is often unpleasant for all involved, but it is the loving thing to do. I’ll have more to say about the pastoral duty to confront and correct error, as a matter of sincere Christian love, in my next post.” – John McArthur

      I appreciate that John Piper didn’t feel the need to escalate his position in this way.

      Mike: “Further, I think I’m on safe ground when I claim that neither of them is simply engaging in theological exhibitionism.”

      I’m not so sure you can say that when giving Pastor MacArthur’s blog posts a fair read. I do appreciate that he tried and his language is certainly more retrained than usual – but overall there are times where it seems he slips into exhibitionism.

      • Dan Phillips

        I was veiled? Sorry, sure didn’t mean to be. The spectacle of Piper in effect brushing off MacArthur’s call of alarm and appeal to re-think, while professing deep respect and love, and then “responding” to MacArthur on the basis of hearsay alone, is less than adorning to him. Meanwhile, MacArthur actually deals with what Piper actually said, firsthand.

        And MacArthur’s exactly right. Thank God he had the boldness to say so in so many words. Would to God that Piper would take it to heart, and undo the damage his position does — does even to the things he surely holds most precious.

        Unveiled enough?

        • bmh

          “I was veiled?”

          Oh no, you came across quite clear. I was repsonding to your last remark:

          “Guess whose profession of love and admiration weighs heavier to me?”

          I then concluded you meant that MacAurthur “weighs heavier” and then I responded in that vein…that is, I responded with: What about MacAurthur’s veiled accusations? and here’s a quote for you to chew on as an example.

          But I understood quite clearly that Piper had angered and offended you.

          • Jon Loewen

            Dan never said nor implied that Piper angered or offended him. He said that Piper is not hearing out what MacArthur has to say. You have said nothing to what Dan said. Rather you have accused him of anger and offense. Please don’t make stuff up.

          • brad

            Jon,

            Here is my reading of the comments:

            Dan is defending MacArthur against Piper on the grounds of character (MacArthur listened to Piper and was charitable; on the other hand, Piper didn’t invest enough time in actually understanding MacArthur’s arguments and concerns) and intellect (MacArthur dealt with the biblical texts and Piper didn’t). Dan is upset with Piper and believes Piper should repent of his teaching because Piper is not being consistent with his own theology and is doing damage to the glory of God and the body of Christ.

            Brad

          • Jon Loewen

            You’re still missing the point. Don’t provide an assessment of what Dan didn’t say (your reading). Respond to what he did say, ie. he said Piper isn’t hearing out MacArthur. If you disagree with Dan’s statement, show how Dan is wrong.

          • brad

            Sorry bro, I was just trying to clarify what Dan DID say. Here are his words…

            “The spectacle of Piper in effect brushing off MacArthur’s call of alarm and appeal to re-think, while professing deep respect and love, and then “responding” to MacArthur on the basis of hearsay alone, is less than adorning to him. Meanwhile, MacArthur actually deals with what Piper actually said, firsthand.”

            “Would to God that Piper would take it to heart, and undo the damage his position does — does even to the things he surely holds most precious.”

            Peace,
            Brad

          • Jon Loewen

            Then why not ask Dan to clarify his own remarks?

          • brad

            Good point brother! I should have asked Dan if I had interpreted his comments correctly! Hopefully, Dan will weigh in and let me know if I interpreted him correctly.

            I appreciate your question and push back!

      • Brad, there is neither anything veiled nor accusatory in the quotes you cited from MacArthur’s posts. He believes the doctrines of fallible prophecy and continuationism to fall short of what the Bible teaches, not having adequate exegetical support. He also believes that these doctrines are errors. Why shouldn’t he say so, respectfully but firmly, as he has?

        Regarding the exhibitionism, I don’t think you’re using that word in the same way I was using it in the post. My point was, neither MacArthur nor Piper views this discussion as theory, or as a game. Neither of them approaches this topic as just a nice, intellectually stimulating discussion, at the end of which people can just be content to say, “Hmm. Good arguments on both sides. What’s for lunch?” MacArthur’s efforts in the conference, the book, and now these blog posts have been expended not just to expose (“exhibit”) the arguments for cessationism to the public. They’ve been expended so that readers would seriously consider the Scriptures, and then make a decision on the issue one way or another.

        • bmh

          Hi Mike, thanks for the clarifications, but there wasn’t a great deal of context around your use of exhibitionism.

          Exhbitionism can also be interepreted in terms of wanting an ongoing public debate on this issue which MacArthur clearly wants here and which Piper doesn’t – and the continual blog posts and conferences from GTY speak to that.

          Personally, I think saying things like…. “There is no virtue in allowing error to continue unabated and unchecked.” while making no conessions that your opponent could be right, leaves a great deal to be inferred. MacArthur, for whatever reason, wants this fight and he’s continuing to beat the drum and up the stakes. That is strange fire to some of us indeed.

          • Hi Mike, thanks for the clarifications, but there wasn’t a great deal of context around your use of exhibitionism.

            I actually think there was an explicit explanation that immediately followed my use of the term, quite similar to the one I gave you in the follow-up comment.

            …wanting an ongoing public debate on this issue which MacArthur clearly wants here and which Piper doesn’t – and the continual blog posts and conferences from GTY speak to that.

            I disagree. Surely, MacArthur wanted to force discussion on the issue by having the conference and publishing the book. Piper responded with 5 audio Q&As, each lasting between 5 and 10 minutes. MacArthur is simply responding to those responses. And he’s doing so carefully and slowly, really examining each of the arguments Piper has put forward, in an effort to bring clarity to a doctrinal issue that confuses many.

            Personally, I think saying things like…. “There is no virtue in allowing error to continue unabated and unchecked,” while making no conessions that your opponent could be right, leaves a great deal to be inferred.

            Why should he be constrained to display such phony humility when he doesn’t actually believe that Piper could be right on this issue?

            MacArthur, for whatever reason, wants this fight…
            The way you poison the well with such ease is almost mystifying. This isn’t a fight to anyone who understands that two grown men can disagree with one another, even strongly, without necessarily being unloving or spoiling for a fight.

            Yes, speaking with conviction on just about anything may seem like “strange fire” to those who have imbibed the spirit of a culture that prizes indecision and demonizes certainty of any kind. But perhaps the problem doesn’t lie at the feet of those men who would patiently exposit the Scriptures, actually draw conclusions therefrom, and stand on them with resolve and conviction.

  • Brad

    Thanks for the overview Mike! Most of the discussion is a bit over my head, but I do have a couple of questions. It seems like the big point of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4 is that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to individuals in the body of Christ because Christians are so closely connected to one another and need one another. My question is this: Do cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit still gives gifts to the body of Christ so that believers can build each other up? If so, what does this look like in the practice and life of a local church that is cessationist?

    • Great question: I’d say it looks the same as in a charismatic church, except for the sign gifts (apostleship, miracles, languages, and healing). In other words, we still believe that God gives gifts to those in the church to strengthen the church, and edify one another. Practically, that looks like teaching church membership, and encouraging members to be involved in a way that uses their unique gifts and callings by serving the body. Is that helpful Brad?

      • brad

        Makes sense!

  • Billy Bedingfield

    Long time lurker, first time writer.

    If the gift of prophecy exists, then there a couple of other issues that we need to deal with:

    First, which “prophet” should I follow? There are may self proclaimed prophets but how can I determine if this man is a true prophet? Do I wait for an audible word from God or a sign? I understand the criteria in the OT. But, there is nothing in the New Testament that gives criteria for prophets in the setting of the church. It would seem that if prophecy is an important office in the church, then Paul would have likely addressed the criteria for prophets in his pastoral epistles.

    If the person is a prophet, then should I consider his words from God as complete truth 100% of the time? If we go by Piper and Grudem’s theory of fallible prophecy, then how do I determine which prophecies to follow and which ones to ignore? If I follow every prophecy of the prophet yet many are found to be false, at what point do I say that this guy is a hack? If Piper and Grudem are wrong yet there are infallible prophets of God today, shouldn’t I actively seek these prophets because I want and need the Word of God?

    If the prophet hears “a Word from the Lord” and states a known scriptural truth (think Jesus Calling book), then what’s the point?

    This whole prophecy thing opens up way too many questions. I think I’ll stick with scripture as my guide for being equipped for every good work.

  • The Predestined Blog

    Another problem with prophecy is what I call the “law of unintended Holy Spirit exegesis.” I deal with this issue a lot, especially with those at IHOP-KC (btw can anybody tell me here why Francis Chan a Master’s Guy, who recruits Master’s Guys for his seminary would even consider IHOP legit…?). What this “law” is that they often prophecy about very controversial topics such as eschatology or interpretation of verses. For example, they claim to have visions and prophecies about post-tribulationalism and say the “Spirit” gave them some prophecy based on an allegorical interpretation of Song of Solomon. Now, we know that many good solid Christians hold those views, but what they don’t realize is that the unintended consequence of those “prophecies” is that the Holy Spirit has actually taken the side of post-trib or allegorical interpretation of Song of Solomon. No more controversy now right? Another unintended consequence is that inevitably they will quote a certain translation say NIV 1984 in their “prophesy” so is that the translation the Spirit approves of at least for that verse? I would say 99% of these people do not understand these “unforeseen” consequences.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Since the “continuationists” (Piper, et al) insist that ALL the original apostolic sign gifts have persisted until today (not just tongues and prophecies), why not dispense with all the back-and-forth academics about whether their pronouncements are biblical and just challenge them to demonstrate a healing? There’s no lack of people who could certainly use one, and it seems to me we could put this to bed in an hour or so.

    Go to the nearest hospital burn unit and heal a patient–something clear to see–and we can settle this thing once and for all. We can compare verses, pro and con, until the cows come. But show me a burn victim whose skin is made whole again, or a child whose birth defect is erased, and we’re all done.

  • Harry

    Mike, can you outline your thoughts on why Paul includes in 1 Cor 14:29-31, an infallible inerrant prophecy (to strengthen the church V26) can be lost, not recorded, simply discarded due to Paul’s orderly worship instructions? Yet Paul at the same time, encourages prophecy and infers it should not be forbidden V39 to a group of people who have already received his letters? Yet we do not have a single record of these infallible inerrant prophecies. I also note that those who think they are prophets yet disobey Paul’s directives are not stoned but ignored? Paul acknowledges the source is God V36, yet Paul’s instructions infer that the very description of prophecy differs from the Old Testament. Thoughts?

    • …why Paul includes in 1 Cor 14:29-31, an infallible inerrant prophecy (to strengthen the church V26) can be lost, not recorded, simply discarded due to Paul’s orderly worship instructions?

      Hey Harry,

      Thanks for your question. As I read it, though, I’m recognizing that it could be going in a couple of different directions. Is your question basically, “How could infallible prophecy not be recorded?” Or is it more than that: “Why does Paul think orderliness is a sufficient motive to silence prophets who have truly received infallible revelation?”

      If the first, my response would be to observe that not every Old Testament prophecy — which we all agree was infallible — was recorded in Scripture. Elijah and Elisha were prophets — even paradigmatic prophets — and yet we have recorded much more of what they did than what they said. Do you believe that both Elijah and Elisha prophesied the infallible Word of God only in the places we have recorded in the books of the Kings? Far more likely is the reality that infallible prophecy does not always require inscripturation, and yet is no less binding and authoritative on the people of God to whom it comes.

      If the second, I’m not sure I can answer why Paul thinks orderliness is a sufficient motive to “discard” infallible prophecy. But I do think it’s plain that he thinks this. To argue from this curiosity, “Well, Paul wouldn’t suggest that the infallible Word of God be discarded simply because he wants to preserve decorum. Surely this must be a different kind of prophecy,” is an unbelievably large leap. Again, to suppose that such a radical redefinition of prophecy has taken place without explicit comment, resting only on these types of inferences, while the NT continues to use the same “prophecy” terminology that it used in the OT now to refer to both OT and NT prophets, is just a stretch I can’t make of the text.

      Yet Paul at the same time, encourages prophecy and infers [sic] it should not be forbidden V39 to a group of people who have already received his letters?

      I don’t think the encouragement of verse 39 stands at odds with the cessationist interpretation in the least. Paul is encouraging the Corinthian congregation, as a whole, to desire to prophesy more especially than they desire to speak in tongues. That he’s not commanding this of every individual in the congregation seems plain from 1 Corinthians 12:29 that “all are not prophets.” So he’s saying, you Corinthians, as a whole, are desiring that you may speak in tongues because it’s showier. What you ought to be concerned about is that as a congregation you be marked more by prophesy (which is always intelligible to all present, since you’re speaking your own language) than tongues (since foreign languages require an interpreter for everyone to understand). None of that would rule out his principle of orderliness.

      Yet we do not have a single record of these infallible inerrant prophecies.

      Yes, again, I do not believe that Scripture teaches that prophecies have to be inscripturated to be considered infallible and inerrant, as I think the case of the prophets Elijah and Elisha show plainly.

      I also note that those who think they are prophets yet disobey Paul’s directives are not stoned but ignored?

      Well, I wouldn’t use a term so mild as “ignored.” If they prophesied falsely they are to be rejected as false prophets (1 John 4:1-6; 1 Thess 5:19-21). If they were prophesying truly but simply disobeying Paul’s directions for orderliness I believe they’d be reprimanded (as Paul is doing in 1 Cor 12-14, and subsequent to the letter, on the basis of his directives in 1 Cor 12-14), and if they were obstinate they would be subject to the church discipline process.

      But here your argument seems to be: OT prophets were stoned if they were wrong; NT prophets are not stoned if they disobey directives for orderliness; therefore NT prophecy is not OT prophecy. But that simply doesn’t follow. Even if we gave you the benefit of the doubt and said of the second premise, “NT prophets are not stoned if they prophesy falsely,” your conclusion still wouldn’t follow.

      Here’s why: It’s very reasonable to expect that the same sort of capital punishment penalties would not continue from the Old Covenant era to the New Covenant era. We also don’t stone adulterers/adulteresses (Lev 20:10), disobedient children (Exod 21:17), and people who go to mediums or spiritists (Lev 20:7). But the change in temporal penalties for those sins between the Israelite theocracy and the church does not change the character of those sins. They’re still sins, even if in an age of grace (and in the case of an institution, i.e., the church, that is not governed by civil theocratic law like the nation of Israel was) the penalties may have changed. In the same way, prophecy is still prophecy, even if the temporal (note: not spiritual) penalty for false prophecy has changed with the changing of the covenants.

      Paul acknowledges the source is God V36, yet Paul’s instructions infer [sic] that the very description of prophecy differs from the Old Testament.

      As I hope the above has made plain, I simply disagree that Paul’s instructions imply “that the very description of prophecy differs from the Old Testament.” I just don’t find that to be a persuasive claim; in fact, I find it to be quite far-fetched, with whatever precious little support it has resting exclusively on extremely tenuous inferences.

      Hope that helps, Harry.

      • Harry

        Thanks Mike for your detailed response.

        You argument regarding Elisha and Elijah surely is an argument from silence? Whereas Corinthians states prophesy was discarded even interrupted for correct worship orderly purposes.

        So if I hold your cessationist position, I would see those partially discarded prophecies as inerrant, infallible not inscripurated, but outside of scripture given to a specific group? If that is possible, then, is that not the claim of some charismatics?

        Second, let me argue from silence for a moment. Paul instructs the Corinthians in 1 Cor 14:6 to bring a tongue, revelation, knowledge, prophecy. (He tells them to do it properly of course so people benefit). But would a cessationist acknowledge this practice continued even after Corinth had received the early circulating letters of 1 & 2 Thess, Gal, Hebrews and Matthew? Is that sufficient sola scrptura at that point to give instructions by the church leader to stop such practices, now that they have scripture. Is there any record of such instructions? Are there any written instruction from Church fathers forbidding the exercise of these gifts because of the circulating letters, or until the books were collated …..around 367AD? Hence there would be many prophecies during that period inerrant, infallible, not inscripurated…gone missing?

        • Thanks for following up, Harry. I’ll take your not addressing the rest of the points I made as a sign that your other objections were answered satisfactorily.

          You argument regarding Elisha and Elijah surely is an argument from silence?

          Not quite. It’s an illustration of the invalidity of an underlying assumption in your own argument. That assumption seems to be: “It is impossible that infallible, inerrant prophecy should ever not be inscripturated.” Is that your position? If so, I would simply challenge you to demonstrate the validity of that assertion from Scripture. I don’t believe you can do so, and, in fact, I think we have fairly plain examples to the contrary in the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Or do you believe that Elijah and Elisha only prophesied (which, again, must be infallible, inerrant prophecy, being OT prophecy as it was) in the instances we have recorded in the Books of the Kings?

          Whereas Corinthians states prophesy was discarded even interrupted for correct worship orderly purposes.

          I surely don’t deny this. But it doesn’t pose any problem for my position — unless your assumption, that infallible prophecy must be inscriptured, is true. I don’t believe it is.

          So if I hold your cessationist position, I would see those partially discarded prophecies as inerrant, infallible not inscripurated, but outside of scripture given to a specific group?

          Yes, that’s plain. Prophets were multiplied in the early church as a fulfillment of the promise of Joel 2. Joel 2 must have been speaking about OT prophecy, because he was prophesying in the OT times and that’s all he could have been speaking about. Peter says what was taking place on Pentecost was the fulfillment of that. So there is inescapable continuity between the OT gift and the NT gift: they were one in the same.

          So, it’s natural to believe that in the abundance of these prophets there were an abundance of prophecies, and we don’t have all of those recorded for us in Scripture. (For example, Philip’s daughters are called prophetesses [Ac 21:9], but we don’t have any of their prophecies recorded anywhere.) So yes, there were prophecies given to prophets in the early church that were infallible revelation from God (i.e., were prophecies), and yet God’s intention for that revelation was apparently not to have it be inscripturated for the church throughout the ages.

          If that is possible, then, is that not the claim of some charismatics?

          Some Charismatics may claim that, sure. And if that’s as far as they went, there’d be no problem. The problem that the Charismatics don’t want to abide by the stipulations of prophecy (specifically the 100% accuracy rule) and continuationists introduce the unbiblical category of fallible prophecy to explain why certain prophecies were lost. Both of those moves are unwarranted by Scripture.

          But would a cessationist acknowledge this practice [i.e., the miraculous gifts] continued even after Corinth had received the early circulating letters of 1 & 2 Thess, Gal, Hebrews and Matthew?

          Yes. The cessationist believes those gifts functioned until the close of the Apostolic age (Eph 2:20). And I suppose there is some disagreement even among cessationists about precisely when the gifts ceased — whether it was with the last stroke of the Apostle John’s pen, or if there was a gradual dying-out of them afterwards, and some even wonder if the gifts began to wane before the end of the first century (though without ceasing completely) as evidenced by their absence from the pastoral epistles, which were written relatively later than the others and which included explicit instructions about how the church was to function in the absence of Apostles (and their instruction centered on the leadership of pastors and elders, not apostles, prophets, healers, and tongues-speakers).

          Is that sufficient sola scrptura at that point to give instructions by the church leader to stop such practices, now that they have scripture.

          No. The presence of some written revelation does not, in principle, rule out the need for continuing revelation. The argument from sola Scriptura is that it is the fullness of God’s revelation as given in the totality of His written revelation (Genesis to Revelation) is what makes further revelation unnecessary in the light of its sufficiency.

          Is there any record of such instructions? Are there any written instruction from Church fathers forbidding the exercise of these gifts because of the circulating letters, or until the books were collated …..around 367AD?

          I doubt it, but again, that’s not my argument. See above. Also, you reveal a misconception here. The sufficiency of Scripture is not built on the collation or collection of all of written revelation in one place (even though I think that happened before AD 367). The doctrine of sufficiency is built upon the principle that that sufficient revelation has been given, not necessarily that it’s been equally available to all people in all parts of the world throughout history. That’s why I reject your argument that there could have been prophecies continuing up until the codification of the canon (and, incidentally why I reject the argument that the gifts may be more operational in places in the world where there is no access to Scripture). That’s not the point. All of Scripture has been given. The fullness of revelation has been revealed. The foundation has been laid (cf., again, Eph 2:20).

          And of course there’s more to that answer. The purpose of signs and wonders had always been to testify of significant movements in God’s redemptive plan, such as the giving of new revelation and demonstrating the divine affirmation of the Apostles and their message. After the apostles’ message had been communicated (again, through the completion of the Scriptures), and after they themselves passed away, those attesting signs passed away with them, as their purpose had been fulfilled. But now we’re getting a bit more broad than the post intends to go. (Again, this isn’t the place for a full-blown defense of cessationism or a re-hashing of every continuationist argument.) You can read more about that here, and in books like Edgar’s Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, a little bit in Waldron’s, To Be Continued?, chapter 10 of Sinclair Ferguson’s The Holy Spirit, and in pretty much any book on the Holy Spirit written before 1901.

  • Bradley Rogers

    I wonder if anyone could answer some questions on this? First, I consider myself
    reformed and heard about the charismatic movement as heresy years ago. People who prophesied where the thing never happened; churches that would have
    laughter and convulsions on the ground as good worship, etc. I studied and listened to Dr MacArthur a lot of years, and now find the path that the MacArthur camp has gone to be flat wrong. This strange fire conference really ends any doubt on the tactics of accusation, name calling and extreme divisiveness. It was brought to me by someone and I want to gather facts about it. If anyone could educate me and add insight please do.

    a. headlines from the web are “MacArthur sends 500 Million Christians to hell”. Is it true yes or no?

    b. are all “Charismatic believers” considered condemned to hell?

    c. Website cartoon titled one day in hell, 2 men standing there, someone says: God?!? what are YOU doing here? answers: well one day John MacArthur appointed himself judge and I didnt make the cut. How would Dr MacArthur reply?

    d. At the strange fire conference, someone of the Charismatic side passing out books says all of his books were confiscated by security. An article in defense of the conference said no, thats a complete fabrication and a total lie; and also if he wants his boxes of books back he can come by and claim them anytime. Were the books confiscated yes or no?

    e. Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. Is this not exactly what those in the MacArthur camp are doing now?

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
    whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    f. Is the MacArthur camp crossing out this passage and adding some text to say only those who meet the approval of technical doctrine established by us, will not perish?

    g. Is salvation available to everyone? yes or no. Well yes of course, you would say. We are just doing what the bible tells us. We read the bible our way, whoever
    disagrees is clearly a heretic going to hell thats all. Is this accurate or not?

    h. Is the bible alone able to save anyone? Can a person make a profession of faith in Christ and be saved apart from having studied and accepted the MacArthur doctrine?

    One of the major questions I am trying to find out is this: Is the bible a dead book apart from the MacArthur doctrine to interpret what it says?

    • Jon Loewen

      Bradley, you state “you want to gather facts”, yet you deliberately avoid the source and quote 2nd or 3rd hand innuendo. If you want the facts, read MacArthur’s Strange Fire book and engage with the biblical facts.

    • brad

      Hey Bradley,

      I’m sure I can’t answer all of your questions, but I would encourage you to honestly consider the arguments and concerns that MacArthur and company put forth. Personally, I have learned tons from the Cripplegate and MacArthur, although I have learned that I must dig through their rhetoric (i.e. how they say things, which is often offensive to people outside their circles) and defensiveness (i.e. they are smart, quick-witted, and sarcastic – and more interested in biblical argument than “feelings”) to get to the gold!

      Brad

    • TimEriksen

      a) No
      b) No
      c) I don’t know. My guess is that he would be grieved that someone made the cartoon, and that you would even ask the question.
      d) No
      e) Not even close. He is defending the truth.
      f) No that is absurd.
      g) Of course salvation is available. No, your not even close to accurate in your statement.
      h) No, the Bible doesn’t save. God does. See Romans 10.
      Re: the second question: Of course. Your question is so absurd it mreally makes me wonder if it is serious.

      As for your closing question, the Bible is certainly not a dead book; however, It has only one true interpretation.

      • Bradley Rogers

        c. Those on the continualist side or Charismatics have perceived that MacArthur has declared their religion to be satanic, and the followers to be anathema, hence the cartoon is just “a picture says a 1000 words”

        d. Is Mark Driscoll lying when he tweeted that security confiscated his books? I have no idea who he is, nor anything about their church, but the claim of confiscating books in this venue? I find suspicious and indicates a significant event if its true. You say its not true?

        e. This comes back to humility or the lack thereof. “…God, I’m glad I’m not like the robbers, thieves, drunkards or charismatics…”

        g. Do you know who else has said this in history over the centuries?

        h. The concept is sola Scriptura meaning only Scripture. I wouldn’t write a trick question, can a person be saved by an understanding from Scripture alone or is another doctrine needed?

        closing question, you said it has only one true interpretation? Well then the scary question becomes do you know the (one true) interpretation? what level of certainty?

        You said items a, b are ‘no’ so then there are may many saved Christians, in Christ, who are part of charismatic churches, is that right?

        • Dennis HC

          c) They are wrong. But the majority of self-professed charismatics worldwide, given that many of the ascribe to either the false health-wealth-prosperity “Gospel” or Catholicism, do not believe in a biblical Gospel.

          d) Here’s a link with an embedded video, you can see the truth for yourself. Mark Driscoll clearly gives away the books, and his after-the-fact lie about that fact is one of the several public reasons that, in my view, disqualify him from being a pastor/elder.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/10/24/pastor-mark-driscolls-blatant-lie-about-having-his-books-confiscated-by-conference-organizers/

          e) I urge you to read how Paul and others defended the biblical truth in the Gospels, and early church fathers defended the faith from heresy, and Reformation-era authors forwarded the true Gospel against Rome. You might positively faint dead away from the certitude!

          g) Honestly, I’m not even sure what you’re talking about, at this point.

          h) The information in the Bible is certainly sufficient to save, but only God is the author of salvation via His Spirit through the sacrifice of Christ.

          Pastor John has clearly indicated that there are many earnest charismatics who love Jesus and are saved, even though he disagrees with them on charismatic doctrine.

          You’ve asked lots of questions, may I now ask you this… are you honestly searching with an open mind for good faith answers to your questions, or are you just trolling? In answering you, I’m choosing to believe the best, but I’d appreciate a bit of good faith back from you.

    • Bradley,

      I’m sorry, but you seem to have entirely misunderstood the purpose of this post. It was simply to shed light on the discussion that is happening between Drs. MacArthur and Piper on this issue. This is not the place to re-address every issue related to cessationism and Charismaticism, Strange Fire, and whether John MacArthur &co. are big fat meanies.

      Nevertheless, because folks have responded to your questions as helpfully as can be expected, I’m going to leave your comment up. However, further comments in this vein (not just from you, but from others as well) will be deleted as off-topic.

      In the meantime, I think it would be extremely beneficial for you to look through a number of posts that we’ve done here on the Cripplegate, which are likely to answer nearly all your questions:

      First, I think you should very seriously consider this post, which aims to expose the myths that have been propagated about the Strange Fire Conference, myths you yourself have perpetuated in your questions above.

      Secondly, you should spend time with the information linked through this page, going through what was actually said at the Strange Fire Conference.

      Third, if questions still remain after that, you should become familiar with the posts linked through this page, as they deal with a number of the exegetical and theological issues related to this discussion.
      I hope all that helps as you continue to seek the Lord and His truth on this important subject.

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