Manuscript FragmentWhen reading Scripture, many Christians focus on the question, “What does this verse mean to me?” What the Bible means to a given individual, however, is completely irrelevant, for the true meaning of Scripture is found not in the subjective impression of the contemporary reader but in the objective intention of the original author. For this reason, we often speak of “authorial intent” as the proper goal of Bible interpretation, and rightly so.

But this only raises the question: exactly whose intent are we seeking to ascertain—the intent of the human author or the intent of the divine author? Or is it possible that there is actually no tangible difference between the two? Herein lies one of the key issues in hermeneutics today—the question of whether the human intention and divine intention of Scripture are one and the same.

Continue Reading…

Strange_Fire_LogoToday’s post is adapted from my Friday morning breakout session at the Strange Fire Conference. The title of my seminar was: Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard? 

Introduction

The title for our seminar this morning is “Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard?” That subtitle really defines our topic for this session. We want to consider the way in which the contemporary charismatic movement defines key spiritual gifts. And then we will compare the charismatic version with the Word of God to see how they match up.

As a side note, I want to note that much of the material we will cover today parallels what you will find in the Strange Fire book. I mention that at the outset, so that if you are interested in doing further study on this critical topic, you can do so by reading what Dr. MacArthur has published in that important resource.

Definition of Terms

Now, before we begin, it is important that we define several terms. If you were in my seminar yesterday afternoon, this part of the seminar will sound familiar. But I promise this is a different seminar, it is just important that we begin by making sure that we are being clear about the terms we are using:

Charismatic – The term “charismatic” is very broad, encompassing millions of people and thousands of denominations. Charismatics are known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit and for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory gifts described in the New Testament should be sought by Christians today. According to the International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, there are more than 20,000 distinct Pentecostal and Charismatic groups in the world. Continue Reading…

As the smoke continues to clear from the Strange Fire Conference, the internet has continued to blaze with various responses from digital evangelicalism. There have been many helpful responses, including Clint’s and Eric’s right here at The Cripplegate, as well as exceptional reflections from Tim Challies, Tim Raymond, and Fred Butler, outside the gate. You don’t want to miss Grace To You’s “Where do we go from here?” post over at their place. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point our readers back to the work that has been done on this issue here at The Cripplegate, well in advance of this conference. That’s especially the case because I continue to see objections being made that have long been answered. The post on What Cessationism Is Not is probably the most beneficial for many critics at the moment.

Strange Fire

There have also been numerous responses from the Charismatic side of the aisle. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of their responses has produced way more heat than light (though there have been some notable exceptions, which has been encouraging; it’s nice to know that there are some who have understood the purpose of the conference). Rather than engaging the substance and the merits of the biblical arguments offered in the conference, they’ve sought to isolate what were admittedly strong statements from the conference, literally taking them out of their context, and to sensationalize them by interpreting them in the worst possible way. For all the criticisms of how the conference painted with too broad a brush, they’ve picked up a few broad brushes of their own, as the substance of the biblical argumentation is being ignored while the entire conference is dismissed as unloving and divisive.

This is how they’ve chosen to advance the narrative of the conference. And it’s an ingenious strategy, because it shields people from having to deal honestly with the substance of the theological arguments that were presented. Unfortunately, the result of that less-than-accurate narrative has been that several myths about the Strange Fire Conference have been floating and flourishing around the interwebs. I thought I’d take a post to address just a few of them.

Continue Reading…

Strange_Fire_LogoToday’s post is adapted from my Thursday afternoon breakout session at the Strange Fire Conference. The title of my serminar was: A Word from the Lord? Evaluating the Modern Gift of Prophecy.

Introduction

The title for our seminar this afternoon is “A Word from the Lord? Evaluating the Modern Gift of Prophecy.” And that subtitle really defines our goal in this session. We want to look at prophecy in the contemporary charismatic movement and compare it to the Word of God.

It is important for me to note, at the beginning of this seminar, that much of what we will talk about today parallels what is found in the Strange Fire book. So, if you want to dig into this topic in more depth, I would recommend that resource as a place to start.

Definition of Terms

Now, before we begin, it is important that we define several terms:

Charismatic – The term “charismatic” is very broad, encompassing millions of people and thousands of denominations. Charismatics are known for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory gifts described in the New Testament are still in operation today and therefore should be sought by contemporary Christians. According to the International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, there are more than 20,000 distinct Pentecostal and Charismatic groups in the world. Those groups are generally subdivided into three broad categories or “waves.”

The First Wave refers to the classic Pentecostal Movement which began in the early 1900s under the leadership of men like Charles Parham and William Seymour. The Second Wave is known as the Charismatic Renewal Movement. It began in the 1960s as mainline Protestant denominations were influenced by Pentecostal theology. The Third Wave represents the influence of Pentecostal theology within evangelical denominations. It started under the leadership of C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber, both of whom were teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary at the time. Today, we will be using the term “charismatic” to encompass all three waves, doing so in an admittedly broad fashion. Continue Reading…

October 23, 2013

#StrangeFire

by Jesse Johnson

The Strange Fire conference ended last week, and it was widely covered and blogged—so much so that I thought it would be helpful to have one link with the notes from all the sessions as well as a summary for what was covered by each speaker

chain links.

For each session there is the Challies summary of it, and then at Cripplegate we ran something closer to the manuscript of each message. If you want the concise version, go to the Challies link, and if you want the more detailed version, check out our link. Challies writes summarizing the content as a listener, while the Cripplegate link is more like a manuscript used by the speaker. When the audio/video is up at GTY, we’ll link that here too.   Continue Reading…

Strange Fire

It’s been encouraging to see many in the family of faith offering up wisdom for consideration in the wake of the Strange Fire conference. Helpful angles on the conference have been brought from, among others, Clint Archer, Tim Challies, and Trevin Wax. Instead of elaborating on their work, I’ll offer a few afterthoughts for consideration of this impactful event:  Continue Reading…

firefightersWhen I was about nine years old, my parents woke me to witness a real-time tragedy that was visible from our back porch. Across the freeway a thatch-roof house was on fire. There were dozens of neighbors standing a safe distance away, transfixed in disbelief. The family who lived there were huddled together in their pajamas, as sympathetic strangers hugged them—there was nothing else to do.

The helplessness was palpable. Everyone there was willing to help, but impotent to do anything. We weren’t equipped, we weren’t trained, we weren’t able. Presently, the firefighters arrived in full gear, brandishing hoses and attacking the flames with fearless determination.

(Incidentally, no one asked them to treat the flames gently to avoid offending the smokers and lovers of bar-b-q.)

Later in life I attended a fire-safety lecture. The presentation involved a video montage of naughty kids playing with matches, over-stuffed electrical outlets, smokers flicking lit cigarettes out their car windows…followed by clips of blazing houses, fields, and forests, weeping families and charred bunnies (or something of equivalent sentimentality). The point was obvious: fire is dangerous, and idiots start them.

Continue Reading…

For those who were unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1,  (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9, Breakout Session 2, Q&A 2). It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

This conference is first and foremost to help the church. I don’t have any illusions about nonbelievers understanding what we’re talking about. And we’ve said that there are many nonbelievers in this movement. I don’t expect them to understand the truth, to desire it, to have a hunger for it, or to search it out. That’s not what unbelievers do unless they’re being prompted by the Holy Spirit.

But we do want to help the church. We’ve been speaking to the people who believe he Bible is the Word of God and believe God has revealed Himself clearly and consistently and without contradiction. This is for the true church, so that they can discern and be protected from error, and be a source of truth for others outside the church. We’ve been talking to God’s people.

Attacks on the Conference

In the response to this conference in the last number of hours and days, there have been some attacks back. And we’ve been unable to escape them because they show up on the Internet. I want to address those. I want to talk to you from my heart tonight.

The first thing that became obvious was that we were being accused of being unloving. But I would suggest to you that the most loving thing anyone could ever do would be to tell someone the truth. That is how love acts. It is unloving to leave people in darkness and error. We speak the truth in love. And it’s not just talking about the attitude or the tone of voice with which we speak it. To speak the truth in itself is an act of love, to deliver people from error.

In Acts 20 you remember Paul met with the Ephesian elders and he said, I haven’t ceased for three years to warn you with tears, knowing that both from the outside and the inside perverse deceptive men will rise up to lead you astray. In fact, to be a pastor or elder in the church, you have the duty according to Titus 1:9 of being able to point out error. This is how you care for the sheep, how you protect them.

Continue Reading…

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1,  (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9, Breakout Session 2). It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

Moderator: Todd Friel
Participants: John MacArthur (JM), Conrad Mbewe (CM), Phil Johnson (PJ), and Nathan Busenitz (NB)

Friel: We depart from here, we’re loaded with great teaching and theology and expository preaching. And it’s big. But I need short, because people have short attention spans. So how do I keep this—all that we have seen and heard—from getting into my church?

JM: I would be coming at it from a pastoral perspective. I would say: rather than create a groundswell at the level of your friends that raises distrust in the leadership, I think the right thing to do would be with a humble hart, go to the leaders, sit down with them and share your heart, give them a copy of the book. I say that, because the arguments in the book are frozen, you can digest it and think about it. If you just take the impressions of this week, they could be misrepresented. You could get caught up in the emotion and not be able to make the case. That’s why the book is important. I would, in kindness, and humility and patience, put the book in the hands of the leaders of the church, and say, “This is what’s on my heart. Could you read this and could we talk about it?” That’s a way to give honor to those who are over you in the Lord. The last thing I would want is for someone to leave this conference and go overturn a church and be a revolutionary and make life difficult for leaders in the church. I don’t mind the havoc that the truth creates, but handling the truth with great patience and instruction is our calling.

Continue Reading…

For those who are unable to view the free live stream of the Strange Fire Conference here at Grace Community Church, I thought I would do my best to provide a written summary of the various sessions as they unfold (Session One; Session Two; Session Three; Session Four, Session Five, Session Six, Breakout Session 1, Q&A 1, Session Eight, Session 9). I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, or if I’ll be able to do other sessions (check out Tim Challies’ blog for his coverage) But I thought a little would be better than nothing. It provides us with a helpful opportunity to interact with what is actually being said at the conference. Having said that, the following was transcribed in haste, and so please forgive any typos. I pray it’s a benefit to you.

Strange Fire

One of the underlying presuppositions of the Charismatic worldview is that if God is not actively intervening in creation through miracles, signs, and wonders, then you’ve got an absentee God.

Charismatics frequently lob this charge at non-Charismatics. If you believe the miraculous charismatic gifts have ceased, they say, your view is a cousin of Deism—virtually a denial that God is present and at work in this world’s affairs. If you doubt whether today’s Charismatics are truly speaking in tongues and getting direct revelation from God, they will tell you that your skepticism is tantamount to materialistic rationalism—essentially a form of rank unbelief.

That’s because, the only way the typical charismatic can envision God as active and personal is if He is constantly displaying His presence in creation by miraculous means; through constant, direct, extra-biblical revelation; or with supernatural signs and wonders in the heavens.

That way of thinking actually comes dangerously close to the Gnostic notion that God stands outside creation and therefore if he acts at all, it must be from outside the cosmos, by overturning the natural order of things.

If you think I exaggerate, let me quote some fairly typical charismatic sources.

Continue Reading…