January 14, 2014

Glorifying God when the Gamma gets you Green

by Lyndon Unger

It’s been several months after the Strange Fire conference, and there has been no shortage of protest, complaint, misrepresentation, rudeness, and downright malicious slander and false witness against people and perspectives on both sides of the charismatic divide.

It’s like the conference bombarded the evangelical world with gamma radiation (namely the “evangelical sin” of saying someone is wrong) and a whole lot of people underwent a change.

hulk

The first group changed into Incredible Hulks.

Da Hulk

These folks emerged from Strange Fire and said or did things that were incredible, and often sinfully destructive.  They made claims that were incredible; often based on rumors, speculations, misrepresentations or 3rd hand information gleaned from Twitter and Facebook. They did things that were incredible: they were quick to make baseless accusations. or condemn people to Hell, or perpetrate absurd rumors, or dismiss factual statements on the basis of assumed motives, or applaud the malicious slander of others (while still giving the disclaimer of “not meaning to be unloving”, which sanctifies everything).  These folks were cessationists and non-cessationists, and I’m ashamed of many of the incredible responses that I saw from the self-professing cessationists on social media.  The only thing Incredible Hulks do is smash, but it’s mostly smashing of feelings. For that reason, both cessationists and non-cessationists don’t like them when they’re angry.

But, the second group changed into Credible Hulks.

Credible Hulk

Don’t get me wrong, these guys were quite angry too.  The difference is that these folks emerged from Strange Fire and said or did things that were credible, and often righteously constructive.  They made claims that were credible: based on research, substantial amounts of primary work, and first hand information from original sources.  They did things that were credible: they were quick to engage in serious dialogue. or affirm the brotherhood of some of the opposing side (though not all), or refute absurd rumors, or condemn the malicious slander of others as malicious slander, all disclaimers aside.  Credible hulks smash too, but they tend to smash falsehoods.  For that reason, either cessationists or non-cessationists don’t like them when they’re angry, but the other group likes them a lot.  There are Credible Hulks in the Charismatic camp who justly get applauded by their camp, as there are in the Cessationist camp.

As Christians, God calls us to be Credible Hulks.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with being overturned in your heart, or angry, when you encounter lies, deceit, misinformation, or some other type of attack on matters of scripture and truth.  Ephesians 4:25-27 comments on how Christians can be angry, but Christians should be people marked by truthfulness and not sinfulness, and that being mainly in their mouths (and thereby keyboards too).  The one who is untruthful about his brother has lost the spiritual battle.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 instructs us that Christians are called to spiritual warfare; the smashing of “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”.  Spiritual warfare is an ideological battle against the error, not the errant.

Now, after laying that brief foundation I come to the reason for this post.

pouring-holy-water-on-strange-fire.jpg w=450&h=675

Frank Viola is a name that is likely unfamiliar to the readers of this blog, and up until Strange Fire I hadn’t heard of him myself.  He’s a blogger who apparently has 80,000+ readers and according to Worth of the Web he’s more widely read/followed than both ThePyromaniacs and the Cripplegate combined.  His Alexa rank verifies that he gets more traffic than both The Pyromaniacs and the Cripplegate combined.  All that to say that he’s not a small-time blogger like myself.  He’s also a published author who has written 16 books with some recognizable names like George Barna, so he hangs around educated folks and apparently knows how to write and do research.  During the Strange Fire conference, his name came up on my blog as someone who had written some blog responses to the Strange Fire conference, and at that time he mentioned that he had a book-length response coming out.  He graciously invited me to read it and give my feedback, and over at my personal blog I have been reviewing his book Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire, which he made free for two weeks after it was initially completed back in early November.

I have reviewed his first three chapters on my personal blog, and then last week I posted my review of the fourth chapter in which Frank Viola deals with the New Testament teaching on cessationism, which is where the wheels fell off the car.

Here are two screenshots of the first page and a bit of chapter four.  I’m posting screen shots in order to preempt accusations of misrepresentation or misquotation.  Read it from the same document that I did, and make your own conclusions:

Viola chp 4.1

 

Viola chp 4.2

 

As you can see, after a page and a bit of comments regarding John MacArthur’s New Testament arguments for cessationism, he then jumps into his 5 reasons for why “the perfect” (in 1 Corinthians 13:10) is the second coming.  Also, he explicitly names MacArthur as the proponent of the mentioned ideas and though he mentions 70 A.D. in passing (which he doesn’t explain at all), he focuses the chapter entirely on 1 Corinthians 13:10.  Not only that, but he restates this idea on page 63 where he says “MacArthur, like most cessationists, believes that the apostles vanished with the closing of the biblical canon.”

In private conversation, Mr. Viola has denied saying that John MacArthur teaches that the cessation of the sign gifts occurred in conjunction with the completing of the canon, and has suggested that 70 A.D. is akin to saying “the closing of the apostolic age”.  What does it look like to you?  Would you read what he has written that way?  What are you thinking?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

You have to remember that this chapter is the longest chapter in a book that claims that it’s a response to both Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire since Frank Viola explicitly says “This critique is a response to both Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos” (pg. 8 of the pdf) and “My primary intention in writing it is to help my non-charismatic brethren who have been influenced by MacArthur’s books to reconsider and re-examine their understanding of the present-day work of the Spirit” (page 12). Frank Viola isn’t addressing cessationism in general.

He’s clear that he’s addressing two specific books written by one specific author.

Frank Viola apparently thinks that the only relevant text to the question of cessationism is 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, so the extent of answering the question of chapter 4 (“Does the New Testament teach that the gifts of the Spirit ceased?”) is found in addressing the question regarding “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10 (in all honesty, he does spend 1 sentence addressing Ephesians 2:20 by giving a link to an article by Sam Storms…comprehensive refutation, indeed.  The rest of the nine pages addresses 1 Corinthians 13:8-12).  Opinions on the identity of “the perfect” vary, but Frank Viola says explicitly that MacArthur teaches, presumably in Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire (you know, the two books that he’s written his book in response to), that “the perfect” is the completed canon of scripture.

It’s interesting that though Mr. Viola cites the book Strange Fire 3 times on pages 16 and 17, which reveals he did have a copy of the book, he doesn’t provide any documentation for any of his claims regarding what MacArthur apparently teaches in the rest of the entire book.

It’s also interesting that MacArthur has openly rebutted and argued against the position that Mr. Viola attributes to him, and that for well over 3 decades.

Allow me to back that claim up with some documentation:

In 1977, John MacArthur preached through the book of 1 Corinthians and explicitly rebutted the idea that “the perfect” is the completed canon, but rather argued that “the perfect” is the eternal state.  Feel free to check the transcript from part 2 of MacArthur’s sermons on 1 Corinthians 13:8-11:

Charismatics

That sermon was from 1977, and in 1978 he wrote the book The Charismatics, which was based on that sermon series.  In that book, MacArthur writes:

“Many suggestions have been made as to the identity of ‘the perfect thing.’  Some believe it is the canon; others say the maturing of the church; some hold out for the rapture and still more for the second coming.  But it seems that ‘the perfect thing’ has to be the eternal state – the new heaven and new earth created after the kingdom as the following two points show…” ( page 165)

Charismatic Chaos

Then, in his book Charismatic Chaos (which Frank Viola is responding to) MacArthur said the same thing when he wrote

“The passage does not say when tongues were to cease.  Some commentators believe that verse 10 sets the timing: “When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  Many suggestions have been made as to the meaning of “the perfect.”  Some believe it is the complete new Testament; thus they conclude this passage is saying that tongues would cease when the canon was closed.  Various others say that the perfect this is the maturing of the church, the rapture, or the second coming.  But it seems that the perfect thing Paul has in mind must be the eternal state – “face to face” in verse 12 can best be explained as being with God in the new heavens and new earth.  It is only in glory that we will know as we are known (v. 12).” (note 20 on page 230-231)

Back in 2010 he revisited 1 Corinthians and again explicitly rebutted the idea that “the perfect” is the completed canon, but rather argued that “the perfect” is the eternal state.  Feel free to check his sermon on 13:9-11.

In the notes on 1 Corinthians 13:10 in The MacArthur Study Bible, it reads:

“The ‘perfect’ is not the completion of scripture, since there is still the operation of those two gifts and will be in the future kingdom (cf. Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17; Rev. 11:3).  The Scriptures do not allow us to see ‘face to face’ or have perfect knowledge as God does (v. 12).  The ‘perfect’ is not the rapture of the church or the second coming of Christ, since the kingdom to follow those events will have an abundance of preachers and teachers (cf. Is 29:18; 32:3,4; Joel 2:28; Rev 11:3).  The perfect must be the eternal state, when in glory we see God face to face (Rev. 22:4) and have full knowledge in the eternal new heavens and new earth.  Just as a child grows to full understanding, believers will come to perfect knowledge and no such gifts will be necessary.” (2006 NASB printing, pg. 1719)

Strange Fire

Then, in the book Strange Fire, (which Frank Viola is responding to) MacArthur writes:

“In 1 Corinthians 13:10, Paul noted that partial knowledge and partial prophecy would be done away with “when that which is perfect has come.”  But what did Paul mean by the perfect?  The Greek word (teleion) can mean “perfect,” “mature,” or “complete,” and commentators have widely disagreed as to its precise meaning – offering numerous possible interpretations.  For example, F. F. Bruce suggests that the perfect is love itself’; B.B. Warfield contends it is the completed canon of Scripture (cf. James 1:25); Robert Thomas argues that it is the mature church (cf. Eph. 4:11-13); Richard Gaffin asserts it is the return of Christ; and Thomas Edgar concludes it is the individual believer’s entrance into heavenly glory (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).  Significantly, though these scholars disagree on the identification of the ‘perfect’, they all reach the same conclusion – namely, that the miraculous and revelatory gifts have ceased.

Nonetheless, of the possible interpretations, the believer’s entrance into the Lord’s presence best fits Paul’s use of ‘perfect’ in 1 Corinthians 13:10.  This makes sense of Paul’s later statement in verse 12 about believers seeing Christ ‘face to face’ and possessing full knowledge – descriptions that cannot be realized this side of glory.” (pg 148-149)

Check it out for yourself.  No really.  I provided links for you and quoted from the books so you can quickly check out the references for yourself.  Don’t believe me.  Go check the facts from the original sources.

And what about the 70 A.D. thing?

Well, the year 70 A.D. is known most of all for one thing: the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, not the closing of the apostolic age (unless you’re a preterist).  Frank Viola doesn’t even mention the apostolic age, but only mentions the year 70 A.D.  John MacArthur has taught for at least 4 decades that the apostolic age ended with the death of the apostle John. Feel free to check out where he explicitly says discusses the apostolic age closing with the death of the apostle John around 96 A.D:

1. http://www.gty.org/resources/print/study-guide-chapter/1868

2. http://www.gty.org/resources/distinctives/DD06/the-gift-of-tongues

3.  Page 231 & 232 of Charismatic Chaos (isn’t that the book that Viola apparently is reviewing?)

Also, Tom Pennington explicitly said discussed the length of the apostolic age at Strange Fire:

http://www.gty.org/resources/print/sermons/TM13-7

So, Frank Viola spends nine pages rebutting two positions that he ascribes to MacArthur, even though MacArthur doesn’t teach those positions anywhere.

So where then did they come from?

But am I being a bit pedantic and, well, a wiener?

Pocket-Protector

Well, remember how I said that he makes other claims about what MacArthur believes/teaches?  Here’s some more interesting claims:

Claim 1. “MacArthur is wrong in that he paints the entire charismatic world–which would include all charismatics and all charismatic churches–with the same broad brush” (pg. 15 pdf, cf. pg 28, 31, 34).

This is a misrepresentation that has been addressed in the book Strange Fire itself (the 2nd footnote in the introduction defines the phrase “Charismatic movement” up front, which entirely excludes Reformed Charismatics, but also the twelfth chapter explicitly addresses this with a 2 paragraph opening statement along the same lines…apparently Mr. Viola wasn’t reading Strange Fire too closely…).  Not only that, but the idea has been corrected on this very blog, and more than once at that. For added measure, MacArthur has personally laid this one to rest at length.  Watch the following video time mark 24:20 (in fact, watch the whole video as MacArthur addresses several of the most widely spread rumors).

How’s that for clarification from the horse’s mouth?

Claim 2.  “The people whom MacArthur highlights as the poster boys for charismatics–Kenneth Copeland, Peter Popoff, Paula White, Bob Jones, E.W. Kenyon, Eddie Long, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson–simply do not represent the views or practices of the majority of charismatic Christians in the world today.” (16)

This is another myth that I have poured significant effort towards correcting.  I have yet to have anyone even attempt an objective refutation of what I’ve written regarding this utterly blind assumption.

Claim 3.  “MacArthur writes off anyone who is charismatic as erroneous and dangerous due to the abuses of their peers.” (pg.29)

No, he doesn’t.  See point #1.

Claim 4.  “Interestingly, MacArthur uses experiences to justify his argument. That is, his own experience of observing bedlam within “charismania” and his own inexperience of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.” (pg. 29, cf. pg. 37)

Again, this is simply demonstrably untrue.  The Strange Fire book contains a 48 page index of references and all the refutation comes from the text of scripture, hence the book contains a six page index of scriptures.  The very accusation is a total joke; if there’s one guy who’s known for going to the Bible to address things, it’s John MacArthur.  What’s even more silly is that Frank Viola responds to MacArthur’s “argument from experience” with two stories of his own experience (pg. 30).

Pot Kettle

Claim 5. “MacArthur’s analysis of John Wimber and Jack Deere is largely inaccurate because it is based upon a heavily biased document called ‘the Briefing.’” (pg. 49).

This is again demonstrably untrue. In Charismatic Chaos, MacArthur cites April 24, 1990 issue of The Briefing 6 times.  He cites Jack Deere 2 times, and in the chapter exploring John Wimber (chapter 6), he cites Peter Wagner 20 times and John Wimber’s own writing 30 times.  In Strange Fire, MacArthur cites Jack Deere’s 3 times but there are no citations regarding Wimber and no references to The Briefing at all.  That’s 6 total citations of The Briefing as a source, 20 citations of Peter Wagner as a source, and 35 citations of original sources.  The Briefing is the source he uses least; it’s not as a base for anything.

What’s worse is that Mr. Viola says “Deere’s response is an eye-opening account of how “the Briefing” knowingly spread misinformation, rumors, and false reports about Wimber, Deere, and others, often misrepresenting them and quoting them out of context.  Sadly, MacArthur has done the same in his treatment of The Third Wave.” (pg. 49)

“The same” as what?  The Briefing?  As in “knowingly spread misinformation, rumors, and false reports about Wimber, Deere, and others”?  Yikes.

That’s a rhetorically roundabout way of accusing him of malicious lying.  I don’t believe that Mr. Viola is very fond of accusations of lying or deceit.

Claim 6.  “MacArthur tries to argue that healing declined in the early church and presents a list of Scriptures in an attempt to prove this. Upon careful scrutiny, however, his list contains little substance. It is solely built upon various conjectures. For instance, MacArthur assumes that Paul was sick when he talks about ‘a thorn in the flesh’ in 2 Corinthians. But Paul never said he was sick in that text.” (pg. 59)

Again, this is simply untrue.  MacArthur makes reference to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 several times in Charismatic Chaos (pg. 125, 215, 256) but he never says what the “thorn” was at all (it’s not exactly a make-or-break point with cessationism).  In Strange Fire, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is likewise mentioned addressed on page 70-71 but again, MacArthur never says what the “thorn” was at all.

But, when MacArthur has preached through the passage, he rebutted the position that Mr. Viola ascribed to him and MacArthur agreed with Frank Viola in suggesting that it was an actual “messenger from Satan”; a person who was demonically inspired.  Funny how that is…

Was Frank Viola really paying attention to the book he was reading (for the purpose of review)?

distracted

Claim 7.  “In describing the situation at Corinth, MacArthur adds much of his own thought and clearly goes beyond the text.
For example, in Charismatic Chaos he says that some of the Corinthians were speaking in demonic tongues! What? Where is that in the text?” (pg 67).

Well, MacArthur doesn’t say so in chapter 10 of Charismatic Chaos, which is the chapter devoted to the subject.  On page 239 of the book, he states that some of the modern tongues may be demonic, but he also explicitly denies that all, or even most, are demonic.

Again, I have to wonder if Mr. Viola was paying attention to Charismatic Chaos?

Do you see a pattern in those seven examples?

It’s worth pointing out that none of these previously mentioned points (nor any points beyond page 16) had any sort of citation to either of the books that Mr. Viola is apparently critiquing, and it is probably clear why: citation was impossible because the books said the opposite.  It appears that Frank Viola’s not critiquing the books nor is he drawing his accusations from them as much as simply ranting about John Macarthur and throwing red meat to his charismatic fans/readers.

What’s more, there’s also this choice quote from chapter 10:

“Before I get into a biblical discussion about healing, I want to explain who MacArthur uses to discount the ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman in Charismatic Chaos as it will throw all of MacArthur’s research into question.” (italics, mine)

So Mr. Viola says, in no uncertain terms and before he’s discussed the evidence at hand, that a single flaw in research will throw all MacArthur’s work into question?  I do believe that in the list above, I’ve given my readers several reasons to be suspicious of Mr. Viola’s research as well.  Mr. Viola lays a trap that ends up being fatally used against him.

noose

And am I being too harsh with Mr. Viola?  Well, I’ll give you two thoughts to chew on:

1.  He’s written more than a dozen books.  This isn’t his first time around the block and one would think that by now, he’d be able to do reliable research and accurately represent those whom he is critiquing.  I hope that this post shows that I’m laboring to do the same in accurately understanding what he wrote (though apparently not what he intended) and documenting my claims.  Mr. Viola does not accurately understand John MacArthur’s position as communicated in the books Charismatic Chaos or Strange Fire, and he doesn’t document anything outside of 3 claims on pages 16-17.

2.  Frank Viola came out of the corner swinging at MacArthur. He wrote “I found Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire to be exegetically incorrect on a number of levels, full of misrepresentations and overgeneralizations, feeble in biblical and historical scholarship, and severely flawed in many of their conclusions. Overall, the two books lacked the qualities that reflect the mind of an objective theologian.” (10 – bold is mine)

He comes outright and says MacArthur is wrong, not that simply disagrees with MacArthur on matters.

He comes outright and says that both books are full of misrepresentations, not that there’s one or two worth noting.

He comes outright and says that both books were “feeble” in the biblical scholarship. Feeble isn’t soft language.

He’s a big boy and came out dressed to fight.  He could have toned down the rhetoric, but he didn’t.

So what do we make of all this?

Is this some case of misunderstanding?

Is Mr. Viola attempting to curry favor with charismatics and sell books by joining the “Let’s get MacArthur” mob?

Simpsons March For Jesus

Is Mr. Viola simply confused?

Am I missing the boat entirely?

What in the world?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what’s going on here.

It seems fairly clear that the comments that Frank Viola tossed at MacArthur are more fitting for him:

Feeble scholarship?  Well, I wouldn’t say “feeble”.  I’d suggest “sophomoric” and “outgunned”.

Exegetical error?  Yup.

Misrepresentation?  Yup.

Will Frank Viola be mad at me that I dare use the same language to describe him that he used to describe MacArthur?  Most likely.

Did Mr. Viola’s critique provide “evidence and examples supporting each point”? (pg. 14)  Well, testimonial evidence, but testimonial evidence is not evidence.  It’s opinion.  There was precious little documented evidence.  That’s the difference between incredibility and credibility.  That’s the difference between turning into the Incredible Hulk and the Credible Hulk.

It seems quite clear that when hit by the gamma radiation of the Strange Fire conference, Frank Viola became an Incredible Hulk.

Frank Viola simply saw an opportunity to write a book that he thought would be helpful, but he didn’t do his homework, ended up saying a whole bunch of incredible things and got in way over his head.

North Shore

That’s not name-calling or me being mean either.  I believe I’ve provided some actual concrete reasons to suggest so.

Did Mr. Viola think he wouldn’t get caught misrepresenting facts that are in print that anyone can check?

Well, I’d actually guess so since most people don’t go and check references, or read footnotes. People don’t generally take the time to do things like that…

…well, except for Credible Hulks.

Remember to glorify God when the gamma gets you green (Ephesians 4:25-26; Proverbs 12:17, 20:23, 26:24) and don’t write checks your research and your Bible cannot cash.

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.
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  • Erik Pedersen

    Lyndon, a masterful piece of work. Well done and keep up the good work…

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the kind words Erik!

  • Guest

    Lyndon, well written piece of work. We do share a common desire so I am biased. Keep up the good work….

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks “Guest”! (haven’t you commented on here before?) I’m glad we’re unified in our desires for hot, steaming, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies smothered in ice cream. No wait. Are we thinking about the same thing? Apparently I’m hungry!

      I’m also glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    If I was frank viola I’d repent publicly.

    • Lyndon Unger

      If you were Frank Viola I’m guessing that none of this would have happened. You probably wouldn’t have written a scathing critique of Strange Fire if you’re a cessationist! (assuming you are…)

  • Robert

    Every honest hearted person can see that Frank Viola is
    being deceitful and has an agenda.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Robert, I’ll suggest that it’s not at all about honest hearts, but rather the grace of God in our lives. We didn’t come to a knowledge of the truth because of how awesome we are, and the fact that some of us are trained in critical thinking, hermeneutics and exegesis (or at least exposed to good representations of it) is a blessing not all share.

      I’d dare say that he’s making factual claims that are untrue. I don’t really know if he’s deceitful, meaning “full of deceit”, and we all have agendas. I’ll take him at his word on his agenda and I’ll simply say that, as far as I know, he’s made several statements that are untrue.

      That might make me look like I’m being too soft, but the Lord explicitly commands me to be gentle and not quarrelsome, right? (2 Tim.2:22-26)

  • al horton

    Great article, if you have to distort the facts to make a credible argument, maybe your argument isn’t so credible. Thanks Lyndon for all the good work.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Al! I’m glad we agree!

  • Fred Butler

    Frank posts a pleading article claiming he never misrepresented John (or lazily read SF) and that it is in point of fact Lyndon who is now misrepresenting and being hateful for not taking down his withering analysis of Viola’s haphazard and slipshod embarrassing book. http://frankviola.org/frankviolalyndonunger/ Go over there and tell me if he has “corrected” his confusion.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Notice how it opens up with “Lyndon Unger seems to have personal issues with you and he hates your critique of MacArthur’s book on the charismatics”?

      That’s something that I almost always get when addressing errors with charismatic folks. Their religious and cognitive categories are all various shades of emotional expression. There’s no category for “objective disagreement based on facts”. It always has to be something about a personal beef (mmmm…personal beef), or someone being filled with hate/anger/jealousy, or an attack on personal motivations. It’s amazing how many charismatics respond to critique like Mormons (go look up Bill McKeever’s/James White’s book reviews on Amazon; you’ll see the amazing pattern of those three things there).

      I also love the second paragraph. That’s why I posted a screenshot of his words in his book. I can quote them directly to him and he’ll deny saying it. Notice in how the third paragraph he actually misquotes HIMSELF?

      Here’s the original, ctrl-c from the pdf I have in front of me:

      “Most cessationists, including MacArthur, teach that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture (the completed writings of the Bible) was completed. Either that or they say the gifts ceased in A.D. 70.”

      Notice that MacArthur is a sub-category of “cessationists”, and he says that they “teach that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture (the completed writings of the Bible) was completed.”

      Notice that there is a period after that statement? That means it’s a self-contained point, right?

      The second sentence is an alternative position of the ones who DON’T hold to the first position, in which Mr. Viola lumped MacArthur.

      By the rules of English grammar, it seems pretty clear.

      Here’s Frank Viola’s version :

      I said “most cessations hold to that view, either that or they hold to the gifts passing in A.D. 70.”

      Notice how he uses quotes? Notice how he leaves MacArthur out?

      How in the world does he think I’m misrepresenting what he WROTE? I may be misrepresenting his intent, but his intent is different than the words he wrote.

      There’s another option that I didn’t want to even suggest as it would have made Mr. Viola furious…but it has to do with his competency as a writer/critical thinker. The only thing worse than saying someone is wrong is saying that they’re incompetent.

      I also love how he paints himself as some sort of mentor figure. Even though most of his other author friends would have ignored him, the omnibenevolent Frank Viola has condescended to my level out of the radiating forth of his boundless grace…kinda like how he portrays himself as having a kindly attitude towards John MacArthur. I have around a thousand comments in my head, none of which I’ll share.

      Frank Viola also doesn’t understand what “ad hominem” means, at least as far as the formal logical fallacy goes.

      Finally, the comments are closed but somehow, there are 2 comments. How old is that post? Did the comment thread shut down? He has posts from 2010 where the comment threads are still open. What’s that all about? Did he get spammed and close the comments, or what?

  • Guest

    Seems to me this article only adds “fire” to the mix of an already heated debate. Was this post intended to warn people of Viola? If so…it wasn’t written with grace and seasoned with salt that way. If not, it just gave Viola a platform in the argument…

    • Fred Butler

      Really? What would have “written with grace & seasoned with salt” look like exactly? Soft, meek and mild effeminate expressions that used “brother” a lot and had pictures of Jesus holding lambs? Did you want the book left unreviewed? OR are only happy talk reviews allowed that merely heap on gushing praise?

      Look. As Lyndon stated, Frank came out swinging with his criticism against John and SF months ago. He hastily slapped together an ebook expanded from a bunch of knee-jerk blog posts he posted in the days following the conference. He has publicly marketed and promoted his book incessantly at his blog and social media as some definitive response to Strange Fire. So along comes a reviewer who exposes some significant flaws with his work that demonstrates the author slapped together an ebook in a hurry and thus made a ton of mistakes and it is THAT reviewer who is the one who is ungracious?

      • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

        Fred, your response is not properly seasoned. And, BTW, there is no objective criteria to answer your question or to explain to you when something actually is properly seasoned with salt.

        You just find out when you aren’t doing it. Your question about what that would like is the un-askable question and you are now on discipline for even thinking it. Maybe you’ll be more careful in the future.

        I will be there to correct you when you fall again.

    • Lyndon Unger

      I wish people would stop using veiled metaphors online.

      If you think I’m somehow making a situation worse, then that’s fine. I’d dare suggest that I’m doing what I was asked to do, by Mr. Viola no less. He personally contacted me and asked me to review his book…but he didn’t realize what the outcome of that would be.

      I’m also not writing an encouragement note to Frank Viola. I’m taking him seriously as an author, and that means dealing critically with his claims. If I didn’t take him serious or disrespected him, I wouldn’t have even bothered reviewing his book. Being honest and critical is helpful for those who want it. I regularly get corrected and, though it stings to realize what an unclear or dumb bumpkin I can be, it ultimately helps me improve and I’m thankful for it (though it often takes a few days for the sting to turn into thankfulness).

  • Sam Van Dyke

    Well written article, thank you for that. It is a great defense of the truth and exposure of false accusations.

    Just a small note, you have a typo on the quote from Charismatic Chaos. You can change my post, I just wanted to point that out :) “Various others sat that the perfect this is the maturing of the church, the rapture, or the second coming.”

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the catch Sam. 28 revisions and counting…and there’s always a half dozen things I somehow missed!

  • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

    Excellent work again, Lyndon. Lord, help us all..Eph. 4:15 & Gal.5:15

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the kind words Suzanne!

  • gmonzeglio@mweb.co.za

    is lyndon a real person or one of the pyros in disguise? brilliant!

    • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

      A real, live person ;-)

    • Lyndon Unger

      That’s actually one of the highest compliments I’ve been paid! I wish I were half the writer/thinker that those guys are! Thanks!

      • gmonzeglio@mweb.co.za

        keep it up. we need some sanity and a calling out of the “incredible” like never before.

        • Lyndon Unger

          I’m dancing around and banging a tambourine in agreement with that brother. We definitely need more sanity.

          • gmonzeglio@mweb.co.za

            Hi Lyndon. I am writing this from South Africa where we have just had a “charismatic pastor” get his people to start eating grass as a move of God. Its all over the press, Tv etc (check it out – Phil Johnson tweeted on this and Conrad Mbewe wrote and article on this) and as usual the world sees this nonsense and “strange fire” and mocks. We even exported the Holy Ghost Bartender Rodney Howard Browne from here and others and we are a “hot” destination for the mainstream Charismania that some like Michael Brown continue to say is “fringe”. I just listened to Brown’s response to a video James White posted on Benny Hinn doing his “magic” in Kiev calling it the “anointing”- standard fare btw. We are dealing with two different paradigms and basically two different religions just about – if Michael Brown wants us to believe that was is in these videos is a move of God’s Spirit” and something we dare not test and judge. Pointless continuing to cut this stuff slack and arguing about it. And its been going on unchecked for a long time doing untold damage to the name of Christ and the church – the term born-again in the western world has become a household joke. Strange Fire was a call to sanity and accountability and a drawing of a line in the sand from the most reputable, qualified and credible of sources. If even people like Brown arent prepared to make a call on Benny Hinn the poster-boy for this MADNESS and mockery then yes we desperately need some sanity and calls for division and dis-association. We need to be able to tell the world – this is not of God and go back to the gospel of repentance and faith which is non-existant in these “shows” – in fact its almost as conspicuously absent as the real signs and wonders they claim. God Bless.

          • Lyndon Unger

            You know that Michael Brown apparently knows more about what’s going on in South Africa than you do, right? (or so he insinuates…)

            Thanks for the video. I’ll have to check that out.

            You’re right when you say we’re talking about different religions (at least when it’s at the Benny Hinn level).

          • gmonzeglio@mweb.co.za

            i only just came across Michael Brown when he started rebuking the Strange Fire conference. When I saw him commmend Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle etc as godly men on the gty site and found out he was a major player at Brownsville I thought he was just another charismaniac. Since then I have discovered that he is apparently a genuine brother and scholarly reputable in some fields like OT, original languages and done some good work on the gay agenda. Dr James White speaks well of him in spite of serious disagreements on the calvinism/arminianim issue as well as now the whole strage fire controversy leading up to his appearances on Benny Hinn’s show. In fact I saw him last night on TBN here is SA. He is on again tonight. Benny Hinn punting his book on the “Kosher” Jesus at $35 which I think is quite steep. I find this whole thing confusing and MB a bit of an enigma. I find his reasoning, paradigm and presuppositions faulty and as I said almost like a different religion in practice and he is difficult to take seriously when he pretends to be ignorant on BH/Word-Faith etc especially when he is willing to write a book rebuking John Macarthur whilst not being willing to state that what BH calls an anointing is the worst kind of strange fire and representaative of mainstream charismatic movement. We cant judge motives so we will just have to let time play out and see the fruits of all this. That’s why I said we need sanity in the midst of this madness within the body. The levels of disscernment and biblical knowledge are at an all time low yet God is raising up a fantastic move within the reformed tradition.

          • Lyndon Unger

            You’ve hit the nail on the head. Michael Brown earned his doctorate; he’s no dummy. He knows his original biblical languages like a boss, he has been one of the top evangelical voices addressing homosexuality, and he’s done stellar work in evangelizing Jews and providing an apologetic against Jewish skepticism. He’s a man powerful in the scriptures and has a sharp mind…

            …which then brings up certain questions about how he can seem so utterly different when it comes to issues of charismatic theology. His logic seems to waffle, his exegetical abilities seem to devolve, and his ability to apply the scripture to “real life” (i.e. not recognizing a man like Benny Hinn, who fits the biblical description of a false teacher to the letter, as a false teacher) seem to weaken.

            He’s one whopper of an enigma.

            I don’t think I’ve ever run across someone as theologically bi-polar. I agree that we cannot judge hearts, but I hope someone can get through to him and shake him out of his apparent stupor. I don’t know what’s going on with the fellow: I’m not sure if it’s some sort of “behind the scenes” political/power machination going on (and I’ve learned that those things happen EVERYWHERE), or some sort of personal/theological blind spot, or something else entirely.

            Either way, I’m glad that this is spurning dialogue among professing believers and I certainly praise the Lord for the fantastic move within the reformed tradition that you’ve mentioned. If this avails some of us on either sides to spurn one another on towards the Lord more, then I’ll be very thankful.

  • http://www.seekingakingdom.com/ James Lee

    You know what? I don’t agree with MacArthur, and I am not mad about the Strange Fire Conference, and I related to a whacky oneness pentecostal whose church demonstrates a lot of what MacArthur states has “Chaos”. I have also read much of Viola’s books and followed his stuff for a couple years. There are a myriad of references and footnotes in his book with George Barna, “Pagan Christianity”, but very little exegesis or evidence of a legitimate hermeneutic.The follow up – a book intended to be a “fix” lacked even more egregiously in scriptural instruction.

    Case and point – he produced an article once, called “Bethany”. He stated that it was God’s message and something God wants people to hear. Then almost a year previous to the release of his new book “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” the article disappeared – became a part of the book, and was now only available if you purchased said book. During the year before – almost all of his podcasts or articles or this that or the other contained some marketing reference to purchasing the book when it came out. I attempted to take my grievance to Frank via email and his “email” screener scolded me, kicked me off the email newsletter, refused to respond to further correspondence – and that was that.

    Very frustrating when you read what he says he is really about. But – he is an author, and he makes his living from books. The Bethany article was great and very enjoyable, he is a great writer. But, he seems more an opportunist than a figure or leader for the “Organic/House/Simple” Church movement. Having read his work and blog for some time now, I have concluded that it seems all Frank is interested in doing is selling books.

    That – impairs any credibility for any person writing on such a sensitive debate as this strange fire stuff.

    I don’t know what – or who – the “perfect” really is… but I know I am not. It is only the Holy Spirit that can convince me through his word and presence regarding continuation or cessation. MacArthur and Viola merely offer running color commentary on the lack of the Church’s discernment in a perilous age.

    • Lyndon Unger

      It’s funny, because he claims that every penny he makes from books goes to the poor and “ministry expenses” (http://frankviola.org/2008/08/10/faq/). I’m wondering if he’s open with his finances?

      Also, he definitely hocks his books at every occasion. I’ve seen that a from him quite a bit.

      I also hear you with your closing comment. I’d suggest that you’re right that “only the Holy Spirit that can convince me through his word and presence regarding continuation or cessation”, but I’d also suggest that God uses means to reach that end. One of those ends is the scripture (by which the Holy Spirit speaks), and another of those ends is the right teaching of the scripture (which lays the clear message of the inspired scripture before you).

      Don’t believe MacArthur, Viola, me or anyone else simply because of who we are. Believe what we say because it rightly and coherently makes sense of the scripture.

  • Johncp

    Thanks, I really enjoyed the article and following discussion. Would love it if you tackled a review of Pagan Christianity at some stage – it’s getting a lot of traction from people around me.

  • Jordan

    Good stuff Lyndon. Its not all that surprising after having read Violas “pagan Christianity” to see research done this poorly.

  • Matt

    Thanks Lyndon! The cessationist view is still pretty new to me – in fact, it was at the Cripplegate that I learned of it. (And was so thankful for a reasonable representation of Christianity.) Anyway, I sometimes hold my breath when confronted with opposing views (“will this be the one that proves that I need to listen to my ‘inner voice’?!) – thanks for carefully and thoroughly dissecting what ended up being a very innocuous “refutation”.

    All that said, I came across today what is tagged as the “Assemblies of God response” to Strange Fire by George Wood (who, according to Wikipedia, is the General Superintendent of AoG). So far as I can tell, he’s read SF, quotes it, and has a bunch of footnotes at the bottom of the page. (Not sure if I can leave a link, but here is it: http://georgepwood.com/tag/assemblies-of-god-response/) I’m not asking for a critique of it right here and now, or even ever…but I was curious if someone from CG was going to give their thoughts regarding it.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Matt, welcome to the Cripplegate. I’m glad you found us!

      Thanks for the AoG link. It looks like an interesting response. I’ll have to give it a look tomorrow or Friday.

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