When 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.
At no time did anyone interrupt the presentation with objections that the firemen were overstating their case. No one wrote whiny blog posts about how useful fire can be when used carefully. We all understood that firemen aren’t against a b-b-q or a gas stove or carefully contained campfires. They had seen more ashen carnage than anyone, and they were concerned for our safety.
When a pastoral conference is presented to expose the excesses, contagion, idiocy, and deadliness of Charismatic aberrations, it is odd that some feel the need to call it divisive and destructive.
Nobody is burning a straw man, they are just showing us the treacherous bottom of the slippery slope.
Who better to present a conference on the abuses of Charismatic theology and practice than Cessationists? If you don’t want a Cessationist to rebuke your movement, then who’s going to do it, you? You, Lt. Wineberg?
I appreciate people who are willing and able, equipped and enthusiastic to take on fighting the fires that burn down the houses in my neighborhood. Africa has been kindling for the strange fire of charismatic excesses for decades. I’m grateful for anyone who realizes this and responds to it.
Several famous, American, ostensibly seat-belted Charismatic preachers have been appalled by the abuses of charismania they’ve witnessed in Africa, and have decried it. It’s just hard for African over-the-top Charismatics to take seriously a warning about the dangers of playing with matches, from a fellow card-carrying pyromaniac, albeit a restrained one.
I’m surprised by moderate/conservative/Reformed Charismatics who have been offended by the Strange Fire conference. I would think they’d be grateful for credible, equipped rescue workers showing up to do what they can’t. A Charismatic who doesn’t espouse “barking in the Spirit” simply isn’t able to rebuke one who does. How would that conversation go?—“Yes we both believe that you can’t put God in a box, and what I’m doing with prophecy and tongues is acceptable, but what you’re doing is unacceptable.” All a Charismatic believer can do is hug the victims and watch the strange fire burn until the Cessationists show up with their theological hose pipes and their lectures about how dangerous this stuff is.
All true believers are on the same team, and we’re all against the abuses and excesses of masquerading unbelievers. Conservative Continuationists need to start their own version of the conference to police the excesses as best they can, or they should muster a cheer while the Cessationists do it. But chiding them for using the big hose is silly. No one is lambasting the Pipers, Grudems, and Carsons of the world. At worst what is being said is, Where there’s strange smoke…