October 21, 2013

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Strange Fire

by Clint Archer

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.

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.

Nadab and Abihu Lego

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.

extinguisher lighter

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…

Clint Archer

Posts Twitter

Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • reformed charismatic

    ‘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.”’

    But they can. Paul did. There were gross abuses of the gifts going on in Corinth, and Paul set guidelines and said “This is acceptable. This is not.”

    “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…”

    I pretty much totally agree with the first half of this paragraph. I’m just confused because of seemingly conflicting statements coming from the conference as to whether or not MacArthur or most of the people in the conference would consider people like me (I suppose continuationist is the best description of me) true believers in the first place. Mike Riccardi certainly seems to, as I’m having an ongoing discussion with him on one of the transcripts he posted. But would that be true of most people at the conference? At this point, I’m not sure. So forgive me if I can’t, as yet, muster a cheer.

    • reformed charismatic

      To be clear, I suppose I’m not a very good charismatic. My experience isn’t very charismatic. No prophetic words, no healing, etc. I do occasionally pray in tongues, ALWAYS in private, and I honestly wonder if it’s genuine. The main reason I am a continuationist is that I just have a hard time seeing cessationism in the Bible.

      To be fair, I’ve only read the Q&A’s, Phil Johnson’s “Is There a Baby in the Bath Water?”, MacArthur’s Call to Response, and Pennington’s “A Case for Cessationism.” I do intend on reading more, or watching them when they’re available.

      I particularly wanted to read the transcript of Pennington’s sermon because this is what it boils down to for me. Sermons about Pentecostalism or Word Faith heresies are about as relevant to me as a charismatic as sermons about hypercalvinism are to me as a reformed guy. But if you can show me the clear biblical defense for cessationism, then that’s what counts. I’ll say, his sermon was better than stuff I’ve previously heard, but there are so many unanswered questions. I’ve posed a few of them in the comments section on the transcript. I suppose it’s possible that there are good answers to those questions, but I’m still waiting.

      • I appreciate your level-headedness in all this. It shows maturity. I suggest getting a copy of the book. It’s easier to think through issues when you can read and re-read, and check footnotes to be sure it is all being backed-up properly.

        • Ok, a quick note to people who post silly comments. Rather than deleting them, I will do something worse: leave them up for everyone to see. Just saying.

    • Very good point about Paul. Perhaps a caveat would be to note that Paul had Apostolic authority, which was widely recognized. This is why he could speak against abuses. You can’t say the same for today’s Charismatics.

      I can’t speak for Mike, but my take on what was said (and my personal view) is that moderate, biblical, discerning Continuationists were not the focus of the conference. But in the USA people in our conservative circles tend to think that the extremes are in the minority. This is not the case. The solid Charismatics are so few and far between (relatively speaking) that they barely warrant a mention at a conference like Strange Fire, except to enlist their help to police the wider movement, as MacArthur did in his closing message.

      I hope this helps, brother.

      • reformed charismatic

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. I certainly hope your impression of the conference and of the speakers is accurate. I re-read MacArthur’s closing message, and I did see that attitude of reaching out to continuationists such as myself.

        Still, his idea of continuationists helping to police this movement is for us to change our theology and become cessationists. And that’s understandable, since he thinks the gifts have definitely ceased. I just don’t see the compelling case for that in scripture. It’s kind of like an Arminian who’s wrapping up a conference on the abuses and dangers of hypercalvinism by appealing to Calvinists to become Arminians because their beliefs give credence to hypercalvinists. So determining exactly how continuationists should respond is, well, complicated.

        Nonetheless, I look forward to reading more and hearing what he has to say.

        • Alex

          Reformed Charismatic,

          The cessationist stance is not that the gifts have ceased, only that certain gifts were designated for the Apostles and the founding of the Church, and that they are no longer genuinely active today.

          I urge you to read Pastor Busenitz’s post,

          Also in response to your first two posts, I urge you to read Pastor Riccardi’s post (referencing Pastor Spurgeon) regarding the nature of sin


          May you be blessed in the study of this topic, and may the LORD guide you in HIS truth.

          • reformed charismatic


            Thanks for the input. I do genuinely want to understand the cessationist position better, so I appreciate the first article. It was definitely insightful, and my view of cessationism was tweaked a bit. (I do think I had a relatively fair view of the position before.) But it seems to me that “ceased” and “no longer genuinely active today” are pretty much synonymous. That’s a matter of semantics, I’d say.

            I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to take away from the post with the Spurgeon quote in relation to my first two posts. Are you insinuating that I’m befriending sin? Just asking for clarification…

          • Alex

            reformed charismatic,
            ceased and genuinely active today are not synonyms (to me). for example, the LORD may heal someone from a sickness in response to a prayer, but this is very different from the “gift of healing” that was given to the early church. We’re talking walk into the hospital and heal everyone Sign Gifts from the creator of the Universe.

            If the supernaturally endowed sign gifts from the Creator of the Universe have ceased, then any claiming of that is unacceptable, and sin, the magnitude of course depends on the persons exposure and understanding of the truth (which we both recognize is a gift from GOD).

            Brother, with regards to your “not being a very good charismatic” is it not clear that it is better to sing with notes, surely GOD does not “need” words to know what we need when we pray, but are not words are better?

          • reformed charismatic


            If I may, I’d like to challenge your understanding of the gift of healing and the other “sign gifts” as you call them. You describe it as the “walk into the hospital and heal everyone” sign gift. But I would argue that the bible doesn’t describe it in that way. God is sovereign, and he doesn’t just give the ability to heal or prophecy at will. It’s for His sovereign purposes that he bestows gifts.

            I often hear the argument that you eluded to, that if the gifts are still in operation today, charismatics should be in the hospitals healing everyone. But this isn’t a legitimate argument. If that criticism could be made of modern-day charismatics, it could also be made of the apostles and the New Testament Church. You wouldn’t deny that they operated in the genuine gift of healing, would you? Yet they didn’t just go around healing everybody that they came into contact with. They were reliant on The Holy Spirit; they didn’t conjure him up like some genie from a magic lamp. So this argument, while it may be useful in refuting Word of Faith heresy, does nothing whatsoever to discount biblical continuationism that takes into account God’s sovereignty.

            I see your point that if the gifts have indeed ceased (which by the way, you are using as a synonym of “no longer genuinely active” in your second paragraph) then it is sin to claim that one is walking in them today. But I haven’t yet seen a convincing scriptural case that they have ceased. I am still engaging this issue and reading what cessationists have to say. And even in the end, if I remain unconvinced, I still know that I could be wrong. And if I am, I’m confident that the blood of Christ, which is the only thing I’m trusting in for my salvation, will cover my ignorance. And if you are wrong, I’m confident in the same for you.

            As to your last point, yes, I agree that words are better. Paul made that argument. But he didn’t take it as far as you are by saying that one should therefore not pray in tongues at all. I only occasionally pray in tongues, when it seems to be the most natural thing to do. In those times, my mind is not empty, as has been described in the Strange Fire conference. I am always engaged with my intellect. I am responding to the truths that I know about God from His word.

            I want to conclude this response by saying that I appreciate your willingness to confront me on what you perceive to be sin in my life. I am not offended. I am just, as yet, unconvinced.

          • Alex

            I think it is important to remember that all of the healings in the scripture are complete healings. also It is important to remember that every time an angel speaks in the bible, he is understood by the listener…

            I meant genuinely active as a common ground, and yes, it is a synonym, if both terms are understood with the correct denotation. As there seemed to be a degree of confusion regarding the denotation of the word, which is understandable considering that the word has been clouded by so many, I felt it necessary to make the distinction. apologies for the confusion, i pray my hasty typing would not hurt your study of this.

            The media from the conference is up.

  • Philip

    I think you’ve touched on something very important here, and I’m not sure anyone specifically addressed this at Strange Fire. Once you take the position that there is fallible prophecy you forfeit the the right to rebuke or correct anything that anyone else says. What then becomes the standard by which we judge whether or not someone is speaking truth? I’ve had talked to many charismatics who are quick to say that everything must be tested against Scripture, but most of the supposed prophecies being spouted off today cannot possibly be tested against Scripture. If the Scriptures are the standard, why not start there instead of attributing the voices in your head to the Holy Spirit and then doing a selective reading of Scripture to determine if your prophecy can be disproven?

    • Well said. That is the main point of my post. Thanks for your comment.

    • J Gordon

      What prophecies today can not be tested against Scripture? What does that say for the sufficiency of Scripture?

      Didn’t Timothy have to test such things?

  • Michael Trauffer

    This article pretty much summarizes what I’ve been reading in regards to the responses of this conference. Hearing the truth is very hard, especially when one has been living a lie for so long.

    For me, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when my eyes were finally opened to what was going on in my church and workplace, and in “Christianity” as a whole. It was very difficult to let go of a lot of beliefs, and I balked pretty hard at first, but as I started relearning he Scriptures and seeing that they weren’t about me but about Christ, that hard heart started to soften.

    After reading through some of the session transcripts, I thought that the presenters covered a lot of ground. They made it clear that they were not trying to attack all of those involved in this movement, but were basically doing the job that most charismatic leaders won’t do … Expose and decry the chaos.

    This conference built a very solid biblical case that it is now up to these charismatic leaders to deal with, or get out of the way so the fire fighters can get through to do their jobs.

    • Right. It may be worth mentioning that I too went through a Charismatic phase, that was very formative in my spiritual growth. The evangelistic zeal of true believers in the Charismatic movement is exemplary. The conference, however, was addressing primarily the completely unbiblical camp, which most (all) moderate Continuationists would decry as well.

  • todd

    Clint, recently there was an article posted on another site that claimed “Surprise: The African Church Is Not Very Charismatic”. Could you please share if you would agree with this assessment or not?


    • Larry Miles

      Hi Todd, where do u live? urban or rural? I”m in the baltimore/dc area. African charismatic churches are plentiful. Many migrate and carry on as they form churches here in America.

      • Good point.

      • todd

        Thanks Bro. Miles. Not being sarcastic at all, but how do you know this to be the case if you are from the Baltimore/dc area? I’m in Ohio myself. I am not being combative at all and I thank you for your willingness to provide clarity. Outside of the article I mentioned & my Operation World book, I am completely in the dark. So I was wondering if you have been there, have article I can read or have friends who have a first hand account. Once again I am not being combative and I agreed mostly with the conference except for Grace being to nice and not giving “the cussing pastor” a Stone Cold Stunner jk! If you or anyone could clarify or direct me to a site that offers more clarity it would be appreciated. Thanks again!!

    • Good question. The “lunatic fringe crazy” version of Charismania is more prevalent and pervasive in African countries than any other place I’ve been. I’ve been to 25 countries, lived in 4, and I have never seen the extremity that I’ve witnessed in Africa. We Africans tend to be superstitious and spiritual, so we make for fertile soil for Charismatic practices (abuses).

      • todd

        Thanks Clint! I should have continued on before responding to Larry!

  • Clint, this was a brilliant and helpful illustration! Pastor John said something in his message yesterday that was helpful too… he noted that continuationists argue the legitimacy of their movement because it’s so large – 500 million people so God must be in it, except 150 million of those are apostate Catholics, and then you have all the Oneness Pentecostals too. The question is, since when did numbers be the standard of genuine salvation? So many object to truthful confrontation, he noted, because they have no concern whatsoever for the Truth. They are offended by the true Gospel as much as any other unbeliever, and want to be left alone to travel on their broad way. Again, I thought this was a GREAT article Clint!

    • Thanks for sharing those insights, Matt. Good points to bear in mind.

  • bobschilling

    Clint, terrific article. I’m a huge appreciator of the Grudems, Storms, Pipers, etc., while thoroughly disagreeing with them on the “open to prophecy, etc.” position that they have.

    Have you read, and if not I highly recommend it to you and to any others here who wrestle with the issue of cessationism – Victor Budgen’s, “Charismatics and the Word of God”? The best single volume, in my opinion on this subject. To the “reformed charismatic” responder above – this book would help you a lot / pick up the revised edition – pub. by Evangelicl Press – imho, the best exegetical and historical treatment in one modest volume.

    Great analogy / wherever these guys were dismissed (Grudem, Piper, etc.), that may have gone too far – but it is very legitimate to address the foundational misunderstanding of the nature of “prophecy” notwithstanding the scholarly efforts of guys like Grudem to redefine it.

    God is not in a box, but God has clearly spoken through His Son, who finalized all He had to reveal through His Apostles – with His Spirit and His Word, we need nothing more. Thank you for a great blog.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look into that book.

  • Billy_Quan

    First off let me start by saying that I watched the whole conference and am a cessationist my self. That being said you can bring the truth with love. And just because you are bringing the truth dosenot mean you are doing it with love. A love that Christ has ask us to have for all people. I have read Johns rebuttle to the arguments aginst the conference. On this topic he said
    “But I would suggest to you that the most loving thing anyone could ever do would be to tell someone the truth.”

    Your house fire analogy, while cute and clever is not a good one for the problem with the strange fire conference.

    • Thanks for your loving critique Billy.
      I guess some are better at communicating their lovingkindness through tone of voice etc. Probably best for us to believe the best about the conference speakers–that their motive really was love and concern for believers worldwide, and the glory of Christ. If it wasn’t, God will sort that out on judgment day. In the meantime, their passion for the truth needs to be enough for us. We can always swallow the chicken and spit out the bones, no matter how hot or cold the dish was served.

      • Billy_Quan

        Sorry, had to step away from my computer and my comment was posted before I had finished. The whole comment is below.

        • in other words, to be continued…? Typical continuationist 😉

          • Billy_Quan


  • Richard

    I was raised a 4th generation Pentecostal. I served as a pastor a denominational leader in 3 traditional Pentecostal groups. I was acknowledged as a historian/theologian in the major old-line Pentecostal denomination I grew up in. I am very aware of the abuses that took place in early Pentecostalism and have grown so much worse in the charismatic and neo-Pentecostal groups. I would be great speaker at such a conference.

    I no longer consider myself a Pentecostal. I clearly see the flaws of their theology in non-essential doctrine. A warning call to fanaticism and fadism is necessary. As one of my Pentecostal pastors told me long ago, “Anyone who marries a fad will soon become a widow.”

    Keep up the good work at Cripplegate. I appreciate your service to the King.

    • Very well said, and thanks for your transparency.

  • Billy_Quan

    First off let me start by saying that I watched the whole conference and AM a cessationist my self. That being said you can bring the truth with love. And just because you are bringing the truth dosenot mean you are doing it with love. A love that Christ has ask us to have for all people. I have read Johns rebuttle to the arguments aginst the conference. On this topic he said:

    “But I would suggest to you that the most loving thing anyone could ever do would be to tell someone the truth.”

    This is such a cop out. John and GCC have such a bad reputation for being proud and arrogant and this is always their response. I am growing weary of constantly defending John and his disciples when they continue to operate with such contempt for anyone that is different from them. Showing clips of people in the opposition and them making fun of them on stage is not showing the love of Christ with all the truth you have. This is exactly what John, Steve, Tom and Justin did on Thursday. They showed clips and then said things like “If you look up moron in the dictionary, you will see a photo of these guys!”. and “These people are just stupid”. How is that in any way bringing the truth in love? It is bringing the truth with pride. So your house fire analogy, while cute and clever is not a good one. A better one would be a doctor or surgeon that says, “You have cancer (or what ever)? What an idiot! Hey everybody, look at this stupid person with cancer! He should quit smoking.” The sad take away from the conference for a lot of people is that anyone holding to a continueationist view or singing songs that are not GCC style hymns, is not saved.

    • Michael

      ” John and GCC have such a bad reputation for being proud and arrogant and this is always their response.”

      Was that said in love and without arrogance?

      • Billy_Quan

        Its just a fact.

        • Billy, Michael has a point. It’s hard to take a rebuke on name-calling from one calling names. Your point is valid, and doesn’t require any ad hominem flavors to make it stick.

          • Billy_Quan

            I didn’t mean to call names but rather I was stating a reputation that I come across a lot outside of Grace (GCC). Im sorry if it came across as name calling.

    • Hi Billy, how long have you been a member of Grace Community Church? I can only assume you feel justified in accusing Pastor John and his partners of having “such a bad reputation” if you have personally interacted with him and his congregation on a personal level. If people give Pastor John a bad name, it’s because they disagree with him. You see, brother, this is the irony of all the negative criticism directed at Strange Fire: people who are making the claims that you are making become guilty of doing the very thing you are accusing Pastor John of doing. The Q&A panel (consisting of men who are highly qualified to speak on these issues) called something that was clearly blasphemous a moronic and stupid act…because it was. On what basis do you believe that is unloving and arrogant? Why is your standard of what is “loving” more accurate than Pastor John’s? To say that you have a more biblical understanding of what constitutes as “loving” reveals a little bit of arrogance your part, my friend.

      • Billy_Quan

        First, I have been at GCC for about 10 years and have personally interacted with him and his congregation. And I don’t disagree with John. I disagree with his contempt for every one that is different. You can discuss the problem and the solution with out insulting the offenders. Do you not agree? Can you honestly say that Q&A was done with the love of Christ? If so, We just have a different idea of how to love. Which is often what I find with people who have been at Grace for a long time. They assume that because they hold such a high view of truth that they are always correct and above critique. And with out a doubt, I am a proud sinner that needs Christ everyday. And it is my pride and arrogance that makes me so bothered about this. But are those men above a misstep here or there?

        • Ok, everyone, let’s please stick to taking issue with my post, not with the commentors. If you’d like to exchange e-mail addresses and take this outside, that’s fine with me. Thanks.

    • Yeah, I’m not going to defend name-calling. Your last sentence, though, I must take issue with. If that was your take-away, then you aren’t considering carefully who was being taken on. The conference was targeting unbelieving, cult-like, mysticism, and pagan practices being attributed to the Holy Spirt. Continuationists were conspicuously absent in the line of fire. No one took Piper, Grudem, or other respected, godly, Continuationists to the woodshed for abusing pneumatology for gain. If you heard that, then you were filtering things through a biased lens.

      • Billy_Quan

        Clint, thank you for your replay and take. That was not necessarily MY take away, but one that I hear from others that listened. I am a fan of Johns teaching and theology and have to defend it often to people outside of Grace Community Church. I admit that I am some what biased to the sensitivities of those out side of the MacAurthur camp. So these things do get me a bit fired up because I know whats coming from people that hold the Pipers and Grudems of the world in a high regard. Even though they weren’t “taken to the woodshed” I know that it will be taken that way by some. I appreciate your input and the time you take on this blog to interact with us.

    • Brody


      I want to suggest to you that there are some things you should think about before posting another post like the one you posted above.

      First of all, do you know what the Bible says a Pastor is supposed to be and supposed to do? Paul taught that a Pastor is to have certain character traits and then he is supposed to preach the Word in and out of season and then he is to rebuke, reprove, and exhort with all diligence. The pastor/shepherd is the one who is to leader the flock in being an example of what someone looks like who follows Christ. As MacArthur stated in the Conference, this is someone who is more concerned about the glory of God and about honoring Christ than he is as to whether or not he offends his fellow man. MacArthur said that is vastly more important to him. When you find a man who is more concerned about whether he is loving his fellow man enough that his fellow man is not offended, you have to wonder where that man stands in regards to glorifying God and honoring Christ.

      The second thing you might want to think about is this. How many hours have you spent day in and day out studying the Word of God in depth while at the same time being in prayer that God, through his Spirit, would give you understanding of the truth and meaning of Scripture as God intended it? If you can say you have done that to the extent that John MacArthur has, then you can try to say whether or not MacArthur is proud or arrogant, but until you understand spiritual things to the depth that John MacArthur and the other men on the panel do, I would caution you to be very careful about what you are saying.

      I am praying for you and for others that I read and hear saying the same things who I believe should exercise caution and humility towards John and the other men and show respect for them as those who are much further along in the sanctification process than we are.

      In Christ,


      • Billy_Quan

        Brody, Thank you for your response to my post. You make good points. But keep in mind that I didn’t call John or anyone names, just stated a reputation that I come across some what often. I would love to continue this dialogue, but it has gotten off topic and out of respect for Mr. Archers request to keep it on the topic of his original post, it would need to take place over email which I would be more than happy to do. You can reach me at billyquan@earthlink.net.

        • Good idea. Thanks Billy.

  • Excellent article, Clint..it does help clarify the issues. As long as we’re into analogy here..I’ve thought of MacArthur as the John Wayne of Evangelicalism. Not everyone appreciate’s that kind of stand-taking 😉

    • I’m more of a Clint Eastwood fan 😉 Thanks for reading.

      • Haha.. well, we all have our preferences ;P

  • J Gordon

    The way charismatics can rebuke “barking in the Spirit” and other highlighted practices, not to mention false teachings such as modalism and word-faith, is by saying this: “Scripture, which is our sole rule of faith AND practice, does not authorize or endorse this practice/teaching.” If some fleshly reaction or outburst was to just “happen” in a meeting, this would not necessarily invalidate the ministry by implication (Jonathan Edwards made this argument). But that’s a very different thing from orchestrating a meeting with the intent of fomenting or encouraging such “acting out”, or even allowing such to predominate church gatherings, especially at the sacrifice of obedience to what God has commanded ministers to do: preach the gospel, teach the Word, administer ordinances, counsel, pray, worship.

    If Scripture did not give the Church the means of dealing with such errors in faith and practice, the NT Church would have had no way to judge such things either. (What they did have was the Scripture, per 2 Tim 3, primarily the OT, and the “apostles’ teaching”, having received it in person, then written in sundry segments, and eventually in the once-for-all-delivered NT. Even the OT provided the basis for confirming the apostles’ teaching, not just spiritual manifestations – Acts 17:11).

    Even the Corinthian church had the ability and duty to “police” charismatic manifestations (though not by “forbidding” them – 1 Cor 14:39) according to Biblical and apostolic teaching (as Paul reminds them in his letter).

    • kb

      This is a good point–but most often they don’t police anything because nobody wants to “miss out” on what God might be doing or be guilty of “quenching the Spirit.”

      • This is true too. In my post I do call continuationists to police the movement the best they can, but I also point out that it is exceedingly hard for them to do this, because they lack the theological high ground. They are on the same plane as those they want to rebuke in that they all believe God can manifest revelation outside of the closed cannon. So it becomes a matter of where the line is, and where the thin edge of the wedge leads to.

      • J Gordon

        The way to make sure you don’t “miss out” is not by embracing “every wind of doctrine” that blows through, but by being faithful and obedient to what God has already spoken and revealed. It’s not as if we have fully walked in all the truth we have clearly revealed to us in Scripture, and therefore need some “new material”.

        Charistmata are meant to empower the preaching of the gospel, and help apply and reinforce the teaching of the Word, not supplant (or even “supplement” per se) either of these.

    • Solid point. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Jesse

    Clint, I’m confused by some of your comments. You write:

    The “moderate, biblical, discerning Continuationists were not the focus of the conference… The solid Charismatics are so few and far between (relatively speaking) that they barely warrant a mention at a conference like Strange Fire…”

    According to the message at the conference, is it possible to be a “solid Charismatic”? I thought the point of the conference is to show that the two terms were incongruent? And, that it wasn’t just the “extremists” on the fringe? for example, can you be “biblical” and still believe in the continuing gift of tongues? I thought the answer, per the conference, was no?

    • Great question, and well-articulated. I don’t want to be overly simplistic about the dichotomy. Maybe my word “solid” is more generous than what was intimated at the conference. I simply mean to show that there are people who were not directly implicated by the accusations. Obviously cessationists hold a view that all continuationists are in some degree of error. But the degree of error is important. You can be a contnuationist and be saved, godly, Christ-like, and biblical in a massive amount of your ministry. The cessationist would only be picking on your view/use/definition of the revelatory gifts, for example. OR you could be the unbeliever who has found that people pay a ton of money to see you knock them over with your mind-control. The cessationists at the conference would pick on ALL your views/uses/definitions of EVERYTHING you do.

      I hope that helps clear up what I meant.

      Thanks for the question to give me a chance to elaborate.

    • Alex

      I thought Pastor MaCarthur’s reference to radical islam was interesting,

      While any level headed believer would love to see conservative muslims come together to denounce radical islam, we are not conceding that they are correct. Even better would be to see them all come to a knowledge of the truth, but that is not something that can be forced only presented, and prayed for

      The same thing goes with this charismatic business, The difference is that the LORD is actually being talked about, and family members are actually being led astray, making it an especially emotional issue demanding a degree of anger for those it is clear to.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Clint: “Conservative Continuationists need to start their own version of the conference to police the excesses as best they can,”

    Hi Pastor Clint, great post. Incidentally, I was participating in a thread conversation over at C. Michael Patton’s blog, and this fellow that I was interacting with says that they do not have the duty to police the excesses. And he apparently resents the Cessationists for claiming that they do have a duty to police the excesses.

    Here is what he wrote: “Charismatics are, like Protestants, too diverse to create the duty for one party to harp on another party for their heretical beliefs. I mean seriously tell me what John Piper and Oneness Pentecostals have in common beyond believing that the gifts are for today? Virtually nothing. Why should John have a duty, as a Reformed Baptist, to speak out against Oneness Pentecostals any more than Turk, as a Reformed Baptist, has a duty to speak out against Luther??”

    Later: “this is quite beside the argument that Turk was making and furthermore, while some churches may vocally condemn this, this does not make it a normative duty to do so in all churches. Every church cannot spend its entire time condemning every false teaching.”

    Here: Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice.

    • Interesting. I assume that guy has no problem with Cessationists hosting a conference to take a stab at policing. If he does have a problem with it, then I’d say “All gave some and some gave all.” J/k What I’d say is that every camp should contribute to rebuking any practice that kidnaps the name of Christianity and robs God of glory. But there are some camps that are more equipped to do so. They bear the greater responsibility. Thanks for adding this to the thread.

      • Truth Unites… and Divides

        “I assume that guy has no problem with Cessationists hosting a conference to take a stab at policing.”

        Oh goodness no. He most certainly had a problem with this conference.

    • Alex

      This is all about sin, we as Christians have a mandate to fight Sin (ROM 8.13), and denominational difference is not an excuse to shy away.

      It is also about the LORD answering prayer by sending people to stand up to those who are slandering HIS name (PS 4.2), if that is not reason enough, It is about loving righteousness and hating wickedness (HEB 1.9), if that is not enough It is about encouraging, a separation from those who would mock the LORD HOLY SPIRIT (Psalm 1.1),

      The notion that brothers would not have an obligation to turn each other away from sin is obviously incorrect (James 5.19-20).

      IF a brother wishes to discuss what sin is or argue that something is not a sin, that is one thing, but even if I convince everyone that a sin is not a sin (or vice versa) It does not matter, the only thing that counts is how GOD feels about it.

      19My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

  • Brad

    I learned a lot from this conference…I believer that the speakers at the conference were very helpful, but not without their own weaknesses and sin. I believe the tragedy of the conference is this: We are talking more about John MacArthur than the work of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God, and the beauty of Christ.

  • Brad

    The other thing I noticed about the conference is that, practically speaking, evangelicalism is dominated by larger than life personalities (cult of personality). In an odd way, evangelicals are very Catholic, in the sense that we have “popes” like MacArthur, Piper, Driscoll etc. The problem I have with this is that it really downplays the priority of the local church and life-on-life ministry. At the same time, these men are brilliant and uniquely gifted.

  • s harris

    It is dangerous to make our theology about who we believe rather than what we believe. Let us not rail against the teacher or put them up on a lofty pedestal. Let’s show our position by providing an affirmation backed up by Scripture Let’s be sure we are all Bereans, going back to the Bible to determine what we believe.

  • Pingback: As the Smoke Clears: A Few Afterthoughts on the Strange Fire Conference | the Cripplegate()

  • Pingback: Random Thoughts in the Aftermath of Strange Fire | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...()

  • Pingback: New Post: As the Smoke Clears: A Few Afterthoughts on the Strange Fire Conference | Truth2Freedom's Blog()

  • Busdriver4jesus

    Ditto what reformed charismatic said… any true believer potentially has the ability to “test the spirits” and tell that barking lunatic to stop pretending the Holy Spirit is holding his leash. Sure, it’s simpler to tell him that all sign gifts have ceased, but then you’d have to convince him from Scripture, something I’ve seen some cessationists struggle with.

    • Alex

      Of whom are you referring when you refer to the barking lunatic?

  • Pingback: Strange Fire: Thoughts As the Smoke Clears… [by Eric Davis] | Rooted & Relevant()

  • Pingback: Why the Strange Fire Conference Matters. | Rivers of Hope()

  • Pingback: Lessons Learned at Strange Fire()

  • Pingback: Myths about the Strange Fire Conference | the Cripplegate()

  • Pingback: The Smell of Napalm | the Cripplegate()