Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship, John MacArthur

Famed Pentecostal and televangelist Benny Hinn seems innocent enough. He’s a little coo-key in the way he approaches Christianity: namely by “slaying” people in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and professing to perform miracles by way of healing’s in his multi-million dollar ministry; but he’s not doing any harm in Christianity is he? Dr. John MacArthur of Grace Church in his book, “Strange Fire,” (released in October 2013) would disagree. Not only would he disagree, but he would argue that the entire Charismatic movement is the single greatest threat to Christianity in the 21st Century. He speaks about false prophets like Tod Bently, who, during the Lake-Land Revivals, was “told” by the Holy Spirit to physically injure his attendee’s in order to heal them. He actually punched an elderly woman in the face; he punched a man with colon cancer so hard he nearly died from his ruptured colon. Some would say these are “fringe” Charismatics. However, Dr. MacArthur powerfully and expertly exposes the Charismatic movement for what it is: blatant blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

During the great awakening of Jonathan Edward’s time, many were focused on the experiential phenomena of the Holy Spirit’s workings. He therefore wrote a sermon entitled, “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” In it, he explains that “the legitimacy of a revival could not be determined on the basis of emotional responses.” He uses 1 John 1:4 to urge his listeners to “test the Spirits,” to say that not all that seems to be Godly is from God. Dr. MacArthur uses this blueprint to ask the question, “Does the modern Charismatic movement represent a true work of the Holy Spirit?”

This represents Part I of his book: Part II is about the various doctrines Charismatics are clearly confused on, including: speaking in tongues, miracles and healings, the office of Apostle and Prophets, and prophecies. Part III then shows the true work of the Holy Spirit. Most interestingly, the appendix of the book has a series of quotes from highly regarded Church Fathers such as John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and others that deny the continuation of the Apostolic gifts.

This book is fascinating and I highly recommend it: it contains a mini systematic theology course on pneumatology and soteriology, it exposes the fallacies in the Charismatic movement by using scripture, and it answers tough questions like the exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 (what is the perfect, teleion?). Most shockingly, Dr. MacArthur ends the book with a plea to the “Calvinist Charismatics” (Check out this sermon to see how Calvin denied the continuation of the Apostolic sign gifts and therefore it is rather hypocritical to be a “Charismatic Calvinist” and influential Continuists like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and Wayne Grudem to stop giving theological backing to men like Benny Hinn and Tod Bently, but to use their blessed ministries and position to call out false prophets and teachers that are blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

This is a sobering book and if you have questions on the legitimacy of the sign gifts or are confused on the Continuist/Cessationist position, I urge you to read it.

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