Why the Strange Fire Conference Matters
- Monday, October 21, 2013
Trevin Wax goes into some detail on this and says, “If you agree with MacArthur, the best way to engage critics is not to defend him as if he were the pope, but to back up your claims by appealing to Scripture. If you disagree with MacArthur, the best way to engage the conference is not by railing against the man, but by showing specifically the ways you think he caricatured your position and by providing a calm, sober affirmation of continualist claims, backed up by Scripture.” And again, “let’s not judge the conference speakers as wrong simply for gathering together and taking a stand against doctrines they believe to be false. As Christians, we may be continualists or cessationists, but we are not relativists.”
THERE IS MISUNDERSTANDING
I have long believed that many of the issues related to charismatic and cessationist theology owe to misunderstandings between the two sides. The reaction to this conference—the many discussions through social media and elsewhere—reveal that we need to do a better job of understanding one another, of affirming common ground, and of determining the importance of our differences. As a convinced cessationist, I was troubled to hear caricatures from charismatics about quenching the Holy Spirit, about elevating Scripture above God, about excluding all possibility of miracles, and so on. All of these caricatures show an uncharitable and unhelpful misunderstanding of cessationism. I am sure many cessationists were equally unfair and that I, myself, do not understand the continuationist position as well as I should. The simple fact is, until we rightly understand one another, we are in a weak position to bring critiques. But I know I am prone to do it anyway, to argue out of ignorance. I have to challenge myself here to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and when I do speak, to speak through the Scriptures.
WHAT WE BELIEVE (NOT WHO)
This is a late addition to the article (a half hour after posting it), but I wanted to express it. We always face the danger of making our theology about who we believe rather than what we believe. The last thing we want or need is “I am of MacArthur” and “I am of Grudem.” I am sure this is the very last thing those men want. So even while we take our cues from the men we admire and the men who may think better than we do, let’s be sure that we are all Bereans, that we are all going back to the Bible to determine what we believe. Let’s be known for what we believe far ahead of whom we believe.
THERE IS MORE WORK TO BE DONE
Strange Fire was an event that primarily targeted the worst of the charismatic movement. As I said when I offered an early look at the book, it is more about Benny Hinn than Bob Kauflin. While the Reformed charismatics may be a valued and significant part of the New Calvinism, they represent only the smallest fringe of the wider charismatic movement. What still remains to be done is to interact with the best arguments of the best of the charismatics and to address this from within the Reformed resurgence. This would be a very different event with a very different purpose and I hope someone will sponsor it before long.
Only time will tell of the long-term impact of Strange Fire, but as I think back to the past few days, I find myself grateful for it. I suppose that may be easier to say as a cessationist than a charismatic, but I believe the event and its aftermath will prove beneficial. I continue to pray that God would use it to to strengthen His church and to glorify His name.
- Strange Fire Conference: First Day Reflections
- John MacArthur and Strange Fire
- Strange Fire Conference: John MacArthur's Opening Address
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