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Strange Fire: MacArthur Responds to Critics

  • Ryan Duncan What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2013 Oct 21

Influential author, pastor, and seminary president, Rev. John MacArthur, set out to ignite Christian passions at his recent conference at Grace Community Church, and it appears that he succeeded. The three-day Strange Fire conference has come under heavy criticism from many spiritual leaders, largely due to MacArthur’s harsh comments on the Charismatic movement. MacArthur, a veteran of 45 years in ministry, believes the Charismatic movement dishonors the Holy Spirit and blinds Christians from Biblical truth. Other pastors have countered that such claims are divisive, and have the potential of alienating believers from the Church, but MacArthur refuses to yield. In his eyes the truth always divides, but he would rather speak in truth than dishonor God.                      

But what does MacArthur mean by Charismatic? To be sure, there are many fringes of Christianity that choose sensationalism over Biblical knowledge, but of those who simply employ contemporary music? An article in the Christian Post gives a deeper look into MacArthur’s claims and his personal beliefs concerning the Charismatic movement.                  

“According to MacArthur, the Charismatic movement is an ‘alien movement’ whose roots can be traced back to 1966 when the hippies of San Francisco moved to Orange County and joined Calvary Chapel and the "barefoot, drug-induced young people told the church how the church should act." he said. ‘Hymns and suits went out. For the first time in the history of the church, the conduct of the church was conformed to a sub-culture that was born of LSD and marijuana.’ MacArthur contends that the Charismatic movement is a culturally-bound, culturally-driven and seeker-driven church movement that depreciates and diminishes the glorious way the Holy Spirit worked in the foundation of the church.”

I must confess I know little of the Charismatic movement. Perhaps it is just as MacArthur says, and it has created a church that is more concerned with the feelings of others than the understanding God’s truth. However, I feel this one of many old questions facing our generation.

“Can I praise God through art, or is it better to be obedient?”

“Should I come to church with my best, or simply come as I am?”

“What music honors God more, contemporary or traditional?”

In a recent article on Crosswalk, Emily Freeman expresses how she believes art is a gateway to God’s glory. In her eyes, Christians have come to associate God with complete order and autocratic rule, blinding us to the wonder of his love. Look at the following paragraphs,

“Have you considered the way he colors the sky? Or the smallest details in the blades of grass or grains of sand beneath your feet? Is he only a God of right answers and right angles and acceptable behavior? Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself? He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us.

He loves us. Is with us. And believing him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn’t give us a list. He invites us into the story.

God is not a technician. God is an Artist. This is the God who made you. The same God who lives inside you. He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways. That’s why there’s freedom, even in the blah. Hope, even in the dark. Love, even in the fear. Trust, even as we face our critics.”

It is true that Charismatic movements can blind us to the truth of Christ’s words, but so can apathetic worship. No side is better than the other, instead God seeks us to balance them, together. To find joy in his truths, to delight in his works, and to honor his commands. Only then can we begin to understand the character of God.

*Ryan Duncan is the Culture Editor for