The Strange Fire conference led by John MacArthur at Grace Community Church has concluded.
And it was a bit strange.
Pentecostal and Charismatic indictment was in order. Any manifestation of the miraculous spiritual gifts (even biblical) was put in the same category as mysticism. That’s too bad.
The conference had its lighter moments too, especially when neo-Calvinist charismatic and controversial pastor Mark Driscoll showed up and set up shop on campus with a bunch of his new books. He was kicked (ahem, gently asked) out. Todd Friel of Wretched also had a great line in one of the sessions: “This conference is called Strange Fire, maybe next year’s conference will be called Strange Water, about that infant baptism stuff…” 🙂 That was a jab at MacArthur who was joined by the cessationist infant baptizing crowd in this endeavor.
On a more serious note, the conference did nothing but drive a wider wedge between people who love the Lord. Initially, MacArthur asked the “faithful Pentecostals” to join him and denounce Word of Faith, Toronto Blessing, New Apostolic Reformation and Bill Johnson type of charismatism, but then he turned around and slammed anyone who is not a cessationist with respect to spiritual gifts and miracles in the strongest possible terms.
So the conference failed on that front. Instead of winning over on his side those of us who continue to believe in the miraculous gifts as described in 1 Corinthians 14 and practiced biblically, MacArthur slammed us as demonic and mystic. Typical cessationist approach.
Well balanced and well-respected pastors and theologians like John Piper and Sam Storms were criticized from the pulpit. Again, for something that is black on white in the Bible.
There was however, a bright spot in the conference: Conrad Mbewe, the so-called Spurgeon of Africa. He is a reformed preacher used by God in a mighty way in Africa to denounce the prosperity gospel and charismatic abuses. He was the only speaker who actually differentiated between those involved in charismatic abuses and continuationists who are grounded in Scripture. He made the point that the latter are fewer and fewer in Africa. He used to have university colleagues in Pentecostal circles, and they would exchange doctrinal points and Bible study experience.
That’s right, Bible study among Pentecostals and Charismatics. It is sad that such a concept is rare now-a-days.
That is where the baby is found in the murky bath water. There are still those of us who study the Word of God and are committed to its prescriptions, and continue to believe in the gifts of tongues and prophecy.
The Body of Christ should not be divided over secondary issues like continuation of spiritual gifts. We should denounce heretical theology and manifestations found in some charismatic circles, but accept those believers who are grounded in the Bible and have experienced the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.
photo: the Christian Post