Brendt Waters just posted his real final thoughts on the Strange Fire debacle. I didn't repost parts 7 and 8. Here are links to each of the pieces: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6 | part 7 | part 8 | part 9
The article is also available in a handy-dandy PDF format, sans my smiling mug, but with the addition of pretty pull quotes.
But here's part 9 ... it's excellent.
Circling the Runway (Or Is It the Drain?)
Challies’ final question:
The Strange Fire conference focused primarily on the worst examples of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. While the charlatans rightfully need to be exposed and rebuked, there are also many godly Christians who feel like they have been unjustly tarnished with an overly broad generalization. Do you think there would be value in a conference that would interact not with the worst, but the best of charismatic leaders (such as D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper)? Would you be willing to organize or participate in such an event?
After burning nearly 750 words trying to convince us that he didn’t want to hurt anyone and (again) claiming that his brush is not too broad, MacArthur finally spends a little over 100 words answering the actual question:
Regarding the need for another conference, people are welcome to have any kind of conference they want. Ultimately, however, these issues are not going to be resolved in a conference format where opposing sides are debated over the course of just a few days. They are only going to be resolved through the serious and diligent study of God’s Word.
Rather than initiating another conference, I am more interested in sparking a movement committed to reclaiming the honor of the Holy Spirit. And I would be glad to stand with these men in that effort, for the glory of Christ and the good of His church.
Translation: No, I won’t host another conference on this topic. A conference that taught views that run counter to mine would not be productive. Strange Fire, on the other hand, was very productive.
Oh, and let’s not forget to note yet another reference to the allegedly lost honor of the Holy Spirit and how man is going to restore it.
And then MacArthur closes with the pièce de résistance, giving an excellent summary of everything he’s said:
I sincerely hope they’ll join me.
Translation: I’m right. Come over to my viewpoint (“join me”) and we’ll get along swimmingly.
God knew He was right, and yet He said to an Israel that had gone completely off the rails, “Come, let us reason together.” It’s a shame that MacArthur seems to have no desire to be like God.
Thus endeth my analysis of the “interview” of MacArthur. However, having spent nearly 10,000 words examining the many logical fallacies of this interview, I have not yet brought up what, to me, is the most troubling and damning issue surrounding the Strange Fire conference.
In the months leading up to the conference, brief promotional videos were released on Youtube. Several of these caused consternation among continuationists and even among the “open but cautious” crowd (who don’t necessarily see the gifts working in their own lives, but who don’t deny their existence, either). But none raised as big a stink as the one released on September 10, in which MacArthur accused charismatics of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s break down what that means, using doctrines common to most evangelicals, regardless of their pneumatology:
- The only time that Scripture references the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when Jesus describes doing so as what has come to be known as the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29).
- Anyone who dies with unforgiven sin receives eternal damnation (the Mark passage even says as much, so we don’t have to rely on logical succession).
- So basically, John MacArthur had condemned the entirety of the charismatic movement to hell with no hope of redemption.
Needless to say, this statement drew a lot of attention and criticism. Perhaps they were being charitable, but none of the writers that I encountered blatantly noted the ramifications of such a sweeping statement. You see, in order to make a definitive declaration of the salvific condition of one person (let alone millions), one of two things must be true: either you have to receive a word from the Lord or you are God.
Now, as a cessationist, MacArthur would never deem a word from the Lord to be an acceptable incident. So that only leaves one (heretical) alternative.
Let’s remember that Jesus was killed for claiming to be God, and He actually was.
With one sentence, MacArthur had alienated pretty much the entirety of Christendom, except for those who were already in lockstep with his belief system and blinded to the audacity of what he had said. Naturally, with accusations of heresy on the line, MacArthur’s defenders piped up to assure us that “that’s not what he meant.” But assurances from John Doe in Dubuque don’t carry much weight when there’s nothing but silence coming from Sun Valley. Short of an explanation from Grace to You, the conference would be little more than preaching to the choir, with all appeals for change heard only by those who could affect none.
Days went by. Then weeks. No word from anyone official on what MacArthur “really” meant. Then the conference started – and still no word. Finally, a day and a half into the conference, an explanation was given, not by MacArthur, but by one of his assistants.
The explanation? MacArthur was referring to a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I’ve already argued enough against convoluted reasoning and statements that run counter to reality. So let us disregard the English language contortions necessary to parse all the way down to the difference between definite and indefinite articles. And let us even disregard that – despite Johnson’s assurances of what MacArthur allegedly meant – in the video, MacArthur very distinctly says “the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” (emphasis mine).
Let’s pretend that Johnson’s reasoning was completely sound and convincing; and instead, let us focus on the timing of the explanation. As I stated, the controversy started over a month before the conference. That left plenty of time to clarify what MacArthur meant, and quite possibly win over (at least for the consideration of ideas) some who would be able to affect the changes that MacArthur was allegedly seeking. And yet no effort was made toward that end.
Once more, let’s borrow from MacArthur’s playbook and put forth guesses to explain the uncertain.
- The entirety of the Grace to You organization was under a rock for the last month before the conference, and so wasn’t aware of the (alleged) misinterpretation.
- MacArthur was aware of the (alleged) misinterpretation, but just didn’t care to take a few minutes to engage with people whom he “appreciate[s],” has “benefited from,” and whom he “love[s]” and “regard[s] as brothers in Christ.”
- There was no misinterpretation, Johnson was wrong, and “that” really is what MacArthur meant.
None of these options (ignorance, callousness, or heresy) are very flattering. Am I missing a fourth alternative?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?