I have just spent the past two weeks listening to the audio messages from the ‘Strange Fire’ conference that was recently sponsored by Dr. John MacArthur, senior pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA. As a Charismatic, Word of Faith pastor myself, I wanted to digest the teachings of this conference before giving any response. While I have not as of yet read Dr. MacArthur’s ‘Strange Fire’ book, I certainly intend to do so as I engage in this dialogue.
First of all, I would like to thank Dr. MacArthur for hosting the conference. I found the messages to be thought-provoking, challenging, and for the most part presented in a spirit of humility. While I have theological disagreements with various statements and beliefs that were presented, I believe that this serves as a wake up call to the Charismatic body as a whole, to bring some much-needed balance and house cleaning to our ranks.
I have always been of the opinion that if what we believe cannot stand up to scrutiny then perhaps we really need to question the validity of our beliefs? This is why I appreciate the challenges that were put forth at the ‘Strange Fire’ conference. The messages really made me consider what I believe about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, as well as some of the common practices that have become so common in Charismatic circles today.
Far too many Charismatic, ministers have been involved in absolutely foolish practices, that have for the most part gone completely unchallenged. There have been times when I have watched teachers on Christian television and felt a great deal of embarrassment over how they presented the message of prosperity, or other biblical matters. There has also been far too much sensationalism that in some cases has resulted in downright buffoonery, which leaves the audience with the impression of a traveling medicine show, rather than that of a genuine Christian witness. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.
I am not implying that every Charismatic preacher on TV is a charlatan, or out to line their pockets. I believe that the majority of these men and women are for the most part godly, sincere followers of Christ. Yet unfortunately those who have become overly consumed with the message of prosperity or other sensational practices stand out like a sore thumb.
With this said, I do believe that some of those who are involved with the so-called practice of ‘exposing false teachers,’ have unintentionally misrepresented the WOF movement, and lumped all of us into the same pot. There is a tendency for people to become fixated upon exposing error to a point where they cannot see the forest for the trees. If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything becomes a nail. Because some of these folks are so obsessed with hammering at error, everything that they hear that does not fit neatly into their understanding of biblical terms becomes a nail of error that must me hammered. I believe that some involved in witch hunting can become just as destructive as the error that they are trying to stamp out.