Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Strange Fire by John MacArthur

MacArthur begins his book with the story of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10). They were consumed by God because “they used something other than the fire God Himself had ignited.” (xii) That may not seem like such a big deal in our era of casual worship, MacArthur notes, but God's response to their careless, self-willed manner of approaching Him was deadly.

This should be a wake up call to the church, MacArthur says. Unbiblical worship or turning the Holy Spirit into a spectacle is a serious affront to God. It is time for the evangelical church to take a stand and recover a proper focus on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, MacArthur urges.

MacArthur comes down hard on current Charismatic leaders, calling them “spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.” (xv) He says they are claiming that the works of the devil are those of the Holy Spirit. He follows the example of Jonathan Edwards in framing questions to ask about spiritual experience. He concludes that many in the Charismatic Movement are promoting a false gospel.

MacArthur is a cessationist and he argues that apostles, prophecy, etc., were all unique to the early church. God does still speak today, MacArthur says, and the Holy Spirit still moves our hearts, but only through the Word of God.

MacArthur also explores the Holy Spirit's true work. Knowing the authentic is how we know to identify the counterfeit. He covers the Spirit's work in salvation, sanctification, and Scripture. His final chapter is a letter to his reformed charismatic and conservative evangelical friends who are continuationists on what he believes are the dangers of that view.

MacArthur certainly has given the Christian community a wake up call. He gives lots of evidence of the craziness in the Charismatic Movement. His section on the true work of the Holy Spirit includes an excellent section on sanctification.

I have two reservations about the book. This first is MacArthur's “in your face” style of writing. He pulls no punches by calling charismatics horrible names. The Bible says it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), not name calling.

Also, I wonder how necessary MacArthur's book is. Hanegraaff's book on the subject was updated in 2009. Looking at MacArthur's footnotes, much of the charismatic craziness he points out is from a decade ago or even longer.

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is president of the Master's College and Seminary. He has written dozens of books.

Thomas Nelson, 352 pages.

I requested and received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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