What would God say about those who blatantly misrepresent His Holy Spirit; who exchange true worship for chaotic fits of mindless ecstasy; who replace the biblical gospel with vain illusions of health and wealth; who claim to prophesy in His name yet speak errors; and who sell false hope to desperate people for millions of dollars?
The charismatic movement has always been a breeding-ground for scandal, greed, bad doctrine, and all kinds of spiritual chicanery. As a movement, it is clearly headed the wrong direction. And it is growing at an unprecedented rate.
From the Word of Faith to the New Apostolic Reformation, the Charismatic movement is being consumed by the empty promises of the prosperity gospel. Too many charismatic celebrities promote a “Christianity” without Christ, a Holy Spirit without holiness. And their teaching is having a disastrous influence on a grand scale, as large television networks broadcast their heresies to every part of the world.
In Strange Fire, bestselling author and pastor John MacArthur chronicles the unsavory history behind the modern Charismatic movement. He lays out a chilling case for rejecting its false prophets, speaking out against their errors, showing true reverence to the Holy Spirit, and above all clinging to the Bible as the inerrant, authoritative Word of God and the one true standard by which all truth claims must be tested.
The best christian book I've read so far.. really separates the fakes from the real christians. . A must read for any so called christian. .
- I liked it
I enjoyed listening to this book certainly presented a good argument smashing down a lot of the foolishness that goes on in charismatic circles.
- Strong Addressing of an Important Topic (Some will love it; some will hate it)
I did not know for sure what to expect when I heard about John MacArthur’s conference called “Strange Fire” or the book of the same name. Given all the Internet hubbub about the conference, I wondered if this book would be some sort of unfair, cruel, hatchet piece on guys I like such as John Piper and Wayne Grudem, both continuationists. However, after listening to the conference, I bought the book when it was on sale for Kindle. And, I have to say, I am far more impressed with the book than I expected to be.
In Strange Fire, John MacArthur works biblically and systematically to respond to the teachings, actions, and individuals of the charismatic movement. MacArthur addresses issues such as tongues, slaying in the Spirit, prosperity theology, prophecy, the history of the Pentecostal movement, and a host of others. While he may not be gentle, MacArthur does not seem to be cruel or unfair as he strives to tackle issues which he believes to be vital to the glory of God and the honor of the Scripture.
The strength of this book is found in a steadfast devotion to the Bible. MacArthur shows time and time again that he desires to interpret the claimed experiences of the mainstream charismatic movement through the lens of the word of God. I cannot say that every aspect of this book is founded on biblical interpretation that all scholars will agree with, but the commitment to Scripture is certainly present. For example, in his discussion of the gift of tongues, MacArthur rightly points out that the gift in Scripture is best interpreted as a supernatural ability granted by God for a believer to speak a very real language that this person does not know. This was evident in Acts 2 when the apostles were able to speak the gospel and have it heard by many who were not Jews. If this is indeed the biblical understanding of the gift of tongues—which would better be called the gift of languages—then the modern phenomenon of speaking an unintelligible string of syllables is not the same thing. And if the modern exercise of “tongues” is not the biblical gift of tongues, then it must be checked by the Bible.
Another apparent strength of this work is MacArthur’s historical research. I say that this is an “apparent” strength because I do not have the personal study to confirm the book’s use of primary resources. However, the historical data does not strike me as made-up or unfair. MacArthur writes multiple chapters about leaders of the charismatic movement from recent history and from the past century. The book includes footnote after footnote supporting the historical claims of things said and done by all sorts of teachers. IN many instances, I believe that modern Christians would be absolutely stunned to see the kind of radically unbiblical doctrines espoused by men trumpeted as heroes of the charismatic movement.
A final strength that I will mention of the book is how MacArthur addresses the more biblically minded among the charismatic movement, the more reformed who call themselves continuationists. MacArthur quotes a few of these men, but certainly does not make personal attacks. MacArthur points out that these folks are not the norm in the charismatic movement, but they do allow many of those who are far off the deep end to have a theologically strong person to give them credibility. The argument is simply that a not-so-careful embracing of an unbiblical redefinition of spiritual gifts among some who are usually very careful with their theology is something that those who are dangerous in many areas of theology can use to their advantage.
I cannot say that Strange Fire is easy to read or always enjoyable. Because MacArthur is very thorough, the chapters can feel long. At times it can feel to a reader like we are beating a dead horse. However, I also understand that this kind of thoroughness is necessary in order not to leave open doors for the dishonest to sneak through.
Some who read this book will certainly feel that MacArthur is less than charitable. I understand this criticism. While I do not agree with it, I can see where readers may be offended by the type of black and white, right and wrong labeling that is done in this work. Please understand, if you choose to read this book, that MacArthur believes that the concept of errant prophecy or of charlatans claiming the Spirit’s power to heal while bilking the poor out of their income is more than just a little wrong. The title of this book is a reference to an Old Testament incident where disobedient priests were judged by God for bringing something unauthorized into God’s worship. This topic is a big deal, and MacArthur speaks with a fervor that is appropriate for a big deal, but which some will find offensive.
I would definitely recommend Strange Fire to someone who would like to really look into the teachings and teachers of the modern charismatic movement. This book sheds more than a little light on some beliefs, claims, and practices that need to be exposed. This is not the kind of book that you want to give to someone who is not regularly a reader or who cannot handle the tedium of a long and thorough argument. I certainly believe that pastors and small group leaders would benefit from working their way through this book, especially if they are in a context where those for whom they care are being influenced by charismatic teaching. Finally, I would recommend this book to the reformed who are continuationists. While much of the book will not apply to the beliefs and teachings of reformed continuationists, many concepts should cause at least a second look at some very important doctrines.