Permit me to “let my hair down” for a moment. Actually, I don’t have much hair anymore, so let’s change that to “take my shoes off and throw them across the room,” shall we?
I don’t usually pay attention anymore to what John MacArthur is doing these days. Early on in my Christian life he greatly helped me fall in love with Scripture in a time when many around me were forsaking the Bible, and for that I am forever grateful. But I haven’t been able to draw much encouragement from his teachings for a long while, mainly because his tone and style of communicating a fairly narrow view of God and Scripture (which I largely agree with) are seemingly done in such a visibly angry and superior way that I find it distasteful. That is my response, however, and I don’t push it on anyone else. Bless you if you can still find life from his teachings. Please allow me the space not to.
Recent events online have provoked me to say something. It seems in his old age he is taking on more and more of a polemical, even hateful, spirituality toward all who disagree with his narrow interpretation of reality (again, much of which is correct, I would argue). A right view held in the wrong spirit though, could be said to be the “way of the Pharisee.” Someone who is “right” with their theology and what is spoken, but with hearts far from God and his ways. At the very least, I think MacArthur’s tactics undermine and erode whatever is correct in his theology. It probably doesn’t win anyone on his side who already isn’t on his side.
The recent event I’m referring to the conference being held at his church from October 16-18, 2013 (happening as I write) called “Strange Fire,” which continues and deepens his attack on charismatic forms of Christianity (see his book called Charismatic Chaos for reference). Simply put, Charismatics believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit described in the New Testament are for today’s church.
It’s OK to be Cessationist (those who don’t believe the sign gifts of the early church are for today), many of the teachers I respect are. But what is not OK is the direction this is taking. I would even argue, but don’t have time or space to document it here, that the directions and flavor that are becoming characteristic of my “theological camp,” which are largely young and reformed, are becoming more and more hateful and polarizing toward those who don’t hold their views, casuing conferences like this to be commonplace. My guess is that it’s because their commitment to the “truth” and to the “gospel” has trumped all other considerations, especially those of love, hospitality and mercy. Sadly, this is the picture many in our culture and churches will get of Reformed Christianity, a tradition I dearly love and find great strength in as I walk through this darkly scarred world.
A few blogs, written by other teachers I respect are speaking out against this conference, and I commend them to you for reading. If nothing else, folks, don’t assume that John MacArthur speaks for the rest of us Reformed folks. Reformed theology does NOT require being an ass.
May love and unity, based in truth and reality, be what carries Christ’s church forward.
Adrian Warnock’s (Reformed Charismatic) response is here.
C. Michael Patton’s (Reformed Cessationist) response is here.