I think everyone knows that John MacArthur is a cessationist. So no one was too surprised that his book and conference entitled Strange Fire is an attack on the Charismatic church.
Now I am not a super huge fan of Dr. MacArthur. I have had some of his books in the past and I do believe that he is a great teacher of the Bible, but I don’t gravitate toward his teaching. I find it a bit sterile.
But I was shocked to read the following quote of his, this weekend as I read the blogging buzz and sipped my tea:
“Mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name. And they do it constantly.
How do they do it? By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit…visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out of body experiences, trips to heaven, anointings, miracles. All false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit . . .
The Charismatic Movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit. It is a false form of the Holy Spirit. They’ve exploited the Holy Spirit and demanded to be able to do that in an uncriticized manner. Nobody can say anything against them. That’s divisive, unloving, cantankerous . . . So the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit is that golden calf who is not God, not God the Holy Spirit, but a false creation, an idol around which they dance in their dishonoring exercises.
Basically, John MacArthur said that I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit–the unpardonable sin. So according to John MacArthur, I am going to hell because my relationship with God involves me believing that He speaks to me. I don’t think he really means that we are going to hell, he can’t mean that, can he? But you can’t throw out the phrases blasphemy of the Holy Spirit without conveying that idea.
I guess there are a lot of us “going to hell” then, for having the nerve to believe we hear His still small voice. It makes no sense.
A lot of committed Christians.
Not just the crazy prayer tunnel traveling, seizure falling down, gold dust, toking baby Jesus, drunk in the Spirit wackos.
But the simple, set apart, holy, reverent, studious, Christians who have dared to believe a vision or a dream was from God. Who have dared to pray in the Spirit. Who have dared to pray for someone in a hospital somewhere to see them raise back to life.
How dare we?
He says that “if the gifts practiced in today’s Charismatic church are equivalent to those described in the New Testament, then those original gifts were nothing special,”adding that it degrades the true gifts God gave to the first century church.
So we can’t know Christ in an experiential way, because that was only for the early church. But did not Moses see the glory of God pass by, and have visions on the mountain. Did Elijah not raise to life. Did not Elijah see the throne room of God?
This was never just for the New Testament. This is what happens even in the Old Testament in the lives of those sold out to God. Stuff happens.
I could see if there were never any miracles until the book of Matthew. But God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
And if God wants to heal someone, or give me a vision or a dream, or cast out a demon the same way He wanted to in the early church–why stop Him?
John MacArthur has NO verse in the Bible to prove his opinion.
He says that 1 Corinthians 13:10 is the verse that says the gifts have ceased.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Is that what it says?
Now I do not have a doctorate in theology.
I am not as smart as Dr. MacArthur, who says that “that which is perfect” means the Bible.
But I have to be a Berean and look for myself to see what the word is saying.
The Word says that there will be a day when prophesies and tongues and knowledge will pass away.
If I look at that verse in context I could come up with another opinion, that “that which is perfect” is the Second Coming of Christ.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Especially since, when it talks about seeing in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, now in part, then fully–seems to imply that we are in heaven and we now have full understanding and no need for spiritual gifts.
Acts 2 quotes Joel 2, which says that the spiritual gifts which include revelation, prophesies and dreams will continue to be poured out until the cosmic signs of Revelation 5.
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
I have been taught that you can’t base a theology upon one verse in the Bible, you need to have multiple verses. And you definitely can’t base a theology upon one verse that can be ambiguous like 1 Corinthians 13:10 is.
Further, I see plenty of other verses in the epistles where Paul and others encourage the believers to stir up their spiritual gifts. They were not all apostles. They were common people. They were told to prophesy, to preach, to heal, to cast out demons, etc. It was a clear expectation that these were the characteristics of the church, wherever it was sent. Those verses still apply to us today.
There is not one verse that explicitly says, the gifts will cease when the Bible is complete.
But based on this idea, John MacArthur is accusing millions and billions of Christians of committing the unpardonable sin–blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
So What is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
John MacArthur says it is giving God the credit for something demon does.
Let’s see what Jesus says about it:
Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:22-32).
So where we see Jesus is performing a miracle and the religious scholars are accusing Him of casting out a demon by occult and demonic power.
In order to explain this sin fully, a look at the general context of the statement is critical. Matthew’s account offers the most detail concerning the setting in which Jesus’ statement was made. In Matthew 12:22, the text indicates that a certain man who was demon-possessed was brought to Jesus to be healed. As was His common practice, Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, and healed the man of his blindness and inability to speak. After seeing this display of power, the multitudes that followed Jesus asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Upon hearing this remark, the Pharisees, wanting to discredit the source from which Jesus received His power, declared that Jesus was casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” Jesus proceeded to explain that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand, and if He were casting out demons by the power of demons, then He would be defeating Himself. It was after this accusation by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ defense of His actions, that Christ commented concerning the blasphemy against the Spirit. In fact, the text of Mark clearly states that Jesus made the comment about the blasphemy against the Spirit “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ ” (Kyle Butt)
John MacArthur says the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is giving God the credit for something demon does. BUT according to the Bible alone, according to Jesus, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is just the opposite–when God does something and people say that it was not God (or the Holy Spirit), but that it was demonic.
Isn’t this what John MacArthur is doing?
Now I won’t accuse him of the unpardonable sin.
That is rather bold.
But I will say that according the the Bible, he is actually doing what was done to Jesus. Attributing all miracles and experiences with God to the demonic. Right?
That is what he says, remember?
… attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit…visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out of body experiences, trips to heaven, anointings, miracles. All false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit . . .
He says they are ALL false. ALL lies. ALL deceptions.
He is saying that God can’t, won’t and would never speak to someone personally.
That NO ONE has the gift of tongues.
Betsy Ten Boom must have had a demon show her the plans for the home for healing that she prophesied to her sister with to the small detail accuracy. Maybe she was a fortune teller occult wizard?
Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael never REALLY heard God’s voice.
The still small voice is gone forever. Replaced by the Scriptures alone.
God did not tell missionaries to go wherever they went.
It was all a lie.
That God doesn’t function at all ever in the way He always used to.
This is not to say that I feel all experiences attributed to the Holy Spirit are free from demonic influence. John Crowder is a prime example of someone who is filled with demons, and yet he claims it is the Holy Spirit. He is terrible. The manifestations that characterize his “ministry” are found nowhere in the Bible. It is pure paganism wrapped in Christian labels.
But to say that all Christians who have BIBLICAL experiences like Daniel, and Joseph, and Elijah, or Isaiah are committing the unpardonable sin is not only an opinion, but a very harsh opinion.
Now Dr. MacArthur is way smarter than I am. And he could certainly answer this blog entry with a raised eyebrow, and a condescending dismissal.
I have said my two cents.