When Pastor John MacArthur, a long-respected man of God, wrote his book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Spirit with Counterfeit Worship, and hosted the corresponding conference, the sea of of occidental Christianity turned to tumult. But why the uproar?
MacArthur is a staunch cessationist who believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were done away with at the death of the last apostle in the first century. In one swift stand, he condemns the entire Charismatic movement, its leaders, and its followers.
Here are some of MacArthur's accusations:
If the charismatic movement was being produced by the Holy Spirit, the glory of Christ would prevail everywhere. It would be Christ-dominated and everyone in the movement would be bowing the knee to the true Christ in belief of the true gospel.
If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices--like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages, uttering fallible prophecies, worshipping in disorderly ways, or being knocked senseless by the supposed power of the Holy Spirit.
Those who have had charismatic experience have been baptized with the Spirit, they say--and that supernaturally empowers obedience, fosters holiness, and produces the fruit of the Spirit. If their claims were true, charismatics ought to be producing leaders renowned for Christlikeness rather than flamboyance. Moral failures, financial chicanery, and public scandals would be comparatively rare in their movement. (Please see "Pastor MacArthur, What Are You Afraid Of?")
Both R.T. Kendall and Dr. Michael Brown have openly attempted to discuss these and more accusations with Pastor MacArthur, but he and his team have chosen to not respond.
R.T. Kendall places great accuracy in his counter-arguments as well as concern for MacArthur.
I fear you are in greater danger of offending the Holy Spirit by attributing His work to Satan. (R.T. Kendall)
This is a genuine argument that Jesus specifically addressed Himself.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons." So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand....Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"- because they said, "He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:23-30)
R.T. Kendall's concern is valid because McArthur's stance discredits every single miraculous work of the Holy Spirit on earth since the first century. The movement of God on earth since the first century would be considered untrue which then begs the question is the Bible really true because it states that Jesus remains the same (Hebrews 13:8).
And this same Jesus said:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:15-18)
We also know that the Bible stated that the gifts of God--including the gifts of the Holy Spirit in all their wondrous forms--are without repentance meaning that once given, God cannot and will not take them back; He is not a man that He should lie, nor repent (Romans 11:29, Numbers 23:19). Men, however, are in great need of repentance--Charismatics and non-Charismatics alike.
The beauty of a relationship with God is that man can fall into sin, yet with true repentance, God can lift us back up and call us a people after His own heart. This does not exonerate the false doctrine of Hyper-Grace, yet we can have the assurance that God is faithful.