Regarding John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, there have been some things I’ve learned and observed over the last few weeks. I’m going to do my best to write this without entirely “hanging out the flag” of my particular theological beliefs… so here it goes:
- John MacArthur has a very loyal following. Now, I really like John MacArthur. I have been very blessed through many of his books and he’s a great expositor. I’m just saying it was amazing to me how many people were defensive of John MacArthur simply because he is John MacArthur. God forbid he could be wrong! There’s a joke that he’s the “evangelical pope” but unfortunately that is actually true among some people.
- He’s not the only one… there are some pretty loyal Mark Driscoll fans too that stood by him even though he exaggerated the truth (i.e. “lied”). I’ll go out on a limb here and admit that I actually like Driscoll too (to an extent), but he’s still got some growing-up to do. And those who applauded him for making a scene have some maturing to do too.
- I was reminded that no one is right. That is, no one person or group is completely accurate in their theology or actions. Mark Driscoll shouldn’t have “crashed the party”, Grace-To-You could have done the conference a whole lot better (narrower focus? more unifying? more grace?), many those reacting to the conference could have been more gracious (although there’s a number who have done a good job at this), and many those on both sides should have done more homework/stayed more within Scripture context and not been so led by their presuppositions, etc.
- Fire causes sparks… and they can potentially start more fires. Grace-to-You was attempting contain the true fire into one and smother the false ones, but in the process I think they actually sparked more fires. If their goal was to bring more people into believing cessationism (which it appears it was) I think they failed. If someone has really studied what they believe this conference will be very unlikely to convince them to change their position. The only people who are going to become cessationist through this are those who, 1) were already riding the middle line, 2) were in a really bad/false church.
- Fire also causes a lot of smoke…. This one sure did! But if truth is supposed to bring unity and love among believers, why didn’t this conference do that?
- Who has responded the best to this whole escapade? My vote is John Piper. I think it’s really interesting that he has not responded AT ALL to the Strange Fire conference (at least not publicly as of yet... although I would imagine he will at some point). Perhaps he realizes MacArthur respects him and is being careful not to cause more division? I think many people could learn from this lesson though… sometimes it’s better to just keep your mouth shut (although there are times to speak, hence this blog post).
- The Church as a whole is still lacking in unity. Apparently we still can’t figure out or agree on what are essentials and what are non-essentials. At the very least if they have or do many seem to still be focusing too much on the non-essentials. We need to pray for more unity in the Church today!
To end I’ll throw in this really interesting, thought-provoking quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: (I didn't say I AGREE with it, I just found it rather fascinating!)
“There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. But it is a very commonly held teaching today, indeed it has been the popular view for many years. It is said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is ‘nonexperimental’, that it happens to every one at regeneration. So we say, ‘Ah well, I am already baptized with the Spirit; it happened when I was born again, at my conversion; there is nothing for me to seek, I have got it all’. Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians? The teaching that I have just mentioned is false. The apostles were regenerate before the day of Pentecost. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not identical with regeneration; it is something separate. It matters not how long the interval between the two may be, there is a difference; there is an interval, they are not identical. But if you say that they are identical, you do not expect anything further. And if you do not believe that it is possible for you to experience the Spirit of God bearing direct witness with your own spirit that you are a child of God, obviously you are quenching the Spirit. That is why so many Christian people are miserable and unhappy; they do not know anything about crying out, ‘Abba, Father’; or about ‘the Spirit of adoption’. God is a Being away in the far distance; they do not know Him as a loving Father; they do not know that they are His children. They may believe it intellectually, theoretically; but Paul says, ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear’. We are not to go about groaning and wondering whether we are Christians or not. We were in that state under the law; then we were wretched and we cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?’ But no longer! ‘We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry’—and it is an elemental cry that comes from the depth of the personality—‘Abba, Father’.”
-Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, p. 280 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976).