Archive for the ‘Bullying’ Category

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Ted Patrick is a controversial figure. That said, regardless of how one feels about his methods, the fact remains that he was instrumental in exposing how being in a “Snapped” psychology state is crucial to the recruitment and retention of cult members. In fact, before Patrick, the term “deprogramming” was virtually unknown. Beggar’s Bread believes that after you read this excerpt from the classic Cult Studies book, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” you’ll agree that while his means may be debatable the ends are enlightening. — Editor 

by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman
IN ALL THE WORLD, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.

We talked with dozens of individuals in this state of mind: cult members, group therapy graduates, born-again Christians, some Transcendental Meditators. After a while, it seemed very much like dancing to a broken record. We would ask a question, and the individual would spin round and round in a circle of dogma. If we tried to interrupt, he or she would simply pick right up again or go back to the beginning and start over.

Soon we began to realize that what we were watching went much deeper. These people were not simply incapable of carrying on a genuine conversation, they were completely mired in their unthinking, unfeeling, uncomprehending states. Whether cloistered in cults or passing blindly through the world, they were impervious to the pain of parents, spouses, friends and lovers. How do you reach such people? Can they be made to think and feel again? Is there any way to reunite them with their former personalities and the world around them?

A man named Ted Patrick developed the first remedy. A controversial figure dubbed by the cult world Black Lightning, Patrick was the first to point out publicly what the cults were doing to America’s youth. He investigated the ploys by which many converts were ensnared and delved into the methods many cults used to manipulate the mind.

He was also the first to take action. In the early seventies, Patrick began a one-man campaign against the cults. His fight started in Southern California, on the Pacific beaches where, in the beginning, organizations such as the Hare Krishna and the Children of God recruited among the vacationing students and carefree dropouts who covered the sands in summer and roamed the bustling beach communities year round. The Children of God approached Patrick’s son there one day and nearly made off with him. Patrick investigated, was horrified at what he found, and immediately set out on a course of direct action. His first-hand experiences with cult techniques and their effects led him to develop an antidote he named “deprogramming,” a remarkably simple and-when properly used-nearly foolproof process for helping cult members regain their freedom of thought.

Before long, Ted Patrick was in action all over the country on behalf of desperate parents. Through the seventies, he made front page headlines in the east for his daring daylight kidnappings of Ivy League cult members. He made network news for his interstate car chases in the Pacific Northwest to elude both cult leaders and state troopers. And eventually he made American legal history. In his ultimate defense of the U.S. Constitution, Patrick challenged the confusion of First Amendment rights surrounding the cult controversy and drew an important distinction between Americans’ guaranteed national freedoms of speech and religion and their more fundamental human right to freedom of thought. In precedent-setting cases, U.S. courts confirmed Patrick’s argument that, by “artful and deceiving” means, the new cults were in fact robbing people of their natural capacity to think and choose. To that time, it was never considered possible that a human being could be stripped of this basic endowment.

Ted Patrick in the documentary "Deprogrammed"

Ted Patrick in the documentary “Deprogrammed”

In many courtrooms, however, Ted Patrick lost his case for freedom of thought, gathering a stack of convictions for kidnapping and unlawful detention. In unsuccessful attempts to free cult members from their invisible prisons, Patrick was repeatedly thrown into real ones, in New York, California and Colorado. In July 1976, during a time when Americans were celebrating their two hundredth year of freedom, Patrick was sentenced to serve a year in prison for a cult kidnapping he did not in fact perform.

Patrick confirmed our own perspective when he described the method of control used by many cults, beginning with the moment the recruiter hooks his listener.

“They have the ability to come up to you and talk about anything they feel you’re interested in, anything,” he said. “Their technique is to get your attention, then your trust. The minute they get your trust, just like that they can put you in the cult.”

It was in 1971 that Patrick infiltrated the Children of God, the cult that had tried to recruit his son, Michael, one Fourth of July on Mission Beach in San Diego. His initial concern over the cults was personal but it also had a public side. Worried parents had already appealed to him for help in his official capacity as head of community relations for California’s San Diego and Imperial counties. Patrick had moved to the area years earlier and became active in local politics working against discrimination in employment. During the Watts riots is Los Angeles in 1965, he helped calm racial unrest in San Diego. His public service caught the attention of then California’s Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, who appointed Patrick, an active Democrat, to the community relations post.

“Thinking to a cult member is like being stabbed in the heart with a dagger,” said Patrick. “It’s very painful because they’ve been told that the mind is Satan and thinking is the machinery of the Devil.”

Having gained personal insight into the manner in which that machinery may be brought to a halt, Patrick developed his controversial deprogramming procedure, the essence of which, he explained, was simply to get the individual thinking again.

“When you deprogram people,” he emphasized, “you force them to think. The only thing I do is shoot them challenging questions. I hit them with things that they haven’t been programmed to respond to. I know what the cults do and how they do it, so I shoot them the right questions; and they get frustrated when they can’t answer. They think they have the answer, they’ve been given answers to everything. But I keep them off balance and this forces them to begin questioning, to open their minds. When the mind gets to a certain point, they can see through all the lies that they’ve been programmed to believe. They realize that they’ve been duped and they come out of it. Their minds start working again.”

That, according to Patrick, was all there was to deprogramming. Yet since Patrick began deprogramming cult members, both the man and his procedure had taken on monstrous proportions in the public eye. Patrick’s legendary kidnappings, a tactic he employed only as a last resort, often brought him into physical confrontation with cult members who had been warned that Black Lightning was an agent of Satan who would subject them to unimaginable tortures to get them to renounce their beliefs. Cult members who managed to escape their parents and Patrick before being deprogrammed frequently ran to the media with horror stories about the procedure. One young woman charged on national television that Patrick had ripped her clothes off and chased her nude body across the neighbors’ lawns. Other active cult members claimed to have been brutally beaten by Patrick, yet no parent, ex-cult member or other reliable witness we talked to ever substantiated any of those charges. In truth, Patrick told us, and others later confirmed, many of the distortions that had been disseminated about deprogramming were part of a coordinated campaign by several cults to discredit his methods. In the end, he said, the propaganda only worked to his advantage.

“The cults tell them that I rape the women and beat them. They say I lock them in closets and stuff bones done their throats.” Patrick laughed. “What they don’t know is that they’re making my job easier. They come in here frightened to death of me, and then because of all the stuff they’ve been told, I can just sit there and look at them and I’ll deprogram them just like that. They’ll be thinking, What the hell is he going to do now? They’re waiting for me to slap them or beat them and already their minds are working.”

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In the beginning, Patrick admitted, he developed his method by trial and error, attempting to reason with cult members and learning each cult’s rituals and beliefs until he cracked the code. Refining his procedure with each case, he came to understand exactly what was needed to pierce the cult’s mental shield. Like a diamond cutter, he probed with his questions the rough surface of speech and behavior until he found the key point of contention at the center of each cult member’s encapsulated beliefs. Once he found that point, Patrick hit it head on, until the entire programmed state of mind gave way, revealing the cult member’s original identity and true personality that had become trapped inside.

We asked him to describe a typical deprogramming from the beginning and, then, how he knew when a person had been deprogrammed, that is when he could say for sure that he had done his job.

“The first time I lay eyes on a person,” he said, staring at us intently, “I can tell if his mind is working or not. Then, as I begin to question him, I can determine exactly how he has been programmed. From then on, it’s all a matter of language. It’s talking and knowing what to talk about. I start moving his mind, slowly, pushing it with questions, and I watch every move that mind makes. I know everything it is going to do, and when I hit on that one certain point that strikes home, I push it. I stay with that question whether it’s about God, the Devil or that person’s having rejected his parents. I keep pushing and pushing. I don’t let him get around it with the lies he’s been told. Then there’ll be a minute, a second, when the mind snaps, when the person realizes he’s been lied to by the cult and he just snaps out of it. It’s like turning on the light in a dark room. They’re in an almost unconscious state of mind, and then I switch the mind from unconsciousness to consciousness and it snaps, just like that.”

It was Patrick’s term this time we hadn’t said the word for what happens in deprogramming. And in almost every case, according to Patrick, it came about just that suddenly. When deprogramming has been accomplished, the cult member’s appearance undergoes a sharp, drastic change. He comes out of his trance like state and his ability to think for himself is restored.

“It’s like seeing a person change from a werewolf into a man,” said Patrick. “It’s a beautiful thing. The whole personality changes, the eyes, the voice. Where they had hate and a blank expression, you can see feeling again.”

Snapping, a word Ted Patrick used often, is a phenomenon that appears to have extreme moments at both ends. A moment of sudden, intense change may occur when a person enters a cult, during lectures, rituals and physical ordeals. Another change may take place with equal, or even greater, abruptness when the subject is deprogrammed and made to think again. Once this breakthrough is achieved, however, the person is not just “snapped out” and home free. Deprogramming always requires a period of rehabilitation to counteract an interim condition Patrick called “floating Patrick told us, he recommended that his subjects return him to everyday life and normal social relationships as quickly as possible. In that environment, the individual, must then actively work to rebuild the fundamental capacities of thought and feeling that have been systematically destroyed.

“Deprogramming is like taking a car out of the garage that hasn’t been driven for a year,” he said. “The battery has gone down, and in order to start it up you’ve got to put jumper cables on it. It will go dead again. So you keep the motor running until it builds up its own power. This is what rehabilitation is. Once we get the mind working, we keep it working long enough so that the person gets in the habit of thinking and making decisions again.”

Deprogramming added a whole new dimension to the already complex mystery of snapping. In one sense, deprogramming confirms that some drastic change takes place in the workings of the mind in the course of a cult member’s experience, for only through deprogramming does it become apparent to everyone, including the cult member, that his actions, expressions and even his physical appearance have not been under his own control. In another sense, deprogramming is itself a form of sudden personality change. Because it appears to be a genuinely broadening, expanding personal change, it would seem to bear closer resemblance to a true moment of enlightenment, to the natural process of personal growth and new found awareness and understanding, than to the narrowing changes brought about by cult rituals and artificially induced group ordeals.

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What is it like to experience the sudden snap of a deprogramming? As a result of Ted Patrick’s efforts, and others, there are now thousands of answers to the question. Patrick claims to have personally deprogrammed more than two thousand cult members; thousands more have been deprogrammed by other deprogrammers and professional “exit counselors” who have since entered this fledgling field. In our first round of cross-country travels, we spoke with dozens of ex-cult members, many of whom had been deprogrammed by Patrick. As far as we could see, his clients showed no scars, either physical of mental, from their deprogramming experience. Most seemed to be healthy, happy, fully rehabilitated and completely free of the effects of cult life.

In contrast to the many tales of cult conversion that we heard, which after a while began to sound virtually identical, each story of a Patrick deprogramming was its own spellbinding adventure, rich with intrigue and planned in minute detail. The first step in the process was almost always to remove the member from the cult, which might be accomplished by abduction, legal custodianship or, as Patrick seemed to prefer, simply a clever subterfuge.

One puzzle of snapping that the deprogramming process illuminates is the enormous amount of mental activity that takes place in the unthinking, unfeeling state many cult members are drawn into. Ironically, most people we spoke with fought desperately to preserve their blissed-out states, although they often were saturated with fear, guilt, hatred and exhaustion. In the beginning this seemed to present a disturbing contradiction: How could an individual whose mind has apparently been shut off, who has been robbed of his freedom of thought, display such cunning and initiative? What the deprogramming process demonstrated is that cult members do not simply snap from a normal conscious state into one of complete unconsciousness (and vice versa during deprogramming). Rather, most pass from one frame of waking awareness into a second, entirely separate, frame of awareness in which they may be equally active and perceptive.

We talked with an ex-member of the Church of Scientology, one the oldest and cagiest of America’s cults, who took steps to preserve his cult frame of mind during his deprogramming, until Patrick’s adept conversational skills caught his attention and he snapped out.

“I tried to pretend that I was listening,” this former Scientologist told us, “but I also tried to stay spaced out and not really pay attention. Occasionally, something would go pop and I would suddenly be listening to him. From his continuously talking like that, he just snapped me out of the spaced-out state I was in. All of a sudden I felt a little flushed. I could feel the blood rushing through my face.”

Through two decades of legal battles and repeated periods of imprisonment and probation, few people spoke up in defense of Ted Patrick or the pioneering work he was doing, ultimately, at his own great personal and financial expense. No mainstream mental health organization or established social institution has yet taken a stand on behalf of his concept of freedom of thought. Part of the problem, especially in those years, was attributed to Patrick’s manner of action. In his single-minded focus on rescuing cult members, he minced no words and wasted little time on social niceties. As a result, he often irked and alienated those parents, clinicians and law enforcement officials who might otherwise be his natural allies.

Yet, regardless of his style, the grave questions Patrick first flamboyantly brought to public attention are not the ones we can choose to like or dislike nor will they simply go away if we ignore them. Is an individual free to give up his freedom of thought? May a religion, popular therapy, political movement or any other enterprise systematically attack human thought and feeling in the name of God, the pursuit of happiness, personal growth or spiritual fulfillment? These are questions that Americans, perhaps more than others, are not prepared to deal with, because they challenge long-standing constitutional principles and cultural assumptions about the nature of the mind, personality and human freedom itself.

In the months after out trip to the Orange county Jail we spoke with many people about Ted Patrick: parents, ex-cult members, attorneys, mental health professionals and others who, at the time, were only dimly aware of the building controversy over some alleged forms of religion in America. Some denounced him as a villain and a fascist, others hailed him as a folk hero and dark prophet of what lay ahead for America. Yet Patrick himself showed little concern for titles or media images.

Through the eighties, Black Lightning remained a lightning rod, a target for aggressive counterattacks and disinformation campaigns waged against deprogramming by major cults and more mainstream fundamentalist Christian sects. By the mid-nineties, he was widely presumed to be out of commission, but Patrick was still active, working mostly on voluntary deprogrammings and rehabilitation counseling. In the interim, swayed by a changing religious, political and social climate, courts across the country grew cold to deprogramming. Another pioneering deprogrammer, New York cult counselor and private detective Galen Kelly, was prosecuted on criminal charges in two separate cases but was convicted and spent more than a year in prison on the second before an appeals court overturned his conviction.

Those cases and others brought a global chill. In the new climate, judges were deaf to the pleas of the parents and families of cult members, and the precarious deprogramming profession was largely eclipsed by the efforts of the new generation of cult “exit counselors.” Exit counselors we talked with, many of them one-time sect members themselves who had gone on to acquire clinical training and credentials, were testing a wide range of eclectic approaches, some more successful, some less so. Many were generalists, counseling cultists and families across America and, increasingly, in other countries. Some specialized in counseling ex-Moonies, members of Eastern cults, of controlling charismatic groups and extreme fundamentalist sects.

Most confirmed a pattern we, too, had noted: the new methods of voluntary deprogramming and exit counseling, while far less controversial and much safer from a legal standpoint, prompted fewer cult members to experience a sudden “snapping out” of their controlled states of mind. Instead, most experienced a slower process of emergence, or as Rick Ross, an exit counselor from Arizona, called it, a gradual “unfolding” from the cults’ ingrained altered states. Afterwards, many required additional counseling, specialized rehabilitation and, for some, ongoing psychotherapy to recover their personalities and regain full control over their impaired powers of mind.

But, two decades later, public understanding and professional support were still in short supply.

Snapping BookExcerpt from, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd Edition” by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Chapter 6: “Black Lightning”

Copyright © 1995 by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman. All rights reserved. The authors give their limited permission to readers of the “Rick Ross” World Wide Web site to copy and distribute this excerpt from SNAPPING, provided that the material is copied or redistributed solely for the purposes of public information and education without any charge to recipients, and that any copied or distributed materials carry this copyright notice exactly as printed here.

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Apologists-anti-mormons_INVERTEDby Michael Flournoy
Some years ago, FAIRMormon put out an article by Maxwell Institute contributor, Russell C. McGregor entitled, “Are Anti-Mormons Christians?” It was a response to the common assertion that Latter-day Saints are not true Christians. The article claims that it is the detractors of Mormonism, not Mormons themselves that “need to be concerned about their Christian credentials”.

The question posed is: is Anti-Mormonism a Christian activity? According to the article, it isn’t. It asserts that Christian is a synonym for Christ-like, but Anti-Mormons are actively opposed to, and attack the doctrines and policies of the LDS church.

First off, even if Anti-Mormonism is opposed to the values of Christianity, it still does not discredit someone from being a Christian. For example, sin isn’t exactly a Christian activity, and yet all Christians are sinners.

Secondly, the LDS notion that Jesus was a gentle lamb who never spoke out against false religious leaders, is a myth. One only need to go to Matthew 23 to find Jesus calling scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, and children of hell.

To be fair, there is such a thing as aggressive, over-the-top Anti-Mormonism, and it needs to stop. Mormons are not wrong to question the Christianity or at least the spiritual maturity of those who preach with rudeness and disrespect.

McGregor says Anti-Mormonism is satanic, and that Satan means “accuser” or “slanderer”. By this logic, Jesus was certainly engaged in a satanic activity when he told his disciples to beware the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

For the sake of argument though, let’s assume the article is right on all accounts, and anyone who speaks out against Mormonism is not a Christian.

What does that say of Anti-Anti-Mormons, who spend every waking hour debating Mormon Critics online?

If the arguments in the article are valid, then the author himself is not a Christian, because he engages in the satanic activity of accusing and slandering Anti-Mormons!

The fact is, Jesus told his disciples to turn the other cheek rather than resist evil (Matthew 5:39). Anti-Anti-Mormonism is the opposite of this mindset. It’s not a Christian activity, and therefore Anti-Anti-Mormons aren’t Christian.

Furthermore, 3 Nephi 11:29 in The Book of Mormon states:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Anger and contention form the core of the article written by Russell McGregor, and I call on FAIRMormon to remove the article from their website. It’s full of hate speech against those who do nothing worse than proselytize Latter-day Saints with sincerity and out of a heart of love. Further, its logic serves as a double-edged sword.

That said, I acknowledge that some Christians do engage in mockery, ridicule, and saying hurtful things to Latter-day Saints about their religion. At the same time, I’ve seen LDS apologists be just as vile in return. I assume it’s a reaction to perceived hostility, but it’s still unacceptable and unchristian. The Book of Mormon doesn’t say contention is of the devil, except when someone else starts it. Jesus didn’t say to turn the other cheek unless they’re speaking against your religion. When Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his disciples cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Although it was technically a defensive move, Jesus immediately healed the man.

And turning to the other side of the divide, I call on my Christian brothers and sisters to repent if looking out for the interests of Latter-day Saints above their own self-interest isn’t their driving motivation. The vernacular term for this kind of self-effacing, self-sacrificial behavior is “love”. The other term for it is “respect”. And it is centermost in the infamous apologetic mandate of 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV) which says,

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Jesus rebukes his disciples in Matthew 26:52, saying, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take up the sword shall perish with the sword.” (KJV)

The Savior also rebukes the apostles in Luke 9:55-56 when they suggest calling fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village. He says, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (KJV)

The most glaring issue with Russell McGregor’s article is it wrongly defines “Anti-Mormon” as anyone who opposes LDS doctrine and policy. To be clear, it is possible to oppose something lovingly. If this is not the case, then by default, all Mormon missionaries are Anti-Christian for teaching and converting Christians, aren’t they?

True “Anti-ism” is an aggressive, shameful way of attacking someone’s faith, and it exists on both sides of the divide. We should strive not to be Anti anything but stand for the Truth.

It may be hard for Latter-day Saints to accept, but standing for the truth does encompass exposing falsehood. Why is it, that it’s perfectly acceptable for a bishop to say, “You’re wrong if you think you’re worthy after breaking the law of chastity,” but when a Christian tells a Mormon they’re wrong, it’s hateful?

LDS apostle, J. Reuben Clark once said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

To Mr. Clark’s point, mainstream Christians hold to the stance that Latter-day Saints believe in an another Jesus and a false gospel. And neither a faux Savior or a false gospel can save anyone, can they? Is it Anti-Mormon to want Mormons to know the truth? Is it Anti-Mormon to reveal the mercy and boundless grace of Jesus Christ? Is it Anti-Mormon to desire to spend eternity with them in God’s presence?

Of course not. In fact, it is the responsibility of believers to speak the truth and expose falsehood. This is as the Apostle James said,

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:20 KJV)

In closing, I can’t think of anything more Pro-Mormon than converting a Latter-day Saint from the error of a false gospel that doesn’t truly save to one that does. Can you? In fact, I would argue that the true Anti-Mormons are the people who oppose those who do so.

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“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 KJV)

Authentic_Fire_Book_png_grandeReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire
Author: Michael L. Brown
Publisher: Creation House
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 2015
Length: 426 pages
Binding: eBook
ISBN10: 1629984558
ISBN13: 978-1629984551
Price: $9.99 (Digital), $19.99 (Print) 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to review this book or discuss the book that it’s in response to (“Strange Fire” by John MacArthur) without talking about personalities. That said, while I am a Charismatic, Michael Brown is far more Pentecostal than I will ever be – or want to be. And while I’m Reformed, John MacArthur is far more Calvinistic than I will ever be – or want to be. After reading this book and considering the output from the Strange Fire camp (including the book of that title) I find myself somewhere between the two men.

Let’s start with this book. While I concur with most of what Michael Brown and his appendix authors present in this book – particularly their superb exegesis of scripture – I was troubled by the recurrence of that oldest of Pentecostal fallacies: An over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. This is particularly troubling to me since, as a Mormon Studies Scholar, I’m all too familiar with cults and other unorthodox groups citing anecdotes and experiences as though they’re conclusive, objective, empirical evidence. Folks, they’re not, they’re just not. While to some this may seem a niggling gnat straining point, it’s not since Charismatics are often (and not without reason) accused of elevating experience above biblical authority. This the very thesis that forms the core of MacArthur’s book and the one which he gleefully hammered away at for 352 pages, through an entire conference, and now continues through countless tweets and articles.

For example, I was troubled by Brown’s frequent reference to being slain in the Spirit (or “falling under the power of God” as he more often referred to it in the book) as if it were a “biblical given” based on his experiences and stories.  The fact is that it appears exactly nowhere in the Bible (that is unless you eisegete it into the text). This is a glaring hole in this book. By relying on anecdotes, in my opinion, Brown and some of his co-contributors have left themselves open and exposed for even more criticism from the Strange Fire camp.

That said, I thought that they did an excellent job of exposing the glaring hole in MacArthur’s book in particular and his stance in general:  His failure to exegete from the entirety of scripture and tendency to exegete only from select texts. For example, nowhere in his book does he address 1 Corinthians 14 where the public use of the “sign gifts” (to use a cessationist term that never appears in the Bible) of congregational prophetic utterances and tongues is not only commended, encouraged, and endorsed but given a practical framework in which they are to work in the local church.

Another example is his failure to address the last words in the Bible on the practice of charismata which are: “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39, NASB) Respectfully, Mr. MacArthur, if you truly respect the authority of scripture and the authority of the foundational teachings of the Apostles of the Lamb then you can neither ignore this Biblical mandate or criticize others when they respect and obey it.

So clearly there’s bias on both sides – to the surprise, I’m sure, of no one. So the question is, who makes the most compelling case? In my opinion, it’s Michael Brown and his appendix authors. They present a compelling and cogent case that’s truly “sola scriptura” rather than “sola scriptura AND”.  The “AND” in this case are renowned historical figures of the Protestant Reformation in general and John Calvin in particular (for example, consider “Calvin’s Critique of Charismatic Calvinists” by Steve Lawson from the Strange Fire conference for a glaring example of this).

Yes, I’m Reformed but I refuse to put a pinch of incense on the altar of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, or anyone else in addition to declaring Jesus Lord and the scripture His gave us the absolute, final authority for this mortal passage. Michael Brown and the appendix authors very rightly call the Strange Fire camp to task for this.


Above: In contrast to Michael Brown’s calm, reasoned, and thoughtful response to Strange Fire, Pentecostal preacher Perry Stone demonstrates how NOT to respond. 

Last but not least, I’m not as nice as Michael Brown (after all I am one of those cranky, scholarly, truth-oriented, confessing, and Bible thumping, Reformed folks). So I’m just going to say it: John MacArthur can be a real bully. I say this while at the same time happily acknowledging all the wonderful benefit that I’ve derived from listening to more than my fair share of his excellent books and sermons over the years. I honor his gifting as a Bible teacher, expositor, and theologian. However, I’m not blind, nor am I deaf and it’s hard to miss the harsh, ungracious, even mean-spirited jabs that I have heard him take at those he differs with over the years – and that includes cessationists, continuationists, and even other Reformed theologians. It seems that you risk a declaration of war if you dare disagree with Mr. MacArthur. Pentecostals and Charismatics may be his favorite target but they’re far from his only target.

Further, after the harsh and uncharitable hatchet job that he did on John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement in 1993 (full disclosure, I and many other Charismatics were critical of the excesses in the Vineyard at the time as well) in “Charismatic Chaos” as well as the seemingly endless stream of exaggerated, unkind, unmerciful, and ungracious articles and sermons he has preached against Pentecostalism over the years neither his book or his conference came as any surprise – it was just par for the course only with a new club.

Particularly troubling was his comment in “Strange Fire Panel Question and Answer, Session 1” that, “I believe that we are not dividing the body of Christ in this conference.  We are trying to identify the body of Christ and show that these people aren’t part of it“. With that statement (which garnered applause from the audience) Mr. MacArthur has just thrown a half a billion Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians under the bus as not belonging to the body of Christ.

This isn’t theory or hyperbole, the fruit of the “license to kill” and relentless unkind, vitriol that he has  on Pentecostals and Charismatics can readily be seen in the mean spirited memes and posts that fill the Reformed groups on social media. Clearly John MacArthur and the Strange Fire camp has unleashed something is hard to describe as “Christian”. This is unfortunately and, frankly, I would expect more of someone of Mr. MacArthur’s maturity, stature, and position within the body of Christ. However, given the prejudiced model of bigoted bullying that MacArthur has modeled in Strange Fire and his two prior works on the Charismatic Movement (1978’s “The Charismatics” and 1993’s “Charismatic Chaos”) it’s no wonder less mature Christians feel the freedom to do the same.

But with that said is this response to all this bludgeoning perfect? No. However, given the ungracious, unkind, and unfair nature of the Strange Fire onslaught it needed to be written and, as other reviewers have noted, it does a fine job of addressing, as one pastor put it so well, “the strange theology of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”. But more than that it stands up to a bully – and that’s never a bad thing.

A few final thoughts:

First, please read John MacArthur’s book and consider the Strange Fire conference addresses (which can easily be found on the internet). Please don’t take my, Michael Brown, or anyone else’s word for what they’ve said and the way they’ve said it. Frankly, I think that it speaks for itself. Suffice to say, in my opinion, the strong criticism that these materials have received from both the cessationist and continuationist camps is well deserved! MacArthur has since tried to reposition it all as “the start of a conversation”, however, the tone, content, and rhetorical style is clearly something else.

Second, some of the best material in this book (Authentic Fire) is in the appendices. Don’t skip them. In fact, I recommend that you first read through them starting with, “Why NT Prophecy Does NOT Result in ‘Scripture-quality’ Revelatory Words (A Response to the Most Frequently Cited Cessationist Argument against the Contemporary Validity of Spiritual Gifts)” by Sam Storms. This is Appendix B. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with Craig S. Keener’s Appendix A (“The Ongoing Evidence of Miracles, with Thoughts on African Charismatic Christianity”) due to its over-reliance on anecdotal evidence. In fact, in my opinion, you could just skip it without missing too much. However, I should probably add that Keener’s review of Strange Fire (which be read by clicking here) is superb and brings much to the conversation – it more than compensates for any deficiency in his contribution to Authentic Fire.

Third, The Pneuma Review published a superb panel discussion of Charismatic leaders and thinkers back in October 2013 in the fall out of the Strange Fire Conference (circa October 16-18, 2013) as web portal page. Everyone from Tim Challies to Adrian Warnock is present. There are hours of reading and it’s well worth your time. Click here.

Finally, in addition to this book I highly recommend that the reader works through Don Horban’s superb teaching series, “The Strange Theology of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire” which can be found by clicking here. Pastor Horban addresses many issues and points that were missed in this book. It is an excellent supplement to the Authentic Fire book and a masterful response to the Strange Fire camp.

(versions of this review have also been previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

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451118Reviewed by Rich Nathan

Title: Charismatic Chaos
Author: John F. MacArthur, Jr.
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 1992
Length: 308 pages
Binding: Hardcover, Paperback, Sermon Audio Series
ISBN10: 0310575702
ISBN13: 978-0310575702
Price: $15.99 (Hardcover),  $9.99 (Trade Paperback), $1.99 (Pocket Paperback)

Editor’s Introduction: Why is Beggar’s Bread is republishing a book review that’s now close to a quarter of a century old and that discusses personalities, issues, that are now either dead or passe’?  Well as George Orwell said so profoundly, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” (“1984”, Kindle location 492). And if John MacArthur’s use of revisionist polemic history in his latest Anti-Charismatic book “Strange Fire” is any indication (see “Selective use of history” Craig S. Keener’s review for specifics), this is a concept that he understands very well. Further, “Strange Fire” (352 pages, circa 2013) was essentially just an expanded and updated version of “Charismatic Chaos” (308 pages, circa 1992), just it was essentially just an expanded and updated version of his very first Anti-Charismatic book, “The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective” (224 pages, circa 1978). And as is so often the case, history has a way of unraveling mystery. In this case, the mystery of John MacArthur’s Anti-Charismatic obsession is no exception when fully considered in its full historical context. — Fred W. Anson

There is a woman in our church who was diagnosed as having heart problems about five years ago. Her doctor prescribed heart medication for her condition. Unfortunately, the woman got sicker and sicker. She began to retain water, her skin began to crack, she was frequently depressed, and there were days when she could not get out of bed. Her physician tried a variety of medications, but the woman grew steadily worse.

After four years of being treated for a heart problem, the woman went to another physician who flatly stated that she had no heart problem at all. In fact, the woman was a diabetic and needed insulin for her diabetes. After a very short time of taking insulin, the woman felt remarkably better. She was no longer depressed, she did not retain water, her skin cleared up, and she had a normal energy level again.

This story, though true, serves as a parable for John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1992). MacArthur is like the first physician as he examines the charismatic movement. It’s clear to him that something is wrong with the charismatic movement. He sees some of the symptoms of illness, but he completely misdiagnoses the reasons for the illness. And his prescription is, frankly, designed to kill the patient.

I personally agree with a number of points in MacArthur’s book. Like many Christians, I too have grave problems with the prosperity message and the positive confession movement. Suffering, as much as faith, is an integral part of the Christian life (Phil. 1:29). I also share the general disgust that most Christians have for those television evangelists who are simply money-grubbers. Like my colleagues in the Vineyard, I oppose a view of spirituality that eliminates the maturing effect of traditional means of sanctification, such as Bible study, prayer and fellowship. And I hate the hyped testimonies of alleged “healings” that evaporate upon honest investigation.

This book, however, is particularly difficult to read for a number of reasons. MacArthur has the unfortunate weakness of exaggerating his opponents’ faults. Not only is the bizarre and the quirky repeatedly emphasized, but MacArthur rarely acknowledges a mainstream view within the charismatic or Pentecostal movements that’s balanced, Biblical, and mature. MacArthur, moreover, rarely admits that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement – now over 400 million strong – has borne tremendous fruit for the kingdom of God. He simply does not permit himself to acknowledge positive contributions by this enormous and varied movement.

John MacArthur circa 1992.

John MacArthur circa 1992.

Excessive dogmatism is another fault of MacArthur’s book. He lumps heresies, such as the view that human beings can share the deity of Christ, together with questions that should be open for discussion, such as “does the gift of tongues exist today?” Since MacArthur is dogmatic about virtually everything he says (something is either “Biblical” or “patently unbiblical” in MacArthur’s book), he leaves absolutely no room for the reader to disagree and yet still be viewed as orthodox.

Indeed, in MacArthur’s world, there does not seem to be any legitimate debate about almost any theological issue within Christian orthodoxy. This leads to the troubling conclusion that either MacArthur is unaware of most of the church’s history and the legitimacy of differing Biblical viewpoints other than one’s own, or he believes that he has received some special revelation regarding what is the truth about all matters. In either case, who can fault the reader for being turned off by MacArthur’s excessive dogmatism?

There’s another problem of lumping heresies together with matters that should be regarded as debatable by orthodox Christians: by shooting at every rabbit, MacArthur fails to ever bag the really big game. The big game involves the packaging of Christianity to suit the taste and appetites of the American consumer or the necessities of the television medium. A person in Missouri who believes a chicken was raised from the dead is hardly a national religious phenomenon. Consumer centered “Christianity” is, however, a major problem for the church in the 90s (II Tim. 4:3).

Finally, by way of introduction, MacArthur doesn’t rebuke charismatics as a person would rebuke a member of one’s own family. The book reads like hostile fire shot by an outsider. The tone, as will be seen by the numerous pejorative adjectives that MacArthur uses to describe charismatics, is anything but familial or irenic. It is one thing to have your child spanked by your spouse. It is quite another thing to have your child spanked by a stranger. Charismatics understandably react to being spanked by someone who intentionally positions himself as a stranger and not as a “dear friend, fellow worker… and [brother]” (Philem. 1:2).

I. Arguing Against Straw Men
Throughout this entire book, MacArthur has chosen to exaggerate the weaknesses of the charismatic viewpoint by selecting examples of the worst or the weakest of charismatic proponents rather than the best. Examples of this technique, fighting against the weakest of his opponents, are too numerous to exhaustively catalogue (since this flaw repeatedly runs through the entirety of Charismatic Chaos). However, I will, for the sake of fairness, mention just five examples to prove my point.

A. Do Kindergarten Sunday School materials fairly represent the charismatic movement?
In his chapter titled, “Is the Gift of Tongues for Today,” MacArthur begins with a quote from charismatic Sunday school literature designed to teach kindergarten children to speak in tongues. He writes,

‘[This literature designed for kindergarten children] is titled “I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit!!!” and is an eight page coloring book. One page has a caricature of a smiling weight-lifter with a T-shirt that says, “Spirit Man.” Under him is printed “1 Corinthians 14:4 – He that speaks in an unknown tongue builds himself up.”

Another page features a boy that looks like Howdy Doody with his hands lifted up. A dotted outline pictures where his lungs would be. (This evidently represents his spirit.) Inside the lung-shaped diagram is printed, “Bah-le odma ta lah-se ta no-mo.”‘

After describing this kindergarten book for children, MacArthur summarizes his view of the matter saying, “That expresses the typical charismatic perspective” (emphasis added).

It hardly needs stating that a comic book designed for children in kindergarten is not the best or most sophisticated theological thinking on a subject. Obviously, a thorough study of Sunday school literature for kindergartners in noncharismatic churches might similarly find unsophisticated explanations of a whole range of doctrines dear to most Christians. The only conceivable reason for using this kind of example is to portray charismatics as moronic. Why did he not, rather, tackle more scholarly expositions of the phenomenon of tongues by such people as Russell Spittler, Gordon Fee, Killian McDonnell, or Kevin Ranaghan? It certainly is not to MacArthur’s credit to argue against Sunday school material rather than serious scholarly work.

B. Are charismatics anti-medicine?
In his chapter on healing titled “Does God Still Heal?” MacArthur opens with the tragedy of Hobart Freeman’s “Glory Barn.” He describes Freeman’s extreme belief that submitting to a doctor’s remedy was to expose oneself to demonic influence. He then mentions that over the years, “at least ninety church members died as a result of ailments that would have been easily treatable” (p. 194). His use of Freeman as an opening example seems to imply that Freeman is somehow representative of mainstream charismatic or Pentecostal teaching about healing. MacArthur ought to know that this is absolutely untrue. Instead of beginning his chapter with Hobart Freeman, (giving the impression that this is mainstream thinking in the charismatic movement) why not, rather, open with the more thoughtful proponents of divine healing such as John Wimber, Francis MacNutt, or even 19th century proponents of divine healing such as A.J. Gordon, Andrew Murray, or A.B. Simpson? No mainstream charismatic or Pentecostal proponent of healing subscribes to the antimedicine views popularized by Hobart Freeman. Indeed, Freeman’s severest critics have come from within the charismatic camp!

NOTE: This shrine is now closed.

The Tortilla Shrine that John MacArthur makes such a fuss about. (click for details). By the way, Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico is a non-Charismatic Catholic.

C. Do charismatics build shrines to tortillas?
In his chapter titled “Does God Do Miracles Today”, MacArthur begins with the bizarre story of Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, who was frying tortillas in her kitchen when she noticed that one of them seemed to have the likeness of a face etched in burn marks. She concluded that it was Jesus and even built a crude shrine for the tortilla. Thousands of people visited the “Shrine of the Jesus of the Holy Tortilla” and concluded that it was, indeed, a modern day miracle. “I do not know why this happened to me,” Mrs. Rubio said, “but God has come into my life through this tortilla” (p. 107). MacArthur goes on to record another bizarre story of a man who discovered an image of Jesus on the side of a pizzeria in Deptforth Township, New Jersey. In considering whether God performs miracles after the apostolic era closed, why not, rather, interact with a long line of defenders of miracles in the church’s history going back to Justin Martyr, The Shepherd of Hermas, Irenaeus, or even St. Augustine in his “Retractions?” The reader searches in vain for any meaningful interaction in this book with the best proponents of post-apostolic miracles.

D. Do charismatics deny the authority of Scripture?
In his chapter titled, “Prophets, Fanatics, or Heretics?” MacArthur goes beyond portraying charismatics as fools to lumping them together with cult leaders such as Sun Myung Moon, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Edgar Cayce, and L. Ron Hubbard. MacArthur, again, never lets the mainstream of the Pentecostal or charismatic movement speak for itself, preferring, rather, to pretend that high views of Scripture’s authority are non-existent in the movement. He even asserts that “charismatic celebrities barely even give lip service to Biblical authority” (p. 17). Perhaps celebrities (I don’t know to whom he is referring) have not given lip service. The mainstream certainly has spoken volumes.

The mainstream is well represented by the Assemblies of God statement on Scripture that reads: “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible authoritative rule of faith and conduct (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).” Noteworthy is the conservative belief in Scripture’s “verbal inspiration.” Indeed, the Assemblies of God church became the largest member church of the National Association of Evangelicals shortly after the NAE’s founding in 1942. An Assemblies pastor was chosen president of the NAE in 1960. Its conservative evangelical pedigree should thus be assured to all but the most suspicious critics.

To preserve conformity with this Statement of Faith and historic orthodoxy, the Assemblies of God set up a Commission on Doctrinal Purity to review possibly deviant teachings of individual ministries. In examining the movement as a whole, Russell Spittler, a New Testament professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and a recognized scholar regarding Pentecostal spirituality, calls belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority one of the most significant traits of Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality.

J. Rodman Williams in the introduction of volume one of his Renewal Theology affirms the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the objective rule of Christian truth. As a professor of theology at Regent University (a charismatic institution) Dr. Williams is a credible voice for the charismatic point of view regarding the authority of the Scripture. He writes,

“To be sure, the Holy Spirit guides into all truth, and the Christian community profoundly knows the things of God through the indwelling Spirit; however, there is the continuing need for the authority of Holy Scripture. Without such, because of human fallibility, truth soon becomes compounded with error. “What does the Scripture say?” is the critical question that must undergird all theological work.

It should be immediately added that there can be no basic difference between the truth the Christian community knows through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and what is set forth in Scripture. Since all Scripture is “God-breathed” (which means “God Spirited”) or Spirit given, it is the same Holy Spirit at work in both Scripture and community. However, in terms of that which is authorative and therefore normative, what is written in Scripture always has the primacy. It tests and judges every affirmation of faith and doctrine.”

In the book titled, Pentecostal Preaching, by R.H. Hughes, Hughes sets forth several of the basics of Pentecostal preaching. Hughes’ first major point is that true Pentecostal preaching centers on the Word of God. He states:

“Pentecostals have been so identified by an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit that some observers overlook the fact that a cardinal principle of Pentecostalism has always been strict adherence, first and foremost, to the Bible. For one properly to understand the role of Pentecostal preaching, this basic first principle – the centrality of the Word of God – will have to be kept in mind… For Pentecostals today the Word is central in all life practices as well as to all doctrine. It is both the manual by which to operate and the standard by which to judge. To think otherwise, or to try to understand Pentecostalism from any other perspective, is erroneous.”

Hughes goes on to state that Pentecostal preaching must always exalt Jesus Christ. He states that preaching that extols anything “other than the grace manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ is not Pentecostal preaching no matter how it is labeled.”

E. Do charismatics believe “zapping” results in instant sanctification?
In his chapter “What is True Spirituality?” MacArthur states:

“For the typical charismatic, the gateway to spirituality is through an experience, usually speaking in tongues. The term actually used by some charismatics is “zapped.” It accurately describes the way most charismatics view sanctification. People in my congregation tell me when they have talked with charismatics about spirituality and have admitted that they have never had an ecstatic experience, the charismatic person would say, “Well, may Jesus zap you!”‘

I have been around thousands of charismatics and Pentecostals in my life and I have never met anyone who has ever said, “May Jesus zap you!” Why did MacArthur choose to use such ludicrous language in arguing against a subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit? Why not, rather, deal with the best proponents of post-salvation experiences of the Holy Spirit such as Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, D.L. Moody, John Wesley, or R.A. Torrey? Indeed, one can search long and hard in MacArthur’s book and never discover that many (presumably non-tongue speakers) have believed in subsequent experiences of the Holy Spirit that they labeled the “Baptism with the Holy Spirit.” And sadly, this demonstrates MacArthur’s repeated tendency to deal with the weakest rather than the strongest of his opponents and their arguments.

MacArthur further shows a profound ignorance of charismatic and Pentecostal doctrine when he suggests that “the charismatic movement has flourished primarily because it promises a shortcut to spiritual maturity…. Is there really a shortcut to sanctification?…. Many charismatics insist that once you get the baptism of the Spirit, spirituality is yours.” MacArthur clearly does not understand what the vast majority of charismatics and Pentecostals teach regarding the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. While the holiness variety of Pentecostalism does teach a second definite work – a post-conversion cleansing experience that enhances personal holiness – these holiness churches do not call that the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Even among Pentecostal holiness churches, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is provided not for personal holiness, but for empowerment for Christian service – such as for missionary evangelism or pastoral leadership. But apart from the holiness churches, the main body of charismatics and Pentecostals view sanctification along Reformed lines, progressing from conversion to death via traditional means of sanctification such as prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and service.

If MacArthur studied the matter, he could read numerous documents suggesting a Reformed viewpoint regarding sanctification from the International Church of the Four Square Gospel, The Assemblies of God churches, and The Open Bible Standard churches. This Reformed emphasis is also found in Vineyard churches.

In sum, MacArthur is really fighting a paper tiger when he suggests that Pentecostals or charismatics believe the “Baptism in the Spirit” or speaking in tongues provides instant spirituality. Mainstream Pentecostals and charismatics teach no such thing. Even in popular books of Pentecostal teaching, there is a clearly noted distinction between spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit. Yet MacArthur is content to leave a false and misleading impression among those not familiar with Pentecostal and charismatic teaching.

F. Why should MacArthur stop fighting straw men?
Because Charismatic Chaos is so severely marred by the technique of arguing against straw men, perhaps it would be helpful to suggest three reasons why MacArthur ought to abandon this argumentative style (which unfortunately characterizes nearly all his writings).

1. The same technique can be applied to modern fundamentalism of which MacArthur is a representative and to Christianity in general.
One would not have to search too hard to find fundamentalists who believe in an especially inspired King James Version, a dictation theory of inspiration, or who have written fantastic books of prophetic schemes regarding the Middle East, which have proven to be absolutely false. Likewise, false and foolish statements from sincere nonfundamentalist Christians abound. Yet, it would be totally unfair to charge the best proponents of fundamentalism or Christianity with holding the views of their less sophisticated or educated brethren.

2. By arguing with the weakest of your opponents, one proves absolutely nothing.
One may appear to win, but the victory is false and hollow. The already convinced will applaud MacArthur and thank him for his thoughtful analysis (p. 13), but more objective observers watching the battle can rightly conclude that MacArthur either did not understand his opponents’ better arguments or did not have the ammunition to defeat them.

3. Perhaps most serious of all, arguing against straw men is unbefitting of a mature Christian.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Pinning a position to a Christian brother that he does not hold just to make him look foolish (or to win a cheap victory) is not just, merciful, nor does it display humility before God. After reading MacArthur’s book it could be asked: What price such a Pyrrhic victory?

II. The Tendency To Use Negative Labels
Perhaps the worst flaw in MacArthur’s argumentative style is his tendency to label his opponents with excessively negative and pejorative adjectives. MacArthur wonders in his introduction why he has received such strident opposition to his books from charismatics. He suggests, “The Biblical challenge is not to avoid truth that is controversial, but to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). I have endeavored to do that.” Is this, indeed, true? Has MacArthur endeavored, throughout his book, to “speak the truth in love?” He goes on to say that “most charismatics fall back on the all too easy defense that virtually every critique of their movement is unfair and unkind. Non-charismatics, intimidated by that accusation, are effectively silenced.” Perhaps MacArthur would understand why charismatics find it difficult to receive his message if he would go through his book, page by page, and simply note the disparaging labels he used and the accusations he made of his opponents’ motivations, intelligence, and orthodoxy.

John MacArthur in a 1992 video.

John MacArthur in a 1992 video. (click to see excerpts – which occur later in the presentation)

In his chapter on the Third Wave, MacArthur accuses the Third Wave of “rolling like a destructive tsunami, leaving chaos and confusion in its wake” (p.131); toning down his [Wimber’s] claims because he was being observed by objective observers (p. 133); badly corrupting the message of the gospel (p. 136); pragmatism (p. 141); being un-Biblical (p. 142); not believing in the deity of Christ (p. 143); being syncretistic (p. 148); and, engaged in a carefully crafted image that is the result of a skillful marketing campaign, attempting to sell the movement to noncharismatic evangelicals (p. 148).

In other places in Charismatic Chaos, he accuses charismatics and Pentecostals of being immoral (p. 21); “keen but clueless” (p. 40); anti-intellectual (p. 40); not far removed from existentialism, humanism, paganism (p.41); and, being “perilously close to neo-baalism” (p.43). It is difficult to dialogue with somebody who is as abusive and caustic as MacArthur is in his attacks on charismatics. He expresses surprise that charismatics become defensive when he simply “speaks the truth in love” to them. Perhaps if MacArthur stopped labeling and vilifying charismatics, they might find it easier to listen to him. (Later on I will devote an entire section to MacArthur’s charges against John Wimber).

Moreover, MacArthur uses terms such as “neo-orthodox” and “Roman Catholic” in describing some of the tendencies of the charismatic movement. Unfortunately, MacArthur displays no real appreciation of just what neo-orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism is about. His understanding of neo-orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism is superficial and entirely negative. While he may have read a book by Karl Barth or Emil Brunner, no one would believe that after reading his remarks on neo-orthodoxy. Likewise, he displays no current understanding of Roman Catholicism as treated by men like Hans Kung. For MacArthur, neo- orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are simply negative labels to be pinned to the chests of charismatics.

III. Fallacies Of Causation
It is commonplace in philosophy to distinguish between causation and correlation. Because A and B happen near each other, does not mean that A caused B. Thus if the stock market goes up the same day the Yankees win, it does not mean the Yankees’ victory caused the stock market rise.

A. Does charismatic belief cause immoral behavior?
Throughout MacArthur’s book, he regularly charges charismatics and Pentecostals with every type of sin imaginable. Thus, in MacArthur’s first chapter, he mentions the appalling sex scandals that have occurred among ostensibly Spirit-filled charismatic leaders. In an especially hysterical paragraph, MacArthur states:

“…such scandals are the legacy of a movement that touts spectacular signs and wonders as the only irrefutable verification of true spirituality. To authenticate their claims, some charismatic leaders resort to fraudulent or simulated ‘miracles.’ Spirituality is viewed as an external issue; godly character is nonessential to those who believe supernatural phenomena validate their claims to speak for God. Such a system breeds duplicity, trickery, charlatanism, and fraud..”

While MacArthur goes on to say he is not attempting to charge all charismatics with the broad brush of immorality or charlatanism, clearly he believes there is a causal connection between charismatic beliefs and sexual immorality, and fraud.

Unfortunately, MacArthur never demonstrates biblically how belief in tongues or the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” makes one more susceptible to immorality or chicanery. No empirical evidence is cited that charismatic and Pentecostal pastors or leaders are more susceptible to immorality than noncharismatic leaders and pastors. Televangelists’ well-publicized sins do not necessarily translate down to the man or woman in the pews or the shepherd caring for those men and women. In fact, sexual immorality is among the most abhorrent sins in the culturally conservative Pentecostal movement.

Immorality is, tragically, a phenomenon that seems to know no denominational boundaries. Indeed, several very prominent dispensational and fundamentalist leaders have had to step down from radio ministries, para-church leadership, and pastorates because of sexual immorality. One might more realistically point to the sex-drenched culture of the modern western world, the cult of sexual self-expression, and the absence of the practice of spiritual disciplines as more likely explanations for the fall of charismatic pastors than their experience of speaking in tongues.

B. Does belief in all the Biblical gifts of the Spirit cause sloppy exegesis?
MacArthur devotes the better part of a chapter to describing exegetical weaknesses in charismatic literature, and suggests that there is a causal connection between belief in charismatic experiences and sloppy exegesis. Yet, in his chapter, he never tells us why someone who believes in the present day existence of all the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, would be any more likely to exegete his or her Bible more sloppily than someone who doesn’t believe in the present existence of these gifts. Indeed, Gordon Fee, the well-known Pentecostal Bible scholar, wrote (with Douglas Stuart) one of the best popular books on Bible interpretation, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. Again, there is no empirical evidence cited for more sloppiness in exegesis among charismatics than among noncharismatics. A casual survey of Christian bookstores would yield shelves of books produced by noncharismatics on topics like eschatology, counseling, and men’s and women’s roles based on extremely questionable exegetical methods. D.A. Carson, a noncharismatic, wrote an entire book titled Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), in which he cites example after example of fallacious arguments made in popular Christian books. Most of the examples that Carson cites are from noncharismatic sources.

MacArthur himself falls prey to many of the errors that he claims are the special purview of charismatics. While MacArthur yielded to the temptation to tar the charismatic movement with poor interpretive methods, sloppy exegesis – like sexual immorality – knows no denominational bounds. It cannot be laid at the feet of any period in church history (it is found in all periods), nor can it be laid at the feet of any particular denomination (all the denominations fall short of perfectly interpreting the scriptures).

C. Do charismatic churches produce spiritual casualties?
MacArthur states:

“Charismatic chaos is usually not physically fatal, but the movement is littered with spiritual casualties. I received a letter from a Christian man whose wife became entangled with a fanatic charismatic assembly. He wrote me for counsel, brokenhearted, “She got involved with a group of charismatic women and they convinced her I was not saved since I didn’t speak in tongues, etc. as they taught her to do… finally, she left and filed for divorce two months ago. It will soon be final.”‘

Again, no empirical evidence is cited to show either that people who are charismatics are more likely (than non-charismatics) to divorce. Nor is there any evidence that the charismatic movement is “more littered with spiritual casualties” than non-charismatics. Indeed, if the findings of books such as Toxic Faith Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1991) are taken as accurate, fundamentalist churches often produce at least as many spiritual casualties as charismatic churches. Sadly, there are dozens of Fundamentalist Anonymous groups nationwide and the Christian Research Institute has received many reports of “casualties” from non-charismatic churches. In any case, there does not appear to be any causal connection between mainstream charismatic beliefs and becoming a spiritual casualty.

IV. False Models and False Questions
In chapter 9, titled “Does God Still Heal?” MacArthur lays out a six-pronged test, supposedly derived from the Bible to evaluate whether someone possesses a true gift of healing. The model includes the following:

1. Jesus (and the Apostles) healed with a word or a touch.
2. Jesus (and the Apostles) healed instantly.
3. Jesus (and the Apostles) healed totally.
4. Jesus (and the Apostles) healed everyone.
5. Jesus (and the Apostles) healed organic diseases.
6. Jesus (and the Apostles) raised the dead.

To this list, MacArthur added a seventh point: Jesus (and the Apostles) could use their miraculous gifts at will.

As MacArthur applies his supposedly biblically derived model he finds (not surprisingly) that modern healers do not meet the Biblical tests as outlined above. Many modern healings are delayed or are partial. Beyond that, no one heals everyone and there are few verified reports of raisings from the dead. Therefore, MacArthur concludes, whatever the source of the so-called modern gift of healing, it cannot be of God. MacArthur’s use of a self-constructed model to prove his case may indicate the contrived nature of this form of argumentation. Beyond this, model construction is a game that anyone can play. There is no necessary (or Biblical) requirement to use the criteria for healing that MacArthur supposedly distilled from the scriptures. Indeed, one could quite reasonably construct a “Biblical” model that would embrace, or would validate the current claim of healing gifts. For example, the criteria for evaluating a healing gift might be:

1. Jesus (and the Apostles) gave glory to God whenever a person was healed.
2. Jesus (and the Apostles) general healed people not to prove anything about themselves but from a motive of compassion.
3. In every healing faith is required either in the person being healed or in the person praying for the healing or a third party (e.g., the paralytic’s friends; Jairus’s daughter).
4. Jesus (and the Apostles) were selective in their choice of whom to heal.

Each of my criteria can easily be derived from scripture.

A decade has passed since the silliness of model making was pressed home to me while carrying on a discussion with a Muslim. A Muslim, whom I was attempting to evangelize, tried to prove to me that Mohammed, and not Jesus, was the Prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18. In Deuteronomy 18, verse 15, Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” The Muslim man said, “Mohammed is like Moses and is, therefore, the Prophet. But Jesus is not like Moses.” I asked, “On what basis do you make this assertion?” He answered, “Well, first, Moses was a political leader and Mohammed was a political leader. But Jesus was not a political leader. Secondly, Moses fought military campaigns, Mohammed fought military campaigns, but Jesus did not fight military campaigns. Third, Moses was a shepherd. Mohammed was a shepherd, but Jesus was not a shepherd. Fourth, Moses spent many years in the desert. Mohammed spent many years in the desert, but Jesus spent almost no time in the desert.” To this list, he added several other criteria that he felt proved his case almost completed.

My response to his self-constructed model was to point out that his criteria were not necessarily the only criteria to evaluate “the Prophet’s” likeness to Moses. I gave him my own “off-the-cuff” criteria. First, Moses was a Jew. Jesus was a Jew, but Mohammed was not a Jew. Second, Moses had a beard. Jesus had a beard, but Mohammed did not have a beard. Third, Moses was nearly killed at birth by an evil king. Jesus was nearly killed at birth by an evil king, but Mohammed was not threatened at birth by an evil king. I could go on, but I think the point of the foolishness of these kinds of arguments is made!

More importantly, MacArthur fails to see that the Biblical evidence doesn’t even fit his own self-constructed model. For example, under criterion number 4, MacArthur states that the Apostles were able to heal anyone. Yet, Paul, who had a Biblical gift of healing, states in 2 Timothy 4:20, “…I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” Why didn’t Paul heal Trophimus rather than leave him, presumably to recuperate, if, as MacArthur states, the Apostles were able to heal anyone? Paul himself claims that the reason he ended up in Galatia was because of a personal illness (that he apparently he could not heal himself). In Galatians 4:13-14, Paul writes, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.”

Finally, MacArthur seems to poke fun at John Wimber for claiming to have the gift of healing while having to acknowledge his own personal heart condition. The same embarrassment can apparently be laid at the feet of Paul.

V. Do Charismatic Media Personalities Fairly Represent the Mainstream Movement?
A person does not have to read MacArthur’s book too long before coming to the conclusion that MacArthur’s understanding of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements is an outsider’s viewpoint that has been chiefly informed by over- exposure to charismatic media. In short, MacArthur displays the characteristics of a man who understands American culture only through the lens of Hollywood media. Just as Hollywood is not representative of America, charismatic media stars, The Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Charisma magazine do not represent the 400 million Pentecostals and charismatic Christian believers worldwide.

Reading MacArthur’s examples of charismatic foolishness (taken chiefly from television and magazine sources) reminds me of a conversation I had with a high school student in England in 1986. The high school student remarked to me, “You Americans are so cool. You get to race around in sports cars and the women in America are gorgeous. I want to go to America when I get out of high school!” I asked him why he thought that all Americans raced around in sports cars and that all American women were gorgeous. He said he watched “Miami Vice” on television all the time! As a result of watching “Miami Vice”, this high school student thought he understood America!

Rather than watch so many charismatic celebrities on television, MacArthur might have put his time to better use reading Russell Spittler’s helpful history of the Pentecostal movement [entitled “The Church”]. Spittler writes: “When the total figures are combined for classical Pentecostals along with charismatics from Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant sectors, the sum exceeds the size of [noncharismatic] Protestantism as a whole.” If for no other reason than statistical dominance, MacArthur ought to have more carefully analyzed the movement as a whole. Again, Spittler writes:

“If some varieties of Christians are geographically uniform and predictable, Pentecostals are neither. Certain features nearly always occur, yet the variety is astonishing. Who are the Pentecostals, the charismatics? How do the two differ? Some distinctions are in order. Pentecostals and charismatics of every variety are distinguished by their emphasis on the Holy Spirit and their beliefs in the contemporary relevance of the gifts of the Spirit. As a whole, they all reflect a conservative Christian orthodoxy. They value personal religious renewal. They value a restorationist impulse, a bent to an often idealized “church of the New Testament.” But there the similarities end. For example, while Pentecostals generally insist on speaking in tongues as “the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, not all Pentecostals around the world do, nor in their origins did teach, that speaking in tongues is the necessary physical evidence of the baptism. In fact, the vast majority of contemporary charismatics do not affirm the necessity of tongues; indeed, that is an incidence among charismatics as one of the principle features that distinguishes them from Pentecostals.”

MacArthur seems to be totally unaware of the difference between Pentecostals and charismatics and lumps the two together as a monolithic whole. Spittler summarizes the distinctions between the Pentecostal and charismatic movement this way:

“Pentecostalism arose in the first half of this century, charismatics in the second half. Pentecostals formed the classical Pentecostal denomination; charismatics remained in their own churches, the mainstream ones. Most (though not all) Pentecostals insist on tongues as initial evidence; charismatics generally speak in tongues, but do not make it a matter of necessity. Pentecostals teach a strict subsequence of vital Christian experience; two, in the case of baptistic Pentecostals; and, three, in Wesleyan Pentecostalism. Charismatics, on the other hand, find ways to fit charismatic experience and renewal into their existing ecclesiastical and theological traditions.”

MacArthur also does not take account of cultural differences in the charismatic movement. For example, over 50 million charismatics and Pentecostals live in Africa. Over 60 million live in East Asia. There are approximately 80 million in Latin America and only 80 million in North America. The charismatic and Pentecostal movements are not North American media phenomena, although one would have the impression by reading MacArthur’s book that they are a narrow, exclusively white, North American phenomena.

Contrary to MacArthur’s assertion about rampant sexual immorality, Pentecostals, at least the North American varieties, are likely to reflect the strict mores rising from their holiness and fundamentalist origins. In short, MacArthur’s entire book is devoid of even the more general distinctions that any knowledgeable observer of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements would know as a matter of course. Indeed, Pentecostal or charismatic insiders will not be able to recognize themselves in MacArthur’s media-based view of the movement.

VI. Is There Any Fruit From the Charismatic Movement?
Implicit in MacArthur’s wholesale attack on the charismatic movement is that it is not derived from the Holy Spirit and therefore, has borne only bad fruit. He suggests that the fruit of the charismatic movement is entirely negative and, among other things, has “created divisions” (p. 293), “encourages mysticism” (p. 292), “denigrates reason” (p. 292), “leads to spiritual casualties” etc. Is there any fruit in the charismatic movement? “Surely, if the movement is of God,” MacArthur asks, “we ought to find abundant fruit.” Yet, MacArthur looks about him and sees no fruit at all. Perhaps the lens that he looks at the charismatics through is less than clear. A Christian approaching the charismatic movement without a clouded lens, might see the following.

A. The Fruit of Remarkable Growth Worldwide.
According to David Barrett Pentecostals numbered approximately 1.2 million in the year 1900. By 1990, that number had grown to over 400 million. As a percentage of worldwide Christianity, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements represented something less than .5% in 1900. That number has grown to almost 25% in 1990. The number of Pentecostal churches has grown from 15,000 in 1900 to 1.5 million in 1990. Giving among charismatics and Pentecostals to Christian causes has grown from 3-million dollars in 1900 to 37 billion dollars in 1990. Charismatic church organizations have grown from 120 in 1900 to 13,800 in 1990. The majority of the fifty or so mega-churches the world’s largest single congregations, each with over 50,000 members – are Pentecostal/charismatic.

Particularly impressive is the church growth rate among Third World believers. The growth of Christianity in China, particularly since 1976, has been a phenomenon unmatched in Christian history. When Western missionaries were driven out of China in 1949-1950, they left about one million Protestant believers. Since the Communist takeover in 1949, Christians multiplied. By the mid-1980s, the number was conservatively estimated at over 50 million, with some suggesting twice that number. Two expert China-watchers suggest that 85% of Chinese believers would be “phenomenological Pentecostal- charismatics.” Such amazing growth can be observed in much of the rest of the Third World. As Patrick Johnstone put it:

“The harvest of people into the Kingdom of God in recent years has been unprecedented. Never in history has such a high percentage of the world’s population been exposed to the Gospel, nor the increase of evangelical Christians been so encouraging. Although there are many factors that have combined to produce this growth, among the most significant according to most observers has been the explosive increase of Pentecostal and charismatic movements.”

B. The Fruit of Evangelism.
Evangelism has been a priority among Pentecostals throughout their history. The historical self-image of the major Pentecostal church bodies is that they were raised up to be an instrument of evangelism in the world. Traditionally, therefore, it has been felt that to be a Pentecostal is to be an evangelistic witness. Pentecostals see aggressive evangelism in the pages of the New Testament and due to their high regard for their Bible and their literal interpretation of Scripture, they interpret the Pentecostal experience as a mandate for evangelism in its various forms and methods.

Pentecostals believe that redemption is the central purpose of God in Scripture and evangelism as the comprehensive method for fulfilling that purpose. Pentecostals’ Biblical literalism has caused them to be aggressively obedient to the Great Commission passages in the gospel. Pentecostal understanding of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit connects it with the evangelistic task and suggests that evangelism is the primary result of the Holy Spirit’s baptism (Acts 1:8). Contrary to MacArthur’s contention that tongues is central to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, evangelism occupies the central place in thinking among Pentecostals regarding the Spirit’s baptism. In his classic book Concerning Spiritual Gifts, first published in 1949, Donald Gee contends that evangelism was a natural expression of the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12.

The evangelism of Pentecostals centers on the gospel or Good News. Pentecostals believe that evangelism is the act of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit with the intention that men and women will come to put their trust in Christ for salvation and serve him in the fellowship of his church. Pentecostals suggest that the telling in Pentecostal evangelism can involve more than verbal proclamation but is never a substitute for verbal proclamation. Pentecostals and charismatics understand that divine healing can be an evangelistic door opener, but is in no way a substitute for the gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I am unaware of any responsible Pentecostals who suggest that the Good News is replaced by, or made subservient to, supernatural signs and wonders. Rather, supernatural signs and wonders are claimed only to open the door for or accompany the gospel message. The Pentecostal and charismatic movement has borne the fruit of evangelism.

C. The Fruit of World Missions.
Pentecostals from the beginning have been known as “doers.” Pentecostal mission theology has tended to be a theology on the move. Eschatological urgency is at the heart of understanding the missionary fervor of Pentecostalism. “Eschatology,” says Danboriena, “belongs to the essence of Pentecostalism.” Pentecostals from the outset have been involved in a variety of strategies that have contributed to the astonishing world mission growth.

These strategies include:

1. Indigenous churches. Pentecostal missions have sought from their inception to develop indigenous churches. Indeed, Pentecostal missionary Melvin Hodges’ book, The Indigenous Church (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1953), has become a standard on the subject in evangelical circles. His numerous other books have further earned him respect in missiological circles.

2. Church planting. Pentecostals stress the importance of planting responsible reproducing congregations as the abiding fruit of world evangelization and generally measure their progress by the number of new congregations put in order.

3. Urban strategy. Pentecostal growth and urbanization have developed side by side.

4. Literature distribution. John Thomas Nichol in his book, Pentecostalism (Plainfield, J.J.: Logos International, 1971), lists among some fifteen causes for the initial success of Pentecostalism the strong emphasis given to tabloid size newspapers and other early publications. Publishing ministries are a high priority in all major Pentecostal groups.

5. Mission stewardship. Pentecostals have given generously to the cause of world missions since the early days of the movement. In the pioneering years, whole families sold their possessions and started for the field or supported others who went. In the classic Pentecostal denominations, mission budgets continue to receive the largest share of donations. Mission stewardship has received number one priority from the outset.

D. The Practice of the Priesthood of Every Believer.
While the priesthood of every believer was doctrinally recovered during the Reformation, Pentecostalism especially put the believer’s priesthood into practice in the modern world. Sociological and historical studies have reflected on the humble social origin of the Pentecostals and the development of preachers from the common people of the poorer classes. Since they have not had a long history of formal theological training for professional clergy, the Pentecostals have emphasized that all in the body of Christ are ministers and everyone is a preacher. C. Peter Wagner’s study of Latin American Pentecostalism found aggressive lay ministry as a key factor in Pentecostal growth. Further, a large part of the dynamic world wide growth of the Pentecostal movement has been due to the higher percentage of women ministers and missionaries in Pentecostal groups per capita than in their evangelical counterparts. While maintaining a conservative view of male leadership, Paul Yonggi Cho has espoused the leadership and involvement of women as a key ingredient in the successful growth of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea.

In John Wimber’s teaching on spiritual gifts, in general, and healing in particular, equipping all the saints for the work of ministry is the predominant theme. Indeed, the magazine of John Wimber’s vineyard ministry is titled Equipping the Saints. (Ephesians 4:11-13 is one of the most frequently commented upon verses in popular charismatic and Pentecostal books.) No movement in Christianity today, affirms the role and ministry of the individual non-clergy as does the charismatic movement.

E. The Role of Women.
Women have had extremely important leadership roles in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, as has happened in most awakenings and spiritually vital movements throughout Christian history. Many Pentecostal pioneers were women including Florence L. Crawford, founder of the Apostolic Faith movement in the Pacific Northwest; Marie Burges Brown, who founded Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, and Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the International Church of the Four Square Gospel.

Other major figures in the Pentecostal movement in North America include the following: Carrie Judd Montgomery, a woman who was miraculously healed in 1879. She became a healing evangelist of considerable promise and her book, The Prayer of Faith, 1880, gained widespread circulation. Carrie Judd Montgomery became a founding member of A.B. Simpson’s Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Maria Woodworth-Etter was a woman involved in the holiness movement before she rose to prominence as an early Pentecostal leader. In 1885 she began to receive widespread attention for her teaching ministry and began preaching about divine healing. In the next four years, she was “responsible for starting about a dozen churches, adding a thousand members, erecting six churches, and starting several Sunday schools. In addition, twelve preachers were licensed as a result of her ministry.” Woodworth- Etter was a regular speaker in the early Pentecostal movements and reportedly saw many converts during her evangelistic revival meetings.

Many women who were pioneers of the Pentecostal movement served as itinerant evangelists and missionaries. Others worked as speakers, authors, and evangelists, including Rita Bennett, Ann Gimenez, and Corrie ten Boom. As in other periods of revival, women have historically enjoyed greater freedom in Pentecostal circles, as opposed to non-charismatic circles. A revival atmosphere usually includes an emphasis on evangelism, missions and a sense of the urgency of the times. Because the times are urgent, all available personnel are mobilized whether men or women, laity or clergy, within biblically appropriate role designations (see e.g., 1 Cor. 11:2-16).

John Wimber 1992 EDITED

Vineyard founder and leader John Wimber (1934–1997)

VII. John Wimber
MacArthur directs some of his most derisory and virulent attacks against John Wimber whom he arbitrarily lumps into the Third Wave. Not only is MacArthur’s tone unquestionably pejorative and unloving, but his chapter on the Third Wave is filled with factual and Biblical errors.

David Barrett the preeminent demographer of worldwide Christianity, used this definition of “thirdwaver” for his statistical analysis:

“These are Evangelicals and other Christians who, unrelated to Pentecostalism or the charismatic Movement, have recently become filled with the Spirit, or empowered or energized by the Spirit and experiencing the Spirit’s supernatural and miraculous ministry (though usually without recognizing a baptism in the Spirit separate from conversion), who exercise gifts of the Spirit (with much less emphasis on tongues, as optional or even absent or unnecessary), and emphasize signs and wonders supernatural miracles and power encounters, but who remain within their mainline nonpentecostal denominations and who do not identify themselves as either Pentecostals or charismatics.”

It is the fastest growing sector of what Barrett terms “the 20th century Pentecostal/charismatic renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Barrett estimated Third Wave Christians as amounting to 33 million in the year 1990.

A. Does the Vineyard have a Statement of Faith?
On page 147 MacArthur writes,

“Listening to the claims of Third Wave leaders, one might conclude their movement is essentially composed of conservative evangelicals who remain strongly committed to traditional Biblical theology. The facts do not bear this out. Much of the Third Wave is difficult to classify doctrinally. Statements of Faiths and Creeds simply are not an earmark of the Third Wave. Wimber’s Vineyard is typical. Another disturbing aspect of the Vineyard ministry is their lack of any written Statement of Faith. Because Vineyard members come from a variety of denominational backgrounds, the leadership has avoided setting strong doctrinal standards. This deemphasis of doctrine is also consistent with the leadership of John Wimber and Bob Fulton, (pastor of the Vineyard in Yorba Linda, California) whose backgrounds theologically include associations with Quakers, who typically express the inner experience of God and minimize the need for doctrinal expressions of one’s understanding of God.”

MacArthur is correct in the first sentence. The Third Wave movement is essentially composed of conservative evangelicals who remain strongly committed to traditional Biblical theology. The only accurate statement in the rest of the quote is that John Wimber had twenty years ago pastored a large conservative evangelical Quaker church. Had MacArthur simply called the Association of Vineyard Churches and asked for the Association’s doctrinal statement, or spoken to John Wimber personally, he would have been given this statement, (adopted in 1986 and currently under revision) that reads in part:

"Pentecost" (Unknown Artist)

“Pentecost” (Unknown Artist)

I. Our Convictions
1. WE BELIEVE that there is ONE LIVING AND TRUE GOD, eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, equal in power and glory that this triune God created all, upholds all, and governs all. (Matt. 28:19, Isa. 40:12-26, Isa. 46:8-11)

2. WE BELIEVE that the SCRIPTURES of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, fully inspired, and the infallible rule of faith and practice; and that they are to be interpreted according to their context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through them in living power. (2 Tim. 3:14-17, Rom. 15:4, James 1:22)

3. WE BELIEVE in GOD THE FATHER, an infinite, personal Spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power, and love; that He concerns Himself merciful in the affairs of men; that He hears and answers prayer, and that He saves from sin and death and all who come to Him through Jesus Christ. (Matt. 6:9, Isa. 6:3, Rom. 11:33-39, Psalms 138:5-6, Matt. 7:11, Isa. 55:6-7)

4. WE BELIEVE in JESUS CHRIST, God’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. We believe in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles and teachings, His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people and personal, visible return to earth. We believe that in His first coming Jesus inaugurated the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. (John 1:14-18, Luke 1:18-20, Heb. 4:15, Rom. 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:1-8, Eph. 1:20, 1 Thess. 4:16, Mark 1:14-15)

5. WE BELIEVE in the HOLY SPIRIT, who came forth from the Father and Son to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify and empower for ministry all who believe in Christ; we believe the Holy spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is an abiding helper, Teacher, and Guide. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit and in the exercise of all the biblical gifts of the Spirit. (John 15:26, 16:8, Titus 3:5, Acts 1:8, Rom. 8:9, Eph. 1:13, John 14:16, 1 Cor. 12:4-11)

6. WE BELIEVE that all MEN are sinners by nature and choice and are therefore under condemnation, that God regenerates and baptizes by the Holy Spirit those who repent of their sins and confess Jesus Christ as Lord. (Eph. 2:1-10, Acts 2:38, Ezek. 36:26, John 1:12-13, John 20:9)

7. WE BELIEVE in the universal CHURCH, the living spiritual body, of which Christ is the Head and all regenerated persons are members. (1 Cor. 12:12-13, Eph 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:4-5)

8. WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ committed two ORDINANCES to the church: baptism; and the Lord’s Supper. We believe in water baptism and communion open to all believers. (Acts 2:38, 1 Cor. 11:23-30, Luke 3:3)

9. WE BELIEVE also in the LAYING ON OF HANDS for empowering of the Holy Spirit, for receiving of gifts of the Spirit, for healing, and for recognition and empowering of those whom God has ordained to lead and serve the church. (Acts 13:3, Mark 6:5, 1 Tim. 4:14, 2 Tim. 1:6)

10. WE BELIEVE in the personal, visible APPEARING OF CHRIST to earth and the consummation of His Kingdom; in the resurrection of the body, the final judgment and eternal blessing of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked. (Acts 1:11, Matt. 25:31, 1 Cor. 15:20-24, Rev. 20:11, 21:8)

11. WE BELIEVE in what is termed “THE APOSTLES’ CREED” as embodying fundamental facts of Christian faith, and endorse the historic orthodox creeds of the church.

This Statement of Faith is the standard to which church plants and adoptions into the Vineyard movement must subscribe. Every Vineyard pastor subscribes to the Association’s Statement of Faith. John Wimber’s Power Points: Seven Steps to Christian Growth (San Francisco: Harper, l991), also lays out his doctrinal convictions in a more extended way. No one but the most suspicious critic of Vineyard, who reads Vineyard’s Statement of Faith or John Wimber’s book, would conclude that Vineyard is a movement without a set of doctrinal formulations.

B. Does the Third Wave underemphasize traditional means of spiritual growth?
On page 130 MacArthur writes,

“Like Pentecostals and charismatics, common Third Wave adherents aggressively pursue ecstatic experiences, mystical phenomena, miraculous powers, and supernatural wonders – while tending to under-emphasize the traditional means of spiritual growth: prayer, Bible study, the teaching of the Word, persevering in obedience and fellowship of other believers (emphasis added).”

Again, had MacArthur taken time to examine the Association Vineyard Churches Statement of Priorities or had he spoken to John Wimber personally, he would have discovered that fundamental Vineyard priorities include:

1. Worship
2. The teaching of the Bible
3. Prayer
4. Fellowship
5. Ministry
6. Training
7. Evangelism and World Missions

Our first leadership requirement is “a sincere love and pursuit of Jesus Christ demonstrated in regular personal worship, meditation on God’s Word, and prayer.” Even a casual visit to a Vineyard church will disclose a significant emphasis on fellowship as demonstrated by the numerous small groups in the church, an emphasis on intercessory prayer, an emphasis on the teaching of the Bible, and an emphasis on obedience to God’s word.

As a Vineyard pastor whose church numbers approximated 1200 on Sunday mornings, our Vineyard church has about 65 small groups that are designed specifically for fellowship, prayer, worship, and Bible study. (John Wimber’s Anaheim Vineyard has over 100 small groups designed for similar purposes.) On Sunday morning at our church we take about 40 minutes for Biblical exposition. Our Tuesday evening Training Center for adults in the Vineyard regularly has several classes on basic Christian doctrine, Old and New Testaments surveys, and various books of the Bible. Our particular church also has numerous intercessory prayer meetings. My experience of the Vineyard movement as a whole indicates that prayer and fellowship are certainly strongly emphasized.

C. What is Power Evangelism?
John MacArthur claims: “The underlying assumption that drives the whole Third Wave movement is wrong. Miracles, signs and wonders are impotent to produce either faith or genuine revival.” To justify this, MacArthur claims that nowhere in the book of Acts do we see power evangelism practiced. And, he claims that Jesus, himself, did not practice “power evangelism.”

What is “power evangelism?” Let’s be clear about what John Wimber means (and explicitly wrote) about his coined expression “power evangelism.” In his book titled, Power Evangelism, Wimber writes:

“By power evangelism I mean a presentation of the gospel that is rational, but that also transcends the rational (though it is in no way ‘irrational’ or anti-rational). The explanation of the gospel – the clear proclamation of the finished work of Christ on the cross – comes with a demonstration of God’s power through signs and wonders. Power evangelism is a spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, empowered presentation of the gospel. Power evangelism is preceded and undergirded by demonstrations of God’s presence, and frequently results in groups of people being saved. Signs and wonders do not save; only Jesus and substitutionary work on the cross saves. Through these supernatural encounters people experience the presence and power of God. Usually this takes the norm of words of knowledge…healing, prophecy, and deliverance from evil spirits.”

Nowhere does this definition diminish the gospel message of the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection preached with the intention that men and women will come to put their trust in Christ for salvation and serve Him in the fellowship of His church. John Wimber believes that the gospel message presented without signs and wonders can save:

“Before exploring power evangelism further, however, a healthy word of clarification and caution is needed. The Bible does not teach that evangelism apart from signs and wonders is invalid, or that the addition of signs and wonders somehow changes the gospel message. The heart and soul of evangelism is proclamation of the gospel.”

Healings and “words of knowledge” are simply a “door opener” for the preached message. Wimber’s entire purpose in presenting “power evangelism” is to suggest to modern conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, such as John MacArthur, that eliminating signs and wonders as a “door opener” is “patently unbiblical” (to use MacArthur’s phrase in Charismatic Chaos).

MacArthur claims that biblically “miracles do not produce a real faith in an unbelieving heart, “Miracles, signs and wonders are impotent to produce either faith or genuine revival.” To bolster this claim MacArthur cites the story of the healing of the lame man in Acts 4. He says the Jewish religious leaders did not deny that a miracle occurred (Acts 4:16). But the response was far from saving faith.

There is truth in the assertion that miracles do not “produce” saving faith. But nowhere does John Wimber assert that they do. Indeed only the Holy Spirit can “produce” saving faith, that comes as a gift. Rather, signs and wonders accredit the message and messenger of salvation. They provoke the unbeliever to consider the truth claims presented by the messenger. Put another way, they help to open the door and remove roadblocks to faith and so function as an apologetic for the message. Signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual gifts illustrate the reality of the presence and power of God to save.

It is unnecessarily narrow to restrict the mode of the gospel presentation to just preaching. God speaks through books, magazines, film, and miracles.

Why did MacArthur stop with Acts 4? Reading ahead five chapters to Acts 9, we find an undeniable connection between the demonstration of powerful signs and wonders and the rapid expansion of the church. For example, in Acts 9:32-35, Luke writes:

“As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.’ Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”

What is it that provoked the response of faith and the turning to the Lord by the residents of Lydda and Sharon? MacArthur asserts that miracles cannot biblically produce faith in observers nor by implication can they serve as a “door opener” to the gospel. The residents of Lydda and Sharon who are now “at home with the Lord” would likely be puzzled by MacArthur’s anti- supernatural assertions.

The next incident recorded in Acts 9 further demonstrates power evangelism at work. Luke goes on to write about a woman named Dorcas who had died. Luke writes: Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:40-43). Again, what was it that removed barriers to belief in the Lord other than the raising of Tabitha from the dead? This is power evangelism in its most explicit form.

The Apostle Paul also practiced power evangelism. In Acts 13 Paul met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, whom the scripture recorded:

“…was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord (Acts 13:7-12).”

"Pentecost" by Jean II Restout (26 March 1692 – 1 January 1768)

“Pentecost” by Jean II Restout (1692–1768)

What is it that opened the proconsul’s heart to trusting in the saving message of the gospel? The scripture is quite explicit. He saw the miracle wrought by the hands of the Apostle Paul, and was amazed at the authority of the teaching. Again, MacArthur selectively ignored this clear teaching of power evangelism in the book of Acts. Paul’s methodology of evangelism generally included a coupling of the gospel message with “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4). It would have been a surprise to people in the early church to uncouple signs and wonders from preaching for they generally prayed like Peter “‘Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your Word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus. ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly” (Acts 4:29-31). Why did Peter pray for signs and wonders if, as MacArthur asserts, “they are impotent to produce faith or genuine revival?”

Do miracles produce faith? No. God does. But in the case of the citizens of Joppa, Sharon, and Lydda, miracles clearly provoke unbelievers by removing barriers to faith and illustrating the truth and power of the message. In the case of the Pharisees, it is recorded “even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37). The difference obviously depends on the responsiveness of the human heart, not any deficiency in miracles to provoke faith. MacArthur may wish to reread Old Testament passages such as Exodus 4:1-6 regarding the ability God to work through miracles to produce faith. That text reads:

“Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared to you.”‘

"Pentecost 4" William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 - 1998)

“Pentecost 4” William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998)

Pharaoh refused to believe, not because the miracles could not lead to faith – they could – but because his heart was hard. In contrast when Aaron performed signs before the people, “they believed” (Exod. 4:31).

Indeed, Jesus invited his disciples to believe based on his miracles. In John 14:11, Jesus said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” He condemned the Pharisees because they did not believe that he and the Father were one, based on his miracles. (John 10:38) Far from emphasizing the ineffectiveness of miracles to provoke belief, (as MacArthur asserts), Jesus’ point in John 10:38 is that some Jews willfully disbelieved even when faced with the overwhelming evidence of miracles. As Jesus said later in John 15, “If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their law ‘They hated me without reason.'”

MacArthur is wrong! The Pharisees were condemned because they had reason to believe Jesus and rejected the obvious evidence staring them in the face: the miraculous power of the Son of God! When the messengers of John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the one to come, (i.e., the Messiah) or should they expect someone else, Luke records Jesus’ answer as, “go back and report back to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:18-23) Jesus does not simply point to the preaching of the Word of God as the reason to believe. He points, chiefly, to his miracles.

MacArthur is so strident in his opposition to the miraculous element in Jesus’ ministry that he goes so far as to say, “For Jesus, preaching the Word was more important than performing signs and wonders. The emphasis of Jesus’ ministry was not miracles, but preaching. He often preached without doing signs and wonders.” To bolster his claim, MacArthur refers to Mark 1:38, “Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” However, he fails to add the next verse, which reads, “So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons” (Mark 1:39, emphasis added). Why does MacArthur kick so hard against the goads? No responsible interpreter of scripture can fail to note the general coupling of the proclamation of the gospel with the demonstration of signs and wonders. Matthew 4:23-24 is one of many summary statements of Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew records:

“Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.”

A similar summary statement of Jesus’ ministry is found in Matthew 9:35 which reads, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”

In the first post-Pentecost sermon, Peter addresses the crowd who have witnessed the receipt of the Holy Spirit saying, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). In a later sermon, again at a pivotal moment in the expansion of the gospel, Peter speaks to the gentile household of Cornelius saying, “You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:37,38).

Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews explicitly states that the salvation message announced by the Lord was first announced by the Lord, “was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:3b-4). Clearly God confirmed the life and message of Jesus through miracles.

There is no opposition in the gospels or the book of Acts between the demonstration of power through healings and the proclamation of the evangel. Nor does the Bible support MacArthur’s diminution of signs and wonders as an evangelistic “door opener.” Proclamation and demonstration were the normal way that the gospel proceeded in Jesus’ ministry and in the ministry of the New Testament church as recorded in the book of Acts. That is John Wimber’s simple, but profound, point in his book Power Evangelism.

Catacomb painting of Pentecost.

Catacomb painting of Pentecost.

D. Does John Wimber believe in the deity of Jesus Christ?
MacArthur writes on page 143,

“Wimber’s teaching regarding the person of Jesus Christ is careless at best, blasphemous at worst, but in any case, clearly contradictory to scripture. In his taped healing seminar, Wimber says ‘Haven’t you been taught that Jesus knows all things? There are many times in the gospel where Jesus doesn’t know and he has to ask questions.’ (MacArthur concludes): That statement denies the omniscience of Christ.”

Several points can be raised regarding MacArthur’s use of the unpublished tape as evidence of John Wimber’s disbelief in the deity of Christ. A minor, but troubling, point is why MacArthur would use a tape of some oral remarks made by Wimber during a conference, rather than his more substantial written statements in books such as Power Points? It is hardly lame reasoning to suggest that many oral statements, particularly those made during preaching, or in fielding a question, may not be as well stated or articulate as one would make in written communication. Beyond the obvious point that one may say things orally that do not represent a full or complete disclosure of all of a person’s thoughts on a matter, there seems to be a vindictive motive in MacArthur’s publishing of old oral material. Why did he not quote Wimber’s well stated and orthodox view of the deity of Christ from Wimber’s own Power Points?

One reason MacArthur may have neglected a lengthy quotation from Power Points, is to leave readers (who would be unacquainted with Wimber’s writings) with the absolutely misleading impression that Wimber doesn’t believe in the deity of Christ. Again, MacArthur unjustly and unlovingly pins a position to an opponent, that his opponent does not believe. Quoting this oral material, without at least mentioning Wimber’s written statements, is an obvious attempt to portray Wimber as a heretic.

E. What does John Wimber believe about the deity of Christ?
Since MacArthur chose not to quote Wimber’s own written statements on the matter, we will, for the sake of simple fairness and justice, redress this omission. In Power Points, Wimber devotes an entire chapter to the deity of Jesus Christ. Chapter 17 of Power Points is titled, “Fully God.” It begins this way:

“What does God’s Word say about who Jesus is? First and foremost it says that Jesus is fully God. This is clearly stated in many passages. John says, “in the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) – later, in verse 14, John identifies the “Word” as Jesus “and the Word was God, and the Word was God.” Paul says Christ, “is God overall” (Rom. 9:5) and tells us to look forward to the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). He says that in Christ, “all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).”

Wimber goes on to write: “Jesus not only claimed to be God, he acted like God….When he received Thomas’ worship, he implicitly claimed deity.”

Indeed, Wimber is careful to explicitly deny the kenosis theory of the person of Christ when he writes:

“‘…[the phrase in Philippians 2:7] made himself nothing’ can also be translated ’emptied himself.’ The Greek word from which ’emptied’ is translated is kenosis. Its precise meaning is unclear. Some theologians interpret kenosis as meaning Christ completely emptied himself of deity while on earth, so he was limited to the knowledge and abilities of an ordinary man. This interpretation comes dangerously close to denying Christ’s deity. Others interpret kenosis as meaning Jesus retained his divine nature but emptied himself of his divine prerogatives – the high position and glory of his deity. This interpretation is probably closer to the truth. Jesus did not give up his deity, but he did lay aside his glory (John 17:5) and submit to the humiliation of becoming a man (2 Corinthians 8:9). The idea behind kenosis is not that Jesus took on humanity and took off deity as though they were coats that could be changed; it is that he took on humanity while remaining fully God.”

"Pentecost 2" William Grosvenor Congdon (1912 - 1998)

“Pentecost 2” William Grosvenor Congdon (1912-1998)

What we read here is nothing that is outside of a fully orthodox view of the person and deity of Christ. Later, Wimber explicitly affirms his own personal faith in the Chalcedonian definition (which he actually quotes) and states Jesus was “at once complete in God-hood and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man…coming together to form one person in subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God, the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” What is it that MacArthur detects in Wimber’s explicit statements that lead him to believe that Wimber is anything other than an orthodox Christian? Indeed, Wimber’s oral statement regarding the omniscience of Christ can easily be read as touching on Jesus’ human nature. The Bible itself says in Mark 13:32: “But of that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Similarly, Luke 2:52 tells us that “Jesus increased in wisdom.”

Reading Wimber’s oral statements without a heresy-hunting perspective might lead to the conclusion that Wimber was simply referring to Jesus’ human nature without denying the omniscience that he possessed in his divine nature. In any case, Wimber does not hold the heretical view that MacArthur is so desperately attempting to pin on him with a brief oral statement from a 1981 tape.

F. How shall we assess John Wimber’s ecumenism?
As has been historically common among fundamentalists, MacArthur views an ecumenical spirit in an almost entirely negative fashion. He uses a Wimber quote about the Pope as an example of Wimber’s dangerous drift away from Biblical orthodox. The quote that MacArthur used (again, from an unpublished tape) is as follows:

“The Pope…by the way is very responsive to the charismatic movement and is, himself a born-again evangelical. If you have read any of his text concerning salvation, you’d know he was preaching the gospel as clear as anybody is preaching it in the world today.”

Whether Wimber would reassert this off-hand oral statement twelve years later is impossible to say. But, a more positive reading of the statement would suggest that Wimber was personally glad that the Pope was making a call to all Roman Catholics to personally assert their faith in Christ. Indeed, the Pope has on numerous occasions called for a personal choice of faith in Christ. The Pope has also called for a massive evangelistic campaign beginning with the Roman Catholic Church in the decade of the nineties. Celebrating the Pope’s statements hardly makes Wimber guilty of heresy.

The broader question, however, concerns MacArthur’s uniformly negative views of ecumenism. He sums up his entire book by suggesting that “charismatic ecumenism is steadily eroding any claim the charismatic movement ever had to Biblical orthodoxy.” In sounding the alarm against ecumenism, MacArthur is echoing a theme that has characterized fundamentalism in this country for the past seventy-five years.

Billy Graham’s ministry, likewise, has repeatedly been assailed from the fundamentalist right. As early as 1957 the publication, “The Sword of the Lord,” contained numerous articles detailing Graham’s supposed misguided inclusion of liberals in his meetings. Fundamentalist rage increased during Graham’s New York crusade. One critic charged that of the 140 people on the general crusade committee at least 120 were “reputed to be modernists, liberals, infidels, or something other than fundamental.” John R. Rice intoned that “Dr. Graham is one of the spokesman, and perhaps, the principle sparkplug of a great drift away from strict Bible fundamentalism and strict defense of the faith.”

In a later section, I will more pointedly draw a connection between MacArthur’s writings and the fundamentalist fighting spirit that so thoroughly characterizes Charismatic Chaos. For now, I will simply make a few comments about ecumenism.

"Icon-Pentecost" by Phiddipus

“Icon-Pentecost” by Phiddipus

G. Ecumenical cooperation and John Wimber’s perspectives regarding cooperation.
John Wimber has never accepted an invitation in which he was required to water down his conservative evangelical beliefs. Nor has he ever toned down his ministry to accommodate himself to a church organization that invited him to minister. Much like Billy Graham, Wimber has been willing to speak and minister in a variety of church settings including the Roman Catholic church, the Anglican church, the Lutheran church, etc., that Wimber may personally differ with on a variety of doctrinal points. Wimber doesn’t accept invitations to speak and minister in such places because he agrees on all points with Roman Catholic, or Anglican, or Lutheran doctrine. Nor is it because he thinks that differences are irrelevant. Nor is it because he is an utter pragmatist, as MacArthur asserts, and cares nothing for truth. It is, rather, because Wimber sees a huge need for the message and ministry that God has given him and is willing to declare that message wherever and whenever God gives him an opportunity so long as he can o so without conditions or compromise.

MacArthur would do well to read Robert Ferm’s book called Cooperative Evangelism (Zondervan, 1958) in which Ferm defended Billy Graham’s ministry from precisely the same attack that MacArthur levels against Wimber. In a fascinating summary of ecumenical cooperation in history, Ferm cites the examples of Wesley, Whitefield, Finney, Moody, and Billy Sunday. Regarding Jonathan Edwards, Ferm quotes from Jonathan Edwards’s well-known Thoughts on Revival:

“‘Spiritual pride disposes people to affect separation, to stand at a distance from others, as better than they, and loves the show and appearance of distinction…but on the contrary, every humble Christian…delights in the appearance of union with his fellow creatures, and will maintain it as much as he possibly can, without giving open countenance to iniquity, or wounding his own soul, and herein he follows the example of his meek and blessed redeemer, who did not keep such separation and distance as the Pharisees, but freely ate with publicans and sinners that he might win them.’ Indeed, Edwards insisted that his decision to work with those of differing opinions was deliberate and considered. He made it a point never to judge the spirituality or even the total orthodoxy of another minister. At one other time he wrote: ‘I am glad that God has not committed such a difficult affair to me; I can joyfully leave it wholly in his hands who is definitely fit for it without meddling at all with it myself. I know f no necessity we are under to determine whether it be possible for those who are guilty of it (heresy and opposition) to be in a state of grace or not.'”

Likewise, Whitefield was criticized because of his non-separation for associating with certain groups, considered in his day to be unorthodox. His response was simple and to the point: he said he rejects the views of those who consider that there are “no others among the Lord’s people but themselves. [If they are right] and if others are the devil’s people, then [these others] have more need to be preached to. For me, all places are alike.”

Moody’s view of Roman Catholics is interesting to note. After reporting on Moody’s crusade in Dublin, Ireland, an editorial read: “There is not an evening that Roman Catholics, as well as Protestants, have not found their way to the inquiry room. Probably one reason is that there is no denunciation of Roman Catholicism. Men are not addressed by their particular church but as sinners. Roman Catholics are not mentioned by name at the evangelistic service, and feeling no hurt, and not having opposition forced upon them, those who go once are pretty sure to return.”

El Greco, "The Pentecost"

“The Pentecost” by El Greco (1541–1614)

Ferm writes that Moody had a great affection for Roman Catholics even though he did not agree with the official teachings of their church. Certainly the same could be said about Wimber. Indeed, Moody went beyond John Wimber by contributing money to the Roman Catholic church in an incident reported by Heng Drummond:

“With everything in his special career, in his habitual environment, and in the traditions of his special work, to make him intolerant, Mr. Moody’s sympathies have only broadened with time. Some years ago the Roman Catholics of Northfield determined to build a church. They went around the township collecting subscriptions, and by-and-by approached Moody’s door. How did he receive them? The narrower evangelical would have shut the door in their faces, or opened it only to give them a lecture on the blasphemies of the Pope, or the iniquities of the Scarlet Woman. Mr. Moody gave them one of the handsomest subscriptions on their list. Not content with that, when their little chapel was finished, he presented them with an organ. ‘Why,’ he exclaimed, ‘if they are Roman Catholics, it is better that they should be good Roman Catholics than bad. It is surely better to have a Catholic church than none; and as for the organ, if they are to have music in their church, it is better to have good music.’ ‘Besides,’ he added, ‘these are my own townspeople.'”

Example after example of warm-hearted tolerance and love of others with whom orthodox Christians may differ can be piled on from Ferm’s book. The point is that evangelical luminaries from the past, display none of the bitter, invective, separatist, fighting spirit that MacArthur believes stamps someone as “biblical.” Wimber is closer to the irenic spirit of Moody, Edwards, and Whitefeld and indeed, to Jesus, himself, than are his fundamentalist critics. If seen in the above light Wimber likely takes it as more of a compliment than a criticism to be tarred with the label “ecumenist.” And he is not alone. Chuck Colson, a conservative Southern Baptist seems to have irenic attitudes to the whole Body of Christ in all its expressions.

H. Are John Wimber’s healings unverifiable?
In MacArthur’s chapter on the Third Wave, MacArthur states that “all those [medical healings] are utterly preposterous. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that they are either utter fabrications or yarns that have grown with the telling. In each case, the people to whom the miracles have supposedly occurred remained anonymous. In the two cases reported by Wimber, he maintains that medical doctors witnessed the events. Yet he offers no documentation.” MacArthur goes on to suggest that the only “so called” miracles that ever occur in the signs and wonders movement are psychosomatic and involve hard to prove cases involving “back pain, inner healings, migraine relief, emotional deliverance, ringing in the ears, and so on. The only detailed anecdotes involving known people actually describe the occasions when the healing doesn’t come.”

Interestingly MacArthur never mentioned the book-length academic investigation of 1,890 people who attended one of Wimber’s conference in Harrogate, England in 1986. The book is titled Healing: Fiction, Fantasy or Fact? (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989), by David C. Lewis. The author is a social anthropologist with degrees from Cambridge and Manchester. Dr. Lewis prepared a detailed questionnaire that people filled out during the conference, and then followed-up with some randomly selected cases several months later. Of 862 cases of prayer for physical healing, 32% (279) reported a great deal of healing or total healing. Another 26% (222) reported a fair amount of healing. All the physical problems prayed for are listed in a detailed appendix. The physical problems are distinguished from prayer for spiritual problems such as emotional healing and deliverance that are separately tabulated by Dr. Lewis. Many case studies were reported in detail, and several incidents with medical reports are quoted at length. MacArthur suggests that no medical verification is ever given. Why not respond to Lewis’s book rather than resort to ad hominem attack?

On a personal level, I would invite MacArthur to examine a case in our own church involving a young man who had epilepsy from the time he was five years old. For over twenty years, this young man suffered grand mal seizures. Before he received prayer from John Wimber, he experienced at least three grand mal seizures a week. We attended a conference where John Wimber was present and John agreed to pray for this man. In describing the experience of prayer, the man reported the feeling of a wind rushing through his body. While he was prayed for almost an hour, he said he was entirely unconscious of time passing, but felt surges of power through his body. Whatever his subjective claims, one startling objective fact remains. After being prayed for by John Wimber, he has had no grand mal seizures in the past three years.

Now MacArthur may attempt to explain away this story (I don’t know what motive he would have for doing so). The fact is, that there is one man who can now work, who can live a functional life, who may, very shortly, obtain a driver’s license and who has been spared a radical brain operation simply because he was physically and verifiably healed through the prayers of John Wimber. I would be happy to speak with John MacArthur about this case personally and other physical healings that I have had the pleasure of both observing and participating in.

"Pentecost" Stained Glass Window

“Pentecost” Stained Glass Window

I. Is the Third Wave simply a slick marketing technique?
John Wimber has never labeled himself as a leader of the Third Wave. Dr. Peter Wagner coined the phrase and Dr. David Barrett has used it to describe conservative evangelicals who hold both a Reformed evangelical view of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and believe the full range of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles are available today. MacArthur forces Wimber to defend a label that he himself is uncomfortable with and only gingerly holds himself. Wimber has remarked in public that “I am a conservative evangelical who speaks in tongues.” He does not see himself as leading a new splinter group within evangelicalism. However, the Third Wave is a descriptive label.

MacArthur repeatedly asserts that the Third Wave is nothing other than a marketing technique. For example, MacArthur states: “The effort to market the Third Wave as noncharismatic fits as a pattern of shrewd promotion and semantic smoke screens that permeate Third Wave teaching.” Later in the chapter, MacArthur states: “The truth is the evangelical veneer of the Third Wave is a carefully crafted image, another crucial element of the skillful marketing campaign that is attempting to sell the movement to non-charismatic evangelicals.” To say this, MacArthur, by definition, is departing from confronting objective observations regarding the Third Wave and is involved in judging the heart motivations of John Wimber and other Third Wave leaders. There is no way for MacArthur to know whether something is sincerely believed or is, instead, “a skillful marketing campaign.”

While he may legitimately object to what the Third Wave teaches, it is wholly inappropriate for MacArthur to suggest that Wimber is “slick,” or “shrewd,” or involved in a “marketing campaign designed to mislead.” Again, these kinds of charges fan into the same unfortunate pattern that characterizes Charismatic Chaos as a whole. But, once a charge has been made and is read by thousands of Christian friends, it demands to be answered. No, Vineyard’s views are not designed as a marketing campaign! One of the observations that have been repeatedly made about John Wimber by friends and foes alike, is his unfailing willingness to confess mistakes, to display weakness, to admit to failures, and to be, in general, ruthlessly honest, especially about himself.

While he is known as advocating a healing ministry for the church today, John Wimber has repeatedly emphasized his own failures in healing. This is not, as MacArthur takes it, clear evidence that a healing ministry is an impossibility in the twentieth century. Rather, it fits squarely within Wimber’s kingdom theology of the “already and the not yet” of the present age. Wimber never promises healings (or any other blessing). Anyone who has listened to him for more than five minutes will see a major difference between his teachings and beliefs and the beliefs of the positive confession movement. Wimber emphasizes suffering as a major means of spiritual growth in the Christian life. He is not shy about talking about his own suffering and the suffering of close friends. Nor is he bashful about his promotion of Biblical preaching, sound exegesis, and the need for pure doctrine in the movement that he leads. Finally, Wimber promotes ecumenical cooperation, not out of pragmatism, but as a matter of Biblical conviction regarding the spiritual unity of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Pentecost" by Wiggin

“Pentecost” by Mark Wiggin

On a more personal note, I have spoken with and heard John Wimber teach on more than one hundred occasions now. His public image is no different from the private person that I have come to know and respect. He firmly holds to conservative evangelical beliefs regarding the trinity, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, Christ’s physical resurrection, the inerrancy of the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and the personal, visible return of our Lord Jesus Christ. His theology has been heavily influenced by the conservative evangelical theologian, George Eldon Ladd. He is unabashed in his indebtedness to Ladd. Anyone who reads any of John’s conference notes, listens to him speak, or reads any of his books will see John’s debt to George Ladd.

Wimber is not a man who is shy or secretive about his own views or his own theology. He went so far as to write an article in Charisma magazine, declaring that he personally rejects the view that healing is “in the atonement.” His article was a dear line of demarcation, distinguishing his understanding from traditional Pentecostal teaching regarding healing. John has also, both privately and publicly, affirmed his own belief that the so- called “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” is not a post-conversion experience, but occurs as part of the initial conversion experience. John has also denied the Doctrine of subsequent evidence” taught by some Pentecostals.

To sum up, MacArthur’s charge of marketing deception, and intentional semantic diversion, especially when applied to Wimber, is quite unfair and inappropriate. It is a personal attack. It is an attack on Wimber’s motivations and personal integrity. John MacArthur, frankly, owes John Wimber a personal and public apology regarding these statements.

Shakespeare, in Othello, describes the wrongfulness of injuring another’s reputation, when he says,

“Good name in man and woman…is the immediate [most valuable] jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash – ’tis something, nothing, ’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been the slave to thousands – But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed.”

Conclusion
In 1957 Carl Henry, the Editor of Christianity Today magazine wrote a critique of fundamentalism that accurately summarizes my own critique of the central problem with John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos. Henry wrote:

“The real bankruptcy of fundamentalism has resulted not so much from a reactionary spirit – lamentable as this was – as from a harsh temperament, a spirit of lovelessness and strife contributed by much of its leadership in the recent past. One of the ironies of contemporary church history is that the more fundamentalists stress separation from apostasy as a theme in their churches, the more a spirit of lovelessness seems to prevail.

The theological conflict with liberalism deteriorated into an attack upon organizations and personalities. This condemnation, in turn, grew to include conservative churchmen and churches not ready to align with separatist movements. It widens still further, to abusive evangelicals unhappy with the spirit of independency in such groups as the American Council of Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches. Then came internal debate and division among separatist fundamentalism within the American Council. More recently, the evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham and [the] efforts of other evangelical leaders, whose disapproval of liberalism and advocacy of conservative Christianity are beyond dispute, have become the target of bitter volubility.

This character of fundamentalism as a temperament and not primarily fundamentalism as a theology, has brought the movement into contemporary discredit… Historically, fundamentalism was a theological position; only gradually did the movement come to signify a mood and disposition as well. In its early [years] leadership reflected ballast, and less of bombast and battle… If modernism stands discredited as a perversion of the scriptural theology, certainly fundamentalism in this contemporary expression stands discredited as a perversion of the Biblical spirit.”

Ultimately it is MacArthur’s rancorous, bombastic style that undermines his objectivity and any value this book may have had as a necessary corrective to excesses or errors in the charismatic, Pentecostal and Third Wave movements. Rabid anti-charismatics will love this book. It provides wonderful sermon illustrations for the already convinced. For those not so zealously anti-charismatic, this book serves only as a painful reminder of the lovelessness that characterizes too much of contemporary Christianity.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed John MacArthur’s radio ministry on the occasions that I have been able to listen to it. Charismatic Chaos, I am afraid, is unworthy of the teaching gift that God has given to John MacArthur and to the grace that has been so richly displayed in his church’s life.

Carl F.H. Henry

Carl F.H. Henry (1913-2003)

About the Author
Richard Nathan is senior pastor of Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Columbus, Ohio. After being converted in 1974 at age 18, Rich joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He became the chapter president and later served as the InterVarsity faculty advisor for five years at Ohio State University. Rich graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Case Western Reserve University with a BA in Religion and History in 1977. He holds a Juris Doctorate with honors from the Ohio State University School of Law. After teaching at Ohio State University for five years, Rich began pastoring at the Columbus Vineyard.

Originally published as, “Vineyard Position Paper #5, April 1993: A RESPONSE TO CHARISMATIC CHAOS, The Book Written By John F. MacArthur, Jr”. The usage rights for that publication are as follows: “Permission is hereby granted to anyone who wishes to reproduce this booklet in any form. ©April 1993 By The Association Of Vineyard Churches”. This edition has been very lightly edited to correct grammatical and spelling errors found in the original article. 

NOTE: Click on book graphic in the upper top right of this article to download the audiobook sermon series from John MacArthur’s website. Or play the embedded videos in the above article – they contain the same content.

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Strange Fire Front CoverReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship
Author: John F. MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year Published: 2013
Length: 352 pages
Binding: Digital, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook
ISBN10: 1400205174
ISBN13: 978-1400205172
Price: $10.99 (Digital), $22.99 (Hardcover),  $6.99 (Paperback), $9.99 (Audiobook)

My pastor could have been speaking of John MacArthur when he said to me, “Your message is usually substantive and true but the way that you deliver it often leaves the other person so in reaction to the messenger that they can’t receive the message.” Yes, friends, I empathize with John MacArthur since I’m on of that those annoying “truth first, grace and mercy second, and let the pieces fall where they will third” guys too. And try as I may to not react to the messenger rather than the message in this review I will warn you in advance that I may not succeed.

The More Things Change . . . 
Anti-Charismatic books are nothing new to John MacArthur. In 1978 he published “The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective” In 1992 it was “Charismatic Chaos” and in 2013, his latest offering, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”. So three titles and thirty five years later and what has changed? Obviously, not a lot since the twenty one old words of Vineyard Pastor, Rich Nathan are just as applicable to “Strange Fire” as they were of “Charismatic Chaos”:

“Ultimately it is MacArthur’s rancorous, bombastic style that undermines his objectivity and any value this book may have had as a necessary corrective to excesses or errors in the charismatic, Pentecostal and Third Wave movements. Rabid anti-charismatics will love this book. It provides wonderful sermon illustrations for the already convinced. For those not so zealously anti-charismatic, this book serves only as a painful reminder of the lovelessness that characterizes too much of contemporary Christianity.”
(Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993, p.27)

And this is a pity because MacArthur has always done a very good job of indentifying and condemning the excesses in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. In “Charismatic Chaos” it was the immature abuses of “out there” Vineyard churches (like the bizarre Holy Laughter of the Toronto Airport Vineyard and the insanity of the Kansas City Prophets), the zaniness of The Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the charlatanism of Benny Hinn – who has very appropriately returned as the favored punching bag and dart board target of Strange Fire. To all this, like so many other, mainstream, theologically cautious and conversative Charismatics, I can only stand, applaud, and yell, “Bravo!” These are things that we are in complete agreement with Mr. MacArthur on. In fact, these are things that we ourselves have publicly and repeatedly condemned and denounced ourselves. Bravo Mr. MacArthur, bravo!

John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Broad Brush Polemics
However, MacArthur isn’t content with reprimanding just a few bad apples. It quickly becomes apparent that in his mind, if you’re a Charismatic, you’re a bad apple – period. Consider these excerpts:

“The Charismatic Movement began barely a hundred years ago, and its influence on evangelicalism can hardly be overstated. From its inception by Charles Fox Parham to its most ubiquitous modern representative in Benny Hinn, the entire movement is nothing more than a sham religion run by counterfeit ministers. True biblical interpretation, sound doctrine, and historical theology owes nothing to the movement— unless an influx of error and falsehood could be considered a contribution. Like any effective false system, charismatic theology incorporates enough of the truth to gain credibility. But in mixing the truth with deadly deceptions, it has concocted a cocktail of corruption and doctrinal poison— a lethal fabrication— with hearts and souls at stake.”
(John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 113)

“the gospel that is driving these surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity. The Charismatic Movement was a farce and a scam from the outset; it has not changed into something good.”
(Ibid, p.xix)

As one commenter on The Pneuma Review website said well of such over the top polemics:

“There are excesses in the charismatic group that need to be addressed, but Strange Fire is devoid of any hint on J[ohn] M[cArthur]’s part to meet with these whom he feels are in error to try to make sure he understands them. In taking this to the extreme that he has, he has become an example of the extreme he is trying to point out in others.”
(Rick Collins, Aug 24, 2014 8:27pm comment, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”)

And again, Rich Nathan’s description of “Charismatic Chaos” yesterday is just as true of “Strange Fire” today:

“MacArthur doesn’t rebuke charismatics as a person would rebuke a member of one’s own family. The book reads like hostile fire shot by an outsider. The tone, as will be seen by the numerous pejorative adjectives that MacArthur uses to describe charismatics, is anything but familial or irenic. It is one thing to have your child spanked by your spouse. It is quite another thing to have your child spanked by a stranger. Charismatics understandably react to being spanked by someone who intentionally positions himself as a stranger and not as a “dear friend, fellow worker… and [brother]” (Philem. 1:1).”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.3)

Folks, I could stop right there and you would have an apt brief review of Strange Fire. Unfortunately, when the specifics are considered Strange Fire gets even worse.

Double Standards
Adding insult to injury is MacArthur’s use of Double Standards. He spends an entire chapter pounding away at the scandals in the continuationist camp while utterly ignoring his own shattered cessationist glass house. As Time Magazine observed:

“Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Rochester in New York believes Pentecostals are no more trouble-prone than other Protestants. “The same sort of thing is happening to Baptists and Presbyterians,” she says. “Except for one big thing. They are not media figures.”
(David Van Biema, “Are Mega-Preachers Scandal-Prone?”, Time magazine, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007)

One need go no further than the dedication page of MacArthur’s first Anti-Charismatic book (“The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective”, circa 1978) to see MacArthur’s blind hypocrisy. It reads as follows:

“To Dave Hocking,
A true and beloved friend
with whom I share a common love
for the Word of Christ
and the purity of His church.”

Yet just fourteen year later, and just 6 months after MacArthur’s second Anti-Charismatic book (“Charismatic Chaos”, circa April 1992), fellow hard cessationist and Anti-Charismatic David (aka “Dave”) Hocking was involved in a scandal that involved not one, but two high profile Southern California churches:

“In Oct 1992, the elders of Calvary Church [Santa Ana, California] caught David Hocking in a major scandal involving marital infidelity. The elders of the church told Hocking that he would no longer be the Senior Pastor of Calvary Church and would have to undergo a three-year restoration process.

Refusing to accept the restoration plan of the elders at Calvary Church, Hocking’s long-time buddy Chuck Smith [the founding Pastor of Calvary Chapel and the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California at the time] took him in. Reportedly, Smith said that this great man of God should not be wasted, and took in David Hocking as a Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa staff member. Hocking was excommunicated by Calvary Church of Santa Ana after he refused to submit to the elders of the church in their restoration process…

This was a major point of contention between Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa and other local churches in the community (particularly CCSA [Calvary Church Santa Ana]). This caused a major scandal here in Southern California where the results are still being felt.”
(“The Calvary Church of Santa Ana/David Hocking Incident”, Calvary Chapel Wiki website)  

And this is just the tip of the cessationist iceberg of scandals. We could also talk about Southern Baptist Charles Stanley’s divorce, R.C. Sproul, Jr.’s  (whose father R.C. Sproul, Sr. spoke at the Strange Fire Conference) “Ashley Madison indiscretion”, or the scandals of Baptists, Kent Hovind, Lonnie Latham, Coy Privette, or Joe Barron (see “List Of Christian Evangelist Scandals” for details).

Further, and speaking as someone in the same Reformed camp that MacArthur is in (yes, I’m one of those dreaded “Charismatic Calvinists” that Steve Lawson woodshedded at the Strange Fire conference) it pains me to admit that Frank Viola was largely correct when he observed:

“Using MacArthur’s logic and approach, one could easily write a book about the toxicity of the Reformed movement by painting all Reformed Christians as elitist, sectarian, divisive, arrogant, exclusive, and in love with “doctrine” more than with Christ.

And just as MacArthur holds up Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Pat Robertson, et al. to characterize the charismatic world, one can hold up R.J. Rushdoony, Herman Dooyeweerd, R.T. Kendall, or Patrick Edouard, et al. to characterize Reformed Christians. Or Peter Ruckman and Jack Hyles, et al. to characterize Fundamentalist Baptists. Or William R. Crews and L.R. Shelton Jr., et. al. to represent Reformed Baptists.

My point is that charismatic, Reformed, and Baptist people would strongly object to the idea that any of these gentleman could accurately represent their respective tribes as each of them have strong critics within their own movements. Even so, the game of burning down straw man city with a torch is nothing new.”
(Frank Viola, “Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire” p.9; also cited in Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.157)

But probably no one summed it up better than Rich Nathan when he said:

“Immorality is, tragically, a phenomenon that seems to know no denominational boundaries. Indeed, several very prominent dispensational and fundamentalist leaders have had to step down from radio ministries, para-church leadership, and pastorates because of sexual immorality. One might more realistically point to the sex-drenched culture of the modern western world, the cult of sexual self expression, and the absence of the practice of spiritual disciplines as more likely explanations for the fall of charismatic pastors than their experience of speaking in tongues.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.8)

Treating the Extreme as the Norm
This treating extremes as the norm is the biggest problem with MacArthur’s approach to Pentecostalism in general and his Anti-Charismatic books in particular. Consider this example from Strange Fire:

“More moderate charismatics like to portray the prosperity preachers, faith healers, and televangelists as safely isolated on the extreme edge of the charismatic camp. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Thanks to the global reach and incessant proselytizing of religious television and charismatic mass media, the extreme has now become mainstream. For most of the watching world, flamboyant false teachers— with heresies as ridiculous as their hairdos— constitute the public face of Christianity. And they propagate their lies in the Holy Spirit’s name.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur, “Strange Fire”, p. 13)

Again, writing of “Charismatic Chaos” Rich Nathan’s response is just as applicable:

“MacArthur rarely acknowledges a mainstream view within the charismatic or Pentecostal movements that’s balanced, Biblical, and mature. MacArthur, moreover, rarely admits that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement – now over 400 million strong – has borne tremendous fruit for the kingdom of God. He simply does not permit himself to acknowledge positive contributions by this enormous and varied movement.”
(Op Cit, Rich Nathan, p.2)

And as this review is being written, Pentecostals and Charismatics not only number over 500 million adherents but represent the fastest growing segment of the modern Christian Church. All this while mainline denominations are shrinking and cessationist numbers are flattening. No numbers and don’t equal veracity but, if nothing else, it bespeaks an ability to meet needs and bear fruit – something that John MacArthur sees as a net negative due to his antipathy toward continuationism in all forms. Such prejudice driven hard hardheartedness and blindness is heartbreaking.

Exaggeration, Data Manipulation, and Guilt by Association Fallacies
Equally concerning is how MacArthur repeatedly engages in gross exaggeration and “Guilty by Association” fallacies. Please consider this example:

“[Joel] Osteen’s muddled comment about Latter-day Saints introduces an interesting point of discussion— especially since the founders of Mormonism claimed to experience the same supernatural phenomena that Pentecostals and charismatics experience today. At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, Joseph Smith reported various types of charismatic phenomena— including tongues, prophecy, and miraculous visions. Other eyewitness accounts of that same event made similar claims: “There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels”; and, “There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of Elders spoke in tongues.” More than half a century before Charles Parham and the Pentecostals spoke in tongues, the Latter-day Saints reported similar outbursts, leading some historians to trace the roots of Pentecostalism back through Mormonism.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Well the “some historians” referenced in the footnote for that last sentence is exactly one historian, and one historical work (Hard Cessationist, Thomas R. Edgar’s Anti-Pentecostal treatise, “Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit”, p.218 and p.108)

Further, speaking as a Mormon Studies Scholar, the fact is that the early Mormons were merely one of many tongues speaking groups in the Second Great Awakening. Joseph Smith and the earliest Mormons didn’t speak in tongues at all until Brigham Young and his tongues speaking brothers arrived on the scene along with their tongues speaking friend Heber C. Kimball. And, for the record, Young and his brothers were Restorationist Pentecostals (specifically tongues speaking Primitive Methodists in most cases) before joining the Mormon Church – so the phenomenon didn’t, I repeat, did not originate in Mormonism.

Rather, it’s generally conceded that the fountainhead for all this 19th Century, Second Great Awakening tongues speaking was the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival. So for a historian to claim that the roots of modern Pentecostalism can be traced back to early Mormonism isn’t just ludicrous, it’s hack scholarship.

But wait, MacArthur isn’t done yet, there’s more:

“Even today, similarities between the two groups have led some to seek for greater unity. In their book Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints, authors Rob and Kathy Datsko assert, “Although there is an incredible language and culture barrier between LDS [Latter-day Saints] and SFC [Spirit-filled Christians], often these two groups believe many of the same basic doctrines.” Though Pentecostalism has traditionally rejected the Latter-day Saints, comments like those made by Joel Osteen suggest that a new wave of ecumenical inclusivism may be on the horizon. It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.”
(Op Cit, John F. MacArthur,”Strange Fire”, pp.51-52)

Regarding this passage, as I pointed out in my review of Rob and Kathy Datsko’s book, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints” MacArthur’s argument is based on data manipulation, flawed evidence, and good old fashioned exaggeration. Please consider the following questions I posed to Mr. MacArthur in this regard:

1) Why are the Datskos implicitly presented as Charismatic Christians in your (circa 2013) book when, in fact, they have been Mormons since 2003?
Folks as soon as these folks converted to Mormonism, they were no longer Charismatic Christians, they were Latter-day Saints who were following another Jesus and preaching another gospel.

2) Where are the rest of the Charismatic Christians that you declare, are seeking greater unity with Mormons?
Friends I’m a Mormon Studies scholar and I will tell you plainly: Any that have tried this (such as Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richardson, and Cal Fullerton) are now considered, marginalized, lunatic fringe, Charismaniacs by mainstream Charismatics. They have no significant power or influence among us.

3) Why do you single out Charismatics when, in fact, it’s cessationists who are taken a far greater, more active role in seeking greater unity with Mormons?
I’ll name names: Craig Blomberg (Denver Theological Seminary), Christopher Hall (Episcopalian theologian), Gerald R. McDermott (Beeson Divinity School), and James E. Bradley (Fuller Theological Seminary). Oh, and let me add newcomer, Baptist Author and Educator, Roger E. Olson, to the list.

4) Where are all these Charismatic Latter-day Saints that you refer to on p.73 of Strange Fire?
That’s where you claim, “Today there are even charismatic Mormons. Regardless of what else they teach, if they have had that experience, they are in.” Footnote 53 for the passage on p.73 takes us to this: “See, for example, “Hi. I’m Kathy, I’m a born again, Spirit-filled, Charismatic Mormon” at Mormon.org, accessed March 2013” (p.290) and one clicks on the link that’s provided in the footnote and it takes us to (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) Kathy Datsko’s Mormon testimony! Folks, no many how many times you count her Kathy Datsko is one, and only one, Charismatic Latter-day Saint. Add in her husband Rob and you now have not one but two Charismatic Mormons.

This is far from a trend or even a pattern people! In fact, other than these two I know of no other Charismatic Latter-day Saints. That’s because Latter-day Saints have absolutely no interest in Pentecostalism and stay as far away from it as possible – they treat it like kryptonite. So in the end Mr. MacArthur’s evidence that there’s a major trend involving mainstream Charismatics Christians are seeking closer ecumenical ties with Charismatic Mormons isn’t just exaggerated, it’s non-existent.

Confirmation Bias Driven Evidence Presentation
As continuationist Bible scholar Craig S. Keener notes:

“MacArthur’s selective approach to history is meant to substantiate his approach. Yet his appendix on church history, if intended to be representative, cherry-picks only statements that agree with him. Yes, cessationists existed; but not all orthodox believers have been cessationists. Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian all claimed eyewitness accounts of healings and exorcisms. Historian Ramsay MacMullen shows that these sorts of experiences constituted the leading cause of Christian conversion in the third and fourth centuries.

MacArthur cites Augustine as an advocate of cessationism (252-53) without noting that he later changed his mind and reported numerous miracles, including raisings from the dead and some healings that he personally witnessed. John Wesley valued weighing prophecy rather than rejecting it, reports healings, and offers his own firsthand report of what he believed to be a raising from the dead. Late nineteenth-century evangelical leaders such as Baptist A. J. Gordon (for whom Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is named) and A. B. Simpson, founder of Christian and Missionary Alliance, were continuationists and recounted healing reports.”
(Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website)

And it’s not in the book but in the follow up video on to the book and conference that Mr. MacArthur did at The Master’s Seminary entitled, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” (it can be seen on YouTube) John MacArthur said of Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel movement that in 1967 “a bunch of Jesus freak people.. go to Calvary Chapel…and for the first time…that I know of in history, the church lets the very defined subculture dictate what it will be,” citing “the hippie culture, communal living…kids coming out of drugs and free sex, and all that” as displacing “all the normal and formal things,” and typifying the charismatic church, with the movement becoming Calvary Chapel. (video transcription from Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I was at Calvary Chapel in the 1970’s during the height of Jesus Movement and what Mr. MacArthur has just said is nonsense! Chuck Smith’s friend and colleague Jacob Prasch has called it “false witness” and I agree with him. Folks, it simply isn’t true. Anyone who thinks that staid, culturally and theologically conservative Pastor Chuck wasn’t fully in control of things and wasn’t keeping a leash on the insanity that we hippies brought in tow with us simply wasn’t there! Case in point: Chuck Fromm (the founder of Maranatha! Music and Chuck Smith’s son in law) once told me that Pastor Chuck didn’t like the rock music that was on the label and was always trying to convince him to shut that side of the ministry down and focus on just worship music – which Fromm eventually did.

While we all loved and respected Pastor Chuck, we still thought that he was a bit of an establishment square, a stick in the mud, and even an encumbrance to all our “grooviness” at times. To suggest that we children were leading a strong willed, in command, personality, father figure, and leader like Pastor Chuck is just laughable! And if there’s any doubt on any of this please see watch the “Pastors Perspective 4/3/2014” video on the K-Wave Radio YouTube Channel and you can hear it straight from Brian Brodersen, Don Stewart, Steve Mays, and Ray Bentley who were there at a much higher level than I ever was.

Conclusion and Other Perspectives
Since the Strange Fire conference and publication of the book John MacArthur has stated that they were supposed to be “the catalyst for conversation” (see “John MacArthur on Making an Informed Response to Strange Fire” on YouTube). Well if that’s the case, given the harsh, polemic, condemning tone then this “conversation” started with all the charm and grace of an alley mugging by a bully.

Equally amusing is how in the aforementioned, “What has happened after the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference” video Mr. MacArthur complains about the ad-hominems leveled at him in the reviews on Amazon. This coming from a man who spends, pages, chapters, and even the greater part of a book engaging in personal attacks, character assassination, and some of the most derogatory and insulting slurs against fellow Christians imaginable. Mr. MacArthur that thing sticking out of your eye is what’s called a “beam”.

That said, I have one last piece of advice to my Charismatic friends: Read the Strange Fire book. Yes, read the book. I think it speaks for itself. Please don’t take my word for it, read the book and see for yourself if all the criticism that this book has garnered from myself and others is justified or not.

Finally, probably no one summed up the mindset, spirit, and content of “Strange Fire” better than the late, great, first editor of Christianity Today, Carl F.H. Henry who said in 1957:

“The real bankruptcy of fundamentalism has resulted not so much from a reactionary spirit – lamentable as this was – as from a harsh temperament, a spirit of lovelessness and strife contributed by much of its leadership in the recent past. One of the ironies of contemporary church history is that the more fundamentalists stress separation from apostasy as a theme in their churches, the more a spirit of lovelessness seems to prevail.

The theological conflict with liberalism deteriorated into an attack upon organizations and personalities. This condemnation, in turn, grew to include conservative churchmen and churches not ready to align with separatist movements. It widens still further, to abusive evangelicals unhappy with the spirit of independency in such groups as the American Council of Churches and the International Council of Christian Churches. Then came internal debate and division among separatist fundamentalism within the American Council. More recently, the evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham and [the] efforts of other evangelical leaders, whose disapproval of liberalism and advocacy of conservative Christianity are beyond dispute, have become the target of bitter volubility.

This character of fundamentalism as a temperament and not primarily fundamentalism as a theology, has brought the movement into contemporary discredit… Historically, fundamentalism was a theological position; only gradually did the movement come to signify a mood and disposition as well. In its early [years] leadership reflected ballast, and less of bombast and battle… If modernism stands discredited as a perversion of the scriptural theology, certainly fundamentalism in this contemporary expression stands discredited as a perversion of the Biblical spirit.”
(Carl F.H. Henry, Editor of “Christianity Today” magazine in 1957)

Appendix: Other Voices
Here are some other quotes on and about John MacArthur and Strange Fire that I thought the reader might find interesting:

“Within the worldwide charismatic movement, there are no doubt instances of weird, inappropriate, and outrageous phenomena, perhaps including some of the things MacArthur saw on TBN. Many Pentecostal leaders themselves acknowledge as much. But to discredit the entire charismatic movement as demon-inspired because of the frenzied excess into which some of its members have fallen is both myopic and irresponsible. It would be like condemning the entire Catholic Church because some of its priests are proven pedophiles, or like smearing all Baptist Christians because of the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

When told that his all-charismatics-are-outside-the-pale approach was damaging the Body of Christ because he was attacking his brothers and sisters in the Lord, MacArthur responded that he “wished he could affirm that.” This is a new version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus—except that the ecclesia here is not the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but rather an exclusively non-charismatic one.”
(Timothy George, “Strange Friendly Fire”, First Things, November 4, 2013)

“The problem I have is that, at least in my admittedly limited observation, some members or follow[er]s of the MacArthur circle suffer from Richard Dawkins syndrome. Dawkins has such contempt for Christianity that he can’t bring himself to take Christianity seriously even for the sake of argument.

And some members/followers of the MacArthur circle reflect the same mindset. They exhibit such unbridled contempt for charismatic theology that they can’t take it seriously even for the sake of argument. They demand evidence, yet they don’t make a good faith effort to be informed. So the objection is circular, given their studied ignorance.

There’s a word for that: prejudice.”
(Michael L. Brown, “Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire”, p.8; Charisma House. Kindle Edition)

‘On each point, it is surely misguided to single out charismatics, says [Pastor John] Piper. “Charismatic doctrinal abuses, emotional abuses, discernment abuses, financial abuses, all have their mirror image in non-charismatic churches.” Of charismatics and non-charismatics alike, “we all stand under the word of God and we all need repentance.”

But those charismatic abuses remain. So how are these excesses best policed? How are Christians today protected from the abuses of the charismatic church? Is it through attack-centered books and conferences?

“I don’t go on a warpath against charismatics. I go on a crusade to spread truth. I am spreading gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Calvinistic truth everywhere, and I am going to push it into the face of every charismatic I can find, because what I believe, if they embrace the biblical system of doctrine that is really there, it will bring all of their experiences into the right orbit around the sun of this truth.”’
(John Piper, “Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos”, Desiring God website)

“In his “Strange Fire” conference (that starts today), book (upcoming), and ensuing promotions, John MacArthur has, I believe, acted very irresponsibly and is doing incredible damage to the body of Christ.

It is no secret that John MacArthur pushes the polemic line and causes many of us to be uncomfortable. This is just who he is and I don’t really expect him to change. But this conference is an excessively eristic and unnecessarily divisive crusade against charismatics. And, to be frank, it is even over the top for him…

Because of all this, John MacArthur is losing his voice, and I don’t want him to. His reputation dismantles his platform to speak at just about any conference. He has worked himself into a corner where every time he writes a book or opens his mouth, many of us say, “Oh no!” before anything else. His radio program is called “Grace to You” and we are often left thinking “grace to who?”

John MacArthur says the charismatic movement “blasphemes the Holy Spirit” and “attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan.” Maybe he should think about who is actually attributing the work of the Spirit to Satan. I am not a charismatic, but such a statement really scares me. And because of this it would seem (even though the conference is sold out) that John MacArthur may be losing his voice.”
(C. Michael Patton, “Why John MacArthur May Be Losing His Voice”, Reclaiming the Mind website, October 15, 2013)

“I’m not just talking from the sidelines as a bystander but as someone who has had a lot of experience and education in both [the Charismatic and Reformed] traditions and still embraces a respect for each while feeling free to critique both.

As I watched the video [of John MacArthur’s opening address at the “Strange Fire Conference”] I felt a growing anger as well as a disgust for what MacArthur was saying and how he was saying it. His speech is as lofty as his demeanor. His criticism of charismatics is as old as the charismatic movement itself. So it’s nothing new. It is a familiar flame. What I found dismaying is his complete dismissal of the movement and all its adherents in a single one hour dignified gesture. With one speech he purged the rolls of salvation of over 500 million believers.

Basically his argument is that charismatics dishonor God. Since they are therefore not in Christ, their theology is demonic. So since they are serving Satan and promoting him, there is a hotter hell reserved for them. He claims that the charismatic movement has done nothing to advance sound doctrine or biblical theology but in fact has caused more damage than anything else ever has because it has only delivered confusion, distortion and error to the church. He questions the church: You have always defended God. You have always defended Jesus Christ. Why do you not defend the Holy Spirit? Instead, the church opens the gates to the charismatics and they have taken over the city of God and set up an idol in its center. He doesn’t understand why God doesn’t just strike all these people down. He sadly supposes his ways aren’t our ways…

I’m not just angry. I’m not just disappointed. I’m sad. After watching MacArthur I was tempted to throw in the towel. Even though many people would distance themselves from MacArthur and his position on charismatics, it’s still a sign that the church and its leaders may use anything at their disposal to elevate themselves above their brothers and sisters, even if it means separating themselves from them forever.

I thought we were better than this.”
(David Hayward, “John MacArthur Sends 500,000,000 Charismatics to Hell”; nakedpastor website, October 18, 2013

“MacArthur’s latest book does not represent an honest search for truth. It is obvious that his mind was already made up when he began his research for Strange Fire, and he found what he was looking for. He presents a circular argument, beginning with a faulty premise and proceeding with selective anecdotal evidence that determines the outcome. He begins with a commitment to cessationism, the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the twelve apostles and the completion of the writings of the New Testament. Since that is the case for him, that means modern expressions of Spiritual gifts must be false. He then utilizes the selective anecdotal evidence to buttress his presupposition, which leads him back to his starting point of cessation.

It seems that MacArthur wants to believe the worst about the movement of which he writes. At times I felt he was embellishing the bad to make it even worse. For example, Oral Roberts was not a Christian brother with whom he had profound differences but a heretic who did much damage to the body of Christ, “the first of the fraudulent healers to capture TV, paving the way for the parade of spiritual swindlers who have come after him” (p.155). Make no mistake about it, MacArthur is not out to bring correction to a sector of Christianity with which he disagrees; his goal is to destroy a movement he considers false, heretical and dangerous.”
(Eddie L. Hyatt, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, Reviewed by Eddie L. Hyatt”, The Pneuma Review website, October 23, 2013)

And while Pastor Jack Hayford didn’t call out John MacArthur (who by the way he’s close personal friends with) directly, for anyone who’s read the Strange Fire book or watched the conference videos there’s no mistaking what prompted the following response:

“It is essential to note: as with any sector of the church, at times ungodly and wholly unworthy leaders rise and gain a following. From local pastorates to notable media ministries one can find shameful violations of the Word and personalities lauded as ‘anointed’ who ignore biblical standards regarding morality, financial accountability, and biblical integrity. Pop culture themes that compromise the whole truth of God’s Word on subjects that lead to human, financial, lifestyle, and attitudinal shoddiness are often paraded in the name of ‘charismatic.’ This is a tragic miscarriage of a biblically rooted word (charismata) and shameless rejection of the charismatic lifestyle modeled by the apostles’ own first-century ministry—one lived without compromise of truth, character, behavior, or morality, and devoid of any self-serving ways.

May it be known and affirmed here: such biblically inconsistent leaders, be they men or women, who violate God’s Word—and any who follow them—are not and should not (no matter what ‘signs following’ are claimed) be seen or understood to be a valid definition of what charismatic or Pentecostal life or leadership is about.

It is grieving to all who seek to live and walk in humility and holiness as members of the Spirit-filled community of believers, when there is evidence of a leader’s doctrinal, ecclesiastical, moral, or financial compromise, and yet nothing of confrontation, discipline, or disapproval appear to be administered. However, truth is that this is not at all the case among the vast majority of those within the Pentecostal or charismatic community. For the most part, existing denominations and structured nondenominational networks do administer correction and discipline, as well as directing recovery and restoration programs where repentance is shown by the errant or fallen.

The most flagrant cases of violation and neglect of discipline occur in the glaring instances where independent, self-directed, self-ruled, and self-governed leaders move. The absence of structures requiring accountability to fellow leaders, or the ‘cronyism’ of some who unite, but do so forming small circles of equally errant ministers who ‘measure themselves by themselves’ (2 Cor. 10:12) and smugly exercise a self-affirming tolerance and grace that refuses the legalism of critics; these are of the nature of those the Epistle of Jude identifies as ‘dreamers’ who ‘defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries,’ and as having ‘gone in the way of Cain, run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah . . . for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever’ (Jude 4-13, NKJV).

Further, it is an egregious exercise in unkindness when categorical charges or institutional ‘blackballing tactics’ are leveled against charismatics as though all are given to indifference concerning Bible interpretation or moral recklessness. Even those differing theologically know full well that such broad brush treatment is a violation of facts—that the few characterize neither the values nor lifestyle of the many, i.e., charismatics who love, honor, and live for Christ, the Lord of us all—charismatic or otherwise. May God extinguish the foul incense from the ‘strange fire’ offered by voices among leaders at either group’s altars, and may His ‘holy fire’ baptize us all with a fresh baptism of His unifying love, whatever our doctrinal differences.”
(Jack Hayford’s foreword for R.T. Kendall, “Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives”, Kindle Locations 3477-3504)

Recommended Reading
The following books have been written in response to “Strange Fire”. They offer a fuller, richer perspective on the book and address in greater detail MacArthur’s errors – up to and including his confirmation bias driven hard cessationist exegesis of scripture.

“Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire” by Michael L. Brown
This book directly addresses the issues raised by the Strange Fire book, conference, and camp in a calm, even toned, and scholarly manner. (note: I have also reviewed this book)

“Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives” by R.T. Kendall
A thoughtful scriptural exegetical response to MacArthur’s hard cessationist arguments from a theologian in the Reformed tradition who is Charismatic.

“The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit: God’s Miraculous Gifts at Work Today” by Randy Clark
A combination defense of continuationism and practical, scriptural guidelines which, if followed, would eliminate would eliminate many of the abuses and excesses that MacArthur correctly criticizes in Strange Fire.

Christian Historian William De Arteaga’s short analysis of how John MacArthur abuses and misrepresents Church History in “Strange Fire” is very informative and enlightening.

William De Arteaga, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire as Parody of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology”, The Pneuma Review website, November 8, 2013

And, finally, while I would like to believe that my review is pretty good, I’m not sure that these reviews of John MacArthur’s last two Anti-Charismatic books can be topped. I’ve cited from some of them above but I encourage a full read in order to fully appreciate them for yourself: 

Craig S. Keener, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener”, The Pneuma Review website, November 15, 2013

Monte Lee Rice, “John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, reviewed by Monte Lee Rice”, The Pneuma Review website, December 26, 2013

Rich Nathan, “Vineyard Position Paper #5: A Response to ‘Charismatic Chaos'”, April 1993

(this review was previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

BACK TO TOP

Lt General Joseph Smith

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith, Commander in Chief of the Nauvoo Legion.

by Bob Betts
One of the signature virtues of true Christians is loving our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 (KJV) Jesus taught His followers, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” No doubt, Joseph Smith had many enemies wherever he went, from local neighbors, to dissident Mormons, to the highest levels of state and federal governments. How did Joseph Smith respond? Did he love them? Did he bless them? Did he do good to them? Did he pray for them? Or, did he speak and act vengefully against them, and attempt to silence Mormon dissidents? In this article, I explore some of the reasons why Joseph Smith had so many enemies, but more about whether or not his treatment of them was in obedience to Christ’s command.

In the book “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, Mormon author Stephen C. LeSueur explained the atmosphere and mood between both Mormon and Missourian vigilantes, “In Caldwell County [Missouri], Mormon leaders dominated local politics, while the Danites, a secret Mormon vigilante organization, enforced religious orthodoxy, thus reinforcing the Missourians’ perception of Mormonism as a fanatic and un-American religion. The Mormon army and the Danite band inspired a terrific fear among the non-Mormon settlers, who regarded the Mormon soldiers as ruthless cutthroats. Although Mormon military action was generally initiated in response to reports of violence, the Mormons tended to overreact and in some instances retaliate against innocent citizens. Their perception of themselves as the chosen people, their absolute confidence in their leaders, and their determination not to be driven out led Mormon soldiers to commit numerous crimes. The Mormons had many friends among the Missourians, but their military operations undercut their support in the non-Mormon communities. In the introduction to his book Mr. LeSueur observes:

“The degree of Joseph Smith’s complicity in the Mormon military activities has long been debated by historians. Evidence now available, however, demonstrates that he directed much of the plundering and burning committed by Mormon soldiers in Daviess County [Missouri]. He viewed these actions necessary for the defense of his people. In addition, Smith and other Mormon leaders knew and approved of the activities of the Danite organization, including the forcible expulsion of [Mormon] dissenters from the Mormon county of Caldwell. Mormon leaders justified the Danite actions with the claim that a republican people have the right to remove undesirable citizens from their communities– the same principle cited by the Missourians to expel the Mormons.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 4) 

And just what was that Danite organization that Joseph Smith directed? Stephen C. LeSueur wrote, “A group of Mormons met secretly in Far West [Missouri] to discuss how to get rid of [Mormon] dissenters. The group adopted the name Daughters of Zion, which they later changed to Sons of Dan, or Danites” (page 38). On page 39, LeSueur continued, “The expulsion of these [Mormon dissenters] from Far West reflected a growing militant spirit among the Mormons, revealed a rigid intolerance for those who opposed their practices and teachings, and demonstrated their willingness to circumvent the law to protect their interests.”

In the third chapter, page 50, LeSueur records that Sidney Rigdon gave a speech on July 4, 1838, which “Joseph Smith and his counselors had carefully prepared…and afterward had it published and distributed to their people. (p. 51)” In that speech, enemies of the Church who would come against it were warned, “The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And, that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us; for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed–Remember it then all Men.” Joseph Smith dictated an oration threatening a war of extermination. In it’s text, Joseph Smith promised to hunt down men in order to spill every last drop of their blood. Even to go after their families. These actions are a total violation of Christ’s command in Matthew 5.

General Joseph Smith with Sword

General Joseph Smith with Sword

Joseph Smith followed up with an article in the Elders’ Journal, page 54, “We are absolutely determined no longer to bear [persecution], come life or come death, for to be mobed (sic) any more without taking vengeance, we will not.” These are the documented words of Joseph Smith. Were these the words of a Christian man, who was obeying a fundamental command of Jesus Christ? Romans 12:19 (KJV) “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Curiously, Stephen C. LeSueur wrote,

“The evidence suggests, however, that the Mormon leaders’ fear of violence was exaggerated, even unfounded, at that time. The journals and reminiscences of the Saints do not mention any trouble with non-Mormons prior to the Fourth of July oration. W. W. Phelps testified that throughout the summer and fall he received assurances from the citizens of Ray and Clay counties that no mobs were being raised against the Saints in the quarter. William Swartzell, a Mormon resident of Diahman, recorded that the Mormons were the only ones talking about mobs at this time–he had heard nothing from the Missourians. In later years, Mormon leaders such as Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff [fourth LDS prophet], [LDS apostles] Orson Hyde and Jedediah M. Grant condemned Rigdon’s speech as a foolish and overly aggressive statement of Mormon rights that unnecessarily provoked anti-Mormon violence.” (Stephen C. LeSueur, “The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri”, p. 51)  

And, who wrote that speech? None other than Joseph Smith and his counselors.

In Matthew 5:38-39 (KJV), Jesus also taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

But, Joseph Smith ignored that teaching of Jesus Christ, as well, admitting, “I am not so much a ‘Christian’ as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him. David did so, and so did Joshua. My only weapon is my tongue.” (April 6, 1843, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 335)

First, whatever retaliation that Joseph Smith was alleging that David and Joshua committed, should he have been a follower of their examples, or obedient to Christ’s command to not resist an evil person, but to turn the other cheek?

Second, as you will see, Joseph Smith’s claim that his only weapon was his tongue, was far from the truth.

In the book “Conflict at Kirtland”, page 268, Mormon author Max Parkin quoted an original apostle, Luke Johnson, telling that Smith “boxed his [a minister’s] ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street,…”

In another incident, “Smith then came up and knocked him [Calvin Stoddard] in the forehead with his flat hand – the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard – made him blind – that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness…” (Ibid, p. 132)

Joseph Smith, himself, tells of some confrontations he had with his enemies, confirming his above boast, “When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick him off, and ride him,” but further refuting his claim that “My only weapon is my tongue.”:

“Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street.” March 28, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 316)

“[Walter] Bagby called me a liar, and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so engaged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us. I told the Esquire to assess the fine for the assault, and I was willing to pay it. He not doing it, I rode down to Alderman Whitney, stated the circumstances, and he imposed a fine which I paid, and then returned to the political meeting.” August 1, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 524)

Kirtland Temple early 1900's

Kirtland Temple early 1900’s

“I met him [Walter Bagby], and he gave some abusive language, taking up a stone to throw at me: I seized him by the throat to choke him off.” Joseph Smith, August 13, 1843, (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 531)

Brigham Young knew Joseph Smith, and revealed, “Some may think that I am rather too severe; but if you had the Prophet Joseph to deal with, you would think that I am quite mild….He would not bear the usage I have borne, and would appear as though he would tear down all the houses in the city, and tear up trees by the roots, if men conducted to him in the way they have to me.” (October 6, 1860, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, pp. 317-318). Given Young’s hyperbole, his description confirms Smith’s own assessment of himself, “I am not so much a Christian.”

Joseph Smith was elected Mayer of Nauvoo, Illinois. “The (City) Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshall to destroy it without delay,…

“About 8 p.m., the Marshall returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them.” Joseph Smith, June 10, 1844, (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 432)

“The Expositor allegations and the subsequent reaction triggered the immediate events leading to the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum….

“The publication of the Expositor put Smith in a dilemma. If he did not stop its publication, exposure of the secrets of polygamy and the political kingdom of God might well rend the church asunder…When Smith convinced his rubber-stamp city council, in a trial without lawyers, witnesses, or jury, that the paper should be declared a public nuisance,…he may not have been prepared to pay for such a course of action with his life; but there is no question that he was prepared to pay a high price for the preservation of the kingdom… “In destroying the press Smith had over-stepped both his authority and the bounds of propriety.” (Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire, pp. 156,158-159)

NOTE: Then Illinois Governor Thomas Ford ordered the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They were taken into custody in Carthage, Ill., about 7 miles southeast of Nauvoo and held in jail to await a hearing. The events of the afternoon of June 27, 1844 are told by John Taylor (the eventual third “prophet”) in volumes six and seven of History of the Church, edited to highlight the actions of Joseph Smith:

“Immediately there was a little rustling at the outer door of the jail, and a cry of surrender, and also a discharge of three or four firearms followed instantly. …Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel,… Joseph reached around the door casing, and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire.When Hyrum fell, Joseph exclaimed; ‘Oh dear, brother Hyrum!’ and opening the door a few inches he discharged his six-shooter in the stairway (as stated before), two or three barrels of which missed fire…. Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor, and sprang into the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming, ‘O Lord, my God.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 617-618)

“…I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges (from Joseph’s six-shooter), two of whom, I am informed died.” (History of the Church, Vol. 7, p. 103)

More history of Joseph Smith would further expose him as a false believer. And, I may add more history as time permits. For now, the evidence is overwhelming that Joseph Smith ignored Jesus’ teachings, and proved himself to not be a child of our heavenly Father. And, Mormonism stands or falls on Joseph Smith’s story.

With all of the above evidence about the real Joseph Smith, what does this say about the LDS leadership’s movie-portrayals, teaching-manual portrayals, and other write-ups and pictorials of Joseph Smith as a mild-mannered, gentle, kind, level-headed, peace-making, Christ-centered gentlemen?

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

The Mormons surrendering to end the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

About The Author
Robert “Bob” Betts received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, in 1970, at the age of 18. After one year of Bible college (’72-’73), Bob was forced to discontinue that education due to a severe bout with valley fever. By 1974, the fever had dissipated, and in 1975, Bob met and married his wife, Patricia (Patty), and started a family. Bob and Patty have been married for 40 years as of 2015, with three children and seven grandchildren.

Bob Betss

Bob Betts

In the mid ‘90s, God developed within Bob, an interest in the study of the religion of Mormonism. The interest became a passion, and a compassion for the Mormon people. In the year 2000, Bob went into full time ministry to Mormons, and to any people directly affected by Mormonism’s outreach (families, friends, Christians, non-Christians, ex-Mormons, inactive Mormons, etc.). He oversaw a website “discussion board,” debating and challenging (and being challenged by) devout Mormons for over 10 years, and thousands of hours, seeing the fruit of salvation in a few, for which he readily gives God all the glory.

After 12 years, Bob left that ministry, but continues on social media to reach out to Mormons and ex-Mormons with the hope and truth of pure, biblical Christianity, honing the gift that God gave him to reasonably and logically dismantle the impossible gospel and theology of Mormonism.

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Joseph Smith made this statement at the conclusion of a speech in the public square at Far West, Missouri on October 14, 1838. This particular quote is documented in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, second edition, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), pp.230–231.

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An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.
by Fred W. Anson

(c) Mr Russell Falkingham; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Leslie Cole, “Scorched Earth: Devastated Rubber Plantations” (1946)

“I find myself too often saying about a lot of Christians, ‘I agree with everything you say, but I disagree with the way you’re saying it. There’s a way of saying things that is redemptive and loving and there’s a way saying things that’s not redemptive and loving.’”
Dr. Richard Land
Public spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention in “Us and Them”

Introduction:
While we were preparing for this series we took careful note of the weak arguments, bad behavior, and counter productive debating tactics we saw some Christians using in their public engagement with Mormons. Those deserving of deep analysis became full articles, the rest went onto a special “grass catcher” list which I now present to you for your consideration:

How to Make Weak Arguments Against Mormonism:

  1. Be condescending and disrespectful. These people are obviously blind fools, make sure that they and the whole world knows it by talking down to and sneering at them. After all wasn’t the Apostle Peter just offering a suggestion rather than a mandate when he said: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV italics added)[1]
  2. Don’t back up your arguments with easily verifiable evidence. After all, everyone should just change their beliefs based on just some stranger’s claims and opinions alone, right? Wouldn’t you? Who needs supporting evidence?[2]
  3. “Link bomb” them. That is, copy and paste just the links to evidence rather than carefully selecting and citing the relevant content from those sources and then providing the link so it can be verified.  In other words, make ’em work hard to disabuse themselves of their wrongheaded beliefs! After all, isn’t it their job to prove your point for you by digging, mining and sifting through the mountain of words that you’ve so generously brought to their attention? Let them find their own gold like you did – it’s in there somewhere, right? Besides, reading, listening, watching, transcribing, and citing is just such hard, time comsuming work – link bombing is so much easier! Doubt me? Boom! http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/08/01/survey-finds-internet-makes-people-rude-new-yorkers-agree/ You’re been link bombed! (That was easy)
  4. Speak in absolute and authoritative tones on subjects that you’re ignorant or uninformed on. Better yet do it on the Internet so that a worldwide audience can benefit from (or be entertained by) your “insight!” As the ancient proverb says so well, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)
  5. Tell Mormons to “look it up!” rather than serving them by providing the relevant information for your argument. Yes, that’s right, don’t provide a web link, a citation or any other verifiable evidence – why should you? They have eyes, don’t they! They have brains, don’t they? Of course, they’ll rush right out and do it – right? Isn’t that what you do when other people do this to you? Hey man, 99.9% of those surveyed do! It’s true! Look it up.[3]
  6. Just get right up on that Christian soapbox and set ’em straight! Preach Christian preach! After all, all you should need to do is speak the truth, right? So give to ’em with both barrels with all the best Christianese you know! Why do you need to learn anything about them or their heretical beliefs first? Just declaring God’s good truth should be enough shouldn’t it? In fact, wouldn’t taking an interest in and learning their heresies just validate them and keep them in error? Don’t lower yourself to the level of heretics and blind men – rather, preach Christian preach! Your fellow Christians will slap you on the back and praise you while all the befuddled Mormons are slowly walking away shaking their head wondering all that incomprehensible shouting was about. Mormons are just so blind and deceived aren’t they?[4]soapbox
  7. Only cite from Mormon Critics rather than Mormon friendly sources. After all, if it’s “Mormon Friendly” it must be enemy propaganda, right? All Mormons know how to do is lie and deceive anyhow, right?[5]
  8. Assume that the underlying meaning of the terms that you and Mormons use are the same. And whaddaya know! We use the same words, we must both be Born Again Christians! Who knew?[6]
  9. Give citations without providing the source so it can be verified for accuracy. Oh, and never make it easy by providing a web link to the source! Just throw it out – your word alone should be sufficient, right? By the way, did you know that the Eustace Scrubb character in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” was Mormon? Yep, it’s true![7]
  10. Frame your arguments in outsider Christian language rather than insider Mormon language. So what if it’s like speaking in a foreign tongue to them? Hey, just yell that Christianese LOUDER, slower, and longer like a tourist on vacation in a foreign land. They’ll get it eventually! After all, they can always watch your hand signals right?  Oh yeah, about that that hand signals thing when it comes to the internet . . . [8]
  11. Make sure that you never, ever enter a Mormon building like a Ward Building, Chapel, Stake Building, Temple tour, or Church Museum – you might get Mormon cooties or become demon possessed! After all, you can learn everything you need to know by talking to your Mormon neighbor over the backyard fence – they’re all experts on their faith and always represent their theology and practices as accurately as today’s Christians do theirs.[9]
  12. Never attend a Mormon Service or meeting (especially a Fast & Testimony meeting) lest you experience their culture first hand. Empathy is of the devil! Stay in dark ignorance regarding what really happens inside Mormon services so you can get it all wrong whenever you talk about those services. After all, you love it when Mormons make incorrect statements about what goes on in our services don’t you?[10]
  13. Treat antiquated Mormon sources as if they have as much weight and authority as modern official sources. Make sure you regularly quote from “The Journal of Discourses” and McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” as if they’re equivalent to today’s correlated manuals and literature. And if they object, they’re just uninformed about what their church really believes and teaches aren’t they?[11]
  14. Never concede well made arguments and credible evidence from Mormons. You must never, never, never yield an inch! After all this is war! Never give in and never surrender![12]
  15. Use derogatory, insulting terms like MORmON, Joseph’Smyth, Profit (instead of “Prophet”), TSCC (The So Called Church), Jo$eph $mith, Bring’em Young, Breed’em Young, Thoma$ Mon$oon, etc. Or go back in time and use the old 19th Anti-Mormon prejorative terms like “Joe Smith”, “Mormonites”, “Golden Bible”, etc.  Conversely, you can merge current popular culture with Mormonism and invent new perjovatives like, “Morg” (Star Trek reference that blends “Mormon” with “Borg”), “Joseph Sith” (Star War reference that suggests that Joseph Smith was an evil Sith), “Darth Monson” (another Star Wars reference there), etc. The more condescending, offensive, and degrading the better – that way it’s clear whose side you’re really on, and of course, that true believing Mormons are stupid idiots who all deserve just what they’re going to get at the great judgment![13]
  16. mormon-meme-generator-and-i-m-a-mormon-7c56a8

    An Internet meme designed to make Mormons look stupid – and this is one of the kinder ones.

    Create and use insulting Internet memes and graphics. Everyone loves getting insulted – be the Don Rickles of Mormon Studies, they’ll love you for it. After all, don’t you just love those angry atheist memes that insult and belittle Christians? They just make you want to run out and become an atheist in the worst way, don’t they?

  17. Mock the LdS Temple Endowment ceremony. After all it’s sacred and stupid right? After all one can surely have meaningful conversation with someone’s back as they’re walking away, right? The fact that the endowment ceremony is an off-limits, “nuclear” subject in Mormon Culture is their problem not ours!
  18. Refer to Temple Garments as “Magic Mormon Underwear.” Let ’em them know how stupid and silly they really are! Better yet, wear them in public while donned in a gorilla’s mask, burn them, deface them, stomp and spit on them if you can.[14] After all, Christians never get upset when outsiders do that to clerical vestments, choir robes, or crosses do they?
  19. Show no empathy or understanding for the incredibly high price Mormons must pay for leaving the LdS Church. Hey man, it’s as easy as changing churches right? What’s the big deal? I mean Presbyterian to Baptist to Charismatic to Catholic to Lutheran and then back again – easy, peasy, there’s never much of a price to pay is there? Oh you lost your wife and family when you left the Mormon Church? And your job too? And you’re being shunned by your own family? Now that’s just downright weird isn’t it?[15]
  20. Use a lot of cliches, platitudes, and Christian folklore rather than anything of substance. In other words, use exactly the same kind of thought and emotional control tactics that Mormons use when engaging outsiders. It will really bless them, so they feel the anointing on you when you get out your “sword” and give them the word. Or, better yet, tell them about that angel encounter or Near Death Experience (NDE) that you heard about on Christian TV last week. Get right or be left man, because inch by inch life is a cinch, yard by yard life is hard – it’s in the Book!
  21. Appeal to feelings rather than intellect – after all, it worked so well in getting and keeping them in Mormonism? Maybe lightning will strike twice, so have them read the Bible and pray about if it’s true or not . . .[16]
  22. Hyper-spiritualize everything. For example, rather than using even toned language and verifiable evidence against Mormonism make statements like: “Mormonism is a demonic religious system which has led millions to hell”, or “Mormons are all  demon possessed, under the influence of deceiving spirits”, or “The Lord showed me that Mormons will be key leaders in the Antichrist’s one world government – Mitt Romney is just the beginning”, etc. Of course since none of this can be objectively proved or verified it really just pits two competing belief systems, religious cultures, and value systems each other. To transitioning Mormons this just demonstrates (beyond a shadow of a doubt they very often think) that mainstream Christianity is just as fanatical and subjective as Mormonism. Yes, they’ll thank you as they just pass right on by on their way to atheism muttering a dismissive, “There’s no difference between the two, they’re both the same!”[17]
  23. mban997_hiUse double standards. For example, make a big deal over the fact that God the Father isn’t explicitly identified as the personage who says, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:17) in Joseph Smith’s First Vision but ignore the fact that neither is He explicitly identified in Matthew 3:17 as the voice from heaven that says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Why be fair? The ends justify the means, right?
  24. Argue that just one of Joseph Smith’s failed predictions of the future qualify him as a False Prophet per Deuteronomy 18:20-22, but ignore the fact that applying the same criteria in the same way that’s applied to Smith also makes Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Harold Camping and other respected Christian leaders with failed predictions of the future False Prophets too. Again, why be objective and fair?[18]
  25. Engage in what Christian Apologists call a “Scorched Earth Tactics“. That is, win at all costs rather than adhering to the golden rule of Christian apologetics, which is, “Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated” Nothing drives ’em away or drives them into atheism like going “Scorched Earth” on ’em does – go for it! Win at all costs Christian, win!
  26. Criticize, condemn, or praise authors, books, and articles that you haven’t read. And do the same for films, videos, and audio (like podcasts, lectures, and sermons) that you haven’t experienced first hand. Everyone knows that hearsay and innuendo is just as good as direct experience.  Better yet, throw in some unfounded bigotry and prejudice! You know say things like, “D. Michael Quinn‘s popularity just baffles me. Not only is he a believing excommunicated Mormon but he’s gay to boot! With that combination you really can’t expect too much can you?”; or, “What’s up with Richard Bushman? ‘Rough Stone Rolling’ should have been published by FAIRMormon it’s so filled with apologetics instead of real honest to goodness history!”; or how about, “Alex Beam‘s ‘American Crucifixion’ disrespects crucifixion in it’s title! Doesn’t he know that Joseph Smith had a gun at Carthage Jail? Who carries a gun to a crucifixion?”; and last but not least, “I’ve heard that that ‘September Dawn’ is the closest thing to an accurate documentary on the Mountain Meadows massacre that we’ll ever get.” You get the idea.[19]
  27. Be just as fanatically Christian as they are fanatically Mormon. Since religious fanaticism is the fuel driving the Mormon belief system your behavior will be like filling up their tank without them even needing to get out of the driver’s seat! Oh, and this has the added “benefit” of driving them right into atheism should they leave since it makes it look like Christianity is just the opposite side of the same fanatical religious coin that Mormonism is on.
  28. In mixed company act like there are no Mormons present. Say things like, “Can you believe how pompous, self-righteous and arrogant Mormons are?”, “Mormons are like lemmings – if the Prophet told them to jump off a bridge they would do it!”, “Those ignorant Mormons, I know more about their religion that they do!”  And of course, when the Mormons say, “Uh, I’m right here, I can hear everything you’re saying” and object to such crass prejudice and bigotry don’t apologize and don’t back down – in fact, up the ante, say even more outlandish things about those stupid Mormons right to their face!
  29. Paint with the broadest brush possible.  Use wild, spectacular, over-generalizations delivered using the most absolute tone and words possible. You know, things like: “All Mormons lie in their Temple Recommend Interview”, “You’ve gotta know that every Mormon man is secretly addicted to pornography – Utah’s porn statistics are off the chart!”, “All dating BYU couples do the ‘Provo push!'”, “All Mormon women are treated like chattel by their priesthood holding husbands – it’s a holdover of 19th Century polygamy!” etc., etc., etc. The broader the better and the more spectacular is it the more people will be inclined to believe you – so go big, don’t hold back.
  30. Exaggerate and twist. Take something with a modicum of truth in it and expand, embellish, and massage it to the point where even the modicum disappears under an avalanche of hyperbole. For example, say something like “Mormonism replaces the cross with the pentagram!”[20] Or say, “Mormons shun the blood of Christ by using water in their communion service!”[21] Vetting, verifying, and refining your assertions so that they’re accurate and true is just so much work! Plus balance and precision doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as exaggerated hype – so why bother?
  31. Insist that Latter-day Saints should leave Mormonism over a single problem. For example, over the fact that the Book of Mormon anachronistically has the French word “adieu” in it (see Jacob 7:27) or that it incorrectly states that Christ was born in Jerusalem (see Alma 7:10).[22]
  32. Make sure that you use a lot of snark and sarcasm! Everyone loves being condescended to by obnoxious smart alecks with bad attitudes. By the way, I hope you’re loving reading this article as much as I am writing it. If not, you’re just a loser who just doesn’t “get it!”[23]
  33. Say things like, “The ends justify the means” to rationalize your bad arguments and behavior. Sure, it’s not biblical, but why be picky when souls are at stake here?
  34. Use the bad arguments and behavior of Mormons to justify any or all of the above.
  35. Assume that any constructive criticism from fellow Christians on how to better engage Mormons is meant for everyone else but you.

Summary and Conclusion:
Now I confess that in my early days in Mormon Studies I engaged some of these weak arguments – and on my bad days, sometimes I still do. But the fact remains that as Christians we have a higher calling. I would ask the reader to consider the following, knowing full well that while I may be preaching to others I am preaching to myself first and foremost.

First, this form of engagement is unbiblical. Here’s how the Bible instructs us to behave toward those who disagree with us:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
(2 Timothy 2:25 NIV) 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(Colossians 4:6 NIV)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
(1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Second, it’s just common sense that these tactics are more inclined to drive people away from Christ than draw them near. If and when the roles are reversed I’ve noticed that Christians react the same way that Mormons do: They walk away wanting to have nothing to do with the person, their stance, or their beliefs.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock “Lucifer” (1947). What Christian-Mormon dialog looks like when the above tactics are used by either side.

Third, it violates both the Golden Rule which says…

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 NKJV)

… and the Golden Rule of Apologetics which says:

Always treat your debating opponent’s evidence and arguments the way that you would want to have your evidence and arguments treated

Simply put, there’s just no excuse for Christians to be chronically using the type of tactics and arguments that I’ve listed in this article. And I say this knowing full well that Jesus, the Old Testament prophets, and the Apostles used sarcasm – and even some very harsh and pointed words – in their arguments.  After all, I’ve followed their lead by using such tactics in this article haven’t I? However, I would suggest to the reader that these tactics were reserved for hard cases and as a kind of last resort, in no case did Christ or any of the other Biblical figures lead with these tactics or use them in every encounter. So if you find yourself doing so I would ask you to stop, consider the mind of Christ, and change direction. As Paul said so well:

 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phillipians 2:3-11 NKJV) 

So I pray that that mind will be in us as engage with our Mormon friends and family members as we navigate through the dangerous land of Mormon Studies – a land where animosity and acrimony rule the day every day. I pray that we would be a healing balm and a exit route to truth rather than fuel on the fire and scorched earth. Maybe we would all do well to remember the ancient prayer that says:[24]

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
(St. Francis of Assisi)

quote-tact-is-the-knack-of-making-a-point-without-making-an-enemy-isaac-newton-285219

NOTES
[1] And before the “You’re a hypocrite – just look at the tone and content of your article!” phone calls, and letters start pouring in, the first part of this article was written in a tongue in cheek style that’s intended to mirror the same condescension, disrespect, snark, and sarcasm that are so prevalent in the weak arguments and tactics that are being addressed. If you’re offended by it then please consider how such behavior feels to our Mormon friends and family members when it’s directed at them.

[2] “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Hitchen’s Razor)

[3] NOT!  Nobody does this. It’s the responsibility of the person making an assertion to prove it. It’s not their debating opponent’s role or responsibility. This is just common sense folks! This is the laziest form of scholarship imaginable – if you can even call it “scholarship.”

[4] This was covered by implication in “Weak Arguments #9: “I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon…” However, since Christian soap boxing is so prevalent, it bears repeating.  And Utah Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace does a superb job of addressing this and other issues as they relate to street preaching in this episode of “The Ancient Paths”:

Also, as a point of clarification, please understand that public soapboxing does have a place and can be effective if it’s done biblically and appropriately. After all Christ did a lot of soapboxing – but it was always tailored and targeted for the audience that He was addressing. I would encourage you to consider how His tone, methods, and demeanor changed when His audience was the Jewish downtrodden (Matthew 11:25-30), versus the hard hearted (Matthew 11:20-24), versus the Jewish privileged (Luke 11:45-54). Then consider how it changed again when His audience wasn’t Jewish (John 4; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 15:21-28). Then when we look at the Apostles Paul’s writings and message are very different than, say, the public soapboxing we see in his Mars Hill address in Acts 17.

The basic problem here is a lack of social and cultural sensitivity, discernment and respect. If you truly love someone you will speak to them in a way that they understand and can receive your message. Christians who are “one trick ponies” on soapboxes – that is, that only have one approach and one message regardless of the audience – aren’t doing anyone any favors.

[5] This is covered to some degree in “Weak Arguments #11: “I will never, ever use official Mormon Church sources…” However, even unofficial Mormon friendly sources can be rich in content and potent in argument. I particularly recommend the works of D. Michael Quinn, Todd Compton, Richard Bushman, Charles Harrell, Rock Waterman, Denver Snuffer, and many other faithful, but intellectually honest Mormons. Let me put to you this way: Who do you think a Mormon is more likely to listen to: you, a critic, or a fellow believing Latter-day Saint?

[6] Suffice to say, Mormonism takes Christian words and forms and changes their underlying meaning. For a good primer of the terminology differences see “Terminology Differences” by Sandra Tanner. For a more in depth study and analysis of the subject see “Words We Share” by Sharon Taylor and Gerald Van Iwaarden.

[7] Of course, I’m demonstrating how Christians do this in a very tongue in cheek fashion here. And by the way, the speculation about Eustace Scrubb being Mormon is probably wrong. See Michael De Groote, “What C.S. Lewis thought about Mormons” Deseret New/Mormon Times, June 5, 2009. And since it annoyed me to not to be able to include the reference links for Eustace Scrubb and “The Chronicles of Narnia” in the main article (to do so wouldn’t have accurately reflected the behavior I was illustrating) I’ll do so here instead. Whew, I feel better now! Thanks!

[8] Just like no one can hear you scream in space, no one can see your hands in cyberspace – I just thought that you’d like to know.

[9] The unbiblical folly of this thinking was directly addressed in “Weak Arguments #9: “I don’t need to understand Mormon culture or learn how to speak like a Mormon…”  As I said there, “if Christ could sit on the edge of a well and talk to Samaritan woman I think that we can somehow manage to stand by the water fountain in a Mormon Ward building and chat with Mormons can’t we?”

[10] Ibid.

[11] This was addressed by Bobby Gilpin in “Weak Arguments #3: “I know what you believe, because Brigham Young, Bruce R. McConkie or some other general authority said…..”

[12] This is addressed in “Weak Arguments #14: “There’s NOTHING in Mormonism that’s true – it’s all wrong and nothing but a pack of lies!”

[13] Each and every one of the derogatories used here were copied and pasted from actual Christian posts on Facebook and YouTube.

[14] Again this is not made up. From Wikipedia:

Some church opponents have used public occasions, like the biannual church conferences, to publicly mock and parody the wearing of temple garments. During the October 2003 LDS Church General Conference, some anti-Mormon demonstrators outside the LDS Conference Center reportedly spat and stomped on garments in view of those attending the conference. One protestor blew his nose into a garment he wore around his neck. A scuffle broke out between a protester and two members of the church who attempted to take the garments from him. To avoid a repeat of the conflict, the municipality of Salt Lake City planned stronger enforcement of fighting words and hate speech laws for the April 2004 conference in Salt Lake City with new protest buffer zones.
(Wikipedia, “Temple Garment Use in Protests”)

[15] Please read, “The Death of Reason and Freedom” by Enigma. I believe that it will help even the most hard hearted Christian understand the dilemma that unbelieving “Shadow Mormons” too often fall into. The highest recommended is also given to Azra Evans’ classic essay, “Families Held Hostage”.

[16]  Clinton Wilcox discussed why this is not only a bad argument but unbiblical to boot in, “Weak Arguments #8: ‘I testify that Mormonism is false and Joseph Smith was a false prophet.’”

[17] Again, none of these are made up. They’re all comments that the author has seen posted on the internet by welling meaning but misguided Christians.

[18] And, yes, Mormons use exactly the same apologetic rationalization for Joseph Smith that Christians often use for the Christians named here. Please consider the FAIRMormon portal page, “Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophecies” The arguments that FAIRMormon uses for Smith are similar, and in many cases identical, to the arguments use for those on our side of the divide who have failed predictions of the future. My point here is simple: We can’t apply one standard to those in our group and another to those outside of our group. We must be consistent and be consistent or we’re not credible and lack integrity.

For those looking for a good example of how this weak argument is used by Evangelicals will find one here: The Prophecies of Joseph Smith, by James K. Walker.

For those unfamiliar with the failed prophetic predictions of Evangelical Christian preachers Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, and Harold Camping need only click on their names.  Gary DeMar has also written a good summary article on their failed predictions. Click here to read this article.

[19] Things to consider in response to these examples:

  1. D. Michael Quinn, is widely regarded as the one of the top Mormon Historians of his day by both Mormons and non-Mormons alike. The consensus is that his work largely reflects a lack of bias despite his belief in and testimony of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church.  The exception to this consensus position typically comes from Mormon Apologetic groups. And I have never understood why some people think that Quinn’s homosexuality would impact his intellectual integrity or professional objectivity but it seems to get flung out a lot by Mormons and Christians alike. I would ask the reader to just read some Quinn and see if they can see overt bias in it. I don’t. For example, here’s a transcript of the infamous “Plural Marriages After the 1890 Manifesto” paper (aka “The Buffdale Speech”) that many people think was a key factor in him getting excommunicated in 1993.
  2. Richard Bushman has admitted repeatedly in interviews that while he makes every effort to be objective he may tend to give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt in his work due to his faith (click here for one such example). And candidly, his bias does occasionally leak through in his work – Peter Mary does a superb job of demonstrating this in his review of the book (click here). Never-the-less his work is remarkable for it’s level of candor and true Mormon history given his status as a faithful Mormon in good standing with the LdS Church. “Rough Stone Rolling” is always the first book that I recommend to Mormons who express a desire to know the truth from a faithful source and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
  3. Alex Beam is a faithful and practicing Episcopalian and his book “American Crucifixion” has garnered praise for the depth of detail it goes into regarding the circumstances and events surrounding the death of Joseph Smith – including the smuggled guns that Smith and his associates carried and shot at Carthage Jail which wounded several of their attackers. The last thing that Alex Beam intended was to disrespect or degrade anyone or anything, least of all Christ’s crucifixion, with the title. He has explained that the title was intended to be provocative and reflective of the strong feelings and historical impact that Smith’s death generated (click here and then fast forward to 34:10 to hear Mr. Beam’s explanation for yourself). He was also drawing attention to the parallels with Christ’s passion that Smith articulated himself regarding his circumstances during the last days of his life. Joseph Smith was notorious for such over the top hyperbole – much to the delight of his faithful and the scorn of his critics.
  4. “September Dawn” is a Hollywood film that was intended more to entertain than educate. The film contains some historical errors (click here to read Bill McKeever’s excellent analysis and review of the film) and even more unsupportable, speculative embellishment. It’s not a bad film but it’s certainly not a good documentary. In this author’s opinion, the best Mountain Meadows massacre documentary to date is Brian Patrick‘s award winning “Burying the Past”. It isn’t as entertaining as September Dawn but it’s certainly more enlightening – and it’s historically accurate.

[20]  Regarding the use of the Pentagram in Mormon architecture: a) The meaning of the inverted 5-pointed star changed in the late 19th Century; b) Other Mormon denominations (like the RLDS/Community of Christ) use the cross in their architecture; c) Pentagrams aren’t used in modern LdS Church architecture. The exception being when a modern structure is being built that’s based on a historic design. For example, the 2002 Nauvoo Temple still retained the pentagrams from the original design but also used upright 5-pointed stars for the new, modern design elements.

The 2002 Nauvoo Temple. (click to zoom)

The 2002 Nauvoo Temple. (click to zoom)

For example, notice that the stars in the exterior fence in the following photo – which is a new, modern element – are upright but the stars in the upper windows which were in the original 1836 design are inverted.

For a full discussion of the history of the cross in Mormon architecture and culture see Michael G. Reed, “Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo”. His Sunstone presentation on the book can be found here.

Mr. Reed’s explanation of the use of pentagrams in Mormon architecture can be found here. If the reader prefers a Christian analysis of the subject, Bill McKeever’s article on the subject can be found here.

[21]  Regarding the use of water instead of wine or grape juice in the Mormon sacrament: a) Wine was originally used in Latter Day Saint communion services; b) Due to an unfounded rumor that Anti-Mormons were trying to poison the sacramental wine in 1830 and then due to the Word of Wisdom they switched to water; c) The use of water a hold over from the 19th Century temperance movement that got institutionalized and concretized by the Salt Lake City Brighamite Mormon denomination; d) Other Mormon denominations use grape juice rather than water in their services; e) Prior to Dr. Welch (a temperate Methodist) discovering a way to stop the fermentation in grape juice many temperate churches used water instead of grape juice in their services – were they “shunning the blood of Christ” by doing so? Glass house meet rock.

To gain a good overview of the subject from a Protestant perspective see Terry Hull, “How Grape Juice was ‘Invented’ to Make the Lord’s Meal Holier”. A good overview Mormon History in this area can be found here.

[22] Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson explain why the “adieu” anachronism alone isn’t sufficient grounds for a Mormon to leave the LdS Church in their January 23rd, 2015 Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast. And I explained why the “Jerusalem” slip of the pen on it’s own isn’t either in “Weak Arguments #10: “The entire Book of Mormon was discredited just as soon as it said that Christ was born in Jerusalem.”  As I stated in my article:

“Should Christians declare the entire Bible discredited because of it [a single biblical contradiction]? Even Atheist critics and Muslims don’t suggest such a response because it’s so ‘over the top’. Yet, many Christians would demand exactly that of Mormons over Alma 7:10. To me, such a demand on Mormons reveals an extreme bias on the part of some Christians and the type of unjust, uncharitable treatment that can drive Mormons deeper into the LdS Church if they stay, or right past Christianity and straight into atheism if they leave… 

Most ExMormons tell us that there wasn’t just one thing that convinced them that the truth claims of the LdS Church don’t add up, it was a culmination of a lot of little things. They say it’s like a bunch of pebbles being tucked away on a shelf in a deep, dark corner – that is until the shelf finally collapses under the weight of them all.”

Simply put, expecting anyone to leave their faith over a single problem or argument is pretty silly and naive. Politely and respectfully building a case takes longer and requires more effort but it’s ultimately how and why most people are disabused of closely held and comforting error and self-deception.

[23] Please see footnote #1.

[24] And if the Prayer of Saint Francis doesn’t suit you, perhaps 20th Century Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer” will:

serenity

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