The Strange Fire Conference has exploded with a brilliant fireball and started wildfires across Christendom. The blogosphere and twitter feeds have flashed with shining lights of support and burning embers of anger, frustration and sadness.
Whatever your position on the charismatic issue, this conference is initiating an important examination of doctrine and charismatic practice. It’s clear that this isn’t some pet peeve of MacArthur. This conference sold out quickly and the amount of people who have tuned in to watch the live feed appears to be enormous. MacArthur and his fellow speakers spoke to an issue that many Christians have been waiting for for a long time. MacArthur may be the face, but behind him are legions of God’s people who are immensely grateful that a group of men have taken a stand against things that have been frustrating and saddening them for decades.
The conference raised a lot of very good questions that the charismatic movement should answer. Conrad Mbewe asked why there are no healings that conform to Matthew 11:4-5. Where are the deaf who are hearing? Where are the lame who are waking? Where are the blind who are seeing? This was followed up by MacArthur posing the question that if these gifts continue why do continuationists believe they continue in a lesser degree than is found in the New Testament? Phil Johnson asks the charismatics why they aren’t policing the abuses of their own movement? Anyone under the “charismatic” brush should be more concerned about the abuses than the cessationists are, right? Some bloggers have responded to this by saying they don’t have time to address the abuses, but given the size of the movement, and the large number of churches in the movement that are bigger than MacArthur’s church somebody in the movement should be should be doing something, no?
I’ve been watching the blogosphere for how those in the line of fire are responding. So far I have been very disappointed in what I’ve seen. There has been far too much ad homonim, misrepresentation and superficial argumentation. Far too many have even jumped into the waters of criticism without having listened to the conference.
The church throughout history has seen explosive and divisive issues far greater than this conference. When the church responds with anger and juvenile mud slinging nothing is solved. But when the church gathers to examine the arguments in light of the careful exegesis of Scripture, it can produce a wise and reasoned and articulate response that is biblically clarifying, truth magnifying and God exalting.
To those in the charismatic and continuationist camps, I say you have a golden opportunity handed to you on a platter. Respond to the arguments and biblical exegesis of MacArthur and colleagues with strong, clear, well articulated biblical responses that support your position. If you do, and you’re right, the church will be stronger for it. A lot of Christians are going to be looking for a well reasoned biblical response from your camp. It’s time to step up to the plate like Christian, godly men, and give a ready defense of your position. God’s people will be watching.
There have been a number of good articles written about how Strange Fire should be responded to. Tim Challies attended the conference and has a very helpful article titled Lessons Learned at Strange Fire. Trevon Wax has written The Right and Wrong Way to Engage John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference at the Gospel Coalition website. Thabiti Anyabwile has written an article about why you should care about the discussion of the Strange Fire Conference, here. He closes his article with this exhortation:
I hope you’re following with careful concern to know the truth rather than to vindicate your party. I hope you’re listening with rapt attention because you’re eager to hear God’s voice more clearly and to walk with your Savior more closely.
If you decide to skip listening to these messages you should at the very least listen to Joni Eareckson Tada’s incredible testimony to a life of disability and suffering.