Is Modern Charismatic Theology Offensive to God?

Tim Challies
Tim Challies

The first day of the Strange Fire conference has come and gone and the second is just about to begin. To this point it has certainly lived up to its billing as an event that will deal frankly with concerns related to the charismatic movement. I want to offer just a couple of brief reflections.

The format has been very deliberate and rather interesting. John MacArthur began with a series of direct statements about charismatic theology and was followed by Joni Eareckson Tada who provided a testimony of how God has chosen not to heal her paralysis and chronic pain. R.C. Sproul brought a theological perspective to Pentecost, Steve Lawson brought a historical perspective from John Calvin, and Conrad Mbewe showed how charismatic theology in its worst form has come to dominate African Christianity.

Here is a one-sentence summary of each of the addresses so far:

  • John MacArthur: Charismatic theology is offensive to God and any good that has come out of the movement has come despite, not because of, that theology. (read a summary)
  • Joni Eareckson Tada: I thank God that he did not answer my prayers for healing because it has shown me the deeper healing he means to do in my life. (read a summary)
  • R.C. Sproul: Charismatic theology downplays the uniqueness and long-lasting significance of Pentecost. (read a summary)
  • Steve Lawson: If you are a Reformed charismatic, you need to go to John Calvin, the father of Reformed theology, to see that he would not sanction it. (read a summary)
  • Conrad Mbewe: Charismatic theology is producing chaos and innumerable false converts all over Africa. (read a summary)

Judging by comments and by social media buzz, the event is being closely followed by many who hold to charismatic theology, and especially those who also hold to Reformed theology. Some are expressing sorrow at what they see as harsh and unfair treatment while others are expressing either patience or gratitude. Many are confused and are hoping for clearer definitions and positive affirmations that will better express and defend the cessationist position.

Until the day of the event, and really until the end of MacArthur’s opening address, I was unsure of whether or not I would give a lot of attention to the event. But I am glad I chose to blog about it as it really does seem to be making a big splash in the Evangelical world and especially among the Reformed crowd that tends to read this site. Like you, I am very interested to know what will come today and tomorrow.

What remains to be seen, and what may take quite a long time to see, is whether this event will call Christians to work to find greater agreement on the issue of the miraculous gifts, or whether it will polarize the camps even further. It is fast becoming my prayer that one way or another the Lord will see fit to use this event to bring greater maturity and greater unity to his church.

Originally published October 17, 2013.

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