Interesting how many charismatics, in response to the recent Strange Fire conference are doubling down on defending charismatic theology with cries like, “mustn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!” or “but they used such a broad brush… we’re not all like that, you know!” Thus they direct their energies towards critiquing those who point out the obvious excesses in the movement– excesses they themselves acknowledge are happening all the time! It seems they place greater priority on critiquing those warning others about the blatant errors, than on joining with them in denouncing these harmful practices. They downplay the harm that is taking place by arguing that such excesses are representative of only a minority. But even if that were true– and it is certainly highly debatable, given that the biggest names at the forefront of the movement seem to be leading the way in the excesses– the abuses are so harmful on a spiritual, emotional and material level that those who acknowledge excesses but are not urgently trying to stop them– at the very least joining in their denunciation– are in effect abetting them.
Yet it is argued by such folks that what must take highest priority is the promotion and protection of the pure, sound theology at the heart of charismaticism that is being overlooked in all this– both by those guilty of corrupting excesses, and by those outside the movement who remain studiously ignorant of these important life-changing truths. Their urgency then is not towards denouncing the excesses to help protect those being exploited by false teachings, but rather, to restore and proclaim the underlying classic charismatic doctrine, which they claim is sound and only needs to be purified that it may bear its good fruit. Thus their strategy seems to be — go on the offensive against those pointing out and trying to stop the abuses, because such folks are actually getting in the way of all the good that will result when people live in accord with charismatic doctrine it is purest, most correct form! Moreover, there are often unfortunate accusations made against cessationists like MacArthur -that they are not motivated by love, but rather by their fear of not being in control, pride in their right doctrines, lack of supernatural experiences. This then is what produces their sinful, willful unbelief in the power of God to do miracles and healing in peoples’ lives today.
But critics of the charismatic movement and its excesses do in fact acknowledge that there is a more sound doctrine among some charismatics. Conferences like the recent Strange Fire conference even point to those charismatics they consider friends and colleagues in ministry, whose overall theology is sound and does bear good fruit. However they also point out the obvious– that abuses within this movement are so rampant and widespread, showing no signs of slowing down, that something must be done. And they also point out that the more responsible, sound charismatics are not at the forefront of condemning these excessive practices, though they ought to be. So in effect the scholarly defenses of continuationism presented by better charismatics, combined with their lack of denouncing the excesses, provides cover for such harmful practices to continue to spread.
For further reflection, see also:
The Broad Brush Phil Johnson
Two Quick Thoughts About Strange Fire Tom Chantry
Lessons Learned at Strange Fire Tim Challies
And from the other side:
Strange Fire: can’t we just get along? Adrian Warnock
Strange Fire – A Charismatic Response to John MacArthur Adrian Warnock