Monday, March 9, 2015

Holy Fire, Not Strange, chapters 1-4

Chapter 1 is simply a string of recycled sermon notes on how silly and evil various brands of charismania are.  Okay, but anyone can play this game.  I agree there are hucksters and there is a special place in hell for them, but this is not an argument.  Macarthur does actually get to something like an argument:

Thesis:  "It is the elevation of experience over the authority of Scripture that grieves and demeans the Holy Spirit most of all" (Macarthur 17).

I have several observations:   1) it is dangerous to elevate experience over theology, but where is the proof that it grieves the Holy Spirit most of all?  How does Macarthur know this?  The Scriptures he cites are about the Holy Spirit's inspiring the Word and the Spirit's testifying to Christ.  Great, but that is immaterial to this thesis.  Indeed, is this not Macarthur's own experience?

2) If this is Macarthur's thesis, and if he is successful in proving it (I don't think he can be), then we should note that the truth of continuationism stands or falls independent of this thesis.

Chapter 2

This is a history of the modern Pentecostal movement and most of it, while interesting, is irrelevant to his thesis.  Except for one part:

But here is the point to all of this history:  if the Holy Spirit intended to recreate the day of Pentecost, is this really how he would do it? (27)

I really don't know what to say.  I suppose some early Pentecostals said something like this.  Sam Storms specifically argued against this point.  See Point 9.  Macarthur continues,

Why focus on these two men [Charles Parham and E. W. Kenyon]?  The answer is simple.  These two men are responsible for the theological foundations upon which the entire charismatic system is built (31)

At this point I have no idea if this historiography is true. I am not persuaded that one can make a 1:1 connection between the early Pentecostals and Wayne Grudem.   Genealogical arguments are always dangerous to make and they rarely deliver on their promises.

Chapter 3

In chapters 3 and 4 JM relies on Edwards’ analysis of revival, and I think it is a good–if incomplete–analysis of any “spiritual” movement.
  1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?
  2. Does it oppose worldliness?
  3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?
  4. Does it elevate the truth?
  5. Does it produce love for God and others?
I've dealt with the specifics here.   It really is a good chapter.  He notes (rightly) that the Spirit testifies of Christ, so those who are filled with the Spirit will testify of Christ.  Sadly, this is absent from a large part of the Charismatic world.

I do find it interesting, though, that Macarthur didn't clinch his argument with Revelation 19:10, "The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy."  In fact, the book doesn't mention this verse at all.

Chapter 4, same contd.

Most of this chapter reads like the tabloids.  Interesting, mind you, but not really germane to the thesis, except where noted above.

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