Strange Fire Q&A, Part 1 (Selected Scriptures)
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PHIL: I notice you didn’t wear a tie. I know everyone’s thinking that so I thought
I’d point it out. JOHN: No, why are you all dressed up? PHIL: My wife made me. JOHN: You know, when it hits 107 I don’t wear
a tie. PHIL: That’s right. JOHN: It’s a little more informal tonight,
if that’s okay. But you look good. PHIL: This is actually part 1 of what we hope
will be a two-part conversation on the Charismatic Movement. Two weeks from now we’ll finish this. JOHN: Yeah, I will be gone next Sunday to
do a conference in Dallas for black African/American pastors on biblical exposition with Steve
Lawson. And it’s a great opportunity. So next Sunday, in the morning, Jesse Johnson
is coming back from Washington. He’ll preach in the morning and Phil Johnson
at night. So it’s Johnson & Johnson. Wear a Band Aid just in honor. PHIL: All right. Thanks for the plug. I wasn’t actually going to mention that cause
I was afraid nobody would come back. JOHN: No, they’ll come back. PHIL: Anyway, this is part one of a two-part
conversation and what I want to do in this hour is sort of lay the foundation for the
discussion we want to have. One of the criticisms we always receive whenever
we deal with the Charismatic Movement is, certain Charismatics will say, “Well you picked
out the most bizarre, extreme, whacko Charismatics and you criticize them. But that doesn’t apply to us.” And it’s true that it’s pretty easy to look
at that Movement and pick out extreme and whackos, you know. But tonight what I’d like to do is just talk
about the theological foundation for this whole discussion. What is the gist of Charismatic belief? If you could summarize it in the fewest possible
words, what is it that Charismatics stand for? JOHN: I think the underlying driving force
in the Charismatic Movement is an intuitive view of truth. I think it’s how they approach truth, rather
than approaching the Word of God as something outside of them, they approach the truth of
God as something inside of them, something to be discovered on the inside by their own
intuition, by their own spiritual experience, by their own spirituality, by their own insights
so that they’re utterly unlikely to come up with a true interpretation of Scripture because
they’re not looking at it objectively. They’re looking at it subjectively. And I think in the subjectivity of that Movement,
they read into the Bible the things that appeal to them. It is not completely void of biblical affirmation,
most of them would affirm one God and Jesus Christ, and the cross, and the resurrection
and all that, but beyond those very basic things, and they get some of them wrong, for
sure, beyond that their entire approach to Scripture comes from their own sense and their
own feeling and their own subjectivity, which then leads you hopelessly into all kinds of
error. PHIL: It’s mysticism, if you want to put a
label on it. JOHN: Right, and that would be a classic label,
mysticism which is…to define spiritual truth as something beyond the objective, something
beyond that which is fixed and historical, puts it in the realm of mystical things. PHIL: However, there are men who would identify
themselves as Charismatics, who other than their view of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual
gifts, other than that, they would be pretty much on the same page with us theologically. JOHN: Yeah, you know, that’s not…that’s
not sort of the historic Movement. You might have a different view say of the
ministry of the Holy Spirit which you try to defend exegetically, you might have a different
view of the baptizing of the Christ with the Holy Spirit. You might take a different view of that. There are people who would look at speaking
in tongues and they would try to argue biblically for a prayer language, rather than a known
language, a mystical sort of non-language prayer experience, so this is true. There are those people who just take a different
view of doctrines that we embrace and they could view similar to the view that the Charismatics
take without embracing the whole Movement. PHIL: Yeah, and in fact the Charismatic elements
of their doctrine are really a reach outside of their otherwise reformed and evangelical
tradition. JOHN: Yeah, and this…I mean, you and I have
discussed this and we’ve read these people through the years, you keep asking yourself,
“Why is it that you apply the appropriate hermeneutics, the appropriate principles of
biblical interpretation to come to all the conclusions until you get to this realm of
spirituality, spiritual life, the work of the Holy Spirit? And then you abandon the standard hermeneutics
and you come up with something that is just not consistent with a true interpretation
of Scripture, what is the need to do that? I mean, I don’t know how to answer that question
in every case. Sometimes I ask of certain people who come
up with those conclusions, is his wife a Charismatic? Is that where this pressure is coming from? Are his parents Charismatics? Has he had some kind of high impact from somebody
who is in that Movement that he loves and appreciates and wants to defer to? What is driving that because it seems inconsistent. It’s shifting the principles of interpretation
seemingly arbitrarily. PHIL: Now, if we had, let’s say, one of the
best of the Charismatic minds here, sitting on the platform with us and I asked him that
same question, I kind of suspect he would say the gist of Charismatic doctrine is a
conviction that what the Holy Spirit was doing at the start of the church in the early chapters
of Acts is and should be normative for the entire church age. JOHN: Yeah, the thinking sort of theologically
oriented person who would define himself as a Charismatic and you have to say though,
Phil, anybody who is trying to defend his being a Charismatic biblically, I mean really
trying to defend it biblically, has only embraced a very small part of that Movement and not
the whole Movement. PHIL: Right. JOHN: But those who want to hang on to a part
of it and want to defend it would say, as you have pointed out, that the Holy Spirit
today is doing the same thing that He was doing in the New Testament era, the era of
the Apostles, the era of the book of Acts, that there’s no reason to assume that anything
is different today. PHIL: All right, let’s talk about that, that
sort of…that presupposition, the idea that what we see in the early chapters of Acts
ought to be normative today, what would your assessment of that be? Why would you say I don’t believe that? JOHN: Well, I would back up, I would back
up and say, “Do we then conclude that everything that Christ did when He was on earth He now
is doing?” That’s what the Charismatics say and they
continually quote Hebrews 13, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever,” which
speaks of His nature and not His work. But they apply it to His work that whatever
Jesus did then, although He’s not on earth, He’s doing now. So if He healed people then, He’s healing
now. If He raised people from the dead then, He’s
raising people from the dead now. All the miracles are based on the premise
that Jesus is still doing through His human servants, or through faith, the same things
He was doing then. The answer to that, what you have to understand
is, that God has always been God, but God has not always done miracles. Try to find a miracle in the Old Testament,
you’ll read a long, long time before you find any miracle that isn’t a judgment that destroys
people. There just are not a lot of miracles. There are not great ages of miracles, great
consistent, comprehensive time periods of miracles. There’s a miracle here and there. Most of the miracles in the Old Testament
are miraculous judgments of God. The most massive being the Flood in which
He literally, supernaturally destroys the entire earth, the face of the earth and drowns
every human being with the exception of eight. So there has not been this constant continuity
of massive miracles going on. At the time of Christ, there’s an explosion
of miracles to validate the Messiah. And then Jesus delegates the ability to do
those miracles to the Twelve Apostles, and to those who are associated with the Apostles,
again to validate them as the preachers of the truth because the Bible’s not written
yet. So how do you know when somebody is a true
preacher of God’s Word and somebody is a charlatan? The answer is, the one who has supernatural
power to heal people, raise the dead, cast out demons, do these kinds of miracles, gives
evidence of divine power. That was the obvious response of Nicodemus
when he met Jesus in John 3, he said, “Nobody can do what You do unless God be with him.” So he made the connection between the supernatural
and the fact that here was one who spoke for God. And himself being a teacher, and yet not having
eternal life and not knowing how to have it, he thought he had met someone who was a greater
teacher than he was, because of the miracles that He did. So the Lord authenticates Himself as Messiah
by miracles and passes on the power to do that to authenticate the preachers of His
gospel, the Apostles. But as the New Testament begins to take shape,
and as the New Testament is written, and you see it even in the flow of the book of Acts,
miracles begin to disappear. Early in the book of Acts, everybody getting
I the shadow of an Apostle is being healed. Miracles are happening everywhere. As the book of Acts progresses through the
early history and as the books of the New Testament are written, the Apostle Paul writes
and says, “I left Trophimus sick in a certain place.” Or pray for this person because he’s ill. Or he says to Timothy, the final letters,
“Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Which seems an odd thing to say if you’re
an Apostle and had the power to heal. So you begin to see as the book of Acts comes
to its end and the epistles, you know, are being written through that period of time,
that there’s a completely non-miraculous emphasis in every single epistle in the New Testament. Never does a writer of an epistle say, “You
need to find an Apostle for a healing. You need to find an Apostle for a miracle. Whatever your troubles are, you need to ask
God to send down manna from heaven, or to turn water into wine, or to take a small lunch
and feed a multitude.” None of that appears in the epistles. The instruction in the epistles is instruction
that assumes the absence of miracles. It assumes it. It’s just not in the language. PHIL: Yet miracles are by definition extraordinary. I think it was B.B. Warfield that pointed out in the whole scope
of Scripture, you have three periods where there were lots of miracles: Moses and Joshua,
Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles. JOHN: And Jesus and the Apostles, (together
with Phil). Yeah, those are the three great periods. I did a section on that in the book Charismatic
Chaos, which, by the way, as we speak is being translated in to Chinese, Charismatic Chaos,
and Phil just took some of the material out of Strange Fire book and put it together for
the new introduction to the Chinese version. And the reason you chose to do that is because
the Charismatic Movement started by a guy named Charles Fox Parham who said there was
this woman named Agnes Osmond who was given the gift of tongues and the ability to speak
and write Chinese. That’s where it started. He was a crazy guy who was arrested for sodomy. He started the Charismatic Movement as we
know it. And he started it with this ruse about this
woman being able to speak Chinese and there’s even a photograph of her writings which he
declared to be Chinese. And that photograph is going to go in the
Chinese edition of the Charismatic Chaos so the Chinese can see how ridiculous the claim
is. PHIL: That’s a common problem, by the way,
that miracles that are claimed by contemporary Charismatics are virtually all, I would say
all but obviously I don’t know comprehensively, I’ve never seen one that’s verifiable. JOHN: No, they don’t do miracles in hospitals,
they do them in tents and they process people. And they do them in ways where no one would
ever know, you don’t see a person without a leg get one. You don’t see a person without an arm, get
an arm. You don’t see a person with no eyes, get eyes. PHIL: Or someone, you know, born lame, able
to walk. JOHN: No, you don’t see…you don’t see someone
with catastrophic, genetic defect in a wheelchair all of a sudden straighten up and get out
of the wheelchair. PHIL: Which is sort of brings us to one of
the questions I want to ask you, what you’re describing is the difference between continuationism
and cessationism. You and I are familiar with those terms, I
use them a lot, but I find people are confused by it. Explain the difference between a continuationist
and a cessationist. JOHN: Well, a continuationist is somebody
who believes everything continues. That what Jesus did, He’s still doing. What the Apostles did, they’re still doing. Which means, by that they mean revelation,
they mean revelation. They talk about prophecy being from God. God’s still speaking through people, what
is essentially the Word of God. They talk about tongues, speaking in foreign
languages which we all know to be and every examination has proven to be non-language. And they talk about healing. Those are the things that the Lord is still
doing. What they’re saying when they’re continuationists
is not…we all believe the Lord is still working, right? We all believe the Lord is still saving, as
we heard Andrew say. We all believe the Holy Spirit’s still sanctifying. We believe that the Holy Spirit is still illuminating
the Word, that God is still using the Holy Spirit to build the church, to honor Christ. We all believe in the redemptive work of God
in the fullness of His work in justification, conversation, sanctification, bringing us
to glory. All of that is going on. The only question is whether or not all the
miracles that were characteristic of the Lord and the Apostles are still going on. PHIL: Specifically what Paul called apostolic
signs, the signs of a true Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:12. JOHN: Right, and see that, 2 Corinthians 12:12
is critical because Paul says the signs of an Apostle WERE signs and wonders and miracles. Those were the signs of an Apostle which is
so obvious that you have many people today who claim to be able to do those things, calling
themselves Apostles. They take on that title as if it could legitimize
their impotence somehow, and then they claim to do miracles which they never do. PHIL: Which again brings us back to the distinction
between…. JOHN: Let me say one more thing. PHIL: All right. JOHN: In the book Strange Fire I think a watershed
chapter that has really confronted a subject that’s not been confronted this way ever,
is the chapter on Apostles because if you can demonstrate that there are no Apostles,
then consequently there are no signs of an Apostle. There are no gifts of an Apostle. So showing that there are no Apostles biblically
is a very, very big issue. And when that book comes out, it will be out
in October for the conference, if you want to pick a chapter to read, go to that chapter
because if there are no Apostles, then those things associated with authenticating the
Apostles aren’t going to happen. Why? Because now we have the Bible. So how do we test whether somebody is speaking
the truth? Do we ask if they do miracles? No, in fact here’s the strange thing, the
people who claim to do miracles all have bad theology. Are we supposed to believe that God is authenticating
deceivers? Are we supposed to believe that God the Holy
Spirit has given miracle power to people who have bad theology, who misrepresent the Trinity,
who misrepresent Christ, who misrepresent in many cases the gospel and get rich doing
it? Are we supposed to believe that God is authenticating
them? You know, if God was giving miracle power
to people, the people who have that miracle power would be the truest and purest and most
faithful students of the Scripture, wouldn’t they? Because those are the ones God would authenticate. But you can name the list. Al Mohler has never claimed to do a miracle. R.C. Sproul has never claimed to do a miracle or
receive a revelation from God. And yet we all know that these re the trustworthy
teachers of the gospel. PHIL: What you’re saying is, if you don’t
believe there are Apostles today, on the same level as the Apostle Paul, then you are, in
effect, a cessationist. You believe something that was happening in
the Apostolic era has ceased. JOHN: Right. The Apostles ceased and with the ceasing of
the Apostles…look, there were only essentially, we could say there were Twelve Apostles, let’s
take out Judas and put Mathias in, and that’s twelve. And then there’s Paul who was an Apostle late,
thirteen Apostles, with a capital A who saw the resurrected Christ, were personally called
by Christ, dispersed by Christ to preach His gospel, the first wave of gospel preachers
who ceased with the Apostle Paul. There are no more Apostles. And I think the argument is when you read
the chapter and you see how unique the Apostles were and when they passed away, what finality
that was, that defines cessationism. When you cease to have Apostles, you cease
to have the signs that were unique to the Apostles. So when someone says he’s a cessationist,
and I would say that, and, of course, Phil would say that, I don’t mean the Holy Spirit
ceased to work, Christ has ceased to work. I only mean that the things that attended
the Apostles have ceased when the Apostles ceased. PHIL: One of the arguments that I’ve made
is that every Charismatic, except the really bizarre quirky ones, if you take the better
Charismatics, the ones who theology is more on the sound end of the spectrum, they’re
all cessationists as well because…in fact they would admit this. Wayne Grudem(?) says, “Contemporary prophecy,
the prophecies we’re hearing today are fallible. Everybody would acknowledge that the tongues
people speak today are not like the tongues at Pentecost, they’re not translatable languages. So clearly, something has changed and unless
you want to deny that, you’ve embraced the kind of cessationism. JOHN: Yeah, you just put your finger on what
I think is the knockout punch in the final chapter of the book. The last chapter is an open letter to my continuation
as friends. And my continuation as friends, they are my
friends. They’re even friends theologically in many
cases. And they want to be continuationists. But in that chapter, and exactly what Phil
said is the case. They believe in tongues that aren’t languages. Whereas clearly in the New Testament they
were languages. They believe in miracles that aren’t necessarily
like the miracles Jesus and the Apostles did, and they say that. They believe in revelation, divine revelation,
but not infallible revelation. So they have miracles that aren’t the same
as the New Testament miracles. Tongues that aren’t the same as the New Testament
tongues. Prophecies that aren’t the same as the New
Testament prophecies. That’s not continuation. That’s cessation and inventing something else. So we need to come up with a new name for
them. You know, they are inventionists. I don’t know what. But that is not continuity. Once you say it’s not what that was, then
you’re not really a continuationist. So I try to back them into a corner and make
them admit that they’re not really continuationists, but rather they’re guilty of putting the stamp
of divine approval and labeling the work of the Holy Spirit some things that have no biblical
parallel, none. PHIL: Now I’ve heard people say, “John MacArthur
doesn’t believe in spiritual gifts at all.” That’s not true, is it? JOHN: No, that’s not true. PHIL: Talk about the spiritual gifts in the
New Testament. JOHN: You should listen to my tapes on that. PHIL: I have listened to your tapes. I’m hoping you’ll say some of the same things
you said on your tapes. JOHN: Look, there are two kinds of gifts laid
out in the New Testament, and, of course, they’re not necessarily divided in the New
Testament because they were all in operation. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12, in Romans
12 you have a listing of the gifts, non-miraculous gifts. PHIL: Yeah, all the ones in… JOHN: All the ones in Romans are just non-miraculous
gifts. Functions… PHIL: To be clear, when we say non-miraculous,
we don’t mean that these are natural abilities or whatever…they are JOHN: No, we’re not talking about the ability
to play the violin or being glib. We’re talking about a spiritual enablement
that is by the Holy Spirit but not to do things that are supernatural, okay? But in 1 Corinthians 12, you do have gifts
listed that are non-miraculous gift, alongside things like tongues, interpretation, and healing. And so, people say, “Well, how can you separate
out some miraculous gifts from the non-miraculous gifts?” That’s easy to do because the miraculous ones
were attached to again the Apostles and those who were associated with the Apostles in that
era before the Scripture was given. PHIL: You could actually make the argument
though, if you look at that list in 1 Corinthians 12, that all of those involve the ability
to work miracles. The only one that really doesn’t fit that
clearly is faith. All the others are like healing, discerning
of spirits, they involve some kind, you know, supernatural ability. JOHN: Yeah, Romans 12 are gifts that you would
still see functioning in the church today. First Corinthians 12 basically gifts that
you don’t see functioning in the church, they were part of the apostolic era. Do I believe in spiritual gifts? Of course. “As each man has received his gift, so we
are to minister that gift. First Peter 4 says we have speaking gifts
and serving gifts. Those are the two categories of gifts, some
of serving and some are speaking gifts. First Corinthians 12 says the Holy Spirit
gives to every man severally as He wills,” which is to say it’s foolish to seek a gift
because it’s a sovereign gift of the Holy Spirit to every believer. The way I’ve always understood that is if
you look at Romans and you look at Corinthians and you look at 1 Peter, you don’t get a hard
and fast category of giftedness. Like here’s a gift, here’s a gift, here’s
a gift and it’s kind of a cookie-cutter rubber duck thing where everybody who has that gift
functions the same way. But you have categories of giftedness, broad,
broad categories of giftedness. And they’re mingled in every individual. You’re like a spiritual snowflake. You know, your giftedness is like your fingerprint,
it’s a combination of things that identifies you in an absolute, unique way. You have received, Peter says, the gift. You have a singular gift. It is the combination of categories of ministry
in giftedness that the Spirit of God has blended together to place into you. And you can look at your own life–there used
to be these tests that people would give, or you could, you know, take a test and go
through a bunch of check lists and try to identify with some kind of precision your
exact gift. I think that’s foolish because it’s a blending
together. It’s as unique as you are unique. And the Spirit of God has made you in to one
of a kind person to minister in His church and if you don’t do your work, other…it
may take multiple others to pick it up because of the uniqueness of what you do. So yes, I do believe in spiritual gifts, I
feel that’s my life. I remember my son Mark said to me one time,
he said, “You know, Dad, when you’re ministering, you’re really special, but the rest of the
time you’re not so special.” And he was trying to figure out what happens
to me. Why am I boring most of the time and all of
a sudden something dramatic happens. And I talked to him about the fact that there
is an enablement that the Spirit of God has given to me when the Word of God is in my
hand and my heart is prepared to minister to the church of Jesus Christ. And it’s a mingling of all kinds of things. It’s partly preaching, it’s partly teaching,
it’s partly wisdom and knowledge. But if you got behind that, what do I delight
in doing, one of the things that I love doing maybe more than anything else is giving. That’s part of the giftedness that the Spirit
of God has given to me. That is part of the joy that I have in serving
the Lord. And so that’s the blend of things. But there is nothing in me that is supernatural. There is nothing in me that somehow transcends
my normal human abilities. So that is not to say I don’t have spiritual
gifts, it is to say I don’t have Apostolic sign gifts…and neither do you. And if you did, you would exercise them the
way the Apostles did and the miracles would be the same and the revelation would be authentic
and inerrant. PHIL: Why do you think the gift of tongues
because the sort of focal point of the Charismatic Revival at the beginning of the twentieth
century and still is the gift it seems to me that Charismatics tend to be obsessed with,
you know? If you haven’t received the gift of tongues,
then you haven’t really been filled with the Holy Spirit. JOHN: Well I think that’s what…that’s what
launched the Movement. I suppose if they had come up with something
else, that maybe that would have been it. But I actually think that’s the easiest one
to falsify in an ignorant environment. So when you’ve got Charles Fox Parham saying
that Agnes Osmond stands up and is speaking in Chinese and nobody in the room knows Chinese,
they’re all “Wow, look at this.” You know, we’re hearing Chinese, and there’s
not a Chinese person in the building. Nobody knows that. It’s an easy thing to falsify because it’s
nonsense. It also is an easy thing to sort of double
falsify with a false interpretation because nobody knows what the person is saying. It’s learned behavior. And if you listen to them, you know they’re
saying what they’ve heard from somebody else and it has a kind of staccato and it kind
of works together. As one guy that I heard many years ago said,
“It’s as simple as saying Bat-da-hon-da, should have bought a Yamaha.” I mean, it’s a kind of…if you say that really
fast, Bat-da-hon-da, should have bought a Yamaha, you know…wow, it’s very easy to
falsify. You…you…you can’t falsify a miracle, you
can’t falsify anything as easily as you can falsify that. And everybody can talk in gibberish. I think that’s what started the Movement and
you do remember, Phil, that in the early years of that Movement, they attached the arrival
of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer to that experience. PHIL: Right. JOHN: So that became the foundational kind
of identifying mark of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and once that got embedded in
the Movement, it just stuck. And again, it’s easy to fabricate. People in crowds like this all stand up and
speak that kind of gibberish and they get away with it because there’s no way to measure
the reality of it. PHIL: Although there would be…this goes
back to my comment Charismatics not wanting their miracles…they’re not subject to verification. That gift of all gifts would be pretty easy
if it were genuine to verify. JOHN: Well that’s why they had to change the
definition of it. They said at the beginning that it was Chinese
and they were speaking languages. You remember what Charles Fox Parham did,
he started sending people to the mission field and said they don’t need to learn language
and they all arrived in the mission field and said, “We’re here and we can speak the
language supernaturally.” And, of course, the whole thing collapsed
in a massive embarrassing scam because they couldn’t. PHIL: That’s a sad part of the story because
some of those people who literally sold everything and went to the mission field really believe
because Parham had told them, you know, you’re speaking Chinese. They believed they would be able to do that
when they got to the field. JOHN: And now we know that what they say is
not any language at all and so now the shift has been made that this is not a language,
this is a private prayer language. And they call it the tongues of angels, twisting
the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13, the tongues of angels. And then they come back and they’ve said this
to me many times, “You’re blaspheming the Holy Spirit if you deny us this.” I had a very interesting experience. I was…I was invited to speak at a huge event
a few years back now, held by Charismatic men. They had a huge men’s movement, it was started
by a guy named Demas Shecarion(?) you remember that name. Massive big men’s movement. And they asked me to come and speak and I
was surprised, really surprised because I had written Charismatics, Charismatic Chaos,
but somebody had told the leaders that I had gotten the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That I had spoken in tongues. Somebody told the leaders so they invited
me to come thinking I was going to give my testimony. I didn’t know they thought that. I thought they wanted the right view of tongues. So I went and I…I…Jay Letty was with me
at the time and I said, “I can’t believe they’re letting me do this.” The place packed, and they’re going to let
me get up and tell the truth about tongues, I can’t believe they’re letting me do that. So I got up and I started into it. I opened the Word of God and I got about ten
minutes into this thing and a guy grabbed me by the back of the coat and pulled me out
of the podium and away from the microphone. And I said, “Well I really wasn’t through.” And he said, “Oh yes you are.” And that’s the only time I’ve literally been
yanked out of a pulpit away from a microphone. PHIL: It’s a shame they didn’t get a word
of knowledge about your real position. JOHN: Oh yeah, that is right. Well, and the sad part of it is I went to
the moderator of the meeting afterwards and I said, “You know, I just want to ask you
one question.” He got up and told everybody in the building
to pray that I would receive the gift of tongues there on the spot. That the Spirit would overwhelm me with tongues. Of course it didn’t happen. But afterwards I said to this guy, I said,
“Could I ask you just a simple question? What…this is the coordinator and director
of the whole meeting, I said…what is your confidence that you’re going to be in heaven. Tell me. Why do you think you’re going to be in heaven?” He said, “Well, you know. You don’t know. There’s this long staircase and at the end
there’s this guy at the door and you hope he lets you in.” My heart was grieved and I explained to him
the gospel. He was the head of the event. He had no clue what the gospel was. This is my fear for this movement, that there
are just millions of people across the planet caught up in this who have no idea what the
gospel is at all. PHIL: In fact, one of the things I often hear
from critics of your position, cause I was reviewing some of the negative reviews of
Charismatic Chaos recently, that book came out twenty-two years ago, and one of the things
that immediately was said was, “How can John MacArthur criticize this movement which has
four hundred million followers worldwide?” Then just a couple of weeks ago we posted
something on the Grace To You blog and Rodney Howard Brown who is a famous Charismatic whacko
saw it… JOHN: He’s famous for starting the laughing
revival. PHIL: Yes, he calls himself the Holy Ghost
bartender because he specializes in getting people drunk on the Spirit supposedly. And he wrote a piece of his Facebook page
criticizing you and one of the things he said was, “How can John MacArthur criticize this
Movement that has eight hundred million followers worldwide.” So if those numbers are correct, and I don’t
know where they come from, the Charismatic…the size of the Charismatic Movement has doubled
in the twenty-two years since you wrote Charismatic Chaos. Talk about that. I mean, if what you’re saying is true, that
is a cause for concern, not rejoicing. JOHN: Well there’s no question in my mind
that the Movement’s doubled in twenty years, there’s no question. People want a religious experience. This isn’t faith, this is doubt looking for
proof. This is ignorance looking for some kind of
subjective validation, some kind of feeling. It’s an easy sell cause you’re promising people
miracles. So what are you doing? You’re…most of those eight hundred million,
by the way, are in the Third World because they’re the most destitute and they’re the
most desperate. PHIL: In fact the way I describe it what John
is, it’s not faith, it’s gullibility married to superstition in many cases. JOHN: It is. Well it’s, you know, promise people health,
promise people wealth, promise them a spiritual experience, promise them God, promise them
the power of God, promise them heaven, promise them all these things and there’s a level
of desperation that is going to cause people to run to that. There’s also the idea that this is a circus
that they can be a part of. Life is simple. Life is humble. Life doesn’t have any supernatural character
to it for the world. Life is a drudgery kind of experience for
people, and this is a kind of experience that transcends everything. Most people conduct their lives in a sort
of modest way and now they can act like fools publicly. I mean, all the wrong appeals are there. And so, you know, if they were selling personal,
private, humble, brokenness and contemplation, they wouldn’t get a crowd…they wouldn’t. They’re selling the outrage of it all, the
brashness of it all, the wildness of it all, the unfetteredness of it all, the letting
go of everything kind of thing. And with all of the promises of things that
can’t be delivered but the very things that people desperately want. PHIL: One other point that needs to be made
too is if it’s true that there’s anywhere near eight-hundred million Charismatics in
the world, those very few relatively few handful of men who would be on the same page with
us doctrinally are an infinitesimal minority. They are not the mainstream. They’re the fringe. JOHN: Oh no. They’re the fringe and, you know, they accuse
me of always talking about the fringe of the Movement. They’re the fringe of the Movement. They’re the little tiny fringe. When I talk about the aberrations and the
bizarre behavior and the false teachers, you know what it is? It’s a religious Ponzi scheme, the guy at
the top gets rich. That’s what it is. All the money goes to the top, all the money
just goes to the top. I mean, these are schemers. They will send money to people from anonymous
sources so that those people can give a testimony that they got money from an unexpected place
so they can feed and fuel the fire to scam the rest of the people. It’s a Ponzi scheme. Some of the people get the money and that
keeps the thing flying. But…that has become the norm. That has become the norm. What you see on TV, we’ll talk about this
next time, has become the norm. These guys are the fringe. And I would go one step beyond that, and I
made a little video for our website on this, I know there are men who are pastoring Pentecostal
Charismatic churches who love the Lord and who preach the gospel and want to honor the
Lord and they’ve been raised in this and it’s what they know and it’s all they know and
it’s the realm in which they live and move. And they would take our view of some of the
aberrations and they would deny those things. And my word to them is, if you’re in that
group then join me in discrediting the people that are dishonoring Christ and deceiving
the world on this. You can’t say we’re not among them without
standing up and condemning them. I mean, if that’s how you really feel, then
you’ve got to take on that responsibility for the sake of the truth and the church and
the Lord. PHIL: Yeah, whatever positive fruit there
is from the Pentecostal Movement, or the Charismatic, the conservative, you know, I would say branch. It’s not even big enough to twig of the Charismatic
Movement, whatever positive fruit there is comes from their commitment to Scripture and
they’re preaching the gospel…not the Charismatic gifts or whatever. JOHN: Right. And look, there are people in that Movement
who believe in Christ and are Christians and preach the gospel and people get saved by
hearing the gospel. But that makes it all the more important that
because they have the truth, they be accountable for all the truth. That, I think, is another minority, however. I think that’s another minority. I think the vast multiple millions of people
caught up in that Movement are caught up in something that has really nothing to do with
Christ and the gospel. PHIL: Now you’ve become kind of a lone voice
in this whole issue. You…I think your first series on the Charismatic
Movement, as far as I can tell, was 1971. You preached on that issue in 1971 for the
first time. Then you did an extended series in 1975 which
became the basis for the book The Charismatics which was published, I think, in 1978 or there
about. Then it was 1992 when Charismatic Chaos came
out. So if you follow the trail of this, it’s like
every five or at the very most ten years, you’ve dealt with this issue. But it’s been 22 years since Charismatic Chaos
and in that time… JOHN: I apologize. PHIL: Well, in that time it’s almost become
politically incorrect even to touch this issue. It’s… JOHN: Well…and that’s a very important observation. Look, Benny Hinn was talking about me one
night on TBN with Paul Crouch and he said, “If I had my way, I’d take out my Holy Ghost
machine gun and blow his brains out.” Okay, that’s how they feel. I get that. I know that. I’ve been excoriated by many of them. That doesn’t have any effect on me other than
to raise my concern for them and for the inroads they have. But they have been very, very effective in
silencing the evangelical world. They’ve been very effective in doing that. And when we were having these discussions,
you and I and Nathan talking about it’s time for this book, we did a little bit of research
and I think we came up with the fact that in the last eight or ten years there’s been
one small book written in evangelical press to address this Movement. You see, the only way they ever could have
gained what they gained was to silence those with sound theology. And how did they do that? How did they pull it off? Well they pulled it off by talking about Jesus
and His death and resurrection and the cross enough and often enough to gain the ground
they needed to be accepted as Christians. And then the message shifted to loving us,
and let’s have love, and let’s have unity. And you can remember those years when it was
all about unity, don’t be divisive, don’t be divisive. I can remember so many times being hammered
by these people as being divisive. I was called a heresy hunter. I was shattering the body of Christ. I was breaking the unity of Christ. I was…I was doing everything I could to
make sure Christ’s prayer in John 17, that they may be one, Father, was not getting answered. And this kind of divisiveness was destroying
the body of Christ and it was ruining the testimony of the church. That was a relentless mantra coming from the
leaders of the Charismatic Movement. And people just caved in to the pressure of
tolerance. And the evangelical Movement caved in to that. And then eventually it became a non-issue. In fact, I hadn’t thought about it but it
has been twenty-two years. This book…when this book comes out, this
book is going to get a reaction in the Charismatic Movement among those leaders in the Movement
who will have to face the book. But it may be an equally great shock to the
evangelicals who may be outraged that I would have said the things that I am saying…. PHIL: Because they think we’ve sort of all
declared a truce from this issue. JOHN: Yeah…well yeah, you know, love trumps
all. Truth isn’t the issue. PHIL: In fact, people ask me all the time
if your attitude has changed on the Charismatic issue. In my judgment, you’re saying the same thing
now that you said back in 1971. JOHN: No, my attitude has changed, it’s worse
now than it was. PHIL: Our attitude is worse, or the Movement
is worse. JOHN: No, my attitude is, I have more passion
to try to deal with this Movement. You know, Phil, I live for the truth, it’s
all about the truth. The truth is everything to me. The truth of the Word of God and all misrepresentations
of the Bible, all aberrations, all lies, all deception, all false teaching, all false teachers
grieve me and now that there are more of them and the lies are more successful, it escalates
the grief. It is of profound concern to me. And yeah, you’re right, the evangelical world
has basically laid down arms, you know, in the name of love…we’re not going to make
an issue out of this, and so it’s a Trojan Horse. They got into the city and they got into the
city and opened up the horse and the troops took over. And now you can’t…you essentially can’t
bring it up. For example, going back, Moody published the
original Charismatic book, serialized that book in a magazine they had called “Moody
Monthly,” and put the book on the cover and they literally serialized the book. The book was in the magazine month after month
after month after month. And it wasn’t too many years until when I
made a comment negatively on the Charismatic Movement on a radio program, Moody removed
it from their radio network. That’s the same institute. Their theology didn’t change. Their entire perspective of tolerances in
the evangelical community changed. I went from being front cover to being censored. PHIL: Yeah, the whole evangelical culture
has changed. When I was in Bible college, I had just a
few books and I remember being,…I was very interested in the Charismatic Movement, because
my best friend in junior high and high school, his father was a fairly well-known Assemblies
of God, faith-healing evangelist. He would do crusades overseas and heal people
of deafness and so on. In fact, he’s featured in Dick Mayhue’s book,
The Healing Promise. Dick critiqued this man and yet he was one
of the better Charismatics in the sense that I think his doctrine was generally sound,
he understood and preached the gospel and all of that. But, then he came down with a case of fatal
bone cancer and it was a drawn-out very painful death and his son, my best friend, abandoned
the faith because he watched his father die this agonizing death and decided that his
whole life had been a lie, including what he said about the gospel. And it was about the time my friend was abandoning
the faith that I became a Christian. And I’m trying to balance my exposure to the
Charismatic Movement, I grew up in Tulsa and so I read a lot on this subject. And I had on my bookshelf probably eight or
ten volumes that had been published in a five-year span critiquing the Charismatic Movement. Since Charismatic Chaos in 1992, I can’t think
of a major critique of the Charismatic Movement. JOHN: There has not been. PHIL: And yet, the phenomena coming out of
that Movement almost starting in 1992, just became bizarre. That was the launching point of the Toronto
blessing, and then the Pensacola Revival, and people getting their teeth filled with
gold and all sorts of bizarre things that… JOHN: Having their washing machines healed
and stuff. You know, what’s so interesting is that the
Chinese have picked up on Charismatic Chaos, that’s 1992 and they see that as current and
relevant to the Movement today. And I said to you, “Why didn’t they get Strange
Fire? They want Charismatic Chaos.” They see that book as addressing…nothing
has changed. I was pointing out some bizarre things. There are things now that are even more bizarre. You know, going back in my experience, when
I was a young boy, my Dad was a preacher. There appeared on the scene in our little
world in Hollywood where he pastored a guy named Marjo(?) Courtner(?). Marjo was a boy preacher who turned out to
be a fraud. A movie was made about him, my Dad was actually
in the movie because the news people came and interviewed him. My Dad said he’s a fraud, he’s a fake. It showed him sitting on a bed after one of
his meetings, throwing money in the air. I mean, he was a total con man. And I saw that. I was familiar with A.A. Allen who was a slobbering drunk who had all
these tent revivals everywhere. So I saw that because my Dad was an evangelist
and a pastor, and I was exposed to that. You will remember, we had a meeting right
up here in my office with the leading prophet,… PHIL: Paul Cain(?) JOHN: Paul Cain(?) the leading prophet. He actually had been an associate pastor over
in London… PHIL: Yeah, he was brought on staff, I don’t
know whether… JOHN: That’s Lloyd-Jones’ church after Lloyd-Jones
was long gone. And he was deemed the prophet of all prophets,
everyone looked to him as a prophet. He sat in the office with us and with Jack
Deare(?) who was a professor at Dallas Seminary who had gotten in to the Vineyard, and Jack
had brought him to prove to us…to introduce us to a legitimate prophet. And he was really bizarre and he was weird. And he was saying things that seemed incoherent. And he was acting like a drunk guy. And Jack explained to us that this is how
he is when he’s in the Spirit. And it wasn’t long after that, that he was
discovered and openly admitted years of homosexuality and alcoholism. He was nothing but a drunk. And all the prophets who looked to him as
the supreme prophet couldn’t even tell that he was a fake. So what value does that kind of prophet have? The whole thing is just loaded with that kind
of… PHIL: And he was accepted and embraced by
some of the best men in the Charismatic Movement. JOHN: Well, he was even affirmed as a true
prophet by John Piper. PHIL: Yeah. Yeah, Piper and Grudem and Jack Deare. JOHN: So this is why it’s so important to
address this and, you know, we want to help you with this because we’ve got…I don’t
know how many people, four thousand some people coming, we’re trying to hurry, get the gym
done so we can put them there and put them in the chapel and put them here from all over
the world. So this is your kind of mini-conference. But we don’t want just this to be an event
that happens here. Nobody cares what happens on Roscoe Boulevard,
but we want this to touch the world, and get carried back everywhere. And so the book is going to come out, but
you will be the first to see and get an opportunity to have the book. PHIL: Well, the Evangelical Movement is changing
and embracing more and more of the Charismatic Movement. At the same time, evangelicalism is losing
its historic evangelical distinctives. Do you think there’s a connection? Do you think there’s a cause and effect relationship? JOHN: Oh, that’s a great question, Phil. There is a cause and effect I think. We gave up fighting the battles of doctrine
under the onslaught of the Charismatic Movement. We lost the war there. That’s where evangelicalism should have taken
its stand. It should have taken its stand against these
bizarre unbiblical aberrations. We refuse to do that in the name of love. So love trumped everything, a pseudo love,
a kind of undiscerning sentimentality. And anybody who takes issue with that is considered
divisive. So the push for tolerance won the day, so
watch carefully what happens. The evangelical church has become tolerant. Tolerant of what? You name it and I will tell you what the next
one will be–homosexuality. We have been softened up. We have given up the fight. We have basically rolled over in the name
of love and now I pick up an article and it says, and I’m sure Jerry Falwell would roll
over in his grave, that a student at Liberty Seminary is an open homosexual, that there
are gay groups on Christian college campuses, that the church needs to accept homosexuals
and accept even homosexual marriage. This is going to come like a flood. It’s going to come in the culture, but we
would expect that, wouldn’t we? What…people said to me, “What about the
Supreme Court decision?” Well what you expect them to say? There is no standard of morality, what are
they going to say? The Bible says it’s a sin. They’re not going to say that. That’s the state, that’s the secular world. All they’re going to say in a democracy is,
“Whatever the people want?” That’s even going to be gone very soon and
the courts are going to decide everything that’s moral. The Congress can make laws and the President
can make executive orders. But only courts rule in ethics and morality. And so all moral decision is going to fall
to the courts. There won’t even be popular referendums anymore
like Proposition 8 because one judge in Northern California throws it out. So why are people going to spend a fortune. By the way, Prop 8 was an effort of the Mormon
church and they spent millions and millions of dollars to get the marriage act passed. One judge threw it out. In the future, judges will make moral decisions. And judges will be the appointees of the people
in power. This is going down fast. How do I feel about that? I expect the world to act like the world. What I don’t expect is the church to act like
the world. I don’t really care what the government does,
that’s the world. And if it’s a democracy, then whatever the
people want is what they’re going to do. And if it’s a monarchy, whatever the King
wants is what they’re going to do. So…but that’s the world. Whatever they want to do, they will do. What I’m concerned about is what the church
does. What we do in the name of Jesus Christ. And when we so hurriedly abandon the biblical
pattern and when a Christian institution with tens of thousands of students says we want
to work with the students here who have gender identity issues. The church is caving in. PHIL: You lead to one other question that
I want to ask you next time when we talk about the whacko element and TBN and the heresies
that have been spun off out of the Charismatic Movement, I’m going to ask you…do you think
there’s anything inherent and what is it in Charismatic theology that sort of breaks down
morality and sound theology, and all of that and what. JOHN: You mean you have to wait to answer
that question? PHIL: Yeah…yeah…yeah. I’ll ask you in two weeks and I want you to JOHN: Well the answer is yes. PHIL: Yes, and you can explain what it is. Let me ask a different question though just
to close, cause we’re running out of time. JOHN: I’m going to be frustrated for two weeks. PHIL: Well we’ll all come back to hear what
you’re going to say. One more question that I think may take you
a minute to answer, but…it’s that, you know, we all agree that the gospel is the central
essential truth of Christianity movements like Together for the Gospel, the Gospel Coalition
and all. I mean, we support basically their aim, but
there is a concern, isn’t there, about how the gospel-centered emphasis has tended to
further open the doors to Charismatic extremism because…and what we would want to clarify
is when we say the gospel is the essential and other things are secondary, we’re not
saying issues like this are not important at all, or that they shouldn’t be debated
or discussed, right? JOHN: Well let me say it this way. This is a divine issue. This is an issue of truth. Look, could we say well it’s wonderful that
we all honor Jesus, but we don’t need to worry about honoring the Holy Spirit. Really! You can’t make that kind of distinction. And I think it is, this goes back to the question
that I won’t answer fully, the Charismatic Movement has created a false paradigm for
spirituality and a false paradigm for spirituality doesn’t restrain the flesh, so all hell breaks
loose behind the scenes. That’s why all the scandals rage in that Movement. PHIL: Yeah, it doesn’t always stay behind
the scenes, does it? JOHN: No it doesn’t, but it’s going on all
the time because it’s a false paradigm. You aren’t spiritual because you jabber in
non-language, that’s not how you conquer sin in your life. Many of them aren’t even saved, let alone
Spirit controlled, Spirit filled, driven toward biblical obedience, being sanctified by seeing
the glory of Christ. It’s a false paradigm like legalism can’t
restrain the flesh, neither can that restrain the flesh. And so behind the façade of what you see
is wretchedness and the same, you know, whited sepulcher full of dead men’s bones. PHIL: Well we’ll leave it at that for this
week and I’ll see you right up here two weeks from now. JOHN: Okay. Thank you. (Applause) PHIL: Let’s close as we always do in prayer. Lord, we’re thankful for Your Word, for the
clarity with which it speaks truth. We pray, Lord, that You would give us a conviction,
a commitment to that truth that’s unshakeable by any feeling or our own imaginations or
anything like that but anchor us through Your Word to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Lordship. We pray that You would use the truth of Scripture
and that alone to conform us to the image of Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.

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