Burning on the Strange Pyre

strange-pyreWhen I first read MacArthur, I was enamored. I was young, and my no means spiritually mature; to me, MacArthur appeared to give real direction. His warnings fell on ready ears. Discernment—I was young, and naïve, but I was smart enough to know that I needed discernment. And MacArthur’s work was designed to capitalize on this knowledge. He and other teachers like him have helped to raise a generation of conservative Christians who, practicing what they believe to be “discernment,” have insulated themselves from being influenced by—well, you name it. Anti-megachurch, anti-charismatic, anti-seeker-friendly, anti-topical-sermons, anti-emergent-church, anti-Arminian, anti-dynamic-translations, anti-Rob-Bell, anti-Harry-Potter, anti-anti-anti. A generation of anti-s.

And yes, of course, anti-Messianic. It’s new, it’s weird, it’s different, it’s not what we grew up with, and it doesn’t square with the doctrines on which we have built our on theological superstructure. If Messianic Judaism is right, we’re wrong, and how could we be wrong?

So when I read Messianic Jewish teacher Michael Brown’s appeal to John MacArthur to cease and desist his campaign against the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, my first thought was, “Of course—if MacArthur doesn’t come to his senses, we’re next.”

-Pastor Jacob Fronczak
“Strange Fire & The Gifts of the Spirit”
FFOZ Blogs

Note: It’s Wednesday evening and I just came from my weekly meeting with my Pastor. He gave me his perspective and understanding of the Strange Fire conference which was significantly different than what I’ve been reading in the blogosphere recently. I wrote this blog post a few days ago, and will likely revisit the topic in the near future for the sake of being fair. In the meantime, this is my initial response to the information I previously received and more importantly, my impression of how the different elements in the body of Christ have been treating each other.

I was only marginally aware of the Strange Fire conference before today (as I write this) and only because I previously had some small encounter with the thoughts and writing of John MacArthur, both through my Pastor and in Sunday school. I’ve struggled with MacArthur before and I doubt I’ll ever become his biggest fan.

Then last Sunday, as he was introducing his sermon, my Pastor, from the pulpit, mentioned MacArthur, the “Strange Fire” conference (which got my attention), and how he generally commended it.

My blood ran cold for a second, but then I got lost in a flurry of note-taking as Pastor launched into his sermon, and I didn’t look back. Religious conferences come and go, and I thought MacArthur’s would simply fade into the background noise and finally degrade into static.

But then I read Jacob Fronczak’s commentary on the MacArthur conference. It’s not that I’m writing this as yet another critic of MacArthur or “Strange Fire.” Fronczak, Michael Brown, and many other people far more worthy than I and closer to the issues involved have already done that (I should say at this point that while I’m not particularly attracted to Pentecostalism, I don’t feel I have to lead a “holy crusade” against them, either).

But when Jacob wrote, “Of course—if MacArthur doesn’t come to his senses, we’re next,” it struck a chord.

Oh, some background first.

This is where the phrase “strange fire” comes from:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Leviticus 10:1-2 (NASB)

Christian and Jewish scholars and theologians have been debating for centuries as to exactly why Nadab and Abihu were killed and what the “strange fire” was that they attempted to offer before the Lord. No one really knows for sure, although I don’t doubt there are a few people out there who are certain they do. In the realm of religion, there are always those people out there who think they have all the answers set in concrete on matters so complex or mysterious, that it is reasonably unlikely or even impossible for them to be that sure.

michael-brownNext stop, John MacArthur writes another book. This one is called Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. According to Amazon, it isn’t available for purchase until November 12th, so I suppose the conference anticipates the book’s publication (I could be cynical and suggest that part of MacArthur’s motivation for the conference was to drum up mass market interest to sell more copies of his book, since controversy sells like proverbial hotcakes, but I digress, since only God knows the heart).

And then we come to Michael Brown’s final attempt to appeal to MacArthur prior to the actual conference.

I received an advanced review copy from the publisher; all quotes here are from the Introduction and should be checked against the final text of the book.

In fact, he claims that leaders of the movement are “Satan’s false teachers, marching to the beat of their own illicit desires, gladly propagate his errors. They are spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.”

This is divisive and destructive language based on misinformation and exaggeration, as Pastor MacArthur attributes the extreme errors of a tiny minority to countless hundreds of thousands of godly leaders worldwide.

I have worked side by side with some of these fine men and women myself, precious saints who have risked their lives for the name of Jesus, giving themselves sacrificially to touch a hurting and dying world with the gospel, literally shedding their blood rather than compromising their testimonies, yet an internationally recognized pastor calls many of them “Satan’s false teachers . . . spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.”

May the Lord forgive him for these rash words.

MacArthur didn’t take the expressed concerns of Brown or any of his other critics lying down:

“In response to this conference, there have been some attacks, and we’ve been unable to escape them,” MacArthur said to the more than 3,000 attendees at the conference Friday night. “I just want to address those, because I do think that it’s important to answer the criticisms that have come.”

-Reporter Melissa Barnhart
quoting John MacArthur in the article
“John MacArthur Responds to Critics Who Believe His Strange Fire Conference Is Divisive, Unloving”

I suppose I could make a case for the pot calling the kettle black since one good “attack” deserves another, but again, that would be unfair. To continue:

“This is for the true church, so that they can discern; so that they can be protected from error; and so that they can be a source of truth for others outside the church,” he said, adding that his book, “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship,” can withstand the most intense scrutiny, when measured against the word of God in the Bible.

Judge NotThis is similar to the rationale behind why we have laws requiring that people in cars must wear seat belts and people riding bicycles must wear helmets…the authority is acting for our own protection.

In his blog post for First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), Jacob Fronczak commented on this point:

The stated reason is always that it is for the good of the faith. MacArthur’s crusade against Pentecostalism claims to be based on reasoning similar, if not identical, to this: “After years of prayer, fasting, and serious searching of the Scriptures, undertaken due to a genuine concern for the purity of the Christian faith, we have been led by the Holy Spirit to the sobering conclusion that everything you think the Holy Spirit is doing in your life is actually the work of the devil.”

I don’t think we attack each other because we are insecure. John MacArthur is very secure in his beliefs. Nor do I think we attack each other out of genuine hate or malice. I think we attack each other because we enjoy it. We like to fight, and we like to win. We like to make ourselves look good at someone else’s expense. We like to be right, and we like it even better when someone else has to be wrong.

I think this is probably what the Bible calls pride. The unwillingness to admit that we could be wrong and someone else could be right. The unwillingness to give an inch for the sake of another person, even another believer.

“purity of the Christian faith?” Oh my! I can’t even begin to tell you how I’m viewing this statement.

Let me stop here for a moment. Like I said before, I’m not really “going after” MacArthur or his “Strange Fire” book or conference. Unlike Brown, I didn’t receive an advance copy of the book, and I have no idea what actually happened at the conference, so I have no basis upon which to say anything like “John MacArthur is wrong about such and thus.”

But I do have a concern. Under the guise of “revealing truth” and “protecting believers from error,” it becomes acceptable and even desirable to “go after” other religious groups, other denominations within the Christian Church (big “C”), other individuals associated with the denominations brought “under the gun.” It becomes acceptable and even desirable to take the failings of some individuals associated the denomination “under the gun” and to generalize those specific incidents to the entire denomination, painting everyone belonging to that group with an exceptionally broad brush.

rev-john-macarthurIf someone like “little ol’ me” writes a blog post that is critical of an individual, a group, a denomination, or an entire religion, maybe a dozen people at best will pay attention and respond one way or another…and that’s on a good day. When someone like John MacArthur writes a book and holds a conference, lots and lots of people, Christians and just about anyone else interested in what the Church (big “C”) is up to, will pay attention.

It’s a foregone conclusion that MacArthur has no doubts whatsoever that he’s right in an absolute sense. The quote of his words above tells us that he believes his viewpoint is completely backed up in scripture. Never mind that scripture has more than one possible interpretation and even more than one highly likely interpretation, hence the (seemingly) millions of variations on Christianity we see in the world today.

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

-Martin Niemöller
found at Wikiquote

Before you become too upset, no, I’m not comparing John MacArthur to a Nazi. Relax. I am drawing this parallel because some of the darkest moments in the history of Christianity have been when we’ve “gone after” others who were not like us. The Church may not employ brute violence, torture, maiming, and murder as its tools anymore, but we must now ask ourselves when does “expressing truth” become slander? When does “correcting error” become a lack of love for a fellow disciple of Christ? When do we commit cruelty while hiding beneath the thin veneer of kindness?

In my past experience with the “Hebrew Roots” movement, I met more than a few people who left the Church (big “C”) due to real or perceived injustices of other Christians against them. Some of these people had nothing good to say about Christians, Christianity, and their general church experience. They called the Church “Babylon.” They called the Church “apostate.” They called the Church “heretical.” They said they were telling “the truth.” They said they were trying to “correct error.”

They simply weren’t internationally famous Pastors and authors who could publish books backed up scrupulously by scripture, and the hold large conferences to draw attention to their opinions…fortunately.

Jacob Fronczak and for all I know, Michael Brown have their opinions about why John MacArthur is doing something like this (besides the reasons MacArthur himself gives). I have no idea. I could guess, but that guess would be based on very little information, so I’ll refrain.

Heart-on-FireJohn MacArthur, for all the press he’s currently getting (this will pass in a moment…the media and the public are fickle) is just one man and he has just one opinion. Lots of lots of “famous Christians” have stirred the pot over the years, upset a lot of people, and then faded into the woodwork (I can’t remember the last time James Dobson incited any significant upset in the media).

But the impression all this leaves me with is that some of the different members of the body of Christ have a hunger to eat the other members alive.

Although I attend a church that is part of normative Christianity, my personal beliefs are hardly “normatively Christian.” Anyone who has read more than one or two of my blog posts can figure that out. I know that as an individual, I’m insignificant and fall well below anyone’s radar, especially someone as famous as John MacArthur (thankfully).

But has it occurred to any of these firebrand Christian leaders out there that God is watching? Don’t they imagine that God has His own viewpoint on any of these matters of controversy? Do they think that Jesus Christ will personally approve of them and all their activities when the moment of judgment comes? Do they believe that their interpretation of scripture is so ironclad that their is no room for them to be wrong?

MacArthur was quoted as saying:

“The broader Charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other doctrinal aberration in this modern day,” MacArthur added, noting that in chapter 12 of his book, he has written an open letter to his continuationist friends.

“…more theological error than any other doctrinal aberration in this modern day.”

Wow. That’s quite a statement. I have an opinion, too. I believe that when the Messiah returns he’s going to be a lot more Jewish than John MacArthur or anyone like him can possibly imagine. I believe the thing we call “the Church” now, that distinguishes itself from any stream of Judaism, will become a lot more like what it was in the days of James, Peter, and Paul. I believe it will be the faith of the Israelites, the Jewish people, and that Gentiles are allowed to join that Jewish stream without becoming Jews. I think a lot of Christians, on the day they come to that realization, will feel pretty humiliated and will need to seek repentance for any “cursing” they may have aimed at Israel, the Jewish people, Judaism, and the idea that “Jesus Christ” will probably want to be called “Yeshua HaMoshiach.”

(The Christianization of Acts 15 is only one small example of how the Church can experience itself as “right” and yet might still be wrong).

broken_spiritAnd I believe that all those people, including the really famous Christians, who were all so sure of themselves, who believed that scripture, as interpreted through all the traditions and presuppositions they held onto as “truth,” totally backed them up, will be shocked out of their socks.

I hope and pray on that day that I’ll at least be prepared to be shocked out of my socks and kneel before my Master in humility and brokenness. I think though, that kneeling and humility and brokenness will be more difficult for some believers to achieve than others. I hope John MacArthur won’t be one of them. I hope all of us, no matter who we are or in what stream of Christianity or other religious expression that points us to Messiah, Son of David we exist, will be ready to receive him on that day.

But we won’t be ready as long as the primary expression of our faith in Jesus Christ is to go on the latest “error” hunt. I even wonder if it might be better to be one of the hunted rather than the hunter? Is it better to ignite someone with your strange fire or to burn on the pyre of someone else’s judgment?

Be bold in what you stand for and careful what you fall for.

-Ruth Boorstin

You may be interested in a blog post written by Boaz Michael called Shaping the Way Spiritual Gifts are Expressed to view the journey of Rabbi Carl Kinbar from a Charismatic Conference to Messianic Judaism, and to see how spiritual gifts have been a meaningful and active force in Rabbi Kinbar’s life.




15 thoughts on “Burning on the Strange Pyre”

  1. Never Heard of MacArthur before… I guess, I’ll never spend a penny on any of his books, nor a minute in any of his Internet published articles.

  2. Just a few days ago you were asking: “When will being a Christian be enough?” It seems to me that folks like John MacArthur are pursuing exactly that question and defending their perception of “mere Christianity” as they challenge what they see as extraneous pursuits that are not central to being “enough” of a Christian. Now, it is certainly easy enough to identify excesses among Charismatics (perhaps these we should call Charismaniacs), and to throw out the baby of numinous experience with the dirty bathwater of human self-stimulation. But the question remains for Christians to answer “What is enough?”, which, of course, parallels the question of “What is true/correct?” The anxiety generated by both of these questions is only exacerbated by the challenge represented by Messianic Judaism, because if Jews are correct, despite two millennia of Christians trying to invalidate them, then Christians have a lot of re-thinking to do because they cannot rely on prior answers to these two questions. This is, of course, just as true for Charismatics as it is for Fundamentalists, Calvinists, Jesuits, or Franciscans. One means of trying to mitigate this discomfort is to pick some familiar status quo, hunker down, and defend one’s position with all possible vehemence by invalidating everyone else. The alternative of surrender and embracing new or long-forgotten truths is more difficult. And if C.S.Lewis is to be believed, there is never a condition that can be called “enough” because of a perennial call from on high to proceed “further up and further in”. Identifying in which direction this lies could well depend on a most ancient roadmap, whose authors were Jews motivated by the spirit of holiness.

  3. PL said: But the question remains for Christians to answer “What is enough?”, which, of course, parallels the question of “What is true/correct?” The anxiety generated by both of these questions is only exacerbated by the challenge represented by Messianic Judaism, because if Jews are correct, despite two millennia of Christians trying to invalidate them, then Christians have a lot of re-thinking to do because they cannot rely on prior answers to these two questions.

    This is part of what I was trying to communicate to my Pastor last night as well as at the end of today’s blog post. If we set aside the paradigms the various different religious streams in Christianity depend upon to understand the Bible and refactor everything through a Jewish matrix, so to speak, not only will we have a lot of re-thinking to do, but a lot of repenting.

    And if C.S.Lewis is to be believed, there is never a condition that can be called “enough” because of a perennial call from on high to proceed “further up and further in”. Identifying in which direction this lies could well depend on a most ancient roadmap, whose authors were Jews motivated by the spirit of holiness.

    A lot of the Jewish commentary I read about spirituality also talks about increasingly improving our relationship with God, drawing closer, going higher. However, most “systems” of theology come with built-in limitations that keep us in a box.

    @Alfredo: Up until a few months ago, I’d never heard of John MacArthur, either. Apparently he’s a “heavy hitter” in the fundamentalist Christian realm.

  4. At the end of the day and after all the discussions and debates, for me personally, it all boils down to if I profess to be a Follower of Yeshua, then it is reasonable for me to do as He did, which is clearly outlined in Scripture. Our hearts need to be changed to reflect His heart, our wisdom needs to be exchanged for Godly wisdom; and I personally need to surrender and submit to the examination and instruction by the Holy Spirit of all that is in me that is not like Yeshua. I must be willing to agree and cast it down – allow it to be dismantled – dying to self daily, so that Yeshua increases the more in me.

    This life is our opportunity to be prepared for eternity with Him, that the fruits of the Spirit are being made manifest in us, and accepting that we are indeed going to suffer in this world, as He suffered, be hated as He was hated. The tighter our walk of consecration, the more humble we will find we become. The more our temples are cleaned, the greater demonstration of the power and might of the Spirit in our lives for the sake of others. It is all about Him after all…for His glory and for His namesake.

    The nuances and mysteries contained in His Word continue to grow my reverence for Him and are teaching me more and more the consistencies and truths of His Word, attesting to His character, who He is, and who I am not. It is an awesome and wonderful gift to be able to be restored to what ELOHIM originally created, to be forgiven (and learning how to forgive others), freed from the bondage of sin and now because of Yeshua have the abiility and conviction to resist and fight sin within my members…pressing toward the high mark of our calling.

    Oh how I love the Torah, commandments, precepts and statutes that guide me in His perfect love that I might feast on them and be given the strength and the endurance to complete this race.

    Shalom to each of you.

  5. @py: That was pretty much my point when I wrote When Will Being a Christian be Enough. At the heart of our faith in the Messiah, who he is, what he has done for us, by God’s grace. Any disagreements and disunity we experience today will not be tolerated when the King ascends his throne in Jerusalem.

    @Judah: Thanks for the link. I’ve only had time to briefly scan the article, but I think it’s part of what I was trying to say to my Pastor last night. It’s not that I oppose pointing out error when it occurs, but we need to have the ability to do so without cutting other members of the body of Messiah to pieces. My Pastor says that’s not what MacArthur did, but I’ve yet to see a commentary that wasn’t critical of him and “Strange Fire.”

  6. Ok, before I read this as I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to Steve Brown talking about grace and thinking about the previous post on this subject. I wonder if those who are completely dogmatic about their position would have to say that heresy is the unforgivable sin? Because they act like it is.

    “Purity” of faith? “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

    At any rate, if the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t include “purity of faith”, but it does include love, joy, peace, etc., then what are we to say when we disregard the fruit for dogmatism?

    Yes, we are supposed to hold to certain beliefs, but I strongly believe that those beliefs are based on our relationship with God through the Messiah, not from certain reading (or misreading) of the scripture. Sure you can get “off doctrine” but what does that mean really? If you are walking daily with Him, how can you get off the path?

    Life is hard enough already without adding to our burdens by eating each other alive. Why oh why, will we continue to shoot our wounded and refuse to recognize that we are all wounded?

    Great post Jim!

  7. Thanks, Dree. As a supporter of the Messianic Jewish perspective on the Bible, I suppose I could be accused of being “off doctrine,” but as you and py have pointed out, we are all trying to walk sincerely with our God, even though we may not always agree with one another. It’s that connectedness with God, the desire to encounter Him, those moments when He allows us to sense His Presence, that drives us to dive further into the depths of the Bible and soar up into ever greater spiritual heights.

    They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

    Jeremiah 31:34

    In those days, we will no longer have these discussions and debates, for when God finally completes writing His Torah on all our hearts, we will all have an equal understanding of God, even greater than the prophets of old. Today, the best we can do, with all of our differences of opinion about theology and doctrine is to show up in the same room, each with our Bibles, and compare what we believe and where we find that in scripture.

    May Messiah come soon and in our days.

  8. “May Messiah come soon and in our days.”
    Amen and amen!

    I’ve been reading Revelation every week out loud; all of it. Takes about 1.5 hours. Lately I’ve been struck with the amount of times it says, and they did not repent. Yeshua wrote to 7 congregations and the message was the same: repent.

    You would think we would get the message.

    Keep writing, James. It gets us all thinking.

  9. I just re-read your blog in its entirety and hear the groaning of the Holy Spirit of how folks like MacArthur, no matter their rationale or motivation for doing what they’re doing, have failed to see the bigger picture – the sin problem, and ELOHIM’s answer, Yeshua. There’s much heinous sin that has been committed over mankind’s history in the name of Christianity, with the enslavement of Africans in the U.S. being one of the big ugly stains on our nation’s history.

    It is my prayer and hope that we can focus on what matters most to our Creator Elohim, repentance from our rebellion against Him, receiving His salvation, and allowing His guidelines and instructions for living to conform us into His image – “be holy as He is holy.”

    The two sons who offered the strange fire, were corrupt in their dealings and violated the ordinances and laws of the priesthood, and is a stern reminder to all of us the importance of our obedience to our Creator. I whole-heartedly agree with you that I too believe that we will discover that Yeshua the Messiah is more Jewish/Hebraic than most want to believe. I’d rather put my hopes in Him and the Word, than chance things with my own limited understandings. I personally cannot nor have not created a heaven or a hell to send anyone to, let alone an earth for mankind to live on. With that, I’m stepping away from the mike (microphone).


  10. John MacArthur has come after the Messianics, although it certainly isn’t his focus. But perhaps after he is tired of going after charismatics, he might decide to drum up another conference to support his latest (probably ghostwritten) book. Yes, I am a cynic too, but it is a result of experience with the religious marketplace. Sort of like after Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain conquered the Muslims, they decided to go after the Jews. So, as Jews, perhaps it is to our benefit if various Christian groups keep fighting each other so they will be so occupied they won’t come after us.

    Abraham Joshua Heschel said this: “… Man has often made a god out of a dogma, a graven image which he worshipped … He would rather believe in the dogma than in God … he may be ready to take other people’s lives, if they refuse to share his tenets …”

    And you can’t forget this pertinent comment by C.S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    The spirit of arrogance, and murder, comes from their idol Calvin, and perhaps Luther too. MacArthur can’t have people who speak in tongues killed as Calvin would have, but he can kick them out of his church. For all those who claim to wish we lived in a “Christian Nation,” which I sure don’t, this is what you would be looking at. Instead of being labelled, “Discernment Divas,” women who write articles critical would be burned as witches, as the Calvinists did in Colonial America, and the same people didn’t allow Jews to live in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

    Now Brown isn’t exactly honest, as he is protecting his own turf too, in his denial that weirdness, lack of discernment and exploitation pervades his camp too. I suppose MacArthur sees the various Word of Faith and prosperity teachers as more aberrant and dangerous than Historic Christian antisemitism?

    So, why should it be my (or your) battle? Let McDonalds and Burger King of the Christian Marketplace duke it out. The fact that we allow their disputes to become ours demonstrates that we never left the Babylon we so loudly decry. My husband gets all excited when his team is playing and feels he needs to follow their progress and root for them. But I don’t even care which teams are playing, much more who wins.

  11. “…comes from their idol Calvin, and perhaps Luther too.”

    That reminds me, from the pulpit, Pastor announced that next Sunday is Reformation Sunday (interesting that it is associated with “All Hallow’s Eve” or “Halloween”), an event I’d never heard of before that moment. It seems like there are a lot of post-Biblical holidays in the Church, and I’m aware that not all believers consider the authors of the Reformation the brightest of the stars in our “Heaven.”

    “Now Brown isn’t exactly honest, as he is protecting his own turf too…”

    To be fair Chaya, we all do that one way or another.

    “So, why should it be my (or your) battle? Let McDonalds and Burger King of the Christian Marketplace duke it out.”

    There are a few reasons why we should care. One is the quote of Martin Niemöller I inserted into the body of this blog post. The other is that, like it or not, we are all in the body of Messiah, error-driven people that we are. As Brown pointed out, it’s one thing to say someone is well-meaning but in error (even serious error) and it’s another thing entirely to call people a false prophets or a false teachers.

    But I don’t even care which teams are playing, much more who wins.

    If we are all members of the body of Messiah, and we see a particular member failing, we have a responsibility to help (not accuse, badger, or judge) that member get better for the health of the whole body and frankly, just because it’s the right thing to do.

    Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

    Leviticus 19:17

    The commentary about this mitzvot is that Jewish people (and I suppose by inference, the rest of us) have a responsibility when we see a brother about to make a mistake, to stop him and explain the error of his ways. True, he can tell us to “buzz off” and continue on his merry way, but we have made an effort to observe the mitzvot and tried to prevent that brother from harming himself and others.

    If we didn’t make the attempt, not only would it be assured that the brother would go on to sin, but that sin would be on us as well. We can’t just turn a blind eye and ignore what could be perceived as a “cry for help” when we had the power to intervene. It would be like seeing someone drowning in a lake and just ignoring them (letting them drown) rather than diving in after them or at least shoving a life preserver in their direction.

    The thing to try and understand about MacArthur and the others involved in “Strange Fire” is if they were (in a “Christianese” way) trying to perform this mitzvah relative to the Pentecostal church, or were their motivations more self-serving. If the former, then I probably owe them an apology. If the latter, then they are also a symptom of the disease they claim to be curing.

  12. I certainly agree with the “go to your brother,” although I am not sure who are brethren; that is something known only to heaven. This is something I have tried, and both camps are stuck in defense of their polemics. So, at this point, I wash my hands, although that doesn’t mean I won’t seek to help someone who desires help.

    Certainly all of us have our own biases, but I can claim that I am not beholden to anyone financially or socially so that my thinking and expression are constrained. Brown could help clean up his own camp, but by falsely claiming that offenders among his own are infinitesimal, rather than pervasive, he damages his own credibility. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they were just playing off each other for financial and other benefits either. There are false prophets, false teachers and those who cause little ones to stumble that Yeshua said would be better thrown into the depths of the sea with a stone tied around their necks in both camps.

    I would say Brown is the more conciliatory and is at least willing to dialogue with the great unwashed masses of social media. And I would say to his camp (not that they would listen) that when you beget an Ishmael, when you don’t wait on God to fulfill his promises in his own time and manner, and then you ask, as Avraham did, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before you,” don’t expect anything but a directive to send Ishmael away, that the son of the promise be protected from the abuse and influence of Ishmael.

  13. Coming a day late here…

    I attended a Pentecostal private school during my teen years. This particular slice of the Church did have a distinctly anti-intellectual bent, something that has always bothered me, and something that I have continued to see among the people I know who are of a Pentecostal bent. The emphasis is on experience and emotion, and that often comes at the cost of solid Biblical knowledge. There has to be room for both the head and the heart in the journey of faith.

    That being said, I can’t see how this conference does any good. MacArthur and others could very well hold a conference about my denomination and my theological bent – Wesleyan/Holiness/Arminian. Those in the Reformed camp often (in my experience) believe that those outside of the camp have, at best, a very flawed reading of Scripture and, at worst, aren’t truly saved at all. That kind of finger-pointing just makes people mad. I don’t know about you, but I don’t listen to other people very well when I feel like they’re just out to get me.

  14. Most people in any particular camp tend to believe that people in other camps have “a very flawed reading of Scripture.” That’s the nature of human beings. While I tend to be more intellectually driven in my faith (I spend more time studying than praying), I can see going to any extreme being a problem. If your entire relationship with God is based on emotions, you don’t really “know” God so much as are indulging in whatever makes you feel good. On the other hand, if all you do is “know” God in the “book-learning” sense, you probably have closed yourself off from actually encountering/experiencing God Spiritually.

    Christians, by definition, take on board a belief in the supernatural and spiritual, otherwise we can’t believe and invisible, intangible, and yet all-powerful, all-seeing God exists. If even the most intellectual Christian believes that the Holy Spirit is involved in drawing people to salvation and in interpreting scripture, then they (we) also must admit that God’s Spirit continues to be at work in our world today.

    Every time we develop a system, we put God in a box. We say God can do this but He can’t do that. So much for an all-powerful God who can do anything. Of course, Pentecostals put God in a box as much as Fundamentalists, it’s just a different box.

    I’m not saying that we can’t have theologies or doctrines and that there are no “rules” to understanding God, but we have to be careful not to become so attached to our particular “box” that we can’t even imagine God also “lives” in another person’s “box” as well.

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