I have read many of Pastor MacArthur's books, have done many of his bible study guides on my own, at home...he IS biblically based..as I have found reading his books before, you read with 1 finger where you are, in the book, and 1 finger on the extensive notes for that book chapter in the back of the book. You'll miss a lot, if you dont read his books this way. But, he always comes across, sounding almost angry and scolding in the language he uses, to get his points across to the reader. He presents God as a holy, just, righteous God, but to me, it sounds like God is just waiting for a weak, fallable human like me, to make a mistake and be judged for it! I dont feel the Father's love and mercy, when I have read Pastor MacArthur's books...I ask myself, 'why did I buy this book'? I did (and do) want to learn about the charismatic movement; but this comes across as harsh, angry and 'in your face'....
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Review 2 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
I have had friends involved in the word faith deception, Its new age with a christian label. When a high profile pastor from this movement can go on Opra and she agrees with everything he says, well that's a big problem! Look at the type of men God used in the reformation and what they stood for when it was life and death, but they must not have had enough faith because they sure didn't have The Best Life Now!
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Review 3 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
This is a very well written book that examines the charismatic movement, its doctrines, and many associated with it. Dr. MacArthur painstakingly examines every aspect that he can think of through the lens of scripture and warns of the dangers. The running theme of this book is this; What determines the work of the Holy Spirit; the rightly divided word of God or the experiences of individuals (sometimes devoid of scripture)? He documents some pretty strange activities and teachings from those in this movement and rightly uses scriptures to show that it is not only unbiblical, but dangerous. There are many that are presenting false doctrines and a false view of Jesus Christ to many in the church that will either lead them astray or make them comfortable in their apostasy. I know there are many negative reviews of this book, but many of them are based on emotions, a twisted understanding of scripture, and a misguided view that this book is just out to attack without a purpose. None of this is true. There are many people I know that have been hurt by these teachings and this book is a timely needed one as this type of teaching is now being sent to unsuspecting people in foreign countries. The book examines the work of the Spirit, false apostles and prophets, the misuse of tongues, as well as fake healing. He also encourages us later in the book to rediscover the true work of the Spirit shown in the scriptures. He documents many of these events and anyone with a computer can find much of this on Youtube in case they think Dr. MacArthur is misrepresenting the movement. I know since charismatics are named as such in the book, those in that movement or adhering to those doctrines will feel insulted or belittled because they'll think he's personally attacking them. This is not so since he cares about believers, the truth of God's word, and the representation of God. I highly recommend this book; it is not the perfect word of scripture, but it will certainly make you seek the scriptures (verse by verse and in context) to see if the things mentioned are true.
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Review 4 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
Just finished the book. After which I read all the reviews. I am in a couple of Bible studies in which the "continuation" issue has just started to raise it's ugly head, this being by fellow brothers whom I respect and admire. I began a deep research into the issue a few months ago (scripturally) and read a few articles, pamphlets, etc. to try to settle my unease. This book has helped me to do that. I am a sola guy, so everything must be measured against scripture. The totality of scripture. Not individual verses ripped out of context. I have never read MacArthur before. Not one single book. I was completely taken in by the authors ability to follow scripture to it's logical ends. As noted by some reviews, the tone can be a little harsh at times and I hope the author will take that into account in his next endeavor. But, the points made were Biblically correct if semantically abrasive. The biggest point out of the book that makes the most sense out of the state of evangelical Christianity today is that faith is now experiencial------ and that lead to all kinds of dangers. I can do acid and feel really close to God. Walk in His garden. Talk to Him, for real. But does that make it from the Spirit. NO!!!!!!!!!!! Experience has no relationship to TRUTH. If nothing else, MacArthurs beginning of the book, to encourage everyone to read it and generate their opinions base on Scripture, and Scripture alone, was worth the read. SOLA SCRIPTURA. That and nothing else.
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Review 5 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
J.Mac, has done a wonderful Job of Pointing out the errors of the Charismatic Movement, this book should be required reading for anyone going into ministry, it answers question that are bound to come up in most Churches sooner or later.
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Review 6 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
I rate this book as poor, because the information is not bibical correct. The scriptures given are total twisted around to fit the author's ideal's. This book is totally mis-leading. I was greatly disappointed in the book since I know the author is well know for his writing. His take on this book was totally incorrect and damaging.
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Review 8 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
General message is something I agree with. There is fraud and deception within the modern Charismatic Movement and Christians need to evaluate what is presented with what God says in the Bible.
Viewpoint is something I don't entirely agree with. I'm not a cessationist like MacArthur is. Does that make me right and him wrong, no. It just means I think spiritual gifts like prophecy and healing still happen. The biggest thing is, you HAVE to go back to what the Bible says. There are people in Muslim countries who say that Jesus came to them in a dream and said "I am who you are looking for" and they became Christians. I'm sorry but Satan wouldn't point people to God that way. So, I believe that dreams and visions and miraculous healings can still happen and have value. You just have to be really careful and evaluate everything based on Scripture.
It was really hard to check a box for "Would I recommend this book" because I would, but at the same time I wouldn't. I really do think the general message has value. But I don't think it will be beneficial to everyone, especially those who take writings from pastors as 100% truth. If that makes sense.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Review 9 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
I am shocked that Janet would allow this Dr. on her radio show to discuss the garbage in this book. I am sure the Lord is very sad that this man would write such lies and sell them to the world, although it does state in the end times some will be fooled by lies. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and His word is true and complete. Saying Christians are crazy because we believe the Lord touches us in ways the author does not believe does not make them false. I am not crazy and I believe in signs and wonders as the Bible states. I am sure the Lord is asking the author, Why did you lie to my children?
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Review 10 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
Yet another work written by John MacArthur, Strange Fire is a book that quite literally unleashes MacArthur's indignation upon the charismatic and Pentecostal communities. Pulling its title from the biblical account of Nadab and Abihu, the son of Aaron, who after being instructed by the Lord about offerings, instead chose to offer "strange fire" and were thus themselves consumed in the fire of the Lord's holy wrath (Leviticus 10:1-3). How does this pertain to the charismatic communities? MacArthur argues that His divine judgment was upon the two brothers because they dishonored the Lord, worshipping Him with contempt, and refusing to treat Him as holy. In like manner, MacArthur declares that the leaders and their flock are dishonoring the Holy Spirit with their ignominious behavior, reprehensible deceit and false teachings.
After giving a few praise testimonials from the general believing public in the beginning (vs praises from fellow well-known authors), MacArthur introduces the subject at hand (easily summarized with his subtitle, The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship) and then divides the book into three main parts. Part One focuses on the counterfeit revival, and uses Jonathan Edwards' 1 John 4, 5-point "distinguishing marks" to validate whether the current charismatic movement is a work of the Holy Spirit. (It should take only one guess to figure out MacArthur's conclusion). The second part focuses on some of their defining doctrines, namely present-day prophets and apostles, tongue speaking, and faith healing. In his third part, MacArthur focuses on the identity of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced in Scripture and discovering what His true work is in the lives of believers. MacArthur ends his book with a letter to continuationist believers (those that believe that the miracles and gifts identified in Acts and I Corinthians did not end with the Biblical apostolic era), "Voices from Church History", and his notes, topical and Scriptural indices.
Although I do not agree with MacArthur on some doctrinal minutiae, I admittedly enjoy reading some of his work, because he consistently includes indepth research on whatever is his focus, copious notes and citations, and an ubiquitous usage of Scripture. In relation to these points, Strange Fire did not disappoint. I was a bit taken aback, though not surprised, by his pointed and accusatory tone towards those within the Charismatic movement. Since I noticed it in a Christian mailing and knew it was out, I did a quick google search and saw that there has been much hoopla over his viewpoints already. My thoughts? Good for him. As Christians, we are called to shed light on areas of darkness and pastors especially are supposed to guard their flocks from ravenous wolves. Is he causing disunity within the body of the church? Perhaps, but I think no more then he does in any of his other works where his beliefs might differ from others within the evangelical world. The only difference with this one versus others I've read, is this book does not hide it's direct accusation from the beginning. Do I agree with him on everything he has written within it's pages? No, but I don't always. I think he tended to lump sum every Pentecostal and charismatic believer as being at fault, though I noticed on at least a couple of occasions he used the non-absolute of "most"... but this could easily be overlooked with page after page of disdain directed towards those within the charismatic world. I for one, know of several believers that consider themselves Pentecostal, and I would not even begin to question their faith as their lives are easily defined by the fruit they bear. But there is a danger of allowing this movement and it's well-known leaders (Hinn, Meyer, Osteen, Dollar, etc) to continue to be associated with evangelical Christianity. I remember in high school, a skit portrayal of Benny Hinn and one of his ill followers desiring healing. I had no idea who Hinn even was, but the skit still produced a hearty laughter from the audience. But to think that the secular society at large might view my beliefs and his as similar and a member of the Trinity as a source for entertainment? Oy vey. Or no wonder people are confused and see us as narrow-minded when outspoken leaders such as Joel Osteen declare that Christ is not the only way to heaven, and justification comes not only through faith, but through your pocketbooks. Que lastima. For that, I'm grateful for MacArthur's bold, albeit controversial book.
In his introduction, MacArthur states that his prayer is that the "Spirit Himself will give you a clear understanding of His true ministry in your own life, that you will embrace a biblical perspective on the Spirit and His gifts, and that you will refuse to be duped by [those which]... vie for our attention today." That was my prayer as I read its pages. And that was the result for me. Would I recommend it? Yes. It is an informational tool for those like me who had no idea the ubiquitious presence of this in the mainstream society today. But I think I would also tell them to in the end, look not on whether someone is "charismatic" or "pentecostal" or any other titular identity, but to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), and look to see if they are bearing the fruit associated with the work of the true Spirit of God (John 15, Galatians 5).
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Review 11 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
Mr. MacArthur is not the final authority on Scripture. Scripture is the final authority on Scripture. You don't need to be a Bible scholar to read your Bible. Jesus promised "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26
If you truly desire to grow spiritually and draw nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ, read your own Bible with a humble and open heart. Pray to God and ask HIM to reveal the truth to you. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7
Mr. MacArthur does not believe in the whole Bible, he believes parts of it has expired. There is nothing in Scripture to corroborate this error in thinking. On the contrary Scripture says:
"Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." Psalm 119:89
"All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." Psalm 119:160
"The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
"But the word of the Lord remains forever." And that word is the Good News that was preached to you." 1 Peter 1:25
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrew 13:8
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Review 12 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
This is an awesome read. Everyone that claims to be a Christian needs to read it and examine themselves to see if they or their church is part of this mass abomination... to see if in fact they are part of those grieving the Holy Spirit! And if they are to stand up and shout! May the Lord Bless John MacArthur for having the courage to write it... to warn all those that are blindly led by men that belong to the enemy of our Holy God.
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Review 13 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
"Strange Fire" is not only a great book to read, but it's material is very necessary for believers and charismatics alike. We need to understand the false doctrine of charismania, so that when we encounter it, we can recognize it.
John MacArthur is, by far, my favorite author ever. God has gifted him uniquely to expound the scriptures, and he has done a fantastic job of that in this book.
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Review 14 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
I enjoyed most of the book. The point of the book is what is the correct way to worship and praise GOD and the wrong way! The book talks about counterfeit worship and how it can offend GOD and Jesus. Yet the book talks about how real the trinity is and that is totally false. GOD is the father, Jesus is the son and the holy spirit is what they give us to help us worship him. They are not 3 in one like many people believe so the author is totally incorrect on this. Also the author got one thing wrong about Jehovah's witnesses, we do not believe the world will end in 2033, where did he get that? We do believe the world will end one day but we do not know when.
I enjoyed the quote on in the opening pages, the page xiii which says " it is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be the most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench and dishonor him...." The next quote I like on the next page is " They have become like the Israelites of Exodus, who compelled Aaron to fashion a golden calf while Moses was away." Another quote I like on page xvi that says " People proclaim a gospel of health and wealth, a message completely incompatible with the good news of scripture...The incredible irony is that those who talk the most about the Holy Spirit generally deny his true work."
On page 11 I like this quote " Some backing up their false teachings by twisting the scriptures or claiming new revelation from GOD". I also like the quote on page 12 " Many have over to ideas and practices which come straight from pagan religions, and large numbers of young and impressionable believers have been spiritually corrupted in the process." "Let each remind himself of the prohibition of taking anything away from scriptures or adding anything to it. "
One way to test who is the real religion ask yourself these 5 questions, Does the work exalt the true Christ, does it oppose worldliness, does it point people to the scriptures, does it elevate the truth, does it produce love for GOD and others? Another good reason to know if you have the true religion is to find Joy in it. "Their joy is found serving the Lord Jesus,and their love for GOD is seen in their obedience in him." (Pg 57)I like the quote on page 78 " It chooses bible verses selectively to fit a name-it-and-claim-it theory but it does not love Jesus." I like the quote on page 191 which reads " The spirit bestows his people with teaching and serving gifts for the building up of the church. "
All in all I enjoyed this book because the author really brings out the errors of those claiming to be people of GOD and how they trick you and how they really not of GOD at all.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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Review 15 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review and I was excited to dive into it. I had never read much of John MacArthur, but had heard lots of good things about him, so I thought this would be a great place to start. The book discusses the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Charismatic movement, and the prosperity gospel. Definitely a heavier topic that a lot of the books that I often read and review, but I was excited for the change. Jeremy said that it seemed right up my alley because it discussed history and theology which are two of my favorite things. I loved how much history was in the book and how well researched the topic was. The author discusses what the Holy Spirit does and doesn’t do and the dangers of twisting our thinking on probably the most misunderstood part of the Trinity. Though I always knew that I did not agree with the charismatic movement and the prosperity gospel the book was eye opening to what the dangers of the movement are and how it can distort the true Gospel. Though the authors viewpoints are strong, I feel he handled the material very well and also addressed those who are unsure of what the Holy Spirit’s role is today. I have been thinking alot recently about what “illumination” is and how God speaks to us as believers through His Word, and I loved this quote. “To be filled with the Spirit, then, is to yield our hearts to the authority of Christ, allowing His Word to dominate our attitudes and actions, His thoughts become the object of our meditation, His standards become our highest pursuit, and His will becomes our greatest desire. As we submit to God’s truth, the Spirit leads us to live in a way that honors the Lord.” So powerful.
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Review 16 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
To say that controversy surrounds the charismatic movement and moreover their theology would be a massive understatement. If you listen to leaders and pastors in the evangelical world, one of the most asked questions is to define a stance that stems from the validation or condemnation of the more popular spiritual gifts of healing and speaking in tongues. In his book Strange Fire, author and Pastor John MacArthur makes his stance clear on this debate through a methodical grasp on the modern charismatic movement.
As the book unfolds MacArthur chooses the story of Nadab and Abihu out of Leviticus 10 to introduce his case for a call of accountability in the church today. Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire because they lit the altar of the Lord with fire that was not from God, hence the idea of strange fire. In mishandling God's direct command to them by using means other than what God had provided to them, their careless and reckless manner of approaching God in worship was dangerous. He then explains how the abuse and mishandle of the church today when it comes to the Holy Spirit is not that far removed from this Old Testament story. He insists that it has, "obvious implications for the church in our time."
The book is broken down into three major sections. In the first section he deconstructs the false doctrines and practices of the charismatic movement when it comes to the Holy Spirit insisting they mock the Holy Spirit and claim the power of the Holy Spirit within unbiblical contexts. MacArthur builds his case from scripture and provides examples of what he calls fraudulent acts and likes some of the leaders inside of the charismatic movement to con men. MacArthur also walks through Jonathan Edwards approach to handling of the works of the Holy Spirit which I found fascinating.
"More moderate charismatics like to portray the prosperity preachers, faith healers, and televangelists as safely isolated on the extreme edge of the charismatic camp. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Thanks to the global reach and incessant proselytizing of religious television and charismatic mass media, the extreme has now become mainstream." Chapter 1 - Mocking the Spirit (p. 13)
In the second section of this book MacArthur a cessationist, extends his belief that the Holy Spirit works differently now than it did in the New Testament. He talks about how apostleship and specific gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the canonization of scripture. Again, MacArthur speaks to those who twist scripture and perform fake healing as needing to be held accountable.
"If someone declaring himself a prophet proclaims any supposed “revelation from God” that turns out to be inaccurate or untrue, he must be summarily rejected as a spokesman for God." Chapter 6 - The Folly and Fallible Prophets (p. 108)
In the third and last section MacArthur walks through the ways the Holy Spirit does work in the christian life. He state the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, sanctification, and in the scriptures. He ends the books with an open letter to his "continuationist friends" pleading with them to take a fresh look at the Word of God and rethink their stance.
All in all, I found this book encouraging although I think it deals a little too much with broad strokes against the charismatic movement. I would tend to agree with much of what MacArthur says, which ends up being quite a compelling case. My true concern is that his stance doesn't allow much room for the move of the Holy Spirit in some contexts in the world today. For instance, I think God is powerful enough that He could and does use at times extraordinary means to carry out the message of the gospel on the front lines in remote areas where missionaries are preaching the gospel. I think there has to be a balance within that contexts that MacArthur doesn't seem willing to concede.
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Review 17 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
MacArthur begins his book with the story of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10). They were consumed by God because “they used something other than the fire God Himself had ignited.” (xii) That may not seem like such a big deal in our era of casual worship, MacArthur notes, but God's response to their careless, self-willed manner of approaching Him was deadly.
This should be a wake up call to the church, MacArthur says. Unbiblical worship or turning the Holy Spirit into a spectacle is a serious affront to God. It is time for the evangelical church to take a stand and recover a proper focus on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, MacArthur urges.
MacArthur comes down hard on current Charismatic leaders, calling them “spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.” (xv) He says they are claiming that the works of the devil are those of the Holy Spirit. He follows the example of Jonathan Edwards in framing questions to ask about spiritual experience. He concludes that many in the Charismatic Movement are promoting a false gospel.
MacArthur is a cessationist and he argues that apostles, prophecy, etc., were all unique to the early church. God does still speak today, MacArthur says, and the Holy Spirit still moves our hearts, but only through the Word of God.
MacArthur also explores the Holy Spirit's true work. Knowing the authentic is how we know to identify the counterfeit. He covers the Spirit's work in salvation, sanctification, and Scripture. His final chapter is a letter to his reformed charismatic and conservative evangelical friends who are continuationists on what he believes are the dangers of that view.
MacArthur certainly has given the Christian community a wake up call. He gives lots of evidence of the craziness in the Charismatic Movement. His section on the true work of the Holy Spirit includes an excellent section on sanctification.
I have two reservations about the book. This first is MacArthur's “in your face” style of writing. He pulls no punches by calling charismatics horrible names. The Bible says it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), not name calling.
Also, I wonder how necessary MacArthur's book is. Hanegraaff's book on the subject was updated in 2009. Looking at MacArthur's footnotes, much of the charismatic craziness he points out is from a decade ago or even longer.
I requested and received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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Review 18 for Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship - eBook
Note: A complimentary copy from the Strange Fire Conference was provided for review. This book was reviewed by Steve Cha, author of the hit book, Hollywood Mission: Possible.
The book concentrates specifically on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in two main ways: 1). How the Holy Spirit is mispresented in sectors of Christianity today, and 2). What the true ministry of the Holy Spirit is according to Scripture. Though undoubtedly a touchy and controversial subject matter, Strange Fire is a much welcomed addition into the current line of Christian literature. It appropriately challenges and even encourages one (whether they be all out charismatics or conservative continuationists) to reflect on whether or not what we see in the charismatic circles today is truly the revival of 1st century miraculous sign gifts or counterfeit versions of them. The answer to this question has major implications for ministry. Even if it does not affect the area of salvation, a wrong understanding of apostolic sign gifts can surely affect sanctification, since such worship would be neglecting to worship God in truth (Jn 4:24). In essence, it would be offering up strange fire onto the Holy Spirit. So regardless of what people in the charismatic camp believe, this is not as light of an issue as may think.
Overall, Strange Fire is a very well written, well researched, and well documented book, as can be seen by its over 100 footnotes and references, many of them coming directly from Pentecostal/Charismatic publications. Though it is polemic (and will undoubtedly stir up many hornet's nests), Strange Fire is nevertheless a fascinating study on the nature of the Charismatic Movement and an orthodox theology proper even on Pneumatology (study of the Holy Spirit). The book has great strengths I personally would like to commend. The first one is the helpful chapter titled A New Work of the Spirit?, which reveals how the modern Pentecostal movement started with Charles Parham in 1901 (which even documents how the modern "tongues" speaking began) and blew up with Dennis Bennett and his Van Nuys movement. Another one is the inclusion of Chapters 3 and 4, or Testing the Spirits Part 1 and 2, which is based on the Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edward’s model on how to tell whether a revival is truly a work of the Holy Spirit or not. It is based on 1 John 4:2-8, in which Jonathan Edward’s used the Bible passage to analyze the Great Awakening of his time in order to determine whether or not it was the work of God, or merely just an emotional ecstasy (with no real substance) from the people. With this same model, MacArthur analyzes the modern, mainstream Charismatic Movement, which, for the most part, does not match up to the test of 1 John 4:2-8, indicating that the Spirit of God is not at work in such a movement. Section 2 was also an indispensable section that will prove to be quite mind boggling to those with open ears and hearts to listen. This section answers the question: Are the modern sign gifts the same ones that were practiced during the apostolic age, or are they sad (and at times scary) imitations of them? The author, using sound exegesis and exposition of various OT and NT texts, shows that sign gifts being practiced now are indeed counterfeit, and bear little, if any, resemblance to the truly miraculous nature of the deeds done by the apostles during the 1st century. This section is important to consider, not only for the all out charismatic, but for the continuationist (Reformed evangelical) who truly believes that the sign gifts right now are the same ones that were practiced during the apostolic days. Because if they are not, then this should cause continuationists to consider whether they should continue to support charismatics and to “seek” after such gifts themselves. Another great strength of this book is Section 3, which is the area that talks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in every believer’s life. This is a gem section in the entire book, one that no reader should overlook, since it covers basic theology, the gospel, and truths about Christianity cherished especially since the 16th century Reformation. No study of a counterfeit should ever be complete unless the real thing is studied and brought to light, which MacArthur does here in Strange Fire and reminds us as Christians why we cherish the gospel and how we have all we need for life and godliness in Scripture alone (sola scriptura).
As well written and well structured as the book is, there is one area, or topic, that MacArthur could have touched upon that would have tremendously bolstered his argument and helped readers with a particular concern concerning the issue of miracles and the supernatural. Though God does not raise up apostles and prophets to perform wonders and miracles anymore, does that mean that God has ceased doing miracles and signs altogether throughout history since the 1st century AD? When miracles and signs occur (e.g. the healing of a cancer patient through the prayers of a church; a Muslim receiving a dream of Jesus’ identity in a Middle Eastern country and being led to a Christian missionary to hear the gospel preached to him like Cornelius; angels who rescue a man from a burning building?), do these things happen because people have “gifts” to bring these things about, or is it because God answers prayers and works in His sovereign purposes (independent of any human “gifting”) to accomplish His salvific and glorious purposes for redemptive history? What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry in God’s sovereign purpose miracles/signs in the world? I think if MacArthur were to explain the differences between these two concepts, to provide biblical exposition, and to even provide fascinating stories from current or historical events, this would: 1). Remove the misconception of cessationism as being a dry and lifeless “naturalist” position, and 2). Give the conservative continuationist a viable option to fall back on instead of jumping on the charismatic bandwagon since that seems to be the only possible explanation for the miraculous things we see all around us.
In conclusion, Strange Fire is a great book. It is probably going to be one of this decade’s most discussed, if not most important Christian books since it confronts an issue that is almost as momentous in worldwide scale as Luther’s confrontation of the Catholic Church back in the 16th century (if MacArthur’s analysis of the issue is as true as he says it is). Though the presentation seems valid to me, I know that this book will not win over all the crowds, no matter how much statistics, historical data, and biblical references may be in favor of the author’s argument. At this point, this seems like a book that people will judge based more on emotional preferences and adherence to past traditions rather than honest examination of Scripture, church history, and the fruits of the movement that is going on right now (Note: I came from a denomination that had charismatic inclinations, so I was in no ways biased toward cessationism before coming across MacArthur’s teaching). I sense that conservative charismatics will say that Strange Fire unfairly groups all Charismatics into one lump group (although I don’t know how they could possibly say this since there are multiple references in Strange Fire that shows how John respects people like John Piper and Wayne Grudem (continuationist Reformed Christians), which is most evident in the whole final chapter!). Skeptics’ reasoning for the validity of sign gifts in our day and age would be something like this, “The Holy Spirit cannot be blessing the Benny Hinn tongue speaking and prophesying since he teaches false doctrine and is immoral, but the Spirit is surely blessing our tongue speaking and prophesying since we hold to orthodox Reformed teaching and live righteously.” However, this does not appear to be the entire point of the lesson in the book. This is like saying, “The Holy Spirit cannot be blessing the Catholics’ infant baptism because they teach false doctrines of salvation and the priests are so corrupt, but the Spirit is surely blessing Presbyterian infant baptism because they hold to orthodox Reformed teaching and the people are living by grace, and this Protestant group represent a large number. Therefore, infant baptism has merit.” The theologian would rightly argue: Morality, religious affiliation, and population is not the issue here, because infant baptism has no biblical warrant to begin with! It is an undocumented form of baptism, and the fact that the practice originated from an apostate religion (Catholicism) only serves to show that it is the fruit of a false, unbiblical movement. The same can be said with the modern version of the sign gifts and the Charismatic Movement, which is what Section 2 of Strange Fire is about and why MacArthur encourages continuationists in the Reformed camp to consider this so that they may abandon such practices and start worshipping God in not just spirit, but in truth.
Whatever one may think of this subject or the author, this book does deserve a read and should be on every pastor’s book shelf. It is bold, prophetic, and dare I say, balsy, but probably the most commendable work on the modern movement. As MacArthur stated during the last session at the Strange Fire Conference, “Of course I care about offending people. But as I much as I care about offending people, I care more about offending God.”