Check out the new Convergence Church Network! 

Visit and join the mailing list.

Enjoying God Blog


Most are aware of the Strange Fire conference currently underway at John MacArthur’s church in California. It is specifically designed to argue that charismatics, broadly conceived, are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yes, you read that correctly.

Today, my friend Michael Patton wrote an excellent article that can be read at the blog for Parchment and Pen ( Michael Brown also made an appeal to MacArthur on the Charisma News website. Although I’m tempted to throw in my ten cent’s worth, I defer to J. I. Packer.

J. I. Packer is not your typical cessationist. That he is a cessationist is beyond question. But the wise, gentle, biblical, and loving way in which he responds to those in the charismatic movement is a model of Christian maturity and depth of character.

In one place Packer responds to those who are offended by charismatic phenomena by pointing out that “we are very apt to respond by abusing the whole movement and denying that there is anything of God in it at all. But how silly! And how nasty! This is a reaction of wounded pride and wilful prejudice, and as such is bad thinking in every way” (“Piety on Fire,” in Collected Shorter Writings, 2:104). Yes, it is silly and nasty. Of course, Packer is not endorsing, any more than I would, the fanatical excess of those in the so-called “health and wealth” or “Word of Faith” movements. But to argue that such theological abuse discredits the charismatic world as a whole is worse than silly and nasty; it is . . ., well, the better part of wisdom restrains me from using the words that come to mind!

Again, Packer argues that when we test the charismatic movement by biblical standards and the fruit that it bears “it becomes plain that God is in it. For, whatever threats and perhaps instances of occult and counterfeit spirituality we may think we detect round its periphery (and what movement of revival has ever lacked these things round its periphery?), its main effect everywhere is to promote robust Trinitarian faith, personal fellowship with the divine Saviour and Lord whom we meet in the New Testament, repentance, obedience, and love to fellow-Christians, expressed in ministry of all sorts towards them; plus a zeal for evangelistic outreach which puts the staider sort of churchmen to shame” (“Theological Reflections on the Charismatic Movement,” Collected Shorter Writings, 2:125).

What, then, does Packer conclude?

“Laying aside matters of detail, I believe that God has generated it [the charismatic movement] in order to counter and correct the death-dealing fashions of thought which, starting with theologians and spreading everywhere, for the past century have done damage by demurring at the truth of the trinity, diminishing the deity of Jesus Christ, and for practical purposes discounting the Holy Spirit altogether” (Rediscovering Holiness, 52-53).

Would that God might raise up more men and women like J. I. Packer. He is a model of how to promote dialogue without division. May we all learn from his example of how to humbly and lovingly disagree with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.


Excellent article. So many times we are fighting the wrong battle. This isn't a battle of whether speaking in tongues is for today or not, it is a battle of whether a branch of the body of Christ is made up of heretics or not. This conference is dangerous in that it is affirming the already made division in the body of Christ so it continues. My concern is that the body of Christ will be made up of two groups, some of which are viciously fighting each other under the guise of 'warning the sheep'. How is the world going to see the difference in us with such hatred as this, and whatever else ends up coming out of a conference like this?

Sounds to me like Storms is pretty humble for considering new information when it arose. And wise for not making the gifts themselves guilty by association.


It sounds like Sam no longer supports Paul Cain, but his previous support of him is a matter of public record. In his 2002 book, A Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Sam relays a story about Paul Cain giving a word of divine revelation to a woman named Nancy. At the conclusion of this story, on page 47 of the book, Sam writes:

“I know there are skeptics who will immediately question this incident. ‘How do we know Paul Cain didn’t investigate this woman’s past and find out information that he later passed off as revelation?’ Perhaps it would be asking too much of you if I were to say you can trust me on this one. All I know is that I have seen Paul do this on several hundred occasions (yes, several hundred) and can personally vouch for his integrity. But for those who simply cannot (or will not) believe that God still speaks today, no one’s testimony will suffice.”

Wow! There are some great comments here and it shows the passion on both sides of the fence regarding John,s new book and conference "strange fire". I would consider myself a follower of Jesus believing all the gifts are for today and also believing in the operation of the 5 fold ministry. I do not disagree with a lot of the issues John has in regards to Charasmatic movement but I strongly disagree with his approach . His book has already been released to some important leaders and some have already gave a review on it. Bottom line is its "brutal" and the spirit behind it is certainly not from the Holy Spirit. John has done a terrible job in researching and checking into some of his claims that happen in some meetings. He totally exaggerates things and groups all Spirit filled Christians into 1 category. He has been very irresponsible in gathering correct information and just lazy and sloppy research. He has taken many scriptures out of context and seems to have difficulty discerning what Paul said about dealing with questionable theology. John makes a claim that Charasmatics will not sit at the table with him to discuss this in the word. This is such a false statement, there is a writer with Charisma magazine trying to contact John to sit down and discuss theses issues and John will have nothing to do with it. John has gone too far with this one folks only because of his pride, arrogance and just lack of integrity on how to deal with theses issues in the Body of Christ.

instead of calling out certain general things of the charimatics, why dont we just expose the false pastors, benny hinn, joel olsteen etc, thats easier to spot

Michael, no I do not.

Yes, and Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Packer, the statesman, has erred with Anglo-Tractarians by burying the hatchet with them years back. Same for his involvement with ECT. He's affectionately regarded by this Anglican, but his leadership has NOT always been wise.

I've been reading the following blogs/websites about the Strange Fire conference: and The irony is that I do agree that there are abuses taking place within the Pentecostal - Charismatic wing of the church. In fact, I believe to state otherwise is just naive. The question becomes the approach to take in calling out and correcting those abuses. The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, left us with the first letter to the Corinthians. It's a wonderfully biblical record of how to address the excesses and abuses of individual and corporate worship within the church.

One of the biggest problems in today's church is the unwillingness to administrate biblically-based church discipline. This allows for anything and everything to take place. The consequences have been detrimental to the church's witness to the culture as she looks and sounds at times no different than a secular, social club. If only more shepherds and church leaders and their congregants were willing to adhere to the Holy Spirit's teaching in 1 Corinthians.

Now, all that aside, the core problems with the Strange Fire conference are as follows: 1.) the inflammatory rhetoric being tossed around by Dr. John MacArthur; and 2.) the straw men arguments being erected and then cast down in the name of exposing the doctrinal errors of those espousing continuationist teaching.

Sadly, Dr. MacArthur appears to be going down the same path that he walked during the Shepherd's Conference in 2007. If anyone remembers his talk that he gave six year ago, Dr. MacArthur spoke on why every Calvinist should be a premillennialist. His rhetoric stirred up those within the Reformed camp who espouse primarily Postmillennialism and Amillennialism; however, I viewed his comments to include those who adopt Historic Premillennialism, too.

Personally, I find Dr. MacArthur's rhetoric coming perilously close to the edge of bearing false witness about his brothers and sisters in Christ. Someone could say that he's just one person within the church. There are others who don't speak and teach in the same way that Dr. MacArthur does; however, he happens to be one of the most articulate, respected, and vocal of the bunch within the church who believes that the spiritual gifts have ceased. I'm praying for a way forward that models the maturity and grace of Dr. J.I. Packer.

Thapelo, it's interesting to read your perspective from South Africa (a nation I've never visited). I agree - what you're describing sounds truly tragic. Instead of a guy like MacArthur condemning the more miraculous-looking gifts of the Spirit, however, wouldn't it be wiser for all of us to stand in one accord to teach a careful *discernment* between what is unbiblical (human-idol-worship, a false gospel, spiritual manipulation, greed, pride, etc.) and biblical (humility, grace, repentance, community, mutual encouragement, godly miracles, etc.)? As Scotty Mac hinted in his comment, neglecting God's gifts is disobedient, too. May the Lord give you that courage to stand for truth in your culture.

Just because Macarthur speaks directly about these errors does not make him unloving and just because he is against this movement doesn't make him unwise, I am bewildered by this assertion that these excesses spoken of at the conference are in the periphery as if reformed charismatics are in the majority which is not true at all... Come to Africa where 90% of all Christian churches are charismatic and I am not talking about the CJ Mahaney, John Piper Wayne Grudem type I am talking Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Rodney Howard Browne, TD Jakes type a vast majority do not know who Sam Storms is nor any of the reformed charismatics mentioned above, I live in Johannesburg South Africa and if you go to the city almost at every corner there is some health and wealth, miracle sign and wonders church, with some man of God claiming to be an apostle... Its really bad because when you speak to these people even the basics of the gospel are unknown let alone repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone, having grown up in the charismatic movement myself I have seen the dangers of false miracles, false prophecies and false tongues etc and its bad because plenty of people go to these churches and not saved but rather than support Macarthur and speak out against these things and defend the gospel reformed charismatics choose to take offence and make it about them and not about the deceived majority. There are plenty of us here in Africa who are thankful for this conference and wish we had the same one here because we see the damage , we see the deception of this movement, I mean the biggest so called church in South Africa 3 million strong has it roots in the pentecostal, charismatic movement yet now they don't believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation infact they teach that the head of their church is their prophet and saviour not too mention many of their other aberrant teaching which are antithesis to the gospel, these are 3 million people caught up in a pentecostal healing and prophecy deception yet most reformed charismatics would rather criticises Macarthur for doing something that could in someway help shed light to these people and point them to sound biblical doctrine and most importantly to the cross. We need bravery, we need courage we need a firm standing on biblical truth and Macarthur has been consistent in being that and we are thankful for Him. a 26 year old South African

Did you support the prophet Paul Cain?

MacArthur is skating on thin ice! I've heard some ministers over the years attribute manifestations of the Holy Spirit to demons and it grieves me. The Apostle Paul was a charismatic and clearly supported the use of spiritual gifts. He dealt with the abuses and so should our elders do the same today.

I agree that Packer's charity & kindness are commendable & should be imitated by all. However, the quotes of his are over 20 years old. The second quote is from 1980 which was before the "third wave" of the charismatic movement. In his paper, Packer named 10 potential defects that were "observed, at least on the movement’s fringes..." Well these seldom observed, fringe characteristics have since become commonplace in charismatic churches; not all, but many. Here is the link to the 1980 essay.
It is charitable, it is accurate, but it is dated. I'm curious what Dr. Packer would say now considering the regular antics of people like Bob Jones, Bill Johnson, Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner, & others who are all considered leaders in charismatic circles. Just trying to ask a question. And no, I'm not a cessationist ;)

I am a Pentecostal pastor, who has many evangelical friends. Most of them hold to the traditional evangelical view of cessationism, and yet deplore what John MacArthur is doing.
John accuses Pentecostals and charismatics of blaspheming the Holy Spirit while I believe he is skating pretty close to the edge of doing it himself. I pray for John regularly asking God to lead him into a study of the Scriptures without letting his theology determine the interpretation, but allowing the Scriptures to interpret his theology.

My Charismatic friends have been posting on FB to pray for John MacArthur and those at the conference. And to encourage all to forgive them for their misguided words, to pray God's grace and blessing upon them, to pray that they would know the kindness and goodness of the Lord and the richness of fellowship with Him by the Spirit. And to pray that the unity of the fellowship of all who follow Christ be maintained and healed by the love of Christ and the work of His Spirit, for we are One Body no matter our differences.

Thanks for this post Sam!

I have grown troubled by this event as I have watched it being promoted over the last few weeks. I do not mind the disagreement, understanding that John MacArthur is a strong cessationalist, but it is the strong language of condemnation that disturbs me (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, false teachers, the work of demons, etc.).

I will be the first to admit that there are excesses (even dangerous ones!) in the charismatic camp. The Apostle Paul, spent a healthy portion of I Corinthians speaking to this very issue, however, in doing so, he did not condemn it, instead he commanded them to, "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy" (I Cor 14:1), but to do so in an orderly manner (I Cor 14: 40). However, to compare Charismatic Christians to the religion of Mormonism-- a group that denies the trinity, subjugates the Bible to the Book of Mormon, and promotes a theology that culminates with one becoming a god and goddess (or heavenly mother) of their own world -- isn't a bridge to far, it is a bridge out of no where.

That being said, I am heartened to read Dr. Packer's words on this heated subject. It seems to me, he is engaging in this argument, with the heart of Christ, a passion for unity in the Gospel, and a desire to ground this discussion in grace and humility. I look forward to ongoing discussions that take on his tenor of charity in the prayerful search of clarity.

Thanks again for posting this article and thank you for all the energy you have put into foraging pathways for this discussion to take place! It gives we, who are both Charismatic and Calvinist, who read both Jonathan Edwards and John Wimber , increased hope for greater fusion in the future.

Over the course of the past day, more division has come about on the topic of the Charismatic and Pentecostal church than I have seen in years. Very sad unfortunate to say the least.

This makes me think of Paul's own urge for discernment (for both sides of this issue) in 1 Thess 5:19-22: "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." Sounds like Packer has a good dose of this discernment.

For those interested, Patton's related post is here:

Michael Brown's is here:

MacArthur's views on this have been a matter of public record (both in written and spoken form) for decades and his views at this conference have been widely publicized in advance.

why not wait to hear what MacArthur says first, then decided if he's way off base?

Write a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.