So there was this conference I didn’t attend called Strange Fire put on by John MacArthur. And in the aftermath of that and several online discussions about it, I felt it necessary to share a bit of my heart, and how the tenor of this conference has grieved me.
As Paul was loathe to do, when pressed about his credentials in comparison to the super apostles, he “boasted” of his qualifications. (See Philippians 3:5-6). I will do the same (in terms of my qualifications in evangelicalism), though I want to affirm that Jesus is the One who is amazing, not me.
One. I met Jesus through Young Life, where the clear, unmistakeable gospel of Jesus Christ was honored and shared.
Two. I walked through discipleship thanks to Navigators, Intervarsity, several Bible-loving churches, innumerable Bible studies, and years of listening to teachers and preachers (including John MacArthur on the radio).
Three. I am married to a theologically astute man who got his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Four. I live in the Bible belt (but I don’t have big hair).
Five. I attend a Southern Baptist Church.
Six. My family helped plant a church in France as missionaries.
Seven. I have written over a dozen books for the evangelical audience.
Eight. I speak in the USA and around the world about Jesus’ great ability to heal even the most damaged human heart.
Nine. Because of Jesus and His healing power in my life, I am no longer bound by the pain from the past.
Ten. My teenage and young adult kids have a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
Of course all these “qualifications” pale in comparison to the surpassing amazing joy knowing Jesus Christ. And I feel silly listing them. But I do because of tweets like this from John MacArthur:
“We’re not trying to divide the body of Christ with this conference. We’re trying to identify the body of Christ.” #StrangeFire
And this (source)
There are others who criticized by saying, “You’re attacking brothers.” I wish I could affirm that. We’ve said this one way or another this week: this is a movement made up largely of non-Christians . . .
I’m convinced that the broader charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other theological aberration in this day. Liberalism, psychology, ecumenism, pragmatism, mysticism, are all bad. Nothing is as bad as Charismaticism because of its extensive impact. And once that kind of experientialism gets a foothold, there’s no brand of heresy that won’t ride it into the church.
So Pastor @JohnMacArthur has decided, apparently, that I am not a follower of Jesus.
Why? Because I am not a cessationist. I believe the sign gifts God has given through the Holy Spirit (healing, prophecy, speaking in other tongues) continue to this day. (Because of this, some would call me a continuationist). I figure if God wants to use one of His followers to be a conduit of healing for another, He can do what He wants. Who am I to limit His gifts?
(I realize this is a simplistic explanation, and I’m well aware of the argument that the “perfect” [closing of the canon of Scripture] happened–so why the need for sign gifts–but my point in this blog post is not to assert my “rightness” or praise my hermeneutic or pick apart the cessationist view of Scripture. This is a robust debate that’s been around a long time.)
Theologically, cessationism vs. continuationism is an arguable point via hermeneutics, the way one interprets and reads Scripture. But, in my opinion, there is no reason to divide on this issue.
I love my friends who are cessationists and I have absolutely no issue with their belief. Depending on the way one interprets Scripture, we can truly and affably disagree. We don’t need to die on this hill or point fingers at others, questioning their foundational beliefs.
My husband has given a terrific example as he’s taught our Sunday School Class. He draws a bulls-eye with a center and several concentric circles around it.
What matters is Jesus, what we think about Him. That is the hill I will die on. But I refuse to malign or judge my Christian brothers and sisters who have differing views on non-bulls-eye issues.
This world so badly needs the life-giving words and gospel of Jesus Christ, and so often it sees Christians pointing fingers at each other, debating on who is “in” and who is “out,” when what we really ought to do is love those who differ. Isn’t that the hallmark of Christianity? Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT).
Every single person on this earth differed diametrically to Jesus Christ. Every single one of them was a sinner who sent Him to the cross to bleed for innumerable sins. And yet: Jesus ate with them. He loved in such a way that personified irresistibility–to the extent that children couldn’t help but climb on His lap.
When we malign and mercilessly judge whose out-of-the-bulls-eye beliefs differ from us, we don’t represent the winsome attraction of Jesus Christ, He who loved every single person who differed from Him.
Only Jesus has the Right Theology of Christianity. Click to tweet. We are small pea-brained folks trying to figure out transcendence. Of course, we love orthodoxy. Of course we value theology. Of course we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But we do so with the power of love behind us. And we do so knowing we cannot possibly get every jot and tittle of Christianity perfectly.
It is absolutely okay to disagree over these peripheral issues. I expect folks to share their views with me in the comment section of the post. Absolutely.
But to question the validity of my Christianity because I happen to have a different theological view is short-sighted and mean-spirited and divisive.
This kind of thinking sets up an us-them paradigm where a group of Christians have somehow landed on the perfect theology, so they can now malign and belittle those poor unenlightened ones who differ.
I am well aware of excesses in charismatic movements. And I absolutely question the idea that God is a divine vending machine in the sky, that if we pull the right levers, He is forced to give us stuff, stuff, stuff and healthy physical lives.
I firmly believe this life I live on this earth is not about ME and my wants, but about Jesus and His kingdom. I see how Jesus and His followers didn’t experience health and wealth, nor did they die in easy ways. The book of Job is in the Bible for a reason, that God does amazing things through our suffering.
But to lump every continuationist with health and wealth theology is unfair.
I’ll end with this. I have met amazing Christians in my travels. And, honestly, the ones I have most been impacted by have experienced one or more of the sign gifts.
I remember the worship of Lei Wah, how she challenged me by her subdued, yet dedicated worship, and how her life was marked by sacrifice and servanthood.
I remember the Indian man I met who practically exuded Jesus, so much so that I wonder if he might’ve been an angel.
I remember Sue who challenged me way down deep to let go of my worries and fully embrace Jesus. Hers is a joyful life of surrender as a widow who serves a great, big God.
I remember my friend Paul who has learned to trust God for nearly every provision in his life.
I remember my friend Holly who has faced extreme pain and upheaval with grace and hope and prayer.
These are my heroes and heroines of the faith. And they all fall under John MacArthur’s judgment as non-believers.