Posts by JeremyB

What is the fire for?

What is the fire for?

By on May 26, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Are Charismatics and Cessationists both missing something about the Holy Spirit? I tend to stay clear of public theological controversies in the media, particularly those centred on the other side of the Atlantic, but even I couldn’t avoid reading about the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur towards the end of last year and its aftermath. MacArthur’s basic thesis is that the rise in charismatic manifestations in certain sections of the church is unbiblical, divisive and at worst, a huge deception. The relative merits of the theological positions have been well rehearsed elsewhere (for example here). As a card-carrying charismatic since the age of seventeen (despite being in a cessation-preaching church at the time), I have had little time for the debate. Ever since reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Holy Spirit my experience became married to a robust theology of the gifts of the Spirit in the present age. Sure, as Deere points out, there are charismatic abuses and excesses and some strange stuff at times; I personally find the cultural associations between charismatic worship and individualistic need-fulfilment and prosperity Gospel rather disturbing. However, I am convinced that the cessationist case is more founded in experience, or perhaps lack of it, rather than consistent exegesis of the relevant texts. Mind you, there can be some pretty strange practices in non-charismatic worship as well; people wearing vestments and funny headgear performing elaborate ceremonies at altars has always struck me as looking pretty odd, particularly in the light of the New Testament. It is a legitimate question to ask which is more odd: someone prostrating themselves on the floor under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (with or without accompanying noises), or someone bowing whilst wearing an ornate flame-shaped hat symbolising the anointing of the Holy Spirit? So it is easy to dismiss MacArthur as sincere and well intentioned, with a concern for right doctrine and a care that God’s people are not misled, but nevertheless wrong on the gifts of the Spirit.  It is also easy to dismiss the ballyhoo surrounding Mark Driscoll’s flash-strike on the conference as more to do with North American hubris and publicity for his book, rather than contributing anything meaningful to a theological...

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