i really appreciated this response to the Strange Fire Conference. I think it really hits on some key elements of what Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement are about. Here are a couple of particularly good points made:
- I suggest that the charismatic movement is a subversion of the very theology MacArthur espouses. It possesses a socio-political power that is devastating to those who would control the church and her members. The spiritual gift at the center of the charismatic movement is speaking in tongues which is an act of defiance against the principalities and powers because it is a secret language, like a code, that cannot be controlled or censored. This is a frustration to the powers who would like to see tighter regulations upon the church in how it should think, speak and act. The more MacArthur talked the more defiant I became, sensing my own spirit crying out, “If I worship I will worship the way I want to worship!”
- The spiritual gifts level the playing field. I was disturbed by how smug and arrogant MacArthur came across, easily condemning 500,000,000 people to hell. And it was all done with such finesse, dignity and aplomb, padded by PhDs and suits and fine speech and a luxurious church full of violins and operatic voices. Along come the spiritual gifts that usurp all of this. Anybody can play! The charismatic movement is gaining speed, especially in developing nations, I think for this very reason. It is empowering and accessible and available to every single living person regardless of race, sex, status, economics, influence, education or power. It can’t be regulated, and this baffles the tightly run reformed ship that MacArthur pilots.
This is it! See, here’s the thing about the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements – it really is more of a practical theology than anything else. its not that Pentecostals and Charismatics don’t care about biblical theology and exegesis because they do – its a matter of emphasis (just read scholars such as Gordon Fee and or Craig S. Keener, even Ben Witherington to see serious work in biblical exegesis and theology of the highest grade). Pentecostals and Charismatics believe that God really works to move in the here and now in people’s everyday lives – he’s not just going to bring justice someday – he brings it everyday, right here right now, by way of the person and work of the Holy Spirit – if there is a really strong example of what it is to be the “eschatological people of God” and “people of the Spirit” it is what you see in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. We don’t just talk about it or write about it or think about it – we really go for it because we believe it. Does it get messy? Yes. Do mistakes happen? All the time. Is it a perfect movement? In no way shape or form. Are they on a good track? Absolutely. 🙂
it seems that one problem with the Strange Fire conference is that it works to pit one group of Christians who have particular emphasis over and against another group of Christians who have a different emphasis in a “we’re right and they are WRONG!” kind of way that I think is tragic and unfortunate and completely unnecessary.