Monday, July 8, 2013

Francis Schaeffer on Cultural Death

Our day is not totally unique.  Time after time Christian cultures have thrown themselves away.  Take, for example, the church of the Apostle Thomas in India.  It began to whittle away at the truth.  So the church largely died.  There are two ways to bring about such death: one is to compromise the truth, and the other to have a dead orthodoxy.  Both can equally grind down and destroy the message of a church in a generation, especially if the generation is hard.  Do we realize that in China at about the year A.D. 800 there were Christian churches in almost every great city?  Do we realize that there were hundreds of Christians in the Arabian peninsula just before Mohammed in A.D. 550?  Why was it that Mohammedanism was able to rush over that country?  Because of military force?  Not only that.  When Mohammed came forward and looked at the Christians he said, "There's nothing here."  And he was largely right.  Mohammedanism started, and it swept that portion of the world.  The same thing was true with the church in North Africa, and the primitive church in Armenia, in Georgia, in Gaul.  In each of these places there was a Christian church and a growing Christian culture, but the church collapsed.  The pattern is clear: defection and then destruction.

And we as Christians today, what are we saying?  We are saying that we want reformation and we want revival, but still we are not preaching into this generation, stating the negative things that are necessary.  If there is to be a constructive revolution in the orthodox, evangelical church, then like Jeremiah we must speak of the judgment of individual men great and small, of the church, the state, and the culture, for many of them have known the truth of God and have turned away from Him and His propositional revelation.  God exists, He is holy, and we must know that there will be judgment.  And like Jeremiah, we must keep on so speaking regardless of the cost to ourselves.
Francis Schaeffer Death in the City (1969) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview volume 4, pp. 255-256.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Strange Fire"--Michael Brown Responds (Twice!)

Michael Brown is a charismatic scholar who recently wrote the commentary on Jeremiah for the revised  Evangelical Bible Commentary.  The biographical statement on this work states this about Dr. Brown:
Michael L. Brown, (PhD, New York University) is president and professor of practical theology at Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism School of Ministry. He has also served as adjunct professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield and adjunct professor of Jewish apologetics at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission. He has contributed to the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is also the author of the important book Israel's Divine Healer which is part of the series "Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology."

These statements are put forward to show Dr. Brown's commitment to the written Word of God.  Dr. Brown has recently published two articles critiquing John MacArthur's "Strange Fire Conference."

The first article is entitled John MacArthur, Strange Fire, and Blasphemy of the Spirit.  In it he writes:
Without a doubt, there are horrific things being done in the name of Jesus and the Spirit, often onChristian TV for the whole world to see—and this stuff is downright shameful, bringing reproach to the reputation of the Lord. Along with other charismatic leaders, I have renounced these things for decades. But is it the responsibility of every charismatic-Pentecostal pastor and leader to renounce these things all the time?
Pastor MacArthur has called on his Pentecostal brothers and sisters to stand up and speak out against these abuses, joining him at his upcoming conference; but if a pastor is shepherding his flock and feeding them God’s Word and his people are not guilty of these abuses or watching these TV preachers, why is it his responsibility to address these errors? Does Pastor MacArthur feel the responsibility to monitor the preaching of tens of thousands of non-charismatic pastors across the country and publicly renounce their errors? Why, then, must Pentecostal and charismatic pastors renounce extremes in their movement to somehow prove their orthodoxy?
He goes on to write:
Again, I am not for a moment excusing doctrinal errors, emotional manipulation, financial greed or other spiritual abuses often perpetuated in the name of the Spirit, but it is absolutely outrageous that Pastor MacArthur claims, “The charismatic movement is largely the reason the church is in the mess it is today. In virtually every area where church life is unbiblical, you can attribute it to the charismatic movement. In virtually every area—bad theology, superficial worship, ego, prosperity gospel, personality elevation. All of that comes out of the charismatic movement.”
And he is quite wrong when he states, “Its theology is bad. It is unbiblical. It is bad. It is aberrant. It is destructive to people because it promises what it can't deliver, and then God gets blamed when it doesn't come. It is a very destructive movement.”
In reality, more people have been saved—wonderfully saved—as a result of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement worldwide than through any other movement in church history (to the tune of perhaps a half-billion souls), as documented recently in Allan Heaton Anderson’s To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity. And professor Craig Keener has provided overwhelming testimony to the reality of God’s miraculous power worldwide today (see his brilliant two-volume study Miracles).
Tragically, rather than recognizing the outpouring of the Spirit worldwide—God’s true fire, falling in abundance in many nations—and focusing on the spiritual deadness that exists in many Spirit-denying churches, Pastor MacArthur has chosen to focus on aberrations and extremes in the charismatic movement, even making the extremely dangerous claims that charismatics are blaspheming the Spirit and attributing “to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan.”
To be perfectly clear, I am not for a second claiming that Pastor MacArthur is blaspheming the Spirit (God forbid!), but in the New Testament, blasphemy of the Spirit is knowingly attributing the works of the Spirit to Satan (Mark 3:23-30), and I am far more concerned about denying the true fire than I am about putting out every aberrant charismatic brush fire.
Dr. Brown's second article is entitled An Appeal to John MacArthur to Embrace God's True Fire.  A few relevant comments are:
Today, the Holy Spirit continues to move in wonderful and sometimes unusual ways, overpowering some people with His presence, producing in others a deep conviction of sin that moves them to cry out and groan, producing in still others a glorious and inexpressible joy that moves them to dance and shout, and confirming the Word with signs following—the greatest sign of all being radically changed lives for the glory of God.
Yet rather than recognize this, Pastor MacArthur claims that charismatics have “stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf and they are dancing around the golden calf as if it is the Holy Spirit. ... The Charismatic version of  the Holy Spirit is that golden calf ... around which they dance with their dishonoring exercises”—and in this scathing indictment he names fine godly leaders like Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, claiming that they are guilty of blaspheming the Spirit.
Recognizing the many wonderful things that Pastor MacArthur has done for God’s people and for the name of Jesus, I urge him to sit down with these leaders whose ministries he attacks (or to sit with me as a former leader in the Brownsville Revival) to listen to their extensive teaching of the Scriptures and to meet with some of the thousands of young people who have been impacted by their lives and who are now burning bright for Jesus, reaching the lost on college campuses, seeking God earnestly in day and night prayer, contending for the lives of the unborn and pursuing holiness in the fear of the Lord.
I too reject many abuses in the charismatic movement—including our flesh-exalting personality cults; our carnal prosperity message; our manifestation mania; our superficial sensationalism; our mindless gullibility; our cheapening of the word “apostolic”; our constant fascination with the latest trend—but I recognize these as part of the dirty bathwater to be thrown out rather than the precious baby to be nurtured.
We can only hope that Dr. MacArthur would be willing to sit down with responsible charismatic teachers like Dr. Brown and engage in true critical interaction.  Without this responsible interaction I'm afraid that the "Strange Fire Conference" will just be one large exercise in the logical fallacy of beating up straw men.