John MacArthur and his Own Brand of "Strange Fire".

Everyone who has followed Radical Grace Radio for a long time knows what this Radio host thinks about John MacArthur and his "gospel".  As many of you know I am a Lutheran, LCMS, converted from Evangelicalism by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because I spent many, many years lost in that Evangelical Wasteland hearing many false Gospels, when I finally found the so called Wittenberg Trail it was a relief.  In fact, it was a bomb shell.  To find out that Jesus Christ is not either a new Moses bringing new laws, or a helper who will instruct me in living a holy life, was explosive.  To find out that Jesus, our Prophet, Priest and King, is truly a savior whose death, shed blood, rest in the tomb and resurrection saves me AND his church changed everything.  The Gospel of the incarnation, of propitiation of sin, of Justification by faith alone, of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to me as if I myself were every bit as righteous as he is, is absolutely glorious.

But then, when I started to look back at the myriad of teachers and preachers, and fully realized how utterly devoid of good news many of these teachers and churches are, I was dumbfounded.  How could any of these churches, preachers and teachers talk so much about us, about our works, our sanctification and leave out the radiant truth and beauty of the Gospel was beyond comprehension and still is. 

But this past week, John MacArthur (to be referred to as Johnny Mac hence forth) hosted the "Strange Fire" conference, both to launch his new book and supposedly to start a conversation about Pentecostal belief and practice working it's way into mainstream Christianity.  There's been a lot of give and take this week about this subject, and some people have asked me what my thoughts are on the subject one way or another.

People who know me know this:  When the Gospel is at stake, I become a Raging Heart.

First of all, the premise of "Strange fire" is one that starts out focusing in the wrong direction.  I want to shut this down, right now.  I don't want to debate speaking in tongues, cessationism, spiritual gifts, or any of that sort of thing when the Gospel is at stake.  This is not aimed at Pentecostals, however.  No, it's aimed at Johnny Mac and his cohorts.  Why?  Because all of the discussion they may have about Pentecostalism is meaningless.  I can give anyone a list of practices and command them to do them and they can do them easily enough.  They can learn to speak in tongues, learn to cast out demons and speak words of positive power and still believe absolutely nothing about Jesus and his saving work on the cross for all people.  Johnny Mac should know this.  So should his cohorts. 

So in this Radio Host's opinion, this conversation is a non starter.

What disturbs me is that Johnny Mac and his cohorts are criticizing the faith and practice of one group while glossing over their own glaring, heretical shortcomings.  Johnny Mac himself is a "Lordship Salvationist".  In his view Jesus paid it all and now it's your turn to pay.  It's not enough to have faith alone in his view, but you also have to make Jesus your Lord.  It's not enough that he's the savior of those who cannot save themselves.  Johnny Mac's body of work testifies to this, over and over again.  His recorded sermons, audio books, articles, print books, all point to his belief.  What he preaches is what St. Paul calls "another gospel, which is no gospel at all". 

The concept of strange fire, as Pastor Gary explained in our discussion on the topic on Radical Grace Radio yesterday, is talked about in Leviticus 10 when Nadab and Abihu offered "unauthorized fire" before the Lord.  The fire they should have used was the fire that was kept burning from when fire came down from God and consumed the first sacrifice at the Tabernacle.  That fire came from God himself.  Any other fire is "strange", or "unauthorized".  A man made fire is unacceptable.  Period.  No one is to offer that kind of fire before the LORD.  In light of that context, how does this apply today?  The simple answer is that to add anything to the already complete and authorized work of God is blasphemy. 

But Matthew, someone may ask, what about the Christian's sanctification?  That's a good question as long as you continue to understand that your sanctification and efforts to grow in Christ do not add to the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  That's why your justification is predicated on Faith Alone.   What Christ has done, HE alone has done, and you cannot improve on it, at all.  Any "gospel" that adds to that work is no gospel.  A gospel of Jesus' finished work plus your works to complete it IS strange fire.

I find it interesting that as this conference ended John Piper posted the following on his blog at Desiring God:
Either Jesus died to save his church or he didn’t. There isn’t a third option.

Either he gave himself up for his bride, as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, or he died to create the possibility of her salvation that depends upon the skills of human decision-making.

Are we dead in our sins, as Ephesians 2:1–3 says, or are we slightly impaired? Are we “far from the peaceful shore” or are we gone, sunken to the bottom of the ocean with no chance of resuscitation? Does God toss us a floatation device, or does he raise us from the dead?
He goes on to say:

The Bible is clear. The gospel is God’s work, God’s victory. “He does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: he plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies” (Packer, Quest for Godliness, 130). And here is where we see his love — the kind that breaks through the sternest soul in sovereign power to save. The love of Jesus is sin-crushing, serpent-stomping, death-defying, people-purchasing love.
With all this in mind I therefore say, the discussion about "Faith and Practice" is irrelevant until all in the discussion come to agree on this, that Christ is the central figure, that it's his work, his death and his body and blood that Justifies his Church, nude, apart from works. 

Only then will we talk. 


Elwin said...

Amen, and Amen! Why even the Reformed and evangelicals put up with Johnny Mac and his twisted ideas of grace is beyond me. Thanks!

nrse82 said...

I have listened to a number of John MacArthur's sermons, and I don't think he would say "It's not enough to have faith alone..., but you also have to make Jesus your Lord." I think he would say that Jesus IS Lord. He is Lord whether you accept it or not, and acknowledging the fact that Jesus Lord is part of repentance.

Barbara Karr said...

First a question.
Did Jesus really have a rest in the tomb?
Is it possible a pastor like JMac be utilized of God to prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies?
Can the human make Jesus be the human's Lord?
I've a friend whose phone, SUV and bank account were singulated, restricted, used and witheld unto the emergent sunrise and sunset by Harvest Bible Chapel. The religious head, recruited & hired to the position of 'pastor' because of his MacArthur severance reference letter was for a while permitted a demographic invite through "party with the pastor" flyers, the neck scarving of middle aged males by females given to fulfill emergent hbc key leader roles until males became good enough to unite the religious small group t-shirt staffers trained to uphold the mystic conditional ' no bible ' sunday outreach & transportation to services from the local homeless shelter and parking lot of other unwanted & thrown away persons. My friend was disabled and the teachings of hbc he endured while visiting one Sunday joined to the fact hbc had placed 'under contract' the renovated building where %70 of his SSI check went each month, was getting sick and although a few of us who could prayed and sought additional help for him, he could not move out of the building as it was under contract. My friend stayed many hours praying to God and suffering because he was with the Lord Jesus Christ. All the while, all hbc cared for was a bigger parking lot, a bigger building and the enterprise of increase populating both from growth strategies of the world's business practices. In the horizontal view it was through a medical emergency and the work of ADA policy that my friend was moved out from being under the emergent doctrine that was hurting him physically and mentally. In the vertical relationship, wherein without it there would not be a horizontal relationship with the Church God alone was\is praised for His work in all these things to bring forth the fruit of the gospel. Perhaps one day you have the opportunity of being refined by fire in paths of righteousness, that appear to be strange, yet are for His Name's sake. Of course I may not be the best person to say anything in that I also enjoyed 100's of hours on the high dunes of McArthur State Park, Florida because most of the Sunday religious centers want persons to work to obtain the salvation of God and to remain in the salvation of God. That beach was also favored because I knew the park as being named after Pastor John MacArthur [whom you hold an unnecessary condascending ethos against] and as close as I was allowed to being in a worship service due to the effects of homelessness, and the unbelief of american sunday bench warmers, and not as a deep salt waste set aside for creedal emergents near great waters.

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