“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your heavenly Father know how to give good gifts to those who ask Him.”—Matthew 7:11
Recently, a book was published by pastor John MacArthur, calling the contemporary movement of the Spirit “Strange Fire.” While he points out some very real excesses and problems, he is carried away by his prejudices, presuppositions, and fears, and he thus unjustly caricatures the entire movement. Rather than trying to find a middle way of balance, he writes off the entire movement as counterfeit.
On the other hand, many theologically and biblically sound evangelical leaders of the past and present, have not been scared away by the excesses. For example, respected 20th century Reformed expositor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written, “In our fear of the excesses that some who claim this experience may be guilty of, we often become guilty of ‘quenching the Spirit’ and robbing ourselves of the richest blessings.”
A.W. Tozer, who had once shared a pulpit at a conference with Lloyd-Jones, responded similarly, “Well, my brother, I will not be frightened out of my rightful heritage. I will not be scared out of my birthright because some others didn’t know what to do with the birthright or have found something else that has nothing to do with the birthright. I want all that God has for me!”
A century ago, A.B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, wrote about Satan’s scarecrows:
“Many of God’s dear children have been hindered by fear of certain manifestations and spiritual movements which may not always be wholly scriptural in their methods and results. The enemy loves to use these things as scarecrows to keep away God’s children from genuine blessing. Let us simply wait upon God without fear. Can we not trust our heavenly Father to keep His promise to us, ‘if a son shall ask bread of any of you which is a father, will He give him a stone him, a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he ask an egg will He offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall the heavenly Father give the Spirit to them that ask Him.’”
Paris Reidhead, a former missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission and friend of Tozer, similarly declared, “For years the adversary of our Lord Jesus Christ and the enemy of our souls has been putting every possible means to keep the Church, the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, from its resources, tools, and weapons which would make her invincible in her warfare and task. How much longer can earnest, sincere, honest-minded evangelicals let scarecrows keep them from that which is rightfully their inheritance in our Lord Jesus Christ?”
Tozer and Simpson both advised that the answer to abuse is not disuse, but proper use. Instead of broadly condemning a movement of the Spirit that admittedly has flaws, it is much wiser to discern how to keep the movements within banks of blessing rather than dismissing the whole movement as false. The Spirit is quenched both by excesses and by critics. Let us not be scared off by the scarecrows, but welcome the movement of the Spirit with balance, discernment, and maturity.
For a scholarly response to MacArthur’s Strange Fire, see biblical scholar Craig Keener’s critique at: http://pneumareview.com/john-macarthurs-strange-fire-reviewed-by-craig-s-keener/
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