29 November 2013

Christ: Our all-sufficient reason to be thankful

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in November 2011. Dan reminds us that if we have Christ, we have every reason--in fact, the only necessary reason--to be thankful, whatever our circumstances.

As usual, the comments are closed. 
It is impossible not to think of Americans (or non's) who view our day of Thanksgiving with bitterness. "Yeah, right; easy to say thanks if you're employed, healthy, young, popular, happily married, in a growing and united church, borne on the shoulders of grateful, godly, loving children. And then there's me."

To that person, I'd just say: if you have Jesus Christ, you have reason to overflow with thanks, regardless of your situation.

I don't say this as a theoretician, though I'll not take you with me into the sloughs I've rented over the years. It's an ongoing lesson. So let me just turn to a better, a familiar friend to us all, Charles Spurgeon. One of the greatest, pithiest, truest, most encouraging little points he ever made was a meditation on Jeremiah 31:33 — "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Spurgeon wrote this:

Christian! here is all thou canst require. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? If thou canst pour this promise into thy cup, wilt thou not say, with David, “My cup runneth over; I have more than heart can wish”? When this is fulfilled, “I am thy God”, art thou not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death, but he who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? But the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask thee if thou art not complete when God is thine? Dost thou want anything but God? Is not his all-sufficiency enough to satisfy thee if all else should fail? ...
[W]hat more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above.

There it is: "I will be their God" is "the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above."

Think about it, Biblically. Make yourself, if your feelings aren't "there." Pray for God to help you think about it. What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has everything but that promise to call his own? Family, friends, health, wealth... but God is not his God?

Then think: What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has nothing but that promise to call his own? Little material good... God is his God?

We've worked at unfolding the treasures in that depository over the course of many posts; and we will do so, Lord willing, in many more. But that is it: if you have God as your God, through saving faith in Jesus Christ, then you have reason today for joy and gratitude. Though they matter, this central truth is true no matter how hard, happy, or non-existent your marriage; how thriving or struggling your church; how grateful or treacherous your children; how abundant or feeble your health; how many or few the candles on your birthday-cake.

Wherever you are, whatever your lot, look to Christ your Savior, Christ your Lord, and thank Him today.

You have reason, Christian friend.

I know this for a fact.

26 November 2013

Book review — The Masculine Mandate, by Richard D. Phillips

by Dan Phillips

The Masculine Mandate, by Richard D. Phillips
(Harrisonburg: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010; 174 pages)

As I began teaching a 30-week course on marriage and the Bible, it was with some apprehension.

Any reader could pitch a number of accurate guesses as to reasons for that feeling, but the specific niggle was this: what is Biblical manhood — specifically, malehood? How do you textually ground and express the specific difference between God's intent in creating male human beings?

I had read a number of books and articles, and they hadn't helped much. Most of them simply gave popular opinions — popular evangelicaloid opinions — without much bothering to ground them directly in Scripture. Others were some fun, but in the final analysis just nuts. One had a lot of Bible — but it was almost all irrelevant. For instance, it went on and on about what Genesis 1:26-28 teaches us about being a man. The problem? Just read it. "Male and female." Oopsie. Is that the best we can do?

Then came this book by Richard Phillips (no relation, except in Christ), and it flicked the switch for me.

In a very solid, very readable, very Biblical, very theological, very engaging, and very practical way, Phillips leads us to Genesis 2 which, after all, is the narrative of the creation of the first male, in distinction from the creation of the first female. Phillips focuses on and develops Genesis 2:7, 8, and 15. Man's distinctive, pre-Eve task: to work and to keep the garden (8). These are expressed in service and leadership (9).

Phillips develops work as meaning "to cultivate as a gardener" (12ff.), and keep as "to protect as a sword-bearer" (14ff.). He then unfolds these ideas in the categories of man's calling to work (17ff.), man as the image of God (31ff.), and man as shepherd-lord (43ff.). These all focus on the conceptual aspect, getting the ideas Scripturally validated and illustrated.

Then Phillips turns to the practical application, with three chapters on marriage, two on training children, and one each on men in friendship, in the church, and as servants of the Lord.

This was one of those books that just turned on the floodlights for me. I took Phillips' basic idea, and went at the text hammer and tongs. I found in the Hebrew text and context even more clues, verification, and opening of the ideas, thanks to the fundamental pointer Phillips had given me. From what I found, I could probably write another book complementary (see what I did there?) to Phillips' My development of these ideas particularly began with session 23, and went on for several additional studies.

At the end comes a section of questions for reflection and discussion, making the book usable for group-studies; as well as indices of Scripture, subjects, and names. Unfortunately, endnotes also come at the back of the book, a reall bad decision on the publisher's part that is a disservice both to author and reader.

This is just a really terrific book. I don't for the life of me know why it isn't better-known and more widely-discussed. Instead of Driscoll, big Gospel sites ought to be promoting Phillips. I don't know another book that does what Richard Phillips does here at all, let alone so well.

I recommend it to everyone: boys/men/husbands/fathers/pastors, for obvious reasons; girls/single ladies to know what to look for in a man; moms to know how to raise their boys.

Get, read, review, recommend.

UPDATE: I just got word that the book will be on sale for $5 this Friday, November 29, via Ligonier's Black Friday sale.

Dan Phillips's signature

25 November 2013

Janet Mefferd: The Alternate Ending

by Frank Turk

UPDATED 05 Dec 2013: Yesterday at the start of the 2 PM hour (central time) Janet Mefferd issued an apology for the interview with Mark Driscoll, and also removed all the links and files related to this incident.

For the record, my assumption is that Janet has acted inside her own good conscience and has reached this conclusion based on her own review of the events. Until/unless there is evidence to the contrary, we should all operate under that assumption for two reasons:

1. It speaks best of Mrs. Mefferd. It assumes that she is neither a victim nor the kind of drive-by hooligan some in the blogosphere have made her out to be.

2. It keeps our own consciences clear, and avoids acting like rumor mongers and people with hard hearts.

If there is more to discuss here, I'll come back to it.

Yes, I know.  I should be doing something else, Like Ministry.  This is the third of 3 posts on this subject, tracking back to yesterday and earlier today.

Back on Thursday, I got a tweet from some of my magic helpers that I needed to listen to the next segment of Janet Mefferd when it came on the web (recorded).  So I waited for it to go to the archive, and it took a little while, but here's what I found:

I have a few comments about this video and the ensuing firestorm, so what else have you got to do? Prepare for Thanksgiving?

The first comment is this -- Mark Driscoll is obviously a fantastic historian.  I have covered that in the previous post.

But let's forbid that we seem too harsh.  Mark may be battling the flu, or be on cold medicine, and he may be too weak to take it.  But the uncut video reviewed there seems to be less than congruent with the events Pastor Driscoll has described.

In that context, Janet certainly went after Mark in her radio interview -- something, let's face it, Mark has never allowed before.  Maybe no one has ever really had the audacity to try since Driscoll is well-known as a manly man. But Janet addressed the appearance of wrong-doing at the StrangeFire conference in the first segment, and then moved on to Mark's new book in the next segment.

Put on your Big Girl Pant-TAYS!
If you want to DANCE!
That brings me to my second comment: I think it's a lot less than credible for Driscoll to believe nobody would eventually call him on his antics if he gave enough interviews.  Let's be serious: he did what he did for publicity, and it was exactly what he wanted.  For him to feign suffering indignity at this point can only be accounted for as part of the show -- not as any actual loss of dignity.  He doesn't have a scrap of that left to lose.

But let's turn to the second segment for a moment just for the sake of finishing this post well.  It's one thing to mention you have heard something from someone you know (and to do so in print), and it's another thing use those ideas without attribution.  That, ultimately, is the hazard of writing non-fiction.  Over the weekend, Wade Burleson weighed in about his view of the documentation problems with Driscoll's book.  I don't know anyone who would write a book using someone else's ideas without fully attributing them at all points.   I think Janet's argument gains full force when she cites the Mars Hill web site's fair use statement and points out that it seems like Pastor Driscoll may have the problem of a double standard.

Further, let's also remember that Mark Driscoll is a man and not a venerated saint.  As Carl Trueman points out in his piece from this weekend, someone ought to tell the Emperor when he's not wearing any clothes -- and if that's not politically correct, we have a problem of Christian ethics to deal with when it comes to the lifestyles of the Young, Restless and Reformed.

However, what has surfaced, apparently through Mark's publisher, is this alternate version of the last 2 minutes of the audio:

What's unusual about this clip, I think, is that it turns out that it was allegedly recorded by the fellows at Mars Hill.  I had no idea that was ever done when one does an interview, but everyone lives the way they live.  It's obviously different than the end of the interview which went out live, and it bears another strange artifact: the voice of Mark's producer during the end of the interview.

That artifact is strange for one reason only: plainly, Mark's voice is over the phone; his assistant (I am told it is the voice of Justin Dean) is plainly not on the phone -- his voice doesn't sound like it's coming over the phone line but from another (better quality) mic. If they were doing a remote or some sort of studio-to-studio broadcast, that makes sense, but a phone interview?  Obviously they do it differently than many.

It seems to me we have to clear this one up, too.  By "we," I don't mean tiny, unable-to-hiatus me and then DJP.  I mean "we" the people tossing out accusations who are public people.  And I think there's an easy way to do this.

The version published to YouTube by the Janet Mefferd Show and Salem Radio has the breaks cut out, as podcasted radio often does. That audio is an air check, recorded from the output of the board in Janet's studio.  It is recorded on the Dallas end of the line.  While Ms. Mefferd's people have been adamant that they did not use the kill switch at any time for this interview (it's clear this is true during the interview earlier as Janet and Mark talk over each other a couple of times), it's possible, I guess, that someone's finger slipped.  However, it's unlikely that any fingers slipped on the Seattle side of the phone.  Since they were plainly recording the show, I say they come forward with the whole thing including the breaks so we can see what Pastor Driscoll was doing while the listeners were listening to commercials.  I'm sure he got moral support from Mr. Dean as the interview was not conducted from a position of genuflection on the part of Ms. Mefferd, and it will speak to the authenticity of the whole "alternative ending" now provided by Mars Hill and Tyndale.

What we certainly don't want to find out is that Mark Driscoll hung up in frustration, Mars Hill lied to Tyndale, and has caused Justin Taylor to promulgate a lie and accuse Ms. Mefferd of a few things he might regret having said.  What we want is to bring all the facts to light, exonerate Mark Driscoll, demonstrate that he doesn't live in a fantasy world where he is the dictator of thing past, present and future, and that the rest of us can retire since the only safe future for the Church is the one in his hands, according to his book, with or without a footnote.  That's the safe path, and I pray that we can all take it -- because after the events at StrangeFire, Mark's batting average is at stake. (which is not to say: again)

Can we live with the consequences of what we find when all the facts come to light?

The Mark Driscoll Experience

by Frank Turk

Do you know how I expected to spend my weekend?  Moving furniture around my house and watching WAY too much Doctor Who.  That's all I wanted -- maybe a nice visit with our prospective new Family pastor at church, a decent morning of worship on Sunday, and a couple of walks with my dog.

Instead, due entirely to my own fault, I am writing blog posts.

What I am actually trying to do is to show some solidarity and good will to a long-time friend of this blog, Janet Mefferd.  Janet is a radio host out of Dallas, and has been a fan of fellow Pyro Dan Phillips, for years. Up until Friday, Janet was a well-respected broadcast personality -- but then she had the audacity to be less than submissive toward Mark Driscoll on her radio show.  We can all guess how that went.

Anyway, I intended to do one blog post about that interview, but that turned into quite a ride -- and may have been unreadable in one sitting.  You can imagine how long it was to say that here.  So here's the agenda for today:

YESTERDAY, I gave credit where credit is due to Steve Cha, who provided the raw video which is featured below in today's post.

THIS POST TODAY is about that video vis a vis the other account floating around the internet, which happens to be Pastor Mark's account.

THE NEXT POST will be about Janet's interview with Mark because she has received a good deal of flack for it -- and most of that criticism  is, frankly, worthy of the dung heap.  More on that next time.

In a very muddled and expansive mess of a post, Driscoll attempted to do ... well, something.  Was he trying to be nice to John MacArthur? Helpful? Inviting? Collegial? Or self-serving and obsequious? It's hard to tell because while it starts, "Dear Pastor John MacArthur," is has a pretty long (about a third of the letter by word count) excursus on how he was bullied in the parking lot by security.  One wonders how Chris Rosebrough's treatment at ER2 missed his notice.

As always with Pastor Mark, it's a gripping tale in which he is the hero:

As you may have heard, I dropped by your recent Strange Fire conference. I happened to be in the area speaking at an Act Like Men conference in Long Beach. I intentionally came during a break so as not to interrupt the sessions, and I met some great people. I got to pray with a number of great young leaders in your seminary who also podcast my sermons. Out of respect for you, I said nothing unkind about you or your ministry to anyone on my visit.

Your pastoral staff was very gracious and hospitable. I met your executive pastor, Michael Mahoney, who offered me water, asked if I needed anything while signing books, and was very gracious. I also met Austin Duncan, your college pastor who hung out for my entire visit and was very enjoyable.

The volunteers on your security team, most of them seminary students, were also very kind. They helped me park and enter the event, and some came by for a photo or a free book and brought great practical questions about their future ministry and how they could serve Jesus most effectively.

Everyone I asked who is attending your seminary said they chose your school because they wanted to learn to preach the Bible. As a Bible preacher, I rejoice in that. I actually considered attending your school myself after I finished my undergraduate work, but I was newly married and could not afford any seminary at the time. Some years later, I was thankfully able to get my master’s from Western Seminary.

The only difficult moments on my visit came during my interactions not with your pastoral staff, but with a few of the apparently staff security personnel. I had been handing out advance copies of my new book for free; the pastoral staff said I was welcome on campus. They were kind, and some of them even asked for photos and books, which I gave them and signed with a pen I borrowed from your son, Mark. He kindly lent it to me, we visited, and he too was very kind, very welcoming, and very gracious.

However, there were two security guards who seemed to operate in a manner inconsistent with the permission I received from the pastoral staff. These two men took turns approaching me as I was talking with and praying for people, and things got confusing.

Security said I could not hand the books out, so I stopped. But people started helping themselves to the books that remained in the box, so security said the books had to be removed. One of the security guards said if I did not remove the books, he would “have to take it to the next level.” I asked him what that meant, curious, as his tone was different than the pastoral staff I had encountered. He admitted he did not know what the next level was. The other security guard then approached, saying the books had to be removed. He told me that they were taking them to put them in a Mustang, which they apparently thought was my vehicle. I did not know what Mustang they were referring to. In any case, it was obvious that my gift books were being removed.

It was at this point that I told the security guard that, since they were going to confiscate the books anyway, they could just keep them as a gift from me. Apparently, someone recorded the final words of this conversation on video, but nothing of the prior conversations that led up to it.

As Bible teachers, we both know that people often arrive at the wrong conclusion when they extract a line out of an ongoing discussion, ignoring the context, and then wrongly impugn someone’s character. I am guessing the security team and pastoral team were not entirely rowing in the same direction, and that security thought they were just doing their job.

Mistakes happen. I understand. And since no one owes me anything, I am grateful I got to hang out for a bit and meet some of the pastoral staff and your son. I would’ve been glad to have met you as well.

Maybe that can still happen?

Quite an account, yes?  You would think that there was nearly a street fight the way he tells it.  The reason he has to say anything about it, of course, is because this is how he summarized it on Twitter:

Right?  I mean: the story we find ourselves in here started with Driscoll's tweet on 18 October that GCC security took his books, and it's paired with a photo of a fellow who, frankly, looks like security.  To that end, I'm sure it's right of Mark to let everybody know that, in spite of rough treatment, he's OK -- in fact, in spite of rough treatment, he's actually coming back with a kind and brotherly spirit.

Which is a great story -- if any of it is true.

If only we had a way to check the story.  If only we had ... Steve Cha's video.

Now, a few caveats:

[1] Yes: Steve's video is only 4 minutes, and Driscoll was on the campus about 30-45 minutes, so this is at-best a 10% sample of the whole visit.

[2] Yes, some of the audio isn't great.

But I think these 4 minutes of video do tell us something.  Let's watch:

Now: so what?  What's that video tell us?  Mostly, it tells us that the Mark Driscoll Experience at the GCC campus was, to say the least, cordial.  Even his interaction with Mr. Tom Hatter was almost entirely friendly and uneventful.  But it also tells us when the photo posted on Pastor Driscoll's Instagram/Twitter account happened:

Oh wait -- no, that's a frame from this video with three guys not Tom Hatter called out for reference.  This one is from Driscoll's Instagram:

These photos are snapped within moments of each other, and plainly: this segment of the video shows there's no confiscation going on.  So the Tweet wasn't quite a historical account.  Wouldn't it be great if Driscoll actually said, "I was wrong to say the books were confiscated.  I apologize as I made it sound  like your people were out to get me.  Please forgive me?"  I think it would.

But let's ask ourselves: how about the blog post?  Is the blog post any better than the tweet?

Well, of the 30-45 minutes he was there, we can admit that most of it is missing.  Most was not recorded.  But let's be fair to all parties: the sort of confusion and tense situations Driscoll describes also seems absent.

It could be that the fix was in, and Steve Cha was only recording nice stuff.  It could have been a set-up by the GCC staff, right?  See: that makes sense if somehow they invited Driscoll or intended for him to be there.  But somehow, since Driscoll's tweet is transparently false based on the video evidence, how much stock should we put in his blog post?  "the Next level"?  What is this - an off-broadway production of Roadhouse?

My only purpose in rehearsing this clown show is this: the experience at GCC was for publicity only, and of course Mark played it for the cheap seats.  The phony tweet, the obsequious blog post, the phony invitation to his conference -- all of it entry-level stunts.

After all these, he appears on the Janet Mefferd Show.  As he says, he does Janet a favor.

And that's the subject of the next blog post.

24 November 2013

Credit where Credit is Due

by Frank Turk

I realize that this space is normally a burning white-hot two-day Spurgeon homage, but this week we have a few pieces of housekeeping to take care of.  The first one is the video below.  It's one of the stories in the life of evangelist Steve Cha.

Steve Cha is an author, speaker, and evangelist. He is most known for spending three years in Hollywood preaching the gospel message to famous actors, actresses, directors, and musicians. These true stories are documented in Steve’s debut book, Hollywood Mission: Possible, which has been featured on such media outlets like CNN.com, Christian Post, and Korea Times.

Steve graduated with a B.A. in Asian American Studies from the University of California Los Angeles. He currently attends The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA, where he is currently working towards a Master of Divinity. Steve is a member of SAG-AFTRA One Union, and is founder of Project A-List, a Facebook and Twitter Christian community devoted to saving Hollywood celebrities with the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Steve is obviously a friend of the blog-family via TMS, but the reason I'm featuring Steve today is simple: Steve is the fellow who shot the video of what happened to Mark Driscoll when he crashed the StrangeFire conference.

Thanks much to Steve for his ministry, and also for his fast-on-his-feet decision to shot about 4 minutes of footage which many of us will find instructive over the next couple of posts.

Our singing God

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Able to the Uttermost, Pilgrim Publications, pages 96-97.
"A father hath joy in his children, and God hath joy in His children."

And, indeed, it lies in the very marrow of the metaphor now before us. A man hath joy in his portion; so hath the Lord joy in His people. And you know that memorable passage; I scarcely ever dare to quote it without deep emotion, so wonderful a passage is it: “He shall rest in His love”—as if God found rest in loving His people—“He will joy over thee with singing.”

It is a wonderful passage. Have we not before told you that when God created the world the angels sang for joy. God did not sing: He said, “It is very good.” He spoke, and expressed His approbation, but I hear of no song. But now, in the new creation, when He sees His dear ones chosen before all worlds, for whom the only-begotten poured out His life-blood—when the Spirit of God sees His workmanship, it is written, “He shall joy over thee with singing.”

God singing! Can you catch the thought? This is sweeter than the angels’ song or than the song of all the beatified that surround the crystal throne. It is Jehovah Himself that sings—like a husband rejoicing over his bride, or a mother singing over her child.

For God hath joy in His people; Christ findeth satisfaction in the fruit of  His agonies, and the Holy Spirit takes delight to view the soul that He Himself hath formed anew. This is unspeakably precious, but it is true; the Lord finds delight in His people and enjoys them, for “the Lord’s portion is His people.”

And I believe, brethren, that the fruit that God looks for from us is our love. You do not expect your children to do anything for you, but you do expect them to love you, and you expect their gratitude. When their eyes sparkle, and their little lips almost incoherently tell you how thankful they are to you for your kindness, you rejoice in that. And praise is pleasant to God. He delights in the love of His people and in their thanksgiving.

And, moreover, fellowship with God is sweet to Him. For it is said of Jesus, “His delights were with the sons of men,” and all through the Song of Solomon the spouse represents Himself as ravished with the love of His beloved. Christ always speaks there of His Church as being able to communicate joy to Him by the sight of her fair face, and the words of her lips.

He says, “Let Me see thy face! Let Me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy face, and thy countenance is comely”—sweet to Him and comely to Him. Oh, dear children of God, rob not God of His fruit that comes of His portion. Give Him your love; give Him your fellowship; walk with Him as Enoch did; for this is Christ’s joy—that you should have joy in Him.

22 November 2013

"Taste and see that Yahweh is Good"

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in August 2012. The topic was the importance of knowing God's Goodness in a concrete rather than theoretical way.

As usual, the comments are closed. 
Louis Berkhof says that the Goodness of God is one of three primary moral attributes of God – the other two being God’s Holiness, and God’s Righteousness.

We speak of something as good when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word "God." He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. …

But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. …

All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the highest good for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. (Systematic Theology, 70)

That’s quite a mouthful...the Psalmist takes a different approach. The Psalmist here tells us where our hope lies. And let’s be clear: the Psalmist, in Psalm 34, is hopeful.

TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD, he proclaims. He is actually a little more emphatic than that, because the Psalmist doesn’t just say “the Lord” here in proper reverence: he says instead, “TASTE AND SEE THAT JEHOVAH IS GOOD!” “TASTE AND SEE THAT YAHWEH IS GOOD!” That is: this is not God-in-Theory. This is not a system of understanding an ineffable and incomprehensible God. This is the God of Joshua, the God of Moses, and Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and Noah. This is God who called Samuel by name and gave him explicit instruction to anoint David the King of Israel. This is God in Person, God in Fact, The God who has a living history of making promises, and keeping them.

And that’s the Psalmist’s trope here: Somehow, we have a God who is as real as a delicious meal. Somehow, we have to get our mouth ready to receive him. That’s actually what John Calvin says about this Psalm: “the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dullness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than a matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; … He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them.”

Without overstating it, the Psalmist is saying that God is REAL – and that the primary way we know God is REAL is that He is knowably Good.

This is actually our problem, isn’t it? This is actually the problem that we as people face all the time. We have lousy taste. I’m not talking about the way we dress, or the colors we paint our homes or the way we decorate them, or even the kinds of jokes we tell. I’m talking about keeping our sensibilities on what God intends for this world. And when bad things happen – things which are inexplicably bad, things which, let’s face it, one Sunday school lesson cannot possibly explain – our bad taste tends to take over.

We forget the broad ways in which the fact that God is Good must anchor us.

21 November 2013

Strange Fire Conference #9: concluding thoughts

by Dan Phillips

Since this is an issue that hasn't yet gone away, and since I've been writing on it for decades, these are far from my final thoughts on "continumaticism." But as to the conference, I mean this to be the sum-up.

I gave a verbal sum-up to my church which, to my bafflement, became our most-downloaded recording so far. I would pick other messages I'd much rather see spread all around — like this onethis one, or this one — but what happens, happens, and only God can explain.

It did elicit one comment, and since it's a funny one, I share it:

Well... yeah...

So here we go:

FIRST: the GCC people were amazing. The 700 volunteers, the security — amazing. Very gracious provisions for everybody. They really treated us as guests.

SECOND: the music was amazing.

THIRD: the food was amazing.

What? Too shallow? Oh, sorry. Okay, here goes...

FOURTH: I am more impressed than ever with John MacArthur and the ministry he's headlined there.

That won't strike most of you the way it should, because a startling number of readers still (A) think I work for GCC; well, in fact, actually (B) think I'm Phil Johnson, who does work for GTY; and (C) assume all of us here are lockstep MacArthur fanboys.

Except I'm none of those things. Anyone who's ever heard me on the subject knows that I'm very critical of the whole concept of megachurches. Plus, in my entire 40+ years of Christian life, though I respect him, I probably have only heard a dozen MacArthur sermons all the way through (if that) and read maybe roughly a half-dozen books, give or take. "What would MacArthur do?" is not a question I ask myself, ever.

I say that to say this: I was immensely impressed that MacArthur even did this. At this point in his ministry, the man has ZERO to prove. He could retire today to a desert island, or to Cowlick, South Dakota and end his days in obscurity, and his entry in church history would remain secure and notable. And yet he did this.

Plus, he's not a stupid man. MacArthur knew he'd get grief, lies, slander, culpable misrepresentations, and vile bile — all of which began the moment he announced conference. He was sticking his finger in the fan, and he knew it. Why? What would possibly move MacArthur to put himself, his name, out there for this?

It can only be love for Christ, love for Christ's church, love for Christ's saints. That, and concern born of the abject failure of his younger peers to step up and sound this desperately needed cry, this trumpet-blast, themselves.

So MacArthur  asked the best people he could think of, he corralled his church, he put himself out there, and he gave it all he's got. My respect — and affection — for him has increased exponentially.

Plus talking with some of the folks there made me rethink GCC as a whole. I still have issues with the whole concept of a megachurch, any megachurch. But I am compelled to say this: if you're going to do it, that's the way to do it. GCC invests everything it has, as far as I can tell, into ministry that serves people in Christ's name. They are pedal-to-the-metal for getting the Gospel and the Word out. They've got tremendous resources, and instead of rushing them off to some fancy neighborhood in the hills, they stay right there and give it all they've got.

This conference — which my dear little church in Texas couldn't have pulled off in that way — is an example. GCC hosted the conference and treated all comers as beloved guests. Plus they gave them all a copy of the book. Plus they put the whole conference online, translated it into a bunch of languages, broadcast it all over the world... for free! And now it's all online. Give, give, give. Amazing.

(That's right: so all of the people spouting off "responses" to MacArthur who haven't listened to the conference do so in spite of the fact that it's been provided to everyone gratis.)

A cynical person might say the conference was a book-promotion. Seriously? It isn't as if MacArthur is — oh, I don't know — some obscure writer who did a book on the Gospel and needs all the help he can get just getting the word out so people know it exists. He's John MacArthur. He's a living brand-name. He's the Stephen King of evangelicals. He could publish pictures of his golf clubs, and plenty of people would pre-order copies.

That MacArthur would do this conference said a lot to me about his heart, and what it said was all good.

FIFTH and finally: I'm disappointed, but not surprised, at the aftermath.

All these folks who mouth great swelling words of respect for MacArthur (and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones and Owen and Calvin and the Bible) were explaining why MacArthur was dead-wrong and off-base before he'd even said a word. And they still are, great big surprise.

And what of Joni, Justin Peters, Conrad Mbewe? Ignored or treated ridiculously. That is, even the absolutely indisputable specifics regarding abusive false doctrine are largely brushed aside for the sake of saving Charismaticism's facade of respectability.

And what of MacArthur's dear esteemed colleagues? They launch "responses," in which they confess they haven't even listened to or read the conference or the book. That's what their swelling words of respect for MacArthur actually amount to.

In the process, unintentionally, they bear out every syllable of concern MacArthur and the other speakers voiced. It's almost a template:

  1. Profess great love, respect, admiration for MacArthur.
  2. Admit to not having listened or read.
  3. "Respond."
  4. Prove MacArthur right.

So in conclusion: it was a good conference. It was a desperately-needed conference. MacArthur is right about every central concern he sounded. Specifically, he's right to give out this note: with all the conferences and organizations setup to protect the Gospel and Christology, why so little to protect the truth about and dignity of the Holy Spirit?

I think they need to do another conference.

If they don't, I very well might. For whatever it's worth.

First post
Second post
My overall summary report to CBC
Third post
Fourth post
Fifth post
Sixth post
Seventh post
Eighth post

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20 November 2013

Amazing pre-Christmas sale at Kress Biblical Resources

by Dan Phillips

We like books here. We like sales on books, here. There's a big sale going on, so big you'd expect to see the word going out all over blogdom — and here it is:

Kress Biblical Resources is giving their entire stock an amazing 65% off through the month of November. All you have to do is enter the coupon code BR60833557256 for your cart, and the 65% will be discounted. Like this:

Kress carries a broad selection of Biblical resources. For instance, there's John Kitchen's The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, which I highlighted here. Kitchen also has Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, which graciously included some suggestions and material from me. Kitchen writes as a pastor and a lover and close student of the text of Scripture.

Then there are Prof. Will Varner's works on Psalms and James (I plan to review Varner's new EEC commentary on James within the next week or so). Kress has many other commentaries, including those by Robert Gromacki on Hebrews, Galatians, and other NT books. Then there's Rick Holland's Uneclipsing the Sonand Ken Ramey on Expository Listening.

Unless you're a regular Pyro reader, you may or may not have heard that I also have a book on Proverbs. It isn't a commentary proper. At the moment, it's Kress' top seller, and it's called God's Wisdom in Proverbs.

It's nicely-bound hardcover, 403 pages long (footnotes! of course!), has eight chapters, an Epilogue, four appendices, and two indices (major subjects and scriptures). Thanks to this sale, instead of the usual $24.99 ($16.82 at Amazon), you can get it for $8.75 a copy.

What the book does is provide an introduction to Proverbs as well as a series of studies. It helps readers understand how to read Proverbs, what it's specific genius and intent is — this is where readers, writers, and preachers alike have often made shipwreck. It also discusses wisdom, and includes a full chapter on the all-important, pan-Biblical theme of the fear of Yahweh. There are also chapters on how to obtain wisdom, trusting and worshiping God, cultivating relationships, marriage, and child-training.

The appendices debate the authorship (and discuss what difference it makes), study words related to teaching, gives suggestions as to how to preach and teach Proverbs, and suggest (at length) that Proverbs 22:6 doesn't mean what you've been told it means.

As with the slightly-earlier book, people who read it rather tend to like it. For instance, pastor and professor James M. Hamilton, Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at SBTS, reviewed the book in Themelios, saying:
The teaching of Proverbs is desperately needed today. As our society descends into decadence, this book of the Bible will give us a backbone and help us to stand, and this applies to everything from fearing God to relating appropriately to others and cultivating marriage and training children, to say nothing of sound economic policy. We need no more “explanations” of Proverbs that nullify its teaching or assume it has no connection to its OT context. Rather, we need balanced, studied, serious, joyful, and wise explanation and application of Proverbs. Enter Dan Phillips. This would be a great book for men’s discipleship groups, for a pastor planning to preach through Proverbs, for the recent graduate, and for much else. We can thank Phillips especially for his balanced and courageous presentation of how parents should use the rod for reproof.
Also: "[Phillips] takes the biblical languages seriously...so while this book does not have an academic feel, it consistently engages the Hebrew text of Proverbs."

Nine reviews at Amazon give it an average 4.7 star rating. Rachael Starke says "get my friend's book and read it ; you will not be disappointed, and you will not be unchanged." Jacob Sweeney calls it "Excellent" and says:
Dan Phillips has written God's Wisdom in Proverbs to help bridge the gap between technical commentaries and the multitudes of "how to read" books. ...This book is easy to read, yet packed with information and insight. He does what a teacher is to do: help us receive his knowledge. This is a book I will keep for many years and plan to turn to often.
David Shaw says
Phillips has written a book that will be invaluable whenever I turn to Proverbs. He has taken the time to give us the meaning of the Proverbs in the original language it was written in (Hebrew). He shows us the style and structure and how we are to gain wisdom from reading Proverbs. ...It is obvious that this book took years of study to prepare.
Robert Sakovich:
When I first read this book, I was amazed at all of the research that went into it. I couldn't help but to think of how people should be reading it and studying it to get a better understanding of the book of Proverbs. So I decided to start a small group study on the book. We had people of all ages (from 7 to 60+) and everybody learned and participated in the study of this book. And every single person said that they loved the book...in fact one of the couples has bought about 5 more copies to give to their friends.
Dan Phillips loads you up with a good deal of theology, word study, and Scripture references, but also ties in all the application one could ask for. The chapters on godly relationships, godly marriages, and godly parenting are worth the price of the book by themselves. He doesn't just give you the theology and leave you there...he challenges you in each of these areas based upon the Scripture. I can definitely say that I was convicted in some areas and experienced growth through working on them in light of Scripture. 
I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants to grow in fear of the Lord.
Mark Stamper:
One can see that the author has spent much time, study and prayer in writing this book. I am using it as the basis of an ABF class for my church for people ages 19-25. I have recommended this book to everyone in the class as it is understandable to a wide range of audiences. I feel that the chapter on the authorship of the book and the chapter on the fear of Yahweh are worth the price of the book.
Readers of Challies and Justin Taylor (and of me!) have seen the name of professor David Murray many times. Murray is a pastor and Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He heartily recommended the book, saying "the writing is clear, snappy, punchy, Solomonic even!," and adding:
It’s more “A Practical Theology of Proverbs,” and at 430 pages it’s one of the most thorough treatments of Proverbs I've come across.
Pastors and scholars will be benefit from the significant chunks devoted to issues such as authorship, Hebrew poetry, and the various proverbial forms. However, the more general reader will find a ton of helpful material in the major sections on worship, relationships, marriage, and parenting – the best treatments of these Proverbial themes I've encountered. I’ll be re-reading them many times and encouraging my wife to do so too. Dan’s explanation and application of “the fear of the Lord” was the highlight of the book for me. Absolutely outstanding.
My buddy Fred Butler says:
Dan writes as a wise pastor concerned for the best instruction he can give his people providing them rich, theological insights that lay a ground work so that they too can receive the maximum benefit from reading the Proverbs. Most academic commentaries don’t have that in mind. 
..exemplifies what makes good Bible teaching. He has the giftedness to communicate profound theology, making it understandable for regular folks and enjoyable to learn. ...I am currently going through his book a second time now that I am able to go much slower, chew longer, and digest what I am reading. What I truly appreciate about this second time is how Dan is sharpening my thinking about God. He has helped me to re-evaluate what I think about wisdom and how I should convey that to my family and in my broader ministry to other Christians.

If you are someone who is looking to teach the Proverbs from the pulpit, or in Sunday school, or maybe a home Bible study group; or even if you just want to personally have a better understanding of this wonderful treasure God has given us, you have to get this book. Dan writes with knowledge of the subject and a passion for God and His people. Believe me; You’ll benefit greatly from this study
Finally, this being Pyromaniacs and all, it might be apposite to quote Phil Johnson's recommendation. He says the book
is written brilliantly at a level that will challenge anyone who is interested enough in gaining wisdom and understanding to be serious in that quest. Readers will range from serious students of Scripture to casual lay readers on their way to a more serious approach to Scripture. It explains the wisdom of Proverbs (and the biblical nature of wisdom per se) in a clear, readable fashion that will be extremely helpful to everyone from students entering the academic world for the first time, to new parents seeking biblical insight into the process of child-rearing, to anyone in a position of responsibility or leadership. I recommend it for all who are tired of the superficial, self-centered themes that have filled evangelical pulpits and bookshelves for the past three decades (or more). If you are hungry for biblical material, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs will feed your appetite.
So... maybe you want to consider it as a Christmas present? I highly doubt you'll ever see a better price. Give it to your pastor (unless I'm your pastor; I've already got a copy), give it to your elders, your group leader, your Sunday School teacher, your professors or teachers at college and seminary, your church library, your favorite high-visibility blogger who usually likes and reviews solid, Reformed, Christian work on OT books in general and Proverbs in particular (unless that's me; I've already got a copy).

Remember: the sale is only through November, and it is only at the Kress site, and you must use the coupon code BR60833557256.

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19 November 2013

Strange Fire Conference #8: John MacArthur, final session

by Dan Phillips

The last session I'll cover is John MacArthur's closing address. He said he was speaking from the heart, and had told an associate that he didn't really know what he was going to say in advance.

MacArthur began by addressing some of the accusations that had been hurled at him from the very moment of the announcement of the then-future conference. The first was that such a conference was unloving. But, MacArthur countered, surely the most loving thing to do is tell a person the truth, and leaving him in error the most unloving. In Acts 20, Paul reminded the elders that he had warned them with tears for years, knowing that wolves would arise from without and within. Titus 1 says it is the God-given duty of elders to warn against errors and errorists. It isn't optional. To refuse is to be faithless.

But wouldn't it be divisive? Indeed it would. Truth divides. Jesus brought a sword, He said. It is more important to be divided by truth than to be united in error.

Is the issue unclear in the Bible? Does difference of opinion demonstrate that Scripture is unclear? If so, Mac responded, it has only become unclear under the influence of false teachers. Was it not clear enough to the apostles, to the church fathers, to the Reformers, to the Puritans, to the creed-writers, to the erudite noble Reformed theologians (Warfield, for instance), to Spurgeon, to Boyce, to Sproul? When did it become "unclear"? Was it made unclear by Swaggart, by Kuhlman, by Benny Hinn, by Todd Bentley, by Paul Cain?

But, it is said, Mac is talking only about the extreme lunatic fringe. Untrue, he replied: Error leavens the whole movement, and they show no great inclination to rid themselves of it decisively. 90% accept prosperity gospel, 24-25 million deny Trinity, 100 million are RCs.

Would the conference be attacking brothers in Christ? MacArthur wishes that were so; but many of these leading figures are not brothers. Then he asked, Who should police evangelicalism? His answer: every faithful pastor, theologian, leader in the movement. If they don’t police the movement, the spiritual terrorists will dominate – as with Islam. Many say that Islamic terrorists are a small minority on the lunatic fringe. If that is the case, then why don’t Muslims en masse rise to reject the terrorists? So with Charismaticism. A heavy burden lies on the back of all who know the Word to rise up and denounce the movement's errors.

Is MacArthur fixated on Charismaticism? Is he a one-trick pony, always harping on Charismatics? He replied that he’s preached the whole NT, and has been at GCC since 1969 — and he’s had one conference on the Charismatic movement.

Is he hurting people’s feelings? MacArthur replied that he does care about offending people. But he doesn't care about that nearly as much as he cares about offending God.

MacArthur then went on to stress: Charismaticism/continuationism is an alien movement. We teach in a stream that goes back through the Reformers to the Fathers. The stream of Charismaticism goes back to the 60s, when hippies entered and dominated the church scene. The distinctive pedigree is as bad as the distinctive fruit.

Then MacArthur pled with his continuationist friends. First, he called them to face the cold hard fact that when they say they’re continuationist, they lend credence to the whole false movement. They give their good name to bad doctrine and practice. They provide theological cover for a movement that’s harmful and deadly.

Second, he observed that Charismaticism degrades supernatural nature of true gifts. Hebrews 2:1-4 is meaningless, if what Apollos the writer speaks of applies to what everyone’s experiencing today. Redefining the gifts necessarily diminishes the glory of the real thing. If those attesting works were like these pale, laughable trivialities and parlor-tricks, they were nothing special. They they were nothing special, the era was nothing special. If the era was nothing special, the message it produced was and is nothing special. Hijacking Biblical terminology degrades the genuinely miraculous.

Third, the continuationist position severely limits its advocates in attempting to confront others who plunge into confusion. The movement should be denounced, wholesale – and we keep waiting for denunciation of the serious errors, and it hasn’t come. Good men who call themselves continuationists have given up the high ground, so that they cannot speak with the needed "punch."

Fourth, by insisting that God’s still giving new revelation to Christians today, the enablers unwittingly open the gates to more and greater confusion and error. Tongues, healing, prophecy are said to occur today – but these phenomena are not at all like what happened in NT times. If that is so, if that radical redefinition is accepted, then anything might be from God – gibberish, nutty notions, feelings, anything can be "prophecy." Open the door to any of it, and you've opened the door to all of it.

Fifth, the position tacitly denies Sola Scriptura. None of MacArthur’s continuationist friends would formally deny closing of Canon and all — yet they default on that claim by teaching believers to expect extra-Biblical revelation. Saying that babble is tongues and fallible hunches are prophecy necessarily opens the door to the mindless ecstasy of unintelligible expression. In reality, these folks are actually closet cessationists when they say the manifestations are not the same. What it means is that they’ve accepted a counterfeit – and that’s hardly a noble posture.

Seventh, say that the gift of healing is still around, though there’s no evidence whatever, and you give credence to the worst of the faith healers.

All of this dishonors the august person of the Holy Spirit by enticing people from His true ministry. “Give me more, give me that other thing” is the cry – what kind of deficiency does that attribute to work of the Spirit?

The broader Charismatic movement has flung open the city gates to more doctrinal error than any other movement, including liberalism, pragmatism, ecumenism, or any other previous enemy-attempt. Charismatic theology is the strange fire of our generation, and should be doused decisively by the Biblically faithful.

MacArthur's closing was very moving. He went to 1 Timothy 6, last two verses:
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.
Then he want to 2 Timothy 1:6-7 —
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
MacArthur observed that this was a scary time for Paul. The baton was about to be passed to Timothy, and Timothy was looking weak. So Paul calls Timothy not to be ashamed of testimony of our Lord — what a frightening charge to have to put into words at this stage. Timothy must retain the standard of sound words. What God gave him through Paul was a treasure. "Guard the treasure entrusted to you," Paul pleads.

What effect did the words have on Timothy? How did Timothy respond? For the answer, MacArthur took us to Hebrews 13:23.
You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.
Timothy had hung in there. He'd borne witness, and he'd gone to jail. Paul’s letter gripped his heart and emboldened him.

So it needs to grip ours. The Charismatic movement seeks to distract us from confidence in the sufficiency of God's word. It seeks to loosen our grip on the treasure, and pull us in a dozen different fruitless or positively harmful directions.

We must reject that pull, we must cling to God's Word, we must preach that Word... and so, only, can we avoid stoking (or roasting in) Strange Fire.

First post
Second post
My overall summary report to CBC
Third post
Fourth post
Fifth post
Sixth post
Seventh post

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17 November 2013

"So it is"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 36, sermon number 2,175, "So it is." 
"If you will serve the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not find your road all smooth; but you will find it more pleasant than serving the devil." 

Satan said of Job, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about all that he hath?” It was most true, but the Lord God might have answered the devil, “Would you have my servants unrewarded? It is from you that service meets no reward but death. Do you think I would have you able to say, ‘God’s servants serve him for nothing. Even Job gets no return for his faithful obedience’?”

Beloved, we may not expect immediate success in business because we walk in the path of integrity. We may for a time be losers by being honest, and may miss many a chance by abhorring deception. But we do not measure things by the inch, and by the ounce, when we come to deal with eternal matters.

Brethren, here we leave the clock and its ticking, and speak of the glory and immortality which belong to the infinite and the eternal. Coming into those larger regions, we declare that nothing can be obtained, worth the getting, by a lie, or by a trick, or by falling into sin.

The most profitable course in life that any man can take is to do the right in every case. If it should involve loss, do right, and suffer the consequences; for there are other compensating consequences which will make a man a gainer by uprightness, even if he should lose the clothes from his back.

To have done right is to have a well-spring of joy within the heart. Some of us have tried this, and are sure about it. There are aged persons here, who can tell you that they owe everything in life to having been enabled by the grace of God to act uprightly in their youth.

I know one who is at this moment in a fine position, whose rise in life dates from the moment when his employer bade him say that he was not at home, and he answered, “Sir, I could not say that. I cannot tell a lie.” From that day his promotion in the office was constant and rapid.

Another felt himself unable to cast up the firm’s accounts on Sunday, but before long was so prized that nobody would have suggested such a thing to him. A straightforward course is the nearest way to success.

We bear our testimony that righteousness is the best course. We cannot say, “Honesty is the best policy; we have tried both that and thieving, and honesty pays best”; but, for all that, if you consider the law of the Lord you will be considering your own interests.

Take notice of this testimony: righteousness is wisdom. A straight line is the shortest way between any two places. “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

15 November 2013

A Cornucopia of Good Will

The complete text of this exchange can be found here for download for off-line viewing.

Back on 17 Oct 2013, Frank Turk issued an open offer to any Continualist/Charismatic who … Well, I'm not good at talking about myself in the third person.  Let me restate what I said then:

The pervasive complaint has been that there's all this talk "about" Charismatics, and not talking "to" Charismatics.

Let's change that.

I am willing to sponsor a conversation with any willing, serious and sober charismatic here at TeamPyro in spite of my alleged hiatus. I can record it as a podcast, or we can do it via e-mail as a written exchange. My only requirements are these three:

1. There must be a limit. If it's audio, it must have a time limit --60 or 90 minutes. If it's written, some sort of content limiter like 10 questions each and a max word limit for responses and questions.
2. There must be fairness. That is: I expect that you will ask me clear and direct questions, and I will answer them; but when I ask you clear and direct questions, you must answer them.
3. It must be completely and totally unedited after the sound check is complete via audio, or after the initial establishment of terms is complete via e-mail. And here's the massive bone I'm going to throw in:

I am willing to concede, for the sake of this discussion, D. A. Carson's interpretation of 1 Cor 12-14, so that we are not squabbling over the hermeneutics of the issue. That is: since you want that passage to say, "well, of course the gifts will continue," you got it, and there's a sober and serious person who agrees with you. I concede on that point--now let's talk turkey.

As a consequence, I did receive 5 or 6 responses to the open invitation. The most notable was Dr. Michael Brown who has since had a public debate with Dr. Sam Waldron on this topic, and gave PhilJohnson some time on his own radio show for this topic. Dr. Brown and I traded some e-mails, but I demurred when I heard he was going to talk to Phil. I think his interactions on this subject, and his forthcoming book (NB: which will not have a chapter in it from a cessationist) will be more than sufficient to understand where he’s coming from. I’m looking forward especially to his reporting on the demographics of the Continualist/Charismatic (hereafter: C/C) camp from a viewpoint of sorting out whether most in the C/C camp are “cautious” or something more enthusiastic and like what was denounced at the StrangeFire conference.

There were others who asked to be included, and frankly I have not had time to follow up with all of them. My hope is that I will be able to follow up one at a time with each of them.

The first that I have found the time for is Dr. Adrian Warnock. You’re all familiar with Adrian as he is literally world-famous and a published author.  He blogs here, and this discussion took place over e-mail due to my own inability to find time to get the technology worked out in a suitable manner. If I am totally honest, I believe that the written exchange will be far more useful in this case so that it’s obvious to the reader whether and to what extend the questions involved are actually answered. The format for the discussion was this: each person asked the other five questions and had a final opportunity to respond to the replies; we expanded that after the first round of answers to provide for some follow-up or explanation.  If it looks like the person asking questions is trying to give you whiplash, it's because the discussion moved, by design, to the next question.  Adrian has asked me to improve the format to show where the "next question" begins, and I have made an effort to do that.  

Adrian asks, Frank replies

Why do you think that John MacArthur appears to not be willing to discuss the charismatic issue face to face with a charismatic scholar, and seems to minimize or even deny the great good being done for the gospel by many in the charismatic movement? I am not only talking about Driscoll's invitation, but for example Justin Brierley's offer to have MacArthur or a representative on Unbelievable, and the decision not to include someone like Grudem to put the case for the alternative view at StrangeFire.

Answering for Dr. MacArthur’s motives seems more than a little presumptuous – and more than a little adolescent for you to ask it this way. To show you how unflattering the approach is, let’s consider the question turned the other way: what is Wayne Grudem’s motive, do you think, in never offering anyone on the opposite side of his Continualist views 20 or 30 pages in a future edition in his formidable systematic theology to represent their view there? Why doesn’t he recognize the centuries of good and great faith represented by the Cessationists who date back before Augustine?

The question ignores a cornucopia of good will and any reasonable approach to framing one’s own case in one’s own words, doesn't it? In the very least, one has a right to be wrong on his own – and it’s a right you demand to make your case in every attempt you make to establish it. In such a view of things, your question is petulant at best, and allows for yourself what you will not provide to others.

As to taking or making other offers, let me say this: you were very gracious to take me up on the invitation to dialog on the matter at hand, but look at my invitation for a second. Mine was not a calling-out of anyone specifically who ought to be the subject of my grief. Mine was an open invitation to anyone who thinks they have something to add to the conversation to (in fact) make a conversation of it. Part of the dust cloud here is that it seems that the Cessationists are painted as somehow insular or intransigent – so my goal was to simply let whoever will, come (as it were). I wanted to be free from the accusation of stacking the deck.

In the case of these other “invitations,” how many do you think contacted GTY first to check on Dr. MacArthur’s schedule or availability before making the public declaration of opportunity? If you can’t say since you don’t have first-hand knowledge of the matter, how about this: in what way would you invite someone – anyone – to your church or conference if you were serious and sober about having them – via Twitter and your Blog, or via private conversation first to make sure you were received in a serious an sober way?

These others should go and do the same.

 I know that both Justin Brierley and Michael Brown contacted GTY seeking someone to officially represent MacArthur’s position in discussions or debates that could be arranged to fit the schedule of whoever was proposed. I think it is sad that GTY have not seen fit to make such arrangements. In case there is any doubt, I remain willing to meet with anyone GTY wants to formally suggest via Google hangouts for an informal discussion at a time of their convenience, and I know Michael Brown is open to the idea of a further more formal debate. I am grateful to you for this opportunity to discuss at least some of these matters but I am sure you would agree there is much more to discuss. So, for example we won’t have much opportunity to discuss the relevant Scriptures here, nor to talk about what I see as the divisive language used during Strange Fire. I just want us to be able to sit down, talk about this as brothers, and then agree that while these things are very important, genuine Christians who love God and respect the Bible have come to different conclusions. Do you think that this is an issue that means we cannot share fellowship?

 Since you bring it up, it makes me sad that anyone wants to have this discussion and hang it on how it makes them feel.  I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it, Adrian, but what if the truth makes you sad?  Shall we toss it out to make you happy?  I know I offered the opportunity to issue a follow-up question to each of these answers, but it makes me sad that you couldn’t just ask one question to follow up my answer, above.  Shall I now rescind the offer because I am sad?

Here are the answers to the things you have turned out, above, in order:

-- Phil was on Dr. Brown’s radio show for an hour the Monday after the conference was over.  If you think Phil needed more time, I think that was at Dr. Brown’s discretion, and he seemed to want to say more than Phil.  You should time Phil’s contribution to that hour vs. Dr. Brown’s to find out what Dr. Brown intended to do in that time.

-- You should contact Phil directly if you think your engagement with him will be more productive that Dr. Brown’s was.  However, I think Phil has said everything necessary for GTY to say on this subject already.

-- If you wanted to discuss Scripture further, you had 5 questions to me to do so, and Scripture cannot be referenced by you as a basis for any of these questions.  Weeping about its absence now seems insincere at least.

-- At last, your question: can we not share fellowship? Well, I guess that depends on you guys.  Are the questions in-play here serious enough to be blasphemy or not? Does a cessationist commit the Unpardonable Sin or not? Are there miracles actually being performed today as in the NT, or not?  It seems to me that you guys want to create your apologetic as if the dignity and deity of the Holy Spirit are at stake – until that’s actually the argument on the table, at which time we’re unloving to you for pointing out that if these are the stakes, you cats are in very serious trouble.

From my desk, I am willing to count you as a deeply-disturbed and deeply-confused person who has faith in Christ. Jesus can get you out of all the messes you guys get yourselves into.  But you have to trust him and not your mistaken idolatry of things best called “providence” and “wisdom” rather than apostolic gifts.

 I hope you will allow me the luxury of a brief follow up here. I have never called any cessationist a blasphemer, and I certainly do not believe they have committed the unpardonable sin. You know as well as I do think that some form of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" was actually an accusation against charismatics made repeatedly in publicity supporting the Strange Fire Conference. To be honest, your offer of fellowship with me while you think of me as a deeply disturbed person isn't massively appealing to me.

 That’s a great rejoinder because it speaks to the kind of Gospel you think is in-play here.  For you, thinking of someone else as “suitable for fellowship but deeply disturbed/damaged” is somehow problematic.  Yet think about this carefully Adrian: that’s exactly the kind of Gospel we must have, if it is the Gospel at all.  Christ must be the basis of fellowship – not my suitability.  It’s funny because this is allegedly the basis for the call to “unity” your side makes all over the place. But here I spell it out explicitly and it’s “not massively appealing.”

For us to let Prostitutes and Publicans come to Christ, Adrian, we need to be willing to welcome those who are deeply damaged and deeply deceived in order that Christ will, as you say in your book, bring them to new life.  In my view, your scheme to label things fallible and subjective as somehow divine and necessary is the same kind of thing as calling sex a hobby or a profession or becoming rich on the backs of the poor.  It’s the same kind of damage – and the results are everywhere to prove it.

 Do you accept that many charismatics today are as committed to the gospel, as diligent about following the Scriptures, as defensive of the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible as other evangelicals?

 As a class of practitioners of Christianity? Nope.

Are there some? Yes. Are they the majority? No – not even close. However: for the sake of discussion I’m willing to invert what I would document to be the ratio of crazy-to-conservative and say that 30% are crazy and 70% are conservative – but the crazies get all the press. I would do so only to give you a chance to make some kind of argument or point regarding a movement that is 30% crazy and 70% cautious.

In that answer, I have given you all the room you need to answer the companion question I have in my list of questions, and I look forward to your candid, sober remarks.

 Frank, thinking about this question gave me an idea. I wonder, would you be prepared to spend some of your own time to visit a charismatic or Pentecostal church that we select for you within say an hour’s drive of your house? The idea would be for you to attend a service and meet with a few members of the congregation and the pastor, to help you see just how much they love the Bible and our Lord.

In fact, even if you don’t have time to take me up on this offer (and I do appreciate you are a busy man), I would love to make this same offer for all your readers. If any of them want to be introduced to a Bible-loving charismatic church in their area for them to make an honest and open visit to, I would be happy to try and get such recommendations between myself and my blog readers. I expect in most cases to be able to find a church that would challenge some of the cessationist assumptions that seem to be rampant at Team Pyro and in the comment section. What do you think Frank?

What I want to reader to do, as they read this exchange, is to watch Adrian’s interaction as the exchange unfolds.  He asks a question, I give an answer, and his follow-up ignores the answer and changes the subject.

--Is John MacArthur a bad man on the inside? I say it’s adolescent to ask, and effective invitations to public people are usually done in an orderly way.  Adrian’s response? Yes, but then what about Phil?

--Adrian asks if Charismatics are committed to the Gospel? I say no, but I am willing to say that only 30% of them are crazy for the sake of argument.  Adrian’s response? Let’s not talk about facts: let’s create an experiential anecdote.  Can I find one church that upends my assertion, and would I go there?

So to this end, I say this: no, I do not want an experience.  I want the charismatic, who demands somebody talk to him, to talk to me.  To participate in this conversation rather than in the one he seems to think he can have without me.  I have met charismatics, and the more of them I meet the more I am certain they cannot possibly imagine what people think of them – not because they are so holy or Godly or on-fire for the Spirit, but because they are babblers who are so self-absorbed that they simply cannot even have a conversation with someone about what they believe.

 Do you agree that the experiences charismatics describe as "gifts of the spirit" are often similar to what Spurgeon experienced, and related to some of the rich tapestry of experiential Christianity described by many from the past who were theologically cessationists? If so, do you think modern cessationism risks missing out on sharing in that rich experience?

Your question assumes Spurgeon gave up his “experiences” without any comment or reference to what we should make of Charismatic outbursts.

In fact, as I read the evidence on the internet, you are the person who invented the argument that Spurgeon was, in fact, some kind of cautious Charismatic – and for that, you should be hung out to dry. Only Sam Storms has had the temerity to say that even if we accept the reports with no comment, Spurgeon himself did not see them as “charismatic gifts,” but the army of people foisting this argument on the world cannot see this glaring problem. In the same way we should interpret Isaiah’s view of Isaiah as normative, we should see Spurgeon’s view of Spurgeon as normative and not make the man into some sort of imbecile who cannot detect the presence of God. We should interpret Spurgeon’s experiences the way Spurgeon did and not the way you (conveniently) frame them.

Spurgeon rejected the idea of ongoing Apostolic, miraculous gifts. Saying he didn’t because he had some experiences of intuition or wisdom is like saying that there are more prophets in the past we ought to be looking for because they had words from God --but because they denied they were actually God’s words, we may have lost them. That is: we can’t really trust people to know if God spoke to them or not. If I were looking to score points, I’d say, “but of course, that’s actually how you frame modern prophecy,” but I am not looking to score points. I’m trying to answer this question in spite of its lopsided and (it seems) self-ignorant biases.

Spurgeon rejects your argument here. I’ll let him speak for himself about his own life and experience.

 I was a bit surprised to see that you are perpetuating the myth that I believe Spurgeon was a closet charismatic. That would be anachronistic, as like almost all Christians of his time, he was theologically cessationist. The point I was trying to highlight was that he had a rich experience of God, and that this might be analogous to some of the experiences of charismatics today. It is difficult to explain Spurgeon’s insights without using the word prophetic. When I was discussing these issues with Steve Camp, who previously worked with MacArthur, he also reminded us of Huss’s prophecy predicting Martin Luther’s ministry. I have asked often, but I still don’t really understand what stronger Cessationists make of such occurrences, or indeed if they feel that they can still happen today. A few links may help our readers assess the experiences of Spurgeon and others for themselves:

Warnie 1
Warnie 2
Warnie 3
Spurgeon Archive
Charisma News (Also a Warnie)

I believe God still gives these gifts even where people call them something else. Frank, have you had any similar experiences yourself, or heard about any in people you know personally, that would fall into a similar category?

I would think that this is a good place to ask the Scriptural questions about the matter rather than try to get me to admit that I have had the experience of the Holy Spirit but just can’t bring myself to admit it, Adrian.  However, no sense in trying to make your points for you.

Because TeamPyro has such an extensive history ofcommenting on this issue, let me point you to the affirmations and denials I have posted (about half-way through that open letter) regarding the dividing line between Cessationism and Continualism.  This should disabuse you of a lot of the vagueness in your approach here – if you read them.

To my personal experience, of course I have experienced the Holy Spirit.  I am regenerate; I have experienced a lot of sanctification through my 20 years as a Christian and expect to experience more.  Scripture has been illuminated to me.  I see that I have gifts useful for the edification of my local church.

The problem with your question, however, is that is stands on one faulty assertion: that if I have experienced any of the ordinary outworking of the Holy Spirit, I have to concede all on-going extraordinary outworkings of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t have to do any such thing – especially when they are allegedly presented to me for my personal “amen,” what I find is a list of hunches, anecdotes, oceans of people who cannot be accounted for, and not anything that looks even like the moment in Acts 3 when Peter and John healed the Lame Beggar – let alone Lazarus or Eutychus.

This, by the way, is how you try to make Spurgeon out to be some sort of Pre-Azusa Street Holy Roller: when he speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit – and means thinks like salvation, redemption, illumination, sanctification, holiness, and oneness with the body of Christ – you take him to mean all manner of twitchy exuberance.  You think Spurgeon would endorse the so-called Charismatic ministries today?  Or that Lloyd-Jones was somehow commending the Pentecostals when he was condemning them?

 Why do you think so few people today are willing to talk about their experience of God? Is it because they are afraid of being a chapter in MacArthur's next book, or at least of being perceived to be charismatics?

Personally, I think this question is utterly ignorant of the real world. You can’t hardly turn on TV or look at the best sellers lists for books without finding people on again about their experience of God – the problem is that you disqualify almost all of them because you disagree with some part of their experience (you say: because of the Bible; I say: because they make your views out to be what they really are).

The problem is not that people are reticent in talking about their “experience of God. ” The problem is that people are engrossed by the idea that God’s relationship with them is entirely for their personal benefit and entirely subjective. The idea that most of us are beloved to God but are somehow less than Abraham or Moses or Paul in God’s plan for all things is, frankly, offensive to them. The idea that there is an ordinary experience of God – or better still, an ordinary Christian life – strikes them as horrifyingly dull.

There is not any lack at all for people yammering on about their “Experience of God. ” There is a lack of God-ness in that conversation which is more than a little arrogant and shallow. I’d be much more impressed by all that conversation if any of those people found out that when they met God, they were somehow undone by the holiness of Him and also humiliated by the act of condescension He had to make to allow the meeting in the first place. Unfortunately, I am certain you can’t name three people in the last 100 years who, after their “Experience of God” – meaning what you mean by it -- turned out that way.

 I can assure you that there are many examples of people who’s experiences of God have led to good results in their lives and not pride. In the last 100 years the first names that spring to mind are, as follows, each with a link:

Terry Virgo One and Two

Frank, if I may ask you, are you familiar with the notion many Pastors have of a call to ministry? Do you agree that even for many who would not call themselves charismatic there is often a subjective sense of God compelling them to serve him? Doesn't that sound a bit like what the more moderate charismatics call prophecy?

 I think any fair reader of John Piper’s essay you have linked to will see immediately that while Piper would never be someone who would deny that the voice of God can be heard apart from Scripture, that essay speaks to his conviction that the primary and normative way to hear God’s voice is in Scripture, not in intuition.  That’s a far cry from what you want to say here in your view.

That said, you are tossing out an experience which, if we look at it with any kind of objectivity, has consequences which are startling and dark.  According to FASICLD, 50% of pastors would leave the ministry if they thought they could find other work, and 89% of them have considered leaving the ministry.  Barna says 80% of pastors think they are unqualified for their ministry; 70% fight depression.  1500 pastors leave the ministry every month.

If your position is that somehow a lot of people “feel called” into ministry, my response is that if this is the way pastors are self-selecting into the ministry, the results speak for themselves.  And those results, it turns out, look exactly like the kind of charismatic chaos the StrangeFire conference was pointing to in horror.

 If moderate charismatics and moderate cessationists are largely arguing over what to call experiences of God today, do you think we will ever get to the point where this issue is still passionately disagreed about, but with a broad acceptance that many on the other side are genuine believers who are simply following a different interpretation of the Bible to us. I am thinking about issues like baptism, church government, eschatology, etc where great fellowship and mutual respect often exists between people who think very differently.

I don’t think that’s the case at all. I have conceded for the sake of this exchange that Carson’s view of 1 Cor 12-14 is the unassailable view and we must accept it as the right understanding of whether or not the Gifts will continue. The problem, it turns out, is that you want to over-leverage that concession, pat the cessationist on the head, and expect him to accept a plastic tea service after you have promised him tea with the King.

My response is this: since I accept Carson’s reading of 1Cor 12-14, I demand the real thing. I want prophecies which God has actually said – not guesses that are wrong about 95% of the time (a ratio worse than most business forecasting) or intuitions which cannot be validated or interpreted more-usefully than a horoscope. I want healing so clear and real that it causes the public officials to flog the men doing it because they are disrupting the peace – not rumors from the unwired third world or fortunate timings for lower back pain. I want to meet the people who received the word of God in their native tongue when the evangelist came without any knowledge of their language – not gibberish murmured in private that calls itself the tongues of angels.

The problem you face with me is that I know and love comic books, but I would never mistake them or their claims for real virtue, real adventure or real triumph. And let me tell you frankly: you cats are selling something which, at the end of the day, compares unfavorably to comics.

The reason, if I may run a little long here, is simple: the question is not merely a secondary matter. Look: one reason we reject Catholicism is over the fact (or lack of fact) regarding a miracle – the transubstantiation of bread and wine into Body and Blood. In the Catholic mind, anyone who rejects this miracle – which is performed every day – is simply out of line. They are comparable to Muslims in God’s economy of salvation. They can’t really be Christian because they cannot receive God’s work in the Mass. For them, because it is actually a miracle, it’s blasphemy to reject it – and if they are right about the Mass, they are right about the blasphemy.

For you, though, the idea of the truly-miraculous is merely existential. That is, it’s your thing, do what you want to do. My world as a cessationist is less because I think there are no miracles today, but it’s not so far gone that I can’t follow Christ. There’s nothing necessary about any of these miracles for the normal Christian life –unless I reject them as fraudulent, in which case they just make it better in some yet-to-be-explained way and my view is therefore substandard, unorthodox (in spite of being the prevailing view since the Nicene Creed was written). And that you do have an “experience of God” only makes your Christian life slightly better – and it’s only as much better as the actual experience. You didn’t get a Prophecy this week? No loss. I get a prophecy not quite true next week? No loss. As long as one is committed to saying they can or could be available, one has the 64-color set of Crayons rather than the cheap 8-color set Frank Turk is using.

My greatest problem with the “other side” of this argument is very simple: it cheapens the truly-miraculous. It sets the expectation for God’s work and action so low that Criss Angel is more exciting to experience than Prophecy or Tongues. And as signs of the resurrection, they have to make you wonder what kind of resurrection Christ had if the best the Holy Spirit can do today is Pat Robertson.

 In reply I would simply say that I don’t demand God act in a certain way, nor do I command that he cannot act in another. I am content to allow God to distribute his gifts to the Church graciously as he wills. These things are only a foretaste of what is to come in any case! Surely a taste is better than nothing at all, Frank?

You have promised a taste of Kobe beef, then offer me the Nike-leather sandwich from some vagrant’s pantry, and smile and say, “well, a taste is better than nothing.” That seems shifty at best.

That doesn't hardly sound like faith in the God who promised a Savior at the beginning of the world and delivered him to us at exactly the right time.  And it makes that kind of faith – faith in a God who keeps His word, and who is Creator and Sustainer of all things – into less-meaningful than playing games at a casino.

Frank asks, Adrian replies

In my invitation, I have conceded for the sake of this discussion the interpretation of the NT that the sign gifts continue. Given that concession, isn't the more critical question whether or not they are necessary for the life of the church? Why or why not?

 To answer your question, let’s look at how the Bible describes the function of one of what you call the sign gifts but what the Bible calls the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The purposes of prophecy are defined as “upbuilding, encouragement and consolation. ” (1 Corinthians 14:3), these purposes do not seem to overlap significantly with the purposes of Scripture which are “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It seems prophecy takes the general word of God to all the World and applies it specifically to specific people at a specific time in order to give us the strength and the specific restorative word that we need. In my dialogue with Steve Camp (http://www. patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2013/11/strange-fire-dialogue-with-steve-camp/), he described occasions he had observed when preaching MacArthur seemed to be operating in exactly this way.

In the Scriptures prophecy also seemed to be strongly involved in prompting further missionary efforts (see Acts 13). Also, in Acts 2 we see that the Spirit is to be poured out on all flesh, and on everyone who God calls to himself, and a clear part of this in context is a broad distribution of prophecy. It seems that this to indicate that the relationship breach between God and Man has been repaired.

We do not enjoy the full benefits of a relationship with God before we meet him face to face (1 Corinthians 13) but we are all given the opportunity to “know in part and prophecy in part,” and to enjoy the sealing work of the Spirit in the here and now, which is described in Ephesians 1 as the deposit which guarantees the much greater inheritance that is yet to come (see Ephesians 1).

Essentially, the gifts are purposed to in a limited way manifest God’s tangible presence on Earth, giving us a foretaste of the enjoyment we will have of God’s presence in heaven. As such, the primary purpose is surely to inspire us to worship God in spirit and truth.

If those gifts were withdrawn in their entirety the Church would be infinitely poorer. But I am thankful that they have never been withdrawn. I believe that every true Christian experiences at least something of the touch of the Holy Spirit, even if at times we may not recognize it as such, or like Spurgeon, we may choose to call what happens to us by a different name. After all, Paul tells us that we are “not lacking in any gift” as we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7) Yet, he also commands us to earnestly desire more of these spiritual gifts, a command that the Bible never rescinds. (1 Corinthians 14:39)

I take your answer to be, then, that the “sign gifts” are necessary for the local church.  Without them, the local church is “infinitely poorer,” as you put it – which may be an attempt to simply use nice words and not really reflect your view.  If I take your statement seriously, I think about the things which would make my local church “infinitely poorer:” the absence of God’s word (which is inclusive of the Gospel); the absence of men gifted to lead and teach the church; the absence of fellowship with other believers.

If any of those things were absent, the problem of being “infinitely poorer” becomes self-evident.  I don’t see that sort of self-evident problem in our church where we have never had a charismatic incident.  What do you mean, then, by calling a church like the one I attend “infinitely poorer?”

 You do have to remember that each time the gifts of the Spirit are mentioned in the NT included in the list are other activities not usually considered "supernatural."  In fact the dichotomy of "supernatural" vs. "natural" is unknown to the Bible. The Holy Spirit is actually powerfully at work in all kinds of ways in every Christian. In fact in your church He will be at work in each of the ways you mentioned and more. So I do not believe that any Christian is devoid of the work of the Spirit, just that many do not fully recognize his activity as such, and of course some do not eagerly desire his gifts as Paul urges us to.

You have to know that this is an equivocation. You have simply equivocated to say that all the Apostolic gifts (which were the subject of the StrangeFire Conference) are just like love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, self-control and so on when it is transparently obvious that there is a qualitative difference between sanctification and restoring sight to the blind.  There are no Cessationists who would say that the ordinary Christian life has no effects of the Holy Spirit – but when you claim extraordinary gifts (healing, prophecy, tongues, etc.) the objections come.

Why muddy the water?  Why intentionally make this discussion less-clear?

My point is simply this: the Spirit has not been withdrawn and works in all kinds of ways. Actually, I suspect that in most cessationist churches he is at work in what I would call prophecy. This is how I would describe what happens when a preacher finds himself saying something that wasn't in his notes and that is later found to have been especially relevant to a specific situation in one of the listeners' lives.

I just want us to become more aware of such things and even seek them or as Paul puts it "earnestly desire" them. So a cessationist church without the gifts at all would be infinitely poorer, but one where the Spirit is quietly and unobtrusively working may be just a little bit poorer, though of course if the church where gifts are encouraged unfortunately  aside their devotion to the Word, the cessationists will be better off. But in my view we should pursue all aspects of the Spirits work.

Assuming the sign gifts are necessary, what are the spiritual consequences for those who abuse them or are abused by them? Does the NT give any clue regarding what the consequences of misusing the sign gifts might be?

 We see in the New Testament some very specific examples of abuse or misuse of the gifts, or operating in counterfeit gifts. The consequences seem to depend on how severely those gifts are being abused.

Most people would agree that the Corinthian church was misusing the gifts as much if not more than some wings of the charismatic movement today. Yet Paul graciously says that that Church is a mark of his apostleship, and gently instructs and corrects them so that they could return to using the gifts more appropriately. Aside from a comment about some of them being sick because of the abuse of the Lord’s Supper, it seems that the church did not experience negative consequences, or at least not severe ones.

On the other hand, we see in Acts 8 that Simon the Magician receives a much more severe word of punishment, which surely must apply to some others who similarly abuse the gifts, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:20). This account is uncomfortable reading when you consider some of the most extreme examples today, but even more concerning is Jesus warning:

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. ’” (Matthew 7:22-23)

In the last question, you claimed the church would be “infinitely poorer” without these gifts, yet here you say that if the gifts are abused there are almost no consequences for the body in general – “no severe ones,” anyway.  As I think about that, when a pastor abuses the Word of God to his church, that church is always injured – not just eternally, but immediately.  When leaders abuse leadership, people are always hurt in real-time.  Do you really mean to say that the only consequence for those who abuse the spiritual gifts, which you say are of infinite value to the local church, is an eternal one which they cannot discern until the final judgment?

 Once again you twist something I said.  The point I made is that the consequences of abuse of gifts depends on the severity of that abuse and on the judgment of God.  It is beyond dispute that the Corinthians seemed to get off a lot more lightly than Simon the Sorcerer! Of course there can be negative consequences in the life of a church when gifts are abused, but I responded to your question more in light of the possible eternal consequences. Obviously more serious abuses of gifts are very damaging to a church in the here and now, this is less so with more minor abuses or errors. A well taught church is usually very able to weigh gifts and simply discard erroneous ones as we are told to in the NT.

I like it that you have claimed I am twisting your words – I think rather I am exposing the places you are evading my questions. Would you care to take another stab at the question then?  Does the NT give any clue regarding what the consequences of misusing the sign gifts in the local church might be?

Yes it does. You have the chaos of Corinth which needed correction but was not mocked or condemned by Paul. But as I said you have some situations where the consequence was eternal judgment which was in some cases affected the here and now. 

 If it is possible to abuse the sign gifts, using a broad brush, how would we size up the global adherents of the sign gifts? Asked another way, if you and I agree that some people today abuse this doctrine and others are faithful to it, what's the ratio of orthodox to unorthodox practitioners in the world today? How would we measure that?

 This is impossible for me to be sure of. In the circles I move in I would say that the proportion of people who abuse this doctrine is vanishingly small, to the point of it being almost invisible. But, there is a clear reason why I deliberately don’t watch Christian TV. There is so much material on there that would make me want to throw a brick at the screen, and I like my television!

But it is also too easy to quickly reject people, as we have precedent where some people who were condemned as being just another prosperity teacher, became much more committed to the gospel than it at first appears. Jesus warned us that the real wheat and the fake weeds will grow together. (Matthew 13:24-29). It is only the final judgment day that will reveal the answer to your question.

Well, that answer worries me for a reason I didn’t expect when I asked this question.  When I asked this, I figured you had some way of knowing what the mix is in your movement regarding some kind of cautious use vs. something which puts people in danger – and you had some sense of confidence that the movement was in good health.

You know: as a Calvinist, I take a lot of grief from people who say that I am part of a faction which, globally, is off the rails.  But I can push back on that because let’s face it: the heroes of the faith are overwhelmingly of a Calvinist stripe, and most Calvinists are not like the stereotype.

I don’t have to worry about being in the minority of a problematic group because I can know from facts that I am in the overwhelming (orthodox) majority.  How can you defend your movement when you have no idea whether, for example, Conrad Mbewe is right about the statistics or not?

 I don't really think of myself as being in some monolithic movement called the Charismatic Movement. There are many mini-movements who are charismatic. I can speak with most authority about the one I am in, and a few others I have had close contact with. There are many charismatic leaders who I have not really heard of, so for example I only got to hear of Michael Brown because of the online debate over Strange Fire. That meeting, by the way, is something I am very grateful to Dr MacArthur for kindly arranging. I suspect that the diverse groupings who are Charismatic may actually have more to do with each other as a result of all this.

If the ratio of unorthodox to orthodox is significantly out of balance --say unorthodox are 40% or more of the adherents --what is the responsibility of those with the orthodox position?

 I think that every pastor/elder in a local church has a responsibility to maintain the purity of that local church to the best of his ability and to protect the flock from wolves. But rather than trying to go outside the gate and hunt the wolves, the shepherd must make sure the walls are strong, and that he is among the sheep teaching them a compelling picture of the truth of Christ that will make the flock much less likely to be drawn away after false teachers.

At times, there will need to be a rebuke specific false teachers, especially if they are part of a denomination or family of churches of which you are a part. Sometimes it may also be appropriate to warn the flock, particularly if it becomes known to you that a group of your people are being drawn after a certain heretical teacher.

But the most important responsibility is to build the local church that God has called us into, and make it a model of how church ought to be, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

I think this answer should check in with your first question to me – because they are not coming to the same conclusion.  That first question to me demands that someone is a bad person if they will not “settle up” across denominational or theological lines in the broader church.  Here, you think that as long as the people inside the four walls of your local assembly pass the doctrinal litmus test, all is well – and there’s no sense checking on others if they are well or if they are unwell and making others unwell.

Why should Dr. MacArthur or Phil or myself settle up with anyone over any issue if, as you say here, that the only responsibility people have is to their own local church?  Put another way, why are you so bothered by the activity at Grace Community Church if in fact your answer here is really how you feel about your relationship with the greater body of Christ?

 I didn't say we have no responsibility for what goes on outside, just that our primary responsibility is about what goes on inside our churches. I have been so concerned about the recent conference and book because it has branded me and many people I love as probably not saved. I feel this divisiveness has the potential for causing more damage to the global Church of Christ than almost any other recent controversy.

That doesn't really answer the question.  The question is that somehow you have a double standard about the apologetic encounter with Charismaticism – you will defend it even though you admit it is impossible to know whether it’s doing good or harm on-net, and you will reproach criticizers of the movement even though you say it is impossible to know whether it is doing harm or good.

How do you make sense of that?

I don't mean to sound pretentious but I defend charismatic doctrine like the reformers defended the gospel because "here I stand I can do no other!" I don't forge my doctrine from experience, so couldn't change my thinking even if the world was full of people abusing the gifts, and I knew nobody who used them appropriately. I would still have to acknowledge that passages like 1 Cor 1:7 and 1 Cor 13 directly teach that the gifts continue till Jesus return.

But the truth is I am in a group of churches that numbers tens of thousands of people who for the most part use these gifts to glorify Jesus and edify the Church. And I am aware of many other similar gospel loving groups. Whether they are in the majority or not makes as little difference to me as the fact that evangelical Christians in then UK are in a tiny majority compared to the secular majority. Numbers prove nothing.

What should be done by the larger body of Christ if the orthodox inside Charismatic circles aren't doing what is called for in your answers to the last question?

 I think that the response of the wider body of Christ should be similar to what I outlined in the last reply. What is not appreciated by some is that many charismatics do reject false teachers they just prefer to highlight the positive to their people. For example, with some exceptions, I have tended over the years to look for ministries that I can highlight and recommend where the vast majority of what is taught and practiced is commendable. I have tended to largely ignore those ministries I am aware of that I am less happy with, and I have certainly not made it my responsibility to spend a lot of time assessing ministries and criticizing them publicly. If I was to attempt to do that job properly, there are so many crooks, crazies, and con-men that I would have no time for anything else!

I do also believe that pastors who are more qualified than me should be reaching out in private to some over-enthusiastic preachers who are clearly gifted and influential, but lack wisdom, or indeed may be in significant error. Like a modern day Apollos there are many in need of a Priscilla and Aquilla to gently instruct them in the way of the Lord, so that far from being damaging to the Church, some of such people can become beneficial.

I have no idea whether this saying translates from American to British culture, but we have a saying over here that goes like this: There’s no such thing as “everybody’s cat,” because unless the cat belongs to somebody, he will certainly starve to death.

Your response, “If I was to attempt to do that job properly, there are so many crooks, crazies, and con-men that I would have no time for anything else!” is an example of why, at some point, somebody has to own the cat.  You know: in the States, we have Denominations, and Conventions, and Conferences (TGC, T4G, etc.).  In some sense, all of those have decided to be what D.A. Carson called “center bound,” which is his way of describing how to maintain orthodoxy without being a fundamentalist.  So while in some sense it’s nobody’s job to make sure that Mark Driscoll didn’t endorse a heretic when he met with T.D. Jakes, when he did endorse a heretic he was removed from TGC and (though it’s not told this way) Acts29.

I admit what happened to Driscoll was a pitiful and toothless act, but somehow Crossway isn’t publishing his new books anymore.  He’s not getting another shot at T4G or TGC or Piper’s pastors’ conference.  Everyone knows what this means.

UPDATED:  Off-line, someone has appealed to my conscience about the above statement now highlighted in YELLOW.  This person says that my account is rumor and not the facts, and that he has first-hand knowledge that Driscoll is in fact welcome to return any time to the roles he has vacated in these organizations.  If you review only the publicly-published documents about this matter, there's no question: my account differs from the one made by others who have merely wished Mark Driscoll well at a moment when his actions were under fire from many corners.

I would amend the statement, therefore, in this way:

I was never in the room when any of these people discussed these issues.  There is no written termination of anybody over anything regarding Mark Driscoll except this statement from Carson & Keller about Driscoll's departure from TGC.  In that respect, publicly there's no question that Mark Driscoll might return to TGC and T4G and Piper's pastors' conference any day now.  I look forward to that day to vindicate him and to incriminate me -- and also to incriminate those who gave me the information, above, in order to convince me that TGC had more starch in private than they did publicly when Mark Driscoll embraced a heretic in favor of the men who help him to have a stage in the first place.

Why is it that even D.A. Carson can find ways to stigmatize people who are out of center-bound orbit with him doctrinally, but you fellows in this situation in Charismania hide behind the idea that it’s nobody’s fault that Sub-Saharan Africa is a spiritual wasteland while at the same time demanding that all those heads be counted when you tally up your growth rates?  Do you guys own the cat, or not?

 I don't think you can write off a whole continent like that! There are many godly Christians in Africa. I do feel you are too swift to judge.

As far as calling out certain ministries is concerned, I think that many of us simply do not want to become watchbloggers. But if you look at our conferences (see for example http://300leaders.org) I think you will agree that we tend to promote and partner with people who love the gospel rather than the extremists.

Adrian's concluding comments

Thank you for this opportunity, Frank. I am very convinced that charismatics and cessationists need to talk more, in order for us to at least understand each other, even if it is too much to expect us to agree! That’s why I wish that MacArthur or perhaps Phil would agree to a debate or a less formal discussion with a charismatic.

I do also accept that there are many godly Christians who do not accept charismatic doctrine but diligently pursue a relationship with Jesus. Actually I even believe that many of such people are actually experiencing some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit but calling them something else. All I really ask at this stage is that we recognize that each other really are brothers in Christ, and that as with issues like water baptism, we accept that many on the other side love God and his Word just as much as we do.

Frank’s Concluding Comments

What I enjoy about this exchange is that Adrian is such a blithe spirit – such a credulous fellow toward his fellow man, and especially his fellow charismatics. Live and let live, he says – well, unless we ask him whether or not the Apostolic Gifts are necessary. At point he makes it clear that “the Church would be infinitely poorer” if they were ever withdrawn, utterly negating his chummy wave to “Christians who do not accept charismatic doctrine. ”

I’ve said what I have to say here clearly. The rest is left to the comments.