In the wake of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference on the charismatic movement in the church and the general belief that the revelatory and miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are in action today. Tim Challies asked Dr. MacArthur a few questions that people had been wondering about. In the comment section following the interview, I added my opinion to one comment in particular, and got a response. When I tried to reply, I found that comments had been closed. So here it is. A user named RyanJay begins by quoting MacArthur:
“But I do wonder if perhaps their positions are evidence of either the influence of personal relationships with charismatic friends and family members, or the pervasive impact charismatic theology has had on the wider culture” – A disrespectful comment to the years and years of pain-staking study these men have undertaken for the church. I’m saddened by how MacArthur is choosing to spend these golden years of his life/ministry subtly sowing doubt into the works of men like Piper, Grudem, Stroms as well as others who have spent much time defending the reformed continuationists in a sound, biblical and humble way.
Doubt into the continuationist works of good men like Piper and Grudem—men I respect—is actually quite appropriate in this case. It seems self-evident to me that doubt ought to be cast upon erroneous teaching, while truth ought to be taught and made clear. To contradict anyone is to “sow doubt,” but sowing doubt about long held false beliefs is nothing but liberating. MacArthur’s doing the right thing here, yet doing it with gentleness and respect.
I whole heartedly agree that doubt should be cast upon erroneous teaching, and in fact the way to do this is by speaking the truth and the truth alone. Your presupposition leads you to state that being a continuationists is an erroneous teaching and long held false belief. And since you state that you respect Piper and Grudem I must ask you the question – how is that even possible for you to respect these men who hold such erroneous and false beliefs? And what if these men are teaching the church these so called erroneous and false beliefs? I think the tricky part for the cessationists is where do you put these men in your thinking. They preach the word, they love Jesus, they defend the Gospel and yet they have this “continuationists’ thing about them.
Fuller1754 (My unpublished reply)
Let me give another example: I believe dispensationalism is an erroneous teaching, too. John MacArthur is a dispensationalist, but I obviously have great respect for him. If I did not have respect for any Christian teachers I thought adhered to any erroneous belief, my choices would be slim indeed, and my attitude would be all wrong. I don’t know if I can think of almost any major Christian teacher whom I don’t believe holds to some erroneous belief or another—whether it has to do with eschatology, the law, baptism, or whatever.
I respect Grudem and Piper because they are great men of understanding and of faith. Why shouldn’t I? They do preach the Word; they do love Jesus. I own Grudem’s systematic theology, and coincidentally am taking my wife and myself through a John Piper devotional book right now. It seems completely incongruous to me that someone who has a disagreement with a Bible teacher at some point could not also have great respect for that teacher overall—even if it’s a disagreement about something important. Continuationism is no less erroneous and false. I still love those guys. I really don’t see the contradiction.
Now I would have to ask you: must you avoid coming to a conclusion on any topic about which godly people disagree? Because if you assume you cannot respect teachers whom you disagree with, then if you do come to conclusions about these things, you would lose respect for many a respectable man of God.