I just finished watching the live stream of the first session by John MacArthur at the Strange Fire Conference. Here are my initial thoughts (I am shooting from the hip, so I hope this does not get me in trouble).
I agree with almost everything MacArthur said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. I do fully believe there has been a distortion of the work of the Spirit. His role has not been defended or fought for like that of the role of Jesus or the Father. And so, in one sense, I hope and pray that a conference like this lends itself to people thinking deeply about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
But I do have some reservations concerning the very large brush strokes MacArthur used in this opening sermon. I wish he would have began his message by defining what he means by Charismatic. Since he did not, I have to assume that he means by it what is traditionally meant by the term: a person who believes in the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit. Therefore, when he says there are roughly 500 million self-claimed charismatics in the world, he means there are 500 million people in the world that would claim to fall in line with the belief that all the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation for today.
In the opening illustrations, he said that nobody would think it wrong to confront the 14 million Mormons on their view of the Father or Jesus. So, why would it be wrong to confront the 500 million who are charismatic? That was my main problem with this sermon and is my main concern with this conference. Certainly he is not saying that the charismatic is like the mormon? Or maybe he is.
Towards the end of the message, he said something to the affect that he will take them seriously when their leaders begin to show the spirit-controlled evidence that Jesus displayed (sorry, that is not a direct quote, but I believe that is what he said). When he said it, I thought, "Like John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Matt Chandler?" They believe in the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, thereby making them Charismatic. As to my knowledge, they are certainly leaders of the church. Certainly he isn't talking about them? Or are they being lumped in with the Benny Hinn's and Joel Osteen's? I hope not.
I would love for him to clearly spell out whether he sees the Piper's, Grudem's, and Chandler's of the world as different in kind from the Hinn's and Osteen's? Or does he see them as one of the same kind, just the best possible result of that kind. Unfortunately, when he doesn't explain and lumps all 500 million charismatics into one group, and then quotes Benny Hinn as the leader of that group, I have to think he believes they are the best possible result of all Charismatics.
Some clarification on this would be helpful. But I doubt it will come.