Strange Fire Conference: First Day Reflections by Tim Challies

Noted blogger Tim Challies has provided a summary of the John MacArthur-led Strange Fire Conference, a conference devoted to the charismatic movement:


“Here is a one-sentence summary of each of the addresses so far:

John MacArthur: Charismatic theology is offensive to God and any good that has come out of the movement has come despite, not because of, that theology. (read a summary)

Joni Eareckson Tada: I thank God that he did not answer my prayers for healing because it has shown me the deeper healing he means to do in my life. (read a summary)

R.C. Sproul: Charismatic theology downplays the uniqueness and long-lasting significance of Pentecost. (read a summary)

Steve Lawson: If you are a Reformed charismatic, you need to go to John Calvin, the father of Reformed theology, to see that he would not sanction it. (read a summary)

Conrad Mbewe: Charismatic theology is producing chaos and innumerable false converts all over Africa.” (read a summary)

Challies continues,

“Judging by comments and by social media buzz, the event is being closely followed by many who hold to charismatic theology, and especially those who also hold to Reformed theology. Some are expressing sorrow at what they see as harsh and unfair treatment while others are expressing either patience or gratitude. Many are confused and are hoping for clearer definitions and positive affirmations that will better express and defend the cessationist position.”  read more

While I’m neither a cessationist or a continuationist, but simply someone opened to whatever God decides to do in his world, I too am saddened by this Strange Fire Conference.

Why isn’t the respected Reformed and Charismatic John Piper at this conference, to provide a Reformed and Charismatic Theology?

As it stands, this conference is half-baked.

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15 Responses to Strange Fire Conference: First Day Reflections by Tim Challies

  1. Simon says:

    TC, I’m wondering whether Sproul and MacArthur can go to any conference without making criticism of others the focus.

    As for Lawson’s comment, traditional Christians can retort: Anyone who thinks that Reformed theology is orthodox should read the Fathers to see that they would have never sanctioned it.

  2. Simon says:

    As for MacArthur, I don’t he quite grasps how ironic it is that he see himself as the doctrinal policeman for Christendom. Not only would none of the Apostles or Fathers have recognised what he endorses for worship and theology. But Calvin himself would never have endorsed his theology. In other words, even by the standards of his great hero, MacArthur is no orthodox. I just don’t think he gets it.

  3. TC says:

    Simon, these are some intriguing observations. Since I hold to emerging Christianity, i.e, that is, Christianity is not static, but takes on different shape from age to age and culture to culture, I am not sure how much of what you are saying about the Fathers and Calvin would stick.

    I just think MacArthur has gotten too obnoxious and judgmental. He is worse now than ever, if that is possible. 😉

  4. Simon says:

    TC, point taken. But Holy Tradition is not a static thing. It may seem that way because of the worship style. But if you look at the history of the Church, you will see that doctrines developed and were defined and refined – particularly when controversies arose. And you can see from the various cultural contexts in which Christianity found itself in and over time, that the expressions of Christianity varied. Christianity adopted and Christianized some non-Christian practises, festivals and so on. But it’s key to point out that the faith had not changed. It was still the same faith. That is until the Bishop of Rome excommunicated his counterpart in Constantinople. Even still, the West retained much of the Tradition. The Tradition was strained even further with the Reformation. And now you see, particularly in the US, all sorts of doctrinal innovations within the Protestant camp – both conservative and liberal.

    I think you’ve said it all about MacArthur. My opinion is that he can feel his influence and relevance slipping away and he is lashing out more vehemently than ever. I think this even applies to RC Sproul. If there ever was arrogance personified, it would be with Sproul, MacArthur, Chandler and Carson. All of these guys come across as angry men.

  5. Jon Hughes says:

    Spot on, TC…

    It is half-baked! MacArthur is fast becoming a caricature of himself these days. Can’t he once in a while hold a conference that is uplifting and edifying for the Body of Christ as a whole?

    He’s surely going to be frustrated when he gets to heaven and finds himself unable to pick a fight.

    • TC says:

      MacArthur has lost it. Period.

      • Jon Hughes says:


        I don’t mean to be unfair, but hasn’t he got anyone around him brave enough to suggest that this is unbalanced and over the top? Or is the situation like with many who have been in power too long, and are surrounded by loyal lieutenants and ‘yes’ men?

        I listened to a bit of Phil Johnson yesterday. It’s been hard to take him seriously ever since he pronounced N.T. Wright under the curse of Galatians 1:8.

        These guys take themselves way too seriously.

  6. Simon says:

    TC, just a general observation and a question.

    In the evangelical world (particularly in the US) there seems to be an endless schedule of conferences and seminars – Desiring God, Strange Fire, Acts 21 etc etc. And I’m sure that on the non-Reformed side, there are equally as many conferences. I know in Australia, Hillsong do conferences and seminars all the time.

    Question: Is this racketeering? Seriously. People pay big bucks to attend these events. And there are heaps of them in the US. It must be a pretty big industry by now.

  7. TC says:


    MacArthur and the men who surround him is a sad case – heretic-hunters, if you will.

  8. Lon says:

    Hi TC. I wrote my own take on what I’ve been reading the past few days about Strange Fire. I’m glad this discussion is being opened. Also, I’m not aware that Piper self-identifies as “charismatic.” Can you point me to a source on that? Thanks and God bless. Lon

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