Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lighting Fires in the Church Today

John MacArthur stirred up controversy recently with a conference launching a book called Strange Fire. MacArthur is a cessationist that has consistently taught that any spiritual gift that is miraculous is no longer given to the church today. Strange Fire is now the third book published by him saying as much (The Charismatics, 1978;  Charismatic Chaos, 1993). In his new book, he postulates that those who practice Chairsmatic phenomena could be guilty of a counterfeit revival, which he likens to the strange fire offered to God by Aaron's sons. 

Besides Mark Driscoll's very public response, promoting his own book A Call to Resurgence, there are now several books with the word "Fire" in their title, some in direct response to MacArthur's work. From Strange Fire to Purifying Fire (Nov 2013, by Caldwell), Authentic Fire (Dec 2013, by Brown), and Holy Fire (Jan 2014, by Kendall) all came out within weeks of my own book on the gifts of Ephesians 4:11 called Primal Fire (Feb 2014)

I assure you that the title Primal Fire was chosen for this book five years ago  (Alan Hirsch suggested the title) and the choice had nothing to do with MacArthur's new book/controversy. Though my book came out last, "Primal" means first, so I guess I win...the last shall be first. kidding. 

That said, it could very well be that God is bringing these issues to our attention because it is time to pay attention. I believe it is time to find balance and release the diversity of gifts in the body so that the church can operate in health and reflect the wholeness of Jesus to the world. Perhaps God is wanting to settle this issue now and fire is the picture He is using to get his truth across. Lets pay attention, after all, He is a consuming fire.

While the choice of the name Primal Fire had nothing to do with MacAruthur's book, it does nevertheless address the Holy Spirit, the gifts of both the Spirit (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12) and Jesus (Eph. 4:11), and the cessationist point of view that MacArthur espouses. The book is about far more than that, but it does address those things. As former cessationists, however, the authors of Primal Fire (myself with our APEST team) all have come from MacArthur's point of view, but we are no longer there. In fact, two of those named on the cover were on staff under the current dean of the Master's seminary (which MacArthur founded) and one of those named graduated from Masters and is a former assistant youth pastor on MacArthur's staff. So we understand the point of view, we just no longer see it as biblically valid.

In Primal Fire we articulate that there are unhealthy extremes on both sides of the church aisle when it comes to gifts. We must move closer to both the Spirit and the Word. The evidence and authority of God's work is not the gifts, but the fruit of the Spirit. Discussion of the gifts void of love does not bring freedom, health or life. Simply attacking the other side by using extremes to define all who are different than you doesn't either.


Unknown said...

The main reason there is no unity or maturity in the church is that Eph 4 leadership has been missing from the body of Christ...too many unaccountablecontrolfreksandpastors!!!

Neil Cole said...

Yes, Ephesians 4 starts and ends with unity and the five gifts of Jesus are right in the middle. However its hard to figure out which comes first...unity or acceptance of the gifts? I argue in Primal Fire that the path to unity is not gifts or doctrine, but humility. I believe that is what the text explains. Being different usually doesn't bring about unity...being humble does.

Unknown said...

The 'gifts' are given by Christ and its the diversity of leadership styles within those gifts and the accountability thereof willl create Christlike martyters which is way beyond any rich all white bully&coward boys club! Will ever do!!!