If you have an internet connection, then it is safe to say you have seen, read, and heard much about the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur. It has ignited the blog-o-sphere. When it comes to the topic of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, it seems everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it.
As far as I can tell, Strange Fire was to be John MacArthur's event to proclaim the cessationist position, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ended in the first century with the death of the apostles. At the other end of the spectrum are the continuationists who believe they are still in operation today.
Most people fit somewhere between these two bookends, holding to some sort of combination of both. I won't dwell too long on the vocabulary. Since this conference began, there have been numerous sites that have taken up the challenge of defining the many differing names and positions that can be held in regards to the gifts of the Spirit.
So where do I fit it?At the moment, I would consider myself a soft cessationist. That is to say, while I don't believe that the miraculous sign gifts can not and will not be used by God in the spread of the Gospel today, I do not believe them to be normative in the everyday operation of the church. I view any instances of these to be truly miraculous in nature. They are miracles, not normals. They are what God can do, not what he is always going to do.
Strange Fire - Was it good or bad?Some have accused MacArthur of being needlessly and harmfully divisive in this endeavor of his. Why draw distinctions between fellow believers?
This argument doesn't hold water to me. By bringing attention to an important issue within the body of Christ, he is simply forcing us all to examine our beliefs more closely. This is never a bad thing.
What Now?I would like to see more dialog between the adherents of both positions. I have learned so much from the ministries of John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and other cessationists. I have likewise learned much from continuationists such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. These are all great preachers and teachers of the Word of God.
What I feel really needs to happen, is that continuationists need to become more vocal on their condemnation of those scoundrels who misuse and abuse the Word of God and their so called manifestations of the Spirit. You know who I'm talking about. The snake oil salesmen on TV always preaching health, wealth, and prosperity. I want the respectable continuationists to openly confront the likes of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and the rest of the circus performers, with their "word of faith" theology.
Peaceful Muslims - an illustrationI've always been disturbed by those who try to proclaim Islam as a religion of peace, yet are noticeably silent in their condemnation of the actions of their more "radical" brethren. How can I believe you, when you won't confront one of your own? Where are all of the "Peaceful Muslims Against Radical Terrorist" demonstrations?
If continuationists would openly and consistently confront the abuse that lies within their own camp, then the rest of us might find ourselves more comfortable with their position.
Well there you have it. One more opinion post about all of this Strange Fire. If you have read this far, then you have graciously suffered through my thoughts and rants. I'll extend the same courtesy to you if you'd like to sound off in the comments below.