This week has seen the Strange Fire Conference in the United States hosted by John MacArthur, a conference accusing those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement of being in error, of wrongly dividing Scripture and encouraging experiences and ministries that are false and so leading the church of God astray.
The big questions being asked and answered are, should people be experiencing the baptism in the Spirit today? Should they prophesy and speak in tongues today? Should we lay hands on the sick and expect healing today? All answered in the negative, because it is argued Scripture says so, and they want those who believe otherwise to know and be corrected.
The fact is, it doesn’t, you have to draw lines where there are non, read things into rather than out of Scripture. Yes they may call Calvin to their defense, but please Calvin’s word doesn’t have the same authority as Scripture. And yes they may call the lack of such experiences at some periods in church history as evidence, but that is not to argue from Scripture, but experience or the lack of it.
I was brought up a cessationist, I know the arguments, I encountered Pentecostals, was impacted by their life and witness. They spoke in tongues and believed God heals today. I wrestled with the Scriptures. Was encouraged to believe that it was of the devil. But I had never seen such devotion and passion for Jesus, such a desire to know him and witness to him, such passion in worship and prayer, and no they weren’t speaking in tongues all the time and neither we’re they swinging from the chandeliers!
Yes, frequently the stories and objections were based on hearsay, frequently generalisations – yes there are some that do the movement no good, but please that applies across the whole church. Such arguments are false and misleading and sadly this seems to be the approach of this conference.
Praise God I came to see that I was reading Scripture through the lens of my own tradition, and my, how tradition can be blinding. Praise God for the witness of those I encountered. And oh, I wanted God, not just words. I wanted reality, not just form. Praise God I met him, I was powerfully baptised in the Spirit and suddenly my Christian life took on a whole new dynamic, a dynamic that was rooted in Scripture itself.