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#22 Did John MacArthur Go Too Far in Strange Fire? -Podcast

In this episode of Now is the Time I talk about John MacArthur’s latest book Strange Fire and the controversy surrounding it.

I’m also giving away a free copy of the book, see the instructions below!

You can also listen on  iTunes or on Stitcher
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I’ve always like John MacArthur, in fact I grew up listening to his sermons. My dad used to play them on cassette while we worked on projects around the house, later I listened on the radio. I have read a number of his books and they were always a blessing to me.

When I heard about Strange Fire coming out this past Fall I wanted to see what all the controversy was about. Thankfully the publisher was kind enough to supply me with a free copy for review.

What’s in the book

The book focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit and the problematic way many Charismatics and Pentecostals view the Holy Spirit and his work in their lives.  MacArthur goes into detail concerning some of the biggest names in the Charismatic movement but he hits no one harder than Benny Hinn himself.

MacArthur divides his book into 3 sections. In part 1 “Confronting a Counterfeit Revival” he focuses his attention on the root of the problem by asking, whether or not the Charismatic movement really is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He provides helpful historical background on how the movement got started and gives a great set of questions to ask of any movement to determine whether it is from God or not.

Part two is called “Exposing the Counterfeit Gifts” and in MacArthur fashion he talks about the problem of prophets who make false prophecies, tongues that don’t make sense and healings that don’t really heal.

The final section is called “Rediscovering the Spirit’s True Work”. Here MacArthur shows from God’s Word what it really means to be filled with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.

The last chapter is called, “An Open Letter to My Continuationist Friends” and was particularly interesting. It seems that this is really were much of the core of the controversy comes from and it worth the whole book.

Did MacArthur go too far?

When Strange Fire was published many evangelicals cried out that MacArthur had gone too far, that he threw the baby out with the bath water. Some of those who lamented MacArthur’s new book were author’s who I’ve also read and been blessed by. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to get my hands on the book because I hate to enter controversies unless I’ve actually read the book.

Did MacArthur go too far? I’ll let you judge for yourself and listen for yourself. I lay out my opinion clearly in the podcast.

Should you buy it?

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Yes, you should buy this book. You probably won’t agree with 100% of everything MacArthur writes, I know I didn’t! However, it is useful in understanding the background of much the Charismatic movement and in establishing a proper Biblical understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit.

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon and feel good about your purchase because a small percentage goes to help support a missionary in Ukraine!

Get a free copy

You can also get a free copy simply by commenting below and then sharing this post on your favorite social network. I’ll announce the winner on February 15th!

Question: Have you read Strange Fire? Do you think John MacArthur went too far?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • This sounds eerily similar to Hank Hanegraaff’s “Counterfeit Revival” published in 2001. “The Bible Answer Man” even investigated three of Hinn’s miracles provided by Hinn himself.

    • He does touch on some of the same issues for sure but this book is more focused on the work of the Holy Spirit although he does touch on some the Word of Faith teachers too.

  • Nj Rich

    Good review of the book “Strange Fire.” I agree with Floyd that much of what is in the book seems to be a rehash of “Counterfeit Revival” by Hanegraff – however I feel that MacArthur’s tenor is much harsher and perhaps even unloving in certain comments. I appreciated your comment about MacArthur’s attitude being almost arrogant – my wife and I felt the same way when we heard some of the comments posted online from the Strange Fire conference.

    • I think you’re right NJ. I really wanted to go all the way with MacArthur on this book but there were a number of spots that honestly shocked me a little. I didn’t exactly expect it from MacArthur but maybe I should have known better.

    • Nj, congrats, you won a copy of the book. Message me your address on facebook and I’ll send it out to you!

  • A good write-up Caleb. I think John MacArthur really doesn’t do himself any favours with the way he approaches and discusses the content of his book Strange Fire in the public forum. He does raise many important points in relation to the Pentecostal movement which really should be prayerfully analysed and considered, however I know that many people (including myself!) are turned off very quickly by his at time belittling and seemingly arrogant communication style. Thanks again for this write-up!

    • Truly there are some very important issues tackled in Strange Fire but you’re right Joel, attitude can make a huge difference in how people accept it.

  • Just downloaded your podcast so I can listen to it later. I do want to hear what you think about this book. I too used to listen to John MacArthur’s sermons. A series he did on God’s glory was super influential on my faith just a few years ago. I’ve listened to it several times. But I have wondered if he’s gone too far in his judgments on this issue. I haven’t read the book myself so I don’t feel qualified to say. But I can listen to what you have to say. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Lisa, MacArthur has had a huge impact on my life too! I talk about that a little in the podcast. Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to listen.

      • I listened last week and loved what you said. I agree that there’s always some good stuff, some not so good stuff with every book we read. Take the good and throw out the bad and keep moving forward. You seemed to have a very balanced approach and made me realize I could still benefit from reading the book even though there will be some things I think he takes too far too.

        • Thanks for getting back to me and letting me know what you thought. I think the book would be worth your time.

  • Wonderful job at discerning this book AKA, “testing the spirits”. I think it’s possible to reject part of what someone says, without needing to completely reject the person. I don’t have to agree with everything someone says to still respect them and be able to learn from them. The key is filtering everything through God’s Word. God will guide us into truth and help us to discern if something if “off”. The only person we can’t “pick and chose” what to agree with is God. We must fully believe Him and His Word. We can’t only believe certain parts of the Bible- we get into religions then instead of relationship with the Savior.
    All God or nothing. No. Middle. Ground. when it comes to the Bible being fully trustworthy.
    Hope that comment makes sense.

    I haven’t read this book, but I’d like to. I’ll tweet about it.

    • I think you’re right TC, in fact, I still like MacArthur and I’m even planning to go to his Shepherds conference in March. So even if MacArthur might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I’m not. Thanks for listening and sharing!

  • Lee Lanier

    Listening to you & reading the comments is that it reminds me who we are to focus on & that is the man of glory JESUS CHRIST. We all have different gifts & serve Him in different ways & i believe we will serve Him that way in the New Kingdom.

    • I like your focus Lee and I agree with you 100%! Thanks for commenting!

    • Lee, congrats, you won a copy of the book! Message me your address on Twitter and I’ll send it out to you.

  • Kim Saunders

    My husband is currently reading the book (pastor–First Baptist Connell–colleagues and admirers or your parents :-). The most disturbing thing to me about this whole thing was what I perceived as immaturity in the way other believers disagreed on the teachings in a very public and what I considered divisive way! I have wondered if Dr. MacArthur has taken on a crusade-like stance on the issue that might not be this necessary, but I can not fault the man. He is not afraid to face the things to which his convictions lead him. And I especially think discussions on disagreements are best in a blog such as this or over coffee, for Pete’s sake! There is a dying world next door taking it all in! We ALL need to constantly ask the Lord, “Where is truth, and where are You calling me to take a stand?” I appreciate his willingness to stick his neck out, and I pray for him and many other nationally and internationally recognized preacher/teachers and thank the Lord He has not called us to that position. Ha! I think of the principle of Luke 12:48b when this comes to mind. Interesting post. Thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting Kim. I agree, there are more important issues and sometimes we just get sidetracked on this kind of stuff.

  • Caleb,
    Thanks for the post and podcast. I’ve not read this book and now find that I must.

    This has been an area of concern for me for a long while. I have extended family who are caught up in this “movement.” Aside from the error in teaching, the big thing I find in these individuals is a lack of spiritual growth. They seem to be looking for the “new word” and constantly depending on the minister to give it to them, rather than relying on the “Ancient Words.” I pray and try to help them better understand scriptures. It’s all I can do.

    One minor disagreement. I still believe in miracles – not just Divine Intervention. Some 32 years ago, my prematurely born son lay in an NICU with a dangerously lethal endocrine problem. The docs had done all they could and left little alternative but death. My wife and I went home, prayed, tried to sleep. A 5 a.m. the next morning, I called the hospital for an update. A very chipper nurse informed me that my son was fine. I asked about the endocrine problem; it was gone. I am convinced that some time in the middle of this night, Jehovah stepped in and fixed the problem which the docs couldn’t fix.

    Now I can’t point to any personal miracles since then. Lots of Divine Intervention, yes; but miracles, no.

    I am praying for you and your Ukrainian friends and brothers and sisters.
    George Taylor (@narrationbygeorge)

    • George, thanks for your comments, I think we are in agreement on the miracles! I’m heading to LA for the Shepherds conference tomorrow, so I still appreciate MacArthur’s ministry but wish he would have left a little more room for God to do miraculous things.

      Thanks for your prayers for Ukraine!

  • Ok, guys, I got behind with all our travels but I want to let you know that I have chosen a winner, actually 2 winners! The books will be going to Lee Lanier and Nj Rich.

  • I have not read McArthur’s book but I am familiar with his work. Therefore I know the stand he has taken and I thank God for this man. My blog represents a work I did some 20 years ago exposing false teaching across many Churches and deals with this so-called Strange Fire which came about via Rodney Howard Browne and the Toronto Blessing way back in 1993. The stirs and excesses which have been present throughout Christendom – even before that time – are extra-biblical and represent the apostasy or falling away from the revealed truth spoken of in Scripture. They are demonically inspired.

    • It’s true, if you’re familiar with John MacArthur then you probably know what’s in the book, nothing very new for him.

  • Leo Monterosso

    All human works may or will have some degree of error or inflexibility, and this book is no different, but I think John MacArthur’s Strange Fire is a necessary proclamation from an older brother who has been faithful for many years. The final chapter is, its self, worth the price of the book. His statement on page 242 in response to John Piper’s story of a false prophecy concerning his wife and 4th child is powerful, “If counterfeit prophecy can have that kind of effect in the life of this evangelical leader, imagine the devastating effects it has on laypeople who do not have his level of biblical discernment.” As extreme as the statement may seem, I think It is better for the church to err on the side of safety and throw out this baby with the bathwater than to deal with the carnage that these people (promoters of tongues, supernatural revelation et.al) leave behind long after they’ve moved on.

    • I agree with you Leo, MacArthur is a faithful brother in Christ and many many people have benefited from his ministry. I also believe that God never wants us to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” As I explained in the podcast there are many very well earned rebukes in this book but unfortunately there are some gross generalizations. Unfortunately this type of broad disregard for other genuine servants of God is also dangerous and harmful to the church.