Even though I have always enjoyed MacArthur's ministry, I take some things he says with a grain of salt. I believe he is one of the best verse by verse expositors of scripture today. Over the years he has written some books I consider classics. "The Gospel according to Jesus Christ" was a game changer. But I believe this book, "Strange Fire" proves that even a teacher as gifted as him, can say things that make you go...hummh!?!
First off, I am a Charismatic Calvinist. But that is not the biggest reason why I have reservations about this book. I am of the same stripe as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storm. These men are Godly examples of what true Christianity is all about. Many have been in conferences right along side of MacArthur.
To be totally honest, I agree with 90 percent of what MacArthur says in this book. Many, if not most, in Charismatic circles are a few fries short of a happy meal. Everything from barking like dogs and slapping people across the mouth are things that are way over the top. The health and wealth Gospel has destroyed the faith of many. I believe John is right to expose these things.
Where I think he loses it, is when he thinks all people who believe that gifts are present today are no different that these hucksters. He added a last chapter as an open letter to people like Piper and Grudem warning them that they will fall to the same fate as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagan if they do not change their beliefs. That is what is so strange about this book. He paints with such large strokes that everyone in his path becomes a heretic.
If he would have just thrown in one or two disclaimers that there are a few guys out there who are the real deal, I believe the book could be useful. But the way it sets, it feels like he used a hammer when a screw driver was needed.
Some of the arguments could be turned back on himself. John is a Dispensational Calvinist . He argues that the gifts are not for today because we have not seen them through church history until the last 100 years. But the same could be said of his Dispensationalism. A woman named Margret MacDonald was the first person to "prophesy the pretrib rapture" in 1830. No one had ever heard of a pretrib rapture before then. If gifts are not true because they were not seen at one time in history, what about a doctrine that had never been seen until the 1800s?
I am not saying that it is not true. I am just saying that John is blind to his own weaknesses. A majority of other Dispensationalists believe in easy believism or the belief that you can be saved but never have a single work to show it and you will still go to heaven. Some even believe you can become an athiest and still go to heaven. If we painted with as broad a brush as John, we could say he needed to leave the dispensational camp or he will get sucked into the same heresy. He hasn't. In fact he has written against this error. If we can give him the benefit of the doubt, why can't he do the same with Reformed Charismatics?
In the end I believe this book is a good read. He exposes a lot of people who are just trying to make a buck. Where it falls short is he never brings a balance. He should have at least pointed these men and women to those in the Charismatic movement who are sound in doctrine. Instead he alienates himself from the very men who could teach them the truth.
I recommend this book with some reservations. Use the watermelon method... Eat the melon and spit out the seeds. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
I received this book, free of charge, from Thomas Nelson and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.