The video above was posted earlier today at the Grace To You blog. In it John MacArthur seeks to answer the question “What’s wrong with taking an open-but-cautious approach to the charismatic movement?” Sadly, however, his answer is troubling because of the way that it misrepresents many who take such a view, especially many who hold to solidly Reformed theology in many respects.
For example, MacArthur wonders why many “prominent, faithful, blessed preachers and theologians” would say that they are open to charismatic phenomena such as tongues, prophecy, healing, etc. He wonders what motivates them, and he suggests a couple of possibilities in response to his own rhetorical question. After he states, “I don’t know what the heart motive is,” he nevertheless suggests a couple of possible motives. First he suggests that “maybe it’s love and acceptance,” but with a tone and in a context that leaves one thinking that he means “maybe it’s love and acceptance devoid of a proper concern for the truth of God’s Word.” Then he suggests that “maybe it’s kind of a personal longing for something more in their spiritual life,” again with a tone and in a context that leaves one thinking that he means “maybe it’s a desire for subjective experiences divorced from a proper concern for the truth of God’s Word.”
But some readers may be wondering at this point why I think MacArthur implies such accusations when he doesn’t actually state them. The answer is found in what he doesn’t say. For MacArthur doesn’t even once consider the possibility that they could be motivated by what they believe is a proper exegesis of Scripture. And thus he leaves the false impression that faithfulness to Scripture isn’t — and couldn’t possibly be — what motivates them. Yet, men such as Wayne Grudem and D.A. Carson have written entire books offering an exegetical defense for their respective Continuationist positions, and many who consider themselves open-but-cautious have been so persuaded by Scripture as well. MacArthur must know — whether he agrees with the exegesis offered by such men or not — that they are motivated by faithfulness to Scripture as they understand it, just as I would presume that MacArthur himself is so motivated. But I guess I am trying to be more fair to MacArthur on this point than he has been to some of the men he is criticizing in this video, despite the fact that he avoided mentioning any names.
I also take exception to the way that MacArthur says that such men “provide a certain cover” for the charismatic movement, as though these men haven’t been explicit in their criticisms of the various extremes that often accompany the movement. In fact, the “GTY Staff” member who posted the blog entry in which this video was posted makes this misrepresentation even more egregious when he writes, “Being reluctant to criticize charismatic theology may seem like a safe, middle-ground approach for noncharismatic leaders. But as John pointed out, their silence has given cover to false teachers.” But who is being referred to here? I suppose there are some men like this out there, but I frankly have never met an open-but-cautious man who cares at all about Scripture or doctrine who hasn’t been quite vocal in decrying the many problems and extremes — both doctrinal and practical — in much of the charismatic movement.
So both MacArthur’s video and the blog entry itself make it sound as though being open-but-cautious — and thus also being more vocally Continuationist as well — automatically places one is a situation where he gives cover to false teaching or aberrant practices, and this due to a lack of concern for fidelity to Scripture on their own part.
I would appeal to this blog’s readers, however, to be more fair minded in their assessment of the matter. Whether you are a Cessationist or a Continuationist, surely you can see that there are men on both sides of this issue who care deeply about being faithful to Scriptural teaching, even if they disagree about what Scripture actually teaches on this issue.