“Strange Fire”? Not in a Global Pentecostal Context of Ministry
A Biblical and experiential panel response to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” from an international Pentecostal point of view Strange Fire
Dony K. Donev with Dennis Balcombe, Hanny Setiawan and Marius Lombaard
Almost one year ago, internationally known author John MacArthur began campaigning for his new book Strange Fire. With lots of material written beforehand by many who had not even read the book, the actual premiere was at a conference with the same name, not without some scandal to help its wide popularization. But scandal was hardly needed when the book classified most (if not all) Charismatics around the world as heretics. Тhe bottom line for MacArthur’s work was deconstruction modern day Charismatic theology and exposing it as unbiblical.
Do Pentecostal churches really offer a “strange fire” as MacArthur proposes? Could charismatic extremes practiced by some be evident in all Charismatic churches and classical Pentecostal denominations? And is it possible to declare a world wide movement of half a billion strong as heretical by observing random examples among less than 3% (three percent) of its representatives residing in North America?
The premise of this ad hominem attack is surprising, when even in Pentecostal scholarly circles we have long debated some Charismatic praxis as wrong and destructive to the movement as a whole. So, when an outsider to Pentecostalism as MacArthur jumps in and claims all Pentecostals are bad because some Charismatics have been found in the wrong, the normal response is simply to disagree. Especially when these extremes do not concern Pentecostalism globally, but as MacArthur himself admits, are defined to a North American context of ministry and even more strict and limited Charismatic circle of neo-Pentecostalism.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to present the view of Classic Pentecostals, as deferred from the variety non-Pentecostal Charismatics. And to discuss MacArthur’s assumptions in an international Pentecostal context, though Strange Fire refuses to view Pentecostalism as the global power it has become. Perhaps, the very weakness of any theological work that seeks international recognition, but fortifies its argument only within the perimeter of westernized theology. To provoke an even deeper discussion, the study explores five of the major arguments of Strange Fire within the ministry context of Pentecostals from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Apostolic Relevance or a New Apostolic Reformation?
Admittedly, MacArthur strongest point within his attack on Pentecostals is outlining Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation movement. And even quoting Vinson Synan, who was invited to join the network for $69 a month, but declined with the response, “I could not afford to be an apostle.” But how concerned is the larger Pentecostal world about this apostolic movement? And how important is NAR in global Pentecostalism today?