Skip to main content

Strange Fire ~ by John MacArthur






Most American Christians have heard the name John MacArthur, and many have perused his resources, including his multiple Bible study guides. He certainly knows the Bible, and can quote chapter and verse on most any subject. I was interested to see what Mr. MacArthur might have to say about the Holy Spirit. What I found in the book Strange Fire wasn't what I expected or hoped to find; much of what he has written here disturbs me. And not in the way he intended his readers to be disturbed.

The introduction covers a long, complicated history of the charismatic movement. As always, MacArthur is straight-forward and even, at times, downright blunt in sharing his opinions (which are not stated as opinions...he seems to feel his opinions are cold, hard facts). I prefer to be a little more delicate when approaching subject matter with which I do not agree...and out of respect for the ministry the author has built over many years, I will try to keep this review less "blunt" than this book!

While I agree with much of MacArthur's stance about the charismatic movement on the whole (and Benny Hinn's ministry specifically) I must say that I don't fall into the camp of his beliefs about the Holy Spirit. For example, on p. xvii of the Introduction, he says, "All who are faithful to the Scriptures must rise up and condemn everything that assaults the glory of God." I'm not faithful solely to Scripture; I'm faithful to Jesus, my Savior and my King. A person can be faithful to Scripture and not to Jesus (just look at the modern-day cults permeating our society) but I doubt very much a person can be faithful the Lord Jesus and not also to His Word.

I mentioned that I did agree with certain aspects of Strange Fire. One example is from p. 16 of Chapter One. The exact quote reads, "Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over Biblical truth." I have found this to be true of most charismatics I know. The danger I see in adhering solely to this form of Christianity is the constant need for something "new". Add to this the "showiness" of the messages and the worship, and you have an unhealthy balance that often leaves believers disillusioned, empty and confused. Speaking in tongues is the most commonly objected to trait of the charismatic movement - and I find the most simple way to address this is to remind those on either side of the issue that speaking in tongues is AN evidence of the Holy Spirit, not THE evidence. (Look up verses about the Holy Spirit and you'll find plenty of Biblical evidence that there are many gifts of the Spirit.)

Some extremes of this movement make for an unhealthy Christianity ~ as do many aspects of John MacArthur's personal beliefs as taught in this book. John MacArthur mentions in Chapters 3 & 4 the need to test the spirits (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). That's what I am aiming to do with this book review.

I truly hoped this book would teach more about living life, daily life, by being more yielded to the Lord, or Spirit-led to put it another way. But I'm afraid MacArthur's strong distaste for anything even vaguely charismatic has clamped off the Spirit's flow in his teaching and ministry.  What does he think our Lord meant when He said in John 16:7, "But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." ? Living life without direct, constant and immediate access to the Holy Spirit is like living the Christian life without Christ's power and strength. Frustrated is the word I'll use to describe a life lived in such manner.

As a student of Francis Schaeffer and David Mullholland, I feel John MacArthur's intentions are good,  but he has a certain measure of humanism that plays into this book. And he seems to have failed to grasp the hard truth that we do not in any way control our relationship with God; it is His relationship to control. I suspect Americanized, humanistic Christianity lends itself readily to the false notion that we are in control of our relationship with the Lord, so it isn't a surprise to see it in Strange Fire. I would reckon the author would strongly disagree with me, and would likely use humanistic arguments to exert his control! But the Word of God can stand on it's own without MacArthur's control and commentary; it also stands alone to disprove aspects of the charismatic movement.

MacArthur does not seem to adhere to the belief that the Holy Spirit speaks to people as individuals. There is grave danger in his reasoning, and aligns more with the Mormon view of the Holy Spirit than the Biblical New Testament view. Who speaks to John MacArthur when he's writing a book or preparing a sermon? Other studious theologians? And what to do with men like A.W. Tozer, C.H. Spurgeon, and E.M. Bounds? What to make of J. Hudson Taylor, an entire life and ministry spent seeking, listening for, and actually hearing the Holy Spirit's daily will for him and the hundreds of orphans in his care? What does he do with Paul's writings? If the time in which the Spirit had free and open range in the individual has passed, then what on earth do we do with New Testament teaching? I fear he not only marginalizes the Holy Spirit, and does not know how to have a personal, intimate dependence upon the Lord...upon the Holy Spirit, who is fully God. (I strongly dislike MacArthur's reference to the Spirit as being the third member of the Trinity for a reason...) I would liken him to something of an intellectual bully - he will make you pay if you disagree with him.

One last example of the extreme attitude displayed in Strange Fire comes from p. 115 of Chapter 16. Comparing any type of modern prophecy with a Magic 8 Ball, Tarot cards, or a Ouija board is an example of his intellectual bullying. Why, then, do 1 Corinthians 14:1, Romans 12:6-8,  and Ephesians 4:11-16 list prophecy as a spiritual gift? The Holy Spirit's work in my life is nothing like the devil's work through the supernatural, dark forces listed above. In fact, I feel very sorry for Mr. MacArthur. Living the Christian life without the Spirit must be exhausting and nearly impossible to maintain. No wonder his book has such a negative, caustic feel. He has attempted to write a book on the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit's input!

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 1.

Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge for review purposes from BookSneeze. All opinions shared here are solely my own.



Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study



Comments

Popular Posts

A Homeschool Mom's Devotional (# 1)

Colossians 4:17 tells the reader to "be sure to carry out the work the Lord gave you".

How can this be applied to the enormously busy lifestyle of a homeschool mom?

First of all, we must always remember that the Word of God has the answer for our every need and we can trust fully in God to use His Word to lead us, guide us, correct us, and bless us.

Keeping that in mind, let's consider what this verse is saying. We are told to carry out, or complete, the work the Lord has given us. We are wives, mothers, homeschoolers. Those three BIG job descriptions come immediately to mind when I think of homeschooling mothers. Applying God's Word to our life means carrying out our work as wives, as mothers, and as homeschoolers.

When I am exhausted from another long day (or long week, long month, long year, etc.) I still must honor the Lord by blessing my husband. Maybe that means having a hot meal on the table when he arrives home from work. Perhaps your husband would prefer a…

My Preferred Bible Reading Plan

We all know that reading our Bibles is a key part of living a healthy life as a follower of Jesus. But busy homeschool moms may, at times, struggle to know what part of the Bible to read on any given day.

Some people read the Bible through, Genesis to Revelation, and when they finish simply start over. Others have reading plans that follow along with the sermons their pastor is currently preaching. And yet others find themselves "stuck in the Psalms", since they're not quite sure what to read.

I'm not going to tell you how many chapters a day you should read, or that you need to do exactly what I do. I'm just going to share what has worked for me, and hopefully encourage you to get into the Word using some type of plan ~ because every homeschool mom knows what happens to our plans when we fail to create a plan, right?!

I use a prayer and Bible reading guide called "Prayer Point", published by Samaritan's Purse. About every 8 weeks, I receive a new i…

Do You Homeschool? Then You Need to Read This Article!

Whether you have been homeschooling for a month, a year, or a decade, you've inevitably faced the "questions". Questions about socialization, college, athletics, driver's ed, high-school biology, etc. etc. etc. and so on.....

It seems as if homeschoolers are ripe for questions from day one; but the flip side seems to be that there really is no flip side. We are expected to patiently answer any and all questions, smiling politely and pretending we've never heard this line of questioning before. But when we try to ask a few questions about, say, public schools as a whole or the issue of private schools being used as a last-ditch landing spot for students expelled from public school, well...ahem...we're pretty much told to keep quiet. No one wants to hear our questions, and often times no one really wants to hear our answers to their questions. They just kind of want us to....go....away.

I'm not planning on going away any time soon. And neither are my five …

Everything by Mary DeMuth

The book Everything by Mary DeMuth became a "keeper" for me almost as soon as I began reading. Mary sugarcoats nothing in her attempt to make Jesus' gospel what it rightly is ~ and as you probably guessed from the title of her book, it rightly is about everything.

Eighteen chapters, three sections, one-hundred and ninety-eight pages...if you take the time to delve into them you will grow exponentially in your walk with the Lord. In Everything Mary calls us out, calls us higher, and admonishes us with honesty and openness. Sharing from her heart and relying heavily on the truth that is God's Word, she sets things straight. There aren't just one or two things about this book that I have taken to heart; and there aren't just a couple of quotes I could share here. The book in it's entirety is a game-changer!

Please buy this book, read this book, apply the truths in this book to your life, and let the Lord become your everything!

HERE is a direct link to Every…

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is an online learning program for pre, early and emergent readers (ages 3 to 7 primarily, with a unique online area for readers ages 7 to 12).

As my children are all older, this is primarily an informational review, kind of like "looking back" to consider how this program might have worked for our family several years ago. However, we did spend quite a bit of time using the online are for older readers, called "Reading Eggspress" - I will mention both throughout the review.

The Reading Eggs website is divided into three categories: First Steps for 3-4 years; Ready for School for 5-year-olds; Fun Practice Makes Perfect for 6-7 years. The ages are really more like guidelines, so your child could easily move through all the levels at their own pace. And when ready, they could move on to the lessons available at Reading Eggspress.

I feel this would have been a fun, easy to use resource for my children in their early years as readers. There are loads of option…