I’ve been wondering whether to add anything to the brouhaha over the ‘Strange Fire’ arguments that have bothered the twitter world recently. I had almost decided I couldn’t be bothered, I posted something over two years ago following a Macarthur rant and nothing much seems to have been added in the meantime.
I wasn’t going to respond, mainly because I’ve no idea, really, who John Macarthur is. I’ve never read his books, nor know anyone who has, never had them recommended to me, never heard him preach nor had anyone recommend that I should and have no idea what missions or church planting efforts he has contributed to. I’m sure he has written books I should read, preached sermons I should listen to and done many things to commend, my point is, that in the conservative evangelical/charismatic world I have been in, his world and mine have never crossed. So I’m about as inclined to listen to Rev Macarthur as I am the pope. Which, is to say, not much.
Then, however a questioned formed, the one in the title, and I really don’t know how John Macarthur and co would answer it. I grew up in a cessationist church, that was my formation in the Christian life and in it I was saved, so I understand it quite well but I’m at a bit of a loss here. So I would appreciate any insight especially from any cessationists who might happen to be reading this.
Here’s my thinking:
- Jesus cast out demons then taught, authorised and instructed his disciples to do likewise (Mt 10:1, Lk 10:17)
- Casting out demons might not be a sign of salvation (Mt 7:22) but it is a sign of the presence of the kingdom (Mt 12:28). Salvation is a greater cause for rejoicing (Lk 10:20)
- I see no logical reason or exegetical reason to think that the activity of demons ceased with the closing of the canon.
- John Macarthur seems happy to accept the demonic in crediting the demons for the charismatic movement.
- I believe that many battles are won simply by teaching the truth of the gospel. It is a supernatural event when the gospel is heard and received and new life comes to the formerly spiritually dead. It is a supernatural event when grace takes hold and truth takes hold where previously lies and deceit held sway. Much work of the enemy is cast out by preaching, proclaiming and instructing people in the finished work of Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5).
- I am sure that in addition to demonic worldviews there are demonic powers and systems which enslave people and crush people and leave them in darkness. Much kingdom work is done in overthrowing these.
- Having said all that, that kind of ‘casting out’ is not the sort of casting out Jesus did, the disciples did, nor Paul did, nor in fact Paul’s handkerchiefs did (Acts 19:12).
- My own personal experience as a pastor has been that some people are as oppressed by evil spirits as Mary Magdalene must have been and are just as in need of deliverance (Lk 8:2) so I return to point 1 and get on with the job.
- I think the Son of God continues to overthrow all the works of the enemy (1 Jn 3:8).
- If this kind of work remains necessary, and the command to take action remains authoritative then you can’t separate out the other miraculous gifts such as healing and well, by then it would seem a little redundant to complain about speaking in the tongues of angels (1 Cor 13:1).
So, where is the best case, the best argument for the ceasing of demonic activity or that our only method of combat is the proclamation of truth? We’re encouraged to interact with the best of the opponents arguments and even though John Macarthur co didn’t do that, I should at least try.