A great furor was raised last week over an interview of John MacArthur by Phil Johnson. I’ll not take a side or comment on that controversy (except to say that it consisted of knee-jerk reactions of the immature against the mature). Enough has been said about that, and I’ve provided a few links to it in the sidebar.
I suppose the previously-mentioned controversy is the reason that the part of the interview that I expected to cause unrest received no attention. I really thought MacArthur’s comments on the Pentecostal and charismatic movements would cause a ruckus somewhere, but, as far as I know, charismatic tongues have remained miraculously silent.
As I am in full agreement with MacArthur on this, I thought I would reproduce the relevant section here, slightly edited (note ellipses).
Has your stance on the charismatic issue softened?
No, and I’ll just give you a little bit of history on that; I’ll make a general statement, then I’ll back up:
The charismatic movement is largely the reason the church is in the mess it's in today. In virtually every area where church life is unbiblical, you can attribute it to the charismatic movement. In virtually every area — bad theology, superficial worship, ego, prosperity gospel, personality elevation — all of that comes out of the charismatic movement.I knew at the beginning that this was a disastrous embracing by the evangelical church . . . [It] leaped out of the contained Pentecostal tradition. The Pentecostal church with its claim of miracles and healing and signs and wonders was contained; it never spread to the mainline church; it was always seen as aberrant, its theology aberrant, but when an Episcopalian got the experience, it jumped out of its containment. Then the phenomena started being embraced by Baptists and dead-church Methodists and Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, and it invaded the church, and then what happened was it demanded to have acceptance. It demanded to have acceptance, it demanded to be embraced, it demanded to be included, and you had very strong leaders coming out and demanding that the evangelical church embrace them. And I knew at the time the deadly character of this, because once you’ve given place to bad theology, then theology is no longer an issue. Once you’ve corrupted worship, then worship is going to fall to the lowest tolerable level.
And on and on it went, so I wrote the book The Charismatics back in the ’70s [revised and published in 1992 as Charismatic Chaos] . . . and the evangelical church largely rose up and said, “Yeah, we see that . . . we’re there, this is where we belong.” It wasn’t too many years after that that the climate dramatically changed, and the charismatic movement has gained the ascendancy and become the public face of Christianity. It’s the face of TV Christianity, it’s primarily the face of radio Christianity, in the Christian bookstore the prevailing view is some form of charismatic mysticism . . . it has done a takeover and it has redefined Christianity in people’s mind. It’s an aberrant form of Christianity, of course, so no, my view has not changed. It’s theology is bad, it is unbiblical, it is aberrant, it is destructive to people because it promises them what it can’t deliver, and then God gets blamed when it doesn’t come. It is a very destructive movement. It has always been.
There are people like C. J. [Mahaney], and other people like that, who have shed that theology, and simply hold on to what is known as a non-cessationist view . . . what’s left to them is, they’ve embraced good theology and I think they’re moving in the right direction, but many of them, people like John Piper and Wayne Grudem who are, generally speaking, theologically sound, will hold onto that non-cessationist view and say, “Well, God could do that, there could be miracles, and there could be tongues,” that’s sort of the last vestige of the movement, but the movement in itself, with all its components, is a disaster to the reputation of Christianity and a severe corruption of biblical teaching.
Now, you mentioned cessationism . . . the view that the apostolic gifts and the apostolic office ceased, that they’re no longer in operation. That has fallen out of favor . . . I think maybe it was Martin Lloyd-Jones who started that trend, who said, “I don’t see any exegetical reason, there’s no passage of Scripture that says the apostolic gifts have ceased, so the argument goes, “if you can’t prove cessationism exegetically, then it’s not a valid doctrine, because we want our doctrine to be biblical. How do you respond to that?
Well, I think 1 Corinthians 13 is where you prove that:
Whether there be tongues, they shall cease.We just did that, going through 1 Corinthians 13, you can talk about the linguistics of that — I have the whole explanation of that in the commentary . . . I think there’s plenty of exegetical evidence to indicate that. Those are apostolic signs of an apostle, they’re called in 2 Corinthians 12:12. The apostles have ceased, they are the foundation (Ephesians 2:20); the church is built on the apostles and prophets. You don’t put the apostles and the prophets on the second floor or third floor; they’re the foundation of the church. Apostolic gifts ceased. You can go to the end of book of Acts: you see healings disappear completely, people get sick and there’s no one around to make them well.
All of those things were signs to draw attention to the apostles’ preaching the true gospel before there was written text of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now you don’t need miracles to verify a prophet; you only need to compare him with the scripture, and I’ve often said, if these signs and wonders did still exist, do you think they would be given to people with bad theology? Do you think God would give Benny Hinn the power to do miracles to authenticate really bad theology? . . . I mean, that is ludicrous. . . . If those gifts existed, they would belong to the purest, most faithful, sound teachers of the Word of God to authenticate their teaching, not to hair-brained people who are just spinning out whatever comes into their head and are prompted by Satan, not the Holy Spirit.
… The typical non-cessationist will say, “Yeah, that says tongues will cease, it doesn’t say when, and in fact, the context indicates it’s at the consummation of all things, etc. etc., so the argument goes, “If you don’t have a solid proof-text, you can’t prove this to me.” We believe . . . theology must be biblical, or it’s not valid. Does that mean there has to be a proof text for every doctrine?
No. look, you can make a case for the verb [pauo] in 1 Corinthians 13 and for it ceasing. You can make a case for that in that text. You can make a case in general for the temporary gifts that were part of the apostolic deposit, you can make a case for that exegetically, but even without a proof text, the fact of the matter is, they ceased, and you have this historical argument, which is a very weighty historical argument.
Same as the cessation of the canon itself, there’s no proof text on that.
There’s no proof text on the cessation of the canon, but the universal consensus of the church is that it ceased, and it was the once for all delivered to the saints faith, and you have the same argument historically with regard — Cleon Rogers, some years ago, did this sort of seminal work on tracking the fact that tongues were gone, they belonged in history to groups like . . . the Sibylline priestess cult, and in bizarre tribal groups there was ecstatic speech, but there was never in the church ecstatic speech until the Azuza Street meeting in Los Angeles, which gave birth to the Pentecostal movement. It came absolutely out of nowhere when it hadn’t been a part of Christian history. You don’t read, for example, if you read the Anabaptists, read the Reformers, read the Puritans, they’re not debating tongues, because they didn’t exist.
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