by Dan Phillips

If I were to ask what leprechauns, mermaids, and loving homosexual couples have in common, I'm pretty sure this readership would have the answer. I'd like to help you explain why you answer as you do.

What they have in common with each other is, of course, that they are all mythical creatures, living only in fantasy and imagination and every movie, TV show, and commercial in existence… or at least that's true in the latter case.

This is a truth that has obviously not reached everybody. In fact, apparently it hasn't even reached those who made the decision to become spotlight-Christians, performers whose entire career is predicated on their claim to be Christian — which is to say, lifelong and advancing students of the words of God (John 8:31-32). I have in mind here folks like Dan Haseltine, lead singer for the group Jars of Clay. Note this tweet of his:

This “loving gay couples” meme is heard so much today; it's hard not to think in response:

The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of “love.” If “love” means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states… well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the “discussion” is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought…well, felt… to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?

Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego. Then, everything changes.

To begin with the fear of God is to acknowledge, from the outset, the Lordship and ultimacy of God, and the dependence and fallenness of man. It is to acknowledge that our hearts cannot be trusted (Prov. 28:26 {NAS]; Jer. 17:9). It is to acknowledge that real life is only found in knowing God through His word (Prov. 3:18; 4:13; John 6:63, 68). It is to see that rebellion and unbelief are the sure way of death and misery (Gen. 2:17; Pro. 8:36; Rom. 6:23).

As we learn from God how He wants us to treat others, we learn that He wants us to love them, even if they are our enemies (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44). We learn that love is not primarily about feeling. Love is about doing what is for the greatest good of the other, even if that costs us (cf. Exod. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21). We see the grandest display of love in the Father's gift of His son for our salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

So, you see, there never was such a thing as a “loving homosexual couple.” Nor was there ever yet a “loving adulterous couple,” or a “loving fornicating couple.” Accomplices? Yes. Co-conspirators, co-perpetrators? Sure. But loving? Never.

Love is a commitment to the good of the other — and rebellion against God is never for the good of the other. Sin against God is never for the good of the other. Turning away from life and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, and embracing guilt and wrath and doom and despair, wrapped in a straitjacket of rationalizations and distractions — these things are never about the good of the other.

Real love will point someone away from sin and death, and to Christ, the Gospel, life and forgiveness. If that
Christward call to repentant faith is absent, so is love.

This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom, in our murky, fogbound culture.

That is, if fitting in with the culture isn't our highest ambition. Which it never will be, once our own world has been tilted by the Gospel.

Postscript: this and related matters are opened more fully in “Adultery De-Glamorized,” a sermon on Proverbs 6:24-35.

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by Dan Phillips

Since this is an issue that hasn't yet gone away, and since I've been writing on it for decades, these are far from my final thoughts on “continumaticism.” But as to the conference, I mean this to be the sum-up.

I gave a verbal sum-up to my church which, to my bafflement, became our most-downloaded recording so far. I would pick other messages I'd much rather see spread all around — like this onethis one, or this one — but what happens, happens, and only God can explain.

It did elicit one comment, and since it's a funny one, I share it:

Well… yeah…

So here we go:

FIRST: the GCC people were amazing. The 700 volunteers, the security — amazing. Very gracious provisions for everybody. They really treated us as guests.

SECOND: the music was amazing.

THIRD: the food was amazing.

What? Too shallow? Oh, sorry. Okay, here goes…

FOURTH: I am more impressed than ever with John MacArthur and the ministry he's headlined there.

That won't strike most of you the way it should, because a startling number of readers still (A) think I work for GCC; well, in fact, actually (B) think I'm Phil Johnson, who does work for GTY; and (C) assume all of us here are lockstep MacArthur fanboys.

Except I'm none of those things. Anyone who's ever heard me on the subject knows that I'm very critical of the whole concept of megachurches. Plus, in my entire 40+ years of Christian life, though I respect him, I probably have only heard a dozen MacArthur sermons all the way through (if that) and read maybe roughly a half-dozen books, give or take. “What would MacArthur do?” is not a question I ask myself, ever.

I say that to say this: I was immensely impressed that MacArthur even did this. At this point in his ministry, the man has ZERO to prove. He could retire today to a desert island, or to Cowlick, South Dakota and end his days in obscurity, and his entry in church history would remain secure and notable. And yet he did this.

Plus, he's not a stupid man. MacArthur knew he'd get grief, lies, slander, culpable misrepresentations, and vile bile — all of which began the moment he announced conference. He was sticking his finger in the fan, and he knew it. Why? What would possibly move MacArthur to put himself, his name, out there for this?

It can only be love for Christ, love for Christ's church, love for Christ's saints. That, and concern born of the abject failure of his younger peers to step up and sound this desperately needed cry, this trumpet-blast, themselves.

So MacArthur  asked the best people he could think of, he corralled his church, he put himself out there, and he gave it all he's got. My respect — and affection — for him has increased exponentially.

Plus talking with some of the folks there made me rethink GCC as a whole. I still have issues with the whole concept of a megachurch, any megachurch. But I am compelled to say this: if you're going to do it, that's the way to do it. GCC invests everything it has, as far as I can tell, into ministry that serves people in Christ's name. They are pedal-to-the-metal for getting the Gospel and the Word out. They've got tremendous resources, and instead of rushing them off to some fancy neighborhood in the hills, they stay right there and give it all they've got.

This conference — which my dear little church in Texas couldn't have pulled off in that way — is an example. GCC hosted the conference and treated all comers as beloved guests. Plus they gave them all a copy of the book. Plus they put the whole conference online, translated it into a bunch of languages, broadcast it all over the world… for free! And now it's all online. Give, give, give. Amazing.

(That's right: so all of the people spouting off “responses” to MacArthur who haven't listened to the conference do so in spite of the fact that it's been provided to everyone gratis.)

A cynical person might say the conference was a book-promotion. Seriously? It isn't as if MacArthur is — oh, I don't know — some obscure writer who did a book on the Gospel and needs all the help he can get just getting the word out so people know it exists. He's John MacArthur. He's a living brand-name. He's the Stephen King of evangelicals. He could publish pictures of his golf clubs, and plenty of people would pre-order copies.

That MacArthur would do this conference said a lot to me about his heart, and what it said was all good.

FIFTH and finally: I'm disappointed, but not surprised, at the aftermath.

All these folks who mouth great swelling words of respect for MacArthur (and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones and Owen and Calvin and the Bible) were explaining why MacArthur was dead-wrong and off-base before he'd even said a word. And they still are, great big surprise.

And what of Joni, Justin Peters, Conrad Mbewe? Ignored or treated ridiculously. That is, even the absolutely indisputable specifics regarding abusive false doctrine are largely brushed aside for the sake of saving Charismaticism's facade of respectability.

And what of MacArthur's dear esteemed colleagues? They launch “responses,” in which they confess they haven't even listened to or read the conference or the book. That's what their swelling words of respect for MacArthur actually amount to.

In the process, unintentionally, they bear out every syllable of concern MacArthur and the other speakers voiced. It's almost a template:

  1. Profess great love, respect, admiration for MacArthur.
  2. Admit to not having listened or read.
  3. “Respond.”
  4. Prove MacArthur right.

So in conclusion: it was a good conference. It was a desperately-needed conference. MacArthur is right about every central concern he sounded. Specifically, he's right to give out this note: with all the conferences and organizations setup to protect the Gospel and Christology, why so little to protect the truth about and dignity of the Holy Spirit?

I think they need to do another conference.

If they don't, I very well might. For whatever it's worth.

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by Dan Phillips

The last session I'll cover is John MacArthur's closing address. He said he was speaking from the heart, and had told an associate that he didn't really know what he was going to say in advance.

MacArthur began by addressing some of the accusations that had been hurled at him from the very moment of the announcement of the then-future conference. The first was that such a conference was unloving. But, MacArthur countered, surely the most loving thing to do is tell a person the truth, and leaving him in error the most unloving. In Acts 20, Paul reminded the elders that he had warned them with tears for years, knowing that wolves would arise from without and within. Titus 1 says it is the God-given duty of elders to warn against errors and errorists. It isn't optional. To refuse is to be faithless.

But wouldn't it be divisive? Indeed it would. Truth divides. Jesus brought a sword, He said. It is more important to be divided by truth than to be united in error.

Is the issue unclear in the Bible? Does difference of opinion demonstrate that Scripture is unclear? If so, Mac responded, it has only become unclear under the influence of false teachers. Was it not clear enough to the apostles, to the church fathers, to the Reformers, to the Puritans, to the creed-writers, to the erudite noble Reformed theologians (Warfield, for instance), to Spurgeon, to Boyce, to Sproul? When did it become “unclear”? Was it made unclear by Swaggart, by Kuhlman, by Benny Hinn, by Todd Bentley, by Paul Cain?

But, it is said, Mac is talking only about the extreme lunatic fringe. Untrue, he replied: Error leavens the whole movement, and they show no great inclination to rid themselves of it decisively. 90% accept prosperity gospel, 24-25 million deny Trinity, 100 million are RCs.

Would the conference be attacking brothers in Christ? MacArthur wishes that were so; but many of these leading figures are not brothers. Then he asked, Who should police evangelicalism? His answer: every faithful pastor, theologian, leader in the movement. If they don’t police the movement, the spiritual terrorists will dominate – as with Islam. Many say that Islamic terrorists are a small minority on the lunatic fringe. If that is the case, then why don’t Muslims en masse rise to reject the terrorists? So with Charismaticism. A heavy burden lies on the back of all who know the Word to rise up and denounce the movement's errors.

Is MacArthur fixated on Charismaticism? Is he a one-trick pony, always harping on Charismatics? He replied that he’s preached the whole NT, and has been at GCC since 1969 — and he’s had one conference on the Charismatic movement.

Is he hurting people’s feelings? MacArthur replied that he does care about offending people. But he doesn't care about that nearly as much as he cares about offending God.

MacArthur then went on to stress: Charismaticism/continuationism is an alien movement. We teach in a stream that goes back through the Reformers to the Fathers. The stream of Charismaticism goes back to the 60s, when hippies entered and dominated the church scene. The distinctive pedigree is as bad as the distinctive fruit.

Then MacArthur pled with his continuationist friends. First, he called them to face the cold hard fact that when they say they’re continuationist, they lend credence to the whole false movement. They give their good name to bad doctrine and practice. They provide theological cover for a movement that’s harmful and deadly.

Second, he observed that Charismaticism degrades supernatural nature of true gifts. Hebrews 2:1-4 is meaningless, if what Apollos the writer speaks of applies to what everyone’s experiencing today. Redefining the gifts necessarily diminishes the glory of the real thing. If those attesting works were like these pale, laughable trivialities and parlor-tricks, they were nothing special. They they were nothing special, the era was nothing special. If the era was nothing special, the message it produced was and is nothing special. Hijacking Biblical terminology degrades the genuinely miraculous.

Third, the continuationist position severely limits its advocates in attempting to confront others who plunge into confusion. The movement should be denounced, wholesale – and we keep waiting for denunciation of the serious errors, and it hasn’t come. Good men who call themselves continuationists have given up the high ground, so that they cannot speak with the needed “punch.”

Fourth, by insisting that God’s still giving new revelation to Christians today, the enablers unwittingly open the gates to more and greater confusion and error. Tongues, healing, prophecy are said to occur today – but these phenomena are not at all like what happened in NT times. If that is so, if that radical redefinition is accepted, then anything might be from God – gibberish, nutty notions, feelings, anything can be “prophecy.” Open the door to any of it, and you've opened the door to all of it.

Fifth, the position tacitly denies Sola Scriptura. None of MacArthur’s continuationist friends would formally deny closing of Canon and all — yet they default on that claim by teaching believers to expect extra-Biblical revelation. Saying that babble is tongues and fallible hunches are prophecy necessarily opens the door to the mindless ecstasy of unintelligible expression. In reality, these folks are actually closet cessationists when they say the manifestations are not the same. What it means is that they’ve accepted a counterfeit – and that’s hardly a noble posture.

Seventh, say that the gift of healing is still around, though there’s no evidence whatever, and you give credence to the worst of the faith healers.

All of this dishonors the august person of the Holy Spirit by enticing people from His true ministry. “Give me more, give me that other thing” is the cry – what kind of deficiency does that attribute to work of the Spirit?

The broader Charismatic movement has flung open the city gates to more doctrinal error than any other movement, including liberalism, pragmatism, ecumenism, or any other previous enemy-attempt. Charismatic theology is the strange fire of our generation, and should be doused decisively by the Biblically faithful.

MacArthur's closing was very moving. He went to 1 Timothy 6, last two verses:

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

Then he want to 2 Timothy 1:6-7 —

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

MacArthur observed that this was a scary time for Paul. The baton was about to be passed to Timothy, and Timothy was looking weak. So Paul calls Timothy not to be ashamed of testimony of our Lord — what a frightening charge to have to put into words at this stage. Timothy must retain the standard of sound words. What God gave him through Paul was a treasure. “Guard the treasure entrusted to you,” Paul pleads.

What effect did the words have on Timothy? How did Timothy respond? For the answer, MacArthur took us to Hebrews 13:23.

You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.

Timothy had hung in there. He'd borne witness, and he'd gone to jail. Paul’s letter gripped his heart and emboldened him.

So it needs to grip ours. The Charismatic movement seeks to distract us from confidence in the sufficiency of God's word. It seeks to loosen our grip on the treasure, and pull us in a dozen different fruitless or positively harmful directions.

We must reject that pull, we must cling to God's Word, we must preach that Word… and so, only, can we avoid stoking (or roasting in) Strange Fire.

First post
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My overall summary report to CBC
Third post
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Fifth post
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Seventh post

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