Come Down, Dear John. The “Strange Fire” Thing Isn’t Worth It.

You and I met in 2008.  I had watched you speak and read what you wrote for some time, I even received your scholarship. But in 2008 I graduated from your college with a B.A. in Bible and I got a chance to shake your hand as I walked across the stage.  I made a funny face as we posed for the camera, you murmured “oh brother” and chuckled jovially through your smile. Remember?

Anyway, this weekend you’ve been putting on a conference called Strange Fire, named after your book Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship. It reminds me of that book you put out in the early 90’s, Charismatic Chaos.

MacArthur Strange Fire

In your conference-opening statements you described the Charismatic movement as a cult and said;

The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. It dishonors the Father and Son, but most specifically, the Holy Spirit. Many things are attributed to the Holy Spirit that actually dishonor him. In many places in the charismatic movement they are attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have actually been generated by Satan.

You’re distressed that certain figures in the movement have been twisted by self-deception and have given into self-aggrandizement under the guise of spirituality.

John MacArthur Strange Fire

Brother, your college has dedicated a Legacy Room to you.  They’ve enshrined first-edition copies of your 250+ books and your first microphone.[1]

Your followers follow you uncritically.

And this weekend you dismissed the experience of 500 million Christians with one fiat.

You’ve judged their movements and determined them to be heretical with one broad stroke; “I will start believing that the truth prevails in the charismatic movement when I see the leaders looking more like Jesus Christ and I see that they really are partakers of the divine nature.”

During a Q and A session you said “we are not dividing the body of Christ in this conference, we are trying to identify the body of Christ…

You’ve managed to set yourself up over the Body.  You are the head at the top of the statue that you’ve ensured is as solid as a rock, buttressed by uncompromising doctrine, towering high above the lesser forms of Christianity…

But maybe it’s time to come down and join the rest of us?

It’s not so bad down here.  There is a little more mystery to God (which can be unsettling) and we might not always agree with one another, but you just can’t beat that familial Christian love.

We’ll be here when you’re ready.


[1] Some will argue that the Legacy Room isn’t dedicated to you, but anyone can see that this is tokenism at its best.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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