Strange Fire Q&A: Answering the Critics (Selected Scriptures)

By | October 13, 2019


PHIL: It turns out that some of our Charismatic
friends and brothers are not happy with you and… JOHN: This is true. PHIL: They’ve been writing a flood of criticisms
and complaints and questions about the conference and your book and I’ve collected some of those
and I want to ask them to you tonight. JOHN: I’m ready, I think. PHIL: I think it’s an interesting phenomenon
that a Word of Faith teacher could go out there and make up and teach any doctrine he
wants and the Charismatic world seems to be placid and calm with that. But you criticize the Charismatic Movement
and the whole Charismatic world comes unhinged. JOHN: Yeah, this is what we’ve said through
the years that you can, in that Movement, you can advocate anything and no one will
question it. You can advocate absolutely any experience,
anything from God and no one will ask you to defend it, no one will take a position
against it. But if you take a position against something
in the Movement and identify it as error, you are vilified. So it’s that uncritical attitude that allows
for absolutely everything that makes criticism such a shock to them and they’ve…they’ve
managed to go along for so many years without anybody really doing that. I think that’s fair to say. We were trying…we were talking about the
fact that it had been fifteen years since a critical book had been written on that Movement,
fifteen years that that Movement has gone unabated and without criticism and without
accountabilities. So I understand the shock that it was. PHIL: Well, in fact, you raise this issue
with some of our Reformed Charismatic friends, “Why don’t you criticize the extremes in this
Movement?” And the consistent answer has been, “That’s
not what I feel called to do, I’m here to teach the truth, I want to inject as much
truth as I can into the Movement.” I don’t want to be a critique but some of
them have spent the past three weeks incessantly criticizing… JOHN: Me. PHIL: You and the book. JOHN: They don’t mind criticizing me. PHIL: Yeah, and it’s an interesting phenomenon. Let me just raise some of the questions. You’re the first objection almost every Charismatic
critique has raised is that you paint with a broad brush when you point out heretics
and abominations in the Charismatic Movement. You don’t always add disclaimers and exemptions
for Charismatics and there are some who would share your concerns. How do you differentiate between those who
are outlandish and those who are more restrained? How do you make the difference between the
rank heretics and the Christians who are merely misled or confused in the Movement? JOHN: Well, I think there are different categories. There are…there are the very moderate Charismatics
that we know as Reformed Non-Cessationists, or Continuationists, their theology, for the
most part, is sound and solid. Then there is the sort of the middle part
of it that maybe more traditional Pentecostals who know the gospel and believe in Jesus and
have a sort of normal church life, even though they allow for the gifts. And then there’s the wild fringe. The problem is, if the people who should be
responsible to confront all of that never do that. Then, in a sense, they acquiesce to that. So there’s culpability in not doing that. I mean, you just can’t say, “Well I…that’s
not me. That doesn’t represent me.” But whatever you allow and whatever you tolerate
is to one degree or another a representation of you. And if you’re tolerant of that, then you defacto
affirm it. You know, I mean Jesus simplified it by saying
if you’re not for Me, you’re against Me. So it’s either one or the other. You can’t hide behind the fact that you’re
not like the rest of them unless you’re willing to rise up and condemn what isn’t right. And that then legitimizes those people at
another level. So I thought there was a very interesting
little piece put together by one of our seminary graduates, I don’t know if you saw this. PHIL: I saw it yesterday. JOHN: Really amazing. He said, “Let’s look…let’s look at this
thing in a quantitative basis.” So he took, I think…was it 20? The twenty sort of leading, moderate, continuationist
who believe the gifts continue that John Piper, Wayne Grudem, D.A. Carson even through Rick Warren and some others
in their who would allow for the gifts, and maybe twenty of them. And then, you look at their Twitter account
and added up how many people were on their Twitter account and the number came…I don’t
know what it came to, five million or something would be the total of that. And then he took the twenty most well-known
Charismatics and added up their Twitter accounts and it was massively, exponentially way, way
beyond by the multiples of millions, beyond those more reasonable people. So when…if you’re trying to convince me
that the radical kind of aspect is the minority. I’m not buying into that and there’s a quantitative
objective proof of that. That is the vast majority of the Movement. And as we pointed out, a hundred and twenty
million of them are Catholics and, of course, they don’t have the true gospel. And twenty-five million of them belong to
the oneness Pentecostal Movement which is non-Trinitarian, denying the Trinity. And then you have all of those people in Africa
in some kind of combination of Christianity and ancestor worship and demon preoccupation
and witch doctor stuff, as Conrad pointed out. So I think you’re going to get caught in the
broad brush and in the radical aspect of the Movement if you’re not willing to rise up
against it. PHIL: Yeah, and one of the debates that’s
come up has been, you know, what is the fringe and what is the mainstream? And it seems to me to a person our Reformed
Charismatic friends are either willfully blind or they truly don’t see that they are in the
minority. They really seem to think that they represent
the Movement’s mainstream. I mean, historically and numerically that’s
not true, is it? JOHN: No, they don’t represent the mainstream
at all. They don’t even…they don’t even trace their
roots back to the beginnings of Pentecostalism. They trace their roots through the Reformation,
right? PHIL: Right. JOHN: Those people basically, for the most
part, the ones that we’re talking about, Grudem and Carson and Piper and those, they trace
their roots to the Reformation. And there is no Charismatic string there. There is no non-cessation view that comes
through that history of the church. You can go back to the fathers, you can go
back to Calvin, you can go back to Luther, you can go back to the Puritans and the Reformers
and they’re not…they’re not affirming the continuation of the gifts. So it’s an anomaly, and that’s why we say
that, it’s an anomaly. So they even…they’re outside the Movement
truthfully. They are outside the Movement, sort of sitting
on the fringe. They are the fringe. The Movement itself traces itself back through
Charismatic history, back to the turn of the twentieth century, 1900, where it all really
was launched. PHIL: You did a kind of online interview with
Tim Chales(?) and he asked you about the broad brush accusation. And here’s what you said to him. You said, “Of course, I would agree that there
are true believers within the Charismatic Movement, but that does not negate the seriousness
of the corruption. The Charismatic quest for extra-biblical revelation,
subjective impressions, ecstatic experiences and so on, represents a massive danger to
the church. Error is still error, even if there are true
believers who embrace it and espouse it. And when the error threatens the church in
such significant ways, it needs to be called out and directly confronted.” That sort of prompted in my mind a memory
of the Christianity Today review of Charismatic Chaos , your first book, or your earlier book
on the Charismatic Movement, and they famously said this, quote: “The book vastly overstates
the Charismatic threat.” Now I suspect they would feel, or they’re
going to feel the same way about Strange Fire. What is your response to that? How serious is the threat posed by the Charismatic
Movement as a whole? JOHN: Well we tried to communicate this, the
seriousness of the threat is not somebody standing in a corner speaking gibberish. And I’ve actually said to people, “You’d be
better off to go in a corner and speak nonsense then come out of the corner and gossip.” So, you know, we don’t want to say that that’s
the threat. The vast negative aspect of this Movement
doesn’t come from people who seem to have spiritual impressions. It comes from living in a paradigm outside
Scripture, which is what we were trying to say this morning, because nothing good happens
out there. This is shocking to them because it’s a huge
paradigm shift to submit themselves completely to the true and accurate interpretation of
the Scripture, the historical interpretation of Scripture and to, as we were talking about
this morning, to believe that communion with the Holy Spirit occurs through the Word of
God and understanding the Word of God and applying the Word of God and obeying the Word
of God. That is a complete paradigm shift. And it isn’t induced by music, it isn’t induced
by mood. Nobody is playing on your emotions. When you’re studying the Bible, just studying
the Word of God, you’re in a pure communion with the Holy Spirit. When you’re listening to a sermon, if you’re
in that environment and you’re listening to a sermon, maybe at least half the time somebody’s
playing music while he’s preaching, and you’ve heard this. The organ goes up, and the organ goes down,
and there’s music because this is all about inducing some kind of emotional state. So to say to people that you’ve got to ignore
all of that and use your mind to understand the Word of God, is a huge paradigm shift. They have to undo their whole perspective
on spirituality. And as I said briefly this morning, when people
live outside Scripture and when they’re chasing supposed messages from God, all kinds of bad
things happen. All kinds of unbiblical things happen and
sometimes cults are developed that literally have a massive influence on culture and deceive
millions. So my issue is not in a particular behavior,
speaking in tongues or, you know, lifting your hands, or whatever, my issue is defining
spirituality completely outside Scripture in some kind of experience induced with false
claims and false expectations. So because it’s a false paradigm of sanctification
that can’t restrain the flesh, as we point out in the book, that the Movement is rampant
with immorality because a false approach to sanctification can’t restrain the flesh, so
we’re not surprised when we see immorality everywhere. We’re not surprised when we, as we point out
in the book, you see somebody expose some pastor, high-profile exposed for a really
outrageous kind of immoral conduct and he’s right back doing it, you know, a few weeks
later in another place, and another way…because that’s germane to a false paradigm. In my mind, it would be like legalism. Legalism would be a parallel. We reject legalism because legalism is a false…a
false gospel, it’s a false message. You can’t earn your salvation. We would even reject legalism as a means of
sanctification, that you’re sanctified by your outward behavior. We would reject that. This is another false form of sanctification. And I’m afraid that people think they’re saved
because they had some kind of Jesus experience. I was reading online the other day, a very
famous broadcast television lady who made the statement that something came over her
and she knew she had met God. And I remember, and you remember this, too,
and KBRT radio, I was doing an afternoon interview with a woman and it became apparent, she was
a Christian radio talk-show host for three or four hours every day, and off air I said,
“How did you become a Christian?” I’ll never forget what she said. She said, “Oh, one day I got Jesus’ phone
number and we’ve been connected ever since.” You remember that? PHIL: Yeah. JOHN: I said, “What? What does that mean?” She said, “What do you mean what does that
mean? I got Jesus’ phone number and we have been
connected.” And then she said to me, “Well, if somebody
asked you how you became a Christian, what would you say?” I explained the gospel to which she responded,
“O come on, you don’t have to go through all of that.” So this is somebody who is giving answers
on the radio to people calling up with spiritual questions. So I think…that’s part of the delusion that’s
in this Movement at the very entry point. And then trying to live a Christian life by
chasing these imaginations and feelings, piling in to auditoriums to have your emotions stirred,
kind of radically and extremely and thinking that’s some kind of aid to your sanctification,
falling over backwards, laughing hysterically. So my concern is you’re taking people outside
the only help they can really have and that’s with a clear mind understanding the truth
of Scripture, whether it’s for salvation or sanctification. PHIL: In short then, when the experiences
you have become more important to you than the truth you believe, that’s dangerous. JOHN: Look, 1 Corinthians 2 says, “Eye has
not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that
God has prepared for them that love Him. But the Spirit reveals those things because
He knows the deep things of God.” If you’re chasing your experiences, and you’re
chasing your intuition, and you’re following your sensory stimulus, eyes, ears, that’s
the wrong way to go. It’s the Spirit of God who reveals the deep
things of God and has laid them in here and this is the mind of Christ. That’s…that’s the true sanctification. So what do you have then? The outcomes of this are bad for the people
who are in it, and they’re disastrous for the world that’s watching because they’re
looking at people who claim to be the not just Christians but they claim to have the
power, they claim to have the anointing, if you will. They claim to be the elevated Christians. They look down on us, you know, we’re the
mundane Spiritless people worshiping the Bible. And they’re the ones who have the power and
they’re the miracle people, and the world looks at them and says, “This is a disaster,
look at these people. Their lives are a wreck, they’re overtly lavish
in their lifestyle, the people at the top of the sort of Ponzi scheme, the people who
are supposed to be the spiritual leaders, their lives are…I mean, they look at Jim
Bakker, they look at Jimmy Swaggart, they look at all these…these holocausts of immorality
that have occurred among these media guys and if this is Christianity, you know, it’s
the old statement, “Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in
your Redeemer. Show me that and I have no interest in your
Redeemer.” PHIL: Now, our Reformed Charismatic friends
will say, “But we don’t operate completely apart from Scripture. We have the same commitment to the authority
of Scripture you do, we have the same theological framework that you do… JOHN: And they do. I agree with that. That there are many that do have that. PHIL: So what’s the danger there? I mean, they…what is it? They listen for prophecies and so on, but
if the prophecy contradicts Scripture, they’ll reject it. JOHN: The first danger there is they give
credibility to the rest of the Movement. They give cover because they are biblical,
they are erudite, they are trained, they are intellectual, and they get so much right. So the fringe looks to them for credibility. The other danger is that they’re looking for
something that they don’t need. And by their own admission don’t know when
it comes of if it comes. And so there’s a sense in which you live in
a kind of hopeful dissatisfaction unnecessarily. But I think the big issue for them, and that’s
what we said in the book, is come on, you know, you’re giving cover to this when you
allow for this in an uncritical way or when you allow for this. I mean, for example, in the book to say that
a guy who claimed to be a prophet who turned out to be an alcoholic homosexual, to say
that he is really a prophet as one of those finest of men said, a Reformed guy, “He’s
really a prophet even though he’s homosexual, alcoholic who didn’t get messages from God
except maybe this man believes once or something…why give that kind of cover? So that’s my concern is they gain a degree
of credibility. Not only do they gain a degree of credibility,
but the people that follow those men stay open to that like they’re open to that. PHIL: Yeah. Yeah and we’re back to the broad brush thing
again. I mean, I was questioned on the same thing
and I made the comment that…I mean, you look at some of these men, like Sam Storms
who has written some excellent things, some books that I treasure on the Sovereignty of
God, and issues like that. But he’s a Charismatic and he followed me
on a radio interview a few weeks ago and one of the first things he said was, “There are
two men he reveres in his life, one is John Piper and the other is Mike Bickle. Mike Bickle is the pastor of the Kansas City
Prophets and, you know, the founder of IHOP, The International House of Prayer, the guy
who says that in his entire experience, over 40 years, I think he said, in the Charismatic
Movement, 80 percent of the phenomenon he’s seen, he knows its false. And he’s saying that not as a critique of
the Movement, but he’s saying that to say to people it’s okay, it’s okay if some of
the stuff is false, it’s all right. JOHN: Yeah…yeah. Then that’s the point. How can a guy like Sam affirm a John Piper
and affirm Mike Bickle? You talk about…They’ve got a broad brush. PHIL: They’re miles apart. That’s exactly what I said. JOHN: In fact, you said…I read what you
said. You said, “There isn’t a broad enough brush
to paint a mess like that.” I would never say anything like that. (Applause) PHIL: Yeah, well quote some more Spurgeon
and make me sound nicer than I am. JOHN: No, isn’t that the whole point? PHIL: Yeah. JOHN: You would expect him to says what’s
going on with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, is false, it’s been proven
false. His partner, Bob Jones, was totally discredited
morally. PHIL: And they admit a lot of it is false. JOHN: And then to be able to say it’s okay
to be wrong because this is fallible prophecy? This is prophecy that is fallible, non-authoritative,
non-binding. In fact, most of it, most of what is claimed
to have come from God doesn’t. And then when you ask them, “How do you know?” You get a strange kind of dance. Well, if it feels like it’s the Holy Spirit. PHIL: Is there…is there some principle in
Charismatic theology that undermines discernment itself? JOHN: Sure…sure. PHIL: Promotes gullibility. JOHN: Because discernment…discernment comes
from objective, external truth. I mean, just think about it. The spiritual world is run by laws, just exactly
as the natural world. The next time you go to the doctor and you
go in to the doctor and you’ve got all kinds of pain in your abdomen, let’s say, and he
looks at you and says, “You know, I have a strong impression, I’m feeling that this is
what you’ve got. You’ve got cancer. This is a strong impression that… You’d be out of that door. PHIL: Looking for another doctor already. JOHN: Are you kidding me? You’re not going to tamper with my body. Well why would you let somebody tamper with
your soul? Why would you go in and have some guy talk
to you like that? So you can’t discern unless your criteria
are fixed in objective when the Bible demands discernment? When it says, “Examine every prophecy, don’t
despise preaching, don’t despise teaching. Don’t despise the people who speak for God. But examine everything and hold fast to what
is true and reject what is not.” And the criteria is biblical. But in that Movement, that is not the paradigm
in which they thing, in which they exist. And this is why when we do a conference like
that, the Charismatics react with such…with such extreme anger because they can’t process
that. I know that. Look, I love these people. I want to see them come to the truth. And, you know, you have to rock their world. You have to rock the paradigm in which they
live. You’ve got to shake the house down. To borrow the language of 2 Corinthians 10,
you’ve got to smash the ideology. You’ve got to crush the fortress. It’s got to come down because they’re imprisoned
in this wrong paradigm and then bring all thoughts captive to Christ. I understand it’s a war. PHIL: In your view then, this is the Charismatic
Movement, Charismatic theology is one of those strongholds that Paul was talking about in
2 Corinthians 10. JOHN: It is one of those strongholds. I mean, just put the pieces together. You turn on TBN and you’ll hear Paul Crouch
talking about the fact that they’re on 50 television stations in Africa and God is doing
miracles all over Africa. And then Conrad Mbewe comes here and says,
“The whole Movement is bogus. The whole Movement is false. These pastors are nothing but the new witchdoctors. They’re taking money from people by promising
them they can navigate them through the dead ancestors in the demon world to God so they
can get rich and healthy. It’s bogus. You’re not going to hear that on TBN. Next program comes on TBN and you’re listening
to an evangelical preacher having an interview with Paul Crouch, the same guy who is affirming
something in Africa that’s false. Where do you draw the line here? This…this kind of confusion, this uncritical
acceptance of the Movement has gone on for such a long time. You know me because we talk all the time,
but this is what drives me to do things like the conference when it reaches the level where
you just can’t allow it go on. People say to me, “Do….do…do you worry
about what people think?” And my answer is, “Of course I worry about
what people think, I want them to think truth and not error.” Do I worry what they think about me? No. Do I worry that they might not like this? No. This is the truth and the truth will always
have this reaction when it confronts error. And again, back to what I said earlier, this
has gone on without criticism. And the guys that we’ve been talking about
the continuationist who have responsible ministries and sound theology should have risen up long
ago and confronted and condemned this thing. But because they haven’t, there’s a young
generation of even Reformed young guys who don’t know what they believe about this but
they’re very comfortable because these guys aren’t sure what they believe. PHIL: Now there’s a myth floating around there
that one of the things you said at the conference was basically to anathematize all Charismatics
and consign them all to the eternal flames. I mean, you’ve already made clear tonight
that’s not your position. JOHN: I married a Charismatic. I did. Patricia and her family were saved in a Four-Square
Church. PHIL: You healed her from that, didn’t you? JOHN: I healed her from that, yeah. But it was not instantaneous. It took a very long time. No, look, are there Christians in the Movement? Of course there are, and particularly in the
old line traditional Pentecostal churches, Assembly of God, Four-Square churches, there
are people who believe the gospel, pastors who believe the gospel. They’re Christians not because of anything
in the Movement. They’re Christians because the true gospel
is there. PHIL: Help people on our side of this debate
understand though that you’re not advocating that everybody who has any Charismatic strain
in their teaching be totally anathematized. JOHN: No, of course not. PHIL: So…so how do you differentiate, how
can we…what is the difference between someone who is preaching another gospel and they fit
under the condemnation of Galatians chapter 1 verses 8 and 9, and someone who is our brother
in Christ, and we embrace him though we reject this aspect of his theology? How do you make that determination? JOHN: I would make that determination and
how I would talk about that person and how we’d refer to that person, and I would minister
alongside that person. I’ve ministered alongside John Piper many,
many times. I’ve spent hours and hours in a basement praying
with John Piper. I was there when he announced that he had
just discovered he had cancer and we gathered around him, some men, and prayed for him. And C.J. Maheny(?) was there with us. I mean, these are men who know the Lord, love
the gospel, love the Word of God. They’re the fringe of that Movement. They’re really outside and I don’t know why
they think they need to hang on to it. But I think a lot of it comes from what I
was saying this morning about them kind of pursuing and anointing, and sort of finding
that in people like that in Lloyd-Jones and others who are a little bit mystical about
that. But I don’t have a problem. We’ve had these men minister here. Wayne Grudem gave a great series on biblical
manhood, and womanhood at the college. And he’s written an outstanding theology which
would be a great text for theology with just those deviations on that one point. So, oh yeah, these re brothers in Christ and
that’s how they should be treated and loved and revered and honored as such. To get the gospel right is the starting point. But I think they also understand the true
paradigms of salvation and sanctification. They know the realm in which that occurs. They know the true means of grace. They operate within the true means of grace. I don’t know what the compulsions are that
cause them to step out of what is normal for them. PHIL: It’s a paradox that’s hard to explain,
isn’t it? Because Charismatic theology really comes
from a whole different strain of Wesley and perfectionism. JOHN: Right, right, right. And maybe I could say this to you, this is
a perspective, and I said it to the elders the other night, look, you are living in the
greatest revival in the history of the church right now. It outstrips the Reformation, vastly outstrips
the Reformation. It’s a revival of sound doctrine and Reformed
Theology, the Sovereignty of God, the Sovereignty of God in salvation with…we know it as Calvinism. You are living in an explosion of Reformed
Theology that is global…it’s global. There’s never been anything like it in the
history of the world. It is so far beyond the Reformation that it
would be impossible to even make a comparison because of technology. So now, I was telling the elders, you know,
there are 35,000 little groups of Viet Nam…Vietnamese people, you’ve been there, sitting in rice
paddies listening to me preach in their own language and learning Reformed Theology and
Bible exposition in Viet Nam, 35,000 of them listening to me on little boxes with thirty-five
hours of teaching on a chip in their own language. This is staggering, and that’s just Viet Nam. That’s just one little place and one little
ministry. It’s crossing the globe. Let me tell you. When I was a young guy, my Dad was a pastor. This would probably surprise you. I never one time had a discussion with my
father all his life as a pastor and my life under his teaching, and I loved him and learned
from him, and even through my days as a student. I never had a conversation with him about
the sovereignty of God and salvation, never. I never had a conversation with him about
imputed righteousness. I never had a definitive conversation with
him about justification. I never had a discussion with him about the
doctrine of election. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t even in the landscape. There was a little orthodox Presbyterian church
with about thirty people in it and that was it. That’s the only one I even knew of. The landscape of Evangelicalism was…was
sort of baptistic and very generic and not very theological, and very kind of evangelistic. I never had that conversation with my Dad
and my Dad was a relentless reader and loved the Word. It just wasn’t there. When I went to college, all of a sudden a
guy landed here by the name of J.I. Packer. He wrote The Sovereignty of God in Evangelism
and he just grabbed everybody by the neck and he said, “You do believe in the sovereignty
of God because when you want somebody to be saved, you pray for them which acknowledges
that God can save and God alone.” This just shook the foundations of a generation
of young people, he followed it up by Knowing God , the book of God Himself which extolled
the sovereignty of God. This is all new. This exploded over a period of time. I started to read the Puritans in seminary. I got a hole of Benjamin Warfield, first of
all, B.B. Warfield on Counterfeit Miracles . You know, that was the foundations of my non-…of
my cessationism. B.B. Warfield on The Inspiration and Authority
of Scripture. Then I got a hold of Stephen Charnak, I don’t
know, 900 pages on the Character of God. Then I read Thomas Watson’s Body of Divinity
, and Thomas Watson. I remember flying to Peru one night, all night,
reading Thomas Watson’s Beatitudes . And my whole world changed, dramatically changed. And by the time I arrived at Grace Church,
I was a completely different person than I was when I entered seminary. And it didn’t have anything to do particularly
with the seminary. It had to do with what I had been exposed
to. And I came here, and I started in to Matthew
early on here. And I had to interpret Matthew for myself
because the way I saw Matthew was completely different than the way I had been taught…completely…The
Sermon on the Mount. And that’s where all that really took root. So I was part of that early Movement. So I traced my…I started finding friends
like Jim Boice. I started listening to men like S.Louis Johnson
who was a phenomenal…phenomenal theologian, linguist, really a Reformation man. And I began to find my lineage and my lineage
was S.Louis Johnson, Jim Boice. Jim Boice came here and preached, wrote the
forward for The Gospel According to Jesus. My lineage went back…it went back to Jonathan
Edwards. I didn’t know anything about Edwards till
I got to seminary. It went back…it went back to Spurgeon first,
then it went back to Edwards. It went back to the Reformer…the Puritans,
and I started reading the Puritans, all the Puritans I could get. And then it went back to the Reformers, then
it just kept going back to the Apostles. That’s our lineage. Grace Church is in that lineage, okay? That’s where we trace our history. We go…we go back. One of the early instruments that God used
in that was R.C. Sproul. R.C. Sproul, phenomenal teacher, probably an unparalleled
gift for teaching, brought Reformed theology to the masses through the Ligonier Ministries,
and still doing it. And that’s our family. And we go back through that family down through
the Puritans, down through the Reformers, back to the Apostles. Okay? That’s where we live. That’s where we come from. There’s a completely separate Movement going
on in the evangelical world, that does not trace its lineage back to that at all. It starts in 1900, it starts with Parham who
is a bizarre kind of screwy character who was arrested for sodomy and he launches the
Charismatic Movement. It shows up in Azusa Street here in L.A.,
William Seymour, it’s a bizarre kind of Movement. It starts the Pentecostal Church. It goes through Aimee who was a kind of a
con-woman, Aimee Semple McPherson. And there were people in those Movements who
knew the gospel, heard the gospel, believed the gospel, my own wife’s family was saved
in a church connected to Aimee Semple McPherson’s ministry. But her life is a story of deception. That Movement moves along, that Charismatic
Movement arrives at Chuck Smith, gets infused with Jesus people, you know, the communal
living, hippies that came out of San Francisco who showed up at a Calvary Chapel in Costa
Mesa and took the church of 30 and turned it into a church of a thousand because all
these beach kids landed there. And Calvary Chapel was born and for the first
time in the history of the church, the suits went out, the hymns went out because they
decided to adapt to the culture. The culture was casual, guitars came in and
the church changed. And out of that, a few years later, Calvary
Chapel went ahead and there are many faithful guys in there who teach the Bible and believe
the gospel, but it has Charismatic…it’s Charismatic in its theology, but faithful
to the gospel for the most part. And then there was a serious deviation when
a guy named John Wimber broke from Chuck Smith and started the Vineyard and that’s…that’s
the line that went bizerk, that, just, you know, then they got the Toronto Blessing and
the stuff going on down in Florida and all the crazy stuff that comes out of that Vineyard
extreme Movement. That’s the Charismatic tree, that’s their
family. So they…you have leading Charismatic pastor
who would say something like this, he said this, “The Reformation is highly overrated.” Why would he say that? Because he has no connection to it. His roots go back to 1900. Ours go back to the New Testament, to the
church fathers, to the Reformers, to the Puritans, to the great men who have been the great theologians. So these people live in a different paradigm. They are informed by the culture. For the first time when Calvary Chapel, went
Chuck Smith decided to throw out the suits, throw out the hymns and let’s do the guitar
stuff that the kids want and let them casual and barefoot and all that, let the hair grow,
the church conformed to a very highly defined subculture that told the church what it wanted
it to be. I know all this cause I lived it. I was here when all this was happening. Came here in 1969, watched this happen from
a front-row seat. And I didn’t get on board. We had…we had hippies come here. And in a few years they looked like us, we
didn’t look like them. I mean, not that that’s the main issue, but
our approach to the church was informed by the Scripture, not by the culture. That started a Movement of culturally informed
church, and that’s where all the seeker-friendly stuff, all the, you know, market-driven church,
all that kind of stuff comes on that side. So we trace our lineage back through those
great Movements of theology, back to the New Testament. So what do I do when I want to prepare a message? I don’t look for a Charismatic back 15 years
who had a vision. I go read a dead person. I go read a dead person in my family, my spiritual
family. PHIL: Now your Charismatic critic is going
to say, “Yup, and your churches are dead as well. And if you look at the expansion of Christianity
in the world today, the vast majority of professions of faith are coming through the spread of
the Charismatic Movement. You think that’s a wrong way to think, why? JOHN: Professions of faith makes me very nervous. “Many will profess unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord.’ And I will say to them, ‘I never knew you.'” But what are they going to say? “We did this in Your name, we prophesied in
Your name, we did miracles in Your name. Depart from Me I never knew you.” It’s easy to get professions. You know, there have been non-Charismatics
who are really good at getting professions, that’s the world I grew up in. You know, ten verses of just as I am, and
keep the organ playing and keep people coming forward, and, you know, manipulate them into
some kind of profession. Listen, wherever the gospel is preached, the
Lord will save His people. But no one is saved by anybody’s approach
or anybody’s method, they’re saved by the sovereign purposes of God. But not apart from the gospel. So if the gospel’s in there, God will save
through the gospel. But I’m afraid in many of those, for example,
among 120 million self-confessed Roman Catholic Charismatics, the gospel’s not there. So wherever the gospel is, salvation can take
place. You don’t have to have a perfect theology
on all levels for people to know the gospel and hear the gospel and believe the gospel. Which brings up the question, and we’ve been
trying to deal with this, people say, “Well what about all these people in the Middle
East, these Muslims are getting visions of Jesus in the sky?: And I read about this,
and people driving down the road and all of a sudden Jesus appears. There’s another one, you may have seen this
about a rabbi who had a vision and it was the Messiah and the closer He came, the further…the
closer He got, the more he knew it was Jesus. I don’t know how he knew it was Jesus, unless
he had a picture of Salmon’s(?) Christ or something. But who knows what Jesus looks like? I guess he thought it was Jesus. So that could be pure imagination, that could
be fear. I suppose there are a lot of explanations
for that. But people don’t get saved through those kinds
of things because faith comes by hearing the truth concerning Christ. That’s why we Live Stream Grace Church in
Arabic because we know that in that part of the world there aren’t churches and there
aren’t books, and there aren’t opportunities and they’re not going to be saved by seeing
some kind of imaginary Jesus in the sky without gospel content. So we’re pumping the truth in so that they
can come to Christ. PHIL: This, I think, is the single-most controversial
thing that you said at the conference and wrote in your book and it’s this notion that
vast numbers of Charismatics who profess faith in Christ, don’t really know Him. And I know that’s a driving concern behind
the reasons you wrote the book. Talk about that a little more. JOHN: Okay, I’ll go back and… PHIL: In fact, can I give…let me just give
you an example. During the Q&A at the conference, Todd Friel
played that video clip where they were doing the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey. JOHN: Yeah. PHIL: People jumping and dancing around to
a mindless message and a Christless gospel and your comment after that, I wrote it down
because…this is one of those quotes that’s been taken out of context to prove that you’re
considing(?) all Charismatics to hell. You said, “These people need to be rescued.” You’re talking about people who are responding
emotionally with a…to an empty gospel, a Christless message, the reality is that these
people are lost in this system. They’re throwing the word “Jesus” all over
the place, but they don’t know the gospel, they don’t understand the gospel, the people
can’t be saved out of that Movement until they hear the gospel. JOHN: I’m not radical. PHIL: It is to a Charismatic who thinks these
phenomena or evidence that these people have the Holy Spirit. In my view, that’s one of the most dangerous
things about the Charismatic Movement. JOHN: Well of course. That… PHIL: It puts assurance on the wrong… JOHN: Well look, we hear all the time, “These
are the people who have great faith, they have great faith, they have great faith.” They don’t have faith, they have doubt. They’re so loaded with doubt, they need external
proof. This is not faith, this is doubt looking for
validation. This is…this is people who have no reason
for real faith, no reason for real confidence in God. They don’t know that God is sovereign, even
if they know of the God of the Bible, they…they….they don’t really have any confidence about their
relationship to Him because they’re taught that you can lose your salvation if you do
get it. So this is not great faith that makes this
kind of activity take place. This is doubt looking for validation. These people need external validation to give
them some peace because they’re traumatized. I think by fear. And I think that all of that activity is a
substitute for the reality of the peace that comes when you genuinely know the Lord Jesus
Christ. Now I’m not saying that all people in the
Charismatic Movement are non-Christians, I’ve never said that. The book makes that clear again and again
and again. PHIL: And you’ve made that clear again and
again and again. JOHN: Yeah. There are people in that Movement, people
in traditional Pentecostal churches, people in Calvary chapels, wonderful guys that I
know and count as friends who faithfully teach the gospel, preach the gospel, people know
the Lord. I’ve preached in those places. There are many Christians in those kinds of
places. But they’re the minority. There’s this vast array of people out there
buying into this extreme kind of stuff and this is the delusion that they’re feeling
the presence of God, experiencing the Holy Spirit. So this must mean they’re okay and they’re
in. And yet they can’t get a hold of their lives. They can’t grasp truth. They can’t have security. They can’t enjoy assurance. They can’t live godly lives because that’s
not going to come that way. PHIL: And what I understand you to be saying
is that if the Charismatic Movement were actually a Movement of the Holy Spirit, then the gospel
would be front and center always. Christ would be the center of the message. And that’s simply not the case, as you look
around. JOHN: Christ would be the center of the message. The gospel would be being preached all the
time. Feelings and emotions would dissipate and
disappear and be set aside in favor of the mind being engaged with the Word of God, with
the Scripture. Preachers wouldn’t be standing up making up
stuff which is what they do. “The Lord showed me. The Lord told me this and that.” That is a for sure indicator that that’s not
a Movement of the Holy Spirit. PHIL: Now let me jump on something you just
said about feelings and emotions being set aside. I don’t know if you watched the videos that
John Piper put online in response to the conference this week. JOHN: I think I saw one of them, I don’t know
how many there were. PHIL: In one of them, he said, let me see
if I can find…I know I wrote down his quote. He basically said that he thinks emotionless
religion is a greater danger than the abuse of human emotions. I think on that you and he are at the opposite
ends. JOHN: No, we’re not talking about…emotion. PHIL: Cause you’re a man of passion, I know
you. Your passionate about the truth. I mean, when you preach you’re passion comes
through, so it’s not that you’re against emotion per se. JOHN: Guess what, I actually have emotions. (Laughter) PHIL: Although they’re pretty controlled. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you actually
angry. JOHN: No, but I am angry about a lot of things. PHIL: You bottle it up pretty well. JOHN: No, but I… PHIL: You’re not saying…explain what you
mean by emotions your concern about it. JOHN: That’s not emotion, that’s emotionalism. Emotion is legitimate. You know, we’re all just singing this beautiful
music. It overwhelms me. I feel the truth of that. It’s not the tune, it’s not the melody. I don’t need to be led around with fleshly
impulses. It’s the truth of it. It’s the beauty of the truth set to beautiful
music. That’s an experience for me. Everybody demonstrates that in a different
way. And, you know, maybe I’m a little more sedate
in how I express that. But any emotion that anyone has ever felt,
I feel and…from my standpoint I feel them strongly. I feel strong love. I feel strong disappointment. I feel strong righteous indignation. So emotion is a gift from God but my emotions
are related to my mind. My emotions connect to the way I think. Everything…every emotional reaction I have
is connected to something I believe. I get sad because I see someone without Christ,
or I see all these millions of people caught up in this moment…Movement. That’s heartbreaking to me because I know
they’re lost, so many of them. I have joy when I see someone come to Christ
because I understand the reality of that, the eternal reality of that. And so I would say those are real emotions
attached to real convictions basically established by an understanding of the Word of God. Emotionalism is just isolated, disconnected
manipulation of people. PHIL: So the key is that those emotions in
order to be legitimate need to be…have some connection with truth. I mean, what I heard you saying in the conference
was when you talk about music, especially, that there’s a strategy, a deliberate strategy
in a lot of Charismatic circles to use music to just sort of generate mindless emotion. JOHN: You stop the music and you’d stop a
lot of the Movement. It’s an induction, in mindlessness. And it’s repetitious, relentlessly repetitious. And…yeah, if you stop the music, the whole
thing would wind down really fast…the whole mob kind of psychology would disintegrate
right there. But…you remember the interview when I was
asked how I handle depression. PHIL: Yes! JOHN: And do you remember my answer? PHIL: I do. JOHN: I said, “I don’t know, I’ve never been
depressed.” PHIL: Yeah, which is…you’ve got to admit,
that’s most of us… JOHN: No, no…no the reason I said that was
why would I be depressed? What would I be depressed about? I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe in the providence of God. I believe my steps are ordered by the Lord. Disappointed, I’ve been disappointed. Disappointed with myself. I don’t go blithely through life thinking
every sermon I preach is what it should be. I go mostly through life thinking every sermon
fell short. But what’s to be depressed? I’m going to heaven and I know that. And the Lord’s in charge of my life and he’s
surrounded me with wonderful people. How could I be depressed? And you remember in that conversation, the
other guy said, “I’m depressed all the time and I don’t know why.” I don’t even get that. And so I said, “Well you’ve got to at least
know why you’re depressed, you can’t be depressed and not know why. But there are people I would grant who tend
to, you know, be more fluctuating in their emotions. But I think if your theology is what it ought
to be, it produces contentment…it produces a real contentment. And I think God in His grace has allowed me
to have that kind of contentment that nothing…I mean, there’s a certain protected place in
my mind that’s insulated by what is true. And things don’t ever disturb that place. PHIL: That’s good. I preached on that this morning, by the way. JOHN: Did you really? PHIL: Yeah, Psalm …in Psalm 17 David starts
out disconsolate and just a few verses later, by the end of the Psalm, he’s triumphant and
that’s kind of his pattern. And the point I made was… JOHN: “Why are you disquieted within me, O
my soul?” he asks. PHIL: Yeah. JOHN: What are you doing? PHIL: And the answer he finds always is a
theological reason to look into eternity and anchor his hope there and that clears it… JOHN: See that’s when I look at those people
and they’re just…they’re just jacked up with emotionalism, but they have no theology
to anchor all that. That’s really tragic. So you’re living with the illusion that you
know God, and this is the frightening thing in Matthew 7, “Lord, Lord,” and He says, “I
don’t know you.” PHIL: Yeah, in fact I wanted to get back to
that. Matthew 7, it seems to me…you have come
back to many, many times in your preaching ministry, it’s a kind of a key idea… JOHN: Let me go back before I forget. PHIL: Okay. JOHN: You asked me about that and when I was
in high school I had a friend named Ralph. We used to go down into L.A., we played football
together, and baseball. I played shortstop, he played first base. He played in the backfield with me on the
football team in high school. And we were just good pals. He was in a youth group and I was in one. And kind of leaders in our youth group and
we used to go down and pass out tracks and talk to people about the Lord down in downtown
L.A. on a late afternoon or Saturday. Ralph and I graduated together in the same
class. He went off to Redlands University, and I
found out within a year he communicated with me and said he had become an atheist. I don’t think I had a category for that. How does a Christian guy, in my mind he’s
a Christian, become an atheist? I went to college, I had a buddy, his name
was Don Robertson. We ran in the same backfield, tandem backs
again. His dad was a pastor, my dad was a pastor. He was a youth group leader, I was a youth
group leader. We were headed for the ministry together,
talking about seminary, playing football. We graduated together. I went on to seminary. He went on and got a Ph.D. in some kind of
psychology, completely denied the faith and lived a dissolute life, ended up a criminal. I went to seminary, I became very close friends
with the dean’s son who when he graduated set up a Buddhist altar in his house. I’m trying to process…what is this? PHIL: You’re not a very good influence on
your friends, it seems. (Laughter) JOHN : You know…I think…I think you have
identified the common denominator. So…but, you know, from the personal standpoint,
I’m trying to figure this out. So when I say…when I say I’m afraid most
Charismatics aren’t Christians, I could say this, I could also say, “I’m afraid many non-Charismatics
sitting in churches are not real Christians.” And, you know, that came to be a reality when
I wrote The Gospel According to Jesus . And people started reading that book and saying,
“I’m not a Christian, I’ve been in the church, I’m not a Christian.” My friend Don here, you were raised in the
church, taught Sunday School in the church. You came to visit us and you came when I was
preaching those two sermons at the end of Matthew 7 here, and you said to yourself,
“I’m not a Christian.” Right? And the Lord saved you in those two weeks. So, you know, to say that most of these Charismatics,
if you just add up the numbers, they’re not Christians. That’s not some kind of outrageous statement. But this is a politically incorrect statement. PHIL: Right. JOHN: Because you’re not supposed to deny
anybody anything, that’s the Post-Modern claim on I can have my own truth and you’re not…and
you can’t sit in judgment on me. PHIL: That’s what I mean when I say this has
been a kind of a theme in your ministry. You’ve had a few controversies similar to
this, never anything quite on this largest scale because you haven’t attacked such a
large Movement. But there was the No Lordship gospel. It was the same issue there. JOHN: Yeah. PHIL: You know, people who buy into that kind
of teaching. Many of them are… JOHN: People who think they’re saved and they
will not confess Jesus as Lord, and there’s no change in their life. PHIL: Same thing with the Seeker-Sensitive
Movement, another big Movement you’ve attacked. It seems… JOHN: No, no, no, I’m not doing these attacks. These are coming from the Word of God. PHIL: That’s true. But I mean you have…you’ve preached on that
issue… JOHN: Yeah, but then I give them to you to
edit and you make me even worse. PHIL: I read too much Spurgeon, I’m afraid. Now I didn’t bring my watch cause I wanted
this to go as long as…how are we doing? JOHN: You need to ask me that one question
that you said… PHIL: All right, one more question. Because this is a big one, you at one point,
at one of the Q&A sessions at the conference, you said this. I want it quoted exactly. You said, “People who have any connection
to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It’s a striking anomaly, however, that there
is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the Charismatic Movement. Where’s the Charismatic Hospital? Social Services, Poverty Relief, this is a
scam,” unquote. Now your critics say that’s unfair. There are Pentecostal missionaries who do
medical work. You know, Charismatics often minister in disadvantage
areas doing disaster relief work, stuff like that. Joyce Meyer has two hospitals, one in India,
and one in Cambodia… JOHN: No, one in India and one…yeah, Cambodia. PHIL: Cambodia. And I know…well I know you’re aware of these
things so explain what you were saying. JOHN: Okay, let me explain….let me explain. You can go down here, you can go around in
America, you’ll find a Catholic hospital, you’ll find Cedar Sinai Jewish hospital, you’ll
find Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, all through the Midwest, all through the south
you’ll find Baptist hospitals in every major city, the Baptist Medical Center in Dallas,
everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. There is a philanthropy tied to Judaism and
Christianity that rises out of the Bible’s concern about poverty and all of that. Where is the Pentecostal Hospital? Where is the Pentecostal Medical Research
Center.? Oral Roberts tried to pull that off. You’ll remember. PHIL: Yeah. JOHN: So Oral Roberts decided he was going
to build a medical center and he was going to build…he built a 60-floor building and
a 35-floor building, 95 floors in a city already with more hospital beds then they had patients. But he said that if he didn’t get the money
to do it, God was going to kill him. Remember he had that vision. So some guy gave him the money. Those two things sit there like monstrous
white elephants, tributes to a man’s folly. They’ve never functioned as a hospital…never. In a sense, it’s contrary to the Movement. It’s contrary to the Movement that says if
you…you can speak your prosperity into existence, you can speak your healing into existence. You can speak your well-being into existence. You can’t sell that kind of thing, it doesn’t
work. Now let me go back to Joyce Meyer’s two hospitals….they’re
clinics in underdeveloped countries, very underdeveloped countries among very poor people. Look, there are many faithful Charismatic
missionaries around the world who are giving out the gospel, who are helping poor people,
who are ministering. But the Movement itself is alien to anything
that’s of any significance for a number of reasons. For example, those two hospitals, from what
I understand, are underfunded and they’re always trying to get money, get money, get
money. And then you look at the lavish lifestyle
of Joyce Meyer and you realize that she has a mega-million dollar G4 Jet and a fleet of
a hundred thousand plus-dollar Mercedes and two little underfunded clinics. Something wrong with that picture. PHIL: That’s what you mean when you say it’s
a scam? JOHN: What I’m saying is and an art collection
and an antique collection, and furnishings and mansions, yeah…I mean, why…how does
that connect? How does that connect? There was this thing on the media the other
day about Joel Osteen’s ten-point-five million dollar house. And he was on, I was sitting there with my
grandson Oliver, and we happened to watch Joel Osteen the other day and this is what
he said. He said, “Your priority is to make certain
that you’re happy.” That’s what he said. Your priority is to make certain that you’re
happy…you’re happy. Oliver is seven, he looks at me and says,
“Poppa, that’s not right.” But in a system where your happiness and your
health and your wealth are priority , there’s not going to be philanthropy. There’s not going to be sacrifice. There’s not going to be self-denial. This is all about chasing the dream for you. That’s what the prosperity gospel produces. And then the idea of healing in the atonement
and faith can produce your own healing, I look…I’ve met these people around the world. I’ve met people in places in the world with
camera crews taking pictures of desperate people to go back and raise money for hospitals
that don’t exist. I talked to a guy at a table in former Soviet
Union, I said, “Why are you here?” He said, “We’re taking video to raise money
when we go back.” I said, “Do you have a ministry here?” “No, we just show the pictures and it raises
money.” I’m not saying that individual Charismatics
aren’t precious Christians and aren’t sacrificial and self-denying and do good and there are
people working in third-world countries, you know, from Pentecostal churches and they are
helping and all of that. But there’s no great philanthropy there. That’s contrary to what’s going on. The people at the top of the pile are the
ones getting all the money. So that’s all I was trying to say. And you know, when you’re preaching, you say
things and… PHIL: Yeah, that’s an off-the-cuff thing. JOHN: Yeah…plus it’s a valid point, that
even those who are doing philanthropy, the motive of that is rooted in the second great
commandment, not in any of the distinctive teachings of the Charismatic Movement. JOHN: No, philanthropy’s…the Jews do it,
the Roman Catholics, I mean, whose been more philanthropic than the Roman Catholic Church? That’s all rooted in a biblical view of loving
and caring for people who are poor and needy. That’s there. That’s in Judaism. That’s in Catholicism. That’s not in that Movement. You have all these people trying to get what
they can get for themselves and the people on the top are the ones that are getting… There’s this church in Singapore, pastored
by some guy named Kong-Hee(?), they have something like twenty thousand people, and he was just
indicted by the Singapore government for absconding with twenty-three million dollars off of his
church… PHIL: I was there just last month. JOHN: To fund his wife’s secular sexually
suggestive music career. And the government shut him down. PHIL: They haven’t shut him down yet because
his followers… JOHN: His followers have risen up to defend
him because this is consistent. Hey, he’s getting what they want. So that’s more consistent with the Movement
in its broad sense, that’s all I was trying to say. Does that? PHIL: I get it. All right. I would keep asking you questions but we do
have to quit. So I’ll let you… JOHN: Well I just want to finish by saying,
Charismatic Christian people, real Charismatic Christian people have made great contributions
to the Kingdom of God. They’ve been faithful Christians, they have
evangelized effectively. They have represented Christ honorably. They’re real Christians having a real impact. When I said that there’s no impact by the
Movement, I mean Charismatic Theology as such adds nothing. But the truth in a Charismatic person is a
powerful thing. Okay? Very good.

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