Dousing A Strange Fire
Those once considered brethren and allies become enemies should they dare blur that which has been drawn.
The result is ungodly and unbiblical division in the Body of Christ.
Such has been the case in the aftermath of John MacArthurs “Strange Fire” conference.
John Piper and Sam Storms, both Calvinists and both respected for their scholarship, have been made suspicious doctrinally for allowing that the charismata may still operate in the church today.
Yesterday it was J.I. Packers turn on the Inquisitors wheel…and thus I must answer.
Dan Phillips on the Pyromaniac blog reacted to some charismatics appealing to Packers work on the issue of the charismatic movement as a defense.
Evidently, they had referred to his book “Keeping In Step With The Spirit“.
Phillips took three paragraphs of the book out of context as a platform to mock a caricature they created of what Packer wrote.
Well known Reformed Baptist pastor Tom Chantry then opined in the comments that Packer was guilty of “first-degree pastoral malfeasance” and “top-notch stupidity”.
Three paragraphs…from an over 200 page book with two entire chapters dedicated to an irenic historical and theological overview of the charismatic movement.
Packer carefully wrote those chapters in an attempt to bring understanding without creating division.
He provided information without declaring judgment.
“One of the top ten questions among evangelicals today is whether one is for or against the charismatics. It is a bad, polarizing, party-minded, Corinthian sort of question; I regularly parry it by saying that I am for the Holy Spirit.”
As a result, those two chapters are perhaps the best concise overview of the theology of the charismatic movement and it’s strengths and weaknesses that I’ve ever read.
In his overview Packer is fair… he doesn’t minimize the concerns some have with charismatics.
“Evangelical theology is precise and sharp honed as a result of centuries of controversy reflecting the conviction that where truth fails, life will fail, too. Charismatic theology by comparison looks loose, erratic, and naive, and the movement’s tolerance of variations, particularly when these are backed by “prophecies” received through prayer, suggests a commitment to given truth in Scripture that is altogether too fragile. Yet evangelicals and charismatics are plainly at one in relation to such supposedly evangelical distinctives as faith and repentance; love to the Lord Jesus Christ, who forgives and saves; lives changed by the Spirit’s power; learning about God from God through Scripture; bold, expectant, intimate free-form prayer; small-group ministry; and a delight in swinging singing. ‘
Throughout the book, this is the familiar Packer pattern…recognize the concerns, analyze the teaching, bring correction, look for common ground to fellowship on.
Every aspect and doctrine of the movement was examined biblically and theologically by Packer…and then he wrote this;
Scripture yields other principles for judging whether movements are God-inspired or not-principles about God’s work, will, and ways that the apostles themselves apply in letters like Galatians, Colossians, 2 Peter, and 1 John to various supposedly superspiritual versions of the faith. Two basic tests emerge: one credal, one moral. The credal test may be formulated from two passages, I John 4:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 12:3. The first passage says that any spirit-that is, evidently, anyone claiming to be Spirit-inspired-who fails to confess the Incarnation is not of God. The second passage affirms that the Spirit of God leads no one to say “cursed [anathema] be Jesus,” but leads men rather to call him Lord (kyrios), which otherwise they could never sincerely do (see 1 Cor. 2:14).
So the credal test, for charismatics as for all other professed Christians, is the degree of honor paid by confession, attitude, and action to the Son whom God the Father has made Lord. The moral test is given by statements such as those of John, that those who truly know and love God will show it by keeping his commandments, avoiding all sin and loving their brothers in Christ (see 1 John 2:4; 3:9-10, 17, 24; 4:7-13, 20-21; 5:1-3).
“When we apply these tests to the charismatic movement, it becomes plain at once that God is in it. For whatever threats and perhaps instances of occult and counterfeit spirituality we may think we detect around its periphery (and what movement of revival has ever lacked these things around its periphery?), its main effect everywhere is to promote robust Trinitarian faith, personal fellowship with the divine Savior and Lord whom we meet in the New Testament, repentance, obedience, and love to fellow Christians, expressed in ministry of all sorts towards them—plus a zeal for evangelistic outreach that puts the staider sort of churchmen to shame.”
Neither Phillips or Chantry represented Packers work either fairly or honestly…to be more blunt it was a dishonest, disingenuous, sub Christian attack on one the the great servants of God in our time.
In addition, they may have removed one of the best reference books on the subject from their readers in fueling their harangue.
Perhaps they could learn something about integrity and grace if they would simply read more Packer…instead of speaking like immature, divisive, Corinthians.
When your lines are drawn too tight to include men like Packer, there may be no room for the Holy Spirit, either.
By the way…Dr. Packer is a cessationist.
Quotations taken from J.I. Packer. Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God . Kindle Edition.