Strange Fire: John MacArthur

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“Strange Fire” is so named for an Old Testament account. Nadab and Abihu were Hebrew brothers. They’d been privy to special moments with Moses and his encounters with God. They weren’t novice servants of the Most High, but they did die a horrifying death. By offering strange fire as part of their incense offerings as priests, they offended God and were consumed by fire.

MacArthur’s point to retelling their story is to serve as a warning to those who may dishonor God in the Church today. His stance is that many in the Christian circle are ignoring and even grieving the Holy Spirit by misrepresenting Him. Students of the Word will recognize that the part of the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity is to glorify Christ. Scripture is clear about this as it was told to us by Jesus Himself.

sin of nadab and abihu
The Sin of Nadab and Abihu, illustration from a Bible card published in 1907

Due to the controversial subject matter of “Strange Fire,” I did my homework on John MacArthur. Personally, I sit under the preaching of Ron Carpenter, Jr. and spend time listening to the preaching of John Hagee and Joseph Prince as well as Creflo Dollar. Having been a Born-Again Christian for 31 years, I believe I have the foundations of my faith and can read differing opinions without negating my own. I try to listen to differing viewpoints with both an open heart and open mind.

“Strange Fire” has rocked more than a few boats and even earned articles in well-known publications such as Charisma News. Dr. MacArthur has strong views about Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatic Christians. He makes no apologies for his views. They are strong and they are in-your-face views. He is not shy. This is his position: The Charismatic movement, which includes signs, wonders, spiritual gifts, prophecy etc., is a work of Satan and is being used to single-handedly destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. So deep are his convictions on the matter, he has been holding a conference of the same title. His conferences have excluded speakers of the Charismatic Movement altogether.

A mega-church leader with friends (maybe former) in the Charismatic circle, Dr. MacArthur’s views are a little shocking. Pastors, well-known pastors, are mentioned by name in his book. Although there were a few who didn’t surprise me, many did. Benny Hinn was no surprise as people often question his healing services and misstatements (like saying there are 9 members of the Trinity). His over the top antics have been greeted with scorn and his wife is equally controversial. I will say that I do listen to the teachings of one of the Pastors mentioned. I wholeheartedly disagree that he is teaching strange fire. I believe he is secure that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that this gentleman is teaching the Holy Spirit’s role properly.

While I do not support the snake-handlers and those without Scriptural merit behind their preaching, I also don’t believe we should discount the entire Charismatic movement. Every form of Christianity has had a swindler or two sneak into its base. Jesus did warn us about that. Anyone who chooses to follow Christ must study the Scripture for his or her self and draw their own conclusion.

Is Dr. MacArthur’s book doing more harm than good? If it causes Christians to turn on each other or make damaging, defaming comments, then yes. If we can maturely hear each other’s views without making such comments, then no. One word of caution: If you aren’t a seasoned Christian, firm in foundational beliefs/doctrines, then please skip this book. Pastors and other clergy may well wish to read it. They may find the need to feed their flock on how to combat such views, explain their views, or simply to satisfy their own hearts.

I received an eBook in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Dr. MacArthur can be EASILY found via a simple web search.

Liz Terek is a book reviewer, housewife and homeschooling Mom of 3 sons. She lives in a very rural area and is actively involved in the local church and in community needs projects.