Hopefully I have waited long enough so that it doesn’t seem like I’m just jumping onto the dog pile and heaping more derision on the charismatic movement and their enablers. While I haven’t had time to view most of the sessions of the “Strange Fire” conference, the ones I heard were very good and I would have little to add. I found Steve Lawson’s messages especially edifying, as he displayed from a historical theological perspective how the church has recognized such movements as attacks against Sola Scriptura and the true Biblical work of the Holy Spirit. I also thought Phil Johnson did a great job in pointing out the strange difficulty that the sane corners of the charismatic movement have had in condemning the lunacy and wickedness too often witnessed from well-known charismatics.
Much of the criticism of MacArthur’s conference that I have read has been the complaint of a focus on the lunatic fringe of the movement. But those I’m concerned with are on the other end of the spectrum. My question concerns the “Young, Restless and Reformed” crowd, the “New Calvinists”, those who consider themselves to be charismatic Calvinists and those who describe themselves as “open but cautious.”
The question I pose did not spring from watching the recent conference. This came to me months ago as I was pondering the relationship of the first table of the law to the nature and character of God. As I contemplated: Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain”, I was struck by the importance God places on our reverence toward Himself and His name. Our Savior clearly shares this concern as He makes it the first petition in the model prayer. (Matt. 6:9) Now of course this brought up questions regarding my own heart. Why doesn’t it bother me as much as it used to when I hear or read someone breaking this commandment? Why am I willing to put up with it in the name of entertainment? Why do I utterly fail to reverence the name of my Savior and Redeemer as I ought? These are questions I must deal with in my own heart and trust that my merciful Mediator will not only forgive me and cleanse me from the defilement of such sin, but also cleanse me from this sin itself by granting me repentance and renewed reverence for Himself.
But this also raised another question in my mind. If you are a Christian, and your daily prayer is that the name of God would be honored, glorified and hallowed, how can it fail to cause great consternation when you hear somebody claim that God has said something that He has not said? How can it fail to bother you when anybody takes the whims of their own heart and claims they are the words of God Himself? How can you idly stand by and watch anyone declare “Thus saith the Lord!” and then tell you something that may or may not be true, only time will tell?
I know that I do not take it lightly if someone claims that I have said something that I haven’t. I assume that our “New Calvinist” brethren have the same reaction in such a situation. And I can only imagine the deluge of indignation under which I would be buried if I ever erroneously attributed a false statement to John Piper! Why then is there little to no reaction when someone falsely attributes “prophecies” to God?
I know, I know, I can hear the complaint already. I’m making a huge false assumption. How do I know the prophecies are false? How do I know God didn’t actually say these things. Why doesn’t it bother me to claim God didn’t say something that He actually did? How can I answer these objections? –by turning to the word of God.
God gives us the means to test prophets/prophecy in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
Deuteronomy 18:15-22 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Here we see the two primary tests for every prophecy. 1. Is it perfectly in line with what God has spoken? If it contradicts the word of God in any way it is a false prophecy. 2. Does everything that is predicted come to pass? If anything at all that is predicted fails to come to pass, it is false prophecy. These are the tests that must be passed before we give credence to any so called “prophecy.” This presents us with a major problem as far as modern “prophecy” is concerned. While I believe the “open but cautious” crowd are in fact diligent to hold prophecies accountable to the above test #1, (for which I commend them), they apparently have no regard for test #2. In recognition of the uncertainty of their so called prophecies, these modern proclaimers of prophecy do not even claim infallibility. The Bible tells me that if a prophet speaks one prophecy that fails to come to pass, he is a false prophet, he has spoken presumptuously, I should not listen to him.
Here is where it becomes even more troubling. In order to attempt to prove that the Bible has two types of prophetic utterance, one infallible and another that is fallible but still from God, some defenders of modern “prophecy” have taken a frightening step. They have attempted to make the case that New Testament prophets made some prophecies that did not come to pass, yet were still considered to be prophets. The prophecy of Agabus in Acts 21:10-11 is sited as a prophecy that did not actually come to pass! What??? I don’t even know how to answer such absurdity.
Bottom line: The Bible speaks nowhere of prophecies from God that may or may not come to pass. The Bible tells us not to listen to anyone speaking such presumptuous words in the name of God. So where is the caution in the “open but cautious”? Why doesn’t it bother them?
This really points to what I have noticed as a common thread among those differences between “New Calvinists” and what we could call traditional Reformed Baptists. These “Young, Restless and Reformed” don’t seem to place much emphasis on the moral law of God. More specifically the first table of the law does not seem to be greatly esteemed among them. Their rejection of the 4th commandment is extremely common, but it by no means stops there. As we have just seen, there are definite aspects of the 3rd commandment that don’t seem to be of much concern to them. And the regulative principle, which is nothing more than a proper application of the second commandment, doesn’t seem very popular in those circles either. I’m not saying they out and out reject the first table of the law, of course not! This is a matter of degrees I guess. These are true brethren, they love Christ, they love His word, they even love the doctrines of grace! I just wish they would recognize the benefits of a proper emphasis and application of the moral law in the lives of believers, especially the first table since it deals with our direct relationship with God Himself.
While I am troubled when I see some who previously held more traditional Reformed Baptist distinctives being swayed away from Biblical positions by the “New Calvinist” movement, I am glad to see most churches and pastors in our circles standing firm. I do not resent this movement; I rejoice that the Lord has chosen to make His gracious election in the salvation of His people so prominent and clear to a much wider section of the church than we had seen in ages. My prayer for them is that just as God has revealed Himself unto them to the degree that they willfully rejoice in His sovereign grace, He will further reveal to them the depths of His sovereign majesty in a way that fills them with reverence and awe that is evident to all in their lives and worship.
His Throne is Forever and Ever!