Dear Pastor John MacArthur and faculty at The Master’s University / Seminary,
My purpose in this letter is to request a forum to debate Charismatic Apologist Dr. Michael L. Brown (author of Authentic Fire A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire), and if possible to have Pastor MacArthur or one of the professors at The Master’s College or Seminary participate and present their position (a symposium of sorts). I also believe it would be productive to bring in some Reformed Theologians on the topic (see below).
Pastor MacArthur you may remember me as a student at The Master’s College in the early 90’s – I also attended Grace Community and worked at the churches bookstore? As a student I had just left 4 point Calvinism behind and embraced limited atonement. I was giving you a lot of material on that subject including Gary Long’s book and syllabus – on Definite Atonement. I also was trying to get you and the faculty to hire my former Director and Bible College professor from Calvary Chapel Bible College – Dr. Richard Goswiller. You may also remember me as one asking many questions in that early class where you made yourself available for questions? I talked to you and asked questions regarding your inconsistent 4 point “Calvinist” position (that I just left for the 5 point view) and Partial Preterism (which I had just begun to study). I also gave you arguments as to why I felt the miraculous sign gifts were still for today which included:
- If “that which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (the Second Coming and New Creation) has not come (1 Cor. 13:8-12/Rev. 22:4-7), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8-12 here.
- If we are still in the “last days” (cf. Acts 2), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of Acts 2 and the last days here.
- If the Great Commission and end of the age of Matt. 24:14/Mark 16/Matt. 28/Acts 1:8 had not been fulfilled, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of the Great Commission texts here.
- If we are still in the “already and not yet” phase of the kingdom, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My response – The “not yet” Kingdom and Second Coming arrived in an “at hand” and AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” time frame (Lk. 21:27-32).
During that year of College not only would I go on to become a 5 point Calvinist, but I also studied and left behind Dispensationalism, Amillennialism and Partial Preterism for Full Preterism (as I combined what the Classic Amillennialist and Partial Preterist were saying of Matthew 24/1 Thess. 4-5 and many other crucial eschatological texts). I initially came to Full Preterism not even knowing it was a view – just through my personal studies (my testimony here). Full Preterism not only was an answer to my prayers regarding eschatology, but it also was the antidote to the Charismatic arguments I didn’t see you addressing with me in person or in reading your books or listening to sermons. I recently read your book (Strange Fire) and Dr. Brown’s response (Authentic Fire) and gave a two-part lecture response to them at The Berean Bible Conference (those DVD’s are still being edited). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to address all of the 4 points listed above in those lectures – which was a response to Dr. Brown and how you and the conference speakers did not deal with these arguments. However, I have been responding to these 4 points in a series of articles on my web site: fullpreterism.com.
As a student at The Master’s College I do remember us inviting a Mormon Apologist to one of our classes. We were challenged to research Mormonism and be prepared to ask him challenging questions. It was a very healthy learning / back and forth experience for all involved. Textbooks can only equip a Christian so much and at some point we need to debate and personally engage the culture and various positions face to face. I appreciate my professor for doing this. I also invited Dr. Greg Bahnsen to our college and he lectured in various classes and answered challenging questions from students and staff. Again, this was healthy for the students and faculty. If The Master’s College can engage with Mormon and Reconstructionist Apologists, surely she can engage Charismatic and Full Preterist Apologists over the subject of Strange Fire and when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease?
Currently my debate with Dr. Brown is centered on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. The position I will be defending is a combination of the corporate maturity view and the eschatology view – when Christ and the New Creation came spiritually and “soon” (cf. Rev. 22:4-7) in AD 70, the Church stood mature and complete from the Old Covenant system. In Dr. Brown’s debate with Reformed Apologist James White over the gift of healing, White completely ignored Brown’s argument on 1 Cor. 1:5-8/13:8-12. In his debate with another Reformed author – Sam Waldron, Sam had a very difficult time explaining his or Richard Gaffin’s view of the passage. Obviously your own right-hand man Phil Johnson didn’t do so well in his discussions with Dr. Brown over the Strange Fire conference. Which I found odd in that there was no discussion over Scripture (which was probably something Phil didn’t want to discuss since Brown has been asking for a debate and discussion over Scripture on this subject for a long time now).
Please host and or participate in this debate. Or better yet here is my suggestion that I believe will bring the most healing to the body:
A symposium on the subject of when the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease according to Scripture – addressing those 4 points/passage listed above. Here are the participants I am requesting to participate:
- Reformed Partial Preterist Cessationist – R.C. Sproul / Keith Mathison / Gary DeMar.
- Historic Premillennial Charismatic – Michael Brown.
- Reformed Charismatic – John Piper.
- Dispensational Cessationist – John MacArthur (or co-Pastor or Professor).
- Reformed Amillennial Cessationist – Sam Waldron or James White.
- Sovereign Grace Full Preterist Cessationist – Michael Sullivan.
Each view must cover those 4 points and respond to the others exegesis and treatment of them. So there is no confusion let me briefly outline my view:
- “That which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (1 Cor. 13:8-12) is the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation which arrived at the end of the OC age/heaven and earth “soon” in AD 70 (cf. Rev. 21-22:4-7). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge “ceased” in AD 70.
- The “last days” (of Acts 2 and elsewhere in the NT ) is descriptive of the last days of the OC age which ended in AD 70. Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased at the end of the last days of the OC age in AD 70.
- The Great Commission of Matt. 24:14, 34/Matt. 28:18-20/Mrk. 16:15-20/Acts 1:8 was a sign that preceded Christ’s coming at the end of the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” and was fulfilled prior to “the end” or “end of the [OC] age” (cf. Rms. 10:18, 16:25-26; Cols. 1:5-6, 23). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.
- The “already and not yet” of the kingdom was roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 when the OC and NC overlapped – with the old passing away and “ready to vanish” while the new was “about to be” fully revealed. The “not yet” aspect of the “kingdom” was to be fulfilled at Christ’s imminent and first century “this generation” Second Coming (Lk. 21:27-32). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.
As I argued in my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? the truth in the eschatology debate (and in the miraculous signs and revelatory gifts debate) is to be found in combining the Reformed Classical Amillennial view with the Reformed Partial Preterist views – “Reformed and always reforming.” These views not only form Full Preterism, they effectively refute the “Charismatic Chaos” and confusion that have plagued the church. In your Strange Fire book and conference, you appealed to Reformed and Puritan theology. Obviously I do not believe you have followed your own advise in the area of Reformed Theology as it applies to eschatology let alone in how it applies to this area of when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease (My response to you on that here and how these two Reformed views form Full Preterism and solve the Charismatic debate). As a former student of yours, I have and am willing to debate and interact with these other views on these passages and subjects – are you?
Please show Dr. Brown and myself that Grace Community and The Master’s College and Seminary is not a bubble that talks about Theology and Apologetics – but then is unwilling to actually do the work of an Apologist. This is what I have found to be the case with my other former church and Bible College – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Calvary Chapel Bible College. They now even have an “Apologetics” school that is unwilling to debate me. Amazing that they are incapable of debating one of their own graduates.
I am thankful to Dr. Brown who has debated Don Preston (over Romans 11) and is now willing to debate me over (1 Cor. 13:8-12). Pastor MacArthur, will you please engage us on these exegetical issues as to when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease? I must confess my agreement with Dr. Brown and the Charismatic community that your Strange Fire Conference spent so much time on the subject of extremes within the Charismatic movement and very little time and lectures dedicated to an exegetical treatment of the cessation issue (which is the heart of the matter). I am hoping what I am suggesting here will help deal with these valid criticisms of your conference.
As I have been writing this letter I have left messages and am in the process of being in contact with The Master’s College and Seminary. Per the request of the receptionist at Grace Community, I will send this via email so that it will be passed along to you. I will also post this on my web site as a public and open letter and send you a snail mail version along with a copy of my/our book. At the very least please read my responses to Keith Mathison on the NT time texts (chapter 4) and Simon Kistemaker on the date of Revelation (chapter 5) and then David Green’s response to Mr. Strimple on the resurrection (chapter 7).