To anyone interested in understanding the origin of the craziness that has overtaken modern-day Christianity, and to those curious about the bizarre behaviors of contemporary preachers, I recommend these two books written by John F. MacArthur, namely; “The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective” and “Charismatic Chaos.” 

Although these two books were published decades ago – (The Charismatics in 1978 and Charismatic Chaos: A Doctrinal Perspective in 1992) – the concerns they set out to address are as relevant today as they were when the books were originally published, if not more. The chaos is now on steroids, the confusion has reached stratospheric proportions, and the people who engage in these behaviors are completely out of control.

The following is an excerpt from the Charismatic Chaos to whet your appetite.

Literally millions worldwide believe God is giving people signs, wonders, miracles on a scale unprecedented since biblical times. These claims continue to multiply at a rate so prolific that they can hardly be cataloged, let alone verified.

Fantastic encounters with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are reported as commonplace. Personal messages from God are supposedly routine. Healings of all kinds are claimed. It is not unusual to hear striking testimonies about how God, in response to faith, has corrected spinal injuries, lengthened legs, and removed cancerous tissue. Seemingly omniscient Christian talk-show hosts discern that miracles and healings of various types are happening during their broadcasts. They urge viewers to call in and "claim" healings.

Some of the miracles seem almost bizarre: one-dollar bills turn into twenties, washing machines and other appliances are "healed," empty fuel tanks fill up supernaturally, and demons are exorcised from vending machines. People are “slain” (knocked flat) in the Spirit; others claim to have been to heaven and back. Several even claim to have been to hell and back!

Amazing experiences seem to be the order of the day as God, in an apparent hyperkinetic outburst, puts on a supernatural performance rivaled only by the six days of Creation and the Egyptian plagues!

Some even go so far as to deny the effectiveness of evangelism without such miracles. They argue that the gospel message is weakened or nullified if not accompanied by great signs and wonders. They believe some people need to see signs and wonders before they will believe. That notion has spawned a whole new movement, grandiosely tagged “the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit,” also known as the Signs and Wonders movement. This recent variation on the old charismatic theme is attracting many evangelicals and others from mainline denominations who were formerly wary of Pentecostal and charismatic influences.

Some argue that those outside the charismatic movement have no right to evaluate it. Charismatic Baptist Howard Ervin wrote:

“The attempt to interpret the Charismatic manifestations of the Spirit without a Charismatic experience is as fatuous as the application of the “Christian ethics” apart from regenerate dynamic…Understanding spiritual truth is predicated on spiritual experience. The Holy Spirit does not reveal spiritual secrets to the uncommitted, and quite frankly, the Pentecostal experience is one of total commitment.” (Howard E. Ervin, These Are Not Drunken As Ye Suppose, Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1968, 3-4).

Experience, however, is not the test of biblical truth; rather, biblical truth stands in final judgment on experience.

Could it be that some who attend these fellowships (i.e., charismatic gatherings) are tempted to exaggerate, dramatize, or even fabricate some miracle or special experience because of their need to keep up with the brethren who appear to be more spiritual.

Appalling sex scandals among ostensibly “Spirit-filled” charismatic leaders have become epidemic in the past decade. These have been catastrophic to the cause of Christ worldwide, undermining the corporate testimony of all Christians in the eyes of the world. Such scandals are the legacy of a movement that touts spectacular signs and wonders as the only irrefutable verification of true spirituality. To authenticate their claims, some charismatic leaders resort to fraudulent or simulated “miracles.” Spirituality is viewed as an external issue; godly character is nonessential to those who believe supernatural phenomena validate their claims to speak for God. Such a system breeds duplicity, trickery, charlatanism, and fraud.

In any philosophy that tends to gauge spirituality by external standards – be it fundamentalist legalism, sanctimonious asceticism, communal pietism, religious institutionalism, hardline pharisaism, wild-eyed mysticism, or rigid monasticism – keeping up appearances tends to take priority over openness and honesty. In the charismatic movement, sensational spiritual experiences are more highly valued than quiet devotion. Is it any wonder if some people are tempted to exaggerate or pretend?

Charismatic Chaos, John F. MacArthur Jr., 1992.


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