Chookwatcher’s persistent dalliance with Calvinist cessationists has greatly diminished any theological credibility he may have had when he was connected with the Pentecostal church.
As a contemporary internet commentator, chookwatcher has always sought to closely emulate the late Philip Powell’s classical Pentecostal rage against contemporary Pentecostals.
However, Powell, despite his antipathy towards Hillsong and C3, was a true Pentecostal, especially in regard to the gifts of the Spirit, healing, miracles, deliverance and, of course, speaking in tongues. He preached for purity of doctrine, but from a Spirit-filled perspective.
Formerly the National General Secretary of the Assemblies of God in Australia, having served there as well as in AOG churches in New Zealand and UK, Powell was very much a Holy Ghost man.
Chookwatcher has veered away from this theology, despite his claims to the contrary, by seeking out and conferring with bloggers who share his angst towards these contemporary Australian based movements, regardless of those critics’ own doctrinal stance.
Thus, he has created for himself a hybrid theological position which is predominantly Reformed and cessationist in nature, being influenced by blogging polemists like J D Hall, Jeff Maples, and Bud Ahlheim, aligned with Strange Fire advocate John MacArthur’s clan, with a tinge of Lutheran cessationism provided by radio pirate Chris Rosebrough and his disciples.
Indeed, Powell, although (reservedly) sympathetic with the motivation behind the Strange Fire Conference, posted serious critiques on his own blog of the conference speakers and their messages in articles authored by an attending colleague, Anton Bosch.
By this means, Powell was clearly critical of the dogmatic position taken by MacArthur and his team on Powell’s own blog before he went to be with the Lord.
Here’s a segment from ‘Impressions from John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference’ by Anton Bosch, as published on Powell’s blog…
The first (and last) word went to John MacArthur. “You are the chosen” was the first words out of his mouth. Everyone laughed, but I cringed, feeling that the joke had a real barb to it. This was more than an ice-breaker; this was the message of the conference: Unless you are Reformed and elect – you are in error and not saved!
It became clear to me that the issues were not so much Cessationism vs. Pentecostalism (or “Continuationism”, as they prefer to call it), but Reformed Cessationism vs. the rest. Non-Calvinist Evangelicalism does not seem to exist as far as the speakers were concerned – you are either Calvinist and Cessationist or nothing.
MacArthur draws no distinction between classical Pentecostals and Charismatics. Neither does he believe that there can be any such thing as a moderate or conservative Pentecostal. He likes to bandy about the “statistic” that 90% of Pentecostals are into Word of Faith and Prosperity. My personal experience in the USA and in Africa contradicts this exaggeration. It may be true of Nigeria but that’s as far as that “statistic” goes.
According to the speakers “Continuationists” are not saved, and are worse than Mormons in their error and growth and that all charismatic gifts are demonic (including most of what was happening in Corinth). It was the consensus of the speakers that no movement in the history of the church has done more damage to the Gospel than “Continuationism”. MacArthur promotes a caricature of Pentecostals of which Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Benny Hinn and Paul and Jan Crouch are typical, rather than the exception. He makes a point of emphasizing that there is absolutely no difference between someone like Hinn and moderate Pentecostals.
Part of this caricature is that Pentecostals have made no contribution, ever, to the spread of The Gospel, the promotion of biblical truth or the glory of God. To protest about the thousands that have been saved through the missionary activity of Pentecostals is pointless since their converts are (by the Conference’s definition) not saved.
He further emphasized that the only stream of truth runs from Augustine through Luther and Calvin to RC Sproul (and others of the same ilk). Clearly evangelicals that held to the truth before the Reformers came on the scene and the thread that runs through the small groups that held to the truth throughout the ages are also mistaken and the Lord’s promise that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church” did not apply to the period between the “Church Fathers” and the Reformation, unless that stream flows through the church of Rome?
MacArthur did not exposit Scripture but simply ranted.
Indeed. And this is what we have found when looking through the material provided by the Strange Fire crew. Their antipathy towards the majority of Pentecostals as well as charismatics borders on hysteria, and is very ignorant of the facts, relying, as Bosch points out, on speculative TV evangelism, which tends to be the very public exception rather than the norm.
This lack of understanding of what the cessationists call ‘continuationism’ is astounding when you consider that the theology of Pentecost is far more prevalent in scripture than the false claims of cessationism.
Sola Scriptura – or not
The catch-cry from these cessationists is Sola Scriptura, as if they are the only people on the planet who hold to the completed canon of scripture as their written guide, but how is it, we have to wonder, that they miss out large and clear segments of the Sola Scriptura that reveal to us the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit?
Indeed, in his review of the Strange Fire Conference, Bosch made the following observation under the same heading of Sola Scriptura…
For all the noise they make about the Scriptures alone, it became amply evident that their base was not the Scriptures alone but the Scriptures plus Augustine, Calvin et al. Speaker after speaker quoted Calvin and in all the sessions I attended Calvin was quoted more (in total) than the Bible! Augustine, yes the father of Catholicism and allegoricalism, was frequently upheld as one of the most vital links of the truth between the Apostles and Sproul/MacArthur.
That the Strange Fire, Pirate Christian Radio and Pulpit and Pen hams reject Pentecostal theology is one thing, and to be expected in some ways amongst evangelicals and Lutherans who continue to resist the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the New Testament.
But it is quite another for critics like chookwatcher, who limply claims to have Pentecostal associations, and has considered the late Philip Powell to be a kind of online mentor before his passing, to betray the teaching of Pentecostals, even classical Pentecostals, in so many of his articles, and, indeed, whenever he reproduces teaching, doctrine and theology that is authored by anti-Pentecostal cessationists.
In short, chookwatcher has joined himself to the enemy of Pentecostals. He has formed an alliance with people who would have given scathing reviews of most of Philip Powell’s sermons, many of which are excellent from a Pentecostal perspective.
As long as chookwatcher reproduces articles from Calvinist cessationist thinkers and polemists he cannot be considered a relevant critic of flaws in contemporary Pentecostal theology.
If the premise is wrong, the outcome is error.