A brief aside from the series on the Strange Fire conference:
J. I. Packer provides a perfect example of exactly what John MacArthur, everyone else, and I have pointed out for years.
Packer is a man who earned a good name for himself by some excellent works such as his introduction to Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ, such as Knowing God, such as Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, and such as Fundamentalism and the Word of God.
Then Packer took that good name and lent it to providing a lot of covering fire for the Charismatic movement in his book Keep in Step with the Spirit.
It is that book that is being triumphalistically quoted all over the blogosphere just now — by writers who, I would wager, to a man have no idea that they are perfectly illustrating the whole point of the Strange Fire conference.
I wonder how many of those quoting the book have read it, as I have. If they read it... do they really feel that this is a clear-minded, clear-eyed, rigorously Biblical treatment of the issues? I can't imagine how, unless their desire for a certain conclusion rules out their ability to discern — which, oops, was another major reason for the conference.
Let me just adduce one passage as an illustration of the sort of thinking one finds often in the book. It is one of many sallies Packer attempts at the issue of tongues. He does note (224) that
present-day tongues speaking, in which the mood is maintained but the mind is on vacation, cannot be confidently equated from any point of view with New Testament tongues.Wow. That's quite a damning statement, is it not? Earlier (177), Packer had said:
The gift is regarded as mainly, though not entirely, for private devotional use. Subjectively, it is a matter of letting one's vocal chords run free as one lifts one's heart to God, and as with learning to swim, confidence in entrusting oneself to the medium (the water in the one case, babbling utterance in the other) has much to do with one's measure of success and enjoyment.Now: Does that sound like a good thing to anyone whose thinking is formed by Biblical revelation? So isn't that a basis for sounding a sharp note of alarm, calling for Christians to disown the practice, and warning the faithful to keep far from it?
Not to Packer. Listen to this, again from page 224, and ask yourselves the ever-vital question: "What verse is he on?" —
...it does not seem inconceivable that the Spirit might prompt this relaxation of rational control at surface level in order to strengthen control at a deeper level. Wordless singing, loud perhaps, as we lie in the bath can help restore a sense of rational well-being to the frantic, and glossolalia might be the spiritual equivalent of that; it would be a Godsend if it were.There y'go. Tongues: it's like loudly singing babble. In a bathtub. Ahhh, now there's a bumper-sticker for you.
In another place, Packer says "Even if (as I suspect, though cannot prove) today’s glossolalists do not speak such tongues as were spoken at Corinth, none should forbid them their practice..."
Now, roll that around in your mind for a bit. What is Packer saying, all told? It is this: What passes for speaking in tongues today is giving control of your mind over to a force you don't know or understand, and letting that force control your body. Now, mind: this isn't what the Bible describes. But hey — if it makes you feel good, you kids call it what you like, do what you feel like doing, and have a good time!
Could having written a hundred books like Knowing God make that a Biblically, pastorally responsible statement?
And this book is the big-name cover for Charismaticism?
There are many other problems with the Packer quotation that's being passed around. But just keep this post in mind every time you see the Packer quotation about how Charismaticism is surely of God brought out as heavy-duty big-name discussion-ending trump-card cover. It's not the conclusion of a very reassuringly-conducted study.