Book Review: Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur

Charismatic Chaos by John F. MacArthur, Jr.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.  415 pp., paperback.

Though this excellent treatment of the doctrinal and practical errors of the modern charismatic movement has been in print for a decade and a half, we are just now getting around to reading it, motivated by an attempt (sadly, successful) by charismatics to seize control of a non-denominational jail ministry of which we were a part for seven years (but can no longer conscientiously be)

MacArthur treats all aspects of the current charismatic error–its history, celebrities, claims concerning present day signs and wonders (chiefly tongues and healings), modern authoritative Divine revelations which supercede Scripture (and make it more or less unnecessary), the prosperity Gospel, and the sham “super spirituality” claimed by many charismatics.  Some remarkable, even shocking heresies taught by the likes of Kenneth Copeland are noted (Copeland claims, inter alia, that believers become little “gods”–exactly the lie the devil promised Eve, and which Mormons also teach!)  The documentation is thorough, though alas stuck in the back of the book.

On some matters and details, we differ somewhat from MacArthur’s presentation (though on the whole finding it highly recommendable).  As to what the Bible means by “Holy Spirit baptism,” he understands it as more or less synonymous and contemporaneous with regeneration; we understand it to refer only to the events of Acts 2, and its echo in Acts 10.  I Corinthians 12:13 we understand as referring to water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism at all.  But we are in solid agreement that there is no Biblical warrant for seeking “Holy Spirit baptism” at some point after conversion, a key claim of the charismatics.  On lesser matters, he allows for the continued existence of “service” gifts today though affirming the cessation of all the “sign” gifts in the first century A.D.; we think this distinction between “service” and “sign” gifts is artificial–one which the Bible does not make–and argue for compete cessation of all the charismata in the first century (see: “How Were the Charismata Transmitted in New Testament Times?” in AISI 7:1).  And MacArthur argues, from I Corinthians 14, that some in the church at Corinth were trying to imitate the true gift of tongues (i.e., the miraculous ability to speak a foreign, human language without previously learning it) by employing gibberish, after the modern charismatic manner; we think all references to Corinthian practices in Chapter 14 are abuses of the true gift.

This volume is available quite inexpensively from CBD (, and should be purchased in quantity for self, church libraries, and distribution to those influenced by the charismatic movement.

This review was written by Doug Kutilek and originally appeared in his e-mail publication:  As I See It.  This review is used with permission.  AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at:  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at


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