For those who haven’t been following it all, in the last six months or so Dr. Michael Brown has emerged as one of the more outspoken voices critiquing the Strange Fire conference that occurred this past October. He has written a number of articles and has gained a fair amount of recognition as one of the leading “level-headed” Charismatics. You can find a little recap of what happened before the Strange Fire conference here as well as check out this and this and this, just to get a small glimpse of the history with this all. A whole lot more has been occurring, but documenting it all would mean writing a rather encyclopedic post. More than a few people have spoken up (including Tony Miano, James White, Justin Peters, Ken Silva and more) about what’s going on with Michael Brown’s recent activities, and to sum it up in two pictures…
How Michael Brown sees his cards…
How Michael Brown’s critics see his cards…
Now discussing Michael Brown’s recent activities isn’t really the point of this series, but they do set an important context for this series. Starting today, Fred Butler and I are going to start working through Authentic Fire by Michael Brown, his response to the Strange Fire conference and book. Feel free to check out Fred’s outline of the book and his amazing (and heart-warming) tone-setting picture of Kenny Loggins. In fact, Kenny Loggins sets a rather appropriate theme song for this book review series:
Keeping with the Top Gun theme and giving a sneak preview of our review, let’s just say that Authentic Fire flies into the jet wash and you know the rest.
One other thing before we get going. Inevitably, people will suggest that Fred and I are “judging motives” in our reviewing Authentic Fire. Judging motives isn’t on our “to do” list at all:
The whole “you’re wrong because you’re unloving” argument also is a dodge, but it will come none the less. Just sayin’ in advance. I don’t know Michael Brown’s feelings; whether or not something will get his goat or just be ignored/dismissed. I don’t pretend to know. Fred and I will do our best to stick to addressing the arguments and not the arguers, since defeating an author doesn’t actually defeat an argument.
Now on to Authentic Fire!
As I usually do, I was going to post the summary in regular font and my comments indented and in italics, but I’ve been made aware of how difficult that makes things to read. Instead, I’m going to utilize pictures to show who’s talking. To represent Michael Brown’s comments/my attempts at summarizing his comments, I’ll use this picture:
On the other hand, instead of using my own picture I’ve decided to stack the deck a little against myself and cultivate subliminal negative feelings in my readers. To represent my comments, I’ll stick with the Top Gun theme and use this picture for obvious reasons:
Let’s look at the Preface!
The book opens with some fairly predictable endorsements (Sam Storms, Frank Viola, Adrian Warnock, etc.) and then gets into the actual preface. The preface starts with the expected “I like John”, “I’m not mad”, “I’m not biased” disclaimers, and a little talk about how Dr. Brown is writing for the average Joe (or Jason; the Facebook commenter he quotes in the preface). Dr. Brown explains that he has written to build up, no tear down, and gives some brief history to the whole controversy which boils down to Michael Brown becoming a main voice speaking out against Strange Fire and then being clearly directed by the Lord to write the book. In the preface Michael Brown also defines “charismatics” as “all professing Christians who believe in the ongoing manifestation of the New Testament charismatic gifts (such as prophecy, tongues, and healing), although not all believe in contemporary apostles and prophets” (Kindle locations 145-146 – I don’t have a paper copy…). He also explains that he’s decided to use the original language names for “James” and “Jude” (Jacob and Judah), and then closes off.
1. The first thing I thought when I saw the endorsements was “Where are all the famous charismatics?” It was the same Brown, Storms, Keener, Viola, Warnock back scratching circle. I just finished reading Frank Viola’s cook and Brown, Storms, Keener, and Warnock endorsed his book too! If the level-headed crowd are representative of the mainstream, why don’t any well-known and mainstream charismatics endorse the book? Where were Dr. Brown’s well-known ministry acquaintances? Che Ahn? Cindy Jacobs? Mike Bickle? Bill Johnson? Reinhard Bonnke? Oh yeah. 4 out of 5 of those are N.A.R. quacks.
2. His claims to have no bias on the issue of the Charismatic movement. Let’s just say that I don’t buy it for obvious reasons like this and this and this and this (especially around 6:30); he was building bridges with false teachers long before Benny Hinn. His bias is pretty obvious to all, as is mine.
3. It’s worth noting that in his review, Michael Brown uses a broader definition of “charismatic” than is used in Strange Fire (Brown apparently includes continuationists where as MacArthur does not). I predict that will lead to some large confusion.
4. The original language stuff about “James” was somewhat confusing, and seemed like a needless distraction/introduction of a hobby horse.
In the book he links to an article on Charisma where he basically goes off on how we don’t use the proper biblical names for one person in the Bible: James (James is actually “Jacob”). He paints it as some sort of subtle anti-semitism or shame about the Hebrew roots of Christianity, and calls for it to end. In the article he writes
“I say it is high time for Bible translators, seminary and ministry school professors, pastors, teachers and all believers, to expunge “James” from our Bibles (I’m not talking about King James) and go back to what the original Greek text says: Jacob. It might just start a revolution in our churches, a revolution of truth, along with a reconnection to the Jewish roots of our faith. Will you join me in recovering the letter of Jacob?”
A “revolution of truth”? Forgive me for being underwhelmed by this little conspiracy…and I’d dare suggest that Dr. Brown is making a mountain out of a mole hill. “James” is what you get after “Iakobos” passing through Latin and then French/Spanish, finally ending up in English. “James” and “Jacob” are both legitimate derivatives from “Iakobos”. No real mystery and no shame regarding the Hebrew roots of our Christian faith.
And that’s the preface!
Watch out on Wednesday when I walk through Chapter 1!
Now, I’ve got one thing still left to do.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “You thought I’d be Maverick?” Unger