Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5

So far, I’ve reviewed the preface, chapter 1 and chapter 3 (and more chapter 3) and Fred has review chapter 2 and chapter 4.  In unrelated news, there has been both considerable and suspicious silence from Phyllis Tickle regarding the Strange Fire conference.  According to a rumor I just fabricated, this is because she has abandoned theological pursuits in order to perfect her Black Tiger Fist and represent Earth in an upcoming inter-galactic martial arts competition.

Tickle

So, let’s instead talk about Authentic Fire, chapter 5.  No wait.  We have to do something else first:

Kenny “Kung Fu” Loggins?

Check.

Blue belt?

Blue Sash

Check.

Kung Fu Sheep?

Lambchop

Close enough!

Okay.

NOW we’re ready to spar with chapter 5 of Authentic Fire.

Chapter 5 Summary

Michael Brown

(Warning: this is a HUGE chapter where Brown spends a lot of time and addresses multiple issues, so this post will only address the first part of chapter five…)

Dr. Brown spends almost the entire chapter interacting with the works of Jonathan Edwards; Dr. Brown first comments on the nine non-signs of true revival, setting up the section by writing:

Let’s first understand, however, what Jonathan Edwards was not saying in The Distinguishing Marks. To explain the background to this book, we need to remember that it is common during times of revival for there to be intense and unusual physical and emotional responses to the Spirit’s work, such as weeping, crying out, shaking, falling into trances, and the like. These can be disruptive, alarming, and unsettling, and not all of this activity can be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Is it demonic? Is it simply emotionalism? Or is it a genuine response to the Spirit?

Edwards offered nine non-signs which did not disqualify the work in general from being of God. In other words, based on these things happening, you cannot say, “This proves that it is not sent from heaven.” So, these nine signs are not “false positives” (as Pastor MacArthur states) as much as “false negatives.” And they are certainly not negative signs, meaning, “If you see these things happen, you know the work is not of God.” Quite the contrary. (Kindle Locations 2001-2009).

He then lists the nine “non-signs” of Edwards:

I. Nothing can be certainly concluded from this, That a work is carried on in a way very unusual and extraordinary; provided the variety or difference be such , as may still be comprehended within the limits of Scripture rules.

Dr. Brown explains: “The point Edwards is making is simple: Just because something is new and intense doesn’t mean it’s not from God, unless it clearly violates Scripture” (Kindle Locations 2015-2016).

II. A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

Dr. Brown explains: “I know that there are charismatics who think that someone falling or shaking like a leaf is proof that the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully, while to some evangelicals, falling or shaking is proof that the people are in the flesh. But the Word of God gives us no right to make sweeping judgments based on these things alone” (Kindle Locations 2023-2025).

III. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of people is not the work of the Spirit of God that it occasions a great deal of noise about religion.

Dr. Brown explains: “Yes, revival will draw a crowd, and it will get people talking. Even the secular world will be stirred, and the media will report both the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of the work. But that doesn’t mean that God is not moving in the midst of it all, and that He is not the Author of the spiritual excitement” (Kindle Locations 2027-2029).

IV. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of a people is not the work of the Spirit of God that many who are the subjects of it have great impressions made on their imaginations.

Dr. Brown explains: “The Bible is full of images — about heaven, hell, and our intimate relationship with God — and these images can stir our imaginations, as can powerful preaching” (Kindle Locations 2035-2036).

V. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that example is a great means of it.

Dr. Brown explains: “It is easy to say that people are weeping, or collapsing, or shaking, or laughing just because they have seen other people do the same. But Edwards claims that learning by example is both reasonable and Scriptural, if, in fact, the work is from God” (Kindle Locations 2040-2042).

VI. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that many who seem to be the subjects of it are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct.

Dr. Brown explains: “On a certain level, this principle invalidates one of the biggest criticisms of the Strange Fire camp, namely, that prominent charismatic leaders have fallen into sin or foolishness. As grievous as this is, in no way does it disqualify the larger movement” (Kindle Locations 2049-2051).

VII. Nor are many errors in judgment, and some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work, any argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit of God.

Dr. Brown explains: “recognizing the massive expansion of the Charismatic Movement in the world in the last fifty years, representing the most rapid expansion of the gospel worldwide in history, it is not surprising that there are “errors in judgment” and even “some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work”” (Kindle Locations 2054-2056).

VIII. If some, who were thought to be wrought upon, fall away into gross errors, or scandalous practices, it is no argument that the work in general is not the work of the Spirit of God.

Dr. Brown explains: “Remember Judas Iscariot? Does his fall from apostleship disprove the ministry of Jesus or throw into question the validity of the other eleven apostles? Or how about Church history? Does the Church’s unspeakably bloody persecution of the Jewish people negate the truth of the Gospel?” (Kindle Locations 2060-2062).

IX. It is no argument that a work is not from the Spirit of God that it seems to be promoted by ministers insisting very much on the terrors of God’s holy law, and that with a great deal of pathos and earnestness.

Dr. Brown explains: “My, how things have changed ! In Edwards’ day, the concern was about too much hellfire preaching; nowadays, the concern is about almost no hellfire preaching. Still, God can send His Spirit in spite of an overemphasis on hell or an underemphasis on hell” (Kindle Locations 2066-2068).

Dr. Brown then gives commentary on these nine non-marks and say:

“it is clear that Pastor MacArthur does disqualify the Charismatic Movement because of some physical and emotional manifestations, some scandals and improprieties, and some errors in judgment and delusions, the very thing that Jonathan Edwards urged against, using the principle that we are to judge by the whole, not the part. The Strange Fire camp would argue, however, that Pastor MacArthur’s methodology is right because the Charismatic Movement as a whole is corrupt” (Kindle Locations 2069-2072).

******

Chapter 3 Comments

Top-Gun-Slider

All right.  Where to begin, where to begin?

Well, I’d like to point out a theme that pervades this chapter (and this book on the whole): “fudging” categories/definitions.

Yes and No

Notice the first quote where Dr. Brown says “it is common during times of revival for there to be intense and unusual physical and emotional responses to the Spirit’s work, such as weeping, crying out, shaking, falling into trances, and the like”.  I’d dare suggest that this is a subtle rhetorical trick where Dr. Brown takes common charismatic expressions/”manifestations of the Spirit”, alters their definitions and reads them back into Edwards’ writing as if they were what Edwards was discussing.  Nobody in Jonathan Edwards’ day ever fell into some sort of trance where they they needed to be covered up with a blanket at the front of the church (or at least I cannot find a single mention of it anywhere in anything written by himself or anyone of the day).  Nobody was laughing uncontrollably, or having revelatory visions, or having out-of-body experiences, or spasmodically walking around the church (start at 3:40) when the Holy Spirit fell upon them.

Not only that, but in Edwards’ day there wasn’t ever weeping, crying or shaking as a demonstration of the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is a majority of what I hear as an explanation of their occurrences in charismatic churches.  The physiological responses in Edwards’ day were in response to preaching, not in responses to altar calls, testimonies, or other manifestations.   I’ll get more into that all in the second half of this post once it’s ready to go (that requires a little more than a paragraph to unpack).

Now with that said, I’ll take a quick walk again through the nine non-signs and give a short response to both:

I. Nothing can be certainly concluded from this, That a work is carried on in a way very unusual and extraordinary; provided the variety or difference be such , as may still be comprehended within the limits of Scripture rules.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  A bologna mask (in and of itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God seeing that bologna masks are not forbidden in scripture (though it could mean that you’re in a church with problems far deeper than their pneumatology…)

Bologna

II. A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  Tears and weak knees aren’t proof (in themselves) that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re a 14-year-old girl at a One Direction concert…).

SM-Screaming-Fans

III. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of people is not the work of the Spirit of God that it occasions a great deal of noise about religion.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  The fact that something brings up much talk about religious matters isn’t proof (in itself) that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re part of a massive cult…).

OprahAustralianCrowd

IV. It is no argument that an operation on the minds of a people is not the work of the Spirit of God that many who are the subjects of it have great impressions made on their imaginations.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  The fact that the imagination of people becomes active (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re just really bored…).

daydream

V. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that example is a great means of it.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  Copycat behaviour (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re an elderly Japanese Elvis impersonator…).

Japanese Elvis Convention

VI. It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God that many who seem to be the subjects of it are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  The fact that someone acts imprudently or irregularly (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re hanging around the very wrong crowd…)

Thriller

VII. Nor are many errors in judgment, and some delusions of Satan intermixed with the work, any argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit of God.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  The fact that someone does something dumb or believes a lie (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you’re a few minutes away from becoming an example of divine judgment…)

Dont open that

VIII. If some, who were thought to be wrought upon, fall away into gross errors, or scandalous practices, it is no argument that the work in general is not the work of the Spirit of God.

Yup.  Can’t disagree with that.  The fact that someone falls into gross error (in itself) isn’t proof that something isn’t a work of God (though it could mean that you may die in a large fire started by your “prophet”…)

Branch-Davidians

IX. It is no argument that a work is not from the Spirit of God that it seems to be promoted by ministers insisting very much on the terrors of God’s holy law, and that with a great deal of pathos and earnestness.

Dr. Brown rebuts his own points when he says: “My, how things have changed! In Edwards’ day, the concern was about too much hellfire preaching; nowadays, the concern is about almost no hellfire preaching.” (Kindle Locations 2066-2067).  Wait a minute.  Is this some sort of unintentional admittance on Dr. Brown’s part that many charismatic pastors don’t preach judgment?  I find that HARD to believe!

Joel(Oh wait.  No I don’t.)

If you were thinking critically as you read those nine “non-signs”, you may have been thinking the same thing I was; Dr. Brown was pointing to those as some sort of refutation of the cessationist arguments brought against the global charismatic movement on the basis of outlandish behaviour, error and moral failings of many charismatic leaders.  Funny thing is that saying “that doesn’t prove this isn’t a work of God” isn’t helpful to the charismatic case at all.  Instead, that just opens up the door to every single wolf that can convincingly twist the scripture since the typical defensive line is either “if the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn it, it might be the Spirit” or “judge it by the fruit”.  Those lines are used by everyone (true or false) and there’s neither any consistently objective hermeneutical principles used to interpret the scripture, nor agreed upon definition of “fruit” (it’s often made synonymous with numerical growth, or professions of faith, or evangelistic fervor, etc.).

So in a nutshell, Dr. Brown’s application of the non-signs makes the Strange Fire critiques look like they’re being overly stringent, but end up opening the door to anything accused of being wacky, outlandish, imaginary, falsified, scandalous, Satanic, heretical, and even tolerant of sin.  Absolutely anyone or anything could be a work of the Spirit, right?

Dumb-and-Dumber

Well apparently not, since this isn’t the end of the discussion.   The discussion continues with Jonathan Edwards’ five tests of a genuine work of God; that’s what establishes what is authentic.  These, along with 2 other smaller points, will be discussed in the next post (which is already well under way…).

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Still sorting through a bunch of Edwards’ writing” Unger

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5

  1. What an eye opener. Edwards nine presuppositions sound antithetical to the truths of Scripture. I understand why Brown would use them.

  2. Pingback: Do Not Be Surprised… This ‘n’ That (21 February 2014) | Truth2Freedom's Blog

  3. Pingback: Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5 Continued | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

  4. Pingback: Authentic Fire Chapter 5 Review | hipandthigh

  5. Pingback: Authentic Fire Review – Part 7 – Review of Chapter 7 | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

  6. Pingback: Authentic Fire – Chapter 7 Review | hipandthigh

  7. Pingback: Authentic Fire Review Part 8 – Review of Chapter 9 | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

  8. Pingback: Authentic Fire Review Links | hipandthigh

  9. Pingback: Authentic Fire Review Part 9 – Appendix 1 | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

  10. Pingback: A Little Authentic Fire Announcement | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s