So far, I’ve reviewed the preface, chapter 1, chapter 3 (more chapter 3), the first part of chapter 5 as well as the second part of chapter 5, and chapter 7. Fred has review chapter 2, chapter 4, chapter 6 and chapter 8.
Let’s get going…but first:
Cute little lamb thanking George “Giblets” Rodriquez for taking the hit at thanksgiving?
Okay. Now that the atmosphere is properly set (lamb smooches and all), we’re ready to speak the truth in love!
Chapter 9 Summary (I’ve numbered things to make responding easier to follow)
1. A God to Be Experienced – Dr. Brown opens the chapter by talking about how God is a god who is not just known, but experienced. He comments on how he encounters God through his written Word and gives the disclaimer “At the same time, God has not called us into a relationship with a Book but into a relationship with Himself, and, as a former cessationist once remarked, the Trinity is not composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Bible but of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Kindle Locations 4106-4108). Dr. Brown then asks the question “are you enjoying real fellowship with God?”
In order to illustrate the dangers of an esclusively intellectual encounter of God, Dr. Brown gives a few quotes from Dan Wallace who, though cessationist, says that “somehow I, along with many others in my theological tradition, have learned to do without the third person of the Trinity” (Kindle Location 4117) and “although charismatics have sometimes given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have just as frequently given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. … This emphasis on knowledge over relationship can produce in us a bibliolatry. … The net effect of such bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God.” (Kindle Locations 4122-4124).
Dr. Brown again asks “are you enjoying real fellowship with God?” and insinuates that cessationists may be bibliolaters who are not experiencing real fellowship with God.
2. The Meaning of Fellowship with God – In the light of the previous quotes, Dr. Brown unpacks what real fellowship with God is via a word study on the Greek word koinonia. He quotes Moulton-Milligan (a Greek Lexicon), notes three usages of the term and comments that though it is used of human relations, God’s discussion about his love for his bride in the OT combined with Christ’s desire to share the passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15-16) suggest that our fellowship with one another should be modeled after the fellowship we have with the Lord; which is marked by “sharing”. After all that, Dr. Brown suggests that the idea behind “fellowship” is one of “mutual experience”, which he then suggests is what charismatics have that cessationists don’t; cessationists have an experience of the Bible but they don’t have an experience of God himself (as manifest by charismatic phenomena).
He comments on how “many believers seem unaware of the invitation to fellowship with God – to commune with Him intimately by His Spirit – to the point that their relationship with Him is primarily a matter of reasoned, intellectual response, hardly reflecting true communion with Him, hardly reflecting a shared experience with Him.” (Kindle Locations 4138-4141) but then comments at length how he certainly has that deep shared experience of God (that many cessationists lack) by quoting his own story of conversion where he had a vision of himself “clothed with beautiful white robes, only to go back and play in the mud” (Kindle Locations 4154-4155) and he realized he was mocking the blood of Jesus, but then “surrendered my life to the Lord” (Kindle Locations 4157-4158) and started enjoying hymns instead of rock music.
Beyond that, he writes at length about how he experienced the miraculous healing of recurring hives, which lead him to proclaim “Jesus really had risen from the dead and prayers really were answered in His name!” (Kindle Locations 4183-4184). Dr. Brown then comments on how after his healing of hives, he began to express the “joy that is inexpressible” (1 Pet. 1:8) and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). He closes of his testimonial to his own deep experience of God with the words “Communing with God, as friend with friend. That is what the fellowship of the Spirit means, and that is what God invites us to experience” (Kindle Location 4190). Apparently he has it and cessationists probably don’t.
(Is this where the truth of scripture is established?)
3. The Living God in Our Midst – Dr. Brown then goes on to comment on a church service he was in to demonstrate what intimate fellowship charismatics have with the Lord. He writes how he saw people shouting the name of Jesus, and he lamented at how cessationists wouldn’t understand the passion and love they have for God (which I suspect is shorthand for “fellowship with God”, based on the previous line of argumentation).
He then demonstrates the reality of God in “our worship” by commenting on how someone spontaneously anticipated and read the scripture of the sermon at two separate occasions, before the sermon! He tells another story about how he was at a men’s meeting and decided to preach a sermon on hyper-grace, a topic that he was nervous about but later found the Lord laying on the hearts of the other men as well. He shares yet another story about preaching somewhere, seeing a mocker, and then calling out the mocker as a pickpocket and suggests that this sort of occurrence might be what Paul was discussing in 1 Corinthians 14:25, “where the outsider has the secrets of his heart revealed prophetically and he acknowledges that God is among us” (Kindle Locations 4220-4221). He comments that he’s still a normal fellow who struggles to discern the will of God much of the time, but he also writes “Yet I also know that He speaks supernaturally at different times and that His sheep hear His voice. (See John 10: 27, and note that there is nothing in the Bible that says that God will never speak to us outside of the Bible. If such a verse exists, please show it to me.)” (Kindle Locations 4224-4226).
4. Encountering the Father’s Tender Love in India – Dr. Brown moves on to discuss the intimate relationship with God he witnessed in multiple charismatic folks in India. He comments on how he prayed for a ministry leader and his wife to have a child and a year later, they did! Dr. Brown named that first baby “Daniel” and “Jonathan” was a name that the mother was secretly praying for their second son to receive. In an amazing act of God, Dr. Brown spontaneously chose to name the child “Jonathan”! Then, to follow that up, Dr. Brown records even more acts of God: he preached on a verse that was the theme verse for the Indian pastors for the year, a woman had a dream of Dr. Brown preaching that verse and laying hands on people (which he did) and Dr. Brown then learned that the passage he read before the sermon was actually the theme verse for the Indian pastors for the upcoming year! Then, to top it all off, the ministry leader previously mentioned thought that he and his wife were unable to have more children but the Lord told Dr. Brown that they would have a third: a girl named after his wife, Nancy…and that occurred too!
Following those stories, Dr. Brown then offers these words:
“Why do I share these stories? I’m sure that plenty of you reading this book are far more spiritual than me, and that includes plenty of cessationists, many of whom lead godly lives that could put most of us to shame. And I am absolutely not “Mr. Prophet,” walking around knowing the secrets of everyone’s hearts. But sometimes, as part of our fellowship with the Lord, we enjoy life in the Spirit, and it includes special moments like these.” (Kindle Locations 4268-4271).
5. Fellowship with God is both Rational and Relational – Dr. Brown acknowledges that cessationists (specifically John MacArthur) recognize the existence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of believers but yet writes “At the same time, Dr. MacArthur seems to approach biblical faith in an almost exclusively intellectual way…” (Kindle Locations 4278-4279). Dr. Brown offers evidence for that rather bold insinuation by quoting John MacArthur as saying:
“Biblical faith . . . is rational. It is reasonable. It is intelligent. It makes good sense. And Spiritual truth is meant to be rationally contemplated, examined logically, studied, analyzed, and employed as the only reliable basis for making wise judgments. That process is precisely what Scripture calls discernment” (Kindle Locations 4279-4281).
Dr. Brown claims that he understands John MacArthur’s emphasis, but then quotes an interaction between Todd Friel and John MacArthur at Strange Fire in reference to a media clip (Dr. Brown doesn’t cite which clip):
Friel: Let me play devil’s advocate . Your problem, Pastor MacArthur, is you like organs and cellos. This is our way of expressing ourselves in worship. What’s the problem with our way of worshiping?
JM: It’s mindless emotional hysteria. It’s not about worship. Worship only goes high when understanding goes deep. The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. In fact, I sometimes wish the music would all go away, and that I didn’t have to deal with sensations along with my thoughts. Low understanding of God, superficial, shallow understanding of God, leads to shallow, content-less, superficial hysteria. That’s not worship. Why have you been singing hymns this week? Because there is rich theology in hymns. We don’t have to go hysterical. We want your mind fully engaged. (Kindle Locations 4284-4292).
In an effort to point out how John MacArthur simply doesn’t have a category for what he was seeing, Dr. Brown asks “So those are the two alternatives? Either deep theological understanding or ‘mindless emotional hysteria’? What about just having an overflowing outburst of love for Jesus, which doesn’t always come from a deeper ‘understanding of the truth of God’? What about spontaneous, overflowing joy in response to His goodness?”(Kindle Locations 4293-4295). Apparently, when John MacArthur sees “love for God” manifesting in charismatic phenomena in a worship service, he only is able to recognize it as hysteria.
Dr. Brown continues and suggests that he find John MacArthur’s wish that “sometimes the music would all go away” to be simply shocking. Dr. Brown writes:
“What a cerebral approach to worship, as if music and sensations and thoughts cannot all work in harmony to enhance our worship of God, and as if we are to love Him only with the mind and not with our whole being” (Kindle Locations 4299-4300).
Dr. Brown then quotes Psalm 150:1-6 and juxtaposes it with the quote from John Macarthur, insinuating that there is irony between John MacArthur quoting men like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and A.W. Tozer; men of apparently “very different temperament when it came to the experience of God” (Kindle Locations 4308-4309). The point here is clear: John MacArthur doesn’t recognize the overflow of a passionate heart, or intimate fellowship with God because he’s all mind and no heart and basically one of the Golden Girls who doesn’t understand all this newfangled music.
6. God Loves to Use Music – Continuing on the music argument, Dr. Brown suggests that John MacArthur likes worship that is “strangely lacking” and he is “projecting his personal perspective on others who are not of like temperament” (Kindle Location 4312). Dr. Brown then comments on how he knows that the wrong use of music can be used destructively, but music doesn’t necessarily need to include rich theology in order to be useful. Dr. Brown writes:
“Many of the most wonderful times of worship I have experienced came when every part of my being was fully engaged, meaning, body, soul , and spirit given over to Him in adoration or celebration, sometimes while playing drums with the worship team, other times prostrate on my face while they played and sang, other times jumping and dancing and shouting (all these are solidly biblical forms of praise)” (Kindle Locations 4316-4318).
Dr. Brown protests that John MacArthur is “imposing his approach to God on others” (Kindle Location 4323) and is “failing to recognize how the Scriptures themselves often connect the presence of God with music and worship” (Kindle Locations 4323-4324), offering 2 Kings 3:11-15 as a proof that music somehow allowed Elisha to prophecy. Dr. Brown says “There are other scriptural examples similar to this, yet for Pastor MacArthur, this seems totally foreign” (Kindle Locations 4328-4329). Dr. Brown quotes John MacArthur commenting on how the music makes kids “drunk so you don’t have to think about the issues of life” and suggests that the main difference between John MacArthur and himself boils down to personal taste and an ignorance of the scripture.
Dr. Brown suggests that music often enhances worship by creating an atmosphere where “we can better focus on Him” and contrasts his idea with Justin Peters’ saying:
“And all the healing crusades I’ve ever been to have always got the music going. Extended repetitive music that lulls people into the first stage of hypnosis. Disengage your mind and thought. You now become susceptible. And there are a lot of psychosomatic healings, all the time. But you don’t see medically documented healings. People are very susceptible to emotionally-driven music that goes on for 17 minutes. It wouldn’t work without the music” (Kindle Locations 4339-4342).
Dr. Brown comes back and asks if David was wrong to have “so much worship in the Tabernacle/Temple?”, quotes two passages of scripture (1 Chron. 15:19-23,28; Eph 5:18-19), asking “What’s wrong with the songs and melodies? Perhaps they actually help us to engage the mind rather than disengage it? Perhaps they often deepen the truths we are singing and enhance the worship we are offering?” (Kindle Locations 4352-4354).
Dr. Brown then quotes John MacArthur as saying “You won’t find that music in a Reformed church. Why? That’s not who they are. They’re going back to all the great Reformed teachers. Their world is sound theology, Bible exposition, obedience, discipline, order. This is a completely different stream” (Kindle Locations 4355-4356) and responds by writing “Excuse me? Pastor MacArthur is actually claiming that a Reformed church is more biblical in worship because it uses older music forms (many of which were simply the norm for the society in their age)?” (Kindle Locations 4358-4359). Dr. Brown then writes of John MacArthur:
“He is claiming that following ‘all the great Reformed teachers’ whose ‘world is sound theology, Bible exposition, obedience, discipline, [and] order’ takes the place of the biblical mandates to raise our hands in prayer, or to kneel before Him in prayer (or fall prostrate before Him in worship), or to clap or shout or dance in His presence , or to use soul-stirring instruments like cymbals or timbrels” (Kindle Locations 4360-4362).
7. Mind vs. Emotion – Dr. Brown then defends himself against accusations of “going to far” by referencing the lame man of Acts 3 who lept and praised God (Acts. 3:8) and says “here, remember that many believers, especially those with a childlike gratitude to the Lord for His goodness, can respond like the healed man did – and the Lord is certainly pleased with it” (Kindle Locations 4366-4367).
Going on from talking about music, Dr. Brown quotes Tom Pennington and John MacArthur’s response to one of the videos that was played where Tom Pennington said “You know, you look at the New Testament and you see two groups of people, you know, those who are in Christ and those who aren’t. And always what you find is that those who aren’t in Christ are driven by their feelings, their emotions, they’re driven by their body’s appetites. And those in Christ are driven by their minds, by their understanding of the truth” and John MacArthur (same link) said “But the attraction is the same thing in a bar. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s sensual, sensual experience that disconnects you from the realities of life.” Dr. Brown then replies:
“These comments are once again stunning to me. Pastor Pennington stated that ‘those in Christ are driven by their minds, by their understanding of the truth,’ which is somehow placed in total contrast with their emotions and feelings. Does not the truth affect our emotions and feelings? Do not love and fellowship include emotions and feelings? Oh yes, we base our beliefs and our understanding of God on the truth of His Word, as stated at the outset, but to make the contrast between these two groups as starkly as Pastor Pennington does (while agreeing with him about the wrongness of being driven by emotions, bodily appetites, or feelings) is to grossly overstate the case and to make our relationship with God far too much a matter of the head and far too little a matter of the heart.” (Kindle Locations 4376-4383).
Dr. Brown then quotes Samuel Rutherford saying “‘A long time out of Christ’s glorious presence is two deaths and two hells for me. We must meet. I am not able to do without Him.’ Would they have mocked sentiments like these if they were on the lips of an Arminian charismatic?” (Kindle Locations 4387-4388). Dr. Brown quotes W.H. Griffith-Thomas as saying that theology is a matter of intellect as well as experience, Vance Havner as saying that faith should not be “cold and calculating” and Leonard Ravenhill as saying “You can have all of your doctrines right – yet still not have the presence of God” (Kindle Location 4401). The point here again is clear; anyone who condemns charismatic probably is unfamiliar with the scriptures and the presence of God.
8. Hearts Aflame for the Lord – Dr. Brown continues along his line of argumentation with a quote from Jonathan Edwards remarking how true religion involves the affections and then brings up Charles Chauncy; the big opponent of Edwards who objected to the emotional excesses of the movement in Edwards’ day. Brown also asks the question “And what should we make of the fact that his wife, Sarah, sometimes fell into trances lasting hours at a time?” (Kindle Location 4413). Apparently Jonathan Edwards, and his wife, were charismatics (at least in practice).
Dr. Brown continues on with various (interesting) quotes about the importance of the emotions from A.W. Tozer, D.A. Carson, Sam Storms, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Dr. Brown comments on how it’s ironic that John MacArthur can quote from men like Tozer and Lloyd-Jones and yet not share their emphasis on the Christian’s experience in God (of course manifesting in charismatic phenomena). Dr. Brown continues on with a long quote from Adrian Warnock about the importance of experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus. Dr. Brown quotes Dr. Warnock (from a book endorsed by cessationists, which Dr. Brown points out) as saying:
“Many avoid showing any kind of emotion in response to God and are satisfied with studying God in a purely intellectual manner through Bible reading. We console ourselves with the idea that this is the “mature” approach and look down on those who are full of passion for a Jesus they claim to know. But a man who claimed to love a girl he had never met, but had only read letters she had written, would earn our pity. We were not promised a relationship with a book but with a person” (Kindle Locations 4465-4468).
Dr. Brown subtly paints the charismatic experience of God as normative Christianity when he quotes Lloyd-Jones saying:
“New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterizes it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigor, this abandon, this exuberance— and, as I say, it has ever characterized the life of the church in all periods of revival and of reawakening.” (Kindle Locations 4478-4480).
Dr. Brown also cites Francis Shaeffer (as quoted by Dr. Warnock) in defense of his “charismatic experience is normative Christianity” argument:
“Christianity is not just a mental assent that certain doctrines are true— not even that the right doctrines are true. This is only the beginning. This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps of food and saying, ‘I believe the food exists; I believe it is real,’ and yet never eating it. It is not enough merely to say, ‘I am a Christian,’ and then in practice to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far off and strange” (Kindle Locations 4482-4485).
The inference is clear. Cessationists may believe in the Holy Spirit but have no experience of him.
9. God’s Deep Desire to Fellowship with Us – Dr. Brown closes off the chapter writing about how when he was in India, he met a young pastor who received a revelation from God. God told him to care for orphans like George Mueller did (and God told him that precise name) even though he didn’t have a clue who George Mueller was. That same pastor often apparently went into the jungle and prayed in front of a glowing physical manifestation of God. Apparently that pastor had serious fellowship with God and asks “Can you relate to God like that?”(Kindle Location 4540).
Dr. Brown comments on the pathetic relationship with God that Christians (and cessationists) endure when he quotes Martyn Lloyd-Jones as saying “Do we go to God’s house expecting something to happen? Or do we go just to listen to a sermon, and to sing our hymns, and to meet with one another? How often does this vital idea enter into our minds that we are in the presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the church , that we may feel the touch of his power?” (Kindle Locations 4544-4546) and then follows that with “What a contrast to the sentiments expressed at Strange Fire!” (Kindle Location 4550).
Dr. Brown asks his readers if they can relate to times alone with the Lord in prayer where they are so burdened for “the Lord’s intervention in a dying world” (Kindle Location 4551) that they needed the Spirit to pray through us (I’m guessing this is a veiled reference to tongues). He asks his readers if they have ever been so overwhelmed with the glory and presence of God that they fall on their faces like the elders of Revelation 4 and quotes them in Rev. 4:8 saying ‘Holy, holy, holy…” and asks “Perhaps some charismatic repetition in worship is not as mindless and worthless as some think?” (Kindle Locations 4554-4555). Dr. Brown closes off the chapter with an implied exhortation to embrace charismatic theology by suggesting that John Piper and others have called millions to experience the pleasures of God, and God desires our fellowship too.
In case you were wondering, Dr. Brown doesn’t pull any punches against cessationists. They are second tier Christians and need to either embrace the charismatic movement or entirely miss the bus.
Chapter 9 Comments
Let’s mow through that all, but before we start I wanted to point out two things:
A. Dr. Brown simple assumes that his charismatic experience is normal and the burden of proof is on others to show that he’s wrong. He reads his own rather absurd experiences into people all throughout history who would utterly reject his extension of principles that they taught (i.e. Jonathan Edwards) and he makes almost no effort to establish his charismatic ideas from the text of scripture. This chapter is story after story after story…and for some reason, charismatics still are confused as to why cessationists question their commitment to scripture or exegetical foundations.
B. Dr. Brown’s writing is easily as rude and broad-brushing as anything said in the Strange Fire conference. He doesn’t speak with soft tones here. He comes out and suggests that cessationists, the chief of whom is John MacArthur, simply are ignorant of the Bible and living second class Christian lives bereft of any real fellowship with God. I have no problem with him insinuating that I’m spiritually retarded (biblical exegesis will decide his case), but his whole “broad brush” complaint no longer holds an ounce of substance.
Now, on to the points he made.
1. A God to Be Experienced – Dr. Brown is totally right about a merely intellectual experience of God; it’s dangerous and not a real experience of God anymore than memorizing a bunch of facts about a girl is equivalent to being married to her. Facts give a hypothetical knowledge of someone, but a relationship is the difference between being a husband and a creepy stalker (and cessationists are apparently God’s creepy stalkers).
Still, Dr. Brown cannot possibly think that any half-brained cessationists think that they have some sort of relationship with a Trinity made up of Father, Son and Holy Bible. The question isn’t whether or not we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit because if we don’t we’re unbelievers…and I don’t think Dr. Brown would say that. Both cessationists and charismatics loudly profess that they have a relationship with the Holy Spirit; the disagreement comes when we start talking about what an intimate encounter with the Holy Spirit looks like. I’d question whether it looks like what I see at the 101:40 mark of this video (for several minutes):
When reading Dr. Brown, one has to remember that he’s talking about that sort of stuff. He’s not talking about the stuff that’s as tame as Mark Driscoll, John Piper, etc. Brown is good at manipulating words, but you need to remember to interpret his words with his glossary; in the context of who he is and with what he has associated himself.
Regarding the quotes from Dr. Daniel Wallace, I find myself wondering if Dr. Brown ever bothered to look into why the man behind the most widely used Greek grammar and Greek syntax in Evangelical Christendom is a cessationist; it’s not exactly like Dr. Wallace hasn’t studied the New Testament in amazing detail for decades. Dr. Brown quotes from Dr. Wallace’s chapter in this book (that chapter is also online here). If you’re interested, Dr. Wallace has written on Hebrews 2:3-4 and the sign gifts, Spiritual Gifts and the authority of personal experience, and Cessationism. Maybe Dr. Brown might want to consider Dr. Wallace’s comments in the light of Dr. Wallace’s beliefs about the matter? Dr. Wallace sure recognizes the dangers of a purely intellectual faith, but Dr. Wallace himself is an open and vocal cessationist. I’m wondering how Dr. Brown reconciles those two points?
2. The Meaning of Fellowship with God- I don’t know how to take that section seriously.
I mean honestly.
Dr. Brown is a textbook example of the complaint that I constantly wage against Charismatics: in practice, the Bible is simply not their ultimate authority. Just looking at his methodology, he quotes 3 relevant verses in 2 paragraphs (and 2 other passages where the word does not appear, passages that he seems to use as an interpretive key for some reason…) and then spends 14 paragraphs telling personal stories in an effort to define a biblical term that appears 20x in the New Testament and doesn’t really necessitate “shared experience” at all.
It’s like Dr. Brown doesn’t know how to do a real word study, so I’ll quickly slam out the one he didn’t do:
The term is used of the relationship that the early Christians had with the apostles that was separate from eating, praying and learning together (Acts. 2:42; Gal. 2:9; 1 Jo. 1:3).
The term is also used of the financial contribution from one church to another (Rom. 15:26, 2 Cor. 8:4, 9:13) and sharing in general (Heb. 13:16).
The term is used of the relationship that Christians have with the Lord (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Jo. 1:6-7), his death (1 Cor. 10:16), each other (Phil. 1:5; Phm. 1:6), the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1), God’s plan of salvation (Eph. 3:9), Christ’s sufferings (Phil. 3:10) and even the relationship with the unregenerate world that they should avoid (2 Cor. 6:14).
That’s every usage of the term, categorized by usage. Only took me around 20 minutes.
The idea of koinonia is one of close association or wholehearted partnership.
Simply put, Dr. Brown’s nuanced argument based on the definition of koinonia falls apart because the necessary nuance he suggests isn’t really in the word, at least not in the way that he’s suggesting. The argument running through the rest of the chapter falls flat on its face as a result of his exegetical failure.
3. The Living God in Our Midst – I’m converted on the basis of all his stories. Someone guessed the sermon passage or topic? He named a person’s sin in public? I don’t know about you, but my cessationism just crumbled.
Guessing a sermon text isn’t tongues or prophecy. Calling out a sinner, which happens in both the Old and New Testaments (2 Sam. 12:1-15; Acts 5:1-11), may certainly be the act of a prophet but rightly naming a person’s sin doesn’t automatically make one a prophet. Remember that false prophets could possibly do things like that too:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Deut. 13:1-3 (also see Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9)
Even if a prophet performs a legitimate physical sign or wonder (in other words, something way more flashy than naming a person’s sin), that person’s doctrine still needs to be checked out. There are options beyond “He’s a prophet” to explain that all (i.e. coincidence, providence, Satan, etc.)
Also, Dr. Brown pulled out John 10:27 as a proof for contemporary divine revelation.
Jesus is not pleased.
Allow me to refers my readers to my extended comments on John 10 here. In a nutshell, Jesus is talking about hearing his “voice” as in “effectual call to salvation”, not some sort of prophetic activity. If Jesus is talking about prophecy in John 10:27, not even the charismatic/continuationist commentators (i.e. Gordon Fee, D.A. Carson, Chuck Smith, etc.) see it there in the slightest. John 10:27 is on the list along with Jer. 29:11 and Matt. 18:20 with “most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures in the Bible”.
What’s strange is seeing Dr. Brown grabbing passages from that list.
4. Encountering the Father’s Tender Love in India – I’m sorry but I was finding it hard to believe that I was not reading the excited gushing of a teenager who had just returned from a missions trip. None of that stuff comes close to even addressing cessationism. There’s a rather large difference between the specific guidance of the Holy Spirit (i.e. Acts 15:28, 16:6-10; 2 Cor. 2:12-13) or the poetic providential orchestration of God in affairs (i.e. Ex. 1:15-2:10),and a person actually being a prophet; a mouthpiece for God who speaks his words in his place.
There’s a big difference between the guy who guesses a sermon text and the prophet Elijah. I’ve had more amazing things occur in my life than the stuff that he mentions, but the standards for establishing charismatic theology (and modern prophecy) are a little higher than guessing accurately.
Dr. Brown is right; he’s not “Mr. Prophet”. He’s also right that fellowship with the Lord involves special moments like the ones he mentions…even for us cessationists.
5. Fellowship with God is both Rational and Relational – Dr. Brown completely misrepresents John MacArthur with the “biblical faith…is rational” quote. Go read the actual sermon here. Ask yourself if MacArthur is talking about faith being “all mind and no heart” or something else…like “Faith is not the abandonment of reason“. Dr. Brown seems to just cherry pick quotes from places, regardless of their context or subject matter, and string them together to suit his purposes.
Not terribly honest nor befitting a “scholar”.
Regarding the MacArthur comment on mindlessness, the comment in the interview with Friel was in response to The Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey:
That is what they were talking about. Go back and watch the video or read the transcript here.
Now I’m curious. Does Dr. Brown think that the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey is not “mindless emotional hysteria”? I’m wondering if Dr. Brown would hazard a guess as to whether or not Martyn Lloyd-Jones or A.W. Tozer would participate in the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey?
I’d love to see him answer that question with a straight answer.
While I’m dreaming, I’d like to be the king of Sweden.
(That’s Carl XVI Gustaf: King of Sweden pulling off international relations like a boss).
Once it’s clear what is being discussed, it becomes fairly clear that the discussion isn’t simply about musical preferences…and possibly that Dr. Brown doesn’t have a category for “stupid”, regardless of what he’s seeing. It’s all possibly authentic…?!?
If you march around a church during the service in an undershirt, slapping a trash can lid with a serving spoon while wearing a viking helmet and rhythmically yelling the Lord’s prayer in Bokmal, it’s possible that you’re just worshiping God “in your own way”, right? The Bible doesn’t forbid that anywhere, right?
6. God Loves to Use Music – Dr. Brown just assumes his position and suggests that John MacArthur’s church is “strangely lacking” in their worship because they don’t have people having seizures “in the Spirit,” yelling in tongues, or walking around like they’ve been recently nailed with a taser (all of which I’ve provided video documentation of as occurring in Michael Brown’s churches in this review series).
John MacArthur pastors a church that utilizes music, and modern music at that. There are electric guitars, keyboards and even drums at Grace Community Church. For goodness sake, there are musicians who attend Grace Community Church who play (or played) in a wide variety of bands/orchestras, including modern styles like bluegrass and jazz and heavy metal: all those genres of music are represented at Grace Community Church. All that to say that there’s no shortage of musical diversity at cessationist churches.
The issue is not one about style. It’s an issue of the utilization of music unto the end of directing the mind in the wrong direction; using music to dull the senses instead of direct them (i.e. the crowd surfing picture above). John MacArthur, in his comments, is not talking about the style of the music but rather the purpose of using any style of music.
Dr. Brown simply conflates “worship” with “church music”, assumes charismatic manifestations as legitimate, and then spends several pages shadow boxing.
Also, “what if they DO?” isn’t a meaningful form of logical argument. Just fyi.
7. Mind vs. Emotion – Dr. Brown is certainly correct that emotional outbursts, even to the point of jumping and praising God, is acceptable in worship…though the events of Acts 3 didn’t occur in a meeting of the church either.
Dr. Brown doesn’t really understand what Tom Pennington was getting at thought. The phrase “body’s appetites” was used to clarify what Tom Pennington was meaning by “emotions”, and the New Testament often warns about the dangers of following sinful desires (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 2:3, 4:22, etc.). Since Dr. Brown wrote “while agreeing with him about the wrongness of being driven by emotions, bodily appetites, or feelings…”, it appears that Dr. Brown was agreeing with Tom Pennington.
That was easy.
In other news, this section made me want to ask the same question I’m always asking:
What’s Calvinism got to do, got to do with it?
8. The Heart Aflame for the Lord – Dr. Brown goes back to Charles Chauncy and Edwards, painting the cessationists as Chauncy and the Charismatics as Edwards (ironically, both of them were cessationists). I’ve touched on Charles Chauncy here and showed the absurdity of the comparison, so I won’t belabor that again.
The claim that Sarah Edwards sometimes fell into trances lasting for hours?
Well, according to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale, I’d suggest that she didn’t. The term “trance” only occurs in the entire extended corpus of Jonathan Edwards 12 times, and none of those references refer to Sarah being in a trance. What’s interesting is that in Jonathan Edwards’ Letters and Personal Writings (page 120, Vol. 16), we find this interesting quote of when the recent seminary graduate Samuel Buell came to town to fill Edwards’ pulpit while he was away:
“Mr. Buell continued here a fortnight or three weeks after I returned: there being still great appearances attending his labors; many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they ever had been before: and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects. But when the people were raised to this height, Satan took the advantage and his interposition in many instances soon became very apparent: and a great deal of caution and pains were found necessary to keep the people, many of them, from running wild.”
Now, that’s not the end of it. We do learn from Sarah that she partook in trance-like behaviour while her husband was away and Samuel Bell was preaching. Her own original account of her “trance” experience is here (starting on page 171). Go read it, and pay close attention to what she says.
I dare you.
Ask yourself if it sounds anything like what’s happening here in this video, especially after the 8:30 mark:
That’s an example of the Brownsville “move of the Spirit” that he’s paralleling with what Sarah Edwards experienced.
Did Sarah Edwards experience convulsions? No.
Did Sarah Edwards lose self control? No.
Did Sarah Edwards lose the ability to speak? No…in fact, she discusses how she simply couldn’t stop talking about the glories of Heaven.
What exactly do you call a trance where someone is a chatterbox?
There’s absolutely no parallel and I suspect that Dr. Brown hasn’t bothered to closely read Sarah Edwards’ own record of her experiences in The Life of President Edwards by Sereno Edwards Dwight. Trying to argue for charismatic trances and being slain in the spirit by appealing to Jonathan or Sarah Edwards isn’t exactly the most cunning plan.
With regards to John MacArthur quoting Tozer and Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur talks about experiencing God plenty. He simply doesn’t talk about it in the sense of experiencing charismatic phenomena (i.e. tongues or prophecy) because those aren’t manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
That was kind of a big part of what John MacArthur has been saying about the charismatic issues for the last 40+ years and that’s exactly the issue at hand (the issue that Dr. Brown assumes and for which he never actually provides evidence to substantiate).
9. God’s Deep Desire to Fellowship with Us – Dr. Brown’s final section of the chapter is simply another one of those “it happened in India” stories where I don’t have any real details, cannot verify anything, and suspect that if I could, I might find out that the story is far different in reality than he portrays.
Beyond that, the fellow was apparently so righteous that he regularly met with the physical presence of God in the jungle?
Well, I know that’s not true.
Why? Well, it’s simple. It wasn’t God the Father (he doesn’t ever physically manifest himself in the scriptures…and I know what you’re thinking. Hold onto your knickers for two seconds!) It wasn’t the Holy Spirit, since he never appears that way ever in the scriptures. It might have been Jesus, since when God physically manifests, it’s always him (including in the Old Testament). I can imagine all the dozens of examples that are running through your head, but they were all Christ. The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament was Christ. The guy that Isaiah saw in his temple vision was Christ (John 12:41). The manifestation of God that Abraham saw was actually Jesus (John 8:56-58). The list goes on and on, but it’s not the point of this post to finish that list. Either way, whoever the glowing figure that the fellow in India saw wasn’t Christ since Christ hasn’t returned yet…
…which leaves us with only a few options, none of which are very good (a hallucination, a lie, Satan…).
Do I relate to God like that?
Not for a second…since that isn’t God.
Do I go into God’s house expecting something to happen? You bet!
I just don’t expect to see what Michael Brown expects to see…since the Bible gives me a whole lot of reason to suspect that what Michael Brown claims he’s seeing isn’t what he thinks it is.
And one last thing…comparing the kind of repetition that occurs after 2:30 in this video to the worship of God by the elders in Revelation 4:8 might be a slight overstatement.
Perhaps Michael Brown isn’t as righteous or mindful of the Lord as the 24 elders who are physically standing around the throne? Perhaps Michael Brown isn’t on the same spiritual level with as the 24 elders who stand before the throne of Yahweh?
I hate to suggest something so utterly shocking, but there it is.
I’d dare say that comparison of oneself to the elders in Revelation 4 is getting within meters of the pinnacle of Mt. Hubris.
So that wraps up Chapter 9.
I hope that was helpful to those of you who are following this and wondering about these issues.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Still thinking about being the king of Sweden” Unger
Carl XVI Gustav has the best job in the world.
What other job allows you to dress like this AND be called “Your highness”?
That job was made for me!