May 1, 2014

Authentic Fire Review: The Preface

by Lyndon Unger

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter here.

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, and this and this, just to get a small glimpse of Dr. Brown’s comments and activities.  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 James White, Justin Peters, Tony Miano, 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 Dr. 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 share our review and rebuttal of all 10 chapters of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown’s response to the Strange Fire conference and book (though, this will be an edited series, mostly meaning that my colossally-rambling contributions will be shortened significantly).  Feel free to check out Fred’s outline of the book as we head into the danger zone.

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 attempt to circumvent serious criticism by suggesting that Fred and I are “judging motives” in our reviewing Authentic Fire.

Judging motives isn’t on our “to do” list at all.  See?


Not there at all.

The whole “you’re wrong because you’re unloving” argument also is a dodge, but it will come nonetheless.

I’m just sayin’ in advance.

I don’t want to hurt Michael Brown’s feelings and I don’t have a clue 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.  We’ll do our best to keep the atmosphere fairly laid back and respectful, knowing full well that one man’s “respect” is another man’s “blatant mocking”.

Sound good?

Now on to Authentic Fire!

To make things clear, 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:

Michael Brown

I’ll do my best to not throw any personal commentary into the summary section of the reviews.

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 of Slider for obvious reasons:


Let’s look at the Preface!

Preface Summary

Michael Brown

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 Dr. 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.

Preface Comments


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 book (but stopped my review at chapter 4) 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 in the New Apostolic Reformation.  Why didn’t Mark Driscoll endorse the book?  John Piper?  CJ Mahaney?  Gordon Fee?  The endorsements are fairly interesting, no doubt.

2.  Dr. Brown’s claims to have no bias on the issue of the Charismatic movement are rather hard to swallow for obvious reasons like 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 (As far as I can make out, Brown apparently includes continuationists [more or less “reformed charismatics] where as MacArthur does not).  It’s just worth pointing out that there will be some confusion with apples and oranges coming up.

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” will start once we change the name of one of the books of the New Testament?

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” passes 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!

Tune in next time when I walk through Chapter 1!



I’ve got one thing left to do.



Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him didn’t.
  • Andrew

    I’ve stated before in this blog’s comments that I find this whole discussion as functionally important to the local churches I’ve attended and served as arguments over whether Paul was short or tall. But these last two posts intensify my adiaphoric disposition – I’m told that this book I know nothing about is “facile” (a highly ironic statement, seeing that it does the opposite of calling forth readers’ reasoning/discerning capacities), mocks the book for only having the same four endorsements that the last book which this blog author didn’t like had, and then closes with a paragraph that insinuates that the church’s sensitivity to her Jewish roots is unimportant! Regarding that last point, it would have been better to show how your concern with Christianity’s Jewish roots goes beyond merely demanding transliteration of a given name (you could have appealed to a passage like Romans 9-11). Better to show how you see your understanding and practice of a given biblical principle exceeds this one, than to denigrate something that is clearly a biblical concern. In other words, use “A” doctrines to float “B” doctrines….sorry, couldn’t resist!

    • Lyndon Unger

      The world is a while lot bigger than your tiny circle of experience. If this is irrelevant to you, don’t torture yourself. Ignore it. Since Fred and I have done this review on our own blogs, we’ve gotten a ton of both positive and negative feedback, but few people have suggested that this is not important.

      Thanks for the advice on Jacob/James. The issue wasn’t one of generic Jewish roots as much as a nonsense but specific conspiracy theory that set an interesting tone for the book.

      • Andrew

        thx for responding – yes indeed, my experience is incredibly limited!

    • Dennis HC

      Where you see mockery — a claim which Lyndon already addressed in this very blog post — I see a totally valid question about who is and isn’t endorsing the book.

  • Looking forward to reading this review, as I have no interest in actually reading this book. Ever since he paired up with Benny Hinn he lost what little credibility he could have had.

  • Doc B

    One simple suggestion: For the duration of the reviews, how about turning OFF the comments in order to keep the focus where it needs to be?

    No matter how careful you are about not waxing ad hominem, your comments section will likely make you sound like rabid hitlerites if you let it run.

    Just an idea.

    • Fred Butler

      I certainly understand your concern. Believe me…
      But both Lyndon and myself recognize the importance of what it is these reviews will be addressing that we want a little bit of interaction with folks.

      However, if the comments begin to spiral into a hootin nanny carnival atmosphere, we’ll certainly revisit the idea.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Good idea Doc B. If the comment threads go nuts, I’ll definitely think about it. One of my online haters has already shown up to show me love.

      Also, you wouldn’t be Doc Emmett Brown, would you?

  • disqus_i49hn6Dtrd

    A skosh too clever, obscuring any substantive message you may have.

    • Lyndon Unger

      You used the word “skosh” and accused me of being too clever. Amazing.

      Would you rather I be boring so the people who aren’t terribly interested would find this LESS palatable?

      • Joe

        This has to be the first time ever that a blog post referencing Top Gun AND Spongebob was considered “a skosh too clever”

      • Kate Snyder

        Wow, that sailed right by you. Your “cleverness” is boring. Not palatable in the least, but nauseating because it’s couched in arrogance. It’s why I stopped reading you. I love good writing (and you write well) and I want to hear the opposition but your Colbert-style sarcasm mixed with religious pride taints everything you have to say.

        • Fred Butler

          Seriously? Religious pride and Colbert-style sarcasm? Talk about seeing things with entirely different glasses. I beg to differ about religious pride (please provide some examples) and where you see Colbert-sarcasm, I see wit, but it is used effectively to expose the profound problems of those with whom he is interacting.

        • Dennis HC

          The irony is strong with this one.

        • Lyndon Unger

          Thanks for the kind and gentle words Kate, but…

          …if you stopped reading me because I actually have the regular potential of inducing vomiting in you, why do you risk your lunch and why are you commenting? Does some evil person have a gun placed at your head forcing you to read and interact with this blog, even right now? If you’re in trouble, quote me some Lynyrd Skynyrd lyrics (like Sweet Home Alabama).

          I’ll send help…and possibly a hot trio basket ( to curry favor with your captors.

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  • Derrick

    Am I having deja vu? Is this different than the reviews you posted long ago?

    • Fred Butler

      No. They will be the same ones, but slightly modified for the Cripplegate audience. It is just a matter of fact that Cripplegate has a much greater readership than what either Lyndon or myself could engage, and we all thought the material was important enough to broadcast to that audience.

  • I must admit I don’t know very much about the subject but I’m enjoying the blog. Keep up the good work!

  • Eric

    Thank you for doing this review. I personally did not realize it was so important to deal w/ until I listened to some of the Strange Fire Conf. via podcast. I have had a hard time talking w/ those I know to be “reformed charismatic”, (Which doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like they said I want reformed theology….except in this area), and the conference has helped me greatly to share truth. I suspect this book review will also be a great help. When it comes to Dr. Brown I am kinda on the baby and bathwater side due to my own personal experience w/ him. I took a week long module class he taught on the book of Jeremiah. I started attending this bible college/seminary the same year the Lord saved me. Looking back there are a lot of things he put forth that I can see now are more tide to his charismatic tendencies than to his “love” of Scripture. It is a false theology that seems to just start permeating everything else. Anyway, thanks for your devotion to truth and helping others, like me, learn.

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