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”.
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:
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!
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.
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.