In his fourth chapter of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown interacts with what he calls the “genetic fallacy” argument and errors of “guilt by association.”
First, the “genetic fallacy” is the bogus claim made by John MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference that the charismatic and Pentecostal movements have been corrupt from the beginning. One primary example is MacArthur’s overview of Charles Parham, the scandal-ridden evangelist from Kansas who introduced the tongues phenomenon to 20th century American evangelicals.
While it is true that Parham was beset with personal problems and promoted bad teaching, he was not the originator of tongues. Brown notes how there was a revival in India at least forty years before Parham and his congregations sought to speak in tongues. That revival, led by one John Christian Arulappan, was reported to have had people praising God and speaking in tongues with interpretation [AF, 84-85].
Additionally, if one takes the time to read the history behind the Azusa Street revival, even though William Seymour had been discipled by Parham, the focus of the revival was the pursuit of holiness and salvation in Christ. Thus the picture painted by MacArthur focusing on Parham is misleading and inaccurate since tongues preceded his ministry and the fruits of the revival at Azusa Street was godly evangelism and holy living [AF, 89].
The same flawed thinking is also present regarding the roots of the Brownsville revival in Florida where Brown served for a number of years. It is claimed that Brownsville was sparked by Randy Clarke. He had been prayed for by Word of Faith evangelist, Rodney Howard-Browne, and then went on to start the Toronto laughing revival. Clarke in turn prayed for Steve Hill, the evangelist who brought the revival to Brownsville. Thus it is clear that the Pensacola revival has roots with the Word of Faith movement and Howard-Browne’s loony laughing revival. But the reality, says Brown, is that none of that is true. All the men involved with the Brownsville revival were solid Christians who were discipled by such good men as Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson.
Brown also points out that this kind of “genetic fallacy” argumentation can cut both ways. For example, he notes that MacArthur is Dispensational and believes in a pre-trib rapture. However, Dispensational theology and the pre-trib rapture has its origins with charismatic Scottish Presbyterian minister, Edward Irving. The pre-trib rapture came from a “prophecy” that Margaret MacDonald, a girl in Irving’s congregation, had about the church being rescued before the tribulation. Irving was also instrumental in starting a restoration of premillennialism in Scotland and Great Britain, and J.N. Darby, the principle architect behind Dispensational premillennial theology was heavily influenced by him. Hence, argues Brown, John MacArthur has charismatic roots!
Brown also turns his attention to the “guilt by association” arguments that were raised against him before and after the Strange Fire conference. He begins by pointing out that many folks, including Phil Johnson who was interviewed on his radio program the Monday following the conference, found his affirmation of friendship with NAR prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, extremely problematic. Brown had written in passing on Facebook that he was a friend of Jacobs and considered her a “godly woman,” yet people took those words and attributed an affiliation with her that Brown says he doesn’t have. He isn’t part of the NAR movement, nor does he follow her ministry so that he can adequately comment upon her alleged “prophetic words.” The connection his critics make between him and Jacobs is no different than Strange Fire conference speaker, R.C. Sproul, and his connection to John Gerstner who wrote a book condemning Dispensationalists as heretics. MacArthur is a Dispensationalist, does that make him a heretic and Sproul affirming a heretic, [AF, 95]?
Brown then shows how the genetic fallacy and guilt by association can be applied to the Protestant Reformation and the appeal modern non-charismatics make to the theology that was developed by the key Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Luther, for instance, was a profanely vulgar man in his writings against his enemies. He was also known for pronouncing cruel things against the German peasants such as the necessity of the civil powers to whip, choke, burn, and torture them because of their obstinate ways. When the territorial lords used Luther’s words as reason to kill nearly 100,000 peasants, he was unrepentant that his writings were used to justify their murder. But even worse was Luther’s incendiary language against the Jews. He basically called for their persecution and slaughter. Eventually, Hitler and his Nazi propagandists used Luther’s treatises against the Jewish people to incite German violence against them in November of 1938 at the start of the Holocaust.
Even though he may not have been as personally profane as Luther, John Calvin used his authority to turn Geneva into an oppressive, legalistic concentration camp. He also encouraged the prosecution of heretical dissenters, that even led to a few, including Servetus, to be executed for his false beliefs.
Certainly it would be unfair to judge the entire worth of the Protestant Reformation upon the personal failings of Luther and Calvin. However, the Strange Fire critics attack the charismatic movement according to one standard while defending the Reformers by another. They give men like Luther and Calvin a pass on their foibles, while condemning charismatics for lesser matters.
Concluding his chapter, Brown writes that in his zeal for truth and purity, MacArthur falls into logical error and faulty reasoning when he criticizes charismatics. Furthermore, he employs a double-standard that is not only unfair, but is also unethical according to Scripture. He implores MacArthur to abandon this erroneous thinking about charismatics and Pentecostals and recognize that there are millions of healthy, God-fearing, holy-living charismatic people who love Jesus and are having a worldwide impact for the cause of Christ, [AF, 115].
Analysis and Review
Theology, Fallacy, and Scandal
In principle I believe Brown is correct with his understanding of so-called genetic fallacies and guilt by association arguments. It is ridiculous to say, for example, that “such-and-such a person took a couple of Bible classes at Harvard divinity school, and we all know how liberal and ungodly Harvard divinity school is, so nothing such-and-such says about NT textual criticism can be trusted.” That is the sort of simplistic, shallow thinking found in conspiracy-driven church history taught within a lot of independent, Fundamentalist circles.
However, in this particular instance I believe Brown has misapplied those fallacies to MacArthur. He has provided solid documentation that the roots of the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements are extremely troubling, and I believe, as this series of reviews has shown and will continue to show, that Brown has a self-inflicted myopia to those errors, as well as to how those same errors flourish today.
It doesn’t really matter if later generations of Pentecostals live godly lives (Praise the Lord they do!). However, we can say the same thing about the morality of any misguided group. Mormons have an extremely disturbing history, yet the vast majority of them live exemplary lives of what would be perceived as “godliness” and “holy virtue.” Many Roman Catholics do as well. For what it’s worth, we can even say the same thing about the most vehement atheist. Yet, in spite of their external display of virtue, there are practical ramifications with charismatic theology that negatively impact Christians, and it is not a logical fallacy to identify the root source of those errors.
For example, a few times in his chapter Brown comments upon the “sloppy theology” and “bogus biblical interpretation” [AF, 110] and the “too many scandals” among charismatic leaders [AF, 112]. He even commends MacArthur for not having any “sexual scandal” associated with him [AF, 114]. I find those comments rather telling. They are illustrative of the fact that he recognizes that the overwhelming majority of the horrendously bad teaching and moral scandal that troubles the church today emanates from charismatic ministries. The reason for it has everything to do with the origins of their core theology.
Consider for a moment the terrible events that has played out at IHOP Kansas City during the last couple of years or so in which a young woman who was an intern at IHOP was found dead of an apparent suicide. As her death was investigated, the story started coming together that it may have involved her husband, a graduate of IHOP’s Bible school, ordering her killing to cover over the sexual perversion that was taking place at a Bible study he founded.
Just so that I am clear, I am not saying ALL charismatics are on the verge of starting a sex cult. The reality, however, is that what happened at that Bible study was due largely in part to the historical charismatic view of ongoing personal prophecies. If individual Christians can receive a “word from the Lord” or some “vision” that is granted a special level of authority, who is to say that “word of knowledge” isn’t from God? That perspective regarding God’s communication with Christians is not a minority view among charismatics and Pentecostals, but it is a belief that has been with the entire movement since its inception the last few hundred years.
Tongues of Men
Citing a review Craig Keener gave of the book Strange Fire, Brown implies that MacArthur’s presentation of Pentecostal origins is not only the faulty reasoning of a genetic fallacy, but it is also historically and factually inaccurate. He then tells a story about the manifestations of tongues taking place 40 years before Agnes Ozman allegedly spoke in tongues at Parham’s church.
But contrary to both Keener and Brown, if one reads carefully his chapter detailing the events surrounding Parham [SF, 19-28], MacArthur wasn’t saying that modern tongues originated with Parham and his group.
It is certainly true that various heterodox and pseudo-Christian groups practiced for a number of centuries what is better identified as “ecstatic speech” that has been falsely designated the biblical gift of tongues. Historian Allan Anderson, who Brown cites for the background to the tongues event in India, writes in his book An Introduction to Pentecostalism that Roman Catholics, Quakers, the French Cevenol revivalists, the American Shakers, the Pietists, and even the Moravians practiced “tongues.” But again, those groups were on the extreme fringe of evangelical Christianity and were never considered solidly orthodox if at all.
The point of reviewing Parham’s background is to show that in spite of his later rejection by the entire North American Pentecostal movement and the various scandals and theological heresies that marked his life and ministry, his teaching about tongues had a major impact upon modern era believers. Even Anderson writes,
But there can be no doubt that it was probably Parham more than any other person who was responsible for the theological shift in emphasis to glossolalia as the ‘evidence’ of Spirit baptism in early North American Pentecostalism [Anderson, 35].
It is hardly committing a “genetic fallacy” to point out this historical saga to readers and show how Parham’s theological heresies and idiosyncrasies influenced the majority of 20th century Pentecostals and their views of tongues.
The Apple-Orange Fallacy
If Brown is going to level the charge of genetic fallacy against MacArthur, it would be helpful if he used some accurate comparisons. Instead, he makes what I call an apple-orange fallacy drawing together unrelated subjects to make his point. In this case, he takes to task MacArthur’s Dispensational pretribulationalism claiming that it has roots with charismatic Presbyterian Edward Irving who allegedly had a major influence upon J.N. Darby.
There are a couple of problems with that comparison, however.
First, Brown takes his information from notorious anti-pretribber, Dave MacPherson whose revisionist history has been answered soundly by Thomas Ice, see HERE and HERE. Larry Crutchfield, who wrote The Origins of Dispensationalism: The Darby Factor, notes that while Irving and Margaret MacDonald are the most frequently named as the source for the pretrib rapture, others name Jesuit priest Pierre Lambert as well as another priest, Francisco Ribera as the source [Crutchfield, 202, f.n.154]. No one considers the fact, as Ice shows, that Darby developed his pretrib rapture views from his own personal study from the Word of God apart from any outside influence. That is not to say he was correct; but his views stand and fall upon the legitimacy of his exegesis of the relevant passages.
More importantly, however, is that the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture does not, in and of itself, produce the level of theological error that classical Pentecostalism has with its understanding of tongues. I don’t know of any pretribulationalist who would say that a belief in pretribulationalism is necessary for salvation or is evidence of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oh, I imagine we could conjure up someone from somewhere, but pretty much every Dispensational pretribulationalist I have ever met (my church is full of them) has never taught such a thing.
But if you read the official doctrinal statements from the Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal Church of God, tongues is essential for the Christian experience, especially as a physical evidence that the person has received the baptism in the Spirit. Even Brown’s home church teaches this view about tongues. Extending their teaching about tongues out to the logical conclusion, that would mean all non-Pentecostals who have never “spoken” in tongues would be second-class or second-tier Christians who have never really experienced the Spirit’s work in their lives.
Luther and the Jews; Calvin and Servetus
Time and space do not allow me a full response to Brown’s use of Luther and Calvin as examples of MacArthur’s double-standard when he criticizes charismatics. Besides, there are others who have written much better than I have on those matters. James Swan has a good number of online articles answering the various charges against Martin Luther and his vitriol toward the Jews, and Banner of Truth published a brief article documenting the Calvin and Servetus affair. There are probably a number of other good ones I am unaware of at the moment.
Keep in mind that no one is giving Luther a pass on his works against the Jews. Certainly not MacArthur and the other speakers at the Strange Fire conference. The generations of Lutherans who have followed him have historically rejected his attitude.
Honestly, I thought this was a totally unnecessary and petty section in Brown’s book. If faithful Lutherans today encouraged Antisemitism, he would have a point. It would also be true of any Calvinist who was involved with state sponsored executions for heresy.
My response when anyone raises the objection about Luther and the Jews or Calvin and Servetus is to ask, “Would salvation be monergistic and by faith alone if Luther had never existed?” “What does Ephesians chapter 1 mean if Calvin had never existed?” In those instances, the impact those men had upon reclaiming biblical truth for the Christian church far outweighs their alleged personal scandals. But that is not the case for the vast majority of charismatic leaders both historically and currently.
One of the more ridiculous comparisons Brown raises in this chapter is that of the late Fred Phelps. Brown opines that the folks in the SBC never call out Phelps, a fellow Baptist, so why should he call out all the wacko and cultish charismatics? I can agree that Phelps may gather a lot of attention to himself, but he has zero influence. No one in the SBC bothered to call out Fred Phelps because there are no church plants happening within the SBC who are Westboro Baptist clones. Furthermore, Fred Phelps was never asked to come speak at some of the largest SBC churches in the convention nor was he a keynote speaker at various SBC conferences. That cannot, however, be said about the bizarre elements within charismatic churches and denominations. The crazy stuff happening out of Bethel Redding is penetrating deeply into evangelical communities around the world.
Brown believes he is being unfairly associated with individuals within the charismatic movement who have troubling ministries. He feels that his passing remarks of affirmation of Cindy Jacobs as a “friend he believed to be a godly woman” in response to a comment he received on Facebook have been blown way out of proportion. He spends a couple of pages attempting to place his “friendship” with the NAR prophetess into proper perspective [AF, 94-95]. His critics have attempted to make pathetic “guilt by association” connections in the same fashion as classic independent Fundamentalist do with their so-called principles of secondary separation.
But I find it unsettling that he doesn’t understand the gravity of his passing remarks. When I first raised Brown’s Facebook affirmation of Jacobs in a response article to some of his early criticisms to the Strange Fire conference, I linked to a video of Jacobs claiming that she miraculously multiplied 3 loaves of stale bread to feed 3,000 people at a church in Colorado Springs in the same fashion Jesus fed the 5,000. She then goes on to claim donations she received “miraculously” increased from the time her people counted them after the service to the time they deposited them in the bank.
The question I have is simple: Is she telling the truth? I would think that out of a congregation of 3,000, there would be people who could come forth to verify her story. I am even curious as to which church in Colorado Springs that “miraculous” feeding took place. If she is not telling the truth (and for the record I believe she is a liar), then she, in my opinion, can hardly be considered a “godly woman” and has disqualified herself from any pulpit ministry. (I won’t get into the fact that she is a woman preacher to begin with). Godly people don’t make a habit of constantly lying (1 John 2:21).
Michael Brown is involved with extensive ministry training people in discernment and apologetics. While he may want to downplay his affiliation with Jacobs, the reality is that her braggadocios lies of the miraculous gush forth from the lips of all kinds of charismatic leaders on a weekly basis, claiming such things as going to heaven or being transported to other countries or having the angel Gabriel personally anoint someone to be a prophet.
When a guy of Brown’s stature offers the passing praise of someone like Jacobs as a godly woman whom he considers a friend, it raises flags for those who are familiar with her antics. To dismiss such concerns as being the fallacy of guilty by association passes along a conflicting message to those who are influenced by his teaching, while leaving folks like myself wondering about his discernment.