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 by clicking here.

Chapter 7 Summary (I’ve numbered things to make responding easier to follow)

Michael Brown

1. Dr. Brown opens the chapter with a story about James Robison and how he used to be judgmental, until Billy Graham told him to “spend time with other believers you’ve been taught to avoid” (Kindle Location 3482), which transformed him and those whom he reached out to.  Dr. Brown makes the subtle insinuation that John MacArthur avoids other believers because he doesn’t think they are other believers.  Dr. Brown then quotes himself in saying that Heaven will be “a great eye-opener and a great mouth-closer. You will be surprised to see many people there, and many people will be surprised to see you there”  (Kindle Locations 3486-3487), and comments about how people like Bill Johnson and Mike Bickle get condemned by some and praised by others.

Dr. Brown proves that MacArthur doesn’t believe charismatics are believers by pointing to this now infamous tweet:

2. Dr. Brown continues on in the next section, pointing out how the “wholesale condemnation of several hundred millions Christians is totally unmerited” (Kindle Location 3504) and comments on how it’s not exactly the first time in Church history that such angry divisions have occurred, and then gives this post by Tom Chantry as an example of “how unpleasant the rhetoric can get once we start damning one another to hell” (Kindle Locations 3506-3507).  Dr. Brown quotes Chantry as saying:

“Well, if John MacArthur wants to train his fire on them [meaning, the charismatics], I say good for him. CAIR [the Counsel on American-Islamic Relationships] may not actually be terrorists , but I’m all for exposing their giving of aid and comfort to terrorists.” (Kindle Locations 3507-3509). Continue Reading…

good startI recently discovered that it’s possible to have fruit-bearing citrus trees shipped to your house. When you live far from warmth, as I do, affordable fresh fruit is a coveted commodity. So for example, if you buy a fruit-bearing lemon tree, you will typically be sold one that is four to five years old. That’s because the tree, though not old by any sense of the word, is ready to stand without lemon training wheels and lemon baby-walkers. It’s still small, imperfect, and in need of growth, but it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit.

Church planting is similar. Those first five years are critical and determinative. If a church plant makes it to the five-year mark, chances are it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit. That said, the goal at the five-year mark is more than a group of people. At five years, the goal is to have been faithful to implement and maintain biblically sound DNA from which disciples are being made for the glory of God. But, like the fruit tree, having weathered the seed-to-sapling phases, its a great time in church planting to pause and reflect on what God has done by his grace in order to prepare for additional days if the Lord wills.

In yesterday’s post, I set out to share a few lessons learned in five short years of church plant life. Here are a few more:

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5-year-old cancer survivor plays pilot for a dayFive years old. Whether humans or trees, it’s a unique developmental milestone. By the time it’s reached, a degree of discovery combined with struggle has been weathered. In many trees, for example, this delicate, seed-to-sapling stage requires the utmost care and attention to survive. Every variable—soil, sunlight exposure, water, support, etc— has to be dialed in if they will survive the fragile seed-to-sapling stages. And if they do, by five years of age, they are able to stably stand on their own.

Humans are no different. The first five years are critical. Just look at the groggy-eyed, young moms and dads around you. And it’s often said that five years of age is that developmental stage when what kids think they can do and what they actually can do is beginning to line up. They’re figuring out that they can’t fly off the jungle gym. Less attempts are made at riding the trike down the stairs.

Gods graceSo it is in the life of a church plant. If you’ve made it that far, you’ve weathered the uncomfortable and delicate seed-to-sapling stages. Your core team probably still likes each other and has even reproduced itself a few times over. If the church plant is stably standing and bearing some fruit, then you’ve probably weathered a few storms; perhaps almost been toppled by them. You’ve seen a lot of people come. And a lot go. Even had to church discipline a few souls. You have seen that every variable needs to be biblically calibrated by God’s grace.

The church I get to serve is about to turn the green age of five. As such, it’s an opportune time to reflect on lessons learned along the way. Now, though turning 5 is somewhat of a milestone, many more milestones are yet needed. So these are merely some pit-stop lessons as a plant seeks to stand on its own. Hopefully there will be many more. But in the meantime, here are a handful of lessons learned from a 5-year old church plant:

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pillsIn many cities of the Western world, selecting a church can be like shopping for clothes in the defect factory store. You know you need to wear clothes, but every item you try has some spot, snag, or run that catches you eye. You simply have to settle for the one that has the most bearable flaw. Please don’t take my candor for cynicism. I’ve loved all three local churches I’ve been a member of, but was not caught off-guard by discovering their inevitable imperfections.

But what we need to realize is that some unpleasantness inherent to a healthy local church is NOT an imperfection, but a necessary attribute of faithfulness. In some pills it is the active ingredients that make it taste bitter. Here are four bitter pills that you may prefer to avoid swallowing, but should view as a sign that you’ve found a good church home. In fact if all four of these “unpleasantries” were absent it would indicate you’ve stumbled into a dangerously inept church.

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Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
– Philippians 4:5 –

Gentleness (Phil 4;5)This passage of Scripture comes in a list of brief commands that Paul means to demonstrate as the means of remaining spiritually steadfast (cf. Phil 4:1). That list is usually read through very quickly, and this command to be gentle often doesn’t enjoy the extended meditation that it deserves.

But the word is packed with meaning, so much so that the translators have always had a hard time translating the Greek word, epieikes. The verse at the top is the New American Standard Update. The older NAS has, “Let your forbearance,” or “your forbearing spirit be made known to all men.” The ESV says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The HCSB has, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone.”

The commentators don’t help either, as their lists are even longer: gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, generosity. In some measure, all of these concepts are at play in this one word. I thought it would be beneficial to select a number of them and amplify them a bit, so that we can gain a firm grasp on the nature of this duty to which we are called, but which is often easy to overlook. So here are five characteristics of the gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ.

Continue Reading…

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 by clicking here.

afSola Scriptura and Therefore Charismatic

Dr. Brown opens Chapter 6 by recounting his testimony as to why he believes healings and tongues are for today. He begins by telling about his coming to faith in Christ when he was 16 at a Pentecostal church. However, expectations of healing and supernatural happenings that never really materialized in his immediate circles caused him disillusionment.

He left the Pentecostal church in 1977 and began pursuing Reformed, cessationist theology, [AF, 164]. Becoming influenced by such books as B.B. Warfield’s Counterfeit Miracles, he swiftly separated himself from his early experience as a Pentecostal.

When his sister-in-law was miraculously healed of an elbow injury, however, even having her injury called out from an audience of thousands by the speaker, Brown began to reevaluate his hard-heartedness toward miracles he had developed from his cessationist leaning ways. He then experienced his own personal revival at his church where people were slain in the Spirit and spoke in tongues. His heart was set ablaze with a passion for God and being so shocked with what he had encountered with God, he determined to do an intense study of divine healing throughout all of Scripture.

The ultimate determiner of whether or not healings and tongues are still active in the church has to be the Word of God. Non-charismatics like John MacArthur and all the speakers at the Strange Fire conference say they believe in Sola Scriptura, or the great Protestant doctrine of “Scriptures alone.” But Brown asks, “Would anyone really become a cessationist based upon reading the ‘Scriptures alone?'” [AF, 169]. If a Christian was to seriously study the “Scriptures alone,” there is no way he could conclude that any of the spiritual gifts, especially tongues and healings, have ceased.

He then turns to an extensive study demonstrating that cessationism cannot possibly be the conclusion a Christian will come to if he was to read the “Scriptures alone.”

Continue Reading…

For those who have found my Twitter profile or read my bio-slug, you may have guessed that I’m kinda a Mennonite.  When I say “kinda”, I mean “pure-blooded Russian Mennonite stock on both sides, raised in a Mennonite Brethren Church, first words were in plautdietsch, generally in theological agreement with Mennonites as far as historic Orthodoxy, but neither attending a Mennonite Brethren Church nor really welcome in those circles by any stretch of the imagination”.  D.A. Carson has once said something along the lines of that this generation of Mennonites have forgot the gospel but hung onto Christian social entailments, and he’s generally correct.

Carson said it, not me.

I’m agreeing with D. Sizzle.

D Sizzle

Now why do I bring up my Mennonite heritage? Continue Reading…

June 10, 2014

Upon This Rock

by Nathan Busenitz

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Simon, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Roman Catholics interpret Matt. 16:18 to mean that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built. That interpretation then becomes the basis for the doctrine of papal succession. If Peter is the rock on which the church is built, and if the bishops of Rome are Peter’s successors, then it follows, they say, that the papacy remains the foundation of the church.

But that is not at all what Matthew 16:18 teaches.

The name “Peter” was a nickname given to Simon by Jesus, all the way back in John 1:42 when Peter first met Jesus. Coming from the Greek word petros (or the Aramaic word “Cephas”), the name Peter means “Rock” or “Stone.” To use an English equivalent, Peter means “Rocky.” Continue Reading…

September 1, 1939 was the first day of Autumn in Europe. It was also the first day of World War II. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, a series of defence treaties catapulted the Allies–Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Egypt, and later USA– into an inexorable confrontation with the Axis (Germany, Austria, Italy, and later Japan).sprouting

One visible sign that the United Kingdom was at war was that key government buildings in London were fortified with thousands of sandbags, meant to absorb enemy gunfire, and protect the walls and foundations from the percussive shock of bomb blasts. Armies were mobilized, theatres were closed, night life was put on indefinite pause, and the population of Europe nervously awaited Hitler’s next move.

And do you know what happened next? Nothing. For all of September Hitler did nothing aggressive so the Allies did nothing defensive. Perhaps Chamberlain had been right and Hitler, like an overfed dragon, was now appeased by the hearty chunk of Europe he had already consumed.

And do you know what happened in October? Nothing. Then, November, December, January, March, and April all ticked by, uneventfully (although Norwegians would rightly decry my definition of “uneventful”). Compared to what had been anticipated after the First World War, all was quiet on the Western front.

In France Edward Daladier was given near dictatorial wartime power to conscript labor, but he elected not to. Factories that could have been making ammunitions, still cranked out civilian consumer goods, food remained un-rationed, as did gasoline, ski slopes were reopened to tourists and the Cote D’Azure resorts and night clubs in Paris were soon back in full swing. French soldiers were even granted leave to go home until they were needed.

sandbags in londonIn London, well into 1940, idle soldiers were seen napping on deck chairs in Hyde Park and casually feeding the ducks. King Lear was still on show. The Times newspaper had nothing to report about the war and turned it’s attention to the return of migrating swallows and cuckoos to the British Isles.

Alfred Duff Cooper made his fatuous announcement to an American audience that Britain and France had, “found a new way to make war without loss of human life.”  One unpopular Cassandra was Winston Churchill, who passionately warned the Allies not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

And then, one day in May 1940, after nine months of almost no action… something ominous occurred in London: the sandbags, which had fortified the walls of government buildings, all began spontaneously to burst.

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And [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

- Luke 18:9–14 -

Pharisee and Publican

What intrigues me about the Pharisee in this passage is that he thanked God for his moral uprightness and religious devotion. He is not claiming, perhaps like the rich, young ruler did, that he had kept God’s law and thus is deserving of eternal life. He doesn’t believe that he’s earned his salvation by works of righteousness achieved apart from divine grace. No, he goes to thank God for the grace and charity that God had worked in him, by which he has become acceptable to God. He believes that he is justified by his faith in God as well as the good works which proceed from the divinely-imparted righteousness inherent within him. And he does not go to his house justified.

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