Authentic Fire, by Michael Brown

IMG_6908-320x500I read this book in one sitting after reading “Strange Fire” by John MacArthur in two or three sittings (the review of that book is forthcoming). Even though, on balance, I am very critical of this book I do admit that Dr. Brown makes some valid points. He is right, for example, to point out the overly broad brush with which MacArthur painted (though, I do not think MacArthur was criminally broad – just a little too sweeping in some of his comments about modern charismatics).

Even so, Dr. Brown’s book is not a substantial response to Strange Fire (the conference or the book). Perhaps, it would have been more meaty had the author even tried to address the real arguments that MacArthur raised. But he doesn’t, with the exception of a few appeal-to-authority type arguments (e.g., “Dr. Schreiner, a top New Testament scholar, says…”)

In the end, the most devastating arguments MacArthur makes against the modern charismatic movement are not even addressed, and Brown would have been wise to do so if he wanted to truly be taken seriously. For example, MacArthur pointed out that prophecy and tongues have been redefined by the modern charismatic movement in a way that would be unrecognizable to the Apostles. Prophecy, as most modern charismatics define it, is a message from God that can be mixed with error and does not have binding authority. Do we see that in the New Testament? MacArthur demonstrated a clear biblical ‘no’ to that question and Brown ignored this in his response. And the gift of tongues is often defined (and practiced) as a private, untranslatable “language”, used to edify the church, demonstrate the filling of the Spirit or as a private Spirit-filled worship experience. Strange Fire made the case that tongues were never that in the New Testament – but were real foreign languages miraculously spoken by people who had never studied them (Acts 2). Again, Brown chose not to engage. Is that because his own positions are, in fact, biblically untenable?

As an aside, one of my favorite charismatic-reformed pastors is Matt Chandler, and he defines the sign gifts exactly this way in his most recent sermon at the Village Church. (Click here to listen to Chandler on the gifts). He is wrong on this, but he is wrong with considerable style.

While I think Dr. Brown is spot on with a few of his denunciations of MacArthur’s straw-men arguments and sweeping generalizations, this book is not a worthy response to Strange Fire because it fails to engage the more serious arguments. Instead, Brown dismisses them with a pithy quote from a scholar or with no argument at all – and, more importantly, with no exegesis at all, and that is ironic, since he claims that MacArthur handled the Word poorly.

Oh, and Sam Storms writes in his endorsement that “Authentic Fire” is “biblically-robust“. Really? Sam should probably fire the assistant who summarized the book to him.


The Most Intolerant Tolerance

Originally published in the June 4, 2014 edition of The Chadron Record.

Mass-ConfusionThere is no denying that America is in the throes of a revolution – only this time it is not merely political. It is a moral revolution, and its battle fields are state and federal legislatures, the courts, the media, social media and workplace water coolers around the country. The revolution is winning. Things that were considered wrong and immoral by a majority of Americans only a few years ago are now celebrated, even by politicians who once held that these things are wrong (they voted for them after voting against them).

Two major banners being flown in this revolution are homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I am on the wrong side of history on both of these issues. At least, that is what those on the left say. They say that about everyone who believes that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

If that were all that they said, that would be fine. We could still converse, argue our cases and, in the end, we could even agree to disagree. However, they say much more. Just ask Brendan Eich, the former CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. He was forced to resign recently because it became known that six years ago he financially supported California’s Proposition 8 campaign (Proposition 8 was a constitutional amendment that briefly banned same-sex marriage in the state until it was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court). Mr. Eich’s intolerant views were enough for some on the left to decide that they could no longer tolerate him.

Those who preach tolerance are often decidedly intolerant. They are intolerant of intolerance. And yes, I know that that sentence makes no sense. It is not possible to be intolerant of intolerance without being intolerant of yourself (and most of us have a hard enough time tolerating ourselves!). One wonders what sort of America those on the left envision. An America that is sublimely tolerant? That is how many say it. But one has to define terms; their idea of tolerance is tolerating everyone who thinks the same and refusing to tolerate those who disagree. Those on the winning side (sadly) of this moral revolution are the most intolerant lovers of tolerance that the world has seen in a very long time.

And if that doesn’t make sense to you, then you are, at the very least, sane.


41 Years of Roe v. Wade

HT: Justin Taylor


Pastoral Bullies, Insecure Pastors, and Wise Advice from Sam Storms

I just ran across three important articles about pastoral leadership by Sam Storms. I found them instructive and insightful – and I think the wisdom here serves pastors well.

imagesThe first post is an article about Pastoral Bullies. It is a warning against domineering over those in your care. Pastor bullies domineer in many ways, and none of them are healthy. For example, a pastoral bully “domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian.” And he domineers when “he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.” In the end, the pastor is leading by cult of personality and not by the principles of Scripture. Read the whole thing – well worth the 5 minutes it might take.

The second article is related, but goes deeper. Pastoral Bullies are Bullies because they are personally insecure and their domineering is their way of compensating. That is helpful, because it goes beyond the heavy-handed domineering to the heart issue.

Storms demonstrates that pastoral insecurity can be easily identified. For example, pastors who are personally insecure do not receive criticism well (at all!). Storms writes that constructive criticism “is rather perceived as a threat or outright rejection.” He goes on to observe that a pastor who is insecure is often controlling, given to micro management, resistant to those who genuinely want to help him in his spiritual walk, etc. Thus, an insecure pastor will stunt his own spiritual growth (which complicate things further).  Helpfully, Storms points out that this insecurity is patently a fruit of the sin of pride. A lot of good meat to chew on. You can read the whole thing here.

Finally, and on the positive side, Sam Storms gives Some Words of Counsel for Pastors; advice that he has gleaned in 40+ years of pastoral ministry. Like the other two, this short post is also worth reading (for everyone who loves the church, not just pastors).



150 Years Ago…


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863