Sunday, January 5, 2014

book review--Authentic Fire by Michael Brown

not the worst book i've read, but maybe the most disappointing

This book is a response to Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur.There is some meat in this book. A lot of the goofiness that fills so many books from those on the charismatic side of things is absent here. Brown's defense of continuationism in chapter 6 is at least plausible, though I've seen some cessationist arguments that are equally so, too.

But there are simply times when Brown's arguments are far from convincing, and seem, at best, forced.

For example, when he goes on about what he refers to as the genetic fallacy, it reminded me how often I've heard or read of charismatic churches or organization go on about their spiritual genetics or spiritual DNA, holding up those in the past as examples to followed. For example, in Jesus Culture: Living a Life That Transforms the World, the author, while not completely denying their faults, holds up several very questionable people as example of those he considers to be revivalists.

If that is considered a legitimate practice, then MacArthur's referring to the at best questionable aspect to Azusa Street and those who lead it is no less legitimate.

To my mind, one of the most questionable things Brown does is an attempt to spin some stats about how popular the prosperity gospel has become across the world. "What the Strange Fire camp did not emphasize strongly enough (or, at times, at all) was that: 1) A majority of the population in some of the countries surveyed is extremely poor, which means that "material prosperity" for many of these believers simply meant, "Having enough food for my family so we won't starve," or, "Having a roof over my head that doesn't leak." Is it so heretical to believe that God will grant that to His children? 20 (Note that, according to some estimates, 70% of the world's population lives on less than $ 3 per day.)" (Kindle Locations 2195-2199).

I'm not sure how Brown concludes that because a majority of people are in extreme poverty, than that means they are not open to believing the prosperity gospel. Do not prosperity gospel preachers prey on the very poor as well as the more well-off? To show the truth behind the stat without Brown's attempt at spin, I'd like to recommend this book Where Are We Heading To? by Thuso Kewana, an African minister who has seen the damage done by the prosperity gospel. It's a short book, well worth reading. He mentions, for example, pastors who boast about how much their suits cost, or one who taught that those who do not tithe should be cast out from the church.

An article by Sam Storms favorably reprinted in this book sums up the main problem with the current charismatic movement, no matter if Brown's arguments concerning continuationism are valid or not. Storms tries to defend the idea the modern-day prophets do not have to live up to the plainly stated OT standard of being completely correct in the prophetic words they give, but can made mistakes, and he even tries to read between the lines of certain NT passages to find this idea of his, though it is not plainly taught in the NT. A good response to this kind of teaching is this book, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism: An Analysis, Critique, and Exhortation Concerning the Contemporary Doctrine of "Fallible Prophecy" by Michael Beasley, and I recommend it pretty highly.

If this book left me with one overriding impression, it's that, with the best will in the world, Brown is insuring that nothing in the charismatic churches is going to change. False prophets will continue to prophecy falsely, and charismatics will not do much about it because they are too afraid of "quenching the Spirit" (as if God was not the one who set up the standard of perfection in prophecy). The prosperity gospel will continue to spread, especially as it is currently morphing in the pursuit of one's dreams and living a fulfilled life, and there will be little or no accountability concerning it. The craziness will continue, and will continue to get worse and worse, and Brown will continue to get more worked up over those who try to expose and refute it than anyone actually spreading it.

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