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Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by William De Arteaga

However, it has been the sad fate of the Spirit-filled Churches, and much to the disservice of revivals, that these prophetic critics are largely ignored. Thus, with abuses in theology and preaching not sufficiently corrected, God allows another form of critic to arise, much like the Babylonian invaders of ancient Judah, to pillage and lay waste to revivals. This type of critic sees only error and exaggeration in revival. I called this type of critic a “Pharisee” in my earlier work Quenching the Spirit. There I define a Pharisee as an orthodox believer, who has a fine grasp of traditional theology, but cannot recognize a new move of the Holy Spirit.[7] I must note immediately that Brown, who is aware on my work on revivals, does not label MacArthur’s Strange Fire, or his earlier anti-charismatic work, Charismatic Chaos, as works of phariseesism.[8] He does this, I believe, in order to leave a better atmosphere for dialogue with MacArthur and his followers (see below).

Brown’s Authentic Fire is a lengthy work that is divided into ten chapters. The current “E-book” edition, and the only version available at this time of this review, runs to 418 pages, and includes three short appendixes by Pentecostal/charismatic scholars.

Chapter 1 of Authentic Fire documents how MacArthur has declared all-out war on the Pentecostals and charismatics, with his assertions that they have made no positive contribution to Christianity, in ether biblical scholarship, or worship, or anything of value. Brown begins his refutation of these outrageous charges by showing that many non-charismatic church leaders and scholars, not noted for being charismatic, were offended by the tone and exaggerations in Strange Fire. As for instance Timothy George, dean of the divinity school at Stanford University, who calls MacArthur’s approach and accusations, “both myopic and irresponsible.”[9]

In Chapter 2, “Embracing Authentic Fire,” Brown points out that all revivals have had irregular edges where abuses are found, and readily admits to the abuses within the Charismatic movement. However, Brown points out a bevy of leaders (prophetic critics), such as himself and Derek Prince (1915-2003), who have spoken out forcefully against such abuses, as in lack of holiness among many in positions of authority. These critiques seek to separate the good of revival from the exaggerated and unscriptural, but not condemn the whole.

Chapter 3 is titled, “The Great Big Blind Spot.” Here Brown documents how MacArthur has ignored vast areas of evidence of the “good fruit” found within Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. While MacArthur insists that no worthwhile biblical scholarship has proceeded from the Pentecostal and charismatic founts, Brown lists the work of many excellent Pentecostal and charismatic Biblical scholars. He begins by naming Gordon Fee, who for decades taught at Wheaton College and Regent College in Vancouver, both banner Evangelical colleges. Fee contributed a volume to the prestigious New International Commentary series. Another top scholar that Brown cites as making major contributions to Biblical scholarship and understanding is Craig S. Keener. His biblical commentaries have received the “Best Book” award numerous times from Christianity Today—an incredible achievement and honor from America’s banner Evangelical magazine. Brown continues by citing a half dozen other prominent theologians and philosophers who are Pentecostal or charismatic. MacArthur’s charge in this matter is exposed as ignorant and factually in error.

MacArthur stated both in his book and the “Strange Fire Conference” that the Charismatic movement has produced “Nothing that enriches true worship.” Brown points out that the contrary is true. Most evangelical churches incorporate worship music from such charismatic musicians such as Darlene Zschech and the Hillsongs group, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, or the numerous praise songs developed out of the Vineyard churches including the song “Isn’t He.” MacArthur’s accusation on this matter becomes utterly astounding.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2014

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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