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

At the Strange Fire conference MacArthur said:

The richer you are in theology, the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. In fact, I sometimes wish the music would all go away, and that I didn’t have to deal with sensations along with my thoughts.[13]

This is an incredible statement in view of the role that music plays in scripture, as in the Psalms, which were all meant to be sung.

In Chapter 9, “A God to be experienced” Brown shares some of his spiritual experiences, and fellowship moments with God. He rightly concludes that God should be experienced, encountered and fellowshipped through many ways, as in the logical understanding of Scripture (MacArthur’s predominant way) but also in miraculous events, and the experiences of intense prayer and worship. Brown believes that the Church as a whole needs perspectives, clear, logical biblical analysis, plus spiritual experiences and the gifts of the Spirit. Right and left brained Christians need each other to share their separate but valid insights.

In Chapter 10 the charismatic and Pentecostal readers can see why Brown has been so moderate in his argumentation and language. He wants constant and meaningful dialogue between fervent cessationists and dedicated continuationists (Spirit-filled believers). Brown is optimistic this can happen. And of course all things are possible with God’s grace and fervent prayer.

As an historian of revivals, I am less optimistic. My study of Pharisees has shown them to be usually proud of their “sound doctrine” to the point where dialog is meaningless. Often they are humble in demeanor in person, but theologically and institutionally arrogant. MacArthur certainly is humble in his broadcasts and teachings, but MacArthur’s angry generalizations and fervent exaggeration, and especially his idolization of “sound doctrine” (i.e. his Calvinism) seems more fitting in the 19th Century when sectarianism was much stronger, than in this age where believers need to honor and respect each other to face together a hostile secular culture.

Church history shows that the damage of the Pharisees to the Church can be substantial. However, it is not irreversible, since the Holy Spirit initiates revivals again in other places and time as He tries to mold the Church into its original New Testament pattern of manifesting the gifts of the Spirit in power, and the character of Christ in Love (1 Cor. 12-14).

I strongly recommend Brown’s Authentic Fire for pastors and those in Christian leadership positions, or for those troubled by the Strange Fire controversy. My only criticism is that the text is perhaps too long and might have been edited down some without losing any of its punch. Its length will force a relatively high price for the print edition, and this will restrict its availability.[14]

 

Reviewed by William L. De Arteaga

 


[1]Much of the initial response to MacArthur’s Strange Fire book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), and its well-staged launch was due to its intemperate nature. See for instance the guarded but negative comments by Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, at: “Galli Report”, posted 10/23/13

[2] From MacArthur’s keynote speech at the “Strange Fire Conference,” Oct 16, 2013. Available at www.standfirmfaith.com

[3](Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1993).

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 (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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