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Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by John King

There are, however, five signs that positively indicate a move of the Spirit. Does the move exalt Jesus, lead to Truth, result in increase love for God, turn the recipient from Satan and sin, and produce a hunger for The Word of God? Brown debates these points with incontrovertible logic. Brown refers to: “mountains of data that flatly contradict [MacArthur’s] conclusions.”

Back in 1977, Brown became disillusioned by the sham he observed in healing services—fake healings— which led him to investigate cessationism. He had a serious problem, though, in trying to prove from God’s Word that charismatic gifts had discontinued with the completion of our Bible. He became convinced that cessationism was exegetically impossible. He would return to a belief in continuationism.

In 1980, there was an outpouring of the Spirit in Brown’s church in which congregants, unlearned in Pentecostal phenomena, began to experience a move of God’s Spirit among them. Some began speaking in tongues. Brown continued to question his theology. He relates this personal side of his investigations into Pentecostalism. He was working on his doctoral dissertation at the time and changed his topic of research from “Idioms in the Hebrew Bible” to “I am the LORD your Healer” (Editor’s note: Michael Brown’s dissertation was later published by Zondervan in 1995 as Israel’s Divine Healer).

Not because of any experience but because of his research into God’s message on healing, Brown turned once again back to Pentecost—more persuaded than ever—that regardless of personal observation or the testimony of others, divine healing is part of God’s work for His people according to His Word. Brown, then, proceeds to define charismatic phenomena—not in observational terms but—in Scriptural terms: Sola Scriptura. Brown referred to this as “bow[ing] to the testimony of the Word.”

Brown, at this point in writing Authentic Fire,was careful to check his guns at the door. Church history is strewn with the bodies of the saints killed by “saints.” At many times in church history, flaming rhetoric exploded into physical confrontation. In the name of Christ, Christians have killed each other with a zeal which is as inexplicable as it is not of God.

Chapter 6 cautions the reader against any brand of abuse against another believer. “We need each other,” says Brown. Even though Brown is talking about Baptists needing charismatics and Pentecostals needing the Reformed, Brown recognizes he needs MacArthur. Avoid calling any believer a false teacher. None of us are 100% correct in what we say or believe.

Seek to understand each other and major on the majors. Brown urges us to: “Let the exaltation of the Lord Jesus be our ultimate passion.” Yes, Brown broke out into sermon in the middle of a theological discourse, but it was profoundly necessary and timely. Brown reiterates that cessationism is a false and unbiblical teaching, but cessationists are not false teachers. Brown urges his senior brother, Pastor MacArthur, not to paint other believers with such a broad brush to see all charismatics as evil doers—condemning the good with the bad.

In the chapter: Spirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain, Brown remarks: “I, for my part, am convinced that my cessationist friends have much to offer to us charismatics.” Brown sees a balance between prayer and Bible study, seeking and studying, the display of God’s empowerment and searching Scripture to stay grounded in the truth. He views this as a right brain-left brain unity—a Cessationist-charismatic symbiosis. Brown calls it a cross-pollination which accordingly should produce a spiritual approach that addresses “Baptist boredom” and “Charismatic chaos.” He proposes replacing fanaticism and formalism with dynamic service. He describes it as an effective union in the Lord.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: John H. King, M.Th., retired from the pastorate after serving congregations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts for over 24 years and now develops software for the financial services industry. He is the author of Challenged: Living Our Faith in a Post Modern Age.

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