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Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by Loren Sandford


Are Pentecostals offering Strange Fire? (Panel Discussion)

Authentic FireMichael L. Brown, Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire (Excel Publishers, Dec 12, 2013), 418 pages.

In my review of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, I pointed out what I considered to be inexcusable intellectual dishonesty regarding the Charismatic Movement and its contributions to worldwide Christianity. Blanket statements were made with little documentation or knowledge of those within the movement who have made strong intellectual, scholarly and corrective statements. MacArthur singled out rare abuses and presented them as if they characterized the entire movement.

I therefore find Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire to be, not only an appropriate response, but a devastating rebuttal so thoroughly documented and footnoted as to be almost overwhelming. He treats John MacArthur with due respect, while confronting massive errors and refraining from any hint of the mocking tone so prevalent in Strange Fire. In doing so, he doesn’t hesitate to point out areas of concern that thinking charismatics share with MacArthur. What I called inexcusable and dishonest in Strange Fire, Brown characterizes as an enormous blind spot, granting MacArthur some benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, he truthfully poses an indictment: “You see, it is one thing to address serious errors and abuses, as I and others have done. It is another thing to fail to recognize and, worse still, mock the contemporary work of the Spirit, to vilify godly leaders, and to damn to hell countless millions of brothers and sisters in Jesus.”

Brown has done his homework. With numerous quotes from works of the likes of Derek Prince, David Wilkerson, John Wimber, Leonard Ravenhill, Oswald Chambers, A. W. Tozer and a host of others, he makes an ironclad case for the existence of sound theology and biblical practices within mainstream charismatic circles. He does this without denying the occasional abuses that have obviously occurred, but puts them in their proper perspective.

As an insider to the Charismatic Renewal, Brown points out, not only abuses that need correction, but failures in discernment as happened, for instance, in the Lakeland Revival. Far from denying that abuses and failures exist, he includes confessions like this one addressing the “coronation” of Todd Bentley: “Although I never attended any of the meetings and watched only two services online, one of them absolutely horrified me, as some of the most respected charismatic leaders in the nation gathered to lay hands on the main leader, Todd Bentley, in what seemed to be kind of a coronation service. Some of these men were friends of mine, and I was so grieved over what was taking place that I had to turn the meeting off, unable to watch what seemed to be almost an act of self-mockery.”

As a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976, I have no trouble reading scholarly works. That being said, I find Authentic Fire almost daunting in its documentation, bordering on the tedious in its thoroughness. I mean this as a shining compliment. This is no short paperback meant for devotional or inspirational reading by the average person. In Authentic Fire, by means of an avalanche of actual fact and exposure of faulty reasoning, errors in scholarship, presentation of misinformation, use of faulty biblical exegesis and ignorance of actual revival history in MacArthur’s work are effectively refuted.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: R. Loren Sandford died on September 17, 2021. He was the eldest son of John and Paula Sandford, widely recognized as pioneers in the charismatic renewal, prophetic ministry and inner healing. A graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, Loren entered full time ministry in 1976 and was the founding pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. As well as traveling internationally as a conference and seminar speaker, he was the author of numerous books, including: Burnout: Renewal in the Wilderness (1998), Purifying the Prophetic: Breaking Free from the Spirit of Self-fulfillment (Chosen, 2005), Understanding Prophetic People: Blessings and Problems with the Prophetic Gift (Chosen, 2007), The Prophetic Church: Wielding the Power to Change the World (Chosen, 2009), Renewal for the Wounded Warrior: A Burnout Survival Guide for Believers (Chosen, 2010), Visions of the Coming Days: What to Look for and How to Prepare (Chosen, 2012), Yes, There’s More: A Return to Childlike Faith and a Deeper Experience of God (Charisma House, 2015), A Vision of Hope for the End Times: Why I Want to Be Left Behind (2018), and The Last Great Outpouring: Preparing for an Unprecedented Move of God (2020). Married since 1972, he and Beth have two daughters and one son who have collectively given them nine grandchildren. Loren was also a member of the Osage Nation, a Native American heritage he deeply treasured. Twitter: @pastorrls

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