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Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by Daniel Snape

As the book develops, it is clear that Brown has a genuine desire to address the seemingly divisive nature of Strange Fire. Taking the reader on a brief tour of church history that includes the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon and the drowning of Anabaptists by misguided reformers, Brown makes allusions to present day criticism of MacArthur but assures the reader, “Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not comparing the Strange Fire movement to these murderous, dastardly acts. But I am saying that we need to step back in the midst of our self-confident divisions over ‘orthodoxy’ and start listening to each other and making efforts to understand each other before we pronounce each other hell-bound heretics. Surely there are lessons to be learnt from the past” (p231).

In chapter 9, Brown takes on a more personal tone, asking the question, “Are you enjoying real fellowship with God?” (p273). Sharing several personal accounts including his experience as a new believer, he contrasts this against MacArthur’s largely intellectual approach. “What about just having an overflowing outburst of love for Jesus,” Brown asks, “which doesn’t always come from a deeper “understanding of the truth of God?… Is the choice only between “shallow content- less, superficial hysteria’ and rich theology?” (p285-86). Using the context of worship, Brown questions the notion that one style of music or form of worship is more valid than another. There is much food for thought in this chapter but Brown emphasizes that Christians have a God who desires intimate relationship and that this cannot found through the intellect and reason alone.

Dr. Brown ends his book the way he began: with a voice of respect and desire for healthy reconciliation and debate. He also notes, though, that Strange Fire will likely have unintended consequences. Observing that one of the positive outcomes of the Strange Fire conferences will be charismatics looking “more seriously at some of their most glaring serious errors”, Brown further comments that “Everything else will result in the opposite of what was intended.” (p310). Time will tell if Dr. Brown is right or not, but what the reader is left with coming away from Authentic Fire is the seeming contrast of Brown’s honest and humble desire for open and healthy dialogue that both celebrates and criticizes, where necessary, the diversity of the church and John MacArthur’s apparent distrust and disapproval of such diversity.

Reviewed by Daniel P. Snape


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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: Daniel P. Snape, D.Min (Boston University School of Theology), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Senior Pastor of Community Congregational Church, Billerica, Massachusetts. He also works and ministers as a chaplain in the Boston area. Facebook.

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