Lyndon and I finished up our main, chapter-by-chapter review of Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Authentic Fire, a response to the Strange Fire conference and John MacArthur’s book by the same name. The links to those reviews of the ten chapters can be located HERE.
There are four appendices included with Authentic Fire written by four guys supportive of Dr. Brown’s criticisms of the Strange Fire conference. When Lyndon and I discussed the chapter reviews, we focused upon interacting with Dr. Brown’s chapters and didn’t really discuss including a review of the each of the appendices.
Of the four appendices, the first one written by Craig Keener is the only one really begging for a review. Lyndon, thankfully, dove in and provided that here,
The review is long and exhausting, but it is worth reading every word, because Lyndon, in my mind, totally lays to waste the idea that Keener is some sort of trustworthy expert on the charismatic movement and modern day miracles. It has always baffled me why otherwise sound-thinking people would latch onto Keener as the go-to “scholar” just because he wrote a 2 volume work on miracles.
The first volume has some positive things to say against anti-supernaturalism, but as I have argued, and as Lyndon also argues in his latest review of Keener’s appendix, cessationists are not anti-supernatural. Never have been. Just because cessationists aren’t convinced some guy with a sore neck was healed at a tent revival doesn’t mean they are anti-supernatural.
I realize a number of folks <cough> Steve Hays <cough> will complain that Keener’s research involves much more than recounting anecdotal stories about people, their sore knees, and getting healed at a tent revival, but honestly, that is exactly what Keener does. It’s a joke, really, and a waste of 40 bucks if you purchase the 2 volumes thinking he has documented some awe-inducing scholarly evidence proving modern day faith healers walk among us.
As Lyndon demonstrates in his review, the fact that Keener is willing to give a pass to the most outrageous and ridiculous charismatic nonsense is worrisome. His dismissal of the profound problems with African prosperity gospel charismaticism as being non-existent is also troubling, if not demonstrable of his naive, Pollyannish view of Pentecostalism in third world countries.
Yet even more disturbing is how apologetic ministries like STR and even Triablogue, with whom I have gone a few rounds regarding charismaticism (and will more than likely respond to this very post), are so supportive of the guy as if he is unanswerable with rock solid argumentation.
Lyndon has done a good job interacting with what Keener presents, and his review of his appendix, which really is a way, way scaled down version of his books on miracles, gives you a glimpse into why he has not really provided anything meaningful in response to the Strange Fire conference specifically, and to cessationsim in general.
To the Reader: I wrote this back in 2008. Seeing the Four Blood Moon thing starts tonight – well, tomorrow morning like at 12 midnight for us folks here in CA, I thought I would repost it for a laugh.
OK, let me say up front I hesitate to post this because it may give people the impression that I am easily led into hysterical end-time dating setting.
So with that disclaimer in mind,
A friend recently sent me an email asking my opinion about a video presentation by a Messianic Jewish pastor up in Washington state by the name of Mark Biltz. He runs an outfit called, El Shaddai Ministries.
Here’s the video: Linking Eclipses to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ [2014: Sorry, the link has since gone dead]
Essentially, in a nut shell, pastor Mark has done a study linking solar and lunar eclipses to what could be possibly the second coming of Jesus. (Are the glory bumps shouting yet?)
Working from Genesis 1:14ff., where God establishes the sun, moon, and stars to be for signs, seasons, years, and days, and calculating in how the yearly Jewish festival calendar is built around the monthly lunar/solar cycles, Biltz takes the prophetic expressions about the sun going black and the moon turning to blood (Joel 2:31, etc.) to speak to the cosmological signs of solar and lunar eclipses.
He then talks about how there is a cosmological phenomenon of 4 total lunar eclipses in a row. The next time this happens, according to the NASA website dedicated to tracking the eclipse cycle, is in the years 2014 and 2015. There will be two total eclipses of the moon in 2014, one during the spring on passover, the next in the fall on, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Then a total solar eclipse happens between the next set of lunar eclipses, which again fall upon the spring Passover and the fall Sukkot in 2015.
The last time this phenomenon happened was during the 6-Day War in 1967, at least according to Biltz understanding of the NASA website. Where I sort of got lost following his calculations is with him tying these two eclipse occurrences together with the Jews recapturing Jerusalem in 1967 and the 48 years or so that passes until 2015. Suffice it to say, if he is on to something, so he says during his presentation, then moving back 7 years from 2015 is 2008, which could mean the tribulation will start in the fall of 2008!
How are those glory bumps now?
Biltz claims he is not date setting, and in fact has attempted to clarify any misunderstandings of his information to suggest he is setting dates.
The video is two 25-minute presentations he gave that are edited together, so it is about 50 minutes of time to watch what he has to present. There are also a couple of pages containing his notes and charts outlining his information. [2014: Again, sorry, but those links are now dead].
A few personal thoughts:
First, I appreciate his exhortation to watchfulness. I think Reformed-minded Christians like myself have failed in cultivating an attitude of watching for the return of our glorious Lord. Much of it has to do, I am sure, with a reaction against the ridiculous sci-fi style eschatology that reads eschatology into current events or is played out in fantasy novels. Also, Reformed folks tend to busy themselves reforming culture and churches that they are dismissive of watching and waiting for the second coming. We need to be on the alert that we are not becoming overly unbalanced in reaction to bad eschatology that we forget the importance of eschatology.
Second, I happen to think there is something to the sun, moon, and stars being used of God to demonstrate specific cosmological signs pointing to specific eschatological events. I am not of the opinion that the prophetic expression “the sun turns to darkness and moon turns to blood” is merely a figurative motif speaking of God’s sudden and disastrous change by His moving in judgment. I can first recall reading this perspective in Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn’s anti-dispensational screed, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, and though the idiom may only be figurative in some prophetic contexts, I still believe the illustration is attached to genuine cosmological signs.
Third, I also think Christ fulfilled the spring feasts of Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost with His first coming, and He will fulfill the fall feasts of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles with His second coming.
Fourth, I believe Biltz’s tying the eclipses of 2015 to the 1967 6-day war is problematic. I believe there could be a debate as to whether the State of Israel possessed all the land, or all of Jerusalem at that time.
Fifth, I am curious as to where these total eclipses will be noticeable. Are they suppose to be total in Israel? Does it matter if they are only seen in their totality, say in India, or North America? How does that impact Biltz’s conclusions?
Now, I personally would like to read the comments of anyone willing to leave one. I particularly would like to read the opinions of Reformed amillennialists and postmillennialists. I know you guys are out there. I understand Biltz’s material is easy to be dismissed as the off the wall views of a crack-pot, but I would like to read a meaningful interaction with what he presents from your particular eschatological perspective. If of course you are so inclined.
If you don’t get around to it by October, then I guess it will be otherwise meaningless.
Various articles defending cessationism, answering continuationist arguments, and discussing spiritual gifts in general.
A Mess in the Maternity Ward [Off site at the GTY blog. My article answering Dr. Michael Brown's criticisms of John MacArthur a few months before the Strange Fire conference]
Mennoknights Top 50 Churches Charismatic Super Primer [Off site at Lyndon Unger's blog. His review and analysis of the top 50 churches in America]
Appendix 1 [Interacting w/ Craig Keener]
I personally believe gay “Christian” apologetics will be something Bible-believing Christians will need to prepare themselves to contend with. The issue of homosexuality is becoming increasingly heated in our society over the last few years and it will only get hotter in the years to come. The one thing currently going in favor for Christians, however, is that the revisionist arguments put forth by gay “Christians” in an attempt to twist the Bible to allow a homosexual lifestyle are not too sophisticated.
Their arguments are not built upon any meaningful exegesis of the biblical text, but around the re-defining of certain original language words, and then re-inserting them back into the narrative or doctrinal passage in order to make the text teach something utterly foreign to what the original writer intended. This “apologetic” allows the re-interpreter to infer certain points in the passage under scrutiny and draw conclusions that may never had been apart of what the original writer of Scripture meant to convey.
For example, one reference is from Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 where a centurion comes to Jesus and asks for Him to heal his servant. Luke’s gospel records that this was a servant dear to the centurion. In describing the servant of the centurion, Matthew employs the unique word pais. From these two bits of information, gay apologist conclude that this was a centurion and his homosexual partner in view here, because a) the servant is dear to the centurion’s heart, and b) the word pais is used to describe the servant, and it is a special word of endearment.
Much of their argument hinges on the use of pais to describe the servant. What are we to make of that?
It is true that pais is an unusual word to describe a servant. Normally, other words like doulos are often used. But, are we to conclude the use of pais means a homosexual partner is being described in the Gospel narrative?
Most commentators understand this word to be in reference to a child-servant or a servant who is younger than an adult. In fact, the word “child” is the main definition given in the standard language dictionaries for pais. Additionally, Luke uses pais to describe Israel as God’s servant in Luke 1:54 and David being the Lord’s servant in Luke 1:69. Surely our homosexual apologists wouldn’t conclude there was a homosexual relationship between the Lord and Israel or David? But nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to gay arguments of the absurd.
One of the ways gay “revisionists” will build their case is to cite unrelated, irrelevant ancient language sources as to why such-and-such a word should be understood according to their homoerotic twist.
For example, they will claim that pais is a synonym for the word eromenos, a word that is found in extra-biblical sources like Plato’s Symposium. The word, it is claimed, has the meaning of “the boy you love,” and denotes a homosexual relationship, and would imply a homoerotic relationship between the centurion and his slave-boy.
No serious biblical lexicon or language dictionary ever makes this connection. It doesn’t matter how Plato may have used a word in Greece some 350 years before Christ’s ministry in Israel. What matters is how the NT writers used the word and what “they” meant by it’s use.
Additionally, pais is used consistently throughout the NT as a description of a child, a young person either boy or girl, and a servant. It’s ridiculous to think it also has the meaning of “sexual slave lover.” There are a number of passages where pais is used and there is no possible way it could mean a “sexual slave lover” in any of them: Matthew 2:16, 12:18, 14:2, 17:18, 21:16; Luke 1:54, 69, 7:7, 8:51, 54, 9:42; John 4:51; and Acts 3:13, to name just a handful.
Gay revisionist will further attempt to argue that the presence of the Roman centurion asking Jesus to heal his pais implies it is a homoerotic relationship because everyone knows centurions had servants that merely served the purposes of fulfilling their sexual appetites. But such a response assumes this behavior was true for ALL centurions.
However, more damning for the gay revisionist’s claim that Jesus healed a centurion’s homosexual lover is the consistent use of pais as child or young person throughout the NT. This would mean Jesus willingly approved of pederasty between an adult man and a child or young boy. Even if the servant was a mature man, say of the same age or just a year or two younger than the centurion, this still involves our Lord willingly approving a predatorial relationship between a centurion who was sexually abusing and taking advantage of his servant.
So. The reality of this narrative is much more pure in its simplicity: A God-fearing Roman centurion had a son, or quite possibly an adopted son, that he implores Jesus to heal. There is nothing sexual about their relationship at all, but it is a man who respected and loved this young servant boy who had become beloved to him. It is hardly this slimy, homoerotic narrative that is presented by gay “Christian” apologists, and is purely the figment of an over active perverse imagination.
I come to Michael Brown’s final chapter of Authentic Fire. Here is where he wraps up what he has been saying throughout his book, as well as provides his concluding words of exhortation as to what we, his readers, should take away from the Strange Fire conference.
He begins by laying out four reasons why the Strange Fire conference and the published book will be significant.
To summarize those reasons [AF, 309-310]:
1. Strange Fire will be a negative landmark in the increasing minority position of cessationism.
2. More believers will study afresh the Scriptures and see that continuationism is true. In other words, Strange Fire will backfire!
3. Pentecostals and charismatics who previously had no connection to each other will be united, along with non-hostile cessationists connecting with non-crazy charismatics and working together for God’s kingdom.
4. Charismatics will look more seriously at some of their more glaring errors both doctrinally and morally.
Brown then concludes the remainder of his chapter with three challenges to those Christians sympathetic to the Strange Fire message.
First, The Whole Bible is Wholly True. Believer it. Meaning, “if the words or promises or exhortations or commands apply to us, we need to take God at His Word and believe and act on what He says” [AF, 311]. If the whole Bible teaches continuationism, then it should be believed, not rejected.
Additionally, Christians, especially those of the cessationist view, should not develop their “theology” as a reaction against what is truly false teaching. So for example, those carnal prosperity teachers who have abused and maligned the Bible’s teaching on giving money and receiving God’s blessing should not cause Christians to overreact against what the Bible truly says about our giving and God’s rich blessing.
The same can be said of those who teach falsely about physical healing. Just because there are some who have abused the gift of healing and promised healing when none really came, should not cause us to disregard what the Bible teaches on physical healing. “Just because some charlatan,” writes Brown, “abused the Bible doesn’t mean I can’t use it rightly, and just because some teacher misinterpreted a verse doesn’t mean that you should cut it out of your Bible. And just because some leader or denomination declared that certain parts of the Bible no longer apply to us today doesn’t mean you have to accept that verdict when the Word seems plainly to say otherwise,” [AF, 315].
Second, The Holy Spirit is Moving Around the World. Receive It! Pentecostalism has been historically a missionary driven movement. “The fundamental conviction of Pentecostals is that the power they receive through the Spirit is to evangelize all nations and so glorify Jesus Christ,” [AF, 316]. Hence, when multitudes of people really are turning from idols to the living and true God and putting their faith in Jesus for salvation, that should be cause for great rejoicing.
Rather than being critical of this mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the nations, it is better to study anew what the NT says about the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can be more like Jesus and reach our dying world. So while it is wise to put up healthy walls of discernment to keep out false spirits, don’t let those walls keep out the true Spirit of God.
And then third, The Body of Christ is Multifaceted and Beautiful. Embrace it. People in both cessationist and charismatic camps will demonize members of the other side. Even Brown was warned by some charismatics to avoid MacArthur because his opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit only proves that he isn’t even saved and is a Christ-killing Pharisee. Certainly MacArthur received similar warnings about Brown.
However, those absurd warnings should be rejected in the strongest possible terms. Both camps must see that we are all brothers in Christ and by God’s grace will spend eternity with each other. So now each side should seek to establish enriching friendships with each other to further the kingdom of God now.
If MacArthur recognizes fine leaders like John Piper and Wayne Grudem as brothers, despite their alleged errors of charismaticism, then it is possible for charismatics and cessationists to lay aside differences and work together. But in order to have that happen and to help each other we will need to communicate with each other openly, honestly, publicly, and privately. That way we can all experience the sweet words of Psalm 133 where it says, Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Review and Analysis
Brown’s final chapter summarizes a number of arguments he has already put forward in previous chapters. Both Lyndon and myself have done our best to address what we consider to be the salient points to his overall complaint against MacArthur and the Strange Fire conference. Thus, a lot of what I may hit on with this chapter review may come across as redundant (Well, it is the last chapter, so I guess that is to be expected), because I may refer readers back to previously posted reviews. So with that in mind, allow me to consider his three exhortations in turn.
1). The Bible is wholly true, believe it.
Brown explains that when he says the Bible is “wholly true” he means we need to take God at His word, believe it, and act upon what He says. That is essentially what he argued in chapter 6 so I won’t belabor this point too long.
In chapter 6 he wrote that if the Reformed folks, like MacArthur, truly believed in Sola Scriptura like they say they do, then they would believe that God still works with spectacular, supernatural signs and wonders through the hands of spiritually gifted Christians. Because those Reformed folks reject charismatic claims of supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit as being genuine, they are acting contrary to the doctrine they profess to believe.
As I pointed out in my review of that chapter, Brown levels that charge operating from his Pentecostal/charismatic presupposition that Christians throughout all of church history can expect to do similar miracles as those recorded in the NT that were done by Jesus and the apostles. Hence, when he challenges cessationists to “wholly believe the Bible,” he has in mind them believing like he does: that all Christians can do miracles of power and healing if they would merely be open to that reality.
As I concluded in my review, if a person would first ditch the presupposition that Brown has read onto the Bible, and then apply his principle of believing the Bible as being wholly true, he will come to an entirely different view of miracles than the one promoted here in Authentic Fire. Instead of a never-ending parade of healers and prophets until Jesus returns, we see that God had particular purposes for miracles and historical periods of miracles which was to authenticate the Messiahship of Jesus and the ministry of His apostles. I get that understanding from reading and believing the whole Bible, not cherry-picking selected citations that fit my theology.
2). The Holy Spirit is Moving around the World. Receive It!
Brown is insistent that MacArthur and all the supporters of Strange Fire are completely wrong about Pentecostalism and charismatics in foreign countries like India, Africa, and Latin America. Rather than being overran with wild-eyed fanatical prosperity Word of Faith charismaticism as Conrad Mbewe documented at the Strange Fire conference, Brown complains that his evaluation of African charismatics is grossly exaggerated and unfair. In fact, such out-of-control, unbiblical Word of Faith theology is not anywhere near being as harmful as Mbewe claims. Craig Keener, in the first appendix of Authentic Fire, though recognizing that some of his concerns are valid, even being recognized by many African Pentecostals, writes that it is a blanket judgment that easily leaves a false impression about African Christians, [AF, 358].
As much as both Brown and Keener wish to put a happy face on international charismatics, both men are woefully out of touch and naive. The testimony on the ground from genuinely concerned Christians who live in those countries paints a bleaker picture of the situation than both of them are willing to admit.
Lyndon addressed African charismatics with his review of Authentic Fire chapter 3, and the influence of Word of Faith on African charismatics with this overview here, and Asian charismatics here. In the second part of his chapter 5 review, Lyndon addresses the famed Lausanne Survey Report that allegedly claims 90 percent of African leaders reject the prosperity gospel. He demonstrates how that figure is exaggerated and drawn from inadequate survey questions that game the results.
But the real proof of the problem with charismatics in foreign countries come from personal, eye-witness accounts. For example, in October 2013, around the time the Strange Fire conference was kicking off, James White of Alpha and Omega ministries made a trip to South Africa to lecture, teach, and preach, as well as engage in debate with a number of Islamic apologists. When he returned, he gave his report of his trip, and his take on the situation in South Africa is that prosperity, Word of Faith charismaticism is the face of Christianity to the people there, especially Muslims. Listen to his report here from the 17 minute mark to around the 19 minute mark to get an idea of what he meant.
3). The Body of Christ is Multifaceted and Beautiful. Embrace It.
When we come to the last point, it is regrettable to say that Brown becomes a tad whiny. There really is no other way to describe it. He is bothered that MacArthur will readily embrace continuationists like John Piper and Wayne Grudem as brothers in the Lord despite all their alleged theological errors regarding continuationism, [AF, 321], but not him. Piper and Grudem are not the jumping around the building and shouting old-time Pentecostals like he is, so they function as the nice, token charismatics that can be readily accepted by cessationists like MacArthur.
He then goes on to write, “The fact is that God wants the Strange Fire camp to recognize as dear brothers and sisters the Pentecostals who jump and shout and run around the building because they are excited about the Lord,…”[ibid]. Really? Earlier in the chapter, when Brown listed out his four reasons why the Strange Fire conference will be significant, he writes, “…many non-hostile cessationists will begin to connect with many non-crazy charismatics, leading to mutual edification, building up the church, and even effective missions and evangelism work, [AF, 309]. In Brown’s thinking (I am guessing), he sees MacArthur as a hostile cessationist because he doesn’t want to connect with a “non-crazy” charismatic like himself.
The reason why MacArthur can readily accept Piper and Grudem, and maybe some other men who are sympathetic to “continuationism” like D.A. Carson, is that they are the “non-crazy” charismatic variety that Brown identifies. Their commitment to sound, soteriological doctrine specifically, helps to reign in any craziness and bridges the fellowship between cessationists like MacArthur. So contrary to what Brown says here, MacArthur, the so-called “hostile” cessationist, is already friendly with “non-crazy” charismatics that Brown believes would improve his life.
The difficulty cessationists have with Brown, however, is that he seems to have no problem with embracing and endorsing the “crazy” charismatics. He regularly visits with them to promote any books he’s written, even willingly speaking at their churches and conferences.
And when I say “crazy” I really mean crazy. Like barking at the moon…
We all know about Brown going on Benny Hinn’s TV show, so there is really no need to bring that up again. However, he has also appeared with Cindy Jacobs on her “God Knows” TV show,
Cindy Jacobs, if you don’t remember, is famous for claiming that she fed 3,000 people at a church in Colorado Springs in the same fashion Jesus fed the 5,000. Even more amazing, She claims God multiplies her kids’ food, the oil in her house, and preserves her shoes from being worn out in the same manner the Israelites had their sandals preserved while wandering in the wilderness.
What on earth is wrong with your spiritual life dear saints if God isn’t doing this for YOU!
Oh! And she also gives her yearly prophetic pronouncements.
Now Brown expressed annoyance with those people who drew attention to his “loose” affiliation with Cindy Jacobs [AF, 94.95]. He was on her show once or twice and doesn’t necessarily run in her circles. The people who attempt to lay a “guilt by association” on him are no different than those hyper-Fundamentalists and their secondary separation doctrine. But if Brown had only appeared with Jacobs one time to talk about his book on homosexuality, then maybe I would be unfairly nit-picking and he would have a good point. But that isn’t the case.
Brown has also appeared with Sid Roth,
For those who have never heard of Sid Roth, he’s the Christianized version of George Noory. He hosts a show called “It’s Supernatural!” (“Where it’s naturally supernatural!”) that is basically the Coast to Coast AM for charismatics. And you think TBN is bad. In fact, I’d encourage the reader to at least watch the 30 second intro to the show so as to just get a feel for what he regularly promotes.
Roth interviews such guests as Steven Brooks, who earnestly recounts (with video reenactments, mind you) his experiences with seeing angels everyday (who strike a uncanny resemblance to Fabio) and then once being pulled up to heaven and into the throne room of God, which by the way, has a black and white checkered linoleum floor like the Kroger grocery store my family went to when I was a kid.
Steven has been given a special vision,
Roth also entertains riveting researchers like L.A. Marzulli, who has a DVD set on his research into the Nephilim. Marzulli once did a talk about the skulls of the Nephilim. Or this guy who says he knows the secret to supernaturally changing your DNA so as to break the generational curses not one generation!, not even four generations!, but all the way back to Adam and Eve! (By using this one weird trick!)
I could go on and on about Sid Roth. Spend 20 minutes clicking through his Youtube or Godtv channel. You’ll be amused, amazed, but horrified that people believe this is pawned off as biblical Christianity. And Michael Brown regularly visits his TV show and radio program.
But wait, there’s more!
Here’s Brown speaking at Bethel Church in Redding CA.
That’s right. You all know Bethel Church Redding. The church that gives us,
And Kevin Dedmon encouraging a group of guys to walk on water and through walls,
The glittering glory cloud that falls from the ventilation system,
And of course fire tunnels.
The only thing missing from the wackiness that happens at Bethel is snake handling.
Look. The reason MacArthur can be friendly with Piper, Grudem, and Carson in spite of their continuationist quirks is that none of those men, at least to my knowledge, have appeared on television shows and radio programs where the hosts boast about feeding 3,000 people with a loaf of bread, or promote guests who believe they can command armies of angels, or spoken at churches where the ministers encourage their youth to walk across swimming pools and glitter falls from the vents and is called a glory cloud.
In chapter 2 of Authentic Fire, Brown is insistent that he has always been quick to call out what he calls the “excesses” in charismatic churches. He has written numerous books condemning those excesses long before MacArthur even considered having a Strange Fire conference. My question of Brown would be, does he think Jacobs, Roth, and Bethel church promote “excesses” (though “excesses” is too mild a word in my opinion), or would he consider them non-crazy and what they do as “authentic fire” that should be embraced?
If Brown is serious about going forward from Strange Fire with the intention of learning something from MacArthur, he needs to recognize that the problems MacArthur has with charismatics and Pentecostals goes way, way beyond loud worship services with people swaying back and forth with their arms in the air. His concern is with the occultic, new age mysticism that is promoted as spirituality in charismatic circles that leads to horrific theology and doctrinal practice. And it is ubiquitous throughout both charismatic and Pentecostal denominations.
I am fearful that Brown doesn’t see those things as dangerous. His main concern seems to only be what he calls “manipulative” fund raising done by televangelists. But honestly, until he can come out and say the stuff that is taking place at Bethel is damnable heresy, that Sid Roth promotes damnable heresy on his TV show, and the number of various NAR personalities with whom he associates teach damnable heresy, there isn’t going to be any genuine fellowship with MacArthur and those of us in the Strange Fire camp. We are circling in entirely different orbits.
My pal Lyndon has pounded out his review of the 9th chapter of Michael Brown’s book, Authentic Fire.
The King of Sweden so makes that post.
The good Lord willing, I should have my review of the tenth, and final chapter, up early next week. Then, in cooperation with the fine folks over at Cripplegate, there are plans in the works to republish the entire series over on their blog, which will certainly reach a vaster and more theologically diverse audience than what either myself or Lyndon could possibly reach.
And to show once again that we mean no ill will toward Dr. Brown when we critique his book, check out this cool gigantic statue of Kenny Loggins a group of fans had built.
Several people had asked about the reported phenomena of Muslims having visions of Jesus and coming to the Christian faith apart from any missionary endeavors or preaching of the Gospel. I wrote up a basic response that I posted HERE.
I thought it covered the important reasons why I do not believe Jesus is coming to Muslims in dreams and visions which in turn bring the Muslims to salvation. The primary reason being that the the Bible is clear that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), and the only way a person can hear is by the means of preaching.
I recently had a couple of commenters challenge that assertion. Let me lay out their comments and then return with my random thoughts in response.
I was a missionary for many years in Turkey, and I encountered Muslims who had dreams/visions of Christ, some of whom as a result became Christians later Of course, the visions/dreams are just the beginning typically of their spiritual journey, and not the end, and teaching/discipleship are needed of course. They also need to completely reject Muhammad and Islamic teaching and solely embrace Christ and the fact He is God, died & rise again, etc. God moves in response to the earnest intercession of His people for the unreached people groups of the earth, whether for western atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, and His sovereign moves include dreams/visions.
And then Comment #2
Apostle paul was converted without a missionary. Jesus personally appear to him. Then He led him to be instructed by christians. Don’t put God in a box of what He can or cannot do. He can reach Muslims personally in vision. Those skeptic christians are resorting to bibliotary and forgot that Jesus IS the word and not a book. The bible is good for instructing the soul for ALL christians. But gospel mission is not restricted to the tools God used. Jesus is a person who has a choice to do independent or hand in hand of. Missionaries
Both commenters, I believe, more than likely come from a charismatic background of some sort, or at least one that is sympathetic to charismatic thinking. I say that because both put a heavy emphasis on the idea of subjective dreams and visions playing an authoritative, missionary role in bringing Muslims to Christ. The second commenter also suggests that the apostle Paul’s Damascus road encounter with the Resurrected Christ can be something experienced by anybody in our world today. Meaning, he sees no uniqueness to Paul and his calling as an apostle.
Moreover, he considers skeptical Christians as “resorting to bibliolatry.” Those would be folks, like myself, who scrutinize and dismiss the claims of Muslims coming to Jesus by the medium of dreams and visions, rather than by the ordained means of preaching. In other words, he is saying I take the Bible so seriously that I place severe limitations upon God Himself, even supplanting Him from being “God.” We “can’t put God in a box,” or so he writes. In his theology, there are other forms of revelation (dreams/visions) that can have equal or greater weight of authority than what is just written in an old book.
But once again, however, there is no interaction with what God has specifically stated in His Word about the matter of evangelism. That according to Romans 10, faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God, and the only way the Word of God can be heard is if a preacher proclaims that Word.
Now what the commenters seem to suggest, at least the first one, is that the dreams and visions merely puts the Muslim on the path of a spiritual journey to know more about Jesus. They finally hear the Gospel from a missionary and are saved. When they do come to Jesus, that is when they can be discipled from the Word of God.
Thankfully, the commenter notes that the Muslims have to embrace ALL of who Jesus is, God incarnate, as well as renounce Mohammed and Islam. More often Christian “missionaries” promote the idea that Jesus can be added to the Muslim’s Islamic beliefs and all will be okay. Or proclaim some version of “chrislam” as it is called.
But I have few difficulties with that line of thinking.
First, does God only give dreams and visions to Muslims? Or do Hindus and Buddhists or other members of world religions have similar dreams that bring them to Jesus? Maybe they do, but I am unaware of their stories. I briefly noted this point in my original article, but it seems that the dream and vision phenomena is only taking place among Muslims, and many times among Iranian, Shiah Muslims.
As any rate, the reason for God to use dreams and visions, it is claimed, is that Islamic countries are completely shut to any Christian missionary activity. Any evangelistic efforts are so squashed that God has to resort to the means of dreams and visions in order to reach those people.
That of course really puts God in a box. The ordained means by which God has established the spread of the Gospel is through preaching, and that was the historic pattern of evangelism throughout the book of Acts. If Christians personally went into hostile pagan cultures during the first century and brought the Gospel by the means of preaching, why can’t the same thing happen now in Islamic countries? (Or North Korea!) Why the need to resort to subjective dreams and visions? How are modern day Islamic cultures (or any anti-Christian culture) any more hostile than the pagan ones encountered by first century Christians and then later when missionaries took the Gospel to remote areas like Briton, Norway, and India?
A number of people point to Cornelius in Acts 10 as an example as someone stirred to consider Jesus by the means of a vision or dream, but Cornelius was a special case that God used to affirm the salvation of gentiles to the Jewish leaders. And additionally, Cornelius was already very much aware of Judaism and the true and living God.
Secondly, Muslims don’t necessarily have a problem with Jesus. He is a large part of Islam and even has an important role to play in their eschatology according to Islamic theology. What matters is the right Jesus — the True and Living Jesus who rose from the dead and is the only way to God and who is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. Is that the Jesus Muslims are having dreams about? Because if we do a internet search, there are stories about Muslims identifying their vision with Catholicism, Mormonism, and any number of “Jesus’s” from other pseudo-Christian religions. Would Jesus appear in the dreams of Muslims only to allow them to convert to a false form of Christianity?
Thirdly, if many Muslims are having dreams and vision about Jesus, why aren’t their immediate cultures being impacted by those dreams and visions? In other words, I would think that with scores of Muslims having dreams of Jesus, there would be an “awakening” of sorts taking place in these hostile places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan; but there isn’t really. Where is the visible proof of the revival that should be taking place if Christ is breaking into the hearts and minds of Muslim people?
Honestly, I believe this is all another clear example of the troubling doctrine I see with charismatic theology. It denudes the authority of God’s written word in the matters of any subject, let alone evangelism. Anything Scripture would seek to address from a divine perspective becomes essentially pointless and non-applicable to a Christian’s life and practice. Because what ever the Word of God may speak to authoritatively is authoritative UNTIL a dream/vision/experience happens along that trumps what God has said thus canceling what little authority the Word allegedly had.
It’s 11 minutes, but the visuals are absolutely stunning. Worth the watch.