Dr. Michael Brown has been in ministry for decades as a teacher, author, activist, theologian and radio host. His newest book, Authentic Fire, is just another example of his great contributions to the Christian volumes on theological issues, this time addressing the concerns voiced by another Christian leader, Dr. John MacArthur, in his Strange Fire book and conference. Authentic Fire openly answers Dr. MacArthur and his colleagues criticisms of those come from the Charismatic stream of Christianity. But, he deals with the questions raised not as an adversary of those opposing him, but as a brother desiring to resolve family disagreements with open and honest communication.
For those of you reading who are not familiar with the terms cessationist and continuationist, let me be as brief as I can. These two words define the difference between those who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 of the Bible have either ceased or continue to be used today. Dr. John MacArthur recently wrote a book entitled "Strange Fire" and held a conference by the same name. In both, he makes several bold assertions against those continuationists, primarily found in what are called Charismatic churches, even declaring a "collective war" on those who hold to these positions. Dr. Michael Brown has written a detailed, thoughtful and Biblically based response to those assertions in the book Authentic Fire, and gives the reader plenty of points to ponder in determining whether or not the gifts of the Holy Spirit are valid in today's contemporary culture.
Honestly, I was disappointed but not in Dr. Brown's book. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will keep it as a ready reference for the topics of spiritual gifts and charismatic expression of them. No, I was disappointed that a book even needed to be written about these issues, when the arguments Dr. Brown presents are so clearly laid out scripturally, historically and systematically. When Dr. Brown has to answers questions like "where is the charismatic hospital? Social Services? Poverty Relief?" he does so graciously, but either Dr. MacArthur never heard of organizations like Teen Challenge, or he forgot them for some reason. I could site many other disappointing examples, but I think one suffices for now.
Dr. MacArthur's arguments in Strange Fire seem convincing at first glance. But, Dr. Brown does a masterful job of bringing to light the truth about the accusations made and does so as a gentleman. I also enjoyed the appendixes found at the end of the book, written by other authors. Sam Storms article on "Why New Testament prophecy does not result in 'scripture quality' revelatory words" should be read by everyone on both sides of this issue.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Dr. Brown's book Authentic Fire for those concerned about these issues, for those who want to be better equipped in defending their charismatic beliefs and for anyone who has never been taught about the Gifts of the Spirit and how God speaks today. I appeal to Dr. MacArthur and those who agree with his conclusions to reconsider their position in light of the truths Dr. Brown presents and to humbly seek to build up rather than divide over these issues.