Now therefore what have I here," declares the Lord, "seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail," declares the Lord, "and continually all the day my name is despised. - Isaiah 52:5 (ESV)
The point at which our optic nerve connects to our retina contains no light sensitive cells and thus your retina cannot see this area, which is why we call it the blind spot. Extrapolate this out of biology and the blind spot can take on different meanings depending on the context. When it comes to theology, a blind spot is an area of doctrine that someone simply cannot see is wrong. Perhaps because they were raised that way or their church teaches it so. I remember when I first was writing my book about tithing and all of the deceptions preachers used to enforce it, my pastor admitted that I was correct but that this was simply how they had been taught by the system. Try having a biblical conversation with a pro-tither. It is impossible as they recite Malachi without understanding any of the context. Try having a biblical conversation with a Joseph Prince adherent about grace. Try to explain to a Joel Osteen follower why word faith and prosperity gospel are heresies. These are blind spots in action.
Dr. Michael Brown has been a major voice in the evangelical world for over four decades now. Saved out of the hippie generation, Brown understands Hebrew and Greek better than I ever will be able to. I cannot speak to his first few decades but at least over the past two there have been major blind spots in his ministry efforts. The top two are his inability to see any problems with the abuses of Charismania and his penchant for refusing to call out false teachers by name. An example on the first issue is best represented by a story about Jennifer LeClaire, false prophetess. Jennifer once wrote an absurdly ridiculous article where she claimed to be stalked by a "sneaky squid spirit." The claim was ridiculous of course and anyone with an ounce of discernment saw it for the low hanging heresy fruit it was. Not Dr. Brown, who had LeClaire on his radio show where he gave a platform to this nonsense and defended it. For the second blind spot we turn to Joseph Prince, the king of hyper-grace heretical preaching. Dr. Brown once wrote a very good book denouncing the heresy of hyper-grace. Yet when confronted by me on his radio show about Prince, he referred to him as a "good brother in the Lord who just has some holes in his theology." No Dr. Brown. He was and remains a heretic who leads people away from Christ. If you cannot call him out, do not bother writing the book. The same goes for his defense of people like Bill Johnson and Benny Hinn. These are known heretics yet Brown will defend them as brothers. I say this as the backdrop to a new article by Dr. Brown, linked above where he tries to call out the evangelical world for their contribution to bringing reproach to the name of Jesus Christ. This article has a little of everything - the good, bad and ugly. So, let us reason once more together.
The good is simply that Dr. Brown tried to even write this article because it needs to be written. Credit should be given where due and Dr. Brown surveyed the evangelical landscape and found it lacking in this area and kudos to him for doing so and for trying to get this issue out in the public, especially on Charisma News! Here is his opening premise:
"When the children of Israel were in exile, scattered from their homeland because of their sin and with the holy temple in Jerusalem in ruins, it made the God of Israel look bad. Couldn't He take care of His own? As the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, "And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed" (Isa. 52:5b, NIV). It is the same with us today as evangelical followers of Jesus: Because of our failings and scandals and carnality, the name of the Lord is being mocked and ridiculed. This is heartbreaking on so many levels." - Dr. Michael Brown
This verse from Isaiah is the key verse for today because it is important to see the parallels. Brown goes on to list several of the more prominent "failings." He references Ravi Zacharias, Jerry Falwell Jr., Hillsong, and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Sure, there were more but this is a fine starting point. He also correctly references the politicization of the gospel as many Christian conservatives became better known as followers of Trump rather than followers of Christ. This is of course ironic because Brown was at the front of that line and even though he is more careful today, he remains a huge Trump apologist and shill for the Republican Party. While he touches on these, he dwells on the most recent debacle, the SBC. Brown seems genuinely shocked, grieved and broken over the sexual scandal. He correctly laments who can fathom how much damage has been done. Unfortunately, the article isn't all good:
"I personally have no formal connection with the SBC or Hillsong, and I'm sure there are many godly people in these two large movements, the SBC being, by far, the largest. I don't doubt for a second that there are plenty of devoted ministers among them, many ethical leaders, along with countless believers who love the Lord and seek to honor Him. In fact, I would expect that the great majority are true blue. And in the circles in which I travel, I have worked side by side with some of the finest Christians on the planet, people of integrity and high character, people who are above reproach. I am honored to call them friends and co-workers. Yet there is no denying that, as conservative followers of Jesus, many of us identifying as evangelicals, we together look bad right now. Our "brand" has been tarnished. Our reputation has been smeared. And our Lord is being mocked." - Dr. Michael Brown
The bad here is, well, bad. It is extremely bad form to reference some of the most egregious scandals of our day, which include rape and child abuse suffered at the hands of professing Christian leaders and then try and downplay it by declaring it aint that bad. Wrong Dr. Brown, it is that bad. Never mind the rape within the SBC, there are plenty of devoted ministers and ethical leaders! Hillsong covered up assault allegations and kept employed someone who admitted to assaulting an 18-year-old student? Never mind that because there are countless believers there who love the Lord! The tone-deafness to these statements is staggering as they literally slap all victims in the face. The "brand" is the problem Dr. Brown and if Christian leaders cared more about protecting people than protecting the brand, they would bring far less reproach to the name of Christ. Let me try it this way. Prior to the horrible revelations regarding Dr. Ravi Zacharias, everyone who dealt with him considered him ethical, a devoted minister, one of the finest Christians on the planet, a man of integrity, high character and above reproach. THAT was the problem Dr. Brown. While everyone was giving him the pass when it came to discernment, he was abusing third world massage parlor providers all over the world. The signs were there too but when you consider someone above reproach, you do not often consider any reproach. Christian leaders are supposed to be held to a higher standard, not a lower one. Our reputation has not been smeared, which seems to indicate a level of unfairness. It has been seen for what it really is and yes, God is mocked for it.
The mockery is not merely because of the failings of leadership. To leave it there is to pass everything off as human frailty. We would be negligent and remiss if we did not apply equal blame to the underpinnings of how the purpose driven church created the environment for the rise of Zacharias and the SBC abuses. How teaching regurgitated pablum week after week while marginalizing the gospel weakened the core of most leaders in the failed system. When the pastor become the CEO, what is lost? When the lost become the "unchurched" what are the consequences? When the congregation worships the cult of personality in the pulpit instead of Christ, what is the cost? Dr. Drown asks throughout this article how these things could have come to pass and these are the answers he never realizes. He is a part of a sick system that no longer cares about the true cause of Christ and His gospel. Just perusing the headlines on Charisma News today we see an article that asserts a comic book character is secretly modeled after Aleister Crowley. Another that alludes to space aliens secretly being demons. A third is a political hit job against the right wing boogey-man of Hillary Clinton. A fourth supports the medical quackery conspiracy theories that conclude COVID was apparently a hoax, risking the lives of everyone who reads that trash and believes it. A fifth is in support of a new movie that disparages the late George Floyd, infers that he somehow deserved the knee on his neck for almost ten minutes and supports the murderer, Derek Chauvin. That does not even address the multiple, conflicting "prophecies" that always appear there to paint our God as an ADD schizophrenic. That is just today. If you want to truly understand why God is mocked, start with what we accept everyday as being "normal" in our faith. See how Mario Murillo recently said all Democratic voters were going to hell. See Greg Locke saying they are all demonic and not welcome in his church. See John Hagee telling all atheists to leave "his country" if they cannot say Merry Christmas. See the slew of purpose driven pastors sacrificing their sheep to the COVID woodchipper last year to reopen against the laws of their states so they could get that greasy tithe wheel rolling again and yes that includes John MacArthur. How about the victims of Brian Houston, Carl Lentz, Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, Bill Johnson, Todd White, Jennifer LeClair and the list goes on and on. The bible says the things of God are foolishness to those who are perishing. It says nothing however of the deeds of charlatans, hucksters and snake oil salesmen. The world knows them all too well. Dr. Brown, we have not just let the wolves into the house. We have given them the pulpit while people who should know better stand by and talk about how righteous we all are. That leaves us only with the ugly:
"That's why, together, we should get low before God and before people. We should confess corporately our guilt and sin. We should ask the watching world to forgive us for bringing reproach to the name of Jesus. And we should say, "By God's grace, we pledge to learn from our failings, to make amends and do better. And if you get to know us personally, you might be pleasantly surprised. There's a lot of good that we have done as well because of what Jesus has done in our lives." The bad news is that many lives have been destroyed and much damage has been done. The good news is that God gives grace to the humble, and the lower we go in our repentance, the higher He will lift us up. You can be sure that He, far more than any of us, is jealous for the reputation of His Son. And He will act to glorify His name. As He said through the prophet Ezekiel, "And wherever [the Israelites] went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone" (Ezek. 36:20-21b). And so, He acted, bringing the exiles home, thereby restoring honor to His name. I trust He will act again" - Dr. Michael Brown
Splitting this bill is as ugly as it gets. We cannot ask for forgiveness and out of the other side of our mouths say we aren't that bad, really. The truly ugly however is in misappropriating the story of the exiles to infer that God will act again to restore the damage we have done to His name. Many of the exiles died in Babylon. Remember the generation left to die in the wilderness for their own lack of faith? Because Brown genuinely believes that everyone who spells Jesus correctly is well intended and a brother in the Lord, he cannot see that mere repentance is not enough. Paul says to expel the sinner amidst the congregation! How much higher a standard should we hold people who claim the mantle of leadership within the church? Brown speaks of the "spiritual rot" that accumulated from trying to cover up the sins of the church and while that is right, he underestimates the breadth of the sin and thus the depth of the rot. The problem is not that Brian Houston had to step down for a series of inappropriate mingling with women other than his wife. It was decades of decadence, false teaching, and abuse. It was allowing Carl Lentz to victimize person after person because of his celebrity status. It is not just that Ravi Zacharias had so many inappropriate sexual relationships. It was the years of everyone turning their heads when they knew something wasn't right and allowing him to abuse more and more people. The spiritual rot starts with the false doctrines taught and includes the purpose driven and seeker friendly marketing schemes. It all has to go.
But we know it will not. An interesting fact about the blind spot in our eye is that it is not usually noticeable because our two eyes work together to cover up each eye's blind spot. That is a nice picture to close on as the body of Christ should work the same way. Dr. Brown was right for starting this conversation, as weak as some of his arguments became. His blind spot prevents him from seeing the damage Charismania has done to the cause of Christ and from calling out the wolves in the pulpit by name. That is because he sees them all as the finest Christian men possible until he finds out an internal investigation revealed they were seeing foreign prostitutes for decades. Or that the entire Southern Baptist Convention covered up rape and child abuse for decades. Then he laments how? How was this possible? How could we not see it?
The blind spot Dr. Brown. We do not see it because we cannot. Because we refuse to. Thanks for starting the conversation.