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Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. -- 1Timothy 4: 12 (ESV)
Dr. Michael Brown has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. Clearly a learned scholar who has command of ancient languages, Brown also has a compelling testimony of God saving him many decades ago. Something unfortunate happened though on the way to the present day. He developed a huge blind spot regarding Charismania. He was the primary teacher at the false Brownsville revival, which was no revival at all of course. Anyone with an ounce of discernment can watch the videos of the spasmodic twitching and uncontrolled tics being blamed on the Holy Spirit and see that. Over the years Dr. Brown has written fantastic articles and books on theology and is a vociferous defender of our faith. Except when it comes to Charismania. When it comes to the dark side of evangelicalism, Dr. Brown has simply never met a heretic he could not make an excuse for. He has defended Hillsong. He has defended Joseph Prince. He has defended Benny Hinn and spent a week on his television program. Just last week he interviewed/protected Bill Johnson. What's the matter with this picture? All of the above are some of the most dangerous and obvious wolves today that are devouring the sheep of the Lord and scattering people away from Jesus Christ. There is simply no debate beloved. Prince preaches a dangerous antinomianism that even Brown has written a book denouncing, although he thinks Prince himself just has a "hole in his theology." Never mind the bloodied sheep hanging from his jowls. Hillsong is one of the largest worldwide sources of heresy in preaching, music, and cultural relevance. Their founder and lead pastor has written a book called "You need More Money" for heaven's sake. The fruit does not hang much lower! Benny Hinn is a demonstrated false prophet, false healer, and false revivalist. He is the poster child for what is wrong in Christianity. Bill Johnson of course fancies himself a living apostle and is one of the leaders behind the NAR, false signs and lying wonders theologies, and the shift away from the Bible towards experiential Christianity. These things are not in dispute beloved. They simply are not. As Brown has come under more and more scrutiny he seems to become more and more defensive. This brings us to his latest article:
My intent here is to apply the same biblical rules of discernment to this obvious attempt to discredit the people who try to hold him accountable. To accomplish this, I will try to respond to his points as they come up in the article:
"As a lover of God, a lover of His people, and a lover of His Word, I welcome godly, ethical discernment. And as a lover of God, a lover of His people, and a lover of His Word, I reject ungodly, unethical discernment." -- Dr. Michael Brown
This is simply untrue. If he were a lover of God, His people and His Word, then he would abide by Titus 1:9, which requires him to rebuke false teachers. Reasonable people can always disagree about teachers on the periphery. We are talking some of the biggest and obvious heretics on the planet today. Brown also does not welcome discernment. What he welcomes is the chance to appear to be the voice of reason. For example in the comments of this article there is an exchange between him and discernment blogger Amy Spreeman about why Brown blocked her on Twitter for daring to ask about his support for Bill Johnson. Brown tried to claim it was because he did not "have the time" to respond to her and instructed her to call his radio show. This is a common tactic for Brown, who seems to have plenty of time to write but never any time to respond in writing. Instead, it is always an invitation to call his show because then he can pretend he is trying to engage his dissenters. Two points on this. First, it is simply shameful self-promotion. Secondly and more importantly, nothing gets resolved on his radio show because he dominates the time, sets up strawmen arguments at the start of any potentially contentious segment and answers critiques and questions with other questions. How do I know? I called into his program after he spent a week on the Benny Hinn show. While Dr. Brown was kind enough to give me ten minutes it was primarily ten minutes of him filibustering, commercials, and nothing got resolved.
"Unfortunately, I have also seen the real damage these ministries can do, as their websites become almost glorified gossip columns, repeating the latest accusations against other leaders (almost with glee, it seems), believing the worst rather than giving the benefit of the doubt until the facts are known, and seeing themselves as divinely-appointed policemen called to set the Body right." -- Dr. Michael Brown
Nice try. Discernment ministries are not "setting the body right." They are driving the wolves away from the sheep. You know, as the Bible instructs us to. Not only is this a strawman argument but it is designed to cast aspersions upon those who would seek the truth. By the way, if someone writes something without checking facts or giving enough time, I would agree with Dr. Brown that they are not doing the work of God. But that is not who we are really talking about. True discernment ministries, such as the work of Amy Spreeman are not gossip columns. I can give two topical examples from my own ministry. One time a couple of years ago, Brian Houston said in a sermon that Christians and Muslims serve the same God. No question about it. I heard it. I chose not to write about it however until I heard Houston respond to the criticism because it simply was not in his prior teachings. Anyone can make a mistake beloved. Houston may be one of the worst prosperity pimps on the planet but he has never supported Chrislam. Sure enough he came out in a few days and even though he lamely blamed the media, he said he had misspoken. Good enough for me. To this day when people try and level this charge against him I defend him because the only thing that matters is the truth. The second example was when Victoria Osteen said that we worship God for ourselves and not for Him. I gave her the benefit of the doubt for a week waiting to hear if she would say she misspoke. Instead she and Joel doubled down on the heresy and THAT was when I wrote about the incident and how worship within the church has become as narcissistic as Victoria admitted to.
The point Dr. Brown misses here is we are not talking about some new preacher that has said something controversial. These are not unknown quantities. The people we are talking about in discernment ministries have established histories of heresy. Years and decades in many cases. They have been rebuked over and over again and refuse to correct their doctrine. While Brown seems infinitely concerned about the wolves, we are concerned with the sheep. There is a price to pay for being deceived by Hinn, Johnson, Houston, and Prince and it is eternal. I find nowhere in Scripture that we are to give wolves the benefit of the doubt and therein lies Brown's blind spot. To him there are no false teachers or prophets. All are brothers in Christ to him. To people who are discerning, they are wolves and are not brothers and sisters. Jesus teaches us after all, who is our mother and brother except they that do the will of the Father.
"Ironically, many of them hold to controversial doctrines (like the pre-trib rapture) or embrace unbiblical positions (like cessationism; I am charismatic because I am sola Scriptura), yet they sit in judgment on the rest of the Church." -- Dr. Michael Brown
I agree with Dr. Brown that the theology of cessationism is wrong although believing in it will not lead anyone to hell. I chose to highlight this portion because again Brown tries to share the criticisms. No one in a discernment ministry stands in judgment of anything other than teaching. Yes that teaching belongs to a teacher but to say that it is in judgment of the church is ludicrous. The reality is simple. The way that leads to eternal life is narrow and few are those who find it. The vast majority of people in church today are either unconverted or cannot tell the teaching they sit under is false. Either way, we preach the truth of the Gospel so that some might come out from them. Jesus taught that when you have convinced yourself that your darkness is actually light -- how deep is that darkness! Discernment ministries are not high volume "Amen" ministries. But when those lone emails come in where someone is thankful for having come into the true light of Jesus Christ it makes it all worth it. Dr. Brown now launches into the overall strawman argument of this piece; the phantom anonymous discernment ministries:
First, we have no idea who is running the ministry. Is it an 18-year old high-school kid? Is it a disgruntled, excommunicated church member in poor standing in his community? Is it an immature, thrice-divorced gossiper? Or is it a respected biblical scholar with fluency in the original texts or a highly-respected former missionary? Obviously, we would treat the critique of a respected biblical scholar a whole lot differently than that of a brand new, teenaged believer. -- Dr. Michael Brown
Let me say up front that I agree with Dr. Brown that anonymity would be problematic, if it were true. The reality is I do not know any true discernment ministry that is anonymous. Sure there are random trolls on Facebook and people who leave snarky comments on articles but those are not "discernment ministries." I find it almost comical that Brown comments on the possibility of a thrice divorced gossiper but recently has been writing articles shilling for Donald Trump as president. Putting that hypocrisy aside however, it is noted here that he tries to prop up his own credentials here as someone who was a respected biblical scholar with fluency in original texts but what can we learn from this? It doesn't matter how learned you are -- you can still fall for false teachings and Dr. Michael Brown is living proof of that. This is why Jesus teaches us that He will use the simple to confound the wise. The age argument is dismissed by the key verse today. While a leader should not be a new believer the chronological age is irrelevant. What matters again is the teaching and that includes what the discernment ministry is teaching as well. The same standard applies. It is interesting however that Brown reveals his own carnal bias. He would take what someone says who is a scholar a whole lot differently than a teenaged believer. I would apply the Bible to both and let the truth of the Word of God make those distinctions. I have met incredibly mature youth that know their Scripture and then we have learned scholars like Dr. Michael Brown who think there is nothing wrong with sharing a stage with someone who pretends to slay people in the spirit with his jacket.
"Second, there is no public accountability for the ministry. So, they malign and misrepresent others online, yet they cannot be corrected or rebuked. They spread false information about men and women of God, but no one can call them to account -- not their pastor or their denomination or their peers or their elders -- because no one knows who they are. And they are supposed to be correcting the Body? By what authority?" -- Dr. Michael Brown
What Dr. Brown is putting forth here is the false authority paradigm that is popular in many false churches. The Bible is the authority. Here is an actual example. Someone once prophesied that Fidel Castro would die during the 1990s and even though he gave himself a ten year window for this prophecy to come true he still missed the mark at least 16 years since Mr. Castro is still alive today. The Bible instructs us that we can mark this man as a false prophet and never consider his words again. That false prophet's name? Benny Hinn. Another man claims that angel feathers randomly fall all around him when he is out in public. This absurd claim was made by -- Bill Johnson. Another false teacher claims every sermon he preaches is given to him directly and audibly by God. His name? Joseph Prince. Are you sensing a theme? I do not need a pastor to run this by first. These are established facts. By the way, if a discernment minister makes any routine of lying or sensationalism then he will be judged by the very same Bible.
"Third, there is no way to know the ministry's (or the ministry leader's) connection to the rest of the Body. If Russell Moore speaks, we know of his connection to and standing with Southern Baptists. If George Wood speaks, we know of his connection to and standing with the Assemblies of God. But when an anonymous website brands certain people heretics or reveals the latest alleged false teaching, we do not know how much weight this person's ministry carries (if they have a ministry at all). Again, why should we pay any attention to them?" -- Dr. Michael Brown