Monday, January 20, 2014

Michael Brown and the Jonah Syndrome

Recently, for Charisma Magazine, Dr. Michael Brown wrote an article entitled "Are You Suffering from the Jonah Syndrome?" The opening states (the parts by Brown are in purple):
We all know that Jonah was the prophet who tried to run from God’s call. But do you know the reason he tried to run? Jonah was afraid that if he preached repentance to the people of Nineveh, who were Israel’s arch enemies, God would forgive them.

In other words, Jonah had a problem with the goodness of God.

He would have been much happier if God simply wiped out the people of Nineveh rather than had mercy on them, and he actually complained about this at the end of the book.

But as shocking as it is to see the wickedness of Jonah’s heart, many of us are just like him. I call it the Jonah Syndrome, and in times past, it has affected me too.
Dr. Brown's ultimate point is that there are some people who do not want to see God merciful towards others, and would rather see them suffer. At some point, he turns it to the infamous Benny Hinn debacle he found himself embroiled in a few weeks ago, writing:
This past week, having received a tremendous amount of criticism from some circles for appearing on Benny Hinn’s TV show, it dawned on me that some of his critics did not rejoice when he reconciled with his wife, while others were upset to learn that he renounced some erroneous teaching more than 20 years ago. They would rather see him fall than remarry his wife or repent of wrong teaching.
Of course, I can't speak for all of Benny Hinn's critics. There might be some out there who want to see him suffer regardless of any personal life change. There are some people who, like the Pharisees, just write people off and will hate them even if the person sincerely repents of their sins and shows the fruits of a regenerated life. I won't necessarily deny that.

However, I think by and large Dr. Brown is either misrepresenting them or bringing up a fringe opinion as if what a handful of people think is relevant to the larger picture. Most people I know who dislike Benny Hinn (including myself) were not concerned that his wife and himself reconciled (I was personally happy they did) - rather, they were upset for how he acted during the whole ordeal (holding hands with Paula White in Rome, throwing his wife under the bus on his TV show, etc.). As for him renouncing "some erroneous teaching more than 20 years ago," it would help if Dr. Brown told us what specific teachings Hinn has supposedly repented of. If Brown is referring to the infamous "Nine Person Trinity" heresy (which Brown has repeatedly claimed Hinn renounced), then to my knowledge Hinn admitted to an audience at one event that it was a "stupid thing to say," but before Paul Crouch on TBN he claimed he never said it and people just misunderstood him (a blatant lie, and just one of many Hinn has told over the decades). Likewise, has Benny Hinn repented of the Prosperity Gospel? Has he repented of his false healings, passed off as legitimate? Has he repented of the countless lies documented over the years? Has he repented of using the money from his flock to dine at five-star hotels and expensive restaurants, all the while claiming that it's for the ministry of the Gospel?

Most of all, however, what struck me about the article was that Michael Brown seemed to be defending himself against critics by saying that he went and preached the Gospel on Benny Hinn's show. However, he has himself admitted in interviews that he'd have to sit down with Hinn personally and chat about Benny Hinn's actual problems and theological hang ups. In other words, Michael Brown went and gave a general Gospel message (which is good, don't get me wrong), but one that didn't directly attack or criticize anything Benny Hinn or his followers taught and believed.

Was this what Jonah did? Was it what we saw in the book of Jonah? Was Jonah's message a general call to repentance to all people? No - what we saw was a personal rebuke in God's message. God's message was directed towards Nineveh and their specific sins. Look firstly at what God said to Jonah, at the beginning of the book:
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." [Jonah 1:2]
Look also at what Jonah said upon entering the city:
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" [Jonah 3:4]
Did Michael Brown go in and say, "If you do not repent of your Prosperity Gospel errors, your ministry will be destroyed"? Did he say, "If you do not repent, Benny, of your heresy, lies, and great deception, there will come a day when God will judge you and exact divine punishment upon you"? Did he say, "If you do not repent of your corrupt financial practices, then Benny Hinn Ministries shall be overthrown"?

No, he didn't.

Imagine the following scenario instead. Imagine if Jonah one day got up and went to Nineveh, and preached a general message about God's Law and the need for sacrifice, but that was it. Nothing was directed towards Nineveh and their terrible evils, and there was no outward sign of repentance from Nineveh. Imagine if Jonah's fellow prophets stood up and said, "Whoa, Jonah, you do realize that's Nineveh, right? One of the most sinful cities in the world, and that part of the world that especially hates God's church?" Imagine if Jonah replied with, "Oh, well, I'm ignorant of what Nineveh does, but a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy told me that they're pretty good these days, so I decided to just show up. But I'm not going to defend or criticize Nineveh's practices." Then, when people started calling Jonah out on this ridiculous excuse, he started going around saying, "Hey man, these other prophets just don't understand God's mercy." Would any of Jonah's actions be sensible?

This is the situation we're dealing with; Dr. Brown would rather it be that people saw him as this innocent preacher of the Gospel, who just went to Benny Hinn's show to share the message of reconciliation. His critics, however, are these evil people who don't want anyone under Benny Hinn to repent, and in fact desire to see them all destroyed. As he continues writing in the article:
How is this the spirit of Christ? (I shudder to think about some of the comments that will be posted in response to this article, as critics quote verses of judgment that rejoice in the fall of their enemies or that call for divine judgment on the “the wicked.” For my part, I am neither the defender nor the accuser of Benny Hinn’s ministry.)
Here he admits his moral antipathy towards Benny Hinn's ministry, which is really just about as bad as being a defender of it. It's like a politician responding to a question with, "I can neither affirm or deny that statement." The absurdity of this statement has already been talked to death: as I wrote in my previous post on the subject, Michael Brown is walking around in the Emperor's New Clothes, performing a parade when no one else is convinced (and even people on the Hyper-Charismatic side are noticing his hypocrisy).

Most amazing is Michael Brown's use of the Parable of the Vineyard Workers to justify his decision:
Let’s remember the Lord’s words in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where he rebukes those who had a problem with the owner’s goodness, asking, “Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)
Is this a relevant passage? What was the "owner's goodness"? Was it that God had mercy on those who didn't deserve it? Actually no, it was the fact that those vineyard workers who had only worked about an hour or so got paid the same amount that those who had been working all day had (Mt 20:9-12). This was the "generosity," and this was why the other workers were "envious." Using it to defend your association with a well known false prophet and heretic is inexcusable. In this situation (and really, the Jonah story in general), Dr. Brown is using scripture to defend his association with a false teacher and heretic.

He ends the article with these words:
And let’s remember the words of Jacob (James), that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Jam 2:13)

As we have received mercy, let us show mercy, never forgetting there are not different “camps” or “sides” in the Body of Christ – even if we use those terms descriptively – but just one family with one Father, and He desires to do good to all his children.
The problem with this application is that Benny Hinn is not a child of God. This has been demonstrated by nearly every Christian watchdog group on the planet - even in Charismatic circles. He's been recorded teaching heresy after heresy. He's been called out on for lie after lie. His false healings and corrupt financial lifestyle has been exposed by virtually every news network in the country. Dr. Brown can speak all he wants to about "camps" and "sides," but even he knows there's truth and error, and for him to try to use an emotional appeal to defend Benny Hinn shows the intellectual inconsistency and dishonesty that he is willing to engage in to keep up association.

The greatest hypocrisy here, just like the situation with Mike Bickle and Rick Joyner, is that Dr. Brown continues to attack or criticize his opponents, while at the same time refusing to interact with what they have to say. He'd rather misrepresent them or take one or two extreme opinions and act as if those alone negate everything coming from the opposite end. He'd rather make red herrings like, "You say pastor x is a heretic, but some people say pastor y is a heretic," as if criticisms of Pastor y somehow negates legitimate criticisms of x. He'd rather claim ignorance of Benny Hinn on the one hand, then on the other hand claim that he had enough information to make an educated decision on appearing on his show. Then when people try to inform him on the errors of Hinn and others, he'll simply ignore them or make excuses like "I'm too busy," even if it's a small article or a seven-minute video (never mind he asked Phil Johnson, second-in-command of John MacArthur's church, to listen to hours of pro-Charismatic audio and video). Yet, after ignoring what his opponents say, or dismissing any chance he'll ever interact with what they've written, said, or researched, he'll turn around and publicly claim their entire argument is spiritually or intellectually deficient.

That isn't discernment - it is intellectual dishonesty, and it shows a great hatred for the truth.

I'm reminded of a line from Chris Rock's stand up, where he says, "Hey man, I love rap music, but it's getting harder and harder to defend it." Every time Dr. Brown attempts to dig himself out of the discernment grave he's gotten himself into, he only digs himself deeper and deeper, and I find it harder and harder to consider him a brother in Christ who loves the truth and hates error.