Thursday, August 31, 2017

Another, Final, Open Letter to Michael Brown

To Dr. Michael Brown;

Back in 2013, I wrote you an open letter regarding your words of support for false teacher and cult leader Mike Bickle. I had posted that open letter because, after sending a private letter to you through your website, I realized that I may not receive a response from you through that channel, other than maybe a passive aggressive reference through one of your written articles. As it turned out, and as I recorded in a follow up post, you refused to read my open letter at all. You claimed that you were getting a lot of responses and couldn't respond to all public challenges. You did this while spending about an hour chatting with me on Twitter, using up time that could have been used reading my article and glancing at the sources I provided. In the end, you challenged me to talk to IHOP-KC and its leaders yourself - something I then told you I'd actually done personally - while assuring me that you'd already looked into Mike Bickle and his teachings enough to verify them as being orthodox.

As I found out later, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Later on, you defended Benny Hinn, and (like you had done so many times in the past) pretended to be ignorant of what precisely Benny Hinn was guilty of. When the criticism rose higher, you wrote an article playing victim and comparing yourself to Jonah delivering the message of God to Ninevah. At this point, Phil Johnson told you on Twitter that it was "getting hard to take you seriously" - and I had to agree with him on that.

Yet it's continued. You've repeatedly played ignorant on what false men teach. When people try to educate you, you assure them you're too busy to look at anything. (This, even though you told Phil Johnson, John MacArthur's right-hand man, to watch hours of videos affirming your views.) You've defended the craziest of things, including the "sneaky squid spirit" of Jennifer LeClaire, something which most clear-thinking Christians would recognize as incredibly insane - yet you still defended it, going so far as to say we shouldn't put down LeClaire since the Bible nowhere says there isn't a sneaky squid spirit. (That's a shifting the burden of proof fallacy, by the way.) In interviews, you kept diverting criticisms of false teachers to other people; listening to your interview with JD Hall was mentally painful, because you could not respond to a single contention without "but John MacArthur..." Only too recently, you announced you were going to guest host an episode of It's Supernatural, a Hyper-Charismatic nonsense show where a previous guest claimed to have met an angel that gave him "a 50 carat ruby from heaven."

Over time, I came to realize you repeat the same defenses and tactics over and over again. I was reminded of a humorous bit in the British comedy show Yes Minister, where Hacker, the eponymous minister of government, finds out from a former minister that his adviser, Humphrey, has a series of arguments and contentions he makes every time he opposes a decision. Hacker writes these down, then, the very next time he speaks to Humphrey, simply goes down the list, checking each one off. Whenever I see someone confront you online about a false teacher, I could literally reenact that scene with such a list. I know I'm not the only one to make one of these, but here is one of my own writing, from my own observations:
  • You claim ignorance of what crazy thing the false teacher has done. (As I wrote earlier, you even tried this with Benny Hinn - and no one bought it!)
  • You assure everyone that this crazy thing you're entirely ignorant about is actually completely orthodox and scriptural.
  • You commit an ad hominem tu quoque (a logical fallacy that a ten-year old can identify), saying things like, "But people don't like what John MacArthur says either," or "There's crazy things happening in other movements, too."
  • You tell the person to call in to your show. (Why would they bother, if you're just going to make all the same arguments?)
  • You tell the person to read your book(s). (I can't help but notice you want everyone else to research what you believe, but you flatly refuse to research what they believe.)
  • You try to divert the topic to Cessationism vs. Continuationism, even if that's not the topic of debate. (Not really surprising - your friend Allen Hood tried that too.)
  • If all else fails, you try to take the moral high ground. You tell the person to pray about their misdirected anger, or spend more time with God. You may also claim to be the real victim, trying to make it appear that you're the one in the spiritual right.
So, when I saw that you and Justin Peters had gotten into a scuffle on Twitter, I couldn't help but notice that you committed a lot of the same tactics I outlined here. You told Justin Peters now was not the time to criticize false teachers... as if you would be much more agreeable during the right time. When Justin Peters brought up the bizarre claim by the Copelands that they could rebuke storms and control the weather through faith, you played damage control by trying to argue that Kenneth Copeland never claimed he could control all weather. (So it's just that Kenneth Copeland claims he can control some of the weather?! Is that somehow supposed to make it better?!)

H/T to J Maez

At this point, I felt I had to interact with you again, and so I did. Our topic soon turned to Lou Engle and Mike Bickle, two men I have written and spoken on before, and which I know you have defended in the past. You replied to me regarding these two men: "Lou Engle and Mike Bickle are dear friends of mine and committed, godly, servants of the Lord. I absolutely stand with them."

Saved for posterity

Over the course of our discussion, was I strong in my language? Yes, I was. Probably more than I would have been with other people. There are two reasons for this:

First, I know you are an intelligent man, and so I hold you up to the highest of standards. Contrary to what you may presume about your critics, I have nothing but good things to say for your intellectual ability. I've heard you in debates against leftists, Anti-Trinitarians, and others. I've heard you on the Dividing Line explaining Isaiah 53 and other passages. I had purchased one of your Answering Jewish Objections books. Point is, I firmly believe you're a sharp man when it comes to thinking. I've heard you speak on the subject of transgenderism and homosexuality, and I know you can identify faulty arguments. That's why, when you completely faceplant when it comes to the NAR and other Hyper-Charismatic movements and personalities, I hold you even higher than I would someone who might otherwise be a weak or young Christian in the faith. It's like how I hold my daughter to a tougher standard for things she's smart enough to know about, versus things she might be ignorant about due to her age. Similarly, when it comes to theology and logical fallacies, I hold you to a higher standard because I know you're supposed to know better. When I hear you make something so obviously fallacious as an ad hominem tu quoque, or I see you shifting the burden of proof, I know that you're aware of how childish such an argument would seem if it was coming from one of your debate opponents, rather than your own mouth. To hear Michael Brown the Debater, then hear Michael Brown the Charismatic, it's like listening to two entirely different people, and that can be very frustrating, because there should be no difference.

Second, I have personally known people affected by these movements - both through online interaction, as well as face-to-face known. I've seen what the NAR does to people. I've seen firsthand how Mike Bickle's teachings have destroyed lives. I've seen how people can suffer under these men. I've had mothers whose children abandoned them for IHOP-KC email me to share their stories. I've spoken to people who left IHOP-KC and shared with me the subtle threats given by leaders to those who might leave the ministry entirely. Forgive me, therefore, if, after seeing what horrors these monsters of heresy and error can unleash, I get a little hot under the collar when someone with a respected name in apologetics gets on his radio show or goes online and, with a smile, assures everyone that Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, Rick Joyner, and all these other madmen are servants of the Lord and great men of faith. Forgive me if that doesn't make me just a little bit ticked off with righteous anger. When you do this, you are precisely like those false teachers in the Old Testament who told the church "peace, peace," when there was no peace (Jer 6:14; 8:11; Eze 13:10, 6).

By the end of our conversation, what did you with me? You claimed that I had "slandered men of God who love His Word and honor Him with all their hearts," and therefore I had "disqualified" myself from "serious interaction."

And then you blocked me.

Before today I had seen that you wanted to delude yourself about the error of your NAR friends. Now I saw firsthand that this delusion went even so far as interaction with other believers.

You accused me of slander. The use of the word slander would mean that I told "an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed." As anyone will see by taking a cursory glance at my blog, which I link to on my Twitter page, I have written and spoken extensively on Lou Engle and Mike Bickle. I have backed up my statements that they are false teachers and doctrinally unsound, and have done so from their own sermons and from their own writings. Over the course of several years, I have examined their use of scripture. I have examined their claims. I have shown how they rely more on their dreams and personal revelations and experiences than the true context of God's written word. If I had made untrue statements about fellow believers, it might have behooved you to have demonstrated what those untrue statements were. If you believe I am bearing false witness against my neighbor, then you should have confronted me and showed me how, so that I could have been properly rebuked and hence repented.

But you didn't do that. Because you can't. Because you never interact with what the other side says. You never own up to what false teachers say. You say the insanity of Charismatics is only in the fringe groups... then you proceed to defend the fringe groups. When confronted you deflect, divert, and engage in irrational argumentation. You avoid having to come to grips with what the other people say about your buddies in the NAR movement. You refuse to watch even a two-minute video that might challenge your views. You refuse to even glance at one blog post which might record and document all the errors those in the NAR are committing. You might have some discussions on the matter with your friend James White (a man I deeply respect and admire, even if I wish he was harder on you), and you or your supporters (or even Dr. White, unfortunately) will use that to claim that you have responded to all legitimate criticisms, and hence don't need to defend yourself further. Nonetheless, in the larger scheme of things, you thrive on remaining ignorant of what is being sent your way.

And yet you accused me of slandering "men of God."

This, despite the fact that you yourself admitted during our conversation that you didn't know who I was, let alone what I was referring to. You clearly made no effort to see what I had written on the subject, or to ask me what specific examples might come from all this. You had no basis to accuse me of slandering other Christians other than your own superficial, knee-jerk disagreement. Contrary to how you usually think and operate when dealing with others, this wasn't a rational response. This isn't scholarly debate. This was battening down the hatches, throwing up the shields, slapping on the blinders... whatever appropriate metaphor you want to use. This was the sort of reaction I receive from Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, and even some atheists when the truth slaps them right in the face... this isn't the sort of reaction I expect from a professing believer.

All this only reveals your heart, and where it is directed. You are so ingrained in your fellowship with false teacher and false doctrine that you yourself slander and cut off other Christians. We are commanded by the apostle Paul to "keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them" (Rom 16:17). You should turn yourself away from a man like Lou Engle, whom I have never heard exposit a passage of scripture rightly, and who guides himself by his wild dreams and visions rather than the plain word of God... yet you do not. You should turn yourself away from a man like Mike Bickle, who distorts the word of God based on personal revelation from God about an end-times ministry centered around himself, and whose followers, behind closed doors, talk about him the way Mormons do Joseph Smith... yet you do not. Both these men, in the way they handle scripture, stand against everything the Reformation attempted to do, and would have been resoundingly condemned by the Reformers... yet you claim they follow sola scriptura, and you call them "dear friends" and "committed, godly servants of the Lord."

Who do you turn yourself away from? Those who try to bring up their errors to you. You slander and block those who point out the errors of your friends. You would rather cut off fellowship and dialogue with another believer than even dare entertain the idea that the NAR and its leadership might be wrong. You would rather accuse a brother in Christ of slander, and declare him disqualified for conversation, than even dare to consider Lou Engle or Mike Bickle have demonstrated themselves utterly unqualified for pastoral leadership.

You talk well against many enemies of the faith, and you argue well against those who wish to redefine marriage or gender - and for that, you'll probably always have fans and supporters. However, as far as truth is concerned, especially in regards to your camp of Charismatic thought, you engage in doublespeak, self-delusion, and deception. When you're called out on this, and people aren't as nice or understanding as people like your friend James White, you double down and engage in self-defense. You've accused me of slandering believers, but I know this isn't the first time you've done this. Remember when people found out about homosexual choir leaders at Hillsong NYC, and you accused fellow Christians of lying and spreading internet rumors? But all those supposed lies and internet rumors turned out to be true, Dr. Brown. But since it was Hillsong, and they're Charismatic, you were willing to believe their initial PR reports, and you were ready and willing to label other Christians as dishonest and engaging in disunity. Like a Jehovah's Witness hearing an attack against the Watchtower Society, you threw away all intelligence you had so that "the cause" could be defended, even if it meant isolating anyone you supposedly considered on your side of the fence.

I write this article knowing, most of all, that you will most likely never read it, because, as was cited at the beginning of this post, you don't read open letters or public statements. It would be fantastic if you would read it, and perhaps feel convicted (by God's grace) to review how you really have been handling things... but I know you won't, and I know that others like myself have tried to reach out to you, both kindly and bluntly, to no avail. The truth of it is, at the end of the day, you're really not interested in engaging in the truth. You continue in self-deception and fork-tongued rhetoric if it benefits your side, and defend your Hall of NAR Heroes. If anyone dares to break through that bubble of yours, you push them away and treat them like unbelievers. Many have said that the NAR, or at least certain parts of it, are either cult-like or full blown cults, and you demonstrate that you are definitely engaging in cult-like behavior by your attitude here.

The apostle Paul tells us to "reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11). By your choosing to remain in fellowship with false teachers, false prophets, and men who warp and twist God's word, and bring unspeakable damage to the body of Christ, you label yourself as one self-condemned. If you do not repent of your associations and fellowship with false teachers, then you will one day stand beside all those men whom you admired and cherished so much, and with them you shall hear the words of Christ: "I never knew you" (Matt 7:23).

All the same, I pray that doesn't happen.