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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Potter's Freedom - Now In Electronic Format | Main | Monergism.com Update - August 2006 »

    Steve Brown's What Was I Thinking?

    I read this excellent little book on the Internet Monk's recommendation, never having even heard of Steve Brown before. I'm glad I did, and I'll be sure to read his other books as well.

    At first I thought this book was going to be a bit boring. The full title is, What Was I Thinking: Things I've Learned Since I Knew It All. So I figured it would be about how, after he became settled in his perfect Presbyterianism, he came to more earnestly and humbly believe the things he already professed, which is all nice and good. But I wasn't particularly looking forward to 12 chapters of "I thought Jesus was radical, but now I really believe he's radical!"

    In a sense Brown does this, but what makes this book great is the way he does it—it surprised me, even when I was expecting something of the sort. His grasp of the grace of God toward sinners through Jesus Christ is remarkable, and he really makes you feel it. He especially makes you feel the impact of his insights if, like him, you've "got all your theological ducks in a row." He exposes my own soul time and again as he describes his own journey. The best part is, he gets across to his readers, "If God is merciful to someone like me, then he can sure be merciful to someone like you," which conveys a strong assurance of the love of God that every Christian needs.

    If your Christianity has become religious habit, this is the book to jolt you out of that rut. I felt torn the whole time I read it—I wanted simultaneously to speed ahead and read his next tremendous insights, and to slow down and take a week to read each chapter devotionally. I figure a book doesn't capture you much more than that! I know Brown expects more Christians to read this than non-Christians, but I can imagine many unbelievers being captured by the grace of God in Christ through this book. It's one I'll buy (or at least suggest) for my friends.

    Posted by Eric Costa on August 11, 2006 11:47 PM

    Comments

    I've heard some good and bad things from Steve Brown and have decided mostly to stay away from his teaching. His position on the moral law of God is antinomian to the core.

    I heard him say on a radio program one day, "If I am truly free, then I am free to spit or cuss in God's presence." (I heard this on Midday Connection, Moody Broadcasting)

    To this the lady host so aptly replied with Psalm 119:45 "And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts."

    He doesn't understand that true Christian freedom is not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin. Not only that, but if I do spit or cuss in God's prescence it would be a surefire way to grieve the Holy Spirit causing loss of fellowship(although not loss of relationship).

    Now, I believe in eternal security which I believe is the point he is trying to make, but that kind of comment is recklessly stated.

    Alan

    Alan: I think you may have misinterpreted him—he is not antinomian, as is evident from this quote from a section against antinomianism in one of his books:

    "Any view suggesting that God no longer has any concern for our obedience to him and his ways is sheer nonsense" (Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom, 56).

    In a sense, all of us are antinomian—none of us desires to keep God's law, and we wish it would just go away so that we could be righteous on our own terms.

    In another sense, Steve Brown is antinomian (like any good Christian should be)—he's against God's law as our means of being right with God.

    But in the regular sense, Steve Brown is not antinomian: "If you want to know the best way to live, live according to God's instructions" (ibid., 58).

    "In our broadcast, in my teaching, and in my books, I tell God's people that, because of Christ, God isn't angry at them and never will be angry at them. Some say, however, that I am encouraging sin by my teaching.... Well, I don't encourage sin in what I teach—I don't have to! Christians do fine in the sin area without any encouragement" (60).

    If you're not free to spit and cuss in God's presence, you're not free to spit and cuss anywhere (since God is everywhere). Heck, you probably shouldn't even breathe anywhere, the always-sinning creature that you are—if your existence and relationship with God depend on you!

    The point he's making is that Christians DO spit and cuss (among other things), and that our freedom in Christ allows us to live our continuously sinful lives without fear that God's going to burn us up. He wants to see us all get better, giving up the spitting, cussing, and whatever. But he knows that the blood of Christ covers those things that we're inevitably going to do for the rest of our earthly lives. That's as much "freedom to sin" as it is "freedom to live as a fallen human."

    In a time when so many folks expect so much from others and so little from themselves (and this time is no different from other eras, it seems to me), it is refreshing to see in print what I've often thought about.
    God is so much greater than we want to admit that He is. Jesus came to do so much more than we want Him to do. And we can become so much more than we think we can become, if we realize the two statements above.
    Steve Brown makes one see salvation and God's Love as far more than we have the ability to imagine. How wonderful it would be if Christians let God be all that He is and if we shared that "information" with the world around us instead of leading them to believe that they will never be as "good as we are."
    WHAT WAS I THINKING? has made me see what I need to do to encourage my fellow human beings to accept God's Love.

    Ann Lovingood

    To believe God is not concerned with the behavior of his children is absurd and heretical. Bad behavior caused God to destroy the world by flood. Bad behavior causes untold suffering on the earth. Bad behavior cost God himself unspeakable suffering on the cross. True we are free moral agents. So free infact that God allows us the freedom to even go to Hell, a place created for Satan and the fallen angels. If we choose not to submit, and not make him LORD and Savior, that is our destination. Your choice.

    Is there any question that the Father desires righteousness? I don't think any believer thinks that. But the work of Christ was so scandalous that it did in fact give freedom to sin inasmuch as it gave freedom from sin. The two phrases mean the same thing! In this country we have certain freedoms (freedom of speech, the press, etc...) but we don't have freedom to break the law. But Christ's death provided exactly that...freedom from the law of sin and death. That's what makes it so scandalous and so amazing. We can now break God's law (and accordingly His desire for our lives) yet still remain "saved" and forgiven...and ultimately in His presence. There are consequences for sin (some quite severe), but for the believer, seperation from God is not one of them.

    The phrase "grieve the Holy Spirit" is found in the New Testament in Ephesians 4. It may surprise you as to what sins were listed that do this: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. The command that follows this list is: "be compassionate to one another, forgiving one another as Christ forgave you." However, the phrase "grieve the Holy Spirit" has most often been used by charismatic men and preachers to describe what WE do to GOD when we continually fall short. As a result, telling people that they are "hurting" or "grieving" God in their struggles with personal sin is like a tool of torture for the sensitive conscience...causing them to fall away when they come to believe they can never be good enough.

    I believe that the root cause as to why this message is absent from the mainstream evangelical church is FEAR. We are afraid that if this scandalous message of freedom is preached that the church will just turn into a giant orgy or something. But we've got to stop trying to do God's job for Him. He knew what He was doing when He granted this all-encompassing amnesty. This is the radical nature of the Gospel. Like Paul said, it doesn't mean that we stop doing good or try to sin more...but, in my opinion, it does mean that we stop trying to be better and stop trying to sin less. Once we release ourselves from that responsibility, God may just take over and the result may be what we think is a "better" or "holier" life. But believe me, if that happens to me, it will have nothing to do with my own effort...so that I may not boast.

    What do Steve Brown, Martin Luther and George Sodini have in common?

    Besides faulty non-apostolic doctrine, a failure to "hold fast the form of sound words." (2 Timothy 1:13)

    Martin Luther:

    "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger... No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day." (Letter to Melanchthon)

    George Sodin (the day before he murdered three people in a Pittsburgh gym, having taken the exhortation of a Calvinist pastor quite literally.)

    "Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them."

    We WILL answer to God for every IDLE word, let alone every wicked deed. "Be not deceived..."


    When Luther says we should go get a drink and talk nonsense with our friends in order to fight the devil we should feel sorry for him. He was a Monk after all, and a pioneer in coming out of Romanism. We, on the other hand, 500 years later, shouldn't be so inclined to react to the boundaries imposed upon us by a 21st century Church. We have much more opportunity to smoothly transition out of bondage into freedom. We need a Modern Reformation, but surely Augustinian Monasticism was harder than Modern Evangelicalism.

    Luther came out with major issues. I understand. Steve Brown came out with major issues, drunk father, mean mother, etc. I understand. Were he to contribute to the progress of the Church, however, I think he should've read Luther, got on top of his shoulders, and instead of writing what appears flippant work to me, a quest for maturity: How can the Christian live who has shaken off bondage-- how can he live without the naivety of a Luther? How can we press on?

    There's no reason for Church history to be the sin cycles of the Judges. I think we have to push, push, and push forward. We now know that drinking and smoking aren't the best for your health, that rather than talk nonsense we would be wise to invest our time in excelling in every area of life. And we also know that while vulgar speech may turn heads, it's not in our best interests to treat holy things with such ease.

    I asked for a refund at RTS for his class, and hope to at least get it changed into an audit. If for anything, it was at a Reformed seminary, but I didn't learn Reformed Piety. I learned everything from psychoanalysis to 'Centering Prayer'. If one wants to develop a solid Christian Life, I think they should turn elsewhere: Puritans, Princeton Divines, etc.

    BTW: I think the main reason for his popularity is his deep voice, story telling, and shock value. I don't doubt his salvation, I just wish his approach promoted what I consider maturity.

    I'm open to correction. Please write me if you have a way to sharpen my perspective.

    in Christ,

    Matthew

    A man's righteousness is but filthy rags before the Almighty God.That's why he sent Christ.We claim to be Christians but we spend all our time trying to attain righteousness by our strength,engaging in pointless activities thinking that makes us holy.One broken commandment means you've broken all.Christ set a standard higher than that of the law.A standard that holds to account not just our actions but our thoughts and motives.Man cannot meet this standard and never will as long as he lives.But with Christ, we have grace, which means that we don't need to give up on salvation because we are constantly falling to sin.With the grace that Christ brought,I know that God still loves me even though i am unable to obey him 100%.With Christ, we have a new heart,that moves us ever closer to that holiness,a heart that desires to keep the commands because that pleases God,not as a bargaining chip for judgement day, a faith that one day we won't be sinning as much as we do now:saying no to that which we fall for now.
    That's scandalous freedom for me.

    Charles

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