Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Steve Brown - 1

PREFACE: this isn't either an "expose" or an analysis of Steve Brown. It's (a) my impressions based on just a few lectures in a 37-lecture series, and (b) my invitation to anyone who does know more about him to tell what he or she knows.

Do any of you know anything firsthand about Steve Brown?

I know he's a little Presbyterian (PCA) pastor who's an author, pastor, seminary prof, and radio host. I know I wish I had his voice. Years ago I heard Key Life a few times. I know I saw a bit or two of a cable-type TV show he did in which he had friendly arguments with the execrable Tony Campolo. And that's about it.

I've been listening to courses from Reformed Theological Seminary. They put whole courses online for free through iTunes. Well, one of them is a course of like thirty-seven lectures on grace (!) by Steve Brown. I've listened to about three of them.

So far, they're winsome, a bit thought-provoking, and really irritating. I've wanted to slap him several times; he says things I think are just flat-out irresponsible. Because he's PCA and teaching at RTS, and because he disagrees with Tony Campolo, I'm giving him a conditional and temporary benefit-of-a-doubt until I feel like I've gotten his point.

Which I don't yet. It's been heavy on stories and anecdotes, and next to nothing on Scripture. So far he's setting off my warning-light of hyperconceptualizing. In other words, he's sounding like a guy who's latched on to a true and Biblical concept (grace), detached it from the Bible, loaded it with his own ideas and concepts and implications, and made a career of it.

He keeps talking about people who do and do not understand or get "grace." He says "grace," but so far the concept that makes the best sense of his uses is "license." But he insists that isn't what he's talking about. He also keeps insisting that he isn't antinomian, but he sure sounds like he is.
And he keeps talking blithely about things God says to him, and God laughing, and a bunch of dribble — and he's not talking about the Bible. Which, as you know...yikes. Fingernails on the chalkboard.

In fact, so far, the course has been very heavy on stories and anecdotes and wit, and very light on Bible.

So, HSAT (Having Said All That) — do any of you have firsthand knowledge of Steve Brown? Have you heard the course through, read his books, listened regularly to Key Life? What do you think, if so?

By the bye, you'll notice that the post is titled "Steve Brown - 1." You'd be right in taking that to signal my intention to revisit after I've heard more or (if I stick it out) all of the lectures, and either deny, confirm, or further stir these impressions.

Update: Part Two.

22 comments:

Scott Shaffer said...

Dan,

About two years ago, I was listening to his broadcast and he was talking about his book "A Scandalous Freedom" (at least I think that is the title). Anyway, it is about grace. What he said seemed to be promoting antinomianism, but I wasn't sure, so I bought the book. I have to tell you I had a hard time reading the book. At times I found myself nodding in agreement while other times I was put off. Maybe I'll take another look at it so I can better articulate what I liked or didn't like.

Even So... said...

DJP, FYI, read this and it will give you a more full understanding perhaps...

Even So... said...

On his blog, check out the "three free sins" material, and you will see the essence of what he is talking about...

DJP said...

Ohhh, yuck.

That article... just, yuck.

But almost worse, the comment thread just makes my lights and sirens really start to crank up. Scanning it, I see one brother try to bring some actual Bible to bear on what Brown just said, and immediately Brownites jump all over him.

And how do they respond? Not with any Bible. They start spouting Brownisms at him, the very ones I've already heard in these lectures. Brown slogans, Brown sayings, Brown terms. That's a classic (not conclusive, yet) baaad sign.

DJP said...

Okay, now -- what?!

The three free sins, the whole discussion... more yuck.

And pumping up Anne Lamott? The unrepentant, antinomian, murderess? Good grief.

What is this? How is this guy PCA? Why is he teaching at RTS?

Just looks worse and worse. Why is there no buzz about this guy?

LeeC said...

Oi,

Even So...

I think I'd rather go watch my Star Wars holiday vid....

Even So... said...

Both gave me nightmares, but only one caused me to "yak" on the spot...

DJP said...

I continue to listen, and it's a real mixture. In some ways, very conservative (literal 7-day creation, for instance)... but still not a lot of Scripture, though a ton of stories, anecdotes, poems, greeting-cards....

He told this one story about an apple-stealing RC priest and an apple-stealing girl. When he was through, he said, "Boy, wasn't that good? Wasn't that good?" And I said, "No, it was just stupid." The point seemed to be if you just give in to your sin, eventually you'll cut back. (What?!!)

I was close to bailing entirely a couple of times, and may yet. Sort of want to see where he's going.

Have you studied him out further, JD? Could you offer some more detailed thoughts?

Rhology said...

I just always found the woman who was on his radio show to be pretty annoying, and rarely listened b/c of that and the shallowness of the teaching. I never put 2 and 2 together, that he was the Old White Guy. Rgh, I don't like that site.

Even So... said...

Well, he preached a large "event" for a PCA church in our area last Easter, and we had some people go, as it was before our service and held at a campground, big stuff, I guess...anyway, from hearing what people said he said (I didn't go) and looking around and listening to Key Life a little more (not a whole lot, and reading the blog of his and its ancillary material, I think I have a handle on the MO) he seems to make a disconnect between head and heart (not that there is actually one, of course)...he has great doctrinal precision in a personal way, then leaves huge gaps for inclusiveness, esp. with Emergent types, but makes the cognitive dissonance dance and speaks of it all as just sincerity of heart if the Jesus question is tackled in a normal way. Of course, that question keeps getting defined a little differently, not so much by him, but by those he "let's in" per se...There are times his wisdom about when to aplly the gas and/or brakes is well done, but other times, well, it just sounds like someone trying to get along with everybody, and acting like Jesus will just call it all a wash...

This sentence you wrote:

In other words, he's sounding like a guy who's latched on to a true and Biblical concept (grace), detached it from the Bible, loaded it with his own ideas and concepts and implications, and made a career of it.

seems to hit thre proverbial nail on the head.

Look, his emphasis is probabaly a needed correction to many propblems, but he swings the penduluum way too far too often, and this leads to confusion as to what "speaking the truth in love" really is...

I sure don't want to be the one to tell him to stand down, because as far as his persoanl beliefs regarding doctrine, he seesm pretty right on, but HSAT, eventually, you have to separate from those that won't separate from others...

Yeah, I realize I might not have been specific enough, and I have not finished my thoguths on him as I need to be more informed, but even so, I had one of our ministers come to me last week, having read that article, and asked me about why no one was calling him out...I think that says much to the fact that we need to review and come to a better understanding, we may be wrong, and I don't want to be hasty, but I definitely have my red flag out...

Even So... said...

I am the typo king, and I apologize...and when I said "we" might be wrong, I meant "me"...

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

Yikes! Reading through that comment thread linked to by Even So, I just have say I'd never heard of Steve Brown before today, but if a tree can be known by its fruits, then your first impressions would appear to be well-founded, Dan.

Stefan said...

Hmmm, the more I read up, the more confused I am (sounds like a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing alert!). He's spoken at Ligonier (link); he gets mentioned approvingly on ostensibly Reformed blogs as someone who preaches resting in the grace of God alone. And I suppose for folks coming from a truly legalistic church background, he might be just the antidote they need to get them focussed on the Cross of Christ.

And yet...and yet...something just doesn't seem quite right about his approach.

Here's a blog post of his from a month ago. He runs through a list of common criticisms of him, and says he asked God whether those criticisms are valid. He claims that God responded, "probably," and then laughed.

Yup, apparently God is just an avuncular fellow who laughs in a chummy sort of way at our failings. I guess Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephanaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, John the Baptist, Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude had God's attitude to sin all wrong, and were just being too uptight and legalistic. (Lord have mercy on me for mentioning the possibility, even in sarcasm.)

marksbury-shaun said...

I've listened to his radio program ("Steve Brown Etc.") off and on for several months now. Overall, an interesting program in its format. Although he continuously claims to hold orthodox, conservative views, he gives liberal theologians (such as Tony Campolo) the majority of the airtime with very little in the way of rebuttal.

I haven't heard any of his other stuff yet. Always lots of podcasts to get through. :)

Fred Butler said...

I just know the man has a good set of radio pipes. That's tech talk for a good radio voice.

Fred

DJP said...

Yep. I want them.

When I pastored in the desert, every now and then I'd get something with my throat -- allergy, I don't know what. I felt absolutely fine, but my voice would go weird. For part of it, I'd lose my voice. But as it came back, it was 'WAY deep; I'd say that I'd have to sit in a different part of the choir, if we had a choir.

And I'd always hope that the change was permanent.

And it always wasn't.

The Doulos said...

I've listened to Brown in the past on Key Life, have one of his books on prayer which is OK, but as you observe, heavy on stories and short on Scripture. I was really stunned to see him doing this series of lectures for RTS, seemed not to be a good fit.

Fred said...

Wow!. This thread is so ironic. I was just asking the same questions over at Old Truth. Someone there linked me to here.I downloaded some of his stuff a couple of days ago and , well, I have the same opinion many of you do. He says nothing really.

He talks of grace and freedom. He seems to believe that we are free to do anything, even sin. I can see some of what he is saying , but I believe the emphasis is all wrong. I do not believe that Americans have a problem with the concept of freedom. What they have problem with is obedience. This Brown seems to downplay to up play grace. I think he is just tipping the scales too far in the opposite direction that he wants to correct.

Brian said...

Hey Dan.....I am one of those guys going toe to toe with the Brownites on his blog in the section you mentioned. Yes, I am in discussion with these folks and getting nowhere reasoning from Scripture....was even "censored" recently for asking how they handle the James, "faith without works is dead". I will persist to defend vs these antinomians, who's teacher makes a Caracature out of the Biblical Jesus!!

Kelli said...

i went to rts-orlando for three years and worked there, too. steve brown is one of the most refreshing professors, or people for that matter, at the school. i wonder if you should visit? steve would love to visit with you, even if you want to slap him. that's the kind of guy he is.

terriergal said...

Just looks worse and worse. Why is there no buzz about this guy?

Same reason there was no 'buzz' about Rick Warren for a long time. As soon as someone says anything, they get jumped all over and persecuted by the sheep who haven't seen the concerns yet.

I've had my issues with, for example, Ray Comfort consorting with the Word Faithers even after he was warned by Ingrid Schlueter and Ken Silva, and those two brave souls who raised the issue took a LOT of hits for daring to correct such a beloved figure. Then there is Ravi Zacharias who claims Henri Nouwen is one of the 'great saints' of recent memory, even though he was a Christian-buddhist, and mystic. People don't like their golden calves to be tarnished, or have the tarnish pointed out.