I received a copy of the new Let the Lion Roar film, together with the accompanying book, from my friend and brother Michael Brown. I wrote up an entire post on FaceBook about my initial (and somewhat unplanned) reaction to the book, and wanted to provide it here:
I just received a copy of Let the Lion Roar from my dear friend and brother Michael L Brown — yes, THAT Michael Brown! So I popped the DVD into my bag to watch this evening after I get back from an afternoon ride (that time of year again!), but I grabbed the book and started leafing through it. It is very short, big font—in other words, it is basically the length of a few decently sized blog articles. I am a professor—so I looked immediately at the notes. HORRIFIC. I would reject this as a paper in a college level class. Completely non-standard citation methodology. You do not simply reference an entire book when giving a direct quotation! What is this? I have never seen anything like this before.
So I look at the material on Calvin—it is so short it is hard to take seriously. I mean, really—Calvin lived in a day when the Church and the Synagogue had been separated by a wall of prejudice for more than a thousand years. And, as I feared, the authors, showing an incredible ignorance of history itself, do not say a WORD about the real source of institutional anti-Jewish thinking: the Papacy. The amount of information about the Papal suppression of Judaism, the Inquisition, etc., is huge—but the reader of this book wouldn’t know about it. [Again, this is just based upon a quick review of the painfully brief book—if the film does a better job, well, why include the book?] To even pretend to address Calvin’s context and views without at least *mentioning* the preceding *1000 years* including the rise of the medieval Papacy and the stance of Rome toward Judaism is, well, irresponsible at the very least, and deceptive at its worst. In this case, I think it is just a matter of ignorance on the part of the author(s).
Now, my biggest concern, looking at what I was seeing on line, was that this would be an attack, clothed in historically a-contextual citations (I expected a lot more of them!), on so called “replacement theology.” Now, that phrase is most unfortunate, and inaccurate. The recognition of the continuity of the promises of God, and their fulfillment in the Body of Christ, “the true Israel,” etc., is not “replacement” at all. But if you dare conclude that while a remnant would always be drawn to Christ, that the genealogical line of Abraham is not the focus of the promises of God, but instead, those who are the seed of Abraham by faith (as it has always been!) are, well, evidently you are the real problem! To hold that view leads, in the minds of some, inevitably to anti-semitism! And I find that absurd, to be honest. There is not the slightest *logical* necessity for someone who believes the Church is the “true Israel” and the “true circumcision” and hence the fulfillment of God’s promises etc. to engage in anti-Jewish behavior or attitudes. NONE. Zero. Zip. “Oh, but people who held that view did terrible things to the Jews.” Folks, please, THINK. Those folks were also Trinitarians. They believed in the Virgin Birth. They believed in the resurrection. So what? “But, if they had believed otherwise, they wouldn’t have done that.” How do you know that? Every truth of God has been twisted by men in the history of the church. Every single one.
So, here’s a quick observation. In the SINGLE paragraph (p. 13—see, providing a page number did not turn me into a newt—it didn’t even hurt!) where “Calvin’s view” is laid out (seriously? I could have done a LOT more in-depth discussion of this off the top of my head without turn a single page of a book!) you have two citations (which I am not here disputing, but noting that they are not at all properly referenced) provided. HOWEVER, without even a paragraph break, without even a recognition of the absolutely necessary argumentation and grounding required, this sentence ends the paragraph:
“And when commenting on Romans 11:26 about “and so all Israel shall be saved,” he had dogmatically asserted that “the Israel of God is what Paul calls the Church.” (Escaping the Great Deception, Derek Frank, 2014, p. 13).
Yes, Calvin is, of course, exactly right in his comments on Romans 11:26, and the preceding context (note how chapter 11 begins with the discussion of the λεῖμμα, the remnant, v. 5), but what, pray tell, does that have to do with the preceding portions of the paragraph? Logically, fairly, historically, theologically—NOTHING. But for this book? EVERYTHING. And that is what had me concerned from the start: when you write a book about history *based in visions and dreams* the result will be—well, something much less than compelling from an historical, logical, or theological perspective, to be sure.
So there are my initial thoughts. The writing level is below acceptable for a blog, let alone a book. You do not pretend to address historical issues like this and not even put out the effort to provide page numbers for your references! Utterly unacceptable. So…the film? Well, let’s hope for better, but when the documentation is this sub-standard, I predict some very, very painful moments for someone whose first teaching job was teaching church history, and who taught it again earlier this year in Kiev. Review by this evening? Maybe, but no promises.
I have invited Michael Brown to comment on this post. He has written a book on a similar theme, and if he could send me a PDF or something I will get through it asap—and with Michael, I can trust there will be endnotes with page numbers! I sense a Dividing Line in the future, maybe when I get back from Kiev/Berlin. If Michael and I can remain close and survive yet another debate on yet another topic (one that is close to both of us—he in reference to his views on Israel as a Jewish believer in Jesus, I due to my deep dislike of the many a-contextual, unfair, imbalanced attacks upon the Reformers in general, and Calvin in particular, as a means of poisoning people against Reformed theology), well—we may end up being the two old men in rocking chairs at the Old Apologists Home someday trading barbs and shots and talking about “the good ol’ days.”