If you've ever heard the "Key Life" radio program, then you've probably heard the rich, authoritative, made-for-radio voice of Steve Brown, who is also a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where his rich, authoritative, made-for-seminary voice has dispensed wisdom and knowledge to students for a number of years now --- and to his own congregation and countless audiences at seminars and conferences
Or has it? Well, yes and no. Yes, a great deal of what his voice has dispensed could be described as "wisdom and knowledge." But a lot of what he dispensed was, as he puts it, "irrelevant God words." An older and wiser Brown admits: "I was wrong. I got the words right, but I missed the tune…if we get the words right but can't sing the tune, we miss the grandeur of the song." He's singing a new song these days, one based on a faith that is "far more radical and far less cerebral" than he once thought it was.
That's good news for the reading public, because Brown felt compelled to set the record straight about his skewed way of thinking in print. Ever the entertaining author, Brown is at his best when he's vulnerable and self-deprecating, and with a title like WHAT WAS I THINKING? you can be assured that he is, indeed, at his best here.
Each chapter title betrays Brown's former faulty way of thinking. In "The Holy Spirit Is Working in a Lot More Places Than I Thought He Was," for example, he encourages Christians to quit limiting their lives to involvement in "religious" activities and entertainment and to instead engage the wider culture around them. The activity of the Holy Spirit, he writes, is not limited to Christians and the church. "It isn't where we go, what we see, and what we hear that determines what is appropriate and right for the believer. It's what we bring to where we go, to what we see, and to what we hear that determines what is appropriate and right for us as believers," Brown believes.
Individual chapters address Brown's once-misguided views of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, supernatural warfare, people ("a lot worse than I thought they were"), people again ("a lot better than I thought they were"), self-righteousness, obedience, love and the world; the chapter on self-righteousness alone is worth the price of the book, and then you get all those other wonderful chapters as a bonus. He concludes with this chapter: "Things Will Work Out a Lot Better Than I Thought They Would."
Throughout, Brown reveals his special brand of humor. This is a guy with a doctorate who teaches seminarians things like "how to develop a Christian mean streak" and "how not to be a weenie"; who obsesses over his hybrid Honda Accord and whether it's symbolic of his judgmentalism; who comes right out and says he likes to sin; and who admits that Monday morning is depressing because that's when he has to pray. You just have to keep reading when a well-known, well-respected Christian leader writes stuff like that.
"Keep reading" is what you'll likely do once you start, because Brown has this charming way of captivating his readers and holding them hostage. Before you realize what just happened to you, you've finished reading --- and of all things, you're thanking your captor.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 13, 2011