Home > Uncategorized > Book discussion: What Was I Thinking? by Steve Brown, part 1

Book discussion: What Was I Thinking? by Steve Brown, part 1

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Today we begin a new book discussion series, based on Steve Brown’s What Was I Thinking?

This series was also posted at From the Ashes.

Steve Brown is a former pastor, and currently the featured speaker on the Key Life radio program and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Brown is also a popular author and speaker; What Was I Thinking? was released in 2006 and his latest book, the revision of Approaching God, will be released this month.

Instead of repeating what is in the book, I’ll try each week to take a chapter from the book, hit the main points, and offer some commentary and/or things to look for in that chapter.

You can view a few preview pages from Google Books, but I will encourage you to buy a copy for yourself. You should be able to get one from your local Christian bookstore or mainstream bookstore (like Borders or Barnes & Noble). You can also buy a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noblechristianbook.com and Key Life.

Now ON to the discussion…

We’ll start with the introduction to the book, in which Brown makes two quotes I think are worth noting:

“There was a time when I thought that knowing the truth was enough. I defended it (still do), taught it (still do), and believed if you got the truth right, everything else would be right. I’m a lot older now, and some wiser. I was wrong. I got the words right, but I missed the tune.” (p. 1, emphasis mine)

“This is a book written by an old guy who started out with the right words but has spent most of his life learning the tune. Along the way I’ve discovered that the Christian faith is far more radical and far less cerebral than I thought it was.” (p. 3)

How many times have we missed the tune?

We read the chapters in our Bibles, we serve, we spend all our time at the church, we don’t curse, we don’t lust, we appear “Christian” in every way to the world, but yet while we get the words right, we miss the tune.

Let’s move on to the first chapter: God Is a Lot Bigger Than I Thought He Was.

Brown starts out by further discussing the point he made in the second quote I highlighted from the introduction: once he knew all he needed to know, every question he had would be answered.

It didn’t work out that way, and Brown found his theological questions and knowledge of God weren’t settled at all.

That led him to perceive that God is a big God – and that He is absolutely sovereign over all things, and we have no control over Him whatsoever.

God also didn’t fit into Brown’s preconceived notions of who He is. As Brown has grown older, and gotten to know the Lord, he has discovered God is not what he – and other people – thought He was, and has come closer to knowing the real God (we see examples of some people’s notions on page 9, such as God-as-Santa-Claus and God-as-angry-deity).

One way Brown’s notions changed was in seeing God as a scary God instead of a nice and safe God.

A God who escaped the halls of academia where He could be easily examined, and shows Himself in His dealings with Job.

“Little gods do little things. They speak silly words, and while they might be less threatening, little gods don’t give us meaning, demand anything of us, or inspire us.” (pg. 11)

Brown also realized God is a God in control, Who refuses to be controlled.

Especially by any of us.

“When the real God comes to us, he is like the surgeon. He is going to do what he is going to do, and I’m helpless to change or fix anything…God is a good surgeon. He won’t stop until he accomplishes whatever he has determined to accomplish.” (p. 13)

And God, Brown has found, can be a confusing God: we think we hear Him, or speak what we’re sure He would say, or are confident God told us something – and we end up wrong about it all. After all his years on earth, Brown has realized he still hasn’t figured out God, and that he never will.

Perhaps one of those confusing traits of the Almighty to Brown has been His choice of friends.

Brown sometimes claims himself to be very ‘religious’. He says it in chapter 1 to point out that he’s noticed that God has picked people “less religious” than Brown or “aren’t religious” at all to be His friends – and Brown admits that it bothers him. He also makes another point he’s made many times before – that God loves people, all kinds of people, and that includes many folks that most religious people would tag under Hell instead of Heaven.

Brown discovered that God is a loving God:

“I used to think God’s love could be logically explained and measured. I now know that God’s love runs far deeper than we can fathom.” (p. 19)

Brown says the church often starts out telling of the doctrine of hell instead of what God’s character is; he concludes that God’s character is love:

“…God isn’t just loving, and he doesn’t just act in loving ways, but he is love (p. 20)”

And that He loves us.

Or, He loves you.

Brown lists the different ways he’s seen this for himself, from his grandchildrens’ laughter to other believers who “have stopped playing games” to the bedsides of people dying of cancer (p. 20-21).

At chapter’s end, he makes this point:

“And always God’s tears mingle with ours. I now because I know him in his tears and love. God is love. I used to think that understanding him was the main thing. It isn’t. The main thing is being loved by him. And that I know.” (p. 22)

What do you think? Is God’s love His most important characteristic, and the most important thing we need to know about Him?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself, and my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. briwd2006
    September 23, 2008 at 11:24 am

    It was released in 2006, not in 200x 🙂

  2. briwd2006
    September 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    An observation: Steve Brown is as Reformed in his soteriology as anyone, but he talks about God’s love and grace in a way few Reformed/Calvinist teachers do. Anyone else I’ve heard/read that approaches this subject as Brown does tends to be Arminian

  3. Nonnie
    September 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I loved this book. This book ministered to me the way I thought The Shack would but didn’t. (after reading what so many wrote about the Shack)
    However, the same person recommended this book so I read it at well. I was delighted and blessed! cried, I laughed and was so blessed as I read what Brown had to say. How true it is that we put our great God in our little denominational and theological boxes and then He delights us when He breaks out and opens our eyes to see His goodness, grace and mercy in ways we had never dreamed.

  4. briwd2006
    September 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Nonnie, welcome!

    You said:

    “How true it is that we put our great God in our little denominational and theological boxes and then He delights us when He breaks out and opens our eyes to see His goodness, grace and mercy in ways we had never dreamed.”

    If not for guys like Steve, I may never understand God’s grace the way you just portrayed it.

  5. mdsf
    September 23, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Brian —

    I just ordered a copy (used) via Amazon. I’d like to have a look at this.

    I’d say off the top that it sounds like he’s made the right discovery: God isn’t a question to be answered, so learning facts out of a book won’t get us any closer to Him. And having all our questions answered is a false goal anyway. Those are bold words for a theologian, because as best I can tell the business of theology is making claims of fact about God.

    It’s a real problem, though, that the Bible is mostly a story about God reaching out to people for His own purposes. I think the popular approach today is to say that the Bible is a book of stories, but those stories are the delivery mechanism for facts about God, rather than a description of how He continues to relate to people.

    I don’t entirely know: facts tend not to go and hide themselves, whereas it certainly seems that God himself does exactly that sometimes. It’s easier to relate to facts that to persons. Etc.

    What do you think? Is God’s love His most important characteristic, and the most important thing we need to know about Him?

    I’d tread lightly here. I’d argue that God is undivided in His attributes, and never in conflict, so it’s probably not sensible to say that one attribute is more important than another. For example, God is just and holy, but He’s also merciful, and when He does one thing or another it’s no more a result of one attribute than another. So I’d be slow to say that God’s love (or His sovereignty, or whatever) is more important than anything else we could say about Him.

  6. BrianD
    September 23, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Good point mdsf and thanks for the correction.

    I did ask the question, and if nothing else it is a starting point for a conversation.

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