What Was I Thinking?

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  • Here is the book review I wrote about a month ago for our church newletter.

    Steve Brown introduces his book What Was I Thinking? with an illustration: “One Time Mark Twain’s wife got furious with him and did something she rarely, if ever, did. She started cursing. Twain started laughing, and that, of course, made her even angrier. She asked him what he thought was so funny. ‘My dear,’ he said through gales of laughter, ‘you know the words, but you don’t know the tune!’” This humorous story is Brown’s explanation of where he is in his walk with Christ and what he seeks to accomplish in Thinking?.

    Steve Brown is a former pastor, a seminary professor, a prolific author, a radio broadcaster, and a much in-demand speaker – for starters. But it seems that Brown’s biggest concern in What Was I Thinking? is the fact that he is also religious, very religious. To be clear, Brown is orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed. In essence, he believes the Bible is true – all of it. Yet, he is striving to shake off the religiosity he contracted as he reached his settled, biblical convictions. He is trying to take off the shackles of religion to fully enjoy and experience the scandalous grace of God. And What Was I
    Thinking? describes his journey and invites the reader along for the ride.

    Actually, this “anti-religion spirit” is the tone and goal of most of Brown’s books. He is constantly seeking to get past the thick fog of religious error, ritual, and tradition in order to see God the Father
    and the Lord Jesus Christ more clearly. And he may be at his best here in Thinking?. Brown writes: “Theology (no matter how orthodox), a belief statement (no matter how biblical), and propositions (no matter how exact and correct) are all useless if they don’t lead us to the reality which is God and to the astonishment that ought to be a regular occurrence in the believer’s life” (p. 2). I fully agree with this statement. But it’s more powerful for me to read it from someone who is absolutely and unwaveringly committed to theology, belief statements, and propositions.

    In the twelve chapters of Thinking?, Brown discusses what he has been learning about subjects that he thought he fully knew. And these are pretty major subjects – God, Jesus, The Bible, spiritual warfare, and obedience to God, for instance. Brown tackles the subjects by, first of all, admitting that he really thought he already knew everything he needed to know about these subjects. Then he moves to explain what he has been learning about these subjects since he decided to learn the tune, not just the words. The chapter titles are headlines of Brown’s spiritual discoveries:

    • God is a lot bigger than I though he was.
    • Jesus is a lot more radical than I thought he was.
    • People are a lot worse than I thought they were.
    • People are a lot better than I thought they were.
    • Self-righteousness is a lot more dangerous than I thought it was.

    Steve Brown’s What Was I Thinking? is sound, provocative, and controversial. And I love it. And I happily recommend it as our September book-of-the-month. Read it. Share it. Share it with believers and unbelievers. And pray that the Lord Jesus would transform us from being people who just know the words to people who know the tune. And dance!


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.