line of fire

Dr. Michael Brown Wasted Tim Hegg’s Time and Mine

I hadn’t intended to, especially since Keith had already done such a good job of it, but I ended up listening to the Line of Fire debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg on Does God Require All Believers to Observe the Torah with the intention of writing a review. Different sources continued to urge me to listen to the podcast and so I finally found myself one evening clicking the link.

I wish I hadn’t but maybe not for the reasons you think. I knew that Dr. Brown often took on controversial subjects in his interviews and debates on his radio show, but I’d forgotten how adversarial and contentious these dialogues could be. Dr. Brown obviously had an agenda from the start and I believe it was a mistake for Mr. Hegg to agree to debate him. After listening to less than thirty minutes of the exchange between them, I decided I never wanted to go within a mile of Dr. Brown or, given the current state of telecommunications, have any sort of direct link to him regardless of our relative geographical locations.

Let me explain.

Keith’s review, which I cited above, is absolutely correct in saying that Mr. Hegg, who is probably the leading proponent of the One Law/One Torah position for Gentile believers, seemed not to be able to communicate his viewpoint in a clear, straightforward manner. I listened to Hegg fumble with answers, not be able to focus on responding to a very specific, direct question, and wander all over the Bible, almost rambling, in an attempt to answer each of Dr. Brown’s queries.

I’ve met Hegg on a number of occasions and have found him to be a generally well-educated, intelligently spoken, knowledgable, organized individual. I don’t agree with his basic interpretation of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect where he’s coming from.

However, when on Dr. Brown’s radio show, Hegg seemed totally out of his depth, as if he were a first year theology student suddenly thrown into a debate with the heads of his department and asked to defend doctrinal positions which he barely comprehended. Hegg was a mess.

Tim Hegg
Tim Hegg

To be fair though, it was abundantly clear that Brown was using all of the standard tactics to put Hegg off from the second the show went on the air. Brown defined the parameters of the debate, he asked leading and misleading questions, he verbally painted Hegg in a corner, he talked over him, and repeatedly interrupted him, even when Brown said he would give Hegg full rein to state his position. Invariably, Brown would interrupt Hegg in mid-sentence, saying yet another station break was coming up and that he was only seeking clarification for the sake of his listeners.

I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology with fifteen years of post-graduate experience before changing careers and in my current employment, I report directly to the Vice President of Marketing. I know when someone’s trying to pull a fast one and manipulate not only the “interviewee” but the audience.

If I had been Hegg, I would have been deeply frustrated and embarrassed. He never had a chance to have a fair hearing regarding his beliefs. That may have been part of the reason that Hegg seemed so confused. He could never finish a complete thought.

To be fair in the other direction, Hegg, even at the beginning when there wasn’t as much pressure, didn’t seem to know how to form a short, simple, complete answer. I don’t know. Maybe he wasn’t used to a radio interview format. On the other hand (again), while Brown said this was supposed to be a “friendly” conversation rather than a debate, the way Brown went after Hegg was anything but friendly. Brown didn’t seem to be interested in finding out what Hegg believed, he seemed, like many entertainers, to want to produce the maximum drama for his radio audience. I don’t care if he does have the word “doctor” in front of his name.

Conclusion: The debate was a waste of time. Listening to it was a waste of my time and participating in it was a waste of Hegg’s time and probably his peace of mind. Like I said, I don’t agree with Hegg, but I certainly didn’t agree with Brown’s tactics, either. And from what little theological information Brown produced on his end, I had to conclude that he misunderstood the nature of the New Covenant and sadly has a classically Evangelical misunderstanding of what “fulfillment” is actually about (from my point of view).

Nothing in this “interview” changed my mind about Tim Hegg one way or the other but although I’ve had a sort of respect for Dr. Brown over the years based those few things I’ve heard of him, my estimation of the man sank to new depths based on this one hearing of his radio program. I can only imagine that Brown’s audience listens to his show for the same reasons the fans of Rush Limbaugh listen to his.

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh

It isn’t about learning or education and it isn’t about trying to get to the truth on the so-called “Line of Fire” show. It’s all for the sake of entertainment and ratings, usually at the expense of the dignity of another human being. If Dr. Brown had bothered to take to heart the teachings of the Rabbis who speak of upholding the dignity of others, even if you believe your opponent is guilty of a terrible error, he probably would have conducted a very different interview. But then, he’d probably be out of a job if what his employer and his listeners want is to embarrass someone week after week. It’s about (metaphorically speaking) drawing first blood.

But the difference between Brown and Limbaugh is that Limbaugh doesn’t claim to serve Jesus Christ, the Savior of humanity, the one who gave his life for the redemption of many, even while we were still enemies. Limbaugh doesn’t claim to be a disciple of the Prince of Peace and the King of the Jews. Dr. Brown says he does.

More’s the pity.

But then again, behaving like a Christian and upholding such ideals wouldn’t make for a good radio show.

Addendum: I suspected that Tim Hegg wouldn’t just walk away from Dr. Brown’s radio show without some sort of subsequent response. Turns out Hegg has a radio show of his own and on the Rob and Caleb Show, presumably because ”several people asked if Tim (could) expand on some of the ideas he was posing but was not able to finish,” Hegg will appear on the Thursday, August 28th program at 2 p.m. (PST) which will be replayed the same day at 6 p.m. (PST) to answer and expand upon what he was trying to say on Brown’s show. I suppose if I were Hegg, I’d do the same thing.


27 thoughts on “Dr. Michael Brown Wasted Tim Hegg’s Time and Mine”

  1. Thanks for sharing, James. I wasn’t able to listen to the show yet, and now I will not waste my time.

    I have heard Dr Brown before, and agree he often cuts off his ‘guest’ mid-sentence. Truly disappointing.

  2. Thank you for this article James, yes, over the years i don’t have the same thoughts i had about Dr. Brown in the sense of him being a scholar etc. His outlook and theological views has always been really Christian and doesn’t really understand the Jewish stance or for that matter the messianic stance of the Bible.

  3. I was surprised and rather disappointed by Dr. Brown’s entire approach. This is the first of his radio shows I’ve ever heard and perhaps it will be my last.

  4. Great post, James. I felt the same way after listening to the interview. I hadn’t heard too much about Dr. Brown before this. I had seen a few quotes of his that were shared by my Facebook friends and thought, “Hey, this guy might be helping Christians understand Messianic Judaism better.” But just as you noted, all that went out the window with this interview and I became somewhat disappointed.

    1. Although Dr. Brown is Jewish, he’s probably better understood as a “Hebrew Christian” rather than a “Messianic Jew.” From what I know of him, his theology is pretty much Evangelical Christian, which came out in his debate with Tim Hegg. Brown believes that Torah observance is not required at all for non-Jews and at best is optional for believing (or non-believing probably) Jews. Even in a real debate, I can imagine Brown and Hegg talking past each other rather than finding a common meeting ground.

  5. I know this is tangentially included in your meditation, but I feel compelled to say Rush Limbaugh (the comparison) does have people thinking he’s Christian and doing some kind of service to God and truth (even if not as a pastor or anything like that). People who listen to him think he’s doing an important job — even though he has repeatedly excused himself of responsibility, insisting he is entertainment.

    1. Limbaugh’s listeners tend to think of him as a news information source, but many years ago, at some sort of televised GOP fund raiser, I heard Limbaugh in a rare moment of humility refer to himself as “only an entertainer.” I don’t know what else Dr. Brown thinks about himself, but when he’s on his radio program, he is also “only an entertainer,” at least that’s what he sounded like when I listened in.

  6. I was laughing during the entire interview, and it was clear Dr. Brown really did not care to hear Hegg’s side, he was trying to “catch him” if you will… I don’t feel like Tim Hegg did bad, I feel like he could have been more concise, I think when he actually was able to answer longer than 3 seconds, he explained his points well, but that was too little to late, it was already over.

    1. Actually I was surprised Hegg accepted the opportunity to be interviewed by Dr. Brown on his radio show. I can only imagine Hegg prepared by listening to podcasts of some of Brown’s interviews with others and realized what he was in for. That’s why debates such as these are so thoroughly unproductive. I saw (see the Addendum at the end of the blog post) that Hegg plans to go on another radio program and explain what he would have said if Brown hadn’t repeatedly cut him off.

  7. I think his listeners (Limbaugh’s) should take it more seriously that he’s only an “entertainer” (not very entertaining in any positive sense of the word unless one enjoys false accuation among other not so delicate delicacies). Although he may have sounded unusually (for him) humble when you heard him say that, I’ve heard him say it more than once — and not to be humble but evasive and dismissive of anyone disagreeing with him or pointing out his misinformation. He does portray himself as Christian, and that’s a pity.

  8. I have not heard the interview, but certainly trust your ‘take.’ I’ll listen if/when I have time. It is very disappointing to hear of Dr. Brown treating a brother with anything less than courtesy. Sad.

    One thing I do know: father is in control and Tim Hegg just had a monster platform that many who needed to hear something, may have heard exactly what the Father intended to pique their interest in getting deeper into the Word. I would bet that his website has and will continue to get a bunch of traffic from this… The seed was sown, even if we do not see the immediate fruit.


  9. I’ve listened to some of Dr. Brown’s lectures, but not a whole lot from his radio show. So I haven’t heard this. But it seems to me that almost all talk radio hosts went the combative route a long time ago. Nobody really gets to say anything; nothing really gets heard. Sad.

  10. I did not get to hear this exchange, but Dr Brown spoke at our Messianic Congregation several years ago. I was looking forward to seeing this “great” apologist, but was sorely disappointed. What I took from his “delivery” was that anyone in the messianic community, needs to just enter into the gentile church community. Needless to say, he was not invited back. The way he cuts people off mid-sentence, I would compare him to Bill O’Reilly, especially with the arrogant attitude. Dr Brown kight claim a NO SPIN ZONE, but, but like O’Reilly, it is the DR BROWN SPIN ZONE.

    1. Ken, the more I hear about Dr. Brown, the more he sounds like something similar to “Jews for Jesus,” which as I understands it, also steers believing Jewish people into synagogues and discourages them from pursuing a Jewish lifestyle of observing the mitzvot. More’s the pity.

  11. Thank you James. I have been studying with Tim Hegg’s group (remotely) for several years, and have had the opportunity to meet with Tim and the congregation at Beit Hallel. I appreciate that you saw the difficulty of the interviewee. I was definitely disappointed as I believe that Hegg is a typically eloquent speaker with the ability to get to the heart of the matter and engage with the text and have beneficial conversation with those who hold opposing viewpoints.

  12. You’re welcome, Daniel. No matter whether we agree with Mr. Hegg’s theological position or not, I think just about everyone I’ve spoken with online agrees that he was not treated with courtesy and respect by Dr. Brown during that radio broadcast. Our religious differences aside, we are all still disciples of the Master and adherents to the God of Israel.

    The Master gave his disciples exactly one new commandment, to love each other with a self-sacrificing love (John 13:34). That doesn’t mean we won’t argue and disagree with each other, but we should never do so out of malice or hostility or to embarrass other person. I believe Dr. Brown failed in this way in his treatment of Mr. Hegg.

  13. I alslo haven’t seen the interview but I did see one of several debates between Mr. Brown and Mr. Shmuley Boteach. That one is where each leader has his supporters in the audience, and you can listen to each group shout in support of their leader throughout the debate. What both leaders fail to realize is that Israel is inclusive of Gentile believers, or ger toshav (and ger ha’tzaddic, a post Mishnaic term not found in Torah). The G-D fearer was and is what a Gentile believer is/was in the Biblically correct term as Torah defines sojourner and stranger. Notice in Leviticus how G-D expected the same requirements from both Jew and Gentile – once the stranger (ger) and sojourner became a full member of Israel (the holy people that is G-D’s only people). How you define Israel will affect how you view Jews v. Gentiles; and one of these views has been the basis of divisions and distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. Are the moedim and G-D’s instructions only for Jews? Does Israel = only Jews? Why did Calvin (steeped in Catholic tradition), Luther (a protesting ex-Catholic) and the other similar bunch decide to jettison the civil and ceremonial aspects of G-D instructions but retain only the moral aspects? Something is clearly wrong and it does not reflect ancient historical sociological truth nor Biblical truth. G-D established His covenant with Israel and only Israel. If you’re not part of Israel (Jew or Gentile), than you’re not part of that covenant. It’s simple but man has the need to complicate things because of his arrogance and prejudices.

    1. Greetings lchaim7.

      We don’t share the same perspective on the relationship of Jewish and non-Jewish disciples of Messiah to each other and to Israel, but I’m not going to open up that debate again since I’ve commented on it at length in other blog posts. That I was critical of Dr. Brown’s treatment of Mr. Hegg doesn’t imply any sort of agreement on my part with Hegg’s basic doctrinal position (One Law/One Torah). As far as radio or television debates of the sort being described, it’s important to remember that this is as much entertainment as it is anything else, so all parties involved, be it Brown, R. Boteach, or Hegg, know the listeners/viewers expect a good “show”.

  14. In reference to the new covenant we are born again into, God Himself defines the NC in Luke 22:20. God also interprets His own word in regards to the old covenant in Hebrews and 2 Cor. 3. ” Not on tablets of stone” & with the words “obsolete” “weak”and “useless”in regards to sin and life in Christ so that even a child can understand! Jesus Christ blood was offered in heavens Tabernackle for our eternal redemption!! Praise God.

  15. Thank you for this information. I used to listen to Dr Brown, but have since stopped. I knew he took what I would call a dual covenant postion re:jews and gentiles, but I could overlook that, however I had noticed that he was rude to people if they disagreed with him on this topic. The other reason I have lost respect for him is his teaching about the Holy Spirit. He does not do enough to condemn the demonic spirit that is in a lot of churches and is being called the Holy Spirit. It was because of his book ‘authentic fire’ that I gave this weird manifestation when I was confronted with it the benefit of doubt. However just a little research and study was all it took for me to be able to correctly identify it as demonic. Why doesn’t he? Because he was involved with it at the Brownesville Revival and he has friends who are neck deep in it. Also Deut 13 clearly identifies a false prophet as someone who doesn’t teach the commandments, so where does that leave somewhere like Dr Brown? It means you can write a whole book, and never correctly teach how how to discern if it is the Holy Spirit or a demonic spirit.

  16. Having paid for an entire day’s teaching by Brown at MJAA, I found him to be incredibly self serving and self promoting and dismissive of questions regarding “the law” and any responsibility by Gentiles to obey any of it. Most of the afternoon was promoting his radio show and introducing Christians to some Jewish concepts. Never again.

  17. So, what you’re saying is, Tim finally got a dose of what he does with those he disagees with? It’s tough to say whether dr. Brown was sowing or if Tim was reaping what he has sown. Turnabout is fair play…

    1. Greetings, W.B.

      I then to believe that disciples of Rav Yeshua are obligated to take the moral high road, regardless of how the other guy behaves. That Hegg may be guilty of some bullying behavior (though I never experienced any in my rare interactions with him) does not justify Dr. Brown’s behavior.

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