Episode III The Soft Rock Café “Pass me that ham, brother! And a few slices of that bacon, too! Mmmmh! Mmmmh! You Barbarian boys sure do know how to eat. I’ve been eatin’ fish so long I’m startin’ to wiggle when I walk. Thank God for my liberty!” We all laughed ’til we hurt. We loved this guy; loved to hear him preach, and loved to watch him eat. He was rough and tough on the outside— his leathern face weatherworn by the Judean sun and the salty wind of Galilee, his big hands calloused and his biceps sculpted by a million tosses of the heavy net and a thousand draughts of fish—he was rough and tough alright, hard as an oyster shell on the outside, but just as tender within. The Greater Fisherman had shucked him, shucked him like an oyster, breaking open his hard exterior, wounding his side with the gospel of grace, and shaping his hard heart into a magnificent pearl of great price. And, my! Did he love to eat! Not gluttonously like a soft fool, but manfully like “the rock” he was. That’s what we called him— “Rock.” “Hey, Rock,” I said. “What are you up to today?” “I’m headed for the synagogue to meet some guys from Jerusalem. Old Thunderhead sent them.” “Old Thunderhead?” I queried. “Yeah, you know, James, Old Thunderhead; he sent them. Said I needed to meet with ’em. Somethin’ important.” “Important? What’s so important?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t know. You know James, not an ounce of humor in him; but this must be really serious for him to send these guys all the way up here from Jerusalem. Hey, did you hear about that kid Timothy?” “Timothy, who’s that?” “Some Gentile kid Paul picked up in Lystra.” “No, I haven’t heard. What about him?” “Can you believe it? Paul circumcised him! A grown man! Ouch!! He must want to preach something fierce if he’s willin’ to go through with that. Paul may be a little guy, but he’s tough.” “I thought Paul wasn’t into that legal stuff,” I retorted. “He’s not, not unless its serves his purpose, you know, helps him make his point.” “Ha! I guess Timothy got the point.” “And how. Hey, I’ll see you guys later. Thanks for the breakfast. See ya’ tomorrow mornin’. How ’bout pork chops?” “You got it; pork chops it is.” “Hey, Barnabas, you wanna go?” Peter asked. “Sure, I’ll tag along, but Paul’s comin’ into town, too, so I’ll have to be on the lookout for him.” “Paul and Old Thunderhead both comin’ to town? Hmmmh!” Peter’s curiosity peaked. “And Titus is with him,” Barnabas added. “Titus? Who’s that?” Peter asked. Barnabas replied. “He’s a Gentile preacher, like Timothy. But somebody said he wasn’t circumcised. Kinda strange that Paul would circumcise Timothy but not Titus. Somebody said it has somethin’ to do with this trip.” This worried Peter, that Paul was bringing an uncircumcised Gentile to Antioch. “I don’t get it.” Barnabas agreed, “I don’t get it either but, like you said, Paul always has his point.” “Yeah, I guess. But some of the guys are not going to like it, not a whit.” “Not going to like what?” Barnabas queried. “Not goin’ to like the fact that Paul’s got some uncircumcised Gentile preacher taggin’ along with him. I’m worried. Sounds to me like Paul’s askin’ for a fight.… … the next morning we waited and waited for Peter, but he never showed; Barnabas didn’t show either, so we went ahead and breakfasted without him. But we did set aside a couple of pork chops for them in case they made it later. That’s when the message came—“Synagogue at high noon. Paul says, ‘Be there.’ Somethin’s cookin’, and it ain’t pork chops.”
Prophecy in general, and Dispensationalism in particular, have cast a long shadow over the life and ministry of Dr. Hal Brunson. Dr. Brunson’s grandfather and father originally led him into the shadow of Dispensationalism, and Bible college and seminary did nothing but lengthen and darken that shadow, reenforcing errant ideas about the Rapture, Great Tribulation, Armageddon, Millennium, and Gog and Magog. So when, as a young pastor in 1978 he walked out of the murky shadow of Dispensationalism, Dr. Brunson called it “the most difficult thing I have ever done intellectually,” difficult for two reasons. First, to reject Dispensationalism, Dr. Brunson had to overturn nearly thirty years of passive acceptance of bad ideas—ideas he now knew to be a delusory shadow obscuring truth from the minds and hearts of millions of Christians. Secondly, to reject Dispensationalism seemed a kind of betrayal against his father, grandfather, fellow preachers, and former teachers, so Dr. Brunson’s renunciation of Premillennialism was not merely difficult intellectually but also personally and emotionally. Dr. Brunson holds the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Divinity, the Master’s in English Literature, and the Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. An active writer, Dr. Brunson resides in Dallas with his wife Nancy, where he has taught or administered in various preparatory schools and colleges. He has pastored the First Baptist Church of Parker, Texas, since 1987.