Austin Miles: Critical Comments

I've been asked to comment upon the person of Austin Miles -- a former associate of the Bakker ministry and author of at least two books, Don't Call Me Brother (a combination biography and tell-all) and Setting the Captives Free, a collection of letters from those responding to Miles' first book and including letters from other who have "escaped" organized religion.

To confuse matters a bit, word has been given me that Miles has some time ago "re-converted" to Christianity, and he and his friends have written me ironically nasty notes advising me of this, and acting as though this article were addressed to him in his present state. That is obviously not the case.

Miles is really not the type I ordinarily give attention to. He doesn't make the mistake in his books of trying to offer lists of alleged Biblical contradictions and errors. There are only a few minor hints of such objections, none of them new. We are told by him without any examples given that Mark cannot be relied upon as an eyewitness because he "knew nothing about the customs and traditions of Palestine" -- no examples given. Miles also considers the fact that Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 19 are identical to be cause to (literally) sit down and have a stiff drink. Miles tells us that no Bible scholar has ever explained this matter to his satisfaction. Has anyone told him that inspiration does not require dictation, or exclude use of sources, as was clearly done by the Kings writer?

On the other hand, Miles does spend a great deal of time describing how the Assemblies of God church ruined his life, his health, his finances, and so on, supposedly with some help from the FBI.

Yes, the FBI. I must admit that I do find much of what I read in his tell-all hard to believe. After all, it seems odd that Miles should have been privy to so many damaging and important conversations, been victimized by so many people, been at just the right (wrong?) place at just the wrong (right?) time so many times, peeking in doors, standing in hallways, just as this or that person does this or that thing that evokes a startling revelation.

I suppose I'll just have to accept it at face value. If I didn't, he'd undoubtedly accuse me of being judgmental. On the other hand, if he is consistent in his thinking, he might appreciate that I don't simply accept what he says at face value...after all, that's how he wanted us all to look at Christianity: He said he wants us to think for ourselves.

This man who no longer wishes to be called brother (but now does again, apparently) is listed as a professional showman who has been at various times a clown, a ringmaster, a preacher for AOG. Well, Miles was so intent upon his anger that he equated AOG, and all he had experienced, with the entirety of Christianity, and continued to do so even after several letter-writers admonished him not to, and even after admitting that he knew or knows several people who exemplify true Christianity, including a couple of AOG folks.

In his second book, such admonitions to avoid the fallacy of generalizing from the particulars pass without comment from him, and he offers several comments on the theme that "no matter what label is given to the church of Jesus Christ, the purpose seems to be the same in all of them" [!].)

That's a common error of thought, but not one moment of his aching experience makes it any more valid. That Austin Miles suffered heartbreak after heartbreak affects not in the least any doctrine of the Christian faith. Nor did it justify his rampage against the church as a whole. Miles' vague generalities against "Christianity", the "Christian community" (i.e., what he thinks represents it) are no better than the false accusations leveled against him by corrupt AOG ministers.

If there is any lesson that we may draw from Miles, even as he has now professed to return to the fold, it is this: Guard your heart and your ways for the sake of your witness to others. In this age of uncritical thinking and hard hearts ruling over soft heads, the leading astray of a soul which in turn draws its own illicit and fallacious conclusions is an ever-present possibility that cannot be bypassed lightly.

-JPH