By this time I had developed somewhat of a begrudging, internal awe of "Mr. Brown." Having the privilege of sitting under his teaching in Sunday School was a breath of fresh air. I had just been through four years of Bible School and had left with more questions than when I had entered and frankly, was very confused.
I remember crying to the Lord the summer after graduation and telling Him I wanted to learn more about Him and His Word, but I didn't know how to begin to get the answers to my questions. Spiritually it was a very critical point for me, but I had come to the decision that I was going to serve God because I loved Him--even if I never got answers to my questions. Although some things may never make sense, it didn't mean there weren't answers or that I was putting my faith in something that didn't make sense! I just wasn't looking in the right place or given the opportunity to find the answers.
With those issues settled and in total surrender to God's leadership, He then unfolded one of the most magnificent, ongoing, blessings, I've ever had the privilege of partaking in. Every Sunday I was learning brand new material, and it finally dawned on me that God was going to start giving me answers and sorting through my confusion using a very gifted and talented teacher. I began to relax my inward defensiveness, and I made the decision to learn as much as possible in the time allotted.
At this same time, one Wednesday evening after service, Philip came up to my pew and asked me about a chapel message that had been preached that morning that he was very excited about. It was one of the clearest presentations he'd heard on entire sanctification (though that terminology wasn't used) in all of his years at Bob Jones. His question was, "I'd like to hear what you thought about the chapel message today."
I'd like to report that I gave an articulate response to his question but that's pretty far from the truth. First of all, this was the first time he'd spoken to me one-on-one so that was a little flustering. Second, he was asking for my reaction to a chapel message for which I couldn't even remember the topic (at that point I was so flustered I couldn't remember being in chapel). And third, why in the world was a student of theology, a PhD candidate, wondering what I thought?!?! There were hundreds of thoughts going through my head at that moment and very few of them had anything to do with the chapel message! "Why in the world is he talking to me now? Why can't I think straight?! I'm acting like a love-sick teenager! Come on- what was the sermon about? Did I really go to chapel this morning? I'm sure I did - it's required but I don't remember anything about chapel! Come on Marianne! THINK!!! What's he going to gain by hearing what I thought? Is he really interested in what I thought?! If so, why?" Anyhow.....if I had been out to impress him....it would have been a horrible failure.
From that time on we began having conversations here and there. I found out where he was in his dissertation process, and he learned what my plans had been and the obstacles that were ahead. John and Cathy's home was a wonderful place to just sit and listen to what was happening, observing and learning who Philip Brown really was (which differed from my preconceived ideas pretty drastically). There was no pressure to interact. We were just two people who were treated like family by our pastor's family and were able to learn a lot about each other indirectly. It was at this time that a situation occurred that really challenged me to look beyond myself and my ideas of Philip and begin paying attention to who he really was.
One evening after church, an elderly gentleman in the congregation was talking with Philip and became very adamant about the issue they were discussing and called into question Philip's commitment to the authority of Scripture. Now, for those of you who know Philip, that was a low blow! And Philip responded strongly. I wasn't there to witness the conversation but evidently there were some members of the Sunday School class who did. The following Sunday, before Philip started teaching his Sunday School lesson, he made an apology. In it he confessed that the Bible says "rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father" and that his response was wrong--he was rebuking not entreating. He asked the class to forgive him for his unbiblical response which was not edifying to anyone within earshot and not uplifting to the body of Christ.
I was chagrined! The person I had made Philip Brown out to be in my mind would have never admitted wrongdoing! I remember thinking as I sat there, "Either this guy is the best hypocrite I've ever met or he's the real deal. And if he's the real deal, then it would be best to watch him a little more closely".