Monday, November 26, 2007

Christianity and the Culture War (part 2)

[continued from here]

We have seen why is it that Christians should get involved in the Culture War and that they should take a stand. It is therefore not an option to say that we would antagonize those we are trying to read, or to state that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore we should not get involved in it. Anyway, those who refuse to fight now would find out if the opposition wins that they would soon have to live under oppressive laws, if not persecuted for their beliefs.

That said, I would now like to expound on this topic from another area from the other side which should concern many of us as well, especially those of us who are involved in the Culture War.

Especially in the USA, the Culture War has many evangelicals focused on trying to uphold the morality of the country and its Christian foundation which is gradually having its signs removed. Such has led to strange alliances, as 'evangelicals' have decided to ally with Roman Catholics, and then with people of faith or morals to counter the immorality flooding the nation. Such is a blatent violation of the Doctrine of Separation of course. What makes it worse that in the name of "reclaiming the culture", 'evangelicals' have sacrificed the Gospel as a matter of political expediency in order to build their alliance of the "moral majority". Therefore, it has became a true war between the sides of the immoral liberals on the one hand, and the moral 'conservatives' on the other hand. The Church of Christ has been demoted to just one more political activist grouping, which is most evident in the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush to the US Presidency.

Firstly, the question to be asked of course is 'Where is the Gospel?' By fighting the immoral liberals who are behaving exactly as who they are, unregenerate people, we are fighting against the people who need the Gospel most. Unlike just taking a stand, by polarizing people between the 'religious right' and the 'immoral left', we are fighting against the person and not the idea. And such typically is very judgmetal, since the people would just condemn the immoral liberals (who are behaving consistently with their beliefs) instead of using their sin and guilt to press home their sinfulness and need of Christ.

Secondly, such compromise with unbelievers destroy the witness of the Church. It furthermore forces the believer not to share the Gospel with the lost moral pagans and Roman Catholics, in the name of not disrupting the unified front against the immoral left. Of course, this raises the question of what we are supposed to accomplish by so doing. Christianity is not about making people moral, but if the moral majority have their way, the nation would be just like Israel in the 1st century AD; clean on the inside and dirty on the inside. What is the point of having a moral nation whereby the people go to hell because they have rejected God?

As such, the Culture War is not to occupy a lot of our time also, as we are to be first and foremost witnesses of the Gospel. The Culture War could thus be used for us to bring home the Law, so that people would turn to Christ because of the realization of their sinfulness. Although the issues are important, those of us who are engaged in it should not spend too much time on it, but to fight and stand up when necessary, and even then to utilize it to spread the Gospel, knowing well that only the Gospel has the ability to change hearts and thus bring true victory in the Culture Wars when believed in.

[THE END!]


See also:

The New Religious Common Ground — Cultural Co-Belligerance by Steve Camp

Christianity and the Culture War (part 1)

What is the relation between Christianity and the Culture War? Should Christians be involved in it through speaking out against homosexuality and supporting the crimalization of homosexuality (or in other countries perhaps to lobby against the passage of bigoted, homofascist "hate speech" laws)?

It can be easily seen that the Scriptures are very clear on various social issues such as the wickedness of homosexuality. Also, on issues such as the evil of abortion and the rightness of the death penalty, Scriptures is abundently clear. Yet the question will be asked as to whether we should 'impose' our religious values upon others who are not themselves Christians. After all, religious freedom is something which is biblical after all.

Such a question shows a lack of understanding of the nature of moral laws and of society. Moral laws are such that there can be no neutrality; taking no stand IS a stand for anarchy, which no one will ever want in society anyway. As an example, let us consider the homosexual agenda in Singapore, who is intensely lobbying for decriminalzation of their behavior. They would argue that the society can just not make a statement regarding it, or that the society could be indifferent towards it (ie neither affirming nor discriminating against it). This is of course not feasible. What the homosexuals want is for the state and others to believe that it is morally wrong for the state to get involved in questions of morality, which is of course a self-defeating notion. For to truly believe that a state should not get involved in questions of morality would mean that the state would be willingly powerless and in a state of anarchy whereby whoever happens to have the power (be they the majority or the elite minority) would impose their morality on others.

Since this is so, it is not a question of imposing morality, since in the final analysis, someone's or some group's morality would be imposed on the population anyway. Whether the morality being imposed is correct or wrong is another matter altogether (which would be judged by God and His Word). As such, to say that just because there are non-Christians out there means that we should not impose their moralty is just plain ridiculous. If you don't impose yours, someone else would impose theirs.

Now, this doesn't mean that by so doing, that would be much conflict with others even from different religions. Since all Man is created by God in the image of God, they would have enough light in them through General Revelation such that there is some form of common principles in which we can all agree upon. Barring some abberant people like the homofacists, this would mean that by and large, we would be able to get a largely consensus moral viewpoint which is suitable for governing society.

Christians thus are allowed to lobby for their views, similar to any other group, and if successful, to impose it through societal laws and regulations (similar to any other group). However, such should not be done in a contentious manner but politely. Also, execution of such laws should be limited to the public domain since they are meant for the sake of society and not individuals (unless those people decide to make their immorality a public matter)

The more serious question that Christians would need to grapple with is with regards to our calling as Christians. We are supposed to witness for Christ, and taking such a stand may antagonize and alienate those whom we are called to witness to. Also, since the Kingdom of God is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), why should we bother with earthly issues that clearly are not seen to be necessary for fulfiling the Great Commission?

With regards to the former objection, it must be stated that such an answer shows either the rejection of God's sovereignty in salvation, or a minsunderstanding of how taking a stand ought to be, or a straightforward fear of Man. Since God is the only one who saves, and He WILL draw His sheep (Jn. 6:37), we should not fear that taking a stand might antagonize and alienate our target audience. In fact, doing so might help in bringing in the Law of God and applying it to their life, showing their sinfulness and depravity before a Holy God, and therefore hopefully driving them to the cross. When taking a stand also, it is possible that many Christians see it as using the truth to club unbelievers with the truth. However, this is not how it should be done. Such a stand should be made in conjunction with the presentation of the Law of God. If done in a spirit of intellectual pride or arrogance, then obviously it is not right. As such, Christians should know that in the culture war, ultimately our taking a stand must always be a tool towards sharing the Gospel with them.

With regards to the latter objections, firstly it must be states that the Bible do tell us to be light and salt in this world (Mt. 5:13-16), thus we are not to run away from our responsibility to show people the way and preserve society. The Great Commission is not the only thing found within the pages of Scripture for sure, and thus we are to obey all of Scripture, not just the parts that we like or the "spiritual" parts only. Furthermore, Jesus' words that His Kingdom is not of this world when read in context is not a statement that says Christians are only to care about the other world and not this world, but rather that the cause of Christ is advanced by spiritual weapons and not the carnal weapons of the flesh. As such, taking a stand, political lobbying etc., is not something which advances the Kingdom of God but rather is just something which Christians are called to do as salt and light in the world.

Of course, as light, our ultimate purpose is to lead people to Christ, and as such, I would now turn.

[to be continued]

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the concept of Cherem

And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. (Josh. 6:17)

Recently, a group of us were just doing an overview of the book of Joshua. The study materials we were using was not exactly something I would read or recommand or use, but anyway on that particular week, the topic turned to the idea of cherem or the idea that things were devoted to destruction unto God. The word cherem is the transliteration of the Hebrew word that is translated as the phrase 'devoted to the Lord for destruction' in Josh. 6:17 in the ESV. In the context of the book of Joshua, the first city conquered, Jericho, was defeated supernaturally and everything in it was devoted to God. All life present in it were wiped out; all man, woman and children (yes and babies too) were put to the sword, together with all the livestock. The city and everything in it was burned to the ground and all the metalware (which incidentally are not burnable) were taken and placed into the Lord's treasury. This by far is one of if not the most graphic picture of what it means for people or things to be considered cherem.

Now, the study as we have it attempts to focus on the morality of such supposedly genocidal and babaric actions, but before we even talk about this, I think it is intrumental to see it from a biblical point of view first. Disregarding whatever historical basis of such an action in for example ANE (Ancient Near East - a term Middle East historians like to use for some reason) cultures, the more important thing we should consider is the biblical rationale for it. The Bible is clear that the annihilation visited upon the various inhibitants of Canaan is because of their sin (Gen. 15: 16), and not because of a capricious act of God. As such, they must be eradicated so as to preserve the holy family and the holy seed from which Jesus would descend, from corruption. This is more religious than ethnic, as we can see from the integration of former Gentiles like Ruth and Rahab the prostitute.

The total eradication of all the inhibitants thus is judgment against them and such that there would be no people around to corrupt the pure religion of God among God's chosen people.

The case of Jericho is indeed a special one. As the first city to be conquered, Jericho is the firstfruit of the conquest, and therefore special commands and circumstance present itself to the invading Israelites. Firstly, God was the one who single-handedly destroyed the strong fortifications of Jericho. Jericho thus fell by the hand of God alone rather than the military strategies or prowess of the Israelites. This proved to the Israelites that God is the one who would go before them in battle, and He would give Israel the victory even over enemies far superior than them militarily. As the first city, this showed Israel that God will be with them right from the start in their conquest. They are not to be afraid, but to know the truth that 'if God is for us, who can be against us' (Rom. 8:31).

Secondly, since Jericho was the firstfruits of the conquest, God is teaching Israel that they must be grateful and give Him the firstfruits of whatever they have (Deut. 26). As such, everything in it must be dedicated to the Lord; the perisheable to the flames, and the imperisherable to the Lord's treasury. As such, nobody is allowed to take any of the livestock or goods from the city as loot. Those who do so are subjected to the same treatment given to the inhibitants of Jericho, as Achan found out to his and his family's destruction (Josh. 7:10-26).

The eradication of the Canaanite thus have a solidly biblical rationale behind it. Are there any spiritual leasons we can draw from the concept of cherem?

The first thing we can learn is the passion of God for the purity of His people. God demands that His people be holy, for He is holy (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16) and he burns with wrath against all forms of compromise and every defilement that we may bring in. God is not a respector of persons (Rom. 2:11), and He will punish His own people for their disobedience like that of the pagans, nay, worse than that, seemingly worse than them even sometimes (1 Peter 4:17; Heb. 12:7-11). That God would wipe out entire groups of people, who deserved to be killed anyway because of their sins, for Israel's sake shows His passison for the purity of His people. In fact, because of their failure to wipe out all of the former inhabitants (Judges 2:1-5), God judged them by allowing them to be oppressed and be led astray by foreigners. From this, we can learn that sin and compromise must be totally eradicated, otherwise they will come back, metastasize and attempt to eliminate our spiritual life. There is no such thing as 'just a little sin' or 'a little compromise', and that 'God will understand'. Those who do so, unless they repent, will find to their sorrow that they would have slowly but surely turn away from God, with disastrous results.

So now, we turn back to the concept of cherem. I have checked out the word in the Septuagint (the first Greek translation of the OT), and it is translated as anathema and used to that effect. It is thus the same word and the same approach, albeit spiritually, we are to use against those who preach a false 'christ' and a false 'gospel' (Gal. 1:8-9). Such people are to separated from and handed over for to God for the ultimate destruction of their souls in the lake of fire. Unless these false teachers repent, they are to be considered accursed, consecrated unto God in their destruction for the praise of His glorious name. Amen.

With all of these covered, how should we tackle the question of moralty? How can a loving God permits and even orders wholesale genocide?

Now, we have already stated the theological reasons for such an action to be taken. With regards to the moral question, I would turn the tables on such people. Who are you to make such a judgment of God? Will what is moulded say to its molder, '"Why have you made me like this?" (Rom. 9:20b) Without God you don't even have the basis upon which you can make any form of ethical statement coherently. Who dares sits in judgment againt the LORD Almighty, his/her creator? The audacity of created beings counseling and conspiring against their Creator, to impeach Him, is laugheable and will be mocked by the most high (Ps. 2:4-6). Furthermore, since God is the Creator of life, who dares to tell Him what He can and cannot do with His creation? And these people deserved what they would be getting. They spit at God, hold His name in contempt, mock Him, refuse to worship Him, commit all manner of atrocities including incest and homosexuality, and God is at fault in wiping them out? Those who dare bring a charge against God clearly have no sense of their sin and depravity before God. They know not the hot, fiery wrath of God poured out against them for their disobedience, and therefore can never comprehend and grasp the grace offered freely to all sinners who would repent of their sins through the atoning sacrifice in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. If anything, they are the ones in the dock, not God who will judge everybody in the final judgment.

In conclusion, it is hoped that we would learn from the concept of cherem primarily and the examples of both the wicked Canaanites and the Israelites. Surely God who is over all desires for us to turn to Him, to cleave onto Him always in purity and oneness of heart, without compromise. Amen.

The false dichotomy between doctrine and practice
— or doctrine being purely intellectual

As it can be seen, I have added another blog category entitled ' "Reformed" downgrade', as these are some of the things I have heard coming from so-called "Reformed" circles which make me truly wonder whether it is better to go back to New Evangelical circles; at least there they do not claim to be reformed and are thus less hypocritical.

I would hereby comment on various things said in a sermon which I have heard recently. The sermon was with regards to the Diaconate ministry, utilizing the texts of Act 6:1-7. In this sermon, a couple of errors were made that has serious doctrinal consequences.

Firstly, a statement was made stating that doctrine appeals to the intellect (the mind) and thus helps us to grow in our (intellectual) knowledge of God. While true in and of itself, the contrast is then stated between knowing and doing, with the claim being made that apart from knowing more about God, we should also apply God's Word. What he meas by this is further clarified in subsequent statements. The preacher continues on in stating that we humans have three parts: our intellect, our emotions and our will. He then uses the analogy of Christ's offices to show how God ministers to us through Christ Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ has the office of Prophet, Priest and King, and therefore according to him, Christ's prophetic ministry ministers to our intellect, the priestly ministry to our emotions, and the kingly ministry to our will or volition. To make it even clearer as to what he had in mind, he later states that doctrine and the exercise of the prophetic office will make us intellectually satisfied while the ministry of the deacons will make us physically satisfied.

From what can be seen so far, it should be evident that what the preacher is saying is that doctrine is purely or mostly of the intellect only. Thus, he divorces the mind from the emotions, and doctrine from practice. Since doctrine and the prophetic office is said to deal only with the intellect, and not with the emotions and practice, doctrine is now isolated from practice. And preaching becomes purely an exercise in intellectual knowledge impartation. The reformed emphasis on correct doctrine within such a framework thus becomes a celebration of intellectual correctness as being something which God desires that all Christians should have.

To put it nicely, I was not pleased. Doctrine is not an exercise in intellectual correctness, and preaching is NOT giving an intellectual discourse! God also doesn't desire our intellectual correctness in and of itself. To be sure, the intellect is involved, but to make it purely intellectual is demeaning to the entire thrust of Scripture. The Scriptures are abundently clear that correct doctrine is very practical (eg 2 Tim. 3:16-17), not just for intellectual value. In fact, the remedy that Paul applies to a problematic church in Corinth is not a list of practical do's and don'ts, but more doctrines (1 Cor., 2 Cor.) and this can be said of any church problems which Paul or any of the other apostles handled as stated in their epistles. To make doctrine purely a matter of intellect goes against the entirety of Scripture, and it sounded more of a strawman created by anti-intellectual Charismatics than truth. I was thus shocked that some people who call themselves reformed actually believe and preached such a false dichotomy between doctrine and practice.

Of course, embrace of such a false dichotomy would have serious negative implications. Doctrine would therefore be only for those who are intellectual; the rest can just get by with practical topics such as "Ways of relieving stress" or "Coping with difficult people". When doctrine is treasured, it may not be applied but just taught as something which brings 'intellectual satisfaction' and thus somewhat akin as leading to self-actualization. The sermon becomes a time whereby the preacher will just give us his take on a passage, of course hopefully as much as possible faithful to the text, but the preacher cannot consistently see it as being a means for the Holy Spirit to use the Word preached for the transformation of souls, unless conversion is seen to be something not related to the emotions or will but just the intellect.

Along with such nonsense, another error was made by the preacher as he expounded further on this so-called analogy of Christ's office to the church's offices. Christ being Prophet, Priest and King, the prophetic ministry has been pass down to the Elders who preach the Word, ... while the priestly ministry has been passed to the Deacons? As Christ in His priestly ministry ministers to our emotions, the Diaconate should minister to the physical needs of the flock? What rubbish! Christ does NOT minister to our emotions through His priestly ministry. As our great high Priest, Christ offered the blood of sacrifice (His own) before God to save us (Heb. 9:11-12), and then intercedes on our behalf (Heb. 9:24), being the one and only mediator between God and Man (1 Tim. 2:5). Such is the duty of a priest, and not some 'ministering to physical or even emotional needs'! Obviously, deacons cannot be said to exercise anything even remotely similar to the priestly ministry, which has been done permanently and completed forever in our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:24). The closest thing to a deacon in the OT are the chiefs and elders of Israel who took care of the physical needs of the people (Ex. 18:17-26).

It is with great sadness that I witness such ridiculous nonsense from "reformed" circles. How can you pass on Christ's Priestly ministry to any human minister, let alone Deacons? In fact, how can you even dream up such nonsense?! It is totally beyond me, especially since we are talking about the NT church. It is sacrilegious to even think of such a comparison!

And with this I finish this post. I am grieved by such unorthodox nonsene being taught by a purpertedly reformed preacher. The only thing I hope for is that this 'deacons as priests' teaching is not some official teaching in any reformed church or denomination, otherwise they would be really off in this respect. May God convict that preacher of his error and lead him to repentance.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Articles: Christian leaders invite Muslims to love God, neighbors together

Read this article for yourself. Isn't it strange that two groups can be said to worship the same God when one group denies that Jesus is God? Go figure... Oh, and Rick Warren signed this document, as well as Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evanjellyfishes Evangelicals. Second Reformation and revival? More likely the Great apostasy!

[HT: Slice of Laodicia]

Radical Environmentalists refuse to have babies... Good riddance!

Radical Gaia worshippers have decided that to save Gaia, they must stop pro-creating, as humans beings will add to the destruction of the planet. Good for us as they have less lives to corrupt. Nevertheless, they are to be pitied for their misguided beliefs in this religion of theirs, in worshipping the created earth in such a manner contrary to nature (small n):

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers - and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror. Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet. Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible "mistake" of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni - who works for an environmental charity - "relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery. Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way. At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to "protect the planet".

You see here one reason why I am skeptical about issues such as global warming? With mostly Gaia worshippers promoting Global warming, I am skeptical that the scientific evidence actually supports their case. Of course, there are more reasons, but such would suffice for the moment.

[HT: Christian Research Net]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Roger Oakland exposes the Emerging Church Movement

Interesting talk given by Roger Oakland exposing the Emerging Church Movement in general:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

[HT: Christian Research Net]

Award...

Thanks to Sicarii (Isaiah) for being so kind as to award to me this Prudent Power award (Do read the rules). I really appreciate it. In turn, I would like to award it to:

I guess that's about all for now. Work has been busy and I do have other commitments, as well as continuing my reading of theological and other good Christian books. (No reading, nothing to write, stunted Christian growth, simple as that). I also have rather stringent criteria and therefore only 5 blogs are chosen. If you think your blog would make the grade, do let me know and perhaps I will fill up the remaining 2 slots with them.

Anyway, here are my criteria:

  • No promotion of heresy or unorthodoxy in any form
  • Posts in general must have substantial 'nutrition' in them
  • Blogger must have shown willingness to contend for the faith, and have done so at least once
  • True Christian love must be exhibited, as opposed to the extremes of harshness and of effeminate 'love'

Sunday, November 18, 2007

'Interesting' finds...

Well, today, I was browsing for something, and I happen to be in the Popular Bookstore near my home. Look at what I saw:

OK, this is a secular bookstore, but this just shows that Joel Osteen's heresies are available here in Singapore (and being promoted, as we can see from the 20% off sticker), where I am SURE there would be people buying, even those who call themselves Christians.

And in one New Evangelical bookstore, I saw this:

Breath prayers ... where have I heard of them before? Oh, of course, in Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life. So now anyone interested or curious can find out how to start on your journey into the mists of New Age Contemplative Spirituality.

Calvin's Institutes: Christian Living

Here are some further excerpts from Calvin's Institutes, with regards to Christian living:

Ever since God exhibited Himself to us as a Father, we must be convicted of extreme ingratitude if we do not in turn exhibit ourselves as His sons. Ever since Christ purified us by the laver of His blood, and communicated this purification by baptism, it would ill become us to be defiled with new pollution. Ever since He ingrafted us into His body, we, who are His members, should anxiously beware of contracting any stain or taint. Ever since He who is our head ascended to heaven, it is befitting in us to withdraw our affections from the earth, and with our whole soul aspire to heaven. Ever since the Holy Spirit dedicated us as temples to the Lord, we sould make it our endeavor to show forth the glory of God, and guard against being profaned by the defilement of sin. Ever since our soul and body were destined to heavenly incorruptibility and an unfading crown, we should earnestly strive to keep them pure and uncorrupted against the day of the Lord.

...

Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; it is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possess the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart. (p. 4)

For in the first place, God uniformly recommands integrity as the principle part of His worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, and in the cultivation of holiness and justice. (p. 5)

ALTHOUGH the Law of God contains a perfect rule of conduct admirably arranged, it has seemed proper to our divine Master to train His people by a more accurate method, to the rule which is enjoined in the Law; the leading principle in the method is, that it is the duty of believers to present their "bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service" (Rom. xii. 1). Hence He draws the exhortation: "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God". The great point, then, is, that we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and therefore should not henceforth think, speak, design, or act, without a view to His glory. (p. 7)

[John Calvin (1559), Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. II, Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co, MI, USA]

From the first paragraph quoted, it can be seen that Calvin believed that a Christian is someone with a new nature who desires God and thus aim to please Him. Repentance and obedience to Christ are therefore believed by Calvin to be the fruits of regeneration, and therefore thus it can be seen that the Reformer did not believe in some form of 'free grace theory' aka Antinomianism. Echoing what Jn. 14:15 and Jn. 15:10 teaches, Calvin shows here how obedience is tied in with the Christian walk, that though we are saved by sovereign grace, we manifest our love for God by obeying His commandments. Also, because we have been saved by our loving God who hates sin, we would also acquire a hatred of sin in some measure while we are still on earth, and strive to be holy, as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

The second passage quoted shows Calvin's view of doctrine and theology not to be some intellectual discourse with no real practical applications. In his own words, they are "received only when it possess the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart". Given that doctrine is the expression of our knowledge of our true God, knowing God would necessitate knowing doctrines. As such, all Christians should aspire to know doctrines, although perhaps not as detailed as theologians do. Calvin further states that doctrine is more than just being intellectually grasped. Therefore, if a doctrine doesn't seem to be practical in our sancitification, either we have not grasped it at all, or such doctrine is not true doctrine but it is false. Calvin and the other Reformers, as should we, should have no liking for most of the current things being taught in New Evangelical seminaries nowadays, like Church Growth ideas, Psychology for counselling etc.

In the next paragraph, Calvin calls us to singleness of mind in serving God. We are not to be double minded in our devotion to Christ, lest we should be committing spiritual adultery, like what the ancient Israelites did and were punished most severely for it. Also, as it is written, "You cannot serve God and money" (Mt. 6:24ff, cf Ex. 20:3). And "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Lk. 9:62). As such, we should be single-minded when we follow Christ, and not to let the trappings of the world distract our love for Christ.

The last quoted paragrah shows us the link between the Law of God as stated in the Old Testament and the Law of Christ, in that the Law of Christ in the New Testament is a more accurate method in that it gives us a better principle whereby to follow. The Law in the Old Testamment however (which Calvin had earlier in his Institutes shown), is to "remove the obscurity of the law of nature" (Vol. I, p. 317) in order that we might be certain with regards to our righteousness, "how far it is from being in accordance with the will of God" (Vol. I, p. 318) and therefore we are convicted of our depravity and "look to some other quarter for help" (Vol. I, p. 318), which is the Gospel. It also thus delivers to us "a perfect rule of righteousness" (Vol. I, p. 319) which reflects the character of God. As such, the Law in the OT shows us the standard and holiness of God which we are to obey, but the overarching principle which governs all and help to cover any grey areas is manifested in the NT, which is therefore more accurate instruction for us Christians. With such a principle, our primary concern is to do everything for the glory of God, and not just stick with surface level obedience which the Pharisees do.

Thus, we can see that far from being focusing on "mere doctrine", the Reformer John Calvin focuses also on the practical walking of the Christian life. This, however, is grounded in doctrine, and not the dead 'doctrine' which the contemporary Church thinks doctrine is. Perhaps what they think and say is true because their 'doctrine' is indeed dead. However, true doctrine and theology is always practical and alive, and always will lead us into greater obedience and growth in sanctification in Christ Jesus our Lord. May we therefore grow deeper into God's Word and learn how to receive true living doctrine, so that we can grow in a real authentic relationship with our Lord who is the Truth.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Calvin's Institutes: On faith

I am still reading through Calvin's Institutes, and would here like to share a few things (which I have numbered ad-hoc) Calvin writes about the nature of faith.

1) It is true, indeed, that faith has respect to God only; but to this we shoud add, that it acknowledges Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. God would remain far off, concealed from us, were we not irradiated by the brightness of Christ. All that the Father had, He deposited with His only begotten Son, in order that He might manifest Himself in Him, and thus by the communication of blessings express the true image of His glory. (p. 470)

2) Faith consists not in ignorance, but in knowledge — knowledge not of God merely, but of the divine will. (p. 470)

3) ... it is obvious, that even those who are not yet inbued with the first principles [of true Chistian faith], provided they are disposed to obey, are called believers, not properly indeed, but inasmuch as God is pleased in kindness so highly to honor their pious feeling. (p. 473)

4) Wherefore, if faith declines in the least degree from the mark at which it ought to aim, it does not retain its nature, but becomes uncertain credulity and vangue wandering of mins. The same word is the basis on which it rests and is substained. Declining from it, it falls. Take away the word, therefore, and no faith will remain. (p. 473-474)

5) I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ Himself a temperary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of His goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of Adoption. (p. 478)

6) I deny that the reprobate ever advance so far as to penetrate to that secret revelation which Scripture reserves for the elect only. I therefore deny that they either understand His will considered as immutable, or steadily embrace His truth, inasmuch as they rest satisfied with evanescent impression; just as a tree not planted deep enough may take root, but will in process of time wither away, though it may for several years not only put Knowledge of faith forth leaves and flowers, but produce fruit. (p. 470)

7) This is also indicated by Paul when he says, that "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (for we walk by faith, not by sight)" (2 Cor. v. 6,7): thus showing that what we understand by faith is yet distant from us and escape our view. Hence we conclude that the knowledge of faith consists more of certainty than discernment. (p. 482)

8) ... the goodness of God is not properly comprehended when security does not follow at its fruit.

...

... When we say that faith must be certain and secure, we certainly speak not of an assurnace which is never affected by doubt, nor a security which anxiety never assails, we rather maintain that believers have a perpetual struggle with their own distrust. (p. 484)

9) ... The truth is, that unbelief reigns not in the hearts of believers, but only assails them from without; does not wound them moertally with its darts, but annoys them, or, at the utmost, gives them a wound which can be healed. (p. 488)

[John Calvin (1559), Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co, MI, USA; Numbering my own.]

We can notice a few things which Calvin says in this long chapter of his (Book III, Chapter II). First of all, Calvin states in passage 3 that faith is used in various ways in the Bible, most notably as describing the outward show of faith. People who profess to be believers but are not true believers are nevertheless called believers in the Bible while they still profess the true faith. Therefore, in passage 5, when talking about the reality of apostasy, Calvin mentioned that these people have a semblance of faith "so similar to the elect" and could be thus called faith, although it is not true evangelical or saving faith. Calvin here states that God instills them a sense of His goodness (His excellence - attribute of God), and therefore further convict them and leave them without excuse for rejecting Him. This only make sense within a Covenant of Works framework, which I would hopefully post about sometime in the near future.

Passage 6 states that only the elect of God, the true believers, will understand God's truth and his will properly, whereas reprobates cannot do so. Illumination is by the Holy Spirit alone (1 Cor. 2:6-16) and therefore only true believers will be able to understand God's truth. By this, we are proclaiming a form of Gnosticism, as God's truth is perspicuous. Rather, as what the Apostle Paul wrote, the reason why they cannot understand God's truth is because they perceive it as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). Thus, it is a moral and spiritual inability to receive the Truth, not an intellectual disability on their part.

Passages 1 states that faith must come through Jesus Christ alone, while passage 4 states that faith comes through the Word of God, and both concepts are combined in Jn. 1, where it is stated that Jesus is the Word from the beginning. The revealed Word of God is therefore the words of Jesus Christ who show us the way of salvation by faith in Him. Passage 2 shows that faith consists of knowledge, not ignorance, which destroys all Neo-Orthodox and Emerging Church notions of 'a leap of faith'. Finally, passages 7 to 9 deals with the topic of faith and doubt, and states that with believers, doubt is something external of us which we struggle with, and believers thus struggle with their doubt instead of accepting it. Doubt in a believer is therefore different from doubt in an unbeliever. Therefore, what are we to make of some of the Emergent types who celebrate their doubt and call it faith? These people are showing off the fruit of unbelief and if done of their own free will, manifest that they have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and thus are not saved.

In conclusion, faith is something which believes have truly while the reprobates have the most seemingly. Such faith comes through knowledge of God's Word through the person of His Son Jesus Christ. Doubt in believers is an external thing which harrasses them and is struggled with, but never in control of them (much less celebrated), unlike the situation with unbelievers.

Rick Warren denies the Gospel

Well, it seems that somebody has spotted something most of us probably overlooked in the various teaching of Rick Warren. In the video below, Rick Warren has been shown to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ by preaching a anthropocentric (man-centered) message of 100% works and 0% grace/Gospel.

For more regarding the context of Warren's peaching in the video clip, please click here. Also, for a biblical refutation of Warren's heretical teaching, do listen to a lecture given by Dr. Chris Rosebrough here.

See also:

The Gospel and the doctrine of Sola Fide

[HT: A Little Leaven, Christian Research Net]

Response to a news article

SCORING OWN GOALS - PERILS OF PASSION

AS SINGAPORE attempts to become a global city like London and New York, there will bbe more diversity, more debates and moral issues that generate plenty of emotion.

But if the recent debate on Section 377A is anything to go by, Singaporeans have a lot to learn about how to persuade others of the rightness of their cause.

...

In fact, the moralists' silence on heterosexual anal sex is disconcerting, given that many of them consider it perverse or unnatural.

...

As a supporter of a woman's right to abort and the Government's stance on abortion, I find the silence of moralists on this issue deafening.

...

-- TODAY, Thursday, November 15 2007, p. 10 [Online source]

I would like to respond to certain allegations made here by Mr. Adrian Tan in this newspaper column of his.

First of all, I disavow the title of moralists. No one is forcing anyone to be moral; what we want is for the State not to approve of immorality. No one here is talking about going on a witch hunt for homosexuals and imprison them (or in places like Iran, to stone them). As such, Mr. Tan should stop using such careless labels. Of course, if you want to paint everything in black and white, then why can't we use the label 'Immoralists' for people who are not 'moralists'? I would rather call myself a Defender against the Legislative Approval of Immorality.

Mr. Tan does have some valid points to make though. It is true that there seems to be some selectivitiy in the application of morals. I will hereby respond to these issues he has raised up in this post here and rectify the holes he has spotted.

Regarding heterosexual anal sex, let it be put on record that I am against it. That said, the reason why at least for me I am not decrying its decriminalization is because there are no other issues involved, whereas the decriminalization of homosexuals sex acts would necessitate the implicit approval of homosexuality. I would prefer the law on heterosexual anal sex to be left unchanged, espeically since now we have seen that the repeal of this section has provided the homosexual activists ammunition against our position.

Regarding abortion, let it be put on the record that I am against abortion. Abrtion is murder, and Singapore will have to answer someday for the thousands and tens and hundreds of thousands of lives she has killed in the womb. The action of the Singapore government in this record is abomitable and is extremely detestable. Abortion right activists typically are so selfish that they only talk about the women's right to abort, not of the infants' right to live. So does human rights apply only to those with the ability to make a conscious decision? One wonders why they don't push for legislature that allows all people to euthanize their mentally retarded dependents, as these people are not able to make a conscious decision either way like babies in their mothers' wombs.

So yes, we oppose abortion. As for me, I will remain consistent in my opposition to homosexuality AND abortion AND heterosexual anal sex, though the oppositions are in varying degrees depending on the seriousness of the offences. That others may be inconsistent is inconsequential to me. In fact, since Mr. Tan has issued a challenge, I propose that we should tackle the issue of Abortion again. Let us tell the Singapore government that it has no right to murder babies just because the mother or society wants him/her dead.

The Gospel and the doctrine of Sola Fide

Frank Beckwith's reversion to Rome has seen a so-called 'Reformed' doctor attempting to do the impossible by defending him, as we can see in the original exchange here, and the reply posts by Dr. James R. White here, here and here. I use inverted commas because Dr. Bauman obviously is not Reformed by conviction, as he believes that a person can be saved even while believing in works-salvation.

I would here like to respond to a simple allegation that Dr. Bauman here makes. That is his ridiculous assertion that we are saved by having faith in Christ and not be a belief in the doctrine of Sola Fide (Salvation by faith alone). That is the most stupid thing I have ever heard so far from someone who calls himself Reformed. This is analogous to saying that we are saved by mouthing the words Jesus is Lord and believing that God has raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9) while still for example remaining a Greek pagan (who can do this because they can just accept Jesus as another god in their pantheon of gods). In other words, Dr. Baumann's words do not make any sense whatsoever. As it is, they remind me of the similarly nonsensical argument by the "free-grace" Dispensational Antinomians like Zane Hodges who has said that to believe that repentance is part and parcel of salvation is to add works to the Gospel, and thus deny salvation by faith alone.

Sola Fide is the descriptive formulation of how salvation by believing in Christ alone is done. As such, to deny Sola Fide is to deny the Gospel as you have denied the stated biblical means of salvation. To engage in stripping of the truth to its bare surface propositional content is ridiculous, as well as stupid. That a person who calls himself Reformed and is a professor in theology makes such statements just goes to prove how mentally degenerate professing Christianity has become in the age of the illogical and irrational, that even her professors would make such errors that even a person with basic training in logic and logical training could see through. Is it any wonder then that all manner of heresy flourish while these 'shepherds' slumber on? Part of the blame for the flourishing of heresy must surely be blamed on such useless shepherds who can embrace all manner of contradictions and call themselves enlightened.

Anyway, as has been said, the doctrine of Sola Fide is vital to the Gospel. Remove or sideline it and you would have removed the Gospel. Granted, new believers do not know much about it, but those who are truly regenerate will believe it, in the sense that they have just gone through the process experientially even without knowing the details of it cognitively.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gay and Lesbian Bible?

Well, if suppressing the truth isn't enough, certain so-called 'Christian' homosexuals have decided to distort the Word of God by publishing their own version of the Bible which condone their sin. Of course, such people would be judged most severely by God for this abomination. Let it be said, however, that this version of theirs is blatently unscholarly by any proper usage of the term. Just look at their 'translational' philsophy, and you will see a biasness at work.

A new translational philosophy has now been invented. Formerly, higher critics cast doubt on the historicity of the words of Scripture. Liberals outrightly deny the inerrancy of Scripture. 'Evangelical' leftists and Liberation theologians among others emphasize certain portion of the Scriptures way above others which distorts and corrupts the Christian message. Other liberals like Robert Schuller and his protege Bill Hybels meanwhile utilize data-mining tactics to make the Bible 'relevant' and pragmatic to people. Rick Warren utilizes 13 different translations to proof text his ideology. So now, the latest trend is to interpret and alter the meaning of the words of Scripture according to concepts in non-canonical books like the apocrypal and pseudepigrapha books, of course also looking selectively at ancient Greek literature. And they call this the 'latest scholarship'?!!

And it seems as conspiracy theories abound (again!). The looney left is now accusing the 'Religious Right' of mistranslation of the Scriptures, as if the Religious Right has anything to do with the translation of the Scriptures. Perhaps they may want to see how the Scriptures were translated by people who are not of the Religious Right, a group which only came into existence around the late 20th century. Read how the early church fathers as well as the Reformers and the Puritans interpreted the texts in question.

Anyway, let's see how long will it take before the gay apologists start trying to use such trash against us... And let's see how many apostasizing 'christians' would join in.

[HT: A Little Leaven]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Analysis of a statement regarding the Local Church

We will devote ourselves fully to this church, knowing well that no member can effectively serve in this church, and at the same time be actively and regularly involved in the activities of another church or organisation (Acts 1:14; 2:1; James 1:8)

In this post, I would just like to briefly analyze a statement with regards to the importance of the local church, which I have gotten from a document which I will not reveal from a church which will not be named. This statement is supposed to state a position taken by that church on this issue, of which the members are supposed to believe in. It is my contention that such a statement is unbiblical and liable to serious abuse of the sheep of our Lord. And by so doing, I would also like to pose a serious corrective to at least some churches who place a disproportionate emphasis on members being in and serving in the local church assembly, under threat of their salvaton being questioned and their membership revoked.

This statement seems correct on the surface, as it is true that being devoted to a local church implies that to effectively do so, members should not serve in other areas outside the church. Also, there is nothing wrong with members who would so desire to to serve with such devotion in their local church assembly, to the exclusion of all others. However, is that all there is to this statement?

We must of course realize that this statement is something which members are to subscribe to. Since those who are born again, true regenerate believers, are supposed to join a local church, this would mean that such a statement would imply that all who are Christians and would join such a church must embrace this statement and act accordingly. Although that church is not the only true visible church of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fact that believers are to join a local church means that whatever the requirements placed on believers to join any local church assembly must of neccessity reflect the church's position of the duties and responsibilites of all who would call themselves Christians. This can be especially seen to be the case in a hypothetical scenario whereby this church alone is the only church in an area, and therefore all Christians would join it. As such, the facts and implications of such a statement is not "a matter of taste", but a reflection of what that particular church thinks about what the duties and responsibilities of Christians are in general.

Of course, by saying so, I am in no wise insinuating that the church can or will or has attempted to impose their beliefs as stated in this statement onto other Christians. Regardless of whether this is so, such a statement of theirs reflects their view of what Christians should be like in the context of ministry and the local church, and thus is not just a 'my church prefers to do things this way' issue.

A reading of the statement would immediately shows that this statement excludes the participation of members from any outside ministry; ministry outside church, which thus definitely excludes any form of para-church organizations. It would also exclude any form of lay outreach attempts which would include Christians from other churches. In fact, a strict reading would mean also that no initiative for ministry could be done even between members of that same church without the pastor's or elders' approval, including workplace evangelism which includes Evangelistic Bible Study. As to whether such a strict reading of the statement is required, that is not for me to decide. However, it can be seen that the strict reading of the statement is for all purposes ridiculous, and would blatently contradict the Reformed teaching of the Priesthood of all believers.

The less strict reading of the statement does not look too good also, insofar as they seem to promote autocracy in the church, not to mention ignoring the unity of the Body of Christ. Practically, this would mean committing the sin of separatism, and subconsciously practising an "only-true-church" mentality, although that would be theoretically denied. This is especially so if this would be used to for example prohibit a gathering of Reformed Christians for lunchtime prayer, which it could be used to do so since obviously not all Reformed Christians are members of that church. Not to mention that the statement would only sanction any formal evangelism activity under the aspices and oversight of the leadership. Members can also forget about doing any outreach ministry, be it apologetics or teaching outside Christians, unless the leadership sanctions it.

The most important thing to look at with regards to this issue is what the Scriptures say about it, and it is to Scripture that we now look. We would thus examine the verses used as prooftexts for this statement and see if they support it. As to other possible texts, it is my contention that there isn't any other text that does so, therefore the onus is on the affirmative to come up with any texts they deem to support such a statement.

The first two verses used to support the statement are Acts 1:14 and 2:1. The two verses were used to describe the unity of the believers before Pentecost in their devotion and meetings together. Knowing that there was only one church then, I do not see how these two verses are supposed to support the statement of not being involved in ministry outside the church, unless it is insinuated that this is the only true church around. Also, these verses are stated in the situation of the church before Pentecost and the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers, and therefore the focus was inward (or rather upward) rather than outward. After Pentecost, all this changed, as we read in Acts 8:4 that ALL believers who were at that time scattered because of the first outbreak of persecution preached the word to whosoever they encounter, which shows their relative autonomy from the church leadership in ministry. Of course, with regards to not being involved in the activities of another church, the Apostles and others like Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) didn't seem to have such reservation with being actively involved with more than one local church assembly. Speaking of which, the Apostle Paul wrote an epistle (the book of Romans) to the Church in Rome even before he has arrived there.

Using James 1:8 as a prooftext is even worse, as the subject matter is entirely different. Yes, Jas. 1:8 tells us not to be double-minded and thus unstable in all that we do. However, the subject matter here is with regards to faith, or more specifically faith in God's provision through the means of prayer. To just rip it out like that and apply it to ministry in a local church setting is pure eisegesis.

Therefore, we can see that this statement is not supported by its purported prooftexts at all. In fact, by using the verses from Acts, they are dangerously close to claiming that the church which uses this statement is the only true church, at least in their geographical area. Such a statement in actual fact confuses between the Church Universal and the Church Local, and unwittingly foster an unhealthy subconscous separatist, schismatic attitude among those who embrace it.

The practical outworking in a church which embrace this statement is frightening indeed. It firstly helps to foster autocracy within the church, even though the official polity of any church which embraces it may be Congregationalist or Presbyterian, as the leaders have control over any ministry that the members desire to do. Outreach suffers, and those who have a heart for outreach will feel stifled in their calling also, unless they somehow are or will become part of the leadership. The subtle subconscious "one-true-church" mentality, although it may even be vehemently denied and preached against by members and the leaders, will have a chilling effect in interactions with other Christians from other churches. This is due to the fact that we are complex, emotional and spiritual beings, and thus although we can somehow hold a logical contradiction within our heads, the implications of even the denied but practised proposition will subconsciously work its way into our actions and relationships. (We don't always function logically nor rationally).

This will lead to even worse problems later on, especially if Christians who have a heart for outreach would consider settling down in such a church, which is why it is mentioned earlier that such outward-focused people will feel stifled and even frowned upon, since they will be seen as a threat to the church's established status quo. Meanwhile, the world languishes outside with not much of a light, since typically churches who embraced such a statement would not have leaders who are outward-focused, otherwise they would never have embraced such a statement in the first place (Outward-focused people tend to want and disciple others to be outward-focused too, and the multiplication continues).

Before I end this analysis, I would like to claify that I am not saying that we should therefore abandon serving in the Local Church; that is a strawman position. What I am saying is that to enforce or state that service and ministry should be rightly found only or preferably within the Local Church is unbiblical. The leaders of the church should be more concerned about the Glory of God and the magnification of His name, rather than whether the members are contributing to whatever project or event the church is organizing. Look, if God wants you as a pastor/elder/ church leader to do this project, He will definitely provide the manpower and all that you will need to see it through. To be fearful of having not enough manpower for the project or event betrays a lack of faith on their part in the God who can move the hearts of Man. For example, if a pastor were to prohibit any member from serving in a parachurch organization that distributes Bibles to restricted access places whereby there is a shortage of Bibles and Bible teaching, because they require a church accountant, shame on that pastor who make such a decision! Are we serving God, or building our own little empires? When church leaders can learn to yield control of their people to God in service anyway the Lord leads, for the great magnifcation of His glory rather than our own, then I think we just might have some hope (humanly speaking) left for the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Homofascist supremists

Here are more news items of the utter intolernace and bigotry of homofascists against harmless loving Christians in US who just desire to share the Gospel to them, and to practice their faith:

  • Madison, Wis. David Ott, a former homosexual, was arrested for a "hate crime" for sharing his testimony with a homosexual at a gas station. He faced a $10,000 fine and one year behind bars. Seven thousands dollars in legal fees later, he was ordered to attend re-education classes at the University of Wisconsin conducted by a lesbian.

  • St. Petersburg, Fla. Five Christians, including two pastors, were arrested at a homosexual rally for stepping onto the public sidewalk instead of staying caged in their officially designated "free speech zone." Their signs were also "illegal" because they were slightly "bigger than their torsos." Apparently, large people are entitled to more speech than those with smaller frames.

  • Elmira, N.Y. The Elmira police arrested seven Christians for praying in a public park where a homosexual festival was getting started. A female officer told the group, "You're not going to enter the park, and you're not going to share your religion with anybody in this park." The group of seven didn't say anything, but got down on their faces and silently prayed. They were promptly placed in handcuffs.

  • Philadelphia, Pa. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Linda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk. They faced 47 years (the rest of their lives) in jail for spreading the Gospel because of a Pennsylvania "hate crimes" law. Hear from the grandma's at http://www.stophatecrimesnow.com/.

  • These homofascist supermists must be stopped now. In Singapore, that means keeping S377a and not listening to the false lying propoganda of the homofascists, who like to play the victimization card when they are actually the ones who will persecute those who disagree with them, of course done only once they are in power.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Reflection: Reformation Day Conference 2007

    The Reformation Day Conference 2007 is over this past week. The 2 days (7th -8th Nove 2007) saw Rev. Stephan Key preached 2 sermons on the overall theme of The Relevance of the 16th century Reformation for Today's Christians. Unfortunately, as always seem to be the case, the New Evangelicals who need to hear it most mostly did not come for the event. And neither of the friends I had invited came for it.

    Anyway, the conference itself was good. The messages given by Rev. Key were indeed relevant, as he reminded us of the biblical rationale for the 16th century Reformation, and the neccessity of always reforming the Church, with similarities being drawn between the situation then and the modern situation now. The first talk in the evening was spent on the topic of the Reformation restoring the foundation for healthy church life. The focus was on Sola Scriptura or more specifically, the authority of Scripture as the norm that norms our walk with God (but is itself not normed - Norma Normans non Normata); in other words, that Scripture is to be our final guide for all of life, being totally sufficient for that task (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He emphasized the foundational authority of Scripture as believed in the Reformation, and which is also the principle of all true reformation (and revivals) throughout the history of the Church. The Church thus always has to continually reform herself by the Word of God, especially in such a (modern) time where the authority of Scripture is being undermined practically even in so-called Reformed circles. An example of neglecting to teach and preach the full counsel of God to the congregation was thus given of how the authority of Scripture is undermined practically. As an aside, Pastor Key demolished the humanist reading of Luther's famous words uttered at the Diet of Worms where he said that 'it is unwise to go against one's conscience', noting that the entire context shows also that Luther's 'conscience is bound by the Word of God', and therefore Luther was here stating the absolute authority of Scripture over the hearts and minds of God's flock.

    Rev. Key's message on the second day was on how the Reformation restored the foundation for Christian piety. Before talking about piety proper, Rev. Key spent quite some time showing and emphasizing that the Reformers knew that the rampant immorality in the Romish church was due to wrong doctrine bearing forth its rotten fruit. Therefore, they did not go on a moralistic crusade against the moral ills of that time, but concentrated mainly on correcting and denouncing the false doctrines that are within the Church, and thus attacking the problem at its root. True Christian piety is therefore a fruit of a true belief in true Christian doctrines, and thus as the Reformers restore the doctrinal purity of the Church, the moral condition of the cities they labored in improved. As such, the Reformation with its correction of wrong doctrines paved the foundation whereby true Christian piety can flourish, which indeed it did.

    As an application, Rev. Key also stresses the need for reformation to start with us. He mentioned that we should continually align our hearts and actions with Scripture. Also as a slight digression, he attacked the Antinomain movement, stating that they have forgotten that 'without holiness, no one can see the Lord' (Heb. 12:14b), thus spurring us on also towards a life of piety as an expression of our new nature in Him.

    One thing which Rev. Key promotes which I would like to spend some time on is his idea of 'Catechetical sermons'. So now, we have expository, biblical, narative, topical, and ... catechetical? From how Rev. Key defines the phrase 'catechetical sermons', they seem to be sermons that are sortof topical (with the topic fixed by the particular week's Q&A in the Cathechism that is to preached upon), but yet expository in the method they are delivered via the exposition of the verses. Now, Rev. Key's rationale for such sermons is that it is otherwise hard to teach certain doctrines since they are not covered in one single text, and thus it would be tough to teach the whole counsel of God in doctrines such as the Trinity if we would just go by pure verse by verse exposition. In this, I concur. However, the question to be asked is that why must it be called 'catechetical sermons' instead of just 'systematic theological or doctrinal sermons' (which is what they actually are). Also, isn't it true that the teaching of such doctrines should be done in the instruction classes for new believers, and also occasionally in Adult Bible classes and cell material? If such is indeed done, then the necessity of going through the various doctrines of the Christian faith through following the order of the Cathechism would be much less urgent. Furthermore, unless the pastor is too preoccupied with rushing to finish preaching trough a certain book, I doubt that texts whereby important doctrines such as the Trinity can be inferred cannot be found. For example, one text which can be used to preach on certain aspects of the Trinity is Gen. 1:1-2 coupled with Jn. 1:1-3. Furthermore, I do not see why it is that in the course of preaching through a book, a preacher cannot stop at a verse or even a phrase within the verse and expound on it in light of the whole context of Scripture or the Analogia Fide. After all, all of Scripture flows smoothly without contradictions with one single overall theme, and therefore such a sermon could still be done while still being fundamentally expository in nature and style.

    In conclusion, the Reformation Day Conference 2007 was a good one. It was a pity that not as many people turned up as we would like to have, but then at least for those who came, it is hoped that the truth of God's Word would be implanted into their hearts. Amen.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    PD 'Gospel' is self-help gospel, according to non-Christians

    Seems that non-Christians have more discernment than most Christians in this regard. According to this article, which also shows how American Christianity has become commercialized while selling out the Gospel,

    With the rise of the self-help gospel, popularized by the Rev. Rick Warren’s best-selling book, “A Purpose Driven Life,” evangelical Christians have shifted their message away from combating sin and hell’s fury to one of coping, of reaching full potential, of mending relationships and broken marriages.

    Why am I surprised that non-Christians can see through Warren's deception, while Christians cannot?

    [HT: Watcher's Lamp]

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    The Doctrine of Separation: Practical Applications (part 2)

    [continued from here]

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

    "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Therefore, go out from their midst, and be seperate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

    Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1)

    Ministry

    After looking into what the Doctrine of Seperation has to say about our responsibilities into how we choose a church, and also as to whether to stay or remain in it (among other things we must consider, of course), let us look into what implications the Doctrine of Seperation has on Christian Ministry.

    First of all, most of what was mentioned regarding the implications on the church would thus be valid with regards to ministry, as in the case of church-based ministry. Therefore, we should not partner with heretics (first degree seperation), nor should we participate with people in their compromise of the faith (second degree seperation). However, the situation gets complicated because ministry does not have to be church-based. Something as simple as partnering with another believer to witness to others for Christ is already a non church-based 'ministry' in a sense. Ministry broadly speaking is basically what one does which seeks to further the cause of Christ; be it 'official' or 'unofficial'. Also, while church is more or less permenant, ministry, and especially collaboration in ministry, may not be permenant or even long term. Therefore, with such factors included, how do we go about obeying Christ in implementing this command of His?

    To answer this, we must first remember the entire rationale behind the command of seperation, otherwise we would fall into the legalism of the seperatists who seperate from everyone who is even a bit different from them. We seperate so as to magnify the glory of our Lord and Master, that we do not denigrate His majesty. Thus, all things should be judged according to that foundational principle. If by so doing, I would bring disgrace and disrepute to the name of Christ, I should not do it. Therefore, applying it to ministry, we can minister alongside others in circumstances whereby doing so would not bring shame to Christ. Therefore, this rule out all heretics immediately. However, with regards to Christians, we can partner with them when they are not compromising the faith, even if they compromise the faith elsewhere. Of course, this assumes that the Christian whom you are partnering with is not so tained with compromise that we compromise our testimony by partnering with them even if no compromise is inherently done in the immediate works of that partnership. An example would be partnering with Rick Warren in an official 'Christian' program in caring for the sick, since his name has become synonymos with the Purpose Driven paradigm he has created and therefore we should not be seen to give even a remotest support to his PEACE plan. Besides these parameters, to further limit how we can interact and minister as members of Christ's Body is to go beyond Scripture and is not helpful at all, and in fact grieves the Holy Spirit. Just because ecumenism with sinners is bad does not mean that undue seperation from believers is good either.

    This principle when applied could give rise to several seemingly strange scenarios. For example, an obedient Christ would rightfully refuse to join a group in a prayer meeting which have its foundation in heresy, while he may yet partner with them in other areas of ministry, even in other prayer meetings. Charges of double-standardness and condemnations from both sides of the extreme may very well pour in. The New Evangelicals will criticize the person of being judgmental and unloving, not to mention the possible charge of being 'disobedient to church leaders', while the seperatists will criticize the person for still serving with compromisers. Of course, the fact that Jesus mixed with sinners evade the seperatists, and the fact that he never join them in sinning nor condone their sin (and in fact call them to repentance) evade the New Evangelicals. As an aside, isn't it strange that some seperatist Chrstians have no problem ministering to unblievers but will not minister to compromising believers? To follow the Scripture in this regard is therefore difficult, but with God's strength, those who purposed to do so will find strength in Him.

    Marriage

    This is by far the most non-controversial section of this entire article of mine. It goes without saying that in something as intimate as a marriage relationship and covenant, we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, as our main passage of 2 Cor. 6:14- 7:1 shows. Furthermore, marriage is for the purpose of bringing forth godly offspring (Mal. 2:15), and this cannot be done when one party is an unbeliever.

    Practically, such an unequally yoked union will definitely harm the couple. The fact that one is destined for heaven while the other to hell unless he/she repent should be enough to discourage such unions. Also, as we Christians have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we acquire a new love for Christ and the things of God, which the unbelieving partner, being dead in sins (Eph. 2:1) will not desire and in fact even resent this passion on the part of the believer, since the carnal mind is hostile against God (Rom. 8:7). The worst part of course is that divorce is not allowed just because one party is a believer and the other is not, so both parties have just to live amidst such tension 24/7, until one party gives way (And guess which party normally is the one who does so?)

    All of these is basic Christianity 101. In fact, the new birth in the heart of the Christ should already render such a union unlikely, because the believer and the non-believer will come to have different likes and dislikes, if the Christian grows in his/her love for Christ that is. Therefore, I shall not belabor this point further but carry on to the next point.

    The next point is with regards to the point of unequally yoked as applied to Christians. Yes, to Christians. The most obvious part of such seperation is with regards to Christians who are passionate and Christians who seem to be just nominal. Going to church regularly does not make anyone a Christian; anymore than going to MacDonalds make anyone a burger. Serving in church is not a good indication also, because people can serve with all kinds of ulterior motives. Discernment is really needed here, but then, what's new?

    One area of which must be looked at is with regards to spiritual maturity, especially with regards to areas such as this doctrine whereby friction may occur. Although not something exactly to seperate on and may possibly be resolved, such issues may very well cause friction, especially when one party rightly or wrongly think that the other party's action is biblically wrong. Such issues should definitely be worked on, of course, not via the dialetical way of compromise but the biblical method of searching the Scriptures in order to grow into the same knowledge of the truth.

    Conclusion

    The whole doctrine of seperation with all of these practical implications, it must be realized, is one that is an extension of the command of God who commands us "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). As such, such a doctrine is only embraced correctly by those who truly love and fear God more than Man. Men pleasers like most New Evangelicals will never get it, for their focus is more on humans than on God. Those who have seen a vision of the holiness of God and His absolute demand for purity from His followers, and from His Church, will not be so flippiant in explaining away such passages as 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 in advocating for ungodly ecumenism, all in the name of so-called 'Christian unity'. Let us therefore turn once more back to God and spend time with Him in our prayer closet, and understand more of God. Only then will we be able to understand Him and not be effeminate men pleasers, but people like the Apostles who stood firm for their faith despite the opposition of Man.

    "He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:22)

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    The Doctrine of Separation: Practical Aplications (part 1)

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

    "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Therefore, go out from their midst, and be seperate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

    Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1)

    In an earlier post, I have placed two links whereby I have earlier written about the Doctrine of Seperation. This doctrine, which I have stated as being abused by modern-day "Fundamentalists" and ignored and despised by Neo-Evangelicals, is actually a very biblical doctrine which safeguards our witness for Christ to a depraved and sinful generation. In fact, I will even go so far as to say that it builds genuine unity in the bond of Christ among believers, insted of the sheep being left to fend for themselves while the shepherds allow the wolves to come in because we must be 'loving'.

    In this post, I would like to show how this doctrine is to be applied in various situations, namely that of Church, Ministry and Marriage.

    Church

    When finding or considering a church home, it is imperative that such a decision glorifies God, not just to make us feel happy. The doctrine of seperation will thus have implications for us as we seek to glorify God in all that we do, even in this aspect. The idea of first-degree seperation automatically means that we are not to join apostates churches, or to leave them if we are presently a member therein. The idea is very simple: What kind of testimony you are giving to the world and to God by staying in a "synagogue of Satan"? When we interact with people, like it or not we are ambassadors of where we come from, and that includes the church you are in. If a true born-again believer whom we shall call Mr. A remains in, for example, a Roman Catholic church in the interest of reforming that church, guess who benefits? People may be confused when they interact with Mr. A and think that there is some change within the Roman Catholic religion. In the meantime, Mr. A is obviously not fed and is subjected to many dangers, as bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor. 15:33). Furthrmore, he is in danger of being taught false doctrines, especially if he is young in the faith, which may shipwreck his faith. All in all, Mr. A has tarnished his witness for our God, and worse still have unwittingly given legitimacy to Romanism in the sight of men.

    But how about going there as a missionary, some may ask? I will respond back and enquire of them where in the Scripture is this tactic of infiltration recommanded. Obviously nowhere! Worse still, for example in Billy Graham crusades, new believers are channeled back to liberal Bible-denying churches! In other words, you are sending young lambs who have just been born into a pack of wolves, and you think that is a good tactic to win the lost souls in there?! What foolishness! Even if you advocate infiltration, you should desire to send in only the strong, elite and well-trained forces, but yet this New Evangelical tactic is not only unbiblical, it is downright stupidity. As an analogy of how stupid New Evangelicalism is, just imagine which army in the world would send fresh recruits in a commando raid deep in the enemy's territory.

    Infiltration of apostate religious organizations masquerading as churches therefore is unbiblical. If anyone however thinks we should still try this "in order that by all means save some", then I will give them the example of righteous Lot, who was grieved in his spirit by the lawlessness the Sodomites practised (2 Peter 2:7) and yet he would most probably be trying to reach out to them. Of the biblical narratives, this is proably the best narrative which proves the point (Other examples may include instances in Israel's history itself). Lot who is righteous, and who have even "earned" for himself the right to be heard (since his uncle saved the kings of Sodm and Gomorrah and their people - Gen. 14:1-16), lived in Sodom as a sortof de-facto Evangelist. Yet by the end of his "mission", his two sons-in-law disbelieved and were killed together with the other people of Sodom, his wife doubted and became a pillar of salt, and his two daughters became perverts who concoted a plan to sleep with their father in order to preserve their family line. Is this the type of legacy that New Evangelicals would want? But yet through their goal of 'friendly engagement', this is what will happen. And such a falling away is already happening in the proclaimed Evangelical world. Far from changing the culture, and the apostate churches, liberalism and worldliness has seeped into mainstream Evangelicalism, until we have all kinds of heresies within the camp, in movements such as the semi-Pelagian Purpose Driven paradigm and the anti-propositional Emerging Church Movement. Not to mention the leftist socialist Jim Wallies of Sojourners.

    Since I have raised the question, I will briefy answer as to the biblical methods of reaching out to apostate congregations. We are to reach out to all of them pro-actively in Evangelism, in proclaiming to them the Gospel of God from the outside. We are not to have any part in the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11) but rather expose them. Why must we utilize the tactic of infiltration unless we are ashamed of the Gospel, and of the offense of the Cross? In the end, it comes down to a fear of Man such that we would not otherwise interact with those who are clearly not in the Kingdom of God but through hints, suggestions, etc. We are not willing to be seen as confrontational "bigots" but as "nice people" (you know, not like those "intolerant Fundamentalists")

    Now, don't get me wrong here. I am not interested in purposefully antagonizing people and then claim that we are persecuted when they oppose us, like some "Fundamentalists" like to do. However, have we become too fearful of Man that we cannot tell them lovingly that they must repent and turn to Christ otherwise they are going to hell? They will certainly hate us for saying so, but will we yet do it?

    Next then, what about second degree seperation? With regards to choosing a church, this would become trickier, since second degree seperation will be with regards mainly to the ministry of the church. Of course, if a church allows known heretics in as members without discipling them, then that is an obvious violation of the command of seperation. Incidentally, this would also disqualify a church from being considered a true church, since it does not practise church discipline. As for cases of churches whereby they do practice church discipline correctly and are solid, yet their pastors, elders and deacons and.or other leaders may be involved in compromising activities outside the church, the doctrine of seperation does not exactly apply for joining that church as long as they don't practice their compromise in the church setting. However, such an action by the leaders should cast a shadow over their eligibility, and therefore it is up to the individual to decide between him and God.

    I would like here to mke a brief comment regarding Frank Turk's recent ongoing crusade for the local church despite all her failings, of which the latest post can be found here. Certain points Frank made are good, but by and large he has totally avoided the topic of the doctrine of seperation, and what that has to say that will impact the things he has been asserting. Certainly, we are not to leave the church over really trivial issues, nor should we expect total perfection in any church, and we should not be church-hopping and should serve in the local church. That said, Frank Turk's New Evangelical slant can be seen as he hints that people who normally do not talk with a pastor should not come up one day and comment that what he is teaching is wrong, and the way he uses the passge in the LBCF (Loindon Baptist Confession of Faith) to state that we should automatically stay in a church no matter how bad the error is by default, until they apostasize that is. To complete his bad exegesis, just look at his interpretation of Rev. 1:4b-7, which should make the Arminians happy (what with the playing around with the word 'all' to mean 'all').

    Fact of the matter, such a strained exegesis and elevation of the local church by Frank Turk contradicts the Scriptures as it makes the doctrine of seperation to no effect. According to Frank Turk, we can only seperate from a local church if they have either 1) turn apostate with no hope of turning back, 2) we cannot fit in and be fed dispite trying. This is contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture in this regard, and serve only to magnify the authority of "Mother Church" above its biblical position. In the meantime, believers' witnesses are lost and even destroyed, error thrives, and the Church (capital C) is weakened. In fact, a lot of so-called churches that I personally know of will allow people who believed similarly to Frank to serve, while all the time undermining their teachings through the pulpit or otherwise, and at the same time providing the sheep with such 'wonderful fei-lou-ship fellowship' (Sorry to non-Singaporeans who can't understand this). Soon, the sheep are lured to lukewarmness by their pastors and their friends in a spirit of 'Don't rock the boat'-ism, and in the end Christ's glory is diminished. And please do not think it will never happen to you. As it is written, pride comes before a fall, and let him who stands take heed lest he falls (1 Cor. 10:12). Does anyone dares to boast that he/she has the resources, zeal and knowledge to stand against the schemes and temptations of the devil, and of the flesh? I myself do not. Our perseverance is only by God's grace which preserves us as His elect (Jn. 6:39). Do not boast and think that you are so strong and mighty that you can stay in a compromised church without any destrimental effect on you or your family, which is what Frank Turk's advice would ultimately lead to. Those who continue to doubt that this is the case should really have a good look at the biblical example of Lot. In the end, those who refuse to seperate from biblically deficient churches (of which I have only listed one particular aspect in the doctrine of seperation here) will compromise their spiritual walk and fervor for the Lord and produce little lasting works.

    In the next post, we will look into the issue of Ministry, as to how the Doctrine of seperation ouught to be practised there.