Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Squirmeneutics

squir-me-neu-tics (skwûrm'mə-nōō'tĭks)
n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)

1. the science of misinterpretation, esp. of the Scriptures, to such a degree that it causes listeners with any common sense to squirm.
2. misinterpretation of the Scriptures so absurd that it causes one to question whether or not it could possibly be for real.

Tominthebox, a popular theological humor/satire site, has written a serious post here, which is very sobering. The rather crass video which is linked in their post goes way beyond any satire that can be currently thought of, and yet it is real. It truly is KJV-Onlyism to its logical conclusion, I guess.

The derailing of Nigerian Christianity

Well, it seems that there is a darker side to African Christianity, a much darker side. Read these two articles here and here, on the complicity of Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola in the ongoing religious conflict between the professing 'Christian south' and the northern Muslim north.

Now, I am not trying to defend the Islamicists, who deserve to be punish and even executed for their crimes. But since when did two wrongs make one right? Instead of seeking justice, which is the correct thing to do, the Christian Association of Nigeria decided to make this into a tit-for-tat Crsuade vs. Jihad religious war! So the terrorists massacre Christians, rape women, and burn down churches and homes, and in retaliation, these 'christians' massacre Muslims, rape women and burn down mosques and homes? Nobody is asking them to roll over and play dead like the useless effeminate governments of the West, but such an action is not only not Christian, but is in fact satanically inspired. These people who murder using the name of Christ will face God and His wrath unless they repent, together with their Islamist counterparts!

Oh, and so much for all the hype about vibrant African Christianity ...

[HT: Watcher's Lamp here and here]

Sermon: The Blessing of Children

Good sermon here. May this be used as a corrective against the anti-children movement among professing Christians around the world. [The liberals can continue to commit demographic suicide for all I care...]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why we shouldn't work for the world's applause

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. (Acts. 14: 8-19)

As human beings, all of us want to be loved and appreciated for who we are and the things we have done. And this can sometime cause us to be swayed by the opinion of others. Christians are not immune to such peer pressure, and the pressure to conform is always around us. In fact, a form of peer pressure occurs during church discipline, as church discipline and excommunication utilizes it in conjuction with prayer to hopefully lead a person to repentance (Mt. 18:15-17, 1 Cor.. 5:2, 2 Cor. 2:6-7).

That said, nowhere is the pressure to conform most apparent in the interaction of the Church and the World. The world is always attempting to force the Church to conform to its depraved standards, and sadly many within the Visible Church have some time or another allow the standards of the world into the Church. The pressure to be seen as nice and non-threatening so that we can share the Gospel with others is something that is present also, and stems from an Arminian or Pelgian/Semi-Pelagian view of evangelism and salvation. Even then, all Christians would need to face it as they do evangelism even if they believe in the biblical Calvinist beliefs regarding these two issues.

Closer within the Visible Church is the concept of discerning ministries, or just discernment, to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:4), especially among those whom Paul called fierce, ravenous woles out to destroy the flock if possible (Acts. 20: 29), as this could incur the wrath of even professing orthodox Christians. And the recent Purpose Driven paradigm have taken this peer pressure concept to a new low, as those who resist what is clearly unbiblical are subjected to peer pressure, ostracism and even demonization in order to attempt to silence their objection.

Face with all this pressure, it is not wonder that some occasionally succumb, including me. But yet the Scripture tell us not to work for the world's approval, but to work for an audience of one. And this narrative in Acts illustrates for us why.

As it can be seen, Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man in Lystra as part of their custom in the places where they would have visited. Immediately, the people proclaimed them as manifestations of their Greek gods (Zeus and Hermes) and attempted to worship them and offer them sacrifices. Surely Paul and Barnabas have the world's approval in this city of Lystra. Yet as we read further down the text, what happened? Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium who actively persecuted Paul and Barnabas when they were there came to Lystra and persuade the crowds to stone Paul and Barnabas. Did you notice that? Just minutes ago, they were trying to worship Paul and Barnabas, yet within a short period of time, they wanted to kill them. What fickle-mindedness on their part! And such is the case of men (and women). Man in general are fickle-minded and thus it is useless to attempt to work for their approval, for it is near impossible to attain them all, and definitely impossible to keep it. If Jesus who is sinless and the very epitome of love could engender such hatred while on earth, what makes you think you can do any better?

Since such is the case, let us continue to speak and witness boldly for our Lord with less regard to adverse or even positive reactions from people, yet humbly submitting to His Word. It is most definitely a struggle, but one we all should work towards — working and serving for an audience of One, and even to hear the applause of One if necessary. May God help us in this endaevor. Amen.

On Charismatism: Word-faith - gutting the centrality of the Gospel

[continued from here, here, here, here and here]

GUTTING THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL

The worst error of the Word-faith movement comes in the manner it impunges upon the Gospel and distorts it. To put it simplistically, the Word-faith movement has altered the Gospel and distorted it into a message of health and wealth — 'salvation' in the here and now instead of salvation from actual sin and an actual wrath of an actual God who punishes sinners with actual everlasting punishment. And this is what makes the Word-faith movement utter heresy, being placed under the anathema of God (Gal. 1:8-9)

Now, it may be asked why is this so? As it was seen earlier on, the Word-faith teachers talk about blessing, health and wealth being purchased by Christ in the Atonement. Although they do talk about atonement for sin, their focus is on the fact that because Jesus died on the Cross, we can have health NOW and propsperity NOW. Whether consciously or not, because of that that would mean that the good news of the Gospel will be focused on blessing and prosperity. D.A. Carson mentions in his talk in Singapore about the concept of shifting the center of the Gospel, which is to say that the the true center of the Gospel (the sin atonement) is not so much denied as it is neglected. Once this is done, the message of the Gospel message has changed, and those who are 'saved' or 'build up in the Word' while the teacher is so doing will constitute the next generation who would substitute the true Gospel with the "new gospel' proclaimed by the Word-faith teacher. In the matter of the Word-faith movement, this has attracted and produced a generation whose only impression of the Gospel is 'blessing, health and wealth', and such a distortion is therefore a false gospel which condemns people instead of saving them.

As the center of the proclaimed gospel has shifted, so has the world came into the church. The entire focus of the Gospel is salvation from sin unto holiness. The focus of the 'new gospel', however, is on material blessings, of which the love of it is expressively condemned in Scripture. As it is written,

'No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money' (Mt. 6:24).

And

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:10)

The Word-faith teaching on health and wealth has resulted in the love for health and wealth to enter the church, and with it the love of money. Who can dispute the fact that their adherents talk about money, money and more money? About Jesus wanting believers to get rich and healthy? Yet, all of such attitudes are of the world, and the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), destroying the faith of those who adhere to it. As Scripture has warned again and again but these people refuse to listen, no man can serve God and Mammon! The entire focus of the Word-faith movement can be summed up as follows:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Tim. 6: 3-5. Bold added)

By focusing on health and wealth which they think is promised by God due to the Atonement, they recreated God into a cosmic vending machine, and treat Christianity and godliness as a means of worldly gain. After all, why the huge focus on wealth and of getting rich, and on health too? Contrast their attitudes with the attitudes of those in the Hall of Fame in Heb. 11, especially Heb. 11:35-38:

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11:35-38)

Does anyone see these heroes of the faith focusing and thinking of health and wealth? What a contrast! As it is written,

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Rev. 12:11)

True saints and believers in Jesus Christ should NOT think about such worldly stuff, and neither does the Bible talk much about the topic either, only about how to behave if you are rich or if you are poor in this life. And that's because the focus of the Bible is God, and how He is so glorious and so wonderful to us because of His Atonement on our behalf such that we love not our lives even unto death. The Word-faith movement, by shifting the center at best, guts the centrality of the Gospel from the Gospel itself, and therefore leaves a false gospel and thus anyone believing in it is still left condemned under the curse and wrath of God for their sin.

Faith in faith

Another name of the 'health-and-wealth gospel' is the 'Name it, claim it gospel'. And it is not called this for no reason. Faith in the Word-faith movement is treated more like a impersonal powerful force (ie Star Wars) which is efficacious in itself by its own action (Latin: ex opere operato). As such, the focus is on the need for faith, and that whether something would happen or not depends on the level of faith a person or a group has confessed. If that doesn't sound like the Star Wars 'force', then nothing is. Word-faith teachers typically state that positive confessions must be made to create the reality wanted, while negativity must not be used as it could destroy the power of faith. As Kenneth Hagin is quoted as saying:

In the opening chapter, titled "Jesus Appears to Me," Hagin claims that while he "was in the Spirit" — just like the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos — a white cloud enveloped him and he began to speak in tongues. "Then the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to me," says Hagin. "He stood within three feet of me." After what sounded like a casual conversation about such things as finances, ministry, and even current affairs, Jesus told Hagin to get a pencil and a piece of paper. He then instructed him to "Write down: 1,2,3,4." Jesus then allegedly told Hagin that "if anybody, anywhere, will take these four steps or put these four principles into operation, he will always receive whatever he wants from Me or from God the Father." That includes whatever you want financially. The formula is simply: "Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it."

1. Step number one is "Say it." "Positive or negative, it is up to the individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive."

2. Step number two is "Do it." "Your action defeats you or puts you over. According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving."

3. Step number three is "Receive it." We are to plug into the "powerhouse of heaven." "Faith is the plug, praise God! Just plug in."

4. Step number four is "Tell it so others may believe." This final step might be considered the Faith movement’s outreach program[1]

And as Gary Gilley points out:

If a positive confession of faith releases power, then a negative confession can actually backfire. ...

As you might guess the teachings of the Faith movement are very attractive to some. If we can produce whatever our hearts desire by simply demanding what we want by faith; if we can manipulate the universe and perhaps even God, then we have our own personal genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes. Frederick Price wastes no words when he writes, "Now this is a shocker! But God has to be given permission to work in this earth realm on behalf of man. . . .Yes! You are in control! So if man has control, who no longer has it? God. . . . When God gave Adam dominion, that meant God no longer had dominion. So, God cannot do anything on this earth unless we let Him or give Him permission through prayer" (Prayer: Do You Know What Prayer Is. . . and How to Pray? The Word Study Bible, p. 1178).[2]

As it can be seen, this is outright heresy and blasphemy. One defence of the faith in faith doctrine is that God spoke the universe into being ex nihilo. But we are not God! Just becase God spoke the Universe into being does not mean that Man can do the same. And yes, it is stated that words have power in Jas. 3:5-8, but this power refers to the influence it has over its hearers including the speaker himself, NOT how much power it has to alter reality. This is more of the mind-sciences rather than Christianity, which is based on the occult! Mt. 12:37 may be attempted to use to support this faith-in-faith theory, but it cannot be as the context is referring to the words being an expression of what is in the heart (Mt. 12:34), not that the words have magical properties to change reality.

And as Gary Gilley has rightfully pointed out, and which the Word-faithers also mention, since Man has so much power and dominion, who therefore is not sovereign? God! This is enough to condemn the entire movement as heresy and being a cult, as God is re-created to be like Man while Man are elevated to the level of gods!

CONCLUSION

And so we conclude our tour through Word-faith territory, with the heretical nature of the Word-faith teachings being exposed. It truly is saddening that many people who call themselves Christians are Word-faith followers, and thus their salvation is even questionable since the Word-faith teaches a false gospel. In Singapore, the largest Word-faith Bible School is Rhema Bible School Singapore, producing batches of preachers to spread their heresy, while the two largest churches in Singapore, City Harvest Church (CHC) and New Creation Church (NCC), are Word-faith and thus heretical. As such, work must be done to evangelize the peple from these two "churches" as regardless of whether they are saved, their church is a false church and therefore the members are to be treated as unbelievers, and believers there to be treated as open sinnners who through their compromise are continually sinning by their presence there in open violation of 2 Cor. 6:14-18. After all, it is sin to worship God in a pagan temple with pagan worshippers, so it is also sin to do so in CHC or NCC. May God raise up laborers to call those caught in the Word-faith movement out of darkness into the glorious light of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may He be pleased to open their hearts so that they might turn from their sinful ways and live. Amen.

[Word-faith sub-series concluded; Main series to be continued]


REFERENCES

[1] Hank Hanegraaff (1993), Christianity in crisis, Harvest House Publishers, p. 74, 75

[2] Gary E. Gilley, The Word of Faith Movement, in Think on these Things Articles (April 1999, Volume 5, Issue 4), (http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/Articles/read_articles.asp?id=12)

Weekly Meditations: Is. 2 (2)

For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. So man is humbled, and each one is brought low—do not forgive them! Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty,when he rises to terrify the earth.

In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. Stop regarding manin whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? (Is. 2:6-22)

After proclaiming the future glory of the Kingdom of God which will come, Isaiah prophesied against apostate Israel, who we have seen has been practising syncretism. Here Isaiah goes futher into the sins of Israel, and judge them as being full of things in the East (v. 6). East here refers mainly to Babylon which is east of Israel, and is and also symbolizes the mother of all harlots (Rev. 17:5), as the city is the site of Babel, the original place of post-flood rebellion (Gen. 11: 1-9). Therefore, such an indictment against Israel is stating that Israel has imported idolatry from the source of all idolatry itself, Babylon! Like the Philistines their immediate, most hated mortal enemy, they have embraced fortune tellers. Between idolatry and sorcery, Israel has embraced a practice that is an abomination to God, being spiritual depravity of the worst kind. They are then stated as striking hands with the children of foreigners, which prove their spiritual adultary as they refuse to keep themselves separate but instead make all manner of alliances with the ungodly despite God's commands to do otherwise (cf Lev. 20:22-27).

Verse 7 describes the extent of their material wealth. Unlike the teachings of propserity teachers, prosperity is not necessarily a good thing. God states here the richness and material abundance of the Jews here. Though probably not as rich as the times of Solomon (1 Kings 10:27), there was still material abundance in this present time of apostasy. Horses and chariots, which denote military might, were aplenty too. Yet with all their propserity, Israel prostituted herself to vile idols, the works of her hands (v. 8). And because of this, God's hot wrath will come upon her, and will not spare her in his justice against their sins and iniquities.

In this day of the Lord of judgment against Israel, all Man would be humbled before God (v. 9). God will not forgive these unrepentant sinners (v. 9b), whose haughty looks will be brought low and their lofty pride humbled (v. 11, 17). They will hide, or at least try to do so as God executes His judgment upon the ungodly (v. 10). God will on that day punish all that rear itself up against Him in prideful rebellion (v. 12): those who pride themselves on their inherent and material strength (like the cedars of Lebanon and the oask of Bashan - v. 13), those who pride on their 'strong' foundation which is not that of the Lord and their lofty position (lofty moutains and uplifted hills - v. 14), those who take pride and have false confidence in their military strength and prowess (high tower and fortified wall - v. 15), and those who take pride and have false confidence in in luxuries, physical beauty and elegance (ships of Tarshish and beautiful craft - v. 16). All things which Man boast in would be taken away from them when God comes in judgment against their haughtiness and loftiness. Such a judgment would render people trembling in fear before God's coming judgment against them, and their idols will be seen to be totally worthless and destroyed by the Lord (v. 18). Man will then cast them all away as being totally worthless. That the idols are said to be cast to the moles and the bats (v. 20) show that the degree of abandonment of these idols which were once formerly valued. And they will try to hide in caverns of rock and clefts of cliffs (v. 21) trying futilely to hide from God's hot wrath against them (cf Rev. 6:15). In conclusion of this passage, God then exorts Man not to place their confidence in the themselves and the works of their hands, for they are but breath — fragile and weak; here today, gone tomorrow (Is. 40:7)

So what does all of this say to us? Although this prophecy have an immediate partial fulfilment in the day of judgment against Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, there is still a coming future judgment when Jesus comes again which will completely fulfil this prophecy. And thus, like Israel, we are exhorted not to trust in Man nor the works of Man. Health, wealth, strength and successes are elusive and the security they provide are but illusions. Regardless of how wealthy, how healthy or how successful anyone is, all of this will benefit them nothing on the day of judgment when God's wrath will be revealed against them (Rom. 1:18; 2:5). As it is written, what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his own soul (Mt. 16:26; Mk. 8:36)? O sinner, why are you continuing to chase after the wind for what does not benefit you nor save you from the final judgment? Rather, turn to Christ alone and let Him alone be your hiding place, your refuge and shelter from the coming storm of God's wrath which is even now hanging over the world ready to be poured on it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

On Charismatism: Word-faith - Health and Wealth non-gospel part 2

[continued from here, here, here and here]

ON PROSPERITY

A related issue of the propsperity health-and-wealth "gospel" of course is propserity. Depending on the way it is expressed, this aspect could be stated bluntly as saying that God wants believers to be rich, and that being poor is a vice, or it could be "softened" by saying that God wants us to live lives abundently (supposedly based on ) and thus God has promised to bless us abundantly.

We would look into the issue in "all its glory" first, before considering various nuances and modified versions of it.

As it has earlier been seen, Robert Tilton considers poverty a sin, as it does not draw on the resources of heaven. Since God is rich, we who are the sons and daughters of the King should be rich too. John Avanzini even dares to imply that Jesus and his disciples are rich[1]. Coupled with all these teachings is the idea of "seed money" aka the hundred-fold principle[2], whereby whoever gives to God by giving to the faith teacher's ministry will receive from God a hundred-fold back for what he has given to Him. Not too bad an investment, isn't it?

That being said, let us analyze their teachings according to the Scripture, and thus see whether what they teach is indeed biblical.

To support the idea that God promises material blessing, the following verse is often cited:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)

It must be conceded that the context related to financial issues, as verses 10-15 shows. However, that said, does it mean that Paul had in mind that Christ died so that all believers might become materially rich? NO! The larger context also makes it clear that the issue is one of supporting the brethren who are in financial and material difficulties, with the intended result being that "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack." (v. 15). Note that those who are said to gather much will have nothing left over, hardly the idea of material prosperity. And of course, it cannot be discounted that those who are being helped are facing sever hardship materially. After all, it is illogical to maintain that Christ died so that all believers might be rich so that they can benefit other believers who are poor; are not these poor believers also given the promise of financial blessing also?

As it can be seen, the context is of churches helping each other out, and we must interpret the verse in this context. In verse 8, it is stated that their love is proven to be genuine through this generosity on their part for the brethren. And verses 11 and 12 make it plain that they have this desire which Paul exhorts to be completed in action. Therefore, the richness states in verse 9 must be the fruit of the Spirit which produces such love and compassion for the brethren. This is further confirmed in verse 2 where Paul states that the churhes of Macedonia, that "their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part". If we really think of material propsperity here, then this verse makes no sense, for how can extreme poverty overflow into a wealth of genrosity? Poverty cannot generate wealth! Only by realizing that this verse and verse 9 also talks about spiritual wealth can we begin to make sense of the chapter.

Avanzini goes to the extreme of even teaching Jesus and his disciples as being rich, which seem contradictory to Scripture even on the surface. After all, how can Jesus say then that he has no place to rest his head — no permanant resting place which can be properly called home (Mt. 8:20; Lk. 9:58)? How can it be said even by their interpretation of 2 Cor. 8:9 that Jesus became poor for our behalf in order that we might be rich, since it is even denied that Jesus became poor in the first place? And with regards to the disciples, how can one reconcile this teaching with the writings of the Apostle Paul who states in 1 Cor. 4:11 and 2 Cor. 6:10 that the Apostles and the ministers of God's Word are poor and poorly dressed? Or how about Peter and John in Acts 3:6 who said that they do not have silver and gold to give to the lame person? Even if you would then say that this is such that the "ordinary members" would become rich, based on a distortion of 2 Cor. 6:10 (which refers to spiritual richness), that doesn't seem to be a case in the Word-faith circus whereby it is the 'pastors' who are rich (even filthy rich) while the members are mainly poor.

Nevertheless, let us look at the ridiculous argumentation they have came up with.

Avanzini teaches that:

John 19 tells us that Jesus wore designer clothes. Well, what else you gonna call it? Designer clothes - that's blasphemy. No, that's what we call them today. I mean, you didn't get the stuff He wore off the rack. It wasn't a one-size-fits-all deal. No, this was custom stuff. It was the kind of garment that kings and rich merchants wore. Kings and rich merchants wore that garment

Jesus had a nice house, a big house - big enough to have company stay the night with Him at the house. Let me show you His house. Go over to John the first chapter and I'll show you His house.... Now, child of God, that's a house big enough to have company stay the night in. There's His house. [3]

Jesus was handling big money because that treasurer He had was a thief. Now you can't tell me that a ministry with a treasurer that's a thief can operate on a few pennies. It took big money to operate that ministry because Judas was stealing out of that bag[4].

This is truly an astonishing argumentation, which seems to contradict the express teaching of Scripture we have considered earlier showing Jesus to be poor. Of course, the archeological evidence could be used also, as

Archeological excavations of Nazareth from the 1950’s show the village of Jesus' day were occupied by poor agricultural people. As Jesus grew up he worked in the trade of a carpenter, not a trade known for its wealth. How did Jesus become rich with a step-dad who was only a carpenter? There is absolutely no indication anywhere that he was wealthy from his family or from traveling with His disciples. By the way, He took no tithes [5].

This said, let us look more in depth into the verses and examples mentioned by Avanzini.

In Jn. 19:23-24, the Roman soldiers split up Jesus' clothing among them, and cast lots for his tunic, the odd one out. Somehow, the fact that the Roman soliders would divide the clothing and cast lots for the remaining tunic meant that Jesus' clothes were designer clothes? Avanzini must really have a very creative and imaginative mind indeed! And what does he expect the Roman soldiers to do with the clothing? Throw them away? I am sure rich people like Avanzinin would do that since they have too much money to spend and too many clothes to choose from, but the Roman soldiers who do not earn that much are unlikely to have such a luxury. Needless to say, such an infernce is invalid and is more of an argument from silence. In fact, it is pure eisegesis since nowhere in Scripture is it stated that Jesus is rich but it is stated many times that he was poor.

What about Jesus' purported 'big house'? In Jn. 1, it is stated that two disciples of John the Baptist followed Jesus and stayed in his home for the night as it was late (Jn. 1:39). Does this somehow mean that his home was big? Well, if one requires as much private space as Avanzini and most modern Americans, probably yes. However, Jesus lived as a Jew in the Jewish culture, of which the Middle Eastern and Asian cultural mindset is much more dominant. Avanzini should perhaps go and visit some of the homes of Chinese in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, or even student dorms there to see how it is possible to squeeze a few people in one place. And most of all, no one seems to mind it a lot and complain about the lack of private space. As it can be seen therefore, Avanzini is arguing from silence in a way totally alien from the culture in which Jesus lived, and therefore he is in error.

The last proof offered up which perhaps is more believable is the fact of Judas being the treasurer of the group. However, Avanzini made the assumption that only rich people and groups have treasurers, but this is not true! Any group which functions as a group would consolidate the funds and appoint a treasurer to do the task of keeping accounts, regardless of whether the amount was big or small. As an example, classes for children in schools often appoint a class treasurer to collect money for various class events and joint projects etc, but is anyone going to claim that large sums of money were involved? Yes, they look like a lot for these children, but the amount is not truly a lot in the world, like for example few hundred dollars. How much can you buy for feww hundred dollars in Singapore, for example? Not even the down payment for the cheapest home here, or even a small car (well maybe one restaurant meal for a few people)!

The next error that Avanzini makes is that he assumes that people would only steal large amounts and not small amounts. Presumeably, his brain is so lofty he can only think of large amounts of money and not small figures. But one thing is for certain: he doesn't seem to know what poverty is and how poor thiefs are content with stealing even one dollar from a person, even though Avanzini certainly can dispense with a mere one dollar since he is so rich that its loss will certainly not affect him in the slightest. With such a 'true' prosperity mindset, it is no wonder that Avanzini can only see Jesus as being prosperous since in his eyes, only rich people can have the financial capabilities to do ministry, and they must of course do it his style with lavish spending on hotels, meals etc.

We would next look at the so-called 'seed money' concept or the 'hundred-fold principle', based on an absurd distortion of Mk. 10:29-30, which states:

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mk. 10:29-30)

This verse in context, far from supporting Avanzini's position, actually says nothing of the sort! It is talking about how God will recompense His followers for the essential things like a place to stay (house/home) and relationships which are broken because of the person coming to faith in Christ. God will provide for that person abundently for his needs (not wants), and this provision would come with persecution, of which the latter seems to be conveniently ignored. Which does indeed bring about the next point: Didn't Jesus promise us the abundant life? Yes, He indeed did, but the abundant life as defined by who? Surely we must read the Scriptures in context to look at what it meant. In Jn. 10:10, the abundant life Jesus is said to give is contrasted with the intention of the devil to steal, kill and destroy, and the larger context is that of Jesus being the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. Therefore, it can be seen that the abundant life is defined spiritually in a saving relationship with Christ first and foremost, not primarily defined by meeting any "emotional needs" or worse still, "physical or financial needs".

But some people may maintain, even then, doesn't God say He would provide for us and bless us, even materially? Well, God may do so, and He may not do so either. The same God who brought prosperity to Job also took it away from him; the same God who made Jacob prosperous in Laben's household also allowed the Macedonian believers to be poor (2 Cor. 8:2). The fact of the matter is: Christianity is NOT about riches, but about salvation from a literal hell from the literal wrath of God. And it is this problem of the Word-faith movement we would now look at.

[to be continued]


REFERENCES

[1] John Avanzini, "Believer's Voice of Victory" program on TBN (January 20, 1991), as quoted in John Avanzini (http://www.thebiblepage.org/avoid/avanzini.shtml)

[2] John Avanzini, "Praise the Lord" program on TBN (November 5, 1990), as quoted in John Avanzini (http://www.thebiblepage.org/avoid/avanzini.shtml)

[3] John Avanzini, "Believer's Voice of Victory" program on TBN (January 20, 1991), as quoted in John Avanzini (http://www.thebiblepage.org/avoid/avanzini.shtml)

[4] John Avanzini, "Praise the Lord" program on TBN (September 15, 1988), as quoted in John Avanzini (http://www.thebiblepage.org/avoid/avanzini.shtml)

[5] Was Jeus Rich? (http://www.letusreason.org/Wf15.htm)

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Charismatism: Word-faith - Health and wealth non-gospel part 1

UPDATED!

[continued from here, here and here]

Having established the foundation, let us look first into the Word-faith movement. More specifically, let us look into the propsperity teaching, the healing teaching and their teaching on faith. There are of course even more heretical teachings taught by the Word-faith cult, like the teaching that Jesus assumed Satan's nature during the 3 days He was in hell after the Resurrection. We shall not be looking into these heresies per se, but interested readers may want to take a look at a comprehensive study on the Word-faith blasphemous theories on the Atonement at here, here, here and here. However, those three heresies (heath, wealth and faith as a force) are the ones which have primarily been absorbed by some within the Charismatic movement, and which have through them been injected into a part of mainstream Evangelicalism, while the more heretical ones are still kept mainly within the walls of the Word-faith cult itself, and therefore we will only concentrate on these three heresies here.

The first of this heresy focuses on material and physical blessing; thus it has been called the "health and wealth gospel". Word-faithers typically teach that believers are meant to be healthy and wealthy, and that God has promised us these two things. For example, on God wanting us to be prosperous, Robert Tilton said:

Being poor is a sin, when God promises prosperity. [1]

My God's rich! And He's trying to show you how to draw out of your heavenly account that Jesus bought and paid for an purchased for you at Calvary. ... New house? New car? That's chicken feed. That's nothing compared to what God wants to do for you. [2]

And with regards to healing, Benny Hinn says:

"The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now -- he healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith" [3]

As it can be seen, Word-faith teachers believe that the basis of the promise of health and wealth for belivers is based on Christ's work of atonement on the Cross. Whether this is so we would now analyze according to the Scriptures.

ON HEALING

[Note: Only the belief in the promise of healing based on the Atonement will be discussed here, the gift of healing, which is a different subject altogether though related, will be discussed much later]

The main passage which seemingly teaches that God promises blessings, especially healing, in Christ's atonement is the passage in Is. 53: 5, which states

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)

The Word-faith and even the Vineyard third wave movement[4] seems to believe that healing for believers are bought by Christ through His Atonement. As we look into this text which the Word-faithers use frequently as a proof-text for their teachings, is that really what it is saying? To answer this, we must look at the entire text in the context of Is. 53, which is a prophecy of our suffering Messiah Jesus. As we can see from the words used, the entire passage seems to talk about the idea of 'griefs', 'sorrows', and more importantly in verse 5 itself the concepts of 'transgressions' and 'iniquities'. As it can also be seen in verse 11,

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Is. 53:11)

The context therefore is all about paying the penalty of sins on the behalf of God's people, which is what Is. 53 is all about. If that is the case, then what does the phrase 'with his stripes we are healed' mean, but that such a healing is from the disease of spiritual blindness, with the stripes alluding to the severe lashing he gone through before his crucification proper.

The question is then asked, "But shouldn't we interpret it plainly, as in 'healing' = 'healing', especially since the Hebrew word is the word for healing, rapha?" But this is precisely the problem. Words cannot be isolated from their contexts just like that. The fact of the matter is that the subject matter of Is. 53 forces only one interpretation of that contentious phrase in verse 5, when consistent hermentics are used, and that is its true 'plain' interpretation. Just because the same word or even phrase is used in two different contexts does not mean that they are referring to the same thing! For example, the word 'drank' or the phrase 'drank in' can be used both literally and figuratively (Literally as in 'drank [in] water'; Figuratively as in 'drank in the sights'), and therefore the mere usage of the same word, whether Hebrew, Greek, English or any other language, does not the same meaning necessarily mean. And so therefore, this mean that EVEN if healing was really purchased by Christ on the Cross, Is. 53:5 cannot be used as a proof-text to show it.

This text being shown to be of no help to their focus on healing, what other texts could be mustered to prop up their position? Perhaps they would like to use the Markan version of the Grea Commission in Mk. 16: 15-18? This suffers from a certain problem though, which is the issue of (lower) textual criticism as earlier manuscripts do not have this portion, and certain other manuscripts have differing endings. While this portion is part of the Scriptures, it is unwise to place such a high burden on such a text.

However, let us grant the wisdom of such a move. Does this however, prove the promise of healing to all believers, nevermind linking it to the atonement (which is tenuous at best even)? Mk. 16: 17-18 states:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mk. 16:17-18)

The truly literal charismatics (small 'c' generic) here should not only be advocating casting out demons, speaking in new tongues and healing the sick through the laying on of hands, but they should also be advocating snake handling sessions and the drinking of poisons. Although probably some may like to try handling snakes, I have yet to see or hear any charismatic who would drink poison trusting God to protect him/her based upon the promise in Scripture cf Mk. 16:18. Since such is not the case, that God's promises here does not seem to apply to us today, how shold we interpret this text? To insist that drinking of poisons is not ok but the rest is still contained within the promise is to arbitrarily sit in judgment of Scripture, in determining which parts are valid and which parts are not, and that is not what we are to do! After all, who gets to determine which part are valid and which are not? Furthermore, the text itself does not lend itself to any partitioning of the promise, as it is actually one promise, not many. So either we accept all, or reject all.

The key to interpreting this text is to look at how the Scriptures show the early Church functions in fulfiment of this text. It can be seen that the Apostle Paul was stated as being bitten by a snake and yet suffering no effects from its deadly poison (Acts 28:3-6), thus showing forth God's promise as stated in Mk. 16:18 regarding the handling of snakes. Similarly, the miracles exercised by the apostles and their associates (ie Paul's handkerchief — Acts 19:12) shows forth the reality of God's promise regarding the healing of the sick. Not to mention the speaking in tongues at Pentecost and elsewhere in the churches, and the casting out of demons. Therefore, it can be seen that this promise is primarily made to the Apostles and their associates, and this would then be made for a reason linked to the proclamation of the Gospel. And thus this promise is limited to the beginning of the NT Church where sign-gifts are still fully operational in establshing her. This verse cannot apply to anyone else in anytime since such a promise is guaranteed and therefore not allowed to be treated as a 'percentage promise', as if this verse was promising that God would help you heal someone 40% of the time!

Perhaps then Mal. 4:2 could be enrolled to aid their cause, but such is not the case, since Mal. 4 is talking about the second coming of Christ. Similar to all the anticipated utopian visions of Israel (ie as written in the Prophets etc), this healing is promised only when Christ comes again, and not now.

From all of these passages, we have seen from the Scriptures that physical healing was never stated as being part of the Atonement, and that the promise of healing was either made to the Apostles and the early church at that time for a certain evangelistic purpose (Mk. 16:17-18), or for Christ's Second Advent (Mal. 4:2). The Word-faith theory on healing being bought through the Atonement is thus unbiblical.

Practically speaking therefore, what does this tell us about the relationship between healing and suffering, and God's say on this matter? God does not promise healing nor has He bought healing through Christ's Atonement. And we do know that God is sovereign and in full control, and therefore has sovereignty over sicknesses too. God furthermore uses situations, even sickness for our sanctification (Jas. 1:2-4; Heb. 12:7-11) and for His purposes which we may not know or understand now (Job; Rom. 8:28). As an aside, how do the faith teachers propose to understand Paul's situation in 2 Cor. 12:7-9? How can it be said that God refuses to take away Paul's thorn, and more than that, it is God Himself who had given to him this thorn in the flesh? According to these Word-faith heretics, the Aspotle Paul was not healed because he did not have enough faith to "claim his healing". And so they make themselves more spiritual than Paul, or so it seems.

It is with this that we see the serious error of so-called "bible teacher" Sidharth, who in this blog entry makes a mockery of God and violate the Third Commandment — using the name of God in vain in claiming divine revelation which is clearly not divine in origin since it violates the express teachings of Scripture. The fact of the matter is that God must be the one who controls sickness, for if not then God is not sovereign, which contradicts Scripture. And if God controls sickness, but we do know that sickness occur, then either God has the power to do something about sickness which He deals with at His own discretion, or God doesn't have full power to deal with the sickness although He intends healing for everyone, and thus something is blocking God from following through His intention.

Now, it can be seen that the Word-faith (and Sidharth) teach that healing is available to all and have been purchased by God through the Atonement. So, why isn't everyone healed then? The Word-faith movement would blame the sufferer for a lack of faith, which means that ultimately, God is not sovereign since Man can choose whether he/she wants to exercise the faith to do so, and thus Man is more powerful than God in this aspect. Sidharth falsely accuses those who refuse to believe the Word-faith heresy on healing people who "see the greatness of Sickness", but not God's greatness, yet he is the one who is more aptly named to have commited the crime as his 'god' is so powerless compared to Man and/or Sickness that his 'god' is not sovereign to follow through on his intention to heal all. His 'god' tries to heal all but cannot, whereas the God of the Bible heals some and let sickness in others serve His plans and purposes, always controlling everything sovereignly for His own good pleasure, and for the good of His people.

Pastorally, this heretical Word-faith teaching on healing has caused devastation in the lives of many. Because of their belief in healing, members distrust doctors and in extreme cases even deny their sick conditions and continue to claim healing. In the Parker family's case, this has caused the demise of their mother due to the embrace of the Word faith cultic teachings through Kenneth Copeland Ministries. How many more lives and families have been destroyed by the heresy of these Word-faith teachers? Furthermore, what untold damage have been done to the naive sheeple out there when they are told that they are to blame for not being healed of their sickness? This therefore is not just a theoretical issue, but clearly a practical and pastoral issue also. And it is hoped therefore that many more people would repent from the serious heresy of the "God wants you healthy" heresy, and renounce the Word-faith heretics in so doing.

[to be continued]


REFERENCES

[1] "Success in Life" broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (2nd Dec 1990), as quoted in John F. MacArthur (1992), Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 347

[2] "Success in Life" broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, (5th Dec 1990), as quoted in John F. MacArthur (1992), Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 347

[3] Benny Hinn (1991), Rise and be Healed, Celebration Publishers, Inc., as quoted in Gary E. Gilley, The Word-faith Movement at http://www.forgottenword.org/wof.html

[4] John Wimber (1991), Power Healing, HarperOne.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Article: Unity through humility

Here is a good article by Mike Ratliff on unity through humility to God's Word and Truth.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 2 (1)

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Is. 2:1-5)

Isaiah here starts a new line of thought. In it, he proclaims the future and coming glory of the Lord, and of the reality of His coming. Although the situation of the people of God is desparate, Isaiah anticipates the coming glory of the Kingdom of God and the goodness and peace it brings. As he starts, it will come to pass (not hypothetically, but SHALL come to pass) that the absolute Kingship and Lordship of God will be established. As it states in verse 2, God's Kingdom and rule (symbolized by the imagery of the moutain) will be exalted far above all other kingdoms, countries and dominions, and all the nations will acknowledge and submit to its reign. In that day of the Lord, all peoples will submit themselves to the rule and reign of God, and will submit to the His Word (v. 3). All of this will be found within and from the Scripture through the Church of God (v. 3b) and not from any other, contrary to the Inclusivist and Pluralistic viewpoint espoused by many compromisers and apostates. That day will be a time of peace, true peace, as God who reigns will bring an end to all warfare (v. 4), shown as the weapons of warfare are used for more constructive purposes and not for war.

Obviously, such a scenario has yet to happen. Wars do happen and are increasing in violence and frequency, and the name and cause of Christ is mocked and derided by His enemies. Yet, there will come a time in the future when all of such injustice and blasphemy will come to an end, and we should like Isaiah look forward to the blessed Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will do all of this. When Christ comes, he will executes true justice and will restore the honor and glory of His name and His Kingdom among the nations, bringing the whole world under submission to His authority and thus granting true peace.

Isaiah ends this with an exhortation to the people of God to walk in the way and the light of the Lord (v. 5). Knowing that the end of everything is for Christ, we are therefore exhorted to follow Him, knowing that at the end His cause and Kingdom will reign supreme. This is our blessed hope and something we must be looking forward to. As it is written:

For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. ...

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb. 11: 10, 14-16)

As the situation in this present world and age continues to worsen in growing moral decadence amidst the self-destructive process inititated by the wicked and the reprobates in destroying themselves and their societies, we as Christians ought to follow the example of our father Abraham and the great giants of the faith. We are to look forward and yearn for the coming of our God and King, and think of ourselves as aliens and sojourners in our countries and societies. This world is not our home. For example, Singapore is not my home; Heaven is. (And this is one reason why the propsperity "gospel" is so antithecal to true Christianity; it places the emphasis on the here and now as opposed to Christ and His heavenly kingdom). All of us Christians are saved OUT of this world of sin and debauchery into the glorious Kingdom of God; from the Kingdom of darkness into the glorious Kingdom of Light (Acts. 26: 18; 1 Peter 2:9). And we are to live our lives as such, with our gaze and perspective firmly fixed on Christ and His Kingdom, and doing all to the praise of the glory of His grace.

So, let us continue to be heavenly-minded and not focus our eyes on the things of the earth. For we truly look forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God Himself (Heb. 11:10). So come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20). Amen.

On Charismatism: Scripture, experience and the issue of ultimate authority

[continued from here and here]

It is a fact that Charismatism tends to make its adherents more focused on experiences, and most definitely, the Christian life encompasses experiences; the experience of being set free by Christ's death, the experience of intimacy with God etc. The problem comes in however, when we deal with the issue of authority. Pentecostals/Charismatics in general seem to place a very high importance on their experience, and such may well lead to them placing experience on par or even superseding the authority of Scripture1, not to mention the exercise of the so-called "gift of prophecy" in granting new revelation2 which may even contradict Scripture.

As such, it is imperative that a foundation for the examining of the charismata must be established. This foundation must be none other than Scripture, and Scripture alone. Experience must be interpreted in light of Scripture, and not the other way round. After all, Scripture is THE final authority for the Christian, and if it is, then we must need examine everything by what it teaches.

It is here that I must need disgress into the issue of the doctrine of the Scriptures (bibliology) with regards to this issue, and in actual fact all doctrinal issues. Now, no true Christian and even some cults (ie Jehovah's Witness) would deny that the Scripture is authoritative. The issue therefore is not one of authority, but one of ultimate or final authority, or in other words what is known theologically as the sufficiency of Scripture. Is what is revealed in Scripture sufficient for the entirety of the Christian walk, life and experiences? Or to simplify it, with only the words of Scripture, can I know everything there is to know about God, His will and His plan, interpret all things that happen to me in all my circumstances, be a source of encouragement and comfort without necessity of aid, give me all necessary tools to equip me for ministry such that I shall not want in all things necessary for the Christian life (Ps. 23:1)? This is the "layman's" definition of what does it mean for the Scriptures to be sufficient, both materially and formally[3].

To answer this question, since we ARE and should be coming at it as a Christian, we must need look at what the Scripture say. And to this we look at 2 Tim. 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

In my previous article on the doctrine of Scripture which I have done some time ago, which anyone interested in the topic may look at as a primer, I mentioned

I would like to focus now on the later part of the passage in verse 17, where it is stated that "... the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work". From this part, we can see that Scripture is meant to equip us Christians for EVERY good work, not just some, but EVERY single one of them. Furthermore, we are to be made competent to do these good works. In the NIV, it is stated that the man of God may be "thoroughly equipped" and the NASB translates the word as adequate. The word translated 'competent' here is αρτιος (transliterated: artios) in the Greek, which according to the NAS New Testament Lexicon on crosswalk.com is used only once in the Greek NT and its definitions are:

1) Fitted,

2) complete, perfect (a) having reference apparently to "special aptitude for given uses" [4]

Scripture therefore teaches that it is competent, complete, perfect such that they can equip us for all the facets of Christian living (teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness), such that we do not need another aid. And also as I have mentioned in that article:

... if Scripture itself does teach that Scripture is sufficient, then all other sources will either agree with Scripture, or disagree with it. If it agrees with Scripture that Scripture itself is sufficient, then the extra proof is superfluous. Consequently, if it does not agree with Scripture and thus contradict Scripture, since Scripture is necessary and thus it must be accepted, Scripture's verdict on its own sufficiency will stand while the others will fall. Of course, if the sources do not speak at all on the subject at hand, it is totally useless with regards to this topic. [5]

And therefore Scripture IS sufficient and MUST be sufficient if we are to call ourselves Christians who believe in the necessity of God's Word, which all Christian claim to do. After all, which true Christian will ever say that the Bible is not neccesary? And if it be necessary, then as I have shown through an exegesis of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Scripture is sufficient. The only way out is to reject the authority of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, which would then make the person doing so sitting in judgment of the Word of God (or at least trying to do so) and thus rejecting its authority over his/her life, and such is clearly NOT an option for true believers.

So how does this apply to the issue of the charismata? Since Scripture must need be our Final authority, with Scripture being sufficient, then any other "proofs" like experience must be subjected to the examination of Scripture first. Therefore, we must examine the Scriptures independently of our experiences to determine what it teaches on the topic, and then after we are convinced from the Scripture that this is what it teaches, then we can then ask the question "So given that this is what Scripture teaches, how can my experience be interpreted so as not to violate the teachings of Scripture?", rather than "So since I have this experience, are there any passages in Scripture which confirm the validity of my experience?" This therefore will be our approach to all the issues we would examine in the next couple of posts on this topc. Experience will only be taken into account last of all, NOT first. Until the biblical position on this topic is established, none of our experiences in the exercise of the charismata, or lack thereof, makes a difference.

And speaking of experiences, there is an additional reason why we cannot trust experiences; because they are highly subjective. And even if they are genuinely reflective of the Truth, can you interpret your emotions rightly? Or as it is often the case, you will see only what you want to see because of your different orientation and focus? Not to mention thay they are so flippiant and transient, like being happy one hour before and going into depression one hour later. And people want to base their theology, and even their life and eternal destiny on that? It thus can be seen that depending on emotions to prop up your idea of the truth is a disaster even before it can take place, and thus we shouldn't trust our emotions, which includes the feeling of the possession of some gifts like the speaking in tongues.

[to be continued]


REFERENCES:

[1] John F. MacArthur (1992), Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, Chapter 1 pg. 25

[2] J. Rodman Williams (1971), The era of the Spirit, Logos, Plainfield, N.J., as quoted in MacArthur, Chapter 2 pg. 58

[3] For those who are interested, the concept of 'material sufficiency' implies that no extra-biblical material (ie new revelation) is needed in order for scripture to be sufficient. The concept of 'formal sufficiency', however, implies that no extra-biblical method/ tradition/ interpretive grid is needed to understand Scripture and utilize its treasures; the interpretive grid to interpret Scripture is derived from Scripture itself — Scripture interprets Scripture. For more information, please do check out Volume 1 of the 3-volume set by David King and William Webster (2001), Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Christian Resources Inc., Battle Ground, WA.

[4] Daniel HC Chew, Sola Scriptura: The necessity, sufficiency, authority, preservation, perspicuity of Scripture. http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/theology/Sola_Scriptura.html

[5] Ibid.

On Charismatism: Delineating the contents involved

[continued from here]

Within Charismatism various doctrines and beliefs have been embraced. Perhaps the most controversial subject is in the area of spiritual gifts, the gifts of the Spirit or the charismata. There are of course other doctrines embraced by those who call themselves Charismatic, for example the ecumenity or rejection of the doctrine of separation, but this is not an issue distinctive of the movement, and I have addressed the issue separately. Therefore, the entire issue with Charismatism that we would be looking at is on the area of the gifts of the Spirit of the charismata.

Now, of course, such a doctrine is not altogether distinctive of the Charismatic movement, but also of Pentecostalism and the Third Wave Movement, the Vineyard Movement, and of the Reformed Charismatic movement. Each of them have nuances of this particular doctrine which they accept and others they reject. For example, the Vineyard version emphasizes a lot on healing, while more "conservative" Pentecostals do not have such an emphasis. To therefore address specific movements and their nuances is therefore laborious if anyone wants to do so, as certain Pentecostals may deny what some Charismatics believe in, while many (traditionally) Charismatic people probably will reject the Vineyard emphasis on healing. To paint with a broad brush the entire Pentecostal, Charismatic and assorted groups as if they all believe the same things is therefore unwise. It is unfortunate that Pastor John MacArthur seems to be doing this in his book Charismatic Chaos, which DOES addresses various valid issues within the charismatic camp which are really serious, yet without clearly differentiating between the clearly heretical group and the more orthodox believers. To be fair to MacArthur, Charismatics have not been exactly forthcoming in their beliefs and the failure and even refusal of many of them to denounce the heretics who call themselves Charismatics compounds the problem. After all, when was the last time Charismatics, even Reformed Charismatics, have called David (Paul) Yonggi Cho a heretic? Or was there a first time in the first place?

Further compounding the issue, as if it is not complicated enough, is the presence of the Word-faith movement, otherwise known as the "Name it, claim it" movement, the "Health and Wealth Gospel" movement, or the "Prosperity Gospel" movement. The founder of the movement is the late Kenneth Hagin Sr., and the movement exists as a parallel track to mainline Pentecostalism/ Charismatism, seemingly sharing things in common while having a drastically different agenda. Like them, the Word-faith movement believes in the continuation of the charismata. Unlike them, the Word-faith movement believes various things about wealth and health that are quite frankly heretical and even occultic, not to mention the Jesus becoming the devil incarnate in hell heresy. The Word-faith movement continues mainly through The Blasphemous Network Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and "teachers" such as Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Joel Osteen and many others. In Sinapore, the two largest Word-faith churches are City Harvest Church and New Creation Church, also the two largest "churches" in Singapore, though they also have a presence through the Methodist denomination via the Rhema Bible School in Singapore.

With all that stated, the issue of the gifts of the Spirit or the charismata will be looked at from Scripture. Due to the diverse nuances and views between Pentecostals, Charismatics and Third Wavers on the subject, as we have noted earlier, the subject will be looked at from a "neutral" perspective from the biblical standpoint, and then applications may be then made to the various nuances of beliefs of the charismata. As such, if the particular application and criticism is invalid for your case, ignore it and do not treat any criticism as misrepresentation of your position, for it is ridiculous for me to cater to the exception withint the movement by placing disclaimers everywhere. But please do not ignore the plain teaching of Scripture on the subject which I will do before the application, for Scripture's teaching is athoritative and must be embraced, unless it can be shown that what I am teaching is not what Scripture is teaching, that is.

Yet before I address this, there is an even more pressing concern that must be addressed — that of the Word-faith cult. Since promoters of their heretical teachings are very prevalent (after all, the two largest "churches" in Singapore are Word-faith), and it seems a lot of their supporters have surfaced in Sicarii's blog over here, I think it would be good to settle this issue conclusively. Of course, there are areas of overlap between the beliefs of mainline Charismatism and the Word-faith cult, especially in the area of healing, so for these issue, one stone can be used to kill two birds.

Even before this however, we need to build up a foundation for interaction, and to this we would need to talk about the Doctrine of Scripture and Final authority, again.

[to be continued]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sermon: Godly Husbands and Wives

Happened to read this four part series by Pastor Justin Neale (The Godly Husband part one and part two, The Godly Wife part one and part two). Good sermons I must say.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rick Warren Apostate...

I'm personally sick and tired of Rick Warren. This video however is VERY disturbing. See it for yourself (if you are willing to listen to 1 hr+ of talks and dialogue). If not, just read what I am going to say.

After watching this video, I was more than a little disturbed. One cannot exactly fault the unregenerate for talking rubbish about religious pluralism, though it MUST be objected that for an orgaization that supposedly presupposed the separation of Church (Mosque, Temple etc.) and State, they sure are a bunch of hypocrites. To Tony Blair and all those on this panel, and to the WEF (World Economic Forum) in general, stay out of religious issues you have no legitimate business discussing. (What is an interfaith religious forum doing in an ECONOMIC forum anyway?) Otherwise if you continue to violate the separation of Church and State, I don't see any reason why we cannot return the favor and start imposing Theocracy!

Anyway, back to Warren. After listening to all the garbage of "we all must be tolerant except we can be intolerant towards those who refuse to follow us" rhetoric, especially from the Jewish representative, my spirit was very disturbed, and to see that Rick Warren, who calls Himself a "conservative Evangelical Baptist Christian leader", has no problem with it and in fact adds fuel to the fire in his speech, is the final straw. No matter how accomodating and compromising a person may be, how can you sit there and have no problem with all these people blaspheming the name and honor of our God without the Holy Spirit within you protesting against this sacriledge!!? Unless of course, you have so hardened yourself against God that He has left you to your own devices, in your apostasy! Notice how also that instead of the initial 'P' being 'Planting Churches', now it is 'Promoting reconciliation'. Between what, Rick? Between God and Satan? Between true Christianity and the apostate mainline liberals? NEVER!! I rather die than spit on the blood of my Savior. Repent Rick [Warren], or face the fiery wrath of God for your apostasy from the Gospel!

[HT: Christian Research Net]

Weekly Meditations: Is. 1 (4)

How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your best wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them.

Therefore the Lord declares, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first,and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. But rebels and sinners shall be broken together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks that you desired; and you shall blush for the gardens that you have chosen. For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them.

(Is. 1:21-31)

As this chapter draws to a close, God focuses on the state of His Covenant people, especially focusing on the city of Zion or Jerusalem. God through the giving of the Law through Moses established the cities and country of Israel, the people of Israel in righteousness (Ps. 99:4). But now God sees spiritual adultary at work, as the people prostituted themselves to foreign and false gods.The metaphor of silver (a valuable substance) becoming dross (something worthless) and the metaphor of mixing best wine with water (devaluing something good) in verse 21 shows the reality of spiritual adultary, the exchanging of something of much value for something worthless (cf Rom. 1:22-23). Such a spiritual exchange devalues those who partake of it, as the noble princes have became as it were 'rebels and the companion of theives', both in worth and in deed. Worth because they have devalued themselves by their idolatry, and deed because by abadoning God and His Law, they have soon fell into sin and actual wickedness, as the later part of verse 23 shows (loving bribes, denying justice to the fatherless and the widow).

And to this reality, God, the LORD of hosts, sovereignly proclaims judgment on His people (v. 24). Israel as it is has became the enemy of God through their adultary, at least those within the Covenant community who have violated God's laws and rebelled against Him. Thus, God will get relief from them by pouring out His wrath against them. God's design in judgment will be to destroy all false worship and profession; so as to purify His people as they turn back in repentance to Him (v. 27). As fire burns away the dross, the impurities away from the metal ore and leave behind pure metal, so the fire of judgment will purify the people of God of their syncretism. As other metals are removed so as to get the pure metal (ie gold), so the Lord will 'remove all [their] alloy' (v. 25). The image of lye (a strong caustic detergent used in biblical times) evokes an image of the harshness and absolute power God will use for such a judgment. God will spare nothing in His quest to purify His people from their sins indeed.

In verses 26 to 28, the desired end of the judgment of the Lord is hereby stated. God's intent is to restore once again purity of His people, as can be seen in the impartiality and righteousness of the judges and counselors, such that Zion could be called the city of righteousness again. This of course would only be actually fulfiled by our Lord Jesus Christ, who did establish the Kingdom of God spiriually now when He first came, which would be realized in all its fullness when He comes again (the Heavenly Jerusalem cf Rev. 21:2). But God pronounces destruction for 'rebels and sinners and those who forsake the Lord' (v. 28), those who refuse to repent of their sins despite judgment, and these people would be consumed by the wrath of God.

In the Day of the Lord, sinners will be ashamed of their sins. The oaks here described in verse 29 refers to the trees (oaks) at the high places and the gardens also. All of such places of sin and compromise sinners would be ashamed of, for they were a snare to them.

God then moves back to the present. Although the oak is a strong, sturdy tree, those who go to the high places would be like dead oaks whose leaves are withering. They are likened also to a garden without water, and thus soon to die. God thrugh this mocked their syncretism, as the symbols of strength and significance in their eyes and religious ceremonies He will destroy and show to be useless and powerless. Much as how Elijah taunted the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-29) and show their god to be no god at all even in Baal's supposed strength, the Lord God eliminates false gods and worship by judging them in their areas of supposed strength and making a mockery and display of them. God's judgment as it falls upon unregenerate sinners destroys even the strong, and eliminates them and their work (v. 31). The strength and works of those who rebel against God in the end only works for their destruction, as they are but tinder used to display the power of God's wrath against sin, and the glory of His justice.

How then can we aply what we have learned? Let us remember that our God is one who seeks righteousness and justice, not because God judges us by our works, but because they are the evidences of true regenerate hearts. God uses means, even disciplining us in judging the corporate community of believers, harshly even, in order to purify a people for Himself. Are we therefore encountering persecution or difficulties in our faith (trials and tribulations)? Rejoice, for God is at work in and through us in purifying us. Let us therefore learn not to despise the Lord's discipline, but to embrace it and continually turn to Him (Heb. 12:3-11), and not be like those who continually reject God and will be finally cast away into eternal destruction.

Article: Demystifying the Controversy over the Textus Receptus and the KJV

Interesting article on the issue of lower textual criticism and the Bible, especially against the cultic teachings of KJV-Onlyism, here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Video: Theology Matters: Peace with God

Why is it that Christians are not afraid of the wrath of God? Barring presumption and those who know little about sin in the eyes of a holy God, why should a believer not be afraid of God's wrath? This video by Dr. James R. White tells us why.

And this is why theology matters, ultimately. Your soul is at stake if you believe the wrong answer to this question: Why should you not fear the wrath of God against sinners?

[Mirror for video here]

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Atonement by Francis Turretin

Well, I have just finished up a book by Francis Turretin entitled The Atonement, which I would like to share some quotes here, especially with regards to the Neo-Amyraldian teaching prevalent within so-called "Reformed" churches.

The version of the book here is translated by the Reverend James R. Wilson, D.D., and edited, updated, and revised by C. Matthew McMahon. It is published by Puritan Publications © 2005 A Puritan's Mind, Inc. And the modernizing of the words used done by Dr. McMahon is greatly appreciated, as even with it, the text itself requires focus and concentration to absorb its meaning as Turretin was a Calvinistic scholastic theologian who taught very logically, which mean that the way or writing tend to be more factual and logical and less engaging.

Anyway, here are the interesting quotes from the book:

On God desiring the salvation of the reprobates

It [the Amyraldian position] represents Christ as saying, I wish to obtain salvation for all, to the end that it may be applied to them, will they but believe, however, I am resolved not to reveal this redemption to all, and to refuse to innumerable multitudes to whom it is revealed, that condition which is the only means by which it can be applied to them. Shall men make the infinitely wise and holy Jesus say, I desire that to come to pass, which I know neither will nor can take place, and I am even unwilling that it should, for I refuse to communicate the only means by which it can ever be brought to pass, and the granting of this means depends upon myself alone? What a shameful indignity does this offer to the wisdom of Immanuel! It would be an insult to the understanding of frail man. Nor will the matter be amended by saying that the failure of the application is not to be attributed to Christ, but to the wickedness and unbelief of man. This is not less injurious to the honor of Christ, for it represents Him as either not foreseeing, or as not capable of the salvation He obtained, and thus make it fruitless. They indeed allege that it was not in vain, though it fails of success, because, however men treat the salvation offered them, Christ will not miss the prime object which He had in view in His death, that is, to provide pardon and salvation for every man if He will only believe and repent — a thing which before was prevented by the inexorable rigor of divine justice. All this does not remove the absurdity. The object in procuring salvation could be none other than its application, and it cannot but be in vain, if it fails to accomplish this object. Christ needed to die for men, not to procure them pardon and salvation under a condition which it is impossible for them to comply with but to obtain for them actual pardon and redemption. (p. 119, Chapter 5: The Extent of the Atonement)

Absurdities of Universal Atonement, or the Universal aspect of Atonement

If Christ died for all men universally, it will follow that:

1. That He died, on condition they would believe, for multitudes innumerable, to whom His death has never been made known, and hence it was impossible that they could believe.

2. That He died for those whom He knew to be children of perdition, whom God had passed by, and who wold never, to all eternity enjoy any of the fruits of His death, and so exercised ineffable love towards those whom both He and the Father will cause to suffer eternally under the effects of their wrath.

3. That He died for those, who previously to His death were actually condemned without all hope of reprieve, and were in hell suffering His avenging wrath, and that as their surety He suffered punishment in the place of those who were suffering punishment for themselves, and must suffer it without end.

4. That Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of those who not only never will be, but never can be saved or redeemed. Or otherwise He must be an imperfect Savior, having obtained a salvation which He never applies, for He indeed cannot be properly called a Savior of any but those whom He makes to be partakers of salvation, and who are actually saved.

(p. 126-127, Chapter 5: The Extent of the Atonement)

Answering the objection that unless He died for all, the Gospel Offer cannot be sincere

For the Gospel which is preached to those who are called, does not declare that, in the eternal decree of God, it has been ordained that in Christ redemption has been procured for each and every man, It rather announced to sinners a divine command, with a promise annexed, and teaches what is the duty of those who wish to be made partakers of salvation. (p. 146, Chapter 5: The Extent of the Atonement)

On Assurance of Salvation, linked to the Offer of the Gospel

Christ is not revealed in the Gospel as having died for me in particular, but only as having died in general for those who believe and repent. Hence I reason from that faith and repentance which I find actually to exist in my heart, that Christ has, indeed, died for me in particular. I know that He died for all who fly to Him, I find that I have fled to Him, hence I can and should infer that He died for me. (p. 138)

To express it in a word, the faith which the Gospel demands of those who hear it is, the flying of the sinner for refuge to God as the fountain of grace, and to Christ as the ark of safety which is opened in the Gospel. If I am conscious to myself that I have done this, which is the formal act of faith, then I can and ought to exercise the other act by which I believe, that for me, who repent and fly to Him, Christ hath died. (p. 140)

And although I cannot yet assure myself that Christ has died for me [based upon the fact that Christ died for those who believe], it does not follow that I must always remain in a state of doubt and anxiety, and that my faith must be weak and unstable. My faith may firmly rest upon the general promises of the Gospel to every believing and penitent sinner. Hence by certain consequence, when I find that I possess faith and repentance, I may assure myself that these promises belong to me. (p. 143)

As it can be seen, these quotes show how Turretin handled the issues. He did not sell out the Gospel offer just because the Amyraldians twist it (following Hyper-Calvinism), and neither did he allow the Amyraldians space to defend their unbiblical theory of universal atonement. Furthermore, he applied it to the Gospel offer in order to show that denying universal atonement in its varied forms does not imply that the Gospel offer is not a sincere offer in the sense that such an offer is not false. As we can see Turretin's words, he states that "It rather announced to sinners a divine command, with a promise annexed, and teaches what is the duty of those who wish to be made partakers of salvation". Rather than it being well-meant as God desiring all Man to be saved (the Neo-Amyraldian error), it is 'sincere' or unreserved/unconditional in the sense that the promise annexed to the command will apply to anyone who fulfil the command, be they elect or reprobate (decree of election-blind conditional). That is all that it means, not actually stating God's desires towards all Man per se.

As it can be seen also from Turretin's masterful argumentation, postulating a desire in God to save all Man (Universal Atonement) would result in blatant logical contradictions and absurdity. That is why it is mentioned that all Amyraldians and Neo-Amyraldians are illogical, for if they be truly logical, they would either embrace orthodox Calvinistic Christianity, or they would be Arminians or even Semi-Pelagians or even degenerate into Open Theism. That they do not do so show their irrationality. May God open their eyes and minds to show them the errors of their ways.

On Charismatism: Delineating the various subjects involved

When one discusses Charismatism, it must be realized that Charismatism as a movement is very broad and has various aspects to it. Historically of course, Charismatism is a spiritual movement within Christianity that arose similarly to but independently of the original Pentecostal movement of 1906 (the Azusa Street Revival). Doctrinally, the Charismatic movement is very diverse, as adherents were united more by a common experience than common doctrine, and the movement crossed denominational and even Christian/non-Christian lines (ie the Roman Catholic Renewal Movement etc.).

As such, the Charismatic movement can only be applied when talking about people, but it is not a useful term when discussing the doctrinal distinctives of the movement. That said, there are a few doctrinal distinctives of Charismatism — that of the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit (which is termed Continualism) and the rejection of the doctrine of separation (as distinct from historic Pentecostalism). The rise of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has been linked with Charismatism also, though such a link is more temporal rather than causative. Also, the Third-Wave (generically speaking) has came up with a unique variety of doctrines to tackle, with a renenwed emphasis on the gift of healing being one of them (Vineyard), or the restoration of the five-fold ministry (pastors, teacher, evangelists, prophets, apostles) in the New Apostolic movement, which are more deserving of the label 'Third-Wave'. The New Apostolic movement also promotes doctrines such as Spiritual warfare (C. Peter Wagner) and Dominionism (the Church physically exercising dominion over the governments of the World to usher in the post-millenial reign of Christ).

This being said, the historic distinction between Pentecostalism, Charismatism and the New Apostolic movement is being blurred in this age of ecumenism. This is especially so in Singapore, whereby there is nearly no distinction between the mainline Pentecostal and Charismatic wings, with both of them lapping up the doctrines of the New Apostolic Movement. Therefore, while acknowledging the differences historically, doctrinally it is oftentimes hard to acknowledge any difference at all, with an Assemblies of God churches having a resident 'apostle' in Naomi Dowdy.

Looking at all the variety in beliefs, it is imperative that the issue under contention are therefore to be addressed one by one. And with this, let us start.

[to be continued]