Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rick Warren and Apostate Christianity

Well, it seems that Rick Warren has been at it again. This time round, Warren displays his totally man-centered approach to ministry (Try seeing if you can find any Scripture that is being quoted as he gave his opinion on ministry). And if Warren is correct in saying that "if it weren't for the growth that's taking place in church plants and megachurches, Christianity would be declining", then as Jim at Watcher's Lamp says, the US Church is D.O.A — Dead on Apostasy.

Somewhere in this video clip, Warren tells of his experience of being invited to speak at the Word-faith heretic David (Paul) Yonggi Cho's church to a bunch of pastors, and they told him that "they were not reaching the next generation". Warren uses that example to say that prayer is not enough, because the Koreans despite being so prayerful are not seeing much growth in their churches. May I suggest that the reason why this is so is because the Korean Church as a whole has sold-out the Gospel. What is the use of prayer when the largest "church" in Korea teaches the (oc)cultic teaching of the Word-faith heresy; another Gospel indeed? All the ra-ra and engineered excitement as seen in the well-intentioned but misguided CM2007 project cannot geniunely grow the Church of God. Rather, the command now and has ever been to the Korean Church is to repent of her tolerance of heresy within her midst. Start by denouncing Yonggi Cho as a heretic for starters, and repent of all the compromise that you have engaged in (such as having women pastors and elders for one). The Holy Spirit is grieved by the continuing compromise and will not continue to bless the Korean Church if she continues in her waywardness.

[HT: Christian Resarch Net, Watcher's Lamp]

Monday, April 28, 2008

On Richard Abanes

It seems that Warren apologist Richard Abanes has not yet retired, and he is still carrying on his old antices ie defending Rick Warren, all without using the Scriptures of course. Here is an interesting article by Drew Kerr published this year against Richard Abanes' defense of the indefensible once again, and the exchange over in the comment section is certainly enlightening.

After looking through various comments by Abanes on various blogs, I can only say that all I see is someone so blind that he cannot even see his own pride and arrogance. His self-righteousness attitude informs his perpetual "crusade" against Christian pastors (Pastor Ken Silva, Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor John MacArthur etc.), watchmen ministries (Lighthouse Trails Research etc.) and an entire denominaion (Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel), whoever opposes Rick Warren will feel his wrath, regardless of who or what they are. I just can't understand how such an individual can function really, so deluded that he cannot even see his own pride. And mind you, it is not God or the Scriptures he is defending, but one man who does in fact severely compromises the faith, as a couple of us have exposed his heresy via books. Not to mention the outright denial of the Gospel at the World Economic Forum at Davos where he cheerfully said in the Interfaith session chaired by former British Primer Minister Tony Bair that "The future is not about secularism, but religious pluralism". It is hoped that Abanes will repent of his defence of heresy and circumlocution, and submits himself to the Word of God.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 7 (1)

In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” thus says the Lord God:

“It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” (Is. 7:1-12)

Years have passed since Isaiah's recommision by the time of King Ahaz, the wicked king of Judah. After Uzziah was Jotham, and then Jotham's son King Ahaz, who was a wicked king, even burning his son as a sacrifice in the manner of the heathen (2 Ki. 16:3). King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel decided to combine forces and war war against Judah (v. 1), and the power of the combined armies of these two nations shook the confidence of evil King Ahaz and his people, who has been previously defeated by the Syrians already (2 Chron. 28:5) In fact, so shaken was Ahaz that he allied himself with the rising Assyrian empire to the north in order to defeat this strong coalition (2 Ki. 16:7-9), which will prove severely detreimental later on of course.

In the midst of the two-pronged attacks on Judah, God called Isaiah to encourage Judah and tell King Ahaz that their attack would fail. In fact, Isaiah was to go with his son to meet King Ahaz in person to deliver this enouraging message (v. 3). Judah was told to be careful, quiet and cautioned not to fear at the angers of Syria and Israel, whom God likened to 'two smouldering stumps of firebrands' (v. 4). God further revealed the enemies' plan against Judah; that they are planning to take over the kingdom and install a pupet ruler (the son of Tabeel — probably a non-Jew) to govern the area (v. 5-6). Yet God pronounces encouragement to Ahaz and proclaimed that their plan would not come to pass (v. 7). God mocked both Syria and Israel, saying that the head of Syria is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (v. 8a), thus basically belittling the threat of Syria and focusing it on the person of Rezin of which God has already providentially planned to remove from the equation (through Assyria cf 2 Ki. 16:9). As for Israel or Ephraim, God prophesied their destruction as a people (v. 8b), focusing their threat also to Samaria and then to the 'son of Remaliah' (v. 9a). Isaiah then told Ahaz to stand strong, telling him that if he cannot be firm in his faith, he will not be firm at all (v. 9b).

Now, this account has a lot of puzzling things which we shall need to clear up. For example, why is God helping the wicked king Ahaz here, after punishing him severely for his syncretism by giving him over to the Syrians earlier (2 Chron. 28:5)? In fact, as we look further down, King Ahaz acknowledges the LORD to be his God (v. 10-12), but doesn't the Scriptures say that he is wicked and even offered his son as a sacrifice 'according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel' (2 Ki. 16:3)?

It must here be noticed that we have earlier shown that Judah was practicing syncretism. Therefore, Judah were being "innovative in worship" by incorporating the rites and rituals of pagan religion into the worship of the true God YHWH. It must be noted that Ahaz was not stated as worshipping other gods like Baal, Asheroth or Molech, but only that he followed their customs. We can therefore infer that even the sacrificing of his son was a vile custom adopted from the pagans in worhipping Yahweh. In his own mind, therefore, he most probably thought of himself a worhipper of the one true God, which he acknowledges even (cf v. 11-12). That of course does not mean that God accepted his wicked and compromising actions, but it shows forth God's kindness even to the wicked.

God, therefore, in protecting Judah was not so much an approval of Ahaz's deplorable compromise but rather of protecting the holy seed as the time has not yet come for the judgment and destruction of Israel. This is not to mention that the two nations coming against Israel were much worse, especially Apostate Israel which would be destroyed as a nation in the next generation of kings (King Hoshea son of Elah killed King Pekah son of Remaliah and was king when the Assyrians wiped Israel off the map — nationally and ethnically through deportation). God therefore protected Judah despite her continuing wickedness and the personal wickedness of King Ahaz. Also, since the plan of Syria and Ephraim was to install a pupet king who is probably a godless pagan on the throne (the name Tabeel seems to be a pagan name since it is also the name of a pagan living in the time of King Artexerses of Persia (Ezra 4:7)), that would have implications on the Covenental Sucession of the Davidic Kingship, that would be contrary to God's plan[1]. God therefore intervenes to foil such a wicked plan, for the sake of His Covenant.

It must be remembered that the earlier kings especially King Uzziah had fortified the country even with powerful war machines resembling ballistas and catapults (2 Chron. 26:15), numerous towers and cisterns (2 Chron. 26:9-10) and a strong, well-armed and trained army (2 Chron. 26:11-14). All of these came in handy during the war with Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel/Ephraim. We must here note that God does not always have to help through supernatural aids; hail, lightening or by 'the angel of death', but also through the use of providence, which He most certainly uses in this case.

Yet even with this, the strong armies of Syria and Israel were almost too much to bear, that Ahaz with only physical eyes and strict military calculations loses heart and begin to despair (v. 2), especially after God has punished him earlier with defeat. Isaiah therefore was sent to call him to have faith in God, although he has compromised the faith already, yet God as the covenanting God still called him to stand firm, because God has already ordained that they will not succeed, although they may seem to be wnning. In point of fact, they were much weakened through attrition even as they battled through to Jerusalem, thus their comparison with 'smouldering stumps of firebrand' too. As we know, Ahaz in the end did not have faith in God, but asked the Assyrians for help (2 Ki. 16:7-9), though it is very likely given God's promise that even if the Assyrians have not helped Judah, Syria and Israel would have wore themselves out militarily before they could defeat Judah; what they have is probably just the last show of force.

It would do us good to look at the meaning of the name of Isaiah's son Shear-jashub, which means 'A remnant shall return'. Isaiah thus expresses his hope in God that God's promises of protection of a remnant of Israel, and that they will one day be restored by the grace of God. In it, we can learn similarly to put our trust in God and His promises even if the situation does not present itself as being that way, and take hold of God's promises by faith not by sight.

King Ahaz is therefore both a product and a perpetuator of the wickedness of the society in his time. The pervasive and continuous syncretism and compromise practiced by the nation of Judah had an impression on him and influenced him in his wickedness. And he in turn perpetuate such wickedness, causing the judgment of God to come upon the nation in sending the confederacy of Syria and Israel to attack the formerly strong nation of Judah, even giving Judah over to their hands for a time. From this, we should learn not to just allow sin in the church, as it will soon work its way to the leaders of the church. For when it comes to that stage, God will pour out His judgments on the church severely. Yet, God is merciful, although we should never presume on his mercy as if he must protect the church regardless of whatever she does (Jerusalem learnt that lesson bitterly when the Babylonians sacked her and burned her to the ground several generations later). In this case, God had mercy and saved Judah and King Ahaz, not because of Ahaz's sake, for Ahaz deserved nothing but death, but because of the sake of His Covenant with David. From this, we can learn that God because of His Covenant with us will not punish us so severely as to destroy us, but that He will still preserve us, a remnant chosen by grace, as symbolized by the name of Isaiah's son.


REFERENCES:

[1] As long as Judah was a nation and has a king, the person sitting on it must be of the Davidic line. Only when Judah was destroyed was the Covenental Sucession 'suspended' until its final fulfilment in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of David.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Resource on learning Greek

I have been busy reading quite some books recently, and I have recently spend another SGD300+ buying various books. So, anyway, I have gotten an interesting book from my previous Amazon.com purchase.

I would be slowly going through this introductory book so that I can learn and not just browse through it. After all, it's another language. Looks rather interesting though. (I've just finished the alphabet, the pronunciation of the alphabets, the accents and the breath marks). And it is linked to Miami International School, which do offer some courses for credit also. So this DOES indeed look interesting. As a side comment, my brief 2 year exposure to German (I've since forgotten most of it by now) would help, especially with the pronunciation part. Υ (υ) is pronounced very similar to the German pronunciation of üpsilon (Y), and especially the first syllable (mit der umlaut).

Oh, I will continue with the charismata series soon, Lord willing.

P.S. Yes, I am still working full-time and NOT in full-time ministry, so I wouldn't be that fast.

Article: Elijah List — The biggest distributor of false prophecies in hyperspace

Interesting article by Sandy Simpson here analyzing various false prophecies sent by the ElijahList.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Excerpts: Christianity and Liberalism (Updated)

Here are some good quotes from John Gresham Machen's book Christianity and Liberalism (1923), written in the wake of the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy of the late 19th/early 20th century. Just FYI, the Modernist/Liberal position (very much alive today) denies cardinal Christian doctrines like the Inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of Man, and the Gospel en toto.

... The consiousness of sin was formerly the starting-point of all preaching; but today it is gone. Characteristic of the modern age, above all else, is a supreme confidence in human goodness; the religious literature of the day is redolent of that confidence. Get beneath the rough exterior of men, we are told, and we shall discover enough self-sacrifice to found upon it the hope of society; the world's evil, it is said, can be overcome with the world's good; no help is needed from outside the world. (p. 64)

... The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task — she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinguish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin. The preacher gets up into the pulpit, opens the Bible, and addresses the congregation somewhat as follows: "You people are very good," he says; "you respond to every appeal that looks toward the welfare of the community. Now we have in the Bible — especially in the life of Jesus — something so good that we believe it is good enough even for you good people." Such is modern preaching. It is heard every Sunday in thousands of pulpits. But it is entirely futile. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance, and probably we shall be no more successful than He. (p. 68)

... For if one thing is plain it is that Christianity refuses to be regarded as a mere means to a higher end. Our Lord made that perfectly clear when He said: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother ... he cannot be my disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). Whatever else those stupendous words may mean, they certinaly mean that the relationship to Christ takes precedence of all other relationships, even the holiest of relationships like those between husband and wife and parent and child. Those other relationships exist for the sake of Christianity and not Christianity for the sake of them. Christianity will indeed accomplish many useful things in this world, but if it is accepted in order to accomplish those useful things it is not Christianity. Christianity will combat Bolshevism [Marxism/Communism]; but if it is accepted in order to combat Bolshevism, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a unified nation, in a slow but satisfactory way: but if it is accepted in order to produce a unified nation, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a healthy community; but if it is accepted in order to produce a healthy community, it is not Christianity: Christianity will promote international peace; but if it accepted in order to promote international peace, it is not Christianity. Our Lord said: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." But if you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteous in order that all those things may be added unto you, you will miss both those other things and the Kingdom of God as well. (p. 151-152)

[J. Gresham Machen (1923), Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. Bold added]

As it can be seen, such words are still relevant to us nearly one century on. Human nature hasn't changed, and these words are perhaps even more pertinent to us today than they are then. Machen would be spinning in his grave just knowing the state of Evangelicalism today; not to mention the state of the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination which he helped founded (Federal Vision anyone?)

Update: My friend Vincent has posted a good post enunciating the points and arguments made by Machen on the importance of doctrine, which is found in chapter 2 of the book. So do look at it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Theology Matters: Hidden with Christ in God

Here is an excellent video from Dr. James R. White on the very pertinent topic of Christian living; of counting ourselves dead to the world and hidden with Christ in God.

[HT: Aomin.org]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 6 (part 3)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Is. 6)

Isaiah after having seen the Living God and having his sin symbolically forgiven was then re-commissioned for service unto God. It must here be noted that an experience with God aways results in transformation of the person and especially for service unto God as in the case of Isaiah. Those who have had an experience with God cannot remain the same in their sins and apathy towards the needs of the world. Whosoever claims to have experienced God yet remain the same in their sin and apathy is a liar. Or as the Apostle John wrote, "Whoever says “I know him [Christ]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:4)

In verses 8-13 of chapter 6, Isaiah's recommission occured. The LORD called out for people to bring His message, and Isaiah acting in submission to God volunteered (v. 8). He was then given the worst message ever to be proclaimed in the entire Bible; a message of hardening and destruction which he was nonetheless to proclaim. He was given a message that was intended not to save but to confirm wicked Israel in her unbelief. Israel was to be judicially hardened through Isaiah's proclamation of judgment, and are to be told that they would harden in their unbelief. Though they hear, they cannot understand. Seeing, they cannot perceive (v. 9). God made their hearts dull and blind their eyes (v. 10a) to the reality of judgment and devastation. Scripture then states that God does so in order that these people will not repent and turn to God and therefore be healed (v. 10b) .

The last statement surely refutes the false notion that God loves and desires everyone to be saved. God does not desire the salvation of these Israelites and in fact have already consigned them to everlasting judgment. In fact, God actively hardens them through the means of Isaiah's message. So what are we to make of this?

It must be stated that such a hardening is judicial, in that it is an act of punishment. We can see in the preceding chapters how wicked and rebellious Israel is, and therefore this is not to mean that God actively damns people. Rather, they have already condemned themselves by their wickedness, and therefore it is God's will to punish them. Such a hardening is necessary for punishment since it is in the nature of Man to make an appearance of repenting from virtually anything when trouble comes upon them; doing anything that would save their lives. Such an hardening therefore is necesary so that they would not repent even if doing so would be beneficial to their well-being, so that God can pour out His wrath upon them.

Regardless, such a message is still shocking. This also shows that there is such a thing as a point of no return, in which those who pass that point are forevermore cut off from the (earthly) possibility of being saved at all. This is also seen in the teachings found in the book of Hebrews

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb. 6:4-6)

The warning in Hebrews of course is that true apostates have absolutely no possibility of salvation. And that is what Israel as a nation have degenerated into, as God has destined their destruction without any mercy.

Isaiah was told to proclaim his message of judgment until God's judgments and wrath have been poured out over Israel. Israel was to be destroyed, her land left desolate without inhabitants (v. 11), her people taken away in exile and her many places forsaken (v. 12). Yet even in such promises of destruction there is still hope. For God has promised that they would not be completely destroyed; God will not destroy His wayward people completely but there will always be a renmant chosen by grace (cf Is. 1:9), symbolized by the tenth remaining in the land (v. 13) which will still experience hardship however (burned again), spillover from the terrible judgment upon the wicked in Israel. The elect remnant would be the holy seed as the stump, in anticipation of the regrowth of the Covenant people of God as manifested within the Church.

So therefore, as we come before God, let us come to Him in all reverance and holy fear. Let us prepare to experience Him through the Spirit working in us by His Word, and that we might come to the glorious knowledge of the worth and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And with that let us go forth to do good works which God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10), in order to serve God and His people. Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughts on Dispensationalism on the topic of Israel

[continued from here]

The Dispensationalist view of Israel and the Church is shown through quotations of the the leaders of the movement like Darby, Scofield, Ryrie, and Chafer. Williams in this book states that the Dispensationalist view of Israel and the Church is necessitated by their view of the Church as an essentially transcendent, heavenly and invisible entity. Since the Church is heavenly, the way to harmonize such an idea with the very "earthly" promises found in the OT to Israel is to "put these things in their respective places [and] arrange them in order (p. 89). And therefore "the Darbyist metaphysical distinction between Israel and the church is the sine qua non of classical dispensational theology" (p. 90). Israel thus

... is ordained by God as the center of all His dealings with the earth. All God does in the history of the world, He does with Israel in view. Israel belongs to the eath and participates fully in its affairs. She is never associated with heaven in the Bible. She is, rather, always related to the earth. ... Israel is above all others in the reckoning of God. She is always at the center of the divine counsels regarding the earth, and she continues as the elect earthly people of God forever. (p. 90)

As for the church, she is

a parenthesis in the plan of God. Stricly speaking then, the church has no place in the divine plan. By the term parenthesis Scofield and Chafer meant that the church is not to be found in the pages of the Old Testament and that the church constitutes an interim in the midst of God's dealigs with Israel. The church is a temporary arrangement inhabiting the time between the Old Testament Jewish kingdom and the millennial Jewish kingdom. This view of the church as a parenthesis is the ineitable result of the contention that the covenants which promise Israel a land, a kingdom, and an eteral king are unconditional and yet await fulfilment. The church is but a stop-gap between the historical kingdom of David and his successors, which ended long ago, and the Davidic kingdom of the future which was promised to Israel by God, and will yet be established by the returning Messiah when the church is removed from the world. (p. 107)

This of course carries with it many implications, some of which are not biblical. One such implication is that Israel is saved by God not by faith in Christ's sacrifice but by works, since Israel is totally metaphysically separate from the Church and thus Christ's atoning sacrifice is not supposed to factor into Israel's salvation. This charge of course is denied by the Dispensationalists, but this is more because they recognize such a position as heresy rather than they being logically consistent with their stated theological paradigm.

Anyway, the probem of Israel is a hot issue, with Dispensationalists typically calling Covenant Theology "replacement theology" and therefore we who embraced it do not love the Jews and are "anti-Semitic". When facing this charge, we must avoid a knee-jerk approach. The fact is that many Reformed folks have throughout history paid lip service to their professed non-discrimination against Jews and are quite anti-Semitic in their words and actions (Think of Martin Muther's polemic against the Jews for example). And even to this day, many non-Dispensational Christians are willing to believe the Palestinian propaganda machine in demonizing the nation of Israel and think that Israel is the aggresor and is "oppressing the Palestinians". So the charge of anti-Semitism is valid to some of the professed adherents of Covenantal Theology among others. Of course, this does not mean that the Dispensationalists are true Jew lovers. Consistent Dispensationalists like John Hagee deny that Jews need to be saved by the Gospel as they are already saved because they are Israel. Since the Scriptures states that ALL need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved, there being no difference between Jew and Gentile (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 10:12-15), such a heretical view is in fact truly anti-Semitic, as it condemns unbelieveing Jews to an eternity apart from Christ.

It would be good here to differentiate between the two beliefs called Zionism and Christian Zionism. Zionism is just the support of the state of Israel and love for the Jews. 'Christian Zionism' on the other hand links Christianity and Zionism into a strange hybrid. As defined by consistent Dispensationalists like John Hagee, this has become heresy; a strong delusion indeed.

The biblical view is that of expansion, that Israel as the Covenant people in the OT has expanded to the Church in the New Covenant which is made up of elect Jews and Gentile alike. The key passage for this issue that should be looked at is of course Rom. 11:11-24, which reads

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Rom. 11:11-24)

When we read this passage, we can know that Jews who reject Christ are likened to native branches of an olive tree that are broken off because of their unbelief, while Gentile believers are likened to wild branches grafted into the olive tree. The olive tree represent the true Israel of God; the true Covenant people of the Church of God. The means of rejection is unbelief, while of ingrafting is faith (Rom. 11:20). Therefore, we can see that Israel is the fallen Covenant people. Therefore, all Jews today are born Covenant breakers, by rejecting the Covenant of Grace prefigured in the OT. As Paul states, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers as regards election (Rom. 11:28b).

So the biblical understanding of modern Israel is not that they have "fulfilled the purposes of God and are therefore now the same as other ethnic groups". Rather, they are Covenant breakers facing the wrath of God for their sins. Under Covenant Theology, which is 'Expansion Theology' rather than 'Replacement Theology', they are regarded similarly to backslidden Christians and unbelieving children of believers. Unbelieveing Jews are to be called to repent of their unbelief and turn to Jesus Christ, who is prophesized in the Old Testament which they have, whom they have rejected.

So therefore, contra the claims of Dispensationlism, Covenantal Theology is not anti-Semitic. Rather, we who hold to Covenantal Theology should love the Jews and expressed such a love in evangelism. For as Paul said, "to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen." (Rom. 9:4b-5). Yet they are cut off because of their unbelief in Christ, and therefore we are to call them back to the true faith they have rejected since the time of Christ.

As a matter of fact, therefore, I do believe that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church, but not metaphysically like the Dispensationalists. The distinction rather is one based on the Covenant. Israel consists of the Church during the Old Covenant era while they became Covenant breakers who are therefore cut off from the Covenant (broken branches) in the New Covenant era. Also, it is not a total distinction but a partial functional one. In the spirit of Puritan revivalist post-millenialism, it is my contention that the Scriptures do teach an end-time revival in which Israel as a corporate body would turn to faith in Christ, a teaching that can be seen in Rom. 11:25-31, which states

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. (Rom. 11:25-31)

Verses 25 to 26 seems to indicate that God has partially hardened Israel in order that the fullness of the Gentiles would come in, after which all Israel would be saved. Verses 31 further shows that such a hardening works out for God's glory, so that God's mercy would be seen in salvation to be not based on ethnicity (in that Jews would boast they are saved because they are the descendents of Abraham), but rather by grace alone (Sola Gratia).

In conclusion, it can be seen that the proper biblical response to the issue of Israel is NOT Dispensationalism or its consistent position in the heresy called 'Christian Zionism'. Rather, Covenantal Theology with its notion of the expansion of the Covenant to the Gentiles is the answer — leading to true love for the Jews in evangelizing them to the fulfilment of their formerly rejected biblical heritage in faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. And to this we must do, not to follow the heresy of Christian Zionism into supporting the Jews unconditionally while not evangelizing them, or to follow and believe the anti-Semitic propaganda spat out by the Palestinians and their symphatizers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some thoughts on Dispensationalism and the Church (Ammended)

I have recently been reading this book, and am still reading it. Basically, this book discusses classical Dispensationalism and critiques it. That said, this book is not an easy read. The author seems have some theological view which inform his critique of which he does not seem to be exactly explicit about it (nevermind arguing from Scripture; this is an academic historical book more than a biblical theological book). For example, his criticism of the 'strict determinism' of Dispensationalism sounds strange unless he is an Arminian or Open Theist, unless he further clarifies his charge. That said, this is not the issue I would be posting about.

I would like to muse about two topics here: namely Ecclesiology and Israelogy, which we shall go through later. Williams aptly utilizes primary source material from the leaders of Dispensationalism — John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Ingerson Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer and others, and showed the development of their views and the implications it had on various topic. On the topic of Ecclesiology, Williams showed the development of Darby's view of the "church in ruins" mentality, which is of course an important element in the Dispensational ecclesiology. Since I was accused before of being a Darbyist, I would like to take some time talking about my view of Ecclesiology, which is much different from the classical Dispensational view on this matter.

The classical Dispensationalist view as exposed in this book is that the Church is fundamentally invisible, and that this invisible church (which consists of true believers) is a transcendent and 'heavenly' entity, having absolutely no relation whatsoever to the earthly visible church. Chafer is quoted (p. 70) as stating that "the local church is no more than the assembly of professed believers in one locality". Therefore, there is a fundamental and metaphysical disconnect between the Visible and Invisible Church. It is also stated that "the church, as the body of christ, exists only in heaven" (p. 76), and therefore "God does not 'call-out' a church per se, but individual persons, their sum constituting the body of Christ" (p 77).

After reading all this, I can see why my stated views may seem to be similar to Dispensationalism on this topic. Yet I totally reject such views as being unbiblical. The problem therefore with people who think of me in such a manner is their judgmentalism in making all sort of assumptions about what my view on especially this particular matter is based on the little that they know about me, and imputing all manner of false and sinful motives to my actions. Yet a cursory look at several of my posts on Ecclesiology, especially the article which I have posted on Church Polity, should have told anyone without any axe to grind that my views are NOT the same as Darbyism. I do not think of the Visible or the Local Church as unimportant, and those who think I do are plainly judgmental, period.

Before going through this topic, it is good to look at the various theological terms that describe the Church.

Invisible Church: The sum total of all true Christians, elected by God before the foundation of the earth who have already confessed the true faith

Visible Church: The visible communion of all believers who professed the true faith

Universal Church: The visible communion of all believers who professed the true faith across all denominational lines and national, ethic, socio-economic and political boundaries

Local Church: The gathering of a group of professing believers as an expression of the Visible/Universal Church

Institutional Church: The Visible Church as it is expressed in institutions/hierarchy/ organizational structures, and especially focused on the leaders in such institutions.

The differences between the Visible Church and the Universal Church is more on the emphasis placed in the latter on the fact that the Church as a body is transnational, transethnic etc.; more on anthropological distribution. The contrasting pairs are therefore the Church Invisible vs Visible, the Church Universal vs the Church Local, and the Church Institutional vs the Priesthood of all believers.

The first pair to look at is the Invisible/Visible contrast that marks the Church. The Invisible Church is the sum total of all the elect who have made a true confession of Christ, while the Visible Church is the sum total of all professing believers of Christ. Therefore, the contrast is one between confession and profession; between what is invisible and what is visible. Over and against the Dispensationalists, the Invisible Church is not just some transcendent, heavenly reality, but is a present 'earthly' reality, though the exact number of the elect are not known to us but to God alone; the difference is horizontal rather than vertical. The aim of course is to make the Visible Church consists of the Invisible Church only, and thus that all who profess Christ should truly confess Christ also. Yet, we do know that there are false believers in our midst (cf 1 Jn. 2:19) but this is something we have to bother with only when they express their unbelief. In the meantime, all who profess Christ should be treated as genuine Christians, unless they prove otherwise.

The next contrasting pair is between the Church Universal and the Church Local. The contrast is therefore one of acknolwedging that the Church is gathered not in one place only, but there are local expressions of the Church as groups of believers gather separately for whatever reasons (ie geography, language, culture, doctrinal). Such a contrast is therefore a present factual reality, as it is impossible for all Christians everywhere to congregate in one place to perform all the functions of the Church.

The last contrasting pair is between the Church as an Institute and the Priesthood of all believers. This recognizes the difference between the leaders and the official beliefs of a Church, and the individual believers that make up the Church.

Now, the problem with Dispensationalism seems to be the inability to differentiate between the Church as an Institute, and the Visible Church. Dispensationalism sees the waywardness of the Institutional Church and throws away the biblical concept of the Visible Church in favor of their version of the 'transcendent, heavenly and invisible church'. Others who place a huge emphasis on the Local Church identifies the Institutional Church with the Visible Church and therefore the Institutional Church is at best not to be criticized, in an attitude reminiscent of New Evangelicalism. According to one website [link since withdrawn — see Update at end], the Spirit of Darbyism can therefore be characterized by:

  • a. Rightness of one’s view, anyone with differing view is apostate
  • b. Unteachable spirit
  • c. “church in ruins” mentality – “lone-ranger” Christian – never associated with any church (extreme anti-denominationalism)
  • d. Profess to serve the “universal” church, but only in terms of seeking out heretics/heresy
  • e. Self-appointed "watchmen" of Christendom
  • f. All over WWW – discussion boards, blogs, etc
    • Local churches could do with less of such!
    • Congregations should be taught lessons on pride/humility
    • Preachers should be faithful and continue to teach sound doctrine

Before we go even further as to why such a definition is erroneous, let us affirm that the Visible Church will always be around contra the claims of Darby that the "chuch is in ruins".

In Mt. 16: 18, it is written:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Christ has promised to build His church on the rock of Peter's Confession (that He is the Christ), and He promised that the gates of hell will NOT previal against the Church. The Church will never be destroyed because Jesus is the one who is protecting her and preserving her. Therefore, both the Insivisble Church and the Visible and the Universal Church will always exist even to the very end of time itself.

That said, we must notice that this promise was never made to any particular Local church, Denomination, or any type of Christian groups. And therefore, while the Church Universal will never fall, the local churches can and do fall. Simiarly, the promise does not apply to the Institutional Church as well, as if Christian leaders and denominaions are infallible.

The failure to differentiate between the Visible Church and the Institutional Church is actually one of the hallmarks of Church-ianity, which identifies any visible form of the Church as the Visible Church and invest into it the promises of Christ in Mt. 16:18. Such a mis-identification causes harm ultimately to the cause of Christ. For exampe, some may think that that the failure to associate with any denomination or mainstream Church authority (a "lone ranger" mentality) is erroneous, yet the entire idea of a denomination is part of the Institutional Church and Church-ianity. We will ignore part d for its demonstrates a lack of charity and judgmental assult of other's characters as if such a person know what for example I do in the time I am not blogging (Curiosly enough, more than 50% of my blog is talking about various doctrines, songs etc and not naming heretics, yet it seems that there are people who are especially adept at seeing only the things they want to see). Part e is an attack on all Discernment ministries in particular, and all discerning Christians in general. Worst of all, it is a blatent attack on Scripture which tell us to be Bereans (Acts 17: 11), to test the spirits (1 Jn. 4:1) and it behaves as if false doctrines and teachers are not present in the Church. With regards to the difference between the Visible Church and the Institutional Church, Discernment ministries and all of us who function as watchmen and apologists are critcal of much of the Institutional Church and various local churches, yet, at least for me, we embrace the Visible Church. Like the Reformers, we have in mind the reformation of the Church in which the Visible Church would be purged of the dross and the heretics within her, however many they may be, and the elect of God called and matured in the faith as they join the Visible Church in its expression of biblically minded Local churches (not just any Local Church), with the result being the reform of the entire Institutional Church. We are not interested in revolution in which all church bodies would be destroyed and a new church order established (which was the error of the Anabaptists btw). Therefore, those who criticize us as having the Spirit of Darbyism is in fact bearing false witness against all people of discernment. It is no wonder that such persons, because of their identification of the Visible Church with the Institutional Church, will leave heretics alone rather than contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

So contrary to the assertion of that article, local churches need more of such people, not less. The congregation do need to be taught about pride and humility, yey to do so biblically, knowing that a false humility that refuses to contend for the faith is not true humiltiy at all, but is actually pride masquerading as 'humility'.

With this let us look at the idea and concept of Israel within Dispensationalism and within the Bible.

[to be continued]

*Update*: The key antagonist for this post has apologized for his behavior in this, and as such, the site link is removed.

A CT poll shows the confusion of Post-Evangelicalism

Here is an interesting video made by Dr. James White.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. White's analysis of the situation. My answer to the CT poll if I could make my own answer is

Q: Do you think the barriers between [Roman] Catholics and evangelicals should be lowered?

A: No, because Roman Catholicism preaches a false gospel and a false Christ, and therefore is not Christianity in the first place.

[HT: AOmin]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ALERT! Singaporean Couple Charged For Distributing "Seditious" Evangelism Tract

I have just came to know about this piece of news from Isaiah at Joie de Vivre.

ST April 15, 2008
Couple charged under Sedition Act
By Elena Chong

A COUPLE were charged on Tuesday with distributing a seditious publication to two others.

Ong Kian Cheong, 49, and Dorothy Chan Hien Leng, 44, are alleged to have distributed The Little Bride, an evangelistic material, to Sembawang resident Irwan Ariffin last Oct 19.

They are also said to have distributed the same publication to one Madam Farharti Ahmad at her home in Woodlands on March 6 last year .

It is not clear why they face the Sedition Act and the Undesirable Publication Act when the publication is the same.

Ong, who works in a telecommunications company, and his wife, a bank employee, were represented by Mr Selva K. Naidu.

The police prosecutor sought an adjournment of the case pending a Health Sciences Authority on handwriting specimen.

The couple were freed on $10,000 bail each. Their passports were impounded.

The case will be mentioned on April 29.

Under the Sedition Act, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and/or a jail term of up to three years.

The maximum penalty under the Undesirable Publication Act is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months.

Now, it may be true that the tract they are using is illegal (Chick tract) so the most they should be charged under the Undesirable Publication Act. Even obnoxious behavior is no legitimate grounds for being charged under the Sedition Act. So what exactly is going on here?

The only thing that may be 'objectionable' is that they are reaching out to Malays. However, this is a lame excuse. It must be remembered by all Singaporeans and the government that the Singaporean Constitution guarantees Freedom of Religion. Lex Rex! The government is NOT above the Constitution.

Anyway, time for action. Please pray for this couple, and the growing hostility towards biblical Christianity in Singapore (and around the world too). Pray that God will use the rising tide of persecution to purify His bride, and that God will use this case to slowly awaken the Church from her slumber.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that I condone their methods or even the tracts. What I am find very disturbing is that they are charged under the Sedition Act while they are in the process of evangelising others. This is not a good sign.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Joesph Prince: Condemned by his own words

My brother sent me the link to one particular Joseph Prince sermon, which unfortunately has its embedding feature disabled. Fortunately, I have imported the video over to Multiply, which allows for embedding. So here's the video in all its 'glory'.

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So after looking through, here's my analysis.


But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)

This has to be seen for the evidence it shows. Prince displayed his heresy here before the world, and it is deplorable. Since when did the word 'peace' in Jn. 14:26-27 meant 'health and propserity'? The New Testament was written in Greek not for no reason by the way. (Even in Hebrew shalom is concerned more with spiritual peace than materal propsperity!) And Prince has no problem with Yoga? With a Hindu religious exercise meant to connect the worshipper to be one with Brahman? You got to be kidding!

All Christians are advised to stay away from Joseph Prince, New Creation Church, and their doctrines. Prince is preaching a false gospel and a fase 'Christ'; a god who functions more like a heavenly Santa Claus rather than the true biblical God who demands our total surrender to Him. Prince, repent of your heresies while there is time, before you face the wrath of God against you for distorting His truth and sending souls to hell who are all the while thinking that they are going to heaven because of you!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 6 (part 2 - Holiness)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Is. 6)

The topic of holiness is one topic that is tragically absent from the mind and thoughts of Christians today. Not only is it frequently neglected, even the very concept of holiness is severely distorted and twisted, both by the conservative Neo-Evangelicals on the one hand and the Traditionalists on the other. Conservative Neo-Evangelicals tend to treat holiness as merely the function of good works as defined by them, and therefore focus on the growing in formation of good moral character and selected spiritual traits as if that is the same as holiness. Traditionalists on the other hand focus a lot on the practice of traditional expressions of Christian piety (ie not eating out on the Sabbath), making such traditional expressions of piety the defining yardstick of Christian holiness, as if the mere keeping of days defines Christian orthopraxy even (cf Col. 2:16).

In the Bible, holiness is an essential and fundamental attribute of God. God is called the thrice holy God (Holy, Holy, Holy), while none of His other attributes are used in such a fashion. (You never read that God is "Love, Love, Love"; "Sovereign, Soverign, Sovereign" etc. although he is both Love and Sovereign). This shows the fundamental importance of holiness as being most definitive of God. God is totally holy, which is to say that He is utterly separate from His creation ontologically, morally, spiritually. This therefore means that nobody can be said to be holy in and of themselves, apart from God making them holy. The irreverance in the cultures and religions of this world is thus blasphemy towards God, as it can be seen in calling religious people or the top religious leader in any religion (even Christianity) "Your Holiness" or something to that effect. Nobody is holy except God alone. Christians who are called saints, that is holy ones, are not holy because they are by nature holy or that whatever they do is holy. We are holy because Christ has died for us, therefore our sins are imputed to Christ while Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. Our holiness is therefore always positionally, counted righteous and holy but never once are we truly holy this side of existence.

As Christians, we are called to be holy, as God is holy (Lev. 11:45; 1 Peter 1:16), and it is not an option! Although we are holy positionally, God has called us to holiness in reality, although it is impossible this side of heaven. Yet we are commanded to strive towards this goal. Since God alone is holy, and we are called to be holy as God is holy, being holy is therefore to become more and more like God in our Christian life. This must be practiced in various ways.

(1) HOLINESS LEADS TO OBEDIENCE TO THE WHOLE OF SCRIPTURE

Holiness translates to obeying the Scripture and all that it teaches; it is not just limited to 'moral' or select teachings in Scripture. Therefore, anyone who obeys only a part of Scripture (ie evangelism) while downplaying or even denigrating others (ie contending for the faith) is most definitely not growing in holines in this aspect. Holiness implies obedience to the entirety of Scripture, Tota Scriptura, not just certain sections or pet topics we like to focus on, as the conservative Neo-Evangelicals tend to be. Not surprising, I for one am wary of one-issue Christians, and all true Christians should be too.

[2] HOLINESS LEADS TO A BALANCED VIEW OF THE DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE

Closely related to the above, holiness calls us to have a balanced view of the various doctrines and teachings of Scripture. Therefore, those who emphasize one doctrine way above its biblical mandate is not growing in holiness in this respect. The error of hyper-Calvinism for example is such a failure both to listen to the whole of Scripture and to submit all theological understanding to the final test of Scripture. More subtle than that of course is the Neo-Evangelicals who call for unity among professing Christians at the expense of Truth, and think somehow that God is pleased when His children are unequally yoked with heretics and false prophets.

(3) HOLINESS LEADS TO AN ELEVATED VIEW OF GOD AND A LOW VIEW OF MAN

One reason why I am unashamedly a Calvinist is because of Calvinism's elevation of God and its denigration of Man. The doctrine of Total Depravity reduces Man to next to nothing. In Is. 6, Isaiah, though a righteous prophet of God, nevertheless see his sin and depravity against the backdrop of the holinessof God and pronounces woe on himself. And all Christians should do likewise. As it is written, 'there is none righteous, no, not one' (Rom. 3:10), and 'the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it?' (Jer. 17:9), and 'all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment' (Is. 64:6). The realization of the holiness of God exposed our depravity and compels us to the Cross of Jesus Christ to beg Him for mercy. Those who think well of themselves in any manner however slight have no true realization of the utter holiness of God. Indeed, those who think that God is under any obligation whatsoever to save anyone on this planet otherwise he is 'not loving' do not truly know God and the depravity of Mankind. When any person truly encounters God like how Isaiah did, their response is to know how wicked and sinful they are and fall on their knees in repentance of their sins. The flippant manner in which many Charismatics talk about their visions of Jesus and God certainly casts significant doubt on whether they have truly talked with God at all in the first place!

(4) HOLINESS LEADS ONE TO LIVE BY GRACE, NOT WORKS

Those who have humbled themselves under God and know Him will live the Christian life by grace, because they know that there is no other way to live it. Since all their righteousness is like filthy rags (NIV; ESV polluted garment cf Is. 64:6), there is simply no point at all to try to live the Christian life by good works, since we cannot merit salvation by it. Furthermore, such working spits on God's free offer of salvation which is to be appropriated only by faith alone in God's grace (Rom. 4:4-5). That said, this is not to say that Christians can sin so that grace may increase (Rom. 6:1). For the believer striving for holiness, he lives for Christ and not for sin, and therefore he strives to do good works, not for salvation but because such pleases God.

(5) HOLINESS LEADS TO SURRENDER TO CHRIST AND HIS LORDSHIP OVER OUR LIVES

Following on the following point, true believers love God and strive to please Him. They would gladly submit to His Lordship as a living sacrifice unto God which is pleasing in His sight (Rom. 12:1). Their lives are therefore no more their own. In the words of the Apostle Paul, they have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in them (Gal. 2:20a). Like Jesus, they desire to do the Father's will (Jn. 8:29) not their own will, although they may materially struggle with such. And because of that, they will follow Christ whatever the cost, even though they are the only ones left standing after persecution even by nominal 'Christians'. Those who will not submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ or deny it as a 'work' therefore are not growing towards holiness in this aspect.

(6) HOLINESS DOES NOT ALLOW FOR HYPOCRISY AND JUDGMENTALISM

These two points must be said, since it seems that these two sins are the ones most believers are prone to. Yet at the same time, we must be informed by the Scriptures what these two offences means, and not to impose our cultural ideas on the Scriptures. Hypocrisy is antithecal to Holiness on many levels, of which the most important is that it violates the clear command of Scripture. It sometimes comes with its twin Jugmentalism also, which is to say judging people either based on hearsay and error, or with a critical spirit (which must be defined biblically also as a love for putting people down, which no human can judge either). Such Judgmentalism can be seen in a person in the UK whom I've known who maligns me without cause, even though he knows very little about me and most definitely my heart.

This of course is not to denigrate biblical judging (Jn. 7:24), which is commanded by Scripture. What is does condemn is therefore not those who name false teachers and label them as heretics/apostates etc, but those who are selective in their standards of judging others. As it is written, 'For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.' (Mt. 7:2) We are to hold ourselves to the same standard we judge others, and ultimately the Scriptures are the standard for so doing.

(7) HOLINESS TRANSFORMS US TO FREED MEN NOT PRINCIPALLY SUBJECT TO ANY AUTHORITY BUT CHRIST, BUT WILLING TO SUBMIT TO ALL GOD-GIVEN AUTHORITY

The two parts must be held in tension here. Christ has freed us from slavery to sin and all things. As it is written, 'So if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed' (Jn. 8:36). Those who are truly Christians are totally free from all things, and therefore not subject to anyone as a matter of principle. Therefore, as sons of the most high God, we are not bound principally to obey any leaders, tradition etc per se, but to obey God and Him only. However, that said, God has ordained various institutions like the Church , Government and Family to institute His rule over the various aspects of life, and therefore we are to obey them as we obey Christ. Such obedience is therefore primarily towards Christ, not to them as if they deserve such obedience (sometimes they do, oftentimes probably not). Therefore, our allegiance towards Christ here is total and absolute, to others relative to the absolute claims of the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. (For example, we are NOT to obey any government law which prohibits evangelism)

As we can see, holiness involves total surrender to Christ in every aspect of our lives. And God commands us to be holy. Let us therefore heed God's command and do so as an expression of our love towards Him, for if we truly love Christ, we would obey Him and keep His commandments (Jn. 14:15).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Post: Beware the prosperity 'gospel'

Here is an interesting post by my kid brother. I agree totally.

And here are the videos, the first one by David Wilkerson (somebody my brother admires):

And the other by John Piper:

Gregg vs White to..... Amyraldism?

Well, it seems that a certain comment Dr. White made in the last part of the Steve Gregg vs James White debate seemed to anger a certain Trey Austin. Gregg asked Dr. White the question at 29:28:

Gregg: According to your self-described Calvinistic belief system, do you believe that is in any sense in which God wills the eternal salvation of the non-elect who hear the Gospel call? Does he in any way wills for them to be saved?

White: I have never heard of a distinction between the non-elect who hears and the non-elect who do not. ... From a Reformed perspective, there wouldn't be any real differentiation between the two that I could see as far as having any relevance as ... to that particular question. But if you are asking whether I believe that there is a salvific intention on the part of God in His will, to save those whom He then does not exercise sufficient power to save, that He does not give the Son in their behalf, that He does not send the Spirit to bring them to spiritual life and grant to them the gifts of faith and repentance, then certainly not. The idea of the salvific work of the Spirit of God and the decree of their salvation is specific and is for the elect and the number of the elect are known unto God not passively, but actively as He is the creator of all things. .... The idea of a universal salvific will is different however from [the universal offer of the Gospel]... we proclaim the Gospel universally to all men ... ...

It seems that Trey Austin fumes at this in his blog article here attacking Dr. White and claims, as the title o his post, that "This is not the Reformed View". Oh really?

As it can be seen, Austins' view is that of the Neo-Amyraldians/Quasi Amyraldians. Turretinfan responded well to this charge against Dr. White by exposing Austins' QuasiAmyraldian view and linked it with his 'mentor' David Ponter. And Gene Bridges responded also at Triablogue:

3. Do you, sir, reserve this condemnation only for those of us who hold to the Penal or Pecuniary views of the atonement, or do you also feel the same way about those who post on nothing but God's will, love, or grace - eg. "common grace" and the free offer. In case you haven't looked about, but some of the major internet proponents of your view of the atonement have not lifted a finger on their blogs in quite some time - if ever - to help the rest of us as we interact with the Romanist, the Orthodox, the Atheist, the Mormon, the Arian, the Muslim, and so on. Isn't it well past time for them to "put up or shut up?" If they really believed what they say they believed, then they should demonstrate it.

Indeed one cannot help but notice that one side of this particular debate is generally the one doing that work - and it's not yours. Fortunately, there are exceptions. Indeed, there are exceptions on both sides, but you know, from what I've seen, the exceptions are not your "ring leaders."

4. In fact, the real irony here is that I've seen your cadre work hard, very hard, to systematically rewrite systematic theology to suit your own ends. I'm particularly disturbed by the misuse of Charles Hodge, beginning @ the Puritanboard some time ago and spilling over into the blogosphere later. Take a gander at his commentary on the pertinent texts of Romans and 1 Corinthians, and he by no means holds to your view. While you all play historical theology, the rest of us are interacting with the very people to whom you say we should maintain the "free offer."

No more than you should have some Protestant Reformed theologian, who denies the free offer of the Gospel, and who denies common grace, to be the poster-child for being a Calvinist should you have James White out in the public eye representing himself and his lop-sided Calvinism as true and proper Calvinism.

This criticism cuts both ways, for the undercurrent that runs through many of the posts I've seen from your crowd is that your view is "the" true and proper view and no other, and you'll quote many a theologian in your support, even if it's out of context. Indeed, I've been specifically told by one of you, who shall remain nameless, just to make you wonder, that there has been a good old fashioned conspiratorial coverup of what the true and proper view is. This same person even told me privately that to say "the command impels the gospel" or "we should evangelize indiscriminately because we don't know who the elect are" is simply not enough! Rather, we have to protect God's very honor, and the way to do this was by a QuasiAmyraldian view of the atonement.

a. That's a marvelous demonstration of an ethical, not an exegetical argument.

b. It's also borderline heresy. God's command alone is not enough?!

I'm sorry, but until you all take care of some glaring problems emanating from your side of the aisle, you lose the credibility to lob "you're all a bunch of big meanies" at us, and you undermine what you say you believe about the atonement by allowing your ring leaders on the internet to post on nothing but those issues while getting their knickers in a twist when we confront the obvious hypocrisy in doing so to the exclusion of all else while those of us on the receiving end of their posts are the ones actually interacting with the unregenerate - while they fail to do so themselves.

So, how about it? Will the QuasiAmyraldians about whom I am writing take some time to actually interact with Atheists, pagans, etc., or will they get red in the face and whine about it? Here's an idea: Given your obvious talents for researching historical theology, why don't you spend some time interacting with the perpetual misuse and abuse of the Ancient Church Fathers by our Roman Catholic friends? Given your obvious belief in the "free offer" craft some responses to the endless bile spewed from the depths of the Debunking Christianity blog. If you decide to whine about a public post about your behavior, then don't expect it to be taken seriously, for, if you really believed in the "free offer" you'd roll up your sleeves and do some internet apologetics and evangelism with the rest of us. Until then, don't expect me and a bunch of others to take you seriously and to continue to roll our eyes. (Source)

I especially like the last paragraph, and of course the one in bold italics. My in-the-end non-interaction with Tony Byrne (who hasn't responded after I finished my latest series on the issue — check the Amyraldism/Neo-Amyraldim category) and the near total focus on his blog and the 'Calvin and Calvinim' blog on this one particular topic to the exclusion of all other topics is very troubling. I agree with Gene Bridge: Let those who cry out the most about the 'free offer' actually start practising what they preach. While the rest of us are busy proclaiming the Gospel, evangelizing and teaching and ministering in the Body of Christ, why are those people who talk so much about how God died for (literally) everyone busy hiding behind their keyboard and pet topic and not reaching out to those who are lost? As Gene has also said:

Given your obvious talents for researching historical theology, why don't you spend some time interacting with the perpetual misuse and abuse of the Ancient Church Fathers by our Roman Catholic friends? Given your obvious belief in the "free offer" craft some responses to the endless bile spewed from the depths of the Debunking Christianity blog.

Unfortunately, I am not holding my breath in anticipation for that to happen. From past experiences, I am starting to think that they are certain people like the Neo-Amyraldians/QuasiAmyraldians who would attack Christians who are doing the work that the Church and Christians ought to be doing, while all the while not doing that particular ministry. Question: When will such folks start defending and proclaiming the truth of God's Word so that people may turn to Christ and His truth, instead of attacking those of us because we reject their unbiblical hetero-orthodox doctrines?

Anyway, here is a link to Dr. White's Dividing Line wrapping up the debate. This is an interesting article by Mark (TartanArmy) on the ongoing development also.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Calvinism Debate: Steve Gregg vs. James White

Here are all of the mp3s of the radio debates between Steve Gregg (representing Synergism) and James White (representing Calvinism/Monergism):

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Book Review: Faith Undone

I have just finished reading Roger Oakland's book Faith Undone, and I have done up a book review here. I would highly recommend this book to all who want to know more about the Emergent/Emerging Church Movement and where it is headed, as well as the growing apostasy within the "evangelical evanjellybean" churches.

Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy

Just listened to one of Carson's sermon posted on BiblicalThought.com, in the article The Relationship Between Experience and Truth. Near the end of the sermon, Carson said:

“So, which is it?

Experience or Truth?

The left wing of the airplane or the right?

Love or Integrity?

Evangelism or Discipleship?

Subjective knowledge or Objective knowledge?

Faith or Obedience?

THE FRONT WHEELS OF THE CAR OR THE REAR WHEELS???

In the light of Holy Scripture, brothers and sisters in Christ…

DAMN ALL FALSE ANTITHESES TO HELL!!!

I put it as strongly as that. Do you know why?

Because:

  • They generate false gods.
  • They generate idolatry.
  • They perpetuate idols.
  • They twist and distort our souls.
  • They launch the church into violent pendulum-swings, whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ, and taking us away from the cohesiveness of God-given, life transforming Revelation.

The Truth is, that Jesus is Lord of all!

He is Lord of the truth and our experience.

He insists that we bring every thought into captivity to His gracious self disclosure.

He insists that we love him and that we trust him.

He makes us slaves in every domain, and thereby frees us.

Jesus is Lord!” — D.A Carson

In a later article entitled Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy, Stephen Macasil also attacks the postmodern, Emergent 'emphasis' on Orthopraxy while undermining Orthodoxy, and states in no uncertain terms that the Emergent's stance is a false antithesis and thus nonsensical. As he said, "Wrong thinking is wrong living"; a statement I heartily agree.

With this, I would like to share a few more thoughts.

One reason why I am extremely wary and uneasy and critical too of all the "practical godliness" Christians is because it is impossible to be truly godly without right doctrine. And the sentiment by Macasil makes is even plainer that believing the wrong doctrine is wrong living, and thus ungodly So what if you can behave practically like a saint even? So what if you have a "life transformation" from somone akin to a murderer to being almost a perfect saint, even keeping the 4th commandment to the very minute and second (as well as keeping all the >30 rules of do's and don'ts on the Sabbath)? As long as you believe in wrong doctrine, or worse still believe in a false "gospel", you are not truly living rightly. Therefore, those who focus on "practical godliness", "being a better Christian", even "living a life in practical obedience to the commands of Scripture", and yet downplay the importance of doctrine are sinning. I don't care how much of a saint you may behave, you are most definitely not one if you downplay and especially ignore the Truth of Scripture.

And all this false antithesis extends also to the Neo-Orthodox heresy, which creates a false antithesis between Jesus and the Word, whereas they come together. Truly, Neo-Orthodoxy generate false gods and generate idolatry (the idolatry of an alien 'christ' apart from the Word), twist and distort the souls of its adherents, and finally creates chaos within the Church. On another subject, I have no symphathy also for the "hyper-Evangelism" Decisional Regeneration movement, who are only interested in getting people to say a sinners' prayer, with the church existing only for evangelism (ie afer you are saved, you are supposed to just learn how to do evangelism, do it and that's it) and think that it is not important to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God. Of course, the converse is true, but I haven't met churches which are focused too much on Discipleship at the expense of Evangelism.

And so therefore, to end off:

Damn all false antitheses to hell! — D.A. Carson

Beware of Oprah Winfrey

OK, I am not much of a follower of pop culture (In fact, I do not follow it), but perhaps some people do, so here's a warning about the New Age teachings of Oprah Winfrey, who isn't a Christian and is currently introducing the doctrine of demons to gullible people on her show (like the teaching that we are all God...)

The Universe according to Oprah

'The Secret' New Age Universe according to Oprah

Oprah Winfrey a Christian?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

More articles...

I have finished clearing my backlog for compilation of various articles from my blog onto my website. The series on Neo-Amyraldism I have deemed not good enough as of now. So anyway, here they are:

On the Covenant of Works

A Defence of the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ to believers, against NCT

Book Review: The Two Wills of God — Does God really have two wills?

Book Review: The Dark Side of the Purpose Driven Church

I have just finished a book review of the book written by Noah W. Hutchings entitled The Dark Side of the Purpose Driven Church, which I have uploaded on my website here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 6 (part 1)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Is. 6)

The passage of Is. 6 is one of the most fascinating passages of Scripture, and there is just so much to think about when we meditate on this one single passage. Here the prophet Isaiah came face to face with God, and is shaken to the very core of his being. Such an experience blows the mind to be sure, and transforms the very core of his being. And then fnally Isaiah was (re-) commissioned for service.

In verse 1 of Is. 6, we can see that it is written "In the year of King Uzziah died". King Uzziah was a good king spiritually excluding his pride and fall (2 Chron. 26). Not only was he strong as a spiritual leader of Israel (before his fall), he militaily strengthened Israel with strong fortifications and diverse weaponary, as well as with various war machines like probably ballistas and catupults (2 Chron. 26: 15), and furthermore defeated all of Israel's enemies. Under King Uzziah, Israel truly propspered. And when he died, it seems as if nobody could take his place. Isaiah no doubt was distressed over his passing, especially since this was the only godly king he has seen so far.

In that year when King Uzziah died, the LORD God Almighty revealed Himself to Isaiah to (re)-commision him as a prophet. Isaiah was not to put his trust in godly leaders (godly though they may be), but in the name and faithfulness of the eternal God whom he served. And God was going to show him that. Like those of us who have grown up with respected leaders over our lives, God will one day wean us off them somehow or another, showing us that only He will be ever present with us — God with us, Immanuel. Other Christians may let us down, or even if they don't, they wouldn't be with us all the time. Only God is eternal and ever present and totally trustworthy, and always 'not busy'.

So in the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah had a vision of the LORD Himself. Even though King Uzziah had died, here Isaiah saw another King sitting on the throne in total control. Man has and will always fail in the end, whether through weakness or through death. God is sovereign and is always sovereign, despite the turnoils of Man. In the shifting sands of time and cycles of good and evil, the constancy of the reign of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is absolute and unchanging. The gloriousness of this king was great; being high and lifted high and the train of His robe filled the temple, surely showing us how majestic He truly is. Words struggle to even describe how lofty and totally transcendent He truly is. The seraphim were said to have six wings, of which two covered their faces, two covered their feet and with two they were flying (v. 2). This is truly full of symbolism, and reflect the utter holiness of God. They cover their face with their wings, thus showing forth their unworthiness to behold the glory of God. The wings which were flying showed their readiness to obey the commands of God, while the wings that cover their feet could be said to be protecting them from the taint of sin upon this earth. And while they were so doing, they cried out to each other:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (v. 3)

From here, we can see the utter holiness of God. God is neither holy just because He is sinless, nor because He is morally perfect and loving. Rather, God is holy because He is God. Even the angels, sinless though they are, could not stand the full radiance of the glory of the holiness of God as they cover their faces. And they call out to each other to worship and praise the LORD, the thrice holy God, whose glory fills the whole earth.

Verse 4 recalls back to the time of Moses at Mount Sinai, and the power and majesty of this King of Kings resound within the temple, shaking its foundations, and smoke poured forth in allusion to God's power and judgments.

In response, Isaiah the prophet pronounces woe on himself. Though a righteous person in the eyes of Man, and most definitely not a religious hypocrite, yet in comparison to God, he knows his sin and his guilt. Faced with the absolute purity of the holiness of God, his own righteousness become as filthy rags (Is. 64:6) before the Lord of hosts, the King of glory, and thus he proclaims his lostness; that he is undone, dwelling among a people who are also sinners deserving the wrath of God. In response to this, a seraphim flew to him to remedy the problem. Using the imagery of a live coal, he flew to Isaiah carrying this coal from the fire of God at the altar and touch Isaiah's lips with it (verse 6), symbolizing the remission of guilt and the atoning of his sin (verse 7). Now, we know that the remission of sin and guilt and the atoning of sin can only be done by our Lord Jesus Christ, so this clearly is a sign symbolic of such a cleansing. The coal from the altar symbolized the Atonement event itself as in it, Christ sacrificed Himself as the perfect lamb slaughtered to atone for the deaths of His people. Therefore, the touching of the live coal from the alter symbolizes the aopplication of the Atonement to Isaiah in removing His guilt and sin, positionally speaking of course.

After that is Isaiah's (Re-)Commision as a prophet with more specific instructions as to the nature of his job, which we shall look at later. Let us now however look more into the topic of holiness, which is everywhere present in Is. 6.

(to be continued)

The two views of a "Christian" toothbrush

Oh my.... Check this one out. Just brilliant descriptions.