Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Missions and contextualization - A reply to Mark Driscoll on the use of language *UPDATE*

Though calm in his defense [of using trash talk], [Mark] Driscoll insisted that Seattle's missionary need demands new, creative ways to engage the city with the gospel [sic].

"I'm not a fundamentalist. I don't think they're any fun at all," he said. "I'm a missionary. Fundamentalists avoid culture. Missionaries study it in an effort to reach people. If I were going into China to be a missionary, no one would complain. They wouldn't say, look at that, Mark's wearing Chinese clothes. He's speaking Chinese words. He's listening to Chinese music. Gosh, what is this guy? A liberal? No, he's in China.

The truth is that Seattle is as lost and pagan as China. And if we're not going to send missionaries to China, we have to send missionaries to Seattle. We need to give them the same freedom that we do missionaries in China."

[Collin Hansen, Young, Restless and Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists (Wheaton, IL, USA: Crossway, 2008), p. 146]

So states Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wisconsin, in defense of using rather inappropriate language, especially when it comes to sexual issues. Since he decided, as a Caucasian American, to use the Chinese as an example of contextualization, I as a Chinese Singaporean would respond to his assertions with regards to my culture.

Driscoll in his defence attempts to defuse criticism of his usage of coarse language by stating that he is contextualizing his message, thus communicating God's truth to the people in Seattle who evidently speak in that same frequency. With this in mind, he tries to build an analogy between what he is doing and what missionaries to China do. Just as missionaries to China are to speak Chinese, dress Chinese (not much valid today) and do listen to Chinese music, so Driscoll speaks the type of trashy lingo of the audience he is ministering to, dress like them and listen to their type of "music".

As a Chinese, this attempted analogy does not convince me one bit as being valid. Regardless of the variation in Chinese culture and the different dialect groups among the ethnic Chinese, each with their own distinct culture (There is no such thing as a single Chinese culture per se), there is still what is termed culture and what is termed gangsta "culture" (for lack of a better term for it). All dialects and Mandarin (what is termed "pu tong hua" - 普通话) has its own cultured words and swear words; words used for civilized discourse and words used by uncivilized people which often do not see the light of day. Chinese culture is traditinally ordered as per Confucian principles, and with it come ethical codes of conduct to govern everyone and everything in society. Most notable of course is the rejection of all forms of vulgar discourse as being barbaric.

Driscoll's analogy therefore breaks down at this juncture. The missionary to China most definitely will spek Chinese (or one of its dialects), probably does not need to dress traditional Chinese dress nowadays, and will listen to a mix of traditional Chinese, Chinese pop and English pop music, with probably some J-pop and K-pop mixed in as well. Nevertheless, they will not converse in vulgar Chinese. The early Protestant missionaries to China like Robert Morrison and Hudson Taylor certainly did not do so, and neither did any of the missionaries to China. While they most certainly adapt to the culture, they did not adapt to the lowest degradation of Chinese culture to reach any of the Chinese, not even triad members.

It is in this regard therefore that Driscoll has no idea of what he is talking about on the idea of culture and missions. In fact, it seems rather condescending to be thought of as reachable only if a degenerate manner of speech is adopted. Worse still in my opinion is for such a method to be likened to the adoption of the mother language(s) of other ethnic group(s) like Chinese. In fact, it is downright insulting for non-Westerners like me, as if our language is analogous to the language used by Mark Driscoll with his coarse and scatological speech.

On a more fundamental level, the whole idea of contextualization as practiced by Driscoll and others seem to lack a true measuring rod for culture. Culture, as embodying manners and forms of values and living, is to be judged by the Word of God as all conduct is (Ps. 119; 2 Tim. 316-17). Just because a particular sub-culture exists does not mean that the elements of any (sub-)culture must by definition be neutral or even good. Since such is the case, uncritical wholesale acceptance of any culture or sub-culture is not biblical.

In conclusion, it is hoped that Driscoll should evaluate what he is doing according to the Scriptures. There is simply no warrant for deliberately sinning, even for the sake of evangelism. The famous text of 1 Cor. 9:22 cannot apply to the issue of sin, for the context focuses on following or not following various human traditions, having nothing to do with violation of the commands of God. The question he should ask himself is not, "Is what I am doing missional?", but rather "Is what I am doing sin?". If using coarse and scatological language is sin, no amount of protest of being relevant and missional can excuse it, and neither should we condone it.

*Update*: Here is a good sentence I have stumbled upon in the meta of this post that sums up the concern over contextualizaton for the case of Mark Driscoll

A language can be vulgar (common) without being vulgar (degrading).

Monday, January 26, 2009

On relating to the bitter enemies of the Cross

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:14-21)

As we as Christians engage the world with the truth of God's Word, we will encounter persecution from the enemies of the Cross, even from those who profess the name of Christ. I have, it seems, picked up one such Neo-Orthodox heretic who has dedicated a blog exclusively to slandering and libeling yours truly, while remaining anonymous and non-accountable himself. I could think of others such as CRN.(mis)info who slanders Pastor Ken Silva and other discerning Christians. This post is not going to be a defence of Christians like us, nor of throwing out names of how many prominent Christians (pastors, theologians, writers etc.) agree with us, which we can do also, but rather of how Christians ought to respond to heretics who constantly slander those of us who stand for the truth of God, as we encounter persecution as per 2 Tim. 3:12. It must be admited it is tempting to respond in kind to the pathetic lies being spread about us in an attempt to clear our name, but our way of response should be to imitate Christ who did not respond in kind but to leave judgment to God (cf Rom. 12:14-21). Pragmatically speaking, such a "tit-for-tat" response does not work also, for it will not accomplish anything exepts exacerbating the conflict.

In this aspect, both Titus 3:10-11 and Rom. 12:14-21 help us in resolving this issue. By slandering and libeling us, those people are most definitely our enemies in any sense of the term. Since they do so because we proclaim the truth of God, they are to be considered enemies of the cross (Phil. 3:18-19). With regards to their persons, we are to love them, however hard it is, in the sense that we should desire their repentance and salvation, for we know otherwise they are doomed to eternal damnation. In this, we are to pray for their good and to return their evil act with blessing such that, Lord willing, God may grant to them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth so that they may be saved (2 Tim. 2:24-26). After all, they are doing such evil acts as captives to Satan to do his will. Being cursed, we bless, and as such show ourselves to be children of God (Mt. 5:45).

As being enemies of the Cross however, we are to regard them differently. Such people are warped, sinful and self-condemned, and having warned them twice, we should have nothing to do with them. They are to be denounced as the heretics they are in destroying the faith. In this sense, we are not to treat them with kids' gloves, but to expose them and excommunicate them from the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Practically speaking, how then do these two senses interact? We are to continually love them in the sense of wishing them well, especially that they come to repentance and salvation. But we are not to treat them as brethren. Such people stir up division in the church by promoting a false Gospel and a false Christ, and we are not to give in to them. Yet we are not to play on their ground. As it is written: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself (Prov. 26:4). Ignore their rantings and do not be tempted to defend ourselves especially on their own blogs. Rather, follow Prov. 26:5 and show others who listen their folly so that they will not delude believers. Remember, we are not trying to persuade them or vindicate ourselves, but rather to proclaim the truth of God's Word. In the end, their mutterings do not matter, for God will hold them accountable for their manifold lies. I truly do not want to be in their shoes when God will judge them by their words (Mt. 12:37) and actions (Rom. 2:8-9), if in fact they show themselves to be reprobates through unrepentance. It is sincerely doubted wheter they truly believe that God exists and cares about what they do if they can so readily bear false witness about others.

Let us therefore follow the Scripture when it comes to relating to the enemies of the Cross (and therefore our enemies too). Do not give in to them, yet do not descend to their level and answer in kind. Rather, love them and pray that God will open their eyes so that they may repent of their sins, while ignoring their attacks and leaving the issue to God who judges righteously.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Reformation Study Bible: Antinomianism

Yes, I know the ESV Study Bible is all the rage now. But anyway, here is the ESV Reformation Study Bible's note on Antinomianism (p. 1831).


Antinomianism means "opposed to law." Antinomian views are those denying that God's law in Scripture should directly control the Christian's life.

Dualistic antinomianism appeared early in the Gnostic heresies, like those opposed by Peter and Jude (2 Pet. 2; Jude 4-19). The Gnostics taught that salvation was for the soul only, making bodily behavior irrelevant both to God's interest and to the soul's health. The conclusion was that one may behave riotously and it will not matter

A "spiritual" antinomianism puts such trust in the Holy Spirit's inward prompting as to deny any need to be taught by the law how to live. Freedom from the law as a way of salvation is assumed to bring with it freedom from the law as a guide to conduct. In the first 150 years of the Reformation era this kind of antinomianism was common. The Corinthian church may have been in the grip of this error, since Paul warns them that a truly spiritual person acknowledges the authority of God's Word (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 7:40).

Another kind of antinomianism begins from the point that God does not see the sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them. From this they draw the false conclusion that their behavior makes no difference, provided they keep on believing. But 1 John. 1:8-2:1 and 3:4-10 point in a different direction. It is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time embrace sin as a way of life.

Some dispensationalists have held that since Christians live under a dispensation of grace, not law, keeping the moral law is at no stage necessary for them. Rom. 3:31 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11 clearly show, however, that keeping the law is a continuing obligation for Christians.

It is sometimes said that the motive and intention of "love" is the only law God requires of Christians. The commands of the Decalogue and other ethical parts of Scripture, although they are ascribed to God directly, are regarded as no more than guidelines that love may at any time disregard. But Rom. 13:8-10 teaches that specific commands reveal what true love it. The law of God exposes the counterfeit love that will not accepts its responsibility towards God and neighbor.

The moral law revealed in the Decalogue and expounded in other parts of the Bible is an expression of God's righteousness, given to be a code of practice for God's people in every age. The law is not opposed to the love and goodness of God, but shows what it is in action. The Spirit gives Christians the power to observe the law, making us more and more like Christ, the archetypal observer of the law (Matt. 5:17)


As it can be seen, Antinomianism does not necessarily include the teaching that Christians can keep on sinning. In fact, the very term itself (anti-: against; nomon: law) any teaching that removes the law from the Christian life. Definition 2 (spiritual antinomianism) and 4 (hyper-Dispensational cheap grace antinomianism) are probably the ones to focus on. Joseph Prince is not a type 1 or 3 antinomian, but he is most certainly a type 2 and 4 antinomian. In his book Destined to Reign, Prince denies being an antinomian but he only considers the type 3 version, not the others of which he is blatantly guilty of.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Article: Obama, original sin and vicarious atonement

Triablogue has an interesting post here on the idea of federal headship with regards to the issue of unfairness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Reformed Resurgence *Update*

I have been busy with various projects recently, and will be busy until March at least. One thing which I have been working on is the starting of a new group of reformed-minded Christians to work towards Reformation and revival in the churches. The few of us have been liaising via email (and phone), and the Monday which has just passed saw our first "official" meeting so to speak. There are obviously a lot of things to be sorted out, and we most definitely need much prayer in this regard.

As part of forming the group, The Reformed Resurgence, I had prepared a paper which was read and feedbacked on by the other members. The paper would thus be helpful in this regard as an introduction to our group, and it with this intention that I submit it here for your edification. May it spawn many such movements of reformation in the churches for the building up of the Church and the glory of Christ. Amen.

Update: Various grammatical errors have been rectified. Thanks to Rachel for volunteering her time and effort to review the article.

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Driscoll and the New Calvinist movement - A response to the NYT article

The New York Times has came up with a hit article on Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. CRN, Tim Challies, Pyromaniacs, Steve Camp and even the Reformation21 blog have taken note and some have commented on it. While a little late, here are my two cents on the article.

First of all, before commenting on the article proper, the New York Times has previously shown itself to not being credible with its bias reporting, most especially seen in the coverage of the US election and the current counter-terrorist operation in Gaza. In my opinion, the New York Times [and almost all mainline newspapers also] has little or any credibility left, and anything written in it must be filtered to remove the liberal spin on whatever topic it is presenting, knowing that whatever it says is almost always one-sided and tailored to support the liberal agenda — in other words, propaganda. Therefore, whatever the article says must be critically examined and deconstructed instead of taking it as objective truth. [I so love deconstructing the liberals and their post-modernist offspring]

The article by Molly Worthen takes pot shots at two aspects of Mark Driscoll — his theology aka Calvinism, and his language usage. Her dislike of both is clearly evident throughout the article, though to her credit she tries to be factual and objective.

We will return to the Calvinism issue later, first focusing on Driscoll's propensity for crass and scatological speech. It is disturbing that Phil Ryken calls Driscoll's language usage, among others, masculinity. Our concern can be seen in this quotation from the article:

An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?”

Driscoll doesn’t miss a beat: “I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ ” The audience bursts out laughing.

Somehow I don't see what masculinity has to do with this sort of sexually degrading foul-mouthed talk. Or how about this even more shocking example from Driscoll's blog [Warning: Graphic language utilized]:

Question #21: Can I perform anal s-x on my wife?

Answer: The body is not well suited for this so make sure your wife is agreeable, do your homework, be careful if she is willing, and do not go from this to normal intercourse since you will infect her with bacteria. When you discuss the issue, it would be helpful for both of you to express why you do or don’t wish to participate in anal s-x and then pray about it for a time if there is disagreement. Most people are either for or against it, and very few people are neutral. Many wives are not agreeable to this so do not force it on your wife as she will be tense and that will cause her pain; if you love her you would not seek to shame her or cause her pain. Thus, anal s-x is technically permissible, but for a host of reasons may not be beneficial. We do not endorse everything on this website, but if you want to read some commentary on the issue from Christian married women, you can go to Christian Nymphos.

Ugh!

Now, is masculinity defined by being the exact opposite of the culture as being effeminate, such that men are to behave the exact opposite of what is considered proper and respectable conduct in society, including bringing the perverse influence of pornography into the church with such titillating language? Just because the effeminate institution calling itself the [visible] Church is about, to quote Driscoll, “singing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.", dos this therefore mean that true biblical Christianity is the exact opposite? Why can't we let the Bible define what biblical Christianity and true masculinity is rather than being reactionary against the inroads of Feminism?

I do not think that it is hard to see what the Scriptures teaches regarding Driscoll's smutty language (cf Eph. 4:29). Since when has being doctrinally orthodox means that the way you live your life is not important? In fact, since a good tree brings forth good fruit and vice versa (Mt. 7:16-20), can such a chimera with sound doctrine and worldly living ever truly exists ( in fact not in appearance), except probably as a transitory phase?

Worthen claimed in the last sentence that "Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents." Before touching on the issue of Calvinism, I would like to submit that Driscoll's "New Calvinism" is not true Calvinism or Reformed at all. It may be Calvinism in the TULIP soteriological aspect, but what kind of Christianity is it that is so comfortable with the world such that worldliness enters the church with inappropriate R-rated public discussions on private issues such as s-x, and even homosexual-style s-x! As it is, Driscoll's words and actions especially in the capacity of a pastor drags the Lord's name through the mud with such unbiblical and repugnant behavior.

Phil Johnson chooses to focus on the Calvinism aspect especially in the last statement written by Worthen. I agree with Mark here that such seems to be "airing dirty laundry" in public. In this effeminate post-modern age, any form of confidence and certainty in the truth would surely be thought of as pride and arrogance by the "loving" and "tolerant" crowd (both within and without the visible Church btw). Those who like to talk about the "proper", "civilized" and "Christian" manner of discourse ought to peruse the Scriptures and Church History to see what true Christian discourse on such matters have been like before even utilizing the word "arrogance".

Back to the statement. Calvinism, contrary to Worthen's claim, does not embolden Christians. Rather, it is Christ that emboldens Christians. Like the prophets and believers of old, Christians today are emboldened to speak the truth with confidence and certainty because Christ is personally real to them. Those who know Christ will be changed by Him, and part of that lies in the confidence and certainty of the truth in Him. Being something that is at its root spiritual, it cannot be discerned by unbelievers though they can grasp it cognitively. Yet such is foolishness to them because they know not Christ nor have His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14).

With regards to the statement as it is applied to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, I think Steve Camp's statement here hits the nail on the head

Boldness for the gospel comes from the crucible of humility; and is not marked by the obscene and frivolous, but by what is reverent, holy, and Christ-exalting. Even in Seattle.

Amen.

For more, see this article Grunge Christianity? by Pastor John MacArthur

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

News: Rick Warren applauds Obama for inviting "gay" bishop to pray during inauguration

Rick Warren compliments Barack Obama's invitation to openly gay activist Bishop "Vicky" Gene Robinson to pray at his inauguration on Sunday. [more]

My take: Warren should just get out of the pulpit and join the rank of forked tongue politicians where I am sure he would feel right at home.

[HT: Paula]

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Joseph Prince vs. the Bible

Due to the growing popularity of Singaporean home-grown "pastor" Joseph Prince, I have decided to read his book Destined to Reign, which is proving very difficult to read (difficult as in I feel utterly disgusted by it and am feeling very much like puking because of its unbiblical contents). Anyway, here is a VERY interesting quote:

The bottom line is the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins (p. 134. Bold original)

Ugh! According to Prince, this is in the context of believers after they have became Christians, not the world. Here is what the Scriptures teach:

[To the Corinthian Christians who were celebrating sin] For even if I [Paul] made you grieve with my letter [1 Corinthians cf 1 Cor. 5:1-2], I did not regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. (2 Cor. 7:8-9)

To this, we can add the case of Ananias and Sapphira (believers) who were literally "slain by the Spirit", not to mention the numerous examples in the Old Testament and the Psalms.

This is all for now. As it is, this statement has moved Prince to the arena of preaching not only a false "gospel", but a false "Holy Spirit" and therefore a false "God". Joseph Prince is therefore not a Christian, fulfilling 1 Jn. 2:19 and Jude 1:4 by his teaching.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The testimony of Sodom? UPDATE!

if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:6)

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire (Jude 1:7)

This is an interesting video of the putative archaeological findings of Sodom, Gomorrah and other valley cities, truly serving as an example and a monument to the terrible wrath that awaits the ungodly and those who continue in wickedness and unrighteousness.

[Video removed, see below]

Truly, God is mighty and to be feared. See it and tremble at the physical and historical evidence of the judgment of God.

[HT: Turretinfan]

Update: It has come to my attention that Ron Wyatt is a fraud, and the evidence presented in the video is highly suspect, as Creation Ministries International have documented here. [See the meta for more information]. Nevertheless, the abundance of [almost] pure sulfur in this area is interesting. Anyway, the video is therefore withdrawn as the evidence is suspect.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Driscoll on Jesus the Evangelist to the Unevangelized?

Timmy Brister points to us an interesting paragraph made by Mark Driscoll that was posted on the Resurgence website:

Lastly, the fact that Jesus remains to this day an active evangelist is of great encouragement to me personally. It means that children who are aborted in the womb, those mentally incapable of understanding the gospel, and those people who have lived in times and places that missionaries did not visit are not necessarily beyond the hope of salvation. Indeed, Jesus could visit and save anyone anywhere because He remains The Evangelist.

I find myself very very uneasy over the sentiments stated in that paragraph and echo the same concerns as Timmy Brister. What does Driscoll mean here? Is this some form of inclusivism? Barring the mentally handicapped and the unborn, the mention of unreached peoples and people groups is very troubling. Is the Gospel necessary unto salvation, or can salvation be mediated by some sort of supernatural encounter apart from the Scriptures and cognitive belief in Christ? Something stinks over in the New Calvinist camp, that's for sure.

[HT: Christian Research Net]

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

James White on offending Atheists

Amen and amen! We need men today who are not fearful of offending people with God's truth, instead of trying to please anyone and everyone.

[HT: Aomin.org]

Radio: Brannon Howse with Pastor of prominent Hamas leader's son

Here is an interesting radio talk show hosted by Brannon Howse interviewing the pastor, Matt Smith, whose church former Hamas member Mosab Hassan Yousef aka Joseph attends and is being discipled in. Joseph is the son of one of the top Hamas leader, Sheikh Hassan Yousef. By God's grace, he has came to know Christ, left Hamas and is now saved.

In this interview with Pastor Matt Smith, a couple of things can be seen. Firstly, it is indeed very encouraging to see the strength of a bible-based church which practices expository preaching and unapologetically preaches the Gospel message. Secondly, it is mentioned in the archived show of an incident where Joseph at one time lived with a Jewish family. THIS is the solution to the problems of the Middle East — Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Until and unless the people of the Middle East embrace Christ and surrender their hatred and their hearts to Him, there will be no peace in the region. Not in Gaza and not in the West Bank, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The world can only have peace by submitting to Christ and His reign in their hearts, or by being crushed by the wrath of God when He comes again. Unfortunately, few listen and the war goes on and on.