Sunday, November 29, 2009

Misquoted verses: Compiled article

I have just created and uploaded the compiled article containing all the exegesis of the misquoted verses onto my website. It can be found here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Misquoted verse: Hab. 2:14

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:14)

It seems that this verse is used in Dominionist propaganda, as can be seen in the Domininist GDOP (Global Day of Prayer) vision statement. Through concerted efforts via prayer movements and other such gimmicks, the New Apostolic Reformation through the promotion of prayer enlists unsuspecting pastors and churches to bring about the kingdom of God here in this world, having as their vision their interpretation of Hab. 2:14 — which is to bring about the coming of God's Kingdom on earth such that justice would be done, people turn to Christ, crime would decrease etc. This would be achieved through concerted unified intercessory prayer (which is what the Global Day of Prayer is about), in order to bring about synergy which "somehow" works for the advancement of God's kingdom here on earth.

It must of course be stated that the goal of making society a better place is indeed laudable, and prayer is a good thing. I have addressed the problems with the GDOP in a previous blog post, and as such would not be talking about it here, rather focusing on one of the prooftext used to promote its Dominionism, Hab. 2:14.

Hab. 2:14 is situated in the prophetic books, and the verse comes in the middle of a prophesied judgment on the Chaldeans/Babylonians. Judgment is prophesied and will fall on the enemies of God. It is in this context that Hab. 2:14 can be found.

In context, the glory of God is indeed manifested in God's judgment on the Babylonians. This act of God manifest God's glory by making known His act of judgment of the wicked Chaldeans throughout the world. Through knowledge of this mighty act of God, the knowledge of God and His glory would thus fill the earth everywhere — as the waters cover the sea.

Hab 2:14 therefore teaches the mighty acts of God bearing witness to the knowledge of God's glory everywhere. In context, it applies only to the judgment of the wicked Chaldeans. In its application, it can only be used to tell us that the knowledge of God's glory will be seen in the mighty acts of God, and therefore to promote God's glory we are to proclaim the greatest act of God in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nowhere do we see or can find any context whereby Hab. 2:14 is said to teach that we are to bring God's glory down in this place. The Dominionist interpretation therefore fails on three counts: 1) It makes the fulfilment of this verse dependent on Man instead of God, 2) It fails to see that the glory of God is manifested in the proclamation of God's mighty acts, and not "social transformation" done by us, 3) It makes the eschatological fulfilment of this verse happen in the heaven-on-earth kingdom which they are attempting to bring down now, instead of at the final judgment.

In conclusion, Hab. 2:14 is a verse misquoted by the New Apostolic Dominionists to promote their Dominionist agenda. Instead of proclaiming the mighty acts of God as they should be doing, such people embrace the lie that they can build heaven on earth and subtly change the form of the Gospel into a message of "salvation unto social transformation (and eternal life as an add-on)" instead of salvation unto eternal life in Christ.

P.S. I have nothing against working for social improvement, but that is neither the Gospel nor a work of the Gospel! That should be rather placed under the Creation Mandate which all men Christians or not participate in, not the Great Commission.

Misquoted verse: Jer. 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

In context:

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. ... “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer. 29:1, 10-14)

Jer. 29:11 has been used as a prooftext for so long, to indicate God's blessings to be with the person addressed, that it may seem strange to indicate that it has been often misquoted. In fact, precisely because it is used and abused so often that when its abuse is pointed out, those who do so seem strange and even wrong. However, reading it in context would show us the true meaning of this verse, and the glaring error in utilizing it as a general text of blessing.

The first thing we can and must see immediately is that it is addressed to Israel. It is not addressed to everyone in general but to the people of God in the Old Testament. Therefore, Jer. 29:11 cannot be a general blessing formula to be indiscriminately given to all, but only applicable to God's people.

Logically, we can see God's purposes of judgment on the wicked (Prov. 16:4) and his judgments on various nations and peoples throughout history. Can we say that there is a general blessing: that God has a good plan for all people? Not unless we believe in a God whose plans can be frustrated, contrary to the express teachings of Scripture in this regard (Ps. 115:3, Dan. 4:35).

The context of Jer. 29:11 is Jeremiah's address to the Israelite exiles in the country of Babylon. God has judged Judah for her wickedness, and sent King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to eliminate Judah as judgment for her wickedness. The exiles are in severe hardship in their captivity in this hostile land, and it is in this situation that Jeremiah addresses the people.

The promise of God's blessing and favor upon the exiles in verse 11 thus comes in the midst of severe hardship, and thus is meant to comfort God's people of God's love and favor which is still upon them. Yet from this, we can immediately see that it is an untruth that God's people will not suffer merely because we are His. God indeed has a wondrous plan for His people, but that does not preclude suffering, as the life of Job demonstrates.

In conclusion, Jer. 29:11 is a verse of comfort to Christians, especially to those in affliction, that God has a plan for them for their good. It is however not for those who do not believe in Christ, and neither is it a verse to promote the health-and-wealth heresy, as this promise does not preclude suffering in this life.

Misquoted verse: Gal. 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

In context:

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3: 23-29)

Gal. 3:28 is indeed a precious verse when understood correctly. Misinterpreted, however, and it becomes a tool for devastating the Faith, as has happened in the hands of the feminists and their egalitarian allies.

Gal. 3:28 is located in a discourse in Galatians on the topic of salvation. More specifically, the topic is with regards to the historical unfolding of the Gospel of promise which bring an end to the former era of Law (capital 'L') in redemptive history. In Paul's view, the era of the Law placed the people of God under bondage which is necessary to create the ground for the Gospel to take root, the Law functioning as our pedagogue (v. 24) to lead us to Christ through our being justified by faith.

It is in light of the dawning of the Gospel promise that the Apostle Paul make this amazing statement in Gal. 3:28. Traditional Jewish culture tends to look down to women, yet Paul here makes the clam that men and women are alike as to salvation (which is the immediate context). Through the use of merisms, Paul states that all of humanity is encompassed in God's plan of salvation through the promise of the Gospel. Gal. 3:28 therefore functions to proclaim the universality of the Gospel promise unto any and everyone who believes and are thus made one in Christ.

As it has been seen, this verse has to do with the equality of all people in salvation. The feminists and their egalitarian allies, in their attempt to wrest this verse to promote the abolishments of any differences in roles between men and women are thus reading a concept alien to the context (and alien to Scripture too) into the verse. The feminist and egalitarian misuse of this verse to promote their errant theory is thus wrong.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Misquoted verse: 2 Cor. 3:6b

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6b)

In context:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

In mystical and especially charismatic circles, 2 Cor. 3:6b is used to promote their anti-intellectualism. Equating the letter with the written words of Scripture or the "logos Word", these mystics contrasts those "dead words" with the living Holy Spirit or the "rhema Word". Therefore, the important thing is to keep close to the Spirit, and not to allow "dry" doctrines and theology to interfere with the Spirit's voice. Coupled together with this theory is the assertion that the sin of the Pharisees was that they were too knowledgeable and doctrinal, conveniently omitting Scripture such as Jn. 3:10 for example that shows that the Pharisees were actually spiritually ignorant.

The words logos and rhema has been shown to be essentially the same with huge semantic overlap between them [see Gordon H. Clark, The Johannine Logos (Jefferso, Maryland, USA: Trinity Foundation, 1989), p. 46, 51, 57], thus the charismatic confusion on this matter is lamentable. Yet, the focus here is not so much refutation of the charismatic position but rather the interpretation of 2 Cor. 3:6b.

When we look at the context, it should be immediately seen that the words "letter" and "Spirit" are not just referring to themselves. The whole context of 2 Cor. 3 is on the New Covenant, and in contrasting the Old Covenant with the New. Following from verse 5 and 6a therefore, we can see that the "letter" is analogous to the Old Covenant that was fixed and rigidly carved on stone, while the "Spirit" is analogous to the New Covenant with its fuller reality of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the phrase should better read thus:

The Old Covenant kills, but the New Covenant gives life

Far from it therefore for the "letter" to refer to "soulish" doctrines and theology, while the Spirit represents the "spiritual" knowledge given by the Spirit. The verse is actually contrasting two covenants, and thus two ways of life. We should not be living by the "letter", as that would be to go back to the Old Covenant, but we should be in the New Covenant, and thus living by the Spirit.

In conclusion, 2 Cor. 3:6b in context is actually on soteriology, not mystical knowledge. Doctrines are indeed good and necessary, and we should never think of divorcing the Word and the Spirit. Amen.

Misquoted verse: 1 Cor. 9:22

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22)

When it comes to the issue of contextualization, this particular verse is the most utilized verse for prooftexting. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with trying to reach out to others, or presenting information in an understandable way, or removing stumbling blocks to belief? What does this verse actually teach, and can it be used to promote contextualization, however defined?

The context of this verse outlines what Paul did in reaching out to the Jews who are under the Law, and the Gentiles who are outside it. In other parts of Scripture, the Law with its rituals and ceremonies have been stated to be abrogated with the coming of the New Covenant (cf Col. 2:16-17; Gal. 5:2-6, Heb. 8:13), and therefore participating in these rituals are rendered not necessary at all. However, it is not sin to take part in these rituals per se.

In contrasting being "under the law" and "outside the law", we must realize that the Law here refers especially to the ceremonial aspect of the Jewish religious law. Paul is thus advocating accommodation on something which is not necessary for salvation or the Christian life. Among the Jews, he continues keeping the form of these rituals so that he would not needlessly antagonize them. Among the Gentiles, he lives like a non-Jew who do not observe the Jewish religious laws, since they are not necessary anyway. In both of these scenarios, Paul brings himself to their level by adopting either neutral lifestyle which are both spiritually proper.

In light of this, the type of accommodation and "contextualization" that is biblical is one in which the options are ethically and spiritually neutral. Whatever options made can never violate the biblical rules of conduct — that we should be holy as God is holy (Lev. 11:44-45, 1 Peter 1:16). Paul is manifestly not an antinomian, and it is a mistake to interpret the word "law" as meaning anything other than the religious code of the Old Covenant. Neither is the phrase "by all means" meant to be taken as an absolute, as if prostitution is also a legitimate means (To win prostitutes, you should be one as well?), but the phrase is to be understood in context as referring to all valid means possible.

In conclusion, 1 Cor. 9:22 teaches that we should as much as possible find ways to relate to others. However, such does not give us license to compromise the Christan faith and message, or be a pragmatist who thinks that the ends justify the means. Contextualization that compromises the Christian faith and message cannot therefore utilize 1 Cor. 9:22 as a prooftext, for the context does not lend itself to such an abuse.

Misquoted verse: Acts 5:38-39

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, (Acts 5:38-39)

In context:

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:34-42)

Acts 5:38-39 is often used as a prooftext for Neo-Evangelicals and others like them to "counsel" people against refuting error. Following the advice of Gamaliel, they call on such "hotheads" to cool down and let things run its course. After all, shouldn't we trust in the sovereignty of God? As Gamaliel states so clearly, if the movement, plan or undertaking is of man, it will fail, but if it is of God it will thrive. Worse still, we would have been found to be going against God Himself! However, does this verse actually give us this advice?

In context, it can be seen that the Apostles were arrested for preaching the Gospel in public by the High Priest and the Sadducees, and brought to trial before the religious council, the Sanhedrin. When commanded not to preach the Gospel (v. 28), Peter and the apostles openly defied them and say that they will in fact do so, thus making the Sanhedrin furious and murderous.

It is in this light that the counsel from Gamaliel was given, which defuses for a time the anger of the Jewish leaders against the apostles' manifest defiance of their commands. Through an appeal to the sovereignty of God, Gamaliel persuaded the Counsel not to go ahead with their intentions to murder the apostles there but to release them, letting God do the judging instead.

Now, it is a sure fact that in God's providence, Gamaliel's advice did in fact save the apostles at that time. It is also true that God is sovereign and that He is in control, thus nothing can happen without His permission. In all this, Gamaliel was in fact quite right. However, do all these facts therefore make Gamaliel's advice right?

An understanding of God's revealed will (His precepts) and God's sovereign will would be of great help here. God commands various things in line with what would be pleasing in His sight, yet we all know that not all and in fact most of them do not come to pass. God is against sins of any kind, yet we all know that men sin everyday. Thus, it can be seen that God's will of command is often frustrated, and thus not come to pass.

If God is indeed sovereign however, then all that He desires to come to pass will be indeed accomplished (cf Dan. 4:35 etc). In this we speak of God's sovereign will or His will of desire. Nothing can ever thwart God's desires, for such is the very essence of what it means to be totally sovereign.

Knowing this, we can see that Gamaliel's advice alludes merely to the sovereignty of God or God's sovereign will. However, are we to follow the commands of God or the sovereign decrees of God? God summons us to obey His commands (for that is the very definition of the concept of 'command'), while His sovereign will is not our domain to discern and attempt to accomplish (cf Deut. 29:29). God calls us to obey His Word and we are to do them. In the case of exposing errors, that is the command of Scripture especially in Jude 1:3. Therefore, we are to follow God's commands in this respect instead of attempting to discern God's will based upon the successes or failures of any person/ ministry.

One other error in misquoting such a verse to teach fatalism is that it assumes that God will in fact do such and such. In the biblical context, is it always the case that a plan of God will succeed while a plan of men will fail? If such is the case, then isn't Islam the true religion, after all having conquered the heartlands of ancient Christianity (by the sword) and now being well on its way to overrun Europe in the near future? Who or what determines failure and success? Biblically, without the full revelation of Scripture, did the plan of God fail when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian Empire? Was the Davidic Covenant made void when the last king of Judah was executed with his sons? It would certainly seem that way for the people living at that time.

God sovereignly allows things to pass that may not be what seems good to us, for example the captivity of Judah. Therefore, Gamaliel's advice, while it may be generally correct, is flawed. Further proof can be obtained if we were to think what is actually involved if such a fatalistic attitude were to be implemented in all of life and not just ministry: Vaccines are not necessary because if you are destined to fall sick, you will regardless of whether you have the vaccine or not and vice versa; Medicine do not need to be taken too to cure an illness, since the disease may be from God and vice versa; etc. Gamaliel's advice is therefore absurd when applied to "practical" life issues, so what more spiritual issues that are more real than the present world?

In our actions, we are to obey God's commands in everything (not just in the area of discernment), and not to attempt to "follow God" through deciphering God's intention through providence or any other ways. Even if God had actually decreed a certain evil end, it is right and proper for us to follow God's commands in Scripture to work against that evil end. For how do we know God's intentions — that He may use us as an instrument to halt that evil? Our actions are to be guided by the precepts of Scripture, not garnered through sinful enquiry into what God is actually going to do or not to do!

In conclusion, these two verses are merely descriptive of Gamaliel's advice which was useful providentially, but they are not prescriptive for God's people. Gamaliel's advice is therefore not biblical, and we should therefore treat it as the narrative it actually is rather than grounding our conduct on it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

R. Scott Clark debunks the myth of "final justification"

R. Scott Clark has given an exposition on the ninth point of Synod Schereville, which states:

Therefore Synod rejects the errors of those:

...

9. who teach that there is a separate and final justification grounded partly upon righteousness or sanctity inherent in the Christian (HC 52; BC 37).

[HC: Heidelberg Catechism; BC: Belgic Confession]

The audio file of this exposition can be found here. The teaching of the existance of "final justification" is indeed error. "Final justification" is a legal fiction which does not exist, contra the heresies of the New Perspective and the Federal Vision, as Scott Clark makes that very plain.

[HT: Heidelblog]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The God who suffers? Evaluating Dennis Ngien's arguments for divine passibility

In his book A Faith Worth Believing, Living and Commending by Dennis Ngien (Eugene, OR, USA: Wipf & Stock, 2008), chapter 2 is entitled The God Who Suffers: An Argument for God's Emotions. In this chapter, Ngien attempts to argue for the position of the passibility of God; or in other words, that God has emotions ad intra and is affected by them.

Having previously addressed the error of Open Theism and also touch on the error of Process Theology in another book review some time back, I am saddened to see Evangelical scholars moving in the same trajectory. The doctrine of the impassibility of God is historically believed and a confessional standard of the orthodox catholic (small 'c') Protestant, Evangelical and Reformed faith. As the Westminster Confession puts it (which is repeated almost ad verbatim in the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith and the Savoy Declaration):

There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

(WCF, Chapter II Of God and of the Holy Trinity, Paragraph I)

And as stated in the 39 articles of the Church of England:

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this God-head there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

(39 articles of CoE, Chapter I Of Faith in the Holy Trinity, Paragraph 1)

That God is without passions is a confessional statement of the Reformed and Presbyterian, Baptist and the Anglican faith. Although the continental confessions do not have it (being written earlier in the fires of the Reformation), yet such is a likely inference from their references to God's simplicity and His incomprehensibility and unchangeability (Belgic CoF, Article 1 The Only God).

That said, does the Scripture itself teaches that God has passions? Does God suffers? Let us evaluate the Scriptural basis for the confessional position, and then evaluate Ngien's argument for divine passibility.

The Scriptural basis for divine impassibility

The scripture passage given to support the Westminster position is Acts 14:11,15, which states:

And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11)

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (v. 15)

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: (Acts 14:15 - KJV)

καὶ λέγοντες, Ἄνδρες, τί ταῦτα ποιεῖτε; καὶ ἡμεῖς ὁμοιοπαθεῖς ἐσμεν ὑμῖν ἄνθρωποι, εὐαγγελιζόμενοι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τούτων τῶν ματαίων ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ θεὸν ζῶντα ὃς ἐποίησεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς: (Acts 14:15 - NA26)

The phrase "of like nature" in the ESV is homoiopatheis (όμοιοπαθεις), better translated as "like passions" as in the KJV (homoio-: similar; -patheis: passions, affections). The passage states as a fact that God does not have the same or even similar emotions than us, since 'same' (homo-) is a subset of 'similar' (homoio-) as what is same is definitely similar. While it does not rule out God having emotions, the fact of the matter is that God does not have our type or kind of emotions.

When seen in context, Paul and Barnabas were presenting this against the idolatrous worship offered to them by the people of Lystra who thought of them as gods, or rather that the gods have come down in the likeness (homoioōthentes) of men. In response, Paul and Barnabas protested that God is most emphatically not like men; the vain things are not like the living God.

While it may seem a stretch to base an entire doctrine on one verse, the fact of the matter is that this is merely the most explicit verse on the topic. Scripture abound with proclamations that God is not like us humans, the most famous being of course Is. 55:9, where God states how much infinitely higher his ways and thoughts are compared to us. Given the (humanly) unbridgeable gulf between God and men, men can never approach God except if God condescends to us in revelation through the twin truths of the logos theopneustos (Jn. 1:1; 2 Tim. 3:16) and the logos ensarkos (Jn. 1:14); both sides of the same aspect of God's revelation, one epistemic and the other ontological.

Since God is unlike us humans at least with regards to emotions, ways and the type of thoughts, God being immutable cannot have passions, since passions are ever-changing and reacting to the environment. Our God is not a Process theological deity who changes with the times, neither is He an Openness deity whose thoughts are ever reacting and changing with the choices of men.

As God does not have passions, whatever emotions He must have (if He possesses them) must be self-determined and independent of the environment whether of heaven (the angels and saints) and of the world (the earth and the universe). In other words, God's emotions must be self-expressed through His will (volitional) ad extra rather than any reactions to the environment ad intra.

Gordon Clark, in commenting on the Westminster Confession on this topic, sums it up nicely:

"What is meant by saying that God has no passions? Is the word passion used in its contemporary romantic sense, or does it have a broader meaning Is an emotion a passion? If it is, shall we say that God has no emotions? Do we ordinarily consider it a compliment when we call a man emotional? Can we trust a person who has violent ups and downs? Is it not unwise to act on the spur of the moment? Would then an emotional God be dependable? How come God have emotions, if he is immutable?

But someone says, God is love, and love is an emotion, is it not? Well, is it? Or., better, is what we call love in God an emotion? For that matter, is our love for God an emotion? In common conversation we do not think it makes much sense to command one person to love another. We are inclined to think it unreasonable to demand that a man should get emotional about something that happens to please us but does not please him. Love cannot be commanded. Yet God commands our love. He issues an order: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Is this a command to become emotional? To have ups and downs, sudden surges and ebbings? Oh, No! someone replies. Our love should never ebb. But it never ebbs, it cannot surge. Without a down, there can be no up. We agree, do we not, that our love for God should be steady. And we agree that God's love for us is unchangeable. Then is not such a mental activity or attitude better designated a volition than an emotion?

[Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Unicoi, TN, USA: Trinity Foundation, 2001), pp. 29-30]

[HT: Joel Tay]

Scripture therefore teaches the impassibility of God. God does not have like passions as us, and His "emotions" are objective volitional ones void of instability and changeability like ours.

Examining Ngien's position

In this chapter of reasonable length, Ngien tried to prove the passibility of God. Although the subtitle is an argument for God's emotions, what is proved is not merely whether God has emotions, but that such emotions are passions ad intra, a real God who suffers. Ngien goes on to even state that "If God is devoid of passions, we would have to re-write the Bible" (p. 14), certainly a strong statement on the topic of divine (im)passibility.

The first section saw Ngien immediately and explicitly stating his opposition to the traditional doctrine of divine impassibility, in which he defines divine impassibility as "the notion that God cannot suffer since God stands outside the realm of human pain and sorrow" (p. 12), a much more narrow definition of the doctrine than previously stated above. It is with astonishment that Ngien has decided to call the doctrine of divine impassibility "a Greek idea". As I have incidentally addressed in my response to Open Theism,

One major problem [with the Open Theists' position] ... is that to postulate that the concept (not just the language) of immutability and impassibility as applied to God as being Greek concepts and not Christian concepts, it must be the case that in Greek thought there must be only one concept of God in these aspects. In other words, there cannot exist in Greek thought concurrently the concept of God being immutable and that of being mutable, or being passable and impassable. If that were to be the case, then either way Christianity can be said to imbibe on Greek thought either way, since both logically contradictory positions are covered by Greek thought. And this is what we will see to the case in Greek culture. The gods present in the popular Greek religion are mutable and passable, whereas the philosopher's Ideal or idea of God is immutable and impassable. Since this is the case, how then can Sanders prove his position? We could say that the Open Theists view is actually the Christianization of Greek popular religion, and that would be even more accurate, since the worldviews of both the modern age and during the times of the Greeks are very similar.

The link to Greek philosophy is simply an example of the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Worse still is the fact that Greek popular religion have gods that are mutable and passible. So whichever position we take on the topic, there is simply no way to get around the charge of "borrowing from the Greeks". Ngien's charge of the Hellinic hijacking of theology is indeed erroneous. Furthermore, if such were the case, is Ngien suggesting that the Church in her 2000 years of history have gotten this most basic concept wrong?

Ngien must be commended for honestly noting his opposition to the established orthodoxy of the Church, and states his opposition stems from the teachings of Scripture. Most definitely, tradition does not determine truth, and it is right to follow Scripture instead of tradition when they differ. However, is Scripture really on Ngien's side?

The two main objections raised by Ngien against the teaching of God's impassibility are: 1) Can an unfeeling God love?, and 2) Was God present at the Cross?, which are also the titles of the sections in this chapter dealing with the topic.

Ngien's first objection lies in what he thinks is the nature of love. In his own words, "love implies vulnerability", and therefore "the traditional understanding of God as impassible makes it impossible to say that "God is love" (p. 13). Quite a few anecdotal evidences of his mother's love for him etc were given, but the main line of evidence is that without vulnerability and the ability to fell pain with us, God's love cannot be true love. In Ngien's own words, "God's goodness means that he loves us with a completely unconditional love, involving himself with us even in our pain" (p. 14).

It can be immediately seen that no exegesis of Scripture is offered for this objection to divine impassibility. Rather, philosophy is utilized. While philosophy per se is not wrong, philosophy must serve the truths revealed from Scripture. If Scripture teaches doctrine X, then no amount of philosophizing should remove doctrine X. As we have seen, the impassibility of God is taught in Scripture, and it can be deduced from the doctrine of God's immutability, a closely linked doctrine.

Ngien offered this objection based upon the love of God. But what exactly is God's love? As quoted by Gordon Clark earlier, is God's love an emotion or a volition? Or put in another way, is God's love a subjective reaction to the environment or an objective choice of His Will? Ngien in possibly reacting to a stoic understanding of God has swung to the other side. Certainly, Ngien is correct to say that "God is not emotionally unstable and cannot be manipulated by humans" ( p. 14). But how does his proposal of God being vulnerable make Him not emotionally unstable and non-manipulatable by humans?

The basic error in Ngien's argument is to wrongly equate love to vulnerability, and to think of divine love as being the same or even similar to human love. But God's love is not human love. As Clark said, God commands love, yet no human can ever commands love. Human love is analogous to divine love, not similar. God's love is an action of His will creating "emotions" ad extra (outside of the being of God). We cannot relate to God as a mere human to human contact, for God is God and we are not. With regards to God having sympathy for us, it is precisely in light of this problem that passages such as those in Hebrews exist.

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb. 2:17-18)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

It is in Christ that we can find someone who can sympathize with us. Certainly, that would be a strange thing to say if God Himself can sympathize with us on a human level? Why would Jesus as the High Priest be said to be able to sympathize with us, since the human high priests at their best certainly could sympathize with God's people as well? Such texts could only be understood as saying that in the person of Jesus God could sympathize with us, not otherwise.

Ngien's second line of reasoning is even stranger. In his own words, "If the attribute of impassibility is ascribed to God, there can be no real incarnation of God in Jesus" (p. 14)! The orthodox teaching of Jesus being 100% God and 100% Man does not seem to be factored in here. In the Incarnation, God in Christ took on human flesh (Jn. 1:14) and thus a human nature. Ngien continues to state that this manifests itself in the early church fathers separating "Jesus' humanity from his deity, thus in effect making each nature an independent person, as the Nestorian heresy does" (p. 15). This is wrong on many counts. The orthodox Chalcedon teaching on Christology states that Christ is

recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ (Definition of Chalcedon)

The two natures of Christ can be distinguished but not separated. When Christ suffered and died on the Cross, he suffered and died as a person, not as natures, for they cannot be separated as Chalcedon maintains. In opposition to Ngien, Chalcedon stresses that we cannot separate the two nature of Christ. It is Christ as a person who died, not the natures that die. So therefore, while the early church fathers can distinguish the two natures and say that Christ's human nature is the one that really suffered and died (certainly it would be blasphemy to said that God has actually died), the fact of the matter is that we cannot separate the natures and confuse nature and persons. The sufferings of Christ is indeed real and for our behalf because Christ did it as a person for us, and this should be enough for us.

So Christ could indeed really suffer for us, and thus His person on earth and His human nature has passions. Yet, it is a stretch to ascribe that to His divinity, and then form there extrapolate that to the Godhead Himself; it is a total logical non-sequitur. God thus suffer for us in the person of Christ, while still remaining impassible as to His essential being. Ngien's objection here therefore does not take into account Chalcedon's formulation of the difference between nature and person, and in fact falls into the error of separating the natures.

With this covered, Ngien's objections against the doctrine of divine impassibility are groundless. What then of the practical aspect?

In the practical application of Ngien's doctrine, Ngien called the church to be the "church of the suffering Christ", suffering for Christ in this world. While certainly, we will suffer for the Gospel and are to help those who are suffering, yet this it seems is taking the whole idea too far. Suffering is what will happen, but our goal in this life is not suffering. The goal of our lives is the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), not suffering per se. Ngien's emphasis seems misplaced here. The Christian is not here to proclaim that Christ suffers for His people and that He suffers when they suffer. The Christian is here to proclaim the Gospel message of Justification by Faith Alone, and that human suffering is the consequences of sins, whether ours or not. The solution is not that Christ suffers with us, but that Christ has paid for the most important penalty (damnation) for us by dying on our behalf. THAT is the gospel.

In conclusion, Ngien's arguments for divine passibility are therefore seen to be without biblical basis, and should thus be rejected as errant.

As a side note, Ngien in this chapter quotes from liberals such as Jurgen Moltmann and Kazoh Kitamori, and I wouldn't be surprised if the German liberals and neo-orthodoxs like Dietrich Bonhoeffer are in the background as well, seeing the similarity in language as well. This is extremely disturbing, as there is nothing evangelical in the teachings of such people. As long as German theology continues in this trajectory absent of the true Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone (not their misunderstanding of Luther's theology) and the centrality of the Gospel and of Scripture, "theology" no matter how brilliant if it is not Word-centered and God-centered is spiritually useless. Just a brief glance at the descriptions of the theology espoused by for example Jurgen Moltmann is enough to see that philosophy plays a vital role in their "theology", while God's Word is reduced to playing second fiddle. I will reconsider this judgment when I can find the Hegelian dialectic taught anywhere in the Scriptures, not to mention Kantian Idealism or any other of the philosophical theories they espouse!

ADD: See also Phil R. Johnson's excellent article on this topic God Without Mood Swings here.

ADD: Check out the original article by Dennis Ngien here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Review: Why We Love the Church

Kevin DeYoung, the pastor of University Reformed Church, has came out with an excellent book entitled Why We Love the Church — In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. It is an excellent book which refutes the Emerging/Emergent redefinition of the church, as well as the nonsense coming from the "American House-Church" movement of George Barna and Frank Viola. The review can be found here.

This book is the second of its kind co-written by Pastor Kevin DeYoung and his church member Ted Kluck. The first, Why we are not Emergent (By Two Guys who should be), was indeed a great book written in a very engaging format. For obvious reasons, I like the section by DeYoung more since he deals with the theological issues while Kluck deals more with the experiential aspect. This book is no different. Although I am sure Kluck's portion are good and could be of help to some people, I unfortunately cannot appreciate his sections much, and thus will mainly stick with DeYoung's sections in the book.

In his fight for organized religion, the main antagonists DeYoung faces are the decentralists and anti-institutionists found especially in the American house-church movement, with the main spokesmen being the emergents, the pollster George Barna and house church leader Frank Viola. In the introduction, DeYoung outlines for us this new anti-institutional house-church phenomenon, and the way he would address the issues involved.

[more]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The implosion of global Anglicanism and a falling away from the Faith

With the break-up of global Anglicanism due to the crisis in the ECUSA caused by the embrace and celebration of deviant sexuality by her leaders, the newly formed ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and the Global South coalition are still trying to resolve the mess formed in the aftermath of the schism and total apostasy of the ECUSA (although it has already apostatized much earlier, but this it seems is the straw that broke the camel's neck for a lot of Anglicans — Says a lot about the importance they place on orthodoxy as compared to orthopraxy). The Roman Church, seeing an opportunity, has seen fit to poach some sheep as Anglicanism continues to fracture with the release of the document Apostolic Constitution ANGLICANORUM COETIBUS.

In response, the 'Global South Primates Steering Committee' has issued a statement as follows:

1. We, under-shepherds of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ, bring greetings to the faithful in the Anglican Communion. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. For in his great love for us, we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2: 19-22).

2. The Vatican announcement on Apostolic Constitution gives us an occasion in making the following pastoral exhortation.

3. We welcome Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on the common biblical teaching on human sexuality, and the commitment to continuing ecumenical dialogue.

4. At the same time we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We urge churches in the Communion to actively work together towards a speedy adoption of the Covenant.

5. In God’s gracious purposes the Anglican Communion has moved beyond the historical beginnings and expressions of English Christianity into a worldwide Communion, of which the Church of England is a constitutive part. In view of the global nature of the Communion, matters of faith and order would inevitably have serious ramifications for the continuing well-being and coherence of the Communion as a whole, and not only for Provinces of the British Isles and The Episcopal Church in the USA. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to work in close collegial consultation with fellow Primates in the Communion, act decisively on already agreed measures in the Primates’ Meetings, and exercise effective leadership in nourishing the flock under our charge, so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight.

6. As Primates of the Communion and guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith and order, we stand in communion with our fellow bishops, clergy and laity who are steadfast in the biblical teaching against the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, the consecration of such to the episcopate, and the blessing of homosexual partnerships. We also urge them, as fellow Anglicans, to continue to stand firm with us in cherishing the Anglican heritage, in pursuing a common vocation, in expressing our unity and common life, and in maintaining our covenanted life together.

7. In the closing words of the Anglican Covenant: With joy and with firm resolve, we offer ourselves for fruitful service and binding ourselves more closely in the truth and love of Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.

“Now may the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13.20, 21)

25th October 2009

Global South Primates Steering Committee:

Chairman: The Most Revd Peter J. Akinola, Nigeria
Vice-Chairman: The Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini, Rwanda
General Secretary: The Most Revd John Chew, Southeast Asia
Treasurer: The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Members:
The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Myanmar
Bishop Albert Chama, Dean of Central Africa

Compare this statement with the Response from the Council of Church Society which can be accessed here.

Response from the Council of Church Society to the plans by the Church of Rome to receive disaffected Anglicans.

According to its own doctrinal standards and history, the Church of England's true nature is that of a Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and catholic (in other words, universal) church. Orthodox Anglicanism is therefore defined by reference to these characteristics only, which are set out in the Thirty-nine Articles and the Church of England's submission to the over-arching authority of Scripture alone. Church Society seeks to defend and promote these defining characteristics, especially the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone which is at the heart of the message and mission of the Church of England.

While acknowledging the correct stand taken by Anglo-Catholics against theological liberalism (the features of which do not represent true, Biblical Anglicanism), it should also be noted that the true doctrine of the Church of England does not embrace any of the teachings or practices which characterise the Church of Rome. For instance, the Church of Rome is fundamentally flawed in its claims about its own nature and authority and in its teaching about the means of salvation.

A proper rejection of theological liberalism should therefore not be accompanied by a turning to the Church of Rome and its unbiblical teachings and practices. Rather, both theological liberalism and the unscriptural teachings and practices of the Church of Rome are contrary to the Bible and to the historic doctrines of the Church of England as a Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and catholic church.

The longing of Church Society is that all Anglicans, whether in England or elsewhere, would see and understand both the destructive nature of theological liberalism and the false nature, teachings and practices of the Church of Rome.

We grieve that the Church of England, along with our nation, has fallen so low in its spiritual and moral condition. We pray that God would pour out His Spirit on both church and nation.

We rejoice that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and we pray that the Church of England will return to full adherence to its doctrinal standards, acknowledging the supreme authority of the Bible as God's Word and seeking to shape its teaching and practices by what He has revealed.

The statement was agreed by the Council at its meeting on 4 November 2009.

No prizes for guessing correctly which statement is more in line with the teachings and tenor of Scripture.

[HT: Reformation Anglicanism, Reasonable Christian]

Mike Ratliff: Rebuking Repentance and Restoration

My friend Mike Ratliff has written an excellent post here regarding discernment. Mike makes the excellent points that we are not to be hasty in judgment but to ensure that what we know is indeed true before we make a judgment on the facts of the case. Also, we are to be loving and not fight the enemy with the same carnal weapons they use against us (fight fire with fire).

IMO, Mike has successfully navigated between the two extremes in this regard: the ecumenical response of "no-judging" or, closer, Tim Challies' method of stating that all judging must be done in a "positive manner" and thus he castigates all "discernment ministries". The opposite extreme can be seen in some discernment sites but mainly in the so-called "watcher of watchmen" anti-Christian discernment sites that litter the Internet like so many sewer pipes choked full with libel, all initially started mainly to defend some false teaching(s) or teacher(s) but which degenerates into the stinks they now are. Thanks Mike for your excellent article.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The biblical answer to Dominionism cum Book Review

What is Scripture's answer to the challenge of Dominionism? In my analysis of Dominionism, the answer has been split into 4 main headings:

  • The Concept of the Church and Apostles
  • The Concept of the Church in distinction from the State
  • The Cultural Mandate?
  • Being a pilgrim and a citizen
  • The Bible's teaching on wealth

The book review of C. Peter Wagner's book has been completed, and the answers can be found there. Also included are responses to Wagner's other errors, which can be seen in his [typical] teaching of the "new wine and new wineskins", and his shocking endorsement of the heresy of Open Theism.

What is Dominionism?

What is Dominionism? "Apostle" C. Peter Wagner has came out with a book on the topic last year on that topic. With this book, all of us can now know what exactly does the New Apostolic Reformation teaches in her understanding of the Cultural Mandate, which we shall examine below.


So what is Dominionism? Dominionism can be defined thus:

The application of the Cultural Mandate in working towards Social Transformation by the strategy of having workplace apostles taking control of the various spheres of society, facilitating the Great transfer of Wealth and so bringing God's Kingdom here on the earth.

Every phrase here reveals something about the theory of Dominionism, which we shall look at below.

Application of the Cultural Mandate ...

Wagner states his belief in the Cultural (or Creation) Mandate early in his book (p. 41), quoting personal correspondence with John D. Hunter that it is a "mandate to change the world" (p. 41). Wagner uses this term and sees his theory as the proper application of the Cultural Mandate. Of course, whether Wagner has correctly understood the cultural mandate or applied it properly may be of dispute, but what cannot be disputed is that Wagner himself sees his theory as an application of the Cultural Mandate, which in his view has to do with "tak[ing] dominion and transform[ing] society" (p. 46).

... in working towards Social Transformation ...

Wagner sincerely believes that the application of the Cultural Mandate is to work towards Social Transformation, which is defined as the transformation of society to one based upon God's original design for human life (p. 11). In promoting this theory, Wagner claims that the exclusive focus of churches on the Great Commission is based upon the "Greek mindset", which "tells us Christians should be concerned with saving souls and going to heaven rather than paying much attention to material things like transforming our societies." (p. 41). Instead of embracing this "dualistic" Greek mindset, we should embrace the holistic "Hebrew mindset" which posits that "God and accompanying spiritual principles permeate all of life on earth" (p. 40). Therefore, the Cultural Mandate of transforming society is to be kept central alongside the Great Commission. This transformation of society must refer to "sociologically verifiable transformation" (p. 55), in which "an independent, outside, qualified observer using standard tools of social science or investigative reporting concludes that the social unit is now as different from what it used to be as a butterfly is from a caterpillar" (p. 55).

... by the strategy of having workplace apostles ...

Wagner creates the category of workplace apostles by first creating the idea of the Nuclear and Extended Church. The "Nuclear Church", analogous to the nuclear family, refers to the people of God "meeting in their congregation". Playing on the word translated church in Greek ekklesia (εκκλησια), Wagner defines the meaning of church to refer to "the people of God scattered out wherever they might be" (p. 140). The "Extended Church", analogous to the extended family, thus refers to "the people of God in the workplace" (p. 141). From there, Wagner states that apostles and prophets "should be found not only in the nuclear Church, but in the extended Church as well" (p. 141). In Wagner's words,

... there must be such a thing as workplace (extended church) apostles. God has given them the spiritual gift of apostle, and He has called them to a ministry or activity in the extended Church of the workplace, over against ministry in the nuclear Church. (p. 141)

... taking control of the various spheres of society ...

Society according to Wagner consists of seven spheres or seven segments of society — the molders of culture. These seven spheres/ mountains are in random order "religion, family, government, arts and entertainment, media, business, and education" (p. 144). Wagner quotes Wallnau approvingly, who says "If the world is to be won, these are the mountains that mold the culture and the minds of men. Whoever controls these mountains controls the direction of the world and the harvest therein." (p. 144). Each of these seven mountains have their own distinct cultures, in which there exists significant difference in "crucial nuances" such that it would be difficult "for anyone attempting to go to the top and take dominion of one particular sphere" (p. 147). Even worse in Wagner's opinion, most "nuclear church" leaders are ignorant of the culture of the "extended church". In order to exercise dominion therefore, workplace apostles are needed. These workplace apostles would "have the God-given authority to influence and take charge of a certain segment of society on behalf of the Kingdom of God" (p. 148), thus taking control of it.

... facilitating the Great transfer of Wealth and so bringing God's Kingdom here on the earth

In the beginning of this book, C. Peter Wagner states that "without vast amounts of wealth in the hands of righteous people who line up with the principles of the Kingdom of God, we will not see the social transformation that we desire" (p. 19), further stating that "we must cast out the spirit of poverty and replace it with the godly spirit of prosperity if we expect to act as effective agents of social transformation" (p. 19). After outlining his strategy of workplace apostles and control of the various spheres of society, Wagner says that "an essential part of the process should be to transfer the control of wealth" (p 182), such that the Extended Church and the Workplace Apostles have the money to implement their plans for dominion.

Wagner has decided to attack what he calls the "spirit of poverty". In Wagner's own words:

One of the most effective tactics of the evil spirit of poverty has been to persuade Christian leaders that poverty is somehow noble. This mindset entered the Church when Greek philosophy gradually replaced the biblical Hebrew worldview among church leaders around the time when Constantine was the Roman empire. ... Issues of wealth were associated with the material world, and truly spiritual people were to avoid wealth as much as possible. That is why, in the monastic movement that began around that time, the monks were required to display their spirituality with vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. While chastity and obedience are not as prevalent today, poverty unfortunately persists as a spiritual ideal. (p. 185)

While espousing a type of prosperity preaching, Wagner comes down hard on the love of money. He does this by interpreting Mammon as a demon (p. 189) who causes people to love money through his subordinate spirits of greed, covetousness, parsimony (stingyness), and self-reliance (p. 190), and therefore states that believers should therefore not love money because that is to worship the demon Mammon.

Wagner continues on to describe the chain of wealth transfer to channel funds for Kingdom use, from providers to managers to distributors and field marshals. Providers provide the huge amount of funds required for "Kingdom work", managers manage the money, multiply it and channel it to the appropriate distributors, who will in turn pass it to the field marshals who do the actual work "making things happen for the extension of the Kingdom of God" (pp. 192-196)

So how does Dominionism fare in light of Scripture?

[to be continued]

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Song: Speak O Lord

I was asked to lead worship for cell yesterday, and have decided to use a couple of songs one of which was the contemporary hymn Speak O Lord by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. The lyrics of the song are as follows:

Speak, O Lord
by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty © 2005 Thankyou Music

1:
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your holy Word
Take Your truth plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak O Lord and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory

2:
Teach us, Lord, full obedience
Holy reverence, true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity
Cause our faith to rise,
Cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority
Words of power that can never fail
Let their truth prevail over unbelief

3:
Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

In this episode of New Song Cafe, Keith and Kristyn Getty together with Stuart Townend teach us how to play this contemporary hymn, a song which has meaningful lyrics and beautiful music.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The background of Paul Washer's shocking message

Paul Washer has recently done a video interview whereby he reveals to us the background behind his shocking sermon preached in 2002 to a conference of stunned youths, about 5000 strong.

An interesting quote from Pastor Washer here:

"We are living in a time when billions of people are dying without Christ. We are living in a time when millions of so-called Evangelicals do not even understand the Gospel. We are living in a time when some of the greatest "Evangelical" heroes, if they were simply critiqued in light of historic Christianity, they would be proven heretics. Shouldn't somebody be disturbed? Shouldn't someone be broken and shouldn't someone stand up and say: "This is wrong" This IS wrong" — Pastor, Evangelist and Missionary Paul Washer

Just in case it was missed, Pastor Washer's shocking youth sermon can be seen here.

[HT: Isaiah Chua]

Monday, November 02, 2009

Review of Michael Horton's book The Gospel-Driven Life

I have just finished a book review of Michael Horton's excellent book, which can be found at my website here. Let's hope it comes to Singapore soon, otherwise all orders can only be done online.

Michael Horton against "Practical Christianity"

The working assumption in much of contemporary Christianity seems to be that modern culture — whether sociology, psychology, anthropology, business and marketing, politics, education, and ethics — properly interprets human identity and the ideals of proper human flourishing. However, it lacks some crucial methods for attaining these goals. This is where we typically introduce the Bible as the "answer to life's questions." This is where the Bible becomes relevant to people "where they are" in their experience. Accordingly, it is often said that we must apply the Scripture to daily living. But this is to invoke the Bible too late, as if we already knew what "life" or "daily living" meant. The problem is not merely that we lack the right answers, but that we don't even have the right questions until God introduces us to his interpretation of reality. (Bold added)

- Micheal Horton, in The Gospel Driven Life, p. 111