Tuesday, March 20, 2012

VFT book review: Faith Unfeigned

The Valiant for Truth blog has recently put up my book review of Faith Unfeigned, which is a collection of four sermons by the Reformed John Calvin. An excerpt:

The 500th birthday of John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) has passed. Recently, the Banner of Truth Trust has re-published a new translation of a work by John Calvin comprising four of his sermons reworked for publication, an exposition of Psalm 87, and three letters from John Calvin on the necessity of an open and sincere profession of faith (p. ix). This theme of an unfeigned faith, its honest confession evident through practice, is one that permeates all of the texts in this re-published work.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Paper: Mainline Presbyterianism and Reformed Piety

I have been tied up with many things recently. Anyway, here is another paper which I have submitted entitled Mainline Presbyterianism and Reformed Piety. It is also a book review of the book by Ted V Foote Jr. and P. Alex Thornburg entitled Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt: A Theological Survival Guide for Youth, Parents, and Other Confused Presbyterians. An excerpt:

In the Reformed tradition, piety is very important, being a major focus of the Reformer John Calvin’s concern. A book by Ted V. Foote Jr. and P. Alex Thornburg attempts to portray Presbyterian piety for us.

The book by Foote and P. Alex Thornburg, Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt, is subtitled “A theological survival guide for youth, parents, and other confused Presbyterians.” In their preface, they reveal that their goal is to write a book to “respond to ‘outsiders,’ to address the questions non-Presbyterians ask us.” The authors therefore are attempting to help Presbyterians respond to the questions asked by those who come from “fundamentalist churches” and thus defend what they think is Presbyterian and Reformed piety against Neoevangelical piety.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Pre-Prolegomena: Love for the Brethren

Love for the Brethren

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn. 4:20-21)

The Scriptures are clear that we are to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. The problem comes however as to what this love means.

In most of popular Christianity, love is defined by being warm and affirmative of the other. Over potlucks and celebrations, being open in sharing one's personal struggles, praying and offering support both material and/or emotional is seen as vital to loving others. However, is that what the Scriptures call us to?

Love is defined by God who is love (1 Jn. 4:16). Love therefore is whatever that is done for the good of the other as defined by what the Scriptures call good, not what we think is good.

It is certainly nice, warm and fuzzy to have "fellowship" with one another. But this by itself is mere socializing. Even prayer support does not necessarily mean anything truly spiritual.

Love desires that we want the growth of the other in Christ. Therefore, it is intricately tied up with the issue of growth in knowledge, affection and being/doing. In the area of knowledge, love means that one should seek for the other to grow towards greater knowledge of God and an embrace of the doctrines taught by Scripture. In the area of affection, love means that one should seek for the other to grow to love and honor the God of the Scriptures, and not the "god" created by one's own mind. In the area of being/ doing, it means that one should seek for the other to know and trust in Christ, in their identity in union with Him. From there, love seeks for the other to produce good works issuing from the gratitude that one is already saved by faith in Christ.

Love does not rejoice in what is wrong. It is not loving to tolerate serious errors of doctrine and life in another. It is not loving to celebrate their errors. It desires the godliness of our fellow saints, and as Christians, we should be thus loving to them.

Ministry and the attitude towards learning


The vocation of being a pastor/ elder is a tough one. To take care of the flock (Acts 20:28) implies that one knows the truth, and therefore what is not the truth. The shepherd has to lead the flock to green pastures and avoid poisonous plants.

Being a shepherd of the flock of God therefore requires training. God-fearing seminaries are meant to provide that training. Whatever one thinks of the role of a pastor-scholar, it is a fact that anti-intellectualism has no place at all in Christianity. The pastor's office was not called a study for no reason.

This especially means that shepherds and ministers are to be humble and teachable, more so those who are not seminary-trained. This is not to say that those seminary-trained are always correct or that untrained people are necessarily precluded from pastoral ministry, but to say that not being trained means that one must train oneself to the level of erudition needed for the task.

It is a travesty when pastors and elders are not humble and teachable. It is an even worse tragedy when they are both unteachable and wrong. At least if they are right, they would not lead others astray. But what can one do with someone who is convinced that he is right when actually he is ignorant and wrong?

Jas. 3:1 is a serious verse that all pastors and aspiring ministers and elders should always keep in mind. Remember that we are not the lords of the church but servants in charge of Christ's flock. The flock does NOT belong to us, and we are not given the permission to have lamb chops.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jas. 3:1)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Rick Warren the Anabaptist, on Twitter

Some time ago, Rick Warren tweeted the following:

I replied with the following tweets, following which it seems Rick Warren decided to block me from following him.

The Schleitheim Confession was the confession of faith of Anabaptists connected with Michael Slatter. As with many Anabaptists and their related documents, it is thoroughly moralistic in tone.

While Anabaptism is varied and diverse such that one should speak of AnabaptismS, yet a common motif is one of moralistic change. As opposed to the Magisterial Reformation, Anabaptists focus greatly on visible reform of practice and morals. Doctrine generally takes second place to that of moral reform, with the idea of "separation" from the world running amok in the Hutterites establishing communes distinct from the "evil secular" world around them. That is why I do not like the nomenclature of the Anabaptists as being part of the "Radical Reformation." It is radical alright, radical Medieval spiritualist revival that is.

The Schleitheim Confession is one such moralistic document. Looking at it one understands why Rick Warren loves it, because both of them are basically Semi-Pelagian legalists in orientation. Rick Warren, unless the Spirit works repentance in his heart, does not treasure sound doctrine. Rather, everything is all about having an immediate (i.e. without mediation) encounter with Jesus through "spiritual disciplines" and "40 Days of _____ (Purpose, Community, Vision etc)."

Those who wonder why Warren loves the Medieval mystics should not be surprised. In fact, I would be surprised if he does not identify with his spiritual forebears. Warren as a practical Semi-Pelagian share the same soteriology as the Medieval mystics. As the Reformation rejected the Medieval mystics (together with the trappings of Roman piety) and the Anabaptists, so also those of us who truly follow Christ according to the dictates of His Word should likewise reject Rick Warren.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Dr. Richard Muller's talks at WSC

The last two days (Feb 28th and 29th 2012) saw Dr. Richard Muller gave lectures at Westminster Seminary California (WSC), which I was privileged to attend. The talks can now be heard in the resource center here:

  1. Was Calvin a Calvinist?
  2. Calvin and Beza on Practical Syllogism (Calvin on Assurance)