Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd

The book review that many may dread has arrived. I have finally managed to read and review the book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd, and it can be found here. Byrd wants equality as a woman, and thus she is given fair treatment in my review, with no holds barred, as if she were a man. It should be obvious that I am not a fan of her conduct, and most definitely not of her social egalitarianism. But I am fair in my review. An excerpt:

2016 marked the year of the ESS (Eternal submission of the Son) controversy. For various reasons, ESS is somehow linked to CBMW. Certain people within the Reformed camp who were chafing at what they had decided were foreign to the Bible broke away from complementarianism altogether, including Rachel Green Miller and Aimee Byrd. Miller had written a book earlier entitled Beyond Authority and Submission, and Byrd now entitled hers Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The not so subtle dig at CBMW notwithstanding, what the title intends to convey is that Byrd sees the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood as a false teaching which she has once held and is now “recovering” from it.

In this light, Byrd’s book acts as an attack against the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood, and the recovery of what she believes to the better approach to the topic of not just gender roles but also church relations. The use of the word “recovery” links her to the ressourcement movement in parts of Evangelicalism, with all the connotation that it has.

[more]

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Just thinking podcast on Black Lives Matter

Over at the Just Thinking podcast, hosts Virgil Walker and Darrel Harrison, both black men, have recently addressed the issue of Black Lives Matter here. Please do listen to their highly informative and biblically-minded discussion there.

Book Review: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

The book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is one of the books that supposed is working towards "racial justice." I have reviewed the book, and the review can be found here. An excerpt:

In this book, DiAngelo sets about describing a phenomenon which she terms “white fragility,” a phenomenon that she claims to have observed in whites, which impedes her work in addressing racism in America. Accordingly, DiAngelo sees white fragility as a big problem, and thus this whole book is written to deal with it. ... [more]

While most books have something interesting to add to the discussion even where I reject what it says, I must say that there is nothing positive in DiAngelo's work. My convictions of the extreme dangers of critical race racism has not abated after reading DiAngelo's book, and I will continue to warn against the dangers of this movement.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Shelby Steele on race

To see humanity across racial lines one must see frankly how people of other races live as human beings, not as members of a race. [Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites together Destroyed the promise of the civil rights era (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2006), 129]

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tim Keller's view of justice

Tim Keller has written an article that supposedly critiques secular views of justice and states that his view of justice is "none of those." This article seems to prove that Tim Keller is unaffected by critical theory and secular view of justice, and thus his "biblical justice" is indeed biblical. But is it?

Examining Keller's view of justice can be indeed helpful, and articles like this have done so. What irks me however is Keller's incessant desire to put forwards his view as transcending all other views ("mine is none of the above"). Whether it is saying that the Gospel is neither "religion" nor "irreligion," Keller's rhetoric is in my opinion unhelpful. The fact of the matter is that many Christians have thought about issues of the Gospel, or issues of justice (in this case) for centuries. Are those people trying to be unbiblical? Are they not proposing their views as what they believe (truly or falsely) to be biblical? Keller seems to think that he is the first one who is thinking about issues of justice with a desire to be only following Scripture and nothing else, as if no one before him has done so before.

In this light, I have prepared this chart. Keller's "spectrum of justice" is only a line, which strikes me as being simplistic. Thus, I have decided a coordinate system of two ideas about justice would do more justice (pun intended) to the spectrum of justice theories. When mapped this way, Keller's view can be placed onto the spectrum, instead of being "none of those."

Now that Keller's view of justice is mapped, it can be examined. It is not "none of those" - a term of false advertising that give the false impression that Keller is indeed above the fray.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Review: Trinity without Hierarchy

In 2016, a big online controversy erupted when a bunch of Reformed notables decided to attack a doctrine held by some evangelicals to be heresy. The ensuing firestorm produced lots of heat and very little light. Fast forward to 2019 and a book was written aginst this doctrine (ESS - Eternal submission of the Son). As someone who holds to ESS, this piqued my interest. I have thus read the book, entitled Trinity without Hierarchy: Reclaiminig Nicene Orthodoxy in Evangelical Theology, and did a book review on it, here. An excerpt:

I will review this book along the lines of an enquiry, instead of a normal thematic book review. The first question is: What is ESS, and did the contributors rightly understand ESS? The subsequent question then is: What do I think of their evaluation of ESS? Note that for the subsequent question I will only address those that I consider to have some understanding of ESS, or who deal with the supposed implications of ESS

[more]

Since I hold to ESS, it is almost guaranteed that I reject the allegations of this book. But do read further for my reasoning which states clearly why I reject this supposed "retreival of orthodoxy" project.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church

In light of the issue facing churches around the world concerning the pandemic and the suspension or opening up of churches for worship, here is my small contribution in an attempt to bring light to the issue at hand, in my article COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church. An excerpt:

In late 2019, what was initially thought to be a small viral outbreak began in the vicinity of Wuhan, China. By February 2020 however, this outbreak had metastasized into an epidemic in Wuhan and soon spread across the world. Initially called the Wuhan virus, what is now known as COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV2 virus) has caused a pandemic creating chaos and death across the world, stretching the capabilities of healthcare systems to the breaking point. South Korea, Northern Italy, and New York City in the United States became the next epicenters of this virulent disease. 6 months later, this plague continues to spread without a clear indication of subsiding. Governments around the world have implemented drastic and even draconian measures in an effort to manage or halt the spread of the disease, measures that have yielded varying degrees of success.

[more]

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Truth, (Mis)representation, and John MacArthur's stance concerning the opening of churches

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. (Prov. 23:23)

Recently, Pastor John MacArthur posted an article entitled "Christ, not Caesar, is Head of the Church." The article caused a firestorm from accusations that MacArthur is endangering people, that he is trivializing the pandemic, and that he is violating Christian liberty by forcing people to stake a stand on whether to disregard all safety measure and not wear masks or practice social distancing. With all the accusations, one really wonders whether anyone has actually READ the article instead of reading what they think is present in the article.

What does the GCC (Grace Community Church) article actually say?

The article by John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church asserts the following major propositions:

  1. Christ is the only head of the church
  2. Christ therefore determines how Christians ought to worship.
  3. Physical corporate worship is essential and commanded by God ("A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms")
  4. Civil authorities are to be obeyed in matters not pertaining to the worship of God
  5. Each of the three God-ordained human institutions (family, church, government) has its own distinct sphere of authority.
  6. Civil authorities have no right to dictate how God is to be worshiped, as "God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church" (Italics original)
  7. When one institution has exceeded its authority, "it is the duty of the other institutions to curtial that overreach."
  8. Government intrusion into Christian worship is a form of persecution and should be rejected.

The minor propositions (in the addendum) state thus:

  1. GCC obeyed the initial lockdown due to love for neighbor
  2. The elders of GCC in their personal opinion believed that the pandemic is not so severe that it necessitates the continual closure of the church.

What the article does NOT say

Before we address a few misunderstandings, we can see from Phil Johnson's (an elder at GCC) tweets what the article does not say. First, it does not say that ALL Christians and all churches must reopen church in the exact same way as GCC.

Second, it does not say anything about masks or social distancing. These words are not found in the entire article. Third, it does not say that one must agree with GCC's assessment of the pandemic. That is why it was in the Addendum and not the main article. That it was in the Addendun under the beginning words "The elders of Grace Church considered..." indicate that this was the elders' particular application of the principle of Christ being the head of the church to the situation of GCC.

The article and its critics

From these, it can be see that many of the critiques of GCC have little to do with the article. Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks in his response totally misunderstood the purpose of the article's clause asking people to sign on the statement, a fact he later learned.

Sadly, misrepresentations continue. Taking offence at one of MacArthur's remarks, Gary Ortlund asserts that MacArthur is saying that churches that do not reopen like GCC are not really churches and thus in sin. But that is NOT what MacArthur has said. Mark Lauterbach repeated Leeman's misunderstanding and also Ortlund's misunderstanding. On top of that, Lauterbach has apparently read into the article that GCC is equating their situation to full-scaled persecution. But that is NOT what the article has said. It merely asserts that government intrusion into the worship of God is a form of persecution, NOT that it is persecution like that suffered by the persecuted church around the world! Lastly, Lauterbach fails to recognize the major statements from GCC's particular application of her beliefs to her situation, which is sittuational, as Mike Riccardi has publicly stated!

The problem in American Christianity today, as seen in the blatant misrepresentations by Leeman (initially), Ortlund, and Lauterbach, is a disregard for the truth. What MacArthur and GCC has actually stated does not matter. What matters alone is what they THINK MacArthur and GCC are saying. Except for Leeman, Ortlund and Lauterbach have not retracted their blog posts and corrected their errors, although I can surely hope they do so. The problem of truth is not limited to the Liberals but also the Conservatives, both "Big Eva" and "Big Reformed." Besides the Covid-19 virus, the aversion to truth is truly endemic throughout American Christianity. How else can we explain why misrepresentations are seldom retracted, lies about people or ideas or things refuse to die, and there are absolutely no consequences or at the very least penitance from those who have engaged in violations of the 9th Commandment, both American Evangelical and Reformed pastors and theologians alike? The Genevan Commons fiasco is one such example where the 9th Commandment is routinely violated by Reformed pastors, for example. The churches in America have become just like the world, believing her own lies when it suits her!

Apart from God, there is no hope for the churches of America. She has imbibed the culture's aversion to truth, and refuses to repent of her craven idolatry, pastors and parishioners alike. Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Review: Reforming Apologetics by J.V. Fesko

Dr. John Fesko was one of my professors when I was at WSCAL. He is a learned professor deep into historical sources and Reformed doctrine. He has however wrote a book on apologetics last year entitled Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith, which stirred up some controversy due to its attack specifically on Cornelius Van Til and Vantillian presuppositionalism. Due to the subject nature, I decided to check it out when I can. I have finally read it and wrote a review of it, here. An excerpt:

With the resurgence of interest in Aristotelianism within the Reformed community, it should not come as a surprise that the topic of apologetics would come under the spotlight for ressourcement. Presuppositionalism after all is a novel system that began in the 20th century with Cornelius Van Til and/or Gordon H. Clark, whereas classical apologetics was the system utilized in the Medieval, Reformation, and Post-Reformation era.

In this light, Dr. John Fesko has taken on the task of “reforming” apologetics. According to Fesko, the 20th century turn to presuppositionalism is flawed and contrary to the Reformed tradition. While not necessarily against all aspects of presuppositionalism, stating for example his position that the TAG (Transcendental Argument for God) “can be a useful argument” (p. 137), Fesko rejects presuppositionalism as a whole.

[more]

As a Clarkian presuppositionalist, I reject this approach to apologetics. And while I do respect Dr. Fesko's scholarship, on this issue I'm afraid he is way out of his depth.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

On the use of words circumscribing sin, and the perception of insults and derogation

Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like an Arab in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredom.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed. (Jer. 3:2-3 ESV)

.

In a Twitter exchange between Marianne (@The_Dark_Elf) and me, she astonishing paints herself in a corner in an attempt to make the word "whore" a reprehensible insult. My position was, and always is, that it is not right to demen, ridicule or mock women, but facts are facts. Calling a prostitute a whore is not an insult. Calling a loose woman a "slut" is not an insult either. Yes, IF one uses these terms to insult the person, then it becomes an insult. But just because a word can become an insult does not necessarily make it an insult. In the thread, I also pointed out how the postmodern Western culture is against terms like "sodomy," "immorality (except when applied to right-wing 'sins' especially 'Capitalism')," "adultery," "fornication" and other such words. Are these words to be blacklisted just because others see them as 'insults'? Who exactly determines what word is to be an insult and what not?

To press home the fact that "whore" is not an insult, I had directed Marianne to Jeremiah 3:2-3, where God inspired the words (in Hebrew) where God accused Israel "you have the forehead of a whore." Marianne finally admitted that "some versions" use the word "whoredom," and then asserted that "whoredom" does not mean "whore," and that the two are as different as "cyclopes" and "cyclones." I do not know whether to laugh or to cry at this tweet. "Whoredom" is merely the substantival adjectival form of the verb "to whore," describing the state of a person whoring around. I am not brought up with Shakespearean English either, so this is not an archaic term at all. So why the weaseling around the fact that "whore" is a perfectly proper English term?

The problem here is that too many especially in the West have a different value system in place rather than the value system of the Bible, where certain terms are, subconsciously or consciously, termed "out of bounds" and thus not to be utilized. This is not necessarily speaking of Marianne, but it is fascinating to me how many people are offended when you used words as Scripture uses it. In a private FB post, I had stated the fact that Scripture treats LGBTQ as abominations, and it was fascinating how even a pastor can be offended by it. It is truly weird time indeed, when proper English words are taken to be "out of bounds" even though they are not archaic, just because these people have imbibed on the culture's value system instead of the biblical value system.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Aimee Byrd, Deepfakes, and the importance of integrity

Aimee Byrd has recently kicked up a storm with her assault upon Genevan Commons, a private Facebook group. In her post, she linked to a "discernment" website which doxxed members of the group as well as posted doctored and deepfaked images of screenshots from the group, insinuating that the people there are ungodly slanderers and misogynists. This came after her forced departure from the Alliances of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE). In light of those images, it seems that the pastors and elders and all commentors on Genevan Commons are to be sharply rebuked and censured for their conduct, for after all, there is no excuse for such sinful behavior despite the fact that Byrd is in error in her egalitarianism.

The case agaisnt Genevan Commons however starts to unravel when one begins to peer beneath the surface, and noticing the way the comments are rearranged in order to mislead, as Seven Wedgeworth (whom I have criticized over his view of justification and therefore cannot be said to be a friend or ally of mine) had pointed out. Another commentor has joined in to show how the images had misrepresented his commment which was not directed at Byrd at all. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of using the term "whore," the fact remains that "whore" is a perfectly proper term in the English language to refer to a prostitute, and pornographer Stormy Daniel deserves that label. Now, in order for sin to be sin, it must be truly a sin. In other words, if the comments in their proper context are not sinful, then the images, having misrepresented the comments, are guilty of violating the ninth commandment. Thus, the creator of those images and those who share them, including Byrd, are guilty of violating the ninth commandment. But instead, we see Byrd doubling down and refusing to aknowledge her sin. The question is very simple: Were those images misrepresentations of the comments? Yes or no? If yes, then they violate the ninth commandment. If no, then the onus is on the one asserting that it is not a misrepresentation to prove that the images are indeed a prroper representation of the comments. Instead, what we see from Byrd is a hysterical vent about how "tired" she is, portraying herself as a victim, while totally ignoring the substance of Wedgeworth's post.

None of this exonerates the ungodly conduct of some commentors. Those who do so ought to repent. However, if we are to be people of truth, then we must stick to the truth. Slandering Byrd is sin, but so is slandering her critics. Just because Byrd was sinned against does not in any way give her the right to sin against others as well.

The key question therefore, for Byrd and her defenders, are these:

  1. Do you agree that the images misrepresented some of the comments, and specifically Steven Wedgeworth and Paul Barth? Yes or no?

  2. If yes, do you repent of bearing false witness against them?

  3. If no, please disprove Wedgeworth's and Barth's assertion. Saying you are "tired" and playing the victim card gets no brownie points from me. Answer the question, and show you are interested in actually engaging the issue, instead of playing the victim card.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

News: Aimee Byrd kicked out of ACE

In an interesting development, soocial egalitarian Aimee Byrd has been removed from contributing to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which occasioned her current "update" about the event on Scott McKnight's blog on Christianity Today.

There are three things that I want to comment here. First, Byrd states that she does not know who the Board of Directors of ACE are, presumably except for the chair since she was contacted by him. She has also mentioned the unnamed people who have contributed to the questions posed to her by Jonathan Master. I will just add that I do not like this practice of seeming anonymity in the Reformed world. I do not understand the reason for anonymity especially for ordained ministers, so perhaps someone would want to enlighten me why this is the case. I do believe the best way to deal with disagreement is to be frank and honest about it. What is the point of anonymmity and getting someone to be the spokesman for a group of people in the church?

The second issue I want to comment is Byrd's conduct concerning the questions put forward by Jonathan Master. According to Byrd, in response to the question, she answered one of them, and decided "afer seeking counsel" to decline answering the rest of them. Now, I do not know which universe Byrd resides in, but I think that when someone has questions concerning your orthodoxy, you should try to assauge their concerns and answer their questions properly. Instead, Byrd's conduct in this mattter has been the same as to her conduct with CMBW, which is mere obfuscation of the issues. In the supposed response to one of the questions, her response is one of non-response. The questions was one of natural law, yet Byrd's reponse is to to talk about ontology, but the two are not the same thing. It is possible that Byrd does not understand the question, but if that is the case, then she has no business writing a book on the topic of biblical manhoood and womanhood, in the same way no one is interested in whether a five-year old agrees with Einstein's theory(ies) of relativity.

Lastly, I want to comment on Byrd's insistence that she and what she has written is "in line with the confessions in which my Orthodox Presbyterian Church subscribes." As someone who was in the OPC as a licentiate during the time I was in the US, merely stating that she is "in line with the confessions" is not sufficient. She may think she is in line with the Reformed confessions, but she may be wrong and self-deceived. It is not enough for her to assert that she is "in line with the confessions" of the OPC. Since she has written a book on the topic, anyone can test what she has written to what the Reformed Confessions, and what the Word of God, actually says about the topic.

This assertion by Byrd that she is in line with the OPC's Confessions is troubling. Most people do not assert that they are in line with their church's confession as an argument in favor of their position, but if they say so, they prove that their views are in fact in line with their church's confessions. From Byrd however, there is much talk about her being in line with the OPC's confessions and about her being in good standing in her church, and little proof about how what she says is actually biblical and Reformed. To be honest, this is my first time seeing someone make an argument about the validity of their position from their standing in the church, as if the latter has any bearing on the former at all!

What Byrd should have received from Reformed pastors is empathy, compassion, correction, and teaching. Instead, she has been propped up in her ignorance by men who should have known better: men like Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and R Scott Clark. The current situation with Byrd is a disaster, and this infection of egalitarianism will weaken the Reformed churches.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Reformed understanding of the Trinity circa 2008

The Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry (CARM) run by Matt Slick, it seems to me, reflected the mainstream Reformed view in the 1990s and early 2000s concerning where Reformed theology was in relation to apologetics. Just a decade ago or so, a period which seems like a long time already after the sea change that has occurred from then to 2020, Reformed apologetics was all about engaging the secular world with the truths of the Reformed faith, and the most prominent ministry then was Ligonier Ministries headed by the late R. C. Sproul.

It seems prudent then to enquire into what was taken to be the standard Reformed views at that time concerning certain subjects, especially those that are controversial in this time. At CARM, Matt Slick had in 2008 published an article concerning the Ontological and Economic Trinity, and some excerpts are noted below:

Since we see different roles within the Trinity, does this signify a subordination among the three persons? The clear answer seems to be yes. But remember, affirming this is not the same as advocating the heresy of subordinationism. We can say that there is a subordination of the Son to the Father in role (as a father-son relationship would naturally have), but we also say that subordinationism (difference in nature) is wrong.

But, as is said above, if there is no difference in roles among them, there can be no distinction between them. It is only by recognizing and accepting the difference of roles that we can acknowledge the Trinity at all.

By definition, each person of the Trinity must have his own will; otherwise, they are not persons.

Now, read this article in light of the 2016 ESS fiasco, and ask yourself: Who has changed their position, and why? The answer is not hard to figure out: It is the 2016-2020 Reformed pastors and theologians like Liam Gollligher who have changed their position, and the reason why they have shifted their position is due to an embrace of Thomas Aquinas and Thomistic/ Aristotelian philosophy of being. Without Thomas or Aristotle (or the mediation of people like Dolezal), none of this would have happened.

Who has changed their understanding of the Trinity? It is the new "classical theists" who have shifted in their doctrinal understanding of the Trinity, not the rest of us. We want no part in this so-called "Ressourcement" of classical sources if it brings us into bondage to Aristotelianism.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

New book: Faith Seeking Understanding - The Culmination of the CREDO500 saga

In 2009, Jonah Tang, at that time a pastor in Sibu, Malaysia, roped me in to help out with his ambitious plan to conduct the CREDO500 conference, an online conference where essays were submitted by various pastors and theologians from Chinese churches or related to the Chinese churches in the diaspora around the world. I did not realize at that time how big the conference would be and the amount of work required to make it work, having no prior experience in managing such an event. Thankfully, the essays were submitted and edited more or less on schedule, and the conference was largely successful. Subsequently, the essays were left online, and we went our separate ways.

It was always our desire to have these essays in print one day, and the original was to have two versions, an English version and a Chinese version. Unfortuantely, the reality is that, once the conference is over, nobody wants to be working on the hard and laborious work of translation and editing, with no compensation for the enormous task at hand. I myself have my own life to live, and so the process dragged on for years and years.

One of my virutues, you can say, is tenacity. I do not like to leave an unfinished project unfinished. It took time, but finally, 11 years later, all of the translation (from Chinese to English - the conference was bilingual so some of the essays were presented only in Chinese) is done, and so is the editing, reference checking, and formatting. From there, the process of publication was even more work, but finally the work is complete.

The work has been split into 2 volumes due to the sheer amount of material. Since there are no plans at the moment for a separate Chinese translation of the English essays and a separate Chinese publication, I have decided to add the original Chinese in the book as well.

Daniel H. Chew and Jonah Tang, eds., Faith Seeking Understanding - Volume 1: The Legacy of the Reformed Tradition - Proceedings from the 2009 CREDO500 conference (San Jacinta, CA: Daniel H Chew, 2020) - HERE

Daniel H. Chew and Jonah Tang, eds., Faith Seeking Understanding - Volume 2: The Reformation and John Calvin - Proceedings from the 2009 CREDO500 conference (San Jacinta, CA: Daniel H Chew, 2020) - HERE

Since this is a conference work, I have no desire to profit off it so I have priced it cheaply. On the other hand, something that is free is trivialized, so this Kindle book is not free.

Please do get a copy of the two volumes, for there are some very good essays within it. There is a breadth of views on some interesting topics within a broadly Reformed camp, so please do get your copies now.