Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book reivew: Confession of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll

I have just finished a book review of Mark Driscoll's book Confession of a Reformission Rev., which has been uploaded to my website here. Here is the conclusion

Driscoll's book is a good window into the worldview of the conservative "calvinist" emerging church. What it shows is indeed rather alarming, and serves to perpetuate and accentuate the problems in the churches. What is the point of having solid doctrine when such doctrines have no bearing whatsoever on life and ministry? What is the point of becoming a Calvinist when the most fundamental point of Calvinism — the Sovereignty of God — is denied over and over again through the incessant need to be relevant, "missional" and adopting the methodologies of the world? It is not enough to profess sound doctrine, but that such profession must be a true confession from the heart which will manifest itself in proper Christian living and fidelity to Scripture alone for all of life. May God show Driscoll his errors so that he may repent and obey God 's Word fully and not partially. Amen.

Some people have asked me on my current focus on Mark Driscoll especially since he seems to be an American problem (for now). First of all, the main thing is the issues involved, not the person. Secondly, whatever that is in the US would come over to Singapore sooner or later. Thirdly, I know of a leader in my former church who is currently enamored by Mark Driscoll. It is simply naive to think that Singapore does not have to deal with this issue now; with the growth of the Internet, ideas can spread very very rapidly.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Liberal leftists and psycho-assertionism

I was contacted quite some time ago by a Singapore radical leftist liberal with the pseudonym Beast FCD. It seem that an impersonator had left a message on his guestbook, probably to get me into trouble. Anyway, he decided to browse through my blog, and soon decided to pick a fight with me over my biblical stance on homosexuality with this post. In this post of mine, I would not be addressing his post directly but show forth the bankruptcy of his entire epistemology, and prove that his position is merely a form of irrational psycho-assertionism.

In this post of his, Beast FCD (hereafter called BFCD) decided to attack me and Christians as being "gay-bashers", and have appointed himself to defend the homosexual cause against what he derogatorily calls "a religiously-manufactured manure". In what follows, we will deconstruct his article and expose it for what it is: a piece of irrational psycho-assertionism.

1. Logical fallacy of petitio principii

Besides the massive amount of ad-hominem argumentation in his argumentation, plus tactics of poisoning the well (which always shows that the argumentation is aiming for emotional impact rather than objective disputation), what is striking is the large number of the petitio principii logical fallacies committed in one short piece. BFCD merely asserts and asserts all manner of "facts" as if they are truisms. Here are some examples:

"... to support this dinosaur [S377a] from the colonial age."

Where in the article did BFCD proved that is it a dinosaur? He didn't, just asserted it was without any argumentation to show why this was the case.

"law based on discrimination and bigotry"

As usual, mere assertion without any proof why the law is based on discrimination and bigotry.

"Of course, the more enlightened folks amongst us will realize that general psychiatry no longer regards homosexuality with mental illness."

Who determines who or what is enlightened? As with regards to the American Psychological Association, first of all, why are they correct? Secondly, the facts of the case for why this is so speak for themselves:

On December 15, 1973 the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association capitulated to the demands of the radicals. The homosexuals had begun to speak of unyielding psychiatrists as “war criminals” (ibid.:88), with obvious implications. Possibly in fear for their safety, and certainly wearied by constant harassment, they declared that homosexuality was no longer an illness.

The resulting referendum, demanded by outraged members of the association, was conducted by mail and was partially controlled by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Rueda:1982). The homosexualists won the vote and the new official definition of homosexuality as a disorder was changed to include only those who were “unhappy with their sexual orientation” (Adam:88). Historian Enrique Rueda writes,

This vote was not the result of scientific analysis after years of painstaking research. Neither was it a purely objective choice following the accumulation of incontrovertible data. The very fact that the vote was taken reveals the nature of the process involved, since the existence of an orthodoxy in itself contradicts the essence of science (Rueda:106).

[Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, The Pink Swastika (Sacramento, CA, USA: Veritas Aeterna Press, 2002), p. 313]

Multiple other examples can be raised as examples of how BFCD merely asserts all manner of "facts" without proof. The fact of the matter is: BFCD is begging the question and making all kinds of claims of things to be true, of which he has not even bothered to show why this is so. As a point of fact, I deny all of his assertions, so he has to attempt to prove them first before they can even be considered to have any merit.

2. Fallacy of False analogy

During the course of his rant, BFCD compares homosexuality to slavery. Unfortunately, this is a false analogy since homosexuality is a choice while there is no choice in slavery. BFCD is on record as saying:

Like the anti-slavery campaigners that has [sic] preceded gay campaigners, gay advocates are not looking at enforcing a gay lifestyle on the general community. All they are asking for is to be treated equally, not to be treated like some slum-ghetto jerk or a lower caste of human beings destined to be trampled upon when it comes to living a normal, citizen's life. Homosexuals ask for the right to be treated fairly, the right to civil practices such as marriages, and the end of bigotry and intolerance towards gays. How is that for shoving "gayness" down the throats of every other boy, girl or child???

Now if we substitute homosexuality and its cognate words with beastiality and its cognate words, this is what we will get.

Like the anti-slavery campaigners that have preceded beastiality campaigners, beastiality advocates are not looking at enforcing a lifestyle of beastiality on the general community. All they are asking for is to be treated equally, not to be treated like some slum-ghetto jerk or a lower caste of human beings destined to be trampled upon when it comes to living a normal, citizen's life. Beastialists ask for the right to be treated fairly, the right to civil practices such as marriages, and the end of bigotry and intolerance towards beastialists. How is that for shoving "beastiality" down the throats of every other boy, girl or child???

One could always do the same for incest and pedophilia. Why limit oneself to homosexuality? If one objects to one and not the other (homosexuality), upon what basis can you say so?

Note also that all homosexuals have the right to marry; nobody is stopping them from marrying a person of the opposite gender. Homosexuals are similarly treated equally; homosexuals who take part in sodomy are treated the same as heterosexuals who take part in sodomy, so there is no discrimination at all! The fact of the matter is that homosexuals and their homosexualist allies want our approval for their sinful actions, and will not tolerate any dissent at all. That is why they invent such words as the misnomer of homophobia which is part of what I call WMEB (Weapons of Mass Emotional Blackmail). The double-standard of these homobigots are evident in that they demand that we must accept them, while they continually do not accept and attack us. If one wants to play the "phobia" game, why can't they be called "homophobe-phobes"? And those who oppose murderers are called "murderer-phobes", while those who support the killing of the unborn can be called "paedophobes" or "embryo-phobes"?

That the comparison between homosexuality and slavery is a false analogy can therefore be seen through this reductio ad absurdum. Just because something is opposed and criminalized does not make it bigotry, in the same way as the criminalization of murder does not make one a "murderer-phobe"! The reason why slavery was wrong was because it was proven objectively to be morally wrong. Homosexualist advocates however generally refuse to touch on the morality argument at all. Instead, they employ tactical WMEBs to hopefully smear their opponents into subjection, all the while asserting their cause to be right without any proof whatsoever.

3. Philosophical fallacy

Philosophically, BFCD's article can be said to suffer from the most basic of philosophical problems due to his failure to even attempt to discuss this from the ethical viewpoint: David Hume's is-ought fallacy. Even if BFCD's interpretations of the facts are correct (IS), that does not support his homosexualist position (OUGHT)! Of course, an ethical argument may not circumvent the is-ought fallacy, but failure to touch the ethical issues involved shows BFCD's article to be philosophical nonsense.

In point of fact, Hume's is-ought fallacy proves BFCD's article to be one big piece of psycho-assertionism, which we shall look at later.

4. Government legislation

BFCD incidentally mentions how government has "no legal basis for enforcing a religiously-slanted ruling ". However, he has no problems with government passing laws to promote homosexuality, which IS a anti-religiously-slanted ruling. This shows that BFCD and all homosexualists are actually not against government legislature that enforce [anti-]religiously-slanted ruling, but against government legislature that is against homosexuality. The hypocrisy in this is astonishing, seeing how the homosexualists desire to pass so-called "hate crimes" laws which are anti-religiously-slanted rulings used to persecute Christians. As it has been said before, only one [deviant] group allows itself to have all the rights to do what it wants including indoctrinating children in their lifestyles, while the civil and religious rights of all others must acquiesce to them! If that is not discrimination and bigotry, what is?

5. The issue of epistemology: Psycho-assertionism

In this last section deconstructing BFCD's article, we will go back to the issue of epistemology and metaethics. What is the epistemological foundation for all of BFCD's claims of facts? Why should anyone believe any of his propositions at all? Merely repeating it over and over again does not an argument make, and this is the fallacy of psycho-assertionism. BFCD has not shown why any of his axioms should be authoritative facts, instead using false appeals to authority, ad-hominem, and petitio principii fallacies to prop up his non-case. Even an argument from ethics was not attempted to try to avoid the is-ought fallacy, nevermind epistemology! What BFCD's argument boils down to therefore is "I say it, therefore it is right" type of argumentation.

Unlike the ipse dixit argumentation techniques of the liberal leftists in particular and secular humanists in general, Christians have an objective authoritative standard by which he can make a stand — in the Bible. The fact of the matter is that secular humanism has no standard upon which to pass judgment on any one issue. What it can do is assert all manners of stuff, but why should others follow them? The whole secular humanist pack of cards is reduced merely to subjective ipse dixit argumentation, and ultimately to a might-makes-right scenario.

In Christianity, Christians start off with the Word of God and its truths, which include God's Law as imperative commands (OUGHT). Therefore, Christians can rationally posit ethical rights and wrongs. BFCD being an atheist may very well choose to reject our starting axiom, but his epistemological foundations have no roots at all! Such being the case, how can he legitimately make all sorts of judgments on whether homosexuality or any issue is right or wrong since he has no epistemological and metaethical basis for doing so? Being impaled on Hume's is-ought fallacy, upon what basis can he even posit what state things "ought" to be?

In conclusion, BFCD's argumentation has been shown to a house of straw without any substance whatsoever, and this has not even address his outrageous statement that there are no persecutions of Christians in all but Muslim countries! (Even by his own faulty reasoning, is North Korea a Muslim country then?). BFCD's argumentation is totally irrational without any basis in fact, which is after all what all secular humanist arguments all show up to be, just that some are more sophisticated than others. BFCD and all atheists are exhorted to repent of their hatred of God and their irrationality, and turn to God for forgiveness of their sins.

Why will you die ... ? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live. (Eze. 18:32)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tony Miano on Pasphilanthropiansm

Evangelist Tony Miano (The Lawman Chronicles) has coined a neologism "Pasphilanthropianism", from the Greek pas = all, phileo = love, anthropos = man, probably literally meaning "all-loving-man-centeredness" (?). This is the official meaning of the word according to its author

Pasphilanthropianism: the worship of a false god that is "All-Loving" and "All-Forgiving."

A Reply to Vincent Cheung on Cessationism

Pastor-theologican Vincent Cheung has an article on Cessationism. Coupled together with this section on Cessationism and Rebellon, adapted from his Commentary on 1 & 2 Thess, this makes for an interesting read.

While this is interesting in and of itself, it seems that Cheung does not seem to understand the view of classical Cessationism and does not present it properly. Disagreement is one thing, but strawman argumentation coupled with overly polemical reasoning on less major doctrines is not right. The least Cheung should have done is interact with the biblical texts and arguments for Cessationism, not use specious philosophical argumentation which are based on false axioms, ad hominem and special pleading.

For example, Cheung is on record in saying that Cessationists in general do not make "petitions that ask God to heal the sick person" as if he knows the practice of all Cessationists. It may well be true, but Cheung is not God and he thus not know if such is the case. This is a logically fallacious inference which further constitutes an ad-hominem attack on Cessationism, as if attacking the error committed by Cessationists has even touched on the rightness and wrongness of [Classical] CessationISM.

Similarly, Cheung commits the ad-hominem fallacy again in discussing the "ulterior motives beyond this doctrine [of Cessationism]". What he says may be true of certain Cessationists, but as usual it does not have any implications on Cesationism, which must be evaluated according to its own merit not on the merits of its adherents!

In section 3, Cheung commits a category error and enact a strawman. He attacks [classical] Cessationism by saying that it would turn ' "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" to "Always forbid speaking in tongues" '. While an attempt could be made to say that this is what Cessationism leads to practically, it is another thing to say as Cheung did that Cessationism contradicts Scripture. Cheung reasoned as follows:

Let me first apply my simple argument against cessationism to speaking in tongues. Paul writes, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39). But if all supernatural gifts have ceased, then tongues have ceased. And if tongues have ceased, then all claims to speaking in tongues today are false. If all claims to speaking in tongues today are false, then we must forbid speaking in tongues. In other words, if cessationism is correct, then we are obligated to do exactly the opposite of what Paul commands in this verse on the basis that the situation has changed, so that the same apostolic concern would require us to forbid all speaking in tongues.

This is a logically fallacious argument, for the simple reason that if tongues have ceased, then there are no tongues to be forbidden to speak of! Cheung here smuggles his continuationist presuppositions into the argument, and then forces an obvious contradiction as if [classical] cessationists ought to own it.

In conclusion, Cheung here disappoints by utilizing shoddy logical thinking on this particular issue. For someone who publishes quite a number of theological books and engages in the office of a pastor/elder, much more is expected (Jn. 3:1). Since classical Cessationists have lots of published works, isn't it too much to ask for their arguments to be properly presented, instead of shoddy fallacious argumentation?

[HT: Joel Tay]

NOTE: I am not a classical Cessationist, so don't ask me to defend their positions.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grudem on the purity of the Church

I have been in the process of reading through Grudem's Systematic Theology so here is an interesting quote on the topic of the purity of the church.

It is helpful at this point to remember that classical liberal Protestantism is humanistic, and its approaches are primarily man-centered rather than God-centered. When a church begins to stray from faithfulness to Christ, this will be evident not only in the shift to impure doctrine (which can sometimes be concealed from church members by the use of evasive language) but also in the daily life of the church: its activities, its preaching, its counseling, and even the casual conversations among members will tend to become more and more man-centered and less and less God-centered. There will tend to be a repeated emphasis on the typical kinds of self-help advice given in popular journals and by secular psychologists. There will be a horizontal orientation as opposed to a vertical or God-centered orientation, there will be fewer and fewer extended times of prayer and less and less emphasis on the direct application of Scripture to daily situations, but more emphasis on simply being a caring and sensitive person, and on affirming others and acting in love towards them. The conversation and activities of the church will have little genuine spiritual content — little emphasis on the need for daily prayer for individual concerns and for forgiveness of sins, little emphasis on daily personal reading of Scripture, and little emphasis on moment-by-moment trust in Christ and knowing the reality of his [sic] presence in our lives. Where there are admonitions to moral reformation, these will often be viewed as human deficiencies that people can correct by their own discipline and effort, and perhaps encouragement from others, but these moral agencies of life will not primarily be viewed as sin against a holy God, sin which can only effectively be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit working within. When such humanistic emphases become dominant in a church, it has moved far towards the "less-pure" end of the scale ..., and it is moving in the direction of becoming a false church.

[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Nottingham, UK: IVP, 1994), p. 876]

What do you think we will find when we apply these biblical standards to the churches of our time?

Sermon: Psalm 2

Here is a good sermon of Psalms 2 entitled Rejoicing with Trembling from Pastor Simon Murphy of Redemption Hill Church, a new church plant in Singapore which is properly Gospel-centered and part of the global resurgence in Calvinism.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Response to Driscoll on "New Calvinism" *UPDATE*

With a recent Times article mentioning "New Calvinism" as the third most influential idea changing the world right now, Driscoll just have to draw up a list contrasting "Old Calvinism" with "New Calvinism". This is his list as posted on his website:

Four Ways 'New Calvinism' is So Powerful

1) Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.

2) Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.

3) Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

4) Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them

Let us examine them one by one:

1) Does Driscoll even know what Calvinism is historically? He does not even understand the original Fundamentalist/Liberal controversy as it is! (Read at least J. Gresham Machen's book Christianity and Liberalism, and also the book consisting of articles from Charles Spurgeon The Downgrade Controversy for some background). Furthermore, the entire culturalist stance is grating on my nerves. Where in Scripture are we commanded to redeem culture? Answer: NOWHERE!

2) First of all, the Reformation started in ... cities! Cities like Wittenberg, Zurich, Geneva etc. Sure, what was called cities back then would be equivalent to the size of our towns now, but it still started off in cities.

Secondly, Calvinism "did not fled from cities", as if all Calvinists have an epiphany and decided to leave the cities in droves for the countryside. The fact of the matter is that Calvinism sharply declined after the Second Great Awakening due to the influence by the Pelagian heretic and revivalist Charles Grandison Finney (See Iain Murray's book Revival and Revivalism for starters). It wasn't even found much in the countryside for that matter.

3) There is plain nonsense. Is Driscoll now calling all Reformed folks who are not continuationists "Old Calvinists"? And Cessationism is not "fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit". That is mere strawman bashing unbecoming of someone of Driscoll's influence. Even though I am not a classical cessationist, I think a little more respect for godly pastors who have held on to the Cessationist position in an informed manner is in order.

4) In other words, Driscoll is admitting that "New Calvinism" rejects the doctrine of separation and follows the lead of New Evangelicalism in her willingness to compromise the faith? No thanks! I would much rather follow the Reformers who "burned bridges" between them and the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Compromise is never an option for the Christian who truly loves Christ (cf Jude 1:4, 2 Cor. 6:14-18, 2 Jn. 1:10-11)!

In closing, let me share what I wrote in my article on the Reformed Resurgence which indirectly addresses Driscoll's fascination with novelty and disdain of the past:

As stated, truth is transcendent and timeless, and the Church as the pillar of the truth partakes in part of that quality insomuch as she holds the truth in righteousness. Such would therefore mean that the modernist focus on novelty and its equation of novelty with improvement and progress must be jettisoned. Progress in Scripture is to be measured in terms of growth in the knowledge of God based upon truths established by godly men in the past and present (Eph. 4:11-16) as exposited from the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), not a complete overhaul and revolution of all doctrines for every generation. It is therefore imperative upon any movement that aspires to be in line with God’s Word to function in this light.

Practically speaking therefore, doctrines and practices from the past are to be treated with a certain amount of respect. Although old does not necessarily mean good, yet if something is universally held by the Church in previous times, we should examine it carefully according to the Scriptures and not dismiss it flippantly. (Bold added)

Addenum: Dr. R. Scott Clark has weighed in on this matter on his blog here. I agree with Clark in one of his more irate comments:

...The problem is that Pr Driscoll and the YRR folks are calling themselves “Reformed” and “Calvinist.” Who wrote a post contrasting the old Calvinists with the new? ...

[HT: Cal.vini.st]

Phil Johnson on where Evangelicalism ran astray

Pursuant to the post containing the audio clip of Phil Johnson's sermon on What is an Evangelical, the transcripts of Phil's sermon in the later parts can be found here and here. Here is a excerpt:

Now we need to discuss the contemporary evangelical movement and where it went astray before time gets totally away from us.

Since the mid-1800s there has been a concerted effort to broaden the definition of evangelicalism so that more people can fit in the tent. That happens on the one hand because the adjective evangelical has always been a kind of seal of approval in Christianity—and everybody wants to get into the tent. It's a shorthand way of signifying that someone really believes the Bible and takes the gospel seriously.

Naturally, false teachers who want to smuggle in false doctrines would love to be thought of as evangelicals, because that minimizes the criticism and suspicion that gets aimed their way.

Charles Spurgeon noticed this phenomenon in the nineteenth century, and he pleaded with the true evangelicals of that era not to accept the claims of those who say they are evangelicals but aren't. He warned the Baptist union that the plan of the enemy was (in his words)"to lay the egg of error in the nest of our churches." And he warned that people who called themselves evangelicals but rejected evangelical principles had already infiltrated the Baptist Union. These pseudo-evangelicals took label for themselves, but they refused to define what they meant by it. (Just like today.) In 1888, Spurgeon wrote, "It is mere cant (meaning hypocrisy—a pious pretense) to cry, 'We are evangelical; we are all evangelical,' and yet decline to say what evangelical means. If men are really evangelical, they delight to spread as glad tidings the truths from which they take the name."…

Friday, March 20, 2009

Back...

Sorry to those who have left comments, but I have forgotten to announce that I was away during the week[days] and was only back on weekends during the previous two weeks. I would be clearing my mailboxes and other miscellaneous stuff, so I would not be posting anything new at least for today and probably tomorrow and even Sunday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Article: Shall the Sword devour forever?

My friend Mike Ratliff with some pertinent words for those of us who engage in theological apologetics aka discernment here. Let us leave the character assassination and slander tactics of the world to the unregenerate, heretics and the deceived, but let those of us who claim the pure faith of Scripture as expressed in the Reformed confessions live in light of that high calling of ours, and not to return in kind evil for evil.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4: 25-32)

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. (Prov. 26:4)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Phil R Johnson: What is an Evangelical?

Phil R. Johnson has preached an excellent sermon on this topic at the Shepherd Conference, which can be downloaded here.

This is an interesting excerpt:

Sometimes when I feel it's necessary to distance myself from the mixed multitude of the contemporary evangelical movement, I actually like to refer to myself as a Paleoevangelical. That's a label that's not likely to be commandeered anytime soon by some postmodernized, emergentized religious hack. No neo-orthodox church leader or Christianity Today editor would wear that label—"Paleoevangelical." That's what I am—a Paleoevangelical, and I'm firmly fixed in that position.

[HT: Paleoevangelical]

This term "paleoevangelical" has been in my mind for some time. Interesting term here. I guess I will use it as a substitute for biblical Evangelicalism from now on, seeing as how the term "Evangelicalism" is now mistaken to mean "New Evangelicalism".

As with regards to Evangelicalism proper, here is an excerpt:

The parting of ways between evangelicals and fundamentalists [in the early mid 20th century, just before the emergence of Neo-Evangelicalism] weakened and impoverished both groups. Evangelicals tended to be uncomfortable with the nonstop militancy of the fundamentalists; fundamentalists thought the evangelicals' desire to be as positive as possible was a sign of weakness and compromise. The truth is that both temperaments were valid, and each side's unique contribution was needed in almost equal measure.

The two groups moved steadily further apart for some 40 years or longer. Deprived of so much evangelical warmth, the fundamentalists grew increasingly contentious. And deprived of so much fundamentalist conviction, the evangelicals grew increasingly willing to compromise. Anything and everything eventually became negotiable.

The wider the rift grew, the more eager to fight the fundamentalists became, the more willing to compromise the evangelicals were. Each side, reacting badly to the temperament of the other, unwittingly exaggerated their own faults.

The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism

It has been said before, and it must be said again. Evangelicalism as a movement is dying and in fact as good as dead. As it has been written:

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

[more... ]

I agree with Dr. White's assessment of the article:

The reason more and more people are godless and religionless and in love with secular humanism is not merely due to a "failure" of evangelicalism. Let's face it: America follows Europe's lead, and as God has blessed the USA greatly with material blessings, we have become more and more hardenend in our thanklessness. We focus upon ourselves, our needs, and revel in our sins. Yes, of course the church has failed to clearly preach the gospel, clearly call for repentance, choosing a man-friendly version of "preaching" that allows you to avoid the scandal of the gospel. But a healthy, thriving church is a blessing on any nation, and the fact is, a nation in love with itself and at war with God does not deserve the blessing of a sound church. The two are intertwined. I truly believe that what we are seeing today with the perversion of marriage, the exaltation of deviancy, etc., is not what will bring the wrath of God, it is the wrath of God.

[more ...]

The Singapore churches will not be exempt from this coming collapse. Already, the signs are here, for those who can see them. The Singapore churches are way too dependent on the American churches for their spiritual life and support, and whatever nonsense exists in American Evangelicalism will find its way to Singapore Evangelicalism sooner or later. Witness the popularity of the Word-faith teaching, Neo-Orthodoxy, Purpose Driven Movement, Seeker-sensitive movement etc, all of which are imported from America (or Europe to a smaller extent). The Emerging Church Movement is coming and has already come (in the academic circles for now), not to mention the New Perspective on Paul.

I shudder to think of the future. Unless God raises up godly pastors and elders and leaders, we are doomed. We need men who will not be tainted by the heresies of yesterday, men who refuse to compromise the faith but contend for it. May the Lord raise up such men for the ministry, for the edification of the Church.

Some thoughts on Mark Driscoll

Paul Wallace has written a balanced post on Mark Driscoll here:

There is much to be praised in Mark Driscoll. But there is much to be praised in many pastors all around the world whom we have never heard of. There are things I can learn from Driscoll, but to be honest I can learn them elsewhere without the risk of having my conscience offended by borderline language. I am not convinced that he has the theological depth to be in the influential position he is presently in, with God’s help he perhaps will be in the future.

Here is a good clip by Mark Driscoll just to show that Driscoll does indeed know and preach biblical stuff. We will be praying that in time he will grow to practice more of what he preaches on this topic too.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Away

I will be away for two weeks. See you when I am back.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Phil R. Johnson on the Pornification of the Church

Phil R. Johnson aka the Pyromaniac has given a message at the Shepherds' Fellowship Conference on the topic of the pornification of the Church, based upon the primary text Titus 2:7-8. You can hear the excellent sermon here.

Newsflash: Jamie Yeo and Glenn Ong have split

According to AsiaOne, celebrities Jamie Yeo and Glenn Ong have split up.

This will be the second divorce for Glenn, who married Kate Reyes, a deejay from the same station in 2000. They divorced in 2003.

Jamie was widely-rumoured to be the cause of the split, which she has denied. According to a report in Wanbao, the couple first started dating in 2001.

After Glenn's divorce, he and Jamie were married in Dec 2004 at the New Creation Church.

According to New Creation Senior pastor Joseph Prince:

I, Joseph Prince, am vehemently, completely, aggressively and irrevocably AGAINST SIN!

Sin is evil. I do not condone sin. A lifestyle of sin leads only to defeat and destruction. ...

[Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign (Singapore, Singapore: Joseph Prince Media), 30

According to Scripture:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt. 19:3-6)

So does Prince actually practices what he professes? Let's see.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cal.vini.st: 5 more reasons you need to study theology

Following on from his five reasons to study theology, Nathan has came up with a further five reasons to study theology. Reason #1 (or 6) is truly a good reason.

Your thinking will become less individualistic…
Why do you need to study theology? Because as you do, you will realise that you are not the first ever Christian. Great men of God have gone before you. Great minds, great theologians, men who have considered God to a depth that you will likely never achieve, have all gone before you. You will begin to realise that it isn’t all about ‘you’, nor is it all about the men of God who have gone before you. Ultimately, it’s all about your sovereign God, the One who is building His Church (Matthew 16:18).

We must always remember that we are not the only ones who have read, studied and thought through Scripture before, but godly men have gone before us and we build upon their shoulders. While Scripture only is infallible and inerrant, historical theology gives us a headstart and those who ignore the vast body of Christian thought do so to their detriment. We should read such works in light of Scripture, and let Scriptre determine their truthfulness while we sharpen our thoughts on such works.

Joseph Prince in his own words

This does not need much commentary:

I give thank for God for my roots in the Word of Faith teachings. It is truly on the shoulders of great men of God like Brother Kenneth E. Hagin that we are able to see further into the Word of God today. Growing up, I learned a lot about faith from Brother Hagin who truly had a special revelation of faith from the Lord. I deeply honor and respect him for all that he has taught me.

[Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign: The Secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living (Singapore: Joseph Prince Media, 2007), 271]

For a good exposé of the Word-faith heresy, check out D.R. McConnell's book A Different Gospel: A bold and revealing look at the biblical and historical basis of the Word of Faith movement (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988, 1995). McConnell is a practicing charismatic pastor, so the typical nonsensical defense of "you are not a Charismatic, so you cannot criticize" is invalid here.

James White's response to Youtube censorship

Dr. White has previously published a Youtube video deconstructing the homofascist remark by actor Sean Penn as he attacked the Christian faith. Unfortunately, the liberal censors in Youtube decided to remove the video, citing "copyright reasons". Dr. White has reposted the video without the short clip with Sean Penn's hateful remarks, and hopefully the liberals cannot find any ridiculous excuse to remove it this time.

I agree with Dr. White as to why the video has been removed, which is a reflection of the classic modus operandi of the Secular Jihadists:

My video was removed because of what I've said. It was a form of censorship based upon Liberalism. And the fact that the Left cannot allow people to disagree with them. They cannot win a debate; they cannot win dialogue; they don't want dialogue, they want monologue. And so to promote their agenda, they have to silence the other side — shout them down, silence them in whatever ways you wish.

...

How many times have you heard people criticising Christians, because 'you want to go back to the "Inquisition", or the Crusades, or something', as if any Christians would want to do that in the first place. And yet in reality, it's the people on the Left who are imitating the worst of the Inquisitors — those who seek to silence any opposition to the status quo; to the dogmatic definition of the current cultural norms. That is exactly what we see happening in the Left today; that is how Secularism deals with those who challenge its central dogmas.

— James R. White

[HT: Aomin.org]

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Misquoted verses: Heb. 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb. 13:17)

Perhaps the most pertinent verse relating to our conduct to our spiritual leaders; those who are placed above us by the Lord, this verse is at one time important for us Christians yet also easily abused. Due to the very very practical application of this particular verse and thus the immediate impact of it on all Christians, it would be good before I start to state what I am not arguing for. I am NOT arguing that we should rebel against our leaders nor am I am arguing for forcing our personal preferences down the throats of church leaders and expecting everybody to conform to our idea of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It is expected that my enemies would slander and libel me as stating any of such errors, but this is totally not the case, and I disavow believing any of these errors.

In discussing this verse, it would be good to look at what it positively teaches and then at its abuse.

What it teaches

This verse teach us to obey and submit to our leaders. That is for sure. However, how are we to do it and why?

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. ...

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:7; 17)

As it can be seen, the context of Heb 13 especially verse 7 sheds some light on the meaning of the verse, and how we should go about applying it. The teaching of this particular verse can therefore be stated in the following points:

1) We are to obey our leaders and submit to them because God has commanded us to do so.

2) Such obedience and submission should be done in considering their godly lives and imitate their faith.

3) One aspect of our submission to our leaders can be seen in 1 Tim. 5:17, where we are to respect our leaders and give them the honor due to their labor in the Lord.

4) According to 1 Tim. 5:19, we are not to entertain frivolous accusations against leaders in the church. All such accusations are to be proven via objective evidence and/or the verbal evidence given by two or three witnesses of the sin, otherwise the accuser is to be rebuked.

5) Coming back to Heb. 13:17, the rationale for such obedience, honor and submission is that the leaders as good shepherds are watching over the souls of the sheep entrusted to their care. Taking care of the sheep is not an easy job, and as part of our love for our leaders, we are to make their job easier.

6) Leaders whose service is a joy would be of benefit to the sheep, as that would make it easier for them to love the sheep and serve them better.

As it can be seen, godly obedience and submission to church leaders is a good thing which God has commanded us to do. Those who refuse to obey and submit to biblical authority are living their lives in violation of the commands of God.

What it does not teach

1) Church leaders are above any form of criticism

This line of argument is better known by its "sacred" form: "Thou shall not touch the Lord's anointed!" That Heb. 13:17 is not against criticism of churches, church leaders, Christian organizations and entire denominations can be easily deduced from Scripture. The context in Hebrews already gave us one solution to this problem as it talks about Christian leaders who are keeping watch over our souls, and of speaking the Word of God. Therefore, those who are not keeping watch over our souls (in the sense of shepherding it) but are instead lording over the flock, and those who do not speak the Word of God, cannot be considered true Christian leaders (Modus tollens).

We are exhorted in Scripture to judge and discern false teachers and false "christs" (1 Jn. 4:1; Jude 1:4), and such people will indeed enter the church (Acts 20: 29-30, 1 Jn.2 :18). We can see such episodes in the narrative of the early churches most especially seen in Paul's strong denunciation of the Judaizers in the epistle to the Galatians, and most certainly the Judaizers were calling themselves Christians, and Christian teachers and leaders at that!

Therefore, Christian leaders are not to be above criticism, though as we have stated, we are not to be frivolous in accusing others. We are not to be trigger-happy in our criticism and try to intentionally find fault with our leaders. However, if these leaders are in fact in error, they are to judged severely and publicly as an example to all (1 Tim. 5:20), "so that the rest may stand in fear". Leaders are the public face of the Church in its institutional form, and as such are to be held to strict standards.

2) Only church leaders can criticize other churches and church leaders

To a certain extent, such has often been the case in the early church and the history of the church. Criticism and charges of heresy etc were often made by leaders within the institutional Church. However, is this more the case that those who know enough about the Bible will be able to see the errors and identify false teachers, and such people would predominantly be found within the Church as leaders as the people recognize their gifts?

When one looks through the Scriptures and the historical record of the Church, one finds quite a few people who are not church leaders in the proper sense of the term. Old testament prophets like Amos were not of the priestly order for example, Amos being a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs (Amos 7:14). In church history, Peter Waldo was certainly not a church leader, while during the Reformation era, besides Luther, Zwngli and Calvin and maybe a few others, almost none of the non-Anglican reformers were ever Christian leaders until they started preaching and planting churches. An extreme example of such would be the Baptist preacher John Bunyan, who became a pastor simply by preaching and planting a church as people turned to Christ through his preaching. Yet he was never seminary trained or ordained in his entire life. This view is therefore not biblical and in error.

One effect of such a distortion of Heb. 13:17 is that it creates a false distinction between the clergy and the laity, and deny to the "laity" what it gives to the clergy. Also, it does not take into account the fact that the epistles written to the churches with their warning of false teachers were to be read to the entire church, not just the church leaders.

3) Disagreement with church leaders and the church's or their vision is rebellion

In many modernist business model churches with pastor-CEOs, such a particular distortion of Heb. 13:17 would invariably come up. Instead of seeking to follow the Scriptures, leaders would rather follow the business world and her methodology. The pastor-CEO's vision would then be imbued with almost the same amount of authority as the Bible, and those who oppose the vision and especially the entire methodology would be thought of as being in violation of Heb. 13:17. However, nothing can be further from the truth. As we have seen, the biblical imperative concerns Christian leaders who are following God's Word, not leaders who are intentionally or unintentionally leading the sheep astray. To follow God's Word even in defiance of the dictates of any Christian leader is never a violation of Heb. 13:17, if we are indeed following God's Word and the leader is not. If however, both are within the bounds of Christian liberty, then we should of course obey our leaders in that respect.

Conclusion

We have seen in some detail the teachings and the possible abuses of Heb. 13:17. May we therefore learn to properly apply this verse and have a heart to obey and submit to our church leaders, yet do so in a way that is consistent with Scripture, never allowing it to be abused so that Christian leaders become de facto dictators. Amen.