Monday, January 28, 2013

Consolidated article: On the Nature of Truth: Contra the New Calvinist Kellerite model

I have consolidated the 5 posts "On the nature of truth" with some editing into one article here.

Bible study class: Scripture Alone is Biblical

My friend Nate Taylor has done part 1 of his 6 part series on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura here. Do check it out

Friday, January 25, 2013

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Parts 4 and 5)

[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

Denial of truth as judgment

The New Evangelical Calvinist view of truth as pragmatic and utilitarian is very common. If truth functions with an a priori teleology for the salvation of souls, then everything must be geared towards that goal. Instead of seeing the ultimate goal as the glory of God, the saving of souls (a penultimate good) is made the ultimate goal, and exalted over God's glory. To be sure, the New Calvinists are interested in magnifying God's glory, but their idea of what constitutes magnifying God's glory is assumed by them a priori, and as such they read this unreflective tradition of theirs into Scripture.

Such being the case, New Evangelical Calvinists reject the very idea that the truth can be meant to condemn people. The Gospel after all means "good news," they say, and thus we should not make good news into bad news. To such, we respond that such is a partial truth. The Gospel is good news to Man in general because now Man has a way out of sin, condemnation and eternal fire. The Gospel is good news to Man in particular however only when it is received with faith, while it is bad news to those who remain unrepentant (Jn. 3:18, 2 Cor. 2: 15-16).

It will be objected that it is one thing for the Gospel to condemn those who reject its message, and another that the Gospel intends to condemn those who reject its message. That is true. And we reply that the Scriptures do teach that God does intend the Gospel to condemn those who reject it. The Gospel in Isaiah's time for example was intended to condemn, although it was really good news (Is. 6:9-10). Christ Himself said that He came for judgment (Jn. 9:39), with His parables functioning in that capacity of condemning those who cannot see, while granting life to those who do (Mt. 13:10-15). Now, to be sure, I am not saying that God intends the Gospel to condemn people, or that we must proclaim the Gospel as bad news. Besides extreme groups, such is a caricature that does not reflect well on those who twist the biblical position. Rather, it is to say that God does intends the Gospel to save some, and to condemn others. We of course do not proclaim the Gospel as condemnation, because God has not told us who the elect are and who the reprobate are.

We proclaim and freely offer Christ and the forgiveness of sin. That is what we should do. But because our goal is to offer Christ regardless of the offence, to offer Christ regardless if people will receive it (even though we hope they receive it), we should not tailor the truth to make it more amicable to our audience. True, we should not offend them needlessly, but it is one thing not to cause needless offence, and another thing to soften much needed offence. This brings us to our last point: a functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying truth.

Functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying truth

Faith in God has the element of trust, in fact trust is very important in true faith. If one trusts God that He is sovereign in salvation, then even one's evangelistic thrust should be bold in proclaiming God's truth, without being overly concerned or worried over whether one is stumbling others needlessly.

Holding to the anthropocentric ontology of truth however will lead one towards a hesitancy in affirming the sovereignty of God in the manner of sharing God's Word. Since form is human, there is always the concern of how the form of sharing or witnessing may turn the audience away. Instead of turning to God's Word as the authority on how one should share and proclaim God's truth, one studies the audience and attempt to "meet them where they are at." Now of course, knowing one's audience is important; nobody is denying that. But the audience is to be considered secondarily only after God has been consulted in His Word. Ultimately it is a matter of who is the primary determiner of how truth is conveyed. Is God the primary determiner, or is culture? Is God sovereign over the conveyance of truth, or is culture sovereign?

The New Calvinists loudly proclaim the sovereignty of God over all things. I do not doubt they think they do believe that God is sovereign over all things. But some of them have a blind spot on culture, unconsciously picking up from the culture the platonic idea of God's truth as an idea, a substance, of which the culture gives it its form. When worked out in the practice of contextualization and seeker sensitivity lite, it results in a functional denial of God's sovereignty over the conveyance of His truth.


The problems concerning the nature of truth are found at least in certain segments of the New Evangelical Calvinism, notably in the Kellerite movement. While deeming itself sensitive to the times, it consciously and subconsciously absorbs the prevailing philosophy of language, and thus results in a sub-biblical philosophy of ministry. May they see the error of their ways, and embrace the fullness of God's truth. Amen.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Part 3)

[Part 1 and Part 2]

Truth as primarily intellectual

If truth is anthropocentric in its ontology, and it functions in a pragmatic and utilitarian manner, then truth in se apart from its usefulness must be seen as mainly intellectual. Just like secular (i.e. no sacred) knowledge from the sciences and the arts, knowledge is just a collection of intellectual facts. Knowledge of God's Word refers to intellectual comprehension of God's truth as revealed in the Bible. While acknowledging that we are to love God with all our mind (Mt. 22:37), love of God with one's mind is seen in purely intellectual terms.

Now, this phenomenon is not of course unique to the New Calvinists. But sometimes there can be many paths leading to the same destination, and this is one of them. The only difference between the New Calvinists and anti-intellectuals is that the New Calvinists do place some premium on doctrine and deeper knowledge of God's Word. There is an emphasis on reading the Scriptures to know who God is, but for them studying the Bible is not enough. Rather, very much like the pietists, one studies the Bible intellectually, and then one pays heed to its truth devotionally either through a separate time of prayer or meditation.

The problem with this approach is that Scripture contains no such dichotomy. Nowhere in Scripture is God's Word treated as mere knowledge. God's Word is living and active (Heb. 4:12), and it has its perlocutionary effect in bringing about what God desires it to do (Is. 55:11). God speaks through His Word, and there is absolutely no such distinction between the two Greek words used for 'word,' λογος and ῥημα, here, contrary to some especially in the Word-faith circles [Gordon H. Clark, The Johannine Logos (Jefferson, Maryland: Trinity Foundation, 1972, 1989), 46-58]. Where the Scriptures are read and are heard and are proclaimed, there God is speaking, and He continues to speak now today though His Word.

There are of course two types of ectypal truth, sacred and common/ secular. Common truth are certainly intellectual in nature. But sacred truth or God's truth is spiritual first, then intellectual. In fact, there is no real bifurcation of the spiritual and intellectual in God's truth. What is intellectual is spiritual and what is spiritual is intellectual. People in the Old Testament encounter God, and they came to know Him and His laws and decrees and statues. When they know His laws and decrees and statutes, they faced the God of the Covenant who obliged them to keep it. People in the New Testament encounter God in the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus' teachings were communicated to them. There are no (mediated) encounters apart from knowledge, and no knowledge apart from an encounter (mediated) with God.

If all truth is spiritual and intellectual, then all of God's truth is spiritual, including hard doctrines like reprobation. There should not be an aversion to proclaiming all truth, as long as they are taught and proclaimed truly.

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Part 2)

[Part 1 here]

Truth as pragmatic and utilitarian

The New Evangelical Calvinist anthropocentric ontology of truth, while maintaining its theocentric epistemic focus, has ramifications for how one deals with discussion about truth and doctrine. If truth is seen as necessarily conditioned by culture in its form, then the form of truth caters to the needs of Man. Truth therefore is pragmatically shaped and utilitarian in its form. While the substance of truth is from God, the form must be adjusted to meet the needs of Man.

It must be said here however that such a view of truth is not exactly seeker sensitivity in the mold of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. Rather, the needs of Man are those seen as real needs coming from the yearnings of the heart, not controlled by pop culture and the entertainment industry. The substance of God's truth must be changed in its form to meet these real needs of Man. That said, it is very similar to seeker-sensitivity in that there is a pragmatic and utilitarian slant to truth. But it is objected, there is no compromise of the Gospel message, it is said. After all, the Gospel message in its full substance is brought to bear upon the real needs (as opposed to felt needs) of Man.

The problem with such an approach to truth is that it is not biblical. If indeed God is God, He is the determiner of meaning. His archetypal truth is the ground for all (ectypal) truth. We do not therefore see what our "real needs" are, and then see the Scriptures as relevant to meet those real needs. No, Scripture defines what we need. There are felt needs, there are real needs, and there are ordained/ prescribed needs. Just because something may not seem to be a "real need" does not make it any less important! The Scriptures are to govern our experience, our tastes, every aspect of our being. Do we think we know better than God what we truly need? Does the creature in his sinful state knows more than God what he actually needs? It is true that since we are created by God, some of God's prescribed needs for Man will coincide with what we think we really need. For example, Man need significance, belonging, something to salve the conscience. All of these we do need. But we need more than that! Scripture tells us we need to know God and His Word. Our prescribed need to know God's Word in depth and detail, and thus to know God as He has revealed Himself, may not seem like a real need to many people, but it is our need as ordained by God.

New Evangelical Calvinism, because of its pragmatic and utilitarian view of truth, slants the truth of Scripture towards the end of salvation. As Evangelicals, the Gospel is seen as important, which is good. But the Gospel is placed on such a pedestal that all other biblical truths and doctrines are placed in secondary or even tertiary positions of relative non-importance. Therefore, the real needs New Evangelical Calvinists see are those pertaining to the subject of "the Gospel." Everything must be "Gospel-centered," by which they mean everything is to be oriented towards conversion from sin to faith in Christ. Whereas Reformed Christianity holds to the idea of the pattern of sounds words and Tota Scriptura, the elevation of the Gospel, as defined by the goal of the conversion experience, skews their idea of what Man actually needs. That is the goal, and therefore all truth must be oriented towards that goal, instead of the truth determining what the goal should be.

In such a scheme, truth is no more treasured primarily because it reveals God and His purposes. Rather, it is treasured primarily for its value in describing God, in saving souls, and in making people mature in Christ. The penultimate has become the ultimate, the benefits has become the goal, and in so doing God's truth is devalued. Ironically, by focusing on the practical benefits and effects of God's truth, they get less of its benefits, and in so doing impoverished themselves.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Part 1)

What is the nature of truth? Truth if it is by God must of necessity be absolute and eternal. In my personal experiences, there seems to be a view of the nature of truth in certain segments of the New Evangelical Calvinism, especially in circles associated with Tim Keller, that has more in line with post-Wittgensteinian modernity/ post-modernity than biblical Christianity. Briefly, the difference seems to be that certain segments at least hold to the idea of nature (ontology) of truth as being anthropocentric (man-centered) although they do hold to a theocentric (God-centered) teleology of truth. In line with that is the denial or at least neglect of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction in theology. Secondly, truth becomes seen in a pragmatic and utilitarian manner. Thirdly, truth seems to be seen as primarily intellectual not spiritual. Fourthly, there is a denial that truth can sometimes be intended by God to kill and to judge not to bring life. Fifthly, there is a functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying the truth. We will look at all these points in turn.

Antropocentric ontology of truth

God's truth is absolute and eternal. What this means is that God's truth has equal validity for all cultures everywhere. What God says is true, and there are no degrees of truth whatsoever. The truth is trans-cultural, trans-ethnic and trans-national.

In some parts of the New Evangelical Calvinism however, there is a post-Wittgensteinian modern/ post-modern focus on truth as being conditioned in some sense upon culture. Truth is split platonically into the substance of truth (the idea) and the form of its expression. It is then emphasized that the substance of the truth must not change, but its form and expression should. The idea of contextualization is birthed from this idea of the relation of truth and culture, something expounded by Tim Keller in his appropriation of it from liberal circles [Tim Keller, Contextualization: Wisdom or Compromise (Unpublished paper presented at Covenant Seminary, n.d.)]

As I have shown here, Keller's concept of contextualization is based upon a false view of the relation between truth and culture. Biblical truths cannot be known apart from its redemptive historical context. There is no such thing to be known as some non-inculturated Gospel. Therefore, the Gospel cannot be abstracted as some substance apart from its form. Rather, the Gospel in its entirety (form and all) must be brought in all its strangeness to bear upon every culture.

Further reflection upon this problem of contextualization has shown me that the problem lies with a fundamental denial or neglect of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction. This distinction states that there are basically two types of theology. Theology that pertains to God alone is archetypal theology (theologia archetypa) and theology that pertains to us is ectypal theology (theologia ectypa) [Willem J. van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought”, WTJ 64 (2002): 319-35]. Ectypal theology is a reflection of archetypal theology, but they are not the same. God alone knows archetypal theology, while ectypal theology is communicated to us from God, thus functioning as the univocal point of contact between God and Man. As it pertains to the debate over contextualization, the supposed "kernel" of the Gospel that Keller believes can be abstracted from its cultural context and then contextualized into another culture can be said to be archetypal theology. The problem becomes clear since archetypal theology is not something anybody but God alone knows. We only know archetypal theology in its reflection in ectypal theology. The entire practice of contextualization thus is a practical denial of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction, which is a step towards the denial of the Creator/ creature distinction.

Back to the nature of truth, if truth that we can know is archetypal, but truth in expression is culturally-conditioned, truth is its totality in its nature must be anthropocentric, since in its totality it is dependent upon culture. Reformed theology has two types of truth, and thus we can say that ectypal truth is culturally conditioned, yet because it is a reflection of archetypal theology which is not culturally conditioned, truth transcends culture altogether. The denial of the archetypal/ ectypal distinction makes truth therefore anthropocentic in its nature. Now, saying it is anthopocentric in nature does not mean that it is necessarily anthropocentric in its authority, focus and goal. Rather, truth can be seen as theocentric in its authority, focus and its goal as it strives to be in New Evangelical Calvinist circles. So truth is from God as its source, but in its conduit is from Man who expresses it. The anthropocentricity therefore comes out in discussion of truth in its conveyance, whereby truth is discussed very much in terms of its expression by the proponent, and in terms of reception and perception by the receiver of said truth, something which underlie all the other points of critique which we will be looking at.

[to be continued]

Sunday, January 20, 2013

To name or not to name, that is the question

The biblical practice of naming people is either to warn others against them (e.g. 1 Tim. 1:20), or to academically discuss the views of another. In other words, naming names should be intentional. The question about naming names when discussing issues then arise.

The fact of the matter is: where there is no necessity of naming names, names do not have to be mentioned. When discussing various issues, if the intention is to discuss doctrine and practice, there is simply no need to name churches and ministries if they are not intentionally adopting heretical positions. If said churches and/or ministries feel in some sense slighted by critique, well ... if the shoe fits, wear it. That the focus is on any particular doctrine and practice, not on any church, is an indication that the critique was never meant as a personal attack against any particular church and/or ministry that are not named.

Previously, I had been flamed for naming names. Recently, however, I have been criticized for NOT naming names. It is indeed a strange day, when people expect me to criticize them personally by name if I happen to criticize a doctrine or praxis they hold to. Do they or do they not know the difference between criticizing said doctrine and/or praxis, and criticizing churches/ministries that hold to said doctrine and/or praxis?

As far as I am concerned, when I critiqued doctrine and/or praxis "in the abstract," that means that I am not treating those who hold to it as intentionally in error. In other words, such critique is meant to be alongside those (not named) who hold to such positions, not against those who hold to such positions. It is to say, "Look, I care about you. You should not believe position X, because..." Do people prefer to be seen as the perpetrator (knowingly or unknowingly) of error to be opposed?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 4

On the Law of God

Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death

New City Catechism:

Q7: What does the law of God require?
A: Personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.

Q8: What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments?
A: You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below—you shall not bow down to them or worship them. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.


Q15: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?
A: That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior. The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.

The New City Catechism follows with a discussion of the Law of God. The Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, however, place the discussion of the Law of God at the back of the catechisms. The difference in arrangement is not incidental, and reflects a fundamental difference of perspective between the Reformed tradition and the New Calvinists.

The Reformed Catechisms placed the discussion of the Law of God at the back as they see the explication of the Ten Commandments as reflecting how Man ought to live. In other words, the Law is still normative for believers today, as an expression of their gratitude to God for their salvation. Thus, after all has been said about the salvation by Christ, the focus shifts to how Christians should live in light of our so great salvation.

The New City Catechism placed the exposition on the Law at the front, as a precursor to the discussion of the problem of sin. To be sure, question 15 of the New City Catechism does speak of the law as teaching and exhorting us"to live a life worthy of our Savior," but the emphasis is surely on the Law showing us our sin and disobedience.

Reformed Orthodoxy has always taught the three uses of the Law. The first use of the Law is to expose sin. The second use is to restrain sin, and the third use is to show us how we ought to live. Thus, there is nothing unorthodox about expounding the Law of God according to its first use. The question however is why the Reformed Orthodox prefer to expound the Law in the catechism in its third use, and whether the New City Catechism is superior or inferior in emphasizing the first use of the Law.

In the Westminster Standards, the first use of the Law is explicated through the concept of covenants, specifically the Covenant of Works, otherwise known as the Covenant of Life. In WSC12, the Law of God was explicated in its redemptive-historical context wherein it was revealed in Eden to Adam, as a prohibition to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.

Comparing the two, we can see the inferiority of the New City Catechism. First of all, the emphasis on the first use of the Law makes it easier to downplay the third use of the Law. Secondly, and most seriously, by decoupling the Law from its historical context of Creation and the Covenant of Works, the Law of God is not linked to creation and thus could not be seen to be trans-cultural. After all, why would any non-Caucasian and non-Semite care about what any "tribal deity" gives as Law? True, it can be insisted that the 10 commandments are binding on all mankind, but why should any non-White and non-Semite see it as nothing more than cultural imperialism? Thirdly of course, if the Law is explicated as a precursor to discussion of sin, does that mean that the Law is always explicated in 10 commandments? Did Adam knew all of the 10 commandments in Eden in the form revealed to Moses? Explicating the 10 commandments in the first use of the Law therefore does not help in answering the question posed by Rom. 5:13, for how can sin reign before the law was given? Rather, it must be seen that the Law of God can be summarized by the 10 commandments but is not defined merely by them.

The New City Catechism is at this point inferior to the Westminster Standards. Of the three points in which it is inferior to the Westminster Standards, perhaps the worst is its decoupling the Law from its first revelation in history. Such is of course congruous with Tim Keller's denial of the literal Genesis creation, but such allows non-whites and non-Semites to discount Christianity altogether as a white religion not suitable for other ethnic groups.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Pastoral issue: Answering questions

One issue which I seem to be at variance with some others with is the issue of answering questions, specifically doctrinal questions. It seems that some would prefer to ask the enquirer why they ask the question first before answering it. Now, to some extant, this may be helpful pastorally since sometimes there are other questions and issues below the surface. But do we have to always inquire as to the reason why a question is asked before answering it?

There is of course a personal part to this question. In my Christian walk, I have had a few episodes where people seem more interested in why I am (or someone else is) asking a question. One time was a question I had asked a pastor (not my church). Another time was when I was seeking advice when I was counselling someone struggling with a doctrinal issue. Both times I was extremely disappointed when they were more interested in the "why" rather than the "what." When I asked the question, and received a "why" question back, my impression of the pastor immediately went downhill. Here was someone, I thought, who was not interested in answering my question. Here was someone who thought that behind my question laid some personal struggles and difficulties I may have, and thus doctrinal question was merely the symptom for personal struggles. I was very much offended and saw that as someone who belittled me and my inquiry. The good thing at least is that this guy was not my pastor, otherwise if so I might have left the church.

The struggle therefore is how should one go about answering questions. From my experience, I am resolved, as much as possible, that I will NOT speak down to others when they ask doctrinal questions. I will not insult them or their intelligence, by somehow having the "secret knowledge" that their doctrinal questions are symptoms of personal issues. To think as if any and every doctrinal question must be symptomatic of personal struggles is an insult to the inquirer and a belittling of God's truth as something important only to the extant it is "practical," whatever that terms means.

So when should we ask the "why" question? I don't know. It is probably better done in the context of relationships, and NOT when the person is asking that question.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

On Campus Crusade for Christ (aka Cru)

This is a post requested by a friend. I generally hesitate to write such posts in which I deal with people and organizations I have attachment to. I have many friends from my time over in Campus Crusade in my university days, many great times of fellowship, and as such it is not easy to be objective over this issue.

Nevertheless, the question that is to be answered is: What should biblical Christians think about Campus Crusade? Should someone who desires to be obedient to the full counsel of God's Word join it? It is noted here in passing that I refuse to refer to Campus Crusade as "Cru." In my opinion, there is absolutely no justification for the switch beyond capitulation to forces prevalent in the larger culture, especially since Crusade is known by other names in some countries (e.g Agape in UK).

CCC is a para-church organization founded by the late Bill Bright. It is an organization that started off with a focus on evangelism and outreach in university campus, although they do do discipleship as well. Over the years, it has diversified to various kinds of ministry, for example in the marketplace and the media, and thus it is not purely about campus ministry anymore although that is still its main focus.

In its historical setting, CCC is one of the main organizations that are symptomatic of the larger movement called the New Evangelicalism. Started by Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry, with its flagship seminary Fuller Theological Seminary and its famous evangelist Billy Graham, the New Evangelicalism is a movement that seeks to stand for biblical truth while being positive and winsome towards others, disagreeing with the polemics of Fundamentalism. As a movement that originated in the context of 19th and 20th century American religion, it partakes of the same low-church, anti-institutional slant of the previous Evangelicalism that began with the 1st Great Awakening and developed through the 2nd Great Awakening. New Evangelicalism as a movement is of course very diverse, yet in order for it to be a movement at all, it had various characteristics. Since it is supposed to embrace professing Christians who believe the Bible, confesssional minimalism becomes the norm. In other words, while one could hold on to for example infant baptism, confessional minimalism in the movement requires one to suspend one's strength of conviction on the issue so that one could co-operate across confessional lines. Such of course relativize certain doctrines to the category of "secondary doctrines" which must be held on to loosely and not firmly.

CCC as a child of the New Evangelicalism partook of this Zeitgeist. It is very much low-church, and while individual Crusade staff and students could hold on to a higher view of the Church, Crusade itself does not have a strong doctrine of the Church. It is inter-denominational, as it works towards fulfilling its mission which is to evangelize the world (with a certain myopic and reductionistic understanding of the Great Commission). As such, it could not take strong stands on many doctrines taught in Scripture as long as those who are called "Evangelicals" disagree over it. Rather, they seek to hold to some form of "mere Christianity" and proclaim the "simple" message of Jesus Christ coming to die for the sins of mankind, with its attendant duty to repent and believe the Gospel

With this introduction to CCC in its historical context, here are some points I would like to make:

  1. CCC's desire to see people saved is laudable. Whatever one wants to say about Crusade, they have a sincere desire for those who are lost to come to salvation.
  2. CCC provides good Christian support and fellowship, and thus helps mitigate against negative peer pressure
  3. CCC embraces by default an Arminian view of the Gospel. Coming from the revivalist tradition after Charles Finney, the idea of salvation and the Gospel has been shaped and perceived by those forces. While not embracing Finney's rank Pelagianism, the mixture of Calvinistic and Pelagianizing elements produce an inconsistent mixture that closely resembles Evangelical Arminianism. Total Depravity of Man is held to alongside with the view that methods helps in the effectiveness of evangelism, although in another inconsistency the Holy Spirit is believed to be ultimately responsible for the salvation of those evangelized. This mixture of Calvinistic and Pelagianizing elements have created a veritable chaotic mess when it comes to evangelism and outreach, with people and methods running the spectrum of beliefs from Semi-Pelagianism to Amyraldianism, seldom reaching true Calvinism.
  4. Most people especially in the Asian context are decidedly piestistic and anti-intellectual. They love God, but sadly do not know much of God and much about God. I do not doubt their salvation and they are great people, but their maturity leaves much to be desired. They will generally not understand any Christian who is non-pietistic and who earnestly strive for biblical accuracy and fidelity.

Therefore, I will advice thus:

  • One should know the good and the bad in CCC. One should make a decision whether to join or not based upon all these data.
  • One's foremost loyalty is to God, and then to one's local church. Attending CCC mid-week meetings are never a substitute for Sunday church services. CCC as a para-church organization can never minister the Means of Grace, and if they do so, those persons are violating God's commands.
  • Knowing the confessional minimalism of CCC, one has to discern for oneself whether one can live with that for the sake of fellowship and lay ministry in CCC. CCC is not a church, and therefore it is my opinion that it does not have to meet the standards of orthodoxy that a church should have. This is a matter of wisdom and between God and you the person, and a matter of your conscience.
  • Know that one may have to dissent from CCC and the leadership at times. CCC being not a church does not mean that one rolls over and plays dead with regards to sound doctrine. Rather, one tolerate dissenting view not pertaining to the essence of the faith, but any Pelagianizing move we should dissent.
  • Finally, whatever that is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23ff). If one does not have the peace to join CCC, or one thinks that doing so would violate his conscience, don't.

I hope this helps

Friday, January 04, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 3

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Q10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

The New City Catechism:

Q4: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

Q5: What else did God create?
A: God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.

The issue of creation has been one that in recent times have seen much controversy. How the issue is handled in a catechism is therefore illuminative of what the framers thought of the issue.

First, we would look at the creation of Man. As it can be seen, the New City Catechism has omitted quite a few things. First of all, there is nothing mentioned of what the image of God contains. Secondly, there is nothing said of how God created Man. It is noted that although the Shorter Catechism is briefer on this issue, question 17 of the Larger Catechism stated explicitly that God creates Man (1) after He created all other creatures, (2) from dust, (3) the woman from the rib of the Man. This explicitly rules out all views that deny the special creation of Man. It rules out any polygenesis theory of the origins of Man, it rules out the view that God just gave souls to existing souless hominids to create Man. It rules out the views that Adam and Eve were the heads of a tribe of hominids who were all given souls some time in the past. It rules out everything except the plain meaning of the Genesis account of the creation of Mankind.

The New City Catechism thus focuses more on the relational aspect, yet in so doing it fails to do justice to both the relational aspect of creation and the ontological aspect of creation. It fails to do justice to the relational aspect of creation because in speaking of it it fails to adequately differentiate between the penultimate and ultimate purposes of Man. Both the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms in this sense focus on the ontological aspect of creation. The relational aspect of creation is seen in the Westminster standards in the idea of the Covenant of Works, which the New City Catechism does not expound on. Now of course, it is true that Man is created that he should know God, "love Him, live with Him and glorify Him." But Man's original purpose was to tend the Garden as God's holy temple city. That was his goal in life. Knowing God etc is the means, the instruments for glorifying God, not the end of Man (which is glorifying God c.f. WSC1). Yes, we ought to know God, and we should strive for that, but that is penultimate. The ultimate is God's glory, not our knowledge of God.

Secondly, the New City Catechism is also defective in its treatment of the creation of all things. It is wondered why the question about general creation is placed after the creation of Man. It does not bode well especially when compared with the specific teachings in the Larger Catechism of the order of creation, and in both catechisms of creation in six days. Moreover, the omission of these details show that the New City Catechism was intended to give extreme latitude on the issue of creation such that theistic evolutionists could hold on to sign on it.

The answers given by the New City Catechism, while not totally wrong, pale in content and clarity to that given in the Westminster Catechisms. It is therefore inferior to it, and serves only to confuse rather than clarify what the Church believes about this important doctrine of creation.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Book review of C. John Collins' book Science and Faith: Friends or Foes

C. John Collins' book Science and Faith: Friends or Foes was a book that was a letdown in its dealing of issues regarding creation and evolution. I however have not found the time to review it, but it seems Andrew Kulikovsky has done a good review of Collins' book here. An excerpt:

This book is yet another in a long line of books that try to resolve the perceived conflict between science and faith. The author, C. John Collins, is Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary and unlike many of the writers in this area, has both theological and scientific qualifications. Thus, this work is far more comprehensive than others (it is 448 pages long including indexes), and the arguments are far more sophisticated and nuanced.

The book is divided into four sections: (1) ‘Philosophical Issues’, (2) ‘Theological Issues’, (3) ‘Science and Faith Interact’, and (4) ‘Conclusion’. There are also three appendices containing (1) additional notes and comments which attack many young-earth creationist arguments and claims, (2) a list of additional resources including websites and journals, and (3) a review of Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

It is extremely disappointing that non-YECs do not deal with the best of the creationist literature. It is one thing to reject the YEC position. It is another to reject it with bad science, bad philosophy, and almost complete ignorance of the YEC arguments. Not to mention his horrendous distortion of Thomas Kuhn's position, of which I had written a paper on it entitled Science as Paradigmatic: A Critical Analysis of Thomas S. Kuhn's View of Normal Science, in which I had written:

C. John Collins therefore is in error in decrying Kuhn as being an anti-realist and as promoting irrationalism. Nothing is further from the truth. What Kuhn denies is absolute universal truth being present in science. The contingent truths within a paradigm are objective, being available to be proven objectively right or wrong within the standards and language of that paradigm.

Kuhn's idea of science is that scientific truths are ontologically objective but epistemological subjective (being contingent upon paradigms).

Collins' book is thus extremely disappointing in a lot of ways.

Paper: Fiducia and the Anatomy of Faith

What is faith? In a recent paper of mine here, I have decided to interact on the issue of the definition of faith, interacting with Gordon H. Clark's definition of faith in dialogue with the Reformed tradition. An excerpt:

What is faith? Faith can refer to the objective faith to be believed (fides quae creditur), or the subjective element of faith (fides qua creditur) believers are to exercise. In the Reformation, the description and definition of the subjective element of faith was a matter of contention between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics. Traditional Roman Catholicism with its view of fides implicita or implicit faith made faith out to be a mere unknowing assent to whatever the church teaches. ...