Thursday, March 31, 2016

Black reverse racism: Guilty regardless of innocence

Some time back, Dr. James White took a lot of flak by certain Social Justice Warrios (SJWs), especially some blacks who evidently see everything according to their racial lenses and falsely accused Dr. White of racism when he made a legitimate observation. The supposedly "Reformed" Reformed African American Network (RAAN) posted an attack piece by Ms. Ekemini Uwan, a black student at Westminster Theology Seminary Philadelphia, an attack piece that made wild and false accusations against Dr. White, an ordained minister of the Gospel. It didn't take a long time, but evidently Dr. White saw that article and decided to respond to it, posting a much better and more thorough critique of it than me.

The problem with black racialists is that whoever stands condemned before the SJW lynch mob is guilty until proven innocent. Or maybe we should say guilty regardless of innocence. As Dr. White succinctly puts it:

But for these folks, all of that is irrelevant: racism has been redefined so that everyone who does not embrace your “lens priority” is liable to be accused, and convicted, without benefit of trial. It is presuppositional.

While nobody is suggesting that Uwan and RAAN are liberals, the ridiculous tactics of playing the victimization card and of taking someone to be guilty regardless of actual innocence is are taken right from the playbook of liberal SJWs. The same kind of faux shaming, the same kind of strident calls for denunciation regardless of the facts, all these have no place in true Christian conduct. So why are supposed Christians engaging in them?

The first act of any proposed accusation is to adequately represent what the other person is saying. It is ludicrous to create a strawman and charge a person with all manner of evil based upon the strawman one creates. That is just basic courtesy and respect and honoring the truth. But such a basic step is totally ignored in SJW sham trials, and in this attack against Dr. White. Even if one thinks Dr. White is guilty, and even if Dr. White were actually guilty, shouldn't you be correctly representing his position? Instead, what we have in Uwan is bearing false witness against a minister of the Gospel. Where is the basic respect one should give to another person? Uwan is studying at Westminster. Presumably, that should have obligated her even more to basic Christian conduct. So why the lies, Uwan? Why the willful distortion of the actual facts, just to prop up your narrative? Yes, I actually know why: because the narrative is treated as axiomatic and everything must conform to that narrative. But is that what a Christian is to do? To lie in service of a narrative because one identifies with said narrative?

To an outsider, someone who is neither white nor black, it is so abundantly clear what is actually happening here. This form of racialism and racism is ugly, very very ugly. I have been put off by people who do it on Facebook, and I will be put off anytime I see anyone does it, even if the person who does it were to be a minister in a Reformed denomination. There is no "race" where slander and lies should be acceptable "as long as they serve the narrative." Away with such false paradigms! Christians ought to have their minds transformed by Christ, not held captive to false paradigms!

Uwan, RAAN and others like the Southern Baptist Russell Moore owe Dr. White an apology for spreading lies about him. I of course hope that they repent, but my experience has been that SJWs are irrational, think they are always right, and will not accept correction of any sort. In the words of Scripture, they love darkness rather than light (Jn. 3:19).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The proper view of the doctrine of creation

Some time back, I saw something to the effort that the Reformed see eschatology when they read Genesis, while Fundamentalists and conservative Evangelicals think of the Creation Museum when they read Genesis. Of course, as with such pithy statements, there are elements of truth in what is said. That said, it is only with the 20th century advent especially of Meredith Kline that Genesis become primarily associated with eschatology. I would content that that is not how the Reformed tradition have historically seen Genesis as being. Am I saying that they do not link Genesis with eschatology? No, I do not make such a claim. Rather, I am claiming that eschatology was not their primary focus when they read Genesis, but rather *mere* protology.

The Reformers were early modern, pre-Enlightenment people. They are not Rationalists seeking to understand all things as God knows them. None of them can ever be accused of being empiricists and thus they would not fit into the empiricist mentality that is characteristic of a significant proportion of the Creation Science movement. Having said that, the Reformers were not irrationalist mystics either, and they sought to be rational. As such, the Reformed would be more aligned with Charles Hodge of Old Princeton than today's postmodernists, or even those influenced by aspects of postmodernism like Kevin Vanhoozer.

To see how the Reformers and their immediate heirs read Genesis, one can read their commentaries. The idea of setting a date for creation is not a modern, fundamentalist thing, but rather it is already present among the Puritans, which culminated in Archbishop James Ussher's Annals of the World. Chronology, and dating the Genesis chronology, was not a modern endeavor but rather was associated with Puritan scholarship. Taking the Genesis accounts, inclusive of the dates in chronologies, plainly is therefore traditionally Reformed.

When one looks at Reformed commentaries of that era, one see for example in John Calvin the following statements:

The intention of Moses in beginning his Book with the creation of the world, is, to render God, as it were, visible to us in his works. ...

I now return to the design of Moses, or rather of the Holy Spirit, who has spoken by his mouth. We know God, who is himself invisible, only through his works. Therefore, the Apostle elegantly styles the worlds, τὰ μἡ εχ φαινομένων βλεπόμενα, as if one should say, “the manifestation of things not apparent,”30 (Hebrews 11:3.) This is the reason why the Lord, that he may invite us to the knowledge of himself, places the fabric of heaven and earth before our eyes, rendering himself, in a certain manner, manifest in them. For his eternal power and Godhead (as Paul says) are there exhibited, (Romans 1:20.) And that declaration of David is most true, that the heavens, though without a tongue, are yet eloquent heralds of the glory of God, and that this most beautiful order of nature silently proclaims his admirable wisdom, (Psalm 19:1.) This is the more diligently to be observed, because so few pursue the right method of knowing God, while the greater part adhere to the creatures without any consideration of the Creator himself. (John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1. Accessed on CCEL here)

We see here that Calvin focuses on the revelation of God in creation when he deals with the fact of creation. Calvin did not immediately talk about the eschatological life, as Klineans would do. No, he speaks of Creation as an actual event and what it actually does in revealing God to Man. God has created all things, and this is something that we should marvel. Creation in and of itself has its own glory; the act of creation is in and of itself glorious. Creation does not need redemption to be complete, neither does it need to contemplate the Eschaton to manifest God's glory.

And now we see Matthew Henry:

The foundation of all religion being laid in our relation to God as our Creator, it was fit that the book of divine revelations which was intended to be the guide, support, and rule, of religion in the world, should begin, as it does, with a plain and full account of the creation of the world—in answer to that first enquiry of a good conscience, "Where is God my Maker?" (Job xxxv. 10). ... The holy scripture therefore, designing by revealed religion to maintain and improve natural religion, to repair the decays of it and supply the defects of it, since the fall, for the reviving of the precepts of the law of nature, lays down, at first, this principle of the unclouded light of nature, That this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was himself before all time and all worlds. The entrance into God's word gives this light, Ps. cxix. 130.. The first verse of the Bible gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful, knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers. The lively faith of humble Christians understands this matter better than the elevated fancy of the greatest wits, Heb. xi. 3. (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Deuteronomy). Accessed on CCEL here)

Again, we do not see eschatology being the main focus in Henry's thinking when he reads Genesis. Rather, his focus is on God revealing Himself to Man, the beginning of God's revelation.

We have therefore seen in both John Calvin and Matthew Henry that neither of them have eschatology as their main focus when they read Genesis. Rather, their focus, as is the traditional Reformed and Christian focus, is on Creation as Creation and Creation as the first act of God's revelation. Thus, to read Genesis as eschatology is Klinean, to read Genesis as Creation Science is to read it as empiricist Fundamentalist, but to be historic Reformed is to read Genesis as God's first revelatory act, and the foundation upon which all knowledge and reality depends.

Posts on Education and Christian education

Quite some time back, I wrote a couple of posts against current seminary student at the Protestant Reformed Seminary Aaron Lim's view concerning education in Singapore (Parts 1, 2, 3). And recently, I wrote a review of a terrible publication by the mainstream Ethos Institute on the topic of public education in Singapore.

As it should be evident, the former in response to Aaron Lim deals with the denial of a common sphere in society, such that anything must be pigeonholed into either for God or against God. It stems from a sharp Neo-Kuyperian antithesis that conflates creation with redemption, with redemption being normative for creation. The latter by the Ethos Institute however conflates creation with redemption in the opposite manner, with creation as fallen being normative over redemption. Both sides fail to take into account the proper relation between creation and redemption, the former being too "spiritual," and the latter too worldly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Education and Christian education (ADD)

The Singapore National Council of Churches (NCCS) is a liberal group supposedly representing the Christians of Singapore. As they are liberals and thus I have doubts about whether they can even be called Christians, I do not regard them as representative of anyone but themselves and whichever church and denomination that is foolish enough to submit to their "leadership." As there was a lack of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in Singapore, liberals work side by side with Evangelicals. In such unequally yoked partnerships, in order to preserve "the peace," the Evangelicals largely cede the intellectual life of the church in exchange for space for "evangelical" views and for taking charge of "lay ministry." Such a course of action is of course manifestly unbiblical, but then Singapore Evangelicalism does not really care about following the Scriptures fully anyway!

This so-called umbrella group for Christians the NCCS, together with the liberal Trinity Theological College and the Bible Society of Singapore, have formed an "Ethos Institute"TM, which was formed to "serve church and society by engaging contemporary issues and trends from the Christian perspective" [Phillip A. Towndrow, Education and Society: A Christian View of Public Education in Singapore (Singapore: Ethos Institute for Public Christianity, 2015), vii]. Well, I had ran out of books to read so I went shopping for books, and one of the books that I have bought was the book(let) on Christian Education from the Ethos Institute. I didn't have very high expectations for this book when I bought it, but I bought it to discover how mainline Singapore Christianity thinks and applies their thinking to the issue of education. I must say I was not disappointed. This book that claims to put forward a "Christian view" on education does nothing of the sort. The book's primary source for education philosophy is secular pedagogy especially in its citation of UNESCO and the writings of the American pragmatist John Dewey, and Christianity is only applied to the moral aspect of learning, and even then only a few aspects are highlighted.

This booklet by Phillip Towndrow starts off by examining the educational scene in Singapore in the past few decades and the various educational methods and pedagogies employed. Towndrow differentiates between education "to live a life" (p. 8-9) and education "to earn a living" (p. 10), then focuses on the issue of human capital. In the next chapter, Towndrow critiques various educational philosophies concerning performance and achievement from a secular social science perspective. In the third chapter, Towndrow brings in the idea of "kingdom purposes" where certain "Christian" moral truths are brought in as to how one should educate in a way that is "moral," but unsurprisingly the moral values emphasized here sound like a thinly veiled baptized version of secular humanist rights (respect of individual, strong individual identity, acceptance of change, development of wisdom, character and leadership) (pp. 26-34). The fourth and last chapter seeks to apply all that has been mentioned so far to teachers, parents and students, to conclude the book.

If we want to come up with a Christian view of education, then we should start with Scripture, not culture or secular philosophy. Specifically, what does Scripture speaks concerning education. What we find in the Old Testament is that education is meant to be geared towards the worship of God (Deut. 6:20-25; 11:18-20). Skills for daily living of course are passed down through the generations, so there is no denying a practical aspect to education. Nevertheless, the goal of education in the Old Testament is piety towards God.

In the New Testament times, the focus is on the proclamation of the Gospel, as the Church is not a civic entity like Israel. Yet, while education is not directly addressed, the Scriptures made it plain that Christians are called to have a transformed mind (Rom. 12:2) and to be discerning like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). All of these would be congruent with an education that teaches people to think, for God the Creator and the Logos forms language and logic for humanity to think, the apparatus for right thinking so that one can think God's thoughts after Him.

The focus of education that is actually Christian therefore is that of nurturing the life of the mind with a goal of piety towards God. The classical education model of the trivium (logic, dialectic, rhetoric) is one great way of teaching people how to think (not just what to think), and together with instructions in the things of God, the intended product of such an education would be a thinking and pious population.

Having set up in brief what the Scriptures say concerning education, let's contrast that with what Towndrow has said. We noticed immediately that Towndrow, for all the bluster about a "Christian view," does not even bother to go to the Scriptures to find out what education is supposed to be. The secular and very modern 20th century educational philosophy of John Dewey is taken as axiomatic. But since when is pragmatism and utilitarianism Christian? Chapter 2 which is supposed to be a critique of educational philosophies reads like a paper that could be turned in for a secular pedagogy class at NIE (National Institute of Education). So why should anyone call Towndrow's position a Christian view at all? The only "Christian" part that might qualify is the later section (Chapter 3), and it is to this that we will look now.

In chapter 3, Towndrow puts forward the "Christian" part of education as being about the virtues that should be nurtured in education, part of which claimed to be from the Scriptures. The first virtue is that of respecting others, which Towndrow derives from the creation account and the image of God motif (p. 26). Now, while respecting others and having self-worth is a virtue, Scriptures also speak about Man's depravity and the need for a new creation reality, i.e. redemption. The Imago Dei speaks about the created glory of Man, but also because it is marred by the Fall, how much humanity has fallen short of what we were intended to be. The second virtue is that of self-denial and humility (pp. 26-7), all great virtues, but aside from Christ an impossibility.

As applied specifically to education, Towndrow speaks of the ability to embrace change (pp. 28-9). The ability to embrace change when change is necessary is of course a good thing, but it has nothing to do with what Scripture teaches, which is to stand fast on God's truth (1 Cor. 15:2, 2 Tim. 1:13). We have mentioned identity and self-worth, which are Christian virtues that are for all Christians however and not just for education. Also, what exactly is "public education from a Kingdom outlook" (p. 29) since Towndrow did not even deal with the Christian theology and philosophy of education? The development of wisdom and knowledge (pp. 29-31) is a good pursuit, but since when did biblical wisdom serves secular causes like "human welfare" and "caring attention towards the oppressed and the suffering"(p. 30)? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7a). Biblical wisdom is not just a biblical outlook for anyone to partake, but it is only for those who fear God and worship Him. To state wisdom from God as an educational goal means that one must commit to educate and persuade students of the Christian faith, which I am sure isn't what Towndrow had in mind for education in a pluralistic society. Character development (p. 31, 33) is good, but hardly uniquely Christian. The only uniquely Christian part about character development is that the regeneration of the heart, even more fundamental than a good character, is required so that Man will actually want to obey God joyfully. Nurturing a good character by willpower, good influence and discipline will make one at best a Pharisee, for the unregenerate heart will still rebel against God even in doing good. Lastly, leadership development (p. 32) might be a good thing to have, but that has nothing to do with the Scriptures, which calls us to holiness and love to our neighbor.

If the entire list seems to be all about conduct, about morals without Christ, that's because it is. Even if we were to grant all these things to be good things for education, what has that to do with the Christian faith at all? Christianity is not about being good people, for we are not (Rom. 3:10-18). The type of system that Towndrow is promoting is Moral Therapeutic Deism, and it is not Christianity. Christianity is not about being moral, but about Christ dying for sinners so that he atoned for their sins, propitiating the wrath of God against them and justifying them by faith alone. So, if Towndrow's education is all about rules and conducts, and not the news that all are wicked before God and the Gospel is the only way to salvation, then it is not Christian no matter how many virtues he wants to promote.

Towndrow closed this chapter with an assertion that there is "absolutely no conflict between Christian and public views of society, in general, and education, in particular" (p. 34). It is unclear what exactly he is referring to. If one actually starts with Scripture, then there is conflict between a Christian view of society and a humanistic view of society. But if one were to refer to whether there is common spaces where different views of society and education can coexist, and thus there is no clash between peoples, then yes, there is no conflict in this sense, for Christians do believe in the common sphere of society.

In conclusion, we have seen that there is a Christian view of education, but unfortunately Towndrow's booklet fall far short of actually providing a true Christian view on education. Again, I cannot say I am surprised, but it surely is sad that such drivel represents the supposed intellectual prowess of Singapore Christianity.

ADD: This has been formatted into a review that can be read here.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Heidelcast: Recovering the Covenant of Works

The 100th Heidelcast interestingly deals with the issue of the Covenant of Works. As someone who believes that the Covenant of Works is an important doctrine, this podcast (and its sequel) should be helpful..

Interaction among the "races"

How does one interact with those of other ethnicities? When I had gone over to America to study at Westminster Seminary California, I was virtually surrounded by Caucasians. There was only one other Singaporean, and he was rather preoccupied with the demands on his time including having a family with children. Needless to say, I was forced to interact with Caucasians regardless of my personal preferences for or otherwise. In my interactions with Caucasians, I do not find they are racists. Sure, normally they keep to people that are more similar to themselves, but don't we all do the same? The Korean-Americans tend to keep to themselves also, and forming social cliches based upon ethnic and other similarities is natural in human interactions; everyone does it and it does not indicate racism at all.

Over time, I get to know a couple of people closer as friends. I have interacted with and befriended those of other ethnicities including blacks. Of course everyone is different, and quite a few of us have different cultural backgrounds. But in the friends that I made, what I treasure is that we generally do not talk race. I don't know about them, but I would like to think that my ethnicity is immaterial to our friendship.

Naturally, as sinners, we sometimes might rub each other the wrong way. Especially at close proximity, our sins and failings, intentional or unintentonal, are made manifest. I have been rebuked by whites before, and sometimes I do deserve it. When rebuked, in my best time, I try to see whether what they say is valid, and if so what can I do to repent and change. After all, if I do wrong, I ought to repent and change. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that is how we are to be as Christians. We ought to strive for godliness, and try to honor God and love our neighbor despite our weaknesses and many failings.

You will notice that I made no mention of race. I did not play the race card when somebody rebuked me. I do not scream "racism" when the guy who rebuked me was a white man. But for those who practice reverse racism, that is what they do. So what if a white guy rebukes me? Does skin color or ethnicity somehow alters the demands of God's moral law? Are we to see everything according to race and "privilege" and who the victim is? So what if you are the victim? God's moral laws are absolute and unalterable. Even if a racist rebukes you, if what he says is correct, the rebukes stands INDEPENDENT of the identity of the one making the accusation!

I am not putting myself forward as if I am more righteous than others; God knows my sins. But what I am trying to say is that one should interact with others of different races in a "color blind" manner. All peoples are descended from Adam, whatever the "race." All are sinners, and under the same unalterable moral law of God. There is no difference between Jew and Greek, and also between "White" and "Black." The only corporate identity that has ultimate significance in Scripture is "in Adam" and "in Christ," not "white," "black" and anything in between. When one has solidarity with one's race such that one takes on any matter concerning an individual of one's race as a personal thing, then one has seen one's ethnicity as being more properly basic than one's identity in Christ, and that is sin, which this article by RAAN engages in.

If we are to function such that our ultimate identity in "in Christ," and God's moral law applies equally to every person from every race and language and nation, then we should not be troubled by criticism of real sin from anyone and everyone. So in my case, I have no problems with whites criticizing Watchman Nee for example. Just because he is Chinese does not mean I ought to defend him even if he is in the wrong. If anyone wants to attack the weak ecclesiology of the majority of Chinese churches, or the fact that women are found in ministerial positions in Chinese churches, I have absolutely no desire to defend them. Wrong is wrong regardless of the skin color of the ones in the wrong.

Scripture does not condone racism, but neither does it condone reverse racism. Both sides have to repent. Yes, ethnicity is part of the identity of every individual, but it should play no part in how we treat him, or how we treat others of the same race as him.

The sin of reverse racism among segments of black people

[First, note the title. It's not ALL black people, but SOME.]

Dr. White has recently responded in his Dividing Line podcast to the false accusations of racism that were charged at him. As a non-white and an outsider to the American situation, I would think I have a third party perspective to this whole controversy over race, which I find ridiculous. In Singapore where I grew up, we have 4 main "races": Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian, and we get along rather fine. What I find ludicious about the whole "conversation" about race in the US is the binary it produces: that there are only "Whites" and "Blacks." "Whites" have the white man burden of proving they are not racist (which is again, why?), while "blacks" seem to get a free pass as being the default victim class. Just by stating this, we can see a whole host of problems. First, why the racial binary? How about other races like Korean-American, Chinese-American, and so on? And just in case one is tempted to lump them into one "colored" category, well, that is just plain ridiculous! The different "colored" people do not necessarily get along, and they do not necessarily see themselves as one monolithic bloc called "colored." I'm sorry if I actually believed in racial diversity! Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans are not the same, and I refuse to treat them as one and the same thing!

Second, whence come the idea that "whites" have a burden to prove a negative, i.e. that they are not racists? Modern whites are not guilty of slavery or anything, and whoever wants to bring up the past only proves they are disregarding Scripture altogether, which states that "The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son" (Ezek. 18:20). I don't care if it was even just a generation away. Scriptures does not give anyone the right to make the sons pay for the sins of the fathers. And likewise, Scripture nowhere claims a special privilege to those whose ancestors were oppressed. To claim such nonsense is essentially to buy into the heresy of black liberation theology. [And just by the way, the author Doron is a brother who happens to be black, and he sees the issue clearer than evidently some who call themselves Reformed]

So in response to Dr. White, here comes an article by the supposed Reformed African American Network (RAAN), which is just plain sad. The article perpetuates the false binary of white/black again, and falsely accused Dr. White of what he did not do. Contrary to Ekemini Uwan, Dr. White did NOT "castigate and dehumanize black people." This breaking of the 9th commandment is astonishing coming from an organization that claims to be Reformed. When Voddie Baucham addresses the problems in the black community, did he "castigate and dehumanize black people"? I'm sorry, do blacks have a free pass on breaking God's commandment concerning marriage and family? Is RAAN somehow suggesting that black people do not have to obey God's moral law?!

Uwan whined about the "labels" that have been ascribed to people like her. I'm sorry, but perhaps she might want to consider if they actually are true. Labels are only wrong if they are false labels, but what if the label does in fact stick? This article by hers has not proven to me anything but that she has no qualms in violating the 9th commandment against an ordained minister of God, and perpetuating the victimization mentality among the black community.

Racism is the sin that one's ethnicity and/or skin color makes ones superior or inferior to another person from a different ethnicity and/or skin color. Reverse racism is the sin that one's ethnicity and/or skin color makes one the perpetual victim of anyone from a particular ethnicity and/or skin color whose words and actions are racist by default, unless proven otherwise. It is a twisted form of racism, for one claims special status (superiority) because of one's race (i.e. black), a special status of the victim of racism. In this twisted way of thinking, the true racist (the reverse racist) paints himself as the victim of others' racism, and thus proves his racial superiority. And who cares about facts? For the reverse racist, whites are racist unless proven otherwise, and the way for whites to not be racist is to agree that they are all racists and need to constantly take the black man's (or woman's) side in any dispute where race is brought into the picture.

It is sad that RAAN, a supposed Reformed oranization, would promote such drivel. Brother Doron was from Masters, which only proves a further rebuke to the supposed Reformed organization. RAAN needs to repent of its attack on Dr. White, and stop promoting violations of the 9th commandment against ordained ministers of the Gospel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

James White on Ethnic Gnosticism

Dr. James White has recently been in a firestorm over a short post he made concerning the actions of a young black male. Charges of racism were leveled at him because, *evidently*, only blacks can comment on black issues. Dr. White in response in his most recent Dividing Line addresses this issue of Ethnic Gnosticism, the idea that only a person of the same ethnicity can comment on issues of his or her ethnicity.

Racism is an ugly phenomenon. Reverse racism is just as ugly, except it is cloaked in a facade of self-righteousness, and both are sins to be repented. I honestly do not see any substantial difference between racism, and reverse racism.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The essence of the hyper-grace error

After all that has been said, what is the essence of the hyper-grace error? If we wanted to pinpoint the major point of deviancy, what exactly is it? Hyper-Dispensationalism is obviously a problem, yet hyper-grace proponents do not emphasize Dispensationalism, although at least Prince explicitly uses the notion of dispensation as a prop for his theological propositions (Prince, Destined to Reign, 43, 92-3). It seems to me that the main error of the hyper-grace movement is its view of the problem of man, and the solution offered by Christ.

In Joseph Prince's book Destined to Reign, Prince dealt with what he thinks to be the major problem with mankind. According to Prince, the deepest root that causes all the destructive sin patterns is condemnation (Joseph Prince, 131). As Prince wrote,

That is why condemnation is the deepest root. It is a root that man cannot overcome through self-effort. Condemnation demands a payment for all your failures and sins, but without Jesus, there is no payment. For some time now, there has been talk about guilt and how it can cause various adverse symptoms to appear in the human body, but that is just skimming the surface of the matter. While experts may be able to identify guilt and condemnation as the sources, they have no solution to destroy them. ... (Prince, 133)

One can of course point out that Prince uses phychological analysis in part to determine the problem with Man, and that is correct. Prince sees the problem with mankind as one of condemnation. Satan and the Law seek to condemn people for their errors. The Gospel then, for Prince, is the removal of this condemnation; the "gift of no condemnation" (Prince, 164). Misusing Romans 8:1 as his central proof-text, Prince states:

My friend, the main reason our Savior's blood was shed was for the forgiveness of our sins. This means that the blood of Jesus also offers us protection from any form of condemnation. When you have a revelation that Jesus' blood has made you righteous and all your sins are forgiven, you are protected from condemnation from the accuser. It's imperative that you understand this because it will give you the confidence to come before the throne of God boldly and see Him as a loving Father. It will cause you to reign over that sin, addition or depression that is holding you in bondage today. (Prince, 159)

According to Prince therefore, the main problem with mankind is condemnation, and Christ came to remove the condemnation. Sin of course is not unimportant, but sin seems to be treated as external acts that stem from condemnation.

It is here that we see the main problem with the hyper-grace error. For if condemnation leads to sin, then the solution is to remove condemnation by naming and claiming Christ's righteousness as ours (Prince, 17-18). In orthodox Christianity, the problem with mankind is sin, in that Man has original sin, and commits actual sin daily. Man commits sin because he is sinful and thus violate God's Law regularly. The Gospel is the message that Christ has atoned for our sins so that we will be saved when we put our trust in him and rely on his righteousness. The orthodox scheme is this:

Problem: Sin; Solution: Propitiation, expiation and double imputation.

Whereas for Prince, as we have seen, the problem with mankind is condemnation that leads to more and more sin. The solution is the gift of no condemnation. This can be shown as follows:

Problem: Condemnation; Solution: Gift of no condemnation

It is at this point that we can see how the hyper-grace heresy develops. In evangelical theology, condemnation is the judicial consequence (not root) of sin. Romans 8 comes after 7 chapters dealing with the sinfulness of man and the Gospel of free salvation in Christ, and therefore the removal of condemnation is the consequences of actual salvation. In the Scriptures, no condemnation is the judicial verdict stemming from the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel. Prince redefines the problem and the solution in more psychological instead of forensic terms, and thus arose the hyper-grace error.

Due to its misdiagnosis and misprescription, it can be safely said that hyper-grace is a false gospel. By making the consequences of sin and salvation their respective roots, Prince and other hyper-grace preachers have created a false gospel which they are peddling to the masses. While there are some surface similarities between hyper-grace and the true biblical doctrines of grace, at its root the two are radically opposed to each other. Therefore, even as we must be against (true) Legalism, we must also defend and refute the hyper-gracers who might seem to be teaching something similar to us in some aspects, but are actually promoting a false gospel.

Hyper Grace: Sin and conviction of sin, sanctification

Brown's next charge against the hyper-gracers is that they deny that believers should confess their sins to God, with a focus on their denigration of 1 John 1 as being a polemic against the Gnostics. In this, Brown is absolutely correct that the hyper-gracers have invented from thin air a false context for 1 John 1, a text which in fact is directed to Christians, contrary to what the hyper-gracers say. Brown's next charge is that the hyper-gracers deny that the Holy Spirit ever convicts people of sin, and that the repentance demanded of believers is merely a change of mind (based upon the distortion of the meaning of the Greek word metanoia and cognates). To the former, evidently the hyper-gracers deny John 16:8-10 among other texts. To the latter, Brown basically threw the books (lexicons etc) at the anti-intellectual hyper-gracers, who pretend to be scholarly and use Greek words, while distorting the actual meaning of these words.

The next area of Brown's critique concerns hyper-grace's essentially perfectionist understanding of sanctification. Hyper-gracers are perfectionists, denying the need for progressive sanctification. Living the Christian life to them is "effortless," the subject of Brown's critique in chapter 9. Here, Brown's critique of the necessity of progressive sanctification, and of actually striving towards holiness (Brown, 91-148) is appropriate.

Perhaps the most disturbing within the hyper-grace camp is the radical and outright heretical conclusions some of the leaders are taking the movement. In his chapter "The New Gnostics," Brown detailed some of the even more heretical stuff that some hyper-gracers are promoting in order to preserve their perfectionism. According to one blog post written to counter Brown, and now cited by him, the author Michael Reyes claimed that he was not the one sinning but just his "flesh" (Brown, 229). Hyper-grace teacher Ryan Rufus is criticized by Brown for saying that Christians no loner have a sinful nature (Brown, 230). Even more disturbing is the mysticism of hyper-grace heretic John Crowder, who brazenly comes up with a version of union with Christ that has Christ replacing the believer and thus sinning is impossible for the believer, an error worse than that of Andrea Osiander and more akin to pantheism.

The last major error criticized by Brown lies in the hyper-Dispensationalism of the hyper-gracers. In this area, there might be some overlap with the anti-Lordship free grace camp. Andre van der Merwe attacked the Old Testament as being a book of confusion that shouldn't be added to the New Testament (Brown, 168), an assertion that is plain ridiculous and shows he has no idea how the canon of Scripture was formed. Van der Merwe made that statement because, like Marcion, he does not like the Old Testament's 'god of wrath.' Other hyper-grace teachers are less overtly Marcionite. Prince for example distorts 2 Corinthians 3 to claim a contrast between the Old Testament as being a book that brings death and thus not applicable in the dispensation of grace (Brown, 201; Prince, 43, 92-3). Hyper-gracers claim that the Mosaic Covenant is in essence a covenant of law (works) since the people rejected God's grace and wanted law (Brown, 193-6, Prince, 222-4). Thus, Christians can disregard most of the Old Testament since we are under the new dispensation of grace. All of these follow the path of the heretic Marcion and are to be rejected.

Hyper Grace: Sin and Forgiveness

One of the foundations of the hyper-grace message is that God has already forgiven all our sins, meaning past sins, present sins, and future sins. ... (Michael Brown, Hyper-Grace, 39)

Simply stated, there is not a single verse anywhere in the Bible that pronounces us already forgiven for our future sins (meaning, sins we have not yet committed). (Ibid., 43)

Dr. Brown's first critique against the hyper-gracers is their strident tone attacking those who reject their message as "legalistic" and "against grace" (Brown, 22-38). The accusations by the hyper-gracers would however be true if what they proclaim was actually true. In other words, Brown's complaint here would only be valid if the hyper-gracers are wrong. If however the hyper-gracers were correct in their understanding of the Gospel, then Brown's complaint would be invalid. Brown scored better in his second critique of speaking about the forgiveness of sins, but even then he fumbles.

The hyper-gracers believe that Jesus forgave our sins past, present and future. Therefore. there is no need to ask for forgiveness for sins committed in the future. Rather, the whole idea is to just declare one's righteousness and not think about sin (e.g. Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, 17-18). Brown's critique is that Jesus has declared us righteous by faith, but that forgiveness is given only after sins have been committed, "applied as needed" (Brown, 43).

Both the hyper-gracers and Brown are in error on this point, although Brown is closer to the truth. The problem arises when proper theological categories and distinctions are not made. When the question is asked as to whether God forgives our sins "past, present and future," the whole manner of thinking is wrong from the beginning. The question tacitly assumes that the solution to sin is the forgiveness of God, which plays into the hyper-gracers distortion of the problem with Man, but it certainly is not how the Bible expresses itself on the way of salvation.

The orthodox manner of understanding the work of salvation is to distinguish between redemption accomplished by Christ, and redemption applied by the Holy Spirit. Christ fulfilled redemption for all time for all kinds of peoples on the Cross. He has paid the full price of atonement to propitiate the Father's wrath and expiate the penalties of our sins. God is now both just and justifier of believers in Christ (Rom. 3:26). The price has been paid for all sins that has ever been committed, past, present and future. The work of Christ is finished, a fact which Brown has gotten right.

The redemption accomplished by Christ is then applied to believers by the Holy Spirit, who calls, regenerates and applies the verdict of justification to believers, adopting them into the household of God, and then He sanctifies and finally glorifies them. This application of regeneration is applied in time to believers. Redemption accomplished is finished at the Cross, but redemption applied is ongoing throughout time and history.

When we think in this manner, then the question posed by the hyper-gracers can be seen as being imprecise and misleading. Does God forgive our sins "past, present, and future"? God has paid for our sins and thus the forgiveness of sins past, present and future, but the application of that forgiveness comes about by faith and repentance. As 1 John 1:9 states, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We are already forgiven, but yet we continually seek forgiveness for our sins. Thus, contra Brown, it is true that we are forgiven of our future sins, but contra the hyper-gracers, it is because we are objectively forgiven of our future sins that we seek forgiveness (subjectively) from God for any sins we commit.

This dynamic is clearly stated in the Bible. We are saved apart from works, so that we might obey God (Romans, Galatians). We are saved from salvation by the Law, in order to obey the Law (Gal. 5:13-14). We are saved FROM good works (contra Legalism) FOR good works (contra Antinomianism). This is the proper manner of understanding the Gospel and the Christian life, which we should take in contrast to both Brown but especially the hyper-gracers.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Young Gnostic Messiah (ADD)

It wasn't so long ago when radical liberals lined up attacks upon Christianity during the season of Good Friday and Easter. Liberals would be on media programs to promote (discredited) theories that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross, or that the resurrection did not actually happen, and other such nonsense. Now however, Satan does not have to rely on the liberals and their attacks, which were so outrageous the attacks convinced no one but their liberal proponents themselves. Instead, Satan dresses up as an angel of light and is now attacking the Christian faith from within.

So what is the Trojan horse? This Good Friday/ Easter season, we have the so-called Christian movie The Young Messiah. To say that the movie is unbiblical is an understatement. Just from the trailer alone, there is enough material to indict the movie and its producers as being agents of the devil, willingly or unwillingly. It is unbiblical, blasphemous and Gnostic. Yes, it is Gnostic, with a capital "G." It is astonishing that supposedly many Christian leaders have endorsed this movie. I know Evangelicalism has little if any depth in it, but these endorsements have stricken a new low for Evangelicalism, which is saying a lot since my estimation of the Evangelical movement was so low I thought I had reached rock bottom — even supporting the nativist and vulgar buffoon Donald Trump was not as bad as this!

The first and major problem with this (anti-) "Christian" movie is its Gnosticism. Gnosticism was an esoteric and eclectic movement in the first few centuries of the Church that attempted to fuse Eastern mystical religion, Greek philosophy, and elements of Christianity into a syncretistic religious soup. Gnosticism, like Neo-Platonism, elevates the spirit over matter. Matter is considered evil, and thus creation (matter, the universe) was made by a lesser and lower deity. The problem with man is not sin, but creatureliness. The body is the prison of the soul, and salvation is achieved by learning the path to liberation, towards pure spirit and towards the One, God. This path involves the gaining of secret knowledge (gnosis), and thus the movement is called Gnosticism.

As a false religion loosely affiliated with, and competing against Christianity, Gnosticism attempted to subvert the Christian faith and message. Spurious gospel accounts were written that made it seem as if Jesus were a Gnostic. Since the four Gospels were well distributed, Gnosticism tried to insert its message by "filling in the blanks" of Jesus' life and ministry, and the first 30 years of that life would prove an excellent place to embellish the character and teaching of Jesus in their favor.

One such Gnostic text was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an anonymous text falsely ascribing as its author the Apostle Thomas. The text claims to fill up some of the unknown years of Jesus, during his childhood. In the trailer to the movie, we see an enactment of, or an allusion to, the scene from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas 1:2-3. In that text, the Gnostic writer claimed Jesus fashioned birds out of clay and then they came alive. In the trailer, we see Jesus at the beach rising to his feet with clasped hands and then opening his hands to reveal birds which flew away, so, while it isn't clear in the trailer, it seems likely that the full scene in the movie will show Jesus making birds from clay, or rather sand.

The movie is thus Gnostic in its use of a Gnostic source, and in its "filling in the blanks" (basically lying) about the life of Jesus. This is not just plain artistic license and embellishment, but it is the whole movie, the creation/ adaptation of a totally fictional story about Jesus with no basis at all in the Scriptures and in real history. For the Christian leaders who endorse this blasphemous (in more ways than one) movie, is it their intent to state that the historicity of Jesus' actual life and work do not matter, since a fictional tale about him is evidently just as valid as the biblical truth?

The second problem, a theological problem, lies in its portrayal of the young Jesus as someone struggling with existential angst concerning his calling. There are so many things wrong with this portrayal of Jesus. First of all, the trailer seems to indicate that Jesus came to realize his calling not from himself but through Mary. Secondly, Jesus was portrayed as someone learning how to become the Savior. Yes, the trailer cited Philippians 2:6-7, but, as far as I know, even the worst of the kenotics (those who hold that Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes in the Incarnation) would balk at this portrayal of Jesus! If the trailer is accurate, the movie's Christology is totally messed up. To say that Jesus learned to be the Messiah puts Jesus out as a man who became the Messiah, which is basically an Adoptionist Christology. This kind of doubting and angst, while making "Jesus" relatable to an angsty postmodern audience, is a practical denial of Christ's deity and a rejection of Scripture's actual portrayal of the young Jesus. The text misused in this trailer, Philippians 2:6-7, did not say that the Son ceased to be God in the Incarnation, but rather that He divested Himself of His heavenly privileges and glory, thus becoming a servant (as opposed to the Lord of heaven). The Son as a servant divested Himself of the exercise of his regnal authority, but He never ceased being the Son. Jesus continued to be God even while on earth! In the one section where we were given a glimpse into Jesus' childhood (Lk. 2:41-51), we are shown a Jesus who already knew of his calling even at the young tender age of 12.

Yes, a young "Jesus" struggling with angst might be more relatable, but it is a false idolatrous representation of the real Jesus. The real Jesus from young knew who he was and what he was sent to do. The life of the historical young Jesus would not make for a good movie, but then Jesus came not for our entertainment but for our salvation! While Jesus was indeed human and suffered on this world, that does not mean that he faced the same angst as we do. In fact, ancient civilizations tend not to face our postmodern angst, for most people in ancient times struggle daily to put food on the table, while living in constant fear appeasing gods and spirits among them.

I am sure the actual movie would yield even more problems, as the footage concerning the Romans seem to indicate. But just from the trailer itself, we see a person portrayed that behaves all too differently from the biblical Jesus. It is manifestly shameless for the director of the film to think that this movie has anything remotely to do with the true Jesus. In an interview with Christianity Astray Today, the director even had the gall to denigrate orthodoxy, stating that one just have to have an emotional connection to the people on firm. While that might be fine with normal movies, this movie is marketing itself as a Christian movie about Jesus, which means it should be truthful at the very least, which this movie isn't.

The Young Messiah is a work based upon false stories of Jesus. As such, all Christians should be warned against watching this Gnostic trash. If God did not see fit to give us details on Jesus' first 30 years, then perhaps we should likewise not peer into the secret things of God.

ADD: Dr. James White has posted a short review of the movie here. While it's good that the explicitly Gnostic elements are removed or toned down, that does not excuse the needless speculation of Jesus' early life. There is still no word as to whether this Jesus did in fact experienced angst over his calling

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Positive Liberty, Christian and cultural issues

Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε. (Gal 5:1)

For the sake of freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore and do not again be subject to the yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1; own translation)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)

What is freedom? What is liberty? The common notion in today's society is that freedom is the removal of external restraint so that one is able to do whatever one desires to do. Thus, the idea that "same sex marriage" should be imposed on everyone is painted as a rosy picture of LGBTQ people who are now "free" to marry the person they "love." Who actually cares about the truth, as long as one perceives said development to be about the advancement of freedom and liberty? Freedom and liberty in today's society is portrayed negatively, as the removal of external restraint so that anyone is "free" to be whoever he/she/it/ze wants to be. [Of course, the denial of liberty for Christians is perfectly acceptable to the LGBTQ bigots, but that's another story altogether.]

As opposed to negative liberty, there is also positive liberty. Negative liberty is freedom from, the casting away of restraint. Positive liberty is freedom for, the freedom to do the good. Now, this is not to say that there are two separate kinds of liberty, much less that they are opposites, and we get to choose which kind of liberty we want, but that the two must go together. The prevailing tendency in today's world is to think exclusively in terms of negative liberty, and thus liberty become unhinged leading towards destruction.

Socially, the "progressive" promotion of the sexual revolution from its beginning until now is one example of an unhinged focus on negative liberty. Recently however, there has been a dangerous movement of unhinged negative liberty in the lead up to the US elections 2016, in Trumpism. Those supporting Donald Trump are the current perfect specimen of those with an unhinged focus on negative liberty. Trumpites are more interested in destroying everything, in supporting a candidate to show the middle finger to the "establishment," whomever "those" are. They are not interested in someone who can build something positive, in the promotion of virtue and sound policy. Theirs is a freedom from, an overthrow of the "oppressors," a rebellion against established authority.

In the church, this unhinged concept of liberty is also present. Liberty is defined negatively in the professing Church by people who want to jettison liturgy and rituals for no good reason other than they feel these are like dead albatrosses hung around the church's neck. We see this in the constant attacks on "religion," stating that Christianity is all about a relationship with God and not a religion, as if Christianity cannot be both!

More insidious is when this concept of liberty infiltrates one's theology. Those who promote liberty and freedom from the Law such that the Law is not necessary for the Christian defines liberty purely negatively. Reflecting the culture's libertinism, freedom is freedom from, in this case freedom from the Law such that Christians do not need the Law.

When we look at Scripture however, freedom always has its positive dimension. We are saved from the power of sin (negative liberty) in order that we can now follow God and His commands (positive liberty). As Galatians 5:1 states, we are set free by Christ for freedom. THEREFORE, because of that, we are to stand firm and live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:13, 25). Christian freedom is always freedom to obey, not the secularist idol of autonomous, purposeless "freedom." "Freedom" without God is a curse. In fact, it is not real freedom but bondage, bondage to sin and to the power of the Devil. Those who proclaim themselves free, free from God, from traditional morality, are the ones most in bondage to Satan and his wiles.

We need to recover this concept of positive liberty, for it is by neglecting it that we have come to this degenerate stage in society. By all means, we should celebrate and promote liberty, but only if they consist of both positive and negative liberties, and not one existing without the other..

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Michael Brown and Reviewing the Hyper-Grace movement

The charismatic apologist Dr. Micheal Brown has written a book in 2014 entitled Hyper Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message. In this book, Brown attempted to sound an alarm against a movement within charismatic circles that promotes a certain view of grace that he believes leads to licentiousness. For others looking in, parallels might be drawn between this and the older Lordship controversy between John MacArthur and the anti-Lordship movement by people like Zane Hodges (a mostly intra-Dispensational controversy), or the glowing embers of controversy around the radical grace movement between people like Kevin DeYoung and Mark Jones on the one hand, and mainly Tullian Tchividjian on the other (an intra-Reformed controversy), which died down somewhat after Tchividjian's disgrace and removal from ministry due to his sin of adultery. Having read up quite a bit on the Lordship controversy, and having some familiarity with the more recent controversy over Tullian's views, I certainly think there are points of similarity the hyper-grace controversy have with the other two controversies, but I do not think they are so similar such that one can take the "grace" position or its opposite across the board. It is fully possible that the biblical position might be to side with the Lordship position in the Lordship controversy, and yet to side with Tullian Tchividjian in the radical grace controversy. Each position in each controversy must be examined independently on its own merits, without conflating the controversies such that one side must be the default just because its analogue in another controversy is the biblical position.

It is on this note that I wish to review Dr. Michael Brown's book on the topic. I would love to also review a book written from who I think to be the main source of the Hyper-Grace movement, Joseph Prince, but that would have to be for another time.

Concerning the history of this movement, I have lost touch with the happenings within the charismatic movement so unfortunately I do not have a clear picture of the relationship between Joseph Prince and the various other preachers accused by Dr. Brown of being proponents of "Hyper-Grace." What I do know however is that most of the material by the other hyper-grace proponents cited by Dr. Brown are quite recent— all 2007 and after. As someone from Singapore, I do know Prince has been promoting the hyper-grace message as early or even earlier than 2000. Basically, there were murmurs about his teaching on grace already back then when New Creation was starting to become famous/infamous as it grew to become a mega-church. While I cannot say this with absolute certainty, I suspect that Prince was the original hyper-grace preacher, and he spread the movement through his various talks and conferences around the world, as well as his "outreach" through having branches of his own ministry abroad in place like America, where he has his own very religious TV channel appropriately named "Destined to Reign." In this light, it would be really interesting if someone would actually research and do a write up on the evolution of this movement, as well as the relationships Prince have with its other proponents like John Crowder, Rob Rufus and Clark Whitten.

The hyper-grace controversy began with certain preachers like Joseph Prince proclaiming what they believe to be the true Christian message of grace that had been obscured in the modern church. According to Prince, he received a new revelation directly from God to preach "grace," and his ministry has never been the same again [Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign: The secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living (Singapore: 22 Media, 2007), 272]. Dr. Brown's book is probably the first written blast against the movement that has metastasized within charismatic circles. Since Charismatism has never been known for great scholarship in general, I doubt there would be a flurry of books dealing with the controversy, as opposed to the number of books already written over a short time span between Tullian Tchividjian, Mark Jones and Kevin Deyoung. Rather, the hyper grace controversy would probably be fought over in informal settings like blogs, and we would have few books on the topic.

[to be continued]