Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Faith and the problem of perspectivalism

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (Jn. 16:13)

Scripture is truth (Jn. 17:17). [Absolute] truth is therefore available to us in the pages of Scripture. However, even if truth is available to us, how do we know whether we are reading it alright in the pages of Scripture?

One basic notion of perspectivalism lies in the fact that human beings are subjective creatures. All facts are interpreted by us through the lens of our distinctive culture, context and worldviews, and nowhere is this seen more than the case of the usage and interpretation of language. Each of us therefore frame our own individual perspective on things, and it is this subjective human element of interpretation that plaques the quest for truth. Even if absolute truth is present, can we as finite creatures attain it?

The knowledge of absolute truth thus hits a stone wall. How can we as finite subjective humans attain to objective truth? In the case of Christian knowledge, how can we interpret Scripture to get absolute truth, knowing that our interpretation is necessarily tainted by our perspectives?

Scripture gives us the answer to this question. In Jn. 17:8, the words of Christ establish the truth in us regarding Him. The words of Christ are now mediated by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 15:26) who will lead us into all the truth (Jn. 16:13). The Spirit therefore guides our interpretation of Scripture and enable us to understand what He has previously breathed-out (2 Tim. 3:16). In this way, we can come to know absolute truth.

The problem of perspectivalism therefore does not affect Christianity. Rather, knowledge is attainable because the only objective person (God) has condescended to tell us the truth. By biblical child-like faith (as opposed to mysticism), we submit to God and His Word and are able to know the truth as the Spirit guides us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Phil Johnson: A Primer on Antinomianism

Phil R. Johnson has recently written an excellent primer on Antinomianism at his blog here. Most Antinomians may not be practical antinomians, but they certainly are theoretical ones. Due to their rejection of the law, they tend towards practical licentiousness or at least the toleration of "respectable sins". As Phil remarks:

... in normal theological discourse the term antinomianism usually refers to theoretical antinomianism. Theoretical antinomians don't necessarily advocate extreme libertinism (or practical antinomianism). In fact, a great many theoretical antinomians are known for their advocacy of holiness. (And conversely, many who adhere to "Holiness doctrine" and various other perfectionist schemes are also theoretical antinomians.)

In totally non-technical terms, antinomianism is simply the view that Christians are not bound by any of the precepts of Moses' law—moral, civil, ceremonial, or otherwise.



It is not so much the licentiousness that makes antinomianism what it is, although we certainly do see these in action, but the rejection of the third use of the Law as a guiding principle. Without the law to tell us what is sin and what is pleasing to God, Christian living is rendered directionless and epistemologically indistinguishable from sin. In such a system, no antinomian can legitimately tell anyone that what they are doing is sin, for "we are under grace, not law". Instead, all such telling becomes mere expression of disapproval without any teeth to it except for the possible lose of a relationship.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Faith and Knowledge against Inclusivism

In the 5th session of the Faith and Knowledge series, the relation between knowledge and truth was examined. In this light, we looked briefly at the teaching of Inclusivism — which in its most generic form teaches that people can be saved apart from conscious belief in Jesus Christ, and rejected it as heresy.

In Jn. 17:3, it is written:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:3)

The motif of eternal life in the Gospel of John always refers to salvation from sin and eternal damnation. In Jesus' high priestly prayer, Jesus explicitly tells us what eternal life is and will thus be manifested as. Eternal life or salvation is manifested in knowing God and Jesus Christ who is sent by God.

If that is indeed the case, then some knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ which is personally embraced by the knower (the biblical idea of knowledge includes personal and relational acceptance of the truth of such knowledge - cf Amos 3:2) must be seen in salvation. If the two are correlated as Jn. 17:3 shows it to be, then there cannot be any salvation/eternal life for those who do not intellectually know and personally accept the truths of the Gospel. Without conscious knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Gospel (nevermind belief), they can be no salvation for anyone at all.

Heb. 9:27 is the final nail in the coffin for the heresy of Inclusivism. Judgment comes immediately (not temporarily but experientially) after death, and thus there are no second chances for anyone to have a "postmortem conversion". Those who do not have conscious faith in Christ in this life do not have eternal life, and do not have any second chance to "gain" eternal life after their earthly life have passed.

Once we see that salvation is linked to knowledge and truth (one of the key points for that session), the error of Inclusivism is easily disposed of, no matter how nuanced and sophisticated the heretics made Inclusivism out to be. Salvation always is by faith which must always include knowledge (cognitio) and assent (assentia), and therefore Inclusivism is most certainly wrong in that light. It is only when faith is made out to be some mystical "spiritual" thing that the door to Inclusivism is opened, which it seems happens in some supposed and so-called Evangelical circles.

There is only one Gospel, not two

Over at the Alpha and Omega Ministries blog, Jamin Hubner has been posting a series critiquing the hyper-Dispensationalist (some may even say consistent Dispensationalist) errors. In his latest post, Hubner exposes the error, through exegeting Mt. 19:16-25, of those who believe that the way of salvation for Jews (the "Gospel of Jesus" for the Jews in the hyper-Dispensational scheme) is by works. As Hubner writes:

The answer to that question [Then who can be saved - v.25 NASB] – in light of what Jesus just said in verses 16-25 – is clearly no. No one can be saved. There is no salvation, unless you are absolutely perfect. Human beings need to follow the law and the commandments with 100% perfection in order to enter heaven. In fact, Jesus said earlier in Matthew 5:20 with just as much boldness, “For I say that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you not will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

How impossible! And then Jesus goes even further and amplifies the laws that already exist, saying if you so much as look at a woman wrongly, you’ve committed adultery, and if you hate a person in your mind, it’s the same as murdering them. Jesus goes on and on until finally some of his listeners stop asking questions and walk away

So what is the way of salvation for sinners both Gentile AND Jew? By grace alone, based upon Christ fulfilling the condition for salvation by fulfilling all the commandments on our behalf, as Hubner shows after looking through v. 26.

If anyone is going to be saved, God Himself is going to have to do the work of saving. That is, God Himself is going to have to fulfill every one of the Commandments Jesus just listed in Matthew 19 for anyone to have eternal life, because the law and holiness of God requires perfection.

But, that leaves anyone asking, who is that? Who on earth can live an entire life without lusting after another person, without thinking a thought of hate, without stepping over the line just once?

God in the flesh: Jesus the Christ. That’s what Jesus meant when he said “with God all things are possible.” Only God the Son can fulfill the demands of God the Father.

So then, if Christians aren’t saved by fulfilling the law, then how are Christians saved? Jesus answers that question in the same way Paul does: by faith alone. (Refer back to the quotations of Christ talking about faith). There is one gospel in the Bible, not two.

Amen. There is only one way of salvation in the Gospel which is by grace through faith apart from works. Jews are not saved by merely being Jews or whatever strange ideas some Dispensational Zionists may come up with. Only through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ can anyone be saved, both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 1:16)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Faith: Childlike faith

While in the process of adjusting to a different life over in Escondido, I think it would be good to go through some concepts that I have gone through in the Faith and Knowledge Bible study series for my cell group.

One of the concepts that we looked at was the concept of child-like faith. In evangelical circles, it has been heard that we should have child-like faith and not question too much. Instead, blind faith is sufficient. Just like a child does not know a lot but just blindly trust parents and those in authority, so we should not be too critical and instead just accept all that our pastors teach us. The sheep are then focused on "practical applications", while eschewing doctrinal truth which are meant for "theologians", a supposed ultra-elite class of super-Christians who are near infallible in their doctrinal pronouncements, functioning as the de facto mediator between Christ and the laity.

Of course, the Scriptures teach nothing of that sort — a fiction which is sadly prevalent in many authoritarian societies (especially in Asia) where those in authority are respected almost to the point of unquestioning obeisance.

So what exactly is this child-like faith as taught in Scripture?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:1-4)

In this passage, the main quality highlighted by Jesus is that of humility, as stated in verse 4. To become like children or to have child-like faith in this context means to be as humble as children. While of course there are proud children in this world, the focus is on the nature of young children in general. Young children trust their parents' word as truth, and act upon it as such. They do not think that they know it all, but rather admit what they do not know and fall back on their parents.

In the same way, the essence of child-like faith is humility before God. Humility before God means trusting in Him and obeying His Word, not questioning it and rebelling against it. Instead of thinking that we know what is best, we should submit to God and His Word even when it doesn't make sense at the moment.

Child-like faith therefore implies humility before God's Word. With regards to knowledge therefore, child-like faith means that the believer holds to God's Word as true even though Scripture is being attacked by many unbelievers some of whom may even be within the churches. Christians take God's Word as the axiom of all of life, knowing that regardless of what men say, 'Let God be true though every one were a liar' (cf Rom. 3:4).

Instead of promoting anti-intellectualism therefore, the essence of child-like faith is not ignorance but rather humility before God in using His Word as the basis of our knowledge. Child-likeness therefore relates to the attitude which we bring to God's Word and the foundation of our knowledge rather than the quality or quantity of knowledge gained. Far from discouraging knowledge, child-likeness is the godly attitude for the building up of true knowledge of God, of Man and of the world. Such would yield good fruit that conforms with true godliness and salvation.

In this light, to cause "one of these little ones" to sin as stated in verse 6 is indeed a terrible thing indeed. Since the essence of child-like faith is humility before God and His Word, the sin in verse 6 is to question God's Word and undermine its authority. Higher criticism, Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy all destroy or gut the Word of God of its authority in the lives of believers. By making the thoughts and prejudices of men the arbiter of which Scripture is inspired (ie. inerrant, infallible in every jot and tittle) and which are not, such "scholarship" destroys child-like faith in those who accept and believe them. For those who propagate such doctrines of demons, it would be better for them to have great millstones thrown around their necks and to be drowned in the sea (Mt. 18:6).

In conclusion, child-like faith is not what many have made it out to be. It is humility before God and His Word, and nowhere inimical to growth in knowledge but rather the only godly basis for growth in true knowledge.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A transition

Observant readers of mine may have noticed that I have seen that my city of residence have been changed, although that would not actually take effect until about one week's time. The fact of the matter is that I am going for theological studies in a solid Reformed seminary over there.

Anyway, here is a short sharing which I have prepared for a dinner with some of my extended family last night. It has undergone major revisions since the script was not fully thought-out at that time. Anyway, here it is.

For they call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel; the LORD of hosts is his name. "The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, 'My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.' "You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.'

"For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

(Is. 48:2-11)

In just a couple of days time, I would be flying off to the USA for theological studies. Why have I decided to do that?

Being saved by the grace of God, I desire to know Him more and to live for Him, giving my all (Rom. 12:1) to the one who saved me purely out of His own free choice to do so. As I grow in my walk, I became burdened with the shocking biblical illiteracy even among Christians who are ignorant of basic biblical doctrines, which coupled with an attitude of anti-intellectualism results in failure to function as the salt and light of the world. Instead, we have epitomized the reality of Eph. 4:14 – being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and in this we glory in our shame, boasting to everyone of our ignorance by claiming to have “no creed but Christ”.

In the past three years, I have felt the calling to serve God full-time. Yet the call of God is not something that is emotion but that is of the Spirit. Through prayer and awaiting God’s timing, I am convinced of God’s guidance into this area and my giftings in this area have also been noted by fellow Christians. It is therefore my desire to learn more about God’s Word so as to be able to teach it properly for the building up of God’s people.

Yet in all this I must take note of the fact that service is ultimately not about me. God is totally sovereign and He does not need anyone to do His will. God does not need me or anyone else for that matter to do His work, for His arm is powerful to do all that He desires (Dan. 4:35). God can make a great nation from Moses without the need for the Israelites if He so chooses to (Ex. 32:10), and He can raise up children of Abraham from inanimate rocks and stones (Mt. 3:9, Lk. 3:8). No matter the need, God is always in control and lacks nothing from us.

We must not therefore think that God needs our services otherwise His plan will fail. Rather, God condescends to use us for His own glory, and it is our privilege to joyfully submit to Him and do His will for us.

God’s will is ultimately for His glory – for His name’s sake (Is. 48:2-11). God’s glory is of supreme importance to Himself, and it is because of His glory that He saves us, just like He promises to saves the rebellious Jews during the time of Isaiah. I must therefore also remember that the goal of all service is that God be supremely glorified, not about how much service I have rendered to God or how many people may benefit from what God may do through me. The prophet Jeremiah has little to show for His labor, yet He glorified God by proclaiming His Word as judgment against Judah for their rejection of God’s authority and His Law. Likewise, all that we do must be centered on God and His glory, not the needs of men, the Church or the World. What matters is faithfulness, not results.

So (1) God does not need me, and (2) God does not treasure what I can do (as if apart from the Lord I can do anything anyway). Yet it is my privilege to follow and offer my life up to this great God and my Savior, knowing that He will use this flawed life for His purpose, and that His purposes will stand. Amen.

Fascism and the spirit of this age

In the May/June 2010 issue of his Critical Issue Commentary, Pastor Bob DeWaay has written an interesting piece summarizing Gene Veith's book on Fascism and noting the uncanny resemblance postmodernity has to it As society goes downhill, it is feared that fascism will make its comeback under another name - something we can already see in the militant homosexual movement.

This article will reveal similarities between the philosophies prevalent in Germany that characterized fascism and those of postmodern thinkers today. I am not suggesting that because these similarities exist postmoderns would be in favor of a new Hitler. I am suggesting that ideas have consequences and that history ought to teach us how serious they can be. The key issue is the rejection of a transcendent God who has revealed moral law. The result of such a rejection will most certainly be some form of lawlessness.

Recently, radio host and friend Chris Rosebrough called me and insisted that I read Modern Fascism by Gene Veith. Chris suggested the book because it draws a parallel between the ideas popular in Germany between World Wars I and II and the ideas popular in America today. These ideas now are called “postmodern,” a term introduced by Martin Heidegger, a popular German philosopher who became a committed fascist. Veith’s Modern Fascism unpacks the philosophical ideas that led to fascism.

This review of Veith’s book will show that the postmodern/emergent ideas that are popular today are identical to those in vogue in post WWI Germany. [Note: I also use the term paraphrase in the title, because I quote extensively from Veith’s book and explain his ideas.] I do not claim that those who promote postmodern theology are guilty of promoting fascism, but I do claim that ideas have consequences. As we examine the ideas that led to fascism, we shall see why those ideas led to horrific consequences. Once we see the parallels between those times and today we can hope that today’s ideas will not lead to such consequences. But we have no guarantees that they won’t.


Feeling a sense of alienation, man in his wickedness and depravity imagined that we are alienated from "Mother Nature", thus setting the stage for greater wickedness. The real problem however is sin - alienation from God

I agree with Veith: “The problem is not alienation from nature, but alienation from God through the rebellion of sin” (Veith: 51). The longing for a return to nature has never been stronger in American society than I see today. The term “natural” is deemed synonymous with “good” and “unnatural” with “bad.” This ignores the problems that nature is fallen, that nature is impersonal, and that nature, therefore, is not a goddess who wishes to care for us. The deification of nature common today places many contemporary Americans in a philosophical league with the Nazis. They are blinded to that fact. Our problem is not alienation from nature, but from God.

The firewall we have against postmodernism (which is a fancy name for paganism) is an inerrant, authoritative Bible. Our sin problem finds its remedy through the gospel that is revealed in the Bible. We find morals and restraint from our sinful tendencies through the law of God revealed by God through the Biblical writers. Western civilization used to be based on such ideas. That is why Hitler hated the Jews and the West. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. He came in fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old Testament in such places as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. If the Christian church confesses Christ and the authority of Scripture, she shall put herself in opposition to Modern Fascism as Veith describes it. We will thus be seen as the enemies of society.

May God strengthen His Church and may we be found faithful in this time of increasing darkness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Phil Johnson on Socinianism at BioLogos

With the World Cup 2010 over, we can focus on better things than Paul the Octopus. Anyway, Phil Johnson over at the Pyromaniacs blog has an interesting article related to the attack of supposed "evangelical" BioLogos in its attack on Scripture entitled Socinianism in Lab Coats. The excerpts here are very revealing.


But my greatest concern [with BioLogos] — by far — is the blithe willingness with which they are prepared to trivialize, disregard, discard, or denounce the foundational doctrines of Christianity.

In every post I have made about BioLogos, I've been critical of two things in particular: 1) their relentless assault against the authority of Scripture, and 2) an attitude toward the doctrine of original sin that ranges from utter indifference to condescending dismissal.

The authority of Scripture and the doctrine of original sin are, of course, bedrock truths of all historic Christianity; they are not merely Reformed or evangelical distinctives ...


Incidentally, BioLogos's notion of "leading evangelical theologians" is revealing. Their theological headliners are men like Peter Enns, Greg Boyd, and N. T. Wright, not one of whom is truly evangelical in the historic sense of that term. Enns was dismissed from Westminster Seminary in August 2008 for his low view of Scripture. He and most of his supporters protested at the time that his views had been misrepresented and that he had been treated unfairly. But his contributions to BioLogos furnish ample proof that he did not, in fact, agree with Westminster's doctrinal standards. Boyd, of course, is well known as a cheerleader for Open Theism, which denies both the true omniscience and the immutability (not to mention the sovereignty) of God.

Having blended a low view of Scripture with an implicit denial of original sin, with a humanized view of God, and with a skeptical stance toward the miraculous elements of Scripture, BioLogos is actually peddling a brand of religion that has much more in common with Socinianism than with biblical and historic Christianity.


Let's face it: statements of faith aren't really a BioLogos "thing." The organization has no formal doctrinal standard and (as far as I can tell) no real theological boundaries at all. Everything is negotiable. Scripture is rarely if ever defended. Evangelical truth is not proclaimed at BioLogos. What does get aggressive promotion and a vigorous defense is anything that undermines a high view of Scripture. And why not? Open Theism, Sadduceeism, and neoorthodox notions about inspiration and inerrancy are rooted in the same kind of skepticism that underlies BioLogos's treatment of the early chapters of Genesis.

Here is the closest thing to an official statement of faith you'll find on the BioLogos website: "We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God." Really? Perhaps if we posit an infinitely flexible definition of the word inspired, a claim like that might have a some thin thread of credibility. But search and see for yourself: BioLogos's website is full of articles attacking the accuracy, believability, authority, and verbal inspiration of Scripture. I can't find a single article where any of the contested claims of Scripture are defended against the attacks of secular materialists.


Scientism it is indeed, when people worship "Science" as the truth and nothing but the truth, not even knowing the methodology and limits of science, a topic which I hope to talk about sometime in the future.