Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Scholarship and submitted scholarship

Dr. James White did a Dividing Line podcast on the issue of scholarship, and how true Christian scholarship should be done in submission to the Lordship of Christ. You can watch it as below

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Say no to liberal ecumenism

In recent years, we have discovered that the activities of some churches and organisations are harmful to us because these groups violate the laws and regulations of the Chinese government which is neither beneficial to themselves nor to churches in China. These activities range from sending missionaries, conducting training programs in clandestine fashion, setting up denominational churches and tempting Chinese Christians financially to join these churches. These practices destroy the unity of churches in China and generate misunderstandings, as their reports on churches in China can be misleading. [Gao Feng, "Co-operation and Partnership in the Mission of the Church in China," in Michael Nai-Chiu Poon, Church Partnerships in Asia: A Singapore Conversation (CSCA Christianity in Southeast Series; Singapore, Trinity Theological College, 2011), 63]

The emergence of many new denominations, parachurch organizations and Christian sects is challenging because it has created confusion and misunderstanding among churches about a common witness. It wii be imperative for MCC [Myanmar Council of Churches -DHC] to co-operate with Evangelicals, Pentecostals and other small mission bodies to find ways and means to resolve the situation. [Stephen Than Myint Oo, "The Life and Witness of the Church in Myanmar: Past, Present and Future," in Poon, 89]

If there is one thing that irks liberal ecumenists, it is when missionaries that are not approved by them enter into their country and their territory to do church planting. In China, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches, the "official" Protestant church, claims to speak for all Protestants in China. That there are millions of Chinese Christians in underground churches who refuse to submit to the TSPM undercuts their claim to ecumeneity of course, but liberal ecumenists, like liberals everywhere, are unconcerned about that inconvenient truth. In their minds, they are the only acceptable church and they represent ALL Christians in their region and/or country, consent of those they "represent" is not important at all!

In the case of Myanmar, evidently such a centralization of sorts (given the huge diversity in Myanmar) had occurred with the formation of the MCC. Just like the TSPM, they claim to speak for all Christians in their country regardless of what the normal people think.

All of such "ecumeneity" exists in most countries around the world. In Singapore, it is the NCCS (National Council of Churches in Singapore), which claims to speak for all Christians in Singapore. But of course, all they speak for are the mainstream denominations where the liberals hare ascendant, or where Evangelicals have capitulated in the matter of church governance and relations. The NCCS for example do not speak for me; I detest their very existence. The liberal ecumenical organizations tolerate at best and promote at worst a false gospel and a false Christ. Their very existence is to function as demonic counterfeits of true Christianity, to snare the unsuspecting and undiscerning away from God into a false religiosity in the name of true religion.

Since the TSPM and evidently the MCC represent the Antichrist in this time, they are not to be regarded as Christian institutions at all. They are irked by missionaries coming in unannounced to create trouble as it were. Well, as long as the missionaries are missionaries who believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am all for them coming in and being "unhelpful" or "harmful" to these apostates! Let them "create misunderstanding," because the liberal ecumenical bodies have distorted the true biblical witness, so bringing in a true Christian witness is better than "uniting" around a false witness of heresy. For what has light to do with darkness, God to do with Satan?

Therefore, since the Southeast Asia region (and other regions too) has apostate liberal ecumenical bodies and churches around the region, Christian churches and missionaries should be interested in moving into these area and gain converts even through what those liberals would call "sheep stealing." Whoever attends those liberal churches may be a believer, but they need to be encouraged to attend a true church, while unbelievers within the liberal churches need to be called to repentance. The "churched" are to be targets for evangelism and discipleship as well. Since liberal theology does not save, those who follow it are just as lost as those from other religions. Believers in those churches are Christians despite them being in those churches, not because of it

So say no to liberal ecumenism, and liberalism in general. Have nothing to do with the false religion of liberalism. As John Gresham Machen shows in his book Christianity and Liberalism, Liberalism is another religion altogether, in contrast to biblical Christianity. While I cannot speak definitely of the status of Gao Feng and Stephen Than, both of them have to repent for their wickedness in promoting liberalism and liberal ecumeneity, or face the possibility of an eternity without Christ forever.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

On Singapore Church History

I have compiled, edited and re-worked my articles on Singapore Church History. The full article can be read here: On Singapore Church History.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pietism and Confessionalism

The sort of religion heralded by the revivals of the First Great Awakening is chiefly responsible for the triumph of a utilitarian view of faith. The itinerant evangelists of these revivals, as well as their successors, transformed Christianity from a churchly and routine affair into one that was intense and personal. The conversion experiences marked the beginning of this new form of Christian faith. But it was only the start. True converts were expected to prove the authenticity of their faith through lives that were visibly different from nonbelievers. Indeed, the demand for a clear distinction between the ways of the faithful and those of the world not only propelled many of the social reforms associated with evangelicalism but also provided the foundation for viewing Christianity in practical categories. If faith was supposed to make a difference in all areas of life, not just on Sunday but on every day of the week, it is no wonder that the emphasis in Protestant circles shifted from churchly forms of devotion to ones that should be seen in personal affairs, community life, and national purpose. In other words, the cycle of revivals throughout American religious history, inaugurated by the First Great Awakening, secured the victory of pietism within American Protestantism. Like it European antecedents, American pietism dismissed church creeds, structures, and ceremonies as merely formal or external manifestations of religion that went only skin deep. In contrast, pietists have insisted that genuine faith was one that transformed individuals, starting with their heart and seeping into all walks of life. (D.G. Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), pp. xvii-xviii)

Unlike pietist Protestantism, which attaches great religious significance to public life and everyday affairs, confessionalism situates the things of greatest religious meaning in the sacred sphere of the church and its ministry. (p. xviii)

Confessional Protestants resisted revivals in large part because the methods of evangelists and the piety expected of converts were generically Christian—sincerity, zeal, and a moral life. As a result, revivalism did not respect but in fact undermined the importance of creedal subscription, ordination, and liturgical order. In a word, confessionalists opposed revivalism because it spoke a different religious idiom, one that was individualistic, experiential, and perfectionistic, as opposed to the corporate, doctrinal, and liturgical idiom of historic Protestantism. (p. xxiv)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Neglecting the past: Indigenous "theologies" and the Singapore, Asian Context

Broadly speaking, for the past sixty years conservatives have been striving with the ecumenicists for global influence. For instance, the conservative International Council of Christian Churches pre-empted the World Council of Churches with its own gathering in Amsterdam a few months before WCC was inaugurated. Again, they waged a 'battle' against the ecumenicists in Bangkok in December 1949 by holding a conference on their own to counter the 'East Asian Christian Conference' that was taking place in the same time and same city. World Evangelical Fellowship convened a 'Theological Assistance Program' Consultation in Singapore in 1970 at the launch of the ecumenical Theological Education Fund Third Mandate, and evantually set up the Asia Theological Association as an alternative to the ecumenical ATESEA body. Despite well-meaning intents, these ecumenical-conservative conflicts, made possible by huge American financial investment, are destructive for world Christianity. They leave a legacy of rivalry and social polarisation especially among vulnerable churches around the world. [Michael Poon, "Introduction," in Michael Nai-Chiu Poon, ed., Church Partnerships in Asia: A Singapore Conversation (CSCA Christianity in Southeast Asia Series; Singapore, Trinity Theological College & Singapore, Armor Publishing, 2011), xviii]

Are Western theological conflicts alien to non-Westerners? Those into indigenious theologies (third-world theologies) evidently think so. They accuse Westerners of bringing their theological conflicts and inflicting it on non-Westerners, causing needless and sinful division of the Church in the non-Western countries. In this excerpt from a book intended to promote local "grassroots" Asian ecumenism, Michael Poon repeats the same charge of imperialism against essentially the Fundamentalists. According to him, such conflicts, "despite well-meaning intents," "are destructive for world Christianity," and "they leave a legacy of rivalry and social polarisation especially among vulnerable churches around the world." To say that Poon wishes for the Fundamentalist movement to stop being Fundamentalist is an obvious understatement, and in his view they are sinning and dividing the Church.

Christianity is a religion of truth. It claims, and proves itself to be, absolutely true. This is not an Enlightenment concept, but it can be found throughout the history of the Church in pre-modern times also. If Jesus is the only truth, that means that no falsehood should be tolerated by those who claim to follow Him, for to follow falsehood is to not follow the Christ who is the truth.

Thus, with regards to the divisions in Christendom, the question to be asked is not whether these divisions are created by the West, but whether the divisions are due to disputes over what is true. Does the amount of melanin in one's skin has any bearing on whether "1+1=2" is true, or whether "Socrates is a man" is a true proposition? Of course not! Does the truth value of the proposition matter if one were to say in English that "All humans will die" and to say the same thing in Chinese "每个人都会死"? Does the truth value changes if an Englishman say "There is one God" and a Japanese say the same thing "There is one God"? Most certainly not! The truth values of absolute truth propositions are independent of language, culture, ethnicity and nationality.

Similarly, to say that these issues and divisions have their beginnings in the West has absolutely no bearing on whether non-Westerners should or should not adopt the divisions and take sides in the conflicts in Western Christianity. The question remains: Are these issues and divisions disputes over truth? If they are, then non-Westerners should deal with them, and don't be intellectually lazy to discount them altogether. In fact, by doing so, "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it," as Lord Acton had indicated.

The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy is very important, because liberals or modernists deny cardinal doctrines of the faith like the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, and many others truths. By partnering with the Roman Catholic Church, it also indicates that it denies the importance of the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Before the modernists came into the scene, the church was not split over these issues, but once they came onto the scene sprouting heresy, they split the church with their heresies.

Thus, it is very telling that Poon accused the Fundamentalists as being divisive. No, the divisive ones are the liberals like those in the WCC who promote and teach lies about the Christian faith. What they teach is destructive for world Christianity. The Asian Liberals who are re-inventing the faith through "indigenous theologies" are promoting division with their heresies. They are the ones who are promoting heresies and schisms against the true universal Christian faith, and it is those whom Poon should be rightly accusing of causing division instead of the Fundamentalists.

True Christianity is defined as the religion that conforms to the truth as Jesus is the Truth. Anything else is in error and promote division of believers away from Christ. Thus, when we come to theological issues, who the parties are and the location where any controversy occurs should be irrelevant for deciding who is correct. The side which does not conform to scriptural truths is the divisive side, which is normally not the side that is most cantekerous but the "peaceful" side of any conflict, as the experience of church history has shown (e.g. Athanasius' Arian opponents, the "peaceful" Amyraldians, the "loving" moderates opposing J.G. Machen).

There is therefore nothing wrong with adopting and taking sides in "Western theological controversies." There is also nothing wrong with conducting theology in the same manner as theologians in "Western Christianity." In fact, there is something wrong in NOT doing so, for it is an attack on the catholicity of the Church. Somehow, the fact that Evangelical "Western theology" is not really Western at all passed them by. Augustine was hardly a white European, neither were most of the delegates at Nicea or Chalcedon either.

By rejecting the catholicity of the church, indigenous theologies are almost certainly wrong from the beginning. And we do not have to worry about the baseless accusations of division from the liberals. Those who are promoting heresy are the ones culpable, not us. Yes, there are many vulnerable churches around the word, as Poon says, so let's protect them from the liberals!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Liberalism in Trinity Theological College

How does one know whether there is still liberalism in Trinity Theological College (TTC)? Here are some questions to be answered:

  1. Does TTC teach the Documentary Hypothesis (JEPD) as truth, and does not offer a sound and convincing case against said theory?

  2. Does TTC teach that Isaiah did not write "Second Isaiah" and "Third Isaiah"? Is the prophet Isaiah taught not to be the author of "First Isaiah"? Does he not exist as he is described in Scripture?

  3. Is the creation account in Genesis 1-3 taught to be a borrowing from pagan myths like the Enuma Elish? Are Genesis 1-11 to be considered as written in a mytho-poetic language and thus not history giving us literal facts of the past?

  4. Is the notion of "Q" a valuable concept to find out the "true" teachings of Jesus, minus the accretions added by later church tradition?

  5. Is the notion and practice of higher criticism valid in finding out the actual texts of Scripture?

  6. Is one taught there is no one "Scripture," but multiple scriptures and the catholic party won and suppressed the other scriptures?

  7. Is one taught that Roman Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity?

  8. Is one taught that contemplative prayer, either as found in Eastern Orthodoxy or as mediated in Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, is a great spiritual exercise that Christians should be engaged in?

  9. Are Roman Catholic mystics like Theresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton held out as devout Christians? Is Roman Catholic mysticism held out as a great example of piety?

  10. Is one encouraged to attend Taize-style "worship"?

  11. Is the inerrancy of Scripture denied in class by any lecturers? Or is inerrancy defined to have many shades and colors (e.g. partial inerrancy), and so by obfuscation someone can pretend to believe in *some form* of inerrancy while rejecting its intended meaning?

If a "yes" answer is given to any of them, then we know liberalism is alive and well in TTC. I am here omitting other heresies like the New Perspective on Paul since these are not classical liberal heresies, but I think this list is enough to prove my point.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Compatibility and gender role robots (ADD)

Normally, I do not do posts regarding relationship issues. After all, what does a single man who has never been in a serious relationship with any girl know about relationships? I prefer to stay in areas I know and am comfortable with, and relationships are not one of them.

Recently, a fellow seminarian and friend who is from the same batch as me, Anna Smith, has responded to an article by CBMW (Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) president Owen Stratchen that plays down the notion of complementarity. I am not an avid reader of TGC stuff, so I have to check out the original piece after reading her aticle, but I think that what Stratchen says is correct. Anna however disagrees. According to her, disregarding complementarity reduces men and women to mere gender role robots, which is the main thrust of her critique.

Now, I do think that Stratchen probably overdid things when he gave the impression in his article that being sinners means that no two sinners are compatible. Now, that said, there is in a sense that being sinners, no two sinners are compatible, and there is another sense in which they are not. In the sense that sinners look for compatibility as looking for one's soul mate who is absolutely perfectly compatible in every way, that is an unrealistic goal which cannot happen because both parties are sinners. But if one is not looking for absolute compatibility but relative compatibility, then of course two sinners can be compatible with each other. The problem here is that Stretchen gave the impression in the immediate paragraph that sin means any type of compatibility is impossible. It is only in the context of the entire article that we know what he actually is driving at. In other words, I think Stratchen could be more careful in his wording.

Nevertheless, I do think Stretchn is right about compatibility in the sense that the modern quest for compatibility in the finding of an absolute ideal fit, one's "soul mate" if you will, is problematic on many counts. Anna's critique here lies in a misunderstanding of what Stratchen is driving at. This can be seen in what she thinks Stratchen is saying a person is:

Person = sinner + socioeconomic status + physical attractiveness + commitment to biblical gender roles (he thinks that the first obliterates all hope of true compatibility and the next two aren’t stable, so the last one is your only hope)

The thing is I just do not see Stretchen reducing all people to such reductionistic equations. Rather, what I perceive him to be doing is to hit back against the idea that worships compatibility as being the esse (the essence) of any true loving relationship. Since part of such compatibility would lie in a person's socio-economic status and physical attractiveness, and these two are mutable, couples who start off "compatible" might become "incompatible" if either of these changes, and thus they might claim "incompatibility" as a supposed cause of their marital breakdown.

So why do I think compatibility is way over-rated? We note here that this idea of compatibility is a very modern concept. The ancients do not have the luxury of looking for "compatibility." Whether it is arranged marriages or marrying the first person you fall in love with, the issue of compatibility is seldom taken into consideration. After all, survival is what is important, the bearing and transmitting of the family name to children who can help out in the fields is important, the creating of business and political alliances is important. Romantic love itself is quite a modern concept. To the ancients, you love who you marry, not you marry who you love.

And if one is looking for a "soul mate," then one normally expands one's criteria in order to sieve out and discover this creature that will somehow complete her. The seeking of romance and absolute compatibility becomes all-encompassing in the quest to finding the almost-perfect spouse. Sure, for a Christian, she definitely knows her spouse will not be perfect and does at times sin against her, but she has the expectations that such will be relatively minor infractions, and that she will feel the same feelings of love towards him everyday as in the day they first confessed their love for each other.

This quest for this kind of compatibility harms true biblical marriage, and it is at this place that I think Stratchen says that the acting out of gender roles is more important. It is far more important that husbands and wives can honor and love God and love each other in the ways prescribed by God, than in trying to feel the glow of compatibility. It is far better EVEN in marriages that God be honored, than whether we feel loved and completed. If God is to be honored in the wife patiently bearing up and praying for her husband's neglect of her, rather than claim incompatibility over such neglect and thus file for divorce, then the wife is to patiently bear this burden up.

So no, we are not gender role robots, but then nobody is making such a claim. But we are not followers of Eros the god of love either. Yes, it is good if one can "click" with the other person, and generally one looks for such an emotional connection with a prospective spouse. But such should not be made the final arbiter for marriages. Rather than pining over the seeming lack of compatibility and looking for one's soul mate for years upon years, it is I think more biblical if one settles for more practical criteria rather than sticking to an all-too-likely unattainable ideal. And then when one's soul mate does not arrive after years of searching, they whine to Kevin Deyoung to attack single men for not dating them.

ADD: Anna has done a follow up to her piece. You can read it here.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Young Adopted Messiah

[last post on the topic here]

My last post on the movie "The Young Messiah" was based on the trailer of the movie. At the time I wrote that post, the movie was not yet out in the theaters. Since it was based on a trailer, I thought it best if I would look at the movie itself so that I would definitely not mislead anyone by mis-interpreting the movie based upon a short trailer.

So one afternoon I decided to watch the movie. The movie was not as gnostic as the trailer would have us believe. Jesus did not kill a boy; the Devil did, while it was resurrecting a dead bird, not creating a bird from mud, although both scenes were at the seashore and the actions of scooping up the mud and scooping up a dead bird are virtually identical. That said, such changes do not really mitigate against the Gnostic error, which is to creates myths about the "missing years of Jesus." And altering some parts of the Infancy Gospel does not in any way exonerate the charge of gnosticism, just that it is now gnosticism-lite instead.

My earlier critique of having an Adoptionist Christology still stands. In fact, the movie is even more explicit in its promotion of Adoptionism. Jesus did not know he was God, that he was the Son of God, or that he was born to die on the Cross, through most of the movie. In fact, Joseph and Mary hid the knowledge of events surrounding his birth from the boy "Jesus" of the movie. Jesus only came to realize his status later in the movie. The boy "Jesus" does not even know why he could perform miracles. All of these are proofs of Adoptinism. Even the kenotic theory will not have the young Jesus not knowing he is God!

Besides the major error of Adoptionism, one can add the ahistorical nonsense of James being Jesus' cousin rather than his brother (pandering to Roman Catholic superstition), and of course the ridiculous scenes of Roman soldiers on the temple grounds (that would have caused a riot immediately). Overall, this movie is as bad as I thought it would be, and certainly should not be promoted to Christians