Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Prots 'ave 'em

I remember when I was in my teens, a local RC priest came to my mom, asking her to encourage me to enter the priesthood. I remember him chatting with me trying to convince me to enter the RC ministry. I can still picture him even today walking with me towards the bus station encouraging me to become a priest. Where I came from, it is a pride and joy of parents to have a "Father" as one of their offspring. My mom never spoke to me about it though after that incident. I associate RC priesthood with celibacy and I am happy that I did not have such fortitude, it is kinda scary. I was not cut out for the RC priesthood.

Now when I see these Protestant pastors entering the RC priesthood and being allowed to keep their wives, I kinda like shouting - foul! How come they get to keep their families but when an RC priest gets married, he is kicked out of the RC ministry?

Ever thought about that, eyh?

That is not fair! However, may be there is a good strategy here. My advice would be, if anyone wants to be an RC priest, first enter the ministry via the Protestant communion, get your family, then switch over to the RCC. That way you get your cake and get to eat it too; you have your wife, and you have those magnanimous looking vestments too! What more can you ask? That is bliss!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Christ-full Grace

I have been thinking (though it hurts my brain) about grace once again. This brought back memories of preachings that I would do at the start of a new year. I thought it would be good for my hearers to be encouraged again about the fact that God has grace for them as they face a new calendar year. Each new year brings with it new life challenges, that is obvious. There was something wrong with those sermons.

I am in firm belief that the Evangelical Charismatic and Calvinism will one day merge. It is happening now, I know of a couple of friends from Charismania who are now Calvinist/Calvinistic today. People like Dr. Piper, Dr. Storms i.e. mainly from Baptistic/Charismatic traditions are providing such doctrinal harmony. With Charismania lacking substance and a Confession, thinking Charismatics are migrating to Calvinism helping to bolster their numbers. The thing is that both streams affirm the Sovereignty of God. In the Charismatic stream, they believe God's miraculous powers are still true today, and in the latter, God is Sovereign and can save whomever he wants to save. I can affirm both, in some sense.

But there is still something amiss. How can I know or how do I know that God's Sovereign Power is for me rather than against me?

This is what I observe, when I was in Charismania/ Evangelia, people speak of God's Grace as a separate concept or as an entity on its own. It may be taught as a doctrine that stands out in isolation from other concepts. I heard people preach on Grace and speak of Grace as a stand-alone idea. When they speak of Grace, it is not Grace because it is some kind of infusion of Power that God gives in exchange for some satisfactory action performed. In other cases, it is not a favorable attitude of God towards a sinner as it is just an arbitrary predilection without demonstration.

What is missing? Christ. He is shown not to stand in between the sinner and God's Grace. It seems to me whenever we speak of Grace in isolation from Christ, this is not essentially what the Bible means by Grace. How do I know God has favor for me, since as a sinner I have no claim from God? I am his enemy, I deserve no mercy. I can not know, unless I see Christ, for Christ is the demonstration of that Grace. It is not arbitrary, it is decisive, it is firm and it is for sure, for the sinner. It is not partial.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us--Romans 5:8b.

If I look away from where it is found, in Christ at the Cross, I will live life in wonder, like a sheep without a shepherd, a ship without a rudder. There is just despair with an occasional swing towards self-elation when things are going great.

Today when I get my prayers answered, I tend not to think God has Grace for me as me. Rather, I tend now to think that God answers my prayers because of Christ, because as a sinner, I am one of those Jesus died for. I have no claim, neither a right to approach God, but I do, only because of Christ since he has been provided as my Mediator.

There is no such thing as God's Grace without Christ, Christ is God's Grace for you. A Grace that has no Christ and no Cross in it, is just simply, -- not God's Grace.

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. -- John 1:17b

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jimbo's Book

One of the greatest delights of this internet world is that you meet new friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. My buddy Jim Cronfel, a Reformed guy (one day he will come to the light ;-)), sent me a copy of his first book. The subject is the idea of annihilationism, and Jim does the job of critiquing this concept with a passion. Congratulations to Jim, it is not often that one writes a book that the masses can read and it is about Christian faith too. I know of only a few in Evangelical world that believes this, one is Dr Stott mentioned in the book and I think the Adventists believe in this concept too. He would appreciate a comment or two.

Speaking of books, I think it is a privilege to have written a book. Perhaps also, I can turn my thesis into a book one day, when it is finished. Its tentative title is "Contextualizing Description Logics" or something like that. My wife is looking forward to it as she thinks it would be a wonderful gift idea. She says it has lots of uses for every day folk like her. She says, it can be used as a door stopper, paper weight, or a decorative item. She is a very perceptive and clever girl.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Godel's Theorem and Religious Assertions

If you are not a geek, you may be intimidated by this post, please don't be. What I am posting here may sound way above your head but hang on a bit, you may find this post interesting if not intriguing as it is related to Christianity in an indirect way.

You must have heard of Albert Einstein (you haven't? you must be gen X), but very likely you may have not heard of of Kurt Godel (see my picture? That's his photo). If Einstein is to Physics, then Godel is to Mathematics. Both of these figures discovered major results that revolutionized their fields. In one way or another, you must have heard of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, remember your high school physics? I doubt if you have heard of Godel while you were doing your high school algebra. You encounter him only if you are taking logic or number theory subjects, that is quite true but let me reduce in a nutshell the point I am about to make.

Godel is known for his Completeness and Incompleteness Theorems. Skip the first one, but let us focus on what his 1st Incompleteness Theorem because this has a relationship to theology.

In a nutshell, Godel's 1st Incompleteness Theorem may be stated this way on a popular level - there are some true things or statements that can not be proven. Remember this is my popularizing of it but technically what he stated was in the realm of arithmetic about arithmetic truths (about numbers and their properties). Since our language includes arithmetic (human language does) then simplistically, there are some true statements that have no proof in our world. This line of reasoning sounds reasonable but let us for the sake of argument, agree to this even though such popular notions is just an analogue of Godel's.

Now this has plenty of implications for the people of faith. For the one committed to sola scriptura, beliefs must be gathered from assertions made by Scripture. For those who are not committed to sola scriptura, then they may employ this theorem to their advantage. They can assert a statement of belief with nothing to back it up.

Let me give an example, take the RC belief in the bodily assumption of Mary. There is no direct support of this from Scripture and no matter how one tries, the Scripture just does not give even a suggestion that this has happened. Try as one may, it only winds up in frustration, making hard for Protestants to be convinced. Now to an RC apologist who is quite an expert when it comes to Philosophy ( they really are philosophically savvy and sophisticated), Godel's 1st Incompleteness Theorem may be appealed to for support - they can say "Mary was assumbed bodily into heaven" is one of these true statements that have no proof!. Let as call this statement - M.

There is a catch though, it won't work. The reason is that in order for them to say that M is true, they are still left with work to do, they still have to prove that M is a G Statement ie it satisfies the Theorem's properties. Hence, they must demonstrate that M is one of those statements that the 1st Theorem speaks about. Where do you go to prove M has the property of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem? You wind up showing a proof which is a type of question begging exercise.

(for amusement see here for weird reasonings based on the fact that since the Bible does not speak about all things we may derive many things)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yom - don't be ridiculous

Did God use evolution in Genesis 1-3? I did a study of this several years ago and as I concluded then, the more I conclude now, my answer is : I do not think so.

I came to this conclusion by studying the word "yom", the Hebrew word for "day" as used in the Hebrew Bible in Gen 1. Now, I am no Hebrew expert but I did take university subjects in Biblical Hebrew for a couple of years and I think I was taught enough to know what are the arguments going on surrounding this word. I believe the word "yom" stood for "24 hour day" as we know day to mean in the normal day to day usage of day (pun intended) to mean, ie just that. Why? I have several reasons, both linguistic, philosophical and theological.

1. If Moses wrote this to his contemporaries, "yom" could not be understood as a very very long period of time. The reason is that the ancients do not have sophisticated arithmetic notion of millions and millions of years. (My knowledge of maths come here too). So, in order to give a notion of evolution, Moses would have to say God took myriads and myriads of time for things to sprout on the earth. Also, ancient people are so into changes in seasons, they have this notion of cycles and at home with it. Evolution counters the notion of cycles, even if theistic evolutionist say that "yom" means epochs. This granting of cycles for day is an argument itself against the notion of evolution, for evolution has no cycles. It is just one long continuum of time when you come to think of it.

2. If theistic evolution is the way to understand Gen 1 narrative, then it rids itself of literalness. If day is not literal then, was there a tree? Was there an Adam and Eve? Was there a serpent? Or are we to understand these as representing something else? Was there an actual eating of the forbidden fruit? In effect, was there sin? This completely throws off the need for atonement. If Jesus died for a literal sin, then there must have been a literal Adam too, and so on, and hence it has to be a literal day for there is a literal world that God is stated to have created.

3. Evolution requires and implies death of previous life forms. Then death happened before sin came, and collides with, Rom 5:12. According to this verse, death only happened due to sin. Evolution presupposes dying and decay prior to sin thus it does not square with the other implications of Scripture. A friend of mine even suggested that the lions around have always eaten other animals during Adam's time. I said, then it was possible for Adam to have been mauled by a ferocious beast and could have died then. Think of these lions stalking and pouncing upon weak isolated water buffaloes, look at one here

4. Lastly, I do not have to resort to the validations of Science to affirm my faith. The concept of fiat creation is at home with the nature of a Supreme Creator who is by definition the Judeo-Christian God. I find it weak to say, God had to use evolution in the process. God does not have to be patient here although he is patient with sinners not desiring their destruction but their repentance.

This reminds me, of Balki, one of the main characters of Perfect Strangers, one which I enjoyed watching very much. His famous line is "don't be ridiculous". I hear some people out there telling me that now.

Frankly I do not mind being called ridiculous because I already believe in something that sounds ridiculous, one of them is the Gospel. Let me challenge you, if you think that the Gospel which says that this God takes the sins of the wicked world, dumps it and punishes it in his innocent Son is not ridiculous, you may have a natural understanding of the Gospel. The Bible says the world calls this thing foolishness. If I believe in something the world ought to be calling foolish, why should I not let them call me a fool for believing in a fiat Creation which Science says is contrary to "evidence"?

If our minds are not astounded by the Gospel, if it does not say "this thing is so good to be true", we may have gotten the Gospel wrong, it should sound ridiculous and radical. Of course, it is out of this world. Am I making sense?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fair Dinkum ??!

The Vatican says as usual they are fair dinkum here and for a news item covering the document look here. They have been in the news lately. IMHO, the theme of the document is Apostolic Succession(AS), if one notices how that point always turns up! As far as I can remember as an RC kid, it was hammered in my brain that what makes the Sacraments valid is the AS. The one performing the sacrament must have been ordained in the line of AS. It does not matter if you believe in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Supper, if your minister is not in line with the AS, that Supper is not valid. Besides your pastor is bogus too if he does not have AS. So if you as a minister want to really have valid sacraments you must get AS, i.e. come to the umbrella of Rome. That is the bottom line. If one elevates the Office of Holy Ministry (Pastoral Office) to the level that you attach validity to the Sacraments to your office, you lose out on RCC, they claim the right pedigree of AS, and no else has it, you certainly don't have it. Just my humble advice, if you really want confirmation of what you are doing, get your AS.

Also then over here, on the matter of indulgences still around, we say Fair Dinkum??! No, not really, honestly I am not saying that. We Prots who come from Latinized countries got experience, we are not that naive. We knew that it has always been there to this day. The ones who are probably saying "fair dinkum?!" in amazement are the ones who signed the JDDJ. Poor people, they seem to be in bewilderment. Seems like the signers are feeling the offense of this. At any rate, the RCC has clearance of this. The RCC can turn around and say that they never signed anything containing indulgences in the JDDJ anyway. They can turn around and say," but why cry and complain, you won't be using them, right"?

Pardon my usual sarcasm, I hope they are learning some lessons now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No Apologies

Some have observed and question why there are not too many apologists that come from a Lutheran background. Whereas there are many professional RC apologists, Reformed and non-Denominational ones, yet there are very few that stand out from the Lutheran camp. So far the most well known ones are Prof. John Warwick Montgomery and Prof. Rod Rossenblad. Even my finding KFUO was an accident (providential). So not too many.
They are obscure and when you do see them engaging in apologia, you do not see them debating topics like the existence of God, the Bible etc.

There are several reasons for this obscurity, and I think it is due to their philosophy.

1. For them the Pastor is Theologian and apologetics is done in the context of the parish environment. All Christian work, like apologetics is done in the context of a pastoral sphere. This is a different concept when compared to idea of para-church organizations.

2. They got the Book of Concord, their confession, which is highly apologetic in character. So in a manner of speaking, they can throw to you "the book". It codifies there their defense for believing what they believe.

3. They won't discuss with the atheist if God exists, or the issue of the Bible being the Word of God. No, they will discuss with the atheist Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. This is a different philosophy and it makes sense. One can convince an atheist to be a theist but that still misses the point, one can be convinced that the Bible is the Word of God but that still falls short. None of these makes one a Christian. So, they will discuss Jesus with the atheists as foolish from a logical standpoint that might seem.

The point is that Jesus Christ the Lord has come already and that has changed things. God proved he more than exists, he went further, he proved he loves us. The atheist does not need a God who hates him and who simply makes demands. He also needs to know that the God he does not want to believe in, actually loved him. Christ is proof of that. You hit many birds with that one stone. God, the Bible, life's meaning falls in place when the atheist sees the Christ...given for him.

See also blogologists of Lutheran stripes at aardvarkalley. Follow the links there.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Johnny B. Good

As you can see, this blogspot has been rated G, suitable for the consumption of the general public, G is for general, not G for good.

It always makes me smile when my wife and I email each other and she would sign off with...

Be good, love
(then signs the name I call her)

"Be good". That is an internal joke between us. She knows I have the habit of putting my foot in my mouth, I just have a way of rubbing people the wrong way. I do not mean to, but it comes out that I am liable to offend when I speak. Even my jokes are just funny to me and my kids but not to the public. I do not have to work hard at it, I am just a natural. One of my great gifts, the ability to annoy people without trying.

It gets worst each day. I learn each day to abandon all hope of acceptance, from God and fellow man, and rest in the hope that I might be found not having a righteousness that comes from "being good" but that of simple faith in Christ who is the one who is Good ... for me. He is my Righteousness, not only in front of God, but also in front of man - Phil 3:9

They have a vision

I don't know much of Federal Vision. This is a movement inside confessional Presbyterianism and my light reading tells me that they are making strong attempts to bring more value and take more comfort from the Sacraments.

I am a very simplistic thinker, and the way I see it is that they are like people in a race track. They are running towards the finish line that has the label Lutheran on it, but just a few meters before reaching the finish line, they fumble and fall. They do not quite make it. The reason being their ankles are chained to a post labeled TULIP. It can not be done without mangling severely Covenant Theology.

It seems to me that once you become Lutheran thinking in your Sacraments, you will have to go and put your stress on objective universal justification because it is the center of the wheel that gives life to other parts of its theology, it is the heart and foundation of Lutheran approach to Christian faith. It is like a magnet that will pull you in its orbit, unless you are careful to resist it.

I am sorry for being reductionistic of course but that is the general drift of my impression. I am willing to be educated though.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How did they do it?

I have been wondering how Luther and Calvin get to write so many things in their short life span. Take Calvin for example, he wrote The Institutes and commentaries on the books in the Bible. Luther wrote so many sermons, tracts and for example the Bondage of the Will. They were living book machines, tons and tons of them. They wrote so much in such a short span of time and what they wrote are still being read today!

How did they manage this? I have no answer, all I can think of is the fact that they did not have TV back then.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Church Reforming or Switching

semper reformanda, always reforming. It has been said that the church that has been reformed continues to reform.

I have been reading quite a bit on what is happening in the Christian scene, mainly my experience of course is limited to the Evangelical side of things. If you look deep in the bowels of my archive you will see that I have written on several aspects in relation to denominational switching of which I am one denominational switcher myself. What I mean is that it seems that the Christian world is evidently in a crisis. There is no question, the Protestants are, I don't know though if there are RCs who would admit that the RCC is in crisis too, perhaps the level headed ones, well maybe. Ministers and lay people have been making switches and I would cite a few. For example, we know that the Episcopal/Anglican Church (ECUSA) has been struggling with the ordination of female and homosexual ministers. The same is true with the Lutherans like those in the ELCA. There are those that are faithful to the orthodox Christian beliefs and practice in these denominations and they are hurt by what is going on. Most of the moves I have read was a move towards Rome and a very handful to Constantinople.

Now you might say, those are liberal leaning denominations anyway but there are those moves too from confessional denominations like the LC-MS, to either Rome or Constantinople. But the disatisfaction here is not something I understand since I am not in the thick of these things.

In most cases, the move seems to go into this type of reasoning -

1. "they have departed from the faith, we need to jump ship".
2. "they do not have the right faith in the first place, we need to jump ship".
3. "their faith is no different from ours, only much fuller, we need to jump ship".

From what I noticed with what happened to Luther, he believed that his Church, the RCC came from the true faith but has departed from it, and needs to go back. He did not jump ship, rather, he stayed as much as he can until kicked out.

Some reason that because point 1 is present, it must mean point 2 is the case. This is not true. I have seen wherein points 1,2, and 3 have been used to justify with good force the ship jumping. For this reason there are those in ECUSA and ELCA that are trying to reform their church body and have not jumped shipped yet.

Reformation is messy, but it is only taken if point 1 is the case. It is like fixing your car and evolving it to be a hot rod. It is much more expensive and time consuming exercise, so why not simply just buy a hot rod off the shelve? Some have done this to find out that the hot rod they got is not so hot after all.

So what happens if those from ECUSA and ELCA who jump ship see their former denominations repenting? Would they return? Most likely no, because point 2 kicks in already. Is repenting for a church not possible? It is - look at the World Wide Church of God, they have aligned more to orthodox evangelicalism and still in the process.

So what about my relationship with Pentecostals? I still try to be connected with them even though I have been shunned and been barred from their pulpits. I want them to return to the Gospel, I did hear it 25+ years ago even though haphazardly intermittent. We can not be bitter towards the people we are trying to reach. At first that might be the reaction but after a while you get to understand that falling into error is what sinners do. I feel for those in reform groups, they have a tough road ahead. Like the Lord said to Elijah, he still has people who have not bowed down the knees to Baal.