Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Never tell God, what you will never be

 


Many years ago as a young atheist man, I remember coming out of my university library where a young man was giving gospel tracts who handed me one. I took it and gave it a quick glance, and I threw it on his face and said with so much confidence - I will never be like you. (You may not know, I could be a nasty slob).

What I said I would never do? I do. Nowadays, I give out tracts in the heart of my city each weekend that I get a chance. I am inspired by this man who was a soul winner himself. I get so much joy laboring with young people from other Christian groups handing out gospel reading materials that speak about Christ and the forgiveness of sins.

Why do I do this? It has no benefits for me. I won't establish a congregation by doing this. 

I do it because of stories like this...

You see while I and the others pass out tracts, There would usually be a young man from the team who would stand up on a milk box and preach. One day, after I finished handing out my tracts I went to stand around with some people to listen to the preaching. One lady with her dog decided to chat a bit with me as the preaching was about to end. We started talking to each other, and I detected she was using Christian terminology as she speaks.

I said "You sound like a Christian to me, are you a believer"?

"Yes, but you have to excuse me" as she pointed to her wobbling head. "My mind has been affected by methamphetamines". "I was addicted to drugs and one day in the height of my addiction I happened to walk by this street like where you guys are now". "One person handed me a tract, I took it and read it and read it. To cut the long story short yes, I believed and I became a Christian and I belong to a church", as she started to lead her dog out of my space. I accompanied her as she walked away, she said "God used that tract to change me". 

Processing this in my head, I marveled at this story. She looked well, her demeanor had no trace of walking the streets. She dressed well, not lavish, simple yet decent. I would have had a hard time believing this if not me witnessing her wobbling head whenever she spoke.

This is the reason why I give out tracts. I am expecting that God will use the words in those tracts as seeds to be sowed into good soil, hearts.




Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Eternal Debate: God's Sovereignty VS Man's Responsibility


 


Another title for this debate is the so-called Compatibilism debate. A lot of Calvinists are into this debate in which it justifies God's double predestination of humans.

This debate actually extends many years before Christianity. This has been debated by Aristoteleans and Platonists. You do not have to be a Christian to talk about this because this has been a philosophical discussions by philosophers long before Christ came along.

For the first 400 years, this was not a debate amongst Christian, not until Augustine came along.

Augustine was a Manichaean before he became a catholic Christian. Manichaeanism started 300AD and Augustine was born in such an environment. It is a dualistic gnostic religion that combined many major religious teachings. To them, since man has a material being and since matter is evil, man is evil too. Another one of their beliefs is the notion of fatalism.

Needless to say, if you believe in unconditional election, then there is also unconditional reprobation and no one can change that, thus, eventually, life becomes a fatalistic conclusion and condition too.


In some sectors, there is a notion that the God of Scripture should conform to the God of Philosophy.

Though Luther can be dramatic and rhetorically forceful in his arguments he redeems himself when he said:

Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

By reason, I take it he means philosophical reasoning.

When it came to man, are we a lump of sin? There should be some care in the way we use our language specially when Christians argue about words (which Scripture said we should avoid).

In a way, it is good that the Lutheran BoC authors tamed their Augustinianism and even spoke against over the top language that are clearly Manichaean in position. Read this on their Formula of Concord - Article I - Original Sin. Worth nothing the distinction they made of our nature and the sin that corrupts it.

Luther again redeems himself when he said that pursuing the inscrutable will of God is demonic and a distraction that leads us away from Christ, he said (thanks Alec, the Lutheran Librarian)

 “We should with all diligence guard against arguing predestination; for this, through Satan’s influence, leads men to pay no regard to God and the sacraments, and to look upon Christ rather as a cruel tyrant and hangman, than a Savior.”


“By no means dispute about predestination. Dr. Staupitz advised me and said: If you would argue about predestination, begin at the wounds of Christ and all disputation about predestination will cease at once. For if we give way to it, and argue about it much, Christ, His Word and Sacrament, must give way: I will forget Christ and God. By indulging in these thoughts I will regard God as wicked and cruel… . In predestination we will forget God — the cantate will cease and the blasphemate begin.”



From Columbus Theological Magazine, Vol. 3. “Missouri’s Infatuation By Rev. P. Eirich, Hoboken, N. J. Third And Last Article.”




Monday, August 15, 2022

Did Jesus Commend the Unjust Steward?


 The passage in Luke 16:1-13 we have these words of our Lord:

16 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was [a]wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’

“Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’

“So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred [b]measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred [c]measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous [d]mammon, that when [e]you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?

13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The Law, the Prophets, and the Kingdom

14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they [f]derided Him. 

------------------------

This is indeed a hard passage. I highlighted the passage that needs a lot of unpacking. In fact, in the KJV tradition, the word used is in v. 8 "for the children of this world are in their generation much wiser than the children of light". This can give the impression that Jesus is favoring the children of the world compared to the children of the light. What is at play here is the translation "master" too, did this refer to our Lord? This is why I took the NKJV to show how that word can be rendered "wise" to "shrewd". In my mind to understand this story, the key is v.14, that is why I included it here.

We must note the reaction of the Pharisees to this story, they recognized that it was about them, how they behave. Thus, this is another story against the Pharisee! The Lord was saying, this is  what they do. But to the disciples, this is exactly what you must not do. This boils down to ethics. The unjust steward used his influence to save himself from being mistreated when he is put out of stewardship. He did this by stealing more from his master, giving more away his master's possessions for his own advantage. Jesus is telling us the opposite, that we should be faithful to our work even if we are serving an unrighteous master. In this story, both the master and the steward had the same value and ethics. But for the Lord, it should not be so - we do not have the right to steal from our masters even if our master is unjust - in this case our employers. We do not steal from our employers even if the source of their possessions came from unrighteous means.  See v. 11-13. We do not follow the shrewd ethics of this servant, in fact, we do the opposite. We are to be faithful with another man's richest. The servant loved mammon and by his actions hated his master, who himself might be unrighteous. The Lord is saying to us, do not love mammon, but rather love God, for in loving God, we will put His principles first, ie honest and true dealing, we will not steal from our neighbor but will be faithful to what has been entrusted to us. That is our ethics - so, to answer the question, NO, the Lord is not commending, rather, he was describing the Pharisees' love for money that destroys ethics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Because He Lives

 



John 14:19 Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more. But you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

I for one took this Resurrection Sunday celebration for granted. As I pause to think about this promise, I realize we cannot be indifferent about this tremendous statement of the Lord Jesus.

This destroys the treat of death which comes from the enemy of our souls. May this promise be a source of hope and joy that when we see our failing health and we know the day of our departing gets near each day, may this promise raise our spirits up and know that this promise is personal and true. The YOU there in that statement is me/you, personally.


Friday, November 19, 2021

How I got convinced by the Textus Receptus

 The Textus Receptus aka Received Text is the basis for the NT part of the KJV and those translations that follow its tradition.

Now, what convinced me that I should standardize on this text?

It was the NKJV!

Yes, that is what happened to me. The NKJV helped me to determine that the TR holds the orthodox teaching of early Christians.

I have heard a lot of conspiracy theories against NKJV because it has these myriad of footnotes about the text. The assertion is that these textual comments lead the reader away from the Received Text. Yet, that is not what happened to me. What happened to me was the reverse.


Many years ago, I bought a leather bound NKJV NT (nice leather actually, you cannot find this anymore, unfortunately, I believe I gave it away to a relative). 


It had of course, some footnotes, but I focus for you only the one that caused me to think.


This NKJV comment here:

NU omit - meaning the Nestle-Aland Union Greek collection omits this word or phrase or passage.


What I did was to highlight all occurrences of these comments, even using a marker.

I discovered that if you follow the said comment, you will miss out in explicit terms some orthodox teachings of Christianity.

An example of this is Mk 16:9-20 being reportedly omitted in the Nestle-Aland.

That involved a support for the Great Commission, the teaching on faith and baptism and signs and charismatic gifts which St Paul experienced.

Another is  1 John 5:13, this is a verse which powerfully supports the promise we now have eternal life for us who believe in Christ.


After this discovery, I seemed to have neglected it. I got affected with Bible translation trends and fell into considering other translations like the NASB, the NRSV and ESV. I used the NRSV a lot. Funny but I got into these translations because the pastor who had an influence on me used the RSV. We should really double check the person we look up to and respect, for after all they are like us, human beings too.


Some maybe 10 years ago, I read that you can re-construct the TR passages from the quotation of the Church Fathers.

This fact and my discovery experience with NKJV led me to conclude - I should stick to the TR. I still have these other translations, as a reference, but I do not use them for my personal Bible Study or personal devotion.


That is what happened.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Heroes

 

I have been thinking about heroes lately. I was asking myself the question, who is my hero, my example for faith. I have to confess, there was a time when Luther indeed was my hero. Don't get me wrong, I still to this day, respect and appreciate his insights but in all honesty, when I read the writings of St Paul, when I see his meekness, tenderness and gentleness on how he treated those who were straying away from the faith, and how he rebuked false teachers, in love. St Paul was like his Master, Christ. Luther is admirrable but I think he and I would have St Paul as our hero. 


In the academic training I obtained they gave us an unspoken culture that we are to be 'a scholar and a gentleman' - I knew we were being taught how to be one by the way we were to deal and behave ourselves in discussion that involve argumentation. That means, we will only accept as arguments coming from ourselves, and from others, comments with no fallacies allowed.


Today, social media is helping us give in to the works of our flesh. It seems it is a lot more easier today to be impatient and attack those whom we disagree. Most of the comments I see in social medial platforms are down right ad hominem personal attacks rather than addressing the point on the table. Slurs, disdain and sarcasm are promoted and apllauded even by those who claim to be "ordained Ministers of the Word". They do not really give their audience help because these communication devices are so far off from rebuking the false. False is only countered by the True based on evidence, data, facts.


I am for sure am guilty of the same bad form and this blog post is a way of saying, I am sorry at the times I displayed the same  things of which I am rebutting now. I apologise.


Here is an example 



wherein snarkyness is even justified. Examples and allusions to Jesus and Luther are made. One choice verse to even say that Jesus used snark is in Matthew 23 - read all the reference to Scribes and Pharisees there.


My reply:


1. The preacher assumes too much, and is anachronistic in justifying his style. Pretext IMO.

2. Jesus did no such thing, he did not need to insult, rather he was pronouncing judgement on the Pharissees and Scribes - and he has the right to do so because he is the Judge of the Whole Earth, The Lord. It is his assessment of them, no insult but truth. It is argument backed up with facts. Christ weighed their works and he declared their works to be wanting. No snark required.

3. At anyrate, you ain't Jesus.

Well what about Luther - did not Luther use such devices? I think he did. But again, you ain't Luther and I am also embarassed for him at the times he did exhibit the said lowly form.

In actuality, engagement in such poor communication rhetorics prove that the minister is impoverished and poor. We are wiser to admit it in ourselves. I heard some call them "losers" but this maybe a very strong term which I dare not use.

In 1 Peter 3:15 - we are to communicate our position in gentleness and respect. If we look more, this is something very evident in the writings of St Paul and other NT writers, the other Apostles.

All of them preached like their Master, Christ. 1 Peter 3:15 mentions meekness and respect - these are not the works of the flesh but rather they are work of the Spirit - Gal 5:22.


I thank Luther for his wisdom and insights but if I need a human as a role model, a Christian who made it, a person who lived life characterized by love, joy, patience with those in whom he opposed - a Christian who lived the teachings of Christ, I say we got one right there - St Paul.