Friday, April 27, 2007

Born Again -st-ness-ism

There is much correction needed in my former evangelicalism. I agree. I would not be where I am standing now had I thought all was well. It was in the process of observing the things going on inside and those outside me that made me try to understand, how is Christianity "suppose to work"? I had questions, questions like - what really is the Gospel? What is the nature of faith and Christian life? Is it a trip of one victory to another? Is the Bible about me and how I could have good success? I did discover that what I formerly thought was true was not all that true and it needed adjustments. Like any naive believer, I was influenced by people I admired who lived behind the pulpit. They were sincere dynamic and yes, charismatic pastors whose teachings I absorbed and parroted. They represented what Christianity was all about. They were well meaning people, they taught what they believed the Bible said. But, there were things that were wrong. Now, I am like a boy who seemed to have discovered where the real goodies are and enthusiasm gets ahead, often it being manifested in a somewhat critical way.

I hope my readers who visit from all over the world (mainly in the USA, Australia, UK, Canada) [but I do not mean to imply I got tons of them, but this is the world of the internet, they can be in India or Malaysia, no matter] do not judge that this one blog site is just against anything going on in evangelia or in Romanism. I hope they do not visit this blog to entertain themselves by joyously wondering, now what is he against this time? That would be boring wouldn't it? Besides, such novelty will wear out. I hope they find that somewhere in the bowels of this site, they find some of my blogs that does not kill but rather make alive, make the soul sing through Christ and His Gospel. I hope so.

So I put the picture of Whitfield here for a reason, to discuss the subject of "born again-ness". I have to thank Steve for jogging my mind on this. When I realized the work of Jesus was for me, I did not know the term born again. The pastors of the Assemblies of God felloweship where I first attended after believing told me that this was what happened to me. The term was foreign to my consciousness, I knew about being "saved", but not about "being born again". From then on I heard about it and even going to ministry that was the subject of my teaching and my theme. Like Whitfield I preached on "you must be being born again", as if one can do something to do that. Sometimes questions are good and so a few years ago, I did an exercise to see if the Apostles in Acts preached on this theme. So I scrutinized each sermon I could find in Acts. Shockingly, I found no sermon enjoining people to be "born again" like I did (and like my pastors did).

In John 3:5, being born again does not mean it is a command, rather it is a description of what should happen to us to see the kingdom of God, it does not imply nor taught that we can do something about it. Indeed the verses even discuss the role of "water and the Spirit" in John 3. As Steve said, Nicodemus wanted the "how". In Acts, the disciples did not focus on this for this is the effect of something - it is the effect of the Holy Spirit. I noticed the disciples in Acts concentrated on proclaiming the Law and the Gospel to their hearers. Their sermons were different from mine - and I should say, far different from Mr. Whitfield's too. Under the disciples, people came to faith, they were indeed born again, but the effect was not their theme, the Gospel was the disciple's theme and focus.

So do I want people to be born again? Yes, but that is something I can not do for myself nor for someone else, nor for themselves. The same way I did not decide to be born, neither did they, so I nor they can decide to be born again. But here is what I as a preacher can do - I can faithfully tell them the problem of their sin, and tell them the solution that Jesus did for those sins. Now, let's see if they don't get born again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Not In Limbo Anymore

While growing up as an RC kid, I was well aware of the RC teaching that babies who die un-baptized go to limbo - an unknown place, a question mark spot, neither heaven nor hell. Of course, there is no official teaching about this - not in the sense that there is a document signed by the Magisterium, but RC pius folks and priests followed this line of thought.

Now the RCC is stating through its Vatican International Theological Commission that babies that die un-baptized go to heaven, or atleast we should have a hopeful expectation that they are there. You can read about it here.

Modern evangelicals have always believed that babies that die go to heaven. For them it did not matter wheather or not these babies got baptized, besides, they do not baptize babies anyway. They go there because they are innocent by default - I remember John MacArthur teaching that babies that die are by default elect because they go to heaven straight away. This new position or a bit official position (I do not know what to call it) complies with the modern evangelical teaching.

So the RCC is lining up closer to the modern evangelical view. Though this official document by the RCC commission carries no official dogma, it is pre-cursor to future official teaching pronouncements by the Pope. Realizing that this weakens their doctrine of baptism, the paper was quick to assail such possible implications.

My evaluation is that their attempt fails. It does indeed weaken their doctrine of baptism. So could being aborted the best thing that can happen to a person since it brings them to heaven? I am being cynical as usual. Then there is another question - the same question that can be hurled at modern evangelians -- at what age when an un-baptized baby or child dies is it dis-qualified for heaven? When is a child no longer a child or a baby stop being a baby, at what age? If they changed their traditional mind on this, I am not surprized if they change their minds in other things too. Perhaps one day they can canonize Luther, that way one day the Lutherans may well burn their BoC.

Lutherans believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, though it is not absolutely necessary. However, there is no sure place we can stand on, and baptism is that place where sure hope is found, for there the promise of God is sealed. Hence, we dare not weaken the gift that God gives. Excuse my lack of pius speech - but there you can hold God's feet to the fire.

Time for some repentin'

I tracked for some time the Virginia Tech tragedy (VTT). Yes, you can say Virginia Tech killings. I thought about the families of those who were killed and the family of the killer too. The whole incident makes me dream of a better society.

I looked at those who died and almost all of them where younger than me, I am now in my middle years. The age of the killer and that of those he killed where in their late teens or early 20s, young students not yet lived half of their years. Their lives were cut short by the gun man and he cut his life short too. I asked my self the question, why them, not me? In times like this when we see the awful effects of our own sins in this world, yes, our own sins, not just that of the killer's, we can see that it affects those that have nothing to do with it. It hurts, even destroys both the guilty and the innocent. I think of families. I think of parents who had nothing but better wishes of a good and peaceful life for their lost son or daughter, now cut short, no longer with the living. Those who died may have never even seen the gun man before. The gun man's family undoubtedly innocent of the actions of their son will be affected as well. Shame, dishonor, sadness, these are just a few that they will be living with. Then, I am reminded of what Jesus said, in Luke 13.

1There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

When tragedy and horror happens to our fellowmen, we need to realize, that such can be our experience too. Its time to re-evaluate. Have I refused to stop and listen to those who are unable to talk, those who are not as sociable than others? Have I replied their lack of trust by my lack of trust towards them? Have I valued the proud, the strong, the beautiful and those which society admits more than those who are timid, the weak and those that society welcomes? Have I been so pre-occupied by my own self agenda, that I could not care any better for the ills and troubles of my neighbor? Have I refused to offer compassion to those who are less fortunate than me? Have I been a party to the promotion of greed?

I have.

Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he forgave the woman caught in adultery, he allowed a woman with questionable character to wipe his feet with her tears and commended the unclean woman with the issue of blood for touching his clothes. These were just some of the things Jesus did to those who were not, we might call beautiful people.

The question is not why bad things happen to good people, the real question is why good things happen to those who are bad, like me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

We smile and we laugh, so relax.

The smile is a very important behaviour of Filipinos. They smile when they are happy, they smile when they are shy, they smile when they do not know the answer, they smile when they are embarassed, they smile when they are angry and they smile when they are sad. They even smile when they cry.

Then they laugh. Filipinos have another trait, a very Filipino trait of laughing at themselves. The greatest Filipino jokes I have heard are jokes about Filipinos. Well what is left to do if your economic and social condition has no hope of ever changing? Take it easy anyway.

So in line with this trait of laughing and joking about themselves, I am featuring here Betty Butterfield when she went to a Lutheran church ( I have heard of her the first time in horn+swoggled).

Proverbs 17:22

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dr. Piper on Hearing God's Voice

Here is more cherry blossom pictures. I am back in my home base now.

I used to be a great fan of Dr. Piper, back in those days when I was toying with Calvinistic thinking. Over on this article, he gives a critique on the experience of a Christian university professor in "hearing the voice of God". I think his critique in the extra-Biblical experience of the professor is well taken. The professor believes God speaks today because he (the professor) felt an inner movement or an inner voice in his heart, telling him to give the monetary proceeds of his book to a needy student.

However, in this written piece, prior to his critique, Dr. Piper too first relates his own experience with hearing the voice of God, and this is through a reverberation of a voice which is Scriptural in content. This experience convinced Dr. Piper to attest that God speaks today. Such reverberations for him is a clear cut evidence that God still speaks today in our space and time.

I wonder about Dr. Piper's experience. Don't get me wrong, I do have such internal experiences, I have countless of them and I can relate to what Dr. Piper says. The effect of such feelings is exhiliration, you walk away with a shout of joy.

Here is my question, why is Dr. Piper's experience valid rather than that of the professor? Is it because Dr. Piper got his with some Scriptural content? What makes his inner experience more proper that that of the professor? Both of these are experiences of spiritual nature - that of Dr. Piper and that of the professor are experiences - perhaps even mystical experiences?

What am I saying? Are they not both walking by sight and not by faith, in that they conclude God speaking by way of inward experiences?

Rather, should we not think that the Scripture is God' Word today whether or not we experience any innward movements in our hearts? Read it and you hear God's voice speaking to you. Indeed, God does remind us of what he wrote in his Bible, but the proof that God speaks to us is Scripture itself revealed in what he has done through Christ.

Over at KFUO, Dr. Hein discusses mysticism here, there he says that there is one thing that God wrote in our hearts - the Law and the convicting power of the Law is what is internal that God promises to do, all the rest are external - like the Gospel.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Land of Cherry Blossoms and Gamba-te

I am spending my Easter holidays here in Japan.This is the second time of being here but this trip is deepening my sense of appreciation for the good things I see in Japanese culture and creativity, my... what a humble and hospitable people.

I came just in time when the Cherry Blossoms are just opening up and now, they are fully opened. Some of the petals have started to drop. Cherry Blossoms are so beautiful but it has a very short life span - 2 weeks and it is gone. This is so similar to life on this old world, our lives are like these Cherry Blossom flowers, it is there for a very short time and it is quickly gone.

Gamba-te (do your best) is often used as a farewell blessing to someone you want to wish well. I realize now how happy a Japanese can be when he hears this encouragement said to him. Unfortunately from "doing one's best" one can switch to "being the best". This second shift has produced so much pressure in the lives of those who take this concept seriously... it has produced depression, tiredness and guilt/shame for we know we always fall short of being the best in our class/group/community. I observe that this is the Law... and as we know it produces despair, and if not this -- going over the top with honour or pride. Hence, as I see them, many are tired, weary, often sleeping in the train as they go to work. They are not only physically tired, they are emotionally tired as well, it is like a vicious cycle. The reality is that "you can be the best" and still leave yourself empty inside. We must help them realize that there is One who is the best in all things and He became so -- for them, that they might rest in what He has won for them.

Lord, be merciful, send workers in Japan to show the light of the gospel on these people - she needs your Cross, they need the freedom and the acceptance of still being forgiven for not being the best.