Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rock - of stumbling

This is Uluru (Ayer's Rock), probably the biggest rock on Earth. Well, you can climb this rock and build your house on it and let it support you. Or, your 4X4 wheeler can slam on its walls and break you into pieces.

I am still on the trail of "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" - the Rock. This Rock though can make people stumble.
Have a look at what Paul says in Rom 9:33
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
I am sometimes amazed that many Christians that I know of do not have a problem with faith. Not to put them down, of course, if the Gospel is something you do and you have done what it is , of course, it need not function more in your Christian walk., the doing experience has been done so you can put that on the shelve. Yet the Gospel is not what you have to do.

The Gospel is too good to be true, and our minds can stumble at the promise that by Christ's work, our sins have been forgiven. People that I know of do not seem to worry about it any longer nor wonder at it. However, I do meet people, a few of them, who say to me - this promise is so amazing, my mind sometimes can not wrap itself around it. I think these latter people are hit by its impact, just like it hits me.

You and I can stumble at this Rock. Our minds can be so bungled up that we go back to doing some form of works to get right with God. In other words, we can fall into unbelief and go back to doing the Law as a means of getting on the good side of God. Not only are we idol makers, we are law makers too. We are superb in adding to what is free.

Although to some the Gospel is a one off experience, I now realize, boy, do I need to hear it said of me - Christ died for your sins, he loves you and has answered for you.

Let me cite an example...have a look at Romans 7, the teaching that we are sinners and saints at the same time. Now, with the revival of Calvinism in evangelia, some are now adhering to the Lutheran simul iustus et pecator. The thing though is that though they admit they are both sinner and saint, they focus on their saint side, while I, for some reason, get to focus on the sinner side of me. Because I live with myself, and I know more my failings, the sinner side of me makes me sometimes wonder about my saintly side. Hence, I can start doubting if I am a saint and even if acknowledging the sinner I am, I can say, I am so much a wretch, how can God do that?

You can forget the Rock, the one outside you. So I need this Rock coming down to crush my doubts because this Rock says - it is done, finished, it is taken away, carried in my Body and nailed with me on the tree, my Cross is greater than your sins. I need to hear the Rock (which is Christ) to say to me - sin does not have the final say in your life - my Cross and I do. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Gay Character

I have never read any of the books by J. K. Rowling. Ever since the series came out and the Christian talk, either pro or con against the them happened, I never stopped for a moment to give any of them my thoughts at all. I do not have time to read these novels, I am already distracted by this blog.

Besides I reasoned, OK so there they are, now are there not books out there that children can read too? What is so special about these stories? It is just another story amongst many, well that is the thought that comes to my mind.

Here is the kicker, apparently, J. K. Rowling admitted that she purposely used Christian themes in here books and to that the Christian pro-Harry-Potterites felt vindicated and happy.

This week, she let them down and came out and said that one of her characters is gay. So the Christian pro-Harry-Potterites are scratching their heads and mumbled - "hey, what is up with that? we thought you got Christian themes"! At any rate just for a news trivia, an RC school is banning the HP books.

Let me throw a suggestion -- perhaps she was using the word "Christian" in a different sense, comprende?

Please, come on, don't tell me I have no right to comment on something I have never read. Must one read the book in order to judge it? What canon law is that?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sinners in the hands of an angry preacher

That is my guess. As I type this I am listening to Dr. Tom Baker's analysis of Jonathan Edward's famous sermon. Listen to Pr. Baker's critique here. Should you want to see my own analysis of Edward's sermon I made in 2006, it is found here.

The title of this post is what I guess Pr. Tom will use to rename the sermon. Am I correct? Listen to the end, I haven't reached it yet so my guess answer is either spot on or way off left field.

Should my guess title be wrong, sometimes I think though that the title is true; I felt like that way back when until I realized I am still a sinner too even after being converted. I seem to be a bit more relaxed now, not that much angry, since I am a sinner too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Marty Looser?

Sometimes I get bored and lonely writing my thesis. A theorem to prove there, a diagram to draw here, tighten the argument here, rephrase the paragraph there. Reformation Day is coming so here are some inspirational mp3s to fire up the flame that once was in your bones. I am rallying the troops. Courtesy of and iron sharpens iron.

Play this, then this, and then this, finally this. I will stitch them up later when I get the time, but do play them in order.

I warn you these are funny, if you drop off your chair laughing, please don't sue me.

The forgotten Marjoe

Marjoe Gortner was the youngest person ordained in a Pentecostal church. He was ordained at age 4 and he performed marriages and stuff. Born in 1945, he was a child preacher but in 1972, he came clean and exposed the game he could no longer play. Leaving the revival circuit life style he turned to being a hippy. Marjoe was honest, he knew there was something wrong, and he faced up to it. I pray for Marjoe that he may hear the real Gospel, rather than the show he was led to believe it to be.

This second video is quite blunt and revealing. There is money to be made in revivalism and pietism and this second video shows it. One of the most alluring thing is that when lives are said to have been changed by a person's ministry, that sort of validates that the person must be a true teacher- NOT. I leave you to it to be shocked and awed based on this second video.

As a hurried update to Marjoe, here is an article of Sarah Kernochan who produced the documentary about Marjor in 1972 that won an Academy Award.

Since Past Elder and I have been discussing charismaticism lately, I BTW dedicate this post to him, as a new friend in this wide world of blog. Since we have on our radar the activities of people like Mr. John Osteen and the others like Mr. Benny Hinn, I think it will do well that we remember Marjoe as well as pray for all of them (and us too).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Champion in you, now

Well, the Christian bloggers are discussing the teaching of the man our wives want us to be. How can you fault that awesome smile? The guy who is never negative, always positive, who is always patient and gentle, never blows his top and can tell good jokes too! Not only do our wives like him, our grandmas would love to adopt him too.

I do not listen or watch Mr. Osteen's program but it still worries me. His teaching worries me because that positive, encouragement stuff does not lift people from darkness, in fact it keeps people there. What is more is that this type of stuff is being exported out from USA and imported to to South American, Asian and African countries, developing countries where the seduction is magnetic. This guy thinks that our problem is that we are just plain negative or discouraged, he thinks our problem is not sin, so no wonder people love the guy. He is telling the world what it wants to hear.

Well of course, he attributes his success to "God", who in his thinking mind would not? If you don't say it is due to God, then you would be giving yourself away won't you? Who in his thinking mind would like to listen to pastor who is not associating himself with God? Not many.

So today if ever I watch American tele-evangelists on the tubes, I watch to get amused. I know better because I used to be one of the suckers who supported and bought their wares

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some call it lethargy?

I do not blog on "worship wars". You see I was an ex-RC and I heard the Mass in Latin when I was a young boy. I was accustomed to the timing of when to do the sign of the cross, kneel, stand up and and reply "et cum spiritu tuo". Here is one example of it with my native tongue on the right column.

Then being involved in the Pentecostal church, I know how to do free worship and I even led it. Free worship people also have a liturgy, make no mistake about it. They do not conform to a formal liturgy but they have a liturgy nevertheless. First there is a singing of 4 fast joyful songs, and then followed by 4 soft solemn songs - and you do this for 40 minutes. I can predict what happens in the service.

In both cases, in the formal RC and informal Pentecostal - I can predict what is about to happen and when. They can both leave you dry and what Jesus says when you are comfortable and proud that you are "doing it" Jesus says Mk 7:6. I do believe Jesus is interested in my heart, he is, precisely because it is filled with deceit and wickedness and he wants to cleanse it - cover it with his forgiveness, so I am convinced Jesus is interested in my heart and I agree with my Judge quickly that my heart as not clean.

I can understand the fascination with ritual and formality and the drag of being "high" church. My theory is that pop society and pop culture has been starved of any tradition - even social tradition. Today young people are embarrassed in having any program in their party celebrations such as having a toasts, giving speeches, any social ritual is rejected. Hence, the hunger is explainable. Every ancient culture has some tradition, it is what identifies them and for a people not to have one, not to have a decorum, is to have no identity. So the hunger is understandable, and the liturgy can be used for it. But there is a catch, when it becomes a canon, a Law, then we are back again to works. The liturgy which is designed to uphold the Gospel becomes its robber.

I need not say anything more but commend- Past Elder's - New Wine, Old Wine Skins

The point being, fidelity to the historical liturgy of the church guarantees nothing in itself, and it is possible to use the historic liturgy in a thoroughly heterodox effort. Therefore, the real enemy, if that is the best word, is not non-liturgical services or non-traditional church music, it is doctrine. Teaching.
Here is also my observation, you can rally for the historic or elaborate liturgy and rally for your synod officers to be impeached, you can even be embroiled in your synod politics, criticize colleagues for adopting heterodox methods etc etc, but if you as a pastor aren't giving your people the Law that shows their sin and the Gospel that heals and comforts them in your worship service, all that rallying for liturgy and thumping etc. is just smokescreen. IMHO.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Did not mean to

...cause quite a stir in this blog. Mine was an honest innocent question...I was just asking why is it that Calvinists who believe in baptismal regeneration can quote Calvin on their side, and at the same time Calvinists who reject it, can also quote Calvin on their side too?! It seems to me that Calvin and Melanchton (who were friends) tended to revise some thoughts they had and they kept on re-writing, this does not seem to happen with Luther at least in vital issues like Word and Sacrament. What I mean is that no baptismal regeneration denier can quote Luther on his side. It will never happen.

At any rate, it appears that Calvin believed that baptism conveyed the elect only. That means, some babies and adults are just getting wet. The reasoning seems to be that since the Jewish nation got circumcised and yet not all who were circumcised believed in the Messiah then that meant ( for the church father - Calvin), it is happening only to the elect.

Putting aside the other issues that go with regeneration, let me go back on that reasoning. The question I would have asked next is this - the fact that someone got circumcised during OT times and yet did not believe, did that mean that nothing was given? OK, now look at these baptized folks living like the devil and even denying Christ, so does it prove that they have never been regenerated at their baptism?

I know, it is funny for me to argue this way since I was a credo-bapti-costal.

There is some connection being made by Calvin on a regenerated man and his faith i.e. the regenerate will never abandon faith. This needs some further quizzing. If the baptized individual denies faith does that mean nothing was given to him? Anyway, the more pressing idea is on the elect. In other words, baptismal promises of God are only to the elect as far as this idea of Calvin goes. Since we do not know who are the elect, we may baptize everyone anyway and yet not hold on to the promise of God attached to it. Of course, we will never know who the elect are, besides baptism is effective only for them. So what to do? Believe and not believe baptism does something.

To say that God only regenerates the elect in baptism is to make a tautological statement. In my view it fails to add meaning to the pool of data. From my training, tautologies are helpful only if they add or advance information to the existing knowledge we have. You can forever repeat true statements and yet not terminate your reasoning process with new knowledge. I can prove this; say you have A-->B, B-->C and we want to prove A-->C. You can start by assuming A. Yet you can keep on asserting A-->A again and again, a tautology, you can do this infinitely without terminating the proof. The step is still valid but does not help. See what I mean?

I hope my Calvinistic brothers/sisters see that with those caveats or qualifications on baptism the practice itself looses its sense of meaning, at least that is true in the Reformed camp, of all varieties too. I think this accounts for why there are heated exchanges from within Calvinism in various sectors, between non-regenerative and regenerative, between paedo and credo baptizers etc. This type of squabble does not happen amongst Concordians (I mean at least in this area of baptism). I am a bit sad though, I wish Calvin did not have to modify or re-qualify his statements. There would have been a lot less people becoming upset at each other.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Rock - I'm confessin'

A few years ago one of our famous Pop and Gospel singer penned and sang a song entitled "Could you be Messiah to me"? Well obviously that question need not be asked because indeed Jesus IS Messiah, so I will just let you have a listen to the song and see what you think.

I have been pondering on "what does it mean to confess Jesus as Messiah". I was led to this because a few Sundays back I was asked to take the pulpit of a pastor friend and practicing myself now to speak based on the lectionary reading for that day, I picked on 1 Tim 6:6-19. Verses 12-13 mentions about a "good confession" which Timothy and the Lord made. Now this has led me to think that Paul must have meant Mt 16: 16-18 (after all Scripture interprets Scripture). Similarly, in front of Pilate, Jesus did not deny that He was the Son of God, a King.

The confession, "Jesus is the Christ" according to Jesus is the rock on which his church will be built on. Yes, yes, Rome thinks of this differently and though the dogs may bark, the train still moves on, if you ask me. In short, what is the real message of the Church, is its message Peter is the Rock or Jesus is Messiah, the Christ? We know how we should answer that question and the answer is not both.

The statement that "Jesus is the Christ" is really the statement of the Gospel. It is the short hand way of saying Jesus is the appointed Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, taking it on him on the Cross and being raised from the dead for the forgiveness of the world. I believe this is what is meant when one makes that confession. I say this because Peter himself missed the meaning of this even though he confessed it. Right after confessing he prevents Jesus from going to the Cross and got called satan for it. So he missed the impact of what he confessed. To say that Jesus is Messiah is to say the message of the Gospel.

The Church which is being built by Christ then is a Church that confesses He is Messiah, it confesses the Gospel, for that is what Messiahship means.

I read in the Apology coincidentally these words in Article III...
To seek forgiveness of sins from Him was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. To think of Christ this way, to worship Him this way, is truly to believe.

Louis Armstrong sang a song "I'm confessin'" which is a confession of his love for his girl, but as Christians we are confessin too, we are confessing we are not the Christ, but Jesus is.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Epistemologically speaking

Over at Parchment and Pen, an interesting post and conversation is happening. It is quite controversial because the Rev. C. Michael Patton has a view which to my reading is similar to what some Concordians have articulated before. For him the canon is not closed. Well in a way it is and in a way it is not. So I'd let you read his post but the comments, needless to say have grown quite long so be careful with your time!

Unlike other confessions, the BoC (and this I noticed right away) does not have a list of canonical books compared to the WCF. The question of canonicity and closeness of the canon is quite important simply because Protestants do shout sola scriptura. Of course to be clear, the Concordians have a different way of treating scripture, by the word "alone" it does not mean no church, council or tradition. They mean (correct me if I am wrong), the Scripture is the final rule of faith. It does not deny that there are other rules of faith only that the final rule is Scripture. Some Prots circumvent that and chuck other rules of faith like creeds and confessions and history etc. i.e. by-passing them as irrelevant and head to the Scripture "naked". I remember a denom priding it self with the slogan - 'no creed but the Bible'.

In return the Roman and Orthodox Churches (apologists) challenge that by saying -'how do you know it is the list of books if it was not for the Magisterium/Church who told you that in the first place', hence, their thesis is that to have an infallible Bible, you need an infallible asserter for that and that is the Church. Plainly stated "you can not have an infallible Bible, if you do not have an infallible Church/Magisterium who tells you that it is infallible".

The implication of this is the question of an epistemological starting points. You can choose I think three starting points both carrying an embedded presupposition.

1. The church is infallible (Roman/Orthodox)
2. The bible is infallible (generic Prots)
3. Jesus is the Christ (Concordians?)

Being a mathematician by training, I can attest to you right now that I can witness to infallible statements without me being infallible. I make an infallible statement each time I say 1+1=2. Within the proper usage and consistent use of those terms, my assertion is true and can be proven by arithmetic (number theory). Option #1 is not true by experience and will be discovered to entail circularity because the RC/EO also refers to Biblical passages to affirm so.

Option #2, also appeals to Scripture itself and so the RC/EO counters by saying - how do you know you have the complete list since Scripture is a book of books? I do not go for Option #2 because to me the church is founded on the confession that Jesus is the Christ and what that entails so as expected I lean to Option #3.

So what about Option #3, is this a sound propositional starting point from which we can build all of our Godly knowledge of life and the world etc? I think so. Firstly I believe Jesus taught scripture alone so at the end of the day, you can have all your approaches but Jesus knows better and if you do not line up with his, you are on shifting sand. Option#2 proponents doubt if Option #3 does not wind up in circularity. Perhaps people in Option #1 will chime in and side with Option #1 here.

I do not think it does, because first attestation of Jesus is Messiah were by the Apostles, they wrote this attestation down and I believe it. Yes the Church did attest that this was written by the Apostle or was inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet I did not believe it because simply they said it, for there is the object, it is there for me to examine and I find its contents sensible. There was no necessity or presupposition on my part that they had to be infallible in order for me to make sense of a proposition they make. I am a mathematician by training and when I see an elegant and brilliant proof, I admire it but no way do I attribute the creators of the proof with infallibility'.

This Messiah says too that the Scripture can not be broken. If someone asks me which are these lists of books that is said to be Scripture - I tell them - go ask Jesus. I guess the whole point of the Bible being infallible is for the Christian to continue to believe that he has eternal life in the Son, is that not the whole point? For faith and practice of course, but is it not in the context of "Jesus is the Christ"? As far as I can tell from the Scripture that has been received, Jesus says to trust no one but him.

Now I have not fully worked this out because right now I am savoring the implication of that confession - Jesus is the Christ.

So I want to know where my epistemological starting point is weak, sensible or not feasible at all. Setting me straight can only be a good thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What is the point?

Today is Thursday (my time). Every Thursday night we have bible study in my home and we have been going through the Book of Romans. It has been almost a year now. I thank the Lord, we have come now to Romans 9.

This morning, a loved one who attends the bible study asked me an interesting question.

Q: What is the meaning of this (bible study)? How has this affected or even changed our lives? What is the point of this (activity)?

This is how I answered this question.

A: The point is that though I hate and am angry at myself, and though I hate and am angry at my life, I want to know that God does not hate me nor is angry with me,..... but rather loves me.

I guess what I was alluding to was my search and constant assurance of 'favor Dei' [favor of God, i.e. Grace]. We know of course this is Jesus. John 1:17

How would you answer the question?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Will the "real" one please stand up.

Sometimes, theological labels are important in that it identifies where one's conviction is.

From what I gathered, the Augsburg Confessors where labeled with the "L" word by the RC Magisterium as a form of ridicule. It was meant as an insulting term, a designator for a certain brand of heretical movement in Christendom. They were also called "Protestants" too. In fact they were the first Protestants.

Now I read the retraction of this brother here.

What is interesting is that he says that the Augsburgers were the ones who coined the term "Reformed". I wonder if anyone has some information on this. Anyway this is what he says:

I thought being "Reformed" was believing in predestination, or TULIP. Well, that was a huge mistake. I wanted to be "Reformed" and so I changed the definition of "Reformed" to suit my taste. I wanted to be counted in the theological outlook of Westminster, with just a few tweaks here or there, so I fell into the same trap that "Reformed Baptists" fall into today - they claim the title and are not honest to admit that they cannot possibly be Reformed with holding to Reformed Theology. So instead, I redefined "Reformed" to simply mean - I believe in TULIP. Historically, this is a misnomer. It simply is historically impossible to demonstrate. Ask any Baptist where "Reformed" came from, and he'll point you to the Synod of Dorst. Little does he know it is a direct reference, written by a Lutheran, to explain the ecclesiology of Calvin's Institutes. In other words, being Reformed meant 1) Covenant Theology, 2) Paedobaptist, 3) following Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper, and 4) the ecclesiology of the Institutes. In other words, Baptists simply cannot be Reformed in any sense of the word.
To be honest with you, I think the word "Reformed" is getting to be a precious word, it is becoming the "in" word amongst modern evangelicals specially in the Internet. See this article in Christianity Today, I know it is old but it is still a trend amongst the young ones who are noticing the shallowness of what evangelicalism has become.

The Calvinistic brand is important such that there is a fight to find out who is "Truly Reformed". I know it was a word I tagged myself in conversation back in those days when my helicopter was hovering over Westminster or Geneva. In fact I have heard it said as a self-identity with a bit of pompousness. I do not recommend it, IMHO, it is not the place to land, the terrain is rocky and there is flux (see for example Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul etc). Anyway, I no longer have a dog on this fight, except to say that I doubt if that is that is the place one should park his tent. If you are wandering in the dessert of evangelicalism looking for water, I doubt if you should journey towards Westminster or Geneva, see here for such a journey.

So now I ask my self the question, should I wear my label proudly? I do not deny what my confession is, and in fact I told my pastor colleagues about my retractions, where I have been led. So should I be "proud" in the sense of "boast"? Although I am not ashamed of what I confess, I think not.

Let Christ be everything and us be nothing.

30And because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us(AT) wisdom from God,(AU) righteousness and(AV) sanctification and(AW) redemption, 31so that, as it is written,(AX) "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1: 31

PS. See the former 5 pointer turned 5-Pinter 'calvinist' too.