Friday, November 30, 2007

God helps me find parking spots too.

I get Joel Osteen's program where I am. So when I want to get amused I turn on to the channel he is in and I watch his program. I feel awful because I am doing this now-a-days to be entertained rather than be edified. I can not help it but the kind of attitude that happens to me is - "Let's see what weird stuff is he teaching this time".

One time I tuned in and I did hear Joel's story how God helps him find parking spots. I have some incidents of the same. In fact some little things I asked God to help me, He does. One time I was in Singapore for work. I was with a work mate. We went both to a shop to buy some camera accessories, and guess what, the store gave me a discount but they would not give him. I have heaps of these God favors you stories, it will bore you.

Just recently I was rebuilding a PC which I bought for $100, from a student. I upgraded it with some of my plug-in peripherals, guess what when I switched it on, it started beeping, a sign that something was wrong. You know I know a bit about hardware but the thing just beeped and beeped and I could not determine where the problem was. I took out the hardwares I plugged in and it still beeped. I was doing this for 30 minutes and I was at my wits end. I was getting anxious of the possibility of having to send this PC to a "real" computer technician to get it going and I was thinking I would be spending more than a couple of hundred dollars in addition to already that I shelled out. It was hot in my home office and I was sweating, figuring out what was wrong. Finally I blurted out - "Lord help me ". I do not know what went into my mind that I found myself trying again by jiggling fit the screen connection to the graphics card. It was not that tight and secure. I tried it tightening the screws, it worked. That did it. God answered my prayer. It is now running the free system I also like to use - Mepis. (You see I made a vow, I will never use Windows XP/Vista etc unless I am doing something for a client).

So I go back now to this "parking spot" request to God. I have no doubt God answers big and small requests according to his will. But let us assume that you are in a pickle, you are late for an important appointment, and you got to the place where you need to be and there is no parking spot, so you pray to God and still no parking spot can be found? What will you say? By the way Joel teaches - I probably say - "God, what is with you, you are so great you created this whole wide world, put stars in the sky and the mountains and the hills, you own the cattle there and yet won't even give me a puny little parking spot, you are nasty"! I suspect, his making spiritual out of every incident in life, I believe, will easily make one a cynic. Well, not him perhaps but those that swallow his teaching.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God loves Himself, to some, it seems.

Over at Dr. Ben Witherington's blog there is a flurry of conversation. Dr. Witherington blogged a post entitled For God So Loved Himself; is God a narcissist? He was reacting to the theme of a forthcoming book on the New Testament (by Dr. Thomas Schreiner?) which is 'God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit'. For Witherington, this makes God look hungry for self-adulation. So it is not surprising that Dr. John Piper should react to what Witherington said, so he replied and responded here.

Looking at the comments at Witherington's post, it is also not a wonder the discussion revolves around most on Piper.

Why am I not surprised with that and with Piper's reply? Because Piper has the same subject in his book Desiring God! So I was not surprised. He talks the same way in his book. After reading, you will get the impression that God is preoccupied with himself. I know I did, but I only saw this and became bothered when I moved out and consider Jesus and His Cross as the hermeneutic for reading Scripture. I do not think you can see this if Law and Gospel is not at the forefront of your psyche. ...So it caused a great concern to me. Why? I recommended the book several years ago to my friends and family, I even have 2 copies! Boy, am I eating my words now! This blog website is a record of my repentance

Simply put, Piper's over arching theology (and BTW, Christian Hedonism he confesses is his guiding principle in life) may be stated by quoting his own words...

Ultimate self-denial[on God's part] would be idolatry in God.
In other words, it seems to me that God would be sinning against himself if God did not have Himself as His object of love.

Last September I said something about this which I recorded in Properly Speaking -- I am not a Christian Hedonist...

Here is a portion of what I recorded...

His [Piper's] way of speaking makes God seem like self-absorbed. Such rendition makes God his own self-interest, hence, God loves himself and not us who indeed deserve no love from him. The mystery of Psalm 8:4, seems to no longer hold in this quote. Love is a relational term but it seems God loves himself and for Dr. Piper, for God not to love himself and instead love others besides him, makes God no longer God, it is unbecoming of Him. Because God commands us to love Him, does that mean that He loves himself really and is that the very reason why He commands us so? Is God saying to us – because I love myself, then you ought to love me too? Is He saying "hey people, I want you to love me, like I love myself".

In my mind ( and I am sure in others), the way God is glorified is by telling the drama of the Gospel. The story is that we have spurned the love of God towards us by our sin and instead of punishing us, He gave what we deserve to His Son and then set us free and forgiven. The way God gets glory from us is by showing us mercy. We are criminals and we have been left off the hook. It is an eternal debt of gratitude now because of that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Scripture is used

Augustinian Successor shares this:
In Evangelicalism the authority of Scripture is seen not in terms of its efficacy but its status as the divinely-revealed source of truth from which principles and concepts can be abstracted. Thus the Bible becomes the "how to" book for the Christian life. For Luther and the Confessions the Bible is that book which proclaims Christ Jesus, thus delivering the salvation which He has won for us. For Evangelicalism the Bible is the book that tells us what we must do to be saved and lead the Christian life. If we assume that because Confessional Lutherans and conservative Protestants speak a similar language regarding inerrancy they share a common understanding of the function of the Holy Scriptures, we will fail to see the profound differences that exist between the two in such matters as sin, grace, faith, justification, sanctification, the sacraments, the Office of the Holy Ministry, and the doctrine of the church." (Rev. Dr. John T Pless, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana - LCMS)

PRECISELY! The evangelical mentality is that the Bible is revered as words of divine wisdom, but not conveying in reality what it proclaims, namely forgiveness of sins and salvation. But this is why evangelicalism is legalism. It makes salvation conditional, rather than proclaiming the unconditional promise which is received by faith alone.

Very insightful statement from Rev. Dr. Pless!

Achmed The Terrorist (dead one)

Good evening infidel. Silence! I kill you!

They really are Owenian

I am thoroughly amazed as to how popular John Owen happens to be amongst popular American Calvinists. Owen was a thoroughly going Limited Atonement guy. For example, he is the beloved guru of Dr. John Piper who hails him and Dr. J. I. Packer who is a great fan.

Owen thoroughly denies that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and by "world" it is as we usually mean and the Bible means[hang on a minute before you dump me your exegesis] -- all people of the world. It is a speculation that leaves no room for speculation either.

Let me give you a taste of Owen's logic:
It is best demonstrated in line with the question: why are some people not in heaven? We would answer this by saying : because of their unbelief. He responds by saying: Well, if Jesus died for the sins of the world, and people who dis-believe are in hell, that means there are sins that Jesus did not die for, since clearly - the sin of unbelief is that sin. He then retorts: since people who dis-believe wind up in perdition, Jesus did not suffer for the sin of unbelief of these people, because had he did, they would be in heaven. See further here.

Can you see the tightness of this syllogism? Can you see his consistency with his foundational theology - Sovereignty of God?

Firstly, this transfers a doctrine of atonement in the reverse. In other words, he looks at the end point and reason backwards. The fact that people are not in heaven, means Jesus did not die for these people, since they never came to faith (I guess this is how to paraphrase Owen's logic). If we have no Biblical passages like 1 John 2:1-2, or Mk 16:16 then Owen's logic is impenetrable. Atonement and faith are lumped together in this reasoning whereas in the Bible these are two categories or concepts though related are not the same thing. Owen collapses these concepts and makes conclusions and to be honest, if you are Owenian, you can not help but slip down to the side effect of his logic ---believe that God purposely damns people i.e. He is the author of damnation and salvation of people.

You know when I was toying with Calvinism, I am often get spin-out how Calvinists promote that Calvin was a Calvinist. I have not read a lot of Calvin but I read his exegesis on these atonement passages and I walk away convinced that he did not believe in Limited Atonement. You will find it hard to convince me that Calvin was a TULIP-ian. Yes, Calvin was quite confusing at times - he is not as deep as Luther, but there are more passages that I think Calvin can not have possibly meant limited atonement but rather asserts general atonement instead. I have met TULIPians in the Internet who even call Calvin a heretic for not being a thorough going TULIPian.

The thing is that Calvinists today are Owenian, they are not really Calvinian in regards to Limited Atonement. Why do I say that? Because there are Calvinists writers who dis-believe in Owenian Limited Atonement, but they do not get an air play. Politics in the realm of theology does happen. Guess what, when a Calvinist starts bucking at this LA deal, you know what they will be called? They will be called Arminians, if not suspected of being one... boy are they in trouble. Horrors! That is like being treated like you have STD [of course in Lutheran circles we have leper labels too - I will let you guess what that label is, let me know if you get stuck].

Thankfully, my suspicion that Calvin was not a Calvinist (in the sense not TULIPian, 5-Point Calvinist) found support and relief one day. I found this blog called Calvin and Calvinism blog which is dedicated to giving you quotes related to Reformed idea of the Atonement; and if you are Owenian, you deserve to hear the truth so for truth's sake go there.

There are still quite a lot of aspects in Calvin that I think are over shots but that is another blog post meant for another day.

The moral of the story is that - not all self identifying Calvinist are Owenian, I call them Calvinians. A Calvinian should quote Doorman-Priest who said "these are the people that give people like me, a bad name"[incidentally, Jesus could say the same for Christians too].

These Calvinians are out there and I would not mind meeting these inconsistent Calvinists as friends and discuss some of our common points as well as differences in the spirit of Christian conversation.

Just letting you know.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bits and Pieces

This is just odds and ends of special mentions and that, like.... you know?

I ordered this cross from Kelly. She makes Christian Art and other stuffs. I call this Kellly's cross, or perhaps it should be Alex's cross, since she made it originally for him. You can order yours from Kelly here.

I hope to put it in my study or some part of our home.

Then also, Past Elder had a burst of blogging lately and I am so glad he did because his piece on Armistice here is, as chess players say..."brilliant".

I will not spoil the ending for you so I will not review it here, except that I will warn you, you will be blessed with the insights spread up there.

Eric has opened up an internet community for those curious of the Lutheran tradition and so if you are curious, you got inquiries, questions, exploring Christianity etc., I invite you to be a member of The Wittenberg Trail so to find out more, click on this image below.


I am feeling nostalgic and so I am clipping here my favorite guitarist. I got introduced to his playing when I saw Woodstock.

. Well, the best style to use if you want to dance to this music is ... as the title has it... Samba. But I think I can do Rumba on this one too and switch to Merengue on the tail end. I know, I can be so carnal sometimes, it is just so un-spiritual of me, sorry.

One of my pet dreams is one day to play this tune in my trumpet. To get to know what I mean, just imagine the guitar is sounding off a trumpet sound. Ayayay, caramba, only in my dreams, no?

Monday, November 19, 2007


In some ministry circles, there is such a thing as a "dynasty". Let me explain the scenario and how a dynasty is formed...

So a pastor gets called. In some present day circles, when a pastor is called, the congregation believe the wife is called too... to co-pastor with the pastor the church. So often you will see the husband and wife pastor team with not only the husband having the title " pastor" but the pastor's wife gets it too. So they get children and they raise their children in church, and so they become adults. When the husband-wife pastors retire, the baton is passed to one of the children. So one of the offspring becomes the pastor of the church, he/she has a spouse and the spouse gets the title pastor too. Thus, the cycle continues.

It is a church dynasty or some call it ministerial dynasty. Fascinating practice, no?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Evil, Sovereignty and... Tears

I might have blogged about this, but truth is worth saying twice.

They say that the Problem of Evil is a problem for a Christian and not for Atheists. Although Atheists do (some) become atheists by not being able to reconcile how a Sovereign God could allow Evil to go on, unstopped, it is eventually the Christian who is left with the ball standing. In the end the Atheist has no Evil to talk about because its meaning is dependent on the existence of God. So the Atheist resolves the problem by eliminating categories. Simply put, there is a hidden premise operating in the Atheist's reasoning, namely, if we allow G = God exists and E = Evil exists the premise is : G -> NOT E. By contra-positioning this, we have E -> NOT G. Obviously Evil exists, hence asserting E, therefore, NOT G, i.e. God does not exist. I do not mean to be insulting but technically, the Atheist's world view would have to be this: We have Evil without God. Evil is the only reality then, at least if the Atheist be honest, (s)he should say that. Evil is the only reality. It is not a very prospective future is it?

There is also I think another hidden premise that Atheists are operating on, that is: the Sovereignty of God is the final message of Christianity. Now, is that presupposition accurate? Is that the story of Christianity? If Sovereignty is all there is about Christianity and Evil exists, I do not find it surprising that some wind up being Atheists. It is perfectly logical to be one.

This is my observation, when the Sovereignty of God is all there is and it is detached from the Story of the Cross of Christ, there are only two things that can happen, you either slump into despair or become an unbeliever. The Sovereignty of God however, is not the final message of Christianity - it is Jesus and His Cross. And if you are a Christian, and all your hearers hear from you is God is Sovereign like Allah is Great! well...IMHO, you are helping skeptics become Atheists.

For Atheists and Christians to preoccupy themselves with God's Sovereignty on one hand and Evil on the other is to dwell in a philosophical distraction. For a question has to be answered - yes, God is Sovereign and yes, there is Evil and the two are conflicting, but why the Cross? What was Jesus doing there?

I am just like you, when I am well I can sit here and pontificate and give advice, but honestly, I am as anxious as anyone else. I have no guarantee that God will intervene, in a manner that I want, over tragedies (i.e. Evil) that may come to my life. The truth is that when Evil hits us, we are left with nothing but lonely tears. David has this to say about tears...
8You have kept count of my tossings;[a]
(C) put my tears in your bottle.
(D) Are they not in your book?
Psalm 56:8

Has God put my(your) tears (i.e Tragedies, Evil) in His bottle? I believe He has, He has taken all our tears and put it on the person/ body of our Saviour Jesus Christ (His "bottle") when he nailed Him on that Cross 2000 years ago. He took your sins (and yes your tears too) and nailed it on Jesus. Though physically Jesus does not take take out our experience of being in tears, and we will be touched by them, no doubts about it, yet God has taken them for what reality they represent (Evil) and hanged them on Jesus.

8He will (B)swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord GOD will (C)wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the (D)reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

Psalm 56:8 is followed by verse 9 (obviously)

9Then my enemies will (S)turn back (T)in the day when I call;
This I know, [c]that (U)God is for me.
Psalm 56:9

Do not forget the for you there in that verse. Look at Christ on the Cross because of your sins.... and be convinced, God's Sovereignty is for you.

UPDATE: Just after posting I came across this which may help in talking about "Tears".

Monday, November 12, 2007


You have probably heard of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), a document signed by Lutheran and RC theologians explaining that they now agree on the article of justification, right? Have you heard of my JDDI? It stands for the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Indulgences, I call this JDDI. It is not formulated yet, but I propose its construction.

I have been carried over to a discussion with Fr. Pontificator (in one of the blogs I stick my nose in) on the idea that the Lutherans and the RCs are now agreed on justification. One of the salvos in this direction is to point that these groups signed the JDDJ and that there are RC scholars (e.g. Frs. Joseph Fitzmeyer etc.) who agree that iustificare means to declare righteous hence, siding with the Lutheran Protestants, rather than make righteous.

I do have a very simple (read stupid) point to make. I will believe that the Lutherans agree now on justification with the RCs if they both sign a document on JDDI. My suspicion is that those Lutheran guys who signed the JDDJ would probably not have signed it had there been statements that indulgences were still ok. The thing is that it has no mention of such a topic. So there, I propose that in dialog with Mother Church, the first thing on the agenda should be my JDDI.

Oh, incidentally, in as much as we can commend Fr. Fitzmeyer's scholarship in that he proves that the Reformers were correct, we have to remember, the good Father is not an official spokes person for the Magisterium, OK? We must remember the RC e-pologists call such RC scholars as "liberal".

So there, what do you think, what are the things we can say that prove that the Lutherans are now in agreement with the RCC? I propose the RCs sign the BoC or if not sign a JDDI...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow, man, you're so peculiar you're cool

I got some more to say on propter fidem vs propter Christum but I will pause for a moment.

Let us face it, there are some things in this world that are so weird, they are hip. Rather than being far out, it is really in, it is awesome. Here is an example of how a liturgy has attracted young people, read it at a New York Times article here.

From what I recall about Luther, I understood him to say that if one is looking where the Church is; the person is to look where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are properly administered. I do not recall him advising that the person is to look at how transcendent/mysterious or how charismatic/modern or how pretty the liturgy happens to be. I might have missed it but do point me out where I misunderstood Luther in this regard.

There is a saying that what got them in, keeps them in and at that ...with more power/intensity as the days go by.

Hmmm, if I am a pastor and my people are coming to me for various reasons other than that they hear the Gospel from me, I'd better be disappointed... at myself.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More mile high differences.

I am still on the trail of distinguishing propter Christum versus propter fidem (see previous post).

I think we may determine where we are standing based on the hypothetical question that God may ask of us. The question is this; how shall we answer God if he asked us - why should I let you come into my heaven?

How we answer this question will say where we are standing. We will set aside the answer "because I was a good boy". We know that won't wash because it would not answer why Jesus was on the cross.

One can answer the question in the following ways, then...:
a.) "because I believe Jesus died on the cross for me"
b.)"because Jesus died on the cross for me".


Notice that the difference is subtle and may seem faint, but again, they are worlds apart, they are as different as night is from day.

With a.) you are still inserting yourself or what is inside you into the equation. Here one is still posing to God what is happening in one's self, and hence, I would say you are doing a propter fidem. To be honest with you, I think this view reduces in effect to the Roman Catholic understanding of justification. I am sorry to say, but you would be practically functioning as an RC in your understanding of the Christian faith.

With b.) we are giving as plain as the answer can be given, there is nothing about you doing or having anything, it is just Jesus doing something for you. Here Jesus comes in between you and God. Sure, you do believe, but you are confessing what you believe, that He did it all for your sins. I would say this is propter Christum, none of you but all of Christ - solus Christus.

I heard Dr. Nagel said one time in a broadcast of Issues Etc, saying that - when you go to the Bible (I think he meant in the Epistles), each time you see "faith" substitute in its place "Christ" and you will understand what being justified through faith means. So for example we can get Romans 5:1 and try it there. Did you see the effect? Nagel's substitution works because Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is for our justification.

If you asked me, I think, Dr. Nagel's advice is pretty good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miles Apart

Faith - an act or and attitude?

I have been reading a book by Charled Arand (when I get bored with the thesis) and I came to an interesting point when he related the story of Henry E. Jacobs. Jacobs was considering whether he will continue with Methodist style revivalism or continue with his Lutheran confessionalism. He said that in the revivalism in America it was

justification -- per Christum propter fidem (justification by Christ on account of faith)

rather than

justification -- per fidem propter Christum
(justification by faith on account of Christ).

One might say, well there is no difference. Yes there is and the difference is miles and even galaxies apart. The first emphasizes faith, the latter emphasizes Christ. The first leads to faith in faith, the latter leads faith to Christ. On what account are we justified? On account of faith (which can be turned to works), or on account of Christ (this you can never turn to a work). Consequently the experience of conversion becomes the focus of the first but Christ becomes the one that is prominent in the second. The first will make you look inside, the second will make you look outside.

Now being trained to listen about faith as an act continues to be my plague, the 25+ years of living in that psyche is a battle. In an unguarded moment, I notice myself cycling on the first. I also noticed that for Jacobs, faith is an attitude rather than an act. This difference caused Jacobs to retreat from revivalism and settle on confessional Lutheranism.

Think about it too. propter fidem or propter Christum?