Thursday, December 27, 2007

The 3rd Use of Grace

OK, OK, back to blog work...

It might be a wonder, we know of the 3rd use of the Law, but in my book there is the 3rd use of Grace. First a review of the uses of the Law is in order:
- 1st use: to externally discipline society
- 2nd use: to make us see our helpless state of sin
- 3rd use: to guide us as to what is pleasing to Him

The 3rd use predominates Evangelicalism so much so that it has been said to be Law-Gospel-Law. The 3rd use is overemphasized that it becomes a New Law which determines Gods attitude towards the Christian. It determines if one's life will be filled with blessings or filled with misery. You do it, then expect blessings to flow to you or you violate it and expect discipline at the corner. There is truth to this of course. This, as you know, either makes you feel you are pulling God's commands off making you Pharisaical or leads you to despair.

We really are Law makers. In fact I recall when I was finishing my degree in Religious Studies, in my OT Judaism class, I recall that the Rabbis believed that "man was created for the Torah". Contrast that with Mk 2:27, but I digress.

The question now is how does Evangelia rescue you from being a Pharisee or from being despondent. Well, to correct our Phariseism, it will say to us "now, that is not nice, don't be like that - stop being a Pharisee" -i.e. more Law. To rescue from despondency, either none is given thereby we burn out and eventually check out of Christianity, or it may say to us "God has grace, you can do it". Here is where the 3rd use of Grace comes in, but let me review first the ideas of Grace.

Taking my cue from the way Grace is mentioned in Thomas Oden's The Justification Reader, I will restate the 3 ideas of Grace in the Bible.
-1st idea: a phase in history when God overrides the Law to show mercy.
-2nd idea: God reconciling himself with humanity, we call this favor dei, God's merciful attitude towards sinners - (cf. the Cross).
-3rd idea: a gift of enabledment to perform a distinctive action by God's help.

The same way that the 3rd use of the Law predominates, the 3rd use of Grace predominates also amongst our Evangelian brethren. Let me illustrate this 3rd use of Grace from a current popular highly acclaimed Evangelical author, from Dr. John Piper's Future Grace. BTW, I appreciate his illustration of the Filipino insight of gratitude in that book, this is called "utang na loob" -i.e. the ethics of gratitude or debtor's ethics (Chapter Two).

Here is a quick quote enjoining us on the 3rd use of Grace, making Grace "gratia infusa" in p.65

In Dr. Piper's Future Grace he says:
The only life I have left to live is future life. The past is not in my hands to offer or alter. It is gone. Not even God will change the past. All expectations of God are future expectations. All the possibilities of faith and love are future possibilities. And all the power that touches me with help to live in love is future power. As precious as the bygone blessings of God may be, if he lives me only with the memory of those, and not with the promise of more, I will be undone. My hope for future goodness and future glory is future grace.

This is quite revealing, because it seems that grace is disentangled from the Cross, the lens from which we see things. It is 180 degrees opposite of the Concordian focus on the uses of the Law and the ideas of Grace. For a Concordian, it is the 2nd use of Grace that predominates, and also the 2nd use of the Law that is lifted high. Hence, for him, the grace in the past at the Cross is still the grace that he needs and clings to for his future , it functions literally in his here and now (this is strange to some), so there is no new or fresh batch of grace. Grace in this respect is neither diminished, gets stale, like bread or is increased. Grace is outside him, that is the focus, whereas in Evangelian talk, Grace is seen as something imparted inside the constitution of the Christian - intra gratia.

Grace for sure
Bluntly we have no promise of future grace as a free standing idea we can hold on to from God. If we want to know if God has "future grace" for us - we will be grasping at straws if we do not see it from the 2nd use of Grace. Yes, God by nature is gracious but where do you find it with certainty? There is no naked Grace of God towards us that is not clothed in Christ's Cross. Besides this, we will interpret our circumstances from a temporal world view and not in the light of eternity.

Which drives what?
In other words, which drives what, which idea of grace drives? I believe there is 3rd use of Law and 3rd use of Grace, but the question is which drives what? We should not disagree that we do have sanctification, we do have it absolutely! That is the nature of faith in the Gospel. We should just refuse for it to be driven by anything except by the 2nd use of Grace.

Monday, December 24, 2007

From the Angel on our Tree

To all my friends and not exactly friends, thanks for all your inputs and inter-actions, they have helped me in my understanding of things. I wish you peace this Christmas and declare to you what the angel said:

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord.

What you see here is an angel that is hanging on our tree, she is made of "abaca" hemp otherwise known too as Manila hemp. If you click on the picture, you will see a magnified view of things and you will also notice that the stars and stuff are also made of Manila hemp. Hemp is a good decorative material, it is pretty too, well at least to me, but then as usual, I am biased, but then you know that by now too.

At any rate, don't leave this page without stopping a bit and consider what the angel just said, that is the point - no more fear, Jesus has come, God has provided for you(us) a Saviour. Amen

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'll drink a toast to you - OFW


I am sure you have not heard of it. For the lowly Indio, it stands for Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). These are Filipinos who decided to leave their homeland to work for a living somewhere in the world. They are all over the world, that is literally true, so much so that some sociologists are dubbing this the Filipino Diaspora. You might find it a contradiction in terms because psychologically, the Filipino is deeply entrenched in his love for his native land. The Indios are enigmatic, they are superb in assimilation, they can absorb, they can adopt, they can blend, they can talk the way you do with accent, intonation and all, but when you rip their chests, and take a look at their hearts, you will see their hearts beating love for their native land. It is the place the Indio loves and dreams about but could not live in nor have it. His body may be somewhere but his mind is where he was born. So he works, and saves and sends money to P.I. It is known that they, on the average, send US $8B to the P. I. If not for the OFW, the country would have gone down the toilet already (i.e to the dogs).

Name a country and I am sure there is an OFW there. They are in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea even as far as Finland. In the Middle East they are in - Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel. Some of them are managers, engineers, laborers, maids, cooks, or drivers; you name a profession, an OFW covers that.

Each Christmas time, the OFWs heart goes through a wrenching agony of loneliness; for you see to the Indio, the family is everything. It is for the family that is why they have become OFWs in the first place! They leave for the sake of providing something better for their families. They hope that in their sacrifices something good might come, not for them, but for their moms, dads, brother, sister or their children. It is their hope that something good for the future may come, and we know, hope is quite a dangerous thing. The Indio finds his identity through his family. Ask them what they wish for in life and they will say "oh, I just want an intact family". That is their hope.

I am sure this Christmas eve, they will spend the night with their Karaokes belting out Barry Manilow's songs (now there is a guy who is cute and charming, if you are like that, you can get away with anything in P.I.) and the Indio Christmas carols. Then they lay their head to sleep with tears in their eyes as they muse to themselves -- here you are a care giver in Israel, and you are taking care of someone else's grandma or grandpa. Here you are rendering service to elders who are not your own. The domestic helper in Singapore cries herself to sleep, it is Christmas after all, and here you are nursing, feeding, caring for someone else's baby while you have been there now for 6 years away from your very own child who has grown up without your care, oblivious of what it would be like to have your arms surround her. Christmas, a time spent for the family, what is meant to give joy, suddenly and in the end, brings sadness. It is not easy being poor, and so no wonder you have a temporal concept of being "saved".

I like you to know OFW, I respect you.

I will mention a prayer for you in our noche buena and drink a toast too, to you my OFW. For I want you to know, I understand. But not I alone, but your Lord Jesus understands too. Look at your suffering and sacrifice, and then in His, and know that yours is only a pattern of the real sacrifice - that one of Christ - he was sent outside the gate, the scape goat, the fall guy - He too was an "OFW".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A cultural Christian eyh.

Apparently the atheist Dawkins is a Christian after all, a cultural Christian.

Read here.

Now what the blazing saddles does that mean? Is it like Bishop Spong being a Christian too?

I suspect the post-modern notion that the art viewer is free to interpret and redefine what the author intends his art to mean is what is happening here. The viewer participates in like a play where in the thing itself is given some mystical meaning so profound you have to be crazy first to get what the post-modern is talking about. Besides, getting it is not important, if you do not like it just re-define it to your own liking.

This surely defies the sacred notion of "definition" so loved by mathematicians. Their art is no longer possible and dissolves if post modernism gets into their craft.

The Quotable Elder

This is dedicated again to Dr. Maher.

Past Elder said something worth giving a major focus:

The Roman church to me now lacks any credibility whatsoever, though within it as within other heterodox to the point of being marginally if at all Christian bodies the true catholic church of Christ can be found. As an institution, it is simply the state religion of the Western Roman Empire in its anachronistic post Imperial existence, now lamely trying to address a world to which it is irrelevant. To behold it now reminds me of the reaction those who remembered the First Temple had when seeing the Second -- tears that such a pathetic shadow of what was before is all there is. But by the grace of God I now know that what was before was no "First Temple" but itself fallen.
Now I can see why the lack of credibility is mentioned and I think I have also said something in the past that illustrates this. Let me explain as an example.

Let us for the sake of argument consider ole Mother Church through the Magisterium is being asked to decide on an issue that requires either a yes or no, or in another vain, either declare it is an A or NOT A. So what happens say is that they declared --"folks it is A" (say like that in Vatican I).... So time ticks away and many many years passed and fresh questions on the same issue gets a hearing but essentially similar points. The Magisterium comes around and say --"folks it is NOT A" (say like in Vatican II).

So you scratch your head and you say ---"now come on, you changed your mind on this haven't ya"? They say "Nah, you see LP, we have always believed it to be NOT A"...."you know back then in the distant past we said A, but actually we are clarifying what we meant by that today and what we meant then was it has always been NOT A". They continue ..."No we have not changed, we are just clarifying what we meant by A back then, and what we meant by it is that it is NOT A".

Now, I dunno bout you, but this is the kind of thing why there are Sedevacantists and why they seem to be growing. The only thing is that the former does not like to admit what the old Protestants have been saying all along, corruption is possible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Causing faith to believe in itself.

I heard that one of the significant people in my life passed away a year ago. He was a pastor of mine. Though he and I along with the others he nurtured parted company with him based on some teachings that was introduced on the subject of prayer, I still have fond and thankful memories of him. I recall sermons after sermons which we enjoyed that came from him, sermons that focused us on Jesus' person. Those were the good days, the happy days when you walked out of the service having confidence in Christ as you go back home. He was a scholar, fluent in NT Greek and OT Hebrew. Where I came from that was no small thing. He conducted nationally televised debates with a prominent RC Bishop of Manila and these debates numbered hours and hours - I recall 6 hours of telecast in one instant.

I noticed I was mourning inside and if not for my penchant for busy-ness, I would have been dysfunctional for quite a number of days.

As I thought of the Rev, a popular passage often quoted/recited in that church was Jeremiah 17:5-8 . There were good and not so good teachings, so you do it like when you are eating a fish, you get the meat but chuck away the bones. Here is what that passage states and how it can be mis-applied and used to stress faith in faith, giving it a hue of works.
5Thus says the LORD,
"(M)Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes (N)flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6"For he will be like a (O)bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A (P)land of salt without inhabitant.
7"(Q)Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose (R)trust is the LORD.
8"For he will be like a (S)tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of (T)drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Focusing on verses 5 & 7 brings a challenge, is where I am at. The promise there can easily be turned to a Law. For example, let us say, you are sick and your attitude is that - "that is ok the meds will do th job - she'll be right mate". Or you are in a financial fix and you say in your heart --"she'll be right mate, the bank will lend me money". Seems like those attitudes can easily condemn. Also it can be turned into Law when you encounter doubts about the capacity of God to deliver you, and thus it is rock crushing you. In such a case, we can easily with no help from the devil run ourselves to the ground as we frantically notice our anxieties, our heart accuses us with an alert "hey I am not trusting in God in this trouble, I am cursed". It is quite subtle in that for the case of being sick, perhaps to show faith in God, you might not go to the doctor or not take medicines and we have heard of this happened before right? For the second example, you may just look to the sky hoping that God may open up heaven and drop you a bundle of $100 bills. Silly, I know but wait...

It seems to me there is further application of this. For example, say in terms of my salvation and being accepted by God - am I internally saying to God, "I should be ok with you and you should let me in since I am a member of your one True Church", or "I should be ok with you I have been giving to the poor, I give my excess stuff to Salvation Army", or "I should be ok, I have been faithfully going to mass or services all my life, I have been coming to Bible Studies, doing my devotionals, " etc. or any such things? In this case the curse does apply, doesn't it? It is mankind trusting in their own selves, their own strength whereas the latter, the one blessed, has no other trust but in and the Lord alone. The latter strips himself of anything his heart relies on and has nothing to hang on to but God in His kindness.

The Small Catechism has this for the 2nd Commandment:
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

From Augsburg, Article IV: Of Justification.

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Doubts and Dilemmas

Questioning is never a good thing from the backgrounds I came from. From the perspective of Mother Church where I was born and grew up, questioning is like bucking at the authority of the anointed Church. Then coming to Charismania, I see the whole thing over again. This time with a different twist, to question is to question the anointing of the minister. In the latter, you are considered a trouble maker. I have heard of people I used to minister to being shunned because they have questions that they mistakenly shared in their Bible Study. So when it comes to doubts on doctrine, you are shunned. When it comes to dilemmas like practical problems of life like problems with relationship, health, guidance etc., they are easily dismissed by a quote from Scripture here or there; like saying here is aspirin, go take it and you should be better in no time. That should fix it.

There are no doubts and dilemmas now a days because all questions that can be asked have been answered already, or so you'd been made to think. Like one time somebody quipped - if Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

However, to have no doubts nor dilemmas is to me to walk by sight and not by faith. Sweeping doubts and dilemmas under the carpet, is living in denial. A Christian life that produces no doubts nor dilemmas is in my thinking sub-Christian.

I think this is looking at the Word of God through the eyes of the senses, i.e. the world. It is like saying - well that one there in the Word is this one here. It is the reverse of looking at the senses through the eyes of the Word. I think in the latter, you see the Word and see your senses and you say, the Word says this, but my senses say otherwise - this to me naturally produces doubts and dilemmas. Well to illustrate, you look at yourself and you see sin in your life, and it is without a doubt (pun here) real. Then you look at the Word and it says God accepts you in Christ for Christ has answered for you, and your mind says -- that is just way too good to be true. So it is not uncommon to encounter doubts and dilemmas in Christian life for what is too good will not go on without its attackers, its very too-goodness invites its challengers and so I look forward to go to church to hear again and again, the promises of God are real and they are for me (you).

My grandmother when she was alive would tell me stories of her experience during WW II, during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines prior to The General (MacArthur) returning. Her stories were so vivid, and as a boy I noted how her eyes revealed that she was re-living the trauma and the deliverance from that part of her life. She told me these stories several times and each time as vivid and the same. Sometimes, to while the time, I would be the one to ask her, "tell me the story again" and she virtually brings me there, like I travel a time machine with her and I was with her seeing her fears and hopes.

My presence in church is a sign that I am virtually asking the preacher/pastor to tell me the story of God's promises again. Tell me again what God promised me because I am prone to doubt and see dilemmas.

It seems to me a Christian understanding of faith that leaves no room for mysteries and leaves no room for un-answered questions (with an attitude that even trivializes these), is to say the least, a sub-Christian view of faith.

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I am going to be very busy these days toward the festivities so my posting will be sparse. We are attempting again to get my thesis submitted by end of Jan 2008. It is amazing how you find things to improve on, so God have mercy while I get locked away writing a couple more chapters. I will let you know if I succeed.

There is one thing that struck me while I was reading the BoC. I was struck that it uses the word "ass" several times. I counted, it uses it 8 times.

Now, some will be offended that the word is used or mentioned in the confessions. Lately, as I encounter people in the internet, I can not help but feel sympathy for the way the BoC uses this word. There are really asses around.

The lessons in Proverbs 26:4-5 came home to me lately and I think this passage is humorous. Indeed, there are times you should not be answering these asses as Proverbs say; because I note by experience, that when you answer these asses when you are not supposed to, you do go away feeling like one.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Peace to those who visit here

A while back I was burdened to pray for people who visit here.

Peace to all those who visit here.

For whatever reason you might have landed on this web log, my prayer goes to you, be you a Christian believer or not, my prayer is for you, be you a friend or foe. You may have wondered off here and left a message or you may have just looked around and went your way. Either way, my prayer is the same.

My prayer is that you may find peace with God through the benefits provided by Christ - the Saviour and Lord, Messiah.

Peace to you who enter these pages.

Luke 2:
But the angel said to them, "(H)Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a (I)Savior, who is [c](J)Christ (K)the Lord.12"(L)This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14"(M)Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace among men [d](N)with whom He is pleased.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Says something about some of us

Here is the bigger picture here.

[Pr. Kurt if you are reading, let me know if you got a laugh].

If you do not get a chuckle at this, you should get one in the CrummyChurch Signs.

What is on the rise?

My North American friends might find this interesting.

My friend Matt from a beloved list I am still a member of shared with us this information that in SBC, the number of Calvinists are increasing. Read here.

This is one of the things that does not surprise me. I doubt if Bro. JK is surprised with this too.

As and ex-Evangelian, I am not at all taken a back at this. Many people from non-denominational, charismatic, baptistic groups have already been sensing the instability in the movement for many years. They are burnt out and dried out. For example, one of my friends, a fellow minister in the Pentecostal denomination I belonged (many moons ago), is now with a confessing, Reformed and charismatic denomination, namely the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

It is natural for Evangelians to examine Calvinism because it is the closest to their doctrinal ancestry, so fair enough Calvinism is the one that gets examined first. This happened to me. That is the way this cookie crumbles. However, Evangelians are carrying over their natural flare of being pragmatists in the examination of the Christian tradition they should link back with. They are studying Calvinism from popularizers rather than study the Reformed confessions in history. They are doing dip theology, that is right, I say they are doing dip theology and not deep theology. They do cafeteria picking and choosing like ordering food from a menu. From popularizers these seekers are picking up Owenian Calvinism which is a nasty viral strain (see Calvin and Calvinism for some cures) with very coarse edges. They are doing the short cuts again. IMHO (you knew that was coming, but what else do I have, but that), this cafeteria method will not do. One should not transfer the mindset which made Evangelicalism precisely in turmoil to the process of examining confessions, there is no choice but to chuck away the pragmatism it was founded upon in the first place. No, hard yakka (i.e. an Aussie word for -- work) in terms of study is needed.

In a similar vain, through the Internet, you get to hear of many stories how Evangelians became RCs. Many RC e-pologists were former Evangelicals, if you notice. They are doing the things they got from Evangelicalism - the use of testimonies, making RC user-friendly, a bit of marketing here and there etc.

However, for reflection, I think there is lesson to be learned from Pr. Will Weedon's motto, "everyone wants to be a Lutheran; they just don't know it yet". I think he is onto something, there is something profound to this quip. I think it has a good amount of truth if by that is meant Old Lutheranism and its attachment to the Gospel; I can say "yes", this is what Evangelians and burnt out Charismatics are looking for, they can not just articulate it. My prayer is that we might be given a chance to help formulate such articulations and in the process Christ might be formed once again, in us and in them. This is joy, for Christ in his saving and forgiving office can not be but the only everlasting joy we long for. We are really looking for this, we just don't know it yet.