Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christian "music videos" by Igniter Media

I thought the following Christian "music videos" by Igniter Media are quite moving and amazingly well done. These videos are created by the same organization that produced the meChurch video.

Are You Amazed?

Song: Your Grace Still Amazes Me by Phillips, Craig And Dean

My faithful Father, enduring Friend
Your tender mercy’s like a river with no end
It overwhelms me, covers my sin
Each time I come into Your presence
I stand in wonder once again

Your grace still amazes me
Your love is still a mystery
Each day I fall on my knees
Your grace still amazes me
‘Cause Your grace still amazes me

Oh, patient Saviour, You make me whole
You are the Author and the Healer of my soul
What can I give You, Lord, what can I say
I know there’s no way to repay You
Only to offer You my praise

It’s deeper, it’s wider
It’s stronger, it’s higher
It’s deeper, it’s wider
It’s stronger, it’s higher
than anything my eyes can see

(P.S. I am well aware that Phillips, Craig And Dean are Oneness Pentecostals.)
I Believe

Song: I Believe by Wes King.

I believe
In six days and a rest
God is good
I do confess
I believe
In Adam and Eve
In a tree and a garden
In a snake and a thief

I believe, I believe
I believe in the Word of God
I believe, I believe
'Cause He made me believe

I believe Noah
Built an ark of wood
120 years
No one understood
I believe Elijah never died
Called fire from heaven
On a mountainside


It's been passed down through ages of time
Written by hands of men
Inspired by the Lord
His Word will remain to the end
I believe Isaiah
Was a prophet of old
The Lamb was slain
Just as he foretold
I believe Jesus
Was the Word made man
And He died for my sins
And He rose again
Never Been Unloved

Song: Never Been Unloved by Michael W. Smith

I have been unfaithful
I have been unworthy
I have been unrighteous
And I have been unmerciful

I have been unreachable
I have been unteachable
I have been unwilling
And I've been undesirable

And sometimes I have been unwise
I've been undone by what I'm unsure of
But because of you
And all that you went through
I know that I have never been unloved

I have been unbroken
I have been unmended
I have been uneasy
And I've been unapproachable

I've been unemotional
I've been unexceptional
I've been undecided
And I have been unqualified

Unaware - I have been unfair
I've been unfit for blessings from above
But even I can see
The sacrifice You made for me
To show that I have never been unloved

Unaware - I have been unfair
I've been unfit for blessings from above
But even I can see
The sacrifice You made for me
To show that I have never been unloved

It's because of you
And all that you went through
I know that I have never been unloved
The Crowd or the Cross

Song: The Wonderful Cross by Isaac Watts

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from his head,
his hands, his feet
sorrow and love flow mingled down
did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.

Were the whole realm
of nature mine,
that were an offer far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.
O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross!
All who gather here by grace
draw near and bless your name.

O wonderful cross!
O the wonderful cross
bids me come and die
and find that I may truly live.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

“Whatever” Christianity by Marsha West

So, if the Bible isn’t a Christian’s authority, what is? Short answer: Anything he or she wants it to be. You sort of make up your religion as you go along. Does this strike a cord? Christianity has become a blend of religious beliefs. Add a pinch of modern psychology, a dash of Buddhism, a teaspoonful of Catholic mysticism, a cup of New Age spirituality, mix well, and voila! You’ve cooked up a batch of New Age Christianity.

Those who practice pragmatic Christianity believe that today’s churches must be relevant. The Church has to adjust to our modern culture. In order to recruit the unsaved, Christianity must rid itself of its antiquated dogma and doctrines. The Church must become “inclusive,” “non-judgmental,” and “tolerant.” To accomplish this, the atmosphere in churches should be warm and inviting and its members must be friendly.
Marsha West has written a two-part commentary titled “Whatever” Christianity that laments the theological relativism commonly seen in many Christians. To these post-modern Christians, even outright heresy becomes acceptable.

In her commentary, West singles out people like Robert Schuller who “is more concerned with people’s “self-esteem” than with their eternal souls” and “bases his theology on what people want to hear rather than on God’s Word”; Rick Warren who welcomes Roman Catholics, Mormons and Jews into his pastor-training programs because he thinks the core essentials of Christianity are non-essentials; C. Peter Wagner who claims that the ministries of the prophets and apostles have been restored; and Brian McLaren who requires a moratorium to determine his stand on sodomy.

In the light of this post-modern theological epidemic that has already crept into the Church, what should be our response? West believes that we “must become skilled at recognizing heresy and false teaching within the Church.” It is our duty as followers of Christ to hold on to His teachings and “remain within the pale of orthodoxy.”

"Whatever" Christianity (14/11/2006)
"Whatever" Christianity (Part 2) (18/11/2006)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

一切歌颂赞美 (Hokkien version)

This is a somewhat "old" song, which I used to play in my former church's worship team a long time ago. To listen to how it is sung in Mandarin, click here (WMA format, unfortunately) to download the file (not exactly my favorite music arrangement as I prefer something "edgier"). After you have the tune memorized, try singing the song in Hokkien :)

i chiat ko siong o-lo
long kui goa Chu goa e Sin
I si phoe tek ko siong kap o-lo
lan lang ko sia ho hoah
ko khi Ia-so. e mia

赞美主 哈利路亚! 噢
o-lo Chu ha-li-lu-ia o
赞美主 哈利路亚
o-lo Chu ha-li-lu-ia
哈利路亚 (x2)

English Translation
Consecrate our praise and adoration to my God
You are worthy of our sacrifice
Shout unto Lord Jesus lift up the name of God

Praise the Lord Hallelujah
Praise the Lord Hallelujah
Hallelujah (x2)

Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin) Translation
yi qie ge song zan mei
dou gui wo zhu wo di shen
ni shi pei de ge song yu zan mei
wo yao gao sheng hu han
gao ju ye su zhi ming
ha li lu ya

zan mei zhu ha li lu ya o
zan mei zhu ha li lu ya
ha li lu ya (x2)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Worship at Bible college

I have never picture myself as a worship/song leader. Right from the outset, I would think of myself primarily as a musician in the music ministry. Pianist? Definitely. Acoustic guitarist? Well maybe. But since entering Bible college, I have been called to lead worship on two occasions. The first time was at a recent spiritual retreat. The second time was during the Christian Spirituality class today.

Having attended children's Sunday school in the 1980s and going through my teens in the 1990s, I do have a certain fondness for many worship songs from that particular period. I remember that as a musician in a charismatic church, I used to have a dislike for hymns. However, I gradually grew to appreciate them over time. Now whenever I attend services where hymns are sung, I would savor the rich and wonderful truths penned by Christian men of old who had a deep reverence for the centrality of the cross, the sovereignty and the grace of God.

This Bible college is rather conservative when it comes to worship. Whenever we have chapel services, the songs are mostly hymns from our college hymnal. If we do incorporate contemporary songs in chapel services, they would be of the slow variety. Personally, I prefer a balanced mix of both fast and slow songs. So when I was asked to lead worship, I wanted to incorporate fast songs. As I do not want to alienate my classmates too much, who come from a wide spectrum of denominations, my criterion for these fast songs is that it must be familiar to my classmates. Needless to say, the songs must also be doctrinally sound.

During the spiritual retreat, I have deliberately chosen worship songs that were popular in the 1980s and the early 1990s. I decided to repeat the same thing today. I avoided songs from Hillsong, which seems to be the rage in churches nowadays. And I do think “Lord I lift Your Name on High” has been done to death everywhere.

All in all, I have chosen eight songs. Children's Sunday school songs like “The Butterfly Song,” “Walking in the light of God,” and “In His Time.” Coincidentally and to my delightful surprise, during the chapel service following the Christian Spirituality class, we sang “With Christ in the vessel,” another Sunday School song.

I have also chose songs like the evergreen “As the Deer,” “How Lovely are Thy Dwelling Places,” and a fast “O Magnify the Lord.” I thought of ending with a fast “My Life is in You” but eventually decided against it during the worship. Of course, the highlight of the worship session would be the amazing hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” which ministered to me, and I believe, and to everyone a lot.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Exams are coming up!

I will be quite busy for the next two weeks or so. However still, I might continue to write if I do have the time. There are many assignments and readings to complete, not forgetting the countless Greek paradigms and vocabulary that I have to memorize. Apparently, Bible college is not as easy as some may think.

To those who read my blog, please pray for me. I need to concentrate on my studies but I do find myself rather affected by some personal issues lately. Time is quite crucial to me right now and I need to effectively manage the way I use my time.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Luther's Theology of the Cross

19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20].
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
The above theses are taken from the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, where Martin Luther was called upon to defend his theses.

I will be doing a paper on a book by Mark Shaw, titled 10 Great Ideas from Church History. One of the chapters covers Luther’s theology of the cross, which regards God as working through paradox. For instance, Matthew 10:39 states: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Another example of paradox is though the world sees Christ dying on the cross as a disgrace and a failure, Christ’s work on the cross is actually a victorious triumphant work of redemption that was planned before creation began.

This excerpt below, which is taken from 10 Great Ideas from Church History, shows how the theology of the cross can be used to critically assess the rising prevalence of seeker-sensitive sermons and the disregard of the importance of good theology in too many churches.
But how can decision-makers translate Luther’s great idea into good decisions? Let’s look at some possible decisions that might unleash the power of the cross in our churches, families and organizations.

Use #1: The cross and preaching. By “preaching the cross” I don’t mean we should preach only evangelistic sermons. Instead we need to bring the perspective of the cross into everything we preach. William Willimon, chaplain at Duke University, writes about preaching to consumer-oriented audiences who appear to want entertainment more than enlightenment. It’s easy for preachers to make one of two mistakes in responding to such congregations. One mistake is to give in “to their consumer mind-set” with “feel-good” sermons that avoid biblical truths. The second mistake is to give up. We can develop the attitude that “my people don’t care about the gospel. They just want to be entertained.” What Willimon has discovered about beating the consumer mindset is striking:
My first priority, then, is to preach a sermon that speaks about the gospel, not a speech that explores people’s experience. In the admirable attempts to be relevant, too many sermons I hear whitewash therapeutic solutions with biblical “principles” where the Bible ends up sounding like the latest rage of popular psychology.
What we need in our churches is talk “about Jesus Christ and what he has done for us and what he calls us to do for him and for one another.” When we lift up the cross of Christ each week as both a way of salvation and a way of seeing, we will turn an audience into a church and consumers into the committed. As David Wells has written: “The Church is called to declare the message of the cross, not to uncover God’s hidden purposes in the world or the secrets of his inner therapy.” We must bring people under the cross to get them over the world.

Use #2: The cross and theological literacy. If theology in general is despised in our churches and organizations, then the theology of the cross will be marginalized as well. When we cultivate our people’s appetite for doctrine, however, the theology of the cross can be unleashed.

George Barna has described the “theology of the typical American” as “nothing less than frightening.” What is the problem? “The lack of accurate knowledge about God’s Word, about his principles for life, and the apparent absence of influence the Church is having upon the thinking and behavior of this nation is a rude awakening for those who assume we are in the midst of a spiritual revival.” This theological slippage also appears among evangelicals. Denominations that were once known for their defense of the faith now talk only of marketing their churches or ordering their private worlds. Yet “to value theology,” argues David Wells, “is to value the means by which the Church can become more faithful and more effective in this world.”

Providentially, the structures for the theological renewal are already in place. Adult Sunday-school classes and weekday small group dot the landscape. Useful resources that could be studied by those in such networks abound. Alister McGrath’s The Mystery of the Cross would be one place to begin. New theological methods such as narrative theology, which employs story forms to communicate theological truth, have made theological study more accessible to a wider audience.

When theology matters, the theology of the cross will matter more. Keeping in mind Luther’s warning that a theology of glory will do more harm than good, wise decision-makers will take practical action to raise the theological literacy of their congregations.
More articles on the theology of the cross can be found here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy

For those of you who have not read Christianity Today’s feature article Young, Restless and Reformed, which appeared last month, do hop over to the website to read it. One of my classmates had kindly told me about this article. I was able to read it in my college library, as my Bible college has a monthly subscription to Christianity Today.

I have found it to be quite a fair and balanced article about the resurgence of Calvinism among the Southern Baptists.

An excerpt from the article:
It's because the young Calvinists value theological systems far less than God and his Word. Whatever the cultural factors, many Calvinist converts respond to hallmark passages like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. "I really don't like to raise any banner of Calvinism or Reformed theology," said Eric Lonergan, a 23-year-old University of Minnesota graduate. "Those are just terms. I just like to look at the Word and let it speak for itself."

That's the essence of what Joshua Harris calls "humble orthodoxy." He reluctantly debates doctrine, but he passionately studies Scripture and seeks to apply all its truth.

"If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?'" Harris said. "You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn't have to save anybody."
It appears that someone is taking orders for the “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” T-shirts too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

News report: British Airways employee sent home for wearing cross necklace

An excerpt from an article published today:
BA said its policy was that employees must wear jewelry, including religious symbols, under their uniforms.

"This rule applies for all jewelry and religious symbols on chains and is not specific to the cross," the airline said in a statement.

"Other items such as turbans, hijabs and bangles can be worn as it is not practical for staff to conceal them beneath their uniforms."
Hmm... I am now waiting with bated breath for the outbreaks of violent street protests and riots staged by Christians around the world, demanding for the CEO of British Airways to publicly apologize for offending Christian sensitivities. Perhaps there might be sporadic killings from this outrage too.

British Airways employee says she was sent home from work for wearing cross necklace, International Herald Tribune

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Food for thought: Anglicanism and missions

Just a quick food for thought...

Last month, I submitted a paper that compare and contrast the liturgical services of an Anglican church and a Roman Catholic Church. In order to do the paper, I had to visit St Andrew’s Cathedral and Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Those visits were quite an eye-opener. Well... I finally got my paper back today and thank God, I believe I did pretty well for someone whose academic background was in IT rather than the humanities. I am also reminded of a thought that I had after I handed in my paper last month.

Unlike today where the majority of the Anglican Church is literate, people back in the days of the Reformation were mostly illiterate. Through the lectures and my readings on Anglicanism, I learned that one of the reasons for its emphasis on liturgical ceremonies was to impart Bible teachings to the laity through the use of our three major senses: sight, sound and smell. The observance of the liturgical year is one such example.

For those of us who comes from non-episcopal denominations, perhaps this is one thing we could learn from the Anglican Church when we are exploring various ways to educate illiterate people in our missions programmes.

Monday, October 09, 2006

EE-Taow! The Mouk Story

"EE-Taow" means "it’s very true" in the Mouk language.

During the Theology of Mission class last week, my lecturer showed a video by New Tribes Mission about the Mouk tribe of Papua New Guinea. The reenactment of their salvation testimony was quite powerful and moving, and so I thought I should read up a little more about the Mouk people. And lo and behold, I found the same video I watched while googling for the Mouk tribe.

According to the lecturer, the team of missionaries took about two years to study the Mouk language and way of life, to educate the Mouk people, and to translate the Bible into the Mouk language. When the missionaries were ready to present the Gospel, they invited the entire village to a series of Bible teachings in which they explained the Bible in the language of the tribe. For three months, the villagers would gather together twice a day on Monday to Friday where each session lasted about an hour, while the missionaries chronologically walked through the key points of the Bible.

You can watch the EE-Taow! The Mouk Story video on Google Videos or download the entire video here. Or else you can read the story of the Mouk people here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

First Year at Bible College

This is my first post to my blog in quite a while. To some of my readers, I’m apologize for not being able to reply to your emails because of my heavy workload.

If readers wish to know the main reason I have not been updating my blog, well… the book on the left pretty much says everything. Yes… William D. Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek has been taking up most of my time. I am currently in the first semester of my first year in Bible college. So far, my college experience has been fantastic. My classmates and lecturers are great and the college environment allows me to be exposed to different theological traditions. There are people of many nationalities (e.g. Chinese, Malaysians, Koreans, Japanese, Americans etc) and various denominations (e.g. Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals etc).

This semester I have taken on a total of seven subjects, and they are: Greek I, Hermeneutics, Old Testament Backgrounds, Survey of Church History, Christian Spirituality, Theology of Mission, and Church Music Ministry. For the past couple of months, I have been extremely busy with school assignments, quizzes, readings and lectures. There is a Greek quiz almost every week. In fact, I would be sitting for another one this coming Tuesday.

On top of that, I have been going to work after classes as well. This may get pretty tiring at times, but thanks to God for placing me a work environment where I can, sort of, multi-task between my work and my studies. So to sum it up, I am studying full-time at my Bible college, working full-time, and at the same time, am involved in different areas of ministry in my church.

Because of my daily travels between the college and the workplace, I thought it would be best to get for myself a notebook. So I got myself a MacBook (2 GHz Intel Core Duo). I am currently typing this post on my MacBook. This is my first switch from a PC to Mac and I must say that the transition has been smooth. I have upgraded the RAM to 2 GB and as of this moment, I am running 3 operating systems (two of them using Parallels): OSX (Tiger), Windows XP, and Kubuntu Linux 6.06.

I would like to end this post with a testimony. A day before the Greek I mid-semester exam, my wisdom tooth was causing so much pain that I could not concentrate on my Greek I revisions. By the evening, the pain was so unbearable that I had to go to the dentist who gave me an injection to numb the pain. Skipping or postponing the exam was not an option for me. The dentist had also prescribed some painkillers so that I could focus on my revisions and the exam. To cut the story short, I sat for the exam and I have received the result, which is surprisingly good. So I would like to give thanks to God for the good grade despite the ordeal I had went through the previous evening.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Proclaiming the Gospel by R.C. Sproul

I have transcribed R.C. Sproul’s message Proclaiming the Gospel, which is part of the series Understanding the Gospel from his radio programme Renewing Your Mind. I first became aware of this message by a reader’s comment from one of my earlier posts. The audio sermon message can be heard here.


Delivered by R.C. Sproul on 22 June 2006

Today we come to the conclusion of our recent study of the new document that is been released, concerning the essence of the gospel which is the Evangelical Celebration. We’ve been looking carefully at the second part of that document, the list of articles of affirmations and denials, and of course there are eighteen such articles incorporated in this document and today we come to the final article, article number eighteen, which reads as follows:
We affirm that Jesus Christ commands his followers to proclaim the Gospel to all living persons, evangelizing everyone everywhere, and discipling believers within the fellowship of the church. A full and faithful witness to Christ includes the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbor, without which the preaching of the Gospel appears barren.

We deny that the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbors constitutes evangelism apart from the proclamation of the Gospel.
This is somewhat lengthy in the concluding article and what the document is getting at here is a strong reaffirmation of the Great Commission. And what is called the Great Commission is Christ’s mandate to His disciples and to His Church that He gave us prior to His ascension when He commanded His disciples to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every living creature – to make disciples from all tribes and people and tongues and nations. And that has defined the missionary task of the Church since the first century.

Recently I had a discussion, not really wasn’t that recent now that I think about it, with a missionary that has been laboring at a remote part of the world, ministering to a group of people who has never seen a white person before, and they were primitive in their culture and so on and had no contact with the outside world. And this person labored with this tribe for several years and when they finally came to an understanding of the gospel, many were converted to Christ including the chief of the village.

And on one occasion the chief asked the missionary how long ago Jesus lived on the earth. And the woman tried to find a way to communicate in the language of the people the vast distance of time of two thousand years and there was no way she could make the communication possible until they talked about so many moons and so many generations and so on. And so finally, the chief took some sticks and he let each stick represents a generation and he asked the question and he said, “Did Jesus lived during my generation?” And the missionary said no. And so then he put a second stick and he said, “Well did He lived during my father’s life?” “No.” And then the third stick. “My grandfather’s life?” “No.” And with each stick that he put on the ground his confidence grew more and more that stretch. And so after he had this vast length of sticks on the ground stretching all the way back to the first century, he was beside himself and he said to her, “Well if Jesus lived so long ago, why is it that we’re only hearing about Him now?”

Well of course the only answer we can give to a question like that is that we have not been as faithful as we ought to be to the Great Commission of Christ. In fact there remain many many people on the globe today who have never heard the name of Christ. In fact today, a record is being set in the world there are more people dying today on this day in human history without ever having heard the gospel of Christ than on any day in past history. And the record that is being set today is breaking the record that was set yesterday and today’s record will be broken tomorrow because we are at a point now in history where the population expansion of the world is moving at a more rapid pace than it is the pace of the churches outreach in missionary activities to preach the gospel to every living creature. And perhaps there is no generation with less of an excuse to fulfill the Great Commission than ours because the world has become so much smaller than it was ever was in the past with our ability to travel with the modern conveniences and conveyances that we have. Again the first affirmation is a reminder that Christ commands His followers to proclaim the gospel to all living persons, evangelizing everyone everywhere.

Restrictive Evangelism
Now there is a reaction in our day, against the whole enterprise of evangelism as it’s understood as been proselytizing and that people ought to mind their own business and not try to influence other people to leave whatever religion they’re in at the time to embrace Christ. In fact, in many churches in our day that are engaged in evangelism here in the United States, it’s passively assumed that certain people or certain groups, either ethnic groups or religious groups are out of bounds for evangelism because if you begin an outreach to Muslims or to Buddhists in the neighborhood or to the Jewish community in the neighborhood, you expose yourself to much hostility as evangelism inevitably involves a conflict of ideas - which conflict of ideas can sometimes escalates into more serious kind, if there is such a thing as a more serious kind of conflict than that. And so, many of us are very passive or very restrictive in the outreach of our churches and don’t fulfill the mandate to preach the gospel to all people everywhere. Not only do we fail it in the international level, but we fail to fulfill the Great Commission even at the local level where we live.

It’s says the command is to proclaim the gospel to all living persons, evangelizing everyone everywhere, and discipling believers within the fellowship of the church. Now that’s there for a reason: that the mandate of the Great Commission is not merely to proclaim, but it is also to educate or to disciple. In Jesus’ Commission, He said preach the gospel and make disciples. Now a disciple is a learner in biblical terms. And a disciple is a student. And that means after people respond to the gospel, they’re to be engaged in more than enjoying the fellowship of the Church or even the worship of the Church, they are also called to be deeply involved in the educational exercise and operation of the Church, because the Church exists not only to proclaim but also to ground the converts to Christ in the deep understanding of the things of God. And the early Church is the distinction was between didache, which is the educational catechetical instruction as distinguished from the kerugma, which was the proclamation. The early Church saw evangelism and those who responded to the evangelism, wherein brought into the fold of the Church and that began the nurture and discipling as students and followers of Christ.

Now it goes on to say, a full and faithful witness to Christ includes the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbor, without which the preaching of the Gospel appears barren. Now let me say first about this, that this section of article eighteen speaks about different ways to bear witness to Christ.

Evangelism and Witnessing
Now, I’ve said before in other programmes and I’ll say now again in this context. In the New Testament there is a difference or a distinction between evangelism and witnessing. And I say that for this reason that in the contemporary popular jargon of Christians, Christians tend to use the term, to witness, as a synonym for the verb, to evangelize. As if the words were interchangeable. Now, to bear witness to Christ is to call attention to Him in many different ways. We do it by the examples we seek to set with godly living. We seek to bear witness or to make manifest the presence of Christ through deeds and acts of mercy by feeding the hungry and giving shelter to the homeless and all of these charitable endeavors. Those are all kinds of witnessing, but they are not evangelism. Evangelism is one form of witnessing. So that all evangelism does bear witness to Christ so all evangelism is witnessing, but not all witnessing is evangelism. There are many ways that we bear witness to the Lordship of Christ. One of which and we may even say, the chief of which is the proclamation of the gospel.

Why do we say this? It’s important because many people say, "Well, I do my evangelism by my example. I don’t ever proclaim Christ with words, I proclaim Christ with my life." Now what can your life tell people about the content of the gospel? They can look at you from now and till Kingdom come and still know nothing of the atonement of Christ, know nothing of the resurrection of Christ, know nothing of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. How can anybody read that simply by watching your life? Your godly example may provoke somebody’s interest and say, why did you live the way that you live? That may the occasion for you to explain the gospel to them but the bare naked example itself will not communicate the gospel to people. And sometimes we use that as an excuse for remaining silent and not proclaiming the gospel to people. Say well I’m not going to push my views on them verbally. I’ll wait until they respond to my stellar example. The other weakness of this argument is few of us are so far along in our sanctification that the world is beating a path to our door, knocking on our door saying, “What is it that makes you so special? What do you have that I don’t have? And tell me how I can get it.” In fact, the closest scrutiny they give to us, they wonder whether we believe the gospel at all.

But it goes on to say, a full and faithful witness to Christ includes, for example, the witness of personal testimony, the witness of godly living, acts of mercy and charity to our neighbor, without which the preaching of the Gospel appears barren. Now obviously if I show no concern for the basic daily needs of my neighbor and all I do is to preach to them about Jesus, my preaching will sound and seem barren to them. Remember it is through the preaching that God has chosen to save the world and it is the gospel that God uses His power to bring people to Christ and God may even use that proclamation despite my one-dimensional character of it. But at the same time, we are warned in the New Testament by James for example, when James writes to his people, when he says in chapter two of his epistle, “What does it profit my brother if someone says that he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” In the midst of that critical discussion, in the second chapter, James, he says this, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food and one of you says to them, depart in peace. Be warmed and filled. But you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”

See what kind of witness is that if we just say to people, be warmed and be filled? That is a barren witness, and that is the biblical text that underlies the sentiments that is expressed here in article number eighteen. Now when we get to the denial we read this: “We deny that the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbors constitutes evangelism apart from the proclamation of the Gospel.” I think most of us can see how our bare example of living is not evangelism. And I think that some of us can see that the very meeting of people’s worldly needs in terms of food and clothing and relief and employment and those acts of charity and mercy that the Church is to be engaged in. We could be giving away food and shelter and clothes till Kingdom come and a person still not know the gospel. They may be responding, saying hey these people care about me and they’re giving evidence of that and they demonstrate the love of God for me. But again, there is no content of the gospel that is communicated by handing somebody a loaf of bread. We are to give them the loaf of bread. We are to give them the cup of cold water. But in that cup of cold water, there is no information about the person and work of Christ. They still don’t know the gospel.

Personal Testimony
But what about the other kind of witnessing that is specifically mentioned here and that is the giving of a personal testimony. The use of personal testimony is a very highly favorite and popular version of outreach in the evangelical church, where people stand up in church on Sunday morning or they speak privately to their friends or even to strangers on an airplane or whatever. And they give their personal testimony and their personal testimony being, what has happened to them as a result of having become a Christian?

Now I think that is a very important element of our communication of the things of God to people and there’s great value to personal testimony. But we have to remember that the personal testimony is not the gospel. God has not promised that our personal testimony would not return to Him void. God has not chosen the power of our personal testimony as the means by which He will save the world. Because what my personal testimony does is indirectly talks about Christ but specifically talks about me and my particular situation. And it may or may not relate to where the person is that I am communicating with. But the gospel relates to everybody. The gospel has objective compelling truth contained within it. And that’s what we’re proclaimed to teach. Again, the testimony may be a lead-in for that, but let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that because we’ve given a personal testimony and therefore we, quote, share the gospel with somebody. Because the gospel has a definite content that people need to hear and need to understand.

I think for example, the New Testament of the man born blind that Jesus healed. And when He healed him, the Pharisees got all upset at the claim of his healing and they investigated the man’s family and the man’s family verified that Jesus had indeed restored the blind man’s sight. And so they came and interrogated the blind man again and say, “Well did this man really give back your sight? How did He do it?” “Well, He did it by mixing some clay and some spit and put it on my eyes.” “When was that?” “It was on the Sabbath day.” “Well then He was working on the Sabbath day. This man is an evil-doer. He can’t be an agent of God. What do you think He is?” And he said, “Well I think He is a prophet.” They pushed the interrogation further with him and finally he says out of frustration presumably, “Hey, all I know is that once I was blind and now I see. You guys figure it out.” He wasn’t a theologian. He himself did not yet know the full content of the gospel. All he knew was Jesus has done for him. And that’s valuable. Because even we don’t have a grip on the full content of the gospel, we can become a witness for Christ the day that we are converted by sharing with other people what Christ has done in our lives. But again, we must never let the personal testimony become a substitute for the proclamation of the gospel itself.

Again the denial, “We deny that the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbors constitutes evangelism apart from the proclamation of the Gospel.”


At the conclusion of this celebration of evangelism, which is interdenominational, there is a statement of commitment that is attached to the end of the document that reads as follows:
As evangelicals united in the Gospel, we promise to watch over and care for one another, to pray for and forgive one another, and to reach out in love and truth to God's people everywhere, for we are one family, one in the Holy Spirit, and one in Christ.

Centuries ago it was truly said that in things necessary there must be unity, in things less than necessary there must be liberty, and in all things there must be charity. We see all these Gospel truths as necessary.
Now the point of this concluding commitment is this: that though there is a wide diversity of faiths represented here and denominations and those who are involved in this document, and though there is a clear recognition that there are all kinds of theological issues that still divide us at this point and at that point, what the document is focusing on is that which has been the glue and cement of evangelical unity since the Reformation – the Gospel itself. This is the necessary point by which Christians can come together in fellowship.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The "Cage Stage" Calvinist

"A lot of new and ignorant Calvinists need to...well, shut up. I know that isn't the politest phrase in the book, but it is the truth. Most of the damage done in these matters is done by people who are in what Calvinists call the "cage phase," those inaugural few months when you know very little except some version of TULIP and you won't be quiet about that. These are people who need to get a very large stack of books and get some roots going, but instead they go and pick a fight with whoever is least likely to understand what they are talking about. These converts- often impressionable students or very unread laity- can be obnoxious, immature and thoughtless in their assaults. They've done a lot of damage and there is no apologizing for them. I would say they should be recognized for what they are- untaught, ignorant, and often, young. Most them will grow out of it. A few remain that way until their next phase." - Michael Spencer
This post is an important reminder to all of us, and especially to me, who are passionately and unapologetically Calvinistic. I would imagine that every Calvinist who first embraces and experiences the joy in discovering TULIP would have undergone the "cage" stage where we were extremely zealous for the doctrines of grace (I do believe I still am!). The new Calvinists would typically display a disdain for anything and anyone remotely Arminian, often times go around looking for debates with Arminians to fuel their hyper-evangelistic zeal for the absolute sovereignty of God.

While I believe that having zeal for the doctrines of grace is not a bad thing, what’s also important is that we must always show grace and kindness to those who have not yet arrive at our Reformed position. After all, we are preaching the doctrines of grace! The reason we are now able to rejoice in these biblical truths is solely due to the grace of God and not because of our own intellect. Hence, the doctrines of grace are supposed to humble us, not to make us spiritually proud.

That being said, I do regard historic Arminianism as heresy. I strongly believe that Arminianism qualifies as a false gospel because of its opposition to biblical truths. However, in spite of this, I also believe most Arminians are quite inconsistent in their theology. Most Arminians, in actual fact, do pray like Calvinists and have not fully examined the worked-out implications of Arminianism. And this is why I generally regard Arminians as my brothers and sisters in Christ and will continue to have Christian fellowship with them.

There are two extremes we must avoid. The first is to abandon the truth for the sake of love, while the second is to speak the truth without love. The former is regrettably quite common in Christianity today, while the latter is perhaps why we Calvinists are sometimes accused of being self-righteous and judgmental. I do think that in most cases, the accusations are often without basis and are usually cheap shots fired at us when our critics find themselves cornered in arguments.

Therefore, let us always bear in mind the teaching to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Even as we fervently believe as Spurgeon believed, that “Calvinism is the gospel,” we must constantly be conscious of our attitude towards others. Our goal should first and foremost be to preach Christ, not merely to win theological arguments.

Further reading:
  1. Why Calvinists Have a Poor Reputation
  2. Baby Calvinists Should Be Shackled!
  3. Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism
  4. Reformed Theology vs. the Reformed Attitude
  5. A Farewell to Calvinism
  6. You Might still be in the Caged Calvinist Stage If....
  7. Top Ten Signs You’re a Calvinist– Who’s Still in the “Cage Stage”
  8. Loving Calvinists: An Oxymoron?
  9. Is Arminianism a False Gospel?
  10. Are All Arminians Unsaved?