Thursday, March 31, 2005

Of Terri Schiavo: "Miracle Healers", Won't You Please Step Forward?

"Literally thousands have been saved, healed and delivered at our weekly Miracle Service" according the Lighthouse Evangelism website. The RHEMA Bible Church website states: "We have received numerous testimonies of people being healed of cancer, heart problems, arthritis, diabetes, leukemia, hypertension, lumps and tumors, back and neck problems, and many other illnesses and conditions through RHEMA's Healing School."

As Terri Schiavo, the woman who has been brain-damaged for the last 15 years, begin starving to death when her feeding tube was recently disconnected on March 18, 2005 by a court order, I wonder, where are all those "miracle healers" hiding? Why aren't the "Christian miracle healers" around the world who have supposedly performed numerous "healings" step forward to heal Terri Schiavo? For instance, why isn't "Pastor" Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism in Singapore, offering to fly Terri Schiavo down to his church's "Miracle Service?" Where is the involvement of the RHEMA Prayer and Healing Center, which is founded by Kenneth E. Hagin, in all this?

If we read the Bible carefully, we would know the claims made by various "healers" that the person's faith is required for healing isn't biblically true. Even though Terri Schiavo was a Roman Catholic, her lack of saving faith shouldn't matter, since the onus is on the healer to heal her. The Word of God clearly states that the sick person's faith is not always the prerequisite for healing. In Acts 3:1-10, there is no indication that the healing by the Apostle Peter was dependent on the cripple's faith. The cripple did not exhibit any sign of faith at all. And also in Mark 2:1-12, Jesus Christ's healing of the paralytic was not at all dependent on the paralytic's faith.

In the light of the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo, there is never a more appropriate time for the "miracle healers" to actually heal and to save Terri Schiavo's life. However, why would they not go to
Terri Schiavo and heal her right now? Just imagine the entire world hearing the news that Terri Schiavo is healed; wouldn't this sort of news put to rest all the criticisms of the alleged "miraculous healings" that are coming from many Christians and non-Christians?
Update (31 March 2005 11:54 PM): Terri Schiavo died at her hospice on Thursday morning – thirteen days after her feeding tube was disconnected.
View a screenshot of Lighthouse Evangelism's Miracle Service webpage.
View a screenshot of RHEMA Bible Church's Healing Testimonies webpage.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Book: R. C. Sproul's Chosen By God

"Chosen By God" is a pretty easy-to-understand book for anyone who wants to grasp the Reformed doctrine of predestination. By the time you finish the book, Dr. Sproul would have guided you through the 5 doctrines of T.U.L.I.P. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverence of the Saints). In addition, Dr. Sproul answered a couple of tough questions that Arminians might pose to a Calvinist.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to "convert" an Arminian or simply wishes to reinforce his or her Calvinistic beliefs. Here's a pretty lengthy excerpt taken from the book that is regarding the Semi-Pelagian doctrine of prevenient grace:
p. 123-125 As the name suggests, prevenient grace is grace that "comes before" something. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Jesus. That is, it is enough grace to make it possible for people to choose Christ. Those who cooperate with assent to this grace are "elect." Thos who refuse to cooperate with this grace are lost.

The strength of this view is that it recognizes that fallen man's spiritual condition is severe enough that it requires God's grace to save him. The weakness of the position may be seen in two ways. If this prevenient grace is merely external to man, then it fails in the same manner that the medicine and the life preserver analogies fail. What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures?

On the other hand, if prevenient grace refers to something that God does within the heart of fallen man, then we must ask why it is not always effectual. Why is it that some fallen creatures choose to cooperate with prevenient grace and others choose not to? Doesn't everyone get the same amount?

Think of it this way, in personal terms. If you are a Christian you are surely aware of other people who are not Christians. Why is it that you have chosen Christ and they have not? Why did you say yes to prevenient grace while they said no? Was it because you were more righteous than they were? If so, then indeed you have something in which to boast. Was that greater righteousness something you achieved on your own or was it the gift of God? If it was something you achieved, then at the bottom line your salvation depends on your own righteousness. If the righteousness was a gift, then why didn't God give the same gift to everybody?

Perhaps it wasn't because you were more righteous. Perhaps it was because you are more intelligent. Why are you more intelligent? Because you study more (which really means you are more righteous)? Or are you more intelligent because God gave you a gift of intelligence he withheld from others?

To be sure, most Christians who hold to the prevenient grace view would shrink from such answers. They see the implied arrogance in them. Rather they are more likely to say, "No, I chose Christ because I recognized my desperate need for him."

That certainly sounds more humble. But I must press the question. Why did you recognize your desperate need for Christ while your neighbor didn't? Was it because you were more righteous than your neighbor, or more intelligent?

The $64 question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others' don't. How we answer that will reveal how gracious we believe our salvation really is.

The $64,000 question is, "Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?"

We conclude that our salvation is of the Lord. He is the One who regenerates us. Those whom he regenerates come to Christ. Without regeneration no one will ever come to Christ. With regeneration no one will ever reject him. God's saving grace effects what he intends to effect by it.

I love the way Dr. Sproul brought to a close the ending of the book. He described the quest for the understanding of predestination as being much more than an emotionally dead theological mind exercise, which is commonly perceived by many "theologically shallow" Christians.
p. 213 Let me close the book by mentioning that soon after I awoke to the truth of predestination I began to see the beauty of it and taste its sweetness. I have grown to love this doctrine. It is most comforting. It underlines the extent to which God has gone in our behalf. It is a theology that begins and ends with grace. It begins and ends with doxology. We praise a God who lifted us from spiritual deadness and makes us walk in high places. We find a God who may be against us. It makes our souls rejoice to know that all things are working together for our good. We delight in our Savior who truly saves us and preserves us and intercedes for us. We marvel at his craftmanship and in what he has wrought. We skip and kick our heels when we discover his promise to finish in us what he has started in us. We ponder mysteries and bow before them, but not without doxology for the riches of grace he has revealed:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33, 36)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Album: Kent Henry's I Have A Destiny

Here's another one of my old cassette albums that I'd like to introduce. This album features Kent Henry as the worship leader.

Two of my favorite "fast" songs from the album are "I Have A Destiny" and "Oh Most High." The song "I Have A Destiny" contains a couple of Calvinistic phrases, such as "Long before the ages You predestined me" that lay stress on the doctrine of predestination. The phrase "I did not choose you but You have chosen me" supports the doctrine of irresistible grace, where God determines the elect and draws them to Him. "I know You will complete the work begun in me" teaches the preservation of the saints, where God will be faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.

The songs found in the album are:
  1. I Have A Destiny
  2. Shout Joyfully
  3. Let's All Celebrate
  4. Sing Unto the Lord
  5. Oh Most High
  6. To the Praise of His Glory
  7. Let's Take Time
  8. Spirit of the Living God
  9. In Your Presence
  10. Mighty are the Words (spontaneous song)
  11. Lord, I Live by Your Word
I Have A Destiny
(Eph. 1:11; John 15:16; Phil 1:6)
By Mark Altrogge
© 1988 PDI/Pleasant Hill Music Diadam, Inc. 939 Sundersville Ferry Rd., Mt. Juliet, TN 37122

I have a destiny I know I shall fulfill
I have a destiny in that city on a hill.
I have a destiny and it's not an empty wish
For I know I was born for such a time as this.

Long before the ages You predestined me
To walk in all the works You have prepared for me
You've given me a part to play in history
To help prepare a bride for eternity.

I did not choose you but You have chosen me
And appointed me for bearing fruit abundantly
I know You will complete the work begun in me
By the power of Your Spirit working mightily.
Listen to a 30 sec. MP3 sample of "I Have A Destiny" by Kent Henry. File size: 120 KB.

Song: Your Grace Is Sufficient

I love this song because of the deep emphasis it gives to the doctrine of Sola Gratia a.k.a. by God's grace alone. If you look closely at the lyrics, it is apparent that the theology behind the words contradicts the Roman Catholic Church's theological position.

For example, the words "I'm no longer striving to merit Your love" shows us that good works contribute nothing to the Christian's salvation. "That all of my sins have been washed in Your blood" denies the false doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by water baptism. "You see me as righteous because of the blood that made the atonement for me" speaks of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

This song can be found in the Integrity Music's album, Come To The Table, which features Martin J. Nystrom as the worship leader.
Your Grace Is Sufficient
By Martin J. Nystrom
© 1991 Integrity's Hosanna! Music/ASCAP

Your grace is sufficient for me
Your strength is made perfect
When I am weak
All that I cling to
I lay at Your feet
Your grace is sufficient for me

I'm no longer striving
To merit Your love
I rest in Your promise to me
That all of my sins have
Been washed in Your blood
Your mercy is all that I need

You see me as righteous
Because of the blood
That made the atonement for me
Your mercy has triumphed
Where I should be judged
So now by Your grace I am free
Listen to a 30 sec. MP3 sample of "Your Grace Is Sufficient" by Martin J. Nystrom. File size: 120 KB.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

How to Teach and Preach "Calvinism"

by John Piper, July 4, 1998
  1. Be rigorously textual in all your expositions and explanations and defenses of Calvinistic teachings. Make it a textual issue every time, not a logic issue or an experience issue.
  2. Don't be strident but gentle. Assume that working these great issues through to conviction may take years and that being in process is OK.
  3. Speak of your own brokenness in regard to these things and how they are precious to you and why and how they minister to your soul and help you live your life.
  4. Make Spurgeon and Whitefield your models rather than Owen or Calvin, because the former were evangelists and won many people to Christ in a way that is nearer to our own day.
  5. Be an evangelist and a missions mobilizer so that the criticism that Calvinism dulls a passion for the lost is put to silence.
  6. Work the five points out from the "I" in tulip not the "U". That is, show people that they don't really want to take final credit for their coming to Christ. They don't want to stand before God at the judgment day and respond to the question, "Why did you believe and others with your opportunities didn't?" with the answer, "Well, I guess I was smarter, or more spiritual." They want to say, "By grace I was brought to faith." Which is "irresistible grace." That is, grace that triumphs over all resistance in the end.
  7. Out rejoice your critics. The one who knows and rests in the sovereign grace of God should be the happiest saint. Don't be a sour or glum or hostile false advertisement for the glory of God's grace. Praise it. Rejoice in it. And don't let that be a show. Do it in your closet until it is spilling over in the pulpit and the commons.
  8. Don't ride hobbyhorses that aren't in the text. Preach exegetically, explaining and applying what is in the text. If it sounds Arminian, let it sound Arminian. Trust the text and the people will trust you to be faithful to the text.
  9. Avoid theological jargon that is not in the text. The word "Calvinism" is probably not helpful. "Doctrines of grace" may not do it either. Just stick with what is there in the text, or come up with some new striking phrases that will cause the people to wonder and be excited.
  10. Tell stories and experiences from biography and from the lives of living saints that illustrate their dependence on the sovereignty of God. Especially stories related to missions and evangelism and holiness of life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Historic Reformed Doctrine: Regeneration Precedes Faith

The following quotations from the various confessions of faith show that the doctrine "regeneration precedes faith" is a long recognized view of biblical Christianity, and is not something which is unorthodox. This particular doctrine is crucial for understanding the Reformed doctrine of predestination.

However we should not use the historic confessions to validate our doctrines, though these confessions are useful in maintaining doctrinal unity among like-minded Christians. Instead, we must turn to the Bible as the Bereans did. As it is written, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11 NIV) The Bible must be the final and ultimate criteria for testing all Christian doctrines.

I first encountered this doctrine when I stumbled upon R. C. Sproul's book "Chosen By God" at the Tampines public library, which kindled my interest in the Reformed faith. Prior to this, my understanding of predestination was not very clear. Like most regular "charismatic" Christians, I held on to the Arminian doctrine of "born-again" Christians (i.e. "Faith precedes regeneration").

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling
2. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
CHAPTER X. Of Effectual Calling.
II. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

The Canons of Dordt (1618-1619)
The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine, Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs
Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man's power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

The Lutheran Book of Concord (1580)
Free Will, The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
5. Against both these parties the pure teachers of the Augsburg Confession have taught and contended that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of our souls he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he neither does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also, that he does not of himself draw nigh to God, but is and remains an enemy of God, until he is converted, becomes a believer [is endowed with faith], is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the Word when preached and heard, out of pure grace, without any cooperation of his own.
45. Therefore it is teaching incorrectly to assert that unregenerate man has still so much power as to desire to receive the Gospel and to be comforted by it, and that thus the natural human will cooperates somewhat [in a manner] in conversion. For such an erroneous opinion is contrary to the holy, divine Scripture, the Christian Augsburg Confession, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Large and the Small Catechisms of Luther, and other writings of this excellent, highly [divinely] enlightened theologian.

The Canons of the Council of Orange (529 AD)
CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Album: Graham Kendrick's Crown Him

I have ripped another of my old cassette album into MP3 format. This time, it is Graham Kendrick's Crown Him. I especially love the song "Lead Me To The Cross (How Can I Be Free From Sin)", whose lyrics are miles better than the lyrics of many of the worship songs that are being churned out nowadays.
Lead Me To The Cross
By Graham Kendrick and Steve Thompson
© 1991 Make Way Music/Adm. in U.S. and Canada by Integrity's Hosanna! Music/ASCAP

How can I be free from sin?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
From the guilt, the power, the pain?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
There's no other way
No price that I could pay
Simply to the cross I cling
This is all I need
This is all I plead
That his blood was shed for me

How can I know peace within?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
Sing a song of joy again!
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
Flowing from above
All-forgiving love
From the Father's heart to me!
What a gift of grace
His own righteousness
Clothing me in purity!

How can I live day by day?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
Following his narrow way?
Lead me to the cross of Jesus
It's a pity that charismatic Christians are constantly looking for the next worship "hit" when there are many songs from the early to mid 90s that can be reused.

Listen to a 30 sec. MP3 sample of "Lead Me To The Cross" by Graham Kendrick. File size: 119 KB.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Album: Kent Henry's Power and Might

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWoohoo! I have dug out my old Kent Henry's Power and Might cassette album and ripped it into MP3 format (with the help of my Creative Extigy and HiFi set). It have been years since I last listened to this album, which is part of the Psalmist Trilogy (Prayer and Intercession, Power and Might, Worship and Holiness). By using Adobe Audition, I have split the first 5 songs into 5 different mp3 tracks (Let The Rivers Clap Their Hands, You Are Crowned With Many Crowns, The Lord Is Come, The Lord Our God Is With Us, My Life Is In You Lord).

Listen to a 30 sec. MP3 sample of "The Lord Is Come" by Kent Henry. File size: 119 KB.