Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Doctrinal Preaching

The great Welsh preacher of the last century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this, "I would lay down a general proposition that preaching must always be theological, always based on a theological foundation." That is to say, preaching must always teach. And what is to be taught is biblical doctrine.

This conviction is clearly seen in the preaching of the Puritans of the seventeenth century. After introducing the theme and direction of his sermon it was common for the Puritan pastor to set forth his exposition of the text under the heading of "Doctrine." Only after this were applications (called "Uses" or "Rules") made. J. I. Packer explains the Puritan approach to doctrinal preaching,
To be a good expositor...one must first be a good theologian. Theology - truth about God and man - is what God has put into the texts of Scripture, and theology is what preachers must draw out of them. To the question, "Should one preach doctrine?", the Puritan answer would have been, "Why, what else is there to preach?" Puritan preachers were not afraid to bring the profoundest theology into the pulpit if it bore on their hearers' salvation, nor to demand that men and women apply themselves to mastering it, nor to diagnose unwillingness to do so as a sign of insincerity.
Packer appropriately summarizes the importance of this approach by noting, "Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ's sheep. The preacher's job is to proclaim the faith, not to provide entertainment for unbelievers - in other words, to feed the sheep rather than amuse the goats.

Thomas Ascol, The Pastor as Theologian, The Founders Journal (Issue 43 Winter 2001), p.7

Song: If We Are The Body by Casting Crowns

I would like to continue on the topic of missions.

Rick Warren wrote in his book Purpose-Driven Life, "Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission is your service to unbelievers." (p.281) I do not agree with this statement. When one searches the Bible for the word "ministry," we would come across verses such as these:
  1. “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry” (Romans 11:13)
  2. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
  3. “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 2:8)
The Apostle Paul made no distinction between his God-assigned ministry and his missions to the Gentiles. To him, his ministry and missions are one and the same.

Anyway, here is a song by Casting Crowns called If We Are The Body, which exhorts the Body of Christ to minister to believers and unbelievers alike.

The first and second verse did not indicate whether the girl or the traveler is a Christian or not. The song seems to imply that they are strangers to the church. From the lyrics, we can tell they are sorely lacking in ministry from the church. While I view the current seeker-sensitive movement occuring in churches with distaste, it is quite another thing to totally ignore the ministry of reaching unbelievers who walk into churches.
If We Are The Body
It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

Jesus is the way
Casting Crowns uses the body analogy found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 to spur us to reach out to people in need of the Word of God. For it is written, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) The song is spot-on in saying, "Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come." We do not know who God has chosen to be His elect, and therefore we should not discriminate against anyone at all.

Everyone needs to hear the gospel, be it Muslims, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, or Protestants etc. Should I assume just because one is attending church that one is saved? The rich and poor alike needs to hear the gospel. Our foreign domestic workers and construction workers need to hear the gospel.

I was thinking to myself: do we really need to travel to some rural villages in a faraway country for a mission trip in order to preach the gospel when we could immediately preach to the foreigners in our midst, who came from the countries we are trying to go to? We can actually start right here and right now.

In the light of the recent controversy on racism among Singapore bloggers, if one truly obeys the word of Christ, we cannot adopt a racist mindset in picking and choosing the people we want to reach. Our Malay Muslims need to hear the gospel. Our Indian Hindus need to hear the gospel. President Nathan needs Jesus Christ. Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong needs Jesus Christ to be saved. We must pray for the salvation of everyone; that God would turn the hearts of those who do not believe to the saving knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15)
Listen to a 30 sec. MP3 sample of "If We Are The Body" by Casting Crowns. File size: 120 KB.

Friday, September 23, 2005

John Alexander on Missions and Predestination

John Alexander, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship said in 1967,
“At the beginning of my missionary career I said that if predestination were true I could not be a missionary. Now after twenty some years of struggling with the hardness of the human heart, I say I could never be a missionary unless I believed in the doctrine of predestination.”
John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Baker Academic, 2003), p.55

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Book: John Piper's Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions

This week, I was designated to be the facilitator for one of the group sessions on Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose programme. The session was about evangelism, the last of the six sessions (i.e. my purpose, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism). After running through the contents of the study workbook and reading the sections on evangelism in the book Purpose-Driven Life (i.e. from chapter 36 onwards), I found the contents rather lacking and thought I should supplement and balance this topic with materials from other sources.

One book that came to mind was "Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions" by John Piper. I went to the Tecman Christian bookstore to purchase it last Friday and have finished reading the book by Monday.

If there is one book on missions you absolutely must read, I promise you this would be the book.

The topics covered are:
  1. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Worship
  2. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Prayer
  3. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Suffering
  4. The Supremacy of Christ as the Conscious Focus of All Saving Faith
  5. The Supremacy of God among "All the Nations"
  6. A Passion for God's Supremacy and Compassion for Man's Soul: Jonathan Edwards on the Unity of Motives for World Missions
  7. The Inner Simplicity and Outer Freedom of Worldwide Worship
A couple of quotes from Piper:
  1. On Worship
    “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man… Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God… But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching… Missions begins and ends in worship.” – p.17
  2. On the Glory of God
    “Missions is not God’s ultimate goal, worship is… The ultimate foundation for our passion to see God glorified is his own passion to be glorified… God is not an idolater. He does not disobey the first and great commandment. With all his heart and soul and strength and mind he delights in the glory of his manifold perfections. The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God’s heart.” – p.20-21
  3. On Compassion
    “Compassion for the lost is a high and beautiful motive for missionary labor. Without it we lose the sweet humility of sharing a treasure freely received. But we have seen that compassion for people must not be detached from passion for the glory of God.” – p.41
  4. On the Sovereignty of God
    “Jesus brings his sheep into the fold through the preaching of those he sends, just as the Father sent him (John 20:21). So it is just as true today as in that day, ‘My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27)’ It is Christ who calls in the gospel. Christ gathers his sheep in world missions. That is why there is complete assurance that they will come.” – p.42
  5. On the Gospel
    “As the Christian movement spread, Luke repeatedly described its growth of the Word of God. ‘And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem’ (Acts 6:7). ‘The word of God increased and multiplied’ (Acts 12:24). ‘The word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region’ (Acts 13:49). ‘The word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily’ (Acts 19:20).

    This is why I am jealous to say that the proclamation of the gospel is ‘the work of missions.’ It is the weapon that God designed to use in penetrating the kingdom of darkness and gathering the children of light from all the nations (Acts 26:16-18). His whole redemptive plan for the universe hangs on the success of his Word. If the proclamation of the Word aborts, the purposes of God fail.” – p.64-65
  6. On Prayer
    “This is why God has ordained prayer to have such a crucial place in the mission of the church. The purpose of prayer is to make clear to all the participants in missions that the victory belongs to the Lord… Prayer is God’s appointed means of bringing grace to the world and glory to himself.

    Prayer puts God in the place of the all-sufficient Benefactor and puts us in the place of needy beneficiaries. Therefore, when the mission of the church moves forward by prayer, the supremacy of God is manifest and the needs of Christian missionaries are met. In prayer, he is glorified and we are satisfied… The purpose of prayer is the Father’s fame and the saints’ fullness.” – p.232
  7. On Suffering
    “Therefore, God ordains that the mission of his church move forward not only by the fuel of worship and in the power of prayer but also at the price of suffering. ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up the cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.’ (John 15:20). ‘If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of this household’ (Matt. 10:25). ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things’ (Mark 8:31). ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). ‘Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves’ (Matt. 10:16). ‘I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name’ (Acts 9:16)” – p.233

Monday, September 19, 2005

10 Reasons Why I Am A Calvinist

(I have found this light-hearted tongue-in-cheek article while surfing the Internet)
  1. Calvinists tend to wear wool and cotton. Dispensationalists tend to wear lime-green polyester leisure suits.
  2. John Calvin was French...being French is very chic.
  3. Calvin sounds like Calvin Klein...and his clothes are very chic.
  4. Calvinists can drink.
  5. Calvinists can smoke.
  6. Dispensationalists are into prophecy conferences where they talk about Star-Trek eschatology and the mark of the Beast. Calvinists have conferences on "life and culture", art, social justice, and other high- brow things like that. Afterwards, we go to the local pub and talk about philosophy over a pint of Bass ale.
  7. Calvinists have close ties with Scotland and Scotland is very cool: you know --Sean Connery, the movie Highlander, Bagpipes, the Loch Ness Monster, Glenlivet 18 year old Scotch, the movie Train Spotting, Brave Heart, etc.
  8. Calvinists think we are smarter than anybody else.
  9. It is more socially acceptable to say, "I go to Grace Presbyterian Church" than to say, "I go to Washed In The Blood Worship Center", "I go to Sonlife Charismatic Believers Assembly", or to say "I go to Boston Berean Bible Believing Baptist Bethel", or to say "I go to the Latter-Day- Rain Deliverance Tabernacle Prophecy Center, Inc.", or to say "I go to the Philadelphia Church of the Majority Text", or to say "I go to the Lithuanian Apostolic Orthodox Autocephalic Church of the Baltic union of 1838".
  10. Ultimately, I am a Calvinist because I had no choice in the matter.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Brief Classification of Theology

Here is my brief classification of theological systems within Christianity.

Systematic Theology
  1. Calvinism
    1. 5-point Calvinism (TULIP)
      • Total Depravity
      • Unconditional Election
      • Limited Atonement
      • Irresistible Grace
      • Peserverance of the Saints
    2. 4-point Calvinism (Amyraldism)
      • drops limited atonement in favor of universal atonement.
    3. Hyper-Calvinism
    4. Views on the divine order of events:
      1. Infralapsarianism
        • to create;
        • to permit the fall;
        • to elect to eternal life and blessedness a great multitude out of this mass of fallen men, and to leave the others, as He left the Devil and the fallen angels, to suffer the just punishment of their sins;
        • to give His Son, Jesus Christ, for the redemption of the elect; and
        • to send the Holy Spirit to apply to the elect the redemption which was purchased by Christ.
      2. Supralapsarianism
        • to elect some creatable men (that is, men who were to be created) to life and to condemn others to destruction;
        • to create;
        • to permit the fall;
        • to send Christ to redeem the elect; and
        • to send the Holy Spirit to apply this redemption to the elect.
    5. Order of Salvation
      1. Election
      2. Predestination
      3. Calling
      4. Regeneration
      5. Faith
      6. Repentance
      7. Justification
      8. Sanctification
      9. Glorification

  2. Arminianism
    1. Arminian Articles of Remonstrance
      • Conditional Election
      • Universal Atonement
      • Free Will with Partial Depravity
      • Resistible Grace
      • Uncertain Perseverance
    2. Order of Salvation
      1. Calling
      2. Faith
      3. Repentance
      4. Regeneration
      5. Justification
      6. Perseverance
      7. Glorification
Redemptive Theology
  1. Covenant Theology (or Federal theology)
    • Covenant of Redemption
    • Covenant of Works (or the Adamic Administration)
    • Covenant of Grace
      • The Abrahamic Covenant
      • The Noahic Covenant
      • The Mosaic Covenant
      • The Davidic Covenant
      • The New Covenant
  2. Dispensationalism
    • Dispensation of Innocence
    • Dispensation of Conscience
    • Dispensation of Government
    • Dispensation of Promise
    • Dispensation of Law
    • Dispensation of Grace
    • Dispensation of Kingdom
    • New Heaven and New Earth
  3. New Covenant Theology
  4. Hyper-dispensationalism (or ultra-dispensationalism)
    1. Acts 28 Dispensationalists
    2. Mid-Acts Dispensationalists.
  5. Progressive Dispensationalism
Christian Eschatology
  1. Amillennialism
  2. Postmillennialism
  3. Historic Premillennialism
  4. Dispensational Premillennialism
  5. Preterism
  6. Views of the Rapture during the Great Tribulation
    1. Pre-tribulationists
    2. Mid-tribulationists
    3. Post-tribulationists
Eucharistic Theology
  1. Real Spiritual Presence (Presbyterian and Reformed)
  2. Memorialism (Baptist)
  3. Consubstantiation (Lutheranism)
  4. Transubstantiation (Roman Catholicism)
Baptismal Theology
  1. Views on methods
    1. Full body immersion
    2. Aspersion (sprinkling water over the head)
    3. Infusion (pouring water over the head)
  2. Views on types of baptism
    1. Paedobaptism
    2. Credobaptism (or believer's baptism)
  3. Views on natures of baptism
    1. Covenant sign and seal
    2. Outward sign
    3. Supernatural baptismal regeneration (salvific effects)
Theories of the Atonement of Christ
  1. The Penal Substitutionary Theory
  2. The Moral Influence Theory
  3. The Governmental Theory
  4. The Mystical Theory
  5. The Middle Theory
  6. The Socinian Theory
  7. The Ethical Theory
  8. The Arminian Theory
  9. The Lutheran Theory
  10. The General Theory
Theological Views of the Fall
  1. The Federal or Representative View of the Fall
  2. The Realist View of the Fall
  3. The Myth Theory of the Fall
Theological Views of the Regenerative Work of the Spirit
  1. Lordship Salvation
  2. Antinomianism
  3. Legalism

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Black Liberation Theology

I have always been curious about the practices found in the African-American churches. Besides watching television dramas and movies depicting black churches, I have not actually seen African-American church services in the flesh. Since I am unlikely to step foot into a black church, I thought I should do a little web research on this particular aspect of Christianity. That's when I discover a theological branch of Christianity called black theology.

Black theology is a form of liberation theology. According to Dr. C. Matthew McMahon in the article "An Overview of Contemporary Theology," liberation theology is concerned with "eliminating oppression mainly in third world countries with the idea that only divine intervention can escalate the 'liberation' of such oppressed people." He also wrote, "Liberation theology is basically anti-orthodox in every area of theology. They deny the Sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, original sin, imputation, justification by faith alone, and utilized a free spirited liberalism as their foundational theological viewpoint. This theology has infiltrated most socially oppressed countries such as those throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia."

In another article "An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology," Dr. H. Wayne House wrote, "black theology (and liberation theology in general) seeks to speak to 'this-world' problems, rather than 'other-world' issues; to concrete circumstances, rather than abstract thought; to the sinfulness of man's plight in a ghetto rather than sin in man's heart; and to a savior who delivers man from earthly slavery, rather than a Savior who saves man from spiritual bondage. This is black liberation theology in a word."

There are several disturbing characteristics of black theology written in the articles I have found. They are:
  1. The Scriptures are not regarded as the supreme authority
    James Hall Cone, who is described as "one of America's best known architects of Black theology" sees the "black experience" as the fundamental starting point for ascertaining theological truth. The "black experience" is the experience of oppression in a white racist society. Any theology that tries to play down this theme of oppression will be rejected. This is unlike classical Protestant theology, which regards the Bible as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice.

  2. Christian concepts about God are ignored
    Black theology is not interested in arguments about the person of God, the Trinity, His supreme power and authority etc. Instead, black theology is only concerned about discovering a God who will involve Himself in the "black experience" and deliver them from oppression. Dr. H. Wayne House wrote, "the image of God as all-knowing and all-powerful is too familiar for comfort from a background of slavery, This kind of God is too similar to the white oppressor. Concepts such as 'God is love' or 'God is freedom' have more meaning for and are more acceptable to the oppressed."

  3. Jesus Christ is perceived as a political leader
  4. Jesus is viewed as "black." Unlike traditional theology that views Jesus as the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the elect, Jesus is regarded as a revolutionary black leader who "sought to free Israel's black Jews from oppression and bondage, dying, not for the eternal salvation of the individual, but for the rebirth of the lost Black Nation." (Dr. H. Wayne House)

    Black theology does not just view the resurrection of Jesus Christ as oriented towards a heavenly future hope, but sees it as an earthly future hope that symbolizes freedom for those who are suffering from oppression. Therefore, "Christ as Savior is seen basically in political terms, with His intrinsic nature and spiritual activity receiving little or no attention." (Dr. H. Wayne House)

  5. Salvation is viewed as deliverance of the oppressed from the oppressor
    Life in heaven is not a big concern for black theology. What really matters is the chance to enjoy the opportunities and physical freedom on earth. Salvation is physical liberation rather than deliverance from the sinful nature. Black theology is not concerned with the doctrine of total depravity. James Cone comments on this view, "If eschatology means that one believes that God is totally uninvolved in the suffering of men because he is preparing them for another world, then Black Theology is not eschatological. Black Theology is an earthly theology!"

  6. There is a strong humanistic view of Man
    Black theology does not view Man in a pessimistic sense where Man is unable to overcome his sinful nature on his own. Black theology is about physical oppression that the black man must overcome. James Cone believed that to achieve freedom, violence is unavoidable. Dr. House wrote, "The belief that man is able to solve his problems makes one wonder if anything really would be lacking in black theology if there were no God or Christ."

  7. The rich and poor are seen as opposites
    Black theology has this view that to be oppressed and poor is to be a child of God. The rich are seen as automatically excluded from the kingdom of God. God is viewed as being primarily for the poor over against the rich in society.

  8. Black theology does not transcends culture
    Unlike orthodox Protestant theology that is able to universally address different cultures and situations, black theology is basically about the plight of the black people. However, the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to be preached to everyone, not just the oppressed. In this context, black theology is unable to adapt to different situations around the world.
To understand more about black theology, there are a couple of good reference materials found in the following links:
  1. An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology, Dr. H. Wayne House
  2. Black Theology, Black Power, and the Black Experience, Dr. Ron Rhodes
  3. Is Christian Orthodoxy Strong in the Black Church?, Dr. Jerry L. Buckner
  4. Black Preaching Styles, Geoff Alexander
  5. Black Theology, Wikipedia
  6. James Cone, Wikipedia
  7. An Overview of Contemporary Theology, Dr. C. Matthew McMahon