Wednesday, March 29, 2006

John G. Paton on Missions

Let me record my immovable conviction that this is the noblest service in which any human being, can spend or be spent; and that, if God gave me back my life to be lived over again, I would without one quiver of hesitation lay it on the altar to Christ, that He might use it as before in similar ministries of love, especially amongst those who have never yet heard the Name of Jesus. Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble - on the contrary, I deeply rejoice – when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the Mission Field and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His Gospel into the heart of the Heathen World!

John G. Paton, Presbyterian missionary to the South Sea Islands (1824-1907)
"You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals!" Courage in the Cause of World Missions, John Piper

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thoughts on Cultural Moralism

I was having a fruitful discussion with Benjamin and Thopro after the Agora meeting on Tuesday night. One issue that came up was the relevancy of Christians in society. Perhaps, through my blog, I am able to articulate my views more clearly. So Benjamin and Thopro, if you guys are reading this, here are some of my thoughts. :-)

The question is, if we Christians want to be relevant, should we publicly speak out against moral issues such as casinos, homosexuality and abortions? Should Christians band together with non-Christians to address moral needs? How about movies such as Brokeback Mountain that promotes sodomy and adultery and cartoons that satirize religions? Do we join hands with heathens and pagans to call for public ban on immoral vices?

For my position on this matter, I would be in full agreement with John MacArthur, who has delivered an excellent sermon, The Deadly Dangers of Moralism, which explains his view on cultural moralism.

My chief concern with cultural moralism is that it puts the cart before the horse. Sanctification is treated first before justification. The fruit of the Spirit is preached without communicating the essentials of the gospel i.e. the fundamental nature of God, the total depravity of all men, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross etc. Thus, the gospel is devalued in favor of moralism.

John MacArthur aptly puts it this way:
This cultural morality reverses the divine order. It reverses the divine order. That is, it makes morality the power for salvation. The idea is if we can get a more moral America, then more people are going to believe the gospel. If we can clean up the country, that will give greater opportunity for the gospel. That's really a reverse of the divine order. Morality is not the power for salvation. Salvation is the power for morality, right? So if we want to change the nation, what do we need to be working on? The gospel.
Lest I am misconstrued as being apathetic to social injustices and the moral needs of society, let me assure my readers that this is not the case.

So does Christians need to assume their roles to moralise society? Sure we do. However, I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only agent of change by which we are able to do so. To moralise society without preaching the gospel is to assume that morality can be achieved without the work of the Holy Spirit. That is, of course, biblically untrue. And as we all know, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification cannot be achieved on our own.

It is quite probable that some Christians, in their attempts to moralise society, hope to lure non-Christians into the church by promoting moralistic virtues. Even though their actions are well intentioned, unfortunately however, this is based on the unbiblical notion that man has the moral ability to seek God (Romans 3:10-11). Men do not come to God because of their wants for morality but through the preaching of the gospel. As ambassadors for Christ, I believe it is our duty to proclaim the message of the gospel, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and convert the hearts of sinners to draw them to Christ. Cultural morality as a carrot undermines the call of the gospel and makes us no different from proponents of the seeker-sensitive movement who adopts various unbiblical methods to entice people into the church.

Another concern of mine is the yoking of Christians with non-Christians. It is written,
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
The trouble with these unholy alliances is that Christians become obligated to create out-of-bound markers, which discourage them from preaching the gospel to their non-Christian moral co-workers. Since Christians and non-Christians has decided to join hands together to address moral issues, any attempts to preach the gospel would create friction and discord in these already fragile alliances.

What’s more, participating in interreligious prayers and meetings clearly runs contrary to the Scriptures. Like what the Apostle Paul wrote, what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? The apostle wrote,
The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:20
If Christians are not to publicly voice out condemnations against immoral vices, then how do we regulate spiritual morality? I believe the Word of God has clearly prescribed a biblical way to do it, and that is through the ordination of elders, the leaders of the church.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3
And as far as I can tell from the Word of God, only from within the Body of Christ are moral issues to be addressed, not outside the Body of Christ. Elders are to be shepherds of their flock, which is the sheep. If there is any public condemnation of immoral vices, it should be done with regard to the well being of the sheep, not of the goats or of the wolves.

At any rate, I dislike the politicization of moral issues in the name of Christianity. It implies that the Body of Christ is ill equipped to discipline its members on moral issues, and have to turn to the secular authorities for help. This runs contrary to the teaching found in the following passage, that judgments should be confined among the saints.
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? – 1 Corinthians 6:1-5
In conclusion, I do believe that we Christians must be relevant to society. However, our approach to society must be based on the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not to moralise the world. Morality is the fruit of salvation, not its end. For any real moral change to happen, it must happen through the work of the Holy Spirit who works through our prayers and the proclamation of the gospel. Thus, the call for morality must never be divorced from the call of the gospel.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

C. H. Spurgeon on Calvinism (4)

"Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the "if they will" that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand.

"Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer--Did you ever meet with any person who was?... "
- C.H. Spurgeon, Human Inability

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A comparison of Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism

I thought the following excerpt from the article What Hath Geneva To Do with Nashville? by Thomas K. Ascol does contains a succinct and accurate comparison of Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism.
In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, hyper-Calvinism destroys the responsibility of man. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition: Man's ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, "Agreed! We know that all men are held responsible to repent and believe the gospel [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible]." Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man's ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, "Agreed! We know that, in and of themselves, all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible]."

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, "Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe." And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches.
On a related note, I am aware that the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC) are often times accused of being hyper-Calvinists. This is an excerpt from David J. Engelsma’s article Is Denial of the "Well-Meant Offer" Hyper-Calvinism? that responds to the charge of hyper-Calvinism.
The PRC [Protestant Reformed Churches in America] do not deny that the gospel is to be preached to all men, or that the preaching includes a call to all hearers without exception, to repent and believe on Jesus Who is presented in the gospel, or that the promise of God, that every one who does believe shall be saved, must be declared to all.

Restriction of the preaching, and particularly of the gospel-call, to those who give evidence of election by their regeneration is a real hyper-Calvinism. It is disobedience to the command that God gives the church in Matthew 22:9: "Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, call to the marriage." It is exposed as erroneous by verse 14 of Matthew 22, "Many are called, but few are chosen." The objection of the PRC to the offer is not at all that the offer requires that the gospel be preached to all, or that the offer insists that all be called to believe on Christ. But the objection is that the offer holds that this preaching and calling are grace to all.

God does not call all men alike. God calls the elect, through the preaching, with the life-giving, converting, and irresistibly drawing Spirit in their hearts, whereas He calls the reprobate only with the external Word. He calls the elect out of grace, the grace with which He chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world, whereas He calls the reprobate in divine righteousness, requiring of them their duty, namely, repentance and faith.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Song: Receive the Glory by Bob Kauflin

I have discovered this excellent God-centered and Christ-exalting worship song through Bob Kauflin's blog, WorshipMatters. He has graciously made available a full MP3 free download of the song for us to listen.
Receive the Glory
by Bob Kauflin
© 2004 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Not to us, but to Your name alone
Be all the glory, the glory, forever
For Your faithfulness and steadfast love
Receive the glory, the glory belongs to You

All that we’ve accomplished You have done for us
And any fruit we harvest is a gift from Your hand
We are only jars of clay that hold a priceless treasure
And we exist to bring You pleasure, O God

Only by Your mercy can we come to You
Though we deserved Your judgment You have called us by name
So we glory in the cross of Christ that made us Yours forever
That joined our lives together to sing
Kauflin wrote,
This was a song I wrote for the weekend my senior pastor C.J. Mahaney turned the church over to our present senior pastor, Joshua Harris. Based on Psalm 115 and a few other Scriptures, it was my attempt to express what has always been CJ's heart - to give all glory to the Savior. This is from the recent Worship God Live CD, produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Listen to the full MP3 of "Receive the Glory" by Bob Kauflin. File size: 5.72 MB.