Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nothing personal, really.

I have a couple of questions for myself, and perhaps someone out there can help me with answering them.

Background

I was reading a post by Daniel, when I came across a comment from brother Jenson that might cause a little storm in my brain’s teacup, whatever that might be. Brother Jenson wrote:

“I say this with good-will, but with Biblical separation, one has to do it carefully and graciously. Not all believers have reached a level of maturity to be able to handle criticisms and some will inevitably say ‘that is your interpretation!’ when you confront them with a topic as big as ‘Justification by Faith’.”

Of course, Jenson’s comment must be read within the context of Daniel’s post. At first reading, it seemed that I had a little difficulty understanding the second sentence of Jenson’s comment, especially when he “appeared” to have said that believers may not “have reached a level of maturity” to understand “a topic as big as ‘Justification by Faith.’” Having known Jenson better than this, I am sure this is not what he is trying to insinuate. But again, this post brought certain thoughts to mind.

When does a seeker becomes a true believer of biblical Christianity?

Perhaps I can better frame my thoughts in the form of another question:

Can one be considered a true believer if he believes in any one of the following, and yet refuses to change his mind about it (i.e. repent) at a particular point in time? Let me know what you think.

Using simple terminologies:

Soteriology

1. Salvation is not by faith alone.
2. Salvation is not in Christ alone.
3. Salvation is not by grace alone.

Christology

4. Jesus is fully God, but not man in any sense.
5. Jesus is fully Man, but not God in any sense.
6. Jesus is a kind of god, but he is not exactly like the Father in terms of Godhood.
7. Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead.
8. Jesus didn’t really die. He appeared to have died.

Theology

9. There is one God, but not three Persons.
10. God does not know everything in advance.

Theology of the Word

11. The Bible becomes the Word of God when a believer reads it. But this “Word” or “Truth” defers from believer to believer.
12. The Bible is not inerrant or infallible. In other words, the Bible contains errors here, there, and everywhere.
13. The Bible is not the inspired Word of God. Only the message is inspired.

Eschatology

14. Christ is not coming back.
15. Christ really came back, but only spiritually, invisibly.

Anthropology

16. Man is not fallen. He has the innate ability to perfectly keep the Law of God.
17. Man needs Jesus, but he also needs to help himself. God does not help a man who does not help himself. A man must exercise his ability to believe.
18. There is no such thing as original sin. Man is born sinless.

Kindly take note that some of the aforementioned doctrinal points are actually heresies.

Clarification: I am not saying that such a person is not saved. What I am saying is that, can such a person be considered a true believer, if he holds to any of the aforementioned doctrines. Of course, if such a person refuses to be taught, and persists in believing a heresy, he can truly be named a heretic (Titus 3:10).

Again, none of us know who is an elect and who isn’t. I was from a Romish church, and I did believe in salvation by works. This brings us back to the original question: If a person does not believe in “justification” by faith alone (like myself back then), can he really be considered to have understood the gospel? If not, then is he a true believer in biblical Christianity at that point in time? This is, of course, from Man’s point of view.

14 comments:

Jenson's Blog said...

I thought I should clarify myself over here.

“Not all believers have reached a level of maturity to be able to handle criticisms and some will inevitably say ‘that is your interpretation!’ when you confront them with a topic as big as ‘Justification by Faith’.”

There are new believers and seasoned believers and a nice spectrum in between. A biographical study of Bible characters shows us that new converts can sometimes be a bit brash, hot and argumentative (e.g. Peter?). Even seasoned believers are like that sometimes (e.g. OT Patriarchs?). To confront a new believer (with attitude) with “justification by faith” would be giving “meat” to those who need “milk”. He/She may be receptive, or get defensive.

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”

Obviously, all believers ought to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

ddd said...

Hello Jenson,

I agree with you on the spectrum, but I think I made it clear in my reply that I AM talking about a leader in the church, hence my disagreement.

ddd said...

Eh Vincent,

most of the points stated there are serious heresy, so yes, I would not consider people who hold such views to be Christians, especially after attempted correction. The only exception I would allow is 17 and 15, of which I think it is possible for orthodox Christians to be stubborn in their traditions and thus not see the ramifications such a view have on their view of God, of Man, salvation etc.

Basically speaking, I would regard people who espouse blatently heretical views to be non-Christians, as I believe the Holy Spirit would not allow true believers to stray into serious doctrinal error at any time. However, errors which are not overtly heretical but do logically lead to heresy could be embraced by Christians who do not see the logical implications of their view (i.e. modern-day 'Calminians'). Nevertheless, people who hold such errant views should not be allowed to be leaders in the church, like my former YA leader.

Jenson's Blog said...

Sadly, church leaders these days are selected based on a criteria not found in Scripture (e.g. winsome personality, organisational skills, etc). There is a lack of an "inward call", a "desire" (1 Tim 3) to be an elder.

So your friend, the leader, may have been brought into the ministry a bit too premature. Give him time to think these things through. The Lord did the same for you, too.

As for the rest of the post, I tend to reserve comments concerning heresy and the salvation of a sinner. The Non-Lordship camp would argue that a "list" of what a Christian should believe would constitute "works-based" salvation. There is half-a-truth there.

Personally, I tend to start with a love for Christ and His Word, with a desire to be with the Lord's people on the Lord's Day. And obviously, with a desire to avoid sin.

The rest can be taught slowly... That is the way the Lord dealt with me, and so I do likewise with others.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Jenson,

I would agree with you that a believer must demonstrate “a love for Christ and His Word, with a desire to be with the Lord's people on the Lord's Day. And obviously, with a desire to avoid sin.”

My question has almost nothing to do with the “salvation of a sinner.” That is, I am not requiring the reader to make an ad hoc judgment concerning the eventual salvation of the professing “believer.”

What I’m trying to convey is this:

1) Love for Christ is based upon knowledge concerning Him. If there is “love for Christ,” which Christ does he love - The Christ of the Mohammedans, the Mormons, or the Unitarian Church?

2) Love for His Word is also based upon one’s “epistemological presuppositions” concerning the Word. Does the professing believer love the Word simply because it contains certain wise quotes, sentimental passages, or punch lines? Or, does he love the Word because he knows it is God’s inspired Word, and he seeks to obey it? Or does he try to find “errors” in the Bible so as to contravene God’s mandates and commandments?

3) Salvation is based upon an accurate KNOWLEDGE of the gospel of Christ, not any other gospels. If the professing believer does not even understand the fallen state of man, the truths of the gospel, and the necessity of trusting only in the completed work of Christ, how can one judge this “believer” as a Christian at that point in time? He may eventually be saved, but at that point in time, would you classify him as a bona fide Christian?

4) The Bible does contain MUCH teachings concerning false teachers and heretics i.e. 2 Peter, Jude, 2 John. What do you understand of these epistles?

5) Lastly, can we honestly call one a Christian if this person denies essential, fundamental Christian truths?

My little list of doctrinal errors (or even heresies) is not meant to be a working criterion for judging anyone’s salvation. I was simply listing out various aberrant doctrines, and eliciting what the readers might say of these statements.

I likewise agree, “the rest can be taught slowly ... That is the way the Lord dealt with me, and so I do likewise with others.” A qualifier though: this is true only if the person is a bona fide Christian, that is, he believes and confesses all the essential Christian truths.

I would regard one who denies fundamental Christian truths as a seeker or unbeliever, and I would proceed to evangelize this person, not give him a false sense of spiritual security. The worst thing to do is to pat an unbeliever on the back and tell him that he is saved! That’s spiritual murder!

And let us remember to treat fellow brethren-in-Christ patiently and gently, even if they do err seriously in certain doctrinal areas (but not unto perdition, of course). We must seek to teach them, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23)”

I would, however, not be very patient with recalcitrant heretics, especially if they sow their seeds of perdition in the church. For example, I will not “dialogue” with, or pretend to be patient with Arians who come into our congregation to proselytize our church members. The leaders, in such a scenario, ought to denounce these heretics over the pulpit or publicly. To do so otherwise is to act like a “dumb dog (Isaiah 56:10).”

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John 1:9-11)”

Sincerely,
Vincent

Jenson's Blog said...

Hi Vincent,

OK, hope this will clear things up:

1) Love for Christ and His Word - I mean the "Jesus Christ" of the Bible.

2) A believer ought to love the Word of God because it is the Word of God. Sadly, that is not true for even all. There are moments in my life when I love the Word, because Ps 23 comforts me - alamak, I sound so Anglican, don't I? Moving swiftly on...

3) I wished I could say that all Christians should have that. Again, I would deal with this situation very carefully, esp. when I meet Christians from charismatic circles.

4) That is a serious hot potato. So many professing Christians do not understand this! When I was helping out with one of the Sunday Schools of the Met Tab, a Mormon church was built just down the road. After it was completed, we lost a few children because their parents prefer the new church/School that the Mormon church operated. They saw no difference. Amazing! I agree that we need to inform our friends about the dangers of false teachers. I would add the many passages in Deut and Numbers.

5) In a public setting, I would be hesitant to pronounce that such a person is NOT a Christian - unless he/she openly teaches and acts that way (e.g. Bishop Spong). In private, I would probably question the person's stand before God. I have done this with my RC boss before.

I really cannot understand or appreciate when false teachers come into our midst (local church), and are allowed the platform. So far, the Met Tab has been blessed, not only with a discerning pastor, but with a lot of "Temple Police" (as he affectionately calls them). Hopefully, things will stay that way for years to come.

Hope that helps...

ddd said...

Eh Jenson,

I don't think I was questioning his salvation; just that he is not fit to be a leader and deserved to be rebuked since he taught heresy.

Jenson's Blog said...

I don't think I was questioning his salvation; just that he is not fit to be a leader and deserved to be rebuked since he taught heresy."

I think if you read my comments carefully, I never said anything to that effect. I have on most occasions kept my opinion about a person's salvation to myself. Perhaps with certain company I might say something.

This may be a side-issue, has anyone rebuked you for any error before or improper practice? How did you respond?

ddd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ddd said...

Sorry... premature publishing just now...

Well Jenson,

you said that I should give him more time and more grace, to which I replied that as a leader he should be rebuked for his heretical statement. I think that I have made it clear that I think leaders who teach heresy are to be rebuked, and I would now further add that the circumnstance upon which he became a leader is irrelevant. The basis of rebuking an errant leader is on the seriousness of the offence and the office held by the person, of which both are not at all dependent on the person's spiritual maturity at all. Otherwise, any leader can just teach any heresy even from the pulpit could then, when confornted, just use the postmodern carnard of 'your..mine... interpretation'. No one should then judge him since he 'may have been brought into the ministry a bit too premature(ly)'. Nonsense, wouldn't you say so? Would you allow a pastor who preach heresy from the pulpit of i.e. Met Tab to get away scot-free with the excuse that he may have been brought into the ministry a bit too prematurely? I doubt so.


'This may be a side-issue, has anyone rebuked you for any error before or improper practice? How did you respond?'

Good question. Well, I have been corrected before in my phrasing of certain doctrines, and I listened to them and make the required changes, but I have never so far responded with that bunch of postmodern trash. Even when I think others are wrong, I have never used that pathetic skubalon phrase.

Anyway, what are we doing discussing this on Vincent's blog? I mean.. that's not exactly the point of this post of his, anyway.

wenxian said...

Hello all,

I like to answer this question put at the end i.e.

"If not, then is he a true believer in biblical Christianity at that point in time?" (asking for from Man's point of view.

I think the fundamental problem is that God is not limited by time nor knowledge but we (obviously) are.

So, based on limited knowledge, as we see/taste a fruit from this 'tree' (constantly or at the point), we can and ought to make a judgement that a person from birth until that point of time is or is not a Christian. Remember that clean water and salt water cannot come from the same spring.

Because we do not know, we cannot talk about a person's eventual salvation, which is ultimately God' soveriegn choice [Romans 9].

So if anyone, denies what vincent has written in the blog (those points, if they are biblical) and more (if it is in the bible), should at least NOT be a leader, especially when having being corrected time and time again.

Regardless of the person's role in the church at that point at that time, once a person refuses correction with regard to these point, the person is a indeed a heretic at that point of time. Whether or not the person repents is another question.

I am however not talking about tolerance to leaders. Because leaders are supposed to be selected based on

1)Sex (no women in preaching/teaching roles)
2)Salvic status and Spiritual maturity(a believer cannot be a new believer, or he/she will fall into a trap)
3)Both an inward and outward call
4)any more that i have missed you all may add.

Leaders of today are sadly almost totally selected by outward call and by external hidden hypocritical traits such as popularity and organisational skills.(i can see these in my church today, an anglican one, and whom i have already renounced and will leave at end of Oct, thanks to the grace of God).

Jim Swindle said...

Hello. I just found your blog. Maybe my thoughts will be useful here.

On the Day of Pentecost, I'm virtually certain that not all of the thousands who were saved believed all of the things listed in the original post. Were they Christians? Well, that word wasn't invented yet, but it appears that the great bulk of them were true believers.

Still, as time went by, they needed to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ." They needed to mature spiritually.

Some of us take longer than others to mature, and each of us matures faster in some areas than in others. When I became a Christian, I was not a Trinitarian. I wasn't anti-Trinitarian, either. I just hadn't thought deeply about that matter until I was going door-to-door evangelizing and came to the home of some Jehovah's Witnesses. They challenged me on the issue. Through study and insight from the Lord, I came to believe that they were wrong.

It was not until a year or two later that I came to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible (that is, inerrancy of the original manuscripts and sufficient providential preservation of the text for us to have full confidence in every spiritual truth in the Bible).

Now, many years later, I'd agree with you concerning all of the items on your list, except perhaps number 17. I believe in election and in predestination and also that we are commanded to believe. I'm not quite sure how all of that fits together.

I believe the original post was correct in establishing a distinction between what someone believes, and what someone believes after correction.

May the Lord guide you and me and your other readers into a deeper knowledge of himself through [the real] Jesus.

I hope some of this helps.

My own blog (just recently started) is at http://vineandfig.blogspot.com .

Anonymous said...

Quote:I was from a Romish church, and I did believe in salvation by works.

Why did you believe in works salvation back then?

God bless.

vincit omnia veritas said...

To: Mr Ano Nymous,

dear Ano,

I did believe in works salvation back then coz I was a pre-pubertal lad with neither biblical knowledge, nor interest in the Bible.

your truly,

Mr Ignorant