Friday, November 03, 2006

Again, it’s nothing personal, really.

As conversion is not merely an existential, but also an intellectual, assent to scriptural revelation, I had mentioned in my previous post that the seeker has to understand and embrace certain salient doctrines to be considered a Christian. The apostle Paul pronounced anathema upon those, even if it were an angel from heaven, who would preach an alternative gospel. Saint John warned that we must not have any fellowship with those who deny the doctrine of Christ, and I would add, God. The Apostles and the Antenicene fathers battled furiously with the Gnostic heresy. Councils were held to repudiate erroneous teachings on God, Trinity and Christ. Even the Council of Orange felt that the doctrine of anthropology was important enough to label Semi-Pelagianism heresy.

But it seems that there is a growing latitudinarianism pervading Christendom today. The narrow way is now getting broader to accommodate men of diverse faiths. Those that mock the Reformed doctrine of justification are now considered respectable scholars and friends of the gospel. In prominent American seminaries, these “respectable scholars” teach others, who would be future pastors and shepherds, to preach this false gospel in Presbyterian churches. They utilize the lingo of the cognoscenti to mesmerize the students, while the laity dribbles at their every word with wide-eyed stares and adoration. In the meantime, the masses sit at the feet of Cain and beg for his scraps to be thrown to them.

But I am comforted to receive an interesting comment on my previous post. Jim Swindle from http://vineandfig.blogspot.com/ gave me the following helpful suggestions:


“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.”


I can agree with the general thrust of Swindle’s comment. Young believers may not know the details of various fundamental doctrines, but their basic understanding is sufficient to bring them to the knowledge of God. I had previously clarified that my list of aberrant doctrines is NOT MEANT TO BE A CHECKLIST TO DISCERN WHO IS CHRISTIAN AND WHO IS NOT. Somehow, many readers misunderstood my intentions, and seem to think that I am propounding that one has to adhere to the whole list in order to be saved.

A Cordial Response to Swindle’s Comments

There are certain premises for us to consider. According to Acts, on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5).” Jews and Gentiles proselytes were there in Jerusalem on Pentecost for a particular purpose, and that purpose is not a city tour, a sightseeing excursion, or shopping at Palestine’s largest mall. These devout men, both Jews and Gentiles, are there for the Feast of Pentecost. They are proselytes of Judaism, and they had prior knowledge of the God of the Bible. They were acquainted with the Old Testament, and had expected a Messiah to come, the Son of David.

Peter, in his sermon on Pentecost, preached about the deity of Christ, His resurrection, the need for repentance and turning from sins to God. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).” He said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38-39).”

By the time of Pentecost, the word “repent” has already acquired the nuance similar to that used by John the Baptist and the Prophets. “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “ Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning (Joel 2:12).” Likewise, John preached, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:7b-8a).” Repentance must produce fruits; in the same vein, an alleged repentance without visible fruits is dubious.

Did Peter’s gospel agree with that of the “free-grace” teachers? Or did Peter propose a fresh, new perspective on the gospel of Christ, which leads to a sarcedotal religion in our days? Besides, the recipients of the Gospel were not heathens without any prior knowledge of the Law and the Prophets. They did not receive the Good News with the presupposition that the Bible (that contains this Gospel) is capable of error.

Seekers today are seldom initiates of Second Temple Judaism. They have little, if not zero, knowledge of God. Most Singaporeans and Americans today believe that we came from primordial slime some three billion years ago, and that our ancestors were probably arboreal monkeys. How many of them will understand the biblical meaning of “sin,” “Jesus,” “God,” and “repent?”

While I agree that sanctification is progressive, and varies from Christian to Christian, certain biblical truths have to be assented to before the person can indeed be called a Christian.

Imagine the following scenario:

Tommy hears the Four Spiritual Laws and prays the sinner’s prayer, “Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

Terms such as ‘sin,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Saviour,’ and ‘God’ are quite meaningless unless they are defined clearly. Tommy claims to believe in the God and Christ of the Bible, but he has never read the Bible all his life. So, when Tommy says he loves Jesus, while lacking any further knowledge concerning who this Jesus is except that He died for sins, can we truly claim that he understood the Jesus of the Bible? Likewise, if this “believe” is only a mental agreement with the Four Spiritual Laws, without any sincere or genuine repentance, can Tommy be considered born-again? Furthermore, without knowledge of the attributes of God, His holiness and holy hatred against sin, will Tommy understand what ‘sin’ really is? Does Tommy truly understand what is meant by the term “sinner?”

Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons will have little problems praying the sinner’s prayer to “receive” Christ. Both will similarly desire the love of this loving God, who is hoping to give sinners a “wonderful plan” for their lives. Perhaps this plan includes getting rich and successful. I doubt Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons will have problems with the Four Spiritual Laws. According to the Four Spiritual Laws, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, but what about being fully God and fully Man? On the other hand, will we (like the Mormons) get eternally pregnant and produce zillions of spiritual kids in heaven? Or perhaps Jesus is only a begotten God, but He is also the Lord and Saviour according to the Arian understanding.

Quiz Time

There is also another person who would pray the sinner’s prayer, but his understanding of several theological terms is very different from that of orthodoxy. Let us peruse abstracts of his writings:


The "original sin" was the descent of the soul into the material world, and the generation of physical bodies, man being thenceforth a God dwelling in the animal form.

"Resurrection" (anastasis) is any ascent from a lower to a higher state of existence, whether of individual man or of the entire race. Rev xx 5, 12; John v 29. As relating to the Aeon, or world-period, the "first resurrection" is the awakening to spiritual life, during the cycle, of the "just men" who have been "made perfect"; while the "second resurrection" is "that of all mankind at the close of the world-period, when they are "judged every man according to their works".

"Salvation" is freedom from the bondage of rebirth. Jesus is represented as a Saviour in that he taught and exemplified the right-conduct that alone can emancipate the soul from the material, animal existence, and awaken it to the realities of the spiritual life.

"Faith" is intuitive knowledge, the dim reminiscence which the soul retains of its pristine state; true faith, instead of being but ignorant opinion, is the beginning of spiritual wisdom, "an assurance of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen". Heb xi I.

"Righteousness" is right-conduct, the perfect performance of duty in the light of a purified conscience.

"Baptism", or lustration, is a ceremonial rite of purification, symbolizing successive degrees of initiation into the divine Mysteries. The exoterist, or "earthy man" (choïkos), when he first comes to recognize the reality of the spiritual life, becomes a "believer" (pistos); by the lustration of Water he becomes a "psychic" (psuchikos); by that of Air (pneuma), a "spiritual person " (pneumatikos); by that of Fire, a "perfect man" (teleios); and by that of Blood (ether), a full Initiate or Christos. "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until a Christos be formed in you." Gal iv 19

The "Atonement" is the union of man's purified human self with his spiritual and divine Self; it is "vicarious" in the sense that the sinless spiritual Self is incarnated for the salvation of the animal-human creature formed " of the dust of the ground " - that is, evolved from the elements.

"Regeneration" is the ‘birth from above’ when the soul, freed forever from the prison of clay, puts on its "first garment" - the deathless glorified body of the Initiate.



So, in summary, this writer believes in Jesus the Lord and Saviour, original sin, the resurrection, the vicarious atonement of Christ, heaven and hell, the sacrament of baptism, and most of all, salvation by faith. And I can confidently say he will pray the sinner’s prayer.

Will the reader tell me whether this man can rightly be called a Christian? Or maybe we should not judge him, because he is “growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour.”

Multiple choice answer

A) He is probably a young believer, and needs to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ.
B) He is a bona fide Christian. Why did you ask?
C) He is a theologian, and you shouldn’t question his Greek.
D) He is a young believer, and needs to be led to the Truth.
E) He is not a Christian, and someone needs to preach the Truth to him.
F) Thou shall not judge. That’s the eleventh commandment.

The reader may choose more than one answer. I will inform the reader later as to the name of the writer, and which book I quoted from.

PS: Please do not google search for the writers name.

7 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I am not certain whether the person described has come to an assurance that Jesus has given him everlasting life. If he has that trust in the Saviour, then he has eternal life regardless of any misconceptions he holds.

God Bless

Matthew

vincit omnia veritas said...

Hi Matthew,

Just in case you are wondering, I was referring to the “New Perspective of Paul (NPP)” proponents in paragraph two e.g. Norman Shepherd, N. T. Wright, E. P. Sanders, James Dunn et al.

Also see http://www.geoffrobinson.net/auburnavecontroversy/ for the genesis of the controversy.

I believe that the NPP is a serious deviation from evangelical faith, and it’s one of the deadliest poison affecting Reformed denominations.

Vincent

Anonymous said...

I heard an interesting witnessing discussion,

Christian- "Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to receive Christ as your savior?"

Lost one- "No, I think I would like to do that."

Christian- "Well, let me give you some reasons not to become a Christian, when you have answered these, then call me and we can talk again."

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear pastor Mike,

Thanks for the comments.

On a humorous note, I recall a narrative regarding how a person received Christ, literally:

Christian: “Are you ready to receive Christ?”

Initiate: “Yes. I would love to.”

Christian: “Start queuing up in this row, and when you reach the front, the priest will say ‘The body of Christ.’ You will then reply, ‘Amen.’ Open your mouth and swallow the Eucharist. Don’t bite!”

Hmmm … I don’t think Christ can be received in this manner, literally or metaphorically. He is not a biscuit or wafer waiting to be eaten.

The beauty of Reformed theology is that, we believe God has his “good soil.” Not all are good soils, only some. But we do not know which is good and which is bad. The seeds that fell on the way side, the stony ground, and amongst thorns failed to produce fruits. These seeds are lost or eaten. Those that fell into “good soil” produced fruits, some even manifold. But one thing we can be sure of: the good soil will receive the Truth with gladness. So let us continue to preach the truth, and elucidate the truth, to the lost. And may God enable His good soil to produce fruits in due time.

ddd said...

Eh...

I go for E. This person sounds like a Gnostic to me (with the usage of the word 'aeon').

Mike:

I hope I'm wrong, but this witnessing discussion sounds a bit hyper-Calvinist-esque, at least to me.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I believe the New Perspective to be a dangerous error.

But I do not think that much of Reformed theology either.

wenxian said...

My answer is E

He is a non-believer.

If he calls himself a believer, we correct him.

if he refuses conrrection and claims himself as someone who sees, he is a heretic.