Wednesday, March 05, 2008

An Ex-Bible Presbyterian I met on Blogosphere

Since I do not have the time to write a proper post this week, why don't we look at someone else's blog for a change?

Edmund Lau is a fellow brother-in-Christ I met on Blogosphere, and I noticed that, besides being well-read in literary and contemporary issues, he has a willingness to discuss cultural and theological matters in a very personable, well-measured, and candid manner. Furthermore, we are both ex-Bible Presbyterians to begin with. That gave us a little common ground for future catfights in the theological arena. (I would like to take back the last sentence here ... emoticon: smiles aplenty)

There are at least two interesting posts from his blog which I would like to mention here. To begin with, he has been examining the Emergent Church movement, and has written a 'balanced' and 'moderate' post concerning this novel phenomenon in 'Church'-ianity. Edmund laments:

"We live in times where words like "balanced" and "moderate" are very, very popular ... Now, there is much to be said about avoiding extremisms and intolerance. We've all seen the ugly face of single-issue Christians taking their beliefs and forcing it down everyone's throats - or calling their opponents all sorts of names. ... But the "ideals" of "moderation" and "balance" have been taken to such extremes that by itself, it's become another form of extremism! So much that you almost believe these people's Bibles contain a verse such as "Be ye balanced/moderate, as your Heavenly Father is balanced/moderate!" ...

"The Christian ideal (in fact, put in its proper context within the Sermon on the Mount, the KINGDOM IDEAL), is HOLINESS. While moderation and balance speaks of earthly civility, holiness speaks of heavenly sanctity. ...

"The irony of it is that, non-denominationalism is really just ANOTHER denomination. Any student of history will tell you that! The Brethren movement considered itself non-denominational. What then is an Open Brethren or a Closed Brethren? Aren't they simply groups with their own denominational-distinctives; hence, simply more denominations? Same thing I witnessed (pun intended) in Witness Lee's "Local Church Movement" in recent months. That's another self-proclaimed non-denominational group that is SO denominational in fact (with their own distinctive prayer-reading, repetitions of "Lord Jesus", their own Bible translation, hymn book, etc.). Similarly, the followers of McLaren are variously labelled the "Emerging Church Movement", "Emergent Church", etc. In short, another denomination - with its own denominational distinctives such as "we have no denominational distinctives" and its own exclusive beliefs such as "we are non-exclusivists"!"
But there is at least one attitude which is commendable in the Emergent/Emerging Church Movement - their willingness and courage to reexamine ecclesiastical traditionalism and dead theological orthodoxy, which is really what Reformed churches should be doing now: To be Reformed and yet reforming. As my friend Daniel Chew would say, "Reformata Et Semper Reformanda."

And here is another interesting post from Edmund's blog.

He wrote a brief discourse concerning his experiences with the Bible Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist churches over at Malaysia. And I must agree with him when he exclaimed, "Reformed Christianity touches every area of ecclesiology, eschatology, pneumatology, etc. down to hermeneutical principles and sermonizing." That is why I have refused to define Reformed Theology with just the five points of Calvinism and the five Solas.

I believe the correct approach when we seek to appraise one's theology is to work or debate from first principles. Just as in philosophy, we criticize one's world view by attacking their metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, metaethics, metametaphysics etc which are really the presuppositional grid underlying his world view. In theological systems, we have to start the debate in areas such as hermeneutics and theological grids, instead of jumping into the applicational aspects of the theological-hermeneutical grid itself e.g. doctrine of the Parousia, exposition of Revelation, and the Millennial sacrifices.

And concerning the topic of "Bible Presbyterianism, Reformed Theology and Dispensationalism" which Edmund had mentioned in this post of his (i.e. "more work for you, Vincent!"), I had written a manuscript which is close to four hundreds pages (completed in early 2007). But ... I have yet to publish it. The publication of the manuscript will have to wait till later this year (2008), as I am concentrating on my studies at the moment. And writing those publication proposals to a myriad of publication companies is no small deal, at least in terms of time expenditure (and having them accept the manuscript is another matter all together).

However, there are other reasons why I have delayed publication. One of them is this: I have always regarded my Bible Presbyterian brethren as fellow workers in the Gospel of Christ. It is never my intent to cause any ill-will between us; nevertheless, I believe in the intellectual freedom of writing critiques, and expressing ourselves in polemics in a cordial manner. As such, I have avoided publishing the manuscript amidst the peak of their doctrinal controversy concerning the verbal plenary preservation of Scripture.

I pray that they would understand that in terms of the work of the Gospel, I am standing with them; but with regard to their theological grid, we can at least agree to disagree. Agreed?


Unfortunately, Edmund’s blog has now taken a different path. His blog (and friends) now defends the erroneous notion that homosexuality (and other kinds of sexual "preferences") is not a sin, scorns Reformed protestantism as belonging to a kind of ghettoed mentality, and has apparently bowed before the altar of Neo-Orthodox scholarship. So this is where we part ways, ideologically speaking.

One of my friends who used to comment on his blog has now refrained to do so ... “it is a lost cause,” so he says. But we will pray for him.


Evangelical books said...

"The Brethren movement considered itself non-denominational. What then is an Open Brethren or a Closed Brethren? ..."

I am preparing to give a lecture on the Plymouth Brethrenism and so had to digest several books on this issue. The EARLY Brethren were non-denominational and desired to stay that way. When the first controversy broke out, it was obvious to them that they had to take sides. Sadly, this hymn will cannot be used to describe them...

"Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?" Havergal.

I find some of the Exclusives (Closed) to not only denominational, but even cult-like. The Open Brethren on the other hand have (mostly) given over to the modern charismatic movement and other -isms. Various reasons can be suggested on that, but I will not go there.

Anyway, just to point this out. The Brethren were originally resistant towards denominationalism. Sadly, they have taken on board other problems.

Evangelical books said...

Oh, yes, Vincent, nice touch with the photo of JG Machen - my "Reformed" hero. His book "Christianity and Liberalism" tipped the balance - and I left the charismatic movement and the Christian Union. All Christians today ought to read this book, it is profound and yet so straightforward.

vincit omnia veritas said...

dear brother,

Do you want to remain as "evangelical books?" If so, I will not reveal your name ... :)

Anyway, thanks for your input on the Brethren Movement. I will definitely appreciate if you could post on this ... or I could post your article on my blog (if you would want to).

Evangelical books said...

Hi Vincent,

Oops, sorry. I forgot to sign off after those comments.


PuritanReformed said...

Eh.... it's sortof obvious who 'evangelical books' is, that is, for those who followed our blogs.... =P. Well, at least it is much better than using the name/URL function, at least I think so.

Edmund Lau said...

Hi Brother Vincent,

Thanks for your kind words and comments. Just replied to them (and those of Brother Jenson's and PuritanReformed's) over on my blogs.

Also, the book I mentioned is actually a tract by Dr. Khoo. You can download it for free from the FEBC site or follow the link below:

Very interested in the huge book that you've written on this issue. Let me know once it's published - do you have a PDF version that you'd like to share? *hint* :)

~ Edmund

Evangelical books said...

"Well, at least it is much better than using the name/URL function, at least I think so."

You mean using my "nickname" is better than my name? Interesting...

In all honesty, the only reason why I do not use my blogger account is because I cannot be bothered to log in!

PuritanReformed said...


well, I think identity verifiability is always better. Although I don't think anyone wants to impersonate you, anyone using the name/URL function can do so, whereas it is much harder with your blogger account.

Joe Blackmon said...

Brother Vincent

There is some really good food for thought in the gentleman's post on the emergent church. Thanks for sharing it with us.

in Christ