This blog has been silent for at least a year; therefore, I want to write an entry, sharing some of the things that happened in 2017 and what may happen in 2018 in my life.
Lately, there has been an online and a heated debate on the doctrine of the Trinity. The issue is on the “Eternal Functional Submission” (Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, and others) of the Trinity and the “Eternal Generation” of the Trinity (Carl Trueman, Mark Jones, Liam Goligher, and others). You can find all the links below:
2.) Reinventing God (Part 2)
3.) Carl Trueman steps in with his church history (his expertise): Fahrenheit 381
4.) Bruce Ware responds: God the Son–at once eternally God with His Father, and eternally Son of the Father
5.) Carl Trueman responds to Ware: A Surrejoinder to Bruce Ware
6.) Wayne Grudem steps into the ring: Whose Position on the Trinity is Really New?
7.) Carl Trueman responds to Grudem: A rejoinder to Wayne Grudem
8.) Mark Jones steps into the ring and responds to Ware and Grudem with his Christology (his expertise): Why did the Son become incarnate? Because he submitted?
9.) Where did this guy come from? A RESPONSE TO SCOT MCKNIGHT’S POST; TO THE SOCIAL TRINITARIANS AND COMPLEMENTARIANS; AND TO THE ‘CONSERVATIVE CALVINISTS’
10.) And where did this guy come from? Some Observations On The ‘Eternal Functional Subordination’ Debate
11.) Should ministers resign for rejecting “Eternal Generation”? Should I Resign?
PS: I’m glad that I didn’t present a position when I taught on the Trinity because I wasn’t too sure where I stood (and I’m not as well-read on the all the eras of church history and the debates that occurred).
The question of describing “who God is” is a critical matter in all areas of biblical teachings and practices. How you understand God can influence your faith. In orthodox Christianity, it is my firm conviction and belief that Scripture reveals God Himself as the Trinity: One God in Three Persons. I am sure that all of the conservative Protestant churches can attest to that. However, the main issue emerges when we try to explain and describe what God is.
It is my great concern that the congregation in the churches do not know their God well enough. As J.I. Packer said in his classical work, Knowing God, “Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are” (p. 21-22). As Christians know God better, indeed their lives and their minds are being transformed.
The knowledge of God is ultimately gained by reading and studying the Word of God. The Scriptures attest to that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
When explaining and describing what God is, I am talking about His attributes: mercy, love, wisdom, knowledge, faithfulness, self-sufficient, righteous and so forth.
In this generation, there prevails a great theological error surrounding the attributes of God, which is to elevate one of God’s attributes over His other attributes.
Most people would recognize the love of God as His attribute. Indeed, the apostle John said that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). I believe in the love of God. I am also encouraged by the fact that God does love in action. Children in Sunday school would memorize John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul indicates the demonstration of God’s love in Romans 5:8.
The theological error does not consist in the fact that God is love, but when God’s love is elevated more than His other attributes. “We believe that God’s greatest attribute is love” is an erroneous statement of faith. The New Testament, especially 1 John, speaks about the love of God a lot. Don’t make the mistake between emphasis and elevation. When John wrote his first letter, love is indeed the emphasis or one of the themes because that’s one of the ways to know if one is a born-again Christian. However, do not equate emphasis to elevation. “…it should caution us not to take any one of these descriptions by itself and isolate it from its immediate context or from the rest of what Scripture says about God. If we did that, we would run the risk of misunderstanding or of having an imbalanced or inadequate picture of who God is. Each description of one of God’s attributes must be understood in the light of everything else that Scripture tells us about God. If we fail to remember this, we will inevitably understand God’s character wrongly” (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. p. 159). 1 John does say that God is love, but it is theologically dangerous to narrow our focus of who God is on a single epistle and separate the knowledge of Him from the rest of Scripture.
Indeed, I admit, the love of God is more appealing than the wrath of God. His loving attribute does affect us emotionally and spiritually. Yet the whole of Scripture does not submit to our emotions, for Scripture is sufficient and authoritative. Calvin warns us about this mindset in his Institutes, “The effect of the expression, therefore, is the same as if it had been said, that he is of infinite majesty, incomprehensible essence, boundless power, and eternal duration. When we thus speak of God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch; we must not ascribe to him any thing of a terrestrial or carnal nature, must not measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be like ours”. Or another version can be said like this, “lest we dream up anything earthly or physical about him, lest we measure him by our small measure, or conform his will to our emotion” (Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.20.40). If God’s love becomes more appealing and the greatest attribute against the rest, we have worshiped the wrong God or only part of God. You can end up believing in the god of Rob Bell who wrote Love Wins, becoming a heretic and destroying the message of the Gospel.
Have you ever sat down and reflected on what God verbally said about Himself? The authors of Scripture do describe His attributes in various places, but what does God say about Himself? Moses penned it down in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Whatever happened to teaching and reflecting about God’s holiness? Additionally, whatever happened to teaching and reflecting about God’s immutability, wisdom, justice, wrath, faithfulness, knowledge, self-sufficiency and so forth?
In conclusion, it is indeed my concern that the congregation in the churches do not know their God very well. Rather, they only know one part of God.
An (imperfect) illustration that can hopefully drive home my argument. You and your significant other have started dating. Both of you are in the honeymoon phase and love to be with each other because you found that this person is “compatible” with everything you love. Initially, you find that the other person is so kind, nice and loving. As both of you continue to know each other as a couple, you start to know the “bad” side of that person. You may realize that the other person is selfish, gossipy, arrogant and so forth. Perhaps you may contend with that person and still love him or her. After getting married, you start to realize that person is irresponsible, lazy, messy and so forth. Although you may not like his or her bad behaviors, you still love that person as a whole for who he or she is. You cannot just love that person when he or she is nice and loving. To truly love someone is to love that person as a whole even though he or she is not perfect.
The God of the Bible is perfect and sinless. Scripture has already reveal everything we need to know about God. Though you may not like one of His attributes, God will not change according to your liking – consider His immutability (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19). Though we can continue to grow in the knowledge of God in this life, we cannot fully know God due to our sinfulness and our finite minds. Hence, I agree with the Reformed maxim “the finite cannot contain the infinite”.
To love God is to love Him as a whole being. To know God is to know Him as a whole being. To worship God is to worship Him as a whole being. “We must remember that God’s whole being includes all of his attributes: he is entirely loving, entirely merciful, entirely just, and so forth. Every attribute of God that we find in Scripture is true of all of God’s being, and we therefore can say that every attribute of God also qualifies every other attribute” (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. p. 179)
Once you are in vocational ministry, it does not take too long for you to take into careful consideration of all the teachings that are in the world. These teachings are from “Christians”, theologians, pastors, authors, and writers. As a minister, I do read the news from time-to-time. I notice what is happening in the world. At the same time, I also read articles, news, and blog entries written by professing Christians who claim to have high-view of Scripture. High-view of Scripture is a good attitude to have; at the same time, a person with a high-view of Scripture may also have low-literacy of Scripture.
I regret this, but I read some entries from Huffington post by this guy, some guy and the same guy. I know who Mooney is though not personally. Like Rob Bell who questioned the existence of Hell in his book, Love Wins, Mooney makes very bold statements and claims that Jesus did not believe in hell, Jesus did not care about doctrines, and God saving everyone in the end like the story of Jonah. Because of all those posts, there is no need to believe that everyone will go to hell. God’s grace and love will prevail in the end. Everybody will be saved.
On a personal note, I really want to believe what Mooney says. Let’s all admit…Hell is not a pleasant word. To some, hell can be a good word since they’ll meet their buddies and party there. I really want to believe that in the end everyone will be saved. No one needs to suffer. It does sound very nice.
Knowing the Word of God to be inspired by God and His Word is inerrant, I cannot believe what Mooney says are absolutely the Word of God. I cannot promote “Peace”; when in the end, there is no peace. I cannot promote “Everyone will go to heaven”; when in the end, not everyone will go to heaven. I cannot promote “No Such Thing As Hell”; when in the end, there will be some who will be “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22).
Thankfully, I am not the first one to see this. Young Jeremiah have experienced it in his time in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:14). When Jerusalem was prophesied to be destroyed by Babylon, many false prophets have risen to comfort everyone with lies. They claim to have come from God, when God never called them (Jeremiah 23).
Let’s fast-forward to Jesus’ time. Jesus gave his disciples a prophetic event that will happen in the future. The reality of this future event implies that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:11) Jesus calls us to be ready because the “Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44) God’s final judgement will come through 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. Similar to what happened to King Zedekiah, God’s judgement came on Jerusalem through Babylon.
Let’s fast-forward to the time of Paul’s last letter to Young Timothy. False teachers have already crept inside the church, and Timothy had to deal with them. Timothy was timid, weak, and constantly had ailment. Paul does not sympathize with him, but gives him strength and exhortation to press on. Paul said, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
I really hope Mooney also read the book of Nahum because Nahum prophesied God’s judgement on Nineveh a generation after Jonah.
Singing hymns are generally my preferable style of worship. Not all hymns, however, equally have good theology. In “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”, I invite you to read these two lines:
Bread Of Heaven, Bread Of Heaven
Feed Me Till I Want No More
After doing much research on this hymn, this lyric was probably not the original but was probably edited. Regardless of what the original was, “feed me till I want no more” does not sound correct. It is implying or suggesting that spiritual nourishment is temporary rather than an ongoing desire for that nourishment.
Meditate on this response from a “Christian”: “Thank you God for the Bible. I finished reading it and I want it (or God) no more.”
A proper response would be this: “Thank you God for feeding me with your Word, and I desire more.” And off you go to your other activities as you look forward to your next devotion because you want more of God’s Word and Himself.
As I was saying about the lyric, there was a change. Whether if you have been a Christian for a long time or if you’ve recently become a Christian, I hope that we would always have the attitude of being an infant that longs for God and be close with Him. So here’s the alternate lyric:
Bread Of Heaven, Bread Of Heaven
Feed Me Now And Evermore
For those who are in my church, you may have heard me quote a sentence during sermons, seminars or Sunday school lessons, and I would say, “The person who said this quote is a dead guy in the [so and so] century.”
Although the selected sentences may sound archaic – or should I say “old”? – they contain more theological richness than, I think, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Jones and so forth could pen down.
Dead guys such as John Bunyan, who draws out words or sentences, using allegory, to tell a beautiful story, yet deep theology, in Pilgrim’s Progress.
Dead guys such as John Calvin, who was a genius exegete.
Dead guys such as Charles Spurgeon, who was known as the prince of preacher.
These dead guys have been known as the Puritans. It also depends on how you define “puritans” because church historian found it to be one of the most difficult tasks. If you are an average Joe who may seem to know who the puritans are, your answer may be wrong because the answer is not as simple as using Wikipedia or dictionary. But…I digressed from my main point.
I found knowing dead guys have greatly reinforce my walk with Christ and my understanding of Scripture. Their works are influential and edifying to the souls. Their works have caused them to spill their own blood. Their works are worth attentive studying and reading (although I admit that reading Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology has put me to sleep countless times).
I encourage you to get to know some of these dead guys. Indeed, be updated with modern issues that they may not have dealt with.
Personally, I don’t expect myself to know all of them at great length, but I have chosen to study two or three dead guys’ work.
John Owen – known as the greatest theologian in history.
Charles Spurgeon – known as the prince of preacher.
James Montgomery Boice – known as the defender of Biblical Inerrancy.
On Friday, many people, especially children, will dress up and collecting candies from door-to-door. People look like the characters they see in the movies or TV shows. It can be scary or entertaining.
For Christians, however, October 31st is a sweeter treat than Halloween candy. Christians do have a “day” to celebrate. It is a significant day that we can never forget and take for granted. October 31st is indeed Reformation Day. This day commemorates an event that struck Wittenburg (Germany) with a hammer bang on the church door by a man named Martin Luther.
Luther confronted the issues that the Roman Catholic Church was doing for the lay people who had no access to the Bible. The Catholic church was promoting this false teaching called indulgence where it basically teaches that in order to be saved, you have to pay your way to heaven. Luther opposed that idea, the Catholic church and the Pope. Indeed, this confrontation and opposition got him into a lot of trouble in the Catholic church. Luther was soon tried by the church and had to recant of his teaching. During the trial, Luther’s response shocked the crowd, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Martin Luther’s legacy has lived on for 500 years. Luther is one of the most significant figures that God raised up in the early 16th century – October 31st, 1517. Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the church of Wittenburg for the purpose of restoring the missing doctrine called the Doctrine Of Justification By Faith, and confronting the Catholic church. The Catholic church was teaching that we obtain salvation by merit. Luther’s rediscovery of the forgotten truth lead to what it was historically called the Reformation or the Protestant Reformation. Luther rediscovered from Scripture that “salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).” (Link)
You can read more about Reformation Day by typing this event on the Google Search Engine.
In our western society and the church, this historical event has been forgotten. Christians attend church without understanding the history of how the church got here. Christians, we need to understand why we believe what we believe and teach what we teach. By doing so, we will know what we believe, why we believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.
Did you know that because of Reformation Day, we have our own translation of the Bible? Let us continue to not take our faith for granted, but to equip ourselves with Biblical Truth and live out that truth daily.