A Reforming Catholic Confession: Continuing the Reformation to Attain Unity of the catholic (universal) Church

I. The Reforming Catholic Confession (RCC) in Context
One criticism of the Protestant Reformation that is often raised is that it splintered the universal church in the 16th century. The sectarian spirit of the Reformation not only undermines ecclesiastical authority; it also engenders a rebellious spirit resulting in radical individualism and secularization of of modern society. The proliferation of Protestant denominations only confirms the perception that the Reformation is a tragedy to Christianity.

It is therefore appropriate that recently, more than 250 Protestant leaders and theologians published “A Reforming Catholic Confession (RCC) –A “Mere Protestant” Statement of Faith to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.”

The RCC begins by setting the diversity of Protestant denominations in proper perspective.

Not every denominational or doctrinal difference is a division, certainly not an insurmountable one. We dare hope that the unity to which the Reformers aspired may be increasingly realized as today’s “mere” Protestants, like Richard Baxter’s and C. S. Lewis’s “mere Christians,” joyfully join together to bear united witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to its length, depth, breadth, and width – in a word, its catholicity

The RCC lays out a set of eleven carefully and precisely formulated doctrinal statements [D] under the following headings: Triune God, Holy Scripture, Human Beings, Fallenness, Jesus Christ, The Atoning Work of Christ, The Gospel, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, Baptism and Lord’s Supper, Holy Living and Last Things. This is accompanied by an explanatory document, Explanation. A Historical and Theological Perspective: Why we say what we say

I shall give only a few abridged statements of the RCC as a sample to provide a sense of its precise formulation accompanied by an irenic spirit. Continue reading “A Reforming Catholic Confession: Continuing the Reformation to Attain Unity of the catholic (universal) Church”

Should Homosexuals be Accepted into Christian Fellowship and Holy Communion?

A Question posed by a reader: “I think the most challenging lowest denominator for me is when a Bible believing Christian says “when I read the Bible sincerely I find a God who accepts same sex marriage but of course it must be monogamous and there should be no infidelity in that marriage (such infidelity would be a sin). I also accept accountability for all other sins including pre-marital sex”. My challenge is even though I disagree with this brother or sister on his/her view of same sex marriage, should I accept him/her into the fellowship of the church and the Lord’s table? Tough one for me.”

Answer: The short answer is that persons who feel same sex attraction, but choose sexual celibacy and abstinence from homosexual practices out of obedience to the teaching of Scripture should be accepted into the fellowship of the church, including the Holy Communion. Indeed, the church should learn to love and give support to encourage such believers to grow in the Lord (The question of the reparative therapy is a matter to be discussed separately).

First, rather than reinvent the wheel, I shall quote Stanley Grenz  from an earlier posts:

Homosexuality: Biblical Perspectives and Pastoral Concerns. Part .1
Homosexuality: Biblical Perspectives and Pastoral Concerns. Part .2

Continue reading “Should Homosexuals be Accepted into Christian Fellowship and Holy Communion?”

Support for Homosexuality Logically Leads to Support for Polygamy

It is fun to read satire, but I usually avoid sharing links to satirical websites as many internet readers are too lazy to follow through with a few additional ‘clicks’ on the menu to double check the background info needed to ferret out genuine from mischievous satirical websites.
 
Remember, the Devil once tempted the Lord with the opening remark, “It is written.” Nowadays, he has a temptation-software-upgrade – “It is written in the Internet.”
 
But the ironic observation of Babylon Bee (a satirical website) is right on target about the biblical view of marriage and family of the Nashville Statement:

Continue reading “Support for Homosexuality Logically Leads to Support for Polygamy”

Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality: Different Takes by Robert Gagnon and Michael Bird

Related Post: Nashville Statement (2017): A Coalition for Biblical Sexuality

[If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. The Apocryphal Martin Luther]

The Nashville Statement on Biblical sexuality does not answer all the questions that have arisen from the homosexual controversy. It is certainly not a complete, much less a perfect Statement. The purpose of any public statement is defined and delimited by its time and context. Like the historic creeds, it does not aim at full exposition of doctrine as to define the core beliefs and the boundaries of reflection.

Some evangelicals would like to suggest ways to sharpen what is basically an excellent statement. Others express concerns that it is not sufficiently pastoral. Still others, are worried that young people may misunderstand and therefore are put off by the Statement since the media has been effective in convincing many young people that being ‘gay’ does not necessarily suggest a promiscuous lifestyle. These are legitimate concerns. However, public statements have to navigate the fine balance between being concise and being comprehensive. We also need to keep in mind the central goals of the statement and its intended audience. Continue reading “Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality: Different Takes by Robert Gagnon and Michael Bird”

NASHVILLE STATEMENT (2017): A COALITION FOR BIBLICAL SEXUALITY

Statement on Biblical Sexuality by CBMW.Org (The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As many young people are adopting homosexual freedom as the defining cause of their generation, it is good that Evangelical leaders begin the NASHVILLE STATEMENT (2017) with the following affirmations:

We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials.

Article 1

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God

 

Article 2

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.
WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

To read, download or sign to affirm the original statement NASHVILLE STATEMENT (2017)  by CBMW.Org (A coalition for Biblical Sexuality) and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

You may note that many of the original signatories of the Statement are outstanding Evangelical leaders.

Continue reading “NASHVILLE STATEMENT (2017): A COALITION FOR BIBLICAL SEXUALITY”

Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ (Print Edition)

In response to many requests, I am posting the print edition of an article written when I was much younger, “Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ,” Transformation (1998), pp. 10-15. Ah, how time flies and I don’t seem to have grown wiser.

To download the pdf version of this print edition:

Pluralism Particularity Salvation Christ Transformation1998

Throughout this paper, it is my assumption that Christianity promotes and practices social tolerance and affirms plurality. What I dispute is the contention that social tolerance is possible only if Christians embrace a prescriptive form of religious pluralism. I shall further address the issue of prescriptive pluralism, henceforth referred to as religious pluralism within the framework of Christian discourse, and analyze the logic under-girding religious pluralism. In particular, I shall argue that religious pluralism is not only internally incoherent but that in seeking the least common denominator, pluralism offers a religious faith that is too dilute to meet religious needs. Finally, religious pluralism entails the abandonment of the central beliefs that historically define Christian identity such as normative revelational truths and the historical particularity of the incarnation of God in Christ. As such religious pluralists represented by major thinkers like John Hick and Paul Knitter have no basis to speak on behalf of Christianity….

 

…But why should God need to intervene in the human predicament in the first place? How does the Christian teaching of the Incarnation of Christ fit in? Following White I would like to propose the “Criterion of Moral Authenticity” as a means to shed light on this issue. To begin with, estrangement between God and man is overcome not by special knowledge but by a demonstration of perfect love. Given the magnitude of the human predicament, surely such a revelation demands a costly love which does not compromise God’s holiness. It has to be costly love to win over human sin and rebelliousness. But as White asserts, “Unless and until God himself has experienced suffering, death, and the temptation to sin, and overcome them, as a human individual, he has no moral authority to overcome them in and with the rest of humanity.”[Vernon White, Atonement and Incarnation (CUP 1991), p. 38] Continue reading “Pluralism and the Particularity of Salvation in Christ (Print Edition)”

FAQ on Muslim Questions – Christian Answers (Updated)

 

“Come now, Let us reason together, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:18).

Muslim polemical literature against Christianity is readily available in bookstores around Malaysia. Their polemics gain media attention when institutions of higher learning organize forums to perpetuate false information about Christianity. For example, in 2014, the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Shah Alam, organized a seminar on “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara (“The Word ‘Allah’ and Christology in the Malay Archipelago”), purportedly “to defend the dignity of Muslims in the country and also to give them an understanding as they are being confused by this issue.”
-“UiTM Warns Students About The Threat Of Christianity In “Allah And Christology” Seminar
-Gospels are ‘Fake’ as Jesus was ‘Human Slave to Allah’, Don Claims [The Malaymailonline 6 May 2014]
-Books Warning Muslims About ‘Christian Agenda’ Distributed at Allah Forum in University

Several seminar speakers were reported to have mocked at Christianity as they posed rhetorical questions that suggest the grounds for Christian beliefs are fundamentally flawed. For example, in a forum “Christianisation vs Islamization”, the speakers answered pre-prepared questions that included “Did Jesus really die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins?”, “What is the Trinity?”, “Why did Jesus cry ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani’ (Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”) while on the cross?”

Another speaker claimed that the parts of the Bible based on his teachings should simply be called “Tales of Jesus” instead of the “Gospel”. The books in the Bible were written by Christ’s disciples such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke were considered hearsay and similarly should not be considered the Word of God. The so-called gospel is only Jesus’ words, speech, hence should not be called gospel. He asserted, “The Christian gospel is a fake gospel.”

These speakers were trying to confuse Christians with fabricated lies. Instead of clarifying confusion among Muslims, they were promoting prejudice among Muslims against Christianity. Christians are justified if they feel offended. However, they are mindful of the divine exhortation given in their Holy Book on how to respond peaceably to faultfinders, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-15).

Instead of reacting to these Muslim polemicists, Christians are more interested in reaching out to other Muslims who are sincere when they raise questions about Christianity as these Muslims genuinely believe in constructive dialog. To these sincere Muslims we would like to offer “FAQ: Muslim Questions – Christian Answers” as a modest contribution to promote interfaith understanding. Hopefully, the two FAQs given below will assure Muslim inquirers of the intellectual integrity and peaceful intentions of the Christian community.

Continue reading “FAQ on Muslim Questions – Christian Answers (Updated)”

FAQ: Jawapan Kepada Soalan-Soalan Orang Islam (Dikemas kini)

Marilah kita berperkara, demikian firman TUHAN (Yesaya 1:18)

Kesusasteraan polemik yang menyerang kepercayaan Kristian mudah didapati di kebanyakan kedai-kedai buku di Malaysia. Polemik ini mendapat perhatian media ketika institusi pengajian tinggi menganjurkan forum untuk menyebarkan maklumat palsu tentang agama Kristian.

“UiTM Warns Students About The Threat Of Christianity In “Allah And Christology” Seminar
-Gospels are ‘Fake’ as Jesus was ‘Human Slave to Allah’, Don Claims [The Malaymailonline 6 May 2014]
-Books Warning Muslims About ‘Christian Agenda’ Distributed at Allah Forum in University

Namun daripada merasa takut, umat Kristian mengalu-alukan serangan seperti itu kerana ia memberikan peluang kepada orang Kristian untuk menjelaskan iman mereka.

Tetapi dengan tulus hormatilah Kristus sebagai Tuhan dalam hidup kamu. Hendaklah kamu sentiasa bersedia memberikan jawapan kepada sesiapa sahaja yang meminta kamu menjelaskan harapan yang kamu miliki. Tetapi lakukanlah hal itu dengan lemah lembut dan hormat. Hendaklah hati nurani kamu murni, supaya apabila kamu difitnah kerana hidup dengan baik sebagai pengikut Kristus, orang yang memfitnah kamu itu akan menjadi malu (1Petrus 3:15-16).

Walau bagaimanapun, ada orang Islam yang secara ikhlas bertanya soalan mengenai kepercayaan Kristian dalam mencari persefahaman antara agama. Untuk orang-orang Muslim yang ikhlas seperti inilah kami ingin menawarkan “Jawapan Kepada Orang-orang Islam.” Semoga Allah memberkati umat Kristian dan umat Islam di Malaysia dengan persefahaman dan saling menghormati. Continue reading “FAQ: Jawapan Kepada Soalan-Soalan Orang Islam (Dikemas kini)”

Christ’s Death as Expiation-Propitiation (Hilasterion): Appeasing the Wrath of God

 

If the heart of the cross is the atonement, the heart of the atonement is penal substitution.

Christ’s Death as Penal Substitutionary
The prima facie evidence from Scripture supports the case for Christ’s death as penal substitutionary. This is clear from the following verses.

Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)
Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21)
who gave himself for our sins (Gal. l :4)
who gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us
(Gal. 3: 13)
who gave himself as a ransom for all (I Tim. 2:6)
and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)
Christ suffered for you (I Pet. 2:21)
He himself bore our sins in his body ( 1 Pet. 2:24a)
By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24b)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet. 3: 18)

These verses confirm beyond dispute that Christ died for us. However, how Christ’s death brings reconciliation between the holy God and sinful man is hotly debate. Some scholars teach that Christ died as our representative who advocates or pleas for us as we are not personally present in the judgment court of God. However for evangelicals, these verses require an understanding of Christ’s death which goes further than Christ dying as our representative – Christ died as our substitute on the cross.

To sharpen the difference between the representative and the substitute – the substitute not only pleas for his client, he takes his place on the dock. He becomes the accused who is condemned as guilty. He takes the place of his client as he is executed on the cross. As he took punishment in our place, we are so to say present in him. The phrases “gave himself”, “bore our sin”, “to be sin”, “becoming a curse”, “as a ransom”, and the interchangeability of statements about Christ’s death “for our sins” and Christ’s death “for us” suggests that Christ suffered the penalty that was due to us. The inseparable link between substitution and penalty demands an understanding of Christ’s death as a penal substitution “for us” and “our sins”. Continue reading “Christ’s Death as Expiation-Propitiation (Hilasterion): Appeasing the Wrath of God”

Going Beyond Evangelical-Liberal Debates on Models of Atonement?

Question from an old friend:

“Is it not possible to accept that penal substitution is only one Pauline model of the atonement and that those of us who find it fails to communicate the Gospel in many cultural contexts prefer to use other models/metaphors (whether Pauline or non-Pauline)- without us all being denounced us “liberals”? Isn’t it also high time we moved away from such misleading and irrelevant theological labels as “liberal” or “evangelical” which are largely Anglo-American cultural imports?…there is no way Stott’s and Morris’s insistence that this [hilasterion] means “propitiation” can be defended in the light of both Jewish and recent Christian scholarship. In any case, you well know that words don’t derive their meanings from dictionaries but from usage in larger literary contexts.”

Answer:

1) Regarding atonement models – Of course I agree with you that there are many valid models of the atonement. Notice I mentioned that the classical Confessions did not ‘canonize’ any one model? I further argued that because of PSA, I can believe in CV? But that doesn’t mean that I cannot argue that PSA is foundational for the other models. Whether one agrees with me or not is a matter of theological exegesis. Everyone is free to take a position on this matter. Continue reading “Going Beyond Evangelical-Liberal Debates on Models of Atonement?”