Christian Scholarship & Deliverance from Chronological Snobbery

One of the criticisms that ‘progressive’ Christians level at orthodox Christians is that they are anti-intellectual since they oppose the idea of applying insights drawn from critical theory and social sciences to interpret the Bible. This criticism is surely unfounded. For orthodox Christians, “All truth is God’s truth,” and the scholar of the Book should also be a scholar of many other books. As such, they would welcome any interdisciplinary exercise that seeks to enrich our understanding of Bible on its own terms. However,  orthodox Christians who engage in interdisciplinary studies should be clear about their presuppositions and priorities so as to avoid compromising their faith inadvertently.

First, the Bible as the infallible word of God should function as the background controlling belief in the integration of faith and contemporary knowledge like critical theory and social sciences. Continue reading “Christian Scholarship & Deliverance from Chronological Snobbery”

Practising Homosexuals Can Change: A Simple Biblical Argument & Social-Scientific Evidence. Part 2/2

Can Practising Homosexuals Experience Change through Counselling?
A Report by Stanton Jones & Mark Yarhouse.Publication Sources: Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religious Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. IVP, 2007 and Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate (IVP, 2009).

Summary of research: [Stanton Jones, Same Sex Science, First Things Feb 2012]
We are told that homosexual persons are just as psychologically healthy as heterosexuals, that sexual orientation is biologically determined at birth, that sexual orientation cannot be changed and that the attempt to change it is necessarily harmful, that homosexual relationships are equivalent to heterosexual ones in all important characteristics, and that personal identity is properly and legitimately constituted around sexual orientation. These claims are as misguided as the ridiculed beliefs of some social conservatives, as they spring from distorted or incomplete representations of the best findings from the science of same-sex attraction.

Contrary to the assumptions of many social conservatives, biology does appear to play a modest part in determining sexual orientation. Contrary to the assumptions of many social progressives, psychological and environmental variables also appear to play at least a modest part in determining sexual orientation. In contrast to the hubris of those prone to making emphatic pronouncements, what we do not yet know about the causation of sexual orientation dwarfs the bit that we are beginning to know. And the fact that causation is indubitably a complex and mysterious by-product of the interaction of biological and psychological variables confounds the assertion that sexual orientation is just like skin color, determined at birth or even conception. And contrary to the suggestions of some, the involvement of some biological influence does not prove that change in sexual orientation is impossible. One of our foremost behavior genetics experts, Thomas Bouchard, has argued forcefully that “one of the most unfortunate misinterpretations of the heritability coefficient is that it provides an index of trait malleability (i.e., the higher the heritability the less modifiable the trait is through environmental intervention).” Continue reading “Practising Homosexuals Can Change: A Simple Biblical Argument & Social-Scientific Evidence. Part 2/2”

Practising Homosexuals Can Change: A Simple Biblical Argument & Social-Scientific Evidence. Part 1/2

Question posed by “Fractalist” at the previous postA Scripture-Principled and Pastoral-Sensitive Church Response to Homosexual Activism:
What do you think of the position of the American Psychological Association (APA) which states: “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder” and that “therapies that seek to reduce or eliminate same-gender sexual orientation are under extensive debate in the professional literature and the popular media (Davison, 1991; Haldeman, 1994; Wall Street Journal, 1997)”

Answer
Nowadays, no one would bat an eyelid if a great philosopher like Augustine or Aquinas were to share a gripping account of how the troubled soul can find peace with God. However, people would pay rapt attention to a psychologist who assures them that the self is totally good and is oriented towards growth and creativity, and that the purpose of life is to find one’s deepest self by following one’s “orientation” and forging one’s sexual identity in ways that counter all forms of authority represented by family, traditional social norms and religion. [See Paul Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship 2e (Eerdsman, 1994)]

Recently, the high priesthood of humanistic psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA), issued a new dogma that proclaims that homosexuality is natural and should be accepted, if not encouraged. This amounts to a reprise of ancient papal encyclicals. One of the sacred cows in the pantheon of social sciences has spoken. Whoever dares to question its sublime wisdom will be anathematized by its priestly order, the academia. Continue reading “Practising Homosexuals Can Change: A Simple Biblical Argument & Social-Scientific Evidence. Part 1/2”

A Scripture-Principled and Pastoral-Sensitive Church Response to Homosexual Activism

It would be good take note of the background of the ETHOS Forum on Human Sexuality, Marriage & the Church. The Church in Singapore and homosexual activists are locked in a contestation to determine whether homosexuality should be normalized in society. At the centre of this dispute is whether section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, which criminalizes male homosexual sex should be repealed.*

Dr. Roland Chia writes in his latest article published in ETHOS, “Normalizing Homosexuality: How Should Christians Respond?”

The main strategy of these advocates is to convince the world that homosexuality is normal, that people who are same-sex attracted are born that way. Many have appealed to the modern concept of sexual orientation and insist that the genetic and neurological basis for homosexuality is well supported by science.

If homosexual orientation has a biological basis, then discrimination against people with same-sex attraction amounts to bigotry and the infringement of their fundamental rights and liberties – so goes the argument.

How should Christians respond to the obvious agenda of LGBT activists to normalize homosexuality in society? Because of the multi-faceted nature of the LGBT strategy, the Christian response must take different forms and be made at various levels of society.

Continue reading “A Scripture-Principled and Pastoral-Sensitive Church Response to Homosexual Activism”

ETHOS Conference: Human Sexuality, Marriage & the Church

Why is it the case that our local churches have avoided addressing the issue of homosexuality from the pulpit even though homosexuality has become (1) the defining social issue for many young people today, (2) an opportunity for virtue signaling for academicians, and (3) the celebrated cause championed by media celebrities and social activists in the West?

Perhaps, many church leaders hesitate to speak as they do not have adequate knowledge of the psychological and social scientific aspects of homosexuality. Their hesitation is exacerbated when the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality is challenged by sophisticated Western liberal theologians who offer novel readings of the Bible which purportedly support the case for homosexuality. Finally, church leaders are afraid of being accused of lacking pastoral sensitivity, or worse, being judgmental should they uphold the orthodox biblical teaching of heterosexual marriage.

Pastors seeking to be better informed theologically and better equipped  to minister to young people grappling with the issue of sexuality will benefit from  the videos lectures of the 2016 Conference on “Human Sexuality, Marriage & the Church” by ETHOS Institute for Public Christianity (which is sponsored by the Singapore National Council of Churches, Trinity Theological College and the Bible Society of Singapore). Continue reading “ETHOS Conference: Human Sexuality, Marriage & the Church”

Definite Atonement (Part 3/3). The Logic of 1 John 2:1-2

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“We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

I. Biblical data that supports the premises of the two following arguments
Christ is the propitiation for our sins. He intercedes with the Father on the basis of his accomplished his work of atonement. He is the perfect advocate whose intercession with the Father is always successful (I John 2:1; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24-26; John 11:41-42,).

II. Argument 1 from Christ’s intercession
Premise: Christ’s intercession with the Father is always successful.

Outline of argument:
(1) If Jesus intercedes for all, all would actually be saved.
(2) But not all are saved.
(3) Therefore Jesus does not intercede for all.*

III. Argument 2 from “Propitiation”
Premise: Christ as “propitiation” has turned away God’s wrath (1John 2:2).

Outline of argument:
1) If Christ has really bore God’s wrath for everybody, nobody will go to hell, since their punishment has already been born by Christ.
2) But Scripture does testify that the wicked will experience punishment in hell.
3) Therefore Christ is not the propitiation for the sins of everybody

IV. The Logic of the arguments
The two arguments have the same logical form: Continue reading “Definite Atonement (Part 3/3). The Logic of 1 John 2:1-2”

Definite Atonement (Part 2/3): Biblical Evidence and Theological Arguments

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It is imperative that theological discourse goes beyond polemics and offers positive evidence and constructive arguments to establish the veracity of doctrine. This being the case, I would like to invite our readers to consider carefully several lines of biblical evidence and theological arguments for the doctrine of definite atonement given below:

The Particularistic Vocabulary of Scripture
The Scriptures themselves particularize who it is for whom Christ died. The beneficiaries of Christ’s cross work are denominated in the following ways: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah,” that is, the church or “true Israel” (Jer. 31:31; Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15); his “people” (Matt. 1:21); his “friends” (John 15:13); his “sheep” (John 10:11, 15); his “body,” the “church” (Eph. 5:23–26; Acts 20:28); the “elect” (Rom. 8:32–34); the “many” (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45); “us” (Tit. 2:14); and “me” (Gal. 2:20).

Christ’s High-Priestly Work Restricted to the Elect Continue reading “Definite Atonement (Part 2/3): Biblical Evidence and Theological Arguments”

Definite Atonement (Part 1/3): Engaging Arminian Proof Texts for Universal Atonement

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Arminians charge Calvinists as guilty of diminishing the universal significance of Christ’s atonement by teaching definite (limited) atonement. However, Calvinists reject the charge as unwarranted since they affirm the atonement of Christ as “sufficient for all.” In truth, it is the Arminians who limit the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement by teaching that Christ’s atonement only offers potential salvation for all, since there remains a possibility that Christ’s atonement may not achieve its intended purpose. [Re: Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists] This uncertainty precludes believers from enjoying any assurance of salvation. In contrast, Calvinists teach that Christ’s atonement does not merely make salvation possible; it accomplishes a definite purpose. It makes salvation certain as Christ really saves to the uttermost every one of those for whom he died. Christ’s atonement is “effective for the elect.” Hence believers may enjoy the assurance of salvation.

Arminians also reject the Calvinists’ understanding of the phrase, “for all” to mean “all without distinction” as hermeneutical gymnastics that go against the plain reading of Scripture which for Arminians, would require understanding the phrase, Christ died “for all” to mean “all without exception.”

The purpose of this post is to defend the Calvinists’ reading by engaging with several favorite Arminian proof texts for universal atonement. For convenience, I shall quote generously from several established commentators. Continue reading “Definite Atonement (Part 1/3): Engaging Arminian Proof Texts for Universal Atonement”

Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists

The term “Limited Atonement” has become a favorite fodder for Arminians in their criticism of Calvinism (or preferably, Reformed theology). However, their criticism is misplaced for the following reasons:

(1) Historically, the term, “TULIP” was not used when the five points of Calvinism were originally affirmed in the Synod of Dort (1618). It gained popularity only in the 20th century as a convenient mnemonic device to summarize five central teachings of Reformed theology.
(2) The criticism is misguided.  It would be more fruitful to shift the debate from a fixation with the negative term, “Limited Atonement” (which suggests a spirit of defensiveness), to an engagement with the positive affirmation of the Reformed doctrine of “Definite Atonement,” “Effective Atonement” or “Particular Redemption.”
(3) Arminians should think twice before throwing stones at the Calvinists when they themselves could well be living in a glass house. In truth, Arminians also teach a “Limited Atonement”, perhaps more so than Reformed theology! [Tu quoque?] Continue reading “Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists”

Who Was Adam? Scientific and Theological Perspectives: Preview

A monkey in the zoo was heard asking the question, “Am I my keeper’s brother?” The theory of evolution answers the question with an unambiguous “YES!”Apes and humans share a common descent.

Given below are several evolutionary interpretations of the relationship between humans (hominin) and apes (hominid) based on an unproven assumption – that any similarities found between them is due to a common ancestor. Continue reading “Who Was Adam? Scientific and Theological Perspectives: Preview”