Fanning the Flame of Faith

D. Clair Davis’ one-sentence summary of 2000 years of Christianity is succinct, spot on, and sobering: “There is a tendency to lose Jesus.”

The counsel of an older man has kept my faith in good stead since I was young and gay:
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Now that I am older and hopefully, a little wiser, my fervent prayer to God is that by his grace I may faithfully and passionately testify to his goodness and glory. If the flame is not continually fed, how can it keep burning till the end?

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

 

God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4

Calvinism & Spiritual Foundation of Society

Earlier Posts:
John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4
John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

As the full implications of Calvin’s social theology unfolded in later historical developments, the perception of Calvin changed: Calvin the social conservative and an enemy of social freedom became Calvin the constructive reformer. /1/ Michael Walzer goes further to characterize Calvin not as a theologian but as an ideologist. First, Calvin developed a new radical psychology which transforms traditionally passive private citizens into activists who saw themselves as divine instruments for social transformation. Walzer refers to the Calvinist puritans as the earliest form of political radicals who developed his social vision into a revolutionary ideology. /2/ Walzer elaborates, “Calvinism taught previously passive men the styles and methods of political activity and enabled them successfully to claim participation in that ongoing system of political action that is the modern state.” Continue reading “God’s Providence and the Limits of Revolutionary Activism: Calvin’s Social Theology. Part4/4”

DBP Translating the Malay Bible? CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!

*This article was published originally in The Malaysian Insight (25/11/2017): Translating the Malay Bible: CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!

Image Above: Ruyls-Dutch-Malay-Bible 17C

Image Above: Gospel of John Shellabear Bible Originally Printed 1912 (Image from 1949 reprint)

Recently, Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) argued that the Christian community should work closely with Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) to correct purported errors in the current translation of the Malay Bible. Suggestions to improve existing translations of the Bible is in line with the ethos of the Christian enterprise of Bible translation which is an ongoing exercise undertaken by Bible societies all over the world.

However, CLJ’s proposal to allow DBP to prepare an authoritative translation of the Malay Bible is unacceptable. The reason is because given the terms and conditions for DBP’s involvement, the proposal amounts to an illegitimate restriction of religious freedom and infringement of the autonomy of the institutions of the Christian community. It is a violation of the integrity of Christian faith as it will lead to an imposition of Islamic religious beliefs on its sacred Bible. Continue reading “DBP Translating the Malay Bible? CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!”

The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism

The Supreme Vision of God’s Majesty and Zeal for his Glory

Perhaps the simplest statement of it is the best: that it lies in a profound apprehension of God in His majesty, with the inevitably accompanying poignant realization of the exact nature of the relation sustained to Him by the creature as such, and particularly by the sinful creature. He who believes in God without reserve, and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling, willing—in the entire compass of his life-activities, intellectual, moral, spiritual, throughout all his individual, social, religious relations—is, by the force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist. /1/ Continue reading “The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism”

John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4

Calvin Refusing The Lord’s Supper To The Libertines, In St. peter’s cathedral, Geneva.

RELATED POSTS:
John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4
John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4

Inevitably, tension can arise between the church and the civil order, especially when kings and magistrates abuse their power and the state poses obstacles to genuine holiness. How should the church respond? Should the church meekly comply, or engage in passive resistance or even actively rebel to overthrow an oppressive government? In response to such tension, Calvin’s political realism is evident.

But it is the example of all ages that some princes are careless about all those things to which they ought to have given heed, and, far from all care, lazily take their pleasure. Others, intent upon their own business, put up for sales laws, privileges, judgments, and letters of favor. Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largesse. Still others exercise sheer robbery, plundering houses, raping virgins and matrons, and slaughtering the innocent. Consequently, many cannot be persuaded that they ought to recognize these as princes and to obey their authority as far as possible. (Inst. 4.20.4)

Matters become worse when magistrates who are regarded as guardians of peace, protectors of righteousness and avengers of the innocence and who are appointed as minsters of God “to praise the good, and punish the evil regarded fail their duty to praise the good and punish the evil (1 Peter 2:14 Vg). Thus, they also do not recognize as ruler him whose dignity and authority Scripture commends to us. Indeed, this inborn feeling has always been in the minds of men to hate and curse tyrants as much as to love and venerate lawful kings.” (Inst. 4.20.4) Continue reading “John Calvin’s Response When Civil Government Turns Bad – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 3/4”

Theology Must be “Pray-Able and Preach-Able” to Build Faith

Theological studies can be hazardous as students are exposed to critical ideas that question the integrity of the Bible. Students who choose to study in secular universities are advised to fortify their understanding of faith since their faith will be challenged by some secular university professors. However, it can be alarming when students studying in Christian colleges find out that some of the lecturers who profess evangelicalism and talk about their church experience cast doubts about the total reliability of Scripture. In this case, it is not the secular professors but the ‘Christian’ professors who surreptitiously undermine the students’ belief in the inerrancy and infallible authority of the Bible.

Parents may be heartened when they listen to Kevin DeYoung as he shares in the Panel on Inerrancy: Q & A on how he managed to remain steadfast in believing in the authority of the Bible. What gave him pause and prevented him from being led astray by “paycheck inerrantist” (professors who sign the college doctrinal statement that affirms the infallible authority of Scripture in order to safeguard their jobs, but who in reality believe otherwise) was the faith inherited from his parents and the realization that what was taught in college deviates from the pristine faith learned through biblical-based pulpit preaching and that “this isn’t what my parents would believe.” (28 min)

If I may share something personal – When I went to seminary in 1984, I was determined never lose the “innocent but authentic faith” which I learned from inductive bible study and expository preaching in my Christian youth, regardless of all the sophisticated knowledge which I hoped to learn in due course. Whatever learning and theology I adopt must satisfy the criteria of preach-ability and pray-ability, as only such theology can build the faith of God’s people. Continue reading “Theology Must be “Pray-Able and Preach-Able” to Build Faith”

John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4

[At the heart of Calvin’s insight is his insistence that social life needs to be regulated by a social apparatus. Religious values are best maintained and transmitted through social institutions]

Calvin upholds both the individual and society. He reminds Christians that they participate in the reign of Christ not as isolated individuals but as a new community in which the members mutually nourish one another’s faith with the variety of gifts they have received:

It is as if one said that the saints are gathered into the society of Christ on the principle that whatever benefits God confers upon them, they should in turn share with one another…it is truly convinced that God is the common Father of all and Christ the common Head, and being united in brotherly love, they cannot but share their benefits with one another. (Inst. 4.1.3).

It may be noted that Calvin’s concern remains within the framework of the orders that God has ordained for the human community. Thus, in contrast to much of contemporary Protestant individualism, Calvin constantly reminds his readers that reconciliation with God is inconceivable apart from the closest bonds of fellowship with the other members of Christ’s body: “For if we are split into different bodies, we also break away from Him. To glory in His name in the midst of disagreements and parties is to tear Him in pieces…For He reigns in our midst only when He is the means of binding us together in an inviolable union” (Commentary I Corinthians 1:13). Continue reading “John Calvin on the Necessity of Civil Government – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 2/4”

Was John Calvin a Brutal Persecutor Against Freedom? The Pighius and Servetus Controversies

John Calvin can come across as a severe person because of his austere lifestyle and his zeal in defending doctrine and promoting discipline and godliness in church. Calvin literally worked himself to death. Calvin with his serious demeanor could never match the charms of Luther with his wit and gaiety. However, it is slanderous when his adversaries portrayed him as the cold, calculating and brutal tyrant of Geneva. It is hoped that the following cameos taken from Calvin’s life would dispel the mischievous charges of his adversaries.

1) In reality Calvin was a meek and shy person who only wanted to live as a quiet and obscure scholar. He reluctantly joined the Reformation only after he was ‘blackmailed’ by William Farel who threatened him with a curse. When Farel found out that Calvin was planning to go to Strasbourg to study in privacy in some obscure place, Continue reading “Was John Calvin a Brutal Persecutor Against Freedom? The Pighius and Servetus Controversies”

John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4

John Calvin Speaking at the Council of Geneva 1549

A Maligned Social Reformer
John Calvin’s theology was forged in the cauldron of social conflict. Although Calvin as an exile in Geneva would have cherished his new found freedom from the tyranny of the king of France and from deadly attacks launched by militant Catholics, no one can downplay the trauma of his social dislocation after fleeing from France. For Calvin, theological reflection in exile became a desperate intellectual mechanism to secure a sense of harmony and well-being for one who was now a stranger in a strange land. Calvin’s plight was exacerbated by the fact that Geneva, his new ‘home,’ was a city of contentious factions competing for power as the city groped for ways to maintain order and security after breaking away from the Duke of Savoy in 1535. One may say that for both Calvin as an alienated exile and for the Genevans, finding the right balance between their precious freedom and preserving their precarious social order assumed an existential intensity.

Calvin had to contend with Genevan citizens who jealously guarded their newfound freedom (the Libertines) and resolutely rejected any semblance of social regulation which they regarded as a regress to the old oppressive order. He forcefully opposed the Anabaptists to prevent irresponsible libertarianism which would result in lawlessness and endless disputes. Finally, Calvin had running battles with the civil authorities of Geneva – the elected Council and its liaison committee working with the pastors (the Consistory) – to limit the jurisdiction of civil authorities in the ordering of church life. Continue reading “John Calvin’s Reformation in Context – Calvin’s Social Theology. Part 1/4”

Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology

It is possible to conclude from the last paragraph of my previous post, “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology,” that I am suggesting that evangelical Christianity has no interest in becoming relevant to contemporary society. This misunderstanding should be set aside as evangelicals seek to present a Gospel that is not only relevant to society, but also faithful to Biblical revelation.

Historically, liberal theologians ended up transforming or rather trans-mutating the Gospel to accommodate its teaching to the sensibilities of society and culture. In contrast, evangelical theologians engaged in translating the unchanging revealed truths of the Bible as they present a Gospel which confronts society and culture. In short, the issue between liberal and evangelical theology is whether the truth of Christian revelation has been preserved or transformed in the process of making Christianity relevant to modern society.

Millard Erickson gives a helpful contrast between evangelical translation of the Gospel and liberal transformation of the Gospel: Continue reading “Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology”