Monday, December 30, 2013

The Radical Christ; To Be or Not to Be?

         The word “resolution” is probably lingering in many minds at the dawn of another year. It is valuable to resolve towards becoming better, and what better time than the start of a new year to activate our resolve!
We live in a world that demands political correctness. The church too demands and often practices political correctness, compromising truth in the process! Political correctness is true to an extent, but should we be politically correct always? I do not think so! When political correctness and truth oppose each other, the greater mandate is to stand by the truth than be politically correct. Political correctness and truth do not go hand in hand always. 

Radicalness is necessitated because of the errors in abundance today – both inside and outside the church. The ‘father of lies’ is the architect of these errors (cf. John 8: 44). Standing by truth at all times and at all costs is being “radical.” People have been burnt at stake for being radical. Of course, one could be burnt at stake for being right or wrong. For instance, terrorists are radical in their own eyes, but in the eyes of the law they are wrong, so they are punished.

Being radical involves two extremes – the right and the wrong extreme. The right-extreme is for the truth. The wrong-extreme is against truth - a lie / error.

Of course, the right-extreme is desirable, but the right-extreme will be discarded by those opposing. Those opposing the right-extreme may be ignorant or blind to the truth. Surely, opposition to truth will always be from the vantage point of an error. But opposition to truth should never discourage the bearer of truth. Being radical is both desirable and a mandate; radicalness is always on the side of truth, never in opposition.

Be cognizant of wrong-extreme radicalness within the church of Jesus Christ. Liberal and postmodern Christians teach heresies that contradict Scripture. Consider the ‘devious-liar-Christian’ who encourages homosexual lifestyle based on his [mis]understanding of the Bible. The Bible emphasizes homosexuality to be a sin (Leviticus 20: 13; Romans 1: 26-27; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10), so practicing homosexuals are sinners. The church ought to lovingly and graciously bring these brethren into Christ-consciousness, without rejecting them. The church that loves and nurtures a homosexual into Christ-consciousness is a radical church. In contrast, the devious-liar-Christian who endorses homosexuality by teaching that homosexuality is not a sin and thereby stakes claim to radicalness is not a radical, but a liar and a heretic.

Radicalness is predicated on a proper knowledge of the Bible. Consider this example: Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5: 9). Five chapters later Christ said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” (Matthew 10: 34-35). Christ does not contradict HIMSELF, but these teachings ought to be understood within their immediate and broad context. Therefore, radicalness ought to be fundamentally based on the proper understanding of God’s Word. 

We are called to be Christlike (Romans 8: 29 et al.). This is a biblical mandate upon every believer of Christ. But the Jesus of the Bible was a radical.

If we are not a radical as the incarnate Lord was, then what is the purpose of our Christian life? It seems to me that Christians who are not radical are living a defeated Christian life.

It is exciting to study the Christ of the Bible. I use the word ‘exciting’ for the truth in Christ transforms minds and hearts. Transformation is always exciting! When we learn about Christ, we love, follow, and obey HIM - in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

It is exciting to see how Christ overturned the table of the money lenders and drove away the businessmen who diverted the attention of the worshippers from worship to ritualism (cf. John 2: 16). It is exciting to see how Christ termed the religious leaders of HIS time as “whitewashed tombs” and “hypocrites” (Matthew 23: 27). It is indeed exciting to observe the Lord’s words, “Alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play-actors! You scour sea and land to make a single convert, and then you make him twice as ripe for destruction as you are yourselves.” It is NOT exciting to know that these folks were headed to destruction, but it is exciting to learn the truth in Christ’s message.

Christ was never polite when people suppressed, distorted or disregarded truth. Christ never sugarcoated HIS words. The Lord’s words were honest and direct. Christ was never politically correct. Christ was a radical.

So to be Christlike is to be a “Christlike Radical.” Anything less is unacceptable to Christ. We are either for Christ or against HIM (Matthew 12: 30). There is no middle ground. If we choose political correctness or the middle ground over Christ, then we are living dangerously to the point where our faith in Christ would be questioned.

If we are to be radical, we need to digest and live these words of the Lord, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great...” (Matthew 5: 10-12, NASB)

Whenever I study the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12), I analogize the Beatitudes to a sandwich. You have to bite what is said between verses 3 to 12 in one bite. The beatitudes have to be seen and assimilated together and not individually. Beatitudes are strongly interlinked. If we are ‘poor in spirit,’ we will be ‘pure in heart,’ so we will be ‘persecuted for the sake of righteousness.’ We cannot be ‘pure in heart’ and not be ‘persecuted.’ We cannot be ‘poor in spirit’ and not ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’

Of this I am sure; from a broad perspective, we cannot be radical and successful from within the framework of this world. But if the Lord wills worldly success for a radical, who am I to dispute it? So let me not box God’s deeds, which are marvelous yet mysterious. Normatively, worldly success and being radical for Christ are contradictory. Oswald Chambers uttered these golden words, “The great cry of modern enterprise is success; Jesus says we cannot be successful in this age. This is the age of the humiliation of the saints; that means we have to stand true to Jesus Christ while the odds are crushingly against Him all the time.” We will be humiliated if we desire to be radical. So are we ready to be humiliated for the sake of Christ?

The world will deem those radical for the Lord as not worthy of the Lord. This probably is the worst experience one would endure when he is a radical. But in fact it is the world that is not worthy of the radicals. Consider these verses, “…and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground…”(Hebrews 11: 36-38, NASB).

We cannot be as radical as the Lord without HIS strength and anointing. When we are radical, we will be hurt and that pain would entail sadness for us and our loved ones. Friends will desert us when we are radical for the Lord, but those who know the truth and understand the Christ of the Bible will remain with us. We need strength to endure rejection and insult.

Over the next few weeks I will endeavor to study the subject of “Radical Christ” and post my thoughts in form of this blog. I hope and pray that our New Year’s resolution is to be as radical as Christ was and as radical as Christ wants us to be in our own unique contexts now. I pray that HE would strengthen and anoint us with HIS precious Holy Spirit so to be Christlike in all our ways. 

Will the message of this verse be your resolution for 2014, “we have left all that we ever had and followed you” (Luke 18: 28 J.B. Phillips NT)? Are we ready to discard lies / errors to follow Christ radically? Amen.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Should We Be Moral Relativists?


The position, “We should not be moral relativists” will be defended in this essay. In philosophy, the term ‘objective,’ is defined as the existence of an object independent of human mind (mind-independency); “the object would “be there,” as it is, even if no subject perceived it.”1 In contrast, the term ‘relative’ refers to the perception of an object by the subject (mind-dependency).

‘Relativism’ espouses true or false moral judgments relative to language, culture or biological makeup.2 For instance, relativism need not consider polygamy as crime, for cultures or people can justify polygamy relative to their thought paradigm. Relativism denies objectivity and appeals to man’s mind.

Alternatively, ‘Objectivism’ espouses truth and falsity as independent of mind, so to claim and appeal to the reality of objective moral facts. Therefore, objectivism will rule polygamy to be a crime by appealing to the existence of objective moral laws (which is discovered and not invented by humans). This is similar to objectivism affirming the objective reality that sun is more massive than the earth. 


I – A Case for Objective Moral Values:

‘Objectivism’ or ‘we should not be moral relativists’ could be reasonably defended by positing the presence of ‘objective moral values.’ Moral relativism opposes ‘objectivism’ by negating the presence of objective realities.3 But if objective moral values can be reasonably postulated to exist, then moral relativism can be reasonably debunked.  

 (1) Objective Reality is Factual

There are objective realities. The fact that Sun is more massive than earth is an objective reality. This fact does not depend on anyone affirming or negating it.

(2) Objective Moral Values are a Reality

It’s morally wrong to not assist a person in need when we are able to. Similarly genocide is morally wrong; it is morally wrong to deliberately and systematically eliminate a group of people. These are universally affirmed objective moral values and do not depend on people’s mind (whether anyone believes or accepts, it is morally wrong to not assist a person and to commit genocide). Thus there are universally affirmed objective moral values.

(3) An Objective Basis is Necessary for Objective Moral Values to Exist

The “objectivism” proposed by Ayn Rand (1905-1982) posits man’s selfishness or man’s survival as the objective foundation to objective moral values.4 But human selfishness cannot be sustained as an objective foundation against an argument that a certain human subjectivity ought to be involved in deciding opposing human selfishness.

Would it be objectively true if the Nazi’s argued that it was morally right for them to eliminate the entire Jewish population because the Jews were an economic burden to Germany? The human selfishness of the Nazis was predicated upon the economic crisis in Germany, but in stark contrast, the human selfishness of the Jews was predicated on protecting their own life. Thus the Randian objectivism would crumble when two opposing cases of human selfishness collide with each other. Thus one ought to subjectively decide between the opposing objective moral values espoused by the two groups.   

But ‘God’ can be reasonably posited as the sole objective source for moral values. God, as the greatest conceivable being, transcends humanity and the space-time coordinates. Hence God is an objective reality and the sole objective basis for objective moral laws.

But proof of God’s existence ought to be reasonably provided, if not, God cannot be posited as the basis of mind-independent objective moral laws. Many arguments for God’s existence have been reasonably and plausibly posited, such as the Teleological Argument,5 Cosmological Argument,6 Moral Argument7 etc.

Since objectivity, objective moral values, and an objective moral value giver (God) can be reasonably and plausibly posited, a reasonable conclusion is that there are objective moral values. Hence, we should not be moral relativists.

II – A Case for an Immoral World:

      Moral relativism would stimulate an immoral world without any restraint whatsoever. When moral values are predicated on human mind then morality would be a slave of the dogma that controls a human mind. If one’s dogma is cannibalism, he would appeal to moral relativism to justify his devouring of his neighbor. Since moral relativism promotes an immoral world, we should not be moral relativists. 

Two mutually contradicting statements cannot be true within the same context, at the same time and for all people. So objective and relative moral values cannot both be true for they contradict each other. The presence of objective moral values and the case for an immoral world portrays that moral relativism exists by ignoring or suppressing the truth of objective moral values. Therefore, we should not be moral relativists.


5 J.P Moreland, Scaling the Secular City - A Defense of Christianity, (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1987), p43-76.
6 Ibid, p15-42.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christ, So What? (Necessity of Christ)

The birth (Christmas) and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Easter) are two central truths to the Christian faith and a Christian’s faith. The Jesus Christ of the Bible has a unique identity, which opposes the many versions of HIM propagated by other worldviews - liberal and postmodern Christianity included. One cannot help but fall in love with Christ when we truly understand HIM - HIS existence and function. Our love can be deeper and meaningful when we truly understand the reason for HIS being. In the contemporary spiritual climate, we ought to know the reason behind Christ’s existence so to reasonably answer questions such as, “Why Christ or “Why is Christ necessary.”   
Broadly, Christ is necessary for mankind’s salvation. It is only HIS one-time, perfect sacrifice that offers man forgiveness from his sins and presents him an eternal coexistence with God in heaven. This is salvation. Although Christ died for all men, it’s only man’s belief in Christ that can credit Christ’s work on the cross to man’s account. Unbelief in Christ is rejecting Christ. When Christ is rejected, HIS finished work on the cross is not credited to man’s account. Thus, man ought to believe in Christ to be saved.
Specifically, there are a few facts about Christ that are necessary. These are:

        1. Christ’s deity.

2. Christ’s Incarnation.
3. Christ’s virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27, 34).
4. Christ’s sinless life (Hebrews 7: 26).
5. Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.
Let us briefly dwell into these facts.

A. Christ’s Deity: Why Should Christ be God to Save Man?
            Many question the essential fact of Christ’s deity – that Christ is God. Although many refuse to believe in Christ’s deity, the Jews of Christ’s time always recognized Christ’s claim to divinity and accused Christ of blasphemy (Mark 2:7; John 10: 31-33).

Only an eternal God can save man through a one-time sacrifice that impacts the past, present and the future. The eternal God, who transcends space and time, saves people and their sins of the past, present and the future.

B. Christ’s Incarnation: Why Should Christ be Man to Save Man?
            Christ had to be man for this very reason, “Since, then, “the children” have a common physical nature as human beings, he also became a human being, so that by going through death as a man he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might also set free those who lived their whole lives a prey to the fear of death. It is plain that for this purpose he did not become an angel; he became a man, in actual fact a descendant of Abraham. It was imperative that he should be made like his brothers in nature, if he were to become a High Priest both compassionate and faithful in the things of God, and at the same time able to make atonement for the sins of the people. For by virtue of his own suffering under temptation he is able to help those who are exposed to temptation (Hebrews 2: 14-18, J.B. Phillips New Testament, Emphasis Mine).

C. Christ’s Virgin Birth: Why Should Christ be born of a Virgin to Save Man?
            Virgin birth of Christ is also a fulfilled prophecy – prophesied by prophet Isaiah and fulfilled in Christ.

The conservative Christians insist that this is an essential belief that guarantees the deity of Christ. The modernists, on the other hand, regard the virgin birth as unessential or untenable for they believe that Christ’s spiritual reality is far more significant than a matter of biology. To discard the virgin birth is to discard a biblical truth.
A fact to note is that Mary was a virgin at the time of Christ’s conception , and the Bible indicates that Joseph did not have sexual intercourse with Mary until after the birth of Christ (Matthew 1: 25).
Very simply, the virgin birth is true since the Bible teaches it. So those believing in the Bible cannot say that Christ was not born of a virgin. Virgin birth is significant for the following:
1. The virgin birth emphasizes God’s work or the activity of the Holy Spirit in man’s salvation – the Savior of mankind was introduced to the world by God. Man cannot be saved by his works; man can only be saved by the work of God.
2. The virgin birth affirms God’s grace. Christ was God’s gift to man, a gift that man least deserves.
3. The virgin birth emphasizes the uniqueness of Christ. Christ was an unusual man (truly God and truly man), a product of a miracle. The virgin birth is the means through which the deity and humanity were united.
4. The virgin birth emphasizes God’s sovereignty. If God can make a virgin to give birth to a child, then by the same token HE can offer a new birth to a believing sinner.

D. Christ’s Sinless Life: Why Should Christ Live a Sinless Life to Save Man?
            Christ’s sinlessness is consistent with HIS deity, virgin birth, and conception by the Holy Spirit. He was truly man yet without sin. If Christ had sinned, it would have posed many problems for faith in HIM. Incarnation is the fact that the second person of the blessed trinity, the Son of God, took upon human nature. In other words, incarnation is the addition of human nature to the existent divine nature. If Christ had sinned, it would have called HIS deity into question, for how can God sin?

            If God had to die for man’s sins, and die in the human body, it is only imperative that God maintain HIS purity by being sinless. If Christ had sinned, one could seriously question Christ’s divinity through the following thoughts:

1. Satan is the source of Sin (John 8: 44; 1 John 3: 5, 8). (Sin is the result of temptation.)

2. Satan causes temptation (Mark 1:13; Luke 4: 1).

3. God does not tempt man (James 1:13).

4. God cannot submit to Satan (Job 1: 12, 2: 6; James 1: 13b; Jude 6. Cf. Matthew 4: 1-11; James 4: 7).

5. If Christ had succumbed to temptation, then Christ submitted to Satan.

6. Since God cannot submit to Satan, Christ could not have been God if HE had sinned.

The fact that Christ remained sinless is a testimony to HIS divinity, for only God can save man.

E. Christ’s Death & Resurrection: Why Should Christ Die & Rise Again to Save Man?
            Christ had to die to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, for the soul that sins had to die (cf. Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6: 23; 2 Corinthians 5: 21; 1 Peter 2: 24).

            If Christ had remained dead, then there is no victory over death. So Christ had to rise again, and HE did! Christ’s resurrection and ascension is consistent with HIS divinity and proves HIS claim to be God (cf. John 10: 31-33) as genuine.

The fact that Christ rose again is a testimony to our resurrection. All of mankind will rise again – the believers to heaven and eternal coexistence with God, and the unbelievers to hell and eternal godlessness.   

            It’s indeed beneficial and profitable to teach ourselves and our neighbors the facts of Christianity. But it is of a greater worth to know the reasons behind these facts.

The Lord made a fascinating distinction between the house built on the rock and a house built on a sand (Matthew 7: 24 - 27) to emphasize the value of acting on God’s Word. Proper knowledge leading to a proper practice is the recipe to glorifying God through victories over Satan and his temptations.  

So during this Christmas season may we truly know Christ and the reasons behind HIS existence so to love and serve HIM all through the days of our life. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Defending Christmas (Celebrations)

       Christmas, as an average Christian observes, is exclusively the celebration of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Etymologically, Christmas is “Christ’s Mass.”1

Christ is not a mythical figure. Christ was born of a virgin and born in Bethlehem. It’s true that the Bible does not mention the precise date of Christ’s birth. It may also be true that Christmas day could even coincide with the pagan celebrations of past. But are these adequate reasons for thinkers to plunder an average Christian’s privilege and hold him guilty for celebrating HIS Lord’s birthday on a said date? Is it a sin to adorn homes with star and tree while celebrating Christ’s birth on 25th December?

This short essay will endeavor to defend Christmas and its celebration against few allegations that it is heretic or sinful to celebrate Christmas.

Allegation #1: Christmas Is Not Mentioned In The Bible:           
The Bible does not explicitly state the word “Christmas” or a formula to celebrate Christ’s birth. But the Bible ascribes a great salvific significance to the birth of Christ (Matthew 1: 21-23; Luke 1: 30-35). The Bible is also explicit about the joy and celebration associated with Christ’s birth (Luke 2: 10-14, 20 cf. Luke 1: 46-55).

If Christmas is not to be celebrated for it is not mentioned in the Bible, then by the same logic, should pornography be encouraged for it is specifically or explicitly not mentioned in the Bible as a sin? The essence or heart of the activity is of utmost importance. Sexual immorality is a sin according to the Bible, so pornography should be condemned for it is a form of sexual immorality. Any activity is pure and acceptable to God as long as it does not conflict with God and HIS commands.

When the Bible does not explicitly forbid celebration of Christ’s birth and when Christ’s birth is of salvific significance and an occasion of great joy, it is a reasonable conclusion that celebrating Christ’s birth is neither a sin nor a glitch, although Christmas is not specifically mentioned in the Bible.

Allegation #2: Jesus was not born on December 25th
            So what? Some Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th and others on January 6th or 7th.1 Now what’s with the date? All days are good. It would not be a concern even if a particular Christian denomination decides to celebrate Christmas on August 4th (a random pick).
Celebrating the birthday of a mythical someone is indeed a heresy and a sin. But Christ is not a myth. HE was born on a particular day, which the Bible does not inform. So celebration of Christ’s birthday on any day is indeed reasonable.

Celebration of Christmas depends on the integrity, motivation and disposition of our heart, and not in our ancestors’ practice. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of the Bible – the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. So date is immaterial to Christmas celebrations.

Allegation #3: Christmas Paraphernalia are Heretical & Sinful 
“It is sinful to have a star or a tree adorning our homes during Christmas season,” say some. The Bible most surely narrates the presence of a star associated with Christ’s birth in the second chapter of Matthew. This star could have been the ‘Shekinah Glory’2 or a ‘Recurring Nova.’3 The Bible is not explicit about the star.

But the fact remains that there was a star and we hang the closest imagery of that star outside our homes. If the star outside our homes reminds us of the Matthew 2 narration, it does serve its purpose. Hence, there is no sin or heresy associated with the star that is in our homes.
What about the Christmas tree? Long ago, it was “believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.”4 If one holds the same belief today, then he/she is obviously sinning. But if we do not believe in the tree’s association with witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness, then the tree does not damage the celebration. The tree simply remains to be harmless Christmas paraphernalia.

Some of us are so attached to Santa that we can’t live without him during Christmas celebrations. The Santa Claus imagery is the cheerful means to distribute gifts (to children). If this is the sole intent of the activity, then Santa can continue distributing gifts. There is no reason why we cannot use the Santa imagery during Christmas, although it is the universal truth that Santa is a myth.

Allegation #4: Christmas is a Recycled Pagan Tradition
There remains a common critique against Christmas that it follows the pagan tradition of ‘Mithraism,’‘Brumalia’ and the likes. But none of these condemnations are legitimate when Christmas is celebrated in gratitude to the living God for the gift of Christ, and thanking HIM in anticipation of Christ’s second coming. 5

If my neighbor practices occult in celebrating Christmas, he certainly sins. Celebration of Christmas, wherein our hearts are not inclined towards any of the pagan traditions but only inclined towards God and HIM alone, is not sinful.

Allegation #5: God Condemns Pagan Customs as a means to Worship HIM
Deuteronomy 12:30-32 (seeking other gods) and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (fellowship with unbelievers & idols), 7:1 are used to slam Christmas.

Christmas celebration is not seeking other gods, but only seeking the one true living God. Christmas celebration is not idolatry, for it is the celebration of the most important event in human history, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, during Christmas season unbelievers are often invited so to share the good news of the gospel with them. So Christmas season is more often evangelistic and brings glory to God.  

As already affirmed, if the hearts and minds of those celebrating Christmas today have no connection with the early pagan traditions, then it is indeed legitimate to celebrate Christmas. If our hearts view Christmas as a celebration of the birth of our Lord, then error or heresy or pagan customs cannot invalidate Christmas celebrations.

Allegation #6: Christmas is Worshipping God in Vain
            Mark 7: 6-9 is commonly cited as a case in point. A diligent examination of this section states that the traditions mentioned in this section are in conflict with God and invalidates HIS commands. But later in that chapter, Christ ascribes a greater significance to the heart of a man (Mark 7: 21, cf. Matthew 12: 34; Luke 6: 45).

If the heart of the man celebrating Christmas worships God and HIM alone, then Christmas celebration is legitimate. Celebrating Christmas does not conflict with God or HIS commands. Therefore, celebrating Christmas is not worshipping God in vain, but on the contrary the Christmas celebration is worship of the living God in spirit and in truth.

Celebration of Christmas is an act of worshipful gratitude to God for sending HIS Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to save mankind from sins. Christmas should remind us of Christ’s:
(1) Virgin birth.
(2) Sinless life.
(3) Cross / Suffering.
(4) Death, Resurrection & Ascension.
Christmas reminds us of the GIFT of salvation of God to man i.e. Christmas is all about Salvation.

            In a nutshell, all things are good. But if we deliberately connect an evil connotation to anything, it becomes evil, and needs to be eliminated or corrected. If Christmas celebrations distort Biblical truth, then, by all means, it needs to be discarded or the heretical element needs to be remedied. But if the components of the Christmas celebration do not have heretical or evil connections emanating from the heart of the man celebrating Christmas, then any assessment against them can be rendered invalid.

We are called to worship God in spirit and in truth. If our spirit is aligned with God and if HIS truth remains in us always, then celebrating Christmas, in an act of worship in spirit and in truth, is only for the praise of HIS glory (cf. Ephesians 1: 12).


Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas! For which Jesus Christ?

We are in midst of a Christmas evolution. This evolution is to disconnect Christ from Christmas. Some societies have replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.”

The secular world is not the only threat to Christmas. There is a threat to the Christian faith from within Christianity. This threat will not impact those firmly entrenched, but it will adversely influence those growing in the Christian faith - our children - the future of Christianity. If we remain unaware of this threat, we will not act to prevent but will place our future into a greater turmoil.

These threats are largely variants or replicas of heresies that have been in existence. Postmodernism is not a recent threat, but as Ravi Zacharias said in one of his sermons, postmodernism is found as early as in Genesis 3:1, “…did God actually say…?” As a logical outflow of this thought, a postmodern Christian thinker claims it is unnecessary to believe in the Bible as the sole and final authority for all matters of man’s spiritual life.

As affirmed, the non-Christians are not the only entity that dispute Historic Christianity. Christian seminaries are actively buying into postmodern thought and selling it to their students – our pastors and elders. Many Christian seminaries are scurrying to discard God from Christianity - the Bible is relegated to the status of a mere book, the miracles are said to be mythical and nonsensical, and a Cosmic Christ archetype that indulges in ‘deep ecumenism’ to embrace all religions and the likes is actively taught.

The question that looms large over us is this: Can we, as serious Christians, reasonably and confidently respond to these truthless threats with the timeless truths found in the Scripture? Every Christian ought to be a theologian (cf. Ephesians 4:13). Every Christian ought to provide reasons for his hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Every Christian ought to destroy arguments against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Christianity is not a part-time, once-a-week activity that takes place in the precincts of the church and that once-a-week cell group activity. Attending church and bible study fellowships are indeed beneficial. But Christianity cannot be limited to these two once-a-week activities. Similarly, Christians cannot think that our mainline activity is only to provide for ourselves and our families. It is a sin to neglect our family. But it’s a greater sin to discard God or relegate HIM to mediocrity or obscurity.

A reasonable goal for a Christian is to spend two hours a day praying, reading, and studying the Bible and commentaries that interpret the Bible. Christians practicing tithing will affirm that spending two hours a day at the feet of the Lord falls short of the one-tenth mark!

An average believer of other active proselytizing (evangelizing) faiths such as Islam, Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses know our Bible more than an average Christian. How proficient are we in clarifying the apparent contradictions in the Bible that our non-christian friend throws at us? We may not readily be able to clarify every doubt our unbelieving friend seeks from us. But in this internet era, we should know the online resources that offer clarity to these apparent contradictions (e.g. or Or we have to educate ourselves through our investments in resources (books, podcasts, smartphone apps etc.) that offer clarity. Our investments indicate our heart’s disposition. 

Are we theologians? Can we confidently provide a reason for our hope in Christ? Can we reasonably dialogue with those who preach against the tenets of Historic Christianity (the tenets are in my blog: If we aren’t, then we better be.

Importantly, every Christian ought to:

(1) Identify the errors in the opposing worldview.

(2) Provide clarity to every honest question asked, especially by our young people.

As a result of more and more seminaries teaching liberal theology, 1 heresies under the guise of rationality and progressivity attack and will inundate us. Those who believe and broadcast the tenets of Historic Christianity are branded as fundamentalists, arrogant, exclusivists etc. These developments should not deter us.

Some heresies are direct (e.g. Bible is not to be believed as a sole authority for man’s life and spirituality). This is similar to the devil casting his evil dogmas directly into our face. Other heresies are subtle and cunning. This is the devil disguising as the angel of the light (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15). These heresies are meant to confuse people. Often the young and naïve (immature) minds are the victims of these deceiving heresies. ‘Young and naïve’ need not be limited to young people, but even the old can be ‘young and naïve’ in their minds. 

Some insist that a true Christian ought to reject all doctrines, for they claim all doctrines to be man-made. This is a very deceptive thought, which is only meant to confuse and corrode a young and naïve believer. Let me elaborate.

Which Christ is celebrated during Christmas? Is it the Christ of the Bible? Wait! Are there other Jesus Christs? Yes, consider the Christ of Islam. While the Islamic tradition affirms the virgin birth and the second coming of Christ, it denies Christ’s divinity (Surah 5: 17, 75), crucifixion (Surah 4:157-158), and ascribes Christ to be inferior to Prophet Muhammad. Very minimally, Muslims believe that Christ was not crucified but Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

So we observe two different versions of Christ – Islamic and Christian. The Christ of the Historic Christianity was crucified and resurrected but the Christ of Islam was not crucified. The truth is Christ was either crucified or not crucified. A claim that Christ was both crucified and not crucified cannot be true. Crucifixion, therefore, is an essential doctrine that separates the Christ of Islam from Christ of Christianity.

Doctrine is a belief that is taught. Crucifixion is a doctrine associated with Christ. There are several essential and fringe (peripheral) doctrines. Essential doctrines are essential to salvation (salvific), hence cannot be compromised (Christ’s deity, crucifixion, bodily resurrection etc.). Fringe doctrines (baptism, speaking in tongues, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism etc.) are not salvific, which we can agree to disagree on.  

For instance, denial of Christ’s virgin birth is to deny Christ’s sinlessness and HIS divinity, and will also invoke a cascade of other negations. Similarly denying Christ’s crucifixion would deny HIS resurrection, HIS victory over death etc. Therefore, the Christ who saves man from his sins is the Christ who is the second person of the blessed trinity, born of the virgin Mary, who was crucified and bodily resurrected.

It is abundantly clear that a Christian has to believe in the doctrines of virgin birth, Christ’s divinity, HIS crucifixion and resurrection. Negating one of these is to present another Christ. The Christ of the Bible is not the Christ who was not crucified (proposed by Islam) nor is Christ the spirit brother of Lucifer (proposed by Mormons). In other words, doctrines are essential to faith.

Rejection of a doctrine could lead to a belief in a contradicting doctrine or simply a belief in nothing. Both are equally dangerous, for both reject or suppress truth. 

Doctrines as a concept cannot be rejected as well. A deceptive statement is that “All doctrines are man-made and hence should be rejected,” but this:

(1) …is a doctrine made by man.

(2) …is the doctrine of a person who believes that there should not be a doctrine.
Therefore, the person who says that all man-made doctrines are to be rejected is trying to reject all doctrines by affirming the concept of a doctrine - a self-defeating proposition.

There are true and false doctrines found in all walks of life. According to Historic Christianity, the doctrine of virgin birth of Christ is the truth; all other contradicting doctrines are false. A Muslim believes in the doctrine of monotheism, and according to Islam all contradicting doctrines are false. A postmodern thinker believes in the doctrine that there is no objective truth. In fact he projects his doctrine as the objective truth (!!), and he believes that all contradicting doctrines are false. A liberal Christian believes in the doctrine that the Bible is not the final authority for man, so he believes that all contradicting doctrines are false.

Doctrines that promote truth are beneficial to man. The early church developed the Nicene Creed to fight the Arian heresy that relegated Christ to be a created being.

We are celebrating the birth of Christ of the Bible, who is God incarnate, born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, was crucified and bodily resurrected, who is now at the Father’s right hand interceding for you and me, and will come again to judge the world. Until HE comes again, HE will generously offer all spiritual blessings that include wisdom and courage to all who seek HIM to defend the truth and fight the evil.

May the light of Christ shine into all hearts so to make them captive to HIM and HIM alone. Amen.   



Monday, December 2, 2013

Moments Of Being Ashamed….To Be A Christian

I wonder if there are moments when Christians, as disciples of Christ, are ashamed to be called HIS disciples? I most surely do, which I will describe in this short essay.

A few days ago the doctor dilated my pupils after which my eyes were to be closed for 45 minutes. It was then I reaffirmed to myself that I preferred sight over blindness! My temporary blindness increased my sympathy and respect for the blind who are living a grateful life! The great hymn writer Fanny Crosby was blinded within two months after her birth. Her response to those who sympathized with her was, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? …Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” 1 I am unsure if I would have lived such a grateful life, let alone make that petition. I am surely ashamed of myself!

If you relate with me, then grappling with reasons behind this predicament reveals that we are our first enemy. First, we offer preeminence to our selfish desires (e.g. I ought not to be blind). Second, while exalting our selfish desires, we slander God (that God should not have allowed blindness upon me). The reason we sincerely doubt if we will ever respond as Fanny Crosby is because we sincerely believe that we will either continually live thinking that God has wronged us or live a sad life. Let me elaborate. (Disclaimer: Horrendous physical ailments [blindness, cancer etc.] are much worse than any emotional pain [loss of a loved one, rape, false accusation etc.]).

In moments of suffering we respond with, “Why me, Lord?” Sometimes we respond differently by remaining sad through our suffering. There are hidden assumptions in these responses, which are:

(1) Suffering is an unjust punishment: The Bible does not consider suffering as only a punishment (cf. Isaiah 43:2; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10; 2 Timothy 3: 12; 1 Peter 4: 12-13 et al.). In fact, the Bible is replete with facts of God’s people undergoing extreme suffering. So suffering is not only a punishment, let alone being unjust.

(2) I am good: Thinking of us as good implies an anticipation of good rewards and not painful rewards. Not only is this transactional Christianity (I am-doing-good-so-God-should-only-give-me-good), but this is a very high thought of oneself, either borderline of pride or smacks of pride. Pride is a sin (Proverbs 21: 4).

(3) I have not sinned: Once again this is a high thought of oneself. This is a false assumption for there is no one who is righteous and all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Psalm 14: 1-3; Romans 3: 10, 23) .

(4) There are other bad people in this world: This accuses God of bad judgment in inflicting suffering upon the innocent-me when there are other bad people in this world. 

These assumptions exalt man and denigrate God by disputing HIS wisdom and authority. This is not to say we should not question God or we should not be sad. But we cannot live in persistent questioning of God (rebellion) and/or in constant grief.

Constant sadness and questioning God are spiritually dangerous for it could lead us away from HIM. Going away from God will result in godlessness.  

This real life story of Mabel was told by William Lane Craig about his former colleague visiting shut-ins in nursing homes, “…on this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.

As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to the side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I also learned later that this woman was eighty-nine years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.

I don't know why I spoke to her - she looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, ‘Here is a flower for you. Happy Mother's Day.’ She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, though somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘It's lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can't see it, you know, I'm blind.’

I said, ‘Of course,’ and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, ‘Here, this is from Jesus.’

It was then it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being…During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The questions occurred to me, ‘What does Mabel have to think about - hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it's day or night?’

I went to her and asked her, ‘Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?’ And she said, ‘I think about my Jesus.’

I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked her, ‘What do you think about Jesus?’ She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote. And this is what she said, ‘I think how good He's been to me. He's been awfully good to me in my life, you know. I am one of those kind who's mostly satisfied. Lots of folks would think I'm kind of old-fashioned. But I don't care. I'd rather have Jesus. He's all the world to me.’

And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn: ‘Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. When I am sad, to him I go, No other one can cheer me so. When I am sad, He makes me glad. He's my friend.’

Dr. Craig adds, ‘This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem a human being really lived like this. I knew her; how could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening. She lay there and sang hymns! How could she do it! The answer, I think, is Mabel had something you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power...’”2

A wonderful and an awe inspiring life indeed. I can’t imagine living that life if I were to trade places with Mabel. I am ashamed of myself! It’s not wrong to plead with God to remove the suffering from our lives, but it’s not right to live a defeated life in suffering (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

The world we belong to, longs for, and promotes self-deification. Compared to such wonderful lives of Fanny Crosby, Mabel and the many, I am ashamed to be a Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6, 11: 1; Philippians 3: 17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). I cannot imagine myself as an equal to such wonderfully lived lives. Fanny Crosby may have received her share of popularity and rewards, but Mabel had none whatsoever. Mabel’s gain was 25 years of constant pain. For Mabel, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about Mabel, but it’s all about Jesus.

May we long to live such glorious lives by remaining in Christ always. God will surely empower those who long for such glorious lives as we usher in the season to remember our Savior’s birth. Amen.

1 Fanny Crossby:

2 Mabel: