Friday, October 31, 2014

My overloaded inbox

Graphically speaking, my Outlook Inbox looks like this today. It is so full and brimming over the screen so much that I had to stay back at work to clear them all, on a Friday no less.

I managed to do that except for a large group of emails sent by a new staff of mine who has just been transferred to my team. He is an excellent worker, I'm so glad to have him.

And now, both of us need to sit down and talk about a better way than for him to send me a copy of every email he sends out.

Photo: Keith Williamson

Thursday, October 30, 2014

First day at work

Today is my son's first day at work under his school's Work Experience Programme. Students were given some options to choose from and my son chose one that is office-based that will allow him to try his hands on administrative work. Good for him!

He looked absolutely spiffy today but sorry I can't post pictures here because he won't allow it.

He spent the day in a three-hour meeting (already???!!!) and was asked to write something (wish I knew what; he won't tell me).

He felt it was a good first day of work, and I pray for many more good ones ahead to learn and experience what work is all about.

I did tell him to just enjoy it. Work is fun when you really enjoy what you do.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Evangelical women writers

I was introduced to a book written by a lady minister and I was very impressed with her scholarly writing and knowledge.

This got me to think of how very few good women writers there are in the evangelical circle. The few that I have read and was impressed with are only these three:

1. Elizabeth Achtemeier
2. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop
3. Nancy Pearcey

I also wondered of all the books I have read, whatever genre they may be, how many of them are by women writers.

It is a good thing I have all my books listed out in and I did a calculation and came up with just 27%. The remaining 73% are all by men authors. However, this is only counting from when I started to list and keep track of my books, which is roughly from year 2000.

But most of the books I've read that are by women writers are either in the genre of fiction or Christian living. I've only read Pearcey, referenced Achtemeier and currently reading Wynkoop.

And I must say I that the late Dr Mildred Bangs Wynkoop was an excellent writer. I have just started on her book, The Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology but what I have read so far is just brilliant!

And talking about women, I was just asked a question in one of my blog post recently on my stand on women in ministry, if I hold on to an egalitarian or complementary stand.

In my reply, I took the complementary one, but in truth, I haven't made much study into it to be 100% sure of my stand. And so I am going hold it for now and not make a decision until I am fully sure of what I am.

I thought I should hold on to the order of creation, but as I now think about it, I'm not so sure anymore.

I shall have to shelve the matter for now and address it later when time and energy permit.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Prince (Sons of Encouragement)

The Prince - Jonathan (Sons of Encouragement)
by Francine Rivers

I was right. The Prince is a good read. Any book that makes me weep is surely good and this one did, not a lot and only at the end, but it was good enough for me to give it a thumbs up.

I suppose in comparison to The Priest and The Warrior, the main characters here in The Prince--Jonathan, Saul and David--were very engaging and I felt like I was there with them.

But I also realise that I am more attracted to books and stories about people and their relationships.

Anyway, I just took a look at all the books I have been reading this year and I think at the end of the year I shall put it all out in one go for I certainly see my life journey through them throughout 2014.

I'm looking forward to it!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: The Priest & The Warrior (Sons of Encouragement)

The Priest - Aaron
The Warrior - Caleb
(Sons of Encouragement)

by Francine Rivers

I read Francine Rivers's Redeeming Love and Lineage of Grace and loved them so much that I also purchased her series of five books on the Sons of Encouragement.

I have read The Prophet (Aaron) some months ago and I have just finished reading The Warrior, which is on Caleb.

I wonder if it's just me but I didn't enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed the Lineage of Grace series especially the ones on Tamar, Rahab and Ruth.

Maybe I was already too familiar with the accounts of the exodus to find The Priest more than just a summary. And The Warrior was too much about wars and fighting to really engage me. In fact, Rivers's portrayal of the main characters were not as good as the ones she did with the ladies in the Lineage of Grace, at least in my opinion.

I'm now reading The Prince, the story of Jonathan, and so far I found it quite promising. Let's see how it will finally torn out.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

A good meet up day

Today was a good day. For one, I was able to catch up with a very dear sister in the Lord during lunch. She is serving in the church and will be moving on into pastoral ministry with another church in the coming months. We will then have even more to talk about and I look forward to our next catch up.

After lunch, I had the opportunity to arrange a meet up between my two Arminian mentors, and I was prepared to just sit and listen to them talk shop. These two gentlemen have a lot in common. Not only are they steep in their study of Scripture, Arminianism and apologetics, it was soon found out that they are both into chemistry as well! One a chemistry graduate and the other a chemistry professor no less. I'm not far from wrong when I said they're long lost brothers.

It was indeed a good day.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Being gracious to each other

We had our first bible study on TULIP in CG today, beginning with Total Depravity of which I manage to correct some common misunderstanding about Arminianism, particularly the one where they equate it with Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, and to state that Classical Arminians do not believe in self-salvation. And we do believe in Total Depravity, God's Sovereignty and grace but differently from Calvinists.

I am not a person who like to argue or debate but I have made it a point to read about both sides, and my next read will be Michael Horton's For Calvinism.

I only wish I am given the same respect as I believe I am giving. I like what this Calvinist say in Calvinists Sometimes Make the Worst Calvinists.

And of course I can say the same about Arminians, that Arminians sometimes make the worst Arminians.

We all need to be gracious to one another, as long as we both hold on to the Gospel of the cross of Christ.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mariah Carey - The Elusive Chanteuse

I was invited by a friend to Mariah Carey's concert today at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.

I was quite excited since this would be my first ever concert, but it was quite miserable. Oh, not Mariah, she gave quite a cool show but it was raining the whole two hours we were seated there.

It didn't matter we had VVIP second row tickets, the rain though not heavy was relentlessly pouring down on us. Though we were all clad in raincoats, they were thin and sticky; it was miserably chilly, damp and wet.

Mariah's show was alright. OK, I'm not a fan but it was still cool being able to go to a concert of a world-class performer. She does have a good voice and she does nice faultless perfect pitch rolls.

But I was just not in awe, like I was back in 2007 when I attended an awesome concert by The Trinity College Choir.

Or maybe it was just the rain.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Binging

I thought I have stopped book binging but here I go again, buying books just because I like having them. But I still think these are great buys as they make excellent reference, and both electronic mobile versions too. Excellent!

New International Version Archaeological Study Bible

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts


Monday, October 20, 2014

等 Wait by Danny Chan

I don't know many Chinese songs. At most, just two or three Cantonese songs and a couple of Mandarin ones.

But this by far, is my all-time favourite: the late Danny Chan's 等 or Wait.

I didn't quite understand fully what's being sung, but when I checked it out, it turned out to the saddest song ever.

But doesn't it sound good.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Total Depravity

We attended church service yesterday evening and spent the day today resting and relaxing at home--it is different and I am not used to it.

Anyway, yesterday's sermon was on Total Depravity. As an Arminian, I could agree with most that was preached, especially on the parts where we as human are total depraved, there is nothing good in us.

But as much as we are in ourselves unable to receive the gift of life, God enables and persuades us to receive him through his prevenient grace. Calvinist will accuse us of work righteousness, but where is works in the decision of receiving of a gift? The glory still resides with the giver, not the receiver.

I was conversing with a Calvinist to find out his stand and find that in general, the Calvinists I know usually do not really know who we are as Arminians, in the classical sense, they do not know what we stand for, and they do not read or find out what we actually believe in. Most of what they say of us are wrong most of the time. Which is sad. I feel that they should at least find out exactly what we believe before "attacking" us, the worst in labeling us Semi-Pelagians, which we are not.

I have read this article written by Roger E. Olson some time ago:
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian
My Reformed friends sometimes treat me like the enemy, but actually we need each other.

Again I reiterate, we need to dialogue. We need to first study and read reliable sources of what we each are, sit down and discuss, not fight or argue or accuse.

There isn't a more comprehensive volume on Classical Arminianism than Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities.

I challenge you to read it--for Arminians or if you suspect you are one, you will get a deeper understanding of what you already know and correct some views as well. For Calvinists, you will at least know what we actually believe in.

Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities
by Roger E. Olson

The 10 myths that Olson interacts with are:

1. Arminian Theology is the Opposite of Calvinist/Reformed Theology.
In reality, Jacob Arminius and most of his faithful followers fall into the broad understanding of the Reformed tradition; the common ground between Arminianism and Calvinism is significant.

2. A Hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism is Possible.
In reality, in spite of common ground, Calvinism and Arminianism are incommensurable systems of Christian theology; on issues crucial to both there is no stable middle ground between them.

3. Arminianism is not an Orthodox Evangelical Option.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology heartily affirms the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy and promotes the hallmarks of evangelical Protestant faith; it is neither Arian
nor liberal.

4. The Heart of Arminianism is Belief in Free Will.
In reality, the true heart of Arminian theology is God's loving and just character; the formal principle of Arminianism is the universal will of God for salvation.

5. Arminian Theology denies the Sovereignty of God.
In reality, Classical Arminianism interprets God's sovereignty and providence differently than Calvinism without in any way denying them; God is in charge of everything without controlling everything.

6. Arminiansism is a Human-Centered Theology.
In reality, an optimistic anthropology is alien to true Arminianism, which is thoroughly God-centered. Arminian theology confesses human depravity, including bondage of the will.

7. Arminianism is not a theology of Grace.
In reality, the material principle of classical Arminian thought is prevenient grace. All of salvation is wholly and entirely of God's grace.

8. Arminians do not believe in Predestination.
In reality, predestination is a biblical concept that classical Arminians accept, though they interpret it differently than Calvinists. Predestination is God's sovereign decree to elect believers inJesus Christ, and it includes God's foreknowledge
of those believers' faith.

9. Arminian theology denies justification by Grace alone through faith alone.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology is a Reformation theology. It embraces divine imputation of righteousness by God's grace through faith alone and preserves the distinction between justification and sanctification.

10. All Arminians believe in the governmental theory of the atonement.
In reality, there is no one Arminian doctrine of Christ's atonement. Many Arminians accept the penal substitution theory enthusiastically, but others prefer the governmental theory.


Update 3/11/2014: I now need to review my thoughts on Total Depravity. I found myself nodding my head during this sermon and subsequently in CG during the bible study on the same subject. And yet, I'm now convinced that the Calvinist and Arminian understanding of Total Depravity is different. I need to mull more on it to know exactly how it is different, so I will not think about the Calvinist's Total Depravity in the Arminian way.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Restoran Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee

My son is a picky eater. He does not like Chinese food that much other than a few exceptions. So when he pestered me to go for Chilli Pan Mee, I went along and brought him to Restoran Kin Kin, the originator I believe of this absolutely delicious Chinese noodle dish.

The originator of the Chili Pan Mee.

The uncle who manages the restaurants. His other two sons are now overseeing two other branches.

What's missing here is the dried chili paste. Mixed it all up and it will look like a plate of spaghetti.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

I finally tried to make Vietnamese Egg Coffee and it wasn't half bad! I'm quite happy with the results. I made it during CG supper time today and it was quite well received.

This was how it turned out. The only thing I was not happy with was that I was not able to get the egg beaten well enough. It was not as frothy as I would like it.

This was my first Egg Coffee in Pho Co Cafe, Hanoi in year 2012. It was good, but the arduous climb up the stairs to the roof--at certain spots even rickety, dark and dank--kind of took the fun out of it.

Then I made my way to Giang Cafe, Hanoi. This was a much better experience and the coffee was much better.

I sure wish I were back in Hanoi to taste the authentic Giang Cafe Egg Coffee, but what I had made myself in CG this evening was good enough.

I shall certainly try it again.

Here's the recipe if you would like to give it a try. I've adapted it from Legal Nomads.

Vietnamese Egg Coffee
(Cà Phê Trứng)

1 egg
3 teaspoons of Vietnamese coffee powder or brewed Vietnamese coffee
2 teaspoons of sweetened condensed milk
Boiling water

1. Brew a small cup of Vietnamese coffee.
2. Crack an egg and discard the whites. Put the yolk and the sweetened condensed milk in a small, deep bowl and whisk vigorously until you end up with a frothy, fluffy mixture.
3. Add a tablespoon of the brewed coffee and whisk it in.
4. In a clear coffee cup, pour in your brewed coffee, then add the fluffy egg mixture on top.
5. Pour hot boiling water in a small bowl and place the cup of coffee in it. This will keep your cuppa piping hot as you enjoy it sip by sip.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Classic Christianity by Thomas C. Oden

A Systematic Theology, Classic Christianity
by Thomas C. Oden

In my preparation to equip myself with systematic theology, Noel recommended me this book that I just purchased.

I need to read sections pertaining to "Sin", "Election and Reprobation", "The Atonement", "Regeneration" and "The Perseverance of the Saints" (Chapter 24, 32, 27, 34 and 40 respectively in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology). I have not checked them all yet, but I could not find any sections relating to "Original Sin" in Oden's Classic Christianity. He has a section on "Sin and Evil in the Light of Providence". That must be it.

I have a feeling I will find it difficult to find the rest as well.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Forsaken

The peace which others seek they find;
The heaviest storms not longest last;
Heaven grants even to the guiltiest mind
An amnesty for what is past;
When will my sentence be reversed?
I only pray to know the worst;
And wish as if my heart would burst.

O weary struggle! silent years
Tell seemingly no doubtful tale;
And yet they leave it short, and fears
And hopes are strong and will prevail.
My calmest faith escapes not pain;
And, feeling that the hope is vain,
I think that he will come again.

by William Wordsworth


Monday, October 13, 2014

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy

When I was reading my devotional on Isaiah 8 today, verse 12 particularly caught my attention:

11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.

This is because I hear a lot of comments and opinions around me, and I am reminded to be critical and be conscious to what I hear, and not to agree so readily. In general, I think am quite steadfast and seasoned in my thinking and response, but nevertheless I still feel I must listen to these words of the prophet.

His usage of the word "conspiracy" made an impression in me. I am usually readily available to listen to disagreements and comments, but here is a warning to not call conspiracy all that others call conspiracy. Do not be caught up with the thoughts of the world, but be filled with the Spirit and be reminded of the Word of God and be open to the prompting of the Spirit.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Creeds in Churches

The sermon this morning was pretty interesting - it has to do with the Christian creeds, and the material that was handed out was printed with The Apostles' Creed, which is unusual for a Baptist church.*

From what I know, Baptists are a non-creedal denomination. And this is what I read from Wikipedia:
Many evangelical Protestants...reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists have been non-creedal "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another". While many Baptists are not opposed to the ancient creeds, they regard them as "not so final that they cannot be revised and re-expressed. At best, creeds have a penultimacy about them and, of themselves, could never be the basis of Christian fellowship". Moreover, Baptist "confessions of faith" have often had a clause such as this from the First London (Particular) Baptist Confession (Revised edition, 1646): Also we confess that we now know but in part and that are ignorant of many things which we desire to and seek to know: and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them.
Pastor Marvin did mention that as much as creeds are not used in our services, it does contain the barest minimum of doctrine and statement of faith of a Christian, and to that I agree.

I felt really nostalgic reciting The Apostles' Creed, as prompted by Pastor in midst of his sermon, though it did not have the "right feel" because we read it, rather than chant as it is done in services that commonly have readings. But it was still good.

* Note: I am a Methodist currently attending a Baptist Church ;)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

PBC's Inaugural Saturday Service

Pantai Baptist Church had its first Saturday service today at 5pm.

I was serving in the worship team and it was a wonderful time of worship. The sanctuary was almost full. Some people may have just came to support the inaugural Saturday service but I certainly hope there will be almost as full in the following weeks.

I used to be quite conservative and felt that church services should always be held on a Sunday. I felt that we should not treat church as a convenience but to offer every Sunday in specific service to God.

But I have since changed my mind. I still say that it should not be a convenience, because the fact that we come together as a church to worship God is a command, and we who love him obey him willingly. But now I see that there are some of us who may not be able to attend service at all due to them having to work on Sundays and there are those who are always busy attending to their ministry in church on Sundays.

Either that or I am just becoming more flexible.


Friday, October 10, 2014

CG Late Nights

Our CG members are mostly night owls. We used to start quite late because a few of us are always late but recently we decided start on time regardless. But even that, we still stretch the meeting till very late.

Like what happened this evening, we started on time even though there just the few of us. And after CG, during supper, we have so much fun connecting and chatting, that we overdid it. We were chatting and chatting and chatting, and by the time I got home, it was already 1:30 in the morning.

But I had a good time.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

I'm not condemned but redeemed

I feel that I have been too hard on myself. I made a boo-boo today and as much as I readily admitted the mistake myself, I was quite angry at myself.

I also happened to learn about Transactional Analysis in the afternoon and I soon realized that I have used all my three ego states because of that event: first the Parent when I complained about the person whom I felt wronged me, then the Adult when I tried to find out from him what exactly happened and how to avoid it in the future, then I took the state of a Child when he responded to me as a Parent because I decided to walk away since I refuse to argue and carry on the never-ending conversation and finally I went back to the Adult state when I reported the event to the leader informing him about my mistake and seek for what the next step should be . I'm glad I closed with the Parent state and I was able to resolve the matter and have a good night sleep.

Indeed, I'm also reminded of Paul in Romans 8:1-6, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I find myself usually condemning myself whenever I do wrong or make a mistake. I am indeed my own worst enemy.

I'm in Christ and I live by his grace and mercy. I am redeemed and I am his child. Yes, in my weakness, I will still make mistakes but I am not condemned but redeemed.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The world is filled with His glory

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Aurora Leigh”


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

We are rancid stinking grapes

The LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah in 5:1-2 (ESV):
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
Ortlund explains this perfectly, ""In the prophet’s imaginative scenario, a man is cultivating a vineyard with every appropriate provision. He has a right to expect a good crop. But what comes of his efforts? “Wild grapes,” Isaiah says. Actually, the Hebrew word suggests stinking grapes. They are not merely wild, they are rancid."

Have you ever tasted rancid stinking food? Imagine God will even spit us out of his mouth when we are found lukewarm (Rev 3:15-16), what more that we are rancid and stinking.

From now on, whenever I think I am so great, so above it all, I will come back to these verses and remind myself without my King and Saviour Jesus's love, grace, justification, redemption and sanctification work on me, I am in reality all these: abhorrent, abominable, appalling, awful, disgusting, distasteful, dreadful, evil, foul, gross, hideous, horrendous, horrible, horrid, loathsome, nasty, nauseating, obnoxious, obscene, odious, offensive, repellent, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, scandalous, shocking, sickening, ugly.

In contrast, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

Source: 'Isaiah: God Saves Sinners' by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., R.Kent Hughes, General Editor

Monday, October 06, 2014

Oh! To be safely home

Safely Home
by Ron DiCianni

I cannot yet describe what and how I feel after reading Randy Alcorn's Safely Home. But this I know, I have not done much for the Lord. In the Chinese context, what I've done and what I am is not even a dot compared to what He has done for me, which is immensely huge as is his love and grace for all of us.

Worse than that, I am sinful and unworthy of Him.

This book has caused me to evaluate myself in a different way than ever before, and this one sentence from the book surmise it for now: "His “Christian life” had been like every other part of his life. It had always been about Ben Fielding," in that "it had always been about Pearlie Ng." And for that, Lord Jesus, I ask for your forgiveness.

If you have not read this book before, I encourage you to read it. It may just open your eyes a bit more, if not a lot more, to what and how we see life from where we are, and what awaits us when we are truly home, for those who will be home to meet the Lion and King Jesus face to face, when we finally leave the Shadowlands.

To God be the glory, He reigns forever and ever, and every knee shall now and every tongue confess that He is Lord.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Safely Home
by Randy Alcorn

I was looking for a good book to read over this long weekend, and I am so glad I have finally started on Randy Alcorn's novel, Safely Home, which won the Gold Medallion Book Award for evangelical literature.

I was a bit reluctant to read it as I was a bit disappointed with his book Heaven. That book started well, but as I trudged along, I found it very repetitive, thus making it hard to follow after awhile, as my mind keep shutting off reading the same phrases again and again and again.

But I am really looking to a good reading time with Safely Home, although I am sure I will end up sobbing and weeping buckets. I am already in tears when I was in Chapter 2!

Safely Home takes place in present-day China, and follows the story of two Harvard roommates, one American and one Chinese, who reunite decades after they graduate.

Alcorn wrote the novel based on actual events of the persecution of Christians in China, which is indeed very real and happening as we speak. He said, "While many things in this book have actually happened in one way or another, I have made up the story. Still, I have attempted to keep it authentic and true to life in as many details as possible. Nearly all my characters are fictitious. Some are composites of several real people."

The account is apparently so real that "a missionary...recently wrote: “Safely Home was very, very accurate.” She knows a Chinese woman who couldn’t read the book because it reminded her of close friends suffering persecution."

I was reading Chapter 2 where Li Quan was muttering "Is this the day I die?" while bundling up his eight-year-old son one Sunday at 2 in the morning onto the front of his bicycle, and he with his wife maneuvered the uneven path in the dark on their bicycles in order to get to a secret church to worship God and His Son, Jesus. They gathered quietly in the small house church in candlelight, reading a bible his mother had copied by hand for eight years, singing worship songs as softly as they can, and praying for strength in midst of suffering and pain.

When I was reading that chapter, I had to stop and ask for forgiveness for all my gripes and complaints in church most Sunday mornings: gripes about having no parking space for our car, air-conditioning too cold, songs I can't sing, announcements too draggy, too much sharing and sometimes sermons a bit too boring.

I feel embarrassed and ashamed. Who am I to grumble? Who am I to criticize? If not for the grace and mercy of my ever-faithful and forgiving God, I know I would have been struck down like Ananias and Sapphira, dead.

O God, I thank you for the privilege to come to you to worship you as freely as I can every Sunday. I ask you to forgive me of my foolishness and my self-centeredness. I pray for your people who risk their very lives every day, even at this very moment, as they profess and live their faith in you without fear. May these honorable saints be so strengthened and upheld by your holy presence, your comforting words and promptings, your saving grace and loving kindness. You are our sovereign God, whose mercy and love is unfailing. Jesus, you are Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

All my volumes on Calvinism, Arminianism, Predestination, Free Will and Foreknowledge

Chosen But Free
by Norman Geisler

It has taken me awhile, a little more than a month, but I have finally finished reading Chosen But Free is morning (disclaimer: although I have left out the long section of the appendices). It was a good read, though I may not agree on every detail, I agree with Geisler on most part, but still remain an Arminian. I would indeed recommend this to Calvinists, both moderate and extreme.

I have then purchased these two books, published in tandem by Zondervan (2011):

For Calvinism
by Michael Horton

Against Calvinism
by Roger E. Olson

I have not dived into them yet, as it will take some serious reading and will most probably take me two months, or more, to finish both the books. But I believe both will do well in holding the tension between Calvinism and Arminianism, after which I may re-read Olson's Arminian Theology. There is so much to learn, understand and remember.

Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities

On top of that, Noel just reminded that he has gotten me two books some time ago which I need to also read up on. Ah, another two more months, or more? So much to read, so little time.

Predestination & Free Will
Edited by David Basinger and Randall Basinger
Contributed by John Feinberg, Norman Geisler, Bruce Reichenbach and Clark Pinnock

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views
Edited by James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy
Contributed by Gregory A. Boyd, David Hunt, William Lane Craig and Paul Helm


Friday, October 03, 2014

The necessary tension between Calvinists and Arminians

In these recent days, I became quite attracted to books on Calvinism and Arminianism. I am now reading Norman Geisler's Chosen but Free and planning to purchase the combo 2-volume-in-1 For Calvinism by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson.

I think I know why. I just found out that Pastor Marvin will be preaching on a TULIP series soon.

(If you don't already know, I am an Classical Arminian and I do not agree to the Calvinist 5-point TULIP - Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.)

So maybe God has led me to these books to be prepared for the "onslaught", both in church where the sermons will be preached and CG where bible study week be held on the same topic. This could be so I will not be too surprised by what I hear, to know what to expect and how I would counter, albeit just in my own mind, and if necessary out loud in CG.

I also began to wonder why would God allow this to happen, i.e. to have such a stark contrast in both stance to exist and yet both sides professing to be faithful Christians, whom I believe we all are, as one body in Christ.

I am beginning to believe that God allows it because we actually need each other to keep ourselves in check. We are both kept in a tension so that neither side would go off at both ends.

When I shared this with Noel, my fellow Arminian brother, he agreed saying, "Yes, it is possible that Arminianism is the antidote to extreme Calvinism and Calvinism is the antidote to extreme Arminianism. So we must listen with respect to both sides of the argument."

Indeed we must, and I had better quickly catch up with my reading. It is taking me awhile to read Geisler's book and I want to take on Horton and Olson too! Oh dear.

And this is interesting: a Jacob Sweeney who is a Calvinist gave a review of Roger E. Olson's Against Calvinism and he said,
I think it goes without saying that I disagree with Olsen's conclusions about Calvinism. His book does not offer anything significantly new in the debate between these two systems. However, he does model gracious and understanding disagreement. Why does this matter? Because it rarely happens between Calvinists and Arminians. This is usually a high-tension "discussion" (read: argument). But, he manages it with fairness. At times it appears that he is using loaded terms to help his argument, but based on the work as a whole I don't think that's the case.

I think every Calvinist...needs to read this book. I should say, they need to read it and understand that someone can be an intelligent, committed Christian and not be a Calvinist. My generation of up-and-coming pastors and theologians needs to relax and learn how to have honest, frank and generous discussion with our brothers in Christ who disagree. Olson's book will help us accomplish that.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Humility, a most unnatural virtue

I was mulling on humility and thought of how unnatural it is for a human being to be humble. We are so tied to our own sense of esteem that any propensity to humility is either unheard of or is deemed fake.

Ortlund says in his Preaching the Word series on Isaiah, "The point is that our own brilliance and desire will be the death of us."

Oh how we need to be humble in all we are and all we do.

From my recent exchange with this one person, who exuded too much self-importance and judgement for me to handle, made me realise how much we need the humility of Christ, and to depend on His ultimate standards rather than on our own dismal and laughable human standards.

And yet humility is one tough virtue to have. I'm not sure we can even "practice" humility. Either you are humble or you are not.

I came across this blogpost by Maolsheachlann, who said, "the moral law [may be] inscribed on the human heart, but that is far from admitting that humankind is always or even usually successful at reading or following that law. And one virtue that is rare outside the ranks of Christians is humility--a studied, deliberate, principled humility...humility is the most "unnatural" of virtues, in a colloquial sense of the term "natural". When we look at pre-Christian societies, the unabashed boastfulness is perhaps the feature that offends us most of all. And in our increasingly post-Christian world, this seems to be returning." (source: Christian Humility)

I struggle a lot with humility and I always catch myself being too self-important. And when I find myself in that state, I will feel so bad and ashamed.

With my dealings with non-Christians who do not know the humility of Christ, I feel like it is a stark reminder to me that I am only feeling the way I am feeling because of the example of Christ. And how far from humility I will be without Christ.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:1-11)


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Our Worship Pretense

I read Isaiah 1:10-20 today and it was most striking. I'm not sure if people still talk about worship wars, but God is not so concerned about the way we worship but who and why we worship.

Ortlund says, "For our worship to be saved, it isn’t a matter of fine-tuning our outward performances. It’s a matter of repentance."

Now that I read these verses in Isaiah, I read it in new light and understanding, I read it in reference to myself and I read it against my pretense in worship.

Initially I still think about the old way of worship by the Israelites, which I obviously don't do. But now, I can relate it to the sins I commit when I come to worship God every Sunday.

"What offends God is hollowed-out worship." (Ortlund)

Listen to the Word of God through his prophet, first in ESV which is more (dynamically) literal, then NLT which is a bit more paraphrased and finally The Message which is most paraphrased.

Isaiah 1:10-20 ESV
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
"When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Isaiah 1:10-20 NLT
Listen to the LORD, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:10-20 MSG
“Listen to my Message, you Sodom-schooled leaders. Receive God’s revelation, you Gomorrah-schooled people. “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” GOD’S asking. “Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats? When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, Running here and there, doing this and that— all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is GOD ’s Message: “If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white. If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. If you’ll willingly obey, you’ll feast like kings. But if you’re willful and stubborn, you’ll die like dogs.” That’s right. GOD says so.

"Richard Lovelace reminds us that the grace of God is the only power that can free us from our hypocrisies". (Ortlund)