Saturday, February 22, 2014

True Love Waits - Is It Biblical?

Introduction


It took more than a decade since this term was coined. As far as I remember, though, the song entitled ”This Promise I Made” (subtitled “True Love Waits”) by CSM popularized it:

I will not break this promise I made
I will not take this treasure and throw it away
I will not break my future dreams for pleasures made of clay
For roses fade but love, but love is true
True Love Waits

TLW actually started as “an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW was created in April, 1993 by the Southern Baptists, and is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. It is based on conservative Christian views of human sexuality that require one to be faithful to one's husband or wife, even before marriage. ” [1] That’s how it began.

Nevertheless, my main agenda here is not historical but biblical.  Where do we find “True Love Waits” in the Bible? That’s what this essay is all about.

Definition of TLW


But first thing first. What do we mean by “True Love Waits”? Let’s start this with a negative definition.


1.    TLW does not just mean waiting for the right time to have sexual intercourse.


Let me clarify this.  The original TLW group has a pledge that goes this way: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship." [2].


In other words, the classic TLW simply means “No to premarital sex”. But don’t get me wrong. That principle is absolutely biblical:

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
This verse implies that sex outside of marriage is sexually immoral. And we have several verses condemning sexual immorality:  Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7.[3]

So TLW certainly encompasses refraining from sex until marriage. However, we will argue that the biblical TLW is more than just waiting for marital sex.  TLW involves refraining from all premature romanticizing thoughts, emotions and actions until the right time.  The rationale behind the wider definition is because the waiting part in biblical romance is not just sexual, although that certainly is included. Coz if it’s just waiting for sex, this gives a license to the playboys out there who enjoy winning the hearts of girls out of self-satisfaction.


2.    TLW does not mean you should always wait for a specific person.


1 Corinthians 13 says that true love “is patient” and that “it rejoices with the truth.” True Love is not presumptuous. It seeks the will of God. Christ Himself taught us to pray “Thy will be done”. David said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) It is therefore too presumptuous to say that it is God’s will for you to wait for the day that you will court or marry a certain person.  More often than not, God wants us to live by faith in our love life, entrusting unto Him the uncertain. As Jaci Velasquez says, “Waiting for the day when I hear you say, here’s the one I have created just for you.” [4]


3.    TLW does not mean we have to wait passively.


We should not just lie in wait and do nothing like when we’re waiting for the train. Waiting for the right time to love means actively preparing for it. So we’re saying that True Love Waits because there are a lot of things that you should do right now before you can apply true love in the right context, that is, a marriage-oriented relationship. As we will see later, the biblical eros love will always be pointing towards marriage.


And when you’re already prepared, do not expect God to appear on your dream and say “Do you see the blond woman who walks by the door? That’s your destined partner.” God doesn’t act that way. As Dobson says,  

“I do not believe that God performs a routine matchmaking service for everyone who worships Him. He has given us judgment, common sense and discretionary powers, and He expects us to exercise these abilities in matters matrimonial.”[5]

So now, if TLW is neither a passive, presumptuous waiting nor being merely sexual abstinent, what is it?


TLW means actively waiting for the appropriate time to pursue a pure, godly, marriage-oriented relationship with the opposite sex.


With this definition, marriage is the goal of every romantic step we take. Exclusive dating, holding each other’s hands, and the like are therefore part of what we should wait for. For boys it means not asking the girl out until you both are “marriable”, that is, until there is a possibility of marriage. For girls, it means not entertaining any guy who is trying to woo your heart if he cannot yet marry you or at least until he is near at possibly marrying you.


Now, since we’ve properly defined TLW. Let’s try to establish its biblical support. It has been questioned many times and, to be honest, it is not easy to defend. This is because there is no single explicit verse for it. Again, let me say it: we don’t have any verse that explicitly teaches the principle of TLW. But we can still induce the principle from some biblical support.


Biblical Support for TLW

1. God has designed romance to be ultimately realized in marriage.


The whole tenor of the Bible speaks of romance (or eros love) as a good thing only when honored inside marriage. On the other hand, romance outside of marriage is often (if not always) condemned. Adam and Eve, the first couple, “held fast” to each other in marriage (Gen. 2:24, 25). Isaac, through his father’s servant, looked for Rebekah to be his wife. Jacob actively waited for Rachel to be his wife, not just girlfriend. The whole love book of the Bible (Songs of Solomon) is written in the context of marriage (4:8, 9, 10; 5:1). Even God himself often illustrated His love for his people as a Bridegroom to his bride (Jer. 2:2). Jesus calls us, the Church, his bride (Eph. 5; Rev. 19:7). Marriage is the sole romantic relationship which the Bible endorses so obviously.


The only premarital relationship that we see is actually betrothal (like in the case of Joseph and Mary). This is, however, cultural and is not an imperative pattern for Christians. We are not commanded to be betrothed. Same goes with dating and courtship. Proponents of either dating or courtship should acknowledge that their method will never be found in the Bible. But what I want you to understand is that even the Jewish betrothal points to marriage. In fact, in the Mosaic covenant, a man who lies with a betrothed woman is considered an adulterer and is to be put to death. (Deut. 22:23-27) On top of that, so marriage-oriented is the Old Testament that an Israelite man who violated an unmarried woman ought to marry her! (Deut. 22:28-30; Ex. 22:16)

The point that I’m making here is that if ever there is a romance that God wants His children to pursue, it is the kind of romance that intends to and is able to get married. If you do not possess both the intent and the ability to get married, it’s not for you yet. You wait.

Rick Holland stated it this way,


“Premarital relationships should serve one purpose:  to test the relationship for marriage.  Let me say it another way: There is no good reason to have a girlfriend or boyfriend until a person is ready to get married!  I hope the implications of this statement are obvious.  Readiness involves being old enough and mature enough to assume the responsibilities of marriage.  No romantic relationship should ever begin unless marriage is the possible - even probable outcome.  That said, it is difficult to justify the romances of junior high and high school.  If one is not ready to get married, he or she is not ready to date or court.”


2. The seasons of life are designed by our sovereign God.


“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1) One of the things we ought to remember is that waiting is not an alien idea to us. It’s a human thing. It even appears that every creature is designed with the nature to wait. We, humans, wait for “the time to plant and the time to reap” (3:2b) We wait for a lot of things. By morning we toil and wait for the night to rest. By evening we sleep and wait for the morning to come. Whether we’re studying or working, conducting ministry or just at home, we wait for certain schedules. Same goes with love. In fact, you don’t have to teach a 5-year old kid that true love waits because his nature itself is waiting to first grow. Why is it then that when it comes to romance, so many young people can’t seem to wait at all? The answers may be several.


One reason is that our generation idolizes romance. We live in a time where all forms of media sensationalize love for the opposite sex. TVs, radios, books, magazines and the Internet. All are filled with various, deceitful, worldly perspectives about eros love. While the bible says that love is a willful commitment to give your life to someone, the world says love is a feeling that you “fall into” possibly with just one sight. And, therefore, the sin within us goes against the seasons that God has designed for us to enjoy. It defies marriage and it hates waiting. It wants freedom to do whatever it wants right now.


Another reason is that our generation is accustomed to the instant. Instant foods, instant transportation, instant information and many automated human systems enabled through technology. On one hand, this is to our advantage and gives us ease. On the other hand, we’ve lost the virtue of waiting and patience. But true “love is patient”. (1 Cor. 13:14) We should not treat eros love like an instant noodle that you could grab any time you want. One good example is Jacob’s 14-year waiting for Rachel. Love is patient, therefore, it waits.


And, thirdly, we hate waiting because we distrust God’s sovereignty. In our unbelief, we worry whether we might miss out. In our pride, we want to take control and do things “our” way. Yet  the Bible is plain that God is sovereign over all things.


 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chron 29:11)


“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps. 103:19)


“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)


In reality, every passage of the Bible that declares “God is sovereign” ought to make us say that “I trust Him, even in my love life”. Every verse in the Bible that teaches God’s sovereignty supports the principle of TLW.


3. Inappropriate romance endangers brotherly love.


“Treat... younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Tim. 4:1,2) It was Timothy who was instructed by Paul in this passage. He was saying that Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus that time, should treat his members as family. Older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters. We should note, however, that Paul added “with all purity” after mentioning “the younger women”. The reason is obvious: men who deal with young women has this tendency to be captivated by lust or by charm. If Timothy is therefore warned, how much more with us?

This verse is not in any way directly teaching us to wait. However, if “not having absolute purity” includes “untimely romance”, this verse is supporting it.

To put it simply, absolute purity could include these:


absolute purity = {“gentleness”, “no malice”, “no adultery”, “no sexual immorality”, “honoring marriage”, “timely romance”, “no infatuation”, “no flirting/hinting”}


If that’s what absolute purity means then the verse could be telling us that we ought to view each other as brothers and sisters without the infatuating, the flirting and the untimely romance which are common among young people. It’s like saying “You are not treating a woman as a sister if you are developing a romantic relationship with her while you are not yet ready to get married.” Let me say it in another way,  “If you have no intention of marrying a Christian man/woman, don’t express and expect romance in your relationship with him/her. Treat him/her as a brother/sister.”


Conclusion


“True Love Waits” is a biblical principle that honors marriage, God’s sovereignty and brotherly love. Regardless of the method you use in finding the right one, waiting for God’s perfect time is God’s will for all of us. And, in ways that could differ among us,

“When God knows you're ready for the responsibility of commitment, He'll reveal the right person under the right circumstances.”[6] 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

2.    ibid.
4.    This is from her song entitled "I Promise"
5.  Dr. James Dobson, Head over Heels, p.40
6.  Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye



Monday, September 23, 2013

Francis Chan on The Movie of Life

"Suppose you are an extra in an upcoming movie. You will probably scrutinize that one scene where hundreds of people are milling around, just waiting for that two-fifths of a second when you can see the back of your head. Maybe your mom and your closest friend get excited about that two-fifths of a second with you ... maybe. But no one else will realize it is you. Even if you tell them, they won't care.

Let's take it a step further. What if you rent out the theater on opening night and invite all your friends and family to come see the new movie about you? People will say, "You're an idiot! How could you think this movie is about you?"

Many Christians are even more delusional than the person I've been describing. So many of us think and live like the movie of life is all about us.

Now consider the movie of life.

God creates the world. (Were you alive then? Was God talking to you when He proclaimed "It is good" about all He had just made?)

Then people rebel against God (who, if you haven't realized it yet, is the main character in this movie), and God floods the earth to rid it of the mess people made of it.

Several generations later, God singles out a ninety-nine-year-old man called Abram and makes him the father of a nation (did you have anything to do with this?).

Later, along come Joseph and Moses and many other ordinary and inadequate people that the movie is also not about. God is the one who picks them and directs them and works miracles through them.

In the next scene, God sends judges and prophets to His nation because the people can't seem to give Him the one thing He asks of them (obedience).

And then, the climax: The Son of God is born among the people whom God still somehow loves. While in this world, the Son teaches His followers what true love looks like. Then the Son of God dies and is resurrected and goes back up to be with God.

And even though the movie isn't quite finished yet, we know what the last scene holds. It's the scene I already described in chapter 1: the throne room of God [see Revelation 4]. Here every being worships God who sits on the throne, for He alone is worthy to be praised.

From start to finish, this movie is obviously about God. He is the main character. How is it possible that we live as though it is about us? Our scenes in the movie, our brief lives, fall somewhere between the time Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts) and when we will all worship God on His throne in heaven (Revelation).

We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don't know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." That is what each of our two-fifths of a second is about.

So what does that mean for you?

Frankly, you need to get over yourself. It might sound harsh, but that's seriously what it means.

Maybe life's pretty good for you right now. God has given you this good stuff so that you can show the world a person who enjoys blessings, but who is still totally obsessed with God.

Or maybe life is tough right now, and everything feels like a struggle. God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great and that knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard. Like the psalmist who wrote, "I saw the prosperity of the wicked Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure....

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God" (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16--17). It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of our lives compared to others'. But in the presence of God, He gives us a deeper peace and joy that transcends it all.

To be brutally honest, it doesn't really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring Him glory--whether eating a sandwich on a lunch break, drinking coffee at 12:04 a.m. so you can stay awake to study, or watching your four-month-old take a nap.

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift."

~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lead Her to the Lord

So I made this simple rap about singleness, love and courtship. The scenarios are mere fictional. 
Btw, sorry if I couldn't sing it. XD

I.
Still young, sixteen and into schooling
You met a gorgeous gal in your cellgroup gathering
She looked so passionate digging the word and
She seemed fond of you so the friendship began

In the course of time the closeness sparked
Suddenly you had butterflies in the stomach
But you better think twice and you better act wise
Is she to you a sister or the future wife?

If the latter then brother something's not right
Check your Bible verse 2 of First Timothy Five
Purity in all things is a Christian man's task
Don't ask a girl out if till death you can't part
Lead her to the Lord who owns her heart

Hook 1:
It's not the right time so surrender her in prayer
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Be a man and shun being premature lovers
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Let her now just see you as a spiritual brother
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
But lead her to the One who's always ready to love her
Lead her to the Lord who loves her most

II.
Now you're of the right age and you're earning your wage
Been praying for a girl, a pious churchmate
And you wanna know if she feels the same way
Don't rely on mere feelings, do it the Lord's way

First check your heart if love's being an idol
Then seek godly counsel, consult your pastor
Your parents, your elders, your Christian friends
Lastly, meet her parents, tell them your intent

If they've uttered approval you may now start
To go tell her the God-centered courtship you want
And be still trusting Him if she isn't ms. right
But if to courtship she clicked a big like
Lead her to the Lord who owns her heart

Hook 2:
It is the right time but not to be ungodly
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Be a man and shun bypassing authorities
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Let the whole world see that true love is patient
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
And lead her to the Lord as you show what love is
Lead her to the Lord as you woo her heart

III.
Now the boy met girl and it's courtship time
Don't you ever think now that the guarding is done
Compromise invites as intimacy grows
So be wise and despise always being alone

And plan your dates well like it's your wedding day
Read books, heed advices, perseveringly pray
Don't let your love life interfere with ministry
Let it be ministry, let the church oversee

Your love story, may it ever inspire
All the people who see you together in love
May you know your limits and protect her from yourself
And when you're all alone in a room that's dark
Lead her to the Lord by going out

Hook 3:
It is a great time to display God's glory
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Be a man and shun a worldly love story
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
More than for you, let her fall for the Lord
(Lead her to the Lord, point her to the Lord)
Only then can you love her the most in this world
Lead her to the Lord with all your heart

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Desire to Fall (My New-Year Meditation)

For the past two years I've nurtured ambitious desires within me. All are intrinsically amoral. All can be means to glorify God. But it is impossible to fulfill them all simultaneously. And there the conflict lies.

A part of me wants to be a Christian mangaka. I was dreaming of the birth of "Soterioon" manga, aiming to make it as theologically symbolic as Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress yet as graphically good as the manga I read and the anime I watch. But I'm just a novice. I need time to hone my drawing and writing skills.

A part of me wants to be a successful programmer. I'll be happy if this would be my lifetime profession (I was really happy when programming became my job). But there are many languages, systems and frameworks yet to learn. I need time to read, practice and get more geeky.

Silently, a part of me wants to know who my godsend really is, the girl God has prepared to be my lifetime partner. Silently, a part of me longs to be freed from a nine-year illness and the sorrow it produces deep inside of me. Who would dare disagree that it takes time to do these?

A great part of me wants to pursue biblical and theological studies, and be an exceptional (lay) theologian. It was actually one of the reasons why I collect books and join theological fora. I want to know more about the Being who shaped this world and saved my soul. I want to see him more by faith. But though I have the resources I need, it requires time to have in-depth studies.

Still a greater part of me seeks to be a youth shepherd. Yet tending a flock requires time. Time not only to attend to their needs but also to really become a part of their lives. It's hard. Harder than the aforementioned desires. Especially because of my weird personality.

So I wrestled with Time with all my might. I didn't mind sacrificing my health. I knew I have to win this bout.

Unfortunately, I was losing. From time to time I found myself sacrificing one desire for another. I was trying to make the losses minimal (at least that's what I thought). Until my eyes were opened and my heart was broken when the sheep cried in despair, showing me how much I sacrificed them. I have no one to blame but myself. I felt like I betrayed the people I love most. But more than that, the thought of failing my Master tore me to pieces. I was so wrong. I realized that I can't win against Time... because Time is not my enemy in the first place. The sinful Self is.

If it has been the Lord's will, I could have done all those things simultaneously. If it has been the Lord's will, conflicts would not occur. But I followed the Self. And the sinful Self is cunning. It is impatient and seeks gratification under the guise of "good desire". It does not seek the heart of God. It forgets priorities and justifies self-seeking. It must be mortified.

As the new year dawned one verse kept ringing through my mind:
"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24)
The word "unless" reminds us that this is not optional. It was the only way for Christ to save us all. Likewise, it is the only way for us to be fruitful in His vineyard. To not mind the worries of life. To forget the self for the good of others. To be more serious in discipleship. To give our lives away.

This new year I welcome all good desires to bloom within (including the ones I mentioned above). But only insofar as they will be subservient to this one great desire: to give myself wholly to following His will and serving others unto death. To fall to the ground and die. Just like the Lord Jesus. It will be painful. It will take sacrifices. But it's the only way to bear fruit. Spirit-produced fruits. Fruits with eternal value. The only kind of fruit a discipler would want. The only kind of fruit a disciple of the Lord must seek.

May the Lord enable me to do so.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Should Christians Observe Christmas?


I  don't believe that Christ was born on December 25. But I do celebrate Christmas and I don't find anything wrong with that. Don Fotner can answer why:

"Without fail, at this time every year, I receive numerous letters, pamphlets, and tracts denouncing the evils of Christmas as a pagan religious holiday. I fully agree that no believer should ever observe pagan religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. We must never incorporate pagan customs into the worship of our God.


We must not observe any religious holiday. We should attach no spiritual, religious significance to any day. Yet, we do not need to act like super-pious religious idiots over a day that has absolutely no religious significance. I would never teach a child that such a thing as Santa Claus exist, or that Christ was born on Christmas day. But, as Paul said concerning idols, Santa Claus is nothing and Christmas is nothing.


Did you know that every DAY of the week, every PLANET in the universe, and many of the CARS we drive are named after pagan gods? Yet, we still call Sunday Sunday, Mars Mars, and a Saturn a Saturn. No one would ever dream of calling us pagans for doing so. We worship our God on Sunday, and would laugh at anyone who suggested that we observe the pagan Roman holiday called "Sun's Day" in doing so. If your car is a Saturn, use it for the glory of God; and laugh at anyone who thinks that you are worshiping the Roman god of agriculture by driving it.


We must not, and I trust do not, worship Christmas trees and lights, or even attach spiritual significance to Christmas day. However, I do suggest that we seize this opportunity afforded us by Divine providence to tell people who Christ is, why he came into this world, what he did, and how they may obtain his salvation. It is no accident that once every year every human being in the world is confronted with the fact that the Son of God assumed human flesh and came into the world to save men.


Certainly, no one can think that it is wrong for believers, during this season of the year, to express thanks and praise to God for his unspeakable gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is never wrong, but always right to think of him, speak of him, and sing his praise. Rather than not singing Watts' grand old hymn, Joy To The World, we ought to sing it year round.


While I loathe the religiosity of this holiday season, the silly plays, the idolatrous pictures and representations of Christ and the angels of God, and pretense of spirituality by people who have no interest in the glory of God, I am delighted for this season of the year (for any season) that brings families together, encourages kindness and good will, and promotes thoughtfulness of and generosity to others. It is perfectly all right to exchange gifts with and send cards to family and friends. (I cannot imagine a reason for anyone objecting to that!) But I suggest that each of us find a way to acknowledge and do something special for someone from whom we expect nothing, maybe even from someone from whom we expect abuse. "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."


source:
http://www.gracegems.org/D/christmas.htm

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My First Journal Entry: Cross-centered Love and Sexual Purity


Just reminiscing the past while seeking to restore this long lost discipline of mine...


December 3, 2007
After waking up, I felt like everything’s alright since I sensed the peace I have long lost before. I believed that if I only remain prayerful and mindful of Him, this feeling will not depart from my breast. And its not that this expectation failed but that God has shown me that He wants this heart of mine to be thoroughly pure before Him, as He peels its dirty layers of unrecognized sins.
Though hurrying for my Discrete Math Class at 8 o’clock a.m. and knowing that we’ll be having a quiz, I still managed not to be anxious about it and to 'take it to God in prayer'. After my arrival at school, our Professor postponed the quiz. Providence indeed! Then time quickly fled. I was happy knowing that tomorrow will be our University Meet, which implies that there’ll be no classes!
After that subject class, I was informed that our teacher for our next class was not around. I therefore must again wait for my next class, that is, 1 at the afternoon. I decided to continue reading the book (Boy Meets Girl, by Joshua Harris) which I’ve almost finished for only few days. Books written by this man greatly affect me, and I guess this book is what thrilled me the most! When I was 16, I’ve read his book ‘Not Even a Hint’, ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ on my 17, and now that I’m 18, I’m about to finish the book, which my spiritual parents actually discouraged for us to read (it seems untimely for them). In some sense they’re right, but God still used that ‘forbidden’ book for my sanctification.
I was on the third section of the book. That really ‘judged’ me and made me see how earthly still my thoughts are. All throughout my Christian life, my respect for this couple Joshua and Shannon Harris was so high, especially when it comes to romance and relationships. I often relate to Josh’s experiences and I often think that if I were to marry someday, I want to marry a ‘Shannon’ too. But not soon after reading the story of Shannon admitting to Joshua that she is no longer a virgin since fourteen. My initial reaction is actually dismay, NOT because of the essence of sin (lawlessness before a holy God) but my own unjust view of levels of sin. It is self-righteousness that first swallowed me up. I judged her as if I’m God. And now I’ve been thinking what would be my reaction if I were in the position of Josh. Would I be as quick as him to see the reality of sin in view of the cross? I admit, ‘No’. Would my attitude and view of her change? The truth is ‘Yes’. It seemed to me a thing still so unfair though she was still an unbeliever during those times! ‘Why?’ I asked myself. And justified my reaction, ‘Because she has been long dishonest’. ‘Really, that’s the very reason? Why do you want him to be honest about that?’ says my conscience. Then, I came to the point of viewing myself worse than ever before because inside me virginity greatly mattered, especially with women. But I just have made up my own ‘holy laws’ that contradict the very laws of God. ‘The Lord looks at the heart’ says the Bible, but I look at performances [as though virginity's the sole basis of  purity]. I valued the marriage bed so high that I’ve forgotten that even I am not worthy of ANY pleasure, and that I, by myself, am unable to resist sin! My judgment is earthly. Then, I began thinking what if the girl I presently admire and whom I’m seeing as a potential wife became my wife in the future and admitted the same sin the moment we’re about to have our honeymoon. Would I comfort her or despise her? Or, what if it is God’s will for me to marry a plain wife? Would I grieve and rebel? I prayed, therefore, and admitted that I can’t be sure I’ll be as wise as Josh if those instances occur. Yet it made me realize of the necessity of renewing my thoughts, and made me plan things to appropriate His grace both for myself and for others. I started considering who I am NOW in view of the reality of sin and sanctification. I thought about my growth and the unseen hindrances on this particular area. This is the start of this journal. And I hope I would continue writing and find someone who will be accountable to me concerning these struggles. ‘I am earthly’. And I thank my Lord for the cross, which already paid the consequences of my sins, and destroyed their reigning power over my life. And whether or not I’ll find a precious Shannon, I WANT to be content and rejoice with what God will give me… for my good, and CHIEFLY for His glory. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fellow Methodists, Original Sin is Your 'Original' Doctrine, NOT Pelagianism

Theopedia describes Original Sin and Pelagianism this way:
Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind's first parents to the revealed will of God. In the Bible, the first human transgression of God's command is described as the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden resulting in what theology calls the Fall of mankind. The doctrine of original sin holds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall such that all of humanity is ethically debilitated, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.
Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

Just recently, a controversy arose among our Southern Baptist brothers, of which a serious issue involves Original Sin. But the same rising danger is not foreign to The United Methodist Church. Just few months ago, I also heard from a lecture of a former bishop of UMC an explicit denial of the doctrine of Original Sin. He even claimed that Methodists do not believe it. It appears to me that some Methodist pastors (and laymen) whose theology is influenced by liberalism trade Original Sin with the old heresy of Pelagianism (or with some modifications of it).

Whether that former bishop was just oblivious, historically ignorant or intentionally lying, I do not know. All I know is that Original Sin is very Methodistic, very Protestant, very historically accepted by the church and very biblical.

I found this from the official website of The United Methodist Church [original source here]:
Does The United Methodist church believe that babies are born in sin?

Yes. We do believe that babies, at birth, are contaminated by sin. The ancient teaching of the church on this is called the doctrine of original sin.
 The Articles of Religion in our Book of Discipline state:
"Article VII - Of Original or Birth Sin
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of  Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually." 
The point here is that we do not choose ["Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam"] to follow the way of sin; indeed, we cannot help it without the grace of God. 
It means, as Romans 5 puts it (see all of chapter 5 which is about salvation) "as by one man's disobedience [Adam's] the many [meaning all who are born] were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience [Jesus] the many will be made righteous." This is Paul’s way of spelling out both the doctrine of sin and the doctrine of salvation.  Remember here, we are dealing with Paul's way of setting this up. Christ can redeem all because his faithfulness to God in perfect love and obedience matches and exceeds the disobedience of one man, Adam. 
The notion of original sin does not compute very well with the modern outlook. Most of the 20th century church tried to dance around it and then wondered why Jesus' saving work was hard to get serious about. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” says 1st John, vs. 8. 
The point is that we, from birth, need the grace of God available in Jesus Christ. We cannot hope in some tiny spark of goodness at our core that is always there to get us through. We are without merit or claim upon God on our own. This is a hard pill to swallow in our "enlightened" and modern perspective. On the other hand, what a gracious hope and gospel we proclaim and live if we simply accept the desperate need we are in from the beginning and the washing of water and the word in baptism where God claims us as God's own in union with Christ, dying to sin and living alive to God by the power of the Spirit.
Rev. Dan Benedict
Center for Worship Resourcing
General Board of Discipleship
This conforms with our Methodist fathers George Whitefield and John Wesley:
"[Y]ou must not only be convinced of your actual transgressions against the law of God, but likewise of the foundation of all your transgressions. And what is that? I mean original sin, that original corruption each of us brings into the world with us, which renders us liable to God's wrath and damnation. There are many poor souls that think themselves fine reasoners, yet they pretend to say there is no such thing as original sin; they will charge God with injustice in imputing Adam's sin to us; although we have got the mark of the beast and of the devil upon us, yet they tell us we are not born in sin. Let them look abroad into the world and see the disorders in it, and think, if they can, if this is the paradise in which God did put man. No! everything in the world is out of order. I have often thought, when I was abroad, that if there were no other argument to prove original sin, the rising of wolves and tigers against man, nay, the barking of a dog against us, is a proof of original sin. Tigers and lions durst not rise against us, if it were not for Adam's first sin; for when the creatures rise up against us, it is as much as to say, You have sinned against God, and we take up our Master's quarrel. If we look inwardly, we shall see enough of lusts, and man's temper contrary to the temper of God. There is pride, malice, and revenge, in all our hearts; and this temper cannot come from God; it comes from our first parent, Adam, who, after he fell from God, fell out of God into the devil. However, therefore, some people may deny this, yet when conviction comes, all carnal reasonings are battered down immediately and the poor soul begins to feel and see the fountain from which all the polluted streams do flow." (George Whitefield, on "The Method of Grace", emphasis mine)
"Hence we may...learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, "We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation." But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually?" [Gen.6:5] Allow this [original sin], and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still." (John Wesley on "Original Sin", emphasis mine)
So important is Original Sin to Wesley that he labeled anyone who denies it as 'heathen' (i.e., pagan or unChristian)!

Moreover, this teaching was strongly affirmed both by the Reformers and the Church Fathers
"Original Sin, then, may be defined as a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works   of   the   flesh.  This   corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term sin (Gal. 5:19); while the works which proceed from it, such as adultery, fornication, theft, hatred, murder, revellings he terms, in the same way, fruits of sin, though in various passages of scripture, they are also termed sins." (John Calvin)

"The original sin in a man is like his beard, which, though shaved off today so that   a   man is very smooth around his mouth, yet grows again by tomorrow morning. As long as a man lives, such growth of hair and beard does not stop. But when the shovel slaps the ground on his grave, it stops. In just this way, original sin remains in us and exercises itself as long as we live, but we must resist it and always be cutting off its hair." (Martin Luther)

"The so-called innocence of children is more a matter of weakness of limb, than purity of heart." (Augustine of Hippo)

"Adam, the first man, altered his course, and through sin death came into the world....When Adam transgressed, sin reached out to all men." (Athanasius)

The heresy of Pelagianism refuses to die but the Church should be careful not to buy it, lest we be apostasized. May this post serve as a warning to my fellow Methodists as well as my fellow Protestant-Evangelicals. And may those Methodists who have been swayed by Pelagianism see that Original Sin is their "original" doctrine.