Friday, April 30, 2010

I am a Calwenist!


Yes, you've read the title rightly. I invented the term. It's a combination of being a "Calvinist" and an "Owenian". Next to the apostle Paul, The Theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) and The Prince of Puritans John Owen (1616-1683) are my most admired theologians. And they taught me two great lessons (among many) that I always want to remember as a Christian and as a theologian.

1. John Calvin's Zeal for the Glory of God

"It is not very sound theology to confine a man's thoughts to himself and not to let him [have] as the prime motive of his existence zeal for the glory of God. For we are born first of all for God and not for ourselves. For all things flow from him, and subsist in him, as Paul says in Romans 11:36. They ought to be related to Him." ~John Calvin
[click here for a short biography of Calvin]

My commentary:
Here Calvin displays beautifully who we are in contrast with who God is and what we do in contrast with what God does. The glory of God refers to the radiant manifestation of the whole panorama of the perfections of the Triune God. To say that all the creation exist for the glory of God or to glorify God means that we exist to display His perfect awesomeness! We are as if mere mirrors. We never try to (and never can) beautify God with any of our words or actions. We simply try to show who God is: the perfect embodiment of beauty! Likewise, what makes the mirror beautiful is not only when it becomes functional but also when it reflects a beautiful image. And these can only be done when we glorify God for He is our Creator and He is the Most Beautiful Object in the world. For example, God is glorified when we imitate His character. And since His character is praiseworthy, we also become praiseworthy. This implies that whenever we serve God, God is actually "serving" us. We get the benefits whenever his array of goodness strikes us. He remains eternally self-sufficient Being; we remain eternally supplicants of God.

I believe that this God-centered thinking will make us worship God the most because it exalts the worth of God the most! This is why the heart of Calvinism is Soli Deo Gloria (God's glory alone).

2. John Owen's Assiduity for Communion with God

"When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth, -when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us, -when not the sense of the truth only are in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts -when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for -then we shall be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men." ~John Owen

My commentary:
Here Owen wonderfully stressed the significance of being a theologian in mind and in heart. In my pursuit of glorifying God, I found this truth so valuable: that we cannot rightly glorify God either by increasing our knowledge of the scriptures or by defending the scriptures or by any ministry God entrusted to us unless our hearts are right before God. And they cannot be constantly right unless we have a constant communion with God in His word, prayer and meditation. It is only when we have tasted in our inner being the sweetness of the truths of God that we will be able and willing to maximize our potential in response to those truths. We should also note that Owen found his refuge in communion with God ("we shall be garrisoned by the grace of God") so that though we are frail and finite we will not lose heart in all we do. And, so, communion with God is both his sword and shield. This truth makes theology devotional and our devotion theological.

I believe that Christians in pursuit of either theology or spirituality must maintain the significance of this truth. Christianity is neither just a list of how-to's nor of bare facts, it is communing with the Triune God.

3. Calwenism
When these two principles begin to fill our souls --glorifying God while communing with Him-- then we can be like John Calvin and John Owen! Not maybe in what they achieved but in the maximization of their abilities to place God where He should be and place man where he should be.

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7, NIV)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Genuine Christianity Makes Good Friday Everyday

Yesterday was good friday. Many different religious groups who profess Christianity here in the Philippines maintained certain religious practices so devotedly. Some were genuine, some were not. Some were plausible, some were ludicrous. My claim is that we can determine genuine Christians among them. Essentially, the difference is that genuine Christianity worships God in spirit and in truth while fake ones don't. But how do you know if a certain person or a certain religious group worships God in spirit and truth? Aside from soundness of doctrines and practices, the evident manifestation is in religious passion or desires. The following are some religious desires wherein genuine and false Christianity differ:

1. Desire to make the day God-glorifying
In Good Friday, many people desire to be godly. They want to talk about God or dedicate some of their time to God on this day. Genuine Christianity, on the other hand, glorifies God everyday and every hour and in everything: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31, NIV) A genuine Christian is someone whom the world observes and remarks: "this man cares so much about God".

2. Desire to make the day Christ-centered
In Good Friday, many people desire to talk about Christ and go to church. They will temporarily set aside their worldly stuffs for the Nazarene who once died in this world. On the other hand, Genuine Christianity believes that "to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21) A true Christian daily aims for a "fruitful labor" (vv. 22, 24) for and like the Lord. He lives daily for Christ alone. His words and actions are Christ-centered.

3. Desire to make the day Cross-exalting
In Good Friday, many people lend some time thinking about Jesus' cross in the Calvary. Some to repay Him, some to thank Him. Genuine Christianity on the other hand is constant, daily cross-exaltation. "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2) A genuine Christian daily manifests his great indebtedness to what Jesus did for him. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

4. Desire to make the day Sin-mortifying
The term "mortify" means to kill. In Good Friday, many people do their best to keep themselves from sin. They pray, they read the Bible, they listen to sermons, they cease from their vices. In short, they do religious actions they don't usually do. Genuine Christianity, however, declares a lifetime war with sin. "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Rom. 8:13) "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Col. 3:5)

Some say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God, as if religion cannot be a good thing. I say Christianity is a relationship with God that essentially worships God in spirit and in truth and inevitably manifests in a daily passion for a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, cross-exalting and sin-mortifying religion.

Genuine Christianity, guided by truth and the Spirit, makes Good Friday everyday. Are we then genuine Christians?