Friday, January 28, 2011

Something More Sure: Scripture!

"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV)

Peter, in the previous verses, was encouraging the believers to pursue "godliness" in view of the surety of our beliefs ("knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ"). And in verses 16-21, Peter mentioned 3 "possible" bases of one's beliefs. And he picked one as the ultimate basis of our belief.

Three Possible Bases for One's Beliefs

1. Illegitimate myths (v.16a)
Here Peter put a negative: "we did not follow cleverly devised myths". The Christian faith is not based on invented stories of old, which would make the Christian faith false and untrustworthy.

2. Legitimate personal perception (vv.16b-18)
Peter contrasted "myths" with being "eyewitnesses". Peter is saying that he, along with the other apostles, witnessed the glory of Christ with their very eyes. Moreover, they also "heard" the voice of the Father confirming that Jesus is the Son of God. Peter even emphasized that they "were with him", as we can read in the gospel accounts, commonly called as Transfiguration. (Mk. 9:1-10; Lk. 9:28-36) Personal perception, or personal experience is really a persuasive reason why we believe certain things to be true. And Christianity has much of this. However, for Peter there is something superior over this, namely, the scriptures.

3. Superior Scripture (vv.19a,20-21) 
Peter said the scripture is "something more sure"*. It's above all our senses, above all human perception, experience, or even miracles. The ultimate basis of our beliefs is the Bible. Yes, experience has authority. Yes, tradition has authority. But none of these surpass or equal the scriptures. He described it as a "lamp shining in a dark place". That implies that one is lost in this dark world apart from it. It also implies that it is sufficient to guide us. The reason this is so is in verses 20-21. That is, that prophecy/scripture never came by the prophet's own interpretation** of things. It came through God's will. The Holy Spirit moved them and they spoke from God. The Scripture is superior because it is God's word.

Christians, according to Peter, will take heed to the scriptures "until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts". This refers to Christ's return or our glorification. Christ is also referred in the Bible as "Morning Star" (Rev. 2:28; 22:16 cf. Lk. 1:78, 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 5:14) and His return relates to an ending of darkness for believers (Rom. 13:12; Rev. 21:3-25). That he "rises in [our] hearts" means that His return will bring us comfort and joy. This is where "faith" and study of scriptures end because everything will be clear to us by that time.

Here are some application of the text:

1. You have the Scriptures. Do Not Turn to myths like fortune telling, zodiac signs, feng sui, etc.
2. Scripture is something more sure. Do not esteem experience, traditions, or other authorities over it
3. Scripture is our lifetime lamp. Take heed to it until you meet the Author face to face.
"The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths, as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testaments is the object of their faith. They believe neither more nor less than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by, the Holy Scriptures.... The written Word is the whole and sole rule of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever He hath commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide, and no other." (John Wesley)
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*NASB (and others) translates it somehow differently: "we have the prophetic word made more sure". That implies that personal perception/experience confirms scriptures. In any case, it just confirms it. Scripture is still above experience.
**Some translates it "origin". But the meaning of the Greek "epilupsis" is more likely less tied to its etymology. It has various meanings, one of which is "the act or process of explaining, explanation, interpretation."

Monday, January 17, 2011

MAGYC Part III: Divine Dividend Denied (The Simplicity of GOD)

(1) God is holy; (2) God is loving; (3) God is just; (4) God is all-powerful. 

Let's do some arithmetic here. Suppose those four are the only attributes of God, how will you divide God's nature (100%) by them?

a) 60% for Power, 30% for Love, 5% for each of the other two? (coz God is so powerful!)
b) 70% for Love and 10% for each of the rest? (coz "God is Love")
c) 25% percent each? (They must be equal)
d) Other: __________________ .

What's the correct answer? The illustration below gives a hint.



Highlight this to see the answer: none of the above! Yes, not even letter "d".

Here's the explanation: God is simple. When we say that "God is simple", WE DON'T MEAN that God, His being or His ways can be fully or easily comprehended. In fact, the Bible says the opposite (Job. 11:7; Rom. 11:33-36). What WE MEAN by "God is simple" is that God is not made up of parts (not composite). His attributes are not parts of His being/nature that make up the whole Him [see the left image]. Rather, each of His attributes is identical to His being/nature [see right image]. So, mathematically, God is 100% in each of His attributes (love, justice, holiness, power, etc.) so we shouldn't divide Him. His attributes are not a divisor, and God is not a dividend. This implies that God does not only have love. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8,16). God does not only have holiness. God is holiness ("God is light", 1 Jn. 1:5). And so on and so forth.

We should note however that the doctrine of the Simplicity of God (or Divine Simplicity) does not eliminate the differences of the attributes. Love is still not synonymous to holiness, and also with the rest.

So what does this have to do with the youth anyway? And why did I start with a characteristic of God that is not usually counted in discussing the attributes of God?

It's because Christians, even the youth, nowadays have the tendency to exalt one of God's attribute over another. So often you can hear them talk about God's love to the point of tolerating sins. God's holiness, righteousness and wrath are being overlooked (Yes, we should be patient but we should also deal with our sins, not ignore them!). We love to emphasize that God is gracious and is our friend and Father. But we tend to forget that God is the King of Heaven and earth or that God is "a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). In view of Divine Simplicity, we shouldn't dare do this. We shouldn't think that God is more loving than He is just and sin-punishing. He is BOTH perfectly loving and perfectly just and sin-punishing. We should love each of His wondrous attributes because each attribute is, in a sense, Him! And as a consequence of doing so, we will increase in the knowledge of God, in godliness, and in joy.

Next time, we shall discuss the holiness of God. And, remember: he's perfect in that attribute, and also in the others. So treat each not as a part of God but as God's very nature viewed in a unique way. ;)

Friday, January 7, 2011

MAGYC Part II: My Model and My Hero (Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes)

han hyo joo, superman

What is the difference of a model and a hero?

You admire them both. You look up to them both. In a sense, you need them both. But you approach them in different ways. The former would most likely make you imitate him, the latter most likely fills you with awe. The model sets as an example for you to follow, producing in you the same trait he shows. If he runs, you run. If he speaks that way, you speak that way. On the other hand, the hero sets an example of someone extraordinary whom you can't follow or imitate, producing in you the exact opposite of the trait he shows. If a hero showed his authority, you submit. If power, you sense your powerlessness. Somehow they're different.

But GOD is both your best Model and your best Hero.

GOD as Model"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1,2)

GOD as Hero"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'” (Revelation 5:13)

GOD is both your best Model and your best Hero because of His perfect, wondrous attributes, which can actually be categorized in two: natural and moral or incommunicable and communicable

Incommunicable/natural attributes are the attributes of GOD which belong only to His divine nature and cannot be possessed or communicated to other beings. They're attributes that make GOD unique. An example is His omnipotence (GOD as all-powerful). No other being can be omnipotent so it's a natural/incommunicable attribute.

Communicable/moral attributes are the attributes of GOD which GOD can give or communicate to other beings. They are also called moral* attributes because these attributes have something to do with morals or ethics like love and justice. We, humans, can possess these attributes and, as image of God, are designed to do so.

What makes GOD Hero is His incommunicable attributes. What makes GOD Model is His communicable attributes. And what makes Him the BEST Hero and BEST Model is that He's PERFECT in all His attributes.

Woe to The Youth's Idols!
Youth are fond of idols, not in the sense of pagan idolatry, but in overly esteeming famed persons like celebrities, performers, sportsmen, etc. Oftentimes to the point of setting them as hero. We buy their posters. We get their autographs. We are excited by their presence. We rejoice in their victories. We sympathize with their downs. We stay updated with their well-beings. More than that, we also set them as our models. We wear their trademarks. We buy their stuffs. We sing their songs. We imitate their looks, their words, their practices. We pattern our lives to theirs and we end up becoming materialistic, sensual, self-centered persons.

Oh how far have they mold us! Finite and sinful human beings of media and Hollywood like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift have thrilled our souls so much more than the Infinite, perfect GOD who is infinitely far more beautiful and admirable and amazing and famous than any other being in the whole universe. 

GOD is the best Model and Hero whom we should worship, esteem and imitate.  Let us dwell on His attributes--communicable and incommunicable. Let Him be our Best Model and Best Hero. And if ever there are human beings whom we should set as model (persons we imitate) and "heroes" (persons we respect), let them be the godly persons like the Apostle Paul (see 1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1).

Next time, we shall meditate on each of GOD's attribute.

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*Some differentiate moral attributes with mental attributes like truthfulness and wisdom.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Parody: Reformists


Reformist
(a parody of "Pyramid" by Charice feat. Iyaz)

I.
Shan't we live a life of reformist?
And stand like Luther for a godly end
Let's no more waste another year bestowed
A just, Godward change let's pursue

This song's
Heavy but true love it's from
Scripture is the ground we've known
And cry of it is Church reform
Well, just like Wesley's Holy Club

From pulpit to the Sunday school
Study his Word hard, it's gold
Changing the minutest fault
Now here are the concerns I know:

The sheep lack shepherds
The goats invade us
Wolves and thieves do break away our fold

Chorus:
Reformist, let's build our church on solid Rock
Beliefs and lives be biblical
Together shout and fight
(shout and fight, brethren)
(shout and fight now)
Like a reformist

And let's refrain from all false doctrines
With great fervor, just keep reforming
For God's glory displayed
Let's be reformists

Like a reformist, Like a reformist, hey (3x)

II.
Lord, never ever leave us cold
We don't want the Church destroyed
We're sorry if we've long ignored
Your glorious majesty

And, brethren, see the rod was gone
Look how frail Church life becomes
Sin-tolerating ways are wrong
And watered-down theology

Heretics can shake us
Factions can break us
Politics can take away our light

(Repeat Chorus)

Bridge:

Let's be reformists, now l'mma mention:
Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, Whitefield, and John Newton
Even Puritans, Charles Spurgeon
They must the ones to imitate, hey

Fools, don't be lax, God's a consuming fire
Let's admonish one another, with our Bibles and with love
Reformation and revival
Must spark or our children would suffer

Reformist, keep reforming
(Like a reformist, Like a reformist)
Whoa
(Like a reformist, Like a reformist)

(Repeat Chorus 2x)

Like a reformist, Like a reformist, hey (3x)
Reformist


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"It is today as it was in the Reformers' days.  Decision is needed.  Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day?  We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitor, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it...Look you, sirs, there are ages yet to come.  If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today.  We have come to a turning-point in the road.  If we turn to the right, mayhap our children and our children's children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word." (Charles Spurgeon, emphasis added)