Saturday, February 19, 2011

"No, These Reformed Methodists are NOT Reformaniacs"

Yesterday was this blog's 1st birthday. Those who have already dug this must have already noticed my (and my fanged friends') inclination to what we call "Reformed" theology. And we're vocal. Yes, we are Calvinists. And, yes, John Wesleythe founder of Methodismisn't. Though we would argue that, even by creed and heritage, we are accepted by the United Methodist Church.

We confess that we are passionate Calvinists but we deny that Calvinism is the primary concern of these Reformed Methodists in the blogosphere. We deny that one cannot be saved and/or godly without affirming Calvinism. We further deny that one is obliged to read the books of John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur or John Piper to join our battle (though we would encourage everyone to try them). We are not Reformaniacs[1].

On the other hand, we affirm that our main concern is the vivification of TRUE United Methodism. Or, more specifically, the essentials for Evangelical Methodism, which Wesley himself enumerated in this popular quotation:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
There he pointed out Three Essentials for Methodists to remain as a living church rather than as a "dead sect": (1) Doctrine, (2) Spirit, and (3) Discipline.

Wesley explained the reason:
"The Methodists must take heed to their doctrine, their experience, their practice, and their discipline. If they attend to their doctrines only, they will make the people antinomians; if to the experimental part of religion only, they will make them enthusiasts; if to the practical part only, they will make them Pharisees; and if they do not attend to their discipline, they will be like persons who bestow much pains in cultivating their garden, and put no fence round it, to save it from the wild boar of the forest."
So by doctrine, Wesley was referring to intellectual understanding of biblical truths. He said that attending to this alone (knowledge) would make us forget the laws/commands of God (what he meant by "antinomians"), which should be practiced and kept with discipline.

By spirit, Wesley was referring to passionate, practical Christian living. He combined emotions and actions. Attending to "spirit" alone would make us either "enthusiasts" (ones who base their religion on emotions only) or "Pharisees" (ones who base their religion on rules only).

By discipline, Wesley was referring to corrective discipline that the church should establish to maintain both doctrine and Christian living. What is noteworthy also in that quote is that, unlike the first two, its importance is emphasized rather than the danger of isolating it. He compared it to a "fence" while the doctrine and Christian living to a "garden". Without it, false teachers and persistent sinners ("wild boars") would just destroy the other two.

Though Calvin's defining marks of a church is two-thirds different[2] from Wesley's, Calvin never undermined Wesley's.

Concerning doctrine and Christian living, Calvin said:

"Let us be warned to pursue our calling in fear and anxiety, to take the trouble to learn from good and useful doctrine, having above all this end: that we hunger to know nothing except what it has pleased God to reveal to us in his Scripture. Let us not subject the sacred Word of God to our judgments or lusts, but rather let us align ourselves entirely with what it says to us.” (Against the Fantastic and Furious Sect of the Libertines)

And concerning church discipline, he said:
"If no society, nay, no house with even a moderate family, can be kept in a right state without discipline, much more necessary is it in the Church, whose state ought to be the best ordered possible. Hence as the saving doctrine of Christ is the life of the Church, so discipline is, as it were, its sinews; for to it it is owing that the members of the body adhere together, each in its own place. Wherefore, all who either wish that discipline were abolished, or who impede the restoration of it, whether they do this of design or through thoughtlessness, certainly aim at the complete devastation of the Church." (Institutes, Book IV, Ch. 1)
I am far from suggesting that Calvin and Wesley always had parallel ideas about doctrines, piety and discipline. But I would contend that both are zealous for orthodox doctrines, serious Christian living, and courageous church discipline[3]three important characteristics that modern churches (including many United Methodist churches) lack.

By orthodox doctrines, I refer to the essentials in Christian faith.
By serious Christian living, I refer to sincere godly lifestyle.
By courageous church discipline, I refer to bold and plain execution of admonition and excommunication of persistently erring church members.

Currently, The United Methodist Church is little by little departing from these, and this is where we want "Reformation" most. 

Disagree? 

1. Attend conferences and note how often "doctrine" will be discussed. Compare it to political issues.
2. Note one sermon from the pulpit. Did the preacher mention about any historical context of the main text? How many verses did he quote, anyway?
3. Ask at least five old members in your church what "Justification by Faith Alone" is. (How about just asking them to enumerate the Bible books?)
4. Evaluate the church members' handling of money and if it somehow conforms to "gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can".
5. Check your church membership records and compare the number of members to the active members in your church.
6. Find out if there are church members who are addicted to cigarette smoking or to liquor. Now, find out if there is anyone (perhaps, a pastor or an elder) in your church who already rebuked them.
7. Check this retired Methodist Bishops' Statement of Counsel concerning homosexuality.

The list can go on and on yet the point is: United Methodism is drifting away from the important things it once embraced.

Again, we are not Reformaniacs. But we are indeed crazily in love with the United Methodist Church, thus, we are shouting for reformation. Brothers in Christ, join us in this battle. 

Soli Deo Gloria.

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[1] Ones who are overly-passionate for Reformed theology; ones whose enthusiasm for Reformed theology equates their enthusiasm for the essentials of Christian faith.
[2] Reformed teaching holds doctrine, sacraments and worship as defining marks of a true church: "[The universal] church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them” (The Westminster Confession, Ch. 25, IV) And Calvin seems to say that preaching and hearing of pure doctrine implies true worship: “Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.”
[3] I would even argue that Wesley has nearer resemblance to Calvin's theology than to Contemporary Wesleyanism: http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/wesley.the.calvinist.htm

Friday, February 11, 2011

In a Relationship... Biblical Relationship!

In almost every aspect of life, Christians may have these two extremes: legalism and antinomianism. Legalism is trying to   make a certain principle as God's commandment for us when in fact it is not. Antinomianism came from the Greek words "anti" (= against) and "nomos" (= law). It is trying to make a principle as not God's commandment for us when in fact it is. Both are wrong and both dishonor God.

When it comes to premarital, romantic relationships, how can you avoid becoming either a legalist or an antinomian? The answer, of course, is by consulting the word of God.

I believe that Dr. Rick Holland[1] beautifully did. The following is a summarized part of his essay entitled "The Guided Path", found in Alex Chediak's Book, 5 Paths To The Love of Your Love[2]. You can read the whole essay here: Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV.

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The (Single) Purpose of Premarital Relationships

"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! ... 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 probableoutcome."

[The following are 10 biblical principles for romantic relationships useful to make you ready and/or to guide you when you're ready for a dating[2] relationship]

The Ten Principles for a God-Centered Relationship

1. The Character Principle
Meaning:
"The Character Principle is about being the right person more than finding the right person. If your character is being conformed more and more into the image of Christ, you will desire the right kind of person."
Biblical Basis: Titus 2:2-8
  • godly character is a product of Spiritual Discipleship (example is mentoring)
  • godly character is consisted of Qualities such as humility, (see Phil. 2:3-11) holiness (see 2 Pet. 1:14-16). godly love (see 1 Cor. 13:4-8), selflessness (see Jas. 3:14). the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25), Christlikeness (see Eph. 4:13).
  • godly character is also the main character in Evaluating a person (see Prov. 31:30)
2. The Confirmation Principle
Meaning:
"The Confirmation Principle is the commitment to submit one's life and relationship to the spiritual scrutiny of God's authority, care, and protection represented here on earth."
Biblical Basis:
  • Parental Confirmation (Exo. 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Deut. 21:18-21; 27:16; Mt. 15:4; Rom. 1:28-32; Eph. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:1-5)
  • Church Affirmation (see Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim.; 2 Tim.; Titus; Heb. 13:7,17)
  • Friend Affirmation (Prov. 12:15; 15:22; 19:20-21; 27:9)
3. The Contentment Principle
Meaning:
"The foundation for developing a righteous relationship with a member of the opposite sex is the ultimate relationship  your relationship with God. If you are not happy with God alone, you will not be happy with someone else. ... Taking that anything other than God will bring satisfaction and happiness is to make that object an idol in one's life."
Biblical Basis: Phil. 4:10-13; 1 Tim. 6:6-7 

4. The Common Ground Principle
Meaning:
"A Christian should consider only another Christian for a romantic relationship and marriage."
Biblical Basis: 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Cor. 7:39
"If wise King Solomon was ruined by relationships with unbelievers [1 Kings 11:4], who do we think we are imagining we can handle it?"

5. The Cultivation Principle
Meaning:
"Dating relationships need cultivating."
[It is best cultivated when...]
  • you see each other first as spiritual siblings
  • getting to know each other in groups first (parents, church leaders, spiritually mature friends).

    "Spending time together with no one else around is asking for trouble. The biggest danger in being alone is the temptation to express inappropriate physical... and inappropriate emotional affection."
Biblical Basis:
  • Christians as spiritually related (Jn. 13:34-35; 15:12,17)
  • The phrase "one another" used almost 40x in NT.
6. The Complementarian Principle
Meaning:
"The term complementary comes from the biblical teaching that men and women have been given different roles so they might complement each other. The complementarian position recognizes the uniqueness in God's creative order with respect to men and women."
"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships. ... 
At the heart of true femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships."  (John Piper)
Biblical Basis: Gen. 1-3; Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Tim. 3:4,12; Tit. 2:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7
[To be ready for marriage...]
  • Men need to learn to Christlike leadership. (see Eph. 5:22-33)
  • Women need to learn wise submission to men worthy of this privilege.
"This means that a man should be the initiator in a relationship. Because a wife's role is clearly to follow the leadership of her husband, a single woman should allow a man to pursue her only if he is worthy of her submission."

7. The Companionship Principle
Meaning:
"God invented marriage because man was alone, not because he was lonely. From the very beginning, God has intended relationships to be about glorifying Him by purposeful companionship. So the purpose of marriage is simple: to serve, represent, and glorify God as a two-in-one team. Dating[2] serves as an arena for testing a relationship to see if it glorifies God enough to warrant marriage. This is the Companionship Principle."
Biblical Basis: Gen. 2:18
"A man should not judge a woman solely on how she looks without makeup; in the same way, a man should not consider only whether or not a man has good hygiene. Instead, both should determine if the other has a true heart for the things of God."

"Physical attraction should play a part of premarital attraction, but only a part. ... physical desire should be satisfied in marriage, but the satisfaction of companionship should be more important."
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be always intoxicated in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19, emphasis added)
8. The Commitment Principle
Meaning:
"Love is a commitment. It is a decision to be made and a promise to be kept. It is the way Christians care for one another. And it is the way a husband and wife reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. Real, genuine, sincere, biblical love endures all things and stays committed to an imperfect person. I am not suggesting that you can never break off a dating relationshipeven if you have told someone you love him or her. Rather, in a romantic context, those words should be reserved for communicating a permanent relational commitment."
Biblical Basis: 1 Cor. 13:4-18; Eph. 5:22-23

9. The Communication Principle
Meaning
"At the core of every problem in marriage and premarital relationships is prideful selfishness. And nothing solves this problem more than communication. If you want to be successful relationally, learning to communicate biblically is nonnegotiable. ... God-honoring communication is the bridge that will take you to relational enjoyment and get you over the inevitable conflicts of relationships."
  • The key is humility. Put the focus of your communication on the other person
  • Let Jesus flavor what you say and how you say it.
Biblical Basis: Eph. 4:25-29; Lk. 6:45

10. The Chastity Principle
Meaning:
"Sexual sin is prohibited, uniquely offensive to God, damaging, against God's will, a violation of the Holy Spirit's presence, and a sinful use of your body that was bought by the blood of Jesus."
Biblical Basis: 1 Cor. 6:18-20; 1 Thess. 4:3-7
"Promiscuity before marriage refers to the robbing of the other of that virginity which ought to be brought to a marriage. The future partner of such a one has been defrauded." (Leon Morris)
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I believe that these principles are to be kept regardless of your method in premarital relationships. And we should honor them because they came from the word of God. May each of us learn to submit our love life to the Lord of heaven and earth.

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[1] "Dr. Rick Holland is the pastor of College and Student Ministries at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and an instructor at The Master's College and Seminary." (p.216)  
[2] My (Donnie) personal, theological view is the same with Rick Holland. But, practically, I adhere to the "courtship" method. See Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl. For me, it is the best method to apply the biblical principles.
[3] Holland here used the term "Dating" broadly. Synonymous to the process of doing premarital relationships.