Wednesday, March 01, 2006

PART II: The History of Reformed Evangelical Movement

This is my personal summary of the seminar of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on the Future of Reformed Evangelical Movement on 24th February 2006 (Session 2)

This is not only our comprehension of the Truth but has to do with our attitude towards ministry. Movement is a power that brings direction in history. What we want to receive from this seminar is not just another set of knowledge, but to understand God's will and to receive God's guidance so that we can partake in His purpose.

Who among us will work together with the Father? Many people think they are doing God's work but in reality only a few number of people can grab hold of God's historical direction and be obedient to the Holy Spirit's guidance.

Many people speak in the name of God but the spirit of lies cover the churches such that people are not speaking the Truth and cause many to be deceived, just as of King Ahab's day where all the prophets prophesied lies except one. If we listen carefully to what is being preached and observe closely the attitude of the preachers and the themes they choose, we can see that it is based on the imagination of what the congregation wants and not on God's Word. Many people are seeking for visible results and not concerned about God's eternal will.

Martin Luther went against the one Catholic Church during his time. Up to 13th Century, many wrong teaching has seeped into the church. There was emphasis on relics, fear of punishment and hell fire. This resulted in formulation of doctrines that are not related to the Bible. The building of St.Peter Basilica needed a lot of funds so rich people were allowed to become dominant. Wrong teaching prospered where the rich were respected and God was put aside. Social hierarchy was built up.

Augustine had great influence on the Roman Catholic Church, on Martin Luther and John Calvin.

On the Roman Catholic Church, his main influence is his book on the City of God where he believed that the Kingdom of God would be established on earth. Like a small seed, it would continue to prosper. When Christ first came, it was a very humble beginning. But later on all the kingdoms of the world would become the kingdom of God and His Christ, quoting from Revelation. Based on this, the Catholic Church believes that the Church is the Kingdom of God and everyone has to be ordained by the pope. In 7th Century, already Islam rose to rebel against the Church. A few centuries later the church reached its golden age, but now only the Vatican city with 1000 population is left as the Roman Catholic Church's territory. The Roman Catholics have erroneous view of God's Kingdom.

Augustine's influence on Luther is on the justification by faith alone. The revelation on our justification has been there all along but was only understood much later when Martin Luther emphasized this. Light is shed differently in different generations.

Augustine's influence on Calvin is on the sovereign will of God. Calvin went very deep into the content, which is the reason why reformed pulpit is very solid. Augustine said faith enables us to see the promised land. Knowledge asks faith to tell him what faith sees. So Augustine said, “I believe in order to know. I know in order to believe.” Nobody studied so clearly the relationship between faith and knowledge this way.

John Locke had some contribution when he said that we could not define realms dualistically as reasonable and unreasonable. These are not exhaustive. There is a realm that is neither reasonable nor unreasonable, but it is above and beyond reason. When trans-rationality is mixed up with irrationality, we have a lot of ignorant intellects who dismiss profound truth as irrational. One of the greatest discoveries is to explain how faith and knowledge connects.

The greatest university systems in the world are started by Christians and are built to pursue deeper understanding of the cosmos. In those early days, theology was considered the queen of knowledge, the foundation to influence all other areas of studies. Today's universities are very different as they are no longer respectful to the Word of God. They lose their root and take God as redundant.

Calvin teaches how grace and the sovereign will of God cannot be separated. Grace comes first before everything, even before our response to grace. The whole world has God's eternal will embedded in it. The will of God is greater than everything else, except God Himself. In Christ, all knowledge is to be found. Calvin's whole theology is founded on this principle. This is the beginning of reformed movement. It is based on solid structure and is the movement with the purest motive in history.

Calvin's teaching on predestination, the sovereignty of God, the doctrines of grace and God's eternal will form the structure of reformed theology. It replaces the fear that there is no salvation outside the Church (visible Catholic Church, not referring to Invisible Church). The doctrine of predestination is important as it is a quantum leap that leaps above all human principles. But few people ever come to that stage. Most people find their identity from human principles and tradition. Scriptures have a lot of leaps where we are transcended beyond human limitation.

One example is how can Jesus be both King and priest? In the Old Testament, kings only come from Judah's tribe while priests come from Levi's tribe. We can't say that Mary and Joseph are from Judah and Levi's tribe so that settles it. This is a very careless way of interpreting the Scriptures. The Old Testament is clear that when a Levite is married to another tribe, the levitical priesthood is lost. Similarly, kingship is lost when Judah's tribe marries another tribe. Yet the prophet Zachariah mentioned that both would be reconciled (king and priest). What did he mean?

In Hebrews it is expounded that Jesus was ordained under the order of Melchizedek, not the order of Levi. Melchizedek is a greater and higher order than Levitical priesthood, such that even Abraham paid a tithe to him. Aaron, the first Levite priest from Levi's descendent was only born 500 years after Melchizedek's encounter with Abraham.

John Calvin was able to grasp the leaps in the Bible. The doctrine of predestination is very clear from Eph.1:1-10. It is possible that many understand wrongly and become lazy. It is also possible that many who never come to the stage of understanding it remain very obedient and diligent. But those who truly understand have great power in ministry.

With John Calvin's theology, finally he saw that there are only 2 types of religions, theology, faith, churches and pulpit, that is, God-centered (theo-centric) or men-centered (an­thro­po­centric) ones.

True God creates men. False gods are created by men. True God seeks men. False gods are sought by men. True God made men in His image. False gods are made in the imagination of men. God-centered religion is based on God's revelation, will, and initiation. Men-centered religion is based on men's pursuits and imagination.

God-centered theology is based on God's power and revelation. Men-centered theology is based on men's own ideas and imagination.

God-centered faith comes from hearing God's Word. It is faith that has relationship with the Truth. Men-centered faith comes out of our own will and fallen self-confidence.

God-centered church is built upon the will of God, based on the teaching of the apostles. Men-centered church is built on human ambition and sees men in the center of the church.

God-centered pulpit preaches on the eternal will of God. Men-centered pulpit preaches to please men and talk about things that people like to hear.

The aim of reformed movement is to bring all things back to God-centeredness so that the Church would see the glory of God and not the glory of men, hear the voice of God and not the voice of men, understand God's eternal will and not engrossed with current affairs and our fallen reason. It brings us to become responsible Christians before God.


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