Wednesday, March 01, 2006

PART III: Position of the Reformed Evangelical Movement

This is my personal summary of the seminar of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on the Future of Reformed Evangelical Movement on 25th February 2006 (Session 3)

In all God's creation, the world is the center of the universe. It is the focus of the material world where life is. In this created world, human beings are the center of creation because they are the only beings that can understand and do God's will. Among all these human beings, God's chosen ones, the Church, is the focus of His will. Therefore the society sees the Church, and the Church sees God. The Church is God's will within God's will. In the Church, there is a group of people who truly understand God's grace, not merely receiving salvation, but deeply understand God's eternal will. These people will move history because they work with God and expand God's kingdom. They are God's will within God's will within God's will. The call of reformed evangelical movement is glorious and honorable because it is a solemn invitation to participate in the work of the Holy Spirit to lead people back to God.

A reformed church is built upon reformed theology and is one of many denominations. It is one part of reformed evangelical movement but is not the same as it. The reformed movement is a movement to bring the whole Church back to the teaching of the prophets and the apostles. It is not a denomination but an attitude to call upon the Church to return completely to God's eternal will.

Most Christians only want grace and are not seeking the Truth. They are very faithful to an anointed leader they like. So there are many cases of the blind leading those who are blinder than them. Who should teach God's Word? It is not those who have ambition to be church leaders but it is those with orthodox faith and understanding. Churches must be built upon the foundation of the Revealed will of God.

Yet, nowadays churches will not interfere with other churches. They are free to develop their own thought system. The secular government does not bother as capitalist society give freedom to churches. So in this kind of circumstances where there is no more inquisition or religious courts to judge heretics, Satan raises up many false teachers.

The two main responsibilities of reformed evangelical movement are the Gospel Mandate (a work towards the saints in preaching the gospel outside the church) and Culture Mandate. Culture mandate is the call to illuminate the entire world based on God's Word. It might not bring people to Jesus Christ but would reveal the fact that Jesus is Lord over every aspect of life including philosophy, Science, medicine, politics, economy, arts, history, etc. It is the call to be the light of the world to represent God in the world.

When did Christianity give up the Culture Mandate? It happens because of the concept of false spirituality which traps Christians in dualistic thinking that separates spiritual from secular life.

When we examine closely, there are not that many systems of Scriptures interpretation that have been established. The first one is the Roman Catholic system. The second one is the Eastern Orthodox that broke away from Roman Catholic Church in 1033. Many other systems that developed before that like Arianism and Nestorian did not really stand. In Medieval time, there were also many attempts to establish different systems like realism and mysticism but they did not get realized.

In 14th Century, the works of Aristotle suddenly became very important and had great influence on Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The greatest intellectual thinkers believed they needed to know Aristotle. This is the beginning where faith became secular like the rise of natural theology (formulated by Thomas Aquinas earlier) which developed apologetics that was based on Aristotle. The Roman Catholic Church mixed the Word of God with the works of Aristotle. By the end of medieval age, the Renaissance movement began.

Is Renaissance of the Church? It was a movement within the Church in North Italy and the renaissance people were Christians, like Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo who brought art to its height. On one hand, they were moving away from Christianity and on the other hand Catholic Church welcomed them.

In 16th Century the Reformation movement revamped the entire existing system and established a great theological system. After the Reformation there was Enlightenment movement. These 3 great movements were like a sandwich and are the 3 important foundation of modern understanding as they inherit different value systems.

The Renaissance was sick of Christianity and the constraint of religion in restricting human freedom. They were against the religion which was against nature and was only waiting to go to heaven. They asked why they must follow the Church and why they must kill creativity. So Renaissance was an expression of emotion and freedom that tried to get out of the Church. There were only 2 themes of art namely Biblical themes and Greek mythology. The Church needed great art work to let people see visuals because they did not read Scriptures. Hence the most talented artists were hired to paint for the Church. However, humanism had begun. There were no more halos on the saints in their painting.

Leonardo Da Vinci had 4 main themes in his painting:

1. God is not the center of the universe. The focus is on the human world.
2. Heavenly faith is not the most important. Life on earth is most important.
3. Heaven is not our hope. Our hope is in the world.
4. Faith is not through the mystical things but should use reason to explain.

For the first time, Renaissance brought about humanistic victory that cried we do not need to follow God.

When we compare Renaissance and Reformation, their motives are totally different.

In Renaissance, man has dignity. Why must we be suppressed by religion? Why do we not follow the great examples during Roman times? It wanted to go against the Church. It is secular and men-centered and is modeled after the Greek. It finds human potential in themselves.

Reformation on the other hand, is not really against the Church but rather is against the decadence of religion and the wrong interpretation of the Scriptures. It raged as the Church had covered the glory of God. It wanted to get back to biblical faith. It is God-centered and is modeled after Christ. It finds human potential as beings made in the image of God. It is the most faithful movement for God's glory.

100 years after the Reformation, many hearts waxed cold. Other than a minority that truly understood, others were lost. Justification by faith was abused as reason for passivity and decadence. Holland and Germany saw the rise of rationalism while England saw the growth of empiricism. During the Enlightenment, the concept of free thinkers began as people who did not want to be bound by religion. In 19th Century, logical positivism, communism, sociology, evolution and psychology had developed.

It is God's grace that the Church is still preserved till today. But God wants to preserve a group of people who truly understand His eternal will. The reformed system within Protestantism is the truest system. All the greatest thinkers in the Protestant heritage had walked the reformed movement, even the Baptist, Anglican and Methodist movement. It is a great and honorable invitation for us to wholeheartedly join.


At 4:22 PM, Blogger Edwin Tay said...

Many thanks Mejlina! I've enjoyed myself reading through your summaries. One clarification though. You mentioned "positive logitivism". Is it not rather "logical positivism"?

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Ha ha... thanks Edwin! I got the order wrong & have corrected it. Glad to have readers that will clarify. :)


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