Saturday, March 04, 2006

Selected Q&A during Reformed Seminars

Here are some selected questions and answers with Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong during the Reformed Evangelical Seminars and his sharing with the Indonesian youths in GRII between 24th to 26th February 2006. I selected those that I think embed very important principles that would consolidate our thinking, deepen our meditation and set correctly the direction of our learning. I personally translated and also re-wrote some questions to better suit the content of his answers because sometimes he gave some very good content which might not be directly related to the initial questions asked.

1. Romans 13 says we have to obey and submit to government authority. And then we talk about reformation that Christians are to judge even politics. How then do we reconcile between submission to authority and revolution?

By understanding the principle of authority from God's Word.

a. All authority belongs to God so God is greater than His authority
b. All authority belongs to God so all authority are instituted by God
c. All authority belongs to God so all authority will be judged by God
d. All authority belongs to God so God can remove present authority and replace with a new authority according to His will.

Many authorities like to teach only part b) but we have to teach the principle of authority in totality, which includes God's sovereignty, our submission to authority, the accountability of authority and God's will in rising one and putting down another. As we can see, part d) gives a way out of our human limitation to view things at higher level where the seeming contradiction between submission and revolution is reconciled.

2. I see many things are wrong in churches today. Can I start a revolution?

First, beware if you want to start a revolution. Every revolutionist thinks that he is better than the existing system he is trying to overthrow but history testifies that often times the revolutionists might end up worse. Hence do not think that your objective is achievable. You need to be extremely clear if it is God's will so your foundation has to be solid and you also need to have a clear understanding of your generation. Every generation has its own spirit that controls and directs it, which is its culture. It's what I call the soul of the society.

What is the spirit of this age? It is pragmatism. It is very dependent on profit and loss. This is the era of market forces. People define value system based on what the market demands. Young people do not want to hear about Trinity but on pragmatic things like how to love one another and build families. Quantity replaces quality. Men-centeredness replaces God-centeredness. The perceived needs of men replaces the sovereign will of God.

If you ask me what is needed for churches in Singapore, I would say firstly probably we need 20-day preaching rally to re-teach the basics of Christianity all over again.

3. How should we disciple a new young Christian?

First, teach him to reverence God. Old Testament comes before New Testament. Compare the attitutes of the Chinese and the Jews. Chinese are very pragmatic and treat God with this kind of attitude. When bad things happen they give up their faith. But the Jews are so rooted in fear of God that when they face great persecution and disasters they cling even more tightly to their faith.

Next, guide him to understand the whole system of reformed theology. How long? Think of it day and night. Meditate of God's guidance throughout history. And in our generation, be bold and fight.

Many kids after 11 years old find the church boring, at age of 14 find no role models in church, and at the age of 17 onwards begin to have both rational capacity to think in depth which many pulpits cannot supply their need, and on the other hand they also have worldly desires which draw them into the world. We cannot wait until the enemies take over us and then we begin fighting. The greatest spirit of reformation is the attitude to always be reforming. Wherever we are, we need to keep reforming ourselves back to the Bible.

"God is Love" has been too superficially explained. A leader who can guide people into true fear and love of God is a precious treasure.

4. What kind of church should we build?

On building churches, if people with orthodox faith do not want to start churches and leave the job to those who are not qualified, they have given up the right of the firstborn and are bounded by their own limitation.

First, establish the right theology foundation in the church.
Second, establish the elders and deacons in the church. They must be people who truly understand God's Word and His eternal will. If we do not have such people yet, wait expectantly for God's timing.
Third, train the church to love preaching the gospel. A church must be both theologically founded and evangelically fervent.

5. Is democracy really the fruit of Reformation? What about democracy that existed before Reformation? What about the French Revolution?

Different democracies do exist and they are based on different foundation. There are 3 kinds of democracy:

a. Athenian democracy where decision is merely is based on majority votes
b. French revolution where the masses would get what they want by force and violence
c. Christian democracy that is based on the foundation that human beings are made in the image of God

The last type of democracy is the fruit of Reformation that truly honors human rights and dignity. You can do a history study and discover that those countries that are dominated by Protestant influence are more democratic and turned into democratic nations earlier than countries that are dominated by Roman Catholic influence. As an example, you can compare North America (Protestantism) and South America (Roman Catholic Church) and evaluate which country observes human rights more.

6. How should I preach to a Buddhist or a free-thinker?

This question can be discussed in a long series. If you want to preach to a Buddhist, you should learn about Buddhism so that you know about Buddhism more than he knows. You will realize that most of the time people who claim to be believers of a certain religion do not really know the essence of their religion.

Ask a person who claims to be a free thinker, what is a free thinker. Is he sure he is really thinking freely? Let him explain to you how free his mind is. You will discover that most of the time people cannot answer you. Then you can tell him what you know. The concept of free thinker actually came from Voltaire who decided that our thinking should not be bound by anything, especially religious authority.

In this way, if you study very hard and you show clearly that you know what he knows although you do not hold the same faith, and yet he does not know what you know, you are a step ahead of him and it is more likely he will listen to you. But if you do not know what he knows, and he knows about your faith more than you do, then you have lost. So we have to be very diligent in our learning so that we have better standing and opportunities in preaching.

7. How should we learn so many things?

I lost my dad when I was three. I came from a humble, despised and poor background with very little opportunities to learn. My dad did not know a single musical note, how do you think I learn all that? You ask how I come to where I am today... seek, ask and knock! Keep seeking, keep pursuing.

8. What are the stages of learning?

a. Informative learning. This is where you learn all the terminologies, definitions and facts. It is merely to let you know what is what. This is the most superficial and simplest stage of learning. Unfortunately, many pulpits stop at this level so the congregation basically keeps receiving only information.

b. Comparative learning. After informative learning, you can begin making comparison between the things you study to see their similarities and differences. You learn to segregate all the phenomena.

c. Analytical learning. Here you ask the question why and try to understand the essence of the phenomena you see.

d. Critical learning. This is where you learn to make critical judgement of what is good and what is bad. You evaluate what is lacking in your predecessors. People with such power to critique are generally despised by their generation who are still bounded by their current tradition, but will be admired by the future generation.

e. Contributive learning. Here you begin to create as you learn. You not only learn the content of what people have invented, but you learn how they invent.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

Great comments on the different levels of learning... :)

May we make progress in these areas


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