Saturday, June 10, 2006

Session I - Natural Faith and Saving Faith

This is my personal summary of session 1 of Defense and Fight for the Faith by Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 20th May 2006. It was live telecast from Jakarta to Singapore and was originally in Indonesian language. The summary is my personal translation.

In different generations throughout history, we see the development of apologetics in facing the challenges of that age. Apologetics therefore becomes the mark of saints’ faithfulness in defending the true faith. The young generation needs to be prepared to understand the things that are truly valuable. The most valuable thing is to know God's Truth. Hence defense and fight of the true faith becomes very important. It is the faith that is based on God's revelation (John 20:31), not based on one's own will.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts:2:42

From the verse above, we see 4 aspects of church life:

1. Devotion to the apostle's teaching
2. Fellowship one with another
3. Sacrament
4. Prayer

None of these elements should be missing from a church, else the church is paralyzed. If all four aspects are done properly, the church will be healthy.

A church needs to be faithful to the apostles’ teaching because it is the foundation of Christian faith. A church also needs to fellowship one with another. There must be love and not self-centeredness that only wants to shows oneself to be great. There is no Christian sign when there is no love, because Jesus says the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. A church also needs to always remember Jesus’ death through the holy sacrament. Finally, prayer is the deepest expression of human heart in sincerity towards God. Therefore, if we pray for self-centered things, we sin greatly. In prayer, we need to be seeking God's will and not our own will.

The Scriptures teach us to observe our life and our doctrine. A life of good works is not the criteria for justification, but is the fruit of justification. We are justified by faith alone. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are born again by faith, and this new life also can only be walked by faith.

But what is faith?

For a person who does not understand, faith is seeking God's grace instead of God Himself. For a true believer, faith is seeking understanding. Faith is the basis of right understanding of the essence of grace. It seeks to understand why grace is given and who is this Giver. Faith looks at the grace of God and says, “I have seen something.” Knowledge asks faith, “Please tell me what you see.” So faith becomes the source of our understanding.

Paul said, “I know WHOM I believe.” Faith is not in a set of doctrines, but is in a Person. Hebrews 12:2 says to set our eyes on Jesus Christ, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

There are a few levels of faith. The first one is the natural seed of faith which God plants in every human heart regarding His existence.

The existence of God is the REASON we believe or do not believe in God. The existence of God is NOT the result of us believing or not believing in God, rather it is the CAUSE we discuss about His existence.

God does not exist in the realm of proof. Whatever that is used to prove God is far too small. He surpasses all methods of proof. Anyone who wants to prove God's existence is too daring. Those who wanted to kill Christ were too brave. Christ whom they tried to put to death instead rose again and swallowed death itself. In the same way, God simply transcends all evidence. We cannot use the microscope to see the stars or a knife to cut the light.

Then we say God exists. What is the foundation? The foundation is God's revelation of Himself. When we talk about human beings trying to prove God's existence, we are making ourselves the initiator. However, God is the Initiator who has willingly revealed Himself to us and only because of that, we know He exists.

Aristotle is a Greek philosopher who gave argument about God's existence. In 12th to 13th century, Thomas Aquinas developed the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments of God's existence. This is called the natural theology.

It is not that we are not allowed to prove, but simply it is beyond us to prove God's existence. So the question is not, “How do we prove the existence of God?” Instead, the question is, “How does God reveal Himself to us?” It is through His Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth. The Catholic faith believes that rationality is sufficient to prove God's existence. Is rationality really enough? No need Revelation?

Someone once said that those who argue using natural theology have made two logical leaps:

1. They assume that the world is created by God.
2. Is the Designer and the Creator the same? Which God?

It is not that we are defending Christianity. If Christianity is wrong it has to be corrected. We have to defend the Truth. But because the Truth is in Christianity, we become Christians. If we are merely following, we only have the container but not the content.

Soren Kiekergaard of Denmark said that the more we debate on the existence of God, the more we are insulting Him. We should ask Him directly. However, here Kiekergaard is still putting human beings as the seekers. Reformed theology is higher as it presents God as the Seeker of the lost sinners. It is a different realm where God is the center.

In 20th century, Bertrand Russell challenged Christianity saying that it assumed God does not need to be created. If the universe needs to be created by God, why is it that God does not need to be created and can exist by Himself? How do we know that the universe must be created instead of existing on its own?

The natural faith implanted in our heart gives us the basic knowledge of God's existence. That is why we know God exists. A person who says he does not agree that God exists is honest. A person who says he does not believe that God exists is not very honest. A person who says God does not exist is dishonest. “If there is no God, I can do everything.” This is the basic motivation for people to oppose God's existence. They suppress the truth in their heart (Romans 1:18-19). Why trying so hard to disprove something that does not exist? That is something logically unsound to do. “An atheist is a theist in reverse.” He is a person who wants to suppress the truth of God's existence because he does not like the fact that God exists.

The existence of God is not the product of human proof. This faith is in every human heart, and is not “the faith that comes from hearing the Word of God.” This is the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11:6, the faith that enables us to seek God.

God is not lost, why do we seek Him? In reality, God seeks us. We never seek after God. A lot of people think that they are seeking God in their religions, while in reality it is not God they seek, it is His blessings. We seek money, success, children, job, healing, etc. We are all big liars. We seek everything except God and we use our religion to shut Him out of our lives. Therefore, those with religion are potentially worse than those without religion as with their wrong concept of religion, they would be more daring to sin. Woe to those who wear the mask of religion to commit more evil!

So what is the faith spoken in Hebrew 11:6? This faith is part of common grace. It is the faith that enables us to come to God's presence to hear His Word so that we can receive the faith that leads to saving grace.

The second type of faith is the faith that comes from hearing the Word of God. This is the saving faith. We need to hear the right preaching of the Word of God. If the foundation is skewed, the more we build, the more skewed the building becomes. The Scriptures say, if the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do? If foundation is not correct, we will need to destroy everything and rebuild!

The third type of faith is the faith that is given as a special grace in ministry. This is a special anointing God grants to His servants to that they can carry out extraordinary works God has called them to do.

The forth type of faith is the faith that comes through walking out the Word that has been heard. It is faith in daily living.

When we talk about defending the faith, what faith are we talking about? It is to defend the orthodox faith that is faithful to the apostles' teaching. The Apostles' Creed summarizes the basic tenets of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches today do not even recite it anymore. If we do not acknowledge it, how can we defend it?

There are those who perform miracles in Jesus' name but Jesus would not acknowledge them on the last day. Hence phenomena cannot be the mark of true faith. Then there are those who seem to live right but actually they are living in sin. Then there are those who teach right doctrines but their lives do not correspond. It is very beautiful to see those who have both correct doctrine and life.


At 3:23 AM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

In response to Russell's question, actually from what we know of the universe from current scientific findings, the cosmos began from a point of singularity and will one day 'die' as usable energy is 'used up'...

That shows we live in a finite universe that is not eternal :)

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Kasper said...

Dave your comment of the universe being depleted of usable energy is a very christian, mis informed, typical, apologetic arguement for the universe has a begginning therefore an end. Any one who is qualified to dispute the universe and existence of God needs to have back grounds in both physics and philosophy. If you look up the second theory of thermodynamics on google, thouroughly, you will realise that your theologically interpritted misconception of the universe running out of usable energy isnt actually what the second law of thermodynamics is implying.
Kasper. (atheist)
My Blog: You will have a thourough examination as to why God couldnt possibly exist and to suggest he does would contradict every rational, reasonable, metaphysical truth that we know of.
Sorry if i am harsh but i keep looking and looking, and cant find a single good arguement for the existence of God. Scary because of our planet history has been so embedded in this mysticism

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Kasper,

Thanks for dropping by. You said you "keep looking and looking, but can't find a single argument for the existence of God."

Why are you spending time looking and looking for an argument of His existence in the first place? And subsequently writing so much about you say does not exist?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Kasper said...

Hi mejlina, i am very interested in this topic, the existence of God would have a whole range of implications, that could be very big. i was a christian for 20 years, active, been a youth leader, did bible study groups, counselling, grew up in a christian home etc. I have to say though, i have run into so many inconsistencies amongst christians, the church, alsorts of narrow minded view on how life should or shouldnt be lived. Most of the people i counselled were victims of spiritual abuse, mostly from the church. I admit to having baggage, but have found a profound comfort and clarity in objectivistic, aristotilean phylosophies based on reason, rather that plato, immanual kant, thomas aquinas, augestine, Jesus types of teachings which imply virtues of faith, sacrifice, etc.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Kasper, thanks for your reply. I see. So is spiritual abuse which you have encountered your main reason for rejecting the existence of God?

Another question, what kind of Christian background did you come from? Can you summarize its fundamental inconsistencies? Thanks.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Kasper said...

Hi, grew up in a Presbyterian church, however did alot of church jumping in my teens. Spiritual abuse is where the arrogant/christian tries to tell you what God wants, approves or disapproves, needs or likes. Its where your life is being dictated to, your choice is directed on fear, guilt and the false premise that the strive, purpose to life is the modern american (40 days of purpose) path to undertake.
I really am not to interested in talking about hearts, feelings, emotional whims, baggage. I am not on a feel good journey. Either God does exist,(it must be proven) or he doesnt. God can be proven by combining physics (actuality, concepts of what already exists) and phylosophy (arguement to bring together abstract concepts into as much reality as possible.
Free will-rules rules rules. right throughout the old testement.
Old Testament God- justice, vengful, strict, needs to be worshipped, one to lead all life via him, Lord, angry, tester, teacher etc.
New Testement God- turns on the preachers, stands up for oppressed, tolerates sinners, loves them, spends more time, energy and therefore morepleasure with the victims, weak and misfortunate. curses the preaches ("brood of vipers"), seeks to inspire, to have relationship, to convert a near ending world.
Old testement, people tried to sus out how to live, what was right what was wrong.
New testament liberation of the oppressed cause of right wrong, ten commandments summed up, people taught to love eachother, and God.
Peoples needs are met.
I came to the conlusion since i didnt respect, admire any single christian way of life, as something to look up to, i realised that if i wanted to live my life the way i choose it, and with a purpose i dictate, and God is willin to send me to hell for it and all the other people, then i would much prefer hell, with my people, than an annaly retentive God. Sorry to be crude but its a heated issue.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Kasper, thanks for your sharing.

What you point out about Old and New Testament are not easy topics that can be discussed in a day, but they are not as contradictory as you think when you probe deeper.

However, I agree that there are plenty of spiritual abuses in church communities. Irresponsible teaching from the pulpit has caused more damage than many other bad things in society. It is better that they step down and stop confusing people.

Can I ask you further, in your 20 years of Christian life, does every fervent Christian you meet behave like what you have described - arrogant people who try to dictate you life? Any encounter with strong Christians who are endowed with good reason & heart? What about you when you were a youth leader once? How did you relate to your members?

Another thing, you believe God can be proven by combining Physics and Philosophy & based on your current analysis, He doesn't exist. So, what kind of data do you think will give you a positive conclusion that God exists? Can you give a hypothetical scenario?

Thanks in advance.

At 12:20 AM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

Wow! Ada lebih banyak lagi transkrip artikel dalam Bahasa dari Stephen Tong...

Hey Kasper,

Sorry I dun drop by here too often so didn't catch your response to my comment! hehe...

Well, i guess if atheism is supposedly so self evidently logical and rational, there is simply no need to be harsh at all! hehehe... just a cool statement of facts will suffice.

Sometimes heat can be used in discussions as a substitute of light, when fact is lacking!

Even so, a 'thorough' search on google, does not indicate that the 2nd law of thermodynamics support any naturalistically interpreted misconception of an infinite universe at all!

And this is no a 'christian only' view, by the way. The agnostic Robert Jastrow said of recent discoveries of astronomy

"This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth... [But] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; [and] as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

Professor Jastrow was the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute.

It depends really on who you listen to... :) for example we can look at this article here.

If u like to have further discussions on such topics and look for evidences, I'm sure you can find LOADS and LOADS of them in places like


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