Saturday, March 01, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 43: The House of Israel

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 10th February 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 35:16-29

Rachel passed away in this passage. Rachel was the woman Jacob truly loved. He met her for the first time and loved her for the rest of his life. But Jacob cannot control a lot of things that happened in his life. It was as though he was passive in all those events. It was not his intention to marry more than one wife. It was not his will that Dinah should be violated. He could not control the wicked thing his son Reuben did. The woman he loved was barren and the woman he did not love kept giving birth.

Eventually Rachel gave birth to a son and his passivity became active. Special milestones in our lives awake us to action. The sufferings we go through make us rethink the meaning of our existence and give us motivation towards new direction. Jacob kept working mechanically. When Rachel finally had a son, his entire life changed and he decided to leave Laban.

Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children. This favoritism later caused a lot of problems in his family. Children do not blame their parents for being not handsome or ugly. And few children grumble about the condition of their family. But they suffer greatly when they perceive unfair treatment by their parents.

Sometimes we love someone so much that we end up hurting them. This is the side effect when emotions are not properly applied. Life should be treated solemnly. Life is both lovely and scary. In the progression of life, life goes in one direction without return. We can regret forever because of the wrong decisions we made. This happened several times in Jacob’s life. Many families seem to be floating around passively in the wheel of time. This passage told us of the birth of his last son, Benjamin. And Rachel passed away after that.

Joseph was treated as the firstborn son of Jacob. Hence his name is not in the tribes of his Israel, instead it was replaced by the names of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. This is because Joseph received a double portion of inheritance. But in Revelation, the tribe of Benjamin disappeared. Benjamin tribe was rejected because they no longer worshipped the God of Israel. Although Benjamin was historically Jacob’s son, he was removed from the tribes of Israel.

The 12 tribes of Israel represent the kingdom of God in Old Testament while the 12 apostles represented the Church of God in the New Testament.

All the apostles were directly appointed by Jesus Christ. Judas was rejected because he betrayed Jesus. Judas had no place in eternity although in history he was appointed by Jesus Christ. He was removed because of unbelief. The mistake he made was a demonstration that he never had faith. While all the apostles called Jesus Lord, Judas called him Rabbi. Jesus was never Lord in his heart.

The church drew lot and appointed Matthias to replace Judas. But Judas’ position was actually replaced by Paul. Jesus appeared before Paul on the road to Damascus and directly appointed Paul as His apostle. This is from God’s point of view.

In the house of Israel, there are many tribes. In the Church, there are many denominations. When denominational spirit dominates, the house of God will be neglected. Joseph is not the most special tribe although he received double portion. God called His people Israel, referring to the entire kingdom of God.

We should serve with kingdom concept although we have our own denomination. We cannot treat heretic as denomination, but should welcome all denomination as brothers. Reformed system is not for reformed churches alone. Its existence is for the entire Church of God.


At 4:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talk about denominations. It's sad that most Protestant denominations have deteriorate so badly. And today's heretics are not considered heretics anymore, (in todays world nobody dare to call heretic as heretics.)

The Catholic church have 3 equally important elements: Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and Magisterial teaching (Pope and Bishops). When Reformers split from Catholic church, they bring along portions of those. E.g. concept of Trinity is not explicitly in Bible but from Holy Tradition and Magisterial teaching.

Reformation also occured in Catholic church, Vatican II is the prove of it. Further today's Pope, Benedict XVI was influenced most by St. Agustine's teaching rather than St. Aquinas (as all previous Popes)

What happened today with most Protestant denomination is the consequences of churches to only believed in Holy Scripture and neglected the other 2. You won't survive long without the other 2. Even the Bible was product of holy tradition. God didn't give Bible in one day. (like in case of Quran)

G.K.Chesterton (whose book: "Everlasting Man" lead to conversion of young C.S. Lewis) wrote in a great length about Protestant and Catholics

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi there,

Thanks for your comment. The relationship between Scripture and Tradition is a complex topic indeed. Agree with you that sadly Protestants are not taught regarding the role of tradition properly.

Historically & officially, Protestant does not reject tradition, but has a different concept of tradition from the Catholic.

In fact, reformers very much emphasized the need to return to the orthodox faith, which necessarily follows regula fide (rule of faith) passed down from the beginning. So they believe there is orthodox tradition that is faithful to the Scripture. But this understanding is not taught much today, so we have a generation of Protestants that are somewhat disconnected from history.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, good luck on your attempt to return to orthodoxy :-)

Under what basis could you say that this portion of tradition should not be reformed?
[Same sex marriage? Female priest? abortion?]
The Bible never explicitly condemn those.

G.K.Chesterton, on either accepting the whole Truth -vs- accepting partial truth as the whole and use it to attack the rest of the truth. (link above)
[The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the
supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high
head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or
cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, "This is all
hocus-pocus"; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation,
breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up
the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, "Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh." But in what conceivable
frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, "Your statues and
scrolls are condemned by our common sense," is sensible. To say, "Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest," is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am afraid I have difficulty understanding the point you are driving at. In order not to misinterpret your view, could you summarize your position on tradition and denominations briefly in a simple way? I'm kinda lost and not sure what your quotation is implying. Thanks.

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mejlina,
My position on Tradition and denominations (Protestant denominations) is exactly what's describe in the quote.

That quote illustrate what's going on when Protestant broke from Catholic church. They picked parts of Catholic church product which they thought were true (Bible) +certain Tradition (Trinity, 2 out of 7 Sacraments) and 'reform' those they thought were wrong.

Since then Protestants kept reforming themselves. (split and split again). With that kind of spirit when a Protestant said about tradition, naturally we should ask which tradition ? As we know Lutheran is very different from Presbyterians and so on. Also under what authority could someone teach about tradition ?

In Catholic, it is simple, as there's only one Tradition and one teaching (Magisterial teaching).

In my observation, Protestants are unbalance religion. They kept changing during history, there were time when they were very discipline (like the Puritans era), but now they mocked those same kind as legalistic. [This also showed that Protestant have almost no respect to their predecessors, might be inherited from first broke from Catholics, I guess]. There were times when they were conservatives but now they become liberals. So they swing from one side to the other as they like. But never really find the right balance. Because in essence they don't have the complete Truth. (maybe they don't care, as it's "my truth" that matters)

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

Got what you mean now, thanks.

At the flipside of the coin, Catholic also faces the issue on establishing the authority. Eg. Does one teaching necessarily mean it is true? Also, from time to time through the history of Catholic church, magistrates/popes differ and sometimes teaching contradicts.

It just looks messier on the Protestant side because there is no one physical official worldly organization to represent Protestantism, so all the differences are pretty obvious. When observed closer and deeper, Catholics however, do have 'denominations' as well, though not officially stated, like the charismatic Catholics... whose teaching and practices are extremely similar to the charismatic in Protestants. If labels are removed, a person going into one church or the other, might not sense any difference.

At the end of the day, Protestants do have fundamental common ground (like the 5 Solas) which distinguishes it from the other 2 main traditions (Catholic & Greek Orthodox), although as fallen human beings we often unnecessarily exaggerate on less important differences & make big noise out of them.

So, rather than getting lost in who's who... I would think that it boils down to examining every teaching endorsed by each tradition and understand the basis behind each important tenets of faith, why one is believed and not the other.

My $0.02 =)

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mejlina,

My aim is not to attack Protestants, but discuss the truth. I don't see problem with establishing the authority in Catholic church as they have been loyal to The Holy Tradition, Holy Bible and Magisterial teaching. (whether sometimes mistakes were made and later Pope apologized for those, has nothing to do with authority, but on rebellious attitude.).

Of course, even within 1 institution, there were always those which were rebels (or infiltrators?). In response to the Charismatic movement, etc in Catholic church, I see a beauty in the wisdom of current Pope Benedict XVI (he has been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for 22 years, when interviewed in 2003).
Ratzinger interview on EWTN
Raymond: Um hum. Do you see the various movements in the Church as part of that ongoing conversion? And is there a danger there, that we get into this competitive Factionalism, if you will, in the Church that we all have to be a part of it if we are going to be a serious Catholic?

Cardinal: Yes, on the on hand, I am really a friend of movements – Communione e Liberazione, Focolare, and the Charismatic Renewal. I think this is a sign of the Springtime and of the presence of the Holy Spirit, today will give new charisms and so on. This is for me really a great hope that not with organization from authorities, but really it is the force of the Holy Spirit present in the people. We have movements and new beginnings of the faith, new forms of the faith. On the other hand, I think it is important that these movements are not closed in themselves and absolutized; but have to understand that even if I’m convinced this is the way, I have to accept we are one way and not the way, and we have to be open for the others, in communion with the others. And essentially we have to be really present and even obedient to the common Church in presence with the bishops and the Pope. Only with this openness to not be absolutized with its ideas and to be in service of the common Church, of the Universal Church, can be really a way for tomorrow.

Agreed that the Church in this world won't be perfect. However, we should eagerly pursue the complete Truth (partial truth is not the Truth). If we think of not leaving any stones unturned, that should include willingness to do the unthinkable, like for a Protestant to become Islam, or Catholic, or Hindu if the Truth belongs to them.

Unfortunately, I don't believe most Protestant would do the examining every teachings from its source.
E.g. Most Protestant would only learn about Catholic church from other Protestants or a Catholic who become a Protestant. (but as G.K. Chesterton said: "Protestant lie about Catholic lying.")

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this book:
By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition

I don't think todays Protestants have common ground like 'Shorter/Larger Catechism, or 5 Solas'; but one thing for sure, all of them still share same enemy: Catholic church. It's ridiculous that conservative Protestant would rather join liberal Protestant rather than joining Catholic Church. It's that severe, only they don't realized or willing to admit that.

G.K. Chesterton share an insightful thought on Tradition:
"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around. "

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi there,

Thanks for your comments. I guess we are stepping into a very huge & complex issue here, which is not possible to discuss meaningfully in blog comments like this... also, pardon my delayed replies as I'm busy with exams & other commitments. So I'll just comment on one thing you said.

I agree that most Protestants build their understanding of Catholic faith from other Protestants instead of hearing direct from Catholic, and often times Protestants misrepresent the Catholic faith. But I think it is the same thing the other way round. Most Catholics also learn about Protestantism from Catholics, or Protestant who become Catholic. This is universal human weakness no matter which camp we are in, not to be attributed specially to Protestants alone.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of Protestants who consult primary sources & discuss issues firsthand with very educated, informed Catholics. And it is true the other way round as well. More often than not, Protestantism is also badly misrepresented by Catholics.

In my personal pilgrimage, I've had meaningful discussions with quite a few educated Catholics who are well-equipped in apologetics, and in trying to understand Catholic faith, I consulted Catholic Encyclopedia. I don't really share Protestants' zeal in slamming Catholics, equally I think Catholics who are too zealous to slam Protestants most likely haven't understood it right. I don't claim to understand it all, but I know the fundamental common ground and fundamental differences between the two -- and I know why I am a Protestant. Of course this doesn't prove what truth is... but just to let you know that not all Protestants get their Catholic view from Protestant sources alone.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mejlina,
Not my intention to prolong this discussion any longer that it should. Before I close I just want to say this. I myself is still a Protestant, but after several years of considering, I have decided to become a Catholic. Looking back, I kind of regret on those resources I put for Protestant church. As 1-2 generations from now, there will be either Catholic church, and charismatic + liberals Protestants. Traditional Reformed churches will shrink in such way that it will be very insignificant.

I agreed that it's not possible to convince Protestant from Catholic tradition. As it's like someone try to convince a Japanese that Chinese tradition is the original. But church is not like merely culture/tradition. Church is supposed to be united into one Church (one body of Christ), as professed in Apostle Creed or any other Creed both traditional Protestant church and Catholic church still hold.

On Catholic resources, the standard is
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sharing this link of the selected quotes from Early Church Fathers
The last one is from St.Agustine (many Protestant quoted him a lot, but never on this one)

“There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”
St. Augustine, Treatise On Baptism Against the Donatists, Bk 5, Ch. 1, A.D. 400


At 5:30 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Hans,

Thanks for your input. I appreciate your comments & can see that you have come a long way.

Truth remains objective and the function of faith is to continue seeking understanding & to be united with the Truth. In this life however, there will always be variances due to individual's honesty & earnestness in seeking understanding, and subconscious biases & limitations, presuppositions, etc. Above all these, true understanding is in God's sovereign grace, not men's power.

And Christians are in a process of growth. Some convert and reconvert from one camp to another during the process. Majority however, whichever camp they are in, never quite bother with it and will just stick to the tradition they are brought up from.

As of unity (same as the issue on the importance of tradition), it is not as though one camp disregards it and the other regards it. Protestants and Catholics have a different concept of what the Church is and its nature, and also holds a different concept of tradition. So they view and interpret the phenomena quite differently.

Anyway, it's been a good follow-up from the sermon update. Thanks. Feel free to feedback or even email me. I'll try to respond within the constraints I have.

At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mejlina,
Two comments:
(1) On the Truth; Pope Benedict XVI wrote Truth and Tolerance {Christian Belief and World Religion}. When he offended muslim with his remarks on Byzantine era, he was looking for a dialog. As he is confident the Truth will prevail.
(2) It is true that there were converts from both directions (Protestant <-> Catholics). But people of what caliber? I.e. How many Protestant pastor/priest become Catholic? (most served in non-priest position). And vice versa?


At 1:34 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Hans,

I think we all agree Truth will prevail, that God enlightens whom He will, and we are responsible to respond according to the light given to us.

On statistics, I do not have statistical data on conversions & I am not aware what kind of data has been gathered on that. Having taken my statistics course (both the pitfalls in gathering data, and how statistics is often done depending on who does it & for what purpose, & all the limitations and assumptions it has) I'm skeptical what kind of data could be gathered on this particular subjective issue & with its limitation how much value or qualification it can have in making a point.

As phenomena are always subject to various interpretations, the fundamental weight of a faith still lies on the consistency and coherence of its entire doctrines. And this is a very difficult thing to see.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why tradition ?

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
[ ~ G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy ]
English author & mystery novelist (1874 - 1936)

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One example:
Scott Hahn is very smart ex-Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholic.

his conversion story

He wrote great books like:
Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith

Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God


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