The Whole Counsel of God (2) (a previous blog with the same title can be found here – https://wwwpilgrim.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/the-whole-counsel-of-god/)
My family was given a given a guided tour of Moody Church and a few of Erwin Lutzer’s books when we were there a few years ago. Since then, I began to listen online to Erwin Lutzer’s sermons upon returning to Singapore. I even downloaded his message on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ and passed it to a few friends. Recently, someone who relocated to Moody Church from Singapore’s New Creation Church commented that believers in Moody are requested to search themselves before partaking of the Lord’s supper, while at NCC, we are to examine the Lord Jesus and His sacrificial work on the cross instead of examining ourselves, who have been made righteous. So is Moody inconsistent or more likely addressing an equally important aspect of our lives as a sojourner on earth?
Yes, indeed we are made righteous by Christ’s death. We are taught – As He is righteous, so are we in this world, right? And Christ is not against Himself, Christ is not against us, and we are disease-free as Christ is disease-free?
Yet we read about Jesus’ words in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 that He is against the believers, and sought for active and practical works of the new creation.
NCC’s Joseph Prince, especially in the west has popular appeal and drawn appreciation from believers who watch him or read his books. Those who scan the horizon for distortions and deceptions in the church would fault his associations with the WOF and dispute his occasional use of proof-text, anecdotes and devotional interpretations to encourage and build up those who have been distraught by the Christian religion. (see posting on ‘Proof Text’ June 2013).
The radical message of Grace as proclaimed by Joseph Prince has brought untold relief and release to many who have long been exposed to teachings which do not fully encompass the essence, significance and consequence of receiving God’s Grace. However, does this renewed and refreshed teaching of Grace discount or demolish the traditional teachings of discipleship and the ‘working out’ our salvation? (see posting in June 2013 on OSAS?? and OSAS!!!)
Much misunderstandings and heat has been generated when certain convictions are championed and subsequently challenged. This can be seen by the comments against Joseph Prince in his teachings on ‘repentance’, ‘confession of sins’, ‘examining ourselves re the Lord’s remembrance meal’ etc. It is sad, and rather awry and amiss when someone labelled Joseph Prince’s book “Destined to Reign” as Destined to Ruin.
Personally, such dissonance might be due to the starting definition of terms and points of reference for the various issues. JP has focused clearly and convincingly on the doctrinal foundation and outcomes of the finished work of Christ and His Grace upon Grace for the believer – our position in Christ, sealed and delivered. I can fully appreciate his intense and resolute teachings to correct deeply entrenched fallacies of our faith. The testimonies and reviews of his books in Amazon.com bear this out. However, in any pointed discourse, it would invariably be incomplete, and would have left out other aspects of the scriptures (see posting of ‘The Whole Counsel of God’)
And was I delighted when I read what Roger Nicole wrote in “Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us”
James Montgomery Boice was quoted to have commented :- “If there was one man in America I could study under, it would be Roger Nicole.” (http://9marks.org/article/reflections-on-roger-nicole/)
Roger Nicole wrote: (words in bold, enlarged, etc are edited for emphasis)
Could I be Wrong?
The first thing that I should be prepared to learn is that I may be wrong and the other person may be right. Obviously, this does not apply to certain basic truths of the faith like the Deity of Christ or salvation by grace. The whole structure of the Christian faith is at stake here, and it would be instability rather than broad-mindedness to allow these to be eroded by doubts. Yet, apart from issues where God Himself has spoken so that doubt and hesitancy are really not permissible, there are numerous areas where we are temperamentally inclined to be very assertive and in which we can quite possibly be in error. When we are unwilling to acknowledge our fallibility, we reveal that we are more interested in winning a discussion and safeguarding our reputation than in the discovery and triumph of truth. A person who corrects our misapprehensions is truly our helper rather than our adversary, and we should be grateful for this service rather than resentful of the correction. As far as our reputation is concerned, we should seek to be known for an unfailing attachment to the truth and not appear to pretend to a kind of infallibility that we are ready to criticize when Roman Catholics claim it for their popes!
Our reputation will be better served if we show ourselves ready to be corrected when in error, rather than if we keep obstinately to our viewpoint when the evidence shows it to be wrong. I should welcome correction. It renders a signal service to me! I should respond, “I was mistaken in this; I am glad that you straightened me out; thank you for your help.” People who are unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes, by contrast, may be called stubborn and lose their credibility.
What are the Facts?
In the second place we may learn from one who differs that our presentation, while correct as far as it goes, fails to embody the truth in its entirety on the subject in view. Although what we assert is true, there are elements of truth that, in our own clumsy way, we have overlooked. For instance, we may be so concerned to assert the deity of Christ that we may appear to leave no room for His humanity. As a Calvinist, I may so stress the sovereignty of God that the reality of human decision may appear to be ruled out. Here again, I should feel grateful rather than resentful. The adversative situation may well force me to give better attention to the fullness of revelation and preclude an innate one-sidedness which results in a caricature that does disservice to truth no less than an actual error may do.
Many of the mainline elements of Christianity are thus, “two-railed,” if I may express myself in a metaphor. Unity, yet threeness in God, immanence yet transcendence, sovereignty of God and yet reality of rational decision, body and soul, deity and humanity of the Mediator, justification and sanctification, divine inspiration of Scripture and human authorship, individual and corporate responsibility. One could multiply the examples. When one of the factors is overlooked, one is doing no better than the railroad operator who would attempt to run an ordinary train with only one rail (I do not speak here of monorails!). The person who differs from me may render me great service by compelling me to present the truth in its completeness and thus avoid pitfalls created by under-emphasis, over-emphasis and omissions. Thus my account will be “full-orbed” rather than “half-baked!”
What are the Dangers?
I may learn from those who differ from me that I have not sufficiently perceived certain dangers to which my view is exposed and against which I need to be especially on guard. I may find out notably that there are certain weighty objections to which I had not given sufficient attention heretofore. Here again, I must be grateful for a signal service rendered by the objector. Instead of being irked by the opposition, I should rise to the challenge of presenting my view with appropriate safeguards and in such a way as to anticipate objections that are likely to arise.
Prince has dug his heels in proclaiming the Gospel of radical Grace and restored and inspired many with his own interpretations of the significance and outcomes of the unmerited and undeserved favor which all believers inherit. However, his vivid and vibrant teachings (perennial issues that affect and afflict the average believer) on repentance, confession of sins and the examining ourselves (amongst others) has somewhat elicit both assertions of flawed interpretation and allegations of false teaching, as they seemingly stirred up issues that had been submerged beneath the widespread calls to the ‘cost of discipleship’ and to give ‘my utmost for His Highest’. Comments and critique to Prince fill the blogosphere, with even allusions in the book “Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message” by Michael Brown.
The fog clears when one understands what Roger Nicole wrote “the mainline elements of Christianity are thus, “two-railed”. I wrote that our finite minds cannot fully fathom the full counsel of God (June 2014). I believe Michael Brown rightly cautioned against hyper Grace and presented aspects of our faith that could be ignored or neglected while Joseph Prince in bringing back the message of Grace had to be vigorous and robust in addressing the millions of believers hauntingly snarled by the gospel AND the trappings of religious demands for personal discipleship. But in doing so, Prince in denouncing the corrupted and mixed message of grace and works has brought collateral damage to the works of righteousness and the out-workings of our salvation.
I echoed Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 for myself and others frequently.
Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; …. 9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be (1) filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will (2) walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, (3) to please Him in all respects, (4) bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [r]to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
So it is more than just seeking after ‘right believing’ and letting the fruiting be automatic. It is also walking, pleasing and bearing – actions that are part of my life as a pilgrim and sojourner. Just as I have told my family since the 90’s To Know right (God’s heart and mind), Think right, Feel right, Do right and Speak right.