Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 3)

POSTERITY – that I remain healthy so that me and my tribe would live long in this land.

Sometimes I am a purist, wanting to comprehend and review the validity, legitimacy of teachings, principles and practices. This irksome attitude would highlight problems around me – both real and perceived, whether with situations or with people. Oftentimes it makes me self-righteous; thinking that I know better. What ego!

At other times I tend to be a pragmatist, knowing that we are all still imperfect, fallen, ignorant or ill-informed. Then I would be accepting and accommodating especially of others. Maybe that is why I am still in the church which so many berate.

I do really want to seek the truth as much as possible. Such was the case this morning when upon stepping out of the church service, I saw a group of adults wearing T-shirts with words “Forever Young” emblazoned. I opined to my wife, hinting most likely a “positive confession” statement echoing proclamations from the pulpit about “He renews my youth like the eagle” (Ps 103:5), and “I shall live till I am 120 years old”

Indeed this is a phenomenon within WOF churches – drawing mainly from the Old Testament that we shall live long and be kept healthy and strong.

According to Graeme Goldsworthy in his article on “The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament” evangelicals recognize that our view of the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible has saddled us with the Old Testament (passages) whether we like it or not. However he cautioned an error to be carefully avoided: “Many people simply draw on the great variety of Old Testament narrative for its wealth of human story … (leading to) a moralizing application that does little more than point up examples for us to follow and examples for us to eschew. Because there is no sense of structure and dynamic development, each narrative or text is treated in isolation from the wider framework of God’s progressive revelation. Consequently, the relationship of Old to New involves little more than illustrations of gospel truth.”

A lapse in the “big picture’ of biblical theology does set off the tendency to cherry pick and “proof text” feel-good verses as typical and prescriptive for our faith. Some termed it as “scripture-twisting”. But a few WOF teachers are really good in using Hebrew and Greek to buttress the conviction convincingly. Oftentimes, I had also been swarmed and swayed, without the benefit of a good grasp of biblical theology.

So are we proclaiming “Forever Young” as an eschatological truth, or as an experiential reality or as an erroneous presumption and perception. It is difficult to differentiate as this confession for that which is good and positive is rooted deeply in WOF teachings.

The question is, are my assumptions sound? Are they biblical?

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Michael Lawrence, in his “Biblical Theology In The Life of the Church” said

“our theology determines the shape and character of our ministry. Theology is how we move from the text of Scripture to how we should live our lives today.

biblical theology” is theology that’s biblical, or theology that’s sound.

“The word “sound,” …. means reliable, accurate, and faithful. And it’s the word “sound” that Paul uses over and over with his disciples Timothy and Titus to describe their doctrine and their teaching. Sound doctrine opposes ungodliness and sin (1 Tim. 1:10–11). Sound instruction opposes false doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3). Sound teaching is the pattern Timothy has seen in Paul (2 Tim. 1:13). Sound doctrine will be rejected by the churches who would rather hear what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4: 3). And, again, sound doctrine will encourage those who hold firmly to the trustworthy message and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1: 9). Over and over, Paul tells these two men to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2: 1). Sound doctrine, or theology that is biblical, ….”

“… biblical theology is about reading the Bible, not as if it’s sixty-six separate books, but a single book with a single plot — God’s glory displayed through Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is therefore about discovering the unity of the Bible in the midst of its diversity. It’s about understanding what we might call the Bible’s metanarrative.

“Biblical theology is how we go about the task of reading the Word and ensuring that it’s God’s Word rather than our words that are shaping people’s lives. Biblical theology is how we bring people into the life-changing story of God’s redemptive plan.

So, in church and in our fellowships, we often proclaim health for ourselves, and advocate a life span of 120 years, based mainly on OT passages. We want to live long, and avoid disease and death (taught by EW Kenyon, the grandfather of the WOF).

But when I come to the NT, I find the following seemingly different aspirations :

Luke 2:29-30 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation”

Phil 1:21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

2 Cor 4:16-5:8 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 5 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

I quoted Goldsworthy previously. More of him below –

“Prosperity teaching relies heavily on an Old Testament’s vision of life. It highlights the physical blessings given to Adam and Eve and the promises of prosperity given to Abraham.

“However, we need to see the progressive nature of Old Testament theology as leading to the New Testament fulfilment. He asserted that through the Scriptures, the revelation of God is progressive. In the OT, it is about the land, and living well successfully to herald God’s kingdom on earth. In the NT, it is all about our LORD

“Israel’s hope was to return to Zion, the place of God’s dwelling among His people. The New Testament must tell us where Zion is if we would dis¬cover the new temple and the ruling Son of David. Be¬cause Jesus is the Son of David to whom rule is given, Zion is where He is – ie., in heaven. The kingdom of God cannot be separated from the presence of Jesus (Heb. 12:22). In thinking of God’s place, it is important not to be too conditioned by our earthly concepts of real estate. The prominence in the Old Testament of the promised land should not be allowed to establish our concept of God’s place. We must remember that the promised land, Canaan, is an earthly expression of a reality which we saw set forth in the garden of Eden. But even Eden could not be Eden without the presence of God. Let Levi teach us a lesson. The tribe of Levi was chosen to be priestly representatives of Israel in having access to God (a priest is one who has access to God). God told Moses that He intended to make a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6), a truth which has its fulfillment in the priest¬hood of all believers. In this sense Levi was privileged to represent God’s people in the ideal relationship of being accepted into God’s presence. All the tribes were aportioned real estate as their inheritance, except Levi. Levi, the truly representative Israel, was given a far greater gift: “They shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance. . . .” Deut. 18:2, RSV. The making of the true kingdom of priests comes through the preaching of the gospel. The ultimate in¬heritance is related to priesthood rather than land rights. And it is this priesthood that the New Testa¬ment applies to Christians, for they have access to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. Because the hope of Israel leads thus to the blessings of the gospel, the writer to the Hebrews describes Abraham’s faith in terms of its ultimate conclusion. It is not to the land of Canaan that Abraham’s faith leads, but to the heavenly homeland (Heb. 11 :13-16).”

So do I want to echo what the pulpit declared oftentimes?

Deut 34:7 “And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”

I would be a purist if I learn biblical theology – that there is a program to ensure the health and posterity of the chosen Hebraic race living in the land given by God – part of the plan to herald the coming of the Jesus and His Kingdom. And Jesus, having come and died, His program now is for his redeemed people me to set our eyes on the Lord, Whose kingdom relationships, values and goals are eternal.

I would be a pragmatist desiring health and posterity, and be no different from other Asians going to shrines and temples to pray and hope for a good life in this temporal world, in this land.

(Not long ago, my daughter pressed me to expend my limited resources to renovate a resale flat still in good condition – to live well, to be comfortable. I resisted, saying a tourist would just stay in a hotel and then go home. He would not renovate his hotel room! Oops – an extreme example, but hopefully to affirm and self-fulfil the practice of my faith)

So am I a purist, or a pragmatist? I want to be a pilgrim, for God’s Word declares that I am a alien, a stranger, a sojourner in this land – longing to be with the Lord.

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