In this sermon given at the SS Gospel Centre, Petaling Jaya, on 21 March 2021, I discussed whether the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an event that (1) is simultaneous with conversion or new birth (John Stott and Richard Gaffin), or (2) is distinct and subsequent to the new birth, accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking in tongues (Pentecostals and Charismatics), or (3 ) follows a fixed pattern that is universal and normative for all believers?
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Cor. 12:13
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
We are overwhelmed daily by information overload from the Internet. Brett McCracken explains,
The speed of information today is simply too fast. Too fast for sufficient vetting, fact-checking, prudence (should I really retweet this?) and commonsense critical thinking. This creates a variety of new problems that erode our collective trust in information: fake news, viral misinformation, conspiracy theories, and too-hasty reporting from otherwise reputable news sources.
The irony of the information age is that the more access we have to an unfathomable amount of information and accumulated knowledge, the less wise we seem to become. One problem with information glut is that it taxes our brains, forcing them into constant triage mode and sapping them of energy (and time) for the deeper, evaluative thinking necessary for wisdom. [ 2020 Proves We Don’t Need More Information. (We Need Something Else.)]
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another (Job 19:25-27).
We secretly relish in schadenfreude when misfortune strikes a wicked man, but we can only be bewildered by the disproportionate suffering that afflicts a righteous and blameless man, like Job. To be sure, we are given a glimpse of divine mystery when the prologue of the book of Job explains that Job’s sufferings are due to a wager between God and Satan. Satan sneers at God and insinuates that his kingdom is based on expediency since Job’s loyalty to God is gained through the blessings of God. God allows Satan to hurt Job, confident that the outcome will conclusively prove Satan wrong. Continue reading “The Suffering of Job: From Tragedy to Triumph”
It seems that my blog post, “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright” has caused offence among some ardent admirers of N.T. Wright. It has been suggested in the social media that I was small-minded and most uncharitable in trying to discredit someone just because of theological disagreement. It was alleged that my response betrayed vanity and presumptuousness as I tried in vain to discredit a world class scholar who is unquestionably way far more accomplished than I am. One critic concluded that I have been so caught up with abstract theologizing that I have lost the ability to empathize and offer pertinent pastoral counsel to people who are struggling with their faith in times of crisis.
I re-read my response to NTW to see if indeed I have been guilty of the charges levelled at me. To be honest, I am still puzzled in trying to identify the grounds on which these defenders of NTW drew these awful conclusions about me when other readers responded positively to the same post. Continue reading “Trusting God in Times of (Covid) Crisis”
[A summary of Paul Helm’s article, Coronavirus19 – What is it For? His words in italics]
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
When questioned about the incidents where (1) Pilate killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with their sacrifices and (2) eighteen Jews died in an accident when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus retorted, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you, unless you repent. You will all likewise perish’. (Luke 13: 1-3) These words are offensive to unbelievers.
The references to sin and guilt and repentance will put them off. But a contemporary Jesus – follower, who values Jesus’s words, should he not value these words? But no one, or scarcely one, of his followers today, quotes them, but shuns them. Jesus is silenced. When there are references, to sin, evil and judgment to come, there is a deafening silence. A person who respects Jesus’ words sees the purpose of the Coronavirus plague and other such evils as prompts to reflection and penitence, for Jesus calls all people are called to penitence for their evils even if, outwardly respectable, they convince themselves that they have no such need.
The fact is that people who survive dire and desperate situations are not those just stay put while waiting for a rational answer. Neither do they just lament and wait for commiseration (romantic sigh of relief), whether from counsellors or from God. Well, unless they come the socially privileged class and therefore never have to fend for themselves all their lives. Not surprisingly, they are at a loss, not knowing what to do. Those who survive are those who refuse to give up. Instead, they overcome the temptation to resign to their fate and do what it takes to survive. Continue reading “From Lament, to Hope and Action”
We may summarize NTW’s piece accordingly – There is no explanation, whether rationalist or romantic. We should not rationalize away or spiritualize our suffering especially in times when “the only advice is to wait without hope.” It is better just to grieve or lament. This is because lament reminds us that God himself is the one who grieved and lamented when his people betrayed him. NTW concludes, “It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”
Lament without an explanation for suffering without rhyme or reason? Doesn’t this sound like Greek catharsis in the face of cruel and capricious fate? Isn’t this a strange amalgamation of sentimentalism with Roman stoicism? In which case, why lament? Why not just accept our fate? In this regard, maybe the Muslims got it right – just throw up your hands and exclaim “takdir”, and get on with life. Continue reading “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright”
NT Wright almost took away my simple Christmas joy in his article: The Revolutionary Politics of the First Christmas. He writes, The Christmas story in Luke’s gospel climaxes with Jesus in a feeding-trough because everywhere else was full. Matthew’s version ends with Joseph and Mary whisking the baby off to a foreign country because the authorities wanted to kill him. Putting these together, the heart of the story is precisely Jesus the homeless asylum seeker.
The original, historic Christmas stories are about power. They are about the kingdom of God breaking in, dangerously and unexpectedly, into the kingdoms of the world. [I read it that NTW here has in mind political systems in contrast to the kingdom preached by Jesus in his ministry]
Protestant devotional literature was once well-served by popular writers like E. Stanley Jones, Eugene Peterson, Philip Yancey, Gordon MacDonald & J Oswald Sanders but today they are fading from the scene. The writers who are taking their place are eclectic in their approach to “spirituality.” Some are inspired by writers like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier who wrote from the tradition of Roman Catholic spiritual theology while others betray traces of New Age spirituality. Not surprisingly, the word “spirituality” has also proven to be an amorphous catch-all word. Nowadays, a lot of what goes as Christian spirituality is actually some form of syncretism mixed with disturbing and unorthodox theology (e.g. Richard Rohr). But to be fair we need to judge modern spirituality writers on a case by case basis. For example, the rediscovery of “spiritual disciplines” (c.f. Roger Forster & Dallas Willard) has been helpful to Protestants looking for “handles” as well as a map of spiritual progress in their devotional exercises & spiritual formation. Continue reading ““Old Wine” Spirituality Remains the Best”