Related Article: Between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 LINK
I. Understanding Romans 13:1-7 in Context.
There has been a controversy in the media sparked off by a comment made by the leader of the Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia (CPHM) who urged Christians “to submit to and obey the government and those God had put in authority.” The leader added, “So don’t look at the person, as long as he is in position, the Scripture teaches us to honour and respect authority.”
Detractors protest that the comment is inappropriate as it takes a scriptural text out of context, to be used as a pretext for what is politically partisan. Indeed, many totalitarian states have caused much grief to the church when they sought to exploit this passage to justify their demand for unconditional submission from any Christian citizen who resists abusive authorities. We need therefore to emphasize that Paul’s call for submission is circumscribed by certain presuppositions. Continue reading “The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State”
To read Part 1 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1
I. What is the Redemptive Historical Method (RHM)?
The Redemptive Historical Method (RHM) is based on three affirmations:
1) RHM is Christo-centric. The RHM begins with the assumption that God’s plan of salvation for humankind was progressively revealed in mighty acts and prophetic word through various divinely appointed human agents in the history of Israel. RHM affirms the finality of Scripture as “God has in the past revealed long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus Christ].” (Heb. 1:1-2)
2) RHM affirms that the Bible has a coherent message, with Christ as its centre and final fulfilment.
Jesus said to the two disciples on the Emmaus road, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24: 25-27).
3) RHM affirms the divine inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture. As Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it succinctly, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (1:6)
It should be clear that these affirmations result in a “hermeneutic of affirmation” rather than a “hermeneutic of suspicion” that is prevalent within the dominant paradigm of historical criticism. To read the Bible is not to dissect a lifeless ancient document. It is to approach the Bible humbly with expectation that the Bible as the living Word of God also reads us and speaks to us. Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2”
This article is dedicated to the seminary student who is troubled by the “methodological atheism” framework of contemporary historical criticism, and is looking for a believing scholarship that is consistent with the Church’s affirmation of the Bible as the Word of God.
To read Part 2 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2
I. The Challenge of “Methodological Atheism” and the Historical-Critical Method
Seminary studies is vital for equipping aspiring pastors with skills in biblical interpretation. However, seminary studies may prove to be hazardous for some students when they are introduced to critical scholarship which treats the Bible just like any other Ancient Near Eastern texts. Students are told that the origins of the Bible is obscure because of its antiquity and because the authors of the biblical texts in truth are anonymous. The historical reliability of the Bible is cast in doubt as critical historians (the biblical minimalists) privilege silent excavated artifacts over informative historical texts and declare that the Bible contains more myths than history. Finally, critical scholars conclude that alleged cultural and religious commonalities between biblical stories and ancient mythological texts render questionable, the traditional Christian belief that the Bible is unique because of its divine origins. Students who are overwhelmed by these critical ideas soon lose their passion for preaching and pastoral ministry.
Critical scholarship is alluring because of its claim to be a rational inquiry that continuously advances the frontiers of religious knowledge, in contrast to conservative scholarship that is constrained by dogmatic authority. To be sure, this Enlightenment inspired narrative has been contested by recent scholarship. However, rather than outlining an alternative historiography which can be both intellectually robust and consistent with the biblical worldview, this article shall focus on how critical scholarship based on “methodological atheism” challenges the faith of students. Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1”
Appropriation and Constructive Use of Historical Critical Method in Biblical Studies
To read part 1 – The Promise and Perils of Historical Critical Method in Biblical Studies LINK
Some readers may conclude that we have been unduly alarmist in our discussion of the impact of historical criticism which have proven detrimental to the faith of some evangelical scholars. It would be good to recapitulate our concerns by referring to a recently published book – Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism ed., Christopher Hays and Christopher Ansberry which presents the current state of the historical critical method in evangelical scholarship. The authors are self-confessed evangelical scholars teaching at two venerable evangelical institutions and their book carries endorsements by several established evangelical scholars.
Reading the book confirms the concern that adoption of historical criticism could result in a shift towards liberal teachings: 1) denial of the historical Adam and Eve, 2) doubts about the reliability of the Biblical account of the founding of the nation of Israel, 3) the book of Deuteronomy was not written in the time of Moses. It was a produced much later at the time of King Hezekiah. The various books of prophecy were not written by the purported prophets but by some anonymous groups of followers who codified an ongoing collective tradition. Since it is impossible to identify the actual writers, it would be more accurate to describe these writings as pseuepigraphy, 4) New Testament criticism shows the events narrated in the gospels do not accurately reflect the original context as later anonymous authors took the liberty to redact and collate the texts to serve their own theological purposes. Finally, 5) the Book of Acts is demonstrably not historically reliable as critics conclude that there are discrepancies in historical details and theology between the Paul of the Book of Acts and the Paul of the Pauline Epistles. Continue reading “Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism Part 2”
The Promise and Perils of Historical Critical Method in Biblical Studies
How is it that access to modern tools of learning which evidently has help many Christians deepen their understanding of the Bible results in some losing their confidence in its historical reliability? It seems we have a classic case of the paradox of knowledge of good and evil which brings blessings and curses in a fallen world. Wonder drugs work miraculous cure but if taken excessively, would poison the body. Atomic energy generates massive electric power but it can also be used for weapons of mass destruction. Historical criticism which enhances our understanding of ancient scripture can also destroy faith – if it is applied without regard for the object of its investigation, the Bible with its self-attested divine authority. In this article I shall examine the process, promise and perils of the historical critical method for the study of the Bible.
Christians today can access many tools of modern knowledge to study Bible. Obscure words are clarified using Greek and Hebrew lexicons, strange ancient customs are explained by Bible encyclopedia and puzzling passages are illuminated in Bible commentaries. Understanding of the Bible becomes more concrete with new knowledge gleaned from recent archaeological excavations.
Leaders in the Malaysian evangelical churches in Malaysia welcome these tools as they will spur vigor and enthusiasm in systematic study of the Bible. After all, the evangelical churches have traditionally prided themselves as a Bible-centred movement. However, there is concern that some scholars have cast doubts on the evangelical doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration and infallibility of the Scripture as they deem the doctrine to be inconsistent with modern scientific study of the Bible that is promoted vigorously in the Western liberal academia. Continue reading “Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism Part 1”
To read: Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul” Part 1/2 LINK
NPP Reading No.1
Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?
An Evaluation of Sanders’s “Covenantal Nomism” by Peter O’Brien
Sanders found a common pattern in his treatment of Palestinian Judaism which he labeled “covenantal nomism.” He summarized it as follows:
The “pattern” or structure” of covenantal nomism is this: (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the law. The law implies both (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey. (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression. (6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship. (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved. An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.
Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2″
It is arguable that the most significant, but controversial development in New Testament studies in the last 30 years is the “New Perspective on Paul (NPP)” that is forcefully promoted by articulate scholars like E.P. Sanders, James Dunn and N.T. Wright.
The NPP represents a paradigm shift from the traditional view on the Apostle Paul inherited from Reformers like Luther and Calvin, who understood Paul’s epistles to be polemics against the legalism or work-righteousness oriented religion of Judaism of his times (variously described as 2nd Temple, Palestinian or NT Judaism). E.P. Sanders’ landmark book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press 1977), asserts that in reality Paul was in substantial agreement with Palestinian Judaism on the close relation between grace and work for salvation: “On the point at which many have found the decisive contrast between Paul and Judaism – grace and works – Paul is in agreement with Palestinian Judaism… Salvation is by grace but judgment is according to works’…God saves by grace, but… within the framework established by grace he rewards good deeds and punishes transgression” (p. 543). That is to say, Paul was not disputing with Palestinian Judaism which should more accurately be described as “covenantal nomism” – “the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression” (75). Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2″
Related Post – If Evolution, No Adam, No Fall, No Salvation, No Savior
The Historicity of Adam : A Biblical Defence (Collated With Scientific Articles)
Contemporary Denial of Historicity of Adam
Many critics declare that the church’s teaching of the historicity Adam has been discredited by recent advancements in science. It is purportedly impossible to reconcile the doctrine of Adam as a recent historical individual with fossils remains of ancient hominids pointing to a long process of evolution of humans who share a common ancestry with apes. Furthermore, recent studies of population genetics conclude that a historical pair (Adam and Eve) is insufficient to account for the genetic variations in DNA sequences found in the present human race.
A corollary of denial of the historicity of Adam is denial of the doctrine of original sin. Without a historical Adam there would be no historical Fall in which Adam suffered a fractured relationship and lost his power of communion with God, with the consequence of sin and death spreading to all humanity. Continue reading “The Historicity of Adam : A Biblical Defence (With 4 Supplementary Scientific Articles)”
Related Post: Answers to Questions Muslims Ask. Part 1
In response to questions raised at the controversial “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara (“The word ‘Allah’ and Christology in the Malay Archipelago”) held on 6 May 2014 at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, I would like to invite sincere Muslim inquirers to read the FAQ document given below.
QUESTIONS MUSLIMS ASK – Also available in PDF format Questions Muslims Ask
QUESTION 1: It seems that you Christians have no “Religion”. You do just as you like, when you go to pray, some of you beat drums, some clap, some dance, some sit, some stand. Have you forgotten the way of worship which God laid down for you through the teaching of Moses and Jesus?
ANSWER: The “Religion” which Jesus Christ ordained for us is that we should worship God “in spirit and in truth”. Jesus emphasized that it is the pure in heart who will see God (John 4:24; Matthew 5:8).
Certainly every Christian must worship God; such worship helps us to cleanse our hearts and our lives. The essential part of Christian worship is the same in all Churches. In all services of worship we read the Bible, praise God, give thanks to Him, confess our sins and pray for others as well as for ourselves. But Jesus did not give us detailed rules about the form of our worship. He didn’t prescribe one form of service which every Christian must follow. So we are free to use our own language, and to worship in accordance with our own customs, so far as these do not conflict with our faith in Christ.
Of course Muslims as well have some small differences among themselves in the way that they perform their Ritual Prayer. At a certain point in the prayer there are some who put their hands to the sides, while others fold their arms across the breast. Continue reading “Answers to Questions Muslims Ask Part 2”
A Response to “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara” – Come now, Let us reason together, says the Lord (Isaiah 1:18)
The “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara (“The word ‘Allah’ and Christology in the Malay Archipelago”) held on 6 May 2014 at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, has sparked strong protests from the public.
The NECF protests that higher institution of learning should not cause confusion and promote prejudice. The CFM adds that it would amount to abuse of trust and stewardship, “If there is to be sincere and genuine academic freedom, then let us have an intellectual exchange with integrity instead of a one-sided presentation with arguably inaccurate information being disseminated as fact…Otherwise, the seminar yesterday would be nothing more than hate speech and sectarian religious propaganda thinly disguised as academic freedom.”
The protests were in response to several seminar speakers who had mockingly posed questions that suggest the grounds for Christian beliefs are fundamentally flawed. For example, in a forum “Christianisation vs Islamization, the speakers answered pre-prepared questions that included “Did Jesus really die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins?”, “What is the Trinity?”, “Why did Jesus cry ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani’ (Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”) while on the cross?”. Themalaysianinsider
Another speaker argued that the parts of the Bible based on his teachings should simply be called “Tales of Jesus” instead of the “Gospel”. The books in the Bible were written by Christ’s disciples such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke were considered hearsay and similarly should not be considered the Word of God. The so-called gospel is only Jesus’ words, speech, hence should not be called gospel. He asserted, “The Christian gospel is a fake gospel.” The malaymailonline Continue reading “Answers to Questions Muslims Ask. Part 1”