Archive for September, 2014

The last few days have been filled with a lot of ministry events which delayed my time blogging the reminder of our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical.”  So I’m glad to be back with this short post (unrelated to our series however) that was prompted by someone asking me about this New York Times’ Opinion piece about how Darwinism supposedly destroy God.  This is my email back to the young college student in our church.


Sister in Christ,

1.) “Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy.”
Response: I do think this presupposes evolution is true and again I think the essay never argues for the evolution but assume it. In basic reasoning class rememebr that just because you assert something it does not mean you proved it.

2.) “The twofold demolition begins by defeating what modern creationists call the argument from complexity. This once seemed persuasive, best known from William Paley’s 19th-century claim that, just as the existence of a complex structure like a watch demands the existence of a watchmaker, the existence of complex organisms requires a supernatural creator.”
Response: To begin with I want to make clear that I’m not a fan of a bare argument from design and complexity (that is, when one present the argument without being conscious of the audeince’s presupposition and philosophy of evidence) nevertheless I think it is unfortunate that the writer talks about modern creationists’ argument from complexity but then failed to present the current form of the argument but instead present the older form by William Paley (what I call the simple design argument). By the way, Paley’s argument from 1802. The current form is actually argument from IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY and is not the same as the simple design argument in that it focuses on the variable for all the mechanism and it’s configuartion together for any design to work and what the probability of that would be (which by the way would be very unlikely that certain order in nature is the result of mere randomness).

3.) “Since Darwin, however, we have come to understand that an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness. Living things are indeed wonderfully complex, but altogether within the range of a statistically powerful, entirely mechanical phenomenon.”
Response: Again I think this is just waving the hand when the writer mentioned this to dismiss the argument from irreducible complexity.

4.) “Moreover, no literally supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens; we are perfectly good animals, natural as can be and indistinguishable from the rest of the living world at the level of structure as well as physiological mechanism.”
Response: First off, while I think this might be a bit beyond your scope at this time but there’s a philosophical problem of naturalism (as opposed to the belief of the supernatural) that the writer does not take into account that is a vast subject in the area of philosophy, to include philosophy of science. I think any work by Alvin Plantinga might be a good place to go for further reading. Secondly he presents us a problem when he laments that humans have no supernatural structures within us (whatever that is, he does not identify). I think to expect supernatural structures within us at the biological level (which by a secular paradigm is the sphere of the natural) is to commit a categorical fallacy (an example of such a fallacy is when we ask if the musical note c exist, how come we don’t see the color of it).

5.) “Adding to religion’s current intellectual instability is a third consequence of evolutionary insights: a powerful critique of theodicy, the scholarly effort to reconcile belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God with the fact of unmerited suffering.”
Response: Here the author is no longer doing science but dabbling with amateur philosophy when he starts invoking the problem of evil (what in philosophical parlance is called theodicy). I don’t think he realize that an atheistic darwinian worldview brings more problem than it solves with the question about evil. Remember his conclusion: “The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.” If the world is an amoral universe, then we cannot even say evil exists; and if evil does not exists in the first place, then we have no problem of evil against God at all to employ against theism. I don’t have time to flesh this out in details at three in the morning, but I would even add that good and evil presupposes a standard that can only be explained by God.

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Can I Really Trust the Bible Cooper

You can order “Can I really trust the Bible?” over at Amazon

This is a book that is part of the Questions Christians Ask Series. Previously I have only read one work in this series, “Is God Anti-Gay?” and I thought it was the best compassionate and biblical work I have seen addressing those who have same sex attraction. This book on whether one can trust the Bible is also very good. Over five chapters the author Barry Cooper answers three important questions: (1) Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word? (2) Does the Bible seem to be God’s Word? (3) and does the Bible prove to be God’s Word? Cooper devotes two chapters to the first question, two more chapters to the second question and one chapter to the third question.
One thing I really like about the book is how the author is conscious of nonbelievers and young believers in the faith that would be reading his book. For instance, I appreciate Cooper explaining what verses are and the history of the Bible being divided into chapters and verses. There are helpful small excursuses throughout the book answering questions such as “What’s inside the Bible?” and “Aren’t some of the stories from Jesus’ life just legends and later additions?”
I also think that Cooper does a great job packing this small book with many illustrations that are helpful in supporting his explanation. For instance, in explaining why he begins with the question of what does the Bible claims about itself he gives the illustration of two individuals on vacation talking about the identity of someone they just saw and how it would not make be rational if these two individuals only engage in speculation but never bother to ask the person at all. Likewise it would also be unwise to speculate on what is the characteristic and identity of the Bible if we never look at the Bible’s own claim of itself. In considering the remarkable unity in the flow of redemptive history, Cooper gave this short illustration: “What if multiple authors had each written a single page of this little book you’re holding? What if each author wrote in different genres, in different centuries and in different countries, with no ‘master plan’ for them to consult? What is the likelihood that it would make any sense at all?” (38). Concerning multiple Bible versions, Cooper also made this point: “Jus because there are 15 different English translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, it doesn’t mean we can’t know what Dante meant” (56). Another good one: “The person who never wants the Bible to be hard is like the person who goes to the gym and never want to sweat” (74).
In reviewing this book I must also state my bias as someone who subscribe to Presuppositional apologetics. I am somewhat weary of works by naïve evidentialists who does not give much room for God’s Word to be self-evidencing and who up share evidences without conscious consideration of one’s philosophy of evidence. I was glad that this is not one of those works. I was surprised to see the author in several instances quote from John Frame (a plus!). In particular I was impressed with how Cooper dealt with the objection that an argument for the Bible as God’s Word is circular: Cooper would ask a question that would reveal the interlocutor’s own circular authority and Cooper also noted the nature of any ultimate authority would begin with itself or otherwise if it appeal to another authority, than that new authority is the ultimate authority. It is good to see a book of this size be conscious of the issue of ultimate authority!
In terms of constructive criticism, I wished Cooper could have gone through more Messianic prophecies that was fulfilled in Scripture. Cooper did mention Isaiah 53 and Micah 5:2. But I think Cooper accomplished a lot in 81 pages.
I highly recommend this book.
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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I believe that when it comes to missions, the primary responsibility and focus ought to be the sharing of the Gospel and from there the importance of discipleship and church planting.

Nevertheless I do see a place with helping with physical needs.  I think it is helpful to distinguish between relief and transformational development.  I think Christians that are involve with any help overseas with meeting physical needs must not forget to put the Gospel first.  I also think it would be good for Christians involved with overseas work that care for people’s physical need to know good economics that eventually help people in the long run rather than be short-sighted in one’s goal that end up enabling a problem, create artificial unhealthy dependence, etc.

Here are 4 distinction between relief and development:

1.) Relief is the effort of Christians to help victims in an emergency situation such as war, famine and other disaster. Transformational development is the effort of Christian to help reach people for God by helping with what appears to be problems that have become routine.

2.) While similar to point one, we can also make the distinction that relief is often for the short run while transformational development is more long term.

3.) Relief focuses on what outsiders can do to help victims whereas transformational development focus on what people within a group can do to help themselves and their community.

4.) Relief often involves giving direct aid and resources to the people whereas transformational development is seen as helping people at the larger structural level with focus on economic growth and political advocacy.

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Our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” have featured some articles written against the Insider Movement and if you need a short summary of the problem in video form here is a short video by John Piper responding to the Insider Movement:

Even thought it was two years ago it is still good and have been shared around on Twitter again this month.  Speaking of twitter, in light of our series you might also want to check out our Twitter @Domainfortruth where we are tweeting and re-tweeting other resources against the Insider Movement.

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In the middle of our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” I thought it was good to post this review of a book on sharing the Gospel. Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith Evangelism Made Easy

This is a good book for readers who need an introduction to biblical evangelism.  Those who are familiar with Ray Comfort’s book “The Way of the Master” will not find anything radically new in this book but it is a book I still recommend to refresh one’s evangelism method if you subscribe to “the Way of the Master.”  This work features different chapters going back and forth between the author Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.  The law of God is described and explained as to why it is a powerful tool in evangelism.  Both authors’ joy for sharing the Gospel will leap out of the pages and hopefully will stir the reader to witness.  I appreciate the practical tips and pointers throughout the book.  In particular, the book changed one of the tactics of my evangelism where in the past I use to ask people “Have you ever told a lie?” but now I ask people “In your life time, how many lies do you think you have told?” as a practical way of making someone think more about the severity of their sins with lying; I find the authors’ advice to be helpful because it avoid the hurdle that some people have that a few lies are no big deal.  I also appreciated the personal stories that Cameron and Comfort shared in the book and some of them are stories I haven’t heard of before.  I enjoyed hearing Kirk Cameron’s story of how he came to faith—and also how he discovered the Way of the Master and meeting up with Ray.  I also enjoyed the account of both authors having a meal with Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade and them talking about biblical evangelism towards the end of Bright’s life—and how Bright affirmed the authors concern for a clear Gospel presentation that’s biblical.  It is a good book that I would highly recommend both to veteran evangelists and those new to sharing their faith.  I appreciated also that this book is not just about open air preaching and sharing to strangers—the book also discussed about sharing to family.

Get Your Copy on Amazon

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Our series on “Mission, Culture and Being Biblical” have noted that some of the problems with contemporary missions philosophy such as that of the Insider Movement is the result of bad theology.  Specifically we have seen instances of a defective theology of false religion, sin and the church.  Added to this is also a defective understanding of the relationship between the Bible and Culture.

What is culture?

What is culture and how do missiologists define it?  It is not an easy thing to define and missiologists do acknowledge this.  For instance Lloyd Kwast, a former chairman of the Department of Missions at Talbot Seminary once said

There is probably no more comprehensive word in the English language than the word ‘culture,’ or no more complex a field of study than cultural anthropology.  Yet, a thorough understanding of the meaning of culture is prerequisite to any effective communication of God’s good news to a different people group” (Kwast, 397)

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a group made up of 33 individuals with theological, anthropological, linguistic and missional background has admitted in their Willowbank Report that

Culture is a term which is not easily susceptible to definition” (Lausanne Committee, 507).

In working towards understanding what culture is, Kwast finds it helpful to see culture as having several layers that addresses certain questions (see the image below):

Lloyd Kwast culture

I do find Kwast conceptual understanding to be helpful and especially insightful is that the core of a culture is one’s worldview.  Those familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will definitely see how apologetics will intersect with culture (a given for most) and also missions (this is by implication, given that missions deals with unreach people group with the barrier of culture).

Dr. Charles Kraft is an important figure who co-wrote a 1979 paper on a new way to reach Muslims that set the trajectory for the Insider Movement.  He describe culture in the following manner:

The term culture is the label anthropologists give to the structured customs and underlying worldview assumptions which govern people’s lives.  Culture (including worldview) is a people’s way of life, their design for living, their way of coping with their biological, physical and social enviornment.  It consist of learned, patterened assumptions (Worldview), concepts and behavior, plus the resulting artifacts (material culture)” (Kraft, 401).

I also appreciate 

What are the possible relationships between the Bible and Culture?

Bible believing missionaries are to share the truth of the Bible to those who do not know Him that is situated in another culture.  But what is the proper relationship between the Bible and culture? These are the  possibilities:

  1. The Bible has nothing to say about culture
  2. The Bible is against everything in culture
  3. The Bible is for everything in culture
  4. The Bible is for and against different parts of culture

What model of Bible relationship to Culture should Christians Embrace?

Bible believing Christians should hold to the fourth view of the relationship between the Bible and culture: The Bible is for and against different parts of one’s culture.

The problem with the first view (the Bible has nothing to say about culture) is that since culture is something that man has made then God has the progative as the Creator of man to pronounce approval or condemnation upon man’s cultural endeavor.  Recall that the definition of culture given by Kwast and Kraft who both identify that the core or deepest layer of culture is one’s worldview.  One’s worldview is inherently religious (or anti-religious) in the sense that religion has been defined by Tillich as one’s ultimate commitment.  Thus, Henry Van Til was onto something when decades ago he said that culture is one’s religion externalized.  If culture is man’s religious expression then the Bible have jurisdiction over culture since it has jurisdiction over “religious” matters.

The problem with the second view (the Bible is against everything in culture) is that culture isn’t wrong in of itself.  God’s Word does prescribe to His people answers to the different levels of questions that a culture is composed of: What is real?  What is true?  What is Good or Best?  What is done? (see Kwast’s picture above).

God is not totally against culture in of itself as evident from God’s cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [b]sky and over every living thing that [c]moves on the earth.”

Even after the Fall has taken place God reiterated the cultural mandate in Genesis 9:7.  The God of the Bible also has not categorically condemn the material side of culture per se; rather He even empowered men by the Spirit of God to do craft work as in Exodus 31:1-6.

The problem with the third view (the Bible is for everything in culture) is that since culture involves the participation of man, man who is thoroughly sinful (Romans 3:23) will inevitably bring his corruption to his cultural activity.  We should therefore not be surprised to see manifestation of man’s depravity and wickedness in every culture.

It is the third view that both the missiologists and the critics of contemporary unbiblical missiologists wishes to address but from two different starting points.

The Concern OF Contemporary Missiologists: Equivocating A Missionary’s Culture with what’s Biblical

Most contemporary missiologists are concerned that people from missionary sending church naively assume that their culture = what’s Biblical.

Concerning culture, Charles Kraft notes the problem one has of being epistemologically conscious of what is merely one’s own culture versus transcendent universal truth:

We are totally submerged in it, relating to it much as a fish relates to water.  And we are usually as unconscious of it as a fish must be of the water or as we usually are of the air we breathe.” (Kraft, 402).

Unfortunately we don’t really notice our own culture until we are exposed to another culture.  And if one is not aware of one’s own culture by being aware of another culture we face the following danger:

We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally” (Kraft, 400).

The Concern FOR Contemporary Missiologists: Letting an Unreached Culture go against what’s Biblical

A missionary or missiologist can become so cautious of everything in one’s original culture that they then end up spending all their time and energy discerning against it while failing to have the same level of scrutiny for the culture of the unreached people group.  Or one can be so zealous to see the lost come to know Christ that one then pragmatically use the vehicle of the recipients’ culture without as much discernment as they should be having.  In both instances, one can let the culture of the unreached people people group become practically more authoritative than the Bible in one’s philosophy of missions.  When this happen we see the problem of unbiblical compromises or worst: syncretism.

The Solution:

David Hesselgrave’ Three Culture Model is a helpful paradigm in thinking about the solution:

3culture missions

What Hesselgrave don’t want is the arrow with broken line between the missionary culture being transmitted to the respondent culture as Gospel truth.  Instead Hesselgrave is right to note that missionaries must go back to the Bible (arrow from missionary culture pointing to “Bible Culture”) and know it really well which the missionary then brings the “Bible Culture” to the unreached people group in their culture (arrow from “Bible Culture pointing to “Respondent Culture”).

I would add another arrow to the picture: there needs to be an arrow from the respondent culture pointing back to “Bible Culture” to convey the need for the unreached people group to go back to the Bibles themselves and see that it is taught in Scripture.  We see the Biblical support for this idea in Acts 17:11 when it talks about the Bereans that Paul was trying to reach:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Essentially what we need more of is the Bible!  In order to avoid either the senders’ culture or the culture of the unreached people group interfering with the Gospel message and biblical evangelistic method we need to know more deeply the Bible.  We need to be faithful to it and trust that it is true when it talks about the human condition and the hope of sinners.  We must not lean on our own understanding and think we are wiser than the writers of Scripture just because our day and age has become more sophisticated in cultural anthropology.

We must not forget 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who[n]are being saved it is the power of God.


Hesselgrave, David. 2009. The Role of Culture in Communication.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 425-429.

Kwast, Lloyd. 2009. Understanding Culture. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 397-399.

Kraft, Charles. 2009. CUlture, Worldview and Contextualization. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 400-406.

Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  2009. The Willowbank Report.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 506-528.

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One of the leading Reformed Christian scholar responding to the Insider Movement is David Garner, a professor from the Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS).

He was the chairman for the three year study committee on the Insider Movement for his denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

He has written a five part series over at his blog with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals that must not be missed.  It took him several months but he completed at the end of last month!

The following are the links to his articles:

Stay In or Come Out

Old Trumps New or New Trumps Old?

Who am I and Who Says?

Missions: The Kingdom of Christ or the Church?

Church, Stay Out of Missions!

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Donald McGavan

A big name in missiology is Donald McGavran.  According to Wikipedia Dr. McGavran was

a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.


He was also someone important because of his People Movement Approach towards Missions.  While McGavran did not live long enough to see the Insider Movement, I do think the Insider Movement would not be what it is without McGavran’s People Movement Approach.  I also think that some of the things he has to say about his approach in contrast to what he calls the conglomerate church approach is not fully biblical and at times I don’t see how his model necessarily avoid the very problems that McGavran fault with the conglomerate model.  I think his approach shouldn’t be altogether dismissed but instead can benefit from the following criticisms being offered.  In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by McGavran in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

McGavran, Donald. 2009. “A Church In Every People: Plain Talk about a Difficult Subject.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 627-632.

The purpose of his essay is not to argue that the conglomerate church approach is thoroughly wrong and his approach is the only one that’s right; rather the purpose of his essay is a little more modest as he himself said: “Let us make sure that we do it by the most effective methods” (McGavran, 632).  Essentially McGavran believes that the People Movement Approach would be more effective.  A Christian however should not just evaluate a method because it is “effective” but also how an approach align with Scripture; that is, we must evaluate any method with the question of whether it is being faithful to God’s Word.

What is Conglomerate Church Approach versus People Movement Approach?

Before we can go any further it is important to define and describe what is the conglomerate church approach and what is the People Movement Approach.  Several times McGavran describe the conglomerate church as the “one on one” convert approach.  He also described it in the following manner:

The missionary arrived.  He and his family worship on Sunday.  They are the first members of that congregation.  He learns the language and preaches the gospel.  He lives like a Christians.  He tells people about Christ and helps them in their troubles.  He sells tracts and gospels or gives them away.  Through the years a few individuals converts are won from this group and that.  Sometimes they come from a very sound and spiritual reasons; sometimes from mixed motives.  But here and there a woman, a man, a boy, a girl do decide to follow Jesus.

One single congregation arising in the way just described is almost always a conglomerate church–made up of members of several different segments of society.

(McGavran, 627).

On the other hand, in McGavran’s perspective a People Movement Approach is one in which “the goal must be a cluster of growing, indigenous congregations, every member of which remains in close contact with his kindred” (McGavran, 629).  McGavran gives us an example of what this approach looks like:

For example, if you were evangelizing the taxi drivers of Taiperi, then your goal would not be to win some taxi drivers, some university professors, some farmers and some fishermen, but rather to establish churches made up largely of taxi drivers, their wives and children, and their assistants and mechanics.  As you win converts of that particular community, the congregation has a natural, built-in social cohesion.  Everybody feels at home.  Yes, the goal must be clear”

(McGavran, 629).

McGavran’s Objection to the Conglomerate Church Approach

McGavran’s chief concern with the conglomerate church approach is that it is a group that is too mixed and ends up being ineffective for outreach.  This kind of church which is a collection of various odd groups of individuals in McGavran’s opinion ends up being seen as outsiders by the community which as a result make members become ostracized.  The concern that Conglomerate Church leads members being sealed off from the community is repeated again and again in McGavran’s essay:


It is sealed off from all the people groups of that region.  No segment of the population says, ‘That group of worshippers is us” (McGavran, 627-28).


A church which result from this process looks to the people of the region like an assemblage of traitors.  It is a conglomerate congregation.  It is made up of individuals, who, one-by-one, have come out of several different societies, cast or tribes” (McGavran, 628).

Third time,

‘You are not of us,’ they say to him; ‘You have abandoned us; you like them more than you like us.  You now ownership their gods not our gods.’  As a result, conglomerate congregations, made up of converts won in this fashion, grow very slowly” (McGavran, 628).

Fourth time,

We must not allow new converts to become seal off.  We must continue to make sure that a constant stream of new converts comes into the ever-growing cluster of congregations” (McGavran, 631).

And finally:

But is a slow way.  And it is a way which frequently seals off the converts’ own people from any further hearing of the gospel” (McGavran, 632).

McGavran’s concern faces two criticism.

First off, biblically speaking, we must not forget the Words of Jesus concerning the reality that believers of Jesus Christ will face persecution including being ostracized by one’s community for the sake of following Christ.  Note Luke 10:16, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”  Note also Jesus’ words in John 15:20-21= “20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me,they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”  McGavran’s essay does not deal with these verses which is unfortunate since these verse do speak on the topic of being sealed off from one’s community and facing rejection.  In fact, the entire essay lacks any acknowledgement of a biblical understanding of the role of people’s sin in rejecting Jesus Christ and the reason why people persecute genuine Christians.

Secondly, it seems doubtful that the People Movement Approach would do any better than the Conglomerate Church model in avoiding being ostracism.  We must also remember that believers cannot control nonbelievers from rejecting us–ultimately, it is up to them and not us.  Moreover in the essay McGavran himself acknowledge the possibility that the People Movement Approach faces the exact same difficulties as the Conglomerate Church Approach when he writes of the People Movement Approach that “all converts should be encouraged to bear cheerfully the exclusion, the oppression and the persecution that they are likely to encounter from their people” (McGavran, 629).  He adds “Encourage converts to remain thoroughly one with their people in most matters.  Please note that word ‘most.'” (McGavran, 629).  I don’t see how Mcgavran’s exhortation for the People Movement Approach is unique or any different than the exhortation of those practicing the Conglomerate Church model.

Evaluating Mcgavran’s People Movement Approach

When we look at the essay’s description of the People Movement Approach more closely, two problems stand out.

The first problem is with what McGavran has to say about baptism: 

If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately.  Say to him, ‘You and I will work together to lead another five, or ten, or God willing, 50 of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour so that when you are baptized, you will be baptized with them.’  Ostracism is very effective against one lone person.  But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen.  And when exercised against 200 it has practically no force at all” (McGavran, 630).

It is biblical to baptize an individual believer without having multiple converts with him or her as Acts 7 demonstrate with the case of Philip baptizing the Etophian eunuch.  Now I will grant that there might be some wisdom in wanting to see more people getting baptized at the same time but I think we must be careful to avoid conveying the idea that we must baptize only when many people come to faith.  I think this practice is also presumptuous.  If it turns out that conversion is taking place slower than one expected, do we then put off baptism of new believers for years until an arbitrary quota is fulfilled?  I also think the discussion of baptism also bring out the reality that the people movement approach still faces the same problem that McGavran has for the Conglomerate Church model in that the People Movement Approach (or any other approach for that manner) is still doing evangelism “one by one,” that is one individual at a time.  But even if there are sudden rush of people coming to be baptized, I also think McGavran’s reason for multiple baptism so as avoid being ostracized would also fail since we see the early church have moments when many come to faith yet believers can still face rejection from their community as in the instance of Acts 2.

The second problem has to do with what McGavran has to say about teaching versus reaching out:

One of the common mistake made by missionaries, eastern as well as western, all around the world is that when a few become Christians, perhaps 100, 200, or even 1,000, the missionaries spend all their time teaching them.  They want to make them good Christians and they say to themselves, ‘If these people become good Christians, then the gospel will spread.’  So for years they concentrate on a few congregations.

Between the two evils of giving them too little Christian teaching or allowing them to become a sealed-off community that cannot reach its own people, the latter is much the greater danger. (McGavran, 631).

I think we can easily have a false dilemma here, where MCGavran commits the fallacy of either/or when we can have a “both/and.”  Biblically we must not forget that the Great Commission is what drives Christian Missionary activities.  We must remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20:

19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.”

Note how the Great Commission involves “ teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” if we don’t teach everything as one of our aim, then we are failing the Great Commission.

The Apostle Paul is a great exemplar of the Biblical model of a missionary who never lost the focus of evangelism to nonbelievers while also making sure new believers and churches continue to grow in the teachings of Christianity through face to face ministry and his epistles, some of which contain deep truths of God (think of the Epistles to Romans).

I also think McGavran falsely assume that the more teaching a believer has, the more likely he will be sealed off from their own people.  I don’t think logically that necessarily follow.  However, it is true that the more teachinga new believer recieves and applies the more that believer will become holy, which essentially mean “set-apart” for God.   Here I think McGavran commits an equivocation fallacy, in which he equivocate holiness with being “sealed-off.”

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We take a break from our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” for our regular Presuppositional apologetics’ links.  Tommorow we will pick up with that marathon series.

These links below were gathered between September 15th-21st, 2014.

The following are Presuppositional Apologetics’ links gathered

1.) Reviewing Adam Tucker’s Presuppositional Apologetic Critique [1]

2.) The Bible or the Qur’an: There’s No Comparison

3.) Natural Theology 1: Toward Clarity and Apologetics

4.) A Fond Farewell, but not Goodbye

5.) A book entitled “Presuppositionalism: A Biblical Approach to Apologetics” for free.

Truth For Homer’s Mirror of Mid-September 2014 Van Tillian Apologetics Links

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Keep Calm you speak english

In terms of missions today there are many opportunities to reach people through the ministry of teaching English overseas.  Not to take away from this great opportunity, I think we must also be cautious to jump the gun and assume that “Any English speaker can teach English to speakers of other languages.”

First off, language is one of those things that we think we know it until we have to teach it–and then we discover that we might not really know it as we think we do.

Secondly, the state of our education today is that many English classes in our younger years and also in College do not emphasize much on Grammar anymore and I think this is a reason in of itself to be cautious in assuming that just being a mere English speaker means we can teach the English language.  I know this is a bit anecdotal, but I remember in Seminary many of those who grew up in the US and spoke English all the time might struggle more than those who were coming in from overseas concerning grammar, even things such as identifying the basics such as what is a preposition and participle, etc.

Thirdly, even those who teach English in the field already can further improve their skill of teaching English.

Fourthly, as in any area, I think teaching a skill require more than just being good in that skill; one must also be a good communicator in order to be an effective teacher.

Fifthly, related to the above, is the phenomenon that sometimes those who excel in something might not necessarily always be a good teacher of the very thing they are good at; personally, I feel this is especially true with those who are good at management but they are so good at it that they think it must be intuitive and struggle in passing on the skill to someone else.

Sixth, apparently the skill to teach English well is important enough that a major organization such as the Billy Graham Center has dedicated part of their mission to better equip those involved with teaching English as a mission.

Seventh, we must not forget that a missionary must not only be adept in language; he or she must also know the Gospel and know how to communicate it well.  This might be a good time to say that we must not forget the priority that the missionary or evangelist themselves must focus more on actually knowing the Gospel really well.

Given the above, I think we should be at a minimum be cautious with the thesis “Any English speaker can teach English to speakers of other languages.”

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Dear Family, Friends, and The Domain for Truth Readers,

The journey that the Lord has charted for me does not cease to amaze me. After the many wonderful years of having served alongside the leaders in old church, as well as graduating from a wonderful seminary last May, I am now currently serving as one of the pastors at at a church in CA. God has been blessing me with many opportunities to serve Him and His people. At my church, I have been shepherding the people to grow in their faith, holiness, love for God and for one another. It is also my desire for the church to reach the lost and to make disciples through the use of the Gospel, which transcends all cultures. One way to do that is to cross into another foreign land. This October, I will be leading a very small team to Southeast Asia. After many years of contemplation, prayer, and preparation—by God’s grace, I will now be going there. I will not just be going to any land. I will be going to a land, my roots—where my parents lived; and also escaped from in 1980 due to the intense Communism take over in 1975-1979. As a nation, it has been decimated by idolatry, the Communist (where the ideology of Marxism with the extreme version of nationalism murdered over 2 million people), vice, corruption, and spiritual darkness. This nation has a population of about 15,206,000, with about 31 unreached people groups. About 96.4% are Buddhists and less than 2% are evangelical Christians.

My hope is that this mission trip to Southeast Asia will provide an opportunity where I can be transformed, become more sanctified in the Lord, develop a deeper love and burden for global missions, and to be in more prayer to God for direction concerning any future plans to serve Him. My desire is to make His name famous and magnified. I know that He cannot be honored unless the clarion call of the Gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed to the unbeliever and believer.

We are well aware that the success of this trip is dependent on the Lord and your prayer support. Along with your prayers, if you would like to partner with us financially, please send an e-mail to us to Domainfortruth@gmail.com.  It is very rare that we would ask for financial support.  All of our resources here are free for the body of Christ.  But we understand that money at times can be an obstacle for ministries such as global missions.

In King Jesus,


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Jay Smith

Jay Smith, Christian apologist to Muslim, spoke in 2012 on the issue of the problem of the Insider Movement.  These two videos from Youtube are great resources given that Jay Smith has a master in Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary where many of the missiologists who were the forerunners and later leaders of the Insiders Movement taught at.

Here are the videos:

I am 42 minutes into the first video thus far and I found Jay Smith to be quite fair and knowledgeable of his description of the Insider Movement.  Jay Smith begins his 19 points of contention about 39 minutes into the video.

For those who might not have the time to read the PCA report against the Insider Movement and the essays I’ve written here thus far, these two talks might be helpful for you who are audio-visual learners.

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Can genuine followers of Christ (those Born Again) retain their previous “socio-religious identity”?  What are we to make of those who argue that a Born Again follower of Christ can retain their “socio-religious identity”?

The following is an interaction with an essay that was printed in Perspective on the World Christian Movement by Rebecca Lewis titled “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community:”

My Thoughts

I can appreciate Lewis’ spirit of trying not to set our own obstacles against people coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.  One thing I think that we can learn from her article is the fact that our church plant effort should take advantage of natural relations and association that already exist before our Gospel effort, rather than ignore them or worst, unnecessarily undermine them.

But I do have more problems with Lewis’ article and the Insider movement that overshadow what is helpful.

First is with Lewis’ talks about the difference between planting churches and implanting churches; the former she describe as bringing strangers together to become a new family of God in the church while the latter instead incorporates believers within their pre-existing family or community network that provide the spiritual fellowship for each other (Lewis, 674).  I have a hard time seeing that strong of a distinction between the two and don’t find as strong of a distinction between planting and implanting a church: I think Lewis here would be naïve to think that church plants are not trying to utilize pre-existing relationship for building a community of faith with those that are already part of one’s network such as family members, co-workers, friends, etc.  Moreover I believe she fail to take into account Jesus’ own teaching that the reality is that sometime those within one’s own family would reject the Gospel for Jesus Himself said “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53, NIV). It seems that when rubber meets the road even implanting a church would face the same difficulty as planting a church.


Secondly, she leaves the term “socio-religious identity” vague; and more importantly she does not define “religion.”  It is important for her to define her term especially when she says things such as the “insider movements affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity” while also saying “they only need to go through Jesus Christ to enter God’s family” (Lewis, 675).  Another example is her statement that “Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the Gospel” (Lewis, 675).  She believes “religion” is pit against the Gospel when she cited Ephesians 3:6 but the verse does not contrast Gospel with “religion.” (And remember since she didn’t define it, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint how exactly this verse is against “religion.”).


Thirdly, while she does try to give a theological argument to justify that we do not need to make people accept the “Christian religion,” I think her argument fail to account for unique instances of redemptive history.  Lewis raised the question “Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family?  The New Testament addresses a nearly identifical question: ‘Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?’” (Lewis, 674).  But I think the parallel with whether one has to be a “Christian” and that of going through “Judaism” breaks down because biblically the Gospel message that we often describe with the term “Christianity” is God’s way of allowing people (specifically non-Jews, the Gentiles) to enter God’s family.  I also believe there is a leap in logic when she merely assumed that Christianity parallel Judaism as a religion that one can ignore as a passing relic of the pass because God is doing a new thing; I think it is question-begging.


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PCA Report Insider Movement

Yesterday post I talked about how there are problems with some leading missionary strategists who pushes forth methods that are problematic.  This problematic movement that stresses contextualization is called the Insider Movement.  I’m glad to finally see that there are people who are responding to this biblically and exposing them.

One set of documents that are going to be important in the years to come is the report that the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) has adopted in the General Assembly meeting on June 17-19, 2014 concerning the Insider Movement.   While it is prepared for the PCA, nevertheless there will be many in other denominations that will find this report helpful.  The chairman of Study Committee on the Insider Movement is Dr. David Garner who is a professor at the Westminster Theological Seminary and someone who have extensively researched and critiqued the Insider Movement.

Both these documents are in English and are available as PDFs.



May the Lord use this to warn and equip God’s people of the Insider Movement

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religions and mission method


This is the kickoff post for what Lord-willing will be a week long series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical.”  What prompted this series is the concern that while modern Christian missionary endeavor have encouragingly made progress with the Gospel among unreached people group at an unprecedented scale in the history of Christianity, nevertheless some of the leaders and intellectuals of today’s missionary movements have a weak theology and a problematic view of culture that hinders the effort of biblically faithful missions work .  One such serious theological problem among some missiologist is a defective understanding of a “theology of world religion” that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Here in this post I want to document that such a problem does exists among prominent missiologist and examples will be cited from several essays found in the important anthology on missions titled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (4th Edition).

Are there examples of bad theology of false religion in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

The book Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was edited by Ralph D. Winters and Steven C. Hawthorne.  The fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement was published in 2009, the same year that Ralph Winters died.  Ralph Winters was an important figure in the missions world.  According to the book Winters was “the General Director of the Frontier Mission Fellowship (FMF) in Pasadena, CA” whom “after serving ten years as a missionary among Mayan Indians in the highland of Guatemala, he was called to be a Professor of Missions at the School of World Missions at the School of World Mission (Winter and Koch, 531).

Winter coauthored an essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge with Bruce Koch.  Koch himself at the time of publication was the International Facilitator of the Perspectives Global Network (Winter and Koch, 531).  In this essay, Winter and Koch in the end-note gave the following definition for “Practicing Christians:”

Practicing Christian refers to Christians of all types and associations, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans, Independents and Marginals, who are not merely nominal (Winter and Koch, 546).

Based upon this definition of practicing Christians, Winter and Koch optimistically stated that “Today, there is one practicing Christian for every seven people worldwide who are either nominal or non-Christian” (Winter and Koch, 531).  One must be a bit more pessimistic about the numbers since both Winter and Koch believe without any qualification that Roman Catholics are Christians.  Since one of the driving motivation for missions is to declare the Good News so that sinners are reconciled to God by means of justification through faith, it is kind of hard to embrace the view of justification that Roman Catholics subscribe to as being the same thing as the Protestant view of justification.  They are antithetical to one another actually; and it’s as different as heaven and hell when it comes to matter of missions and eternity.

Ralph Winter’s lack of discernment between biblical and unbiblical groups that claim to be Christian can be further seen in his essay titled Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge.  Here he addresses directly the question of what are we to think about “cultic” religious movements and the answer is concerning:

The growing edge may more and more be the kind of thing we would call cultic or a least anomalous in this country.  Does our attitude towards ‘home grown’ aberrant forms of basically biblical faith in this country match what is needed in the rest of the world?  Can we trust the Bible to eventually balance out these thousands of new, ‘out of control’ movements?  Can we digest the the plain fact that the entire Islamic tradition is, like Roman Catholicism, full of ‘non-Christian elements which we despise, yet is clearly the product of the impact of the Bible (unlike Hindu culture)?  What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?  Rather than look at the bewildering varities of forms of religious faith–at the different ‘earthern vessels’ in which the faith is contained–let’s look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God” (Winter, 394).

Sadly in the quote above and also in the rest of the essay Winter never address the issue of what does the Bible itself have to say about “anomalous” “qusai-biblical faith.”  This omission is inexcusable considering how much the Bible does talk about false teaching and false beliefs.  One might try to read the above charitably and try to say that Winters is referring to those in the West who can be uptight cherry pickers on secondary issues but then Winters’ discussion about Islam does not permit this interpretation.  It is sad to see that Winters confuses the fact that just because something has been “the product of the impact of the Bible” it must therefore mean it must be thoroughly biblical (one must not forget the possibility that a religious system can be the product of the impact of the Bible on the one hand concerning certain religious tenets while the system also pervert what the Bible teaches with other tenets).  Winter challenges the reader with the question “What do we do with such forms of qusai-biblical faith?” with the specific example of Islam and gives his answer that Christians must “look at the extent that the will of God has taken hold.  That is the kingdom of God.”  I think the reader must not let Ralph Winter get away with his naked assertion that we peer into a religion such as Islam and say that is the kingdom of God; Ralph Winter has the burden of proof to demonstrate that God is working through a non-Christian religion and that seeing something like Islam being used by God is the kingdom of God.  Winter’s attempt to suggest we accept Islam theologically by way of arguing from the analogy of Roman Catholicism also commit the complex question fallacy since Winter assumes that Roman Catholicism is going to be accepted by the audience despite it having flaws doctrinally–but that’s not a given, especially in light of Roman Catholicism’s inadequacy with soteriological matters.

Finally another such essay we want to look at is titled From Western Christendom to Global Christianity.  The authors of this essay are also important leaders in the missionary world.  Todd Johnson is the director of the Center for the study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell theological seminary and his co-author Sandra S.K. Leeis is a research assistant for the same center; Lee has also served as a research assistant to the Executive Chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  In their essay they talk about how God was breaking the mold of Christianity that was based upon conceptions of the West (the essay calls the West the “Northern hemisphere”).  Notice what they have to say in their essay:

Perhaps surprisingly for many Northerners (and perhaps for some Southerners as well), there are encouraging signs that people from these great religious systems may not have to entirely leave their tradition to become followers of Christ” (Johnson and Lee, 392).

Followers of Christ need not entirely leave their “traditions”?

Later this week I will be scrutinizing the arguments for the view that people can become followers of Christ without leaving their identity in their non-Christian religious system.


It is not enough for missiologist to know other religions (the academic study of which we may call Religious Studies).  Nor is it enough to know the superficial similarities between Christianity and other religions (Comparative religion).  Christian missiologist who desire to be faithful to God must also search the Scripture and also have their missional method be informed and shaped by a biblical theology of religion.  Space does not permit to give a fully developed exposition of what that looks like but I highly recommend the book that I have reviewed titled A God of Many Understandings? by Todd Miles.


Johnson, Todd and Sandi S. K. Lee. 2009. From Western Christendom to Global Christianity. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 387-389, 392.

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