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Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

Dr. Vern Poythress is one of those incredible intellectual gift to the Church.  He’s a Christian professor, a Reformed theologian, New Testament scholar, expert on hermeneutics, linguist, a Presuppositional apologist and philosopher who was a prodigy that went to Cal Tech before he was 18 and have several doctorates including a PhD in Mathematics from Harvard University.

He’s recently was interviewed for a podcast on the Missions Podcast from ABWE International.  It’s a wonderful discussion on multiple things I’m excited about:  Missions, Language Presuppositional Apologetics and Theology!

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I was recently interviewed for the AfterThought Podcast.  This is hosted by Lauren of Biblical Beginnings.  What did we talk about?

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This is a video by Global Frontiers Missions titled “State of the World / The Task Remaining.”

It is an insightful video concerning the task of missions.

It made me have a burden not only for the lost but specifically for in countries that require creative access to those countries and areas to reach the lost.

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Shadow of the Almighty

Elisabeth Elliot. Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot.  New York, NY: HarperOne, October 21st, 2014. 336 pp.

The author Elisabeth Elliot was the wife of the famous missionary and martyr Jim Elliot.  The author’s classic book on her husband, Through Gates of Splendor, was written in the 1950s but what makes this book different than the first one is that this is written many decades later.  This book examines more of Jim Elliot’s own writing from his letters and personal diary.  The letters examined include those written to Jim’s parents, siblings and Elisabeth before they got married.  This book gives an honest portrait of a Christian who desires to serve God and also struggles as well.  I was much encouraged reading this book although at times I felt it was somewhat prolonged in the author’s choice of what details to share to the readers.  But don’t let that distract you as the reader: this book challenged me to think about the sacrifices involved with missions and also convicting to think about how young Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries were when they went out to try to reach the unreached Huaorani tribe which of course they were eventually killed by when they were contacting them.  Of course, the rest is history—as a result of their deaths, God used it to call more Christians to the missions field with their example and martyrdom.  I plan one day to read Through Gates of Splendor also.

Purchase: Amazon

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Lord willing this week I want to write several posts on training pastors and leaders for the churches overseas especially in areas that are considered frontiers missions field.  For those interested you might also want to read my post from last year titled “.”

green berets illustration missions theological education

I appreciate blogger Dan Cartwright, a former Green Beret and career soldier.  I’m using an illustration from his world that I think is helpful in describing the need and means of bringing theological education to local national pastors in the context of frontiers missions.

US Special Forces (Green Berets) must not be confused with Special Operation Forces.  Here’s how Wikipedia describe the missions of US Special Forces (Green Beret):

The primary mission of the Army Special Forces is to train and lead unconventional warfare (UW) forces, or a clandestine guerrilla force in an occupied nation[citation needed]. The 10th Special Forces Group was the first deployed SF unit, intended to train and lead UW forces behind enemy lines in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe[citation needed]. As the U.S. became involved in Southeast Asia, it was realized that specialists trained to lead guerrillas could also help defend against hostile guerrillas, so SF acquired the additional mission of Foreign Internal Defense (FID), working with Host Nation (HN) forces in a spectrum of counter-guerrilla activities from indirect support to combat command.[citation needed]

Special Forces personnel qualify both in advanced military skills and the regional languages and cultures of defined parts of the world. While they are best known for their unconventional warfare capabilities, they also undertake other missions that include direct action raids, peace operations, counter-proliferation, counter-drug advisory roles, and other strategic missions.[13]

(Source)

Note what I highlighted in bold from the quote above.  I think the great examples of the Green Berets that has bearing for our discussion is their ability to train other forces and being skillful in how they go about it.  I think in some sense this is analogous to how we in the West should bring theological education overseas in the context of frontiers mission fields or area that requires creative access.

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world map missions

Hey brothers and sisters in Christ,

Again thank you all for praying.

Thank you for those who wrote guest blogs and holding down the fort while I was away!

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I saw this excerpt clip from a larger sermon by Paul Washer about a month ago and for some reason I’ve been thinking about this.

I hope you watch it, it’s short enough (6 minutes).

 

It made me think a lot about the incredible need for good biblical resources for pastors and church leaders overseas in the missions field.  There is a serious need for resources, serious need for translations and serious need for materials being affordable.  There is also the need for more teachers who are capable to go overseas and not just stay in cozy seminary settings in the West waiting for the rest of the world to come to us for theological education.

It has made me pray more for God to equip God’s people overseas.  I think Paul Washer’s ministry is a wonderful ministry to support.

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True Sons of Heaven David Marshall

Earlier this month I wrote a post titled “I noted typos in David Marshall’s book, he fires back I have bad grammar” in which I responded to the first paragraph of David Marshall’s response to my book review of his book titled “True Son of Heaven.”  I noted in that post that my own responses to some of his other comments will take some time, that I’m weighing things carefully and willing to own up to errors I’ve made while defending the points I think is still legitimate and exposeing anything I see as problematic with Marshall’s response.  Here’s a quick post.

David Marshall said:

I didn’t say Mao was a fulfillment of Jesus, for heaven’s sake! How could you miss the point so spectacularly?

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Nepal

Gospel for Nepal

As of late, we have been receiving many twitter hates towards Christ and His Gospel.  That’s right, if you hate Christians, the Gospel, then you hate Jesus Christ.  And if you are a professing Christian that is willing to rebuild the temples or hostile towards Gospel preachers, you should be ashamed of yourself.  You need to repent and ask God for forgiveness for assailing His servants.  Many of our attackers come from Hindus who are not only from India, but Hindus who live in America.  Yes, the land that grants freedom of religion and the freedom to preach the Gospel have its very anti-Gospel dwellers.  Some of these critics rail against Christians sharing the Gospel in times of tragedy.  How can we just limit ourselves to humanitarian needs (which is important), and not share the Gospel of Jesus Christ that feeds the soul for eternity?

Many of our critics have slandered and blasphemed God the Creator of their soul.  There has been a huge misrepresentation of the Gospel.  Here are some of the tweets.  There is an insurmountable tweets that it is difficult to count them so we will only give a sample of them.  And some can not be shared due to its obscenity.

243

To our critics, whom we love and care, we would like to take this time to share with you the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We hope that you are reading this.  We pray that your heart is not severely hardened to the Gospel which is your only hope.  We also share this so you do not misrepresent Christ and His Words.

Let’s start off with these points:

  • God is Creator:
    • He is the Creator of the world and the Creator of your soul.  As the Creator, there is but one living and true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5 7; 1 Corinthians 8:4) who is the Maker, Ruler, Redeemer, and Preserver of life. The living and true God is a Spirit (Deuteronomy 4:15-19; Luke 24:39; John 1:18; John 4:24; Acts 17:29), infinite (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-10; Psalm 145:3; Psalm 147:5; Jeremiah 23:24; Romans 11:33-36), eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; Psalm 102:12, 24-27, Revelation 1:4, 8), unchangeable in His being (Psalm 33:11; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12; Hebrews 6:17-18; James 1:17), wise (Psalm 104:24; Romans 11:33-34; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20), omnipotent (Genesis 17:1, holy (Hebrews 1:13; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 3:3, 5; Revelation 15:4), just (Genesis 18:25; Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 96:13; Romans 3:5, 26), good (Psalm 103:5; Psalm 107:8; Matthew 19:7; Romans 2:4), and perfect in all His attributes (Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 117:2; Hebrews 6:18).
    • He is unlike us.  We are minuscule beings compared to Him.  To misrepresent Him as many Hindus have done on Twitter is to blaspheme Him.  Our God cannot be created by human hands or intellect.  He is beyond our league.  He can’t be contained by us.  In His grace, He made Himself to be personally known through His Son. His Son voluntarily left royalty and stooped down into this world.  Why did He come into this world?  He came because man sinned against God and man needed redemption.  Since God is holy and just, He demands perfection.  Mankind are far from that.  Everyone has broken His law and are under the curse of the law.
  • God the Son:
    • Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, possesses all the divine excellencies, and in these He is coequal, consubstantial, and coeternal with the Father (John 10:30; 14:9).  God the Father created the entire universe according to His own will, through His Son, Jesus Christ, by whom all things continue in existence and in operation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15 17; Hebrews 1:2).  That is right, your lungs operate because of Him.  It pleased the Father in His eternal purpose to choose and ordain His only begotten Son to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, King, Head and Savior of His Church, the Heir of all things, and the rightful Judge of the world.  So if you want to know God, come to His Son.  The Father from all eternity gave His Son a people to be His seed, and through His Son, sinners who were chosen by God before the foundation of the earth, in time, are predestined, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified (Romans 8:30).
    • In the incarnation (God becoming man) Christ chose not to exercise some of the prerogatives of deity; but He did not give up His divine essence, either in degree or kind.  This is humility.  He could of marched down in royalty as a military-like figure, but He did not choose that option.  And don’t think for a moment that the incarnation is short of a miracle.  God took on a form of a man.  Idols or man-made entities cannot do what God did.  God became very personable with man.  He spoke to us and He touched the scars of humanity.  In the incarnation, which comprises of taking on all the essential properties of man (Philippians 2:5 8; Colossians 2:9), yet without sin, the second person of the Trinity chose to lay aside His right to the full prerogatives of coexistence with God, assumed the place of a Son, and took on an existence appropriate to a servant while never divesting Himself of His divine attributes (Philippians 2:5 8).
    • As the God-Man, two whole and perfect, and distinct natures of Christ, the divine and human nature, are indivisible (Micah 5:2; John 5:23; 14:9 10; Colossians 2:9).  Jesus Christ is very God, and very man.  In other words, He is fully God and fully man.  Our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit through the womb of virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23, 25; Luke 1:26 35); and that the purpose of the incarnation was to reveal God (John 1:18), redeem men, and rule over God’s kingdom (Psalm 2:7 9; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:29; Philippians 2:9 11; Hebrews 7:25 26; 1 Peter 1:18 19).  Our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption through the sinless work by the shedding of His blood and sacrificial death on the cross and that His death was voluntary, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory, and redemptive (John 10:15; Romans 3:24 25; 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24).  That is why we call Him the Lamb of God; the perfect sacrifice.
    • Our justification (declared righteous) is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead and that He is now ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He now mediates as our Advocate and High Priest (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:38 39; Acts 2:30 31; Romans 4:25; 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1).  There is no longer a need to make sacrifices.  By resurrecting from the dead, God confirmed the deity of His Son and gave proof that God has accepted the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Moreover, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is also the guarantee of a future resurrection life for all believers (John 5:26 29; 14:19; Romans 1:4; 4:25; 6:5 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).  One day, Jesus Christ will return to receive the church, which is His Body, unto Himself at the rapture, and returning with His church in glory, will establish His millennial kingdom on earth (Acts 1:9 11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 18; Revelation 20).  He will rule physically on earth one day and no one can stop Him.
    • The Lord Jesus Christ is the One through whom God will judge all mankind (John 5:22 23): believers (1 Corinthians 3:10 15; 2 Corinthians 5:10), living inhabitants of the earth at His glorious return (Matthew 25:31 46), and the unbelieving dead at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11).
    • The Lord Jesus Christ shares the same qualities due to God, which consists of His attributes (preexistent, eternal, uncreated, immutable, loving, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, holy), His names (God, LORD, Bridegroom, King of kings and Lord of lords, Savior, I AM, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End), His deeds (creating and sustaining all things, sovereignly ruling over the forces of nature, illumination and revelation, speaking with divine authority, Word of God, salvation, showing mercy, forgiveness of sins, giving and being life, raising the dead, source of all spiritual blessings judging all people), and His seat of rule (God’s highest possible throne, ruler over everything, ruling forever).
    • As the Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), He is also the Head of His Body, the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18), the coming universal King, who will reign on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:31 33).   He is also the final Judge of all who fail to place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior (Matthew 25:14 46; Acts 17:30 31). We believe that on the basis of the efficacy of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the believing sinner is freed from the punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day from the the very presence of sin; and that He is declared righteous, given eternal life, and adopted into the family of God (Romans 3:25; 5:8 9; 2 Corinthians 5:14 15; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
  • Clarion Call of God to Sinners:
    • God is just and will judge sinners because they have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23).  Because of sin, God demands justice.  There is a penalty for sin (Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23).  Penalty is judgment in Hell.  Since the one true God cannot lie, Hell is a real place.  The penalty must be paid (Hebrews 9:27; 2:2-3,9; Romans 2:12) and cannot be paid by your righteousness, a righteousness that cannot satisfy God the Father. He looks at all your righteousness as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Please do not confuse us with religions of works-righteousness (i.e. Roman Catholicism).  He will not give once inch of room for it.  You need an alien righteousness that can only come from the God-Man.  Oh, Hindu and humanists, all your good works will not impress God.  You need His forgiveness.  You need His Son.  While maintaining His holiness and justice, the Bible speaks about God’s love for sinners.  He responded to the disease of sin.  He paid for the debt of sinners who will come to Him in humility (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18; Isaiah 53:5-6).  He became a sacrifice on the cross in order to satisfy God’s justice and anger in your place (1 John 4:8-10).  No one else could satisfy God, but His Son alone.  Only the God-Man, who is perfect, supreme, holy, met the criteria of justice.  Because He bore our sin, God who is holy poured down His wrath from Heaven upon His Son that day at Calvary.  Everyone else woke up the next day and went about their business.  What grace!  But Christ laid in the grave.  However,  the story does not end.  He was not defeated.  The Bible says that Christ resurrected from the dead (Romans 4:25).  Even death can’t contain Him.  He owns death by a leash.  So please do not say we serve a dead Jesus.  Nietzsche died and idols created by man that are temporal are prone to decay.  But for Jesus, He is alive and will come back at judgement day.  If He did not resurrect from the death, then there is no reason for me to share the Gospel to you.  He resurrection is what gives the Gospel power.  Because of His resurrection, millions of people experience the new birth in Christ.
    • What is your response?  Will you gaze upon it as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5; John 3:16)?  You can not pay for it or work for it.  He commands you to repent.  He will not share His glory with idols created by men.  Your idols were destroyed by the earthquake.  Where was it when people needed it?  The Gospel can.  It provides hope.  It is eternal and can never be destroyed.  It moves like an avalanche.  His Word is pure and is not contradictory.  It can account for morality and absolute truth.  It has hope and does not discriminate against any race or class of people.  He offers His message of love to all people.  All who come to him will not be placed in a caste system.  Everyone who is God’s child is equal before Him.
    • Truth!  God is truth and He never lies.  My friend, you must recognize your sin and confess to the Lord about what is true concerning you (Psalm 51:3-4).  A genuine repentance will reveal that you have genuine sorrow, shame, and even hatred for your sins against God.  You must not only recognize and accept your deplorable condition before God, but you must also turn from your sins and turn to God in faith.  Believe in His promises concerning His Son.  If you do, your soul and your eternal future will be secured in His Son.  Believe in His Son as your Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31).  If you do, He will not look at you as His enemy, but His friend because He sees Christ in you.

  • Aknowledgements: Parts of this doctrinal confession is adapted in part from the The Master’s Seminary Statement of Faith, Desiring God, HeartCry Missionary Society, and the Westminster Cathechism.

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world map missions

I thought I post an update of our posts dealing with Missions, Culture and being Biblical.  Many of the posts dealt with the Insider Movement although we also touch on different things.  The reason I posted this update is because I wrote a significant amount of more posts after our series was completed.

Enjoy!

Essays by SlimJim

Quick Thoughts on Question of those who never Heard

A Bad Theology of False Religions in Contemporary Evangelical Missionary Thought?

Missionary Contextualization understood in light of the relationship between Culture and the Bible

Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslims? Taking on Shah Ali’s South Asia Report  NEW

Faulty Ecclesiology in two Insider Movement Case Studies NEW

Insider Movement’s John Travis view of Apologetics and Islam  NEW

Concerns for C. Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy  NEW

  NEW

Is it True Anyone Can be a Missionary if they Speak English?

Missions: Distinguishing between Relief and Transformational Development

Reviews

Book Review: The Road to Reality

Review: Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith by Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort

  NEW

Other Online Resources

Reformed Forum Critique of the Insider Movement and resources recommended

PCA General Assembly Report on the Insider Movement

David B.

Garner’s 5 Part Series on Insider Movement over at Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Video: Piper Responds to the Insider Movement | The Domain for Truth

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True Sons of Heaven David Marshall

David Marshall. The True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture. Seattle, WA: Kuai Mu Press, 2002. 216 pp.

This book has far too many problems that can’t be ignored.  I will begin looking at the problems first and then what’s good with the book; but the weakness far outweighs its strength and I hesitate suggesting this work to anyone else.

The first problem is rather minor but everything else that follows concerns with the content of the book.  This book has bad editing.  The book has three sections but the numbering of the section is off; for instance, part one is labeled as part two, and part two is labeled as part three, etc.    In the first chapter the endnotes are missing.  I think the editors were asleep on the wheel and honestly I think if they did a better job scrutinizing the content of the book, I think the book wouldn’t have been published in the first place because I think it does not even fulfill the expectation of an undergraduate essay.

The author David Marhsall did quote various sources but there were many times I wished he explained better what it was or who it was that he was quoting—and why was it significant.  It is not helpful for the general reader when the sources of these quotes are not explained.

The book’s thesis is that “many important symbols and ideas within Chinese culture points to Jesus” (7).  Some of his evidences of how Chinese culture points towards Jesus and Christianity does not seem to logically follow.  For instance, on page five Marshall talked about how Beijing’s Temple of Heaven had twelve red outer pillars and that the number twelve and the color red pointed to the apostles.  I don’t know how the color red necessitate that it is the apostles’ blood in view.  We must also not forget that the Apostle John was not martyred so it is hard to see 12 red pillars.  Later in the book Marshall would argue that the Forbidden Palace’s three layer roof is proof of the Trinity but this seems somewhat of a stretch.

Another of his evidence that Chinese culture points towards Christianity is Confucius.  For instance on page 9-10 Marshall claims about Confucius that he “did more than anyone in China to point people to this way.”  I would say that is a bold claim.  I have reservation with Marshall’s claim about Confucius when Marshall in the book also admitted that Confucius “did not know how to approach heaven” on page 41, that “one thing Confucius lacked: closeness to Heaven” on page 56 and also how “he did not know how to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, or fully understand why it needed to be bridged” on page 57. How can one point to the way when he is ignorant of all the essentials of the Way?  Marshall also believed that Confucius’ talk about Sheng Ren (Holy Man) anticipates the Messiah and one of his defense of this is that “Confucius never said the Sheng Ren would be Chinese” (42).  But Marshall here is making a fallacious argument from silence.  There are so much question begging assertions that the book makes about Confucius and Jesus that it is hard to keep track of them; for instance on page 68 the author claims that both Jesus and Confucius and Jesus “are going the same direction” except Jesus makes it “a dangerous adventure” (68).

Marshall also tried to argue that in the past Chinese thinkers did know the God of Christianity.  I think he failed to interact with the strongest arguments of those who disagreed and instead Marshall engaged in a defense the Chinese concept of God is personal.  While I do believe that Chinese does have some conception of a personal God that hardly makes it the Christian God.  He also failed to account for the silence of Chinese intellectual figureheads with the concept of the Trinity, something that is distinctively Christian.  Marshall’s discussion about God’s transcendence and imminence is misplaced in the debate.  Added to his confusion is Marshall’s statement that “there are passages in the Bible where the boundary between God and man appear a bit fudged, too, such as Paul’s famous ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’” (24).  When one look up Acts 17, we do see the passages affirm God’s transcendence and immanence but it does not present it as being muddled.  God is indeed transcendent but also His presence is everywhere though that does not mean God is His creature or creation.

It does not help Marshall’s cause when he is theologically weak that affects his discernment and presentation.  For instance, he talks about Nestorians as “the first Christians in China” (25) without acknowledging their heretical status.  There is the danger of syncretism in Marshall’s theology.  He claims on page 68 that “Jesus and Lao Zi were ‘spiritual brothers.’”  I wished the book was more pronounce and clear concerning sin, Jesus’ death and salvation.  Even when he does talk about those subject towards the end of the book, he doesn’t connect the relationship of sin to justification and Jesus’ work on the cross which I see as essential for one’s Gospel presentation.

His methodology is problematic because everything points to Jesus Christ, even Mao’s rebellion is something Jesus took to make part of His Way (64-65).  Marshall thinks Jesus was speaking about Mao’s regime when He said brothers will be against brothers, etc (168).  It is a bit of a stretch.  It must also be said that the same method the author use can also be used to demonstrate how Chinese culture points to say Marxism, Islam, etc.  It is a flawed and speculative method.  Plus, I don’t think Mao is a good “bridge” to Chinese culture for Christianity, given how he is a tyrant and also someone who is not necessarily held in high regards among everyone in the Chinese community.

I thought it was ironic that the author could point out “Chinese Buddhism” is “very Chinese, but not very Buddhist” (81).  At times I felt Marshall’s work ended up being more Chinese than Christian.

I think any reference to historical and political realities that the book make must be double checked.  For instance, on page 82-83 the book claims “A symbol of both Mao’s success and his failure is that under socialism, the poor learned to waste this precious grain,” with the grain referring to rice.  Supposedly, “the communists alleviated China’s chronic food shortage” (83).   I had a hard time with this personally since it goes against what history tells us of the man made famine that Mao’s economic policies produced.  In fact, Mao’s policies followed that of Stalin and Mao didn’t change it even with the Russians warning him that it wasn’t going to work since they have done it already themselves.  Given the historical inaccuracy of the statement we must ask what is the basis for Marshall to assert such a horrendous claim and he tells us following the above quote when he go on to say “When I walked by student dorms in China in the mid 1980s, I learned to keep an eye out for uneaten rice thrown through a window” (83).  Assuming this to be true, we must remember that the author’s experience in the mid-1980s was the reign of Deng Xiao Ping and not Chairman Mao.  Chairman Mao has been dead for a decade so the basis for his evidence of Mao’s economic success does not support his conclusion.

There was too many times throughout the book that the author wrote flowery descriptions that didn’t have to do with anything.  There’s a travelogue small talk feel to the book that was not appropriate for a book that was going to rigorously argue how Jesus fulfills Chinese culture.  There were pictures in the book that one has to wonder what did it have to do with anything with the chapter and pictures that made one ask the question: who is this guy?  What is going on?

As I said before the bad outweighs the good in the book.  What I did appreciate from the book is his chapter on how Buddhism cannot fulfill the expectation and longing of Chinese culture.  Of course, one might ask why must Chinese Culture be the standard to judge one’s religion in the first place and if consistent it is also detrimental to the Christian cause since not everything in Chinese culture is right and compatible with Christianity.  It seems as if this didn’t occur to the author giving his silence on the issue.

I also enjoyed it whenever the author discussed Chinese character and how it points to some profound truth or confirm Biblical truths and this is probably the strongest evidence he presents in the book.  Sadly when it comes to the characters pointing to Genesis he shares in the appendix that he is skeptical of it; but if he is skeptical of the strongest evidence in his book, that doesn’t speak a whole lot for the rest of his superficial look at how Chinese culture points towards Christ.

Purchase: Amazon

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I hope you catch the irony with the title of today’s post.Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

For a few months now I have been blogging about my concern with some of the disturbing trends with recent Christian missionary methodology.  One such concern I have is the fact that some seem to be against good reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in the case of C. Peter Wagner.  He is a former professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions (it has since been renamed the School of Intercultural Studies).  In a previous post I looked at some of the problem found in Wagner’s essay “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy.

One of the things that Wagner said that I didn’t get to unpack in my previous post is Wagner’s view that Jesus prefer a demonstration of miraculous power rather than a”carefully reasoned argument” which he sees as a sign of Western “secularizing influence.”  I quote Wagner in his own words:

One of the more disturbing things we are beginning to discover is that, in more cases than we would care to think, our missionary messsage in the Third World has been having a secularizing influence.  I first realized this when I read an article by my colleague, Paul G. Hiebert, called ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ in 1982.  He begins the article by citing the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus: ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20).  Hiebert emphasized that Jesus’ reply was not a carefully reasoned argument, but rather a demonstration of power in healing the sick and casting out of evil spirits” (Wagner, 581).

As one can see, Wagner came to his position through the writing of another professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission: Paul Hiebert.  The relevant quote that Wagner read is quoted below:

The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20 RSV).  Jesus answered, not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in curing the sick and casting out evil spirits.   This much is clear.  Yet when I once read the passage from my perspective as a missionary in India and sought to apply it to missions in my day, I felt a sense of uneasiness.  As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, but by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute” (Hiebert, 407).

Note how both Wagner and Hibert appealed to Luke 7:20.  Here is Luke 7:20-23 in context:

20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the[o]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [p]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, thepoor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [q]who does not take offense at Me.”

There are problems with what these two Professors of Fuller Seminary has to say against “reason:”

  1. Wagner’s and Hiebert’s position is self-refuting in that they are both against carefully reasoned argument, and yet they end up trying to present what they think is a carefully reasoned argument for their position when they invoke Luke 7:20.  On the one hand they don’t think carefully reasoned arguments are legitimate but they inevitably presuppose the endeavor is legitimate when they try to set forth their reason against carefully reasoned argument.
  2. Wagner believes “carefully reasoned argument” is an example of Western missionary’s secularizing influence upon the Third World.  But this does not logically follow.  Wagner commit the logical fallacy of slippery slope when he thinks that carefully reasoned argument is going to lead one to become secularized.  This is not the case and portray a misunderstanding of what reasoning is on the part of Wagner; if one’s premises is not secularized but Biblically informed and “sanctified” then one will not become secularized in their conclusion.  Again, Wagner’s concern does not logically follow.
  3. It is important to exegete Luke 7:20-23 accurately.  Nowhere in the passage does Jesus condemn “presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments” (to use Hiebert’s own words).
  4. In light of point 3, it must be pointed out that both Hiebert and Wagner commit the logical fallacy of a false dilemma when they present the option as either we accept Christ’s miracle as having evidential value or we accept rational arguments as having evidential value.  Why must a Christian accept either/or instead of both/and?
  5. We can agree with Hiebert and Wagner that Jesus’ purpose of performing miracles was to confirm the truth about the claims of Jesus Christ for as Hebrews 2:3-4 attests on the nature of signs, wonders and miracles: “how will we escape if we neglect so great asalvation?[d]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)  But notice Jesus expected the right extrapolation of what the miracles mean and this proper interpretation of what does the evidence mean is act of engaging in reasoning.
  6. Point 5 enjoy further support from the immediate context in Luke 7 if one examine verse 22.  What Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist is very significant since this is an echo of Isaiah 61:1 as presented in Luke 4:18.  Jesus description of what He is doing also should make His hearers think of Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6.  This heavy use of Isaiah’s terms and phrases indicate that Jesus wants John to think Biblically in interpreting the evidence of Jesus’ miracles.  He is making an argument!  He is not merely arguing from miracles alone but bringing in Scripture to show that His miracles fulfill Messianic Prophecies.
  7. The most ironic thing about Wagner’s complaint that missionaries who use carefully reasoned arguments are “secularizing Third World Nations” is that it is those who are like him who are secularizing Third World Nations and not the ones who believed in the Sanctified Use of reason and argumentation, etc.  Note how Wagner thinks the performance of miracles are sanctified for the Christian but reasoning is not.  This is the same paradigm that secularists adopt when they separate the domain of God and the miraculous from the domain of “reason.”  Contrary to his claim, it is the Christian who do employ sanctified reasoning that is consistent in rejecting the dualism of secular/sacred.

Bibliography

Hiebert, Paul. 2009. “THe Flaw of the Excluded Middle.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 407-414.

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

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C Peter Wagner on the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy

Charles Peter Wagner is probably best known as one of the leaders of the Church Growth movement that was a former professor of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary up until 2001.  He has also founded Global Harvest Ministries and Wagner Leadership Institute.  Wagner himself was a missionary in Bolivia from 1956 to 1971.

Wagner has an essay that appeared in an anthology on the Worldwide Christian Movement that I want to look at more closely:

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

What Wagner pushes forth in his essay is for Evangelicals to have a “fresh look” with incorporating “supernatural power” with missions.  Wagner states this in the conclusion of his essay:

I feel that one of the callings that God has given me is to be an encouragement to traditional Evangeical non-Pentecostal and non-Charismatic institutions so that they will begin to take a new look at mission power–ministering supernaturally as we encounter the enemy” (Wagner, 582).

And also in the middle of his essay:

I believe that we Evangelicals need a fresh look a supernatural power, a fresh awareness of worldview and a fresh examination of the theology of the Kingdom” (Wagner, 579).

By “supernatural power” Wagner has in mind the ministry of supernaturally healing the sick and casting out demons.  Wagner does admit in the essay that

We are still at the beginning stages of this, and we are not yet satisfied with the way we are doing the job, but we are trusting God to continue to teach us so that we can in turn teach others” (Wagner, 582).

The anthology does not say when Wagner wrote the essay but if the last few years is any indication with his institute providing leadership and training for the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, it isn’t heading in the right direction.  The following are my concern for Wagner’s “cutting edge” of missions strategy:

1.) First off, concerning the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, I don’t have the time or space to rehearse the theological problems and heresies spewing out from this group but my friend Lyndon Unger has done a good job describing it in his Primer on the NAR.  If NAR is the fruit of Wagner’s more mature stage of the “supernatural” that he talks about in his essay, we shouldn’t seek to merge it with missions since it is bad even for those within the church.  Why export it overseas?

2.) Second, it seems that Wagner’s cutting edge approach towards missions suffer from the problem of theological integrity.  Wagner is essentially a Charistmatic but doesn’t seem to own up to it.  Note what he says:

The third wave involves those of us–and I include myself–who, for one reason or another, do not personally wish to identify with either the Pentecostals or the Charismatics.  We love, respect and admire our friends in those movements, and we pray God’s blessing on them in all their work.  We recognize that currently they represent the most rapidly growing segment of the Body of Christ worldwide.  We have learned a great deal from them and desire to learn more  But our style is slightly different.  We minister in very similar ways, but explain what we do in alternate theological terminology” (Wagner, 579).

From the above, does Wagner distance himself from the Pentecostals and Charismatics over actual theological content?  Wagner says the difference is not of essence but of “style,” which incidentally “is slightly different.”  He even said “We minister in very similar ways.”  The other difference between him and Pentecostals and Charismatics is an “alternate theological terminology.”  I think his alternative terminology is much ado about nothing: We can have an alternative terminology for “horse” in Chinese (“ma”) but that doesn’t make it not a horse in essence.  He is a Charismatic and ought to own up to it.  Will God bless a strategy that does not uphold integrity?

3.) Third, the cutting edge of missions as described in Wagner’s essay has the spirit that sees doctrine as irrelevant in general and Reformed theology in particular.  Wagner agreeably quotes Richard De Ridder of Calvin Theological Seminary taking a swipe of Calvinism as being irrelevant for modern missionaries, saying

One thing deeply impressed me: how irrelevant so much of traditional Reformed Theology was to these people and their situation, and how seldom this theology spoke to their real needs.  The question that concern Satan, demons, angels, charms, etc., are not of great concern, nor do they receive much attention in the West

When the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ were preached to these people, they often respond with the question, ‘What’s the issue?’  Missionaries and pastors were scratching where they didn’t itch” (Wagner, 580).

Now one does not have to be Reformed to see the problem with this attitude.  First off, the professor dismisses “traditional Reformed Theology” as not address the concerns that arise from “Satan, demons, angels, charms;” but historically it was Reformed Theology that liberated Medieval Europe from the shackles of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  It also rescued people from the shackles of superstitions.  This liberation of Reformation Europe was possible because once you have a Sovereign God who controls all things, with authority over all things including “Satan, demons, angels, charms” there is no need to be overly occupied with fear of them.  Also Reformed Theology is heavily Christ-Centered and a Christ-Centered Theology include the truth that Christ is the Creator and controller over everything including the forces of darkness:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

Rather then being irrelevant, Reformed Theology’s Christology and doctrine of God is an antidote to the problems and questions of “Satan, demons, angels, charms.”  Secondly, who made “Satan, demons, angels, charms” the litmus test of a missionary strategy that is relevant?  I think the professor here confuses felt needs with real needs.  God knows what man’s real need is and has revealed it in His Word.  If Calvinism’s and Reformed Theology’s proposition is true that man is under wrath from God because of man’s sin, then the discussion about man, sin, God, Jesus and the Gospel is more crucial and relevant than the discussion of “Satan, demons, angels, charms” per se.  It is more “relevant” even though the unbeliever “feels” “Satan, demons, angels, charms” are more important.  Thirdly, I have reservation with the claim that people’s response to the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ is one of a question of ‘What’s the issue?’  The first point of Calvinism, Total Depravity, defines the issue: Sin.  A nonbeliever might not like the issue or disagree with the issue but surely if someone presents the five point of Calvinism correctly a nonbeliever will not say ‘What’s the issue?’  One has to wonder about how truly Reformed this professor from Calvin Theological Seminary is with his incompetence with Reformed Theology.

Conclusion

There will always be people coming forward saying this or that is the new cutting edge strategy for doing ministry, whether it’s missions, evangelism or growing members.  We must never forget to test them whether the method agrees with the Word of God and also whether it is logically sound and factually true.  I think a good example of a cutting edge strategy that suffer from all three defect is Wagner’s missions strategy.

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apologetics2 In our September blog’s series “Mission, Culture and being Biblical” we gave special attention to the danger of the Insider Movement in which their philosophy of missions were evaluated biblically and logically.  In particular, we noted that the Insider’s Movement’s method of doing missions suffer from the defect of having an unbiblical theology of other religion, an unbiblical view of culture and an unbiblical theology of the church.  Here we also want to focus on the Insider Movement’s faulty view of apologetics and while the movement is not monolithic and not everyone will necessarily share the same view of apologetics, we will focus more narrowly on the teaching of a key leader of the movement name John Travis.  What he has to say strongly resonate with those in the Insider Movement.  We will examine Travis’ view of apologetics as part of his missionary approach towards Muslims found in his essay titled “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?”  This essay is from the fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader.  At the least I hope that this post can encourage those within the Insider movement to think more along the lines of what Scripture has to say about apologetics. In writing about the need for an apologetics to deal with an Muslim region called Islampur, John Travis writes,

Concerning the high regard for the Qur’an among Islampur believers, an apologetic response concerning the Qur’an must be developed whereby the truth in it can be affirmed (especially for purposes of a bridge for witness) yet is is not put on equal (or superior!) status to the Injil.  Fortunately, until such an apologetic is developed the Islampur believers are regularly reading the Injil rather than the Qur’an” (669).

I am glad that Travis finds it fortunate that these “believers” are regularly reading the Injil (New Testament Gospel).  But I find his reaction to the Islampur’s believers’ high view of the Qur’an as problematic.   He wants Christian apologists to develop an apologetic that affirms that Qur’an.

First off, why focus on “affirming” the Qur’an when these believers are already regularly reading the Gospels in the New Testament rather than the Qur’an?  Isn’t the goal to go to the Bible (Old and New Testament) since it is God’s Word?

Second,  isn’t also backwards to go back to the Qur’an even according to Travis’ own beliefs if these believers are already reading the NT and he himself believes the Qur’an is not equal nor superior to the Gospel?  Why try to promote third rate products so to speak when you can give someone something that is first class?

Third, is the goal of Christian apologetics really to defend another religion’s Scripture?

Fourth, he assumes that an apologetic must be developed to use the Qur’an as a bridge for witness; but Travis never mention or interact with the content of the Qur’an since this is important when we discuss whether the Qur’an can be used as a bridge in the first place.  Does the Qur’an explicitly teaches a theology that is antithethical to Christianity and the Bible?  This would seriously limit the Qur’an as a witnessing bridge towards Christianity if it is a bridge that is with holes and weaknesses.

Fifth, there are many resources on Christian apologetics on Islam, most of it refuting it and also handling Islamic objection towards Christianity.  In fact, the apologetics’ endeavor with Islam has been going on for hundreds of years.  I wished Travis would have shared what he thinks of the apologetics Christians have given over many generations rather than be silent on it and then merely assert that he wished an apologetic would be developed to affirm the Qur’an.  I think it is appropriate to ask why we must affirm the Qur’an in the first when the overwhelming majority of Christian apologetics does not, or at least explain why he thinks many of his fellow Christians are wrong in their approach given that his view is that of a minority.

Sixth, it might be that Travis does not see the place for “negative” apologetics, in which one refute other worldviews and other religion’s Scripture.  I do think Scripture does give a place and role for “negative” apologetics.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)

In Islam, the Qur’an is raised up above against the Old and New Testament (which is the source of knowledge of God).  2 Corinthians 10:5 demand that we destroy it (intellectual and biblical refutation).  

For more on what we have written in the past on how to witness and engage in apologetics with Islam check out the index to our series.

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Note: Originally I wanted to add more essays to our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical” but this turns out not to be the Lord’s will because of things with pastoral ministry and my trip last week through some states in the Mid-West .  Here’s a post I didn’t get to finish until now. cfysf Can there be such thing a thing as “Messianic Muslims”?  Apparently some missiologists who are associated with the Insider Movement thinks its possible.  My contention is that this is problematic. In what follows I am interacting with the following essay by Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry that was provided as “case studies” in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:

Ali, Shah and J. Dudley Woodberry. 2009. “South Asia: Vegetables, Fish and Messianic Mosques.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 715-717.

Shad Ali is a pseudonym for a worker among Muslims in a South Asian country that is currently persecuting Christians while Dr. Woodberry is Dean Emeritus and Senior Professor of Islamic Studies over at Fuller Seminary’s school of Intercultural Studies (formerly called the School of World Missions).  Woodberry has been a leader of the Insider Movement. To play on the title of their essay, I think the concept of Messianic Muslims and Messianic Mosques is somewhat “fishy.” In their essay Ali and Woodberry gives the rationale for why they would call themselves “Muslims” rather than “Christians:”

Our Muslim neighbors defined ‘Christianity’ as a ‘foreign religion of infidels,’ so we often referred to ourselves as ‘Muslims’ (literally, ‘submitters to God’).  The necessity of submitting to God is certainly Christian (see James 4:7), and Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111).  When villagers have decided to follow Christ, the people continued to use the mosque for worship of God–but now through Christ” (Ali, 716).

Response: Several problems are evident in this paragraph.  First off, while Ali’s neighboring Muslims precieve Christianity as a foreign infidel’s religion, it does not logically follow therefore that missionaries and their followers should call themselves “Muslims.”  I think it is possible for missionaries and converts to say they are Christians and explain what Christianity really means to their neighboring Muslims which involves correcting preconceptions, whether real or imagined; it is also a logical possibility to use a different term to describe their new relationship to Christ than terms used by current Muslim paradigm.  Again, just because Muslims (or anyone else for that matter) have a bad preception of Christians and Christianity does not mean we now use the same label they give of themselves to identify ourselves.  This is an issue of integrity.

Secondly, Ali and Woodberry further argue that the reason why they referred to themselves as ‘Muslims’ is because in Arabic the term “Muslims” literally means ‘submitters to God’ and this term is a legitimate designation for Christian missionaries and their convert since “submitting to God is certainly Christian.”  But this is a word-study fallacy; while it is true that etymologically the term means “submitters to God,” in the actual context of 21st Century missionary outreach the term Muslims have a deeper connotation than a mere generic “submitters to God.”  Which God?  Is it the God of the Bible or the God of the Qur’an?  A follower of Islam is using the term Muslim to refer to those who submit to the teaching of Islam (including their scripture, the Qur’an) and believe Muhammad is Allah’s prophet. The term Muslims would also be understood by followers of Islam to be distinguished from those who believe Jesus Christ is God, who believe Jesus came to die as the Savior of the sins of those who would repent.  With this understanding of the term “Muslim” within Muslims’ own community, these missionaries (and their converts) are not Muslims.

Thirdly, the writers note “Jesus’ disciples called themselves ‘Muslims’ according to the Qur’an (5:111)” but while it is true that Islamic theology sees the early followers of Jesus as Muslims, that does not mean they would designate that term today to describe current followers of Jesus since they believe Christians today have strayed from the actual teaching of Jesus (which they believe is similar to the teaching of Muhammad).

Fourthly, in the last sentence the writers mentioned about followers of Christ still continuing worshiping God in their mosque “but now through Christ;” but is it really possible to worship God in Muslim Mosque through Christ?  Remaining in a Muslim Mosque means remaining in a worship service that denies Jesus Christ as the Son.  Don’t forget the words of 1 John 2:23: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”  You cannot worship and have the Father if you deny the Son (which a Mosque does deny)! Biblically, going to a Muslim Mosque to worship is to worship with nonbelievers.  Heed the words of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15=

14 Do not be [j]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with [k]Belial, or [l]what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?


There is also dangerous implication of the fruit of the Insider movement towards ecclessiology and specifically with the church’s ordinance of baptism; few paragraphs after the above quote the two writers goes on to say:

People have only been baptized if the head of the family was baptized” (Ali, 716)

Response: I have addressed this elsewhere in this series in particular with my essay “Closer Look at Donald McGavran’s People Movement Missionary Approach versus Conglomerate Church Approach.” We must ask the question whether this is biblical: Do we see in Scripture the command that we SHOULD ONLY baptize people if the head of the family are baptized first?  Do we see any Biblical data that its okay for believers not to be baptized if one’s head of the family is not baptized?


Finally we find another theological argument for the concept of “Messianic Muslims” (and “Messianic Mosques”) towards the end of the essay:

The concept of Messianic mosques and completed Muslims (following the model of Messianic synagogues and completed Jews) still causes considerable misunderstanding among other Christians” (Ali, 717).

Response: First off, the burden of proof is upon both Shah Ali and J. Dudley Woodberry to demonstrate that Islam parallel Judaism in order for the concept of “Messianic mosques” and “completed Muslims” to work.  Secondly, don’t forget that unlike Judaism, Islam came after Christianity 600 years later and twisted the truth of Christianity so it cannot be seen as something needing Christian theological “completion” but historically it is the rejection of Christianity.  Thirdly, whereas the Bible does teach the special redemptive role of Israel and her faith in the history of redemptive history, the Bible does not give Islam the same role; and to talk about Messianic Mosques is to make a theological move that fail to take into account the unique role of Biblical Judaism.  Here Ali and Woodberry is making an analogy that doesn’t work.  Fourthly, the idea of Messianic mosques and Messianic Muslims is not something that other Christians merely misunderstood; I believe in this essay I have demonstrated there are real legitimate problem with their arguments and their position.  Fifthly, this alleged “misunderstanding” about Messianic Mosques turns out that its not coming from Christians alone but also Muslims.  Apparently from within their own essay Ali and Woodberry acknowledges that other Muslims “misunderstood” that these “Messianic Muslims” are not Muslims at all (thought they try to play off as Muslims) when the report gives account of their persecutions from Muslims.  There is the irony from the essay’s own description of the author Shah Ali: “His identity is being concealed (There is currently persecution of Christisn in his country” (Ali, 715).

Again, I think the whole idea of Messianic Mosques and Messianic Muslim is fishy.

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