God Centered Orthodoxy

Redemption & Glory of God

Pentecostalism is an antidote to the Desupernaturalism of Christ or Gospel historical Criticism

Al Ngu, New York                                          June 23, 2019

The historical criticism or gospel criticism started in the mid eighteenth century started by philosophers like Immanuel Kant and his cohort propelled the teaching that all supernatural acts and deeds of Christ are to be removed from the Bible because if you can’t explain it by rationalism and science, it cannot be true. They purported that the present must explain the past. If you don’t see it in present days, it couldn’t have happened in the past. 
I feel like these scholars need a plague of Egypt to wake them up. First of all, the entire Christianity anchors upon the supernatural works of Jesus. To take away the supernatural, you might as well join a Boy Scout or Red Cross or Soup Kitchen. 

There is a real sense of frustration among the Pentecostals that evangelicals would even spend time to deal with those what we call as unbelief. Those folks pushing denial of the miracles of Christ simply are not Christians. In the scholastic world we are engaging their minds because we will have to answer the atheist worlds challenge about the identity of Christianity . The reason now I know is as follow:

            Robert Strimple wrote: The so-called quest of the historical Jesus has seemed to grip the imagination of modern men and women the way it has. The modern, post-Enlightenment readers of the Gospels have not been willing to accept and follow the supernatural Jesus presented there. They found that the religious role for Jesus as written is uncongenial to their naturalistic mind-   set, and yet they find it hard to cut off all religious relationship with Jesus. Therefore they seek to find one, compatible with their unbiblical worldview.[1]

I find this astonishing that they rejected the miraculous Jesus which is the core of the very divine being of the Son of God incarnated into this world, and yet wanted to cling on to the same Jesus in some way and fashion. They really wanted their naturalistic mind to triumph over the super naturalistic legend Jesus. You see the naturalistic doesn’t go well with supernatural. That’s precisely the point. They wanted to convert or relabel Jesus to be naturalistic. Like the modern liberals wanted to relabel marriage, sexuality and the power is in the tongue they said. This is the potent weapon of the devil, from the Pentecostal background, my perception of this, is nothing less than spiritual warfare. It is nothing short of the highest warfare in the intellect. You see casting out demons may be dramatic & spooky & compelling, but that’s nothing compares with the relabeling of Jesus, the Son of God, by way of their intellect & writing books. That is far more powerful and darker as it affects a generation and more!

Interestingly this unbelief of the supernatural of Christ in some ways echo’s or mirrors the unbelief of the reformed teaching that embraces the cessationist view which is the supernatural gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing etc. have all ceased because they were to be used in the apostolic time only. Essentially the gospel criticism group merely extends the cessation backward to Jesus himself, claiming that the miracles of Christ never happened on the first place. 

And to argue against them in stuff like the historical Adam and Eve, we could just invite them to a Pentecostal meeting where supernatural healings happen, where prophecy happens, and where the palpable presence of the transcendent God is felt. The experiential aspect of the supernatural trumps any theological debate in a way that theology teaching has not known. This is what is called living my theology. You get what you believe. What one learns in the mind and what one learns in the heart and senses is vastly different and the latter is more compelling. Having said that, however, the supernatural can only go so far and indeed the teaching of the kingdom and the gospel must go for the long haul like how Jesus did it himself. Like how Paul and Peter did it in the epistles. The teaching of the kingdom of God and the gospel respectively.


[1] Robert Strimple   The Modern Search for the Real Jesus   p 10-11 P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ

Gospel being challenged in 21 Century

This is my reflections from the book “A Continuing Church” by Dr. Sean Lucas, my History Professor in Reformed Theological Seminary, NYC). PCA, a conservative Bible believing section of the original PCUS, was split from PCUS in 1973 after a turbulent sad and mastering display of the progressive minds and theologians over 50 years. In that 50 years plus, it is heartbreaking, as an orthodox conservative believer evangelical myself, to read the evolution and the progress of the liberal progressive movement in PCUS. It is hard to read and the indecision of certain leaders like Nelson Bell who strongly led in advocating and fighting for conservative teaching in PCUS, suddenly pulled out of conservative movement, clearly displays a hypocrisy and coward-ness unheard of for decades. It is due to leaders like these, who turned from hero to traitor, church must stand ready to disavow any supposedly godly conservative church leader who may flip on God in the last minute, and our constant source and only source of strength and hope must be in God and God alone as Calvin has taught in his Institutes.

The story of Presbyterian Church breakup from 1920-1973 is an eye opener and warning and lesson to modern day evangelical Christians today. The first thing that drives the whole narrative and really stands up is the power of progressive thinkers, scholars, in the church. The whole liberal teachings in PCUS started from a professor in the seminary and a few pastors that also echoed the same liking for such teaching, which I would call apostasy. The troubling thing is that it’s always a mixed bag, and it’s not an outright bad apple so to speak, but it’s all mixed with some supposedly good but some eternally bad and stinking doctrines. The whole debate goes to bring the doctrine of “social gospel” to the forefront, overshadowing the gospel of salvation in Christ atoning act on the cross. You see, to a lot of people, inside and outside the church, this may sound rather appealing, because it is about helping the poor, and bringing about the social justice that’s part of the very heart of God. But what they got wrong is the order. Augustine calls it a disordered love, for example. I call this doctrine of the progressive as the “disordered doctrine”. Nothing wrong for social gospel indeed we need that. But what’s wrong with that is it is elevated above the gospel of redemption, which is the most important, and core message of the incarnation of the Son of God into the world. It must be the redemption first, and the outworking of that redemption off shooting into social justice, visit the prisons, helping the widows, and orphans as Christ himself has taught too.

This progressive teaching of PCUS in 1920 has eerie resemblance of what the liberal progressive churches in America are teaching today. They affirm and emphasize more on social gospel over and above the redemption story of Christ. Now what’s more apostasy is the PCUS progressive professors, pastors, synods, presbytery also went to deny the virgin birth of Christ! That on its own should be dispelled and excommunicated from church as instructed by our dear beloved apostle Paul in Gal 1:  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel……As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” PCUS professors and pastors were clearly teaching and writing deviant teaching from the original gospel in the Bible, and strictly, they should have been brought under discipline and if continuing despite rebuke, should be ex-communicated. Although the PCUS conservative leadership did not expel the liberals, they in actual fact did not have the power to do so; in fact they were simply overwhelmed. It should be noted at the speed of the spreading of the liberal theology within PCUS within a few years from 1920, and that’s frightening how fast false teaching can spread. And it’s no different from today’s. If our churches are not soaked in orthodox teaching rooted in the orthodoxy inerrant word of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will face being wiped out in the future. Inerrancy of Scripture holds the key to everything in the story of PCUS. It is indeed the story for all of us evangelicals who love our Lord Jesus Christ. The troubling source of these entire progressive started with the seminary in PCUS, and the key to saturate the minds of the presbytery is through teaching, preaching and writing. In the case of PCUS, it was through the journals publication, and the seminaries, the liberal prof began to fill the minds of the presbyteries with the social gospel message that he was driving in seminaries too.

The heroic part of the story is the brave emergence of conservative leaders who had the conviction of the inerrancy of Scripture well grounded into them, rose up in unity to begin to fight the liberal progressives. They were the hero’s of the story. They went through many trials, disappointments year after year, being simply overwhelmed by the power and voice of the liberals. But they didn’t give up, even some of their own leaders called it quit when they were about to enter the Promised Land. It was through a lot of heart sharing and prayer; they formed their new church in 1973 in their First General Assembly.

Conclusion: What’s not really mentioned in the book, and I will add is the factor of spiritual warfare. I can attest to the most potent weapons of the devil against the church of Jesus Christ, is the wave of progressive liberal theology in denying the deity of Christ, and disputing the inerrancy of Scripture. These two alone can destroy any church in the future. I believe that’s the most powerful weapon of the forces of darkness today, and evangelicals today, must take note of that, and begin to rise as one man in Christ, and be like the what Jesus says, the Kingdom of God is advancing, and strong men shall take it by force. Not taking it by weeping, but rising with courage and conviction and the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit to take this land.

My reflection on History I from Seminary

I think going through Ancient and Medieval church History has impacted my life in a way that is unprecedented. I love the ancient church history the most, going through the lives of Augustine, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Aquinas, the Councils creed like Nicene creed, Ephesians Creed, Chaldecan’s creed, etc. and how they were martyred for the Name of Christ in early churches are just too powerful and inspiring to me. It’s a real eye opener for me to see all the work and thinking on theology that has gone in in the early church because of necessity like false teachings Arianism, Gnosticism, the dual nature of the divinity/humanity of Christ, the trinity of the Godhead which are all so fundamental to our faith that we have taken for granted. I for one, have not plodded deep into Trinity, the homoousia and the homoiousia, the same or similar substance between Christ and the Father has just blown me away. I confess that I have always believed in Trinity but never known such intricacy thereof. I love the fact that Augustine said we need a God-Man to save the human race, as human savior must be a savior, and yet we can’t find a perfect human on earth to save us. But God came up with an amazing idea that is He sends his own Son Jesus Christ to incarnate into our human world by taking up the dual nature of God-Man, which is simply the most amazing mysterious breakthrough of human history. For the creator of the universe to step into our universe to walk and cry and laugh with us and teach us the gospel and the Father, is beyond any words can describe. Only Jesus is qualified to take up this task to redeem mankind, by living a perfect life we should have lived, and offering up his life as a sacrifice, substitution, for us, is the biggest act of love we have known. I am so thankful for Christ to step into our world to reveal who God is and his affection for us is transforming. Without Christ incarnated into this world, I would have been so lost trying to figure out the God of the OT and any relevance for our modern days. I have always been thankful for that, but after this semester, I am more pumped and closer to my savior who incarnated in my world and saved me. I am so thankful.

Looking at the martyrdom of the early bishops like Justin the Martyr, and the really powerful woman Perpetua and Felicitas is such a daunting challenge and inspiration to me of the extent they sacrificed for the Name of Jesus. I am humbled and grateful.

Looking at the monasteries that sprung up and produced almost all the most formidable thinkers, theologians in the early church is a phenomenal success that I have not known before. They asceticism, and their pursuit of God is really something inspiring and stirring in the material comfort world in our 21st century New York city. What a contrast. I have learnt that material comfort actually brought down the downfall of the monasteries, and indeed a big lesson to be learnt. I love that they chant the psalms –whole book like once a week or so. This has impressed in my heart too that I want to be a more psalm filled Christian and also an awe towards tradition and the council I never had before. I greatly respect the early fathers of their theological understanding when every time they met in a council they voted for the biblical doctrines, kicked out and exiled the false teachers. Such one accord is amazing and such intellectual power of Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, etc. is truly inspiring. I am thankful for this semester on the early church especially.

Prophecy & Tongues

I am reading Perspectives on Pentecost by Dr. Richard Gaffin as part of my seminary class. I want to dispute numerous points on this subject: and the list will grow I am sure, as I am in my busy schedule on reading more books needed by this month.

Pg 77- 1 Cor 14: 14, 32 v2-“the one who speaks in a tongue….speaks mysteries by the Spirit.” “Because the anthropological spirit is excluded in verse 14 and 32, the reference here is likewise is likely not to the human spirit, but, as is more likely on other grounds anyway, the Holy Spirit.”

v14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.—my spirit here is My spirit. Not the Holy Spirit.

32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.—-spirits” here is the prophets spirits. NOT Holy Spirit.

This is clear.

Charismatics friends should read the last paragraph. “It’s true that charismatics belief in the Holy Spirit as a powerfully present reality, not just a doctrine, protest against intellectualism in theology and formation in the worship and  life of the church, intense prayer and praise, stress in cultivating relationships among believers, and a more intimate fellowship within the church.”-R Gaffin. Through my last decades in charismatics church I can say the protest against intellectualism is true and it’s real sad and even grieving in itself to the Spirit and we lost so much heritage in the truth that the spiritual fathers have carried before us like Augustine, Luther. I will write more in my blog. Lots of teachings I disagree with Gaffin, but this strikes at me as a real awakening call. #pentecost #charismatics More to come……

Why didn’t God help the early church under Roman persecution but he did with Israel in Egypt?

By Al Ngu, New York                                                                                                                September 23, 2018

I want to pull a parallel between the sufferings and persecutions of the Jewish nation Israel during the time of Moses and the early (ancient) church in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Slavery in Egypt

To be real, the sufferings of Israel was predestined by God to have the children of Abraham to suffer in exile in a foreign nation as God told Abraham in a vision as He established a covenant with Abraham in a semi trance when the fire of God passed over the sacrifices. (Gen 15:12-16) [1]

And sure enough 3 million Jews suffered intensely in Egypt and they cried out to God, and God, in his timing, sent a deliverer/prophet, Moses to their rescue. And that culminated in the greatest miracle in the human civilization ever, the great Red Sea was parted as God sent a mighty east wind that blew all night for the 3 millions Jews to cross on dry sea bed, only to close it as Egyptian army chased them into the sea bed. Israel was delivered and Mariam led the women of Israel as they danced before the Lord and sang “The Lord mighty: The chariots of Egypt were thrown into the sea. Now, quick forward history to the church, what about the persecutions & sufferings of the church of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

The Early Church Martyrdom

Since the resurrection of Christ at about 33 AD, the apostle Peter, James & John took over the reign of the church and led the church to some phenomenal growth both numerically and qualitatively. The most important part was the spirit of the early church was so strong and the foundation laid by especially Paul is phenomenal. The book of Acts exploded with the arrival of the Pentecost when 3000 men were converted in a single event after 300 men were filled and baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. The church took off and tightly knitted communities were formed only to be the envy of the world, for they so loved one another, and shared all with everyone else. No one was in lack. The Lord was in their midst.

But under the Roman emperor of that time, both our greatest apostle, Paul, was martyred, and also Peter crucified, and John, James beheaded. There was a huge price to pay for Christ. Then came the ancient church forefathers who were powerful in their theology and loving the Lord and church, but were all martyred. Those included Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Ignatius, and a woman of mighty faith and intellect, Perpetua who was fed to the beast, as a nursing mother. The stories couldn’t be more dark and heart breaking as we plow through those years, as I read my seminary book-The Story of Christianity ’ by Justo Gonzalez.

To summarize right from the get go, Christians faced severe persecutions of the kind that modern churches in our 21st century has not seen or heard at all. Let me just spring to the final & worst persecution of the church. The Caesar of Roman Empire called Galerius started the final and worst persecution. Christians were labeled as rebels as they refused to join the Roman military. Galerius, in fear of the Christians refusing to join the army, and hence may even pull out of army in time of war, started pushing them to deny their faith. In 303 AD, he finally convinced the Augustus (Emperor) of the Roman Empire, Diocletian, to issue a new edict against Christians. He ordered that all Christian buildings and books to be destroyed, and as many Christians who refused to turn over their sacred writings (Bible), they were tortured and condemned to death. Throughout the empire houses where Christian met and sacred writings were being sent to the torch, and overzealous officials put Christians to death. There were resistance from Christians (rightfully) and caused disturbances in some areas, and Emperor Diocletian became convinced that Christians were conspiring against him. He reacted and has all the church leaders arrested and later all Christians must offer sacrifice to the gods. Thus was unleashed the most cruel of all the persecutions that the ancient church had to endure. Many Christians were encouraged to abandon their faith. (Does this sound similar in some ways in America today in a subtler one?) The rest were tortured with refined cruelty, and eventually killed in a variety of ways. A number of them took the sacred books and fled to Persia across the border. [2]

How did God intervene?

That’s my thesis of this reflection. In Moses time, God heard the cries of Israel, and sent Moses. People of Israel bowed when they heard Yahweh heard and responded. Exodus 3: The Lord said,I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering….. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” That response changed the entire trajectory of Israel and brought in the most thunderous awesome divine act of God, next to the crucifixion of Christ & resurrection. There is a visible and expressive tangible response from God and Israel were able to worship Him and bow down. To be truthful, I didn’t see any martyrdom of the Jewish population at that time, but only intense hardship in their labor to collect straw for the making of bricks.

The whole approach of God towards his people changed from the OT (Old Testament) to the NT (New Testament)

In the NT, the church is God’s people, the spiritual Israel. And when the ancient church in 300 AD went through the most terrifying martyrdom, the church cried out to the Lord Jesus and God the Father, Yahweh, God didn’t send a ‘Moses’ per se. God’s way seems to be more like “be strong and build up your inner man and that God may be glorified”. That’s why I believe Christians have a much higher calling and hence harder one compared to the OT’s Israel when all they needed to do was to obey and it will be well. The choice of the OT is simple and straightforward, but the NT people of God, the church, has a much harder route in following God and loving Him.

Many were called to martyrdom in the early ancient church, and God seemed to be quiet

But when you hear from the lips of these martyrs, something break loose in your spirit as you know God is so real in their hearts and spirits. Justin martyr (the first bishop after apostle Peter/John) asked the church in Rome not to stop his journey to Rome to be martyred so as to give glory to our Lord. Perpetua [3] (Readings in Christian Theologian-Michael Reeves), a nursing mother, wrote in her Passion of Perpetua that she was ready to be sacrificed for the glory of God and she was fed to the beast. As all these atrocious murderous acts were condemning Christians, God finally tangibly acted. In 311 AD, God intervened in a quiet way, the emperor of Rome, Galerius became ill with painful disease and perhaps convinced by the Christians who said this was a punishment from God, grudgingly decided to change his policy, and in April 30, 311, Galerius proclaimed…to allow Christians once again to gather in their assemblies, as long as they do not interfere with public order. ……And in our tolerance, Christians will be required to pray to their god for us, for the public good, for themselves, so that the state may enjoy prosperity and they may live in peace. [4] Galerius died five days later. The Roman Empire was divided among Licenses, Maximinus Daia, Constantine and Manutius.

Then came the emergence of the savior of the Christendom of that time as Constantine began to emerge. Constantine was the emperor of the Western Roman Empire including Western Europe and the UK, where Galerius was the emperor of the eastern Roman Empire covering Israel and Jerusalem. Constantine, when least expected, gathered his armies in Gaul, crossed the Alps and marched on Rome, Maxiencius capital. Constantine conquered Rome. According to Christian chroniclers who knew Constantine, on the eve of the battle he had a revelation. Lactantius says that it was in a dream Constantine received the command to place a Christian symbol on the shields of his soldiers. The other chronicler, Eusebius, says that in the vision appeared in the sky, with the words “in this you shall conquer”. The symbol looked like the superimposition of the Greek letters chi and rho. Since these are the two letters f the name, “Christ”, this labarum could well have been a Christian symbol. At the end of 313 CE, after the edict of Milan, the persecutions ended.

Conclusion

God intervened and cursed the evil emperor and sent an emperor who would be converted to Christianity and brought the greatest expansion of the gospel in the early ancient foundations of the church. But that’s only after the martyrdom of a lot of Christians in most cruel way. I believe God’s work in this NT time is different from that of OT, and obviously the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, came into the world and lit the whole world for a new baptism of fire with the final consummation on the death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. Our Lord was martyred himself too. This calls for a wisdom and heart preparation as we face persecutions in our 21st century.

————————————————————————————————————————————

[1] 12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

[2] Gonzalez, Justo   The Story of Christianity Pg 121

[3] Kerr, Hugh Readings in Christian Thought   Pg 24-28

[4] Gonzalez, Justo   The Story of Christianity  Pg 124

The Apostolic Fathers & their Martyrdom

I have been reading the History of Christianity by Gonzalez, Theologians You Should Know by Michael Reeves, and Readings in Christian Thoughts by Hugh Kerr as part of my Seminary course. I have been shocked and rudely awakened by such stark reality of persecutions and courage and conviction with faith for the early Apostolic Fathers to stand up against death and even being fed to the beasts under the 1st and 2nd century brutal regime of the Roman Empires. For refusing to renounce Jesus and hence to worship Caesar, Christians were beheaded, thrown to be devoured by the beasts, Christian leaders were all condemned to death. Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, so was John. Then after the first tier Apostles, came the 2nd tier Apostolic Fathers (we call them), like Ignatius, Traneous, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, and even a young woman, Perpetua, all stood tall, and strong and affirmed commitment to the one God Jesus Christ and His Father, and hence were all killed and condemned.

I have heard of the persecutions and even martyrdom of men and women of faith in the early church, but this is my first time going deep, up close, reading the actual stories themselves in my books. Facing the reality of death face to face in such unnatural, frightful, condemning way, really spooked me to and think what went through the minds of these forefathers? Ignatius begged his church in Rome to let him be martyred for the glory of Christ and be more like Christ. Perpetua turned down 3 times the begging from her father to renounce Christ for the sake of her new born baby, and her father and family. She wrote a powerful letter called Perpetua Passion which described all the incidents leading to the final death. That’s even for a woman of faith, not the top apostolic leaders. What a woman of strong faith and conviction, the Lord bless her.
My mind goes what made them to be so strong? Justin Martyr fought against heresy that sought to dilute and change the content of orthodoxy like what we face with numerous heretic teachings to day among some churches. Why did they so willingly die for Christ? When we Christians today struggle to even keep our faith strong and intact, and indeed sadly, many young millennials have drifted away from the orthodoxy and purity of our faith and doctrines. The pertinent ones are like in the name of social justice, homosexuality, that have sadly torn the churches apart. We need more Justin Martyrs, Ignatius, Ignarous, who defended the orthodoxy of the Canon, the Word, so mightily with strong intellectual might and faith in Christ. We need the passion of Christ flowing through our lives.
Surely the ultimate sacrifice of these martres of the early church put us in 21st century christians to shame as we are bothered with little, in comparison, trials. May God arise and Jesus mightily shines in our lives, books, sermons, and teachings. Amen.

Is it God/Christ or Gospel who breaks down barriers in our life?