Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas! For which Jesus Christ?

We are in midst of a Christmas evolution. This evolution is to disconnect Christ from Christmas. Some societies have replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.”

The secular world is not the only threat to Christmas. There is a threat to the Christian faith from within Christianity. This threat will not impact those firmly entrenched, but it will adversely influence those growing in the Christian faith - our children - the future of Christianity. If we remain unaware of this threat, we will not act to prevent but will place our future into a greater turmoil.

These threats are largely variants or replicas of heresies that have been in existence. Postmodernism is not a recent threat, but as Ravi Zacharias said in one of his sermons, postmodernism is found as early as in Genesis 3:1, “…did God actually say…?” As a logical outflow of this thought, a postmodern Christian thinker claims it is unnecessary to believe in the Bible as the sole and final authority for all matters of man’s spiritual life.

As affirmed, the non-Christians are not the only entity that dispute Historic Christianity. Christian seminaries are actively buying into postmodern thought and selling it to their students – our pastors and elders. Many Christian seminaries are scurrying to discard God from Christianity - the Bible is relegated to the status of a mere book, the miracles are said to be mythical and nonsensical, and a Cosmic Christ archetype that indulges in ‘deep ecumenism’ to embrace all religions and the likes is actively taught.

The question that looms large over us is this: Can we, as serious Christians, reasonably and confidently respond to these truthless threats with the timeless truths found in the Scripture? Every Christian ought to be a theologian (cf. Ephesians 4:13). Every Christian ought to provide reasons for his hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Every Christian ought to destroy arguments against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Christianity is not a part-time, once-a-week activity that takes place in the precincts of the church and that once-a-week cell group activity. Attending church and bible study fellowships are indeed beneficial. But Christianity cannot be limited to these two once-a-week activities. Similarly, Christians cannot think that our mainline activity is only to provide for ourselves and our families. It is a sin to neglect our family. But it’s a greater sin to discard God or relegate HIM to mediocrity or obscurity.

A reasonable goal for a Christian is to spend two hours a day praying, reading, and studying the Bible and commentaries that interpret the Bible. Christians practicing tithing will affirm that spending two hours a day at the feet of the Lord falls short of the one-tenth mark!

An average believer of other active proselytizing (evangelizing) faiths such as Islam, Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses know our Bible more than an average Christian. How proficient are we in clarifying the apparent contradictions in the Bible that our non-christian friend throws at us? We may not readily be able to clarify every doubt our unbelieving friend seeks from us. But in this internet era, we should know the online resources that offer clarity to these apparent contradictions (e.g. or Or we have to educate ourselves through our investments in resources (books, podcasts, smartphone apps etc.) that offer clarity. Our investments indicate our heart’s disposition. 

Are we theologians? Can we confidently provide a reason for our hope in Christ? Can we reasonably dialogue with those who preach against the tenets of Historic Christianity (the tenets are in my blog: If we aren’t, then we better be.

Importantly, every Christian ought to:

(1) Identify the errors in the opposing worldview.

(2) Provide clarity to every honest question asked, especially by our young people.

As a result of more and more seminaries teaching liberal theology, 1 heresies under the guise of rationality and progressivity attack and will inundate us. Those who believe and broadcast the tenets of Historic Christianity are branded as fundamentalists, arrogant, exclusivists etc. These developments should not deter us.

Some heresies are direct (e.g. Bible is not to be believed as a sole authority for man’s life and spirituality). This is similar to the devil casting his evil dogmas directly into our face. Other heresies are subtle and cunning. This is the devil disguising as the angel of the light (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15). These heresies are meant to confuse people. Often the young and naïve (immature) minds are the victims of these deceiving heresies. ‘Young and naïve’ need not be limited to young people, but even the old can be ‘young and naïve’ in their minds. 

Some insist that a true Christian ought to reject all doctrines, for they claim all doctrines to be man-made. This is a very deceptive thought, which is only meant to confuse and corrode a young and naïve believer. Let me elaborate.

Which Christ is celebrated during Christmas? Is it the Christ of the Bible? Wait! Are there other Jesus Christs? Yes, consider the Christ of Islam. While the Islamic tradition affirms the virgin birth and the second coming of Christ, it denies Christ’s divinity (Surah 5: 17, 75), crucifixion (Surah 4:157-158), and ascribes Christ to be inferior to Prophet Muhammad. Very minimally, Muslims believe that Christ was not crucified but Christians subscribing to Historic Christianity believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

So we observe two different versions of Christ – Islamic and Christian. The Christ of the Historic Christianity was crucified and resurrected but the Christ of Islam was not crucified. The truth is Christ was either crucified or not crucified. A claim that Christ was both crucified and not crucified cannot be true. Crucifixion, therefore, is an essential doctrine that separates the Christ of Islam from Christ of Christianity.

Doctrine is a belief that is taught. Crucifixion is a doctrine associated with Christ. There are several essential and fringe (peripheral) doctrines. Essential doctrines are essential to salvation (salvific), hence cannot be compromised (Christ’s deity, crucifixion, bodily resurrection etc.). Fringe doctrines (baptism, speaking in tongues, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism etc.) are not salvific, which we can agree to disagree on.  

For instance, denial of Christ’s virgin birth is to deny Christ’s sinlessness and HIS divinity, and will also invoke a cascade of other negations. Similarly denying Christ’s crucifixion would deny HIS resurrection, HIS victory over death etc. Therefore, the Christ who saves man from his sins is the Christ who is the second person of the blessed trinity, born of the virgin Mary, who was crucified and bodily resurrected.

It is abundantly clear that a Christian has to believe in the doctrines of virgin birth, Christ’s divinity, HIS crucifixion and resurrection. Negating one of these is to present another Christ. The Christ of the Bible is not the Christ who was not crucified (proposed by Islam) nor is Christ the spirit brother of Lucifer (proposed by Mormons). In other words, doctrines are essential to faith.

Rejection of a doctrine could lead to a belief in a contradicting doctrine or simply a belief in nothing. Both are equally dangerous, for both reject or suppress truth. 

Doctrines as a concept cannot be rejected as well. A deceptive statement is that “All doctrines are man-made and hence should be rejected,” but this:

(1) …is a doctrine made by man.

(2) …is the doctrine of a person who believes that there should not be a doctrine.
Therefore, the person who says that all man-made doctrines are to be rejected is trying to reject all doctrines by affirming the concept of a doctrine - a self-defeating proposition.

There are true and false doctrines found in all walks of life. According to Historic Christianity, the doctrine of virgin birth of Christ is the truth; all other contradicting doctrines are false. A Muslim believes in the doctrine of monotheism, and according to Islam all contradicting doctrines are false. A postmodern thinker believes in the doctrine that there is no objective truth. In fact he projects his doctrine as the objective truth (!!), and he believes that all contradicting doctrines are false. A liberal Christian believes in the doctrine that the Bible is not the final authority for man, so he believes that all contradicting doctrines are false.

Doctrines that promote truth are beneficial to man. The early church developed the Nicene Creed to fight the Arian heresy that relegated Christ to be a created being.

We are celebrating the birth of Christ of the Bible, who is God incarnate, born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, was crucified and bodily resurrected, who is now at the Father’s right hand interceding for you and me, and will come again to judge the world. Until HE comes again, HE will generously offer all spiritual blessings that include wisdom and courage to all who seek HIM to defend the truth and fight the evil.

May the light of Christ shine into all hearts so to make them captive to HIM and HIM alone. Amen.   




Sam Carr said...

"Crucifixion is a doctrine associated with Christ" wrong, the crucifiction is described in the Bible, it is not a 'doctrine' unless you make it one. Conflating the Bible with human doctrine is the commonest mistake that conservative thinkers make and soon 'the doctrine' supplants God's Word in the uncritical conservative mind.

Raj Richard said...

@Sam Carr: Thank you for your thoughts.

I think you need to state your definition of 'doctrine,' for the sake of clarity.

Doctrine, as I've said, is a belief that is taught. So crucifixion of Christ is a belief, although it's in the Bible. I have said that there are those who do not believe in the crucifixion, as are those who do not believe in the Bible.

Sam Carr said...

According to your definition, a doctrine is anything that is taught. In other words this is communication of some information by someone who knows (or claims to :) ), to someone who doesn't know. That itself shows that what is taught (communicated) is only the supposed knowledge of one person. To make it even clearer, it is human knowledge and it's only as good as the knowledge that the communicator of doctrine herself/himself has. I therefore see nothing at all wrong with my criticism.

Sam Carr said...

In practical use in Christian circles, the word doctrine is not simply something that is taught, but includes the idea that the x in question is right and correct as well as being part of an 'accepted body of beliefs'. But as I point out in my previous comment, there is nothing even in your very minimal definition of the word that makes 'doctrine' acceptable to be on par with 'the truth' that is God's Word.

Raj Richard said...

Well, I beg to differ with you, but you have distorted my definition of "doctrine." I have defined "doctrine" as, "Doctrine is a belief that is taught."

So there is a 'belief' component to doctrine. In the context of our discussion, 'crucifixion' is an objective event narrated by the Holy Bible.

I need to believe in this before I teach it. I believe for I know it to be true. I teach to someone who doesn't know it to be true.

So this is a knowledge that is transmitted by God to man, which then is retransmitted to other men. Although man is a channel, God is the source. So this isn't a human doctrine.

What one believes isnt believed by another, this is common.

'Human knowledge' as I see it should be a pure human derivation. Humans should be a source of that belief / doctrine.

In our context, we are not referring to human doctrines as your critique states. The doctrines the church teaches, especially about Christ, finds its source in God and not in humans.

Sam Carr said...

So, according to you, the church's teaching is doctrine, and since the church claims to have derived this doctrine from the Bible therefore these doctrines have equal standing with God's Word. Yet, even if you substitute 'the church' into your formula, the church is made up of human individuals, and therefore whatever the church doctrine these individual human beings have derived from the Bible is (by definition) derivative and has to be questioned just as critically as any other humanly derived ideas.
Furthermore, even if you add a 'belief' element it is your belief that you teach, and should (if you are honest) always be qualified by that "I believe" for it is quite possible that you as an individual do believe something to be true that is not true, or is not entirely true, or that sounds like it may be true and may be in line with church doctrine but may still be incorrect.

Raj Richard said...

It seems to me that you are conflating and confusing issues.

First, I believe doctrines are legitimate. Second, as I have stated, there are true and false doctrines.

It also seems to me that your problem is not with doctrines but with the 'church' - to be precise, the church's teachings. If that be the case, then you need to spell out what your problems are with respect to the local church. I suppose you dont have a problem with the universal church or the concept of the church.

Doctrine is independent of church. It's dependent on people, primarily. When people-groups come into picture, the church, most surely, comes into the picture.

Doctrine, as I understand, falls within the realm of "Hermeneutics." When we exegete properly, we arrive at true doctrines. When we eisegete, we arrive at false doctrines.

I am sure you would agree that God's Word has to be interpreted.

There are belief's that one is very sure of and there are belief's that one is not so sure of. Teaching has to be appropriate to this context. (I am unsure when Christ will come again, so I will not split the strand of hair over this matter.)

Yes, not all church doctrines are correct, at least to my understanding, so I do not support all the doctrines of the local church (e.g. Universalism, Prosperity Gospel etc).

Thanks again for your thoughts.