Saturday, July 13, 2013

Heretic or Hero Part 2

Part 2
Every era throws new light, new revelations, new inventions and discoveries. Some of them are so radical that they challenge the very paradigm upon which the previous era rested its ethos, philosophy and world view. For instance Galileo discovered that the world was not flat but indeed round. He stirred up a might commotion in the world of science. The Industrial revolution was path breaking from the Guild System and the Master Craftsman of the day. The pioneers of that time had to endure much hardship and ridicule. Some of them even had their lives threatened and some even died being denounced as tools of Satan or heretics.
The is the concluding part of this 2 part blog. In order to read part one please click here

All this brings me to the points I was pondering upon. It’s not different today. This generation is throwing up challenges that are pushing and provoking our cognitive boundaries on some basic issues. There are many crying “foul” and that this is modern day heresy and  different preachers are being denounced for what they supposedly preach.  I am learning one thing in life i.e do not be too quick to pass judgment or start throwing stones.

Before you  throw me to the stakes as well, let me say while every generation and era has pushed the boundaries, there has always been the danger of false doctrine infiltrating the church and we need to be ever watchful and safeguard the sanctity of scripture which is infallible and eternal. We need to be careful that when we look at doctrine we view it and understand it in the context of the whole canon of scripture and not in isolation. No doctrine can be based on one isolated verse. So I am not talking about false teachings which challenge the deity of Christ, the trinity, the finished work of the Cross etc. I am referring to our understanding of things like Grace, faith, miracles, the finished work of the cross etc.

I spent time reading and listening to the preaching of some well known modern day preachers. Up to this point I only had second hand information, and reviews on the web to go by. But I felt prompted to reach and study for myself before I decided if this guy is a heretic or hero of the faith. I was stunned!  I thought I knew everything about Grace having being in Newfrontiers for 40 years ( i.e even  before it came to be known as New frontiers) and whose father is Terry Virgo the great Apostle of Grace. No disrespect here, we owe a deep debt of gratitude for Terry's faithful  teaching on Grace,  but I was beginning to realize that what one generation receives the next on build upon and takes it further. And that is how it should be and always has been. 

This man Joseph Prince blows grace wide open: it’s refreshing, liberating and an empowering message. Nowhere does he advocate that grace is  a license to sin or even therefore treat the local church casually. There is so much that he is saying that could well be out of the leaves of Terry Virgo’s book God’s Lavish Grace”.

Prince is not against working hard nor is he advocating a Christianity apart from the local church. Let me share a quote from his book “Destined to Reign” “All I have shared works most powerfully and effectively within the environment of the local church. These truths are for the greater good of the body of Christ and should never result in you becoming a law unto yourself. Beloved, I want to see you enjoying the safety of the covering of a local church where there is accountability and submission. This is where our blessings are tremendously multiplied” ( Destined to Reign- Joseph Prince, pg 306). Who can argue with this?

 You may say, but what about this and that. Does Prince have all revelation? Or for that matter do you or I? I think Prince is building on what the last generation began to open up and he has taken it further. His book is not supposed to be another manual of does and don'ts for every area of life. Our legalistic bent of of mind likes every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed.  "The law makes one self conscious. Its always asking 'what must I do? . But grace makes one Christ - conscious. It is always asking , "what has Jesus done?" (Destined to Reign- Joseph Prince, pg 33)

 Now there are always those who only hear what they want to and cherry pick in their practice and we look at them and question “is this what Joseph Prince is teaching?” .  I have been guilty of this. All I can say is those people have got the wrong end of the stick and are using the liberating doctrine of grace ( which has happened even with Terry Virgo's preaching) to rationalize their sin.There are some that accuse Prince of having a liberal view to sin.

 Allow me to quote "Licence to Sin?.. Let me begin by asking this: Have you noticed that people are already sinning without a 'license'? Allow me to make this explicitly clear in black and white so that there is not doubt I, Joseph Prince am vehemently , completely  aggressively and irrevocably AGAINST SIN!. Sin is evil. I do not condone sin. A life style of sin leads only to defeat and destruction.. Some think that it is by preaching more law. I am convicted that is is by preaching the grace of God."  (Destined to Reign- Joseph Prince, pg 30)

So who knows what the next 20 years will throw up? Unraveling the mysteries of an infinite God is never ending and God is restoring truths that got lost in the cobwebs of trying to live the Christian life by a ton of rules. We will never completely comprehend everything. No one individual has all revelation or knowledge. Even what we know is not perfect. While we have the privilege of attaining some revelation in one area of the Christian faith, we could be flawed in another. Therefore we need to walk humbly before God. 

So how do I respond?

Life is never black or white. Which of us is perfect in all things? I am learning more and more that one must not throw the baby and the bath water out. If we do this we will become very narrow and bigoted, lacking in charity, fragmented and very alone.

Augustine of Hippo said “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The great St. Paul put it so eloquently and showed us the most excellent way in  1 Cor 13 – the way of love. We can keep splitting hairs on doctrine and its application and like the Pharisees we will strain the gnat and choke on the camel! 

So these are some of the things I have been pondering upon. I am glad I read and am re reading "Destined to Reign". I could not fault what was written.It lifted my spirit, made me worship Jesus and want to know Him more. It has given me a fresh boost to know that I can live this Christian life with all its struggles , victoriously. I recommend you read it for yourself .

 I end my reflections here with these thoughts :This I know God is for me, He died for me, my debt is paid in full. I have a destiny in Him which involves the ends of the earth.  I want to love and serve him all the days of my life until my last breath. And by His extravagant grace I will do mighty exploits for Him and one day Grace will lead me home.

Now these 3 things remain – faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is LOVE.
So while I aim to have a right understanding  of scripture and live according to it let us go our ways to love and serve the Lord – the author and perfecter of our faith to whom be praise forever and ever ! Amen.

Navaz D Cruz
July 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Heretic or Hero?

Since the summer break I have been pondering many things about the Christian life : what we believe and how it affects our being and our living. Here are some of the thoughts that have been running through my head and upon which I have been pondering.

We live in a fast changing world. What‘s “in “today is on its way “out” tomorrow. It’s hard to keep up with the pace of technological advancement. Before you know it the ‘latest’ phone you've bought is getting out of fashion.

Our world is punctuated by fads which have a following among folk whose life experience, cultural, social, economic context is almost unrecognizable from that of the previous generations.

We all products of the socio economic and historical period that we live in. It does shape our worldview, our way of thinking, our problem solving our creativity and even how we respond to God sometimes.

Every era throws new light, new revelations, new inventions and discoveries. Some of them are so radical that they challenge the very paradigm upon which the previous era rested its ethos, philosophy and world view. For instance Galileo discovered that the world was not flat but indeed round. He stirred up a might commotion in the world of science. The Industrial revolution was path breaking from the Guild System and the Master Craftsman of the day. The pioneers of that time had to endure much hardship and ridicule. Some of them even had their lives threatened and some even died being denounced as tools of Satan or heretics

Many a Christian fore father had to endure much the same for revelations they received that they strongly believed were Biblical and from God. For instance the Ana Baptists firmly believed in baptism by immersion and they paid for it with their lives.claiming that since infant baptism was scriptural and null and void, the baptizing of believers was not a "re-baptism" but in fact the first baptism for them. Balthasar H├╝bmaier wrote:
But the right baptism of Christ, which is preceded by teaching and oral confession of faith, I teach, and say that infant baptism is a robbery of the right baptism of Christ...As a result of their views on the nature of baptism and other issues, Anabaptist were heavily persecuted during the 16th century and into the 17th by both Magisterial Protestants and Roman Catholics.
  Martin Luther was denounced as a heretic for talking about justification by faith. The list can go on and on (You just need to read The Foxes Book of Martyrs) . What about those who believed that the gifts of the Spirit are available for us even today? They were mocked, ostracized and put out of main stream churches. 

This gave rise to what we know as the Charismatic movement that many of us enjoy being a part of today. Many paid the price for the path breaking revelation the fruit of which we now enjoy and take for granted. Today we look upon them as heroes of the faith and not as heretics as they once were.

The Bible does tell us that we know in part and we prophesy in part. Now we shall see dimly but then we shall see clearly.  ( 1 Cor. 13:9-12) 

Even Jesus was met with much resistance from the established order of the day. What He said and did was radical and provoking – it was unlike anything they had ever experienced or knew how to relate to. This incensed the Pharisees greatly who were “ever hearing but not understanding”. Claiming to see, therefore blind. Jesus paid with his life to set us free, to give us a new way to the Father.

So I believe it is true for us. We have not received all the revelation there is to receive. Remember we are always encountering an infinite God whose ways are not ours and can never be totally comprehended on this side of eternity.

One generation gets a portion of the revelation according their measure of faith and lives according to it as best they understand. Then, comes the next generation which throws up further light. Often the pioneers are met with resistance and ridicule before it is received.
Take the message on the wonderful doctrine of justification by faith : Martin Luther shed some light on it. But then down the ages more people have had further revelation and taken our understanding to another level.

As I said earlier we are products of our time that has bearings on our outlook to life, and our understanding . The 1800s, and early 1900s saw society transforming at a very slow pace but a transformation work had begun. New cities were emerging and science was making great advance. There was a time there was wide spread scarcity and poverty and only the upper class gentry knew the “good life”. And so the focus naturally was on just coping from one crisis to another. Life was hard and often cruel. The focus of the Christian was to persevere under every trial that was flung at them and to keep the faith. Frugality was a  great virtue. Godliness with contentment was of great gain.

As time went on the socio economic conditions began to improve all around with the Industrial revolution opening doors for new opportunities and financial well being the chance to break free from the never ending cycle o f poverty. Once could better one’s station in life. As society rises above the basic needs, higher aspirations come into play. One is able to lift one’s vision higher from just “give us this day our daily bread” to realizing that there is so much more in the kingdom of God. And we see progressive revelation come into play. Christian writings begin to change in their slant and flavor from endure hardship, be diligent ; to " lift up your eye and look around you - the nations are waiting",  "you can believe in miracles",  "there is so much more than just coping" etc.

Then there was a fresh wind blowing across the church in the early 1960s and it was being carried across the nations. There is now a whole new movement of “faith” “baptism in the Spirit” . "gifts of the Spirit", the Ephesians 4 ministries ,which was looked upon with suspicion at first. Today we embrace it as core and foundational. 

Am I suggesting that our doctrine is a reflection of the age we live in and therefore relative and subject to change? This  I know, that the Word of God has stood and will stand the test of time. It is eternal, unchanging and timeless. But I do know that there are mysteries to unravel and more revelation to be obtained and history bares witness to a change in understanding and therefore practice.

My pondering are this: does a particular age help usher in new revelations and how does that understanding then get translated into life and society?  A women’s plight in one age was pitiful, but in another, men of God upon receiving further revelation of God’s word begin to change things and see men and women as equal. This starts a whole cycle of change for woman and society .This is true of the slave trade as well. Change came with revelation from God and Godly men spear headed the abolition of slavery.

So what are the new challenges we are facing today? What new revelations are we resisting as heresy and which men of God are we denouncing as heretics only to be crowned heroes in years to come? More thoughts ,in the next blog post.

Navaz D Cruz
July 2013