Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chapter 14: No More Consciousness Of Sin

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince (JP) emphasize that preachers of grace (like himself) do not preach about “do’s” and “don’ts” in the church, yet he himself preaches it. Is JP being self-contradicting?

JP wrote,

The world needs to hear this truth, and not be given a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Preach the truth and the world will come flocking to churches for their answers.” (p.171)

A few pages later, we find JP telling his reader to observe some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’,

You can try not to be sin-conscious all you like, but you will not succeed simply because you are living in sin (for example, staying in an adulterous affair with no desire to terminate it). Get out of that lifestyle of sin by the grace of God!
(Emphasis added, p.181)

Caution Point 2: JP’s teaching on salvation is doubtful.

After writing about Christ has ‘overpaid’ for our debts, JP went on to ask, “If you don’t believe the good news, is your debt still paid?… If you refuse to believe that your debt has already been paid, is it still paid?” (p.184)

In other words, JP is asking about those who don’t believe in what Christ has done for them; are their sins being forgiven?

And surprisingly, JP answered, “Yes! Your unbelief does not change the fact that your debt has been fully paid. BUT your unbelief means that you will still have debt on your conscience, and this will affect you negatively…” (p.185)

First of all Scripture tells us that our relationship with God is being damaged by our sins. Hence we owe God justice. Then Christ came and redeemed us. His works of redemption has paid God all the justice that we owe God. Through Christ, we have reconciled back to God. Through Christ, we are justified (Gal. 2.16).

So does JP mean that the sins of those who do not believe or have faith in Christ are also being forgiven? If so, then does that mean they are also saved?

If yes, then JP is saying that it is not necessary for someone to believe in Jesus to be saved. But isn’t this the universalism that JP crudely condemned?

If not, then JP is putting himself in contradiction.

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john said...

Hi Joshua

Your comments and JP's raise the whole issue of predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace etc. In short, the whole issue of the "Doctrines of Grace".

Of course our unbelief cannot undo what Christ achieved on the cross. He is God become man, redeeming us by his blood. No mere human can negate his almighty sovereign work of grace through our pathetic unbelief!

The question is what did Christ achieve on the cross? Universal forgiveness of all sins, made available for everyone who is good enough to realise their sin in the first place and come to him for forgiveness? Then salvation would be dependent on a small amount of our goodness rather than solely on Christ's infinite work on the cross!

Or perhaps salvation is for all whether they believe or not. But this is clearly not the teaching of the Bible either!

That leaves us with the scary thought that God chose some before the creation of the world, becoming man and dying specifically for them, irresistibly calling them to himself through his love and grace and granting them repentance from sin. In which case their sins would be atoned for before they believed, but their believing, leading to eternal life, would inevitably follow sooner or later

The trouble with this scary thought is that it is entirely Biblical causing Christians to debate it for the last 2000 years.... and God is scary!

Is JP advocating universalism or a popular version of predestination without the heavy theology attached?

I think a fuller dealing with what JP is actually trying to say would be helpful.

I look forward to your response.

Thanks for you efforts!

Oliver Chew said...

So does JP mean that the sins of those who do not believe or have faith in Christ are also being forgiven? If so, then does that mean they are also saved?

If yes, then JP is saying that it is not necessary for someone to believe in Jesus to be saved. But isn’t this the universalism that JP crudely condemned?

Referring to your above statement, I think JP was referring to Christians, not unbelievers.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver Chew,

Thank you for the comment. I think you might be right that JP was referring to 'unbelievers'.

However, that only pushes one to the question does identifying the saving power of Christ as the core or the marginal importance for Christian to believe. If it is core, then, someone who claims to be a Christian and yet does not think Christ's saving power is real, is in this sense an unbeliever. So, it depends.

Oliver Chew said...

Well, I think even Christians can face moments of unbelief/doubt, despite having believed in the saving power of Christ. That doesn't make them unbelievers. A believer is simply one who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior and His work on the cross. In this instance, JP was referring to Christians who face doubt about forgiveness due to their sins. You can debate what JP wrote about how one can be free from sins, but to say he was referring to unbelievers being saved is quite hard to fathom, especially when that was written in plain English.

However, if you feel as a Christian who have believed, that you'll never have moments of unbelief, I'm quite impressed with your spiritual stature. In short, Destined to Reign is more for the sick, not the healthy.

Non-Christians or unbelievers would not care if they were sinning anyway.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver Chew,

That would just push the point what does it mean to "accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour and His work on the cross."

Can you accept it yet don't believe it? What does it mean to accept a fact but does not believe the same fact as a fact?

Everyone doubt. So it is not a matter of 'doubt' per se, but what is the subject of our doubt.

If one doubts Jesus as Lord and Saviour and His work on the cross, is he/she still saved?

Oliver Chew said...

If you have believed in Jesus before, then you are saved. The doubts that possibly creep in later does not make you lose your salvation.

Here's an example. I converted and repented of my sins. One fine day, I committed adultery. I asked God and my wife for forgiveness. The assurance that there's no condemnation in Christ restores me. 10 years later, I make the same mistake. This time, I find it difficult to accept that God can forgive me of my mistake a second time and I refuse to believe it. Surely, I'm not going to lose my salvation because of that.

The point of JP's message is the truth, being God's abounding grace, will set you free. But the reality is there are Christians who need to be reminded of this truth due to their unbelief. JP was clearly addressing this message to Christians, who unfortunately, get plagued by unbelief. To interpret that as unbelievers aka non-christians are also forgiven is erroneous.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver,

I get your point but it just goes spiraling down to more unanswerable problems.

Take your example as example. One can doubt if the adulterer has really accepted God or not in the first place. And we cannot know this except God.

If that person has not accepted God in the first place but continue to identify himself/herself as one, then it is easy for outsiders to perceive that he/she is a believer. But to God, he is not.

So when I state that JP was referring to 'unbelievers', I was referring to those who perceived and being perceived of themselves as Christians but in God's eyes they just are not.

Oliver Chew said...

"So when I state that JP was referring to 'unbelievers', I was referring to those who perceived and being perceived of themselves as Christians but in God's eyes they just are not."

Care to show examples from his book that he was referring to such 'unbelievers' as you've defined above?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver,

I have ALREADY showed it in my post.

JP wrote, "If you don’t believe the good news, is your debt still paid?"

The "good news" here is referring to the 'euangellion' (Greek: gospel/good news/glad tidings).If those who believe the good news are Christians, then that means those who don't believe in the good news are unbelievers.

And JP wrote, "if you don't believe." That is to a certain people who don't believe the good news.

Oliver Chew said...

Thanks for your clarification. Firstly, it's not totally accurate to use Greek translations for a writer who is not even writing in Greek. The intent of the author could be to simply mean 'good news' as the good news of forgiveness, which as I've explained, some guilty of past sins despite having accepted the Lord, find it difficult to believe. The 'good news' may not be interpreted as accepting Jesus as Lord in this context. I'm sure any layman uses the phrase 'good news', without necessarily referring to the gospel.

If JP meant to say being a Christian is all about perceiving yourself as a Christian, then I wonder why he gives an invitation for ppl to accept Christ in services weekly and leads them in the sinners' prayer. He should have just told them to perceive themselves as Christians.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver,

First, I was not using Greek translation. I was pointing out that the term "good news" in Christian language is specifically pointing to Christ's work for us. And the Greek word used with this technical connotation is the one I pointed out.

The 'good news' you've explained is precisely what the technical term is about. That is the gospel.

If 'good news' is not about accepting Jesus as Lord, it simply defeat JP's entire strand of thoughts about forgiveness of sin. It is precisely that Jesus is Lord that the power of sin has been defeated.

I am not even saying that JP's definition of Christian is someone who perceives himself as one.

We are talking across one another.

I have wrote in my post, and highlighted it again in my previous comment to you, what JP has written, not who was he addressing to.

If you want to disagree, you can argue that those who don't believe the good news are Christians. But that will just defeat the meaning of 'Christian'.

If JP meant those who don't believe as Christian, then he just redefine the meaning of 'Christian'.

Oliver Chew said...

You were not using Greek translation but you did translate the phrase 'good news' to Greek. As a result, I've gained a better understanding of its meaning in Greek.

By virtue of saying JP claims unbelievers are saved, you are in effect saying JP defines a Christian as someone who perceives himself as one, because we all know that one who perceives himself as a Christian is still an unbeliever. In other words, JP does not distinguish Christian or unbeliever in terms of salvation. Clearly, his actions in services contradicts this.

The fact that good news is not about accepting Jesus as Lord does not defeat JP's thoughts about forgiveness of sin. The reason being there's no evidence to suggest he was referring good news as accepting Jesus as Lord. He was referring to the result of accepting the Lord, which is, blatantly obvious, a very good piece of news.

Of course, you can argue those who don't believe the good news of the good news are unbelievers. But clearly, the bible never said you need to believe you're forgiven to be saved. You need to call on the name of Jesus to be saved. Although you're addressing only what JP has written, you have actually placed your own interpretation on it. And we cannot assume the meaning behind what he has written without knowing who he was addressing to.

But let's come back to the main point. Did JP say Non-Christians are saved? I doubt there would be any chance to clarify with him and also, JP would not defend himself against accusations as he has said God will defend him. Having read your other comment somewhere about being agenda-driven ala Hitler, it's difficult to see you're not doing that. But as a child of God, I give you the benefit of the doubt that you're indeed disturbed by what was written. Still, we cannot read everything literally without understanding its context and also the author's background. For eg, I wouldn't think Jesus was telling me to literally chop off my hand should I use it to sin or tell women to shut up in church because Paul says so. To pass a comment without delving into the deeper aspects of it is not exactly fair to the author.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Oliver,

That's the whole point. Look at the last sentence of this post.

摸索人生的道路 said...

If we look at Acts 2:38. In order to have remission of sin, it is through baptism. If one do not believe and do not get baptise, how is he/she going to have his/her sin be forgiven?