Thursday, April 17, 2008

Should We Worship The Holy Spirit?

Recently there has been a convergence of a few situations that led me to ask this next question. I would really appreciate your input on this matter as I search for an answer or a solution to this.

As you would already know, as far as this blog is concerned, my assignment is now completed. Now this question I post is a search for better understanding.

Let me fill you in on what happened and how the different situations converged to raise this next question:

Situation #1: As you would know, I have just completed my BCM term paper on the Trinitarian Godhead. There was also a recent blog post on the same subject.

Situation #2: This you did not know, the worship team in my church (Canaan Church) has set a theme for the month of May and part of June. The theme set is the Holy Spirit. We just started this "theme" thingy and we were not very explicit on what we meant, but it seemed all the worship leaders and pastors understood each other and what we meant with this theme. The theme was chosen as Pentecost Sunday is coming up and our church camp is also around the corner. This theme seemed very timely, and, "right".

Situation #3: There has been a few people whom I have spoken with who asked some questions that directly and/or indirectly related to this question.

Perhaps I could go as far as to say that God is speaking to me, and maybe even to my whole church on this matter.

Here's the question:
Should we love the Holy Spirit? Should we worship the Holy Spirit?

The question is seems deceptively simple. I have been pondering this question for a couple of weeks now. Before I come to my a conclusion I would like to have some of your input on the matter. I hope that we will all be able to come to a good conclusion, that will affect our lives positively.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Moving On...

I have completed my course work for the course "God, Revelation, Man". I emailed the assignment to Rev. Lim Yeu Chuen last Friday, and I was on time, which is really a rarity! I find Pas. Lim's class tougher than others due to the long term paper that he expects from his students. But I find that it is through the term papers that I really go in depth and really get a grasp on whatever the topic of the paper is.

However, this time around Pas. Lim decided to try out a new format for this course. He decided to give us the option of the usual 15-page paper, or to start a blog and interact with the readers of our blogs, on top of writing a short 6-page paper. This was a very refreshing idea, and as an internet-savvy student, I immediately decided on the latter option, hence, this was how this blog came about. I guess this is why I did not hand up my paper late as I usually do.

"God, Revelation, Man" is more commonly known as "Systematic Theology 1". "Systematic Theology 2 and 3" consist of subjects like Christology, and Ecclesiology and Eschatology respectively. I have already completed "Christ and Salvation" (which is Systematic Theology 2), and "Church and Last Things" (which is Systematic Theology 3) previously. Now all I need to complete my Diploma in Theology from BCM, is to pass my "New Testament Biblical Interpretation" course. NTBI is the final compulsory subject, and I already have more than enough credits to complete me DipTh. The course will be offered by BCM next term, so I am really excited to graduate and to get more involved in ministry.

I want to thank all of you for reading and interacting with me through this blog, you have helped me to complete this subject. I will continue to maintain this blog and will try to make small changes to make the blog look better and more useful. I want to continue to address some theological here, but at the same time also widen the scope of this blog to cover some ministries that I am involved in as well as to give you a small peek into my life. Many people have been pestering me for more pix and vids of Mikayla (my almost 3-month old baby), so far I have been telling them that this blog is for theological discussions. Now I will be able to get more hits from Mikayla's fans.

Hopefully this blog can be used as a tool not only to express my personal reflections, but it will help others to ask the right questions, and hopefully offer a reasonable answer to their search. Please continue to check back from time to time. At the moment I am already considering a few questions that I am faced with in real life (not a question from my lecturer). I hope to be able to hear your views out, come to a good conclusion and apply it into my life and ministry.

Till then.

Friday, April 11, 2008

RE: GRM Question #3 "The Trinity"

I believe that most Christians would roughly know what the Trinity is already. At the same time we still do not really fully understand such an important doctrine of the church.

The Bible did teach on the Trinity, however, the term itself is not found in the Bible, so it belongs to systematic theology rather than biblical theology. Without the doctrine of the Trinity it would be impossible to explain the three persons of the Godhead. The term “Trinity” was first formally used in the synod held at Alexandria in A.D. 317. It was used to describe the three persons in the God head, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

These three persons make up the Trinitarian Godhead. We do not worship three Gods but one God. The three are one and have been one since the beginning of time, and are of the same “ousious” (meaning essesnce). *Now go back and read that again in slow motion*. A few very important statements have been made in a rather short sentence, so take you time and have another read.

Let me just summarize and explain a little…

Christianity is a monotheistic religion, but we have often been accused by the Muslims and Jews as tritheists. But get it right, we worship one Trinitarian God. How do we reconcile this? We do not. We have to realize that we are finite and limited while God on the other hand is the total opposite. We cannot expect to fully comprehend something that is infinite and without limits whatsoever.

There is not one person in the trinity that precedes another, nor is there one that came after another. A common error is to think that since there is a father and there is a son, so naturally we conclude that the Father must have come before the Son. Then what happens to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit? It only seemed natural that the Holy Spirit came after the Father and the Son. This is a wrong view of God. The three have been one right from the get go. How do we reconcile this paradox? We simply cannot. However keep reading…

The three persons are also the same in essence. When it comes to the subject of the essence of God the term used by theologians is “ousios”. The three persons of the Trinity share the same ousios. Some might have the opinion that the Father is the soul, the Son is the body, and the Holy Spirit is… the spirit. This is a faulty theology. Each person of the Trinity is as “god” as the next person in the Trinity. So when Jesus made statements that seemed as though he was “lower” than God the Father it is explained by theologians as an economic submission. It is a functional submission and not a lower status or essence. The three persons of the Trinity are of the same ousios. How do we reconcile this? Again… we do not.

Now this is my favourite part of explaining the Trinity. At almost every corner in this doctrine we encountered some kind of paradox that we simply cannot comprehend or reconcile. Here’s the beauty of it all: God does not expect us to be able to understand and explain all of this. Theologians throughout history have dubbed this the mystery of the Holy Spirit. Even the great thinkers had to conclude that there are simply things that cannot be understood no matter how much we tried.

I have avoided using analogies so far because analogies can never fully answer our question anyway. Often analogies are used to attempt to describe the Trinity. Here are some of the more common analogies used to explain the “three-in-oneness” of God. However I cannot stress enough how these analogies are merely man’s finite attempt to grasp an infinite concept. Impossible!

The “egg analogy”: the outer shell, the egg white, and the egg yolk makes up the complete egg.

The “H2O analogy”: H2O exists in three different forms. Whether liquid, steam, or ice, it is still H2O.

The “man analogy”: a man might be one singular person but this one man is at the same time a father to someone, a son of someone, as well as a husband of someone.

The “sun analogy”: with the sun we know it is a giant orb of gas in outer space, at the same time it also emits heat and light.

The “math analogy”: For those who like to answer this question in a mathematical way, this might help. We always wonder how can the Father + the Son + the Holy Spirit = Trinity. 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. But this analogy gives us another formula to solve this question. 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. Some have suggested this is how the Trinitarian Godhead is one.

As you can see from these analogies they can help us to have a better understanding of the Trinitarian Godhead. However analogies are just analogies, we cannot use limited human terms to quantify and describe God. Just as the video in my previous post, God is indescribable and unfathomable. But it would be a big mistake to just leave God as unexplainable, in this situation the means is as important as the end itself. In this journey that God brings us on the journey is as beautiful as the destination because in our search we will be able to come into a closer relationship with God. *Note that in my post on “revelation”, God reveals himself to us to draw us into a relationship. That is what we will gain from searching him even in the area of the Trinity.

Some are in the opinion that when we meet God at the end he will explain all these mysteries to us and it will be revealed to us, and the veils will be lifted and we will fully understand all the mysteries in the universe. For me this notion would be like trying to fit the waters in the seas into my mouth. It will not fit. True, when we get to heaven we will be perfected. So we would be perfect humans, like Adam and Eve. So question is: did Adam and Eve comprehend the mystery of the Trinity? I doubt it. Even if we used 100% of our brains we would still not be able to fit 1% of infinity into our puny minds. I believe this is the fun part of heaven and eternity, that we will be spending the rest of eternity discovering and getting to know God better and better. And God is infinitely able to show us something new and exciting every single day for the rest of eternity.

In this I take solace.

I know this post raises even more questions than answers, but I am alright with that, and I think God is alright with that as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

RE: "There MUST be a God"

Found this video inspiring. Trust me, it is really worth watching (especially in full screen).

Indescribable - Louis Giglio

Here's another link of the same video. The audio quality probably better however no full screen view.

Be inspired.

GRM Question #3

Here are the final (set of) questions:

1. What is Trinitarianism? Did the Bible teach on Trinity? Is the word Trinity found in the Bible?

2. Jesus in numerous occasions seem to suggest that he is lower than God? Can you please explain this?

John 5:19 - Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

John 5:30 - By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Matt 24:36 - “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

3. Are the persons of the Godhead in heaven one or still remains three?

RE: GRM Question #2(A): “Revelation”

I think this question really revolves around the term “revelation”. I once read that studying theology is like joining in on a conversation that has been going on for thousands of years. As time pass I find this analogy so true. If you have taken part in an internet forum/discussion board that has been going on for a long time you would realize that new terms start to pop up to better describe what they wanted to express. Not only that, the meaning of some words begins to morph and take on new meanings. It is very much the same in theology. Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language reflects the same by defining “revelation” as “a revealing; something revealed; (theol.) God’s manifestation of himself to man; something revealed to man by God”.

Below are some more explicit definitions of the theological terms by theologians themselves (including “general revelation” and “special revelation”). Understanding what theologians mean when they say “revelation” will help us answer this question.

By this we mean God's manifestation of himself to man in such a way that man can know and fellowship with Him. – Erickson.

God has taken initiative and has, in intelligible ways, disclosed himself to people. – Lewis & Demarest

General/Universal Revelation:
General revelation is God's communication of Himself to all persons at all times and in all places. – Erickson

General revelation refers to the disclosure of God in nature, in providential history, and the moral law within the heart, whereby all persons at all times and places gain a rudimentary understanding of the Creator and his moral demands. – Lewis & Demarest

God everywhere gives knowledge of Himself. – Rodman

Special Revelation:
By special revelation we mean God's manifestation of himself to particular persons at definite times and places, enabling those persons to enter into a redemptive relationship with him. – Ericksson

God’s self-disclosure through signs and miracles, the utterance of prophets and apostles, and the deeds and words of Jesus Christ, whereby specific people at particular times and place gain further understanding of God’s character and a knowledge of his saving purposes in His Son. – Lewis & Demarest

Now that we have understood the meanings of these words we can now tackle the question at hand.

I believe it is God who gave us the ability to discover him. If God were to choose to hide himself from us none of us would be able to know him. I hold to the calvinistic view that man is totally depraved, that man does not even have the ability to find God on his own terms. Man did not find God, it was God who revealed himself to us. God chose to reveal himself to us through nature, creation, history, and even by sending his begotten son Jesus Christ. I believe that when it comes to revealing himself, God has the prerogative. It is totally up to God whether or not he chooses to reveal himself, it is also up to him how he wants to reveal himself. It is totally up to him. Our part only comes in after receiving God’s revelation. Then we can choose to accept or reject him.

We do not deserve any of this, however God chose to reach out to us. This is amazing grace.

... I am still amazed.