Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Religious Affections - 6: Inconclusive signs

The title of the Part 2 of the book, The Religious Affections is this: SHOWING WHAT ARE NO CERTAIN SIGNS THAT RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE GRACIOUS, OR THAT THEY ARE NOT.

In this part, Jonathan Edwards shows several examples of signs of which many people seemed to naively think are certain signs of gracious affections, then refutes that they are certain signs.

Here are the first seven of the twelve Edwards shows and refutes that they are sure signs of saving grace or not (copied from an online version).
I. That religious affections are very great, or raised very high, is no sign.
II. That they have great effects on the body, is no sign.
III. That they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent, and abundant, in talking of the things of religion, is no sign.
IV. That persons did not excite them of their own contrivance and by their own strength, is no sign.
V. That they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably brought to the mind, is no sign.
VI. That there is an appearance of love in them, is no sign.
VII. Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another, is no sign.

For each one, Edwards helpfully provides Scriptural bases, and also provides other grounds for his arguments from his experience and observations of others. He also gives enough examples both from Scripture and experience as often as possible that, as I read on, I am convinced by Edwards about all of the seven, that they are no certain signs. I also realised that I have naively believed or commended too many occasions and people based on these unreliable signs that I observed in them. I need to think more critically, and biblically in the future.

Now, as I reflect on what I've read so far, I see how relevant and important these arguments of Edwards is in this time we live in, even more so than when Jonathan Edwards actually penned this thesis.

Two reasons I can think of:
1) We have a more far-reaching medium for the messages of the uncertain signs of the religious affections. When these uncertain signs are made known to many with little discerning analysis, most often as a sensationalistic news, those who hear these are only left to themselves to decide whether these are truly the saving work of God. In the time of Edwards, the reach of those (people with) uncertain signs of affections, and hence the influence of them I think, was very much minimal when compared to what is happening now. With the advent of the mass media and the internet, the messages of uncertain signs and the message from the people who are not discerning can reach the young and the old so much further, so much easier, and so much faster.

2) For those who are affected by the post-modernism, these experiential signs of affections work as the most powerful authenticator of their beliefs. Since we now have a great suspicion about the existence of coherent, logically validatable truths, or the methods of extracting such truths, more and more people resort to their experience as the most authoritative validator of their faith. Experiential element of our Christian faith is important and significant to be sure, but this only calls us to be even more vigilant about our understanding, acceptance, and approval of these signs. Hence, we can see that this analysis of signs of religious affections by Edwards is greatly valuable to us.

In fact, the above two reasons are related. The uncertain signs reach more people because of the first reason, but a lot of the people they will reach are infected with post-modernism and will be greatly impressed by those uncertain signs. And (potentially) more people will claim that they have witnessed and experienced saving grace of God based on uncertain signs because of the second reason, but then their message will reach even more people because of the first reason. The two are feeding each other and rolling everyone to even more dire situation than before if not checked by biblical discernment.

I am thankful to God about this book, and enjoy reading it, even though I'm often met with slightly difficult turns of sentences and few unfamiliar words.
Oh, and thank you Tim for an extra motivation.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

An American Heresy spilling over all around the world

American Christian movements/culture is no doubt affecting great number of Christians and non-Christians all over the world. Hence, it would be worth your while to consider this post - Between Two Worlds: An American Heresy.
May we take care in what we believe and follow as God guides and guards us...

Monday, 28 July 2008

James Fong Update - 28-Jul-2008

James Fong caught a cold, but feels better than before. Let us continue to pray for God's sovereign grace in his life in health and sickness.

Read his post here.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Evil, corrupt heart, not fully replaced yet

Unnecessary judgemental comments, passing criticisms, which all brood with hypocrisy, came out of my mouth today many times.
Jesus said, "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person" and then, "what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person." (Matt chap 15)

Cleanse me, Jesus, clean my heart and renew my mind. May the words from my mouth be full of grace and truth always. May my heart be full of love and grace that my words will only be a reflection of what is in me.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Living with the hope of the returning King, Jesus

I want to be able to express all that is in me.
I acknowledge that a lot of what is inside me are evil, shameful, and ugly. I also can say that, by the grace of God, there are some good things in me too, at least some degree of it, or a desire for goodness. But for all that in me, it is incredibly painful to contain all inside me, both good and bad, and to not expose all that.
Exposing, or expressing them isn't the end goal I am longing for, but in so doing, I am really hoping for getting rid of all the bad, evil, shameful, ungodly, rubbish heap from me. To live with such hypocrisy in me, and not being able to be transparent and vulnerable about my whole self in front of my Christian family, makes me grieve deeply and it is extremely painful.
With the good things that God has put in me and watered in me, although they are so little and by the size and degree, they themselves show how much of a shameful man I am, I want to show them to my Master, perhaps like a child showing his dad a poor drawing yet to the father's delight, or like that servant who gave back two talents on top of the original two talents to the returned Master (Matt 25:14-30), and to hear these words from my King's mouth: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" O, how I yearn for His approval, yet, it is so difficult to be faithful to Him who shows no partiality, for I am a weak and selfish sinner.

Oh, how I long for the day of the King's Return, when everything will be exposed and laid bare, all the good and evil deeds will be shown as what they are. I tremble at the thought of the Day of Judgement, for I know I fall so much short of His glory, yet, I yearn greatly for His Day so I may be found in Him and will be made like Him with no iniquities, and will toil in vain no more.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. - 2 Peter 3:10

Oh, come Lord, Jesus, come!

The Religious Affections - 6

Now, after reading Tim Challies' post regarding the Part 1, I think I missed a few important points in my previous posts, eg. the definition of the affection by Edwards, the two faculties within a human soul as viewed by Edwards, and how the Holy affections are distinguished from others. A short paragraph from Challies does summarise these so well, I'm simply going to quote it here.

Edwards first seeks to define true religion, saying, "true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections." He defines the affections in this way: "The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul." He bases this definition on the understand that the human soul has two faculties, one of which he terms understanding. This is the faculty that allows the human soul to discern, view and judge. The second faculty he terms inclination or will or heart. It is this one that allows the soul not to just perceive and view things, but to incline or disincline it. Holy affections are those that are distinguished by "vigorous exercise of the inclination and will towards divine objects."

Read Tim Challies' remarks, it is well worth reading.

The Religious Affections - 5: Desiring God

The last part within the Part 1 of The Religious Affections is "Inferences".
After stating the proposition, "True Religion, in great part, consists in Holy Affections", and surveying much evidence, this part, "Inferences" is in a way, concluding remarks from Edwards. Here lies Edwards' rebuke, correction, and plea for his listeners so that Christians may be indeed "exercise our affections about those objects which are most worthy of them." Although the following is a lengthy quote, I believe it is well worth quoting here(except it would be even better if you actually read the whole book).

God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose which he has given all the faculties and principles of the human soul for, viz., that they might be subservient to man's chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is, the business of religion. And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, than in religion! In things which concern men's worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small. How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in his dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and yet be cold, and heavy, insensible, and regardless! Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? What is it that does more require them? And what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such a one as this? Can anything be set in our view, greater and more important? Any thing more wonderful and surprising? Or more nearly concerning our interest? Can we suppose the wise Creator implanted such principles in the human nature as the affections, to be of use to us, and to be exercised on certain proper occasions, but to lie still on such an occasion as this? Can any Christian who believes the truth of these things, entertain such thoughts?

If we ought ever to exercise our affections at all, and if the Creator has not unwisely constituted the human nature in making these principles a part of it, when they are vain and useless; then they ought to be exercised about those objects which are most worthy of them. But is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- Jonathan Edwards, from The Religious Affections p.51-52

The Religious Affections - 4: on True Religion

Upon the whole, I think it clearly and abundantly evident, that true religion lies very much in the affections. Not that I think these arguments prove, that religion in the hearts of the truly godly, is ever in exact proportion to the degree of affection, and present emotion of the mind: for undoubtedly, there is much affection in the true saints which is not spiritual; their religious affections are often mixed; all is not from grace, but much from nature. And though the affections have not their seat in the body; yet the constitution of the body may very much contribute to the present emotion of the mind. And the degree of religion is rather to be judged of by the fixedness and strength of the habit that is exercised in affection, whereby holy affection is habitual, than by the degree of the present exercise; and the strength of that habit is not always in proportion to outward effects and manifestations, or inward effects, in the hurry and vehemence, and sudden changes of the course of the thoughts of the mind. But yet it is evident, that religion consists so much in affection, as that without holy affection there is no true religion; and no light in the understanding is good, which does not produce holy affection in the heart: no habit or principle in the heart is good, which has no such exercise; and no external fruit is good, which does not proceed from such exercises.
- Jonathan Edwards, from The Religious Affections p.47-48

Where Edwards said, "for undoubtedly, there is much affection in the true saints which is not spiritual; their religious affections are often mixed", I am encouraged for I find myself to have mixed affections.
Where Edwards said: "But yet it is evident, that religion consists so much in affection, as that without holy affection there is no true religion", I watch out for myself to see whether I indeed have this holy affection within my heart.

The Religious Affections - 3: on Preaching

And the impressing divine things on the hearts and affections of men is evidently one great and main end of which God has ordained that His Word delivered in the holy Scriptures should be opened, applied, and set home upon men, in preaching. And therefore it does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend as well as preaching to give men a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the things of the Word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men's hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of His Word to men in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of the things of religion, and their own misery and necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; and to stir up the pure minds of the saints, and quicken their affections, by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting them before them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already, 2 Peter 1:12-13.
- Jonathan Edwards, from The Religious Affections p.44-45

Preach the Word, the Apostle Paul beseeched Timothy.

(On a lighter note, these sentences were so long that they reminded me of the Apostle Paul.)

The Religious Affections - 2

Just finished reading the Part 1 of the book, trying to keep up with others.

It's not so easy writing something down for the part I read in the Religious Affections at this moment. The content, with such conviction and force, is still to be digested fully. But I do not want to lay it off indefinitely, so... here's my first post regarding the part 1 of the Religious Affections.

First thing I noticed as I was reading the part 1 of the book was that as I started understanding the words of Jonathan Edwards, I started to get Piper. There were a couple of moments previously that I thought I understood what John Piper really wanted people to get. The first time, it was through first few pages, including the cover page, of the book, Desiring God. I did not get to finish reading the book, it was too heavy for me back then, but the impression I got was that this preacher is big on joy in God and in Him only. I thought it was good and fine, but did not really think too much about him or his theology.

Then, a couple of years later, I came across one of his sermons. By this time, I was much more aware of the good ministry John Piper was doing through the Desiring God Ministry, although I still hadn't read that book, Desiring God (and I still haven't! D'oh!). The sermon I listened to was from Romans chapter 9 about God's sovereignty. It was one of the most powerful sermon I heard, although the sermon itself was not in the most "proper shape", since John Piper used a lot of personal experiential stories more than proclamatory expositions of the text (by the way, John Piper acknowledges it and for a perfectly legitimate reason, and I am grateful for it, if you are not convinced, listen to the sermon yourself). I think I've always believed God's sovereignty, but I had to repent of the way I compromised the truth of the Bible at various times and made God look small and weak. It was this sermon, listen to it!

Now, this is my third time round that I understand what Piper is really on about. That joy he talks about, that "desiring God" he talks about, is really found in the words of Jonathan Edwards, namely, The True Religious Affections. I am yet to fully understand the whole thing, and to articulate in words would be even a tougher job for me, but this I will say, read "The Religious Affections" whether you like John Piper or not. In the end, getting Piper is nothing, getting Jonathan Edwards is nothing, whether you like Piper's theology or not is really nothing, but a pure desire for God, the holy affection is what matters and will last for eternity.

More to come regarding the part 1 of The Religious Affections.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


I need to learn to smile more.

A question

do you delight more in the fact that God makes much of you in the Gospel or that the Gospel frees you to make much of God?

I hope that question makes sense to you and you do have an answer, even if you are not entirely sure about your own answer. Now, read this and continue to live your life of repentance.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Puritan Library

I'm no expert regarding puritans, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes was the only Puritan work I've read so far. But I do hear about them again and again whenever I search for a reliable Christian literature, and from my own experience and knowledge as limited as it is, I'd recommend you read some puritan works. They will help you go deeper in the knowledge of and love for God.

Here's a great website to get you started.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Without using a direct quote from the Bible: Love is...

Love is to engage your mind, emotion, words, and actions in a sacrificial way for the betterment of the other person, or people.
- Wonil, a hypocrite

Monday, 21 July 2008

Talking to yourself for mental and emotional health

A help for people with depression.

(HT: Gordon Cheng)

Using the right music at church

Read this important and relevant post about the music choice at church. I hope many church music leaders understand this.

Shopping Spree at Koorong

I went slightly over-board last weekend with buying books at Koorong. I had to buy these before my staff discount was removed as I was finishing off at Koorong. Yes, I have quit Koorong now after 2 years and 3 months working there as a Java Developer. It has been a great time of blessing, learning a lot about myself even more than all those career-related technical skills. And Koorong has been gracious with me from the start till the end.
Thank you guys for letting me be part of a wonderful company that strives to serve the Lord as a business.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Thank God for the oppositions

John Ortberg writes:
I have given up the idea that there is an opposition-free church out there. But I have gained something else—an appreciation for the gift of opposition. When it comes, I learn something about my motives. When it comes, I get to test my courage. When it comes, the truth about my humility (or lack thereof) is revealed. When it comes, blind spots get exposed that would otherwise do damage. When it comes, I am given the opportunity to grow strong. When it comes, I discover that I am the opposition in more lives than I ever would have guessed.

And then I meet the force stronger than any opposition. The force that can call opponents a brood of vipers. The force that can also forgive opponents because "they know not what they do." In opposition, there is grace.

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Sean Michael Lucas)

Are you Reformed?

Well, if you think you are Reformed, or Biblical, or faithful, or a Christ-follower, or at least you desire and are trying to be one, then read this blog post, which speaks my mind so powerfully.

From the post:
My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

(HT: internetMonk)

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Religious Affections - 1

Book Cover of The Religious Affections
In the preface of The Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards writes:
It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and glorious in the late extraordinary appearances, and to rejoice much in it; and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has been bad, and earnestly to oppose that. But yet, I am humbly but fully persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way acceptable to God and tending to the advancement of Christ's kingdom, till we do so.

I am also persuaded and challenged by what he says here, but he continues:
There is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; just as it is a mysterious thing which has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, viz.: the saving grace of God, and the new and divine nature, dwelling with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in the heart of the same saint. Yet neither of these is more mysterious than real. And neither of them is a new or rare thing. It is no new thing, that much false religion should prevail, at a time of great reviving of true religion; and that at such a time multitudes of hypocrites should spring up among true saints.

Now, this is comforting and encouraging too. I needed to hear this lately. Pray for me that I do not despair, but continue to fight the good fight.

The Religious Affections

About two weeks ago, I decided to participate in "Reading the Classics together" by Tim Challies. The book chosen this time is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. I wanted to read this book for a while now, but I didn't start reading it because I wasn't sure if I could read through this book from the 18th century within any reasonable time. But by joining a group of people reading the same book, I thought I would get an extra motivation to work through the difficult phrases and vocabularies. I've just read the introduction by Alexander Smellie (a Scottish Presbyterian minister from the late 19th - early 20th century) and the preface by Jonathan Edwards himself. Surprisingly, I found Edwards' words easier to read than Smellie's and I hope it is an indication for the rest of the book, I may not have to strain as hard as I thought.

Anyways, it isn't too late yet, if you want to participate in this as well, check out Challies' post and decide for yourself.

Inerrancy that I can agree to

I always appreciate how Michael Patton (over at the Parchment and Pen, blog of the Reclaiming the Mind Ministry) is open to both sharing his own conviction and hearing other's views.
He recently wrote "My Definite Stance on Inerrancy". From the post:
One last thing: ipsissima verba vs. ipsissima vox

Scholars refer to these issues by referring to the difference between ipsissima verba (the very words) and ipsissima vox (the very voice). Did the writers record the very words of Christ or the spirit of truth that his words represent? I would say any inductive approach to arriving at a hermeneutical method demands the latter. Only if we deductively deduce that our theology of inspiration demands a strict level of preciseness within Scripture in order to be true, will we adopt the former. I believe that I have demonstrated that this is not only all-together unnecessary and naive, but misleading and dangerous.

I am unable to articulate as well as he does, but the stance he takes is where I stand regarding the Inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Go and read this important post.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Loving my brothers (and sisters in Christ)

If anyone says, "I love God", and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
- 1 John 4:20-21

My cell group read 1 John in the past week, but this is difficult. I am a failure by God's standard, there's no doubt about it.

Unbreakable Umbrella

I want one!

(HT: Bruce Shneier)

Monday, 14 July 2008

Double Slit Experiment

Very interesting (to the nerd inside me anyways...)

Dilbert: Leadership

Dilbert on leadership. It was funny, but not without a bitter after-taste.
Sadly, the church isn't free of this type of "leadership", and I have been affected deeply by it, both as a follower, and as a leader.
May God raise up more shepherds, who are less like the lords of the Earthly kingdom, and more like a servant in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Facebook app: Graffiti

I don't know if you have used the Facebook app, Graffiti, but I quite like it. These days I don't have time to play with it unfortunately, but basically, it's a very simple drawing tool. It distinguishes itself from other drawing tools by not allowing "erase" function. You can only paint over what is already drawn (just like graffiti'ing on a wall with an air brush), although you can "undo" your last action.
Some people are so talented, or simply have too much time on their hands.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The spiritual reality and my life on earth

During a conversation with my good friend, Jacob, I said:
As a redeemed people of God, our life must reflect, in every aspect, the spiritual reality, may that be the Christ being the head and sitting at the right hand of God, or that a man being the head of the family, etc.

Did I really say that? Oh, I tremble for I do not even live up to my own words!
Pray that I may indeed live out the spiritual reality, that Christ has conquered all, and He is now the Lord of the whole universe! Oh, pray for me.

SATC: Sex And The... Christians

Sorry about that sneaky title, but this article over at the SolaPanel is worth reading.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Monday, 7 July 2008

Dr. Richard Hipp, the creator of SQLite honours God

I didn't know who Dr. Richard Hipp was, but I heard of the SQLite. According to this article, it is the most deployed database system in the world. It powers your iPods, iPhones, and browsers like Firefox, and more. Dr. Richard Hipp is the man who created the SQLite and he gave it away to the public. That's very geeky coolness. And he is a Christian, and from what I read in the article, he is a real, God honouring Christian, not just a "pick-Christianity-as-my-religion-on-survey" kind of Christian. Here's how he answered the question: "Do you ascribe your talents and skills as God given or human made?"
Everything that I am is by Grace alone. The longer I live and the more I see, the more obvious this fact becomes. There have been many times in the past (and, no doubt, there will be more occasions in the future) where I have looked upon "my" accomplishments with pride, thinking that "I" have done well. Such thinking is utter foolishness. I would be less than nothing but for the unmerited favour of God.

Great answer, Dr. Hipp, praise God!

(HT: Tim Challies)

Mark Driscoll Down Under

Mark Driscoll's schedule here in Australia.
"Burn Your Plastic Jesus" isn't the only speaking engagement he has on the schedule. Make sure you check out a detailed schedule here.

About work

There's a good post regarding the meaning and reasons of work over at The Sola Panel. And a good discussion through the comments.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Suffering and the sovereignty of God

Read this and praise God.
May you, by the grace of God, will also grow in this kind of knowledge of God that shows the world how great, satisfying, and sufficient our God is.

James Fong Update - 04-Jul-2008

James' health has improved (somewhat). Even though his heart condition is still nowhere near the "healthy" range, the recent improvement has brought a great encouragement to the Fong family. Please continue to pray for them.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Blues lost!

Not that I care that much... Sometimes I wish I was born in Australia, then I'd probably cared a bit more about the state of origin, or NRL in general.

Are you an ugly Calvinist?

Read this whether you think you are a Calvinist or not.