Friday, November 5, 2010


The day of reformation has just passed a few days ago, namely October 31, 2010. It is such a quite old tradition, which was perhaps begun on October 31, 1518, that people started commemorating the blatantly heroic action took place a year before in front of the Wittenberg’s church of Germany by Martin Luther, a once Catholic friar who eventually realized his calling as a reformer. From that day on, Christians are enriched by a new paradigm instigated by the reformation: “Ecclesia reformata, simper reformanda secundum verbum Dei”, which says “the church reformed, always being reformed according to the Word of God”. This is actually how the bible teaches us to always have our life be reformed and refreshed everyday.

Luther perhaps had never thought such an impact that he would actually inflict to God’s congregation all over the world although it had to cause another separation to the physical body of Christ. With gentle heart, as what Luther had, we should perceive what he did as something based on a spirit, which everyone in the church should have, to look for only God’s face and countenance upon His people. Let us just say that God triggered the spirit of reformation in his heart and this made him understand what is in God’s heart. As we know from the story of Luther, he was feeling so much uncomfortable until he gave in himself into that reformation that he believed was so urgently needed by Christ’s body, as it was moving in the form of, instead, Christendom. This spirit was then culminated by Luther’s contemporary, John Calvin of Geneve. Definitely, after approximately 500 years, we could see the long-term impact of the reformation, started in Europe and spreading throughout the globe, and, hopefully, based on what Luther said, the reformation would still take place never-endingly in the body of Christ till He comes again one day.

Around 450 years after the very day of the beginning of Luther’s reformation, another reformation was begun in the history of human civilization. Another kind of modern renaissance emerged in the form of modern computer. The invention of semiconductor devices and, later on, how it shrank smaller and smaller in size were the ones with major contribution to the development of computers and electronic devices. These have transformed and shaped the way we live on earth today.

And now, human civilization has changed into a very brand new phase after 50 years, moving from a pre-modern, modern, and now post-modern phase. It is the time when life becomes so fast and hastily lived. As the computers are getting smaller and smaller again, they are making our lives faster and yet busier than before. We can be connected faster to our friends and relatives, but we are at the same time a lot busier as we have to pick up the phone for so many times a day, make so many appointments, and be involved in so many activities during the daytime. This way of life is so much in contrast with the life the reformers had around 500 years ago. Even until the very beginning of the last century, men were still moving in a very slow motion and life was very much calmer than now. Nowadays, people are even so much stressed by traffic jams, emails, news, and other modern sources of information. Perhaps, your Blackberry Messenger is so active at this time, when you read this article.

We are going faster, but it seems that we are going nowhere. As we move and live faster, we, on the contrary, are more mechanically attached to the jobs we have to finish day by day. We are so much hectic because of the frantic life rhythm created by this era. In short, technology has shaped the way we live and transformed it into a form that is irreversible and, yet, going astray. It might sound like a provocative and unreasonable statement of mine, but I would like to just invite you to calm down yourself for a while, let us say 10 minutes. Could you? I guess your hand phone would have distracted you before the due time. J

Commemorating the reformation day a few days ago, let us think about this frantic and chaotic life once again. In my perspective, it still needs to be reformed and refreshed everyday continuously. Of course, this can only be done if we are not ourselves overwhelmed by the businesses we have to cope with in the daily basis. Pulling back ourselves and taking some silent time everyday, or thinking always about God and His divine Word and reading the scriptures would, at least, bring us to a quite-enough distance from this busy life. Pondering upon His word would make us realize that He is still God and He is still relevant in this life, giving us enough clues on how to proceed from today to tomorrow. It is, of course, a painful and bloody struggle, even for Luther and Calvin if they live today, because they would also have Blackberries in their pockets. I wonder if they could still pray for, at least, three hours a day with those fancy “electronic fruits” nearby. Nevertheless, it still becomes our struggle, the men of post-modern time; the way we are heading right now, based on that struggle, would determine the direction of humanity as it is influenced so much by the Christians. Just like Luther, let us shout out loudly, bravely, and wholeheartedly: “Hier stehe ich” (“Here I stand”) as we are confronted with those challenges of our time for we want to live a responsible life in front of the same divine God, who also lived and triggered the reformers quite some time ago. Happy Reformation Day! May we be reformed, transformed day by day for the glory of God! J

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation Day 2010

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the traditional beginning of the Protestant Reformation – the date Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the church at Wittenberg, with the intention of starting a discussion on the abuse, at the highest levels of the church, of the practice of indulgences.

But anger over this abuse only provided the spark. The Reformation had its roots a number of ongoing struggles, some of which had already been going on for centuries.

One of these was political, between the papacy and secular kings. In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issued one of the most infamous statements in church history, Unam Sanctam, in which he pronounced it “altogether necessary to salvation” “that every human creature” – including the king – “is subject to the Roman pontiff.”

Philip, the king of France, to whom the statement was addressed, did not agree. In the ensuing posturing, Philip had Boniface arrested. Boniface died shortly afterward, but as the 19th century church historian Philip Schaff says, “in the humiliation of Boniface VIII, the state gained a signal triumph over the papacy.”

Just three years later, a French bishop was elected to the papacy, but he refused to move to Rome. The “Avignon” papacy led further to a “Great Schism,” during which time there were two and even three competing popes, each having excommunicated the followers of the other.

In 1415, a council deposed all three “antipopes” and named an official successor. But papal corruption continued to grow.

The medieval writer Marsiglio of Padua (d. 1343) summarized a popular sentiment during this time, in his work Defensor Pacis saying: “only the whole body of citizens, or the weightier part thereof, is the human legislator.” He was excommunicated.

A parallel struggle within the church was unleashed, over who had ultimate authority within the church: pope or council.

John Wycliffe (d. 1384), who made the first translation of the Bible into English, embodied both of these struggles. He urged secular rulers to work to reform the church. He also espoused religious sentiments that foreshadowed many of the themes of the Reformation. The English historian A.G. Dickens said, “perhaps the only major doctrine of the sixteenth-century Reformers which Wycliffe cannot be said to have anticipated was that of Justification by Faith alone.”

But “justification by faith alone” was, according to many Reformers, the key doctrine of the Reformation. And as papal corruption grew steadily, reaching its zenith in the Borgia popes, Luther’s 95 theses merely ignited tensions that had been growing for centuries.

As the Reformation began to take shape, Luther came to see that, not only was the abuse of indulgences a problem, but that the indulgences themselves, and the related doctrine of purgatory, were the problem.

Scholars believe that Luther came gradually to understand the great themes and doctrines of the Reformation between 1513-21, as he taught the Scriptures. In his “Lectures on the Psalms,” Luther came to realize the utter sinfulness of humanity. As he lectured through Romans, he realized that it was only by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ that humans are justified before God. Lecturing through Galatians and Hebrews he came to understand that faith is not something we do, but rather, it is an open, empty hand that reaches out to God, “receiving and resting on Christ and his finished work for sinners.”

And as his dispute with the church came to the fore, Luther came to understand that popes and councils “can and do err,” and that only Scripture is foundational and normative for all doctrines.

Without question Christian history has its very bad moments. But within that context, the Protestant Reformation was a very good moment. According to Schaff, “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, “next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history…. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.”

Another writer put it this way: “Reformation Day is a fine thing but let’s remember what the Reformation was: the assertion and defense and conviction that justification of sinners is by unmerited divine favor alone, that, in the act of justification, faith justifies by receiving and resting and trusting in Christ alone, and that Scripture is the magisterial and unique authority for faith and the Christian life.[1]”


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Danger of Instant Messaging: The Declining of Human Social Interaction

Computer technology has been evolving rapidly in the past 50 years. Since the first time modern computer appeared, it has become a billion-fold more advanced than its first appearance in 1941 in a machine called Zuse Z3, created by Konrad Zuse from Germany[1]. In that year, men have begun a new era of computer technology, which later would penetrate all aspects of life.

It is completely unimaginable to perceive the technological advancement that has been resulted in the preceding century. A hundred years ago, it is impossible to contact your family members they are travelling to distant places. However, today the same business will just cost you a laptop and an internet hotspot in the neighborhood.

Nowadays, communication has been made really easy by using computers. Checking emails, using instant-messaging services, and browsing through social-network sites are three main activities in our daily life as modern men. These tools have eased our life so much by providing practical means for communicating people. These days, we can connect so easily with each other by using Blackberries. We then must admit that our life has never been easier and faster than before we used the technology, must not we?

Nevertheless, this advancement has unconsciously inflicted negative influences to humanity. It has ruined our desire to meet other people directly. Sometimes, we count more on those virtual tools than direct contact with friends and relatives. We become more reluctant to meet our fellows face-to-face due to Blackberry Messaging service. Even worse, we tend to put our fingers on keypads during meetings and gatherings with our colleagues and friends. Is it true that the way men communicate with each other has developed really well? Or is it a bad omen that humanity has started to decline. In fact, humans are created in God’s image, which means that we are individual and social creatures at the same time.

In the year 2004, a survey on workplace email and instant messaging, which was conducted by American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, has reported some technical issues[2]. According to the survey, 58% of people use instant messaging for many purposes, e.g. jokes, gossips, confidential information, and even pornographic contents. It is also stated that 90% of the respondents use instant messaging up to 90 minutes per day at their workplaces for business and personal affairs. These numbers indicate that instant messaging has occupied a big portion in our life.

Yet, another study on human social interaction for knowledge transfer process was conducted by S.P. Gill and Jan Borchers[3]. The study shows that as the contact between people becomes more intense, it makes the interaction more fluid. On the other hand, more physical contacts provide a better means for the interaction between people, which would result in a better knowledge transfer. Therefore, we should ponder upon the way we should communicate with other people as instant messaging, which is quite prominent in modern life, is something that lacks so much physical contact.

Genesis 1:27 and 2:18 state that man is created as a social creature. This has a direct implication that men have to communicate and collaborate with families, relatives, and fellows in life. Furthermore, the basic and highest means of this communication is direct or physical interaction that God has provided and granted for humans since the time of creation. We can see this clearly when God talked with His fellow Adam directly and intimately, without any media in between. But, why is it that we now tend to use communication media more than direct social interactions? This is, of course, due to our sinful nature as the descendants of Adam. If not repent, then we, at least, have to contemplate deeper on this and take a decision. I am sure that our conscience will then say that it is completely better to communicate directly with other people than through instant messengers. Hence, let us meet and chat face-to-face if we can do so because we are created in God’s (social) image. Why do we then still play with Blackberries when we meet each other at the dining table?


[3] S.P. Gill and Jan Borchers. Knowledge in Co-action: Social Interaction in Collaborative Design

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hyper-Calvinism: Historical Developments, Caricatured Myths, and Concrete Facts

Reformed theology deals with two kinds of extreme: Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism (HC). In one extreme, Arminianism overemphasize human response in the free offer of the Gospel and underemphasize the sovereignty of God in showing His compassion on whoever He wills. While, HC overemphasize the efficacy of God acts in all things including evil and underemphasize human responsibility to walk in the newness of life.

Unlike Arminian, HC doesn't bring fruits of evangelism. Arminian may lead Christians to emphasize man's salvation upon self-centered response to God's grace but they still care to go out evangelizing people who need the Lord. HCs not only reject Christ's great commission, they even emphasize the sovereignty of God up to the extent that it diminish the loving kindness of God to His creature who originally created in His image.

Most people who later became mature Christians, came from Arminian understanding of salvation initially. Even though they might never heard a man named Jacob Arminius before. It's later in their live when they began to realize the sovereignty of God and the meaning of unmerited grace. That by grace God enabled us to make a response to His external calling and to regenerate us from our former state being dead in sin to be able to respond to His effectual calling. It's God who works in us both to will and to act so that we may believe and persevere in holiness.

HC should be rejected on the basis of contradicting God's revealed attributes: His love, holiness, and justice. Instead of giving positive results by emphasizing grace, HC brings more negative results. We need to analyze their thought carefully in order to understand its origins and developments. And guarding our self from portraying them into straw men while we studying their theology. As a Christian we're called to love our brothers. This is my open letter to HCs so that we can have a common understanding in following Scripture representation of the Gospel.

By sincerely representing HC theological position correctly, I hope all of us can receive benefits from this and learn to understand each other better. Let us learn to represent the Gospel in truth and love. Theology is important for our edification in our process being conformed to Christ.

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Soli Deo Gloria.