I think I should comment on my theological background early on in this series. But before that, I think the previous “Introduction” post made it clear that I’m not here to be the judge of New Creation Church. No man can do that and I’ve seen too many horrible posts on the Internet criticizing this or that Church. In another blog, I’ve had my salvation called into question because of my beliefs and while defending City Harvest Church against unfair accusations. I don’t know what to say about these ultra-dogmatic know-it-all Christians who think they’re God’s appointed “watchman” to point out every heresy in every Church whose beliefs are less than perfect according to their intelligent minds. I’ve seen too many of them around throughout my Christian life. Really, with Christians like these, who needs the devil?
I’ve already written about my views on dogmatism here. I believe in taking a doctrinal stand (if one has one – there’s nothing wrong with still searching!) and I will do so in this series. Yet I also believe in being open to learn because none of us is perfect. Having questions and criticisms are OK as long as its done in the right spirit and tone. Have no doubt, I will have questions and criticisms. But of course I believe in doing it in a constructive way. What I’ll write is just my humble opinion, which I’ll totally welcome constructive feedback on. I’m writing this series because I believe it may be helpful to some and also to myself (to clarify my thinking).
I see no need to rigorously defend New Creation Church from those who attack it because those who have it set in their minds that New Creation Church is a dangerous Church will not change their minds. However, I also don’t think any Church is beyond constructive criticism. I don’t agree with those who only attack churches. However, nor do I agree with those who are unwilling to listen to others or be challenged but have only a blind support for their Church or leader. Both extremes are wrong. We’re all imperfect. We all have much to learn from each other and from other Churches. So unfair critics as well as over-zealous proponents of New Creation will probably not like what I have to say.
So going back to my theological background. In a way, we all have a theological background and a theology. And that influences the way we think and evaluate beliefs and practice. Laying it all out will help you understand where I’m coming from. Another reason I do this is to show those who think that New Creation’s beliefs are totally new, unorthodox or heretical that this is not so – but rather a lot of what New Creation believes has actually been what Christians have believed in various theological traditions. I’ll talk more about this in future posts.
For now, I’ll mention some traditions or areas that have influenced me a lot in the last 12 years or so of my Christian life:
1) Pentecostalism / Charismatism: God changed me when I was about 16 in an Assembly of God Church. Since then, though I’ve varied in my acceptance of things charismatic, I would always have an affinity towards charismatic things. I’ll call myself a charismatic Christian any day, though I don’t accept the extremes of the movement. I acknowledge there has been a lot of abuses and extreme beliefs and practices. I acknowledge that many charismatics have a very shallow understanding of the Word of God. But I also believe that this movement has much to offer Christians. And seriously, most of the growing churches around the world today are charismatic Churches, which says at least something.
I believe in the spiritual gifts – tongues, healing, prophecy, etc. I believe that God still authenticates and blesses the preaching of the Gospel with signs and wonders following. I love the Vineyard movement (Third Wave) – at least when John Wimber was alive as I’ve not followed up on it much nowadays. I think it was a very balanced movement and it brought much balance to charismatic Christianity.
One thing I’ll say is that many Pentecostals, perhaps because of its roots in the Holiness-Wesleyan tradition, can be quite legalistic. And of course, I disagree with legalism in all forms.
When it comes to the Word of Faith movement, aka Health and Wealth or Prosperity Gospel, charismatics are perhaps the biggest critics of the movement. I think there’s much to learn from this movement, but a lot to avoid too.
2) The Reformation: After about two years of being enamoured by the charismatic movement and all things charismatic early on in my Christian life, I looked back into historic Christianity and discovered the teachings of the Reformation. I embraced the Reformed Faith and also some good Lutheran teachings (Law/Gospel distinction and Theology of the Cross). I was quite into Reformed theology. Till now, I think it’s probably the richest tradition in Protestantism and quite well grounded in the Word of God. A lot of what Christians believe nowadays have its roots in the Reformed Faith. So it’s a wonderful tradition, but by no means do I embrace everything in it. In some of my future posts, I’ll show that many (not all, because there’s a lot of disagreement within the tradition too) within the Reformed tradition (in the past and present) would definitely come out in support of the “grace” teachings in New Creation. Oh, and I’ll also say the same for Lutherans too.
A lot of Reformed folks are anti-Charismatic and of course I won’t agree with that. There is however a growing Reformed-Charismatic movement – those who are trying to embrace the best of both the Reformed and Charismatic worlds of Christianity. I would have described myself as a Reformed-Charismatic years back. In 1997, I started a Reformed-Charismatic Email Discussion Group with Bob Vincent, an American Charismatic Presbyterian pastor friend of mine. However, now I’m not sure how Reformed I am. Nevertheless, this tradition has taught me a lot about God’s Word and theology.
3) Emergent / Emerging: A tradition I kind of (not totally) embraced a few years back was the Emergent / Emerging Church tradition. At one stage of my journey, it was the tradition I most identified with. I haven’t really followed up with it. But I embrace a lot of its distinctives like being non-dogmatic and open in one’s beliefs as well as a generally more left-leaning political disposition that will stand up for justice, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. The latter probably has its roots in Liberal Theology. I embrace Liberal Christianity’s pursuit of social justice without agreeing with its liberal theology. I also probably won’t agree with the extreme liberal side of the Emergent tradition.
[I mentioned “non-dogmatic and open” above because I hesitate to use the term “postmodern” as it’s open to so many different interpretations. Perhaps a more accurate term, though less well-known, is “critical realist”.]
4) Missions to the Unreached: I’m not sure which “tradition” this comes under. Maybe the Baptist tradition because from the little I’ve come across, it seems like the Baptists are the strongest in missions to the unreached people. Note: this is missions to the unreached. Charismatic Christianity is probably the fastest growing branch of Christianity in the world (and I believe the best and most biblical in the way they evangelize) but it seems that missions work that is specifically aimed towards the unreached people groups have been the domain of the non-charismatics – and perhaps especially the Baptists.
It’s funny because it’s perhaps also the Baptists which can be the most fundamentalistic, dogmatic and anti-charismatic Christians around. It just goes to show that no tradition has it all right! ;)
Anyway, missions (especially to the unreached) has become a passion of mine over the past few years. It started here. Became stronger when I recently read Brother Yun’s truly amazing autobiography, “The Heavenly Man“. And again stronger when I read about Elizabeth Elliot’s biography of her husband Jim Elliot as well as her book about the five young missionaries who gave their lives to reach the unreached Auca Indians. I think there’s no greater call nowadays than to be a missionary to the unreached. Nor do I think there is any call more more urgent.
Thanks for the background and the nice summary of your theological background. I’d comment that point 4 seems to be the area you are most passionate about from the tone of your blog.
Have you heard of the Church of Nazarenes? They’re rooted in Methodist background I believe, but are very active in missions as well! I can see some of my friends from there having a very good conversation with you in your interests in the Body of Christ and advancing His kingdom. (That is, if I am correct about your interests)
Point 4 – Missions (especially to the unreached) – definitely is something that I’m passionate about, though I have to admit it’s slowly developed only in the last 1-3 years. To the unreached, really only in the last quarter of a year.
There’s actually two points in point 3, the 2nd being loving “the least of these” – the poor, etc. And that’s definitely been a big thing for me in the past 6-7 years.
Point number 1, well, is also dear to me. I mean, I hope to one day be a missionary to preach the gospel to the lost and help the poor, but I also believe in seeing signs and wonders following. This important charismatic element has been reinforced to me recently as I’ve started to more consistently attend New Creation, as I read about Brother Yun and as I’ve come to know about Heidi Baker‘s and Reinhard Bonnke‘s powerful ministries. I feel I have so much to understand and learn in this area.
Overall, I think it’s about holistic missions. Not just preaching to the lost, but loving them (the poor) through meeting their needs. And not just their material needs, but their physical needs (healings, etc) too. I think that’s the pattern in the Bible. And yes, I think the most urgent kind of missions is to the unreached.
Regarding the Church of Nazarenes, I’ve heard about them, but not much! Do tell me more about them!
Brother, All these years of seeking only goes to show that you are a true God chaser. (: Glad to meet a wise, intellectual and mature brother in Christ, oddly that we met defending the house of the Lord.
I believe that in this age we live in, denominations are slowly beginning to give way to a fresh wine and a brand of fire poured out by the Holy Spirit. Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Anglican, Charismatic, even Presbyterians and genuine Catholics are serving God together, in a same vision, in the same capacity as children of God. Maybe, the prophesized gathering of the End Time Church is coming to pass. Many Christians nowadays cease to associate themselves with the traditional denominations. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is moving the focus on religion to Christ Himself, maybe the many roads in the past are starting to converge on our singular destination- the Kingdom of Heaven is upon us?
The floodgates to China and rest of Asia is soon to be flung open. We cant miss this massive move of the Spirit, I don’t really care what it’s called, as long as I’m in it. People say that heresy is when a false prophet or teacher comes out with something new contrary to true doctrine. I think heresy is more than that, its also staying behind when God’s word moves on. The same eternal word, but fresh revelation that propels its manifestation forward. I’ve also been following God for many years now, and all I’ve come to rely on, is not just teachings and theology, good and necessary they are. But, when all else fails, I find just the hand of Christ clinging on to me. (:
Ya, and notice, the dogmatic Christians are starting to sound heretical themselves, consumed by their own lust for self righteousness. Their finger points accusingly at their brother and ministers of God, three other fingers in their clenched fist point back at them. To condemn the work of the Holy Spirit is a terrible heresy in itself. Thank God for wisdom and I pray we’ll have more of it, so that we will always be tender hearted and open to the touch of God.
Hi John! Thanks for your comments. I think that once a Christian sees the urgency of reaching the lost and helping the poor, petty theological debates recede in importance. I’m all for good doctrines and theology and good discussions – but how far do we take it? I think the most important thing is to get your essential and fundamental doctrines right. The rest, we can disagree in charity and allow diversity of non-essential beliefs.
Even if I agree a lot with New Creation on their message on grace, if other Churches take a different stand, then God bless them. If they want to persecute New Creation, then let them waste their time doing so. I wouldn’t wanna get so worked up that they believe differently. There’s just too many things to be done in this world for us to spend our time infighting. I mean, there are billions who don’t know Jesus and are in absolute poverty. And we waste our time criticizing other Churches and other Christians?? Hmmm…I reckon that sounds like the devil’s tactic – what the father of lies would love to see us do in order to distract us from the mission God has called us to.
I believe only when there’s a large wave of persecution throughout the world – and especially in the developed world – will we all start to appreciate each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and see we’re on the same side. Actually, in a sense, I can’t wait for that to happen. Ha…
I have not read brother Yun, though from his reviews it sounds like we have another great apostle of faith, just like Martin Luther and Watchman Nee, men who seek no man’s approval, and lead their lives wholely for Christ. I shall pick it up before CNY!!!
Elizabeth’s story is INCREDIBLE. And time and again whenever I am discouraged about life, I think of her life, the intensity of the pain, and how God used her life to touch so many people. Through her I begin to understand more what it means: Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Present day watchdogmatists are everywhere online. Their mindset is 16th century with about 1/1000 of the understanding of the Word that Martin Luther had. It’s not enough to quote scripture ad nauseum without the wisdom to use the sword of the Spirit effectively. “Why is there the price in the hand of the fool to buy knowledge seeing he has not the heart for it?” Lucky for them no Inquisition threatens their lives or livelihood.
Oh, but Benny Hinn must be stopped…!!!
Anti-Charismatism, while disguised as “rightly-dividing” or “exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness” is what it is–sadly, its what Stephen said as he died: “always resisting the Holy Ghost.”
But let’s remember that the seed that fell upon good ground yielded forth “thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” In the will of God, there is the “good, the acceptable, and the perfect.”
Philippians 1–fellowship in the good news
Philippians 2–fellowship in the Spirit
Philippians 3–fellowship of his sufferings
1st John is addressed to:
1. the little ones whose sins have been forgiven
2. the young men in whom the word is strong and who have overcome the evil one
3. the fathers who have known him who is from the beginning
True enough, there’s abuses in the middle court (Pentecostal/Charismatic) church. That’s because leaven is built right in to the feast of Pentecost, in the priest’s wave offering (Lev. 23:17) and in the showbread (Hebrew “lechem,” always translated as “bread” or “food,” or why else would David have eaten it?) which was placed on the gold-covered table in the holy place (middle court) of the tabernacle/temple.
This is part of God’s plan for his church. Passover is unleavened (all passive grace), Pentecost is leavened (God and man, salvation being “worked out with fear and trembling”), but Tabernacles is again unleavened (all God, the “man of sin” having been put to death). No flesh shall glory in his presence. His presence is the glory (Hebrew “shekinah”) in the Holy of Holies.
“And if anyone is differently minded, I trust God will reveal even this unto you.” (Phil. 3:15)
We are still looking for a place to rest, for our citizenship (our belonging) is in heaven, not here on earth. There is no synagogue or meeting house for us. We do not forsake gathering together in fellowship (Greek “koinonia”: communion), but Malachi 1:11 must be fulfilled: “People from one end of the earth to the other honor me. Everywhere they burn incense to me and offer acceptable sacrifices. All of them honor me!”
“Birds have nests, foxes have dens, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head.”
There is to be no more crossing of legs in a pew for us who are mature. This comfort we lay aside for the sake of the world, as Christ layed aside his divinity to partake in our humiliation.
In the feast of Tabernacles (temporary dwellings) we will look back to the time when we had to live in tents and lean-to’s. At that time, that is how the manner of our worship in the wilderness will seem to us. Like children camping out in their parent’s backyard, we’ll have a lot of fun knowing our real home is so close by. And we will certainly be expert campers, though for us it is only a remembrance of how we used to live.
It is a work of Adam to denominate (give a name to). It is work of the Christ, who is the second and final Adam, to unite in peace (Greek “irini”: at one).
John T, Donkey, Stillhaventfound–you all speak wisely
the Church is:
Christian (of the Anointed one), Catholic (universal), Orthodox (rightly speaking), Apostolic (founded and guided by the sent ones), Evangelical (bearing the good news), Baptist (accepting of immersion into Christ’s death), Episcopal (having overseers), Presbyterian (having elders), Pentecostal (having received the Paraclete), Charismatic (having the gifts of the Spirit) and triumphant over the gates of Hades (death, the grave).