Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Review Of Joseph Mattera's Review Of "Destined To Reign" - Part 3c

For the past year, Charisma Magazine has been running many articles against the grace gospel, labeling it "Hyper Grace". One of those articles was written by a regular contributor, Joseph Mattera  (JM). It is a short review of Pastor Joseph Prince's first book, "Destined To Reign" (D2R). Perhaps tellingly, the title of the article was not something along the lines of "Book review: book title" but a rather provocative "Is Joseph Prince's Radical Grace Teaching Biblical?"

Typical of a few reviews of  D2R which I have read, this review also follows the same pattern: "Well, D2R is generally OK, got some useful tips for new Christians BUT...", and these "buts" actually contradict the very essence of what Pastor Prince is trying to teach in his book. JM listed down 7 "buts" and I will deal with them one by one.

I have dealt with JM's first and second "buts" (which you can read here1 and here2) and will now tackle the third "but".  To facilitate my review of JM's book review, I will reproduce excerpts (in blue) here but you can read JM's full article by clicking his article title (highlighted in bold) above.

However, as JM's third "but" is rather long, I shall break it up into several sub points and rebut them one by one (you can read part 3a here and 3b here).


3. Prince Doesn’t Clearly Define the Role of the Moral Law of God 
I believe the moral law is still needed, or else there would be no conviction of sin and our standard of righteousness would collapse down to the ethos of the surrounding culture. Furthermore, the moral law was repeated in the New Testament, even by Paul in Ephesians 4-6, when he told the church not to steal, not to be angry, not to covet, not to commit sexual immorality, not to be idolaters and to honor their fathers and mothers. Furthermore, all the New Testament writers repeatedly used the Ten Commandments as the standard of holiness for the church because it reflects the nature and character of God.
Even when Jesus gave His followers a new commandment to love one another (John 13:34), He was still using love as a law to obligate the church to a standard of living—something Paul repeated in Romans 13:8-10. 
Prince thus lumps the moral law (the Ten Commandments) with the ceremonial law of God and says both have been done away with and are not relevant to the church. What he fails to realize is every time the law is dealt with by Paul (in Galatians, Romans, Hebrews and Colossians), the context is always circumcision, animal sacrifices and the observance of the Sabbath and holy days. Hence, Paul is primarily referring to the ceremonial aspects of the law, not the Ten Commandments. 


JM believes the "moral law" is still needed for conviction of sin otherwise our (referring to us, Christians) "standard of righteousness would collapse down to the ethos of the surrounding culture"; this statement is wrong on two levels.

Firstly, it wrongly presumes that only the "moral law" can convict Christians of sin. Let me ask you: Before you became a Christian, were you an immoral person? Were you unable to tell right from wrong? Of course not! Because you have a conscience! The apostle Paul also acknowledged that in Romans 2: 14-15 - "Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."

Man has always been able to tell right from wrong ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We don't need the "moral law" for that. How did Abraham and Isaac and Jacob live their lives before the "moral law"? Were they directionless men sinning all the time? Did their standard of righteousness "collapse down to the ethos of the surrounding culture"?

Abraham's nephew Lot lived in Sodom, a city so full of sin that God had to destroy it. However, Lot could tell right from wrong; he was actually distressed by the ungodly ways surrounding him and did not succumb to the sinful culture of Sodom despite the fact that he did not have the "moral law"; Lot was even considered righteous by God, without the "moral law"! (2 Peter 2:7 "And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out and distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless")

Secondly, it wrongly presumes that "the ethos of the surrounding culture" is one filled with sin and immorality. Perhaps it is true for the American neighbourhood JM lives in but not necessarily true for anywhere else in the world. Here in Singapore, the majority of the population are not Christians and yet it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Moral behaviour is not practised by Christians alone. There are many, many moral people in this world who are not Christians and obviously they do not have the "moral law".

JM says that "the moral law was repeated in the New Testament, even by Paul in Ephesians 4-6" and "all the New Testament writers repeatedly used the Ten Commandments as the standard of holiness for the church".

I think that JM has totally missed the point because Paul did not merely repeat the Ten Commandments but in fact went above and beyond what the moral law required. Paul did not merely tell "the church not to steal, not to be angry, not to covet, not to commit sexual immorality, not to be idolaters and to honor their fathers and mothers".

Did Paul tell the church to follow the "moral law"? No, in Ephesians 4:21-24 Paul says "Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy."

Instead of merely "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exo 20:16), Paul says "Let us tell our neighbors the truth" (Eph 4:25).

Instead of merely "You shall not steal" (Exo 20:15), Paul says "quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need"(Eph 4:28)

Instead of merely "You shall not commit adultery" (Exo 20:14), Paul says "For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. " (Eph 5:22-25,33)

JM says Pastor Prince "lumps the moral law (the Ten Commandments) with the ceremonial law of God" as if it is wrong. However, if you read through the relevant scripture passages, you will find that the Law is a composite whole; the bible never separated the Law as the "moral law" plus "ceremonial law", it was separated by theologians (read these articles here).

James 2:10 confirms this - "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."


(to be continued... Part 3d)






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