Speaking in Tongues


Laying on of hands via Wikimedia Commons
Laying on of hands via Wikimedia Commons

The phenomenon of speaking in tongues is common among Charismatic-Pentecostal type churches. It is also controversial, even though increasingly accepted in Christianity. Some Christians see the so-called charismatic spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongue speaking as ceased, i.e. the Holy Spirit no longer bestows such gifts to us anymore in this day and age. They argue that these gifts were necessary for the establishment of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts in the Bible but no longer necessary now that the church is well established. These gifts have ceased as they have fulfilled their purpose.

But Charismatic-Pentecostal Christians beg to differ, arguing that we cannot restrict the Holy Spirit and that through their own experiences of prophecy and tongue-speaking, it is evident that God still give these spiritual gifts to his people for his glory. In these churches, it is common to have Christians break out into ecstatic utterances that are believed to be praying in a heavenly or angelic language (or tongue). Those who believe in a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” often see tongue-speaking as evidence of the Spirit’s outpouring on an individual Christian.

In this blog post, I am going to share my thoughts on this supported by my research into Scripture. I will be drawing material from my previously published article, “Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural View” (The Banner, Sept. 2003, pp. 46-48).

Continue reading “Speaking in Tongues”

Consumerism and the Church


Black Friday shoppers in Seattle, 2010. Photo by John Anderson via Flickr, Creative Commons
Black Friday shoppers in Seattle, 2010. Photo by John Henderson via Flickr, Creative Commons

(This post was originally published as “Have It Your Way? When the Church Embraces Consumerism” in The Banner, April 22, 2002, pp. 28-30.)

A new church recently opened in my neighborhood. How did I know? Well, it was hard not to notice when you were bombarded with letters, postcards and phone calls. I am happy that another church has opened its doors. What bothered me were the marketing techniques used. Besides the intrusive telemarketing approach, the postcards I received pushed a very clear message: we give you what you want. Anything from famous TV personalities and energetic music to fresh hot Starbuck’s coffee waiting for you at the front door! And I am not kidding. The Starbuck’s coffee was one of the church’s “selling points.”

I am not against good coffee or TV personalities. I am concerned that well-meaning Christians and churches are buying into consumerism, which says, “anything you want (not what you need), you got it.” Theologian David Wells, in his book God in the Wasteland (IVP, 1994), argues that North American evangelicals have allowed consumerism to turn the God of mercy into a god at our mercy, satisfying our wants (p. 114).

I want to take a closer look at consumerism. What is it? And how has it affected North American Christianity? Can the church use consumer and marketing models without compromising its faith? Continue reading “Consumerism and the Church”

Finding Your Self


Public Domain via Pixabay
Public Domain via Pixabay

(This post is a revised version of an article with the same title originally published in The Banner, September 2004, pp. 48-50.)

At York University where I serve as Campus Minister and Director of a Christian student club, I have come across students who struggle with issues of identity. One female student, for instance, struggled with thoughts of worthlessness, feeling stupid and ugly. Another male student struggles with finding significance in his life. These students are essentially struggling with the question, “Who am I?” It is an issue of identity, of seeking to find your selfhood.

I want to explore a biblical, theological answer to this question. A big picture theological answer is important since our specific individual search for self always takes place within a bigger framework. In fact, our big picture framework influences how we carry out our specific individual search. Let me illustrate this with a few examples of how some distorted frameworks can in turn distort our individual search for self. Continue reading “Finding Your Self”

What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 2


Science-symbol(This is the second half of an article originally published in The Banner, April 23, 2001, pp. 24-26. For the first half, see here.)

Scientism

One morning I was watching TV with my 2-year-old daughter. A skit in a children’s show taught, “Science always saves the day!” That is scientism in a nutshell. Science is elevated to the role of Savior. Remember our “Star Trek” hero Mr. Spock? He was a science officer.

Modernism has a strong faith in the ability of science and technology to save the day. As in “Star Trek,” science is seen as the means to solve all the world’s evils. By means of the scientific method, we can gain the right knowledge and understanding of how something works and why things go wrong and come up with solutions for it.

We have applied the scientific method to all areas of study. In literary studies, for instance, interpreting a work of literature has turned into a science [in the late 1960s]. To properly analyze a text, we must read it in a detached and objective manner. We must leave our own values behind, and we cannot judge the text’s values as right or wrong. Like scientists, literary scholars should not make ethical judgments but merely seek to discover and present the facts. These days, however, we acknowledge that we cannot leave our values behind even if we want to. And ethical considerations are now OK in literary studies. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 2”

What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 1


PaineAgeReason(Another old article I had written. This was originally published in The Banner, April 23, 2001, pp. 24-26.)

Postmodernism is all the rage these days. Plenty of books and articles have been written about it. Students take classes about it. Even The Banner published an article on it last year (Jan. 31, 2000).

Many Christians oppose postmodernism’s teachings, especially the claim that there is no absolute truth – or at the very least, if there is absolute truth, that we can never know it. I think Christians have good reasons to be suspicious and critical of postmodernism. However, in their fight against postmodernism, many have allied themselves with modernism. These Christians see modernism as the bastion of absolute truth and a safeguard against postmodernity’s skepticism and relativism.

This is a dangerous trend. We must remember that before postmodernism came along, modernism was an enemy to the faith. Simply because Christianity and modernism now share a common foe in postmodernism does not mean that we should be allies!

Modernism as an intellectual movement has bred many idols. Among them are rationalism, scientism, and individualism. Even Christians have not been immune from unwittingly bowing down to these idols alongside their worship of the one true God. Before we observe these three idols, let us take a brief look at their source – modernism. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 1”

When Certainty is Wrong


Hendrick ter Brugghen - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Public Domain)
Hendrick ter Brugghen – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Public Domain)

(This was originally published in The Banner, Nov. 20, 2000, pp. 33-35)

Have you ever asked yourself if you are truly saved? How can you be certain that Christianity is true? How can we be sure that the Bible is true and that God exists? If such doubts come across your mind from time to time, you are not alone. Every believer faces some form of uncertainty about faith at some point.

Many books have been written to address those questions, for example, Josh McDowell’s best-seller Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Here’s Life Publishers Inc., 1979). Most of them aim to provide logical, scientific evidences to support the Bible’s truth and, in so doing, to give Christians a sense of certainty in their faith.

I admire and respect the works of these Christian authors, but I fear that the form of certainty they offer may not be entirely biblical. Our modern idea of certainty differs from the Bible’s concept of “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

This will be clear when we look at what modern certainty is and compare it with biblical certainty. We will see how the modern idea of certainty has affected Christian practices and attitudes. Continue reading “When Certainty is Wrong”