Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Trying Not To Try by Edward Slingerland

This book attempts to blend the Chinese philosophy of wu-wei with some recent researches from cognitive sciences. Wu-wei or “non-action” implies that our action is done without our doing. We are the object through which the natural forces work.

As much as the author tries to explain how wu-wei can be achieved in our daily lives, he alludes to the elusiveness of this task or as he quoted from Shunryu Suzuki in chapter 8: “You cannot try, but you also cannot not try; trying is wrong, but not trying is also wrong.”

I do quite like some of the things he said, many of which I find to be very meaningful and consistent with my own Christian beliefs. For example in Chapter 4, he wrote: “Knowing the contentment of contentment” requires resisting the siren call of consumer culture and instead holding fast to primitive and simple pleasures.” The Bible too has much to say about contentment: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  (1Ti 6:6 NKJV)” and  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Php 4:11 NKJV)”.

Slingerland further wrote: “The desires of the eye form, of course, the entire basis of modern advertising industry, which has turned the continuous ramping up of our desire for “goods hard to come by” into a refined science. The minute the latest iPhone is released, our current iPhone suddenly seems less attractive. And as author puts it “Our belly may be perfectly comfortable in our current car, but our eye can see the nicer, newer car in the driveway next door (or in the magazine ad or billboard), and this perception immediately decreases our satisfaction with what we’re currently driving. The car itself has not changed the slightest bit, but our benchmarking mind has demoted it anyway.”

The Bible says: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (1Jn 2:16 NKJV)”

This is called the hedonic treadmill, where positive or negative events result in only temporary increases in happiness or unhappiness ( Or to state it in another way, human beings have the tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. This term was first coined by two psychologists, Brickman and Campbell, in 1971.

One of classic experiment on the concept of hedonic treadmill is a study by Brickman, Coates, & Janoff-Bulman in 1987 titled “Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?” (Download full text in pdf: In that study, the authors found that, although there were strong initial emotional reactions of happiness and sadness respectively, but in the long term, neither group appeared to be happier than the other. 

The basic mechanism for hedonic treadmill is adaptation. It is a phenomenon where after perceiving something for a certain period of time, your sensory system “adapts” to it, causing it to recede into the background. Adaptation can be good as it helps to cope with our tragedies. But adaptation can also be bad when we begin to covet what others have that we do not. And this never-ending cycle of initial euphoria, adaptation and covetousness results in a rat race.

As Slingerland says, again in chapter 4: “Another source of dissatisfaction is our incessant need to measure our achievements against those of our peers…once a certain minimum threshold of material well-being is reached, our objective level of wealth seems to be much less important than our relative wealth – that is how we stack up against our neighbors or colleagues. Once you have enough money to buy the basics and indulge in some pleasures, like eating out or buying new clothes, ranked status comes to matter much mire than wealth per se.  Status, in turn, is inherently unstable because it is by its very nature relative – the benchmark is always moving as others around us rise or fall. Moreover, we seem designed to focus more on what we don't have than what we do; we are much more irked about those two people ahead of us than pleased about twenty behind.”

The Bible has much to say about the deceitfulness of our heart that can never be truly satisfied with the material things. "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jer 17:9 NKJV)”

The Bible also has much to say about covetousness: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5 NKJV)”

There are also a number of Christian paradoxes that have similarities with the wu-wei concept. For it is in surrendering our lives that we can find true meaning of life (Matt 10:39).  For it is humbling ourselves that we find ourselves exalted (Matt 23:12).  For it is in giving that we receive (Luke 6:38). For it is in our weaknesses that we become strong (2 Cor  12:9,10). 

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Defending Propositional Divine Revelation: Why the “I proposition” is the best rebuttal against the critics’ “E proposition”

Defending Propositional Divine Revelation: Why the “I proposition” is the best rebuttal against the critics’ “E proposition”

In his book, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, Ron Nash talked about propositional knowledge. What exactly is propositional knowledge? Propositional knowledge is the declarative knowledge that can be reasoned or justified.

Prophecy is a great illustration of whether the revelation is propositional or not. Prophecy cannot be said to be propositional (which means, cannot be proven whether it is true or false) until it has come to pass.

That's exactly what it is said in Deuteronomy 18:22 (also Jeremiah 28:15-17; 29:30-32):

..when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
(Deu 18:22 NKJV)

That's why God, the Ultimate Logos, is so brilliant and beautiful, because essentially God has categorized prophecy into a propositional knowledge. It is verifiable. Otherwise, how do we know whether someone is true prophet or not?  On the other hand, historical events like the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Exodus of Moses, as pointed out by Nash on page 45, technically are non-propositional because we cannot travel back in time to verify them. Only the traces or evidences of the events can be verified to a large degree so as to allow us to give the best explanation for the conclusion.

In chapter 4 of this book, Nash goes into great length to dispel the myth by the critics that the only contradiction to the E proposition (no S is P) is all S is P (the A proposition). If we buy into the all-or-none myth that ONLY the A proposition (All S is P) contradicts the E proposition (as argued by the critics) then we will be trouble because we will soon realize that some divine revelations are non-propositional (some S is not P, the O proposition), for example, the historical event of Jesus' resurrection or a believer's experience with the Holy Spirit's guidance.

After all, the E proposition (no S is P) can be rewritten as “All S is not-P” which means this premise is very tightly knitted as BOTH the subject (“ALL of S”, no exception at all!), and the predicate (“ALL are NOT P”, no exception at all!) are distributed.

In other words, as long as we can show that either the subject (S) is not distributed (i.e., some S, not ALL S) OR the predicate (i.e., some are P, not ALL are NOT P) is not distributed, that would be sufficient to contradict the E proposition (no S is P , or rewritten as, All S is not P). After all, there is no degree of contradiction. It is either "contradicts" or "not contradicts".

Which means BOTH I proposition and A proposition can contradict E proposition:

Some S is P (I  proposition) can contradict All S is not P (E proposition)


All S is P (A proposition) can contradict All S is not P (E proposition)

because it both cases, the P is no longer distributed (of course in the I proposition, the S is also not distributed).
(** Note: in the A proposition, the S is distributed but in the opposite direction)

But, if we take the A proposition (All S is P) as a rebuttal to the critics' E proposition (All S is not P), then we are not honest to ourselves because we know that there are some S which is not propositional (Some S is NOT P, the 'O proposition').

Therefore, the preferred/honest contradiction to rebut the E proposition, (as rightly pointed out by Nash) is the I proposition, not the A proposition.

In other words, the validity of the O proposition (in the case of divine revelation) invalids the A proposition.

Nonetheless, as our God is a relational God, not only propositional knowledge is necessary (the assignment question of the week), non-propositional knowledge is also necessary. He relates to us, he guides us through the Holy Spirit. But these experiential knowledge, by and large, are non-propositional.

Nash, Ronald H. The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1992.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How anti-intellectualism may impact church's evangelistic effort

In 1 Peter 3:15, we are exhorted to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1Pe 3:15 NIV). Although apologetics should never be the main focus in evangelism, nonetheless, anti-intellectualism has adversely impacted the church’s evangelistic effort in a number of ways:

Anti-intellectualism results in a compromised evangelism
When the church is unable to an intelligent response to doubts raised by unbelievers, the church may compromise by substituting it with personal testimony sharing as a way to evade intellectual questions. While personal testimonies may be a great addition to gospel sharing (an example of a great testimony would be in John 9:25), it should never be a standalone strategy in evangelism because it is not the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, not every Christian would have a great testimony to tell but that does not excuse anyone from playing a role in evangelism.

Mark Dever, in his article What Evangelism Isn't (Christianity Today, Dec 2007) says:
“An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it's the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains what it's all about and how it happened.”

Anti-intellectualism results in a canned evangelism

Lack of intellectual preparation in evangelism may also lead to the church to resort to a canned strategy, i.e. a “memorized steps” approach to evangelism.  Unfortunately, such approach is impersonal, mechanical and even foolish.

To quote Jonathan Dodson:
“These approaches are foolish because they treat people like projects to be completed, not persons to be loved…Paul says “know how you ought to answer each person.” (1 Pe 3:15). This means that most of your gospel explanations will be different, not canned. It also implies a listening evangelism. How can we know how to respond to each person if we don’t know each person…Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus,” “sin” or “cross.

Anti-intellectualism results in a “can’t” evangelism

The worst-case scenario is a complete paralysis of any evangelistic effort. The fear of sharing and the fear of not knowing what to say may overwhelm a Christian brought in an anti-intellectual church environment. This phobia may be especially strong for a Christian who believes in the misconception that the success of evangelism is dependent on the number of soul conversions, forgetting that while it is our job to bring Christ to the lost, it is only God’s job to the lost to Christ.

To quote Mark Dever again:
“The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don't fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don't faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn't converting people; it's telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

1.     Dever, Mark. What Evangelism Isn't. Christianity Today, Dec 2007.
2.     Dodson, Jonathan. Two Big Reasons Evangelism Isn't Working. In Available at URL: Accessed 26 Oct 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is Hierarchical Pastoral Leadership Biblical?

J.P. Moreland in one of his lectures on why our cultures has become secular said that he believed the notion of the senior pastor is an unbiblical notion. Moreland said:
“I do not be such thing called senior pastor… [The] single thing that has damaged the church is the idea that we ought to have a person called the minister.”

But how does this concept of hierarchical leadership in the church come about?
After all, there is only one scriptural reference where the word “pastors” is mentioned and it is in Ephesians 4:11 and even then it is stated in its plural form. The Bible makes no mention of hierarchical pastoral structure. Ephesians 4:11 merely mention pastors as a function in the church, just as some are to function as apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers. It does not describe who these pastors are.

In chapter 5 of their book Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, Frank Viola and George Barna documented from various sources a number of factors of how the plurality of pastoral leadership evolve into a hierarchical one with the senior pastor. These include:

1. Ignatius of Antioch (35 – 107 A.D.)
Although Ignatius of Antioch may have the good intention of combating false doctrines and preserving church unity through a rigid power structure patterned after the centralized political structure of Rome, but this has inadvertently he was the first one to have set the ball rolling down a slippery slope towards hierarchical pastoral leadership.

Ignatius of Antioch in his series of letter elevated one of the elders above the others. The elevated elder was called the bishop.  Ignatius of Antioch said:
“Plainly therefore, we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself…All of you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father….He that honors the bishop is honored of God.

2. Clement of Rome and Tertullian
Clement and Tertullian were among the first writers to have distinguished the clergy from the laity. The word laity is derived from the Greek word laos, which means “the people” and the term clergy is derived from the Greek word klēroō which means “a lot, a share, an inheritance”. But the New Testament never uses the word klēroō for any particular leader or groups of leaders. Rather, it uses the word for the whole people of God (see Eph 1:11, Gal 3:29, Col 1:12, 1 Pet 5:3).

3. Hippolytus
The writings of Hippolytus further gave power to the bishops to even forgive sins! 

4. Cyprian of Carthage
Cyprian of Carthage reintroduced a number of OT concepts such as the need for priests, temples, altars. The bishops began to be called priests. Cyprian also introduced the doctrine of spiritual covering because he believed that the bishops have no other superior other than God. Cyprian also taught the notion that when the priest offered the Eucharist, he was actually offering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. By the fifth century, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from the Christian practice.

5. Constantine and the influence of Greco-Roman culture
Under Constantine, Christianity was both recognized and honored by the state. But this has blurred the demarcation between the church and the state. Bishops were given tremendous privileges by Constantine and they began to became involved in politics. Secular-spiritual, laity-clergy and profane-sacred gaps widened.

6. The reformation.
Although the reformation brought about many good things, it failed to address the issue of hierarchical leadership structure. Although the office of the bishop was rejected, but the underlying concept of hierarchical leadership in the church was maintained albeit a different name, i.e. pastors.

In my analysis, I agree and disagree with J.P. Moreland. I would agree with him that hierarchical pastoral structure with the senior pastor at the top is not found in the Bible. The only verse regarding pastors is in Eph 4:11 and that is expressed in its plural form to describe the shepherding function for some in the church. Nowhere did it mention the senior pastor as compared to lower ranked pastors.

I agree that the notion of senior pastors can sometimes create codependency between the senior pastor and his members as long as both of them continue to depend on each other to meet each other's psychological and spiritual fulfillment. For the members in need of counseling, they will look up to their senior pastor for answers. For the senior pastor, the danger occurs when he feeds on the admiration and praise of his members for affirmations and identity. Furthermore, this sort of hierarchical pastoral structure can create a lot of loneliness for the people on top.

However, for J.P Moreland to say that this is the single thing that has damaged the church, I think this is an overgeneralization. A lot of good things can come out from the senior pastor leadership when the senior pastor is one who is humble and sensitive to the leading of God. Paul, although is not officially declared a senior pastor, is often looked up to and probably has played the role of the senior pastor.

Viola, Frank, and Barna, George. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Carol Stream, IL: Barna, 2008.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hume's gap and its consequences in the church today

As outlined by Nash in his book The Word of God and The Mind of Man, a common misconception about the philosopher David Hume is that Hume was an atheist outright to disprove the existence of God. In reality, according to Nash, Hume was not an atheist. In fact, Hume actually denied the supremacy of the human reasoning. To a certain extent, I agree with Hume that our human reasoning has definite boundaries.

Unfortunately, Hume went too far to the extent to say that in the metaphysical realm, in religion as well as in ethics, our human reasoning is subservient to our non-rational nature or our “passion”.  Hume believed that man couldn’t possibly have any knowledge about the transcendence.  Nash called this “the Hume’s gap”.

To quote Nash,
“According to Hume, we should ignore the arguments of the rationalists and trust our instincts. He believed that investigation ought to be limited to areas, such as mathematics, where knowledge is possible. Speculative knowledge-claims about certain topics in metaphysics, theology and ethics should be avoided; such matters should be accepted on the basis of faith, not knowledge.”

Hume’s own preference seems to have been for a non-rational faith in a god unsupported by reason, revelation, miracles or evidence of any kind.

Hume’s Gap is the rejection of the possibility of a rational knowledge of God and objective religious truth. Hume was a precursor of those philosophers and theologians who insist that religious faith must be divorced from knowledge and who believe that the impossibility of knowledge about God will in some way enhance faith.”

Unfortunately, I believe, this kind of dichotomy has serious consequences to the church today.

1. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in spiritual laziness in the church

The creeping of Humean philosophy in the church promotes a sense of inertia among Christians to engaging their minds with reasons. After all, if God cannot be known through reason and knowledge, why should we even be bothered to try anyway? This leads to spiritual laziness among many Christians. As a result, many Christians would say that they should just accept these metaphysical assertions “by faith”. Unfortunately, when such Humean philosophy is cemented as a form of dogma, some churches would even say that to doubt and reason is a sign of a lack of faith. Just accept it by faith!

Furthermore, our ideas have consequences. If a Christian believes that he can’t possibly integrate faith and reason, then he is threading down a slippery slope that would lead him to a “god-of-the-gaps” belief.  The “god-of-the-gaps” belief is the tendency to invoke the concept of “God” to plug the holes where science is incapable yet to explain. Unfortunately, the “god-of-the-gaps” is not the God of the Bible because as scientific discoveries increase, increasing number of phenomena can be explained naturalistically, thus, the role of “God” diminishes accordingly. It is a caricature that is spineless that would lead to increasing skepticism.

2. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in spiritual abuse in the church

As a consequence of the spiritual laziness as delineated above, the dichotomy between reason and faith results in a lot of subjectivism in the church. Many christians may delegate the onus of their Christian education to their pastors, church leaders, etc. They put their church leaders on a pedestal and depend on them to tell them what is right, what is wrong, what is God’s will for them, etc.  This can open to all sorts of spiritual manipulation, deception and abuses. This is especially so for Christians who are gullible in seeking for miracles, emotionalisms and signs.  Those who seek for the gifts more than the Giver without a firm foundation of the reasonableness of their faith would risk being deceived and manipulated. This is so unlike the early Berean church in Acts 17:11 where they diligently studied the Word of God to see if what they had been taught by Paul is true.

I strongly believe that the effect of Hume’s philosophy is compounded in the juvenilization of Christianity, as expounded in an article titled “When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity” by Thomas E. Bergler, in the June 2012 issue Christianity Today. In that article, Bergler defines juvenilization as “the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults”.  The positive side of juvenilization of Christianity was the rejuvenation of church attendance in the 1970s and 1980s when young people began to enjoy attending church services.

According to Bergler,
“[Juvenilization contributed to increased church attendance among young people]…by making the Christian life more emotionally satisfying. Passion was in, duty was out. This kind of individualized, emotional connection to God sustained religious interest in a changing society in which custom, tradition, and social pressure would no longer motivate people to care about faith or attend church.”
Unfortunately, to further quote Bergler,
 “Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith. In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters. They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them…Teenagers learn these beliefs from the adults in their lives. It is the American cultural religion. Teenagers are "moralistic" in that they believe that God wants us to be good, and that the main purpose of religion is to help people be good. But since it is possible to be good without being religious, religion is an optional tool that can be chosen by those who find it helpful. American Christianity is "therapeutic" in that we believe that God and religion are valuable because they help us feel better about our problems. Finally, American teenagers show their "deism" in that they believe in a God who remains in the background of their lives—always watching over them, ready to help them, but not at the center of their lives.”

3. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in skepticism and apostasy

The divorce between faith and reason as a consequence of this Humean philosophy results in increased skepticism.  One way many Christians deal with this is to keep their faith compartmentalized and private, away from our public life in schools and workplaces. However, as Timothy Keller pointed out, ultimately it is impossible to keep our faith completely compartmentalized because we derive the convictions of our conducts in the public square from our faith.

That is why, in 2011, in a five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman to explore the challenges of faith development among young people from 18 to 29 years old, it is found that 3 out of 5 Christians (60%) leave church, either permanently or for a long period of time after the age of 15 years old. According to this research, one of the six reasons why young people felt disconnected from church is because of the tension they see between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%), “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%) and “Christianity is anti-science” (25%).


In conclusion, to reiterate what Nash said about Hume, Hume did not directly attack Christianity by denying the existence of God. Rather, Hume said that metaphysical topics such as the existence of God cannot possibly be studied through reason and knowledge. But this proposition is far more damaging like a malignant cancer that grows subtly and slowly. To quote Nash again,
"The threat to Christianity today from the legacy of David Hume is not a full-fledged frontal assault upon Christian theism with all the troops advancing in full light of day. This kind of attack would fail because it would arouse Christians to a rational defense of their faith. David Hume's legacy is more insidious. It undermines the faith not by denying it but by directing our attention away from the importance of its knowledge-claims and its truth-content."

  1.     Nash, Ronald H. The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1992.
  2.     Bergler, Thomas E. “When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity” Christianity Today. June 2012. 56(6).
  3.     Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.
  4.     Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church. In: The Barna Group website. Available at: Accessed 17 Oct 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is the logos more important than the pathos or the ethos?

Although the intellectual component of the Christian faith is important, it is also vital to remind ourselves that the intellectual component does not take precedence over the other aspects of persuasion.

As Aristotle said, there are three means of persuasion - the ethos, the pathos and the logos. Speaking for myself, if I am not careful, I can be easily drawn to the logos (logic, intellectual, etc) to the exclusion of the pathos (the emotional side of persuasion, e.g., for all we know, the person who is resisting the gospel may be having an issue of the heart rather than an issue of the head). Ethos (our integrity, our credibility) too must never be neglected because people are watching our lives as much as our message. It is not just our orthodoxy (the doctrinal basis of our faith) that is important, but our orthopraxy (how we practice our faith) as well.

Ravi Zacharias used to often say:

“...behind every question is a questioner, who brings the context with which they are asking the question. We must answer not only the question, but also the questioner”

I find that I can be quite cold and hard in “winning” an argument to the point of losing the conversation and losing the person. To quote Ravi again, “once you’ve cut off a person’s nose, there’s no point giving them a rose to smell.” How we say it is equally or even more important than what we say. This is my constant struggle, and a constant reminder to me to cool down, and not to say anything than to say anything that I may regret later.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Legalism and Antinomianism - two sides of the same coin?

Legalism can occurs in many forms in the church today. Some may insist conformation to a certain church practices, or a certain membership of a sect before one can be saved. This is a big heresy because by depending on our own efforts to achieve our own salvation, essentially we are saying we reject the redemptive work of Christ. Galatians 2:21 clearly says:
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal 2:21 NIV)
In fact, when we say somebody has “fallen from grace”, that does not mean that he has committed a public sin, but Galatian 5:4 says, it means that person is depending on his own efforts to achieve his own salvation. Furthermore, legalism always have the tendency to major on the minors and minor on the majors.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4 NKJV)
The other extreme can also occurs in church today. It is the form of complete liberalism or antinomianism. It is a form of living in total disregard to the righteousness of God even as someone who allegedly professes to be a follower of Jesus.

Someone who practices antinomianism would say to himself since God loves to forgive so much, why not give him more opportunity to forgive? If forgiveness is guaranteed, that means we already have the total freedom to do whatever we want including sinning as much as we want. Or an antinomian may think, since God is so loving, He would not judge me or he may say, well sin may not be so bad after all as it teaches valuable lessons. Or he may justify his basis for indulging in the sinful vices of the world by saying that he needs to stay in touch with the culture around him.

As Roman 3:8 and 6:1 says:
Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—"Let us do evil that good may result"? Their condemnation is deserved.
(Rom 3:8 NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
(Rom 6:1 NIV)
However, someone who justifies his habitual sins or has totally no regard to God’s righteousness actually does not really understand the seriousness of sin.

As the Life Application Study Bible comments:
“God's forgiveness does not make sin less serious; his Son's death for sin shows us the dreadful seriousness of sin. Jesus paid with his life so we could be forgiven. The availability of God's mercy must not become an excuse for careless living and moral laxness.”
Similarly Gal 5:13 exhorts:
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13 NKJV)

In fact, freedom or license to sin is no freedom at all, because once we misuse it to indulge in sinful behaviors, it is no longer a freedom. It binds us and enslaves us to bondage to Satan or our own sinful habits. Christians, by contrast, should not be slaves to sin, because they are free to do right and to glorify God through loving service to others.

Titus 2:11-13 brings even a step further to say that the grace of God, when properly understood actually teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13 NIV)
This is in line with Paul’s command in Roman 13:8 and Galatians 5:13-14 that it is imperative for Christians to remember that although we are no longer under the Law (Rom. 6:14) to attain salvation, we still need to fulfill the Law of love.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
(Rom 13:8 NIV)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
(Gal 5:13-14 NIV)
In other words, we are perpetually “in debt to Christ” for the lavish love he has poured out on us. The only way we can even begin to repay this debt is by fulfilling our obligation to love others in turn. Because Christ's love will always be infinitely greater than ours, we will always have the obligation to love our neighbors (2).

My understanding is that actually legalism and antinomianism are two sides of the same coin – and in both cases, they are threats to the Christian life because they promotes self-focused or self-centered obsession rather than giving glory to God. If we are self-centered on our efforts to achieve the ultimate good (salvation), we always have the tendency to be proud of ourselves, and tend to look down on others who could not achieve what we achieve. We feel a sense of superiority: self-indulgence.

On the other hand, if we totally disregard God’s righteousness, thinking that since God has already taken care of my after-life, my life here on earth is mine to enjoy and to navigate in any way I want so as to maximize my self-fulfillment and gratification on my short life here on earth – again, self-indulgence. The only way to get out of these two extremes is to always focus our gaze on Christ on the Cross – his sacrifice for mine, because of my wretchedness and utter hopelessness as a result of the devastating consequences of sin, and therefore I am forever indebted to Him, and forever be grateful to Him, and therefore, my life is now His, and only in Him, I can live my life to the fullest, in serving Him by serving others.

1.    Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1996
2.    Antinomianism. In: Dictionary. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Available at URL: Accessed 16 September 2014

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