Give Joseph Prince a fair hearing
Last year I received through the post a book gift from a fellow blogger Malcolm Loh of Rootss. It was Joseph Prince’s “Destined to Reign” devotional. Malcolm wrote in the cover, “Dear BLOGPASTOR, Felt led by the Lord to give this to you. Continue to blog for His glory.” I tried to read the devotional book day by day, but I did not make much headway. I changed tactic and simply read it like a book, as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I am now at May 8. The devotional contains interesting insights and though I couldn’t agree with everything, I benefited from it. I like that it had more gospel than law (Law as in Luther’s perspective), more indicatives than imperatives. At the end of 2009, I in turn bought four of JP’s devotionals and gave them away, three to my pastor-colleagues, one to a relative. The book is expensive at $34, and I suspect a percentage went to the One North project.
Put down your guns
Pastors should not just go by hearsay and what they read of others’ comments, but actually go to the source and give Joseph Prince a fair hearing: read his books or listen to his tapes. Put down your guns and set aside the warning label called “antinomian” for the time being, roll the sleeves, and do some honest research.
Pentecostals and charismatics have been on the painful end of labelling in the past. There was a time when the label “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic” were like warning signs akin to “POISON”. Later the people who spread horror stories of tongues, rolling on the floor and swinging from rafter to rafter, are rocking and rolling from holy laughter in dignified pews and grand cathedrals…to the dismay and secret glee of the Pentecostals.
There are few who will agree with everything another pastor/writer says. There are things Billy Graham, RT Kendall, Henri Nouwen, Michael Horton, John Stott have written that I do not agree with but it never stopped me from reading and learning from them. Its the same with Joseph Prince. Or even Richard Dawkins.
Interest stimulated to study Law and Gospel
I have hesitated to comment about what Joseph Prince espouses because I have yet to give sufficient attention to what he has written. I have heard what others have written or said, but I prefer to go to the source (one thing I learned from seminary): hear his CDs (I have heard his old pre-grace cassette tapes but not any of his more recent CDs except the one on Holy Communion); and read his key book, “Destined to Reign”. Until I have read enough of his stuff, and heard enough of his messages(which Stillhaventfound has given me a fortnight back) to get a fair perspective, better to keep quiet. I have been asked to comment on his theology, but what can I comment when I have not gone to the source and done this reasonable homework?
I must say that what I heard from his supporters, and read in blogs, has also perked my interest in understanding more fully the intriguing relationship between the law and the gospel, a study that has occupied many Lutherans and Reformed folk in interesting debates over centuries, and in recent decades about the “new perspective” of St Paul. If brilliant enlightened Lutherans and Reformed folk could not come to agreement on this, what can this Pentecostal pastor add to the debate? Perhaps the missing ingredient: tongues and interpretation.
I went to Trinity Theological College and borrowed an old book, Five Views of the Law and Gospel, and I aim to study these and if possible post summaries of them in my blog and discuss. What an ambitious project. I am well-intentioned but now what I need is what Singapore pastors have little of: time, space and motivation for studying those long chapters and reflecting on them.
I probably need a year!