Give Joseph Prince a fair hearing

DTRJoseph Prince’s devotional

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, put down your gunsroll 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 5 views of the law and gospelrelationship 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!  🙂

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Comments

  • Hey Pastor Kenny,

    I keenly await your thoughts on this matter and especially your posts on the 5 views book. I haven’t read it yet, but I think my view is most similar to Douglas Moo’s modified Lutheran view, which is also quite similar to the New Covenant Theology (NCT) view.

    • Hi Stillhaventfound,

      Do reflect on the Lord’s prayer, I think you will find it scary at first but hopefully it will illuminate your path ahead.

      Shalom

  • Hi Pastor Kenny,
    I respect you for taking the time and effort to examine the source, rather than just rely on hearsay.
    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you have studied 😉

      • Pardon my confusion – always thought the source would have to be the Bible and the translational accuracy from original text written in Arabic and Greek. Interesting to see how accurate JP is to original text and to read an unemotional review of his works published to date.

        Any JP commentators or scholars out on the web willing to comment? Pray we will be gracious to different view points hopefully acquiring some knowledge in the process.

      • Dear journeyman,
        Yes, you are confused. This post is about people criticizing what JP preached and wrote, therefore the source I’m referring to in this context is obviously what JP preached and wrote, and the point that Pastor Kenny is making is that people need to listen to what JP preached and read what he wrote FIRST to assess whether they are scriptural based, and THEN comment.

      • Hi Stanley,

        Let me try to elaborate on my confusion……

        JP is a derivative – the underlying asset is about the truth as implied in the Bible.

        Attempting to judge the redeemable and intrinsic value of a derivative without understanding of the underlying would lead to misplacement of Faith and value.

        The basic question is has JP illuminated the teachings of the BiBLE better than the “original” form without adding new substance.

        Does the original form need “sexying” up to make it more palatable and attractive to people too lazy to go back to source?

        A derivative is a convenience but not a substitute for the REAL thing.

        So how faithfully does the JP view track the Biblical translations?

        I get confused when people attempt to promote the derivative as the new contemporary original.

      • Dear journeyman,
        You are really confused. You said “The basic question is has JP illuminated the teachings of the BiBLE better than the “original” form without adding new substance.”

        To answer that basic question, one has to FIRST listen to what JP preached and wrote in order to evaluate whether “JP illuminated the teachings of the BiBLE better than the “original” form without adding new substance.”

      • Dear Stanley,

        Confusion can also mean bedeviled, befuddled, bemused, baffled, astonished. It does not mean just a lack of mental clarity.

        Grace without Laws will never work as evidenced by the evolving CDO-CDS-Sovereign debt crisis.

        Dr Gordon Wong has done a balanced and scholarly review – believe Sze Zeng has also been more critical in his opinion.

        We actually spent time trying to deconstruct one of his “Grace” sermons. Have actually listened to some of his CDs given by well meaning friends – fortunately/unfortunately it did nothing for me. Felt it was not a productive exercise for our cell group except to experience first hand the teachings of JP..

        My limited Bible knowledge and spirit tells me this is a unbalanced and possibly populist approach.

        If a unmerited Grace works for you, I am happy for you.

        This type of grace model does not explain the massive suffering in the world today or massive misfortune falling on good people including some great Christians . Residual SIN is a insensitive and callous remark to label such misfortunes.

        Prosperity is great when you have it, but what will you do when it leaves you?

        If you are now a 40 years old male, you can reasonably expect to live to about 72 years in Singapore before succumbing to a disease that will eventually kill you.

        We can predict that we will look forward to one of 3 outcomes:-

        1. A sudden death without any warning.
        2. A sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years.
        3. Have more than 50% chance of getting Alzheimers if you live past 80.

        How does JP’s “Unbridled Grace” model handle this reality – have done a cursory search but found him quite silent.

        Generally this doe not appeal to a prosperity KPI but death is a growing industry as population increases.

        Hopefully this will stimulate some search and thinking in this blog.

        Shalom.

      • Hey journeyman,

        Maybe you could invite Stanley and myself and others from NCC when you deconstruct one of his sermons 🙂 Would be uber-interesting and beneficial for us all I’m sure! Blogpastor could be moderator 🙂

        Gordon Wong is a great scholar, but there’s more to be said I’m sure! Just as Joseph Prince doesn’t have the final say, neither does Gordon Wong.

        Regarding your last few paragraphs, wow, I’ll say a big, “I reject that in the name of Jesus”. No disrespect, but you may choose to agree with what the world tells you will most probably happen, but I choose to believe differently. May it be unto us according to our faith. I say this not to insult you, but I think we have to acknowledge that faith plays a part in the outcome of any situation. It may be common and natural for people to get this or that disease or die at this age, but we don’t have to accept that. We can believe in the supernatural because we have a supernatural God 🙂

        If you’ve read my blog, I definitely don’t agree with everything Pastor Prince says. But he says a heaven of a lot of good things that need to be heard! 🙂

        I actually think that Pastor Prince doesn’t have a very systematic view of a theology of suffering. That is, I’ve heard tons of his sermons and sometimes he seems to contradict himself. Anyway, this is one area I’m still thinking about.

        Would love to meet up one day with you and Sze Zeng and Stanley and Blogpastor to discuss face to face all these issues!

      • Hi Stillhaventfound,

        Let me say that I am still confused – or as implied by Stanley, thoroughly confused.

        Please clarify your statement:-
        “Regarding your last few paragraphs, wow, I’ll say a big, “I reject that in the name of Jesus”.”

        What are you rejecting – the inevitability of death or the 3 likely paths that will lead “almost” everyone to death?

        If by your rejecting the inevitability of death or its probable processes, you are implying that NCC or some of its members have avoided death by resurrection, then WE MUST MEET!!.

        If you are rejecting my previous statement is based on an abhorrent superstition of death and not grounded in reality or “the world” – then we have little commonality to have a meaningful discussion.

        It will be like the “flat world believers” trying to engage the “spherical world postulates” during the time of Copernicus.

        My sole purpose is to get people in this blogsphere to think critically, discern and distill ideas for themselves (by going to source – the BIBLE and its translational and historical context. Hopefully this enriches and enhances their personal journey.

        • hi guys, i think what JP is saying is that we should trust god that we will not die BEFORE our time, like Jesus who “gave up” his spirit. it was not robbed from him. he gave it up. he was in control. in our case, god is in control and he has said “with long life i will satisfy you”. how long our life is depends on our satisfaction. if we are satisfied with 80yrs and is ready to return home to him, then by all means GO.

          however, i still struggle to reconcile all that with the brutal reality that many believers do die before their time and do die of disease. to say that these people did not have enough faith or that they did not believe right does not rest well with me. like shf, i still struggle w JP’s theology of suffering. but i agree with JP that instead of being preocupied with the reason why such and such happen to these believers, we should focus our energy on guarding our heart from fear. like peter who started to sink when he took his eyes off jesus and started looking at the storm around him.

          • rk,

            I understand your struggles. I think about these issues too. Not just about why people die early and whether it’s their lack of faith, but also why people aren’t healed, etc. I think no one has all the answers, but, like you, I remind myself not to look at other people’s experiences and just focus on Jesus in faith, expecting. I do sometimes think about why not all are healed, but I can’t let that influence my faith in God.

            • Hi Guys,

              Whilst being a “hermit crab” by retreating to a “society lead by a very charismatic leader,” in a bewildering and volatile world is a plausible option, we still need to lead an abundant life beyond the 3-4 hours of feeding of each others’ enthusiasm and deal with inevitability of death?

              Commend you read in today’s NYtime:
              “When hope is the only peaceful ending…….”

              http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/health/16brod.html?src=me&ref=health.

              Rebuking, denying, wishing will not change the outcome – only a journey seeking Truth – this is the place you will find God will set you free. An unbalanced doctrine will harm a lot and enrich a few – just like investing in the real world when you hear a lot of “professional FAs”(crazies) who claim they have the formula to investing and making money.

              Seek and discern for yourselves, time is short!

      • Journeyman,

        We will all die if Jesus doesn’t come back before we die! I’m rejecting your 3 points, or at least points number 2 and 3. (As for point 1, it depends on how you interpret it) Whatever is normal or natural or whatever statistics tell us – we don’t have to accept it for our own life. Especially if we have a God of miracles and we understand the role of faith.

        I reject and don’t accept for myself “a sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years.” And I also reject that if I live past 80, I’ll “have more than 50% chance of getting Alzheimers.”

        I believe by faith that I will not go through a debilitating disease or have Alzheimers. That’s all I have to say 🙂

        • SHE,
          Logically if you agree that we all die then exactly how would be semantics.

          Death will be consequence of some cause, event or agent – will it not?

          Is it not our faith that Jesus will come back – exactly when nobody knows. It has not stop crazies from trying to predict – everyone has been wrong to date.

      • Hi Stillhaventfound,

        Have spent some time reflecting on the Lord’s prayer, you may find it simiarly illuminating.

        Shalom

        • SHE,
          “….your will will be done on earth as in heaven…” implicit is a total surrender or getting rid of ego.

          Whilst the prosperity guys preached good things only, this is not the case as bad things do happen to good people. One dimensional presentation of the devil as the ONLY source of all “bad things” is a simplistic sales slogan for recruiting unthinking and undiscerning minds, great for increasing membership numbers.

          I am convicted that Biblical quotes without syntactical, contextual and semantic anchors, whilst wildly popular does not lead to abundant life. The concept of “Daddy God” is wildly attractive but is it true?

  • I love this: “There are things…written that I do not agree with but it never stopped me from reading and learning from them…even Richard Dawkins.”

    It is so refreshing to find someone (especially within the Church) with such an open mind.

    Continue to write and bless the readers of your blog, Pastor Kenny. Shalom! 🙂

    • Shalom.
      To be honest, I read only the first chapter of the God Delusion and had a laugh.

      Would have loved to read the rest and enter the mind of a famous and influential atheist but tah ada stirring lah.

      • Currently am fascinated by primordial/fundamentalist/absolutist BELIEF systems – when such beliefs are challenged or threatened, intolerance sets in leading to institutionalized persecution and genocide. Crusades, Inquisition, Reformation et al.

        Wondered if Christians ever believed in the commandment of “loving thy neighbour as thyself”

        Whats the value of our faith when we have to rubbish another’s belief? Why was Jesus so meek?

  • refreshing post… people can indeed learn a lot from Richard Dawkins with a good measure of discernment.

    also looking forward to your thoughts. btw, will you be free anytime from now till the 21st of Feb? Would like to catch up over a cup of coffee

    • Yes a good measure of discernment is needed. It also gives some measure of comic relief.

      Haha we fixed lunch before I read this. Godcidental?

  • Another’s look at our belief systems:

    Rony Tan and a Buddhist convert:-
    (link to offensive video removed in response to Rony’s apology and request issued below)
    George Carlin and his take on religiosity:-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?

    Please note – both can be offensive to people with primordial belief systems. Ability to laugh without mocking is the gift from God…….

    • From Rony Tan’s website:
      “I have received a number of emails from people who have been saddened and hurt by the testimonies of an ex-monk and an ex-nun. I realized that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again.

      When we have received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well.

      After reading the frank views from those emails, I was also prompted to tell my members not only to continue to love souls, but also to respect other belief and not to ridicule them in any way, shape or fashion.

      Let’s put our goal to build a harmonious Singapore a top priority. “- Rony Tan

      • Thanks for removing the link – but once on the Web, it is a perpetual stain until gas runs out and the servers die.

        This was not a Kodak moment for the Kingdom.

        BP thank you for being open minded and tolerant. It is a timely reminder for each of us.

  • huh?…Am I supposed to do something? I heard my name mentioned. Np, I can get the CD.

    I actually find this post amazing..it has attracted 21 comments/response…it’s an indication of how many people are actually hungry for the Truth!

    Unmerited Favour, Abundance of Grace, Gift of Righteousness…all this are in the person – Jesus!

  • There’s a saying: Some things are just caught, not learned by study and reasoning. When I first heard Ps Prince preach the gospel of grace at age 32, I just knew in my heart that this was the true gospel — and I had been a Christian attending church since I was a kid. By all means, study, but if it doesn’t touch your heart, you haven’t really gotten the message.

  • Thank you, Pastor Kenny, for your wise advice for a fair hearing.

    It is easy to jump in with guns blazing. I did it myself a few years ago. But wow, was I shown wrong.

    I do believe now that God is transforming hearts and minds through NCC and Pastor Prince’s teachings. Yes, there may be black sheep, some teachings I don’t agree with, etc., but my role as a believer in Christ, is perhaps not so much to point fingers, but to pray, that He continues His good work in each and every one of us.

  • What a wonderfully, refreshing blog. I cannot believe I have actually found a Christian blog where differing opinions and views are put forth in a non-judgmental and constructive manner! Amazing!
    Most fascinating for me is the earlier discussion on death or the lack thereof!
    Scriptures teaches that Jesus “tasted of death” so that we wouldn’t have to.
    If death does come to me, like other saints of the New Covenant I will give up my ghost…it will not be taken from me by sickness or disease or surprise.

  • I read his book and listened to his sermons b4.Beware of joseph prince he is a false teacher who is WOF and antinomian

  • And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. Acts 5:38-39

  • Hi TMB,

    A cryptic remark – methinks better to say what we mean then trying to hide behind an apparently appropriate bible verse and by inference, an anointment from God himself.

    He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.
    Luke 21:7-9

    Please view my postings as that of a simple, fallible and sinful man. If my directness is offensive, my apologies because my of limited command of language and being a poor typist.

    Shalom

    Let our ONE be just that, no more no less – just a simple 1.00

  • I only can say this, I was once blind but now I see. I was once lived in bondage but now I’m free by God’s grace and His unconditional love through realizing what our Lord Jesus had accomplished for me through His Cross. And all these was because I got a hold of Pastor Joseph Prince book ‘Destined To Reign’. Glory To God! To all who disagree, let’s agree at least, our Lord is getting all the glory and His name is being lifted up not Pastor Prince name. Afterall, if one is on the ‘judging mode’, how can they receive?
    How can you argue with one that who was once blind and now see? Or one who was under bondage for years and set free live a life knowing is all because of the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus?
    I’ve witness so many of people whose life being transformed after hearing the message of God’s grace. Is sad to see believer in Christ having dispute instead of giving glory to God. Let’s give Glory instead when you hear somebody’s life being transformed and Praise the Lord for His goodness. Amen!

  • Hi all,

    I agree with pastor Kenny that we should give Joseph Prince a fair hearing before we comment on them. We should not engage in creating straw man arguments and then attempt to critique it. To give a person a fair hearing is also showing love and respect to your neighbours, regardless of the differences in opinions.

    My theological viewpoint is Reformed, which I have only started to embrace recently. Hence, I am not an expert in Reformed theology. Nevertheless, I do hope to be well grounded in the Reformed faith in years to come. Of course, I love and respect those who adhere to different theological traditions, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ. As I come from the Reformed camp, I firmly believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, and the doctrines of grace, that amazing and sovereign grace that saves sinners through the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I have been saved and justified, not by works, but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. All glory be to God for His sovereign grace unto us! Sola deo Gloria! Having said that, Reformed believers do believe that the moral law (i.e., the Ten Commandments) is still the rule of life that guides us in godly living. My point here is not to advertise for the Reformed camp, for I am not qualifed enough to do so. Indeed, I still have much to learn. I apologise if I have misrepresented the Calvinist viewpoint.

    Similar to Pastor Kenny’s stand, I believe I can learn from other who belong to different theological traditions. I also hope to be able to read and research other theological viewpoints as well. However, this does not mean I refrain from giving constructive and irenic critiques of viewpoints which are not in line with biblical truths. Christians should be discerning and be willing to speak the truth in love when the need arises. Sadly, however, discernment is seriously lacking amongst many Christians today, and this happens in Reformed/Presbyterian churches, churches which are supposedly strong in biblical teaching and exposition. I believe we must have unity amongst Christians, but if we emphasize this too much to the point that we ignore biblical commands to safeguard the truth, we may end up having churches that are lacking in purity.

    As for the various controversies surrounding the teachings of Joseph Prince, I am afraid I cannot comment much because I have not done any research into his doctrinal viewpoints. Suffice to say, after doing a quick scan of the doctrinal statements of New Creation Church at its official website, I respectfully demur and disagree with some of those statements.

    I hope I have contributed to the discussion in a small way. So, have blessed week ahead.

    Regards,
    Guo Xiong.

  • Hi Guo Xiong,

    I’ve been reading Reformed authors for 15 years. It gives one a great foundation – though I don’t agree with everything in that tradition. As I’ve written on my blog, and Blogpastor I believe would agree, there are SOME similarities between the Reformed Tradition’s Gospel and Christ-centeredness and Pastor Prince’s gospel-centeredness teaching. I emphasize SOME, of course 🙂 If we can not allow the other clear differences to cloud our thinking, I think one will recognize that the Reformed faith’s passion to see the gospel of Jesus Christ (and the doctrine of justification) as central is really a whole lot of what New Creation is about.

    Regarding the 10 Commandments and the third use of the law, my observation is there is a growing number of Reformed believers (and those influenced greatly by Reformed theology) who are deviating from the traditional Reformed view that the 10 Commandments still has a role to play in the lives of Christians according to the 3rd use. Read about New Covenant Theology and there are other Reformed Christians who would disagree with the traditional Reformed view.

    Cheers!

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  • Pastor prince addresses about sufferings too.. Just that we always have the winning end no matter what happens.
    Go search on his teachings on why are there calamities when God is love, truth about God’s chastisement, Job’s suffering and his teachings in discipline. And see his heart in this matters.. 🙂

    • Dear 7, you can never tell a man’s heart by what he says alone. See how he lives. You think the obviously rich, extravagant and flamboyant JP is really walking the path of a true Believer of the Lord ? I never read in the Bible that Jesus made his people pay exorbitant amounts of money to hear his sermons in expensive luxurious venues, or that he used others’ hard-earned money to buy fine clothes for himself and live a luxurious life. I am not saying that a Man of God should live like a pauper, but he certainly shd live a reasonably simple life that is more in tune with what most of his congregation could afford. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.

      • Unlike many full time Pastors, JP doesn’t draw a salary from his church and relies on his books, DVDs etc for his income. If he is blessed and enriched by it, all glory to God. I believe the scriptural quote “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” is even true today, but it was in the context of non-believers. Do lovingly correct me if I am mistaken. 🙂

        Shalom.

    • Unfortunately or fortunately we are not God and cannot see into his heart. All we have is observations, his “published works, including DVDs , ” so we need to discern who the man is – being simple minded if it quakes, waddle and likes to paddle like a duck, then very unlikely to be an eagle. Never 100% sure because we live with a God that can perform miracles. Seems unlikely to me that He would be at the command of some human to do so. Seek and you will find.

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