Saturday, September 19, 2009

20th Fundamental Bible Conference and 1st International Partnership Ministries Far East Regional Conference

Dates and venue: October 27-30, 6 to 9:30 PM; Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bldg, no. 15 Julia Vargas Avenue, Pasig City

Keynote speakers, Dr. Kevin Callahan (IPM President) and Dr. Tom Wolfe (IPM Director of Education)

Conference Chairman: Ptr. Roberto-Jose Livioco, DD, Foundation Baptist Church (Pasig City)

One time registration fee of 150 pesos; Christian literature and CDs for all registered delegates.

For more information, please contact 514-8340 and 829-4474.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Child spanking soon outlawed in RP? Is spanking a Biblically-endorsed way of discipline?

(Note: Jump to the sections “Is spanking a Biblically-endorsed way of discipline?” and “Practical considerations: spanking in church-based schools”)

Article 45 of Presidential Decree No. 603 “The Child and Youth Welfare Code” states that parents have the right to discipline the child as may be necessary for the formation of his good character, and may therefore require from him obedience to just and reasonable rules, suggestions and admonitions.” This right to discipline includes corporal punishment which is moderate in degree.

House Bill 6699 The Anti-Corporal Punishment Act of 2009”, principally authored by Tarlac Rep. Monica Prieto-Teodoro (wife of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro) intends to prohibit the use of physical force to reprimand children, and deems as illegal verbal assaults and placing children in degrading or humiliating situation to correct their behavior.

HB 6699 also covers corporal punishments in schools, institutions, youth detention centers, and the workplace. Penalties range from one month to six months imprisonment, or suspension of parental authority over the children. The bill is co-authored by 56 other representatives and is expected to be approved by Congress before the year ends.

HB 6699 identifies forms of corporal punishments as:

  1. Use of physical force (hitting any part of the body, pinching, twisting joints, pulling of ears or hair, shaving of hair, dragging or throwing a child, or cutting or piercing the skin)
  2. Forcing a child to perform physically painful or damaging act (holding weights with arms stretched, kneeling on stones, salt, or pebbles or squatting)
  3. Deliberate neglect of a child’s physical needs (starving a child if he doesn’t want to eat vegetables)
  4. Use of external substance to punish a child (putting hot pepper in the mouth when he curses, placing him in a container of water, or exposing him to smoke)
  5. Use of hazardous tasks and punishments (sweeping in the rain or under the heat of the sun)
  6. Confinement (being shut in a confined space, tied-up, or forced to remain in one place for an extended period of time)
  7. Verbal assaults, threats, or intimidation
Rationale for the law

Rep. Prieto-Teodoro explained that although laws trying to protect children from violence are already in place, some of their provisions are unclear: “The present laws lack the explicit prohibition on the use of corporal punishment, especially in the home and family setting, except for children in conflict with the law and children in detention who are now adequately given protection and more humane treatment under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act”.

Statistics on child abuse

[1] Many of the children who experience verbal abuse show anxiety, lack of concentration, thoughts of rejection, and low self-esteem among others, according to a 2006 study, “Parental Verbal Abuse: Culture-Specific Coping Behavior of College Students in the Philippines.”

[2] A 2005 study by Save the Children showed that 85 percent of the children interviewed in cities of Caloocan and Cebu were being punished in the home, with spanking as the most common. Eighty-two percent said they were hit on different parts of the body.

[3] A recent data of Plan Philippines showed that 500 to 800 child abuses each year are committed by teachers.

[4] For more facts and statistics on child abuse, please surf to “Child Protection in the Philippines, Philippine Resource Network”. Though unofficial, this is the first website that features organizations in the Philippines, both state-run and non-governmental, that work on the issue of child protection. This is a project supported by the Arci Cultura E Sviluppo, Save the Children (UK) Philippines, and UNICEF Manila with the participation of 8 more organizations. This undertaking aims to present to the world the situation of abused children and the roles of these organizations in addressing the issues through the World Wide Web.

Proposed penalties under HB 6699

With the proposed Anti-Corporal Punishment Act, children or concerned individuals may directly file complaints with their barangays, police stations, or local offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Authorities are expected to file a case in the regional trial court, or if not conduct an investigation within 8 hours from the time they receive the complaint.

Violators may face a month of imprisonment or suspension of their parental authority over the children, depending on the penalties provided by existing laws to protect children. If the penalty is just a month of imprisonment, the court prosecutor may just order the offender to attend seminars on children’s rights, positive and non-violent discipline, and anger management. Six months of imprisonment await those who will be found guilty of offenses under HB 6699 that are not covered by laws like the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act (Republic Act 7610) and Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262).

Positive discipline: a proposed alternative to spanking

Child rights advocates say that, instead of spanking, parents and other individuals responsible with a child should practice positive discipline. Wilma Banaga of Plan Philippines said “positive discipline” involves:
  • Identifying the values and life skills that they want the child to adopt.
  • Expressing affection and support (a hug, a pat on the back, or appreciating their accomplishments), but at the same time giving clear guidelines for their behavior.
  • Understanding how children think and feel.
  • Discussing the problem with the child and identify effective approaches to solve it.
  • Listening carefully and helping children learn the use of words to express their feelings.
  • Giving children quality time.
  • Becoming a good example on how to react when faced by undesirable situations.
The Child Rights Information Network provides a 2.1 MB, 356 pages long PDF download from Dr. Joan E. Durant on what positive discipline is all about. CRN also provides “A to Z of child rights” available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Russian.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, often referred to as CRC or UNCRC, is an international convention setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. Nations that ratify this international convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which is composed of members from countries around the world. Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the CRC Chair, and the Assembly adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child. (from Wikipedia)

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defined corporal (from the root word corpus, referring to body) as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. However, other forms of punishment may also be considered corporal punishment even if they re not physical in nature. They are word and actions that belittle, humiliate, denigrate, threaten, scare or ridicule the child.

The UNICEF website provides photo essay on the “Rights of the Child” (Part I and Part 2). It also provides a helpful article “Definition of key terms and a PDF download of children’s rights.

Is spanking a Biblically-endorsed way of discipline?

The following points must be clearly established and emphasized:

I am strongly opposed to violence or abuse against children. Fundamentalist and evangelical Christian parents who do believe in spanking would also affirm that they are opposed to violence or abuse against children.

[2] “Spanking” understood and implemented correctly is a form of loving discipline that the Bible endorses.

Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” has ably and eloquently articulated the bases for spanking as a form of loving discipline in his books “The New Dare to Discipline” (read a sample chapter) and “The New Strong-Willed Child” (read a sample chapter).

Dobson’s three concepts on Biblical discipline are:

(1) The authority of parents is endorsed;

(2) Discipline is in the best interest of children;

(3) Discipline must not be harsh and destructive to the child’s spirit.

In his printable article titled “Approaches to Discipline”, Dobson discusses issues such as Does Spanking Work for All Kids?; To Spank or Not to Spank; When Kids Run You Over; Handling Disrespect; and Behavior and Consequences.

Related issues which Dobson discusses in his website are:
Practical considerations; spanking in church-based schools

[1] What should our stand be towards HB 6699? While we believe in spanking as a Biblical form of discipline, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians must also take a strong stand opposing violence and abuse against children.

Instead of a complete repeal, Article 45 of Presidential Decree No. 603 “The Child and Youth Welfare Code” allowing corporal punishments as long as these are “just and reasonable” and “moderate in degree” must be clarified or fine tuned instead.

[2] Churches, numbering perhaps in the hundreds, have established schools based on the School of Tomorrow program. As I have been told by several school administrators, part of the SOT’s requirements is that parents must sign a document allowing teachers to spank misbehaving children. On the contrary, someone who claimed to be an SOT consultant told me that such is not a requirement of the SOT and that it is up to the schools to ask parents to allow the spanking of their children by the teachers.

(As you can read, my information on this matter is second hand. I would appreciate any correction from the SOT, school administrators and the parents.)

In the legal seminars I have given for churches and groups of pastors, people have always raised the issue of this alleged SOT requirement. I have always replied by pointing out Article 233 of the Family Code (take note especially of the second paragraph) which states:
The person exercising substitute parental authority shall have the same authority over the person of the child as the parents.

In no case shall the school administrator, teacher or individual engaged in child care exercising special parental authority inflict corporal punishment upon the child.

(emphasis by boldfacing supplied)
The phrase “in no case” means that even with the SOT document signed by the parents, teachers are not allowed to spank the students. I have always said that if the students needed to be spanked, the school administrators should call the parents who will do the spanking themselves.

[3] Have the provisions of the Family Code on parental authority, specifically Articles 209 to 233, already repealed Article 45 of Presidential Decree No. 603 “The Child and Youth Welfare Code”? These articles do not mention anything about the right of parents to discipline their children as PD 603 provides. Large portions of PD 603 have been repealed or modified by the Family Code of the Philippines and numerous other laws. In our legal system, however, implied repeals are frowned upon and therefore, it can be argued that Article 45 of Presidential Decree No. 603 is still good law.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Forming a theology of music; should Baptist churches sing “Majesty”?

Music - contemporary versus traditional, praise and worship versus hymns and Gospel songs - has become a very divisive issue. Two significant things we should not forget though:

There isn’t a single reference to music in Luke’s account of what happened during Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.

[2] Colossians 3:16 emphasizes the teaching or didactic function of music: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Pastors must retake responsibility for doctrinal content of music

Seldom do we find pastors who are good in music (singing, conducting or playing any instrument). Thus, pastors often leave the choice of music to the choir director or the song leader. As the 1996 Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals observed, “Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music.” Leonard Payton in “How Shall We Sing to God?” mentioned below says that “pastors must retake ecclesiastical authority over the music and over every word sung in corporate worship and in small groups.”

Some resources that can help you in developing your church’s theology of music are the following:

[1] Building a Christian Philosophy of Music, from Free Sunday School Lessons (Baptist/Reformed), with a critique of “many serious weaknesses” of Contemporary Christian Music:

Some guiding principles that should shape congregational singing and hymnody:

1. Theo-centricity (God-centered): songs that focus on the character of God, such as “Immortal, Invisible” or “Holy, Holy, Holy”

2. Gospel-centricity: songs that focus on the person and work of Jesus, such as “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners!” or “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”

3. Theologically accurate: songs that convey the truths of the Scripture accurately and clearly, such as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” or “And Can it Be?”

4. Simplicity (ease of singing): songs that are easy to understand and memorize, such as “Amazing Grace” or “The Old Rugged Cross”

5. Beauty: songs that use imaginative and compelling poetry, such as the lyrics from Isaac Watts, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” – “Must I be carried to the skies, on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?”

6. Musical excellence: substantial tunes of majesty and nobility, such as “Austrian Hymn” (Glorious Things) by Haydn, “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven, “Aurelia” (“The Church’s One Foundation”) by Samuel Wesley
[2] “How Shall We Sing to God? Recovering the authority of Scripture in worship musicby Leonard Payton, from The Coming Evangelical Crisis by John H. Armstrong (Moody press, 1996):
The lyrics in many of the praise choruses often contradict Scripture. Consider the chorus “Highest Place” directly associated with Philippians 2:9: “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” (NIV)

We place you on the highest place,
For You are the great High Priest;
We place You high above all else,
And we come to You and worship
At your feet.”

The trouble is that these lyrics indicate it is Christians – not God – who exalt Jesus to the highest place, directly contradicting the Scripture on which the song is based.
[3] “Enjoy Your Worship (free PDF download), from the book “O Worship The King” by John Macarthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Robert and Bobbi Wolgemuth, (Wheaton, IL, Crossway, 2000):
Praise choruses are meant to be sung as simple personal expressions of worship, whereas hymns are usually corporate expressions of worship with an emphasis on some doctrinal truth. A hymn usually has several stanzas, each of which builds on or expands the theme introduced in the first stanza. By contrast, a praise chorus is usually much shorter, with one or two verses, and most of these choruses make liberal use of repetition in order to prolong the focus on a single idea or expression of praise.

Few modern praise choruses teach or admonish. Instead, most are written to stir the feelings only. They are too often sung like a mystical mantra—with the deliberate purpose of putting the intellect into a passive state while the worshiper musters as much emotion as possible.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the simple, straightforward personal praise that characterizes the best of today’s praise choruses. Neither is there anything wrong with the evangelistic and testimonial thrust of yesterday’s gospel songs. But it is a profound tragedy that in some circles, only contemporary choruses are sung. Other congregations limit their repertoire to hundred-year-old gospel songs. Meanwhile, a large and rich body of classic Christian hymnody is in danger of being utterly lost out of sheer neglect.

Obviously, then, neither the antiquity nor the popularity of a gospel song is a good measure of its worthiness. And the fact that a gospel song is “old fashioned” is quite clearly no guarantee that it is suited for edifying the church. When it comes to church music, older is not necessarily better.

In fact, these same “old fashioned” gospel songs that are so often extolled by critics of modern church music are actually what paved the way for the very tendencies those critics sometimes rightly decry. In particular, the lack of substance in so much of today’s music is the predictable fruit of the wholesale shift away from hymns to gospel songs, which began sometime in the late nineteenth century.
[4] “The Music of Worship, Pleasing God or Pleasing Ourselves?by Becky Maceda, FaithWalk Vol. 3 No. 1:
To evaluate worship biblically is to be willing to step back from our own preferences and experiences and ask, “What pleases God in worship?” We know that not all worship and music please Him (see Ex. 32:4-6). We therefore need to examine three aspects of worship music if we are to bring it in line with Scripture: 1) the words that we sing. 2) the melodies of the words we sing, and 3) the instruments we use to accompany the singing.

True worship is faithful to the doctrine of God as revealed in Scripture. Even the most well-intentioned believer may unwittingly end up in idolatry--worshiping a god he has fashioned in his own image.

Kim Riddlebarger argues: “This is not to say that worship is not to be emotional or that one is not to experience God during worship, but worship must be based on a correct knowledge of God, not an ecstatic experience of God. Worship has a doctrinal, and not experiential, context. This intellectual priority in worship is also seen in the prohibitions against idolatry.”

We need to be careful then of such lyrics as these:

I just want to be where You are
Dwelling daily in your presence
Take me to the place where you are
I just want to be with You.

Is God omnipresent? It is not clear from the words of this song, specifically the third line, even when the entire song is considered.
[5] “Music and the Worship of the Living God” by Dan G. MacCartney, Adjunct Professor of New Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary (discussion of the principles of correspondence, holiness, regulative, holistic and excellence):
The worship of God, and thus, also the music of worship, should correspond to God’s character. How we worship should reflect the kind of God He is.
[6] “Reformation in Doctrine, Worship, and Life” by James Montgomery Boice (Reformed theologian and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death; former chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years; founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals):
Whereas the old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways with winsome, memorable language, today’s songs reflect a shallow or non-existent theology … songs that merely repeat a trite idea, word or phrase over and over again. Songs like these are not worship, though they may give the churchgoer a religious feeling. They are mantras which belong more in a gathering of New Agers than among the worshiping people of God.
[7] “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal” by T. David Gordon

“In such communions, worship had previously been understood as a meeting between God and His visible people. Worship was a dialogue, if you will: God speaking through Word and sacrament, and His people responding in prayer, praise, and confession. The decisions that governed such worship revolved around this dialogical conception of worship as a meeting between God and His people.”

“The failure to make such a distinction creates an unintended irony: that those who are genuinely seeking for God are often repulsed by the so-called seeker-friendly services, which seem to be more about fun than answering life’s most serious question.”

“Young people who attend church see a group of fifty-year-olds playing their guitars in front of the church in order to reach the young will perhaps politely appreciate the gesture, but they frankly regard the music as being fairly lame.”

“Biblically, the goal of youth is to leave it as rapidly as possible. The goal of the young, biblically, is to be mature…1 Cor 13:11.” “Extended adolescence is part of what our youth need to be delivered from.”

“The most common argument for employing contemporary worship music is the strategic argument: to reach a culture captivated by pop music, the church must employ such music. But this argument, as we have just seen, is far from cogent.”

“When the church approaches an individual as a consumer to be pleased, rather than as a recalcitrant sinner to be rescued, the church is no longer doing what it is called to do.”

“The question of what constitutes a suitable or appropriate prayer or song for Christian worship is as old as the apostolic church. Paul addressed the Corinthians on the matter, for instance (1 Cor 14:14-17).”

“We don’t disagree with the past; we just don’t pay attention to it.”

“Johnny hasn’t been persuaded that hymn-singing is wrong; Johnny simply cannot relate to anything that doesn’t sound contemporary. He cannot shed his cultural skin, the skin of contemporaneity, of triviality, of paedocentrism. He thinks he prefers contemporary worship music forms to other forms, but in reality he prefers contemporaneity as a trout prefers water; it is the only environment he knows.”

“Johnny is monogenerational outside the church; so he is monogenerational inside the church.”

Should Baptist churches sing “Majesty”?

Question: What do the term “kingdom authority” and the expression “Kingdom authority flows from His throne” mean? The answer determines whether Baptist churches should consider singing “Majesty” or not.

Jack Hayford (prominent pastor of Church-on-the-Way Foursquare Church, founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, and with prominent members such as Pat Boone, TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch) wrote this song in 1977 after he and his wife visited England.

In Kenneth W. Osbeck’s book “Amazing Grace 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions”, Hayford explains what his song is all about:
“Majesty” describes the kingly, lordly, gloriously regal nature of our Savior – but not simply as an objective statement in worship of which He is fully worthy. “Majesty” is also a statement of the fact that our worship, when begotten in spirit and truth, can align us with His throne in such a way that His Kingdom authority flows to us – to overflow us, to free us and channel through us. We are rescued from death, restored to the inheritance of sons and daughters, qualified for victory in battle against the adversary, and destined for the Throne forever in His presence.
“Majesty” teaches Pentecostal kingdom doctrine

Ptr. David Cloud in his book “Contemporary Christian Music Under the Spotlight” (1998) argues that “Majesty” teaches Pentecostal kingdom doctrine. Ptr. Cloud is an oftentimes controversial figure and we should not take his view as the final word in this matter. However, considering Hayford’s Pentecostal theology, how else can we explain what the line “kingdom authority flows from His throne” means?

The “Apologetics Index” in its article “An Examination of Kingdom-, Dominion-, and Latter Rain Theology” describes what Pentecostal “Kingdom Theology” is all about:
The basic premise of Kingdom Theology is that man lost dominion over the earth when Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden.

God “lost control” of the earth to Satan at that time, and has since been looking for a "covenant people" who will be His “extension,” or “expression,” in the earth and take dominion back from Satan. This is to be accomplished through certain “overcomers” who, by yielding themselves to the authority of God’s apostles and prophets for the Kingdom Age, will take control of the kingdoms of this world.

These kingdoms are defined as all social institutions, such as the “kingdom” of education, the “kingdom” of science, the “kingdom” of the arts, and so on. Most especially there is the “kingdom” of politics or government.

This naturally implies the concentration of military and police power in the hands of those in control during the Kingdom Age. They are referred to as the “many-membered man child,” whom Kingdom Theology adherents believe will be the fulfillment of Revelation 12:1-5: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars....And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.”

Those who hold to Kingdom Theology assume that the Church (some believe only a small group within the Church, called “overcomers”), under submission to the latter day apostles and prophets, is that man child, and that it has the responsibility to put down all rebellion and establish righteousness. This necessitates the utilization of supernatural power and the full implementation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

This theory is based upon the idea that all authority in heaven and on the earth has been given to Jesus. Since believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit that indwelt Jesus, we have all authority in heaven and on the earth; we have the power to believe for and speak into existence things that are not, and thus we can bring about the Kingdom Age.

The many-membered man child must take control of the earth before Jesus can return. Necessary to the Kingdom Age is “the Restoration of the Tabernacle of David,” defined as the completion of perfection of the Bride of Christ - a Church without spot or wrinkle.

During the Kingdom Age (or after all else is subdued during that time) Satan and all enemies of God will be put under the feet of the many-membered man child. This will be the fulfillment of I Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he (Christ) must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Note: I do not wish to nor can impose on anyone my view about “Majesty”. I do believe in the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, specifically, autonomy of the local church (download PDF) and individual soul liberty (download PDF).