The wave of “new Calvinism” has spread quickly and many astute Hmong pastors are embracing this “reformed” teaching through the Gospel Coalition. I am thankful that a few Hmong Churches are desiring to be more biblical. I’m glad that many young Hmong pastors are leading the way and are embracing the doctrines of grace (Calvinism), but I hope that they would embrace more than Calvinism and be willing to let go of their Christian & Missionary Alliance roots.
Embrace more than Calvinism
Calvinism is apart of reformed theology, but it is not Reformed Theology. Many young Hmong pastors and Christians are calling themselves “reformed,” but really have no idea what it means to be Reformed. In short, it’s just a shallow title to align themselves with a certain camp (i.e. “I listen to Chandler/Piper/Keller”…And I know this because I’ve done this prior to attending Westminster Seminary CA).
My desire is that the believing Hmong community understand and come to embrace a Reformed Theology that is confessional, meaning that they either affirm the Westminster Confessions of Faith or the 3 Forms of Unity. For example, do believers who call themselves reformed agree that to withhold a child from the sacrament of baptism is a sin? Do they believe that any image of Christ constitutes as breaking the 2nd Commandment? Do they believe in all 5 points of Calvinism?
It has been my understanding that few embraces all 5 points of Calvinism (they’re stuck on limited atonement), and I have yet to meet any Hmong believer who claims to be Reformed and embraces either the Westminster Confessions of Faith or the 3 Forms of Unity. Rather, what I’ve seen and heard is that Hmong pastors will embrace the Reformed teachings but do not find it necessary to teach these things to their congregation. For instance, in a recent conversation, a Hmong pastor (who had ties with a Reformed church) contended that these issues are important for pastors and professors to know, but the average Christian doesn’t care or won’t understand such topics (i.e. election vs. free will). His reasoning was that the congregation wants to know how the Bible instructs their lives rather than getting into a theological debate. In short, most church attendees just want to know what to do. But isn’t it the case that “knowing what to believe” informs “knowing what to do?” I believe these two can hardly be separated…
Now, it should be noted that pastors must proclaim the gospel–that is the central message. What is secondary are theological issues like predestination. Yet these are secondary issues that the Bible addresses and if the Bible brings it up then it must be taught (2 Tim. 3:16) with the gospel in mind. Sure, the average Christians might not care, but isn’t that just the sinfulness of man? Isn’t it a sin when one refuses to obey the teachings of Scripture? And isn’t it a sin to not teach all of Scripture? To withhold from the people God’s Word? If it’s stated in Scripture (the inspired Word of God) then doesn’t that constitute as God decreeing what his people should know and the obligation of the ambassador of God’s Word to proclaim it? I would hope that the answer is a resounding “yes!”
We must remember that as one teaches or preaches the Word of God, it is the Spirit who illuminates the text for the believer. God has made scripture perspicuous. Meaning that it can be clearly understood. Granted, Peter does say that Paul is hard to understand at times, but we must keep in mind that Scripture interprets Scripture. Thus the harder sayings of Paul can be understood in the simpler sayings elsewhere in Scripture.
Also, among Hmong Christians, there seems to be this shying away of telling someone they’re wrong. It’s more than the influence of post-modern relativism… it’s inherent within the Asian culture. I can understand this because I’ve dealt with this too. But we cannot water down God’s Word for the sake of culture. The Bible clearly speaks that there is a right understanding of God’s Word and a wrong understanding (i.e. either election is right or it is wrong). It’s not about being prideful, it’s about delivering God’s Word, and by all means doing so with grace.
Reformed theology is Biblical. The reformed tradition believes in the perspicuity of Scripture, and because of this, we can embrace the confessions. The confessions align with Scripture, although they are secondary to it. I hope that one-day Hmong pastors who are claiming to be “Reformed” would man up and leave the C&MA churches (they’re Arminian and charismatic, do your research) and align themselves with a Reformed congregation (PCA, OPC, URC, RPC, maybe CRC?). Perhaps the issue is integrity?